Kempton, 20/10/19

The card was dominated by two jockeys but in a diversion from the norm it was Gavin Sheehan and Adam Wedge. However, the main thing that we learned is to not buy a used Sat Nav from anyone at Weatherbys. In the racecard that they compiled, for the third race, Cardigan Bay was shown as a long distance traveller, coming 148 miles from Charlie Longsdon’s yard in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. Could they really have measured the distance to Cardigan Bay? The UK-Jumping method of putting a ruler on a map makes the real trip about 75 miles.

Good: Good

Race 1: Matchbook Best Value Exchange Juvenile Hurdle [2m]

1: Prefontaine     2: Paseo     3: Rafiot

Winner owned: Paul Smith, trained: Jonjo O’Neill, ridden: Jonjo O’Neill jnr

An interesting race as most of the runners with sufficient flat form had managed ratings from the high 70s into the 80s – i.e. just what you may be looking for in a potential hurdler. Most of them had given jumping a shot already and not exactly covered themselves in glory. Production was running a cracker at Market Rasen until making a mess of the last two hurdles – unfortunately the trend continued here and he spoiled his chance by jumping too big at the first couple of hurdles and combined some slow jumps into one chance ending error at hurdle six. This opened the door for Prefontaine who made all and tidied it up. He himself was not totally agile off the ground – getting the fifth, sixth and last wrong in varied degrees. Paseo had a rather unusual race. In the course of it he managed to find every obstruction possible, even when the field was beginning to string out and he ended up too far off of the pace to land a blow. The non-trier theory is ruled out because if doing that, why go all out go be second, and he had already shown his hand on Huntingdon debut. The other theories are that he needs to be covered up until the very last second, even when cover is in short supply, or he is a horse that slows down to overtake others (would be seen haunting the middle lane in perpetuity if driving on a motorway) or is very slow to respond to jockey demands for tactical manoeuvres. French flat winner Rafiot unseated on his British flat debut but made a better job of hurdles, finishing well to nick the minor place.

+ +  Motashakel (4th): Although his jumping was not as fluent as would be hoped for, he was in contention turning for home and from there was not really asked for a great deal of effort. Watch for lots of improvement to come, as the scrappy technique can be fixed.

Paseo (2nd): The race summary highlights all sorts of reservations, but there is the chance that that today was simply a misjudgement of the oppo. Or that he needs further.

x  Paseo (2nd): If the slightly encouraging concepts above are wrong then he is got some problems building a jumps future.

x  Production (7th): Verdict on two hurdle runs so far – unexceptional, obvious areas need loads of improvement. Until we see that he can actually jump efficiently, be very wary of him.
Prefotaine scooting away from Paseo, one last symbolic two fingers to the favourite. As a relative outsider, Rafiot is not flustered over how this works out.

Race 2: Matchbook Betting Podcast Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 2f]

1: Celtic Joy     2: The Flying Sofa     3: Tiffin Top

Winner owned: Hawksmoor Partnership, trained: Emma Lavelle, ridden: Adam Wedge

With short priced favourite Oleg pulling up before fence five with a burst blood vessel this race was up suddenly for grabs and it gave us a lesson in the importance of the art of jumping. El Hageb Rose blundered her way to defeat, the smallish Ballon Onabudget fell and the final fence almost changed the result. Celtic Joy went into the last half a length up having hit the front a fence earlier. Despite not making a mistake, The Flying Sofa outjumped him and got away quick enough to go a length in front. This was where the lesson we are trying to lecture upon goes astray and a tangent on the joyful taste of bacon is inserted, because Celtic Joy rallied to win narrowly, with Tiffin Top closing them both down not quite quickly enough. Bacon is great, remember that. Which reminds us that The Flying Sofa has been beaten at odds-on three times himself already – 4/9, 8/13 and 1/3.

+  Celtic Joy (1st): Looked a bit tubbier than his rivals but would have lost if not fit so he is worth remembering as a horse who might not need to have paddock appeal to be supportable.

+  Tiffin Top (3rd): A good chase debut from a horse previously suited by the bare two miles.

x  The Flying Sofa (2nd): Ran well on chase debut, conceding by only half a length. Alas, so far he has never been more dangerous to wallet health than when apparently having a golden opening.

Race 3: Matchbook Betting Exchange Novices’ Hurdle, Listed [2m]

1: Pacify     2: Cardigan Bay     3: Aweeminit

Winner owned: Duke & Duchess of Cornwall & C Smith, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

Two horses stood out for this. Pacify was rated 100 on the flat but only won two out of twenty-four. He was unimpressive in winning his initial two hurdles but looked much more his speedy self when adding a couple more. This was his acid test, against some proven performers. He passed with flying colours, bar an occasional careless jump. He was helped by a disappointing show from Longhouse Sale, who had won eight in a row (one point, four bumpers and three hurdles) before incurring a first ever defeat in the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen. Two losses in a row? Might as well retire! Even with the mares’ allowance at work, Cardigan Bay still had plenty to find on the book against Pacify and she was not as threatening as the final distance implies. Longhouse Sales’ totally unfancied stablemate Aweeminit was chasing her down and that may have prevented Cardigan Bay from taking it easy enough to be second at a more comfy distance from Pacify (thinking in handicapping terms).

x  Pacify (1st): He is on the up – but how will wet winter ground fit to his requirements? Flat form suggests he may be one best saved for the drier months. Which actually could be any of them based on evidence over the last year.

x  ouchthesoul (4th): Arrived at the second last travelling best of all the runners, only to find nothing at all. His only previous jumps run was a second at Auteuil. An unimpressive finish but he deserves a chance to redeem himself. Just not with our money riding on it.

x  Birds Of Prey (7th): On known form he ought to have been on the heels of Cardigan Bay, but he just mosied around in midfield and could not go with the leaders at the business end. Paul Nicholls’ horses are not usually that wanting for fitness, so he is in the same boat as Touchthesoul – wait and see where he can go from here, even if dropped to less ambitious options.

Race 4: Get Switched On With Matchbook Handicap Chase [2m 2f]

1: Adrrastos     2: Solar Impulse     3: Snapdragon Fire

Winner owned: Duke & Duchess of Cornwall & C Smith, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

We witnessed something out of the ordinary here. For the first time since he became a jumper in 2015, Darebin failed to win his second run of autumn. The problems he had was a race a couple of furlongs too far and a stable not firing. This is a bluff to put us on the back foot for 2020. In his Preview, our man Bloodaxe took it as an insult that a horse with a record as good as Addrastos would suddenly have cheekpieces. The effect of them was boing, boing, boing, zap as a spot on round of jumping blew the oppo away and the zap was him nipping in to the parade ring to collect the trophy. There is no official onomatopoeia for picking up a first prize. That will not help his already high rating but perhaps the headgear offsets any additional rise. Solar Impulse beat Adrasstos here in spring but could not conjure up a second shot although he ran perfectly well by his current standards. Just behind him, Snapdragon Fire improved a great deal on a sub-par chase debut despite Adrasttos’ show being a bit of a culture shock for him. Note how double consonants migrate in their word through a paragraph. They are the agents of our future destruction (along with terminators and zombies).

+ +  Snapdragon Fire (3rd): On his chasing bow he was beaten at level weights by a horse rated 100, so this counts as a great deal of improvement. He could win a chase without having to do any more than this if he finds the right races.
On an afternoon that got a bit gloomy this is a bad picture of a good jump at the final fence by Adrrastos. Solar Impulse pursues in vain.

Race 5: Matchbook VIP Hurdle, Listed [2m]

1: Silver Streak     2: Beat The Judge     3: Sofia’s Rock

Winner owned: L Fell, trained: Evan Williams, ridden: Adam Wedge

After finishing third in the Champion Hurdle last season, there were no evangelists heard extolling the talents of Silver Streak and he has been beaten too often in his career to get carried away with. There were a couple of up and coming graduates from novice company here that looked ready to turn over a horse of Silver Streak’s type. Nobody had told Silver Streak. The betting ring rather over-rated Itchy Feet’s chance and he blundered away his chance three out, having already looked in a bit of trouble. Grand Sancy did better but was beaten in second when he fell at the last. Although he takes credit for not being far behind the winner, Beat The Judge’s return to his best may have had more to do with the horses that might have stopped him from being placed not having much of a day. Sofia’s Rock was rated 96 on the flat but has yet to match up to that standard as a jumper. He could improve yet.

x  Beat The Judge (2nd): A decent showing but his overall record tells us to react cautiously to anything he does that looks enticing.

Race 6: Matchbook Casino Handicap Chase [2m]

1: Vendredi Trois     2: Fr Humphrey     3: Guerrilla Tactics

Winner owned Awdry, Gemmell, Pomford & Williams, trained: Emma Lavelle, ridden: Adam Wedge

Another good finish over fences, with the not overly prolific Vendredi Trois seeing off Fr Humphrey by a nose. Guerrilla Tactics was right in the mix but did not have the finishing speed of the other pair. The feature of the race was Leith Hill Lad (previously 2/2 here) putting in one of the worst rounds of jumping you could wish to see. He got all of the first five wrong, had a brief respite and then clobbered the ninth to thirteenth. After a worse error at number fifteen he called it quits. Do not expect the eyeshield to make a repeat appearance.

+  Fr Humphrey (2nd): Disappointed on his first two British chase runs compared to the best he achieved in Ireland. Before this he had a successful confidence booster in a small field hurdle and now looks to be firmly back on track.

UK-Jumping Selections – Guerrilla Tactics (3rd): Is on the site for longer races, and whilst his determination in front up the home straight was not in question, his lack of raw pace was exposed.

Race 7: Matchbook Novices’ Hurdle [2m 5f]

1: Mason Jar     2: House Island     3: Top Man

Winner owned: Foxtrot Racing Mason Jar, trained: Richard Newland, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

Five ran here and we had an obvious favourite in Mason Jar. The clear next best was the so far inconsistent in bumpers House Island, who was making his hurdling bow. The other three were much of a muchness and well behind that pair on their best form. With Mason Jar in control and unworried in front the only oddity was Top Man taking second from House Island before the last, only to lose it back on the run-in. The only concern for Mason Jar was that he was terrified of the Kauto Star statue in the paddock. If thinking about backing him in future, be sure to check out the garden art and furniture situation on the course in question. Oddly, the ghostly Desert Orchid statue caused him no stress.

+  Top Man (3rd): Won once in three Irish points and ended up fifth of nine in his one bumper run. This was an interestingly progressive show, appearing to appreciate some of the extra distance but not every last yard of it.
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