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Kempton, 28/1/19

One word to describe this: Brrrr! Which is not really even a word, and it also requires clarification that the wind was to blame. Not many people were here to brave the start but it did fill up. Perhaps people planned their travel before they noticed a race division brought the start forward by half an hour.

Going: Good to Soft

Race 1: Matchbook Betting Exchange Novices’ Hurdle [2m]

1: Precious Cargo    2: Extra Mag     3: Celtic Joy

Winner owned: T Barr, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

Extra Mag’s career up to this reads “won French flat race, about to win British hurdle when tripped up by the turf monster, won British hurdle” so for Precious Cargo to defeat him, even with Extra Mag lumbered with a winner’s penalty, counts as a pretty satisfactory opening blast as a jumper. The impression left was that at level weights the result would have been just the same. The previous history for Precious Cargo was three bumpers at Ayr. A win, then second of three, then well beaten. Since the latter he had been wind operated and changed stable. Celtic Joy seemed to improve a great deal for his drop down to two miles, although he would get more plaudits for persistence than for pace. As he held the minor place ahead of 96-rated flat convert Not So Sleepy, that may seem to be a harsh assessment of him but Not So Sleepy did pull too hard for his own good. Fifth placed Manofthemoment could have been a bit nearer but still fifth if he had avoided ploughing through the last.

Precious Cargo (1st): Had something wonky, which appears to have been well and truly fixed.

Leader Writer (Pulled Up): On hurdles debut he was beaten twenty lengths, having been a touch too keen to get on with things. Last time he made a bad blunder and was quickly pulled up. Today he settled near the rear and stayed there, throwing in the towel two from home. There was a brief hint of being outpaced three hurdles from home, but it was not convincing and as an 83-rated flat handicapper not the likeliest of occurences. Therefore a chance remains that he shows up much better in the near future, with one + withheld due to concerns over his hurdling technique.

Race 2: Move Over To Matchbook Novices’ Chase [3m]

1: On The Blind Side     2: Talkischeap     3: Bob Mahler

Winner owned: AD Spence, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

Compare this battling win with On The Blind Side’s atrocious chase debut at Cheltenham four weeks ago. As you do not expect Nicky Henderson to send out a horse too unfit even to keep up after the first furlong or so, what was the reason for the shocking effort? A massive sulk by the horse? Not off? A disastrous tactical faux pas that confused him? Had the stewards queried into the reason for the improved form (went round at the back of the pack, led four out, kept on enthusiastically) we may have had a clue useful for the future. And no sense of foul play needed to be implied. Talkischeap put up a game display conceding weight to a superior hurdler and technically a three lengths loss marked him out as slightly outperforming the winner at the weights. However, with On The Blind Side this could just be the releasing of the kraken.

+  On The Blind Side (1st): A case can be made that this was still not quite the standard expected of such a good hurdler but UK-Jumping unreservedly withdraws the brickbats aimed at him after the chase debut four weeks earlier.

+  Talkischeap (2nd): Goes about the job in functional but likeable style. Hopefully he has more races to be won this season.

x  White Moon (4th): Before this season there was hope that he would be the sort to get stuck into fences like, well, Talkioscheap does. Instead he has come up wanting against classy novices in his last two runs and looks too high in the handicap to take on lesser lights.

Race 3: Matchbook VIP Novices’ Hurdle [2m 5f]

1: Pym      2: The Cashel Man     3: Mystical Clouds

Winner owned: Mrs Patricia Pugh, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

Apparently Nicky Henderson had found it too easy to win the first two races, so he dug up a 1-2 here, just to show that he was putting a bit of effort in. Pym started odds-on based on high ability levels shown so far but he made very, very hard work of seeing off his stablemate The Cashel Man, whose indifferent technique over the final hurdle may well have been the difference between success and failure. Pym is a bit accustomed to finishing second, so was not certain to respond if The Cashel Man had really pinged it. Also Pym had raced mostly on good ground and the little bit of moisture here was potentially not to his liking. Although only third, Mystical Clouds was a bit improved over the first 2m 4f here as his win was only a four horse race and his second last time involved a wide margin loss. Being a Trevor Hemmings horse it will be all about chasing for him, and nothing else matters.

+ +  Manvers House (4th): Ran a cracker at Newbury last time, nearly making up for a dismal hurdles debut. The difference between those was that Newbury was two miles and the debut was two and a half miles, so unamazingly he did not get home in this race. A return to the minimum or so is expected, and a better result should be alongside it.

The Cashel Man (2nd): Nobody will get rich quick backing Nicky Henderson novice hurdlers that were rated in the 90s on the flat but this one had twenty months off prior to today, so there is a real chance that he pops up a little bit fitter still next time.

+  Hugo’s Reflection (6th): Showed almost nothing before a wind op but improved on the first run back and was still in contention when he fell three out in his latest race. Having set the pace he could not see it out all the way to the finish. Big deal, it gets him handicapped. One to keep an eye on at the lowest levels.

+  Joyrider (7th): Off for fifteen months and making his hurdles debut, he boasted some very strong bumper form to bring to the party, e.g. beaten far less than Pym was by Coolanly, but he just stayed at the back and gradually faded out of involvement. This is not uncommon when Emma Lavelle is bringing an injury victim back to racing and much better should be coming. But when?

x  Pym (1st): The standards of performance are fine, there is just a worry about his mental sturdiness.

Race 4: Matchbook Casino Handicap Chase [2m 4.5f]

1: Song Saa     2: Un Beau Roman     3: Royal Magic

Winner owned: Sharon C Nelson & Georgie McGrath, trained: Tom George, ridden: Noel George

A slightly confusing result here as the race was won by a horse that seemed to have lost a bit of interest in putting his best foot forward and with one exception had a dismal record on sharp bends. To add a bit of garlic into the trifle, Noel George seems to save his winners (Rules and pointing) for days other than when UK-Jumping is present. The pair led at fence seven and upped the pace four out. Going into the final turn five lengths to the good, they never seemed likely to be caught after that tactical move. Un Beau Roman had been in rear for most of the race but on any normal sort of day his forward progress would have been soon enough to get involved. Instead he found himself struggling to keep rallying pacemaker Royal Magic out of his hair. With a lot of the runners being well below par in recent runs, or even for the whole of 2018, there is a fair chance that this will be a race to shun as a guide, unless the result embarrassed all of the defeated to get their old act together. King Cnut is exempt from that because he unseated rather than just put up a half-cocked effort. And perhaps Second Time Around is a different problem to cover, as he fell.

+  Royal Magic (3rd): The fallibilities of the oppo warn against taking too much from this but it was at least a significant improvement on his chasing intro, when he jumped with no skill and pulled up. Having over two months between the runs hints that something was not right that day.

x  Exmoor Mist (5th): He is very appealingly handicapped but never shapes as if he stays this far. A tendency to find nothing under pressure sometimes gives misleading clues on depth of stamina, but the outcomes are the same.

x  Bally Lagan (7th): Five fences out a provisional note had been made that whatever the result, he had been far more lively than in his latest races. Totally premature pen activity, as he went out like the proverbial light before the final bend.

x  Second Time Around (Fell): Jumped left and with safety an irrelevance on chase debut and whilst he got some right today, the fall was not his first mistake.

Race 5: Matchbook Best Value Exchange Handicap Hurdle, Div I [2m 5f]

1: Urtheonethatiwant     2: Martabot      3: Cracker Jak

Winner owned: The Barmy Men 4, trained: Jeremy Scott, ridden: Nick Scholfield

A bit of a surprise outcome as at various points in the race both Urtheonethatiwant and Cracker Jak seemed to have dug a bit of a hole for themselves. With six horses in a heap after the final hurdle in the back straight, the effort of recovery could have blocked their chance to contend. Instead three of that six dropped out of the scrap, although Martabot was ominously travelling like the winner before the second hurdle from home. What we knew from his last race is that Urtheonethatiwant is very much an in-form contender and he worried Martabot into defeat with the skill shown by other horses in the past that went down the worrying tactical route.

+ + Urtheonethatiwant (1st): Fits the profile very well of a Jeremy Scott horse that gets a good handicap mark, blossoms at the right time and nabs two or three wins before the handicapper and exertions catch up. One down…

+ + Cracker Jack (3rd): The form of his Sandown bumper fifth is not working out fantastically well but his handicap mark came from novice hurdling when the yard was badly out of form. Therefore there was a genuine possibility of dramatic improvement now that they are off of the cold list and he was in a race of his peers. He came on a lot, just not quite enough. More again is very feasible.

+  Tudors Treasure (4th): Recent runs would not put the wind up a lamb, never mind some keen young novices looking to make their mark on the equine world. That has left him back on a winning mark and after two chase falls plus a confidence booster over hurdles, there were signs here that he just might rumble up another pot of gold soon.

Martabot (2nd): Took the score to 0/16. He responded positively to first time blinkers but when push came to shove, he allowed the winner to bundle him into touch.

Empire – Pete’s Choice (6th): Tracked the leaders going well and was bang in contention three hurdles out, just where he wanted to be. Turning for home Tom Cheesman felt that something was not right and eased him down – it looks to be a sacroiliac injury.

Race 6: Matchbook Best Value Exchange Handicap Hurdle, Div II [2m 5f]

1: King Cool     2: Stonemadforspeed     3: Sisania

Winner owned: P Mott, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

The Cosmic Jester is wonderful. Two days after the farcical fine on Henry Oliver for waving his arms at a horse, Mr Magill put on a display that completely disproved the validity of the rule. He was fine in the paddock, and fine at the start, jumping off in front and battling on bravely until nudged backwards to fifth late on. The problem was the movement from paddock to start. Perhaps he had been misled into thinking that it was infested with leopards, wolves and various ne’er-do-wells. But causing a problem going to post categorically was not a sign of reluctance to race. And we had a second horse who shames the rule. Although an eternity out injured has seemed to calm down Gentleman Moore and perhaps drained his ability, in his old yard he often needed to be led in at the start. Then, once running, he was totally enthused – usually too much so to assist in lasting his races. On an unrelated note, four horses out of nine were given permission to go to post early, which seems to defeat the purpose of the exercise and may be what annoyed Mr Magill. The clue for the actual result happened yesterday, when defeat enthusiast King Cool was a non-runner in a rather busier race than this. Having proven himself to be a rather tricky customer to catch right, the fact that he ran out a relatively comfortable winner (or that to the best degree that he is ever likely to amass) reinforces the view that the race was the weaker of the two divisions. However because nobody phaffed around at the start waiting to see if anyone would force a hard pace, it did actually spin out to be run slightly quicker than Div I. Stonemadforspeed, who was running from a mark ten pounds below his last winning rating, put in an livelier show than of late and may be now be back in a state of slightly bemused in the interest of impending success.

+  Stonemadforspeed (2nd): Edging back to his best? A quite conceivable interpretation of this result.

Sisania (3rd): Has not won since her hurdling debut in September 2016 and therefore whilst this is one of her better efforts, there has to be doubt as to how much further that she can take it.

x  Illtellmema (Unseated): She had been distinctly promising at times over hurdles building up to low level handicaps and looked to have found a good opening here. Instead she travelled poorly, hung left on the paddock exit and unseated soon after that. It was a thoroughly terrible day, but there is one straw to clutch at. In the past she has worn a hood and this shabby display implies that it needs to be brought back.

Race 7: Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Hijran     2: Riviere Argentee     3: Tierra Verde

Winner owned: CatchTwentyTwo, Andyfreight Holdings Ltd, trained: Henry Oliver, ridden: Jason Dixon

The favourite for this was the not so far consistent Empreinte Reconce but the bad omens were out with market weakness – JP McManus ownership made this seem significant. She had a squeak rounding the final turn but found nothing under pressure. The horse that was striding on at this point was Hijran. It was possible that the ground was not soft enough for her but that was not a big enough issue to prevent her third win in the last five races. At the end of the race she was four lengths clear but had eased down and the margin flattered Riviere Argentee and Tierra Verde who were flat out brawling with each other for second.

Everlanes (4th): Theoretically well treated against Hijran, the Preview noted that she had the problems of an out of form yard and a tendency to blunder late in races. She had fixing the first of those in her own hands and clouting the second last left the other problem unsolved.

x  Lassana Angel (6th), Foxtrot Juliet (7th): On New Year’s Day at Catterick the pair of them finished first and third in a weird looking Catterick race. Today’s outcome backed up the view that it was a mad race best treated suspiciously.
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