Lingfield, 6/3/17

The expected inspection did not materialise. What did appear was that the course was rendering the chases farcical by missing out all four fences on the far side. Given that Lingfieled rarely has more than two chases per meeting (ironically this was one where they did) and those that run are plagued by small fields, it seems implausible that the chase course could be so much worse n condition than the hurdles one, where all flights were jumped. The two are so close that the runners had to slalom around the hurdles to avoid the fences. Of course, if both hurdle and chase tracks are unusable, the meeting would be abandoned, so it seems as if some people were being economical with the truth. This is the last jumps meeting for eight months, so it is not as if they would be in a rush to repair the chase parts.

Going: Heavy (apart from the all-weather opener)

Race 1: Free Horse Racing Tips At Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: The Big Bite     2: Polly's Pursuit     3: Arthington

Winner owned: NT Griffith & RM Haddock, trained: Tom Lacey, ridden: Noel Fehily

For once there was some point of interest, or even points, in an all-weather bumper. For starters the convincing winner, who was making his debut, represented a yard that is good at producing young horses very ready, but not normally the flat racing types that make the most of these races. Secondly, course and distance winner Polly's Pursuit pulled so hard that the saddle slipped, and until she calms down, her potential will be hard to develop. Thirdly, there were three senior jockeys who attended only for rides in this race, and it sounded like there was a fair bit of aftertiming by people who claimed to have latched onto Noel Fehily, rather than Northern based Brian Hughes and Graham Lee - for no obvious reason.

+   The Big Bite (1st): A very taking debut. There is the worry that his yard gets them up to speed for day one, and he may not therefore improve on the effort. However, there could be wins to come without needing improvement.
+   Potters Hedger (5th): Got stuffed on debut but ran much better at Warwick afterwards, sixth but losing by only five lengths. He hardly seemed the sort in need of a sprint based event like these races on sand usually turn into, so another loss by about the same margin augurs well for when he goes hurdling.

Race 2: Clive Richards 65th Birthday Maiden Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: King Uther     2: Hogan's Height     3: Positively Dylan

Winner owned: Anthony Ward-Thomas, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

Chalk this one up to the rider - another instance of Tom Cannon being prepared to push and nag from an early stage at a horse that was not terribly keen, or (if more generous) equipped to win a maiden hurdle on heavy. He has won a bumper, so is not a total dolt, but hurdling has not gone the way that might have been hoped. Until now. What it took to win was a) pace setting Hogan's Height going from comfortable to out on his feet around about the last hurdle, b) favourite Flemcara getting to a stage after two out where he was not going to catch Hogan's Height and being virtually pulled up on the run-in and c) Positively Dylan being held together for as long as possible and not quite picking up as well as needed when challenged to go and win the race. Then came d), which was the revelation that Positively Dylan's tack had broken, leaving his rider without stirrups, something not clear until the horses were close to the winning post.

+  Hogan's Height (2nd): Eventually lost in a slightly disappointing fashion, but it was his hurdling debut and for the first 2m 2f his effort was beyond reproach. On this evidence, he is worth looking out for in a slightly shorter race. The 2m 1.5f hurdles at Fontwell immediately spring to mind.
+   Positively Dylan (3rd): Last coming down the hill, Adam Wedge was still keeping him on the bridle between the last two, where we suspected that the jock was expecting his proven 2m 7f stamina to come into play late on. Unfortunately when the move came it was finite because his stirrups had broken, and there was only limited contribution possible from his rider. It still looks like a horse that can find a race somewhere, probably a longer one.
x   King Uther (1st): It is possible that this reminds him that he is supposed to be winning rather than phaffing around, but until he proves that he will do it without one of the rides of the season, he is one to be wary about.
King Uther managed to get a winning margin like this, despite his bets efforts not to. Hogan's Height is a bit disgusted with himself, whereas Positively Dylan is showing no regard for the wellbeing of his rider's groin.

Race 3: TTS Network Novices' Handicap Chase [2m]

1: Ardmayle     2: Touch Screen     3: Instingtive

Winner owned: The Wishful Thinkers, trained: Ali Stronge, ridden: Adam Wedge

Before he won at Leicester last week, one of the Irish posters on the Jumping For Fun forum made a very strong case for the quality of Ardmayle's Irish pointing form being way ahead of his shiny new handicap mark earned over hurdles. He duly won that with some comfort, and turned out under a penalty here. Carrying 12 stone 5 pounds and dropping down to a shorter race was something of a combination nuisance (the weight being the bigger deal), and he did look a little weary on the run-in, but the race was long since in the bag. Reviewing the hurdle runs will bring two words to mind - 'off' and 'not.' Arrange them in the order of your own preference. Touch Screen plugged away gamely from bottom weight, but all it was doing was ensuring second place from the labouring Instingtive, who did not match the effort of his Plumpton win. He still is doing better over fences than hurdles - if this counts as "over fences."

+   Ardmayle (1st): Will probably still be ahead of the handicapper after this. It is just a question of how the ground works for him as it begins to dry out.
+   Looks Like Power (4th): Had not run over fences before, so even with so few to jump, he still had a useful racecourse schooling session. He ended up fourth due to setting a pace too fierce for the conditions, and better is possible when he understands the concept of leading sensibly.
A not very interesting picture of Looks Like Power (far side) and Instingtive not being challenged yet by Touch Screen (6), Lightentertainment (green & white) and the hidden Ardmayle.

Race 4: Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Eminent Poet     2: Disputed     3: Old Salt

Winner owned: BC Dice, trained: Venetia Williams, ridden: Charlie Deutsch

A sub-par four horse turnout for a respectable prize. All four were potential winners, although the case for Eminent Poet and Like The Sound was a touch stronger than the other two. That pair controlled the race from the front, and Eminent Poet was able to keep going, whereas Like The Sound could not. Sometimes sport is very easy to explain. There were a few worried looks from backers of the winner as Disputed began to close up between the last two hurdles. But this is Disputed we were dealing with, and he finished with all the dynamism expected of a horse that has now won twice from thirty-three races, and will take a place in an instant. Like The Sound has been first and second in novice hurdles leading into this - after a disappointing handicap debut here on ground that should have been OK, it may be that his exploits in novice company have spoiled the short term future.

+ +   Old Salt (3rd): Won a two mile hurdle at unchallenging Ludlow, then ran quite well on the follow up at Ffos Las. Since then both runs have been at about two and a half miles, and whilst today was better than the preceding flop, he is one to take serious note of when back in a shorter race.
+   Eminent Poet (1st): Will look a bit high in the handicap after another win, but with a heavy ground record that now reads 31111, we at least can narrow down the days in which he may defy it. One win on soft ground was clearly luck!
xx   Disputed (2nd): So far he has finished second or third in exactly one third of his races, so this very decent run cannot be presumed to be a stepping stone into another success.

Race 5: Heart FM Handicap Chase [2m 7f]

1: Veauce De Sivola     2: Goring One     3: Matrow's Lady

Winner owned: GL Singh & Dil Singh Rathore, trained: Brian Barr, ridden: Mitchell Baysan

Only ten of the eighteen fences were jumped, and after many times picking up minor money, it is a shame for Veauce De Sivola that he finally got off of the mark in a race of zero worth. Maybe the two phenomena are connected. Favourite Matrow's Lady wins with lowish weights, and had 11-3 here even after her rider's seven pounds claim. Finishing third was not great, but by making the race a test of galloping rather than jumping, that chink in her armour was exagerrated.

+   Goring One (2nd): Not the force of old, the handicapper has relented with him, and he was able to win his previous race. He too is not a great bearer of big weights, but the main thing is that he loves Lingfield. In the past his form was 112, with the loss by only a neck. Then connections did not come back between November 2011 and now. This performance should be a reminder to give it another go. He acts round Plumpton as well.
+   Matrow's Lady (3rd): As mentioned above, she is best when carrying no more than 11 stone. Both chase wins have been when rated 86, but she was capable of winning from marks over 100 as a hurdler, so there is every chance that she defies her current mark of 92 when lightly weighted on soft or heavy going.
x   Letter Exit (fell): Was not going to win, but was shaping as if he finally had found a workable combination of race, headgear, track, distance and going when he fell three fences out. What next?

Race 6: Ryan Vehicles Handicap Hurdle [2m 7f]

1: Point N Shoot     2: Over My Head     3: Flugzeug

Winner owned: Mead & Vowles, trained: Nigel Hawke, ridden: Ciaran Gethings

A very dominant win for Point N Shoot. He had done little in novice hurdles, although not asked to put up much in the way of effortas he got beaten. Unsurprisingly his handicap debut had been a great improvement, but the follow-up was going far less well when he fell. The cheekpieces used that day were removed here, and Point N Shoot reacted with great enthusiasm. There was early morning money for Over My Head, whose yard is on a horrible losing run but now finds himself well handicapped on his best. He was no threat to the winner, but scrapped away to keep second from the erratic Flugzeug. Burgess Dream has two recent course, distance and going wins to his name, but here he ran as if the efforts have bottomed him for the time being.

+   Point N Shoot (1st): Having established that cheekpieces are the devil's work, he is capable of following up on this win, although the limited evidence suggests that the threatened dry spell will not get his approval. Wetness all soaked up by the pesky cheekpieces, maybe.
+   Over My Head (2nd): Would score few points in a "who can be relied on most" competition, but did enough to make us think of him as a contender to break the stable's losing run.
x   Burgess Dream (6th): A bad day in conditions that should have been ideal. Whether it is physical or merely handicapping, something seems to have brought his warm spell to and end.

Empire - Georgieshore (pulled up): The challenge here was stamina, but like his last race at Exeter, he was more interested in hanging than going forward, and it also had an impact on his jumping. Disappointing, and something that we need to get to the bottom of.

Race 7: Injured Jockeys Fund Training Series Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase [2m]

1: Sea Wall     2: Golan Dancer     3: Brother Bennett

Winner owned: Draper Edmonds Draper, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Harry Reed

In his last two chases, Sea Wall had a fall and an unseat. He survived a thump from Paddocks Lounge at the first, and had to veer off right to dodge another one at the next. From then on, stress not. Clear two out, the nearest pursuers were not able to land a blow.That is about the limit of what the race merits as a discussion item.

x   Golan Dancer (2nd): Is now 0/20, placed in ten of them. Whilst he is edging away from the concept of failing at chases, he is not really threatening to win.
x   Paddocks Lounge (4th): Fell in one of his Irish points and also on his chase debut. His completion was aided by omitted fences, but even in the pitiful remains, he looked like a horse that is going to have problems with his jumping skills.

UK-Jumping Selections - Sea Wall: Got his distance and going, so duly won, but given his record over fences, it may have been a different tale had there not been too many obstacles omitted.

Empire - Brother Bennett: Had not done a great deal of work since having a minor wind op, and whilst he coped with heavy ground, less testing would be perfect. To jump well and put third prize in the bag added up to a nice day out.
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