Lingfield, 10/12/18

At face value this was a highly nondescript meeting with paying spectators left short-changed by a six race card that included the eternally irrelevant all-weather bumper. What actually happened was two cracking close finishes and one entertainingly mad result. Under the circumstances that is the best that could be hoped for.

Going: Heavy (but the runners got through it better than is often the case for Lingfield heavy)

Race 1: Matchroom Sport Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Nimby     2: Some Boy Mccoy     3: The Darley Lama

Winner owned: Paul & Clare Rooney, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Three horses caught the eye before arrival on track, but all of them looked very green and in need of time and educational in the preliminaries. Emma Lavelle's newcomer Montana Grey finished fourth, and is hopefully destined to be racing on turf when he understands the sport better. Tribesmans Glory won his only Irish point-to-point, but that was a negative in a way - these races are usually suited to ferrety flat types, not pointing converts. He led for a mile and a half and then went out like a light. The other was Nimby, a well related debutante. He won it fairly easily in the end, but did have to be kept working all the way to the line. Some Boy Mccoy made massive improvement on his debut run. Was it the different surface or just natural progression? Few people will lose sleep agonising over it.

+  Montana Grey (4th): Needs a bit of patience, but he looks the part, which none of the others could obviously boast.

Race 2: Matchroom Boxing Mares' Novices' Hurdle [2m]

1: Coded Message     2: Lady Chartreuse     3: See Forever

Winner owned: Mrs A Allen, trained: Ben Case, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

Based on racecourse achievements, only Coded Message needed worrying about as she had finished closer in bumpers than the others and also managed third on hurdles debut, although beaten almost as far as some others had been in not making the frame. Her problem was that the four of her five rivals came from yards that are comfortable handling backward types that will not pay instant dividends, and where a handicap future had been considered, they were suddenly in a winnable (perhaps) novice race. The other was flat refugee who had a couple of low level wins and therefore could not be dismissed immediately either, although her successes had no hint of soggy ground. As it happened Coded Message ran out a fairly easily winner, picking off front running Lady Chartreuse two out and being unthreatened after. The runner-up weakened plenty from the last, and with the other four all racing each other for third, she did not maintain second place by all that far in the end.

x  Lady Chartreuse (2nd): Disappointingly struggled to last out the race and had a long hard look at the paddock exit when she passed it. A low handicap mark should be on the way - now she has to show that she has the commitment to put it to use. On this evidence that is an uncertainty, one that the market might ignore.
Mares in the mud. Lady Chartreuse leads Coded Message. Next comes See Forever and Ablaze, with Impulsive Leader and Astra Via rounding them up.

Race 3: Careers At Racetech Handicap Chase [2m 7.5f]

1: Burgess Dream     2: Big Time Frank     3: Snowball

Winner owned: The Beano Partnership, trained: Anna Newton-Smith, ridden: David Noonan

The first belting finish of the day, although Big Time Frank would disagree. He fought tooth and nail (or is it hoof and, erm, hoof) to stop Burgess Dream getting past on the run-in. He led three metres from the post and two metres after it, but Burgess Dream timed his nod just right. Judging by reaction of the crowd as they hit the line the majority expected Big Time Frank to have edged the decision, with a sizeable minority on the side of Burgess Dream. It was just like a big controversial parliamentary vote, except this one is done and in the book and the big vote has been rained off or something. Snowball made it a 1-2-3 for the three at the bottom of the weights (and getting nine or more pounds from the others). That raises a suspicion that the going was harder work than suggested in the intro. Favourite For Carmel was in front when he blundered at the fifteenth and immediately lost touch. That looks like a terrible effort, but perhaps he knocked something in the mistake and the day just has to be written off.
Burgess Dream soaks up the admiration of crowd, only to find that he has got back to the winner's enclosure before all but two of them.

+  Burgess Dream (1st): The lesser point of note is how much he had progressed from a comeback defeat at Plumpton only seven days earlier. More important is that this is the second time in three runs that he has gone through a chase without one or two moments of mind-numbing jumping cluelessness. If we believe that he has finally understood what is needed, he is well handicapped over fences.

+  Snowball (3rd): Is not a frequent winner and is unlikely to start being so now, but after two reasonable comeback runs at Plumpton and here, he is worth a shot if given a chance on a right-handed track.

+  Tzar De L'Elfe (4th): Did not improve for the softer going as coud be anticipated, but his best distance is seems to be two and a half miles, so watch for entry in a shorter race.

x  Big Time Frank (2nd): Has yet to win a race and rarely loses narrowly. This was a decent effort, but the fear is that today was his moment, and complete glory was dragged away from him in the most agonising fashion.

x  Pink Gin (6th): Dropped into class 4 for the first time, the fear was that this was not his ideal course. He seemed fine with it for two and a quarter miles, but the race was finished off very feebly.

Race 4: Weatherbys Racing Diaries Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: The Gipper     2: Oden     3: Chief Brody

Winner owned: PDS Partnership, trained: Evan Williams, ridden: Leighton Aspell

Well, wouldn't you Adam and Eve it, for the second race in a row, the lowest three weights took the first three places, although Chief Brody would have been merely joint third lowest if Harmonise had not been a non-runner. This was not simply a low weight love in, however, as The Gipper was rated nineteen pounds below is last winning mark, and his latest loss had turned out to be a randomly strong race. He was so well handicapped that a past specialistion with easy courses did not stop him here. Oden was debuting in handicaps having run in two Nebwury novices and then had a "protect the rating" sort of genteel run here afterwards. He had won a flat race and got rated in the 80s, so seeing him show ability was not exactly a shock. After Oden the next four finished in close single file, led by Chief Brody who has recently been in tip-top form, if you measure "recently" as covering about ten months, which is what it has taken to him to make the track three times. Just after Chief Brody came Eddiemaurice, who appeared to not have a clear run on the inner coming down the hill and could perhaps have finished a place or two better with a smattering of luck.

+ +  The Gipper (1st): Was not given a chance to lose concentration or waver on the run-in, but had about as easy time as could be hoped in heavy ground for a race laden with front runners. He should be up to more wins before the handicapper catches up with his reawakening.

+  Oden (2nd): A decent effort, and whilst his status of unexposed possible handicap blot was not justified, the horse that beat him did turn out to be a handicap blot. Therefore predicting the outcome of the race was just a blottery.

Clayton (8th): Relishes soft and heavy going, plus won this race last year from a rating five pounds lower. With this being his first race for ten months, it was possible to see what could go wrong, but he has more than one good run whilst fresh so eighth place was less uninspiring.

Race 5: Matchroom Multisport Veterans' Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Jennys Surprise     2: Bally Longford     3: Ballyheigue Bay

Winner owned: Foxtrot NH Racing Syndicate, trained: Fergal O'Brien, ridden: Paddy Brennan

Fine finish number two. The four runner race was made up of three that are normally seen getting involved at least three furlongs longer and one, Sizing Brisbane, who has been AWOL for twenty-six months and had got into a veterans' race after a six race career. He poodled along neatly for a couple of miles before he dropped away, and we look forward to seeing him next in Spring 2020. Jumping right is Ballyheigue Bay's peccadillo, some days he gets by, or almost, despite it. Today he was thoroughly off of his game and was tailed off. That left two to fight out the result. Bally Longford has done things of interest at distances short of three miles only a couple of years ago, whereas Jennys Surprise has shown three miles to be her minimum functional distance. However, she has an excellent record fresh and came here after a nice seven month break. When Bally Longford went on at the second last, it seemed that lack of miles had trumped lack of a recent race for Jennys Surprise, but the leader began to tie up. She got to the front close to the post, despite a desperate effort from Bally Longford. If you had been to any combination of Longford, Ballyheigue or Brisbane, Jennys real Surprise was robbing you of a nice exacta.

+  Jennys Surprise (1st): As noted, she is fearsome when fresh from a break. It will be helped if she can get in a few sub par runs and drop a bit in the handicap.

Race 6: Pdc Handicap Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Deebaj     2: Max Do Brazil     3: Some Can Dance

Winner owned & trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

A 3.00 pm last race meant that it was unusually short of gloom for a December meeting. That seemed to inspire reluctant hero Deebaj to have one of his very rare interested days. The final margin was fifteen lengths, which implies that he was so well in himself that he could not bring himself to do anything to lose this race. It also helped that he is proven at the race distance, which was not true for seven of his nine rivals. It also was a slap in the chops for Max Do Brazil. He has been very disappointing since coming from France, flopping in six out of seven previous British runs. He had cruised through to lead on the home turn and must have been as shocked as anyone to see Deebaj of all horse come breezing by at the second last hurdle. The mental shock meant that he only just held off Some Can Dance for second place.

+  Telegraph Place (7th): Two runs for his new yard have not gone well, but there is a potential for making a few headlines when dropped back into two milers.

x  Cigarisi (PU): Did fine on his comeback from a long absence at Sandown, but had not looked short of fitness that day so improvement was not certain. The need to step up from two miles was not obvious either. The flop here could have been the dreaded bounce at work, but beware of continued attempts at this sort of distance until he has proven able to cope.
A pleasant winter late afternoon, with the sun dropping genty over the distant hill. It makes being able to identify the horses almost uimportant, but Illtellmema is in front. Max Do Brazil is in the bright orange jacket. Deebaj is probably in the rear rank behind the green silks.
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