Lingfield, 14/11/17

This is the first jumps meeting of the Lingfield season, and it has developed an unhealthy obsession with two and a half mile races. Or is it unhealthy? It is more interesting than Kempton’s opener packed full of two milers. The only downside is the start being so distant from the crowd and behind two giant owls erected by a sponsor. And to complete the enigma, the main two mile hurdle race was won by a two and a half miler (well, he seemed to be these days). With no finishes marred by shirking, even though shirkers were present, it proved that the giant owls are no terror to the horses.

Going: Soft

Race 1: Christmas Parties At Lingfield Park Mares’ Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Bullfrog     2: Agathe Rosalie     3: Oborne Lady

Winner owned: Galloping On The South Downs Partnership, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

When these all-weather bumpers first started they were unrelentingly terrible races, with the odd impressive effort that the horse could not replicate on turf. After the passage of much time, the odd half-decent horse can be found in them, although not often being as good on dirt as they turn out to be elsewhere. This race had eight four year old fillies making it up, five of whom were new to racing. Oborne Lady was heavily backed, but found it all happening too fast for her, whereas having been dropped out well adrift to start, Agathe Rosalie (two runs on turf, neither up to much) showed that it was not impossible to come from last to first. Then she was surprised when Bullfrog battled back and denied her on the nod. Not all all-weather bumpers are this much fun (about 5/10 on the Cairoli’s Jolliness scale). Much Too Much (by Stimulation, out of Complication) is excellently named but so far less good at running.

+   Bullfrog (1st): Got really stuck in here on her racing debut and might turn out to be one of these occasional competents found in this sort of race.

Race 2: British Stallions EBF Novices’ Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Jabulani     2: First Assignment     3: Voie Dans Voie

Winner owned: Walters Plant Hire Ltd, trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Davy Russell

Jabulani came into this race with the hurdle form in the book, taking on some opponents with the potential to exceed what he had done. The betting market was certain that their time was not now, and Jabulani ran out an easy winner. He was left in command when Well Smitten fell two hurdles out, but that horse was looking to have had enough and the incident changed the places, not the winner. First Assignment has an interesting Irish point win under his belt, but he looked to be the least fit of the line-up here (unfit would be harsh), so expect him to do more than this in the future. As for the winner, he had a high handicap mark before this and now collects a novice hurdle penalty, so the fear is that from here on in he runs well in defeat more often than he wins.

+ +   First Assignment (2nd): Won his only Irish point, beating the recent impressive Wincanton winner Red River. Trying to translate Irish point form to new countries, new trainers and new disciplines is about as safe as dousing yourself in paraffin before starting to set off the fireworks, but it would be very likely that this horse progresses from this into classy realms.

+   Well Smitten (UR): Ran well in only one of his three bumpers, but was destined for a place before he tipped up here. If he has settled on consistency around that best standard of performance, winning hurdles should be viable.

+   Glen Rocco (6th): Pulled up on his point debut and won a very mediocre race at the second attempt. He had a bit of a quiet run here, briefly having a peek at the leaders coming down the hill, but not being subject to a stressful time. One to watch for once handicap ready.

+   Buckby Boy (7th): Made an effort to get to the leaders coming over the hill and seemed set to challenge for a place. Somehow nothing really came of it, but it was his first hurdle run and not the first to show a little promise. Monitor his progress.

Race 3: EPDS Racing Welfare Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Somehwere To Be     2: Lake Field     3: Tzar De L’Elfe

Winner owned: Mrs Zara Tindall, trained: Martin Keighley, ridden: Leighton Aspell

Twelve lined up for this, but chase experience was at a premium, and the one who had managed a place over fences, Kavanaghs Corner, spoiled his chance by jumping badly to his right. The quintet that did not pull up all jumped reliably, and in this company that is quite a powerful tool to be operating, second only to something that can make the fiercest opponents refuse to race. At the front of the field there was quite a ding-dong battle between Somewhere To Be and Lake Field, and when the former bounded up the run-in to win by four lengths, it did not quite reflect how tightly the race was run. With Lake Field debuting in Britain after only one run last season, and a bad one at that, Somewhere To Be almost certainly had the fitness advantage. The only concern about the form is the presence in third of Tzar De L’Elfe, who has a long and winless career, mostly in France. However, on his day he is capable of a reasonable show and finally has a realistic handicap mark, so it is not certainly a downer.

+   Somewhere To Be (1st): Displayed the ability previously seen in bumpers but mislaid over hurdles. This is not the limit of what he can do, but the second plus is not given as he has not proven to have any consistency yet.

+   Lake Field (2nd): Did win a Tramore hurdle on heavy ground, and on this evidence one or two chases can come his way.

+   Kilinakin (5th): Ended last season with a promising handicap debut over hurdles and jumped soundly on this chase debut. He was eased when beaten and should be more competitive with the run under his belt.

x   Tzar De L’Elfe (3rd): This run was very encouraging after eight months off, but a history of no wins in twenty-eight races (only four in Britain) does suggest we avoid getting overexcited about his likelihood of going two better.

x   Beni Light (PU): Just a bit of a confession here. After a promising bumper debut he joined the site selections but never quite got things together over hurdles. This chase debut was not really any better and although he was not awful at jumping, most of the others were better. It has all gone horribly wrong.

UK-Jumping Selections: Le Coeur Net (4th): A very solid chase debut after eight months off, he has looked like a stayer in the making previously, so expect longer distances to be on the agenda.
Somewhere To Be takes a glance at the winners' enclosure and decides that it is indeed somewhere to be - soon

Race 4: Lingfield Park Flat Jockeys Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: The Game Is A Foot     2: Argyle     3: Amadeus Rox

Winner owned: The Secret Circle Racing Club, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Rob Hornby

Unfortunately only five turned out for thus admirable and well funded event. One of the two non-runners was due to not finding a suitable jockey and the other due to not being fit to run, leaving a suitable jockey without a ride. The pace was strong thanks to leader Capitoul taking a fierce pull, and when he fell two out it did look as if he had come to the end of his tether, whilst holding one to enough energy to hamper the tailed off Keep To The Beat and knock her rider out of the saddle. Amadeus Rox was inconvenienced by the original tumble, leaving the race between The Game Is A Foot and Argyle. The Game Is A Foot won a two and a half miler last week and bore no penalty because it was a conditional riders race. Argyle has shown a bit of promise at Plumpton in novice company and had the visor on for this handicap debut. On the run in, known stamina trumped headgear, and it did turn out that Rob Hornby originally planned on being a jump jockey and started out working for Henry Daly. He thus had done everything that a jump jockey does except ride in a race, and now that is ticked off.

+   Argyle (2nd): Perked up in the visor and certainly should be capable of a handicap hurdle win.

x   Capitoul (Fell): When he does race sensibly the ability is there, but impatience is a problem and returning to a more traditional race is not necessarily going to see a different mental attitude.
Everyone is delighted with everyone else after The Game Is A Foot wins - nice to see the horse admiring the jockey

Race 5: Weatherbys Global Stallions App Handicap Chase [2m]

1: Crievehill     2: Get Rhythm     3: Red Devil Star

Winner owned: Highclere Thoroughbred Racing – Crievehill, trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Jamie Bargary

Advance analysis promised a good spectacle, and that was exactly what the horses provided. Five of the nine turned for home in a tight bunch and made an extended bout of equine intensity last to the line. Unfortunately Un Prophete fell at the final fence, but only a very late surge from Crievehill made the final margins as far as two lengths, a short head and a head. Get Rhythm had a chase sighter before going back to hurdles and winning twice. This hat trick bid failed but with honour intact, although he was only a whisker away from being unplaced.

+ +   Keel Haul (4th): Having been in a the doldrums (with one exception) last season, he came here a day after the second anniversary of his last win. Things took a big turn for the better and he is well handicapped if able to sustain it. Look out for when he has 11-1 or less to carry as low weights cheer him up somewhat.

+   Crievehill (1st): Won this due to coming on for his return to action and he has every chance of adding more success to his tally.

+   Red Devil Star (3rd): Had a warm up run in September and then an inconvenient six more weeks off. He ran a corker here on a course not certain to bring out his best, and has a shot at improving his slightly disappointing strike rate.

x   De Faoithesdream (6th): In the past he has been noted here as showing signs of disinterest in racing, but he then snaps out of it for a run or two. This was another apathetic day and with his twelfth birthday looming, he may not have time to change his mind again.

x   Allee Bleue (7th): His record going left-handed is now 5600P077, whilst he has four wins and a second going right-handed. Connections seem determined to make him a dual direction horse, but let us work with the facts to hand. These make the x a + when going the correct way round.
This is the end - Crievehill has a form of command, the places start with Get Rhythm on the far side, then Red Devil Star in the middle and Keel Haul nearest

Race 6: Weatherbys Stallion Book Handicap Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Boyhood     2: Hallings Comet     3: Molly Carew

Winner owned: H Stephen Smith & The Gabbertas Family, trained: Tom George, ridden: Adrian Heskin

Most of the field were on the comeback trail after the summer off, and the two that were not were outside their comfort zone on soft going. A series of summer wins made Hallings Comet an eye-catcher in the card, but as well as the ground, the handicapper has had a say and Boyhood was too strong for him. The winner seemed a bit tubby before the race, so the choice is that either he is a horse that naturally has a little belly on him (so do not worry about it in the future) or that he is so spectacularly well handicapped that he could win on 90% power (make the most of it in the near future).

x x   Gabrial The Great (6th): Lost interest and lost touch before going up the hill after the third last hurdle. This saved him the inconvenience of downing tools late in the race – perhaps he was the one anti-owl operator on the card.

x x   Champagne George (PU): He had not raced for twenty months, but won two of the last three when he did. This was a horrible effort and it did not look as if fitness issues were to blame. In rear early, he became rapidly detached from the third hurdle and clambered over the next as if he was about to grind totally to a halt. From then on he bowled along without a care in the world, nor a shot at getting on terms, until going around the last. All terribly sulky stuff.

Race 7: Lenvale Paper 25th Anniversary Celebration Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Touch Screen     2: Tara Mac     3: Gowell

Winner owned: TL Morshead, trained: Mark Gillard, ridden: Tommy Dowling

A neatly executed race, ambling through the event in midfield before pouncing two fences out and soon sealing the deal. For the most part this is how trainers, jockeys, owners, Inca clairvoyants and Hroughamar, the chief spirit of thoroughbred racehorses would have it. In this instance it was a surprise as Touch Screen’s efforts have been as widely variable as his stable’s form in the last year and a half, and the yard was cold of late. When he was not annoyingly underachieving, it tended to be at two miles. So, we knew this outcome for Touch Screen was possible, but not probable and we do not trust him for an immediate repeat, but he may do one anyway. Everyone should be agreed on that. Tara Mac was crowned queen of inconsistency a while back, but this effort meant she has been solid in her last two races. Expect woe and despair just over the horizon.

+   Gowell (3rd): When seen in action, he often gives the impression that something good is possible, but the results in the cold light of day do not usually reflect that. With half the race done today, his jockey could not have been blamed for calling it quits, so badly was he travelling, detached at the back. However, he crept gradually back into the race and found a last fence error cost him second. Expect three miles to be on the agenda very soon.

x x   Carqalin (4th): Formerly with David Pipe, he looked as if any job but horse racing would be his choice, so on debut for Kim Bailey it was strange that he started second favourite, at 2/1. Turning for home, the possibility of a miraculous conversion remained, but from the third last it was the same old same old.
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