Lingfield, 19/2/18

Finally a Lingfield 2018 meeting is on, but after a few dry days the rain returned on raceday, just to be very annoying. The card had a brighter spell in the middle, but most of what was happening on the hill, and later on the back straight in general, was hidden in the misty rain. Did we feel like a rider on a downbound train? Yes, except the halfwits on Southern Rail declined to make the scheduled Lingfield stop on the most obvious service for people coming from the London direction. What a bunch of shysters they are.

Going: Heavy, soft places (which had almost certainly piddled away)

Race 1: Champions League Betting At 188bet Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Normal Norman     2: Sangha River     3: You Raised Me Up

Winner owned: Gerry McGladery, trained: John Ryan, ridden: Paddy Brennan

An interesting all-weather bumper in several ways. Yes really. Eleven of the twelve had bumper experience, only one of them having done so on this surface and they did not necessarily have to commit to a sand race. Money came at various stages for four of the horses, and they occupied the first four positions, with the apparent each-way choice Ballinahinch inevitably condemned to fourth. Most fascinating were the tactics. Traditionally there are two ways to approach these. Either you lead at a slow pace and get swamped entering the home straight, or you do the swamping and hope your horses quickens best. This time Paddy Brennan innovatively kicked on with Normal Norman (does the lyric "My name is Norman Bates, I'm just a normal guy" ring any bells?) two furlongs out, i.e. BEFORE THE FINAL TURN (cue dramatic chord). It worked, and the fast finishing Sangha River and You Raised Me Up were well and truly tricked.

Race 2: Best Odds Guaranteed At 188bet Handicap Hurdle [2m 7f]

1: After Aspen     2: Allthegear No Idea     3: Burgess Dream

Winner owned: Jacques Law Partnership and Clive Winward, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Aidan Coleman

This distance and going combination made it almost inevitable that a stubborn refusal to give up was the best tool to have here, and the first three took command at the top of the hill and left their enemies meandering home in also-ran mode. As the result shows, After Aspen was just stronger than Allthegear No Idea, who in turn was a little more powerful than Burgess Dream. The third loves this place, loves long distances and is best suited by ground that is borderline raceable. The fact that he had minimum weight (plus three piunds over) was a big plus against the other pair, so it works as a big credit to them that they conceded the weight. With After Aspen two and a half lengths ahead of the third it appears that the overweight ws critical, but races rarely pan out that simply. The stragglers were led home by Ben Arthur, who would be more at home on a level course, and perhaps also non-sharp turns also.

+   After Aspen (1st): Debuting for Olly Murphy after coming over from Ireland, he had never done well on sharp courses in his homeland. Maybe the new yard have quickly disabused him of the idea that they should be a problem, but this race was understandably run very slowly and he would have found the bends less challenging at this pace.

+   Allthegear No Idea (2nd): Last spring he was knocking on the door in staying chases but could not win and some time soon after he developed a complete distaste for chasing. Unable to persuade him that he was wrong, connections returned to hurdles last time only for another sulk attack to be witnessed. This looked a lot as if the mental corner has been turned.

+   Max Do Brazil (6th): An erratic performer even on the most optimistic measures, he has never done anything positive beyond 2m 3f and ran in non-staying style here. The only surprise was hat he somehow ended up as joint favourite.
With thoughts about how the extra weight on Burgess Dream may have had an impact, After Aspen wants the world to know how much mud and grass he had to carry as extra.

Race 3: 188bet Live Casino Handicap Chase [2m]

1: Lightentertainment     2: Good Man Hughie     3: Finnegan's Garden

Winner owned: David Gibbons, trained: Barry Brennan, ridden: Dave Crosse

In these conditions it is worth expecting a shock or two and this was the opener. Lightentertainment had contested three chases, pulling up in the first two and then losing by over fifty lengths in the third, after trying to make the running. Why would it suddeny go right now? Good Man Hughie (tailed off both earlier chase runs) and Finnegan's Garden got bogged down in the worst of the going. Barney From Tyanee has committed himself to his current slump, Norphin burst a blood vessel and Arquebusier gave up totally approaching the hill. It has to be noted that Lightentertainment did seem to be inspired by the absence of challengers and took the run-in as if not tired at all. It probably is not form to rely on to be repeated, but at least the addition of a visor motivated Good Man Hughie to get stick into the fight for second.

x x   Arquebusier (PU): Attracted market support in a race that seemed to be down to him or Finnegan's Garden. However, he downed tools after a mistake at the mile mark and soon lost touch. He has not ever been the boldest in the heat of a close finish, but this was a major flop in the slop.

Race 4: Play Blackjack At 188bet Casino Novices' Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Fleminport     2: Clash Of D Titans     3: Belle Empress

Winner owned: JP McManus, trained: Jonjo O'Neill, ridden: Aidan Coleman

Following his muddy win at Hereford where heart for a struggle was needed and shown, Fleminport started comfortably odds-on for this, but anyone who had dived in at the short price had to endure some stressful moments along the way. Approaching the hill on the final lap Fleminport had to be ridden along just to hold his third place just behind the leaders and as they turned for home he was again been urged along more notably than Clash Of D Titans or Belle Empress. The belle one called time after the second last and Fleminport had reeled in Clash Of D Titans at the final obstacle, winning by fourt lengths eventually. He appears to have almost no powers of acceleration but a significant will to let nobody down. At some point they will become mutually exclusive. Fourth placed Roc Merle looks like a nice chasing prospect but has shown nothing in a bumper and this hurdle debut, where he jumped indifferently. Hopefully he will be learning all that he needs from this.

Race 5: 188Bet Bet Involved Surrey National Handicap Chase [3m 5f]

1: The Artful Cobbler     2: Petite Power     3: The Boss's Dream

Winner owned: Sir John Timpson, trained: Henry Daly, ridden: Andrew Tinkler

A proper staying chase and filled with a competitive nine horse field. The point of interest then became why horses managed to lose it. That does not apply to The Artful Cobbler, a very rare Henry Daly horse at this track, because he did not lose. He did try to fling his rider to the deck at the thirteenth and the last, but that failed and he was doing the galloping bit rather well. Petite Power: The clue is in the name - he is a small horse not designed for carrying 11 stone 10 pounds around in such mud. He was not proven at this trip but a half length loss says that it was not stamina that foiled him. The Boss's Dream: Took on the first two and could not hack it from the third last. He was not in inspiring recent form, so this did represent minor progress. Cyclop: Gets embarrassed by carryng the Britain's ugliest set of colours. Also, he does better going right-handed and got out of his comfort zone compared to the first three on the far side of the track. Bears Rails: Unproven beyond 3m 2f, he never recovered from an error at the fourth last. He won one race in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017, so probably did not want to play his 2018 hand too early. Coolking: Won this last year in grim style when in red hot form. Frost blue cold form of late meant that his front running failed to scare off the challengers at all. Morney Wing: In the right race, he tends towards inconsistency and was feeling the pressure when thumping the fourth last. The whole goose was soon cooked, not a mere wing. Wood Yer: A couple of falls in his five latest runs have knocked his confidence and he was one of the least likely winners. There were not signs of a recovery here. Saint John Henry: Won his first chase then decided this is not the job that he wants, posting three pulled ups and a thrashing. He lost interest with a lap to go.

+ +   The Boss's Dream (3rd): Can win in a variety of circumstances, but a race within the last three weeks tips the balance in his favour and he is looking well handicapped from the drop back in distance that he earned here.

+   Petite Power (2nd): Now that we know he stays well, he looks worth a try in a better race with less weight. It could work out very pleasingly.

  Saint John Henry (PU): Really cannot be trusted as a chaser at all at the moment, but the starting price of 15/2 suggests that the faithful have not yet been converted back to rationality.

Race 6: Racing Welfare 24hr Helpline 0800 6300 443 Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Ar Mest     2: Le Musee     3: Corzeam

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

An interesting wee novice hurdle. The betting initially went wild for Le Musee, who had come back from a long absence after one solitary French flat run to excel himself in a narrow defeat on hurdles debut. On looks, he is not built to power through the bad ground, and the previously friendless Ar Mest staged a mini-late betting rally. Le Musee was not beaten by the bounce, he lost because paddock impressions were correct and Ar Mest took on the going more effectively. But the real revelation was Corzeam. In three attempted bumpers he refused to race twice and had got a tantrum and pulled up in all three hurdle races. A bit fractious at the start, he was actually totally fine during the race and only conceded between the final couple of hurdles.

+ +   Alltimegold (4th): Spoiled his bumper run by having no clue what was going on, and ruined the hurdle debut with clueless jumping. He was not perfect here either, but there was progress and he needs to be kept track of, especially when handicapping.

+   Le Musee (2nd): Beaten favourite but nothing to get hysterical about and watch for connections holding fire until better ground is available.

x   Corzeam (3rd): We would want to see one more sane performance before giving him the all clear from being a menace to society.

Race 7: TTS Networks Grassroots Hunter Chase [2m 4f]

1: Rouge Et Blanc     2: Saddlers Encore     3: Man Of Steel

Winner owned & trained: Oliver Sherwood, ridden: Pippa Glanville

With the rain, cloud and late start most of this race was invisible to the naked eye, and an artificial light was needed for the photo-finish mirror, just in case. It was not used, as Rouge Et Blanc meandered around in front and found nobody could get to him. After going into an early decline for Philip Hobbs, Saddlers Encore had made a flying start in points, but could not repeat it here. He had a problem dealing with the turn at the foot of the hill, but Rouge Et Blanc had taken command by then anyway. Perhaps. Not for the first time Man Of Steel appeared to throw in the towel rather prematurely, but it is a policy that comes and goes, so need not be expected next time.
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