Penshurst, 25/3/18

Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent

The first Penshurst cropped up early in the schedule than most years, thanks to the timing of Easter. Some people may consider that a plus, others a minus. The slightly mild weather meant a worse crowd than most seasons, but it still was not bad. The going was all rather yuk, sort of a spongy, springy consistency that would swallow people whole in a Victorian melodrama. After a hammering over seven races, it will test the self healing powers of the track in time for the next meeting.

Going: Good to Soft, Heavy in the dip

Race 1: Drill Service (Horley) Ltd Members

1: Little Legend     2: Emeralds Choice

Winner owned: Mrs Cynthia Woods & Michael Haydon, trained: Cynthia Woods, ridden: Charlie Marshall

An interesting race as none of the runners had made an appearance this season. It was like December all over again. Officially this is a combined members for the host hunt, the Mid Surrey Farmers' Draghounds and the Southdown Eridge, but again the latter did not field a contender. That did not mean that in the post-race ceremonials there were anything less than pots left, right and centre. Five started this, four survived the first fence, two finished. The first fence departure was racing debutant Carmel Venture, who failed to meld an adventurus entry into reward. Of the other non-completers, Annie's Gun pulled up, not finishing for the fifth time in a five race career. She resisted a run out or refusal, both of which she has done before. Little Legend, now an enthusiastic fourteen year old, racked up win seventeen of his career, although Emeralds Choice made a game effort for a decently durable period of time. The other runner, Provincial Pride, called it a day before Annie's Gun, which is a moral victory for the latter.
Little Legend, busy doing legendary things

Race 2: Geoff Boorman Fuels Restricted, 2m 4f

1: Caryto Des Brosses     2: Florella     3: The Master Remover

Winner owned: JRM Ridge, trained: David Kemp, ridden: Shane Roche

With a bigger and more competitive line-up than the opener, this race was a more reliable guide as to what we could expect of the rest of the card. The answer was cautious racing, slow times and horses hanging on in contention by the skin of their teeth being found out by the bad ground in the dip. After his impressive Charing win, it was Caryto Des Brosses who was able to plough through without batting an eyelid. An admirably persistent effort from Florella meant that the winning margin was only about three lengths, but Caryto Des Brosses held the situation under control at all times. After setting the pace for most of the way, The Master Remover's challenge was ended by the boggy bit, but holding on for third meant that no credit should be taken away from the effort. A whisker behind was Stage One, who had finished second at this level at Ampton two weeks earlier. For a horse with Rules rating of around 110, this is not a great start in British points, and also a slightly surprising one given his love of finishing third in hurdles and chases.
The Master Remover shows the way, from Caryto Des Brosses (black) and Florella (red & green). It does look as if the leader has half an eye prematurely on the table of post-race trophies.

Race 3: Montreal Estate Conditions

1: Summer Sounds     2: Thomas Junior     3: Bringinthebranston

Winner owned: James Jackson-Stops & Tim Jackson-Stops, trained: Francesca Nimmo, ridden: James Jackson-Stops

An unusual race for Penshurst, and not just on this day, as six started and they all finished. However, Thomas Junior had other ideas about setting the 100% completion target and whipped round at the start. Losing a good thirty lengths in the process, he did a grand job to get back in contention and try to put the wind up in-form Summer Sounds. However, the favourite had been teasing him, and just when Thomas Junior appeared on the scene, Summer Sounds quickened up and left the runner-up nearly as far behind as he was at the first fence. It is the cyclical nature of existance, all in the microcosm of south-east point-to-points. Who woulda thought it? Those who saw the horse that Summer Sounds beat at Charing win yesterday might have had an inkling how this race would play out. Bringinthebranston developed a bit of an awkward streak last season, but this was a bit more encouraging all round. He needs to prove that he will do it all season.

Race 4: John Coldman Ladies Open

1: Court Dismissed     2: Arbeo     3 : Bavard Court

Winner owned: Glebe House Racing Cub, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Izzy Marshall

There was a time when this would have looked a reasonable Open by local standards, but the runners were not in the best of recent form, in some cases simply being overtaken by age. The bookmakers were equally unconvinced and from five runners the market did have a stage where there were four 5/2 co-favourites. Court Dismissed is only eight years old, so lacked that "too old for this nonsence" excuse, but on this evidence he is very lazy, and any time it looked as if his rider were to ease off on the scrubbing and rushing him along, his work rate instantly declined. Fortunately Izzy Marshall had the energy to see it out to the line, and that meant that a spirited effort by Arbeo just failed. Bavard Court only cried enough approaching the second last fence. In contrast, Adept Approach had another disappointing day.
Court Dismissed is busy being bustled along with a lap to go. Bavard Court, Adept Approach and Limpopo Tom give him no peace, but Arbeo is showing the patience to exploit the efforts of the three chasing the winner more closely.

Race 5: RH & RW Clutton Mens Open

1: Sentimentaljourney     2: For 'N' Against     3: Glint Of Steel

Winner owned: Mrs Lucie Varnham & Robert Varnham, trained: Robert Varnham, ridden: Nathan Rahman

Everyone knew the script here. Glint Of Steel was the star turn, but he needed to bounce back from a disappointing seasonal bow in a hot race at Horseheath. For 'N' Against could exploit any weakness shown as long as he took heart from returning to three miles after making his own sluggish seasonal bow at two and a half miles. When For 'N' Against went to the front approaching the second fence from home, it seemed that the alternative ending had been selected. Amazingly, nobody had kept Sentinmentaljourney and Nathan Rahman informed about this, and in the home straight they swept past For 'N' Against, who went from smoth cruise to treading water in a few metres. These were not a bad couple of scalps for a jockey getting his first victory.

Race 6: Connollys Red Mills Intermediate

1: Margot Fontane     2: Cooladerry King

Winner owned, trained & ridden: Peter Bull

This was an eventful finish, to say the least. Margot Fontane led coming out of the dip, Keel Over passed her crossing the second last fence, Margot Fontane fought back at the last, and edged back in front on the run-in. She appeared to hang on for first, but at some stage Keel Over unseated Johnny Bailey. The best vantage points are nowhere near the finishing line here, so no racegoers had a great view of what happened, other than those who had scarificed knowledge of the rest of the race. The judge decided that the jockey was unshipped before the line. The jockey objected. After an inquiry, the result (i.e. Keel Over was a non-finisher) stood. Presumably, without any additional evidence, it would have been hard to see any other outcome, unless the judge had a genuine change of mind. As far as form goes, Margot Fontane had unexciting recent figures but was not losing far in decent races. Keel Over had won an older horses Maiden impressively, then found a Restricted much harder work. The two strands merged here and Keel Over was just found wanting against the more experienced horse.

Race 7: Sheperd Neame Open Maiden

1: Grayhawk     2: Conteur D'Histoire     3: Cnoc Sion

Winner owned: Mrs Caroline Wedmore, trained: Rose Grissell, ridden: Os Wedmore

Rather like the Ladies Open, this race lacked a horse with the attributes to dominate the betting and at one stage we had three of the five runners as 5/2 joint favourite. Grayhawk, a veteran of fifteen losses, including in handicap chases when rated in the low 70s, was not one of them. Cnoc Sion, with seventeen defeats to his name, was in that trio, with Loughmore Run, after the pair had finished second and fourth two weeks ago at Kingston Blount. The conditions that day were described by neutrals as the worst they had ever seen at that track, and there had to be a doubt that they would have got over the exertions so soon. Cnoc Sion did better here, but it was Conteur D'Histoire, twice a hurdles runner-up and once rated 124, who posed the biggest threat to Grayhawk. The fact that the grey shadow kept him at bay speaks volumes as to why Conteur D'Histoire was still qualified for a Maiden.
Conteur D'Histoire just leads Grayhawk, with Loughmore Run not yet letting them have their own way, Cnoc Sion (white & blue) is in cohorts with Sheila's Steps about being patient. Instead, the got tailed off.
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