Plumpton, 6/1/19

When the Plumpton bonus races for the Festival last season attracted very small fields and not many horses on the radar for Cheltenham success, it was speculated here that the initiative had run out of momentum. This season we have already seen Kalashnikov turn up and today we got Master Dino as the star name in a cracking novice chase so it has resuscitated itself as a Red Bull Soapbox race. The big wheel turns, except on trains which were all cancelled today due to engineering works. Apparently the course only noticed very late and laid on their own direct bus service, at which stage a few regulars had already decided to give this meeting a miss. After this transport enlightenment, would it be asking too much for them to start coordinating the time of the last race with the train times for people leaving racing – as things stand they are habitually as out of synch as is possible.
Master Dino – iron grey like the seal lion in Zion.

Going: Good to Soft

Race 1: Watch Sky Sports Racing in HD Novices’ Hurdle [2m]

1: Brandon Castle     2: Baddesley Prince     3: Zoffany Bay

Winner owned: IA Low, trained: Neil King, ridden: Bryony Frost

This proved to be fairly straight forward Brandon Castle fodder. He has run both hurdle races over course and distance, making pay tactics of charging at the hurdle, pick up feet to the minimum degree, start galloping again when instincts say that clear ground must be available. As he is only a little horse he will be harder to place now as either he has a double penalty for novices’ races or will have to go in better standard, more ferocious handicaps to get a lesser burden and potentially get beaten up by surly opposition. Baddesley Prince ended up much closer than in his three previous races but as the last one at Bangor is starting to pan out quite well for no special reason, it was not a shock that he did so. Zoffany Bay has done steadily well hurdling so far but has not really improved on his Plumpton win in early autumn. Maybe springtime will see a revival – although this was not at all wintry.

+ +  Pemberley (4th): Set off entirely with the intention of keeping well out of the way of those exposed as talented and the thirty lengths loss achieved seemed to be the target. He could get a handicap mark now and is one to take seriously.

Baddesley Prince (2nd): Had been hinting at more ability than his finishing positions imply and the only thing that costs him a second axe is that the form line via the winner could make handicaps really awkward. Zoffany Bay, two lengths behind him, is already rated 120.

+  Harry Hazard (5th): Stayed in the front rank for a long way and only faded from the railway bend. He did end up beaten by a long way, but only one horse came from behind to pass him, which compliments the effort made. This was improvement on his bumper run and also his second Irish point run (fell) so he is one to track into handicaps.

+  Mr Stubbs (11th): Ran in seven Irish points without being better than third, often seeming to be a non-stayer. There was no show in an Irish bumper and a British one. He started off at the back of the field and made no attempt to be anywhere else. It could be that he turns out to be talent free but he is worth keeping tabs on and be ready if/when improvement starts to edge along
Brandon Castle has won twice at Plumpton now and turning right to unsaddle as he exits the track rather than heading direct to the stables has struck him as a terrible waste of time and effort.

Race 2: Follow At The Races On Twitter Novices’ Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Master Dino     2: Knocknanuss     3: Good Man Pat

Winner owned: Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, trained: Guillaume Macaire, ridden: Daryl Jacob

Last spring UK-Jumping saw Master Dino in action at Auteuil and noted that whilst he had dominated three year old hurdling in France, he almost always ran in the same race as stablemate Tunis and since the pair turned four, Tunis had usually come out of top. After that the duo met four more times and Master Dino won every race. Clearly he read the report and thought “Ooh La La! I will not be dismissed in zis fashion!” It helps if you say it in a Clouseauish accent. And for this pinpoint piece of equine psychology what benefit have Messrs Munir and Souede passed on to UK-Jumping? Not a cent. We will not be dismissed in this fashion! As far as chasing was concerned Master Dino won on debut in France and was a cut above the oppo here. Knocknanuss was the next highest rated but that came after a suspiciously wide margin of success at Newbury and due to two wins over fences he had to give weight to Master Dino. Knocknanuss could not do that as the French roamer took to our fences rather well. There was an Irish visitor as well, Glenloe, who was a narrow runner-up in the latest Pertemps final. Somehow he has only ever won once and a bad error at fence eleven consigned him to more of the same. Good Man Pat was making his seasonal debut and first go at fences and did quite a good job.

+  Good Man Pat (3rd): On a literal rating compared to Knocknanuss this was not a reason to give him a chase rating above his hurdle one and he will be far better suited by three mile races.

+  Slate House (4th): At face value his form numbers did not totally impress. However, after winning twice in Cheltenham two mile hurdles he had been beaten four times but all were in Grade 1 or Grade 2 company. Needing this first run of the season, he acquitted himself well and will be only limited by how ambitious connections get.
At fence two Knocknanuss leads Slate House and MasterDino is giving them a wary eye. The final rank is Glenloe, Onefortheroadtom andGood Man Pat

Race 3: Visit EBF Novices’ Hurdle [2m4.5f]

1: Phoenix Way     2: Third Wind     3: CommancheRed

Winner owned: JP McManus, trained: Harry Fry, ridden:Aidan Coleman

Advance research could have led to the belief that thiswas a two horse race. Course winner Third Wind was bound to go head to headwith Phoenix Way, who had been second in a Sandown race that has begun to lookquite strong with hindsight. The rest had nothing to gain from getting tooclose to this pair, whom the handicapper has probably pencilled in with highishmarks for novices yet some of them did. This is what you get in the crazy worldof Plumpton novice hurdling. And also in Communist-era Czech cartoons. PhoenixWay was ridden with great restraint and that proved a problem at the end as notonly did Third Wind attack before he was ready (how unsporting) but Debestymandid not give him much room to dive up the inner and the impression left wasthat this could have been less difficult than the one length scramble home thatPhoenix Way made it. For those doubting his Plumpton win, Third Wind confirmedthat he had improved this winter in finishing second, five lengths ahead of129-rated Commanche Red. Debestyman had made a good impression in Irish pointsand on bumper debut but not been so hot last time. This was an excellenthurdling bow, losing by six lengths.

+  Debestyman (4th): This result will not have done his handicap mark any help at all, worth a rating as high as 120 already, but if he keeps doing something akin to this (without the last hurdle error) winning non-handicaps is a realistic ambition.

Éclair Du Guye (6th): Has been noted getting quietly handicapped at this track before and he ran well again. Observe with interest.

+ Uallrightharry (8th): Ran a good race until falling three out in a two miler here and on this occasion he again did a sound job until not lasting beyond the third last, cl umping through the next hurdle to kill his serious involvement. He is alright and has definite handicap potential but it is not clear what sort of ground and distance will work best for him.

x  It’s Got Legs (5th): Finishing between Debestyman and Éclair De Guye should count as encouraging but he has often performed up to this level and yet is now 0/10 over hurdles. At least his status as a very known quantity can make a case for the two mentioned above demanding a couple of pounds relief from the handicap line via Commanche Red
Third Wind struck out for the winning post but Phoenix Way (green & yellow) is sneaking up the inside, frightening the living delights out of Debestyman. Nearer the camera Commanche Red is less than impressed as well. The ones in the background are It’s Got Legs (whose legs are ironically out of sight) and the grey Éclair Du Guye

Race 4: Download The At The Races App Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Duc Kauto     2: Zante     3: Lee Side Lady

Winner owned: Ann & Alan Potts Limited, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Harry Cobden

A fourteen runner 0-100 handicap represented the nadir of accessibility for the day in punting terms. In the end the solution to the race proved to be rather simple – do not, whatever you do, get behind the main action at any stage. And by behind we mean that slipping into fourth could be considered a disaster. Zante pretty much controlled the race from the front but the ominous presence of Duc Kauto was always nipping at his heels. When the Duc went to the lead on the railway bend, he made terribly hard work of staying there and going on to success, but he did at least get the job done. Zante won here over hurdles nearly three years back but has disappointed more often than not since. He does not cast a bright light on the form but it is certainly possible that he had one of his better days. Lee Side Lady went through this as if she was just waiting for her moment to pounce and then was rooted to the ground when the powerful plunge forward was needed.

+  Give Him Time (6th): Started favourite in the end, which involved some innovative thinking by some people given that he was previously best at no further than 2m 2f and had not raced November 2017. He was a serious contender as far as the second last and does not deserve to be shunned for simply failing to finish the job properly in these circumstances.

x  Duc Kauto (1st): In June he found himself fifth in one of those randomly well above average small course novice hurdles but subsequently failed to shine on his handicap debut. He made amends here but at times looked like a horse that was not sure it would all be worth the effort – people here are not worth impressing in his world view. Needing the run after six months off would potentially be an excuse but nothing here suggested it will be a good idea to pitch in a short price next time.

x  Lee Side Lady (3rd): Well handicapped and a winner over the distance, her lack of late race dynamism counts as rather feeble.
Zante leads Duc Kauto with a lap to go. Across from left to right approaching the hurdle are Generous Helpings, Inspireus, Give Him Time and Shanroe Smooch. Lee Side Lady is the one in the noseband chasing those hard.

Race 5: Sky Sports Racing Sussex National Handicap Chase [3m 4.5f]

1: The Two Amigos     2: Calin Du Brizais     3: Pearl Swan

Winner owned: Bradley Partnership, trained: Nicky Martin, ridden: Matt Griffiths

The main event of the season here and it was not the usual race. Often we find ourselves looking for a sheltered spot to watch it, defending the body from the ravages of wind and/or rain. This was not really the war of attrition that is normal for the Sussex National. As a consequence the outcome was unusually predictable, with the first two controlling the race for all three and a half miles. The Two Amigos was popular in the betting after winning a 3m 6.5f race at Exeter, putting icing on the cake of five point-to-point triumphs. His last run in that discipline had seen him run out, but that seemed to be a totally uncharacteristic moment of stupidity. Calin Du Brizais had to go back further in time to show chase success but since then he had two close calls in some of the longest hurdle races to be found, including Sedgefield’s epic 3m 3f bun fights, and a near miss in a 3m 2f chase. This pair set out the challenge to the others of “we stay forever, what you want to do about it?” The answer was nothing, and once they were clear Calin Du Brizais pounding along dourly was no match for The Two Amigos seeming to actually enjoy every last yard. Scottish National seventh Pearl Swan could not deal with such transparent delight and was beaten by more than twenty lengths, still finishing clear of the remainder. Big Meadow’s only past run on a sharp course involved being tailed off in the 2018 Sussex National. A forty lengths plus loss today implies there may be better things to do than give it a third try. I See You Well was operating well within himself when falling at fence sixteen. That spoiled his unbeaten course record (from only two past tries) but it was too soon to forecast where he may have been at the end of the race in relation to the first pair.

+  The Two Amigos (1st): Before the race there was a fear that the handicapper had already taken his measure. Now we see a horse that is on such good terms with himself that he could take this jolly ride a bit further in very long distance races. Break out your celebratory sombrero and start singing songs lamenting your sister Belinda’s unfortunate toiletry routines.

+  Calin Du Brizais (2nd): Although he ought to win more often, the 16/1 available here was a steal for the place part of an each-way bet and if the betting market keeps treating him with such with disdain, he will keep being supportable. A five mile hurdle race would be perfect.

x  The Tin Miner (6th): He had been much improved this season but after making a right mess of fence one he could not lead and as a result struggled with his jumping and galloping. Experts agree that this combination badly inhibits success.

x x  Lac Sacre (4th): Has proven that he owns a bucketload of stamina, but this loss took his chase record to played 24, won 1, with seven second places. That win was his only one since spring 2014, so he is not a winner waiting to happen.

Race 6: Follow At The Races On Facebook Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Alf ‘N’ Dor     2: Finnegan’s Garden     3: Le Capricieux

Winner owned: The Hedonists & Karen Bowen, trained: Peter Bowen, ridden: Sean Bowen

A big return to form for Alf ‘N’ Dor, who lost both December races by fifty or so lengths. He did not jump with massive fluency but his chance was increased when the more efficient (up to then) Finnegan’s Garden fluffed the third last. He did not look like falling himself but James Bowen had a few moments of concentrating on clinging on rather than urging forward motion and Alf ‘N’ Dor, who was definitely enjoying this, stole a decisive few lengths. For the third time in three chases Le Capricieux was competitive but this time he met no mishaps, of his own or someone else’s making, so failing to finish in front of the first couple was slightly negative. Because of the need to combat each other whilst chasing Finnegan’s Garden for second, the final outcome for King Vince and Cybalko was not at all bad and as both are short on experience, better results may be on the way.

+  King Vince (4th): After looking the part in bumpers he had been not very majestic once stuff had to be jumped, but having gone through a wind operation and now gained cheekpieces it is realistic to think of chase wins coming his way. He tends to avoid soft and heavy so the unseasonally mild and dry conditions were ideal for him.

x  Alf ‘N’ Dor (1st): He has a habit of winning one race per calendar year. This was a very early shooting of the bolt.

Le Capricieux (3rd): Now has chase form of 433 but is a little adrift of being ready to introduce winning to the game, and he was not that good at compiling success when hurdling.

Race 7: Watch Today’s Race Replays On Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: First Quest     2: Mr Jack     3: Dream Baie

Winner owned: The Waterboys, trained: Jim Boyle, ridden: Robert Dunne

By this stage of the afternoon we had lived through far too much excitement for one day, and a two mile handicap hurdle was not designed to captivate the imagination. The exception to that was First Quest who won with a bit in hand and proved himself not distracted by human preoccupations. In doing so he readily handled the largely promising Mr Jack and the previously far less exciting Dream Baie. Time will tell if this is important or whether we need to treat this as archtypical Plumpton race seven surrealness.

+ +  Mr Jack (2nd): He has been running a bit better than the form numbers (which are not all bad) suggest, and this was a moment when performance and raw statistics combined. As he underachieved at two and a half miles a race earlier, expect continuance of his mosey through two milers. He may not have the pace for 0-110 races like this (time is on his side but a drop in rating and race class would help) yet there must be something out there for him – two mile chases?

Oden (4th): Ended up beaten about ten lengths but it transpired that he had finished lame, so improvement on a healthier day is very plausible.

x  Gannicus (7th): Does have a hurdle win to his name and got a good result in defeat during a blanket finished a couple of runs ago but he has not been able to replicate it twice since and the moment for redemption appears to have passed.

UK-Jumping Selection – First Quest (1st): Sat comfortably in the pack, cruised into a challenge on the rail turning for home and had plenty up his sleeve to see off those who also had something in reserve. Splendid stuff.
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