Plumpton, 13/2/19

This was the end of the Wednesday afternoons in 2019 experiment with Plumpton fixtures. Results over three fixtures? Disappointing crowd. Abandoned. Sparse crowd. This one was of course possibly hit by lack of faith that this day would see the resumption of racing due from the equine influenza scare. Or perhaps some people were not present because they had the flu. We will probably never know. The missing ones missed out on a day of cracking finishes – over six races the widest winning margin was a length and a half and in four of the them the third was also very close.

Going: Soft

Race 1: Happy Birthday Kim Shaw Novices’ Hurdle [2m]

1: Acey Milan     2: The Flying Sofa     3: Baddesley Knight

Winner owned: Owners For Owners: Acey Milan, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Aidan Coleman

This race set the tone for the day, with Acey Milan outscrapping The Flying Sofa by half a length and Baddesley Knight only being the same distance further back. Approaching the last Colditz Castle was poised to be equally as in the mix, but he just lacked the pace of the first three when the heat was on. Ideally it would have been nice to be able to report that he got boxed in on the rail and could not escape but the horse failed to cooperate. A stern letter is on the way to Alan King about taking the fun out of racing. This was a big win for Acey Milan as Baddesley Knight set a high standard of novice hurdle form and Acey Milan had so far not lived up to his excellent bumper ability – possibly showing ominous shades of stable mate Regal Encore, who only really got going again once becoming a staying chaser. There has been plenty to like about the way that The Flying Sofa goes about the job and hurdling success should not be far away.

+ +  The Flying Sofa (2nd): Has already shown ability to win over hurdles and he will go into the spring unhampered by a penalty for past wins. Our in-house Feng Shui advisor says a flyng sofa is a bad thing, but he is expounding a philosophy that is inherent balderdash.

+  Colditz Castle (4th): Found this a bit tougher than the Wincanton race in which he was a close third last time but gave it a good shot and is in a similarly liberated boat to The Flying Sofa.

+  West Drive (8th): Seemed to have a quiet run round in rear with a brief visit to midfield. The idea of being a non-trier en route to handicaps is flawed because winning his hurdling debut ruined that concealment. What about just ticking over until the return of better going?

+  Perfect Moment (6th): Similar to West Drive, she was not given an overly tough race. She showed a degree of ability in bumpers but has been anonymous hurdling and is one that could have a perfect moment when handicapped.

Race 2: Sedgefielders (Plumpton Division) Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Good Man Pat     2: All Currencies

Winner owned: David Sewell, trained: Alan King, ridden Wayne Hutchinson

A disappointing turnout of three horses did not prevent this being an eventful race. Taking the railway turn for the final time the order was as it had been from the off – Midnight Tune, Good Man Pat, All Currencies, amongst which Good Man Pat was travelling notably sweetly. However, he was right on the heels of Midnight Tune so when she fell at the second last fence he could not help but be hampered. This let All Currencies through for a narrow lead, but Good Man Pat fought back and won going away, although the margin was only a length and a half. Agony and ecstasy in spades. After a couple of shoddy starters over fences, All Currencies has gone much better at it for the last couple but her inability to land a race seemingly handed over on a plate sounds a note of caution about how much to expect from her in the short term.

+  Good Man Pat (1st): When he made a sound chase debut here behind Master Dino it was noted that he would need three miles to peak over fences. Well, not withstanding the much lesser opposition, he seemed perfectly at home with two and a half miles.

Race 3: IEP Financial Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Duc De Beauchene     2: Mr Jack     3: Ding Ding

Winner owned: JP McManus, trained: David Pipe, ridden: Tom Scudamore

An unusual occurrence here – eight horses ran and all of them made at least one appearance in the tipsters selection box in the Racing Post. The winner was joint least popular, which was surprising and suggested that some had not looked all that hard. As our resident previewer noted, Duc de Beauchene had a whiff of non-trier about his run here last time, when the owner also had the favourite in the race. For this handicap debut he was having his first run up from two miles and attracted a late surge of market support. For those following Bloodaxe’s advice, 4/1 was briefly offered on course, but it went far faster than money could be extracted from wallets to actually get that price and the SP was 5/2. In reality Duc De Beauchene did not win like the proverbial handicap snip but bear in mind that the yard had edged onto the cold list and he could turn out to be one of those horses that just does not do things easily. Plus having course specialist and every Sussex racegoer’s irrepressible mare of choice Ding Ding harassing him all the way from the third last must have been a bit disconcerting. More of a surprise was Mr Jack managing second as in the past his results beyond two miles (admittedly in a short career) had taken a definite downturn. With Ballyheigue Bay setting his usual searching pace until unseating two out and Ding Ding known as a two and a half miler (she won this in 2017), it was not a race in which the first pair could hide any shortcomings in their staying power.

Mr Jack (2nd): Previously he had been recommended in this slot for two mile chase potential. On this evidence, two and a half mile chases could be the better answer.

Buble (4th): Had previously raced almost exclusively on good or good to firm ground, so his fourth place here was a fair show and in the past he has needed cheekpieces to excel, so there is a factor than bring further progress from him.

x  Tarrona (PU): His last couple of performances had been decent enough but his record on undulating tracks has been poor, and this was another slot in the litany of failure. Perhaps this was not the first choice of races.
Given that he has never worked so hard in his life, Duc De Beauchene is taking the effort rather well.

Race 4: Strong Flavours Catering Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Micquus     2: Away For Slates      3: Shintori

Winner owned: Mrs Ann Leftley, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: James Best

A massive upset that was the main contributor to a Placepot dividend passing £9,000. In advance it looked like a race that needed little talent to win. One obvious guess for the solution was Seaweed on chasing bow as he had been in good form as a hurdler since joining Chris Gordon. He was going well until a dreadful mess of the eighth eventually unseated Tom Cannon. A few years ago the jockey had somehow survived a similar shambles in the same place on a Dan O’Brien horse and got up to win, but lightning did not strike twice. The prize could have been handed to Shintori and up to the final fence it did look as if the horse displaced as favourite would deliver - but only to those whose sole experience of the Shintori racing philosophy was his win here earlier in the season. Simply speaking, he approached the last and threw in the towel. The faltering finish did not shape like breathing or stamina issues, just like a horse of very little commitment. Initially the next holder of the hot potato of victory was the other chase newcomer, Away For Slates. He had won two hurdles for Keith Dalgleish but added nothing to the Skelton score. His hurdle runs for Milton Harris since then had been poor, so the spud ended up in the possession of bottom weight Micquus. He had a career score before today of 0/26, but his willingness to battle was unknown as he had never really been close enough in the past to need to show it. First time cheekpieces probably helped, yet less so than the fallibility of the enemy.

+  Micquus (1st): Gets a plus because it really is possible that cheekpieces were a very belated difference maker. And he will still be handicapped to be on a low weight in the worst of chases.

x  Away For Slates (2nd): The first instinct was to give him a tentative +. However, his lack of success in the current and previous yard is adding up, and before the race he had to go to post early and be led half way there. There were no bad signals in the race (until the last fifty metres) but it seems as if he is operating on a hair trigger of meltdown.

x x  Britanio Bello (4th): He has not obviously enjoyed chasing so far but when Seaweed departed he was left well clear and going well descending the back straight. One slow jump three out was all that it took for him to give up completely. Not so much Bello as Below (as in where he sits in a measure of acceptable effort).

x x  Shintori (3rd): When he won his chase debut here on soft it was over an extra half mile or so, but the surprise was that he kept on and finished the job in defiance of history. A defeat since was a return to his regular agenda and he just opted to give this one away
Seaweed is trying to impose a regal superiority over the oppo, hindered only by his name. Some hint should have been taken by Micquus being the only one resisting the oppression. The quartet in the background, left to right and equally deferential, are Away For Slates, Shintori, Britanio Bello and Muilean Na Madog.

Race 5: Support The IJF Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Little Boy Boru     2: Three Star General     3: Tractor Fred

Winner owned: J Logan, D Harrison, T Loftus & S Smith, trained: Suzy Smith, ridden: Ben Godfrey

In advance this race lacked a standout candidate (three of the eight were in first time headgear – see what that did for Micquus half an hour earlier) but Little Boy Boru, joint oldest to line up, was definitely on the shortlist. He was splendidly well handicapped on his old best and after a slow return from a long injury absence, he had shown last time that his recovery and the handicapper’s view of his retained ability were gradually coming into alignment. In scraping home by a length, he saw off Three Star General, a horse with only one win in twenty-six races. What this did, in combination with his run here last month, was spoil the helpful stat that all of his best runs come on galloping courses. Tractor Fred seemed like a big danger at the end of the back straight, only to not see out the race quite as solidly as the first couple. As he is short on experience, the inclination is not to blame lack of stamina. Cassivellaunus was popular in the betting after being placed in the three previous races contested. Adding a visor did not have the desired effect of adding the elusive 3% needed. Robinesse was in first time blinkers and she had a similarly disapproving reaction to Cassivellaunus.

+  Tractor Fred (3rd): Offered an encouraging handicap debut from a harsh looking rating. He should still be learning plenty and the fact that he pulled up in his longest previous race was probably not a stamina issue based on what he did here.

Three Star General (2nd): We asked Mr T what he thought and agreed with his verdict of “More like four star fool!” He really did say that (in an episode of “The A-Team”).
x  Solstice Twilight (4th): She has been noted on here in the past as a candidate for sharply improved results in handicap company. What she has done was better than in novice races but not enough to be seen as a winner waiting to happen. Or do we take faith in the benefits of less soft going?

Race 6: Book For Easter Now Conditional Jockeys’ Mares’ Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Hope’s Wishes     2:Riviere Argentee     3: At First Light

Winner owned: MJ Hills, trained: Barry Brennan, ridden: Jordan Nailor

On a day of close finishes we exited with a race decided by a short head. At the second hurdle from home there were four mares fighting for the honours. Front running At First Light had gone beyond her ability to find any more for pressure, although a loss by a length and a half is hardly a Shintori-like shaming fold. Camaplu was having her first race in eighteen months and also could not drag out a bit extra for perfectly understandable reasons. Riviere Argentee seemed to get a slight lead before the final jump, Hope’s Wishes took it off of her and the pair were so close on the run-in that the lead was potentially changing with every nod although Hope’s Wishes sustained the edge for at least the last ten metres of the race. At First Light had previously run well on any ground bar soft, so in defeat she at least added something to her repertoire.

+ +  Camaplu (4th): In a brief career she has had her trials and tribulations, this being the return from one of them. She should be able to find a winnable race (beware the bounce next time) if she can stay healthy long enough to hit peak fitness.

+  Riviere Argentee (2nd): In her last two runs she has done everything wrong by pulling like a train early in the race but both times she has been full of fight at the business end. As a four time flat winner, there is no doubt that she has winning talent. All she needs to do is make an effort to help herself a little bit more.

UK-Jumping Selections – Hope’s Wishes (1st): Exits the list in a couple of weeks and she went out with a bang in suitable conditions. This was her first win for three years – when selected the snapping of the losing streak had seemed more imminent.
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