Plumpton, 16/1/17

A day of no peaks and troughs at Plumpton, although there were a couple of nice prizes put up for class 4 staying handicaps.

Going: Soft (Heavy places)

Race 1: Download The Timeform App Novices Hurdle [2m]

1: Bastien     2: Funny Oyster     3: Work

Winner owned: The Sandy Lodge Syndicate, trained: Alan King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

As Plumpton novice hurdles go, this was very much a Plumpton novice hurdle. Bastien only had one post-bumpers race on his CV, but he won it and ended up with a hefty weight as a consequence. This was not an issue. He joined front running Not Never two from the finish and that rival tied up as Bastien stayed on stoutly, resulting in a very comfortable margin. Not Never hit enough of a wall that he was run out of the places by two horses that had no obvious chance of second place at the end of the back straight. Work jumped better than in her two previous races, but still could not nick second from Funny Oyster, who was supported late on at fancy prices - hopefully each-way.

+   Bastien (1st): To the naked eye he has only won hurdles at Fontwell and Plumpton, but he has at least done so in the style of a horse that can entertain loftier ambitions.
+   Funny Oyster (2nd): Ended up with a flat rating of 55, and no wins from fourteen tries. The first two hurdle spins had little to excite, but the improved show and market support suggested that very bad conditions are what he has been needing.
x   Not Never (4th): Jamie Moore has pinched a couple of races here this season by outwitting the oppo from the front, but it did not work this time. The temptation is to forgive the horse for being too aggressive early on, but he was a sturdy stayer on the flat, and he needs to prove that he is going to adapt to hurdles before this race can be dismissed completely.

Race 2: 'My Dashboard' On The Timeform App Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Yourholidayisover     2: Easter In Paris     3: Goring Two

Winner owned: G1 Racing Club Ltd, trained: Tom Gretton, ridden: Paul Moloney

Even by Plumpton handicap chases standards, this was a fearsome prospect to invest in. The result was partly due to first time blinkers (belatedly?) on Yourholidayisover, who has been racking up places with the relish of a horse that has no interest in winning. The other factor was a masterfully patient ride from Paul Moloney, who had not ridden the horse before, but held on without hitting the front until the run-in, even when travelling far, far better than the rest. When unleashed, the winner surged clear in the blink of an eye. Easter In Paris came here with chase form of 5757F and only one run at two miles, in Ireland a while ago. She had no answer to the winner, but offered one of her better efforts, edging second by a nose from Goring Two, who won this last year and had been placed in two of three other stabs at this particular event. See you in 2018.

+   Yourholidaysover (1st): Has a very uninspiring overall record, but now that blinkers plus tongue tie and bravely patient tactics have proved themselves, the revelations may continue.
x   Triple Chief (4th): Course, distance and going was right up his alley, but as the sextet bunched up passing the station, he was the first to come under pressure (and find nothing!) when there were better candidates to wilt tamely.
Yourholidayisover (6) looks to the paddock for some last minute instructions. Goring Two (7) gets a bit more wound up. The three partly hidden (right to left) are Easter In Paris, Triple Chief and Alottarain

Race 3: 'My Timeform' On The Timeform App Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Kid Kalanisi     2: Ghost River     3: Deckers Delight

Winner owned: Friends From Insurance, trained: Jeremy Scott, ridden: Jamie Moore

Kid Kalanisi had the appeal for this of having won last time, but it was a chase, and there did not seem to be an obvious need to shun that discipline so soon. In the race a fairly mediocre display of jumping perhaps explained the cautious plan, but he won by three lengths, having maybe conceded three times that in the body of the race due to lack of agility. He did show a relish for muddy ground, which has been largely avoided in the past. Ghost River tried to win from the front, despite being unproven beyond 2m 5f. He failed, but the main causes would appear to be catching a hot opponent and his own stable's poor form, rather than lack of stamina. Deckers Delight, a staying hurdle winner on handicap debut before Ciaran Gethings' rather feeble unseating on her last week, was an intriguing contender. She ran reasonably well, but was clearly not threatening the first two from as far away as three out.On the subject of that last run, jockeys make mistakes, because they are human (with the odd metal enhancement). The fuss after that race might well have been less if many in the racing media were prepared to admit this fallibility rather than continually assert that they are beyond any critique.

+   Ghost River (2nd): It is not unreasonable to think that he could have won this had Peter Bowen's yard not been in the almost traditional New Year quiet spell. He loves front running on soft and heavy.
x   American Life (4th): Is 4/14 on soft or heavy over undulating courses (1/40 in other conditions) so a big run was very viable from what now looks a very workable handicap mark. Instead he just plodded round - a painting by numbers piece of art. All of his jumps wins have been in November or December, so let us continue to avoid temptation in the coming months, hard as that may sometimes be.

Race 4: 'Sharing Success' Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Royal Salute     2: Henllan Hari     3: Itoldyou

Winner owned: Anthony Honeyball Racing Club Ltd, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Harry Cobden

The jottings regarding the winner on this read simply, "prominent, slight error 7th, led last." The race surely must have been more eventful than that, but other than ignoring the small mistake and noting that he had to work a bit before hitting the front, there is not much more offered by the Racing Post. We can note that Henllan Hari ran really well, and like his stablemate half an hour earlier (Ghost River) it is easy to see him winning had the yard been in less weak form. On an attractive handicap mark and having shown recent spark, Itoldyou's third was a bit disappointing, yet less than disastrous.He is exposed enough to not be seen as a winning machine in even perfect conditions.

+ +   Henllan Hari (2nd): A decent bumper performer, and initially one who was repeating the displays over hurdles. Last year he lost his way totally, but on ground which was far from certain to suit and an undulating course that he usually avoids, this was a much more encouraging effort. He is very well handicapped as long as today's display is not a one off.
+   Royal Salute (1st): With first time blinkers and a longer/slower race he travelled more sweetly and jumped less like a rhino. If the headgear continues to have the same effect, he will be able to add to the win tally, as speed and clumsiness had been combining to stop him before..
x   Talk Of The South (unseated): Failed in his first two chases (outclassed in one) but lost the latest by only a length. Jumping errors cost him the victory that day, and although mostly competent at that part of the job here, it was hardly a shock when he unseated at fence fourteen - the tricky first one in the back straight.
x   Leg Iron (pulled up): Pulled up twice in a week in early December, looking not terribly interested. A longer gap between races had potential to sweeten him up, but he took a lot of rousting along from an early stage here, and currently exudes a negative vibe.
x   Sweettoothtommy (4th): From a yard in bad form (until a winning splurge the day after this!) and following a chase debut that was only average, he was an inexplicably popular tipsters selection for this race. Beaten ten lengths in the end, he was looking set for worse until staying on a bit up the hill. Shun the irrational faith and trust what the form book says.
Royal Salute (5) pounces at the last fence, without totally demoralising Henllan Hari. Itoldyou has made himself blurry in dismay.

Race 5: EPDS Racing Welfare BTO Series 2017 Maiden Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Kings Walk     2: Not Another Muddle     3: Bob Mahler

Winner owned: Mrs Jean R Bishop, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Paddy Brennan

The field for this was scattered all over the shop with a fair distance to run, but the first two presented an exciting finish to the crowd. Kings Walk put up an improved show here last time, and stepped onwards again, battling back to win even after Not Another Muddle headed him on the run-in. There was a wide margin back to Bob Mahler, whose position passing the railway station suggested that a better finishing position, or at least a closer third, ought to have been possible.

+   Not Another Muddle (2nd): Had not raced since debuting fourteen months ago in a run of the mill bumper. This was a pretty solid effort, and he should do a job over jumps.
+   Bulfin Island (4th): Showed some talent in Irish points and hurdles a while ago, but had been off for nearly two years. Despite almost starting favourite, he looked a touch tubby in the paddock and is capable of more than the bare result of losing by twelve lengths in fourth.
x   Bob Mahler (3rd): Only had one bumper run to his name, finishing third to a couple of subsequent winners. He was very weak in the betting for this, and needs to show us his true colours - which may be more monochrome than the bright red, yellow and green that the form book was originally hinting.

Race 6: Strong Flavours Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Catchin Time     2: Royal Etiquette     3: Clonusker

Winner owned: Mrs R Hurley, trained: Laura Hurley, ridden: Page Fuller

Two horses who relish heavy ground lined up for this, and the action over the afternoon should have been enough to make conditions just about spot on, even if the official going never got changed. Clonusker did not quite sparkle - although he was one of three that were dominant turning for home - and Catchin Time won. The exacta was spoiled by Royal Etiquette, who does adopt a "no, after you, I insist" approach to hurdling. Fascinating things may have been unfolding elsewhere in the race, but it was all a bit too gloomy to spot them.

+   Catchin Time (1st): 111442 on heavy, and a 1 here in conditions that were more heavy than soft - probably.
+   Clonusker (3rd): Blows hot and cold at the best of times, but is generally on the warm side at present, and is well below his highest winning rating. A low weight on heavy ground is his thing.
x   Cafe Au Lait (4th) & Sir Hubert (6th): Both had been runner-up in their last two races. Both were not in the same frame of mind here. Cafe Au Lait is definitely a bit workshy. The jury is out on Sir Hubert, but perhaps he is a kindred spirit.
xx   Royal Etiquette (2nd): Has a flat win, but none over hurdles, and even his agonisingly close 33/1 second in a selling hurdle last time would have been a success had he not done all that was possible to prevent it.
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