Plumpton, 25/2/19

Plumpton returns to the Monday slot and the crowds were out in force. For the most part, the horses were as well. Also a record number of ice cream sightings for February.

Going: Good

Race 1: Watch Sky Sports Racing In HD Mares’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Ding Ding     2: Polar Light     3: Dowhatudodobest

Winner owned: Ian Poysden, trained: Sheena West, ridden: Marc Goldstein

Somehow we got a surprising result here despite the fact that Ding Ding was gaining her sixth Plumpton success, the fourth at this distance. The reason for being not totally expected to deliver is that she is not attractively handicapped as a consequence of pesky history and was a small mare lugging around top weight in a big field. It was recipe for failure, but it turns out to be the sort of hopeless waste of a ingredients usually peddled by whiny vegans. Despite her ultimate failure, the second place of Polar Light was interesting as she was in her first handicap. Her hurdles debut had been only slightly less than woeful but she had gone backwards since then. This was a reversal on the downward road. Next in the finishing order were Dowhatyoudodobest, Mrs Miggins and Multigifted (not so far living up to his name). All of them have sailed a rather erratic course through hurdling but if we take the implausible view that they were all at their best on the same day, it makes the first two look rather dynamic (which is something that we know Ding Ding can be).

+  Polar Light (2nd): She has not done much as a hurdler before, and although placed at times on the flat, she had a low rating there. This was a suggestion that she can perhaps win a race in class 5 hurdles.

+  We’llcwhathappens (9th): Not for the first time she seemed to running purely with a view to doing things more intensely in handicaps. We will indeed see how that plan works out.

x  Lee Side Lady (7th): Perhaps the pace was deceptively nippy, but she has been one of the more consistent horses in the line-up yet was niggled along very early and only passed some of the fading runners (plus two that departed at the last) when it was all too late.

x  Versifier (10th): She too had been doing well for this level lately but sat off of the pace and proved totally unable to get involved at the front of the race. Even had she been asked to do more early, the effort presumably would have told later on.
Potters Sapphire, nearer than Dowhatudodobest, is a bit blurry at the front but the importance of the picture is having Ding Ding (1) bang in the centre. This will not happen again for a long time.

Race 2: Peter Earl Memorial Novices’ Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Mine’s A Pint     2: Graasten     3: Mr Stubbs

Winner owned: KB Racing, trained: Keiran Burke, ridden: Tom Bellamy

This was all about a massive flop by Graasten, who was rated a good thirty pounds plus better than any of the oppo, none of whom had previous chasing experience. If he is excluded from the result, the finishes of Mine’s A Pint, Mr Stubbs, Uallrightharry and Kerry’s Lord as 1-3-4-5 were entirely predictable, so there is not a doubt that the outcome was all about the 1/8 favourite sinking like the Titanic. In hindsight we have to wonder whether it would have been worth Graasten kicking on a lap out and trying to bluff the others that it was not worth trying to keep up. For now he is forgiven a blip as there was not a sign of evil intent, but he would not get the credit a second time. As a general note, long odds-on losses in Plumpton novices’ chases has been a bit of a developing tradition in the last couple of seasons.

Mine’s A Pint (1st): Not to overlook the freakiness of the result, he did at least show an aptitude for chasing. Over to you, dear, dear handicappers.

Empire: Pete’s Choice (6th): Lost a shoe and in the process injured a tendon, although after the day it at least became apparent that it was not a tear or hole. Out for the season but hopefully back on cue in the autumn.

Race 3: Book For Our Easter Festival Now Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Pentland Hills     2: The Flying Sofa     3: Reallyradical

Winner owned: Owners Group 031, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

Pentland Hills came into this as a 73-rated flat horse with a couple of mile and a half wins from eleven tries. Therefore he could easily turn out to be a decent hurdler. Not everyone would have foreseen him defeating The Flying Sofa, a dependable 126-rated hurdler by fourteen lengths, but it is done and in the books. As it was turning out not to be Gary Moore’s day such a result was getting likelier as the afternoon went on, and The Flying Sofa had never raced before on ground quicker than good to soft. There was a good old scrap for third. The Grey Diamond had been stuck out the back early on and when he tried to improve it turned out to be rather hard work and he came up a nose short of pushing Reallyradical out of the places.

+ +  Reallyradical (3rd): Put up a good show behind Debestyman here when debuting over hurdles at two and a half miles. This was another solid display and he has the talent to win handicaps, possibly even a weak novice.

+ Pentland Hills (1st): Showed a good knack for hurdling and should have more wins to come.

+  Shut The Box (5th): A stablemate of Reallyradical, he had done solidly in all three bumper losses and certainly could have been given a harder time on this hurdling opener. At the moment it is just not clear what he really needs to excel.
Unsurprisingly a horse named Zlatan (11) proves to be an attention magnet and somehow the caption on the race 1 picture is devastated by the presence of Pentland Hills (13) centre stage, just nearer than The Flying Sofa. The other clearly visible ones are Awesome Rock (white & red), Brandy Cross (blue, yellow & red) and Harry Hazard (hood, on the far left).

Race 4: RABI/Joan Collison Memorial Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Brandon Castle     2: Arthington     3: Royal Hall

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

Now Brandon Castle’s hurdles career consists of three runs over this course and distance and three wins from the front. This graduation to handicap company was probably easier than he found his novice races. Taking his four rivals in turn… Arthington has been shaping as if he has become a bit of a flaky type under pressure. Royal Hall’s burst into life in the middle of last year had been ended with an unseat and four months off after. Desiremoi D’Authie could not hack the pace after trying to live with Brandon Castle early on and is now 0/12 hurdling. Il a besoin d’aller plus vite. Distingo did indeed go, with an unseat at halfway. Realistically it was too far out to predict what may have happened, but it was the sort of error horses make when they are being forced along too fast to sustain their concentration at the obstacles.

Arthington (2nd): Did get a win two races ago but he has become a touch too easy to worry out of success.

Royal Hall (3rd): Surprised most people with how determined he was when winning three races in 2018 and first impressions of this return was that he has returned to the less battling version of him that we all expected.

Race 5: Howden Sport And Equine Insurance Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Plantagenet     2: Tzar De L’Elfe     3: Midnight Bliss

Winner owned: Mrs P De W Johnson, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: Matthew Fielding

This turned out to be a fierce sort of race with Midnight Bliss trying to defy a high handicap mark by forcing the pace against some opponents whose poor strike rates implied that they could be intimidated. Midnight Bliss was headed at the end of the back straight for the final time, but even then she kept niggling away and was only about four lengths down at the final fence. Plantagenet’s recent runs had been spoiled by trying to make the running too frantically, which had not always been his way and declining to do it again here should have reminded him how to do staying chases sensibly. Tzar De Le’Elfe has won just once in a thirty-nine race career. Need any more be said?

Plantagenet (1st): His chasing skills have improved recently and if he continues to race with restraint the winning strike rate can improve quickly.

x  Tzar De L’Elfe (2nd): His British chase record is now 3F422 but the hit percentage mentioned above warns us not to expect anything more.

Clondaw Bisto (PU): Has been near his best in recent races and definitely showed more skill at chasing than in the past. Today he was not able to go with the pace and was struggling after a mile. The losing run is seventeen now and a first run back from a wind op is not necessarily assumed to bring instant improvement, but a big regression is not the norm.
The run of photo flukery ends as Big Meadow dominates the frame. Robinroyale (3) and little Midnight Bliss are ahead of him, Clondaw Bisto alongside and Fly Home Harry then Tzar De L’Elfe behind. People who are not comfortable with change will be pleased that Plantagenet has exited the shot somewhere.

Race 6: Strong Flavours Catering Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Jimmy     2: Ruby Yeats     3: Bostin

Winner owned: L Gilbert, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

A Plumpton mess of a three miler, with next to no proven stamina on show. The best guide was fast ground specialist Bostin, who ran very well and is poised ready for the rain to stay well away. Ahead of him it seemed as if Ruby Yeats had this race won halfway up the short run-in. Given that the rule for the day was for no Gary Moore horse to possibly win, she tied up on the flat and was caught by Jimmy, who jumped the final hurdle in fifth place and ended up nearly a length ahead on the post, with the subsequent fifth horse, Bean Liath, more than a dozen lengths back.

+  Jimmy (1st): Conjured up an extraordinary finish that marks him down as a horse with a future simply because he tries hard. We cannot, however, rule out Ruby Yeats, No Trumps and Bean Liath all being non-stayers

+  Bostin (3rd): Likes Plumpton, likes good to firm, likes three miles plus. And now we wait.

x  Big Picture (9th): Mostly he has done better at two and a half miles than three, but there is one run from last May that looks like an exception. Connections seem to be buying in to the three miler concept, but the contrary evidence is building up aplenty.

UK-Jumping selections – Ormskirk (10th): Seemed likely to be a non-stayer. He was a non-stayer, but he also failed to get into a competitive position before the lack of stamina cut in.
Jimmy judges a pre-race angle on the final hurdle to the winning post and draws the radical (but correct) conclusion that only by being fifth before jumping it could he possibly win. We scoffed. He was spot on.

Race 7: Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 1.5f]

1: Early Morning Rain     2: Pogo I Am     3: Marilyn Monroe

Winner owned: Mrs AJ Thomas & Heart Racing, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden Sam Twiston-Davies

Plumpton bumpers are not often the most visually stimulating of racecourse experiences but this one defied that tradition. Firstly we had to consider Marilyn Monroe, who had Irish point-to-point form of F1. This was her Rules debut and despite being the paddock pick on looks, she was not the most race savvy and took a fairly indirect route from the final turn to the finishing line. Because of her monkey business, determined front runner Early Morning Rain was able to cling on at the front, even when the later challenge of Pogo I Am put her under a second wave of pressure.

+  Pogo I Am (2nd): Harry Fry runners in bumpers are expected to be ready to go from the off but she has been beaten in her first two. Both losses were close and she should be primed to go one better now.

+  Marilyn Monroe (3rd): Looks like she should make a proper racehorse and the situation where she has not learned the job yet should soon be rectified.
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