Plumpton, 27/2/18

It appears that all it takes to scare people away from Plumpton is a weather forecast that threatens for the meeting to be cancelled, then revised to suggest it will start and may not finish so that there are terrible problems getting home, then revised again to say it will be horrible later. The crowd used to be a lot hardier. The horses did not seem to mind. The snow started before the first race, got quite heavy as they went to post and cleared soon after starting. As the afternoon progressed, the snowy spells cleared and all we got was blue sky and cold. A very enjoyable afternoon.

Going: Good to Soft

Race 1: Howdens Insurance Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: The Premier Celtic     2: Royal Ruby     3: Miss Adevnture

Winner owned: Celtic Contractors Ltd, trained: Pat Phelan, ridden: Niall Madden
Royal Ruby enjoying the pre-race rituals

All through the last couple of seasons we have endured Plumpton novice hurdles where big stables have sent their lesser lights here and left the regulars thinking – “Plumpton now, then the world is his lobster.” Or at least - “That could be a decent 130/140 rated handicapper but the yard has such a wealth of talent that he does not get a look in at the big stage.” Sometimes, with more admiration - “The owners rate a Plumpton win above a Sandown place. Well done to them.” This was a proper old fashioned Plumpton race, where even the horse sent here by Nicky Henderson had no reason to entertain greater aspirations than coming to Plumpton. However, having seen them in the paddock and the way that the race panned out, The Premier Celtic could develop into a horse with a shot at becoming famous. He is a stocky, long term sort of project who knuckled down and harassed Royal Ruby into defeat. The more known quantity that is Miss Adventure made the running and then blundered away her chance of clinging on at the second last hurdle. She probably would have done something to not win anyway.

  The Premier Celtic (1st): He is progressing in the just the style we would expect of a proper jumps horse, which is not typical for his yard, whose hurdlers are mostly flat converts.

+   Snowy Oscar (4th): Appropriately named for the day, but not otherwise as he is not a grey – for now? He has not shown much in the way of ability before today, yet strolled through the race in midfield and finished fourth without being asked too many serious questions. Gently progressive and is is worth monitoring future progress.

+   Legend Of France (6th): A stablemate of the winner, he nudged up a few places late on, and is another to keep an eye on for spring-like conditions and handicaps. The yard have a few of these knocking about.

x   Miss Adventure (3rd): She did have a reason to lose today – forgetting that there are two hurdles to jump in the home straight – but up until now there have been indicators that she is a bit shy of hard work and do not get drawn into her trap of appearing to have put in a winning performance for all but three seconds of the race duration.
Royal Ruby (5) trying to enjoy the close of the race, but failing because The Premier Celtic is coming good. Miss Adventure (11) has a head carriage that reflects her determination levels quite accurately.

Race 2: Enhanced Place Odds At 188bet Confined Novices’ Chase [2m 3.5f]

1:Holbrook Park     2: Ticket To Ride     3: Minmore Present

Winner owned: Mrs CHN Chamberlain, trained: Neil King, ridden: Harry Teak

Holbrook Park is one of those horses for whom a wind operation has made no obvious difference and pulling up is always just around the corner. But as he has shown a couple of times this season, if the oppo is weak enough he can struggle on sufficiently well to be a factor in the finish. Minmore Present, a sloppy jumper in local points and recently beaten in a two runner affair, failed to intimidate him by making all and Ticket To Ride, who marked his chase debut by jumping unconvincingly in another two horse race, appeared to just be ridden to finish. Given the way that it all unfolded – or unravelled, depending on your perspective – the long absent Chill In The Wood (last ran in April 2015) may have made a very expensive error when unseating at the tricky tenth fence.

x   Ticket To Ride (2nd) & Minmore Present (3rd): Both need to prove their ability to get from fence to fence without any scares. Until they do, tread carefully, as both have done the odd thing in the past that could tempt interest at the bottom level.

Site Selections: Holbrook Park (1st): Did nothing to justify a rise in handicap mark, and possible class of race, but simply meeting more competent enemies may be enough to stop him in the near future. He has historically done better when given eight or more weeks to get over the exertion of a race.
Minmore Present is not spot on at fence two, but Holbrook Park is determined to do it worse. Chill In The Wood is hidden by him. Ticket To Ride has already gone into beat nobody mode, rather that Beatle.

Race 3: Bet & Watch At 188bet Mares’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Sixties Idol     2: Shroughmore Lass     3: Keep To The Beat

Winner owned: Michael Moriarty, trained: Sheena West, ridden: Marc Goldstein

The winner of this race had previously contested a dozen flat races and thirteen hurdles and lost all of them. She won it really comfortably, with Marc Goldstein able to look over his shoulder between the last two just to check that nothing had gone horribly wrong. Surreally wrong, maybe. Fortunately Sixties Icon was trundling on in blissful unawareness of the momentous event that was just seconds away and did nothing silly. Shroughmore Lass kept on well enough for a mare that previously seemed a non-stayer at this far, preferring a tough two miles, but she had not tackled a sharp track at all, and what she gained in stamina she lost in ability to quicken off of the final turn. Behind the first two it all finished in a heap and credit goes to Keep To The Beat who had ability to win this in the past but only had one success in thirty-one races. She had been off and had a foal since her peak and this was the liveliest effort since her return. Might it cue win number two? Find another race like this and anything could happen.

+   Sue Be It (5th): Just scraped into this class 5 race with top weight and had the form to be a factor. Her yard, however, is not firing at the moment and the defeat is not to be held against her when the whole string is livelier. Tragically, we may have to keep an eye on flat racing to note the turning of the tide.

x   Walk Of Gleams (8th): Like many in this race she has challenges in turning performance into wins and she also cannot be bothered with consistency. This looked a good combo of course, distance and going for her, so obviously she had an off day. After having had seventeen months off, her slow start to the season was forgiveable, but she ought to be getting it together by now, and she certainly was fit enough to excel here.

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

1: Not Never     2: Jumping Jack     3: Darwins Theory

Winner owned: Hall Sargent Evans, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

Not Never has been a masterclass in manipulating the handicapper. As a mid-90s rated flat horse who finished fourth in two novice hurdles, it was astonishing that he ever managed to start in hurdle handicaps with a rating set at only 102, and the initial results were 1st, 2nd, 1st, all of the races close enough that the overseers of the marks could not put him up much. The ground begins to dry out and he turns this into a complete rout. Best of the rest was Jumping Jack, who has not really bought into the winning concept but at least turns up full of energy on a regular basis, and has desisted from hanging all over the place under pressure, as was his initial idea as to what jumping was all about. The race was run at a good pace as Hope’s Wishes and Boru’s Brook took on each other for the lead but were far too keen in front and ended up sixth and pulled up in this seven horse race as a result. Boru’s Brook is a sad tale of what might have been. Back in his older days he has a form line of being upsides and travelling well when going lame two out as he took on Might Bite. Since then impatience and injury proneness have stifled his advancement. Before the race there was evidence that Zen Master’s rating of 110 could be a gift and some that it could be a millstone about his neck. He has not often been tried going left-handed, so even after not showing up well, the pessimistic view of his form is not certain to be correct.

+ +   Hope’s Wishes (6th): She is looking well handicapped now and does have four hurdle wins in her past to prove what she can do. Perhaps class 3 races like this are too unforgiving of her need to lead, but more wins are quite viable. Prior to this she had form of 122 on good to soft and 12 at Plumpton, so course and going cannot be blamed.

+   Doc Carver (4th): Crashed out at the third last when with every chance in his previous race and was a touch on the cautious side here. It probably cost him second place, but not the win. It should be possible to find him some more easily handled targets.

x   Darwins Theory (3rd): Ran perfectly well coming back from ten months off, but he does tend to be best fresh, winning first time out in 2015. So looking at the bare result and assuming improvement is not necessarily a wise way forward.

x x   Jumping Jack (2nd): Is making second place a habit and when the nearest challenger is shaping as if not quite able to deliver anyway, this horse opens the door wide for the enemy.
Not Never times his race to finish in glorious winter sun

Race 5: Best Odds Guaranteed At 188bet Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Greyed A     2: Little Windmill

Winner owned: Plan B, trained: Richard Newland, ridden: James King

A tricky old event in which none of the three that actually arrived to play could be truly relied upon (q.v. the chase earlier on the card). Invicta Lake had the race won when he unseated two out, doing so in committed style by giving a second nudge after Jack Andrews threatened to show a miracle recovery from the first part of the blunder. This left Greyed A with no threat from a “not for me today thanks” Little Windmill. Greyed A had 12 stone 7 pounds and a jockey who has ridden out his claim to handle. He also had a progressively more severe disagreement with the fence before the railway bend on each of three interactions with it – obstacles 4, 10 and 16. The point was he survived them and won.

x   Little Windmill (2nd): Like stablemate Holbrook Park earlier, the wins have become due to his trainer finding weak races to contend for, and when there is a chance of getting in a fight for victory he has a never ending stash of white flags to use.

x   Invicta Lake (UR): A competent hurdler who was rated much higher than for this, he has shown no sign of understanding chasing in three tries before today. Generally no worse than a bit scruffy, but safe, in his jumping for almost three miles, it was no shock that he eventually got one horribly wrong.

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

1: Mickieblueeyes     2: Fizzlestix     3: The Lion Dancer

Winner owned: Keith Dilworth, trained: Diana Grissell, ridden: Jack Sherwood

An all the way success for Mickieblueeyes broke an extended spell on the cold list for his stable. It was his first go beyond two and a half miles but even back when he was winning a small field bumper here, he was operating like a stayer in the making. Life was made easier by some off days in behind. Soulsaver, whose run of results since qualifying for handicaps has been very sound for this level, had a bad day before stamina became a factor and Double Accord, a stablemate who has at least won a three miler, did not seem all that keen on the job, even though he was able to accompany Mickieblueeyes for the first couple of miles. Also in a foul mood was Poyntzpass, but once he had been convinced to go near the start (eventually) he was no problem in the race itself and stayed on neatly for fourth. Fizzlestix kept on to narrow the gap at the line to four lengths. There was no real prospect of catching the winner and no need to be quite so far ahead of The Lion Dancer – a horse not advanced now by adding blinkers.

  Mickieblueeyes (1st): Given that he has been held back by bad stable form and running in shorter races, it has to be possible that he can ferret out a couple more wins in long distance races.

+   Fizzlestix (2nd): Since being a flop in juvenile hurdles he has developed a little bit of finesse in point-to-points. A little does not go a long way, and there are definite quiet days, but he seems the type who can pop in every now and then at a decent price.

x   Stonebrigg Legend (7th): Showed last time at Southwell that she can stay this trip very slowly but even that was not enough to finish ahead of any of the unproven stamina sorts. It is not certain what she can do at the moment.

x   Double Accord (PU): A three mile winner at Taunton, he looked to lose interest a lap out, rather than the awkward but more forgivable inability to hack the pace.

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

1: Queen’s Magic     2: Hawthorn Cottage    3: Shapiro

Winner owned: Wincanton Race Club, trained: Neil Mulholland, ridden: Noel Fehily

This was a better than usual bumper for Plumpton, the testing distance and tricky course failing to scare away the mares. It was more a case of horses that had shown promise for the future than those that have dived into racing at blazing pace, but even the two without any experience hailed from stables that can win bumpers. One of them, Mrs Hyde, even ended up favourite, but she hit trouble in running on the railway bend and did not see out her race anyway. The winner, Queen’s Magic, had a third and a fall in Irish points but demolished the oppo in a style that impressed and would have fit the agenda of the sponsors very neatly. Hawthorn Cottage did not do all that badly against a spritely enemy.

+ +   Queen’s Magic (1st): Even allowing for the “only Plumpton” factor this was an impressive Rules bow and she is well worth following.

+ Hawthorn Cottage (2nd): Took a while to win an Irish point but had run a fair race to be third at Huntingdon on her bumper debut. She has ability to work on, finishing miles clear of the pack.
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