The Plan is to pick a race each day and give it a fairly detailed preview - hopefully picking up a worthwhile punt, but not scrabbling around for one. In reality, the "every jumps day" might prove impractical. For instance, you have been to Plumpton, had a couple of pints, get the train back, go to the pub. There might well be time to go through a race and publish, but no-one wants the unintelligible guff. So The Plan and The Harsh Reality may not always coincide.

The verdict is simple for each horse: The more Axes the better, but lay, or at least avoid, the Stalins. Keep a wary eye on the Mysterons
In order to handle changeable ground, a preference table has been added - the key is:
Y+ = Strong preference      Y = OK      Y? = Probably OK      ?Y = Maybe OK      ? = insufficient evidence
?x = Maybe a problem      x? = probably a problem      x = definite problem      blank = no evidence to judge
18th February, Ffos Las 3.35, Diane Morgans Special Birthday Handicap Hurdle (class 4, 0-110)

Layout: left-handed, galloping, level

Distance: 2 miles

Going: Heavy

Stables in strong form: Warren Greatrex

Stables in below par form: Evan Williams, Mark Blanshard

Claiming jockey watch: Conor Ring (Baratineur) claims 3 lb. Tommy Dowling (Cold Shoulder) claims 5 lb. Richard Patrick (Flanagans Field) claims 5 lb. 
An actual outright selection could not be found, but with the cheekpieces added and the stable in form, a bit of an each-way tickle on Fly Du Charmil might bring a little joy. The same is true of Dragon Khan but his close defeat last time should be enough to preclude a useful each-way price.

HorseGoing DistanceCourse Comments
HeavySoft Gd-SoftGoodGd-Fm2mLHGallopLevel
------------------------ -------- -------------------------------------------
BaratineurYYYxYYYYstable debut
Fly Du CharmilY???YYY1st timer cheekpieces
Cold ShoulderY??Y??Y?Y?
Princess RoaniaYYYYYY?YYY
Flanangans Field?YYY?YY?YYYY
Dragon KhanYY?Y?YY?YYY

Points of Order

BARATINEUR (Kevin Bishop), 12-0, official rating 112

Over his career he has become a professional migrant, and this will be his fifth different trainer in sixteen races. Ferdy Murhpy and Dan Skelton got one win each on the board, Nicky Henderson none, and Richard Hawker only had two races, both of which involved horrendous drubbings, before the next move. For these reasons, but mostly the bits about losing his last two races by 87 and 122 lengths, he is difficult to fancy now, but he has at least shown that a track of this layout in extremely testing conditions is no reason to fail. The better ground in those last two might just be a valid excuse.

HOLDBACKTHERIVER (Evan Williams), 11-12, or 110

Ran reasonably solidly in his bumper debut but the sense of impending progress came to a juddering halt at the first the hurdle that he jumped in anger. He was placed in the next two runs, losing by just into double figures lengths both times and when he switched to handicaps, the decision was made to raise the race distance. The first try saw no real improvement in margin of loss, but a worse finishing position. He improved with a close second at Sandown a couple of weeks ago, hampered by a last hurdle faller. His yard has not been punching in the winners since and he may have to settle for another place.

FLY DU CHARMIL (Warren Greatrex), 11-8, or 106, cheekpieces

Potentially his role is fly in fly in the ointment. He was entirely absent from games between April 2016 and last November, and has not set the world alight after. However, the comeback at Newbury was not entirely without merit in a good novices hurdle and the handicap that he failed to finish in last time is shaping like a strong race. More concerning for a horse that has had so much time off was the way that he started to hang badly left in mid-race – the wide open spaces of the chase course might be too tempting for him again here. Adding cheekpieces at least hints that the issue was mental rather than feeling an injury.

IVANHOE (Michael Blanshard), 11-5, or 103

As a flat horse the draw of ultimate glory worked lightly on him, winning two of forty six and being placed fifteen times. When he won his second ever hurdle race there had to be hope that the true calling had been found. Over four years and eleven hurdling efforts later the score still stands at one, although the second flat win did come after he had hit the bullseye as a jumper. For those absolutely desperate to go down the optimism route the success was his only race at Ffos Las and only one on heavy ground, but since letting another horse win at Huntingdon a couple of years ago the form reads BUPF7, which he is not resolute enough to endure.

COLD SHOULDER (Tom Symonds), 11-0, or 107 (age allowance 9 lb)

Took part in a couple of flat maidens without threatening any impact and turned his attention to hurdles in November. He lost the first two comprehensively but did managed a very modest third place in one of them, and then narrowed the margin when last of five at Fontwell on Boxing Day. The rush to get handicapped was not picked up by the punting public as he was a 20/1 shot for his handicap debut losing by ten lengths to Georgieshore at Leicester, with subsequent winner Marmont just behind him. It would not be the most amazing outcome if belting (metaphorically) around here in the mud turns out to fit his skills.

PRINCESS ROANIA (Peter Bowen), 10-10, or 94, cheekpieces & tongue tie

After winning her bumper debut she finished second in three more of those races and her first five hurdle races. This sent Placepotters and Forecast fiends into a paroxysm of delight. But it had to end, and in summer 2016 she broke the jumping stint by pulling up – she had won a flat race in the meantime, but as site regulars known, this is not important. What has gone down since is a less reliable steadiness that involves never being tailed off but getting all sorts of results between second and fifth place. Not wins, note. She does not tend to do many two mile races, but the usual outcome is expected.

FLANAGANS FIELD (Bernard Llewellyn), 10-9, or 93, cheekpieces

Lots of horses start out being routinely competitive and then wear and tear of the physical and mental flavours prevent them sustaining that. This horse is the opposite. From his debut in Ireland in 2013 to spring 2015 the results were all over the place (including a fast ground Kilbeggan win) and after losing a Taunton selling handicap by only a neck, he had a near two year absence. The return was a glorious course and distance success in bottom drawer company, and since then he has posted steady results of 223444, although statistically inclined people will see the trend line suggesting that a fifth place is just around the corner. The chance of arresting the slide is hampered by the ground, which he has not had affection for in the past.

AARYAM (John Flint), 10-1, or 85, blinkers & tongue tie

His two bumpers, three novice hurdles and initial couple of handicap hurdles were all when trained by Peter Bowen. Northing of any note was achieved, although his two well beaten midfield runs in the mud on course and distance could count for something in a wobbly race like this. That switch to handicaps saw him pull up both times, and his debut for John Flint, in which this headgear combination was used, produced exactly the same outcome. He has not raced for eleven months, so whatever was ailing him might have been rectified in the mean time – unless it was simple lack of ability.

DRAGON KHAN (Rosemary Gasson), 10-0, or 84 (real rating 82), tongue tie

Another contender who has moved home in recent months, he was posting the odd solid race for John O’Shea, but failing to find any consistency. The move has stoked a small positive reaction as he was not embarrassed in a couple of unplaced runs, but really got his act together at Leicester last time. Unfortunately two others did and he was beaten by a length, and there was just a hint of being afraid of the first pair as he hung off to his right after the last hurdle. Alternatively it could be a clue (other than starting off in Ireland) why his racing has predominately been on right-handed courses. It is enough not to anoint him with a second axe.
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