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
21st September, Newton Abbot 3.15, Happy 60th Birthday Chris Cross Novices' Hurdle (class 4)

Course: Left-handed, sharp, level

Distance: 2 miles 1 furlong

Going: Good (Good to Firm places)

Stables in strong form: none

Stables in below par form: Mark Rimell

Claiming Jockey Watch: Robert Williams (Plymouth Sound) claims 3 lb, 59/701.
The obvious pick is Acker Bilk, and at 5/2 or more it is worth risking that he is due a buona sera against oppo he is well capable of beating. However, lurking amongst the mysterons are two that are capable ofupgrading to sheer magic and can be supported at 4/1 or more for an upset – Casement and Shiroccan Roll. If Bloodaxe could think of any clarinet puns, rest assured that they would have been used.

HorseGoing DistanceCourse Comments
HeavySoft Gd-SoftGoodGd-Fm2m 1fLHSharpLevel
------------------------ -------- -------------------------------------------
Acker BilkYYYY
Auld SodYYY?YYY1st time hood
Buachaill Beag??????new trainer
Casementnew trainer/hurdles debut
Great FairyY??Y
Plymouth Sound?????
Shiroccan RollYY?YYhurdles debut
Stand By Me??YY?YYY
Points of Order
ACKER BILK (David Pipe), 11-4, cheekpieces & tongue tie

A solid flat middle distance all-weather handicapper who got his rating up to 79, the first run for his jumps yard was also on the flat. It was not very good. The hurdles debut, hitting the tongue tie action for the first time, was a resounding success. Or a roughly three lengths one, at Worcester. He was given quite patient tactics there and probably could have won by more if needed and the runner-up was comparably rated to him on the flat. He is potentially the type to run up a sequence before the best horses are unleashed in novices, if cleverly placed.

AULD SOD (Ronald Harris), 10-12, official rating 107, hood

Originating in Irish points, he initially specialised in pulling up, before grabbing a couple of comfortably held fourths. When he first tried novice hurdling in Britain, the results were no better, but at Newton Abbot a month ago he suddenly finished a two lengths runner-up in a big field. The shorter race distance was the only viable explanation. Since then he has flopped on handicap debut and then run back to his best at Worcester. Now a hood replaces cheekpieces. The inclination is to think that an extra quarter of a mile would make his optimum distance, but any dissenters are not definitely deluded.

BUACHAILL BEAG (Mark Rimell), 10-12, tongue tie

A four race career has become rather chequered – enough so to be very wary of supporting him. He was last but one on bumper debut, sporting a hood already. On the next try he was last of four, using a tongue tie instead. In the final bumper, he combined the headgear and was a well beaten third of four. For his hurdles debut, he charged off into a clear lead mid-race and then ran out. Since then he has had twenty-eight months off and changed stable. The hood is dropped and even if you chose not to care about that, there is lots that could go wrong.

CASEMENT (Alan King), 10-12

This will be his first look at hurdling and debut for a new trainer. At present he is rated on the flat as comparable to Auld Sod and Acker Bilk, but his most recent results imply that he has entered into a rather sharp decline. Going to Alan King has mentally sorted out horses in that sort of state before, but not 100% of the time and we are left to have a bit of a guess (well, a complete one actually) as to what to expect. He has to be on the list of potential winners, but a bit of caution about expecting a sudden turnaround would be wise.

GREAT FAIRY (Neil Mulholland), 10-12

It is a not an unreasonable idea to see this horse as on the third and, from connections point of view, hopefully final step into gaining a handicap mark. He appeared in three Irish points, being a beaten favourite with Jamie Codd on board for the debut, but even when he was third next time, he was not close up in the process. The British debut was last of five in a modest bumper, since when he has lost hurdles by fifty and over a hundred lengths. It would be something of a shock if he is good enough for this all of a sudden.

MARAAKIB (Alexandra Dunn), 10-12

A winner more often on the flat than other converts from ferret racing here, his rating peak was in the low 90s at that job. The problem is that the time frame for that was spring 2016 and his current flat mark is a mere 47 these days, the losing run being thirty-five races dating back two and a half years. The first hurdles attempt was a dud, although the dodgy winner has at least changed our minds since on what to think of horses that finished behind him. The latest show, on this track over an extra quarter of a mile, was an improvement, but he was thirteen lengths behind Auld Sod and the performance could be read as one where he was a touch short of pace. This is another horse likely to be in “third run, get handicapped” mode, where places are viable as long as they are not too close up.

PLYMOUTH SOUND (Bernard Llewellyn), 10-12, blinkers

After winning on his first appearance on a racecourse, it became apparent to him that he had achieved all that was necessary in life and future threats to win became few and far between. For some bizarre reason, possibly down to feeble opposition, he had a change of heart in summer last year and won a mile and a half race on the flat. An immediate change of connections followed and he has managed the square root of nothing since. He pulled up on his hurdles debut at Warwick, and was last of seven, tailed off a long way on his next try, at this course. Third run syndrome also applies, but he has not been edging into the consciousness like others here in the same boat. It took a while, but the maritime pun finally made it in.

SHIROCCAN ROLL (Emma Lavelle), 10-12

A fairly neatly named horse (by Shirocco, out of Folie Dancer) he had only had two bumper runs so his paragraph is fluffed up with name-related digressions. The first appearance was a 1m 5f Doncaster bumper where he was beaten five lengths in fifth. The second was a nine lengths third at Exeter over 2m 1f. The first of those races has not produced subsequent winners, but lots of places and the other was too late in the season to have had many subsequent runners even. As he had five months between them, four more here is nothing concerning, and he could be one to make a sharp improvement for going over hurdles.

STAND BY ME (Alan Jones), 10-12

Since his third bumper, a close place on this track, in May 2015, he has managed just two races. He won a bumper here a year after that third loss, beating no names that make you go “ooh, well done.” Seventeen months on he was thrashed on hurdles debut in an OK race at Wincanton. Eleven months later he is here, after a wind surgery in February, trying to see what he can do now. Most likely it is not much as after such disruption a cautious approach to progressing him would be understandable. But you never can be sure as he has at least shown the course and going will work for him and an ability to blaze along well after a long break.
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