Sandown, 10/11/19

This meeting was sponsored across the board by Virgin Bet. Presumably it will shortly emerge that the actual betting operation is someone completely different who have just paid to put the Virgin logo on their output – and gain all the spurious coverage from Beardie’s mates in the media that comes with it. What could possibly go wrong?

On the equine side, the line ups were dominated by horses making their return from the summer off – in one or two cases a longer absence. Most looked fit enough, a couple ran less match ready than they looked, but pre-meeting selections needed plenty of caveats and paddock watching was essential.

Going: Chases – soft, good to soft places, Hurdle – heavy

Race 1: Premier League Betting At Virgin Bet Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Lord Of The Island     2: Star Of Lanka     3: Aintree My Dream

Winner owned: The Lord Of The Island Syndicate, trained: Fergal O’Brien, ridden: Connor Brace

With heavy going for the hurdlers, an attritional combat was expected and this is what happened here, although with a notable exception later on, this race saw the worst of it. Only one of the eight runners had a prep race and that was Aintree My Dream who seemed to be using this as a confidence booster after a couple of chasing disappointments. He and Star Of Lanka sat at the back early on, as Laxey dragged them through the mud, which suggested that the pace was too strong. Prominent early, Lord Of The Island (looked very well before the race) was an exception in the placed horses but Fergal O’Brien’s team are in such strong form at the moment that the horses can succeed in all sorts of crazy and irrational adventures. Star Of Lanka actually nosed ahead between the last two hurdles but lost his impetus at the final one and Lord Of The Island got home by just over a length. The money was for Silver Kayf who has often gone well fresh in the past, but he had never raced on heavy and although he did nose ahead briefly at the second last, the conditions were not a perfect fit and he ended up fourth.

+  Star Of Lanka (2nd): Ran a good race with daylight back to the third horse, but he had a hard race and a quick reappearance would be less than ideal. He finished fourth on this card in 2018 so make a mental note for 2020 – the novices’ handicap chase?

+  Laxey (PU): A bit too keen in this first run of the winter, he may fare better on soft that heavy as well. Whatever the answer, he can do more than the bare result this time.

+  Melekhov (5th): A mistake two out brought his challenge to a halt but the way that he tied up suggested he was not match ready enough to win in these conditions. O ught to do more soon. He was better over shorter last season so a drop in distance next time would be very significant.

x  Nelson’s Touch (6th): Having appeared to win less frequently than raw talent implied should be possible, he had a wind op during the summer. The initial evidence was that instead of improvement it will just be business as usual but possibly two and a half miles on heavy ground was a dud combination. Be wary of him. His sire is Mount Nelson, his dam Lady Friend, so it would be nice if he put as much into his racing as his owner/breeder put into naming him.

Race 2: Virgin Bet Follow Us On Twitter Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Champagne Court     2: Chambard     3: Canelo

Winner owned: IF Gosden & DJ Coles, trained: Jeremy Scott, ridden: Nick Scholfield

Although the chase course was not quite so deep as the hurdles one, the horses were finding it to be hard enough work, so Champagne Court’s success under joint-top weight was very encouraging. He led at the third last and just gradually turned the screw, keeping at bay Chambard, whose indifferent early jumping enjoyed a miracle cure after about a mile. Halleluiah! A Sunday miracle. He shall overcome, and all that jive. Canelo ran quite a respectable race after seventeen months off. A mistake at the second last came as he was beginning to tire, but he stuck on heartily to deprive The Flying Sofa of the minor place.

+ +  Champagne Court (1st): Looks the part, ran with steely determination, impressed all round.

+  Chambard (2nd): After the early ineptitude at the fences, he could have been forgiven for giving up the ghost, but once his brain slotted the pieces together correctly he put in a promising performance. There is a risk that his way of doing things is to warm to the skilful element of a race too slowly, but for now he merits close attention.

x  Envoye Special (6th): Went to post the long way round because that was what he insisted on doing, and lacked a bit of jumping fluency after getting the first fence wrong. At face value a wind surgery had not helped him. However it looks as if his real problem is impatience and lack of cooperation. Over fences so far he had four runs at two miles and been runner-up every time. This was his second go at two and a half miles and the results have both been sixth place by something near thirty lengths.
Nobody here is saying that Champagne Court is tthe horse messiah, but the photo evidence...

Race 3: Bet And Watch At Virgin Bet Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Keen On     2: Protektorat     3: Trincomalee

Winner owned: The Queen, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

As Sandown maiden hurdles go there was a lack of potential stars here but there were some who would look the part at lesser levels. The betting felt that Keen On and Protektorat were a step head of the competition and so it proved – the pair served up a cracking finish that could have gone either way. Keen On just got his head down at the right time and won by that margin, but the slight surprise was that Trincomalee was just a length down on the finishing post. It was beyond him where daylight reined and the undead feared to tread, with ten lengths back to the next clump of finishers, led by Dublin Four. Trincomalee and Star Of Lanka could have made some people a pleasing each-way double, but those who put them in a patent with Loose Chips (named after Sri Lanka’s top rated fish and chip shop as per Trip Advisor) were destined to be partially disappointed.

+ +  Cobaltic (8th): Looked unusually short of match readiness for a Richard Newland horse and ran accordingly on this stable debut, not given anything like a hard race from the second last. In Ireland he appeared to deal with all sorts of going from good to heavy. Significant improvement should be possible.

+  Protekortat (2nd): Has not lived up to expectation after a listed race second at Auteuil on racing debut. The evidence here is that a wind op has helped and what he did here was a winning performance that just got foiled in the last strides.

+  Trincomalee (3rd): He was rather underestimated in the betting as although losing a Fakenham bumper on debut was not a good sign, he went on to win a potentially decent one at Warwick. He should make his mark hurdling.

Race 4: Virgin Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase, Listed [3m]

1: Santini     2: Now McGinty     3: Talkischeap

Winner owned: Mr & Mrs R Kelvin-Hughes, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

The bare facts of the race were that Santini scraped home unimpressively from Now McGinty, with Talkischeap weakening into a wide margin loss from two out. The interesting story could be gleaned from the Racing Post that day. In his compliments about Lostintranslation, Robbie Power did note that last season’s best staying novice chasers have struggled when graduating into open company this term. We need to be careful not to assume impending greatness until more positive evidence emerges. Also Stuart Edmunds noted that this race was a prep for Now McGinty to go to the Welsh National. After losing to a horse rated nineteen pounds higher by a head (receiving only six pounds) he is in danger of completely stuffing up his handicap mark for that event.

+  Talkischeap (3rd): Undermined the Power R theory a bit when winning the Bet365 Gold Cup here at the end of his novice season. However, he had seemed rather ordinary over fences before that, so was potentially well treated. This poor run is forgiven because of his five career wins and three seconds, only one second place did not come after New Year. He is not an autumn horse.

x  Santini (1st): If desperate to pick holes in the form of a horse that has results of 11311321 and Grade 1 success in that, it could be noted (for King George purposes) that he has failed to meet expectation in both right-handed runs. Or was it that the expectations that were at fault?
Santini did at least break into a sweat and looks more pleased with himself than the human beings do

Race 5: Best Odds Guaranteed At Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Totterdown     2: Nebuchadnezzar     3: Jackson Hill

Winner owned: Fairford Goes Racing, trained: Fergal O’Brien, ridden: Paddy Brennan

The world and his wife knew that Totterdown was going to make the running, but there did not seem any need to concede him a twenty-five lengths lead on going he adores and bearing in mind his good record first time out. Also, he did not go excessively fast once having dashed into a clear lead. Destin D’Ajonc made half an attempt to go after Totterdown, getting ten lengths ahead of the pack himself, but he had been unraced for nineteen months and the tentative nature of his pursuit was understandable. Anyhoo, even when it was obvious that Totterdown was tiring after the second last, the chase was still too far behind and Jackson Hill was labouring as badly as the winner. He just held third from Ebony Gale who ruined his place possibilities with a bad error at the final hurdle on the far side. Nebuchadnezzar ended up beaten by ten lengths and bad jumping could have accounted for half of that margin. What may have happened had he been slicker and thus closer to Totterdown earlier?

+  Shut The Box (5th): An inauspicious handicap debut but the yard is off of the boil and fears regarding the heavy ground were realised. More suitable races will likely be found.

Nebuchadnezzar (2nd): Lost all four novice/maiden hurdles, twice as short priced favourite, and nothing about this first venture into testing ground threatened to change that. The Old Testament does not give Nebuchadnezzar a flattering time due his conquest of Judah being deemed unacceptable, but the horse seems to align more to the Biblical than the successful historical namesake. Also, it is suggested that Nebuchadnezzar is not quite the real name, being a pun that means “Nabu, protect my jackass.”

x  Ebony Gale (4th): The first impression was that one moment of madness cost him a place, possibly even second. Reviewing his record reminded that after falling in his first two hurdles, late errors when forced to go nearer full tilt are simply the way that he does things, so further problems are on the cards.

Race 6: Casino At Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Houblon Des Obeaux     2: Dark Flame     3: Le Reve

Winner owned: Julian Blackwell & Mrs Angus Maclay, trained: Venetia Williams, ridden: Charlie Deutsch

They took out the Pond Fence (third last) for this due to the sun and then went ahead for the whole race with the sun not shining. Unthinking and slavish box ticking exercises 1, common sense 0 (score is 28-1 on aggregate). After a couple of non-runners this went down to seven participants and a betting market that at one stage had six of them priced between 7/2 and 6/1. The exception was Morney Wing, who is really in need of half a mile further, and later Abolitionist exited the range because there appeared to be no faith in his chances at all. At the other end of the prices, the support was behind Houblon Des Obeaux, in to 11/4, and he gave backers an easy time. Skipping clear at the halfway point, there was a time on the turn after the railway fences (he had fluffed one of them) when the pack threatened to close, but Houblon Des Obeaux gradually got them off of the bridle and maintained his edge to the line. Loose Chips, not just a course specialist but one in this very race (two wins and a third), wilted quickly when Houblon Des Obeaux went on but ended up fourth due to shortcomings of others. Age may have caught up with him but Charlie Longsdon excels in these races and he no doubt has a fine understudy lined up in the wings to take over from Loose Chips. A decent website would do some research and offer up a name, but this is UK-Jumping.

+  Dark Flame (2nd): Had been off for two years and was rated nine pounds lower than when beaten ten lengths at Ascot in his last appearance – and good or good to soft suits him better. The handicapper has given him a proper chance given that the old ability seems to have stood up but…

x  Dark Flame (2nd): …he had quite a tough race here and is a prime candidate to be hit by the bounce factor on his next run.

Race 7: Download The App At Virgin Bet Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Fly Number One     2: Frenchy Du Large     3: Cape Milano

Winner owned: The Brooks Family & J Kyle, trained: Nick Gifford, ridden: Leighton Aspell

It was not possible to stay for the bumper, but the time suggests that it was run at a dithery sort of pace.
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