Sandown, 11/11/18

This meeting usually is noted for the odd quality equine attendee but generally smallish fields. With the rains suddenly arriving, the horses turned out like a horde of thirsty Wildebeest who are so parched that they care not a jot for the possibility of crocodiles or lions at the waterhole. Sandown has parakeets and a big wooden owl. Despite the mostly big fields, the tactics that paid off all day were to be at the front, or very near it, as before the bumper no winner had come from terribly far back.

Going: Heavy, Soft places for Hurdles, but Soft, Good to Soft places for Chases

Race 1: 188bet Casino Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Eragon De Chanay     2: The Bottom Bar     3: Kings Walk

Winner owned: Five Star Racing Group, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Niall Houlihan

The policy for the day was set here - all races tended to be very slowly run early on and it took an age for the runners to make it from the start over on the back straight through to the winning post with a lap to go. Despite being apparently the least experienced rider in the line up, Niall Houlihan judged the race perfectly, quickening up as they turned into the back line and not one opponent managed to get close after that. The Bottom Bar was one of the first to be hard ridden coming off of the final bend, but he kept responding and reeled in all but one of his opponents. Kings Walk plodded on very slowly for third, and at this stage it is possibly worth comparing the ground conditions with the fact that the first and third had riders claiming 10 lbs, whereas all but one of the rest were on three or fewer pound allowed - the other one, Poker School, is not soft ground compatible.

+ +   Eragon De Chanay (1st): Record now on soft and heavy - seven races, four wins. Record now going right-handed - four runs, two wins and two places. The magic formula is a bit more obvious than most arcane secrets.

+   Asylo (7th): Well backed in the morning, apparently, he lost the role of favourite near the off. This was no shock as despite a win on soft, he seemed less likely than most to relish what met him here. He jumped badly in the race, but is one to give another chance on better conditions.
This was one of those brief moments when Kings Walk (8) headed the mostly hidden Eragon De Chanay. It is not represented. Ramore Will, the grey, did not last so prominently. Cheap And Cheerful (10) and Ballywood (light blue colours) hog the rest of the shot

Race 2: Best Odds Guaranteed At 188Bet Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Springtown Lake     2: Lithic     3: Dentley De Mee

Winner owned: Tim Syder, trained: Philip Hobbs, ridden: Richard Johnson

This was a good old guessing game for punters as seven of the ten were making their chase debut and one of the others had contested just one race over fences - unpromisingly running out to prematurely end it. Springtown Lake won it in impressive style. A mistake at fence four kept his mind on the job and although he did tend to put himself right by going left, he did not waste so much energy that he was swamped by the trio breathing down his neck at the last. Lithic lost his pitch a bit at the railway fences, but got close enough to win by the final obstacle. The energy and ground lost at the end of the back straight was a likely difference maker. Dentley De Mee and No Hassle Hoff both faded on the run-in a bit weakly, but in the case of Dently De Mee history tells us not to be surprised by it. No Hassle Hoff is less familiar with cruising into being a late major threat and his drop out of the places was presumably because he shocked himself.

+   Springtown Lake (1st): A very game, and tiring, chase debut, and as long as the left-handed jumps do not become a bad habit, he should make a career of this.

+   Lithic (2nd): Battled on and almost recovered from his railway fence wobble. He is now winless in eight chases, but on this show there must be one or two to be grabbed somewhere.

x   Dentley De Mee (3rd): From eight hurdles he had one win and six places, making him the toast of Placepotters everywhere. Nobody was ever convinced enough to make him favourite, and he began his chase career in exactly the same vein.

x   No Hassle Hoff (4th): Approaching the last obstacle he appeared to be the most likely winner, and half way up the run-in, second was the worst case scenario. As he is best caught fresh, this was a very ominous opener, although it is possible that his training regime has been changed to try and make for a more durable season.
Springtown Lake leads Lithic, Dentley De Mee and No Hassle Hoff over the line. He had been the first to ease up and Lithic was not quite the threat that the picture suggests.

Race 3: 188Bet Mobile Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Eldorado Allen     2: Sevarano     3: Finbawn Bawn

Winner owned: JP Romans & Terry Warner, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Tom O'Brien

One of the themes of the day, both in Surrey and Wales, was Colin Tizzard horses thrashing home in the mud as if they were auditioning for a place in Venetia Williams' stable. Eldorado Allen joined in with no less relish than his colleagues and it allowed him to outstay quality bumper horse Sevarano, who made a good start as a hurdler, despite being beaten favourite. Eldorado Allen was making his British debut after places at Marechoul and Auteuil, so was not exactly a dark horse for this, and as Finbawn Bawn had won his only race - an Ayr bumper - this has the makings of a good hurdle race for the youthful types.

+ +   Eldorado Allen (1st): Accounted for a potentially decent field convincingly.

+   Sevarano (2nd): Gave the winner a race, which none of the others quite managed, and time may tell that he had an awful lot on his plate.

+   Duarigle (7th): Did not waste an excess of energy in pursuit of a lost cause and was the one in midfield which finished without getting exhausted. Noodling on past tired horses can often turn out less well than it looks, but he did win an Irish point in February. It was admittedly a bad one, but there may well be a handicap production later in the season.

Race 4: 188Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase, Listed [3m]

1: Elegant Escape     2: Thomas Patrick     3: Coo Star Sivola

Winner owned: JP Romans, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Tom O'Brien

Only four came for this, but it featured one of the top novices of last season in Terrefort, one that flirted with excellence but lacked consistent winning, Elegant Escape, and a couple that had taken the handicap route but were still possible flourishers this season - Coo Star Sivola and Thomas Patrick. Terrefort was odds-on but his jumping did not impress, and after being forced to fight to stay in touch from the end of the back straight, he wilted at the last and was eased on the run-in. Coo Star Sivola called it quits a few yards later and at that stage Thomas Patrick was the likeliest winner. Unfortunately it was a) Colin Tizzard Benefit Sunday and b) Elegant Escape really, really, really wanted to win, so he did.

+   Thomas Patrick (2nd): Did not look quite as fit as his three rivals, so this has to be judged at as an excellent prep for where he goes next - probably the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury.

x   Elegant Escape (1st): An x may seem very harsh after a win like this, and his wind op may be the difference between last season's nearly horse and this season's star. However, he is a really slight horse, totally lacking in substance, and in a more competitve race (the Ladbroke Trophy is also on his agenda) it is not hard to imagine him being physically bullied in a crowd.
Thomas Patrick leads, Elegant Escape is in second but hiding behind Coo Star Sivola due to hs misunderstanding of GDPR legislation and Terrefort is chasing after him trying to explain how it is really supposed to work

Race 5: Bet & Watch At Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Totterdown     2: Nelson's Touch     3: Destrier     4: Castafiore

Winner owned: Fairford Goes Racing, trained: Richard Phillips, ridden: Daniel Hiskett

Even after a couple of non-runners, a twenty horse two mile handicap hurdlle is a very unappetising prospect. A shortlist of ten horses is not really fufilling it's brevity billing. There is some evidence that Totterdown gets too wound up to last home when meeting these sort of conditions in such competitive company and his rating of 129 for the first try in a handicap hardly rated as a handicapper's gift. None of this had occurred to Totterdown, and whilst his kick for home was much later than Eragon De Chanay in the opener, the manner of victory was much the same. Nelson's Touch tried to come from the back of the field, but having brushed plenty of opponents aside, Totterdown was out of his reach. Destrier and Castafiore were in a scrap for the places when Haafapiece fell at the last and depiloted Flashing Glance in the process, sealing the destination of the each-way slots.

+   Putting Green (8th): Had not run since a novice hurdle in March 2017, had changed stable in the meantime and the betting suggested that expectations were zero. In the circumstances eighth was not bad, and he is starting to look well handicapped for a 92-rated flat handicapper. How long before he is ready to play his hand?

Race 6: 188Bet Pete The Feat Veterans' Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Loose Chips     2: Rock Gone     3: Court Frontier

Winner owned: Barrels Of Courage, trained: Charlie Longsdon, ridden: Paul O'Brien

Charlie Longsdon seems to really have these vets races sussed, and just because Pete The Feat was not up to winning his own trophy did not mean that the yard went home without it. Loose Chips made all, had a serious wobble with the idea of running out with a lap to go and then knuckled down to do the final circuit in a state of common sense. Rock Gone, in only his not at all veterany fourteenth race, provided a brief threat two fences from home, but he failed to see out the distance, although he did at least keep at bay Court Frontier, who finished like a train to nick third from Rathlin Rose. The fourth's good record here is compiled in the military races after New Year rather than handicap chases.

+   Rock Gone (2nd): Finished seventh in the 2m 5f handicap chase to Road To Respect at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. This was only his second race since and both have been second places at three miles. It would appear that a slight drop in distance is needed.

+   Court Frontier (3rd): Has struggled to find his best since joining Christian Williams but he has not been devoid of encouraging results. With the yard on the cold list, perhaps this one is the effort that is a preview of better to come.

x   Tenor Nivernais (9th): Had a brief and bad season last term, but in the past he tended to go well fresh. This unfortunately suggested that a revival is not just around the corner.

Race 7: 188Bet Mobile Bet10 Get10 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: The Raven's Return     2: Thunderstruck     3: Jackson Hill

Winner owned: The Rumble Rcing Club, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: Daniel Sansom

In the style of the maiden hurdle, the favourite got beaten into second but lost no kudos in light of a dynamic mud-loving winning effort against him. Thunderstruck's sole run in Irish points saw him win and see off a couple of subsequent winners - since then a rather large amount of money had changed hands and he had come to Britain. The Raven's Return had extra experience, contesting two Ascot bumpers a year ago. A good fourth in the first, he flopped next time and had not been seen since. He still seemed inexperienced when the heat was on, bu won fair and square. Jackson Hill and Golden Taipan both came close to nicking the runner-up slot

+   The Raven's Return (1st), Thunderstruck (2nd), Jackson Hill (3rd), Golden Taipan (4th): The first four dominated and with the race having twice as many runners as most years, this is likely to be a strong renewal.

Empire: Pete's Choice (10th): Toodled along in the front rank happily but got outpaced at the end of the back straight. When he lost his position he did not have a clue what to do. A disappointing outcome, but when he learns racing, better will hopefully come.
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