Whitfield, 12/03/17

Bicester With Whaddon Chase

A bit wet overnight, so the conditions were not as genteel as expected. Did not stop the enthusiastic running of the side saddle race, which with all the flowing clothing and discreet riding helmets did conjure up a view of what a lady riders' race would look like if staged by the Taleban. Except with less opium trafficking (probably).

Another thought about keeping people informed. At several professional tracks boards giving guides on how to spot horse fitness and wellbeing have appeared. This is a good thing, even if at times they tend to present things as absolute, infallible facts rather than probabilities. What they never mention, and it definitely applied here, is that if a horse is picking its half-hearted way gingerly through the parade ring mud, what chance has it of running really well on the actual track.

Going : Good to Soft with Soft places (but sticky 'n'orrible and rode seemingly more testing than that)

Race 1: Taylor, Lawrence & Clarke Family Members

1: Court Red Handed     2: Doctor Kingsley     3: Breaking The Bank

Winner owned: Mrs Carolyn Kendrick, trained: Sarah Case, ridden: Max Kendrick

Four entered and all turned out to run. However, not only was there a broad range of talents amongst those four horses, three of them looked as if they would improve for fitness to some degree or another, and the one that was the exception was the favourite - Court Red Handed. Even he was looking a bit tired at the end, when a dozen or more lengths clear, although when UK-Jumping has seen him in action in recent years, Court Red Handed has been using a tongue tie, which was not present today. Doctor Kingsley has some smart Cheltenham form in his youth, and is 14 wins from 36 points now, but this was his first run for nearly two years, and he is a fifteen year old, so unlikely to be as good as we may remember him. Breaking The Bank is a newcomer to points this season and not a strong candidate to have the stamina to be winning three mile races.Connections are presumably looking for a short distance event somewhere.
Court Red Handed has no problems with a suspiciously small looking second last fence.
Race 2: Jockey Club & Nimrod Mares & Fillies Open Maiden

1: Kalahari Queen     2: Listen For Me     3: Aunty Joan

Winner owned: RD Chugg, trained: Sophie Lacey, ridden: Tommie O'Brien

At face value this was an uninspiring heat. Those with racing experience had largely pulled up, unseated or been tailed off, and the two debutantes were consequently second and third in the betting. But once the dozen runners were in the paddock there were a few who looked like proper racehorses, and could possibly take inspiration from their colleague, Quizzacle Nomad, who pulled up in her first five appearances and then got a second and a fourth in her two most recent runs. And finally, the three horses that battled out the places did so in the style of horses who knew their job. So the future for the finishers may be a bit better than some people will give them instant credit for. Kalahari Queen ran a great race on debut, leading to the eleventh, losing her pitch a little around the third last and then rallying strongly to get the best of a close finish. When it was announced that her rider weighed in at four pounds overweight, the display gets even better. Listen For Me had pulled up in both runs before now, but only just got pipped here, and there looked to be a little bit of interest for her in the betting ring - hopefully people went each-way. Aunty Joan had form of PPP/22-F coming into this, but she seemed set to add a 1 to it when kicking on three fences out. It was unclear whether fatigue, fear of the unknown or evil intent grabbed hold of her, but she wavered badly between the last two obstacles and was relegated to third. Delineate (briefly a leader around fence twelve) and Hidden Drifter led the remaining four finishers, and had a life (and experience) enriching battle for the fourth place, which Delineate came out on top of. Delineate won the best name prize as well, not that there was one, for being by Definite Article, out of New Line.
The field have two laps to go. The leader is Kalahari Queen in the crossbelts, harrassed and harangued by (left to right) Lady Be Generous, Shales Fair Talk and Delineate. The other three in view are Shadow's Girl (17), Quizzacle Nomad (dark blue, light blue star) and Hidden Drifter.
Race 3: TFM Networks Open Maiden

1: Very Keen     2: Rainbow Bucks     3: Master Hide

Winner owned: P Rees, ridden: Joanne Priest, trained: Hannah Lewis

The mares in their maiden took benefit from nobody dashing off at an unsustainable pace, which can be done intentionally or not, and this was played out normally, with the exception of the free running Llangwm Lad, who still had just enough patience to let the race progress at a common sense rate. The more restrained co-leader was Ididandididn't, who was outpaced when the major assault was launched three from home, but got a second wind to be fourth. The finish was fought out by the two that had the best form in the book. Rainbow Bucks' three runs, having started his career at the end of last season, hinted that the ground on this occasion could find him out, but he ran pretty well. Just not quite as well as Very Keen, who beat Rainbow Bucks by a head. Having had three second places in his nine pointing runs, the doubters had some evidence that Very Keen was a risky prospect, when normally they would blame Trump/Putin/North Korea/a past host of Countdown (delete as appropriate). Master Hide finished third twice last season amongst some failures but changed connections before this term and had been well beaten twice. So this third place finish was a step in the right direction, but perhaps third is his pinnacle.

Race 4: Bentley Cambridge Mixed Open

1: Lauberhorn   2: Karinga Dancer   3:Young Cheddar

Winner owned: The Bennelle Partnership, trained: Jo Paynter, ridden: Peter Mason
The remaining runners take a mixed approach to descending the chopped up piste into the dip. Left to right they are Young Cheddar, Pay The King, Quatuor Collonges, Lauberhorn and Karinga Dancer.
With Karinga Dancer hovering around odds of 1/5, it was projected that this race would not be all that competitive. It did turn into a wide margin victory, but not to the expected horse. And whilst Karinga Dancer had two wins this season, he followed them with a run out at Kenton. It had to be feared that having a novice rider on board could work against him, and by kicking Lauberhorn into a clear lead after the third last, the more experienced Peter Mason created an advantage that Karinga Dancer was never going to eliminate. By this time, Young Cheddar had accepted third, and making a completion after falling at the first on her return from twenty months off will be a useful thing to have got under her belt. Six time winner Towering Run was making his seasonal reappearance, and looked utterly disinterested for the two thirds of a circuit he managed before pulling up.
"Victory is mine! Wait, nooooo. Yes, we're OK." Is what Lauberhorn is thinking at the second last.

Race 5: Dodson & Horrell Novice Riders

1: Always A Chance   2: Mazuri Cowboy   3: Paddycards

Winner owned & trained: Ms G Howell, ridden: Fleur Allcorn

Two of last week's winners at Godstone locked horns here. Mazuri Cowboy won the novice riders' race despite clumsy late jumping and Always A Chance won the members thanks to a cunning tactical ride against an area star that may now be passed his best. The obvious deduction would be that Always A Chance's chances would become more chancey when teamed up with a less experience jockey. That roved to be an unfounded worry as he won easily. Well, perhaps easily is the wrong word, because every race was hard work, but he was unthreatened. Mazuri Cowboy ran his usual race, probably. A more interesting (in the worst sense of the word) horse is Paddycards. In his youth he was a totally incompetent jumper, but eventually got the worst of it out of his system, with the odd exception. This season he had ominously kicked off with a fall and an unseat. A completion was a good thing, but he inevitably hit more than his share of fences en route, and hardly comes across as a desirable ride for a novice. Unless the rider is after picking up some medical knowledge as well.

Race 6: Glencore Agriculture Restricted, 2m 5f

1: Midnight Monkey   2: Barrafohona   3: View The Dance

Winner owned: JE Connell, trained: Christopher Henn, ridden: Max Kendrick

By applying thoroughly foolish prejudgement of the entries, the expectation here was to need to find a price about Barrafohona. When looking at who turned up, it was apparent that Midnight Monkey should a) be seen as of comparable ability and b) is more likely to be celebrating the overnight rain and be comfortable on the ground that faced them. In the end Barrafohona dealt with the mud better than expected (and did not have a weird day like the one that overtook him at Horseheath) but that was still not enough to avoid being beaten three lengths by Midnight Monkey, who also pulled up in the Horseheath race. Distance and going were well set to get a good run out of View The Dance, but he has not been in form this season and was well behind in third. Two maidens with abysmal completion rates took a chance here in search of the benefits of a shorter race. Craigontheyard pulled up, as per usual, but Midnight Quest finished fifth, a plus compared to past results of one unseating and eight pulled ups.

Race 7: ECB Equine Intermediate

1: Alfstar     2: Robin De Boss     3: Lisnagar Star

Winner owned: Miss J Priest & P Rees, trained: Joanne Priest, ridden: Hannah Lewis

Not long before the off the prices on the first three in the betting were 7/4, 2/1 and 9/4, and it was an appropriately competitive event. At least until the dip before fence seventeen, where Alfstar kicked on and created an unassailable lead. Robin De Boss has been having a good season, but he was beaten a long way in the end, and perhaps Intermediate level is out of his range for now. Third placed, and last to finish, was Lisnagar Star, who won at the end of last term and may be finding early season ground forcing him into several comprehensive drubbings this time around. Master Tim, already a winner this year, was losing just as heftily when pulling up tired before the second last.
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