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AUGUST 2017 HORSES TO FOLLOW
BANKHALL     (Kevin Bishop)

6 year old bay gelding     (Trans Island – Agena D’Auteuil)     0/447P4221PP2P1-4PP8

On Boxing Day 2016, Bankhall made his chasing debut in a sixteen horse race at Wetherby. He won it. This seemed like a very promising step. A month later he had another go, this time at Catterick. Every second, every yard, every jump was resented and he pulled up just after halfway. Three days later he repeated the shambles at Uttoxeter, and again in March at Newcastle. After getting a hurdling win out of him, connections had decided that enough was enough and moved Bankhall on. The new stable dived directly into chasing, and twice more he pulled up, although not quite so early in the races. There is an argument that thirteen runs during the 2016/17 season could have been too many for Bankhall’s mental durability, but the win in April kind of undermines that theory. So what do we see when concentrating purely on hurdles? A win and three second places for starters, all at class 5 level and when wearing cheekpieces, plus on his latest appearance at Newton Abbot a bit more spark in the race, although it was blown out quite suddenly after the third last. It might not be immediate, but Bankhall should be able to make his mark in low level handicap hurdles once again. Class 5 handicap hurdles over 2m 7f or more
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Bankhall (7) having a class in aerodynamics and why horses cannot fly

BEREA BORU     (Peter Bowen)

9 year old bay gelding     (Brian Boru – Wayward Venture)     5/623/751126/3644111P/P5P-84P

At the beginning of July, Berea Boru started as 12/1 for the Marston’s Pedigree Summer Cup at Uttoxeter, a race with £75,000 prize money and thus competitive enough to have a 7/1 favourite. The price of Berea Boru was a work of insanity, and his mere presence in the race made little more sense. The overall record is one of twenty-four races and five wins. When the going is heavy he has won five of eight races, which means that on all other going Berea Boru is 0/16. This data requires no effort to compile, appearing in the Racing Post every time that he runs and sometimes even the raceard as well. Yet people still wanted to back him. Perhaps being placed in a bumper and a handicap hurdle from ten runs on good or good to firm is more hypnotic than we might imagine or in the middle of next January there will be newspaper stories telling us the Berea was the third most popular baby name of 2017. Spoiler alert: Numbers one and two will be Groot and Lysergic. Anyhow, getting back to Berea Boru, he is well worth following on heavy ground, and whilst he has only once tackled it in shorter races than 2m 7f (a 2m 4f maiden hurdle win in 2013) he could be trusted to give it a shot if the race distance policy is varied. He is also approaching the point where failures in top level handicaps will encourage connections to go back to class 3 or lower, where he has proven that he can win.

Races on heavy ground over 2m 4f or more

DESERT ISLAND DUSK     (Maurice Barnes)

6 year old bay gelding     (Superior Premium – Desert Island Disc)     55P/77532/1414574-215

For a horse that closed out his flat career by finishing tailed off last of eight in a claimer (and never ended up better than seventh in any race), he has gone on to do some handy stuff as a jumper. He has also done some darker work as well, possibly because somebody told him that he was supposed to have the same name as his dam, but it went wrong when it was registered over the phone by a New Zealander. It would also be fair to note that most of his worst results came when Desert Island Dusk was in novice hurdles, which his very limited flat skills would have guided us to expect to go badly. Once in handicap company, results got better and then he homed in on a circumstance which brought about his very best – a gap between races of roughly two weeks. The following list (days break followed by result) shows the pattern: 12 – 3rd, 16 – 1st, 13 – 1st, 11 – 1st. Less than ten days? No good. Twenty days or more between runs has been generally just as futile, although Desert Island Dusk had a near miss at Perth on a break of five months. The third place off of the appropriate break was one of only two races on soft, neither being up to par, and it seems that he is just has irritated by good to soft as well. One attempt on good to firm was all very ordinary, so it seems that we have a champion of fussiness on our hands. Of course, it is possible that races just away from good ground will work when he tries them in that window of a fortnight, just as it may be time for a look at chases. A leap year might just blow his mind totally.

Handicap hurdles or handicap chases with 10 to 19 days since the last race

IT’S OSCAR     (Alastair Ralph)

10 year old bay gelding     (Oscar – Lady Bramble)     0652/7F2763/44F5/63564231/P76U1F03/0741P5P7423-3163P

Now we revisit the theme explored with the entry on Bankhall – the horse with all the credentials for being a chaser, but who cannot, perhaps will not, back it up with results. It’s Oscar is the miscreant in question, and so far ten chases have seen him gain a second and two thirds, the former in a four runner race. He also has failed to finish five times – FPUFP to be precise. Hurdling gives us thirty-four races to get our teeth into. The first thing that jumps out is a preference for sharp courses. He has raced on them thirteen times and won three of them. All of those wonderful racing moments involved carrying less than eleven stone (after any claim from the rider), and when that is factored in to the results of It’s Oscar, the form reads 114153. As far as turning a modest strike rate into a profitable pattern is concerned, this is as good as can be hoped for. The rather awkward question regards what happened on 26th May 2017. On that date It’s Oscar won a Worcester hurdle when lumbered with 11-6 on his back. Not sharp. Not a low weight. Horse clearly not himself? This does, however, give another clue as to how he works best, as he was rated 87 that day, below the 90 threshold from which points results take a steep nosedive – even when on a low weight. Maybe it completely throws out his centre of gravity. Obviously weight and rating correlate more than ever when a bottom drawer handicapper as if a horse has a low rating, he will do well to find a race where he is not carrying a very low weight, so in this case the suspicion is that results reflect what humans expect of him, not necessarily what It’s Oscar may be inclined to do.

Handicap hurdles on a sharp track, carrying up to 10 stone 13 pounds, rated up to 90

LITTLE BRUCE     (Philip Kirby)

5 year old bay gelding     (Yeats – Lady Rolfe)     63/50P481131-

Some time ago, which is not as long as it seems because he did not make a racecourse debut until March 2016, Little Bruce caught the eye as a horse that was likely to improve with some experience, plus a bit of growing up. He was pencilled in on the “chaser to be” list, which has proven to be an error as the numbers above show three wins achieved over hurdles. In defence of that pessimism, his losses in the initial handicap tries were mostly better than the ones in novice races (taken on without any bumper, pointing or flat experience), but still needed some work to make him a productive contender. As it turns out, what Little Bruce really was looking for were galloping, left-handed tracks, as his three wins have been at Wetherby and Ayr, with the interruption in the sequence being related to Carlisle – home of the on the rails car park that has inexplicably been designated a prime Daesh terrorist target. So was it fear of long, steep finishing straights or angry lunatics that stymied Little Bruce that day? In an attempt to keep the debate sane, UK-Jumping is going with the long, steep finish as his enemy. Three wins have not escaped the handicapper’s attention, but let us not dismiss the chaser to be theory. Little Bruce has won over as far as 2m 5.5f already and time (remember we were considering the passage of time a while back) will help his stamina develop further.

Handicap chases over 2m 3f or more on a left-handed, galloping, level track
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A very little Bruce

TOTAL ASSETS     (Simon Waugh)

9 year old bay mare     (Alflora – Maid Equal)     63/85F72131/4562686/0U321PP/PP64123112-

The final entry for August is all about inclusivity – proving that the second half of the alphabet has not been forgotten about entirely. People with more functional memories will recall Maid Equal being a prolific winner for Martin Pipe around the turn of the millennium, but her daughter Total Assets has not been quite as invincible so far, with fourteen more races and three fewer successes. However, it is possible to home in on what works for Total Assets by simply finding Kelso on a map. That track has seen her win four out of eight, compared to two out of twenty-six elsewhere. She has only raced once on other left-handed, sharp, level tracks, posting a respectable seven lengths third at Catterick. Does that indicate that she is happiest when far away from a railway line? Of her Kelso losses, two of them came when returning from her summer break and she has also done badly when making the return at courses less beloved to her, so we can also spot a situation where total liabilities exceed Total Assets’ capability and send supporters into a risk of insolvency. Instead of looking to a bank for rescue (as they will almost certainly make the situation worse), wait for Total Assets to turn up match ready at Kelso.

Hurdles or chases at Kelso over 2m 6f or more, with a race in the last two months
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