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Charing, 18/2/18

South East Hunts Club

The south-east begins the season with what is usually the strongest quality of racing all year and immediately goes into a gentle wind-down through to the spring. With recent abandonments in proximate areas, this fixture attracted over 130 entries, and had 75 runners, plus a declaration that fled and had to be withdrawn. There was also a new layout of the kit and kaboodle here – paddock and track the same, everything else realigned. From a viewing perspective it worked well, but having bookies, refreshments, trade stands, the only waste bins etc all on the opposite side of the finishing chute did make for a near constant bottleneck at the course crossing. Perhaps it was to make regular users of the Dartford Tunnel feel at home. Another downside was that the course was not up to the usual standards with announcing runners and information about them. Normally it is nigh on 100% here, but there were regular discrepancies between the number board and announcements, horses that did not have a rider in the racecard often did not have one announced (and the new layout left people much further away from the number board), with things going totally haywire for the divided race. It was almost worth missing the mens mass start biathlon and Sweden v Finland ice hockey for.

A small aside. One of the entertaining aspects of going pointing is seeing in what ways people can mangle the pronunciation of names, both horse and jockey, or even owners and trainers. However, for the second time recently Monetaire was seen in action, and he was described as Monty-air. This is a really simple one to get right…

Going: Good (the joys of running on chalk downs rather than clay)

Race 1: Giles Hopper Memorial Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds [2m 4f]

1: Caryto Des Brosses     2: Latenightpass     3: Kalinite

Winner owned: JRM Ridge, trained: David Kemp, ridden: Shane Roche

The purpose of this race was to ensure a full range of talents of the starting team were tested. Dontdillydally unshipped her rider in the paddock and was eventually walked to post after showing no enthusiasm for being ridden there. She was kept well apart from the others, who gave her one or two quizzical looks, other than Kalinite, who was busy with a significant tack repair. So when the line up all jumped off as one, expectations were exceeded. The pace was made by Parsons Avenue until he fell at fence nine, and Latenightpass seized the chance to hit the front. He was last reported on here having an educational debut at Cottenham before Christmas, and it looked as if a repeat of that since had brought him ready for this event, but Caryto Des Brosses, who had been fourth at Higham in a failed attempt to make the running there over three miles, went with Latenightpass and saw out his race more forcefully. After unseating on his pointing debut at Larkhill, Kalinite was allowed to take it steady early on and he finished off the race well, without threatening to catch the first two. He did manage a third in a beginners chase in Ireland and does not lack experience, so a more serious attack is feasible next time. Having his first race since 2016, Platinum Ben did fine to end up fourth and should have more to come.

Empire: Ididandididn’t (PU): Confirmed the fear that he is not keen on galloping downhill, and especially at Charing, where he fell last season. This does rather limit your options in the south-east, with 60% of the fixture list at notably hilly courses. Even less mountainous Penshurst and Aldington have downhill runs of their own, although the former is a fairly short one, with only one pesky fence in it.
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As general milling around at the start goes, this is an elite effort. From left to right, irrespective of distance, they are Roulette Rocky, Caryto Des Brosses, Platinum Ben, Parsons Avenue, Ididandididn't, Kalinite, Latenightpass, Act Like You Know, Kaiden Michael and Dontdillydally

Race 2: South East Bookmakers Restricted [3m]

1: Summer Sounds     2: Willflywontsink     3: Stars Royale

Winner owned: James Jackson-Stops & Tim Jackson-Stops, trained: Francesca Nimmo, ridden: James Jackson-Stops

From fifteen entries a healthy field of twelve took part. Ampton maiden winner Summer Sounds got his second win of the season, thanks to staying on at one pace and watching the leader make a horrible mess of last. It all looked fatigue driven, so when Stars Royale and Fountains Cider also passed Willflywontsink, his chance of a place looked ironically sunk. However, he opted to battle on regardless and from watching by the last fence it was a surprise to see his name called as the runner-up. He just needs to work on the “will fly” part of the equation. As has been documented here before, Stars Royale is not the best horse to have on your side when the pressure is raised, so outbattling him late in the race is something a horse with ambition needs to do and Fountains Cider was partnered by the very veteran rider Steve Spice, so in different Restricted company even Summer Sounds may not have got away with the victory in a close four way finish. The one who may think about what may have been is Inmyday, who took a heavy fall two out. He appeared to be on the retreat at the time, but it is far from unknown at Charing for horses to recover from three or four lengths down and apparently outpaced as the run for home proves to be a bit more testing than it looks to the naked eye. One very flat effort came from This Breac, and he may have found his fifth race since New Year to be a case of too much good fun in too short a time period.
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The picture does not do justice to Willflywontsink's sloppy effrt at the fence, but does show Summer Sounds being close enough to take advantage.

Race 3: Shepherd Neame Faversham Kent Gold Cup Mens Open

1: Ivy Gate     2: Jimmy The Jetplane     3: Curraigflemens

Winner owned & trained: Christy Mews, ridden: Jordan Nailor

A strong race with strength in depth, a pairing which is not always achieved here. However, the first pair home scattered their rivals quite impressively, with Ivy Gate having five lengths in hand on Jimmy The Jetplane and the margin to the rest being double that. Ivy Gate never really took to chasing for Jonjo O'Neill, unseating in two out of four, but he has got stuck into pointing with zest. Hunter chases might bring back some bad memories and on his first pointing run he beat Sybarite, who is a imely reminder that some horses just need to be operating with an informal vibe in a field full of marquees. Jimmy The Jetplane is an enigmatic character as well, as he got a chase rating of 137 under Rules, but only won one of nine over fences, ending up second for five races. He was more prolific when hurdling. Does that suggest a rush of wins might not be around the corner. Having his first race since last April, Arbeo had a quiet pipe opener and will find easier chances at the area's lesser meetings - although he does need to break out of a slump in handicap chases going back a couple of years.

Race 4: Four Jays Group Ladies Open

1: Degooch     2: See You Jack     3: Monetaire

Winner owned & trained: Christy Mews, ridden: Ali Stirling

Degooch contested three races in Irish points in 2013 and produced results of F21. Then he came to Britain and went through the whole bumper to hurdle to chase thing and won at regular intervals, ending up with eight successes in thirty-two tries. So it really was no surprise that a) he went pointing to escape a high handicap mark and b) started with victory. Degooch was deployed to de front three fences out and was forced to keep working as See You Jack refused to roll over. He had let the winner get first run on him after they both sat at the back and watched the other idiots do the donkey work, but a note of warning is that in the last couple of seasons he has been very prone to being runner-up, his win coming when completing two miles solo in a two horse race. Monetaire is now in the veteran stage and has never had an insipring winning strike rate, but when the first pair passed him, he at least did not let them dash clear. Can Mestret had a rare day out of the first four, but it was his first race since the summer and most of the big East Anglian yards seem to have a few horses that have been short of tip-top fitness on their reappearance. Anyone may think that the weather has been iffy. Another Rules convert, Court Dismissed, had a rather anonymous debut for Alan Hill, despite looking to be exactly the sort of horse that the Hill team sends out to win all over the place.

Race 5: Adrian Henry Vivier Memorial Conditions, Div I [2m 4f]

1: Important Moment     2: Gallox Bridge     3: Throthehatch

Winner owned: A Dickins, A Houston, R Drage & D Peters, trained & ridden: Dale Peters

This was a very competitive race of a dozen runners, the sort that when you see a horse in the paddock that catches the eye, the inclination is to view the race as too difficult to risk a bet. Then, as was the case here, the horse wins. Important Moment had disappointed under Rules after winning a maiden hurdle and his first effort for the current team left a lot to be desired. One of those objects of desire was stamina, so dropping down to 2m 4f suited him well. Although now thirteen years old, Gallox Bridge is handy in these short races and closed last season in good form, so for Important Moment to see him off is generally a positive indicator. Throthehatch did similar improvement from his seasonal debut to Important Moment, other than it was two places and about ten lengths worse. He had made the running to three out but managed to keep Midnight King at bay for third. They completed a frst quartet which all had a tongue tie. There were rumours that the scarcity of of divided races in the area meant for some uncertainty in the making sure that the right process was followed. Possible winners with tongue ties in one, possible winners without in the other is a novel way of organising it.
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Important Moment in his most important moment for some time - in command at the last

Race 6: Adrian Henry Vivier Memorial Conditions, Div II [2m 4f]

1: Quick Oats     2: Generous Ransom     3: Superior Fire

Winner owned & trained: Nigel Padfield, ridden: Gina Andrews

The trophy was, as is traditional, given to the winner of the quickest division, which Important Moment achieved by a massive six seconds. This was surprising because Quick Oats has a clue in his name and he was also battling out the finish against Generous Ransom and only made it by a short head - neither was easing off of the clock and Quick Oats battled back after being briefly headed before the final fence. Since pulling up in his first couple of British points, Quick Oats has run ten times now, winning six and posting two apiece in second and third. He needed to be on his game here as Generous Ransom was a 140 rated handicapper once and was beaten only three lengths bey Irish Cavalier in the novices' handicap chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival. He is less slick these days but still... If the runner-up was back on song, the next three home (Superior Fire, No Likey and For 'N' Against) ran admirably and we know that sixth placed Conkies Lad can do a fair job when not more interested in seeing his rider rolling on the turf. The wobbliest option is Superior Fire who has developed an inclination to not finish, by hook or by crook, and he might have wasted an enthusiastic day on this occasion.

Race 7: South East Supporters Club Open Maiden

1: Indian Chance     2: Desert Retreat     3: Stowaway Hall

Winner owned: Ian Gibson, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Shane Roche

This race had more horses in it that looked beforehand as if they would come on for the run than had been typical for the rest of the card, and the ones who raised doubts all failed to get round. That included New Tarabela (0/19 on the flat, 0/10 hurdling) who started a shorter price than his better looking stablemate Stowaway Hall. New New Tarabela, same as the old New Tarabela. At the second last Stowaway hall was challenging for a win on British deut (unplaced both tries in Ireland), but he ran out of steam on the final turn and Indian Chance and Desert Retreat pushed clear of him. At face value Desert Retreat (no wins, five second places under Rules) did nothing wrong, but Indian Chance had himself been runner-up in his last three and it could be that he unlasted least, if such a concept is gramatically possible. Odds-on favourite Ain't No Limits pulled up after the open ditch for the first time, fence four. Several of them appeared to give it a good shoeing, with the jolly presumably coming off worst at it. Tubby debutant Foxburrow Baloo did two miles or so fairly competently before weakening quickly and pulling up. Watch out for improvement over the course of the season. The betting shunned the Gina Andrews mount Clay Allison, but for a long way it seemed he would stick his tongue out at the market and travelled well near the front of the race. However, he completely ran out of fuel from the third last and was behind when unseating at the final fence. He unseated in his only Rules chase as well...
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