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Cottenham, 27/11/16

Cambridge University United Hunts Club

Thefirst meeting of the season, but a much depleted entry compared to most years. Ground conditions were probably the biggest factor, with very few of the regular long distance travellers to the meeting chancing the waste of a day.

Going: Good (Good to Firm places)

race 1: Toad's School Of Driving PPORA Club Members, 2m 4f

1: Lough Inch     2: Abbey Lane     3: Anquetta

Winner owned: Miss Liz Harris, trained: Tommy Morgan, ridden: Sam Davies-Thomas

The same horse won this as 2015, still in the same ownership, still with the same trainer and not deserted by the jockey either. It did look like he needed the run a little, but with gaps in the skills/readiness/brains of the opponents, Lough Inch was able to control the race from the front. Anquetta spent most of the race niggling away at the leader, but he had shot his bolt by the third last and lost second to Abbey Lane before they got to the second last fence. In his prime Anquetta was a better handicapper than Abbey Lane, but it does rather look as if he feels he has done enough for one career. At face value it was fair start to this job for the runner-up, but a horse with one win in the last six years is hard to get enthused over. Down the field, Rumble Of Thunder made his pointing debut after 28 flat runs, 34 hurdles ones and, pointedly, no chase attempts. He looked as if he would improve for the race, and then hit the fifth, causing his rider to take four fences and the very tight bend into the straight without any stirrups being used. Experts consider this to be "not ideal." He was tailed off in sixth, but left the impression that plenty of improvement is possible - as long as the absence of chase experience is not due to this being normal for him. The official time was 4m 20s, which is pretty nippy, even allowing for the fact that this race distance is not really as far as advertised.
Description
Lough Inch (blue & orange) refuses to get stressed by the presence of Anquetta. Billie Magern and Abbey Lane lead the chase, from cheekpieciated Something Wonderful. Only Time'll Tell and As De Ferbet make up the numbers.

race 2: Isle Veterinary Group Mens Open

1: Consigliere     2: Never Complain     3: Bincombe

Winner owned & trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Joe Hill

The same horse won this as 2015, still in the same ownership, still with the same trainer and not deserted by the jockey either. No, really. A bad attack of deja vu was going on by this point in time. It was just a relief that Sagalyrique was not entered in the Ladies race. Despite lack of numbers, the quality was not bad, and even with Consigliere not setting a pace that looked fierce to the naked eye, the winning time was a blistering 5m 45s. Never Complain tried to make a race of it, but in the style of a horse that has now finished runner-up in seven of nine races since last winning. As I do not own him and have no recollection of backing him in this spell, it should be appropriate to follow the advice of his name, but if nobody complains about this, Never Complain will go on thinking that this is tolerable. A stern finger wagging is needed, and he should not be allowed to use Consigliere's proven ability as an excuse. Consider this complaint official. With his pilot having his first ride, Bincombe tried to stay involved, but spent the last mile targeting any form of completion.

race 3: Skinners Pet Foods Ladies Open

1: Bound For Glory     2: Sharp Suit     3: Dont Do Mondays

Winner owned: Bound For Glory Partnership, trained: David Fitch-Peyton, ridden: Ali Stirling

A competitive race for the most part, in which Bound For Glory headed the betting, despite a suspicion that Sharp Suit would be more at home on the ground. Bound For Glory also got beaten for speed here last season, but as it was by Khyber Kim, that is not disastrous. Travelling well through the race, he took the lead on the far side of the course and remained in front approaching the last, going better than Sharp Suit. The latter went for a giant leap at the last to try and frighten the leader into doing something silly, which instead nearly undid his own race. As a handicap chaser Dont Do Mondays really was a mudlark and although he could not get the first pair worried he plugged away in encouraging style for when soft ground can be found.

race 4: Subaru Restricted

1: Celtic Silver     2: Scorpion Star

Winner owned: Mrs Richard Hayward, trained: Tom Ellis, ridden: Gina Anrdews

Only three went to post here, but a case could be made for each of them. Celtic Silver was the jolly despite taking his time to get off of the mark and having a third and an unseated at this level since. Initially Scorpion Star (moved to Andrew Pennock since last season) was second in the betting, but monetary support for another who had been slow to find a win, Wonderful Present (left Andrew Pennock since last season), meant that the pair were roughly level in the ring. The race was very much as per the market, and when Wonderful Present fell three out, he was still bang in there contending, although starting to struggle to match the other pair for pace. Scorpion Star then tried to take the lead off of Celtic Silver, but that horse was a bit too stubborn to make that work and opened a nice gap from the last fence.

race 5: Baileys Open Maiden

1: All The Sevens     2: Skipping On      3: Verdasco

Winner owned: M Peters & A Dickins, trained & ridden: Dale Peters
Description
Skipping On skips on after the first, with (left to right) West Lake, All The Sevens and Verdasco leading the chase. Kings Watch is next in line (although technically solo in that zone), with Stowaway Sooty and Railway Rule bringing up the rear.

The first losing favourite of the day, but after a bad hang on the run-in by All The Sevens (and with his rider having the stick in the inappropriate hand) there was an extended stewards' enquiry which the bookies generally made Skipping On 1/2 to have the result reversed. The margin was only a neck but although Skipping On was very tight for room on the rails, it did not look as if he was forced to take a pull and the result was not reversed - although Dale Peters did pick up a fine for careless riding. On the whole, the race was a bit short of horses with past form to stimulate interest, but keep an eye on Railway Rule, who looked very well in the paddock. He was respectable in defeat in 2014, missed 2015 and fairly hopeless on his return earlier this year. This run was a fairly gentle spin at the back, and presumably more will be asked of him soon. We shall see if the 2014 Railway Rule arrives on time, or the Southern Rail version of this spring. West Lake appeared to do better than he was up to last season, unless concerns about the potential weakness of opposition comes to pass.
Description
This turned out to be where all the action was.

race 6: Hardcastle Burton Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds, 2m 4f

1: Extreme Appeal     2: Mister Murch     3: Kev The Car

Winner owned: JR Weatherby, trained: Kelly Morgan, ridden: Sam Davies-Thomas

There were some more encouraging types here to hurtle round the fast maiden option than in the older and more staying types race. As fate likes to do, the finish was being fought out by the same two riders involved in the race 5 enquiry. Sam Davies-Thomas got revenge this time, but Extreme Appeal did jump badly right and across Mister Murch at the final fence. Fortunately Extreme Appeal was a couple of lengths up and going away when it happened, so there was no chance of knocking Mister Murch flying. Three fences out Extreme Appeal was under pressure to get to the front, and the way that he kept on gives reason to be hopeful that he can last three miles, and there is the option of blinkers, which accompanied his best hurdle display. Mister Murch finished second in his only other race and should be fitter for the spin. Kev The Car has done less well to date, and he pulled too hard for his own good here but clearly has some ability for when he thinks a bit more about what he is doing. There appeared to be some financial support for Pelican Mine here, but he did not justify it. In rear from an early stage, it already looked as if he had let the leaders get first run on him when he was hampered by Holy Dancer unseating four out. After a promising Irish debut, he fell next time and did little in two further runs. Not an especially notable history, but he is worth keeping tabs on.
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