Fakenham, 21/11/17

Hardly any runners took part here, so that everyone who did gets a mention, in the interest of fairness. The lack of participants is a mystery. Admittedly the very tight track is not a good option for all horses and any owners on the west of the country or the far side of London may legitimately fear falling foul of the journey, but the prize money is usually above average and the course could not be more welcoming.

One reason that people may have been scared off was having Derek Thompson commentating. He was far from his worst here, referring to Leighton Aspell as “dual Grand National winning jockey” rather than the inaccurate “former winner.” Also he filled the actionless gaps in the small fields by reeling off some stats, which was a bit dry but not the offensively stupid guff that he is capable off. Presumably the obsession with the age of all the human participants was prompted by the veteran successes in the opener?

Going: Good to Soft

Race 1: Racing Partnership Selling Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Occasionally Yours     2: Serenity Now     3: Minstrel Royal

Winner owned & trained: Alan Blackmore, ridden: Jack Quinlan

Two potentially acquirable horses were non-runners in this, and when a thirteen year old horse wins the race for an octogenarian owner-trainer, any chance of an active auction is immediately holed below the waterline. The auctioneer did not persevere.

Occasionally Yours (1st): Needed to be ridden to move up from the back to challenge the leader, and when he led two out it was just a case of plodding on dourly for the win. Well done to the teenager for bouncing back to win twice in barely a week, and this was on a course where he had previously lost eighteen of his nineteen races.

  Serenity Now (2nd): Put up a good show last time at adverse weights over an inadequate distance, so his failure to pick up and nick the race from Occasionally Yours was a distinct disappointment.

x   Minstrel Royal (3rd): Made the running and then folded tamely when headed. It is usually hard to get a horse from Nicky Henderson and improve results without a drop down the handicap. In this case the suspicion is that the horse does not want to get better results, which was being hinted at even before the move.

Race 2: Weatherbys Bank Foreign Exchange Mares’ Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Kayfleur     2: Armedandbeautiful

Winner owned: BG Hellyer & Henry Daly, trained: Henry Daly, ridden: Richard Johnson

The outcome was disappointing here as the two horses that generally jumped well ended up unseating at their only errors, and the pair that took a rather erratic and unconvincing approach to getting over the obstacles took home all the prize money. Someone should start an internet petition to get the result changed to what might have happened.

x   Kayfleur (1st): Sometimes she looks like a chaser, but once she gets a fence wrong, she tends to get sloppily over most of the following ones. Today she made an early error and fluffed quite a few others, as his her style. End result – inconvenient tight track defied and a first win for three years. This is not logical. She is probably not to be relied upon to be able to follow up.

Armedandbeautiful (2nd): Made fewer errors than the winner, but the ones she did offer up were worse. This was her first time over fences with cheekpieces and it was probably deceptive that a second place resulted. The proof of the pudding will be on better going, as she really operates best on good or quicker.

Maid Of Milan (UR): Made the running in attractive style until she blundered badly and unseated at the second last. She had just been joined by the winner and was too tired to have held on for the win. Note that she seems best fresh and that a recent run plus an earlier win at 3m 2f discounted the stamina/fitness issues for the weakening.

Frank N Fair (UR): Her unseat last season was after being badly hampered, but this time it was her own mistake – which is out of character. There was still a mile to go so what may have happened is unknown, but she has finished ahead of Kayfleur over fences when fifteen pounds worse off than today’s weight difference…
A picture of the start selected because it stars the victorious Kayfleur. For a look at Maid Of Milan you will need big screen assistance – the only time it has ever been known to be essential at Fakenham. Frank N Fair lurks behind Kayfleur, with Armedandbeautiful exiting stage left.

Race 3: East Rudham Amateur Riders’ Novices Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Mullagh Boy     2: Chilli Romance     3: Bardd

Winner owned: Ready Steady Go, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Lewis Stones

Some flaky types lined up here, in just the fashion that an amateur riders’ race at Fakenham is expected to offer. The consequence was that the two horses who appeared to have the race between them at the second last hurdle managed to get beaten when a horse that they had left behind put in something that vaguely resembled a rally. Neither of the beaten showed an ounce of remorse.

+   Mullagh Boy (1st): Contested a handicap for the first time, teamed with by far the least experienced rider in the line up, and the hood and tongue tie were paired for the first time, having had no effect individually. He was ridden three hurdles out with no obvious response, but then closed quickly before the final flight and won going away. It did not take much inspiration to win, but connections seem to have hit on a formula that works for him.

x x   Chilli Romance (2nd): Past failures to win saw him being excruciatingly one-paced, with a hint of deliberate deceleration. The front running tactics and short run-in ought to have worked in his favour, but after fluffing the last he downed tools as fast as he could.

x x   Bardd (3rd): Set a decent standard for a race of this nature, which gained him top weight, offset by shortage of opposition. Two hurdles out he was looking the likelier winner. Going past Chilli Romance was not on his agenda, and when he caught sight of Mullagh Boy the brakes went on.

Cocker (4th): Finished tailed off, but having not raced for thirteen months and having done little of note when he was in action, that was probably expected. He did not do enough to predict notable progress on the horizon.

Race 4: Weatherbys Racing Bank Beginners’ Chase [3m]

1: Holbrook Park     2: Red Hanrahan

Winner owned: Mrs CNH Chamberlain, trained: Neil King, ridden: Trevor Whelan

For some reason the first two here finished extremely tired. Someone may have micturated on the chase course as they went round in an earlier event. Alternatively it was just a typically odd beginners’ chase for a small field that was left with two runners for the last mile.

+   Holbrook Park (1st): Made a successful chase debut from the front. As a hurdler he just about lasted 2m 7.5f, which would normally translate to staying a little further over fences. However, he had cheekpieces on for the first time, and it will be interesting to see whether, on reflection, connections decide that they lit him up a bit too much, or keep them and look at a shorter race. He jumped well until fatigue caused an awkward error at the last.

Red Hanrahan (2nd): Finished runner-up in his first two chases but flopped in the most recent. His stamina for this was more dubious than the winner, and he definitely did not see out the distance. He was also slow over two or three fences, in a safe, self-preserving but expensive style. Harry Cobden did his best to give him a shot at a decisive jump at the last, but that did not work.

The Lion Dancer (PU): Won a weak Irish point but has offered nothing in two chases under Rules – he had seen enough after two miles today. Until he is in low grade handicaps we can only guess whether there is anything to take him onwards.
The Lion Dancer leads at the first, Holbrook Park sneaks a peak to ensure that the camera loon is ready to act

Race 5: FTC Hire And Sales Mares’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 7f]

1: Saucysioux     2: Broadway Belle     3: The Golden Hour

Winner owned: Olly Murphy Racing Club, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Richard Johnson

A stayers race containing some unproven mares at the trip, including a couple that looked bad candidates for really long races. Unsurprisingly, the sextet were well scattered at the end of the race.

+   Saucysioux (1st): Only lost by a length at Cartmel last time but made her rider put in a treble shift to get that close. The cheekpieces were scrapped and blinkers used here and it definitely helped. Before the home straight she was making hard work of getting ahead of the front-running Broadway Belle, but then stayed on stoutly for the win. Now that her stamina is proven as opposed to expected, there is scope for more progress if the blinkers keep working.

x x   Broadway Belle (2nd): Ran a sound race from the head of affairs but for a horse that has been placed over as far as 3m 3f, her finished was disappointingly weak. She is now 0/16 and has not been lacking feasible openings. She really ought to have been more competitive – unless the pace set by her was quicker than the naked eye could read.

The Golden Hour (3rd): Making her handicap debut after nine months off, she was outpaced by the first pair but battled on with relish to ensure third place. She is still very inexperienced for a horse soon to have her eighth birthday and has the size to excel at chases.

Dizzey Heights (4th): Looked like a stayer in her novice hurdles, but then got her win (on this track) over two miles. Beaten twice since, one at 2m 3f, she took a big step up in distance for this race and failed. Rather than cop out and blame her loss on not staying, but it is just as likely, if not more so, that she found her fifth race in thirty days to be one too many.

Jonjoela (5th): Has done absolutely nothing under Rules but at the end of the pointing season she won an Open Maiden at Northaw before losing a Restricted narrowly. This has to tease us that something may happen in a race like this one, but she was beaten with six furlongs to go and only passed one horse that had totally given up.

Station Closed (6th): A three time winner for Gordon Elliott in Ireland, she had ended there with a couple of subdued runs, and on her debut for the new yard she was tailed off. This was more of the recent hefty losing, although she did hang in there until after the third last. She was an unlikely stayer at this distance and on this evidence, three miles will soon be off of the agenda.

Race 6: Weatherbys Racing Bank Handicap Chase [2m 0.5f]

1: Movie Legend     2: Bach De Clermont     3: Brother Bennett

Winner owned: The Movie Legend Partnership, trained: Lucy Wadham, ridden: Leighton Aspell

Three of the five runners took part in a decent looking novices’ handicap at Kempton from which Exitas enthusiastically endorsed the form at Ascot afterwards. Not only did the quality of performances carry over to this race, but the trio finished in the same order. It is surprising how rarely this obvious scenario manifests itself. The additional clue for the winner was that the stable exited the cold list at Southwell a short time earlier.

+    Movie Legend (1st): Before this race he had only one win from sixteen starts, but when the runner-up threw the kitchen sink at him in the final quarter of a mile, there was no wilting of his resolve. Past form hints at a right-handed preference, so now that he has cracked this chase winning game, more can be achieved.

+   Bach De Clermont (2nd): Representing the site list of horses to follow, he set a strong pace in front and battled back with vigour (but in vain) after Movie Legend went past him three fences out. Did nothing wrong other than find a better horse on the day.

Brother Bennett (3rd): Representing the Empire, he had a back op over the summer and was expected to need the run. He ran like it, and made a tired error at the final fence, but all in all, it was a satisfactory show.

  Land League (4th): Had all the bad luck in the world at Kempton, but a trouble free run saw him fail to get any better performance from it. He hung right on the bends late on, which may have been a side effect of a mistake at the seventh. Previous enthusiasm for early improvement is greatly tempered.

Mercian King (F): Got a bit tapped for toe and took a tumble when the leader put gas on the gas soon after halfway. After pulling up on his chase debut he had posted thirteen straight completions, so this was just a bit of bad luck. His increased handicap mark, however, has seen him only do well in less competitive races.
Brother Bennett wants to adopt some radical inventiveness regarding the direction of gallop, as Mercian King hogs the picture (although it is possible that Mercian King just farted). Movie Legend is in the red and green stripes, Bach De Clermont has a noseband and Land League seeks anonymity.
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