Fontwell, 5/10/18

This was the first day of a two day double header that joined the Fontwell calendar a few years ago. It is used as a charity fund-raising and showcase event, and does the job well, rotating it over a range of different charities. This year it was the Royal British Legion. What works less well at the meeting is the race programme. Some upper level handicaps are scheduled but what is always lacking is suitable horses ready to spin around Fontwell in early October. On this occasion lack of numbers did not at all make the races easy to unravel.

Going: Good, Good to Firm places

Race 1: James Todd & Co Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Wind Place And Sho     2: Cubswin     3: Magical Thomas

Winner owned: Harold Nass, trained: James Eustace, ridden: Jack Quinlan

A thrilling race to open the card with a neck and half a length splitting the first three. It was slightly less heart warming for those who had backed Cubswin because she came through with what looked to be a winning run at the last hurdle, only for it to become apparent that Wind Place And Sho's outside route on the run-in was going to pay dividends. In the end the surprise was the front running Magical Thomas was able to hang on when passed and remain part of the decision making process. Mellow Ben had improved since allowed to front run, but he did not fancy getting into a head bang with Magical Thomas and went back to waiting at the rear. He was still lobbing along comfortably when a faller at the fifth, but it could have been due to being a little startled by a bit of a quickening at that stage.

+  Wind Place And Sho (1st): It has taken a staggered drop down from 2m 5f, addition of cheekpieces and forgiving of a bad tempered offering at Huntingdon, but he finally came good. The handicapper is probably going to leave him as a contender for further success after this.

+  Magical Thomas (3rd): After winning a couple of very modest events this summer, it appeared that throwing him into 0-125 company was extremely optimistic, but he rose to the challenge well. Faith in his ability to win class 4 races increased as a consequence.

Race 2: Netbet Sport Beginners' Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Graasten     2: Ennistown

Winner owned: Galloping On The South Downs Partnership, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

Four took part here, all of whom were new to chasing. Latching on to Graasten was easy if you guessed that Graasten would take to the job, and guessed that Ennistown would not be so convinced that it is a good idea. Graasten was easy to find, on an ideal course, distance and going. Ennistown meanwhile would be a more random option, as he perked up well recently in a Plumpton hurdle with blinkers, but he is not the sort to trust to do anything unless it has been witnessed in person. The evil voices in his head sometimes get the upper hand. The other main contender was The MIghty Don, who tends to run well fresh and was the best hurdler. His plan was to jump poorly until finally depiloting himself at fence six. That is an option that could have been guessed at too. This presentation brought to you courtesy of the concept of guesswork.

+  Graasten (1st): Did the job neatly apart from a bit of a flat spot on the final turn. The foibles of the others limit how enthused anyone should get about it, but he proved himself to not be a complete dolt at the fences.

x  Ennistown (2nd): Started out adequately but his jumping got scrappier and scrappier as the race progressed. Be careful of him as a chaser, but he might get there.

x  The Mighty Don (UR): Made mistakes at the first four, and with Leighton Aspell apparently losing an iron at the fifth, the short downhill run to the next gave no recovery time and he unseated. Could do better but this was highly discouraging.

Race 3: David O'Neill And Tony Maltby Memorial Juvenile Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Bodes Well     2: Vlannon     3: Twenty Twenty

Winner owned: The Spero Partnership Ltd, trained: Warren Greatrex, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

At face value this was not a strong race and for Sixties Secret, who started favourite, all she really had to do was repeat her Plumpton effort and collect the trophy. Unfortunately she was sideswiped badly at the first hurdle and then at the fifth jumped into the back of a hesitant opponent. After that she did not go much further before pulling up. An unlucky day. The other past winner, Twenty Twenty, was less sulkly than at Plumpton, but a Fontwell morale rise was not enough to win. That left Bodes Well to claim the title. With an 82 rating he was comfortably the best flat horse in the race, but he had three past hurdle runs and they all boded badly for his chance. He was a less frantic this time, but it is not form that amounts to much - Vlannon was debuting over jumps never having lost a flat race by fewer than seven lengths.

Bodes Well (1st): Try not to be taken in by his flat rating and be a bit cynical about what he can manage over hurdles.

Race 4: James Todd & Co Ltd Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Sizing Tennessee     2: Capeland     3: Antony

Winner owned: Ann & Alan Potts Limited, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Tom Scudamore

This race was won by a rather portly Sizing Tennessee on his first run back from the summer off. In some ways it was like watching John Regis at his 200m best - having to breathe in to stop his belly straying into someone else's lane. The thing with Sizing Tennessee is that he always looks on the chunky side, and despite apparent lack of fitness he has an excellent first time back from a break record - the main problem here was how to cope with such a short distance without mud to slow everyone else down. The answer was for Capeland to sweep through to lead two out and quickly give up completely. Antony usually runs at this meeting, having been third over hurdles in 2015, winning this race in 2016 and being third from a much higher mark last year. He ran as if less ready for it in 2018, despite fewer jumping faux pas than are his norm. Princeton Royale seems to have gone past his best for the summer and Cabaret Queen was beginning to toil in vain when blundering badly at fence eleven.

x  Capeland (2nd): A deeply unimpressive conclusion and either he needs a wind operation or we need to steer well clear of him. A second x is looming.

Cabaret Queen (PU): Jumped impressively on her chase debut, but on her second try she got away with some hanging and jumping right before winning. Here a blunder confirmed that she was done for and early enthusiasm for her chase prospects has waned.

Race 5: Netbet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Hurdle [3m 2f]

1: Bugsie Malone     2: Mr Mafia     3: Tempestatefloresco

Winner owned: Anthony Ward-Thomas, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

Having failed to pull himself up on the stands bend here before, Bugsie Malone gave it a much more serious attempt today, but Tom Cannon just about kept him going and in the end he lost only one position, dropping from the lead to second. He got back in front on the final turn and then staged a second rally at the end of the race, gaining the bonus of getting up to win at the expense of Mr Mafia, who had led at the final hurdle. As an attempt by Bugsie Malone to lose the race it was a dismal failure. Mr Mafia gave it his best shot, but failed to whack Bigsie Malone and given the way that his conqueror performed, it was disappointing that he went down by half a length. Tempestatefloresco was a big threat until two out, but from there he dropped a long way back from the main pair. He has not been at his best in 2018 but this was a step in completelt the wrong direction.

Mr Mafia (2nd): A change of trainer totally transformed him in spring, and a horse with two wins from thirty-seven attempts then won four in a row. The handicap mark went up from 94 to today's 116. Since the winning run ended he has been beaten by two, one and half a length, so there are races still to be won when his stamina outweighs handicapping issues.

x  Havisham (PU): He does have a win over hurdles but it came in an amateur riders hurdle when he made the running and the oppo completely underestimated what a sensible gallop he was setting. Away from that race he has been inconsistent and a bit soft in the finish when still close enough to matter.

Race 6: James Todd Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase [3m 2f]

1: Mercers Court     2: Kilfinichen Bay     3: Accord

Winner owned: David Nott, Ken Lawrence, Tim Messom, trained: Neil King, ridden: Bryony Frost

The closing heat seemed to be nicely set up for the youngster of the race, Waterloo Warrior, but he showed no interest from the start, and after some very hestitant jumps he got behind and never managed to be a factor. With Strumble Head losing his head of steam very quickly, the in form Mercers Court was not at all hard pressed to see off a below his best Kilfinichen Bay. Accord gradually completed for third place money. These were the first horses all day to appear confused by July temperatues in early autumn.

Accord (3rd): Looked to have found his niche with a winning chase debut here a year back. Every run since has been in some shade of disappointing, and he is hard to depend on now. A first use of a hood was no help this time.

x  Waterloo Warrior (PU): Came into the autumn looking like a young horse who could progress from his handicap rating of 117, but this was such an effort-free performance that he quickly has moved into the last chance saloon.
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