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Fontwell, 8/1/17

Up until the day before racing the official going was good to soft. Then two drops of rain turned it onto the the heavy side of soft. Hmmm. There were few non-runners, all but one in the final race. The other weird thing was that compared to declaration day on Friday, all of the race names had changed. Strange. The only non-racing note of interest was one of rock legends at the end of the meeting. Not only did Benatar win the last race, but those of us winning the Placepot for 80p worth of lines got a return of £21.12 - perhaps we really did see the works of gifted hands that grace this strange and wondrous land.After such achievement, it could be a time to stop Placepotting forever.

Going: Soft (Heavy places)

Race 1: Call Star Sports On 08000 521321 Mares' Maiden Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: My Khaleesi     2: Little Miss Poet     3: Lady Markby

Winner owned: Mrs MC Sweeney, trained: Alan King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

Ahead of the race, it looked like an average sort of event, with My Khaleesi being a standout candidate. So we got the result expected, but Little Miss Poet excelled herself and only lost by a nose. The first two forged impressively clear of the rest of the field from the second to last flight of hurdles, so well done and hard luck to the runner-up. A very bad mistake three out killed off the chances of third favourite Postbridge, but she would have had to have done very well to worry the first pair from where she was at the time. The minor placing went to Miss Yeats, who was a poor performer in bumpers, but has improved since and seems to try plenty. Something could yet settle within her grasp. Molly Carew and Versifier were well seen off, but retain hope to improve on less testing ground. Goodnitesweetheart was asked for effort and produced none. Again, ground related forgiveness is offered just this once.

+ +   Little Miss Poet (2nd): Had some respectable bumper form but had not hurdled in public before. She looked a useful performer in the making.
+   Taws (4th): A 90+ rated flat stayer that had been off since September 2015, she was extremely unpopular in the betting, so the eventual fourth, just pipped for third, was probably as good as connections were expecting. She is hopefully still holding the ability to develop on the intro.

Race 2: starsportsbet.co.uk Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Amron Kali     2: Ding Ding     3: Straits Of Messina

Winner owned: Miss JC Patten, trained: Paul Henderson, ridden: Nick Scholfield
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Amron Kali deploys magic to make herself longer for the finish (Ding Ding hidden, Straits Of Messina in orange)...

Another gutsy effort from the titchy Ding Ding, but she could not pull off the win, with Amron Kali making a winning debut for Paul Henderson. This is a big deviation from method, as the yard gets a lot of maiden or very low strike rate imports from Ireland to win, but usually after a couple of fact finding runs. Prior to this, third in a five horse bumper was the peak of Amron Kali's career. Straits Of Messina started favourite after finishing second on his first race for over two years. A three lengths defeat was not bad enough to blame the bounce, it is just that he only has a finite level of ability.

+   Thundering Home (pulled up): Is not in great form of late, to put it kindly, but has at least got himself down to an appealing handicap mark for enduring the struggles. Over hurdles he is 6/42 in all. Right-handed he is 6/28 and left-handed 0/14. So assuming that the revival comes, we can see where it will be more likely
x   Cosmic Diamond (6th): The form of her five lengths loss at Plumpton last time had been endorsed by the first two since, but she did not live up to it, the first time tongue tie not obviously contributing a positive vibe.
x   Jade's Legend (pulled up): Showed signs last time that she may be finding her feet after coming over from France, where she never won but was placed a few times. This was a pretty bad performance, even if giving some allowance for top weight, and although it does not always translate across the Channel, she seemed to handle testing ground there as well.
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... but she is mysteriously back to normal proportions for unsaddling

Race 3: Follow Us On Twitter starsports_bet Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Bears Rails     2: Sonny The One     3: So Fine

Winner owned: PM Warren, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Harry Cobden

Seven went to post for this but from a fairly early stage it was apparent that only two were going to be important at the finish, as Bears Rails and Sonny The One were allowed to dominate the race without the inconvenience of having to push the pace to a degree that was dangerous for the durability in the conditions. In the end the difference was that Sonny The One made a couple of non-awful errors in the race, and added a tired struggle over the second last, where Bears Rails was foot perfect. Before the race there was a fear that the winner could be an undulating course specialist, but this alleviated the concern - although lack of pressure from the enemy may have flattered his ability to cope.

+   Sonny The One (2nd): Had proven himself staying on up the hill at Exeter over three miles, but it did look as if this little bit further was too much. Watch for a drop back in distance in the near future.
x   So Fine (3rd): His enthusiasm for chasing has begun to look very suspect, and he was being scrubbed along after just a mile. He did eventually plug on past some horses that were badly struggling to get home, but it did not count for much.
xx   The Chuckmeister (pulled up): Was shaping like the best of the rest when he made a bad blunder at fence fourteen (the tricky drop one that is the first on each new circuit). Although the horse stayed upright and the rider remained on board, it was a fall in all but name, and he was immediately pulled up. This makes his chase form PFF41P. Even the fourth was a tailed off, so the ones he beat were unlucky to run in to him on a solitary effective, dufferless day.
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Good job it was not foggy as having to pick out this lot in it would not have been easy. This was with three laps remaining, and they quickly sorted themselves into a set order. Bears Rails is second from the left in the front quarter, Sonny The One is on the outside.

Race 4: starspreads.com Handicap Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Walt     2: Grand Gold     3: Disputed

Winner owned: Phil Simmonds, trained: Neil Mulholland, ridden: Noel Fehily

Having been placed, quite closely, at Ascot over half a mile further before Christmas - where he was given for too much to do rather than not staying - Walt had to be a big player in this. The same tactics were employed, but thanks to the number of opponents that did not cope with the conditions, he got to the front with plenty of time remaining. So much so that there was the thought that he may have got there too early this time. Grand Gold, having briefly led approaching two out, then proved a rather stubborn nut to crack. Disputed and Stiff Upper Lip came from a long way back to nick the minor money. The prevalence of hold up horses in the frame was due to several runners being overly keen to get on with the race, causing an unsustainable pace early in the race - four different horses had been in front by hurdle number four.

+ +   Stiff Upper Lip (4th): Lost his form last season after some time off, but this belated return showed him getting back towards the winning standard that he showed in early 2014. He only had one previous run on tight turns, and a preference for other tracks could yet be proven (simply suspected so far).
+   Grand Gold (2nd): Last won over hurdles in 2012, and has not had a great deal of racing since. In that time he has managed three pointing victories from eight races, so his 33/1 price here probably underestimated his chances of being involved. Better ground would be preferable for him.
x   Disputed (3rd): Had been a close third in his last two runs, and could have been a closer third, or maybe even second, if he had avoided a bit of a wobble at the start. When he does things like that and his 2/32 career win record is considered, the inclination is to ignore the fact that his best days are actually quite good and expect the worst.
x   Burrows Park (pulled up): A solid French flat horse, he qualified for this on two equally sturdy placed runs in novice hurdles. However, the first was a farcical race with hardly any hurdles jumped, and he looked a bit awkward at times in the other. In one sense it was surprising that the handicappers did not ask for another run before rating him. The mark awarded was 117, and he was uncompetitive from it - a couple of errors coming as well.
x   Caid Du Lin (pulled up): Started favourite because, erm, well, maybe on the back of a second and first in his most recent runs, both of which were in October in France. His home country displays had been erratic before that, and assuming that he would just waltz over to Britain and make a flying start - with the cheekpieces missing - was a bit too optimistic.

Empire: Georgieshore: Ran a very flat race and pulled up. It is possible that with a couple of stablemates having had a cough that he was not 100% on the day. The other argument is that with fundamentally faster horses just as keen to be in front early, he just did not enjoy not having his own way in front.

An interesting comparison: The Racing Post ratings on the Friday racecard, followed by the ones on the Sunday racecard.
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Race 5: Spode, Mole, Twiglet & Dibbler Handicap Chase [2m 3f]

1: Bishops Court     2: Flaming Charmer     3: Mr Muddle

Winner owned: PC Tory & PS Frampton, trained: Neil Mulholland, ridden: Noel Fehily

The money was all for Flaming Charmer in this, with the going having turned to his advantage. He tried but was not match for Bishops Court, who has been consistent on good to soft and good, but all rather erratic when on softer. This was very much a going day, in the sense of him going well throughout rather than fussing over the state of the ground. Two things had seen his results transformed in the past - use hood, cheekpieces and tongue tie and do not poodle round at the back early on. The latter was the case today, but the pace was so slow that being in rear of the five was not sacrificing much distance to the others. On his debut for Gary Moore, the jumping creakiness that Mr Muddle had developed was not on view, and he did not fare badly after eight months off. However, he is not well enough handicapped to follow blindly at present - he needs oppo with comparable issues to overcome.

+   Flaming Charmer (2nd): After five years and twenty-two races in his career, he had never before raced on tight bends - not even a fitness fine tuner at Taunton in all that time. That cannot be a coincidence. This experiment was only partially successful, so look for better elsewhere.
x   Drumviredy (4th): Ran well enough in a weaker race on her chase debut at Towcester before Christmas. Here she lacked jumping fluency throughout, and although she battled to stay in contention, the effort drained her and she faded late on.

Race 6: June Copsey Maiden Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Benatar     2: Groundunderrepair     3: Oakidoaki

Winner owned: Ashley Head, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

Benatar debuted here over hurdles, having won his only Irish point in a real stroll. The fifth had been runner-up in it's next race but on the whole the visual impression was not supported by the data in the book about the race. So he turned out here needing to show what he was made of, and turned it into another rout. There will be harder tasks to come, but when he hits racing with his best shots, he might prove to be a star. We can all stand on the rails and sing "You Better Run" to him. And should he get up to six wins, there is some "Seven The Hard Way" mileage as well. There were other horses in the race, but they were not in his vicinity, either as performers on the day or in the ability in cross reference classic radio rock.

+ +   Benatar (1st): Putting aside all the relevant references, he could be something much more useful than the average Fontwell novice hurdle winner.
+  Groundunderrepair (2nd): Runner-up to the useful Cloudy Dawn on bumper debut, he had not yet repeated that promise. This was his hurdle debut and he caught the eye in the paddock and time could show this to be a pretty decent effort.
+   Oakidoaki (3rd): Looked in need of the race here, despite it being his third run of the winter. That seemed strange, but he looked even less fit at Lingfield last time. There have been signs of ability for a modest level when he qualifies for handicaps.
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