FONTWELL, 10/9/17

Rather like Worcester a week earlier, the wet and windy weather did a serious job of minimising the crowd, but compared to what some Caribbean islands have got from Irma and may get again from Jose, we had nothing to bleat about. It did move the goal posts for the runners, all of whom had declared when the ground was good to firm and only a smattering of rain was predicted. It was an interesting trial for the course and the new all-weather far bend. The worry is that when they are racing on bottomless going, the abrupt change from a deep to a sound surface and back again will prove to be an injury blackspot. It was significant that the first two meetings with it had worked with fast ground, and this was an unscheduled test with softer going. There were some horses pulled up on the sand section, but they were all beaten at the time, so it does not necessarily indicate a problem.

Going: Good (Good to Soft places) easing to Good to Soft

Race 1: Call Star Sports On 08000521321 Mares’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 5.5f]

1: Poetic Lady     2: Kentford Heiress     3: Ayla’s Emperor

Winner owned: Mrs PL Bridel, trained: Neil Mulholland, ridden: Noel Fehily

For a 0-115 race this was not at all a bad affair, with six of the eight runners having finished first or second within the last two races. It was mostly an exciting finish, until Poetic Lady surged clear on the run-in. This was after Kentford Heiress had charged from rear once they were over the third last, leading before the final hurdle and then being headed soon after. Ayla’s Emperor had also been loitering at the back and picked up a place. This was sort of odd as the pace did not seem to be so strong that the leaders had an excuse for folding so completely. To reinforce the point, fourth placed Miss Spent also took things patiently and had a brief time at the front around the second last obstacle. How are we supposed to know what is going on if the horses run all weird?

+   Poetic Lady (1st): Got her win at 2m 4f, and relished the longer distance here so much that there is no reason to worry about her trying even further.

+   Kentford Heiress (2nd): As has been mentioned previously here, she always has to be considered on a sharp, left-handed, level track when the going is not good to firm. She is P411132 at Fontwell.

x   Princess Roania (5th): Showed her true colours when she finished second eight times in a row. Something had to change, and it has in her last six races. All of them for the worse.

x   Midnight Gem (7th): Came here after falling on chase debut. After her only hurdles fall she had run a stinker, and this was not great either. The initial problem was throwing a wobble when the tapes went back, and although she soon made up the ground, it must have cost some energy that was AWOL at the end of the race.
Photo rule number one – horses pull strange faces after races, jockeys try to look focus. Even on that score, Poetic Lady and Noel Fehily make something abnormal happen. Ayla’s Emperor certainly finds it disturbing.

Race 2: Become A Racehorse Owner With Juvenile Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Lord E     2: Kiruna Peak   3: Tidal Watch

Winner owned: Mrs Mary-Anne Parker, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

Normally a race of this type at Fontwell in early September would be populated by a bunch of ferrety things who might have some sort of impact now but were destined to become a footnote of history by November. This one was very atypical with several looking as if they will grow into the job given a little bit of time. Of course observations were due to be confounded, the winner was one of the smaller participants, but Lord E (who was also one of the lower rated on the flat at 52) really enjoyed the conversion to serious racing. He went to the front at the last and outpaced the main chasers quite readily. For a little horse carrying extra weight will not be easy, but there is the chance that he finds easier races than this.

+   Kiruna Peak (2nd): He had won a 1m 2f claimer on the flat, and has a modest 63 rating at the old job. He showed enough to imagine that he can find something to win jumping as well.

+   Ulysses (4th): Got attention here for the name that he shares with a more illustrious colleague. He had been runner-up twice on the flat over 1m 4f, but it looked like lack of staying power cost him a place here as he tied up on the run-in. Perhaps races a furlong shorter would stop him wandering gently to the line.

x   Chaparrachik (Fell): A big horse who has lost ten times on the flat, this inviting niche was not enjoyed and after making the running, he fell two out when dropping back quickly. He will need to improve to make a mark jumping, and nobody would blame him for getting a bit indignant over how this panned out.

x x   Newt (8th): Started favourite after having already finished third over hurdles, but her tail was on the swish early on and she downed tools four hurdles out. It seemed that she had pulled up, although she somehow plodded to a sulky completion. Was it just a bad day? She is a big filly who could do the hurdles job well if her attitude were better.
Kiruna Peak leads the youngsters into two more laps. He declined to explain what his legs were doing. Newt is second, for now, hiding Ulysses and Chaparrachik. The next trio are Hi There Silver, Lord E (orange) and Il Sicario, with Angel Of Rome hidden. At the back Tidal Watch hides Kereman simply to be fashionable.

Race 3: Handicap Chase [2m 2f]

1: Spiritofchartwell     2: Saffron Prince     3: Rakaia Rose

Winner owned: Mrs KH York, trained: Phil York, ridden: Katy Lyons

A very trappy race, and the betting did not ease up on Code Of Law, who remained favourite despite not getting the fast ground that he needs. Rakaia Rose and Keppel Isle forced a strong pace, which had a chance of putting the wind up the motley pursuit, if there was not enough natural breeze at play. They were reeled in from a ten lengths lead by five fences out, but briefly rallied to hold the front rank and get the enemy off of the bridle. When it seemed that no horse really wanted to be the winner, Spiritofchartwell went on two fences from home and quickly put a safe margin back to Saffron Prince. Keppel Isle did eventually drift out of the race, but his contribution was a bit better than had been offered in recent chase runs.

+   Spiritofchartwell (1st): A two time pointing winner in the south-east, he has lost winnable races in that discipline, but it does look as if 2m 2f in handicap chases suits him better than the longer pointing races. He should only be relied upon whilst he is rated low enough for class 5 company.

x   Saffron Prince (2nd): Recently won at Newton Abbot, and in comparison to that was badly weighted against Changing The Guard, Humbel Ben and Alottarain –although the going had turned into an advantage for him. He raised his effort to overcome that, but is not treated in a way to make him a winner in the short term.

Race 4: Winnie Leadbetter Birthday Handicap Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Workbench     2: Resolution Bay     3: Ramses De Teillee

Winner owned: NW Lake, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Before it was run, this had the makings of an OK 0-125 handicap hurdle. After it finished we were not so sure. The case for the prosecution is that for all his successes as a chaser, Workbench has been almost always a dud over hurdles, and having gone clear on the final turn, he nearly gave this one away on the run-in, in going that was against him. Resolution Bay proved himself to be a non-stayer at this distance in two previous runs. And Ramses De Teillee stayed on apparently strongly despite his yard’s horses being totally unable to do such a thing in the prevailing slump. The defence would say that Workbench was handicapped to finally get back on the hurdles winning trail, Resolution Bay has grown up and strengthened since last trying 2m 3f and justified his trainer’s conviction in his stamina, and Ramses De Teillee has had a wind operation since last year’s very solid novice hurdle form and may be poised to lead his yard out of the doldrums. Final margins of a neck and a head made for a cracking finish. Cillian’s Well, well back in fourth, probably could not show his best on the deteriorating ground.

+ +   Ramses De Teillee (3rd): Lost none of his three novice hurdles by more than five lengths and was only beaten ten lengths in the Grade 3 Novices Handicap Hurdle final at Sandown. That is good enough form to be winning races like this, and the wind op seems to have helped.

+   Resolution Bay (2nd): Had enjoyed only four months off, compared to six for the winner, but showed the potential to now be a better horse and more persistent stayer.

x   Kabanga Bay (6th): Tried his heart out last season, making the first three on three occasions and was priced at 50/1 plus in all of them. The problem now is that he has played his hand and does not look well enough handicapped to win.

Race 5: Winner Plant Hire Novices’ Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Jackblack     2: Thisonetime     3: Amadoue

Winner owned & trained: Brett Johnson, ridden: Tom Cannon

The race had some interesting unexposed participants, but their potential took a bit of a kick in the tookers as they were almost all easily seen off by Jackblack. He had got some compliments on here during last season, but with the caveat that he was a horse for handicaps. He has now won his last two novice hurdles and we no longer like him for being a contrarian. There is nothing wrong with that as such, but Jackblack is picking on UK-Jumping in particular. Thisonetime has not been terribly brave under pressure so far, thus his inability to pass Jackblack was totally normal.

+ +   Light Of Air (9th): Ran in novice hurdles last season at Sandown and Newbury, and it was surprising that he did not return to the job in handicaps, as in lesser tough company his 104 rating would be very exploitable. With recent flat runs, this was not needed for fitness. Something is brewing with him.

+   Amadoue (3rd): Bypassed flat, pointing and bumpers to go direct to hurdles, and collect about £200 for being placed. Twice. The evidence is that he did not improve for going a furlong or so further, but with that little bit of extra experience, maybe connections will use his handicap mark – which could drop a touch for this.

+   The Detainee (4th): He has won twice on the flat since joining Neil Mulholland, and a strong finish turned what was shaping to be an abortive hurdles debut into a solid start. One to keep an eye on, probably in readiness for handicaps.

+   White Valiant (5th): A good bumper horse with two wins and a close second from four tries, flopping in soft ground in the other, two mistakes in the last four fences knocked him out of the prize money, but it would be no shock at all were he to turn out to be a better hurdler than this bare result.

x x   Thisonetime (2nd): Did not visibly shirk the issue as he did not get close enough to need to do so - the gap was worryingly close far too late. However, he has appeared rather less than genuine before now and needs to be handled like hot potato.

Race 6: Winner Tool Hire Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Rockchasebullett     2: Kings Cross     3: Rothman

Winner owned: EPDS Racing Twitterati Partnership, trained: Fergal O’Brien, ridden: Paddy Brennan

The race chopped up into a five runner race, and a bit of a dodgy one at that. The betting struggled to choose a favourite, then having reluctantly settled on Lee Side Lady, she hated every yard and pulled up. Bestwork made the running but he struggled with the downhill fences and second time around the slow jumps cost him the lead, after which he was allowed to have a mild retreat. Rothman, whose only win was in a four horse race, jumped like a tortoise, and after a brief interlude in the errors got him to the front on the final bend, he was being ridden along and then clouted the last three fences. Kings Cross got a bit outpaced and only stayed on too late to nab second. Thus Rockchasebullett had a rather comfortable last three furlongs considering the softened going was all against him, and did not lose his composure when Rothman headed him under pressure.

x   Lee Side Lady (pulled up): After a poor chase debut she had reverted to hurdles. After a poor second chase, it would be no surprise if the policy is repeated. She has a long way to go to get this part of the job right.

x x   Rothman (3rd): Just does not give the impression that he is too interested in the outcome of races, more the mischief and despair that he can sow along the way.
A very flawed photo, but Rockchasebullet and Paddy Brennan remind the winners of the opener what is supposed to be going on at this point in time.

Race 7: Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 1.5f]

1: Malindi Bay     2: Cautorillo     3: Pardon Me

Winner owned: SD Faiers, trained: James Evans, ridden: Liam Treadwell

An interesting scenario. Malindi Bay won his only Irish point-to-point and from that the runner-up finished second next time and the third has won a bumper. On that basis, it was surprising that he did not started favourite. Perhaps the vibe was that it was too good to be true given that he had not ended up in a big stable. He certainly imposed authority on this lot, strolling home by ten lengths. Cautorillo was nearly caught-o-rillo for second by the fast finishing newcomer Pardon Me.

+   Malindi Bay (1st): Unbeaten in two and potentially a flagbearer for his stable. Do not underestimate him again.

x   No Voyager (6th): She was set to win her British pointing run by a wide margin when she fell two out. It probably was not the most ferocious race, but her two comfortable bumper defeats have been feeble in comparison. She may be worth a spin right-handed, as she is inclined to drift that way given half a chance.
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