Fontwell, 17/11/19

A small crowd for Fontwell’s featured non-national. They made a special effort to minimise the refreshment outlets so the sparse numbers still had to queue plenty for food and drink anyway. What’s that about maximising the customer experience?

Going: Soft, Heavy places

Race 1: Visit Novices’ Handicap Hurdle [2m5.5f]

1: Good News     2: First Assembly     3: Pleney

Winner owned: Good News Partnership, trained: Lydia Richards, ridden: Rex Dingle

This race panned out a little strangely. After long absence and winning return, Good News was a possible bounce candidate and when he was being ridden along strongly and making no headway as the field went to three out, some form of disappointment seemed due. It turned out that the others may have played their hands too early as Good News did bring better tidings to his supporters turning for home and eventually won going away. It is easy to jump to conclusions about horses needing a three miler and being horribly, horribly wrong, but he looks a better than average probable for that degree of stamina. The gang chasing him to the line were made to look a bit one-paced, but First Assembly was the horse that surged on and got Good News struggling, so his lack of finishing kick could easily have just been fatigue. Pleney’s recent good run was 2m 7.5f at Hexham, a race where lack of speed was a virtue, so his failure to adapt was disappointing but could be predicted. Fourth placed Bluebell Sally did not stay. Next up was a horse that was a resounding kick in the teeth for punters who place great weight on a jockey going to a course for one ride. In this case Nick Scholfield was on Hold Me Tight (a comment on his preferred tactics!) before heading off to Cheltenham. They sat in rear with the horse not jumping fluently enough to make up any ground and were seen off by over fifty lengths. The ride in the Cheltenham bumper did not win but fared much better.

+  First Assembly (2nd): Had achieved little before this handicap debut, but showed up much more prominently. His last hurdle error came when Good News already had his measure but it appeared that a slightly shorter race would suit.
Jonnigraig sets an early pace too strong to work for this photographer. The chase seems to be Good News, First Assembly, someone behind him (Pleney?), Polar Light and Bluebell Sally.

Race 2: John Rogerson Memorial Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Éclair De Guye     2: Battle Of Ideas     3: Reallyradical

Winner owned: ER Wakelin, RW Hayward & JJ Wadham, trained: Lucy Wadham, ridden: Leighton Aspell

Five lined up and after his top ride to win the opener, Beet Topper balanced the ying and yang by disposing of Rex Dingle’s services at the first fence. He may have been the outsider, but had he watched the first race, the benefits of keeping the jockey may have impressed him. The other four were a nice bunch of chasers in progress. Éclair De Guye had some problems in running not of his making when debuting over fences but fitter and wiser here he creamed the success that seemed to be just around the corner since he was fourth in a novices’ hurdle last December. Battle Of Ideas jumped very big at two or three fences but was very safe and gave the winner plenty to think about. Reallyradical was soon being niggled along and did not really radically enjoy himself.

+ Éclair De Guye (1st): Onward to further victories - a selection of cream cake derived puns have been put in reserve specially for them.

+ Battle Of Ideas (2nd): Had a poor first stint over fences but won a thirteen horse race in first time cheekpieces in June and seems to have arrived at something not quite perfect but that will work for him. A battle of ideas is better than no ideas!

UK-Jumping Selections – Reallyradical (3rd): With more racing evidenced it has become clear that soft ground is not to his liking but he has the talent to pick up prize money on it, albeit with a degree of reluctance.
This was likely the fourth fence. From left to right they are Bad Boy Du Poldu, Battle Of Ideas, Reallyradical and Eclair De Guye.

Race 3: S & G Caravan Services Juvenile Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Goshen     2: Manucci     3: Le Grand Rocher

Winner owned: Steven Packham, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

Although only Le Grand Rocher had hurdling experience (and no flat runs) the remaining four had flat form that implied it was possible for them to be in a decent enough juvenile hurdle. The proof of the pudding shall be in the eating – sorry, we are not intentionally taunting people with a sweet tooth – and Goshen (flat rating 88) served up some unappetising truths to his rivals. Leading keenly from the off, he made a mistake four out but kicked on anyway. The challenge was “I am doing this, try and stop me” and none of them were vaguely able to respond. With the race won, he was allowed to pop the last two hurdles, something that he did very awkwardly, but with Manucci plodding on twenty-five lengths or so back, it did not matter a jot.

+  Goshen (1st): When left to his own devices at the last two he was a bit confused, so there is improvement to come when facing comparable oppo, moving on from what was already an eye-catching performance.

x  Chez Hans (4th): Won a mile and a half flat race on heavy in Germany, so a tame capitulation here did not seem to have a valid excuse.
Goshen teases Isle Of Wolves by letting him get much closer as they go to unsaddle.

Race 4: Sky Sports Racing Virgin 535 Handicap Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Song For Someone     2: Colonel Custard     3: Hier Encore

Winner owned: Sir Peter & Lady Gibbings, trained: Tom Symonds, ridden: James Nixon

In advance this was destined to be a tight and competitive race, but Song For Someone turned it into a cakewalk (assessment kindly donated by Éclair De Guye, whose race was anything but). And that was done by a four year old with top weight in testing going. Song For Someone impressed in the paddock and was clearly fit enough after seven months off so his main impairment to a good season would be winning this too easily. Colonel Custard, who was brushed aside, had only been beaten by more than this twice – once a Grade 2 novice hurdle and the other a Grade 1, so it is not a performance to underestimate. Hier Encore found this race to be a tad too short, and finished as well as could be expected. Our Merlin needs a bit of a drop in the handicap before winning again (probably) but this was not too bad as a stumble on landing at the last cost him third, and maybe even second.

+  Song For Someone (1st): Nobody expects the handicapper to be at all forgiving but it is possible that his near future lies in big handicaps anyway, where a mid-140s rating might leave him with a workable weight.

Hier Encore (3rd): Both runs this season have been class 3 handicaps where he sneaked in at the bottom of the weights. The performances have been good enough to imagine that a return to his natural environment - class 4 company - could bring about one more of his occasional successes. It will need to be at least 2m 3f.

x  Trans Express (7th): Posted two moderately promising runs to open the autumn campaign but has now disappointed twice in conditions that ought to have been right up his railway track. Be wary until signs of him snapping out of the mini-slump occur.

x  Zizaneur (PU): Runner-up at Newbury on British debut, he then failed to show in the Fred Winter at the festival before unseating when running very well in a listed race at Auteuil. Even allowing for six months off, this was a pretty dismal showing and we now do not know what to expect.

Race 5: MansionBet Southern National Handicap Chase [3m 3.5f]

1: One Of Us     2: Captain Cattistock     3: The Two Amigos

Winner owned: Forty Winks Syndicate, trained: Nick Williams, ridden: Jamie Moore

An engrossing race in which almost all of the runners took a turn in seeming to have no chance at all. Invincible Cave and The Caller showed early on that it would not be their day. The former is better on undulating and maybe non-sharp courses, the latter probably needs good to soft or good to show his best. Shanroe Santos won this last year but was not moving with zest in the middle mile, before staying on for fourth. It looked as if he was just outpaced but however fit he looked, it was a first run seven months and off days are part of his repertoire. Chasma was just about the most comfortable for three miles but when David England asked her to go for the win, she impolitely declined. The Two Amigos helped Captain Cattistock set a pace that was too nippy to pay off. Captain Cattistock was outpaced with a lap remaining and seemed to have been brushed aside only to rally when the effort hit The Two Amigos on the final turn. Finally One Of Us. He actually did nothing damaging to his chances other than a minor fluff at four out. This was not race policy at all, which equated to success. There can be only One (Of Us).

+  Captain Cattistock (2nd): Loves heavy ground but was not proven beyond 3m 2f. He failed but can wear the "I am a three and a half miler" badge with honour. As a youngster in staying chase terms, further is possible in time, perhaps even a short time.

x  The Two Amigos (3rd): Is too highly rated for a second shot at the Sussex National in January and winnable races could be hard to unearth from the current rating of 142.
One Of Us is very suspicious of the photographer. Perhaps, in a spiritual sense, both of us probably are

Race 6: Follow At The Races On Twitter Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Minella Voucher     2: Bellamy’s Grey     3: Howlongisafoot

Winner owned: Blue Blood Syndications & WBB, trained: Alexandra Dunn, ridden: Richie McLernon

The main event in this was fence twelve. The in-form Minella Voucher was cruising along on the heels of the leaders only to make a terrible mistake and almost unseat Richie McLernon. Amazingly, after the thirteenth he was back on the bridle and watching Howlongisafoot for the moment when his command of the situation would peter out. Unfortunately Bellamy's Grey had the same idea and although Minella Voucher led before the last, Bellamy's Grey did not give him a moment of peace. Bellamy's Grey had attracted financial backing despite jumping unconvincingly on chase debut but he was much better here and nearly paid dividends. Spiritofchartwell likes Fontwell but had not run for fourteen months and needed the run, so doughnut write him off just yet.

+  Bellamy's Grey (2nd): With some assistance from the twelfth fence he had a near miss here and although the yard is badly on the cold list, class 5 company is manageable.

x  Mauna Kea (4th): Also well supported, so theorerically primed for a peak run, he was beaten by fifteen lengths. Not a good omen.

Race 7: Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Handicap Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Kenny George     2: Brandy Cross     3: Ted Bach

Winner owned: Mrs Fletcher Price & Partner, trained: Sheena West, ridden: Leighton Aspell

There were not too many in this that boasted the sort of recent form to inspire confidence, but the field was not expected to be as scattered as was true at the finish - nearly thirty lengths across the first four to finish. Kenny George had been totally ineffective in novice hurdles but recently ran better on handicap debut in heavy going at Plumpton. That spin fine-tuned him enough to put this to bed after the second last. Brandy Cross had done no more than the winner in novice company but had a wind op since he last ran. What he did not have was a fitness improving appearance, and that may have made the difference today. Considering the fierce hold that he took early on, Ted Bach did well to finish third, but as noted earlier, the competition was not too alarming and fourth placed Thats My Rabbit got too far behind for a late staying on spell to salvage any satisfaction.

+  Kenny George (1st), Brandy Cross (2nd): Both look as if they could be a bit ahead of the handicapper at this early stage of exiting novice company.
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