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Godstone, 5/3/17

Mid Surrey Farmers Draghounds

There was a modest crowd for this meeting, waverers presumably scared away by a lot of morning rain. The worst had cleared before the racing began, except for the fact that the rain, and hail on a couple of occasions, returned several times during the afternoon. Usually this was during a race, so forcing the spectators to sit it out and watch the race.* The added problem was that with cars all parked down between the second last and third last fences to prevent damaging the track at the crossings and no beer tent, there was no cover at all for anyone who felt the race was not deserving of unbroken attention, or when the showers lingered on after the finish. People who wanted a beer were disappointed and getting drenched with no way to escape is hardly going to encourage people to return.

* This happened for the same meeting either last year or in 2015, so it is time that we started to take it personally.

Going: Soft, and getting worse

Race 1: Burden Bros Agri Ltd South East Hunts Club Members

1: Excitable Island     2: Ballalough     3: Strollawaynow

Winner owned & trained: Nigel Padfield, ridden: Jack Andrews

A competitive ten horse affair was a nice opening to the sport, and the betting made recent Restricted winner Ballalough the prime option. He spent most of the final circuit disputing the lead with Excitable Island, who was the paddock pick despite having his first run of this season. In the end, Excitable Island proved to be the stronger from the second last, going one better than when a trounced runner-up to Minerfortyniner in this a year ago. With a novice rider on board, Strollawaynow was given a more positive ride than in his seasonal debut at Horseheath, and unsurprisingly got a better result as a consequence. As a winner of a novices' handicap chase from a rating of 114, he should be capable of success in this sort of race as his rider gets up to speed. The rest of the line-up, bar two, came home in single file with similar distances between them - say about five lengths. The slow time suggested that we were not in for a day of sprint finishes. In fourth was Too Late To Sell, who has won at Larkhill this season, only to follow it with a fall. He was a bit hesitant in his jumping early on but had got it out of his system by the end, and can get back on track with the clear round achieved. Letskeepitsimple, a winner at Charing two weeks ago, was in contention but weakened quickly three out and pulled up before the last. It spared the announcer's blushes as Letskeepitsimple was not mentioned as a runner over the PA, and therefore only people who double checked on the number board or bookies' boards knew that he was participating.The hail storm in progress made the number board invisible to any late arrivals...

Race 2: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Veteran & Novice Riders

1: Mazuri Cowboy     2: Drumshambo     3: Probably George

Winner owned & ridden: Jennifer Harbison, trained: Joan Johnston

The complexion of the race changed dramatically when favourite Horizontal Speed unseated at fence three. There were a lot of the remaining runners who had shown form to be in the frame at some point, it just needed a long look back to find it in some cases. It went on to provide a fascinating last half a lap. Mazuri Cowboy dead heated for first in this race in 2016 and it looked that he may be in the process of spiriting away success here. Having gone on at fence fourteen and been clear after the next, Mazuri Cowboy walked through the third last and lost all momentum, but it at least allowed Jennifer Harbison to show the reality of some anti-Newtonian laws of gravity. All the time, Probably George was creeping closer, and after the leader was slow two from home, the pursuer seemed likely to catch him. However, a sluggish first part of the race, where he threatened to be more likely tailed off than placed, had caused Probably George to use plenty of energy getting into contention, and he was on the retreat between the last two fences. Mazuri Cowboy finally got on an even keel and popped the final fence neatly, whereas second went to the staying on Drumshambo - a bit of an improbable way for a horse whose victories were all at two miles to play out this race. With wins and places at Open level, See You Jack should have been a major player, but his traditional weak finish cut in very early and he only completed in a clump battling for fourth, amongst whom Bincombe got the edge. The mystery horse was Pinerolo, looking fit for his pointing debut after breaking a losing run in his last Rules appearance. This course, distance and going would have suited him. He definitely left the paddock, but after that did not get a mention from the commentator. It is possible that he was brought down at the seventh by Time Is Tickin, where the view is not clear, or possibly timeslipped into a future race at Godstone. Hopefully he won that won. Or dead-heated with Mazuri Cowboy.
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Mazuri Cowboy makes it to the post, this year the threat of a dead-heat comes from jockeyless Time Is Tickin, who at least showed willing to do the full three miles

Race 3: Investec Wealth & Investment Mixed Open

1: Minerfortyniner     2: Crack Of Thunder     3: Dont Do Mondays

Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Kim Smyly

A good quality sixteen horse entry cut up into a slightly disappointing four horse race. Past course winner (see above) Minerfortyniner did not therefore have the toughest challenge to get off the mark in Open company. His most talented rival, Dont Do Mondays, was best at about 2m 5f under Rules, and certainly found lack of stamina a problem in conditions that led to a time of seven minutes and seven seconds. A touch more surprisingly, Minerfortyniner did not see out the race all that well and had to be kept up to his work as CrackOf Thunder plodded on with a bit of conviction that was missing from his first two circuits. After pulling up on his seasonal return, maybe the winner needed the run more than was apparent. The fourth runner was Take The Mick, who caught the eye in the paddock but ran a very flat race when the pressure was applied. He was not a world beater under Rules, but did win two chases and has been below expectations since switching to points. On looks today there was no reason not to expect his best.

Race 4: Killigrew King Ltd Restricted, 2m 4f

1: King Willie     2: Welsh's Castle     3: Intercooler Turbo

Winner owned & trained: Nigel Padfield, ridden: Jack Andrews

This race was scheduled as a trick, so that the flakier members of the Restricted scene would find the race finishing just at the point when they would normally decide to slow down, irrespective of the requirements of the rider. Alas, none of the true troublemakers turned out to be fooled. They are cleverer than we may think. The winning trainer and rider combination of those that accepted this unusual challenge had landed the first race with simple hard work, where as this was more of a touch and go affair. When he attacked approaching the twelfth fence, Welsh's Castle seemed to have seized a key advantage as King Willie was a bit slow to rise to the challenge posed (fnarr fnarr). By the final turn, however, King Willie was inserting himself into a narrow lead, and as he jumped the last safely, the victory was secure. Intercooler Turbo hung on in there under sufferance for a while (going based irritation?) but was eased when beaten two out. There seemed to be market support for Why Lie, who adopted his usual aggressive tactics. Once twenty lengths clear, the margin was reduced but still broad enough when he fell at fence nine. After winning on fast ground in April 2015, Ballybrack Dancer did nearly two miles before calling it a day. If the ability is retained, she could win a race like this when the mud goes away.

Race 5: Simon Tindall Open Maiden

1: Fizzlestix     2: Weve Got Company

Winner owned: Mrs CA New, trained: Petra New, ridden: Shane Roche

Another maiden in the area that started with a reasonable number of horses and ended a little short of finishers. The damage was done at fence fifteen, where Brogeen Boy, apparently going well in front, hesitated and fell, taking Canyouhearmenow and Stars Royale with him. This left Fizzlestix with a narrow lead over Weve Got Company, but the latter thumped the next fence very hard and took away any chance that he had. With a bit of struggle, Weve Got Company completed, beaten a distance, but it was Fizzlestix who gets the honour of graduating into Restricteds. He had shown ability last season but on better ground, and it is probably deceptive that the win finally came in very testing going. Meanwhile, we can enjoy the enigma of Brogeen Boy in maidens for a little longer. He has all the ability to win one, whilst attracting all the issues he can find to prevent it actually happening. The most intriguing contender was Tara More. He was pipped by a neck against a 139-rated chaser on debut in Ireland in 2013, then had some jumping issues. He missed 2014 and put up another fine show when third in 2015. So 2016 was a race free zone as well. Unfortunately he pulled up here for the second race in a row on the latest comeback and it has to be considered that his time has been and gone.

Race 6: Albert Hall Dance Floor Members

1: Always A Chance     2: Little Legend

Winner owned & trained: Ms G Howell, ridden: Tabitha Worsley

Little Legend turned out here looking very fit for his seasonal debut, but he is thirteen now, and could not cope with Always A Chance, a horse that he would have made mincemeat of at his peak. Even when Always A Chance went badly right at the last two fences, Little Legend only copied him, thus gaining nothing from his opponent's flaw. The only other runner, Seventh Hussar called it a day after two miles. A rather uneventful end to the card, but there was one last short shower.
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Always A Chance has quite a lot of a chance, as from here there are only two fences and less than a couple of furlongs to run. This also covers the multiple personalities of the weather on the day.
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