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Higham, 29/1/17

Waveney Harriers

After missing this meeting in 2016, the current year renewal got off to an inauspicious start. An unforecasted overnight frost meant an inspection that seemed to have caught out even the locals, and after deciding to miss out fences 4 and 5 (also 12 and 13) a second look scheduled for noon was announced, delaying racing for an hour. The second inspection was passed, but it looked a bit ominous as a few horseboxes were on their way home before the first race had finished, and whilst racing cut up a bit later on, it could have been worse. As for the quick ground, it did give the impression that conditions would have been rather solid even with no frost to affect it. Despite the concerns, the riders got stuck into the races without any caution, and a series of very quick times ensued - even by short distance Higham standards.

Going: Firm (Good to Firm places)

Race 1: TW Gaze LLP Members, Veteran & Novice Riders

1: Abbey Lane     2: Drumshambo     3: Carlanstown

Winner owned & trained: Andrew Pennock, ridden: Ben James

A frantically run vets & novices race was won with some ease by Abbey Lane, who had already scored in East Anglia this season, at Ampton two weeks earlier. He had seized command of the key points of the race after the third last, and any doubting thoughts that the horse may have been having regarding being largely in front at excessive speed throughout were dismissed by his rider advising him to "be a tiger." Many policies have been applied to get sluggish horses on the move, but clich├ęd 1980s motivational speaker was not one heard before. Second past the post, and readily held, was Caulkin, but he weighed in light and was disqualified, allowing Drumshambo to be second and Carlanstown third. With his stamina borderline (no Rules wins at three miles, best runs at the distance over unchallenging Ludlow), Drumshambo would be likely to find this his ideal track, so progress from here is not assured.

Race 2: Crown Milling PPORA Club Members

1: Mr Raj     2: Mister Bricolage     3: Coral Point

Winner owned: John Reddington, trained: Thomas Gallagher, ridden: Shane Roche

Six declared for this and only three of them appeared to be fit enough to run their best sort of race. "Their best sort" is key, because the sextet did not include any horses pot hunting in a lower grade than they might have been contesting. The trouble is none of that trio even posted to their peak. Coral Point lost his way entirely last season and began this one in the same vein, which is largely true for Billie Magern. The former's third place was not close at all. Black Glen Boy did run better, being in and around the lead for much of the way. His race ended with a fall two out, but it should be noted that the first pair had just nosed ahead of him at the time, and his rider was hard at work. Mr Raj had never looked anything special but hit a spell of good form (one wins, two places, plus a walk over) to end last season, and to worry the portly Mister Bricolage out of the win suggested that he has come out of hibernation in the same mood. However, after graduating from Intermediate level, it will take some work on the programme book to keep the successes ticking over. Mister Bricolage, on the other hand, is yet to win above Restricted grade.
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Billie Magerns view of lead is shortly to end (this is the second fence) and Coral Point took little interest in staying in second. Black Glen Boy (noseband_ and Mister Bricolage ensure that the winner is hidden from view, with Hawkers Son into the natural slot.

Race 3: Birketts Mens Open

1: Green Bank     2: Brackloon High

Winner owned: Francesca Nimmo & Bob Alpin, trained: Francesca Nimmo, ridden: Hugh Nugent

The first lap was very eventful, with Brackloon High soon tailed off and then being ridden to complete whilst the other two runners took each other on for who could go the fastest at an absurdly early stage of the race. That contest was unresolved when Off The Ground fell at fence eleven, and the hell for leather pace had got some spectators fearing that it would end in tears. Once he was left on his own, Green Bank was much more settled, and the only risk, as the commentator shrewdly realised in the heat of the moment, was if the cosmic joker felt the need to inflict a deja vu attack on Hugh Nugent after his misfortunes at Wincanton on Boxing Day. The fast conditions meant that despite Brackloon High being very distant, Green Bank would have been comforted by being able to hear him going around in arrears.
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A touch tired, but Green Bank negotiates the final fence - apparently a bit surprised to see the spectators still there.

Race 4: Baileys Ladies Open

1: Start Royal     2: Quinsman    3: Flash Tommie

Winner owned: S Nash, A Hill, Mrs H Nash & M Avery, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Isobel Marshall

Only three runners again, and any chance of Quinsman putting the wind up the long odds on favourite wafted away when he made a bad blunder (good recovery needed) at fence ten. He chased Start Royal for as long as he could, but when the winner made his own mistake at the same fence a lap later, it was a far less serious one, and the race had already been decided. This was win number twenty-five for Start Royal (23/37 pointing, 2/10 hunter chases) and the days when the attendance of UK-Jumping was enough to stop him in his tracks have gone, to the dismay of the opposition. Well done to those who took advantage whilst it lasted. His record in the Waveney Harriers Ladies Open is now 12--1311. Being a no show in 2012 and 2013 (the hyphens) did not discourage him too much and now looks like an horrific oversight.

Race 5: Volvo Open Maiden

1: Mahlers Spirit     2: Le Fou Royal     3: Intercooler Turbo

Winner owned: 2 Farmers, A Butcher & 2 Mates Partnership, trained: Andrew Pennock, ridden: Evan David

On the book, this was not an upset (3/1 to 4/1 available) but with the Tote is was a shock (24.7/1). The Tote punters concerns were understandable as Mahlers Spirit had been running very ineffectively in bumpers and hurdles. Before that he was a clumsy dolt in Irish points, disposing of his rider in three out of four attempts. The emerald in the muck heap was that the one day which saw Mahlers Spirit actually finish constituted a respectable effort. Now running for the top local yard for the first time, nobody would ever have imagined that the fences could have caused him so much grief in the past. On the run-in he was hard pressed by favourite Le Fou Royal, who did not do anything wrong, and had spent much of the race alongside the winner, so did not concede position to him early on that was a problem later on. Le Fou Royal did have the benefit of a run at Cottenham over New Year, but that was not enough to tilt the balance. The places were affected by last fence falls for Royal Beekeeper (making a solid debut up to then) and Alittlebitless (confirming the gentle improvement shown at Cottenham in a different race to the runner-up). This allowed the tired Intercooler Turbo to get a third that he appeared to have lost for good.
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Mahlers Spirit (11) and Le Fou Royal (10) land over the second last as they mean to go on - easy to sustain it as there is only a couple of furlongs remaining.

Race 6: Durrants Restricted

1: Torran Na Dtonn     2: Mere Detail     3: Katnapping

Winner owned: OAP Partnership, trained: Andrew Pennock, ridden: Shane Roche

There was a fair chance of an Andrew Pennock double on day resulting from this as he trained two of the six runners and they were the standout pair on form. That very two surged clear of the other quarter at some point around the fourth last (which is hidden from spectator view by some apparently functionless vegetation - it may be related in that respect to fourth placed Katnapping). Approaching the last either of the pair could win, and Torran Na Dtonn did so because Scorpion Star fell. The virtual reality hi-vis question marks are lurking over Scorpion Star as he keeps finding a way to get beaten, without just conspicuously shirking. Despite having already fitted in a race this season, Mere Detail still looked as if she would come on for the run, so to end up with two places when not fit augurs well for the future. The opposite is true for Condorman, who survived a series of errors to inherit third, but will not do any better if continuing with them.
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