Horseheath, 4/2/18

Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace

This will not be reflected upon as the favourite meeting of the year. The cold,courtesy of the wind, was tolerated because to be a proper pointing regular involves at least one bleak weather meeting of the year. Picking a number at more or less random, anyone who goes to three fixtures in a season has a fairly solid chance of getting bad weathered in one of them and gaining all associated personal crediility. Also not to blame was the style of racing, which had exciting and competitive events staged. No, the problem was the runners, in particlular the number of them. The smallest field was nine, and even the races with fewest entries had a high rate of taking part. The problems this poses are a) too many horses to weigh up in a short period of time and b) insufficient time to memorise the colours and track the horses through the race. What made it worse here was that almost every race featured multiple instances of runners sporting colours with very little to distinguish them, especially when not at close range. Blue and white dominated, with mostly green and mostly yellow interfering as well.

Going: Good, Good to Soft places

Race 1: Carter Jonas Intermediate

1: Mr Maclennane     2: Allie Beag     3: Ignite A Light

Winner owned & trained: NRW Wright, ridden: Archie Wright

Just the thirteen runners for starters. It seemed a field full of well matched horses, but got quite strung out from a fairly early stage. And then at some point early in the second lap, it all concertinaed up, and from the clump there were left legs in, left legs out, right legs ditto and horses that were towards the back of the pack emerged in front. Climbing to the second last, three horses had taken control of the race, with Allie Beag having an edge. However, he saw out his race less well than Mr Maclennane. That was a little strange because Allie Beag has his wins at Ampton and Mr Maclennane his at Cottenham - he ran poorly at Ampton last month. So this course would have seemed to have suited the runner-up more than the speed track specialist that actually stuck on and won it. Ignite A Light, who appeared to be very fit, faded after a mistake two fences out when in contention, but held third place. In fourth was Margot Fontane. She was at the rear early on and conceded lots of ground, a fair amount of which she was not able to make up. She seems to be slowly building up to winning more local races in the south-east. Ginuwinefizz finished ahead of Mr Mclennane at Ampton and he seemed to be still going comfortably when taking a tumble at he fifteenth - it is likely that he could have been in the mix had he stood up. With two wins already this season Irish Legionnaire was prominent in the betting but he did not jump fluently enough to threaten the hat trick at this raised level of combat.
Allie Beag edges it over the second last, but is all out to stay there. On the far side Mr Maclennane has got some sort of relentless thing going, which carries the day. Hidden is the imminently weakening Ignite A Light

Race 2: Brown & Co Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds

1: Tricky Silence     2: Staple Head     3: Salvatore

Winner owned & trained: JR Goss, ridden: Sam Lee

This was a qualifier for the Spring Sales Point-To-Point Bumper, so in tribute to the concept the field treated it like a bumper and went very steadily for most of the race and then sprinted from the third last fence. This resulted in the slowest time of the day, which may not represent the potential and talents of the participants. It also meant that there was not a huge a wide margin covering the first seven, at least until speed really told on the run-in. In hindsight, this was not the best race to watch from down by the penultimate fence. Tricky Silence is an unusual type of horse to win this sort of race, having a chaotic time of it in 2016 (including fall and a ran out) and few terrible hurdle runs last spring before returning an apparently improved and saner participant this season. Staple Head finished third in a weak race on his own return to action and appeared to have progressed for that exercise. Salvatore did something at the third last, but due to writing in thick gloves in order to defeat the sleet, it is not now possible to be certain quite what act took place. Either he was in second place or it was related to Zenit (St Petersburg?) - it was probably the former. Outsider Doolin (who never went into the paddock, going direct from horsebox to post, with rider mounting on the track) managed fourth, just ahead of Holy Street and Dulwich Hill. The latter broke a sequence of four straight third places in an adverse way.

Race 3: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Members Novice Riders

1: Bayley's Dream     2: Just Cause     3: Namako

Winner owned: John & Bronwen Aprahamian, trained: John Aprahamian, ridden: Billy Aprahamian

A sixteen runner novice riders race. What could possibly be easier to try and predict? Just Cause started odds-on thanks to two wide margin wins this season, but he had split them with a big flop and there was no shortage of horses that were not dismally inferior to him and potentially able to explout any weakness shown. So the price was not appealing and in the race Just Cause was given far too much to do, the effort of tagging onto the heels of the leaders leaving him insufficient in reserve to pull the race out of the bag - only failing by half a length confirms that he could have won it as the margin of loss could easily have been saved earlier in the race. Even allowing for the favourite hitting the tactical fail button, Bayley's Dream ran a very good race. He won at about this time of year in 2017 and then failed to crack the top three in four subsequent races. Beware another false dawn. Namako had a decent season in 2017 and progressed from his seasonal return at Barbury to lose this by a narrow margin. He is capable of winning novice riders events in the coming months. In fourth place was paddock pick Pantxoa. He had unseated in his previous race with today's rider, but this effort showed that the pairing may gel soon. Outside this quartet it was mostly finishers and pulled ups - less shambolic than such races can end up.
This must have been fence eight, not seventeen, unless Mr Bingley, Amigo and Head Spin were guilty of one of the biggest implosions of the season.

Race 4: Rossdales Hertfordshire Mens Open

1: Hazel Hill     2: Ardkilly Witness     3: Mr Mercurial

Winner owned: D Williams, trained: Philip Rowley, ridden: Alex Edwards

Sooooo, Hazel Hill makes it ten wins on the spin, landing a quality Mens Race very impressively once he opted to make his play at the fourteenth fence. The best known victims were Mr Mercurial, who looked as if he was not 100% ready despite winning first time out in all three past British seasons and Glint Of Steel, who definitely needed his first run since April 2016. Next down the list would be Thetalkinghorse, eventually fourth after being near the front for most of the way and Abricot De L'Oasis, rated 130+ in chases and hurdles, who looked ready to go but ran as if he was not at peak fitness - although he was quite aggressively raced and that may have taken too much out of him to finish off the race properly. At some stage Ardkilly WItness has to be mentioned. He won at Alnwick in December, but has managed to get beaten in a novice riders race since. He bit off more than he could chew by returning to Opens, but the performance was very creditable. An aside here, on the subject of scope creep. The race was delayed due to one of the doctors attending a rider injured in the previous race. However (and this may be false memory syndrome) the recollection is that the current regulations on doctors and ambulances were introduced to allow for the fact that there would be adequate coverage even if some of the medical staff were busy. What was seen as dealing with the worst case scenario somehow has mutated into the bare minimum.
Due to the power of bad photography, Hazel Hill can be seen to literally stretch away going to the final fence. Ardkilly Witness and Mr Mercurial keep plugging away.

Race 5: Cambridge Polo Club Ladies Open

1: Blue Mountain Boy     2: Goodnight Vienna     3: Oh Toodles

Winner owned: MR Willis, trained: Tom Ellis, ridden: Gina Andrews

After the gents race turned into a non-thriller, the trend for the day of tight finishes returned in this race, with the first three covered by about a length and a half. Blue Mountain Boy bounced back from being brought down at Higham last week (non-Open company) to pinch this race on the run-in. He had won a "winners of three" in Ireland, depsite only having won two himself and thanks to the useful favourite departing and leaving him a soft race. This was not a soft option for him and Blue Mountain Boy approriately made the most of the climb into the second last fence to reel in the leading pair. Goodnight Vienna had led from fence eight, but was being urged along with a fair way to go. His response to this was good, but a length lead at the last fence was not enough. Oh Toodles did really well having been in front prior to Goodnight Vienna, and lasting well on his first run of the season. Monetaire was not a bad handicap chaser at his best and he finished fourth here, a bit livelier than his pointing debut, suggesting that he is adpating to this new job. After the race there was a stewards enquiry into the running of Banksandditches, who has won a hunter chase in the past so has to be considered for races like this one. The jockey's explanation was that she missed the start. This is a bit of an underestimation as a race that reads "immediately detached, tailed off fifth, pulled up seventh" implies that they actually missed the whole race.

Race 6: Cheffins Restricted

1: Welshs Castle     2: This Breac     3: Kalabaloo

Winner owned: Malcolm Kemp & David Kemp, trained: David Kemp, ridden: Shane Roche

Someone decided that the problem with the Ladies race was that the finish was not close enough, so the first three crowded each other up even more. Although he won a maiden last season, Welshs Castle seemed to struggle even with 2m 4f at Godstone afterwards, so his endurance here was not necessarily expected. Funnily enough This Breac also dropped in a minor surprise as well, in that he did not make any significant jumping errors. The opposite was true of Kalabaloo, who belted the open ditch first time. After that she strolled around in the rear taking things terribly safely and did not look to have much of a chance with five to jump. Approaching the last fence it really did seem that a miracle was going to happen, but she could not quite pull it off. Expect a Restricted win when her skills/agility improve to permit a more aggressive ride. The exact opposite is true for Pettistree, who was up with the leaders from the off only to drop out quickly from the fourteenth and pull up two fences later. He definitely can jump but has other holes in his bucket of tools and now has been below par in both races this season.
There was a potentially better picture of the runners atmospherically pootling along the skyline, but some dimwit walked right in front of the camera as it was taken.

Race 7: Mark Weatherhead Open Maiden, 7 year olds and up

1: Keel Over     2: Midnight Bliss     3: Master Jeweller

iWinner owned: Mrs MJ Tetley, trained: Michael Kehoe, ridden: Johnny Bailey

Fairly easy stuff for Keel Over. The official final margin was three lengths, but gut feeling was that it flattered the defeated and despite needing some urging along between the last two fences, Keel Over was getting stronger as the race went on. Midnight Bliss has shown some ablity in the past via the medium of finishing runner-up three times in points, but she went hurdling in shambolic style (finishing last, then pulling up three times). An early unseat spoiled her pointing return, but this suggests that the old potential to win a weakish maiden remains. Master Jeweller was prominent in the betting despite three ineffective efforts in Ireland and a fall on British debut. This was his best yet, but that is nothing to get hysterical about. The other two fancied horses, Lady Of The Rea and Unik De Nougi did not manage to put up much of a fight.
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