Horseheath, 5/2/17

Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace

When first visiting Horseheath, it was not easy to warm to, as the layout of the track requires a lot of hard work from the racegoers to get the best of all available viewing points. People generally go racing to watch the horses do the hard work, not do any of their own. However, having invented an absurd back story in which the horses are actually racing around the rim of an extinct volcano, Horseheath had rapidly ascended the list of favoured venues. When the journey to the course has afflicted by heavy fog, the doubts begin to creep in that reality had found a way to replicate myth, and that the fictional volcano has suddenly become very active. Fortunately, the goddess Pele had smiled upon the point-to-point, and it was one of the few blue-skies-and-sun places in the south-east. As for the racing, there were bucket loads of runners, and it was tough going for the punting public.

Going: Good

Race 1: Carter Jonas Intermediate

1: Total Compliance     2: Love Manhattan     3: Always A Chance

Winner owned: Mrs P Rogers, trained: Tom Ellis, ridden: Gina Andrews

Total Compliance won his Maiden and his Restricted on this course and there is something about the rise to the second last and then “further than it looks” surge to the winning post that suits his racing skills especially well. Having come on for his Chaddesley return to action, he failed to summon up an electric sprint, but only needed a bit of one-paced determination to keep Love Manhattan at bay. The runner-up never let the winner run clear, but did not threaten to pass him. Nevertheless, this was an encouraging effort, and perhaps he can condemn his winless 2016 to history. In comparison, Ignite A Light had a blinding season last term, going P1P211, but perhaps the first of those was a clue, as after setting a fair pace on his return here, the effort petered out and he lost third late on. Better ought to be on the way. The other horse that may have been a factor was Counting Stars, who was right in contention when falling at fence fifteen. Perhaps concentarting on jumping rather than counting celestial bodies is a good plan - unless he was about to spot a near Earth object on collision course with us, and save the bulk of humanity.

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

1: Itsnonofurbusiness     2: Pettistree     3: Age Of Heroes

Winner owned: T Ellis & C Jones, trained: Tom Ellis, ridden: Gina Andrews

This was a DBS bumper qualifier, and whilst the pre-race view was that it appeared below par for that type of race, the way that it unfolded, with the two newcomers in the frame, left a better impression when hindsight is applied. The other thing that is an optimism factor for the bumper is that Itsnonofurbuiness’ jumping should really have cost him the race, being slow at several during the meat of the race and then hitting fences 15, 16 and 17 when the heat was on. Fortunately for him, Gina Andrew was in inspired form in the saddle and Pettistree made a major blunder of his own at the last fence, hitting the sight board on the way up and doing well not to flip over the top of the fence. That makes it three second places on the spin. The final margin was only a neck, with not much more back to Age Of Heroes. That horse, the other newcomer, hit a flat spot mid-race but rallied really strongly in the home straight.Expect Age Of Heroes to be winning in the not too distant future, and having shown excellent matter of fact resolve on his debut, Itsnonofurbusiness can progress up the levels if his brain gets a handle on jumping, and why it helps to do it properly. Unusually for a maiden, eight of the nine finished, and the one that did not, State Trooper, pulled up before the last having not run at all badly after being absent since 2015, where he contested two bumpers very badly. Fourth placed Poetry Emotion had a similar verdict, leading most of the way and generally showing far more here than Nicky Henderson got out of him in two bumpers and a hurdle. As an aside, in a mere nine runner race, it ought to have been possible to avoid a situation where two runners in completely different ownership turned up in colours that were different only in one of them having a set of armlets. One of them changes the cap, perhaps.

Race 3: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club, Novice Riders

1: Roberto Pegasus     2: Susquehanna River     3: Bincombe

Winner owned: The Ice’N’Slice Partnership, trained: Tom Ellis, ridden: Kate Gowing

Just the seventeen runners for this, and with plenty of them being known to be of comparable ability, there was therefore no surprise in seeing eight in with a chance as late as the fifteenth fence, leading to a big clump of them trundling up the hill to let the last couple of fences decide the outcome. It would not be harsh to say that Roberto Pegasus’ career is all about decent ability shown without the expected number of wins ensuing, but he seemed very at home here, in only his second pointing run. On the other hand, Susquehanna River is stuck in the same rut (1/20 Rules, 1/11 now in points). Bincombe probably could have mugged them had he not done all the donkey work in front and set the race up for the first pair who, shall we say, need a bit of guidance from their colleagues to get stuff like this right. Fourth placed Done A Runner seemed a fraction less fit than some of his enemies, and can get back the winning thread soon. Needless to say, the novice riders produced a few departures, with no less than four unseating at some stage.

Race 4: Toad’s School Of Driving Mens Open

1: Empire Builder     2: Curraigflemens     3: Premier Portrait

Winner owned: Countess Cathcart, trained: Gerald Bailey, ridden: George Greenock

A very exciting finish to avery eventful race, featuring a decent field of ten for the mens race. The main factor was that the early pace was clearly unsustainable, so a change of positions late in the race was inevitable. The first thing to make that happen was favourite and leader See U Again Son pulling up lame before fence fifteen. That left Empire Builder in front, but he made a mistake of his own at the next and opened the door of opportunity to Curraighflemens. Unfortunately that horse was a bit too tired to take it, even when Empire Builder’s lungs began to flag as well. Meanwhile, the final result had been decided by a terrible tactical faux par on the part of Premier Portrait. Steadying off of the fast pace early was not a bad idea, but getting badly detached seemed a less strong concept. His rider was still sitting motionless at fence thirteen and was presumed to have given up. Charging home along the straight, he was beaten a length and a head, when all it would have taken to win was to have made gentle, stressless inroads into the gap a couple of fences earlier. The first horse to lead after See U Again Son pulled up was Subtitle, but he is not one to trust, so he knocked the job on the head soon after being presented with a glimpse of victory. After another wide margin loss it does look as if age has got the better of East Anglia stalwart Berties Dream.

Race 5: Cambridge Polo Club Ladies Open

1: Top Smart     2: Vedettariat     3: Oh Toodles

Winner owned: Mrs Susan E Busby, trained: Jenny Pidgeon, ridden: Ali Stirling

Seven lined up and it shaped like a race to be decided between two of them. Top Smart was one, Vedettariat the other, so you may think the race was played out highly predictably. ‘Twas not quite so. Top Smart was in a bit of command late on, but on his seasonal debut lacked the dynamism to shake off the other two. It hardly appeared that he would be caught, but having tied up late in the race, he clung on by quite a small margin. Vedettariat therefore could have won it had he not jumped so many fences a little slowly. An improvement that lies within his own hands. The value of the form is made questionable by the appearance in third of Oh Toodles, although he was quite capable before he gave up winning three years ago, in protest at being named after someone berating a cat. Horses can take some time to work these things out. Kimora needed the run, but it only showed approaching the second last, where she made a mistake and dropped away. A good tune up for more attempts at the long distance races in the south-east.

Race 6: Cheffins Restricted

1: Neumond     2: Mazurati     3: Cresta One

Winner owned: Mrs Judy Wilson, trained: Stuart Morris, ridden: Jack Andrews

Alert – about to jump into an opinion without having gathered any supporting facts. A meeting in which there are seventeen runner races for novice riders and in the Restricted has got to be a head start on a good day for the bookies. Hasn’t it? This was a vintage big field Restricted with horses dropping out of the pack at regular intervals. Easing down the hillside, it appeared that the race was to be fought out by Neumond and Cresta One, but the latter made a bad blunder at fence fifteen and let Neumond skip clear before the next fence. He stayed there. Mazurati was the one in position to inject himself into the places, which is a nice variation on his inclination to pull up. Cresta One did get herself going again after the near tumble, but a close third was all that she could make of it. Behind them was Don’t Be Fooled. That was not bad considering that he needed the run and got a bit sweaty in the prelims, slowly he got a bit more worked upand had to go to post early. He was apparently more excited about the big field than many of us ever got to be. After him, a few pulled up around about the third last fence, except favourite Tailspin, who had already surrendered after fluffing fence eleven. It should be noted that before comfortably beating Pettistree (see race 2) at Ampton, he had pulled up in the previous two runs. Now the evidence is building up, a name like Tailspin is asking for trouble.Amongst the late giver uppers was Barrafohona, who is normally quite consistent and a possible Restricted winner. He played about a lot going to the start (or away from it, atvarious times) and was obviously not in a mood to offer his best. He needs monitoring to see if was a random crazy day or a new normal.

Race 7: Best Residential Open Maiden, 7 year olds and up

1: West Lake     2: Brogeen Boy     3: Fraction Man

Winner owned: The Huntin, Shootin, Fishin Partnership, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Shane Roche

An interesting closer. The market was headed by 117-rated chaser Bilbrook Blaze, but he has had issues turning form into victory, hence appearing in a maiden. His form in the summer had also been distinctly on the bad side of feeble, so his ability to be an instant success pointing was doubtful. The race ended for Bilbrook Blaze with a fall at fence fifteen when he was still a major player. The initiative was seized by Brogeen Boy, who was runner-up four times last season, after a fall and an unseat. He had already squeezed in a fall this term and now he added another second place. He is not conspicuously shirking the job, but seems to be just too one paced at the business end - on the days when he can be avoiding the horrible blunders. Once West Lake went past him, Brogeen Boy’s legs just lost the ability to force him forward. The final margin was quite broad, but West Lake too was not winning out of turn, and he had already made a solid start to the season. Fraction Man was a very limited Irish pointer and was ditched from Rules running after one hurdle try, but he showed some improvement today. Max O was next to finish, and beyond him it was East Anglia's celebration of the Retreat From Moscow being enacted.
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