Huntingdon, 5/11/17

Sunday at Huntingdon, a run of the mill set of races that fluked a potentially top class field in the novice chase. There was a mini-beer festival as well, which it needs to be clarified is down to having about a dozen ales and some ciders, and was not all about forcing people to drink from quarter of a pint glasses.

Going: Good, Good to Soft places

Race 1: Brian Martin Pallets Wood Chipping Claiming Hurdle [2m]

1: Ascendant     2: Serenity Now     3: Iniesta

Winner owned: FA Clegg, trained: Johnny Farrelly, ridden: Sean Houlihan

Seven ran, of which four had credentials to win, and the finish was fought out by the pair with the best of them. None of the “lightly raced, no promise yet” trio ran above expectations. Ascendant proved his current raging ascendancy by completing a hat trick. As he is about to turn twelve, connections could put him in this race on a claiming price of only £5,000 with little fear of losing him, and he put it to good use in the sprint from the final flight. With relative jockey claims considered, Ascendant received twelve pounds from Serenity Now despite a slightly higher official rating and from the pair jumping the last together, the gap stretched to a couple of lengths. Therefore fluffing the last probably did not cost Serenity Now the win, although it looked a disaster at the time. The on-course preview and commentary developed an obsession with how well bred Iniesta is. By the time that he has hit claiming hurdles with only a seller win to his name over jumps, we are safe to conclude that this is no longer relevant.

+   Serenity Now (2nd): His previous three hurdle runs had ended FFP, but in tougher company, and a spell of going solidly on the flat seems to have dragged his zest back from the brink. He was not well in at the weights here and he should be able to win a race or two.

Race 2: Juvenile Hurdle [2m]

1: Speedo Boy     2: Jumping Jack     3: Staff College

Winner owned: Paul Williams, trained: Ian Williams, ridden: Tom O’Brien

How you viewed, and continue to view this race depends on how far you choose to buy into the Gumball hype. It had led to Speedy Boy flirting with odds-on status, which seemed rather short. He won the race unimpressively, but if you like Gumball, then at least he did win, and Jumping Jack was not the unsteerable mess witnessed at Kempton. And Gumball did beat Sporting Boy by twenty lengths… The third place went to an outsider, but one that caught the eye in the paddock at the type to improve for the switch to jumping. Staff College did actually get a 75 flat rating, but on the back of third places in two maidens, a standard that he failed to sustain. And failed by a long way. Three time French flat winner Figeac was poor on his hurdles debut and adding a tongue tie here brought a little progress on that, but still only sixth place.

+   Staff College (3rd): Proved himself inconsequential on the flat, but he is built to be a jumper and this 40/1 third on his first try hurdling could prove to be anything but a fluke.

Race 3: Brian Martin Wood Chip Animal Bedding Novices’ Hurdle [2m 3.5f]

1: Equus Secretus     2: Piton Pete     3: El Presente

Winner owned: The Bourtoneers, trained: Ben Pauling, ridden: Nico de Boinville

Only six ran, and they brought form with a smattering of wins and plenty of places. In general it seemed as if they would be the types of horses to only slowly deliver on the promise offered. The win was one that involved Equus Secretus leading all of the way. He had won his only pointing run, at Dingley in the late spring, and was narrowly able to hold off Piton Pete and keep the unbeaten record intact. After the race, Ben Pauling was very complimentary about Equus Secretus’ physical attributes but less so about his mental ones, so there is room for more progress as the brain gently winds into gear. The race one by El Presente over course and distance recently is yet to be measurable on the subsequent form of the field. His third here having been outpaced three out was not terrible, but with question marks on the readiness mentally or physically of the first two, the alarm bell finger is twitching.

+   Equus Secretus (1st): His contribution should only improve as his head catches up to the standard that his lungs and legs are operating on.

+   Piton Pete (2nd): Came here after eighteen months off and in the paddock he looked as if fitness was not quite spot on. In the circumstances, a half length defeat was a cracking effort, considering that he had been third on that distant hurdles debut in a race that worked out well by Plumpton standards but was nto world beating stuff.

x   Cogburn (4th): A very big horse that towered over the enemy before the race, he was noodling along in midfield when he was suddenly ridden and weakening before three out. That could be put down to missing fitness after a summer break, but he did not look tubby and (unusually for an Alan King horse) sports an eyeshield in races. The hunch is to be a bit cautious about his capacity to do better.

Race 4: Brian Martin Pallets Macer Gifford Handicap Chase [2m 0.5f]

1: Salto Chisco     2: Lord Ben     3: Helium

Winner owned: British Racing Club, trained: Harry Whittington, ridden: Harry Bannister

Although all four wins had been on tight bends, and the chase pair on very tight Fakenham, Salto Chisco had shown potential to not be that restricted in some of his defeats and a fairly tame line-up in opposition provided the race where he could prove it. The win was helped by Its A Sting being caught out by the first fence and the 2016 winner of this race, Jackthejourneyman, being from a stable out of form and thus not up to displaying his usual love-in with anything at Huntingdon. And for Salto Chisco, the humans involved would not have been too gloomy about being on a mark of 113, only one above his last winning rating. Incredibly he did briefly hit 3/1, thanks to support for Britanio Bello, but the opportunity was sealed when that horse decided the pressure of such confidence was too much and gave up weakly. Lord Ben had a visor on instead of the usual cheekpieces and it returned him to his usual outcome of sturdy, one-paced failure.

x x   Britanio Bello (5th): Possesses some hurdling form that marked him as being favourably weighted, but the hints were that he has not taken to chasing, and the evidence here is that he simply does not like it, as opposed to being unable to adapt.
Lord Ben, Jackthejourneyman and windmills - Huntingdon in a nutshell

Race 5: Premier League Betting At 188Bet Novices’ Chase [2m 4f]

1: Willoughby Court     2: Casablanca Mix     3: The Unit

Winner owned: Paul & Clare Rooney, trained: Ben Pauling, ridden: Nico de Boinville

There were three potentially top notch novice chasers in this, but the way it panned out means that we cannot be certain that they are destined to live up to expectation. Cheltenham Festival winner Willoughby Court was a long odds-on chance, but he was slow at a couple of fences, absolutely walloped another pair and went left at most of them. Despite all the energy and lengths wasted, he was still able to sprint away from two very competent hurdlers on the run-in, and did not ever appear to be headed. The Unit, with a chase run already under his belt, did nothing wrong until hitting the third last – it probably only cost him second place. Casablanca Mix would be most likely to top the tree in mares only company, and her chase debut was fine on the jumping skills but lacklustre with the galloping. If she improved for the run, then this race is decent. If she did not, then underachievement beckons for them all.

+   Casablanca Mix (2nd): She should be ready to make her mark in mares only chases from now on.

x   Willoughby Court (1st): Has time to learn the job, particularly the straight jumping part, but until he has proved it, be very wary of supporting him when the oppo has more strength in depth.
Willoughby Court comes home in triumph but blissfully unaware how far off script that he went

Race 6: Melbourne Cup Betting At 188Bet Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Night Generation     2: Kings Temptation     3: Generous Chief

Winner owned: Party People, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

A proper Huntingdon curtain call – a 0-105 staying handicap hurdle (0-100 and 0-110s are also permitted). And every horse sported some form of headgear, combining for five tongue tie, five pairs of cheekpieces, a visor and a couple of sets of blinkers. Due to the early hour, before half past three in the afternoon, many of the course and distance regulars were too confused to attend. That allowed a new name to be added to the honours board, with it inappropriately being Night Generation. He had been third in a couple of three milers for his last two runs so had earned the moment in the spotlight. It was hard work, as Kings Temptation gave him no peace on the run in. The first six were covered by no more than ten lengths (retrospective note – per the official result it was ten and a half). For a horse who can be iffy at the start Generous Chief was game enough once taking part, leading until a blunder at the last, but holding off Mister Drifter (a blunder at most of the obstacles) for third.

+   Kings Temptation (2nd): After going through the motions in novice hurdles he was beaten half a length over 2m 7.5f at Uttoxeter in June and seemed to have turned the corner. The next attempt was a dreadful flop and the tongue tie was added here. Another narrow defeat ensued, but he should be able to get off of the mark soon and possibly do even better when sent chasing.

+   Mister Drifter (4th): Earned his handicap mark in a spell when his yard could not punch their way out of a wet paper bag, and had he not jumped so badly – combined with sitting right at the back for two miles – it has to be imagined that he would have been up worrying the winner. He stayed the trip well, so just has some serious schooling on the “to do” list.

x   Suffice (9th): Although on a competitive rating, his wins last season were at 2m and 2m 3.5f, so it was a bit surprising to see him well backed, even assuming that the recent poor show was a much needed fitness spin. He ended up tailed off, and is not a three miler on this display, no what some people think.
The world is readily put to rights by having a good lean, but Kim Bailey and David Bass found that leaving out Billy Elliott (the horse) breaks the spell
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