Huntingdon, 11/4/19 

This was an odd day. It began with trains shown as late actually turning up on time (as opposed to even later), went into a discussion that perhaps trains do not move but transport you internally within a device that stretches the length of the line in some sort of time wormhole (q.v. "Silver Machine" by Hawkwind). Then there were oddities in race three where the commentator called one horse as going well when it was clearly struggling and another as being hard ridden when actually going relatively smoothly. In each case it could not have taken more than twenty seconds for the horses to adapt to the how they had been described as if the commentary was in a slightly differenet time zone to the spectators. Also, the most appealing horses tended to be those more in need of good to soft than good going. Instead they got quick, as if the expected weather was on another day. All that idle speculation on the nature of time turned out to be true! It was just that the wormholes had got a little bit jumbled. 

There was also an interesting note on the nature of publishing on the internet. The Racing Post comment for Fenjack in race six was "runner-up in an Irish point, nothing shown under Rules, the last two over hurdles." Other than the fact that his two pointing runs were at Dingley in England and the last two races were chases, it was spot on. Dead tree press' rarely get caught out in this way, so why do firms act so slapdash when publishing on line? 

Going: Good to kick off, but soon Good To Firm (so it must have been quick all along). 

Race 1: Racing TV mares' Novices Hurdle, Div I [2m 0.5f]

1: So Lonely     2: See The Sea     3: Mick Mona 

Winner owned: The Can't Say No Partnership, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Bridget Andrews 

In advance this did not look to be a terribly high grade race and when the starter offered them the chance to race the field decided to stand around staring at each other the value declined from a low start. In the end Toodlepip bit the bullet and led but not fast enough to wave goodbye to the oppo at an early stage. No horse was run out of contention until quite late and Toodlepip only faded into fourth as the last hurdle loomed. The first three jumped it more or less in a line and all travelling with similar impetus (or lack of it). With the rails to help - presumably - So Lonely dug out a short burst of quickness (comparatively) and won by almost four lengths. See The Sea did alright for a newcomer to hurdles, as was true of Mick Mona, graduating from bumpers and gaining a hood. Her bumper form had flashes of interesting activity but she needs to run well once more before deciding whether she is properly progressing. 

+  See The Sea (2nd): Won 3/13 on the flat, staying 1m 2f, and was rated 67. This was not a terrible start to jumps and it is possible that a morely truly run race would show her up in more favourable light. 

x  So Lonely (1st): Previously an enthusiastic acquirer of placed results, adding a hood and the modest oppo were the difference here. But do not forget that she burst a blood vessel in the mares' novices' handicap hurdle final last time, so she is not one to lump on at short prices with the conviction that all her problems are solved.
Photographer expects a nice shot of See The Sea (yellow cap) and Mick Mona only for the unnoticed So Lonely to rudely photobomb them.

Race 2: Racing TV mares' Novices Hurdle, Div II [2m 0.5f]

1: Saumur     2: Bossiney Bay     3: Jane Lamb

Winner owned: Sparkling Partners, trained: Denis Coakley, ridden: Jonathan Burke

At face value the tougher of the two divisions, it was based on the runners losing races in competitive fashion more often but the time was a soid three seconds quicker. Jane Lamb had some decent bumper form in the book but was returning from eighteen months off and finished her run as if she needed the fine tuning. Saumur had won two flat races but been placed twelve times and when finishing fourth in both hurdle spins she suggested that she needed a stiffer course to offset a lack of finishing kick. This did answer the question in the negative, as she was quickest home from two out. There was a bit of a warning for the future with Saumur. Jumping that second last on the very inner, she hung left and ended up on the stands rail halfway up the run-in. There was clear daylight as she crossed the path of Jane Lamb, but not much space when she went across Bossiney Bay. That mare was not closing, just maintaining the gap, so there was no risk of an enquiry, but Saumur looked like she would have finished the drift even if it did need her to barge one or two out of the way. Do not make a habit of that.

+  Saumur (1st): Her rating of 105 looked workable based on a couple of decent horses that had beaten her and she would deserve a lot of respect if finding a race before the handicapper has a rethink.

+  Bossiney Bay (2nd): Disappointed in fifth on hurdles debut but that race began even more farcically slowly than the opener today. Now she has shown what she is made of in a proper race, we can believe the optimistic signs.

x  Sparkling Dawn (7th): A good bumper mare who won on this track before finishing nne lengths eighth in the Grade 2 for mares at Aintree, she had flopped as a hurdler, unseating both times. So rather than a sparkling dawn, connections are at a slightly undercooked brunch. She had first time blinkers on here but still shied away from the first hurdle and never really got stuck in to the others, ending up tailed off. Can she be schooled out of it?

Race 3: Follow @racingtv On Twitter Novices' Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Skandiburg     2: Eclair Des Sablons     3: Slaine

Winner owned: Kate & Andrew Brooks, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

Another strange old race. With half a lap to go Eclair Des Sablons and his partner in crime Coole Well were noodling along in front and seemed to have only one rival to worry about - Espion De Saflo who was operating very sweetly in midfield. Skandiburg was at the rear of the pack, niggled along and not enjoying it one bit. As the result suggests, everything changed. Espion De Saflo found nothing under pressure, Coole Well copied him and Slaine suddenly got a second wind and burst through to challenge Eclair Des Sablons. And then a rallying Skandiburg shook everything up and won by a length and a half. He did finish eighth in the EBF final at Sandown last time and is a proven winner so the problems en route are blamed on the ground, not lack of ability or willingness. Slaine had offered splinters of promise in bumpers but fell on hurdle debut and jumped poorly on the follow up. She showed much more here when armed with basic hurdling skills. As long as the driver was not solely the proven horses struggling with fast ground, this should not be written off as a fluke. Perhaps connections should have taken Sparkling Dawn for warm down stroll to watch Slaine and explain that she has no reason to be doing any worse.

+ +  Eclair Des Sablons (2nd): Although fourth in both Rules runs after an Irish point win, there were horses around him both times that make the form look very encouraging. The suspicion here was that a gentle 2m 4f would not be testing enough but he ran a corker from the front. Keep him onside.

+  Skandiburg (1st): Not at his best here but watch out for him as a chaser in the not too distant future.

Espion De Saflo (4th): Probably the last to come under pressure, failing to make the places was not an impressive outcome. He is two bad runs out of two since coming over from France.

Coole Well (5th): This was his first try beyond 2m 1.5f and it did not go well. He is not proven going right-handed and got his win on soft, so there were all sorts of reasons to be wary of him. Stay cautious until finding him trying something that he has proven he can do.
Skandiburg gets his first look at arid Huntingdon and tries to be open-minded about it

Race 4: Novices' Limited Handicap Chase [2m 0.5f]

1: Paddy's Poem     2: Zalvados     3: Cracking Destiny

Winner owned: Mrs T Brown, trained: Nick Gifford, ridden: James Davies

Paddy's Poem has not always conducted himself in flawless fashion through his races but he swept his way to victory in likeable style. His jump at the open ditch in front of the stands drew a big gasp from the crowd as he stood off so far that it seemed impossible that he would clear it. Instead he got over with ease and picked up the gallop without batting an eyelid. Unfortunately an exemplary jumping display was spoiled with a scruffy attempt at the final fence but by then all but Zalvados had given up the pursuit and even he was sticking on in hope rather than expectation - or rather than desire. Cracking Destiny seemed to find the going a limiting factor as he normally jumps soundly enough to not be pulverised by Paddy's Poem's effort.

x Zalvados (2nd): Notably had to be kidded along when the pressure grew intense and took his record to one win and ten second places from twenty jumps races. This stat is not a coincidence.

UK-Jumping Selections - Thahab Ifraaj (5th): Making his chase debut on ground he handled in the past, he was doing perfectly well until getting the fourth last all wrong. After that he was allowed to complete in his own time, so some useful schooling was achieved. Fingers crossed for a clear round soon.

Race 5: Join Racing TV Now Handicap Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Lucky Lover Boy     2: Third Estate     3: Captain Speaking

Winner owned: The Lucky Lovers Partnership, trained: Oliver Greenall, ridden: Paddy Brennan

A four year old making his handicap debut, Lucky Lover Boy just sneaked into the ratings for this by a whisker and did so thanks to some friendly looking handicapping. The going was an unknown but Lucky Lover Boy was at home on it as any and despite only nosing ahead at the final hurdle, which was about a close to the winning post as is seen at Huntingdon, he put six lengths between him and Third Estate. That horse has been very consistent so does look high in the weights - this typical effort is not likely to ease that problem for him. However with two horses breathing down his neck, his attitude to ensuring second was commendable.

+  Captain Spearing (3rd): With only one notable run, at Nantes, before now, this was a sudden improvement to make third. First time blinkers were the key. Shall we trust them to keep working?

x  Dr Richard Kimble (4th): Has shown the flat ability to be winning races over hurdles but his jumping skills in novice hurdling left plenty to be desired and the switch to handicaps was not accompanied by an improvement in that department. The handicap mark is very workable should he suss out the skills element.

x  Excellent Team (7th): The changed going made him interesting has he has a couple of successes on good to firm. Unfortunately he had been off for over four months and that coupled with his overexcited front running. Even when he is fit enough the tactical preference gets in the way too often.
Lucky Lover Boy pulling up in a fashion not associated with a horse that has had to be flat out all the way to the winning post

Race 6: Racing TV Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Pique Rock     2: Barton Rose     3: Pembroke House

Winner owned: The Henry Daly Racing Club, trained: Henry Daly, ridden: Andrew Tinkler

This was a bit of a non-event. Only three went to post in the end and the consistent Pique Rock led all the way. Barton Rose, returning from a winter break, did the Zalvados-style "I will keep chasing you even though I know you cannot be caught" act and added in jumpig left to be certain of not winning. Any chance of Pembroke House causing disruption ended when he responded to a bad blunder at the third by copying the method at most subsequent fences.

Race 7: Like Racing TV On Facebook Handicap Chase {2m 7.5f]

1: Eaton Miller     2: Vaxalco     3: Kilmoganny

Winner owned: Kevin Price, trained: Tom Symonds, ridden: Ben Poste

Despite two likely candidates pulling up (Fight Commander and Heavenly Promise) this produced a belter of a finish with fewer than two lengths splitting the first four finishers. Eaton Miller had been outpaced when the pace was elevated with four fences remaining but when he finally got going, he did so with a bit of purpose. Challenging again at the last it was looking as if the winning post would come too soon for his benefit but with fifty metres to go Eaton Miller managed one last surge of effort and pipped Vaxalco by a neck. Kilmoganny was only a half length further behind, with one more length to Fenjack. A race twenty metres shorter or twenty longer and the result changes. Kilmoganny was the mystery presence - his career was summarised as "no places from two points, eight hurdles and five chases, does not jump well enough to improve on it" and being eleven pounds out of the handicap in a 0-100 race is quite an insult. This result happened becuase for once his jumping was reliable. Will he do it again? Fight Commander blundered at the first, jumped badly afterwards and resented every yard that he covered. Heavenly Promise is best on good to soft. She may have tolerated good going but what she had here was no use to her at all.

+ Fenjack (4th): After a quiet debut he was a close second in a British maiden point and switched to Rules. Totally hopeless at novice hurdling, he had improved in chases. In a non-handicap he was last of four against three 130+ rated opponents and then ran well in a Sedgefield handicap when not lasting 3m 2.5f. He was top notch until the last hundred and fifty metres here and battled on again in the very latest stages. He is homing in on the right race, which is a 0-100 something.

+  Eaton Miller (1st): Finished second or third five times this season before today but he was in better form last year than in 2019. With headgear experiments abandoned, he perked up and got a hard earned success. That flat spot was not ideal but by now it just looks like what he is, and nothing is going to fix it.

x  Vaxalco (2nd): Although he won an Irish point, the score under Rules is now 0/22. When he does everything absolutely right and gets pipped on the line by an inspired opponent, we have to wonder if he is fated never to break the duck.
The picture of this finish was taken into the sun, so the image was rubbish. By cunning use of sepia tinting, you can see Eaton Miller (8) getting up and Fenjack (9) rallying on the stands side, in the most flexible definition of the word "see."

Race 8: Watch Irish Racing On Racing TV Maiden National Hunt Flat Race [2m 0.5f]

1: Willie Butler     2: Mr Perfect 3    : Millstone

Winner owned: Peter Beadles, trained: Neil King, ridden: Rex Dingle

The two most interesting runners here dibbed out due to the ground and it was left to Willie Butler to be a) favourite and b) successful. He was a bit wobbly when flat out, despite experience of being placed in two Irish points, but runner-up Mr Perfect was much more demonstrably bemused by his racing debut and it was a difference maker in the end. They were just ahead of Millstone and West Coast Glory, who had both finished fifth in their sole previous bumpers. Everyone was terribly cautious on the quickening conditions, so it is not worth trying to predict the future optimistically or pessimistically at this point in time.
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