Huntingdon, 26/3/18

A hint of spring, then the sun went in, then it had a second wind for the bumper horses. That is what you get for an extended eight race card - a nice choice of seasons, to suit all tastes. Still, it provided a chance to test the new Thameslink train from Horsham to Peterborough, at least for the Purley to Huntingdon part. It should be named the UK-Jumping Express, but after scheduled ten minute waits at London Bridge and Finsbury Park, Express would be untrue. But it does avoid an irritating Tube link through London, so swings and roundabouts theory applies.

Going: Good to Soft, Good places on the hurdle course

The hurdle course had major distance increases thanks to rail realignment, so the actual race distance, not the intended as most results pages will show, is quoted below. Also, the placement of the last hurdle made for a longer run-in than usual.

Race 1: Enhanced Place Odds At 188Bet Mares' Novices' Hurdle [2m 5.5f]

1: Presenting Pearl     2: Petronella Manners     3: Schiaparannie

Winner owned: Chalke Valley Racing Partnership, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

The card featured three novice hurdles and a bumper, and all of those races had the potential to produce one or two decent horses in time, but looked a less likely source of immediate winners outside handicap company. This race had, in a modest compliment, the most short term potential, but that was partly because favourite Schiaparannie had already won a couple of races and performed decently in defeat. She was not bad here but a bit of tardiness at the start saw her in rear to begin with, and she never quite made up the lost ground. Presenting Pearl took advantage, although her hurdling inexperience was highly obvious via the medium of adjusting off to her left a lot, although that was not to blame for being bumped on the run-in by loose and ominously named Tikk Tock Boom. In a taste of what we can expect in the early weeks of drier going, there was a 50/1 shock in second, via Petronella Manners. She had hinted at past ability, but got nowhere on soft ground hurdling earlier this year.

+ +   Shazzamataz (4th): Got roughed up when Tikk Tock Boom unseated at the first and spent most of the race loitering around at the back. As the field shuffled into order from the third last, she suddenly popped up in fourth. In doing so she showed that Irish pointing was clearly not her thing (remember that theme!), and is one to improve when getting a clear run, plus perhaps three miles.

+   Presenting Pearl (1st): A very decent bumper mare, she had her flaws with jumping here, but should have learned from it, and after winning tidily enough considering the margin of only a couple of lengths, she can go onto better things.

+   Folly Bergere (6th): Having her first run since December 2016, when she was third at Market Rasen for her hurdles debut, having been a nice steady flat horse before that. This was a sound comeback which she can build upon. Also, being by Champs Elysee, out of Rainbow Queen, the person who named her is having a discreet dig at Parisians.

+   Storm Patrol (12th): Finished second in bumpers here and at Ascot and her flop was in the mares only Grade 2 at Aintree - 2016 renewal. This frst go at hurdling was after thirteen months off and with the stable out of form. It did not excite, but better is surely possible.
Presenting Pearl was a bit put out, but not put off of her race, by a horse in front of her passing wind.

Race 2: Daily Racing Specials At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle, Div I [2m 0.5f]

1: Sparkleandshine     2: Passing Call     3: Bomber's Moon

Winner owned: Richard J Gurr, trained: Sam Thomas, ridden: Charlie Deutsch

Return to the "cannot do Irish points" theme. Look up Sparklendshine's four very modest attempts in that arena. Then try and work out how he won this. The only conclusion has to be that two mile hurdles are much more his thang. It should be noted that Passing Call did finish a bit tamely in securing her fifth successive second place. The recurrence of the number two did not look coincidental here. With Passing Call already rated 118, Sparkleandshine's handicap future might not get a sympathetic hearing from the number crunchers. Bomber's Moon was given a lot to do, and was not up to it, although there was a time around the third last when he threatened to reel in second place at the minimum, but the effort petered out.

+   Bomber's Moon (3rd): It would be a stretch to describe him as unfit, but most of the other runner's appeared fitter. Therefore, after improving on his debut hurdle run, he can progress again. He was capable in bumpers, so all he needs to do is replicate that standard when jumping stuff.

+   Havisham (10th): An 82 rated flat horse, he missed eighteen months before beginning a jumps career, which now has three modest to poor runs. However he can take a bit of a hold, and he plan here seemed to be teaching him to settle by hook or by crook. Unfortunately he did not produce any late progress at all, but the suspicion is that better is on the way sometime.

x   Instant Attraction (5th): Boasts a flat rating (in the 80s) that should translate into hurdling competence, and people will no doubt see pluses in this fifth in his first go at the job. The warning is that he last won in June 2015.

x x   Passing Call (2nd): Her past defeats were not all unforgiveable, but after the winner was ridden from the third last and she was cruising. Then an awkwardness two out and proper error at the last zonked her out. Wayne Hutchinson's body language in response implied that the tame finish was not entirely unexpected.
Sparkleandshine had been so far off of the pace in Irish points that he does not understand how post-race congratulations work.

Race 3: Daily Racing Specials At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle, Div II [2m 0.5f]

1: Havana Beat     2: Thistimenextyear     3: Max Liebermann

Winner owned: Northway Lodge Racing, trained: Tony Carroll, ridden: Lee Edwards

The race was turned on it's head with a lap out when the talented but fragile odds-on favourite Mahari was pulled up with a broken blood vessel for the second time in three races. It was far too early to blame extreme exertion. The second favourite, Havana Beat, seized the moment and outbattled Thistimenextyear, who showed no after effects from his fall on hurdles debut. Just behind them was Max Liebermann, whose sudden massive improvement in a jumper's bumper appears now not to be a freak result - the second to fifth were all rated from 104 to 121 over hurdles.

  Thistimenextyear (2nd): Hinted before his fall that he can do hurdling, and proved it this time. The winner is rated 120 after being placed in all three runs, and he should be able to develop through handicaps if rated on that. The first time hood helped and it is even feasible that he finds a winnable novice in the coming weeks.

  Mahari (PU): Just a reminder that he is not one to be taking short prices on, although he is plenty able if somehow avoiding falling to bits in mid-race.

  Bahama Moon (10th): A quality flat handicapper who is on the small side, this better going produced no improvement in his regressive hurdling stint. After the last two limp efforts, it would not be certain that a derisory handicap mark would solve anything.

Race 4: Best Odds Guaranteed At 188Bet Novices' Limited Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Clondaw Westie     2: Hey Bill     3: Leg Lock Luke

Winner owned: Frank Caudwell, trained: Lawney Hill, ridden: Aidan Coleman

This was a good spectacle, with five more or less in line over the final fence, and two more not totally out of contention just behind them. Although he had been ridden from early on the long final turn, it looked as if Hey Bill had made a cunning sweep around the field on the stand side, but once on terra firma, Clondaw Westie sprouted wings (not literally, that would look silly) and took the initiative. Avoiding the open ditch did involve a rather sharp manouevre to the left, but it would only have been controversial if the placed horses had managed to keep alongside him. Leg Lock Luke did well to hang on for third as he made a bad mistake early in the race and lost his pitch for a while. Time was at least on his side, and he had been off four months, which usually preempts an abysmal run. Something different was up today, but does it mean that his eggs are in the first time out basket and that he deflates quite soon?

+   Clondaw Westie (1st): Since going chasing his form is 1U11. It looked as if he had gone up too much before this, but if he can keep nicking races on late bursts of speed, it is possible that he hangs on in winning mode for a couple more races.

+   Bad Boy Du Pouldu (5th): Got beaten by six lengths, which is a more than respectable showing for sharp track specialiast. It should set him up nicely for good going on his sort of venue.

+   Kilinakin (7th): Took a step up in class after his win and found himself all rather outpaced, leading to some fluency-free jumping. A drop back in class or more likely a longer race, can undo some of his issues with this particular event.

Race 5: Download The App At 188Bet Handicap Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Maquisard     2: Eskendesh     3: Otter Moon

Winner owned: MK George, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

It was not unexpected that things would get a bit mad in a rather manic thirteen horse handicap hurdle. Not everyone would go as far as backing a horse that had lost his two British handicap runs by 42 and 76 lengths. A price of 33/1 implied that very, very few made a brave guess on Maquisard. He had won a hurdle and five flat races in France, but other than the ground there was no cause to predict this revelation. Also, Marquisard had a teensy bit of luck on his side as Eskendash got stuck on the inner of the final bend when trying to make progress, and eventually got within a neck of success after having to wait for a gap to appear. In sixth was Wind Place And Sho, who is now 0/7 hurdling. With his excellent name (by Scirocco, out of Coh Sho No), he needs to put in that extra effort that the person who chose his name did. As a past flat winner, he might manage it, but when?

+   Otter Moon (3rd): Won a two and a half miler at Perth last July and after modest return over 2m 3.5f, he has now fared much better in a couple of two milers. Ready for another summer strike when upped in distance and fit enough - and assuming that the yard's quiet form since the first day of Cheltenham will end soon.

x   Eskendesh (2nd): Unlucky here, he has now got hurdle form of 2222-4332 and his apparent need for very patient tactics invites trouble. Perhaps a last chance in a small field has been earned?

  Royal Ruby (13th): Did not seem to have been harshly punished with an initial handicap mark of 115, but he finished very weakly from the third last. He is probably not going to be this bad on a regular basis, but it is a warning not to have total faith in him.

Race 6: 188Bet Mobile Handicap Hurdle [3m 2f]

1: Minella Whisper     2: Indian Reel     3: Max Dynamo

Winner owned: Peter Prowting, trained: Richard Phillips, ridden: Daniel Hiskett

Huntingdon stages enough low grade staying hurdles to enjoy repeated patronage from the same clique of horses, and if you can find one that enjoys the course and distance, there will not be a shortage of winning opportunities. After being narrowly beaten by Amberjam on his first go at this, Minella Whisper came out as numero uno today. At the third last it seemed that he was set for a place again, but it was just a case of being very slow to accelerate under pressure, and in the end he won a tad cosily. Two runs ago Indian Reel won a two mile claiming hurdle at Leicester, so his rapid promotion up the stamina tests was a little surprising. He seemed at home with it. Max Dynamo was labouring terribly in rear for most of the final lap, but what he lacks in speed (which is almost everything) he makes up for in stamina, and he ran past lost of rivals for a late theft of third place. That may have been different if Red Admirable had not clouted the final hurdle and almost come to a stop. That dropped him from third to seventh.

+   Minella Whisper (1st): Ought to be a regular over course and distance from now, and can win some of them. It is a simple formula, and one that needs no messing with.

+   Indian Reel (2nd): It seems as if he is really quite flexible about race distance as long as it is a bottom tier race, and the key is combining cheekpieces and tongue tie. On the two occasions that he has not relied on just one or the other, he has a win and a solid second.

  Red Admirable (7th): He is not in the habit of making a final hurdle shambles, and is thought of as a three miler. However, in races beyond three miles his form is pretty ropey, so he is always worth avoiding in that sort of race.
Click the 'Edit Text' button or double click to type your texAs usual with these things the winner, Minella Whisper, is inclined towards concealment. About fifth, over the far side. Meanwhile Katara Bay (10) and Miss Yeats (1) get on with setting the pace. Ultra inconveniently, the forgeround is dominated by unplaced Tommy The Rascal, Herdswick Holloa and Jonjoela. Indian Reel and Maxx Dynamo are in the background towards the rear.

Race 7: Bet & Watch At Handicap Chase [2m 0.5]

1: Jackthejourneyman     2: Peppay Le Pugh     3: Shininstar

Winner owned: Edmud O'Reilly Hyland, trained: Tom Gretton, ridden: James Davies

Despite saving his best for Huntingdon, Jackthejourneyman was not quite a course specialist, with only two past wins. One factor in this was his general modest talent level and another was his yard going into a form slump just when Jackthejourneyman was getting the hang of fences. This third win is enough to call him course specialist. Now the horse has to prove that his ambitions are not limited to that. The work today was helped by Peppay Le Pugh, who was allowed to go off favourite on the back of four consecutive second places because apparently the world had not learned a jot from Passing Call or Eskendesh. To quote an obscure song, "the more I see, the less I understand, I'm just another ordinary man." Although the same song later clarifies that there is "no such thing as easy answers, you play to win and take your chances." Which, appropriately, was was Jackthejourneyman did.

x   Ulis De Vassy (4th): Despite some lively recent form and two wins, he was not really up for it today, and it was obvious from an early stage.

x x   Peppay Le Pugh (2nd): His second places had needed a bit of shirking in the past, and whilst he one day might find something under pressure, nobody shouldhold their breath waiting.

Empire: Brother Bennett (5th): Needed this return from a major wind operation, but was let down his jumping. Jockey Trevor Whelan reported that he was fine in cover but as soon as he had space around him, he jumped into it. Hopefully the tune-up will do him good. t here.
Jolliness for Jackthejourneyman, no regrets for Peppay Le Pugh (when there should be).

Race 8: Play Roulette At 188Bet Casino Standard National Hunt Flat Race [2m 0.5f]

1: Breaking Waves     2: Some Day Soon     3: Third Wind

Winner owned: Colin Peake, trained: Noel Williams, ridden: Harry Teal

A big field here and there were plenty that had bumpered with a little promise up to now, and most of the newcomers represented yards that do well in bumpers. The winner impressed in the way he did it, especialluy given that he was the most conspicuously green participant. At the end of the back straight Breaking Waves was having trouble finding room to progress , but when the gap came he flew through it. Or should that be broke through it? Anyway, he was worth more than the couple of lengths that he beat Some Day Soon, who had been placed in two of his three Irish bumpers at the smaller courses there. Third placed Third Wind was also debuting, and the trio were nicely clear of the pack.

+   Breaking Waves (1st): Created a very good impression in his racing debut.
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