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Huntingdon, 29/5/17

Compared to last Tuesday’s expensive meeting there was a big crowd for this cheaper one despite overcast skies and a wet weather forecast. There was also a strange phenomenon whereby the number of cars trying to access the course and parking capacity seemed to exceed the number of people actually in there as if the cars were TRAVELLING UNDER THEIR OWN WILL. Still, what should be expected from a weekend that began at a beer festival with a man named Bird Dog, wearing a military beret, spandex trousers and a pink kilt involved in a slow motion jerk dance with three men dressed in very convincing Viking costumes as a band played a rather good version of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box.” Although on further reflection, this is fairly usual for a British public holiday weekend.

Going: Good

Race 1: Boxing Betting At 118bet Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Shotofwine     2: Prince Mahler     3: Beautiful People

Winner owned: Paul & Clare Rooney, trained: Nicky Richards, ridden: Ryan Day

In a race where only one of the six had raced beyond three miles before, and she had done so in adverse conditions, enduring stamina proved to be decisive for Shotofwine. At the hurdle three from home, he seemed the one that was third most likely to win, but a sort of slow overdrive kicked in as Prince Mahler and Beautiful People hit their limits between the last couple of flights. The first half of the race went at slightly above average pace as Oscar Jane led, but she inexplicably ignored the sixth flight totally, taking a tumble as a consequence and causing Monte Wildhorn to unseat whilst trying to dodge past her. In the past the one guilty of complete disrespect for the skill of jumping had been Shotofwine, but he was not noticeably useless at it today. Perhaps over careful at the last, that was not necessarily a bad thing with the two challengers on the retreat.

x   Prince Mahler (2nd): Won twice in the spring, he has now been beaten in his last couple, and failed here at carrying a very big weight (less a five pound claim) in a 0-100 race. So unless he adapts to tackling better opposition, options are going to be limited.
Description
Oscar Jane has fallen and nobody is initially sure whose job is what. Shotofwine ensures that he is in camera. Port Lairge presents horrible headgear and Beautiful People gets very pink

Race 2: Extra Place Races At 188bet Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Ocean Jive     2: Jodies Jem     3: Triggitas

Winner owned: WA Harrison-Allen, trained: Charlie Mann, ridden: Harry Bannister

This was a little bit of an upset, as Jodies Jem, having been supported from slightly odds-on to much more odds-on, got himself turned over by a hurdles newcomer. The jolly came through to lead at the second last, heading the disappointing Archangel Raphael, but he was not cruising imperiously to glory and by the time the final hurdle arrived, Ocean Jive was left only to start planning his victory jig. If Jodies Jem ran more or less to form, and there is only one reason to suppose that he did not, then this is a race to possibly produce a handicap winner or two. That “one reason” is Triggitas, who far exceeded past performances, and did so on the back of a near two year absence. So that is not absolute proof that this was all a mighty shambles, but it gives us reason to ask questions that are as yet unanswerable. Buddhists love all this guff.

+   Ocean Jive (1st): Won a two year olds maiden in 2015 but did nothing of note after. The switch to hurdles and/or move to Charlie Man and/or ten month break worked well for him, and having a flat rating of 84 even after the decline shows that there is raw ability to getting working with and maybe the tide has turned back his way.

+   Triggitas (3rd): Having his first run since July 2015, where he burst a blood vessel, he was fairly fit, but thoroughly sweaty an’orrible in the paddock, and looked a prime candidate for an ineffective return (not that he was at all effective before the long absence). To see him then lose by only a couple of lengths was quite amazing. Given the state he worked himself into, Triggitas is definitely one to fear the bounce factor on for complacency in his next race, but after that he becomes interesting.

+   Sam's A Diamond (6th): Totally failed in two bumpers due to pulling too hard, but settled better and did more impressive work on hurdles debut. This was back to square one, leading until abruptly running out of puff, but he looks like a proper chaser to be, so is one to track for when the brain works properly.

  Archangel Raphael (4th): His flat rating has slumped from 100 to 73 (dipped below the first two finishers now) and his hurdling efforts so far have disappointed. It has been possible to blame, in order of the runs, inexperience jumping stuff, a longer 2m 1.5f race and then soft ground. This distance and going ought to have been a good balance for him now, but again the finish was an unholy flop.
Description
Ocean Jive is not all that rushed off his feet when the race ends. Triggitas dominates the placed horses photo zone

Race 3: Live Casino At 188bet Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Osgood     2: Fidelity     3: Petrucci

Winner owned & trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jason Nuttall

For some time now the verdict on Osgood has been that he is extremely well handicapped, if only he could be bothered to use what has been given to him. Today he did, but it might turn out to be a one-off cameo appearance of commitment and skill. If you are connected to Fidelity or Petrucci, or Wot A Shot in fourth, you are hoping for future prospects that this was the old style Osgood in play, and with Fidelity also may be tempted to ask why Fate picked on you to revive Osgood here and now. That is not because Wyrd bith ful araed, but because Fidelity bith ful “stayed on at one pace.” Habitually.

+   Water Willow (9th): Finished second to Too Many Diamonds in the first of that horse’s four wins in a week. Not a close second at all, but in the circumstances what else could she do? Next time out she fell, and a major market drift suggested that redemption was not on the cards today. She went round safely just off of the leaders and then dropped to the rear late on. Confidence restored? It is possible that she turns out to be never good enough, but take her more seriously in the next couple of races, especially if each-way is a viable option.

x   Fidelity (2nd): Whilst he has undoubtedly found a slightly raised performance level lately, he continues to not have any sort of difference making turn of foot, whatever the distance. He may find a combination to pleasantly surprise at some point, but there is a big risk of expensive defeats en route.

  Petrucci (3rd): Looks a lot like Fidelity for now. In novice hurdles he lost in style of a horse that would find a low grade niche at some point, but his last two runs have the smell of really good opportunities that he can ill afford to let pass him by. And after losing them by relatively minor margins, no fancy prices will be around in the short term.

Race 4: 188bet Handicap Chase [2m]

1: Deauville Dancer     2: Jackthejourneyman     3: Vodka Wells

Winner owned: Favourites Racing (Syndication) Ltd 10, trained: David Dennis, ridden: Noel Fehily

A comfortable success for Deauville Dancer in only his second spin over fences. Jackthejourneyman ensured a decent pace and by the time that the four remaining runners were passing the third last hurdle (where no equivalent fence exists, conspiracy theorists note) only the first two had any realistic chance of victory. Deauville Dancer picked off the Jackthejourneyman at will, and we are in a similar situation in assessing the race as with the novice hurdle. At face value an excellent winning performance, from a horse who may have won a two mile hurdle but performed to a higher level when close up in defeat in two and a half mile handicaps. For that chase debut, it was possible soft ground made a bigger deal of his stamina, but today he beat Jackthejourneyman on that horse’s favourite track – previously two out of two over the distance in chases, and a very solid third over hurdles last week. His only Huntingdon failure was when getting handicap in novice hurdles. However (and there had to be one), the runner-up had first time blinkers on, which may not have suited, and was running after only a six day break. Up until now, connections had never attempted such a quick turnaround, and a bad run on a two week gap in 2014 was not an experiment that had been repeated.

+ +   Deauville Dancer (1st): Adopting a slightly woolly middle ground interpretation, the chase career so far is seen as very positive, but once in tougher company (likely to be next time after such an easy win) he will want to be racing over further than two miles.

+   Jackthejourneyman (2nd): Is not a horse who likes us to be able to predict what he will do, hence connections regular chopping and changing of headgear to keep him on the mental backfoot. However, he clearly likes Huntingdon two milers and should be considered important in them, until he changes his mind.

x   Vodka Wells (3rd): Is as much a fan of Hexham as the runner-up is of this track, and breaking a long losing spell last time did not inspire him to raise his game here. He once had a near miss at Ludlow, but it is now looking as if he needs very stiff courses, which are not ten-a-penny in summer and autumn.

x x   Kitchapoly (4th): The pre-race summary was “beaten favourite in four of last five, weak finisher.” Now he is a beaten favourite in five of his last six, but after a regressive run in a first time tongue tie (which was retained today) it was sheer lunacy that he was a shorter price than the first three finishers. It is probably a case of cannot finish the job rather than will not finish it, but he is absolutely one to avoid – he even managed to get turned over in a three horse race recently.
Description
Deauville Dancer has perfected being blase as well

Race 5: Follow Us On Twitter At 188bet Novices Handicap Chase [2m 7.5f]

1: Charlie Mon     2: Copperfacejack     3: Dragon De La Tour

Winner owned: Royston Morgan Evans, trained: Mike Hammond, ridden: Charlie Hammond

Three of the seven runners were new to chasing, but the best that they managed between them was third place. Charlie Mon made all of the running (or at worst was less than six inches out of the lead), then looked very vulnerable to Dragon De La Tour turning for home, only to go on again between the last two fences to get top reward for hard work. He had contested eleven chases before this, finishing second or third in six of them, with the only concern being that the worst of those placed efforts at been on this track. Whether it was the good ground with a fresh spot of rain or the presence of someone disguised as the Gruffalo, today was much more to Charlie Mon’s style. Dragon De La Tour ran like a non-stayer, although a dismal jumping display on the first lap wasted lots of energy, so we should hold fire on dismissing his stamina totally. As for Copperfacejack, he was another mystery favourite. Before a flop last time, he had been runner-up six times in a row, and normal service was resumed, looking well beaten three out and then plodding on for some prize money in a very unthreatening manner. Paddock pick was Belmont Park, previously well beaten by a 136 rated hurdler but safely completing in a two mile beginners’ chase and close to nicking second. He stuck with the leaders for a long way and then stopped quickly after the third fence from home. His stamina was unproven for a race this long, but the way he in which he weakened looked more as if something was amiss.

+   Dragon De La Tour (3rd): Jumped like a brick on the first circuit, and was looking like a complete dud for the day. Somehow he gradually worked it out and came through as a possible winner turning for home. At which point he ran out of puff and could not even finish second. It is likeable that he seemed to sort out his skills as the race went on, but the second plus is not given as Dragon De La Tour showed some wayward tendencies under pressure as a hurdler, and he needs to prove that he has got those out of his system as well.

x   Ultimate Dream (PU): Gained his two modest level hurdle wins in staying races at Towcester and Exeter, so there was every chance that he would be unsuited by such a mediocre stamina test. What we looked for was a future reference on how well he jumped the fences on his first look at them. The answer proved to be “very poorly.”

x x   Copperfacejack (2nd): His previous half a dozen second places came over distances between 2m 4f and 3m 1.5f, and three of them had been at Huntingdon, so he does show some versatility in the days when he is at his most annoying. Apart from the Placepot, which he stoically saved for UK-Jumping when the heat was really on, he cannot be trusted with an investment that involves winning races.

Race 6: Champions League Betting At 188bet Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Captainofindustry     2: Knight’s Parade     3: Marienstar

Winner owned: Malcolm Denmark, trained: Mark Pitman, ridden: Noel Fehily

A tricky four horse race. The commentator, in the preview before racing, made Monderon his nap of the day. This was wise in the sense that everything sat perfectly for Monderon as far as the conditions went, and foolish in that such things have happened before and still he has only one win from twenty-one races, which came the first time that he raced in a hood. It was impossible not to think that there was better nap material on the card, most of which lost as well, but far less pathetically. The Monderon story was to set a very sedate pace and then be easily dismissed by the other three as they got to the hurdle on the far bend. The sprint for home went in favour of the horse that headed the betting, Captainofindustry, who was running short of his best distance and thus found the slowly run race a nuisance. He was unable to completely frighten away the chasers, but sticking on gamely was just about sufficient. Knight’s Parade repeated his good course and distance run of last week, edging out Marienstar from second. The third was an odd contender. On British debut she won a really dodgy mares only novices selling hurdle, doing so very easily and being sold at the auction afterwards. She ran here for her new yard with a seven pound penalty on top of her pre-seller handicap mark, but the lack of credible opposition in her win did suggest that she might not need to have rushed to reappear, if the handicapper is in common sense mode. Did the race come to soon or is she just a bit difficult to deal with?

  Knight’s Parade (2nd): This was his second really good result over course and distance in six days, but despite performing best at two and a half miles, he does not show the zippiness that can turn places into victories.

x x   Monderon (4th): Wore cheekpieces and a tongue tie in combination for the first time today, and for all the good it did he may as well have had a Stetson and an armadillo skin waistcoat.

Race 7: Ticket Giveaways At 188bet Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Potterman     2: Raising The Bar     3: By The Fireside

Winner owned: James And Jean Potter, trained: Alan King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

At face value this was a fairly ordinary six runner bumper. Half of the field were debuting, but the fiscal support was for Raise The Bar (unplaced in both runs, but a few ahead of him had won and placed since) and Iron In The Soul. The latter was too inexperienced to do himself justice, but Raise The Bar is a good yardstick for Potterman’s winning first look at a horse race. And it augurs well for Potterman, as he brushed the yardstick aside, like a stick with a broom head attached. Or some other sage analogy.

+   Potterman (1st): Seemed fit but a bit weak and with filling out to do when seen in the paddock – and it was once he had appeared that the money started to come for the runner-up. So as visually encouraging as this wide margin success was, the real positive is that he ought to be able to improve on it.
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