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Huntingdon, 28/5/18

What a lovely day to go racing at Huntingdon. Or it would have been had Thameslink, a sister rail within Govia company to the inept Southern, not cut off that part of the country from all rail services. Apparently, having spent months bleating away at stations and on line about the timetable changes on 20th May, they ignored any necessity to employ enough drivers to cope with the trains they had scheduled. It seems that in this country it takes a special degree of raging stupidity to get a rail franchise. On a similar note, this week was the fifteenth annual Richard Branson "I'll be in space in months" PR campaign fueled by sycophantic journalists. Notice also that when the East Coast Mainline franchise was taken away, Virgin stopped referring to it as a Virgin service and kept referring to Stagecoach as the operators. The media did not call them out on that one either... Perhaps we could fire Branson into space, with a few other rail franchisees, and then cancel the return trip.

Going: Good

Race 1: French Open Tennis Betting At 188Bet Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Sweet'N'Chic     2: Fifty Shades     3: Sheelbewhatsheelbe

Winner owned & trained: Richard Rowe, ridden: Richard Patrick

Quite an epic way to start the meeting, with Sweet'N'Chic getting home by a nose from Fifty Shades. There was a sense that we should have al shouted Halleluljah when the photo verdict was announced as this is an outcome that Sweet'N'Chic has been threatening for some time now. What she was able to do, unlike her succession of past defeats, was get in front three out, which meant plodding on with her proven stamina posed a challenge to everyone else. At some point around the second last it looked as if Sweet'N'Chic would go away from Fifty Shades, but he saw out the longer race well and ate into the advantage just that fractionally too slowly. For people who contributed to winless Sweet'N'Chic starting favourite it must have been agonising stuff. The rest of us just had a good chuckle at the grinder that they had put themselves through. Sheelbewhatsheelbe had one of her better days, but she is not proven at the distance and could not quicken against some rivals coming home rather slowly. Not staying may be an exaggeration, "better at shorter" sums it up more tidily.

+ +   Ilewindelilah (4th): On limited evidence she is not a horse to be with first time back from a break, but she ran a cracker until fading approaching the final hurdle. She is able to go onwards from this.

  Ruaraidh Hugh (5th): Since coming back from an enforced absence this was the first time that he has had suitable ground. Everything else about the race was also a good fit, but he only found it helping it a little bit.

x  Some Finish (6th): Wins every so often as a chaser, but he is yet to achieve anything over hurdles. No change there.

Race 2: Daily Racing Specials At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Humphrey Bogart     2: Jumping Jack     3: Maifalki

Winner owned: Chelsea Thoroughbreds - Maltese Falcon, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville

This race had Jumping Jack in it, so something mad was bound to happen. This time it started in the betting. Humphrey Bogart, fifth in the 2016 Derby, was a betting drifter at the hands of 74 rated flat horse The Twisler and 55 rated flat horse Competition. He had flopped in his only hurdle, but that was a Grade 2 race, and the angels against him now had dirtier faces. Then the lunacy that Jumping Jack brings was spread amongst the other runners, as if he was some sort of munificent horse messiah. But we know that he is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. At the start they lined up in single file, asking for trouble, and refused to budge when the starter let them go. Eventually Competition set off, jumping badly, and despite plenty of warning, Romanor missed the break and was left at least twenty lengths. Competition nearly fell at the second, fluffed the fourth, thumped the third last and then ground to a halt. The Twisler managed never to get into the race, and Humphrey Bogart cruised along to win, condemning Jumping Jack to yet another second place. Bogie finished lame, possibly from a mistake two out, so it may be that he goes back to flat racing, as he does not have the chunky build of a jumper. Maifalki ran well for a long time, but ran out of steam in the last furlong and a half.

x   Jumping Jack (2nd): Behaved himself as much as ever and was second. Again.

x x   Competition (PU): An interesting contender because after finishing a much improved second to a Richard Newland hotpot, he joined Richard Newland and had a wind op. On the evidence of this return, the wind was a secondary problem to complete bewilderment. Be careful of excess hope when predicting what he may do.

Race 3: Best Odds Guaranteed At 188Bet Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Stuccodor     2: Gin And Tonic     3: Anton Dolin

Winner owned: Mrs Jennifer Marsh, trained: Conor Dore, ridden: Paddy Brennan

This was a classic 0-100 non-temptation, with a dozen runners from whom it was barely possible to find one or two that could confidently be put in the Placepot. The possible exception was Stuccodor, but the penalty for a recent course and distance win left him lugging around 12 stone 5 pounds, which could be a bit wearing in this sort of heat. To his eternal credit he got stuck into the job with relish, beating recent Plumpton winner Gin And Tonic. They were chased home by Anton Dolin and Pension Madness. This quartet left the others miles behind. Maybe that reaffirms it as a typical class 5 two mile hurdle. At least people brave enough to bet on the this had a chance of picking out the first two, and anyone who went elsewhere was being too innovative.

+   Bridey's Lettuce (PU): Apart from Senor El Betrutti, naming horses after sedentary vegetables tends not to pay off, and his form so far is backing that up. However, his yard is badly out of form (according to the Racing Post, at present forty-five winless runs does not constitute being on the cold list) and he is a big chasing type, so it is not impossible that fences bring out his best eventually. He should be in handicaps from a very low mark to start.

x   Anton Dolin (3rd): From another stable out of form - getting on for a hundred losses, yet again somehow not on the cold list - this was his best run for a while. However, despite six victories, he has become a very difficult horse to win with, only successful once from his last sixty races. Therefore even in the bottom level do not expect another step forward to glory.

Race 4: 188Bet Mobile Bet10 Get20 Handicap Chase [2m 0.5f]

1: Pearls Legend     2: All Is Good     3: Un Beau Roman

Winner owned: The Corsairs, trained: John Spearing, ridden: Nico de Boinville

This was a good race for a mere 0-120 with six runners. An optimist could easily give all of them a fair chance and the greatest cynic would struggle for a shortlist of less than four. Ink Master tore off in front, but predictably could not sustain his twenty lengths lead and at the eighth All Is Good passed him. At that stage Pearls Legend was struggling to close down All Is Good, but before the second last all was not so good for the leader and in the end Pearls Legend came home by over twenty lengths. He has looked as if age has been catching up with him, but the handicapper had given Pearls Legend a chance and landed win number seven of his career. All Is Good had won his last race, but the way that the race panned out had a bit of a bad vibe and his limitations were exposed here.

+   Un Beau Roman (3rd): Since his last win it has been mostly gloom and doom, but not totally, and he came here in ideal conditions and well handicapped. A laboured and well beaten third was a very poor show given good stable form, but it does still seem possible that he snaps out of the losing run at any time.

x   Walden Prince (PU): October 2015 was the last time that he won and whilst near misses have come at regular intervals - sometimes very near - he often has days like this when he is totally disinterested. He was perilously close to a second x, but days like his last run and 24th September last year still gain him a smidgeon of credit. He seems keen to throw it back into our faces.
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There is a strong amateur paparazzi now gathers as the finishers walk off to unsaddle. Nico de Boinville respects their intent, but Pearls Legend has been there, done that, eaten the t-shirt.

Race 5: Download The App At 188Bet Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 7.5f]

1: Youngoconnor     2: The Wicket Chicken     3: Samson

Winner owned: All Stars Sports Racing, trained: Christian Willams, ridden: James Bowen

The betting told us that we should be narrowing our search down to three of the six runners, and two of them came first and second, so it was more or less right, although the favourite was not a finisher. After taking well to fences so far the outcom of a fall was not expected for Kings Temptation, but his race involved battering the first and third, then waking up to do the job properly, only to take a tumble when getting the sixteenth totally wrong. Meanwhile Youngoconnor was in the process of flushing The Wicket Chicken out of his hair and build on his chase debut second place. That was the theory but The Wicket Chicken was having none of it and actally got in front on the run-in, only to lose out by a neck. Had she managed to get a length or two up, she could have forced Youngoconnor to switch off of the inside track and that deviation of line probably would have changed the result.

+   Youngoconnor (1st): After some novice hurdle educationals, he has done very solid stuff in two handicap chases and is low enough in the weights to have not stopped yet. The same was said about Kings Temptation after he won here last time, but we shall not be daunted.

+   The Wicket Chicken (2nd): Although the vibe was that she was worried out of it, she also got a bit of a bashing when Kings Temptation fell, and after a good hurdling summer in 2017, she could do the same in chases this year now that she has proven her skills.

UK-Jumping Selections: Bach De Clermont (PU): His attitude had been a touch wobbly in defeat recently, but this was extremely disappointing, as he jumped well in front for a couple of miles and then gave up feebly when headed. The heat is the only possible excuse, but that would only be granted if he had been spotless so far. Off of the list.

Race 6: Bet & Watch At 188Bet.co.uk Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Salix     2: Brave Helios     3: Boughtbeforelunch

Winner owned: Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, trained: Ben Pauling, ridden: Daryl Jacob

Daryl Jacob dusted himself down from being dumped in the dirt by Kings Temptation and had an armchair ride to respond with a winner. The summary of Salix's run was "given plenty to do, won easily" which makes it a bit mysterious how he managed to lose his handicap debut. Towcester, half a mile shorter, good to firm ground was enough of a different experience. His main challenger Boughtbeforelunch did get scuppered by a slipped saddle after clumping through the second last, but the the general sense was that Salix would have won anyway. It did cost Boughtbeforelunch second place as outsider Brave Helios, trundled along happily because he was about to get his thirteenth place in thirty-one jumps races without risk of accidentally winning.

  Echo Express (PU): Won a four horse bumper and ran two very good races in novice company last autumn, but now has three complete flops in handicap company. He stopped quickly here from the third last, and he is worth one last chance if dropping back down to two miles or so. A wind procedure would be a notable course of action.

  Norse Light (9th): Kept his good form all the way through from October until two weeks ago but was right off his game here. Too hot or one race too many? Forgive it when he is allowed a break. Right-handed courses are needed.

x   Brave Helios (2nd): As noted above, he hits the first three alot, but in addition to all of those places, he has only ever managed two wins, both three years back.

Race 7: 188Bet Live Casino Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Westbury     2: Full Bore     3: Go Forrit

Winner owned & trained: Oliver Sherwood, ridden: Thomas Garner

An eventful bumper, with the runners from yards that can put a decent horse in these races. Those that had run had yet to crack the first three, but were typically losing very narrowly and setting a fair standard. The newcomers were tending to be a bit green before the race, notably Belle Bella and Westbury, but did the job properly in the race, at least until required to hit top speed. The complexion of it all changed a lot from the final turn, mostly thanks to Edabean. On debut at Plumpton he had started OK and become completely unsteerable down the hill. Here, with a hood on, he was on fine behaviour, led with half a mile to go and when Westbury pulled alongside late on he veered right and put his rider on the floor. With plenty of intent, it looked like. Westbury also went off to the right, so was he frightened of Edabean's antics, was it vice versa, or truly independent silliness (for which we blame Jumping Jack - see above)? Full Bore did not know how to quicken when he first needed to, but picked it up gradually and finished very strongly.

+   Westbury (1st) & Full Bore (2nd): Both naive on debut, both got good results, oodles of room to improve.

x   Edabean (UR): Not lacking in ability but apparently mad as a brush. Being right by the stand might have influenced his antics this time.
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