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Larkhill, 1/12/19

Hursley Hambledon

The last two occasions that this meeting was attended saw the course in bizarrely mild weather for December, considering the way in which it tries to be an icy wind magnet when racing is on. Today it was not that warm, but perfectly possible to pile on the layers to permit our endurance. And because the opening race was not divided, the 11.30am start did not produce the organisational comedy noted in the past. But where is the fun in that? Despite the lack of divided races, runners came in their hordes, which causes issues for someone trying to operate binoculars, make notes on a racecard and not miss any bit of the race, so what follows could turn out to be nonsense. Or at least a different type of nonsense to the usual. Pointing bookie Mike Smith operated a tipping competition on the Jumping For Fun forum to cover this meeting – one horse per race ahead of the event. UK-Jumping managed to select in race one the sole entry out of eleven that did not take part. He ran in the last, whereas the selection for that race opted for the first. What an omen for the day…

Going: Good

Race 1: Tattersalls Cheltenham Maiden, 4 & 5 year olds, 2m 4f

1: Pass Rusher     2: Butter Hill Boris     3: Sansgini

Winner owned: Mr & Mrs C Poste, trained: Francesca Nimmo, ridden: James King

Representing a successful yard on seasonal debut and looking like a perfectly adequate specimen of racehorse in tip top nick when circling the paddock, Pass Rusher may seem like the 20/1 shot that got away. However, his form of last season was not exciting (included a ran out) and lack of market interest was a warning. However, with the morning sun going strong, he was far from alone in looking nice and yet not having done much in the way of performance before now. The race was par for a Larkhill maiden – a fair few lead changes, a few departures (very green newcomer Mental Micky only got as far as the second, the clue perhaps being in the name). Pass Rusher stalked his way through the upheavals nicely, identifying himself as a threat four out and going on well from there. Butter Hill Boris lost his position in the dip but rallied from it and seemed destined for second when his challenger, Steel Yard, fell at the final fence, possibly influencing the unseat of early leader O’Faolains Lad. There was a wide gap back to Sansgini, who had gone to the front at fence ten but not seen out even the 2m 4f here.
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Sunny winter morning. The high headed Butter Hill Boris has a tony lead from Clondaw Tonic (3) but coud be just behind O'Faolains Lad, who has dipped his head to help the picture. The next rank is Sansgini (9) moving through ready to lead in six more fences time and Brandy James, sandwiching She's A Legend. Steel Yard and Giovanni Acuto are next. Given that Mental Micky had already fallen, the solitary absentee being Pass Rusher is a mystery.

Race 2: Allison Family Ladies Open

1: Southfield Theatre     2: Ravished     3: Stage One

Winner owned: Southfield Racing Partnership, trained: Sara Bradstock, trained: Lily Bradstock

At this meeting last year Southfield Theatre turned up and won this race despite looking a little bit broader about the beam than would be noted as ripe fitness. Not all of us are in a position to criticise that, but we are entitled to note it. There were only seven runners last year, so when he did the same again, and in complete defiance of the advice of The Who, we got fooled again on the basis of there being nine runners for 2018 and more strength in depth. Southfield Theatre made all of the running too, so if anyone was going to exploit a weakness, he put himself in the firing line for them. The obvious pick was Ravished, who had marmalised Mercers Court on his seasonal debut, in a good time and with no obvious reasons to carp the form. Ravishing carp is probably illegal and best avoided. The one thing that possibly made the difference is that keeping up the gallop around Larkhill is not a comparable challenge to hurtling through Cottenham, braking for the final hairpin bend and then quickening again – if not already miles clear. The run-in was a furlong too much for Ravished. Stage One had not been at his best under Rules back in August, so third place under an inexperienced rider counts as a respectable act. Fourth went to Latenightpass, who started last season as a maiden and did not always find the races he won to be the greatest tests around, only to fox us all with a Cheltenham hunter chase success. Outside of that very fine evening, there is a bit to prove as an Open horse. With last season missed completely, Palmaria was a bit too excited about this day out to be a factor but he used to be capable of Open and hunter chase success, so watch for a calmer Palmaria soon.

Race 3: Moore Blatch Mens Open

1: Earth Leader     2: Big Casino     3: Call Me Vic

Winner owned: RM Penny, trained: Rose Loxton, ridden: Angus Cheleda

Fourteen took part and the quality of runner was very good, so it was a race that needed a very decent effort to win it. Earth Leader was just the man for the job and appeared to have pounced with perfect timing approaching the last. However! Big Casino and Call Me Vic kept niggling away at him to put a brake on the margin and Earth Leader was dismounted on pulling up, although he was fine to walk back to the winners’ enclosure. The margins were about two lengths and one length by the time that the winning line was reached. In his two seasons pointing, the sweaty giant Big Casino has only managed a couple of runs each time, so hopefully this promising comeback is the precursor to a busier time. Then again, his fourteenth birthday is approaching so he may deem that two races per year is sufficient, and an aid to extending his contribution. Call Me Vic has now contested five points and gone 32113, so there is no reason for him not remain competitive in Opens, and for those who back him, following a rider attired all in very hi-vis yellow is very convenient. Let’s Get At It lived up to his name, going to post very slowly only to be unleashed like a bolt once the race got going. Unfortunately he did not see out the trip as a result but got closer to doing so than would have been predicted with a lap to go. Under Rules he stayed beyond three miles, so once his brain training is sorted, much better is feasible, and he is still a youngster in pointing terms. Ballynagour made a bid for glory in the dip and got himself ten lengths clear by fence fourteen. However, since finishing eleventh in the 2017 Grand National he had only raced twice and finished neither. The hat trick of non-completions was sealed when he fell three out, but at that stage he had come to the end of his tether anyway and the placed horses were reeling him in quickly.
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Earth Leader comes home this much ahead of Big Casino and Call Me Vic.

Race 4: Penson Events Restricted

1: Miss Seagreen     2: Magna Sam

Winner owned: CJ Bennett, trained & ridden: Sam Jukes

The smallest field of the day, with only six in it, but the winning owner will not care as this was his 100th pointing winner. Assessing it by the average person’s rate of progress, he must be about 220 years old and should be in the Guinness Book Of Records. Miss Seagreen was previously only one win from six points, but second or third in all the others, with her success coming first time out in 2018. With this one in the bag, not avoiding a scare from the persistent Magna Sam, we can all look forward to the treble of seasonal bow victories in 2020. At the second last it appeared that Magna Sam had poached enough of a lead, but he was not so first time out resilient as Miss Seagreen.
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Delight all round in the world of Miss Seagreen

Race 5: Botley Commercial And Spraytek Conditions

1: Salvatore     2: Coco Live     3: Three Faces West

Winner owned: D Cope, Mr & Mrs Cope, L Hartley, S Sharratt & C Millard, trained: Philip Rowley, ridden: Alex Edwards

Oh how we were teased with race division here, the declared runners being right on the safety limit of twenty. Despite lack of years, Salvatore has a fine pointing strike rate, got placed at the Cheltenham Hunter Chase night last spring, and would not have been out of place in the Opens here, so he was predictably favourite. However, such was the depth to the race, that he started 9/4, and at one stage the next chunk of the betting had eight horses priced between 5/1 and 7/1. It was just like an Irish maiden, except without even money joint favourites. The observation on Salavtore’s win was: joined leader five out, ridden and lost a couple of lengths three out, joined leader again last, stayed on dourly. By inference that makes for a good display by Coco Live, a winner four times last season, who just ran out of puff in the last hundred metres or so. His course record now reads an impressive 21112. The field had got very strung out as they made their way through the dip at the end of the course, and whilst Three Faces West was not close, this was his first finish of any sort for two years, so is something that he can take heart from – assuming that a horse verging on his twelfth birthday still gives a hoot about such things. In a similar vein, fourth placed Robin De Boss has developed a trend for winning or not finishing – this result may be a bit bewildering. Ditto Waterloo Warrior who was unbeaten in points before this but not against too many opponents. It was only three races but in general that is enough for a horse to get smug and complacent.

Race 6: Equestrian Fencing And Timber Services Open Maiden

1: Raised With Praise     2: On Parole     3: Happy Larry

Winner owned & trained: Luke Harvey, ridden: Darren Edwards

The final scene and sixteen were declared, although one withdrew which made the race so much easier to fathom. Two of them, Foxy Charlie and On The QT started so slowly that they barely counted as participants and in typical maiden style there were plenty who went by the wayside for a variety of reasons. Mostly pulled up, the odd unseat and Ticklebelly Lane running out when in front at fence seven. The market was headed by a Sophie Lacey trained newcomer, Harold’s Arrow, but that was a poke in the eye with a sharp stick for people who followed the clue as he set out towards the back, made no progress and then knocked it on the head three out. On paddock looks, Raised With Praise was a strong candidate too, and he had the bonus of having shown a modicum of life in his Irish races. On Parole gave him a proper race and took a narrow lead with a superior jump at the final fence but ended up with the unfortunate stat of having been runner-up in his last three races. Happy Larry stayed on really well to be nearest at the finish and will probably be suited by more aggressive tactics, as even by pointing maiden standards, pace is not the most terrifying of the weapons that he brings with him. They were quite a long way clear of Artson, who had not raced since finishing a distance third in the 2m 4f maiden on this card in 2018.
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