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Larkhill, 11/12/16

Hursley Hambledon

Heavy fog throughout the journey to the course threatened one of those comic days when racing unfolded untroubled by any awareness from the crowd of what was going on. Fortunately a breeze way below the infamous levels associated with Salisbury Plain managed to force the fog away less than an hour from the first race. This was a good omen from young debutant commentator Robbie Scott, who would have faced a hopeless task otherwise. As it was, he had a few problems filling the time when the first race had only three runners and zero events of note, but warmed to the task well in later races, which gave him something to actually comment on.

Going: Good

Race 1: Hursley Hambledon Hunters Members

1: Shantou Breeze     2: Tommo     3: Upham Running

Winner owned & trained: Michael Madgwick, ridden: Lance Madgwick

An interesting race in the sense that all three runners appear to be two and a half mile specialists, so there was a real chance of it all falling apart into a mess in the latter stages. What happened was that Tommo went to the front early, not dashing clear, just gradually stretching out to a dozen lengths or more clear at the sixth. Despite the wide advantage, his jumping was a bit shaky, and Shantou Breeze caught him by the thirteenth fence. Lack of forceful stamina meant that until Tommo fluffed the last Shantou Breeze did not put the result to bed - two places better than in 2015. On his debut over fences, Upham Running started off in rear and never got any nearer after the sixth fence. Slow jumps did not help his attempts to try and close.The betting market reflected the view that despite his inexperience, he could not be a less likely winner than the other pair. Apparently he could, by quite a distance.

Race 2: Allison Family Ladies Open

1: Aikideau     2: Grand Gold     3: Trueflyingcolours

Winner owned: Mrs S Barber, Mrs S Longman, Ms F Gaskell, Mrs P James, trained: Jack Barber, ridden: Bryony Frost

A good quality Open race which was won by Aikideau, a horse that has been UK-Jumping approved since finishing second in a Plumpton novice hurdle five years ago. His biggest dangers were Berties Dream, who looked fit but ran fat, the latter being normal for his first race of the season, Grand Gold (not as hard fit as the winner, and pursuing gamely in vain when hitting the last fence) and Carruthers, who is on the downgrade in his teenage years and whose jockey is quite inexperienced compared to those on the other main contenders. Expect business as usual from Grand Gold and Berties Dream after Christmas. Aikideau might have earned a shot at hunter chase company as he is a bit more savvy than when falling in two of his first three chases under Rules. The field split into the mights and the definitely will nots in the dip at the far end of the course, with three time course winner Trueflyingcolours showing a bit of spark to stay involved - he was winless last season, with several similar placed efforts. Conspiracy theorists will attribute this to the (not true) flying saucer that the army have in an underground base on Salisbury Plain, conveniently forgetting that around here, the artillery will have probably blasted it to bits years ago. In order the placate the hype hounds, Vesperal Dream did run, and had a narrow lead when he unseated at the eighth fence.
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Aikideau lobs up the run-in with Grand Gold and Trueflyingcolours just bringing the scenery into play (UFO just out of shot, as they usually are)

Race 3: Moore Blatch Mens Open

1: Real Milan     2: Barel Of Laughs     3: Ceasar Milan

Winner owned: Mr & Mrs Nick Jones, trained: Nick Jones, ridden: Jack Jones

Real Milan was placed in this last year and got it right today. The differences are that his novice rider has learned with experience, including as few rocky moments along the way, and the prospect of having Will Biddick upside on the run-in went away with Lilbitluso falling at the final fence - not the first error of the day. This left Real Milan well clear and he was eased to reduce the winning margin to a dozen lengths. Barel Of Laughs won one point last year and acquitted himself well in a couple of hunter chases. This was not him at his best, but the cheekpieces were missing as well, so he can develop better results when they return. A horrendous handicap mark stalled Ceasar Milan's progress in chases, and this result showed his limitations. He can probably win Opens in softer ground, but is the type who will conjure up a short priced loss or two along the way. In fourth place was Bedrock Fred, winning four of eight here in the past and being placed in the others. He was converted into a summer jumper this year and hated it, pulling up in his last three runs. Back on what he considers to be hallowed turf, he was much livelier and finished fourth.
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Real Milan is overjoyed (in horse terms) with his win

Race 4: Lucinda O'Bryan Tear Restricted

1: Coolharbour Joe     2: Amzac Magic     3: Isthatthetruth

Winner owned: The Mash Club, trained: Peter Hammersley, ridden: Martin McIntyre

A race short of runners to start with got very sparse when Emperor Arcadius unseated at the third (we shall see if this makes him more angry next time, or temporarily satisfies his need to make human beings feel powerless and demoralised) and Bullzeye pulled up lame before fence six. From then on it was a bit cat and mouse between the survivors, but it brought about a situation where the trio jumped the last fence more or less in a line - exposing the weak photographic instincts of this site, having chosen to stand by the fence after the winning post for a picture. From there, the finishing order represents who had the turn of foot, and who did not. Coolharbour Joe's Irish maiden win did not require much genius to achieve, but Amzac Magic's win was a two and a half miler beating a horse that has been a temperamental maiden for a disturbingly long time for a successful yard, and lack of stamina showed when it mattered.
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Isthatthetruth tricks Coolharbour Joe into being a bit low at fence six. Amzac Magic is not buying his shoddy advice.

Race 5: Spraytek Countryside Alliance Club Members

1: Anquetta     2: Porlock Bay     3: Oliver James

Winner owned & trained: Robert Waley-Cohen, ridden: Sam Waley-Cohen

This was a very competitive fifteen runner race, and on that simple assessment Anquetta was a bit of a surprise winner. He used to have bags of ability, winning six races under Rules, but the last couple of years had produced diddley squat. Not only did he flourish for the win, but he really knuckled down to fight off Porlock Bay on the run-in. After the race the horse was handing out Tippex for punters to remove big black marks from their form books. Unfortunately, Tippex is so outdated, the bottles had completely dried up. Porlock Bay finished second in the Restricted here in 2015, and that motivated him to win afterwards, and again on the first day of the current season. Long time leader Gift Of Dgab just got run out of the minor place by Oliver James, as the bulk of the field trundled home in mostly single file. That included serial puller up Same Difference. He was tailed off, but finishing shows that he did appreciate the difference in the amateur game. Captain Probus won three out of four last season but was not popular in the betting - was it due to the one loss being at Larkhill or the absence of the hood? Or just a collective oversight? He pulled up lame after completing about a lap.
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Anquetta is over the last, Porlock Bay continues to go about closing not quite fast enough. Photography students may wish to note that point A is John Beasley's camera. Point B is John Beasley. Who knew that standing hundreds of metres away was the best perspective for judging a shot?

Race 6: Equestrian Fencing Services Open Maiden

1: Titans Approach     2: Orchardstown Cross     3: Gilliamstown

Winner owned: The Chair Partnership, trained: Ben Clarke, ridden: Martin McIntyre

The maidens at this meeting tend to be of good quality, if for no other reason than those horses in need of a bit of time to learn the game have a long season ahead in which to find their personal Philosopher's Stone. With only ten runners instead of a horde that is divided, the depth was a bit lacking and from the prime contenders Bee Crossing fell at the fifteenth when still in serious involvement and Facile Bien unseated at fence three. The leading five of the survivors had a bit of a coming together at the sixth obstacle, although they all seemed to come away unbothered by it. Those departure events seemed to have opened the door to Orchardstown Cross but after the second last it was apparent that Titans Approach was not working to preconceptions of that nature and was also going better than his sole remaining threat. So off he dashed from the final fence. Titans Approach had been pipped on his sole Irish pointing run and then proved to be a frustrating 97-rated hurdler and failed chaser under Rules, which hardly makes the form stand out as exciting. But it does appear to be his first race wearing a tongue tie... The first pair were well clear of Gilliamstown (first race for three years) and Classical Milano (failed to finish both previous races), the only other two that got round.
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