Leicester, 3/12/20

It would have been a nice day out at Leicester because it was less cold than threatened. It was a lot wetter too and that struck a blow against the UK-Jumping Empire that was neither deserved nor easily dismissed. The social distancing rules were enforced politely but from a pedant's perspective, there was one point that could not be overlooked. The seats in the stand had been almost totally shut off, but the horizontal gaps between them were measured at 3.5 metres. Vertically up the rows it seemed to be a one seat allowed per column rule, meaning diagonal spaces of about ten metres. It is expected that they ought to have been measured by someone who knows how far a metre is. By way of comparison, the television pictures of the Arsenal game with a limited crowd spaced with three seat gaps horizontally and one seat vertically means that were Arsenal could fit in six spectators, Leicester would get one, if you were lucky. Who said maths is not important?

Going: Chase - Good to Soft, Heavy places (deteriorated to Soft, Heavy places but not changed until the first chase had been run). Hurdle - Soft (deteriorated to Heavy before the start, but not officially changed that early).

Race 1: Join Racing TV Now Conditional Jockeys' Selling Hurdle (2m 4.5f)

1: Perfect Man     2: Niblawi     3: Wicked Willy

Winner owned: Holloway, Clarke, Black, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Callum McKinnes

In alignment with the way the weather had affected the going, this race got ragged very quickly and only concerned two horses from the turn into the straight. With three miler Perfect Man having not set a fierce pace, Niblawi was humming along on the leader's heels. On two or three occasions up the hill Perfect Man was asked to step up the effort. Each time he responded and each time it just edged Niblawi out of his comfort zone. The race looked like it was in the balance until halfway up the run-in although Perfect Man never shaped as if he would fail to hold on. Perfect Man was sold for £8,500 post-race, which is not bad for a 134-rated performer with two wins at class 3 level this year but he is a small horse who failed on chase debut, so options for him will be limited.

+  Perfect Man (1st): Sellers for stayers are in despertely short supply for some reason, but he could clean up in them given the opportunity.

+  Niblawi (2nd): Showed again that whatever the problems were that have made him a rare visitor to the racecourse, they have not eliminated his ability. He was u nlucky to run into a opponent whose talents are above the usual for a seller.

x   Mr Caffrey (4th): Surprisingly well supported for a horse that excels on good ground, he was one of the first beaten.
Sakhee's City (5th): He was not revived by a drop to selling class, although this was much better than the average race of the level. 
Poor weather and availability of places to stand made getting decent action pictures impossible, but this does at least put Perfect Man's lack of size in comparison on Niblawi into a blurry perspective.

Race 2: Watch On Racing TV Novices' Hurdle (1m 7.5f)

1: One True King     2: Elysian Flame     3: Mr Grey Sky

Winner owned: Teme Valley 2, trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

From a bigger field, this also disintegrated into a two horse race with three hurdles still to jump, but a factor this time is that One True King may turn out to be a street ahead of the oppo in natural talent. Second favourite Mr Grey Sky kept tabs on him for most of the race, then turned for home and saw the hill confronting him, causing an instant wilting under the pressure. Elysian Flame stayed on gamely and threatened to be a bit of a nuisance until the final hurdle. One True King was neither impressed nor worried. A note of sympathy for Bran, who fell for the second time. Based on a ninth, the first fall and two pulled ups, the handicapper had extracted a WTF moment and rated him 117. A bit of luck and sympathy is due. Realism too.

+ +  One True King (1st): Finished tenth in the Champion Bumper, won his second hurdle, at Uttoxeter, and then was runner-up in two handicaps at Cheltenham with seventeen runners apiece. This was just the dotting the Ts and crossing the Is for him.

Race 3: Downlaod The tote App Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 6.5f]

1: Agent Valdez     2: Lord Sparky

Winner owned: The Fob Racing Partnership 6,     trained: Fergal O'Brien,     ridden: Paddy Brennan

As they approached the third last, an open ditch, only four of the original thirteen were still going. Agent Valdez was in front, nudged along but seemingly yet to get into any cause for major concern. Lord Sparky was second, urged along with much more vigour and not obviousy responding. Third lay with Glorious Boru, operating rather as per Agent Valdez. Alongside him was Mill Race King, also sending out signs that he was working hard just to stay there. At the looming fence Glorious Boru got in too close and flipped his rider over his head, with chase debutant Mill Race King falling independently. Although can we truly be certain that neither distracted or intimidated the other? As expected, all that Lord Sparky could do was prioritise getting round, leaving a wide margin win for Agent Valdez in her second chase.

Lord Sparky (2nd): Two fourths and a second in his last three chases might lead to the notion that he is closing in on a success over fences. The margins of 17, 24 and 28 lengths undermine the theory.

x  De Barley Basket (PU): After winning two of his three chases this autumn he went off at a short price, even after a drift in the betting. Earlier attempts in the mud were in novice hurdling and were only moderately encouraging. Based on this show, he is one to avoid on soft or heavy.

Race 4: Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap Hurdle (2m 4.5f)

1: Corrie Lindo     2: A Distant Place     3: Known

Winner owned: Crowd Racing, R Christison - Corri Lindo, trained: Henry Oliver, ridden: Jeremiah McGrath

At the fourth try there was a race that did not involve the first two crossing the line with half of the width of the county back to the rest. Had Gortroe Joe not fallen at the last, it could have been a very tight three-way finish. Instead it was left to Corri Lindo and A Distant Place to slug it out, split by the width of the course. Known plodded on for third, ten lengths behind the big two. With the conditions and time-based distances, ten lengths equates to about three and a half metres, which is two metres by local measurement conventions. Corrie Lindo had not won in the mud before, indeed his keeping success to a minimum meant that there are lots of conditions absent from his role of honour, but he did once lose narrowly on heavy at Fairyhouse, so he was worthy of consideration. In contrast A Distant Place was unproven on galloping courses and at two and a half miles, plus only had runs on good to soft, so he at least showed us something new in only his third Rules appearance.

+  A Distant Place (2nd): Had an experience disadvantage as well as unknowns listed above. He ran very well in the circumstances.

x  Known (3rd): Another run with an aura of underschievement, although we may hve been guilty of excess early expectation. He might try and use the ground as an excuse but the other run on heavy was a third to Shishkin, albeit not a close one.

x  Aliandy (5th): Took an absurdly fierce hold and completely ruined his own chance. He does have a hurdle win but has given problems at the start too and is his own worst enemy. Which makes him our worst enemy too. Some day this war is gonna end... Not soon?

Race 5: Racecourse Live Streams On RcingTV Extra Mares' Maiden Hurdle (2m 4.5f)

1: Found On     2: Hunny Moon     3: Boro Babe

Winner owned: Oliver Ryan, trained: Martin Keighley, ridden: James Best

Back to the norm, with Found On and Hunny Moon achieving complete dominance by the time that they turned for him. For people whose dire attention span means that nostalgia kicks in after two hours, it brought back fond memories of the first race, with hurdles newcomer (but ground proven) Hunny Moon chipping away honestly all the way up the hill without Found On ever showing a hint that she was going to run up the white flag. Boro Babe took third despite soome sort of tack problem meaning that she could not be given an all out ride on the run-in. It did not cost her anything but needs to be born in mind as it could lead us to understimate how much that the longer race seemed to be a plus.

+ Found On (1st): Ran well on hurdles debut in October at Cheltenham only to fall late on. After that she lost by six lengths and made another step forward here, to complete a traditional Irish pointing record of F31. In that prep job she had avoided the incompletion and just got results of 51.

Uptown Lady (4th): In two word summary - not off. Her rider recited 'War And Peace' by way of excuses, but his note that she had disappointed before today holds water. Better is anticipated but the possibility that she is not up to the job remains under consideration.
Just something with Found On and Hunny Moon to show that the pic for race 1 was not just an oddity of angles.

Race 6: Handicap Chase (2m)

1: Go As You Please     2: Khairagash     3: Torrent Des Mottes

Winner owned: JP McManus, trained: Paul Webber, ridden: Richie McLernon

This was the best finish so far, although Go As You Please tried for it not to be when he went for home before the second last. From there Torrent Des Mottes was nibbling away at the lead slowly. After the final fence it did begin to look as if he might get there as Go As You Please was tying up/idling in front - delete as seen fit. Then a much greater threat emerged in the shape of Khairagash haring up the opposite rail. Despite wearing cheekpieces, Go As You Please just caught enough of what was going on to put in one last big effort and seal the win. Khairagash was left to ponder on what would have happened if he had knuckled down earlier, and thus been nearer the front and not got hampered when favourite Beet Topper jumped left at the final fence. At that stage Relkadam was in second but he lost two places on the run-in.

+  Khairagash (2nd): PPreviously ineffective in the mud and a winner on good, he may have found a way to be functional in bad conditions. Now he has to find the key to doing it for more of the race than the last two hundred metres.

x  Relkadam (4th): He has been better in Britain than he was in France but is the anti-today's-Khairagash, always coming up short in the final furlong.

x  Beet Topper (5th): A bit of improvement on debut for Fergal O'Brien was hardly a moment of inspiration and his status as favourite seemed to be the result of nobody having a better idea.

Empire - Pete's Choice (PU): One thing that we had already learned for sure is that he hates heavy ground aesthetically. At the declaration time it was officially good. He got heavy going. Outcome unsurprising.

Race 7: Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Mares' Handicap Hurdle (1m 7.5f)

1: Infiniti     2: Dylan's Sea Song     3: Born To Please

Winner owned: Mrs Susan Ashford and Partner, trained: Barry Leavy, ridden: Liam Harrison

Another eventful race that culminated in a competitive finish. The first incident was the saddle slipping on Telekinetic, who took the opportunity with the absence of steering to run past the hurdles but steadfastly refused to actually pull up and fot in with the field around the home turn. Once she was accounted for, joint favourite Jedhi concluded that she really needed to pull very hard and minimise her own probability of winning. In the bad weather and late afternoon poor visibility, her pink colours were easily confused with the other joint favourite, Dylan's Sea Song. So that latest sentence might be completely untrue. After all this Queen Among Kings made a brave bid to go for home from the middle of the back straight. Climbing the hill, more and more of the pursuit came off of the bridle and a success looked possible. Instead she was joined at the final flight, having not been the slickest at it, and lost three places on the run-in. Infiniti had been one of the most patiently ridden and finally landed a hurdle win at the eighteenth attempt. Inifiniti was just too quick (relatively) for Dylan's Sea Song and Born To Please, but she was getting twenty-six and twenty-five pounds from them after rider claims.

Dylan's Sea Song (2nd): Beat Infiniti by two and a half lengths in their mid-November encounter and although he could not repeat the dose, more success is possible.

x  Jedhi (PU): This was her handicap debut and after finishing in midfield three times as against fellow novices, it was not unreasonable to think she could make a bigger impact at this level. She disagreed.
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