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Les Landes, 13/8/17

This was a first racing trip to Jersey, although those with long memories will recall a brief review of the Guernsey trip a few years back. At least the main Channel Island puts on a hurdle race to begin every card. The course is scenically placed on top of a cliff on the north-west corner of Jersey, the founders presumably trusting that trainers would operate with common sense and not run horses here that had their own innovative ideas about steering or the need for a hybrid sport of horse racing and cliff diving.

The track is about a mile round, and viewing is excellent – binoculars helpful but not at all essential. There is a bit of a dip behind some bushes at the far end of the course, but the field only disappears for a handful of strides. For betting there is a competitive tote set up and a few bookmakers, whose overrounds are not quite what we may expect from UK experience but not as horrific as the average maiden race in an Irish point-to-point. So all in all, a very pleasant afternoon and even with this being Ladies Day, the queues for most refreshments were workable, except when the cider and gas ran out simultaneously in the bar.

Once picking up the declared runners from the racecourse website, most of the form can be researched on the Racing Post database, but at risk of coming across as a tad cynical, it does seem that the same horses regularly oppose each other, and the winner is who happens to be really in the right mood on the day. Lots of handicaps, but perhaps the ratings are not all that important.

Going: Good (quite feasibly a bit quicker in reality)

Race 1: Ladbrokes Betstation Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Bowl Imperior     2: Fourni     3: Daliance

Winner owned: PG Somers, trained: Alyson Mazard, ridden: Freddie Tett

The main event as far as this site is concerned was the opener. Five took part. One had no signs of hurdling competence and another had done a bit better without indicating any reasons to think that she could beat old foe Steely. So that left three to worry about. Daliance, the favourite, is best at further and on softer ground, had not raced since February and can be inclined to give effort a miss if in the wrong mood. This looked like a good chance to take him on with Steely and Bowl Imperior. The betting hated the latter with a passion, but he replicated recent improved efforts on the flat by achieving success rather easily. By all accounts, his old hurdling technique had been too hesitant, but that was not a problem now. Fourni finished second for the fourth time in a row, and Steely was even more disappointing than Daliance. Perhaps she is planning a sequence of fourth places for some additional wordplay fun.
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Bowl Imperior pops the last imperiously

Race 2: Ladbrokes Bet Live In Play Handicap [7f]

1: Chapeau Bleu     2: National Service     3: Purley Queen

Winner owned: Saltire Racing, trained: Christa Gilbert, ridden: Alice Mills

For the second race in a row, the start was all a bit ragged, with National Service getting a flyer. With this being a mere seven furlongs, there was not as much opportunity to recover the ground lost at the start and only Chapeau Bleu was able to reel in the leader, getting a nice run up the inner rail as National Service drifted into the middle of the track. Purley Queen trundled on without looking likely to get better than third. Had blue hats been more in vogue on Ladies Day, this could have been a terrible result for the bookies. Perhaps that had manipulated local fashion advice to keep the book balanced?

Race 3: Coutts Feature Handicap Mile [1m]

1: Lucifers Shadow     2: Hawaiian Freeze     3: George Baker

Winner owned: Capricorn Racing, trained: Christa Gilbert, ridden: Alice Mills

A radical new approach was tried here, one of starting all of the runners at the same time, and it resulted in a much closer finish than the first two races. Halfway up the gradual rise of the home straight Lucifers Shadow drew alongside Hawaiian Freeze, but the runner-up proved to be a tough nut to crack and the final margin was a nail biting head. George Baker has achieved notoriety for being trained by George Baker and in the past ridden by George Baker. This may prove to have been his last race, so a farewell third is not an awful way to finish, leaving future flat racing a Baker-lite. Lucifers Shadow (owned by Capricorn Racing) was well backed, suggesting that the local goats fanciers were out in force.

Race 4: Ladbrokes Ladies Day Handicap [1m 2f]

1: Brown Velvet     2: Benoordenhout    3: Cecilator

Winner owned: La Vallette Ltd, trained: Christa Gilbert, ridden: Alice Mills

This treble took Alice Mills to one off of the pace in the champion jockey race, with two meetings remaining. It was done on a horse that was not initially very productive but has flourished in recent weeks and added two wins and a second to her repertoire of results. Like in previous race, a horse in yellow silks, Benoordenhout looked to have joined the winner in plenty of time to nick the prize but this time the challenge petered out as Brown Velvet really relished the last half a furlong.
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Horses, distant islands, ruined buildings, cows and a shed. What more can you ask of an afternoon out?

Race 5: Ladbrokes Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap [1m 4f]

1: Barwick     2: Aussie Lyrics     3: Ocean Crystal

Winner owned: Michael Watt, trained: George Baker, ridden: Mattie Batchelor

Only four were declared for the closing event, and the top pair were outclassing the bottom pair. Delving into the microcosm of the contenders, Barwick had a clear edge on Aussie Lyrics, so the race was there to be lost by doing something stupid. This was avoided by a race summarised as “made all, never threatened.” He was a bit inclined to hang right, but at no stage enough to get Aussie Lyrics asking nothing, leave me be, taking everything in his stride, and when the runner-up began to narrow the gap a furlong out, Barwick just went up a gear.
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Barwick wins it, Aussie Lyrics does not
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