LINGFIELD, 22/10/20

Back on the course proper, working with the owners' conventions. As expected the BHA have made a mixed bag of sorting the challenges out well and also abiding by elements of the regs that make not an ounce of sense to 99% of human beings. That means business as usual in some respects. What was unusual for a Lingfield jump meeting was sitting out on the tables in front the stand basking in the sunshine. It makes you nostalgic for the wind, sleet and gloom that is normal weather here.

Going: Soft, Good to Soft places

Race 1: Sky Sports Racing HD Virgin 535 Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race (2m)

1: Hawa Bladi     2: Pasvolksy     3: Castledhem

Winner owned: Pimlico Racing Partnerships I, trained: Tim Vaughan, ridden: Alan Johns

The margins on the line were a neck and a nose, so it was at least an exciting finish for those prepared to defy the evidence of history and take this race seriously.

Race 2: Breeders' Cup On Sky Sports Racing Juvenile Maiden Hurdle (2m)

1: Jersey Grey     2: Pyramid Place     3: Nevendon

Winner owned: S Bean, trained: Alexandra Dunn, ridden: Adam Wedge

The pace was controlled by Nevendon and Opine, who have the same jacket and sleeve colours but were distinguished by different caps. Hard to pick between them with the sun in your eyes. The betting said they should dominate the finish, but the betting was wrong. Nevendon ran out of steam and fluffed the second hurdle from home and Opine was doing better but not going to make the first two when he fell at the last. Jersey Grey was left in front with Pyramid Place breathing down his neck. The winner was on ths far rail initially but hung right all along the run-in and only hung on by a short head, so it was a bit surprising to hear no clues that there was an enquiry, even though current rules would have likely not changed the result. Jersey Grey was an unsuccessful 48-rated flat horse, so let us not get carried away with his success, even if his hurdles debut two weeks ago had been a little underestimated.

Pyramid Place (2nd): Debuting over hurdles, from an out of form yard and given a lot to do, this was nothing great as far as openers go, but he could easily progress for the experience.

Opine (fell): The race in which he was second on hurdles debut looked nothing special, so seeing him overturned by less fancied oppo was not totally astonishing.

Nevendon (3rd): Flopped in two of his three flat races and lost the other by seven lengths in unimpressive fashion. Starting 13/8 reflected him being trained by Dan Skelton rather than his racecourse achievements.

Race 3: Visit Handicap Hurdle (2m 7f)

1: Big Penny     2: Huntsmans Jog     3: Certainly Red

Winner owned: The Rann Family, trained: Laura Morgan, ridden: Adam Wedge

A 0-110 handicap hurdles go this one was not at all bad, featuring plenty of lightly raced horses who had done thing so far that could be easily developed upon. Big Penny had thrived since joining her yard this summer, although that timescale only served to reinforce the idea that this was the wrong ground. Now we don't give tuppence about that theory. Huntsmans Jog went down by two lengths, having conceded more than that during the race by hanging around at the back for a long time. It seemed that two lengths could, with hindsight, have been saved. Although eventually third, Certainly Red was looking the winner two from home. He battled hard but did not quite get home. He has been runner-up over 3m 2f but best performance was at 2m 5f in a sixteen horse race. Board Of Trade ran a nice race, pipped for fourth by Sandy Boy. The trouble is that he has become a horse prone to long abences and is now only 1/14 hurdling, so cannot be relied upon to go onwards from this.

Certainly Red (3rd): He has not lived up to having been runner-up to Shiskin in his bumper debut but it does look as if he is homing in on the right course, distance and going.

+  Mister Murchan (8th): Extremely consistent last season, although only one win came his way (Plumpton, 3m 1f, soft), he needed the first run back last October and it is probably true again this year.

Urtheonethatiwant (PU): A dual winner late in 2019, he was tailed off in the only subsequent run of that season and did no better today. He does prefer easy courses but be cautious until his rating is back in the region of 100.
Well bunched with a lap to race. Le Grand Rocher's doomed attempt to make all was still in progress here, just ahead of King Cool and Urtheonethatiwant. Big Penny is in midfield, partly hidden by Norman The Red (9). Just ahead is Certainly Red (10) with Huntsmans Jog last but one, ahead of March Is On.

Race 4: Free Jumps Stable Tours ON Novices' Handicap Chase (2m 7.5f)

1: Gleno     2: Hold That Taught     3: Rumble B

Winner owned: Crystal Racing Syndicate, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

This was a clash between the top four on the card, all new to chasing, and the bottom four, all with experience at the job. The latter group got the better of the exchange. Having led from the fifth, Gleno put in a very stubborn performance to hang on as Hold That Taught (chase debut) ranged alongside but then made a mistake at the final fence and could not pick up in time to avoid a half length loss. Rumble B never covinced that he was going to outstay the first two, but improving from losing the initial chase by 101 lengths to going down by two lengths in the second has to have some good, right? Faustinovick and Mercian Knight were also new to chases and handicapping and both lost by about seventeen lengths. Weak finishes due to lack of fitness or something a bit more fundamental?

+  Gleno (1st): Started out looking all at sea over fences but he has got pretty dynamic at it now and a summer wind surgery can provide room for lots of improvement.

+  Hold That Taught (2nd): Debuting both in chases and handicaps, he could have nicked this but for one sloppy late error.

x  Accordingtogino (6th): Only once before had he missed out on the first three but this chase and handicap debut went badly. For all the consistency, his only win was a soft three horse race and he may be a little bit timid when the going gets tough.
Gleno, Hold That Taught and Rumble B flash home, but not quick enough to make for a traditionally blurry uk-jumping photo.

Race 5: Visit Maiden Hurdle, Div I (2m 3.5f)

1: Threeunderthrufive     2: The Brass Man     3: Ballymillsy

Winner owned: McNeill Family, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Adrian Heskin

The first of two maiden hurdles that contained a plethora of lightly raced horses that were interesting possible improvers worth monitoring, even if the results today did not necessarily go their way - which was true for 29 of the 31 that took part. Ultimately this was an impressive strong finishing victory for Threeunderthrufive. At the second last hurdle it appeared that The Brass Man was cruising all over him, but the lack of a recent run caught up with him and he was losing his chance when hitting the final flight. Ballymillsy looked good coming down the hill only to struggle to handle the tight turn into the straight. He rallied well for third, clear of the remainder.

+ +  Threeunderthrufive (1st): Well beaten on bumper debut, he won at the second attempt, and now is 1/1 hurdling too. Headed for better things.

+ +  Ballymillsy (3rd): Had a nice intro when fourth in a Kempton bumper on racing debut. He did better on this first try hurdling and has more improvement left.

+  The Brass Man (2nd): A 2m 2f bumper winner at Tipperary, he flopped on hurdles debut in January. Since then he has gained a wind op, a hood and a tongue tie. Things did not go totally straight forwardly but he has the engine if the fuel mix can be got right.

+  Imphal (4th), Time To Move On (5th): Did not do too badly, both are worth keeping an eye on, with easier races to be found for them.

+  Not At Present (10th): Ran solidly on bumper debut but let himself down next up. This was his hurdling bow and he was not put in the race seriously at all. Some may have used the words non and trier close together. Look for some form of attempt to compete in the future and a better showing as a consequence.

Race 6: Visit Maiden Hurdle, Div II (2m 3.5f)

1: Bear Ghylls     2: Make Me A Believer     3: Take Your Time

Winner owned: Bradley Partnership, trained: Nicky Martin, ridden: Matt Griffiths

Time wise this was a good twelve lengths worse than the first division but that was a tactical side effect and not a reflection on the quality of the contestants. Bear Ghylls looked a lovely horse in the paddock and he ran like one too. The race was apparently sealed when he put the frighteners on by doing something boneheaded at the final flight, but then picked up and prevailed with plenty in hand from Make Me A Believer,who won a bumper on his Rules debut too, but only by a neck from a decent runner-up. The betting market had no faith despite him getting a tongue tie for this. A special prize goes to Henry Gondoff for the best name of the day, being by Great Pretender, out of Mi Money. Only people who love "The Sting" will get it, and the horse did not perform up to the effort put into his naming.

+ +  Bear Ghylls (1st): Any fool can just give the two maiden hurdle winners a big thumbs up, so we have. But they did genuinely both make a very striking impression. Having won a big field bumper by nineteen lengths in his only race, it was not a surprise how he mahandled this opposition.

+ +  Red Rocks (5th): Won two bumpers without breaking sweat but found his hurdles debut after seven months off to be tougher going. Expect more dynamism in the not too distant future.

+  Make Me A Believer (2nd): Time may show that this was something moderately heroic in a lost cause. Even if not, he has looked the part in both runs under Rules.

+  Take Your Time (3rd): Led the pack home, doing well in what must have been a culture shock after winning an Alnwick maiden point in which only three finished.

+  Frenchy Du Large (4th), Longshanks (6th), Getalead (9th): All potentially can do better than we saw here.

Race 7: Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Mares' Handicap Hurdle (2m 3.5f)

1: Robin Gold     2: Lily The Pink     3: Outonpatrol

Winner owned: Rio Gold Racing Club, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Brudget Andrews

A win that took a long time to unfold for Robin Gold. She was seen sneaking very smoothly into contention after the third last but that is a long way out and when an effort was required, she took aeons to get her head in front. In fairness she was always looking likely to make the front and Lily The Pink has shown herself not to be the saviour of the human race. Snapping at their heels was Outonpatrol, who won a fourteen horse race at Warwick last month and thus threw a bright light on the performances of the first pair.

Shantung (4th): Only lost by eight lengths in what was her autumn comeback and first race after a wind surgery. Her only win was over this course and distance, so is it reasonable to demand that the wind op to make her more geographically adaptable?

Race 8: Follow At The Races On Twitter Novices' Handicap Chase (2m)

1: Desque De L'Isle     2: Go As You Please     3: Champion Chase

Winner owned: The Hon Lady Heber-Percy, trained: Venetia Williams, ridden: Charlie Deutsch

In a week where two cycling Grand Tours are in progress, a cycle racing analogy was very apt for this race. Desque De L'Isle made an early breakaway, dashing ten lengths clear, hoovered up the king of the mountains points climbing the hill at the far end of the track and then held on as Go As You Please, Champion Chase and Kilpin desperately tried to reel him in at the sprint and failed. Champion Chase is the Wilco Kelderman of the day, who never seems to win anything yet is suddenly leading the Giro with the winning line in sight. All we were missing is someone from Ineos falling off and injuring themselves. Go As You Please is the reason to be optimistic over the form by class 5 level as he has brought home a win and three seconds since losing his summer comeback by only two lengths. If Kilpin (eventually fourth) had not crashed into him two out, he just might have won this. Correction, lost it very narrowly.

Episode (9th): Was reportedly well fancied and the betting reflected that. The performance was not in synch with the idea but she has been a two and a half miler before and Desque De L'Isle made life very difficult for those types.

x x  Champion Chase (3rd): His record now stands at 0/25, but with eight second places and five thirds. Further analysis is superfluous.

Empire: Pete's Choice (7th): After ten months off he would need the run but no suitable two and a half miler could be found without a long, pointless journey (Milan -San Remo?) to get there. This was the compromise, and he jumped well, even under assault from Champion Chase.
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