Market Rasen, 15/3/20

The card cut up oddly to reduce all sorts of eight horse plus races down to seven or fewer runners. All those races with only two places? Placepot hell. And we did get to witness a couple of masterclasses in doing everything wrong and winning anyway. That does not get the seal of approval.

Going: Good to Soft, Soft places

Race 1: In Memory Of Ron Lane Novices' Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Fearless     2: Dusty's Choice     3: Passing Shadow

Winner owned: A Graham - Bankruptcy Trustee M Stanley, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Richard Johnson

Well this was a strange race. Fearless lined up as if he intended to make the running, then whipped round when the starter let them go. Richard Johnson just about clung on, but instead of losing the initiative, the other eight all stood watching and let Fearless set off in front at his own convenience anyway. A cynic could be forgiven for thinking that the other horses did not really want to try and win this. With the exception of Dusty's Choice, who did give a serious pursuit whilst clearly averse to front running, the beaten all soon self isolated from which Youracert poked a nose into fresh air and did not like what he saw. The form is not worth treating as dependable.

UK-Selections - Fearless (1st): Unseated two out when in front in his previous race and so nearly threw this one away at the start. Very talented but ominous signs of flakiness.
Fearless - in name and nature, other than being terrified of the starting tape

Race 2: David Barratt 60th Birthday Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Donald Dux     2: Miss Mash     3: Invicta Lake

Winner owned: Dave Carter, trained: Andrew Crook, ridden: Danny McMenamin

This was the big difficult line up of the day, holding up with fourteen runners. It was hard enough to guess who might end up favourite, so obviously the race was decided by the pair that ended up heading the market jointly. The word "decided" is important as with Donald Dux cruising home eleven lengths clear, the finish was hardly a contest. Both the winner and Miss Mash were in rear early on, but Miss Mash started her forward progress later and was looking destined to lose when she hit the second last. Although he is now thirteen years old, Invicta Lake has been running quite steadily and made a fine over a distance a touch too short, keeping the rather less exposed handicap debutant Waitonit at arms lengths on the long run-in.

Miss Mash (2nd): A record of two wins and seven second places does not inspire great faith but this was her first race back from a wind op and with it done, the confidence to race more aggressively may worm its way into her brain.

+  Rockliffe (11th): Won three times in 2018 but has drawn a blank since. The rare trend in his form is that the successes were in line-ups of thirteen, fourteen and fifteen. He was shaping for a big run here until he seemed to struggle getting round the final turn and then he was hampered at the next hurdle. Anyone willing to eat a few defeats with a nice return looming could do worse than follow him in big fields.

Oxford Blu (5th): Won on hurdles debut in late 2017 and has gone on to be defeated in fourteen hurdles and a flat race since. The signs are not there of an imminent change in his fortunes.

Race 3: Love Market Rasen Raceday Handicap Hurdle [2m 7f]

1: Florrie Boy     2: Its'afreebee     3: Who's The Boss

Winner owned: Options O Syndicate, trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

Regular readers of this site will know that one of the basic tenets stuck with over the years is that bad jumping costs far too much ground in a race to tolerate, even hurdling, and siding with fluent jumpers starts out as simple common sense. Thus in this race, the result can be declared a total travesty of justice. Florrie Boy and Dundrum Wood vied for the lead. Florrie Boy clattered through more hurdles than the count of ones jumped cleanly. Dundrum Wood made one mistake, at the third last, and that effectively brought his challenge to a halt. Florrie Boy was clear at the last but tied up on the very long run-in and only held first by a length and a half in the end. Its'afreebee had the least proven stamina in the line-up but his determined attempt to run down the winner was a good omen if he sticks with these sort of distances. Having Who's The Boss and Lygon Rock breathing down his neck appeared to motivate rather than frighten him.

+  Florrie Boy (1st): Jumped like a buffalo but it should also be noted that he had been chasing in three of his last four races and could get back into good hurdling habits with repetition. He is well handicapped if he does.

+  Who's The Boss (3rd): In a brief career her only flop had been on this course, with all other runs being on non-sharp and level tracks. This proved that she can do sharp, undulating too.

x  Lygon Rock (4th): In late 2018 he was beaten by two lengths against Paisley Park but winning does not come easily to him and he is now only one success from seventeen races - a four horse novice hurdle.
Florrie Boy looking forward to future non-chasing runs

Race 4: West Lindsey District Council Chairman's Handicap Chase [2m 3f]

1: Thomas Todd     2: Compadre     3: Cagliostro

Winner owned: Burton, Copley & Todd, trained: Laura Morgan, ridden: Patrick Cowley

This was a similar experience to the staying hurdle - Thomas Todd won despite his jumping, not because of it. The worst of several errors was at fence eight, the first in the back straight. Patrick Cowley lost his irons and Thomas Todd appeared to have half a mind to crash through the hedge and see where the main road would take him. With a good touch of skill, the pilot was back working with stirrups by fence nine. Imagine how the race may have unfolded had Patrick Cowley been forced to bail out. Compadre did look a touch hesitant to go past when on Thomas Todd's heels between the last two, but he may have a valid excuse. Cagliostro jumped well on this better ground but could not cope when the first two and Oak Vintage quickened on at the end of the back straight.

+  Compadre (2nd): Lost this in visibly unpalatable style but it was his first run back from a wind op and it is not uncommon for such horses not to trust their breathing under pressure immediately. Thus he could come across as far more determined next time. Or the time after that. After two more fails, the + is withdrawn.

x  Thomas Todd (1st): The record shows that he has won three out of eight chases so far. The visual test is that he makes far more mistakes than the average chaser and as he is forced up in class, the clumsiness will become harder to defy.

Oak Vintage (5th): In his old yard he was a bit of a winning machine but for the current team he cannot finish off races at all, and this was more of the same - worryingly in a race that looked to be constructed just about perfectly for him.

Ersatz Empire - Cagliostro (3rd): Has been filling in for Pete's Choice whilst the main horse is injured, and ran very promisingly for when he can be found a suitable class 5 race.
A lap to go and Thomas Todd is building himself up for an imminent proper shambles, chased by Oak Vintage, Cagliostro, Gustav and Bestarius

Race 5: Market Rasen Town Council Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 5.5f]

1: Mistercobar     2: High Noon     3: Crossley Tender

Winner owned: The Wayward Pilgrims, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Richard Johnson

Before this Mistercobar was 0/9 over fences, often front running and fading. Two runs ago he raced more patiently and lost by a head at Leicester. The tactics were repeated here and he ended up quite an impressive snaffler of top prize. After leading three out he was headed for a while by High Noon but really did get a second wind to complete the task. Having made the running, Crossley Tender plugged on gamely once headed, harrassed to a certain degree by Picknick Park, who was having a rare day free of bad luck and trouble. There were two chase debutants, Derrick D'Anjou and Levasseur. They both found it quite difficult to adapt and filled the last two places - sixth and seventh. But they did both complete and were lacking in devastating errors.

+  Mistercobar (1st): A belated revelation - perhaps connections have sussed him out and more success is on the way.

Race 6: Love Lincolnshire Wolds Handicap Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Playa Blanca     2: Scrutinise     3: Torrid

Winner owned: The Rumble Racing Club, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: Ben Jones

Playa Blanca won his last race, which happened to be a conditional riders' race so he had no handicap penalty for this. That earlier win had not been a total cakewalk, so there was a question to answer as to whether a seven day turnaround would help or hinder Playa Blanca. Help seemed to be the answer, as he won by over twenty lengths without breaking sweat. He was helped in that the only threat, Scrutinise, worked out at the final hurdle that he was in a lost cause, so fighting on was a waste of his energies. Torrid had downed tools at the entrance to the back straight but rallied back into third once the winning post was visible.

Torrid (3rd): The yard is way up the cold list, which is no help at all, but his mental approach suggests that already has a plan to defy any upturn in fortunes.
Playa Blanca ready to go round again

Race 7: Small Business Of The Year Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 0.5f]

1: Allavina     2: Martello Sky     3: Shiroccsmyworld

Winner owned: C Boultbee-Brooks, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Aidan Coleman

After so much iconoclasm, surprise and disorganisation already in one afternoon it was not easy to get excited about this bumper, even though ten of the thirteen had previous racecourse experience to work with. When the heat was on, Allavina and Martello Sky both showed a nice ability to quicken and leave front running Shiroccsmyworld labouring. Allavina had shown previous ability when third of sixteen in her bumper debut and Martello Sky had a bumper win under her belt, although Fakenham ones tend to be sneered at by the other horses. Down the field in sixth, Midnight Mary caught the eye. It looked like she was given too much to do but it may be that she simply could not respond in an instant when the pace lifted.
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