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NOVEMBER 2018 HORSES TO FOLLOW
BISHOPS COURT     (Neil Mulholland)

8 year old bay gelding     (Helissio – Island Of Memories)     044852P24/43F411115/731PP2-43

A British point-to-pointer who unseated on his debut but won by a wide margin at the second attempt when dropped to two and a half miles, there were not too many household names taking Bishops Court on, and his main semi-threat departed at the last when he was successful. The ID that may catch the eye is five time hurdle winner Milan Of Crystal, who is usually found operating towards the lowest levels. The numbers for Bishops Court do look fairly erratic apart from one peak spell in the winter of 2016/17, but the story behind them is more encouraging. As soon as small fields start to get involved, any competent horse should be able to hit a few wins. Perhaps that needs to be more specific – any competent and cooperative horse. Fortunately this horse does both of those things, and when he is in a race of five runners or fewer his chase results have been 11115123. The last couple of losses have not been close calls, but he had a wind operation before the last, and assuming that it was a success, we ought to see old service resumed as Bishops Court gets his confidence back. They were also on good ground, whilst his dogma leads him to favour a wetter condition. As he was never a winning hurdler even in his days of youthful dynamism, it is probably not wise to presume that the conditions will apply there if he goes back to smaller obstacles.

Chases with up to five runners on heavy, soft or good to soft ground

BOREHAM BILL     (Emma Lavelle)

6 year old bay gelding     (Tikkanen – Crimond)     1205/44129-42

The most notable thing in Boreham Bill’s record is that getting a hurdle rating of 130 from only two victories, one of them a bumper, is potentially a sign of a horse that flatters to deceive. That is not a situation beyond redemption, even though the first two runs for his new trainer have been business as usual, in the worst sense. Bear in mind that he has not run in a chase yet – as long as he has the athletic agility required for that, it is a source of possible transformation. The other thing is to look at the days when he gets his best results. Bumper win at Market Rasen. Close bumper second at Cheltenham. Hurdle win at Southwell. Hurdle second by a neck at Fontwell. From there note that he has not since been placed on a galloping track from four tries, but for some reason he has not been allowed to have another go on a sharp one. At this stage it would appear to be worth a try, as even if he does have the oomph to win on non-sharp venues, the early signs are that using them tips the balance towards his chance of success positively. At this moment it needs to be noted that we are being forgiving of the fact that he has started favourite in four of his six hurdling defeats, which perhaps completes the circle to the opening phrase about him flattering to deceive. For the moment, we are giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Hurdles or chases on a sharp track

FORTUNE’S HIDING     (Peter Bowen)

5 year old bay gelding     (Beat Hollow – Sambre)     8-1336

It was just over a year back when the world greeted his racing debut with an almighty sigh – he finished eighth of nine in a bumper at Chepstow. Winner Mont Des Avaloirs was later a dual hurdle winner and is now (over?) rated on 139, second placed The Russian Doyen went the same way, with two hurdle wins and a harsh looking 138 official mark. The fourth, Clondaw Native, only managed the one triumph so got away with a mark on 130. Which meant that when Fortune’s Hiding came out of hiding and took in a Worcester bumper eight months later, the world was going through a revision of opinion, in the same way that the current Indian government is going through a massive rewrite of world history, with a splendidly cavalier approach to proven facts. Also, Fortune’s Hiding was fitted with a tongue tie, which some would say may be suitable attire for Narendra Modi. This horse has the upper hand on him, as he won that return bumper, and is not to be blamed for getting a bashing afterwards by Longhouse Sale – everyone so far has suffered the same fate. The hurdles bow was a touch disappointing, despite a place by a not awful margin, as the winner was already handicapped on a mere 108 and the winner was debuting under Rules on the back of seven woeful efforts in Irish points since he won in spring 2015. Due to this Fortune’s Hiding was long odds for a recent Aintree race, ran for a long way as if he was going to over achieve, then imploded from the second last. Some form of wind operation would be no surprise, but unlike the most of the field from his first ever race, he should be on the way to a sane handicap mark after one more spin hurdling.

Handicap hurdles over 2m 2f or more

GARDINERS HILL     (David Rees)

8 year old brown gelding     (Stowaway – Mysterious Lass)     9P08/533511143/60BP3P-2

As a selection, Gardiners Hill has plenty in common with Bishops Court. Well some – he ran in British point-to-points and his wins have only been in chases. Everything else is different. After not breaking his duck in Ireland, Gardiners Hill nabbed three pointing victories in Wales, up to Intermediate level but not against a startling quality of opponent. In 2015 he had four tries in novice hurdling and looked mostly hopeless, but the following year the hard earned bottom of the league handicap mark was put to use and he still could not win – until going to Hereford in January 2017. That choice of track has been the key, because easy venues seemed to have the magic ingredient that he requires. Successes at Chepstow and back to Hereford followed. Since then Gardiners Hill rather lost his knack on whatever track that he visits, but he still has a record on the correct type (and avoiding good ground – another parallel with Bishops Court) of 11130B3. The interesting step was the most recent race, which is not on that list. After eight months off he returned as a hurdler at Ffos Las and lost by less than a length. It may well be a sign that he is going to embark on another winning burst, or at the very least that the time off has allowed Gardiners Hill to ease himself out of the ennui that was driving him last season.

Handicap chases on an easy track, on heavy, soft or good to soft ground

LOST HISTORY     (John Spearing)

5 year old bay gelding     (Strategic Prince - Prelude)     3945-

Starting his career in Ireland and in flat racing, it took Lost History a dozen races to open his account. It was flat racing, so definitely history that can be dispensed with. As soon as the duck had been broken, Lost History was sold and in late November last year he made his first appearance in a hurdle race, at Lingfield. The race looked potentially a source of future winners at the time and he was eight lengths behind the 119-rated runner-up, whose won next time and is now on 125. The Lingfield winner went on to land a Grade 2 race. Fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and faller also went on to win, the seventh and eighth have been runner-ups. So what went wrong for Lost History, who has become the black sheep of this family? It did not help that the yard was struggling for form whilst he was still in action, and in a not necessaruly unrelated situation, he finished off his next two races a bit weakly. The final appearance was a real flop back at Lingfield in February, which saw his rating dropped from 117 to 109. Rediscovering some of his history, i.e. the debut run, would make that a very appealing option

Handicap hurdles rated up to 120

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Lost History at Plumpton - not a fan of the paparazzi, or pale imitations thereof

THAHAB IFRAJ     (Alexandra Dunn)

5 year chesnut gelding     (Frozen Power – Penny Rouge)    5/421-4298

It is quite possible that the English translation of Thahab Ifraj is “I’ll do it later” because during his winless flat career, he seemed not to be a talent free option in his races. Yet even when he had sunk to competing in the most modest levels, the day of reckoning never came. When it arrived, Thahab Ifraj opened his account in a novice hurdle at Stratford, shocking everybody by not demanding handicap company to get the ball rolling. It only travelled a short distance because as the numbers show, he is still stuck on one win more than a year down the line. In that time, Alex Dunn has tended to have her winners on the flat more than jumps, but the general vibe is that the overall hit rate has not been up to previous seasons. However, as well as his win, where the argument that the odds-on favourite was below par loses some merit to the fact that it was quite a way back to the third, we have a horse who has also been runner up by less than four lengths on two more occasions at Stratford, where he has taken to front running and also showed in his most recent hurdle that he can not always get it right. Most fascinatingly he has cropped up recently with entries in chases, and if he jumps soundly and makes the running on sharp tracks, Thahab Ifraj could be tricky to peg back. And the tendency for smaller fields means fewer opponents realistically capable of it.

Handicap chases on sharp tracks up to 2m 4f
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