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Penshurst, 26/3/17

Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent

The first of two meetings at the home of the tiny fence. The one by the entrance to the track has always appeared to be a touch undersized, but this year, in the interests of research, UK-Jumping took a close look at the final couple. The last is not huge but within reasonable tolerance. The one before that is a glorified hurdle, and it has to be wondered whether the spate of running outs there in the last two seasons or so may be due to it confusing the horses. And the disproportionate number of major errors can be attributed to it confusing the riders! After all, when a fence has been fine for years and then becomes and accident blackspot (see also the third last at Cheltenham) the reason has to be the way in which jockeys ride their races tactically.

Going: Good (Good to Soft patch)

Race 1: Drill Service (Horley) Ltd Members

1: Little Legend     2: Stars Royale     3: Fizzlestix

Winner owned: Mrs C Woods & M Haydon, trained: Cynthia Woods, ridden: Charlie Marshall

The prolific and open class Little Legend had got beaten in a three runner Members on his seasonal return, and age may well be catching up with him. The end of legs of the legend? That said, whether his decline merited a price readily available of 7/4, when it was only 2/1 about Fizzlestix, who won the maiden on the same card where Little Legend had reappeared. She was at best a 50/50 shot that day when her threat all but fell three out – the one thing in her favour was better ground now. As it turned out, the main danger to Little Legend came from Stars Royale, but having jumped into the lead at the last, Stars Royale was as unregal as ever (or is it surrealgal) and let the old timer fight back for a half length win. In the circumstances, Fizzlestix’s close third was a good effort. There was plenty of daylight back to the remainder.
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Little Legend has a slight lead over Stars Royale. And so it went on for almost another lap. Seventh Hussar heads the chasing bunch
Race 2: Olivia Von Halle South East Hunts Club Conditions

1: Wither Or Not      2: Brunswick Gold     3: Rocky Island

Winner owned, trained & ridden: Dale Peters

This win took paddock pick Wither Or Not’s record since coming over from Ireland to played four, won four, but the way that he scraped home from a Brunswick Gold (winner of a similar type of race at Parham last week) did suggest that Wither Or Not is not, at least when it comes to readiness for the highest level in points. Withering seems unlikely to come soon though, unless the ground enforces it. Beyond the first two, the race lacked depth but Rocky Island was much the best of the rest, only pipped by the first pair home. He has won at Intermediate level but someone tore out of his dictionary the page containing the word “consistency.”

Race 3: John Coldman Ladies Open

1: Goodnight Vienna     2: Crack Of Thunder     3: Golden Milan

Winner owned: The Back Of The Car Club, trained: Lynn Redman, ridden: Tabitha Worsley

For the third race in a row the outcome was in the balance right to the winning post, yet again the official margins being half a length and half a length. Goodnight Vienna had gone for home quite early, which has caught out many a horse in the past as the run to the line from halfway along the bottom straight is deceptively testing. This time he just clung on, but having been loitering in rear for much of the race, the idea that (in the glorious technicolour of hindsight) that Crack Of Thunder could not have save three-quarters of a length somewhere in the race is implausible. Similar might be said of Golden Milan, who was midfield all the way and only seemed to get enthused about chasing the winner when Crack Of Thunder passed him. Current Exchange was only one more length back in fourth, which is about par for him this season – his novice rider/owner is creeping up on adding to the horse’s hefty winning tally. Eight of the nine starters completed this, including Bouggietopieces, who got the note “hit 5, 6, hit 7 hard, mistakes most of the rest.” Could have been in serious trouble at other venues.

Race 4: Huntworth LLP Mens Open

1: Conkies Lad     2: Curraghbower     3: The Admiral Benbow

Winner owned: The Glebe House Racing Club, trained: Charlotte Marshall, ridden: Charlie Marshall

The first disappointing race of the day, with only four runners taking part, none of whom will be habitual Open standard winners. At his best, Conkies Lad can look like indifferent races like this fall within his compass, but he often seems really pleased with himself when he can finish second, so it is not easy to believe in him even when given a golden opportunity. His comfortable win was thanks to Curraghbower having a bit of a sluggish day himself – always in the mix until the fourth last, but not travelling with the verve to make Conkies Lad look back wistfully on past second places.

Race 5: Connolly’s Red Mills Intermediate Race

1: Carry On Asian     2: Cheltenham Mati     3: Quick Oats

Winner owned: Carrie Tucker, trained: Francesca Nimmo, ridden: Tabitha Worsley

Not a bad race of it’s type, but the horse who has made most impact this season, Cheltenham Mati, got beaten. She is a fairly slightly built mare, and her Barbury and Kingston Blount wins came at about two and a half miles, with a three mile defeat in between. Not an awful defeat, so the better going here could have been a catalyst to seeing out the trip better. So when she blundered and nearly unseated at the second last, the first thought was stamina draining away. But Cheltenham Mati did fight back and only get beaten two lengths by Carry On Asian, about the margin she was behind when doing the silly thing. This win was predictable on Carry On Asian’s best Irish efforts, but he had not been firing to the same level so far in Britain. After a tough race in the Ladies Open, his owner conceded the ride to the area’s premier lady jockey, and that is likely to have made the difference. Although he looked pretty fit, Quick Oats was having his first race of the season and may have had a fraction more zip with actual match readiness. He won his final three runs of 2016 and is up to winning at this level soon. Daidaidai has gone well first time out in the past, but was not tuned up for a repeat, and his rider eased down when clearly not a factor. Another with better to come.
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Carry On Asian has slight advantage on the ghostly Cheltenham Mati
Race 6: Shepherd Neame Breweries Open Maiden

1: Poyntzpass     2: Ernest Defage

Winner owned: The Two Farmers And a Butcher Partnership, trained: Andrew Pennock, ridden: Evan David

With eight of the nine runners declared to use some form of headgear, and form in the book that would be exciting only to fans of the Countdown Conundrum, a large number of finishers was not expected. More than two might have been a reasonable expectation. The first departure was Lady Kay at the first, the final one was The Real Scorpion at the last, after a series of mistakes but when he had just taken a distant second. As for the others, it was mostly a case of surrendering because Poyntzpass has totally pulverised them. He led at fence eight and was a hefty distance clear at the fourteenth. The pursuers were toiling and he was still very fresh. Race genuinely over, rather than waiting for the keen horse to be agonisingly reeled in very late in the race. Apart from a third place, his Irish form was weak, but coming to Britain allows the use of headgear, and it is easy to see him being a bit of a handful without the hood on. Ernest Defage lost a flat maiden by 65 lengths in 2013, then was unsighted until pulling up in his first point two weeks ago. Completing in a place, even if only inheriting second genuinely is progress. Getting involved in a daft battle for the lead very early is the next thing to take away from his game plan.

Race 7: Subaru Restricted, 2m 4f

1: Lickety Split     2: Knockedoutloaded     3: Wonderful Present

Winner owned: Mrs PA Wilkins, trained: Phil Hall, ridden: Will Hickman

The last couple of seasons have witnessed some very dodgy Restricteds in the south-east, so much that it is a bit surprising that more people have not risked tackling them with maidens that have gained some experience. This was very much an exception to that rule, with many of the runners doing a good job in winning their maiden races. Lickety Split was in that category, but it was his seasonal debut, and he seemed slightly less fit than most of his opposition. However, he got a nice sneak up the inner on the final turn, and when Lickety Split got away from the last quicker than Knockedoutloaded, that horse conceded the inevitable. It could have been a different tale had Vering not fallen at the last, as he was staying on well, and certainly would have not given the winner any peace. Previously this year he had been in Opens and hunter chases, so the improved run was not totally unforeseeable. The only other finishers, distant from the main action, were Wonderful Present and Spiritofchartwell, the latter having his first race since Spring 2015 – he did not look unfit, but is still likely to have gained from getting the cobwebs out of his system. Barrafohona had another cantankerous day, and past enthusiasm for his potential has worn quite thin. Finally, Pinsandneedles turned up and ran, despite not appearing on the entries or in the racecard. Given that the entries are out on Monday to people who pay for a full service, the fact that the issue was still unresolved on Friday when on general release does make it a bit strange that the horse was allowed to jib in at the last second. He pulled up.
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Lickety Split continues the greysa in photos theme (without that type of alien). On the outer is Vering, soon to depart, and mostly hidden is Knockedoutloaded
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