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Plumpton, 1/4/18

Plumpton staged the first £50,000 race at the track here, the Sussex Champion Hurdle. They have an equal value chase on the following day, so it is rank bad luck that the weather is threatening to batter the Easter programme. And in 2018 the timing, between Cheltenham and Aintree, will tempt local trainers with suitable horses, but might not look such a big deal to people being required to travel further.

Going: Heavy, Soft in places

Race 1: toteplacepot Novices' Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Traffic Fluide     2: Mister Malarky     3: Indian Hercules

Winner owned: Galloping On The South Downs Partnership, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

With the two top value races on the track over the weekend, it was ironic that the highest rated horse to appear was in the opening novices hurdle. Traffic Fluide's chase rating had peaked at 162, but after a functional return in October, he has been well off of his game this season. Under the circumstances, it was no surprise that he made hard work of this victory, although a bad mistake four hurdles out clearly discombobulated him, and that made it hard to reel in pace setting Angel Of Harlem, Indian Chance and Mister Malarky, the latter benefitting from a good sneaky run up the inside on the final turn. However, when Traffic Fluide got a good jump at the final flight, he did skip clear fairly readily.

+   Mister Malarky (2nd): He had been struggling to settle on an optimum distance - this one seemed to suit him well enough, so prhaps he should stick with it.

Race 2: toteexacta Easter Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Finnegan's Garden     2: Champion Chase     3: Iona Days

Winner owned: Kenny Corke, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Noel Fehily

The most significant impact on this race was when Touch Screen unseated at the sixth, because once loose he made a prime nuisance of himself. He insisted on going around at the front with Champion Chase, whose inclination to jump right invited unwelcome physical contact. Touch Screen also lugged left in the back straight and threatened to carry the leader out. Once Champion Chase had worked his way clear, the next incumbent of Touch Screen's unaffection was Finnegan's Garden. Noel Fehily was as cool as a cucumber in not going alongside the loose horse with his mount travelling best, but by the second last he no longer had the option, as letting the leader have a clear run home was the alternative. There was a pause when it seemed that Champion Chase would battle away sufficiently to just cling on, but Finnegan's Garden stuck on neatly and won by a couple of lengths.

+   Champion Chase (2nd): Before this race there was still a question as to whether he had ever got his act 100% together, but with little luck in running he was competitive at level weights with a horse that has had an excellent three win season. Going right-handed may be a bit beneficial on what was seen here.

Race 3: totequadpot Easter Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Lickpenny Larry     2: Crafty Roberto     3: Tactical Manoeuvre

Winner owned: Alan S Clarke, trained: Tom Gretton, ridden: Robert Dunne

This was a confusing race as the first four in the betting (from five runners) started 11/4, 3/1, 3/1 and 7/2, and this very much reflected that all of them had big negatives associated with their chance. In fact the outsider would also have been in that mix had his early promise not been undermined by breathing issues. Lickpenny Larry landed the race by making the running and challenging the enemy to do something about it. They could not, but runner-up Crafty Roberto is now 0/21 over fences, and it is not his jumping that is the problem, nor the track as he lost by only a head over course and distance in the autumn.

+   Lickpenny Larry (1st): The worries for him were heavy ground and a sharp track, and his best runs had been over 2m 3f at Doncaster and 2m 5.5f at Towcester. He did not quite see the latter out, but it is likely that a slightly longer race than this will be even better for him.

+   Tactical Manoeuvre (3rd): After starting PFP over fences, he has now completed two chases in a row, but he just seems too fragile to make a sustainable career of slogging it out chasing.

x x   Crafty Roberto (2nd): It is hard to imagine what more connections can do to find him the most winnable race. The blinkers were left off here, but he still travelled well and jumped sweetly, or vice versa, and the ten weeks since his last race were a plus as well. The usual result was witnessed, but leave him out of the placepot at your peril.
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Lickpenny Larry goes about his enthusiastic business, failing to inspire Crafty Roberto into a similr response. Amalfi Doug is close up at this early stage, but it did not last long.

Race 4: totepool Sussex Champion Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Vado Forte     2: Mr Antolini     3: Alberta

Winner owned: Roberts, Chuchward, Whittal-Williams, trained: Tom Lacey, ridden: Robert Dunne

When it took no more than a hundred metres for the seven runners to be sorted into single file with two or three lengths between each, the last thing that was in mind to influence the result was congestion. However, front running Early Du Lemo got bumped around as he was weakening leaving the final bend with Remulic crowding his outside and Vado Forte diving up the inside. At the second last hurdle, Vado Forte jumped right, pushing Remiluc into Mr Antolini, and approaching the final obstacle Remiluc had an attack of deja vu and jinked right in fear, unseating Harry Reed in the process. The jolly japester Vado Forte jumped it perfectly straight! The 1-2 appeared to have been decided, but in the last fifty metres Mr Antolini closed the gap to just half a length. Was it him rallying (suggests that Vado Forte would have won anyway) or Vado Forte tying up (suggests that Remiluc was very unlucky)?

+   Alberta (3rd): Had his stablemate not been a non-runner, reducing the field to seven, he would have been an appealing each-way option at 33/1, even from six pounds out of the handicap. He does not win often, but can compete in a wide range of races.

+   Early Du Lemo (5th): Very popular in the betting after a promising UK debut, he had the problem of a second race in nine days following thirteen months off. Far too keen in front, he could not carry it off, but this is not the be all and end all of his ability.

x   Vado Forte (1st): Took his last five results to 21211, and by arriving in front late in his races he has made it difficult for the handicapper to assess him. This might be as far as he can go for now, at least in hurdling terms, as he beat the Imperial Cup winner and the County Hurdle runner-up here, and that is quite a conspicuous achievement.
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Vado Forte is all out in front and Mr Antolini is giving it a game shot (not something that always looked true in Ireland, but is yet to blight his British career). The riderless Remiluc seems to enjoying himself. Before the run-in, Vado Forte was on the inside of the trio and Mr Antolini stands side, so running straight has been a low priority for all.

Race 5: totetrifecta Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Pull Together     2: Jumping Jack     3: It's Got Legs

Winner owned: The Oakley Partnership, trained: Stuart Edmunds, ridden: Ciaran Gethings

After a disappointingly tame show at Lingfield last time, Pull Together redeemed himself here, finding the receeding lunacy of Jumping Jack easier to deal with than the more active brand offered by Kupatana. Interestingly, he beat It's Got Legs by only a quarter of a length less than at Lingfield, so perhaps there was more consistency of performance than expected - or is that too good to be true? An interesting policy decision was shown in fourth. Mr Jack had pulled up in both of his career runs, but improved massively here - could it be down to booking a jockey named Jack (Sherwood variety) to ride him? If so, who will be the first rider to change their name by deed poll to Footpad?

+ +   Airtight (6th): It is easy to read into his past hurdle form that he is being nursed through the mud into a handicap mark, to be used on better going, where he did well in bumpers. Despite being stable number two here, there was market interest at longer prices and he ran quite well. Keep the eyes peeled.

+   Mr Jack (4th): It is a bit worrying that this might be a standard variety of bank holiday fluke, but with only two races to his name in the past, it is feasible that he made sustainable progress.

UK-Jumping Selections: Pull Together: His trainer said that this will do for the season and fences beckon next winter. Now that he has cracked this winning thing, who knows how far he will go.
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Pull Together pulls alone in getting to the finish before Jumping Jack

Race 6: Collect totepool Winnings At Betfred Shops Novices' Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: The Lion Dancer     2: King Cool     3: Two Hoots

Winnr owned: The 25 Club, trained: Charlie Mann, ridden: Noel Fehily

It is a rare treat to get two novices' handicap chases on the same card, but Plumpton did us proud here. The only slight inconvenience is that the first was contested by a fear-inspiring group of horses, and the line-up in this one generated even less confidence. The Lion Dancer had been threatening to do something at low level before half-heartedly winning a bad race over course and distance, and he met a similar opportunity here. The Lion Dancer was a bit more lion hearted about doing it today, but his main challenge came from King Cool, who has been very unconvincing as a chaser so far. This time he did the job better until jumping the third last awkwardly and quickly losing touch with the winner. Two Hoots did a worse job of negotiating three out, but was too far back by then for it to matter about anything other than second place.

  King Cool (2nd): Has not done a complete race over fences without loss of conviction and dropping into bad races for the last two has not helped much.

x   Two Hoots (3rd): Briefly threatened to flourish in chases earlier this winter, but the career has not panned out that way.

Race 7: totepool Happy Easter Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Ramore Will     2: Lizzie Langton     3: Hill Fort

Winner owned: EJ Farrant, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Harry Reed

A competitive closer to the card, although each-way investors would have bemoaned the fact that a non-runner knocked it down to seven runners (three absentees all day, and both eight horse races were affected). After a steady run of good efforts dating back to July, the handicappers should have Ramore Will more than measured, but they are proving to be most forgiving in his case, and the horse is holding his form splendidly. This allowed him to toodle round leading the pack in pursuit of Benbecula and Lizzie Langton and then push himself to victory in the home straight. All very unstressful stuff and he was value for more than the three lengths that he won by. Benbecula could not sustain the pace that he set, but Lizzie Langton had enough up her sleeve to keep Hill Fort well at bay.

+   Lizzie Langton (2nd): She has improved in her two races for Colin Tizzard and seems to be homing in on a win. She stays this far, but could benefit from being a bit more settled in her races.

+   Hill Fort (3rd): Coming down the hill for the second time he was absolutely cruising in fourth, going at least as well as the winner, but he quickly came off of the bridle and did not jump the next two hurdles well with the pressure on. Based on his record that could have coincided with the worst of the going. He too seems to edging towards another of his very occasional wins.
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