Plumpton, 6/11/17

The story of the day was a tale of two jockeys, although neither would see it as the best of times nor the worst of times. It was the above the median of times. There was Harry Skelton, who landed two winners and saw the hat trick go begging at the final fence. And there was also Will Featherstone, who had three rides and ended up with second places at 50/1 and 33/1 and capped it with a 20/1 winner. Anyone who had an each-way patent on his day had earned the right to celebrate.

Going: Good, Good to Soft places

Race 1: Your Jumps Season Guide At Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Parthenius     2: William Hunter     3: King Vince

Winner owned: Pegasus Bloodstock Ltd, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

A good finish fought out between a pair of capable flat horses, although William Hunter did have a go at being a mediocre bumper horse before he improved on the flat. Watching from head on was not an ideal option but the way the horses looked from there made it a slight surprise when Partenius was called the winner, by a mere short head. The pair of them were just too speedy from the second last for King Vince, a dual bumper winner.

+   Parthenius (1st): Won three times on the flat in Germany and it seems realistic to have loftier ambitions with him than a maiden hurdle at Plumpton.

+   William Arthur (2nd): Put in a winning effort, bar four inches or so right on the post, so it would appear rather likely that a race or two can be found for him.

+   Drops Of Jupitor (7th): A rather hefty mare who has won a bumper but had not tackled hurdles before. She stayed in touch until the railway turn and was only finally shaken off when blundering two out. There should be plenty of improvement in her.

Race 2: Download The Free At The Races App Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Roksana     2: Oscar Star     3: Narjana
Winner owned: Mrs Sarah Faulks, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Bringing results of a fourth in a bumper and third over hurdles into this hardly cried out that Roksana needed to be odds-on in a reasonable quality race, but the second of those races has the potential to be a strong one and the market was firmly on her side. She justified it with a very comfortable win on the back of what looked to the naked eye to be a very strong pace – and the time was a little quicker than the 0-120 handicap hurdle later on the card. She was chased home by a pair of Jamie Snowden trained horses, for whom the betting and jockey bookings suggested that Naranja was the preferred option. Oscar Star got the better of Naranja with a late run from well off of the pace and was a rare instance of a horse with two OK bumper runs and a hurdling warm up to their name starting at 50/1 around Plumpton. Some people must have got hypnotised by her off day.

+ +   Roksana (1st): Impressed in victory and with only three races to her name she probably has room to get even better.

+   Multigifted (4th): Put up a couple of reasonable hurdle runs last season but went back to the flat in the summer and took her winning score there to four, and rating up to 68. She was a bit caught out for speed in the last couple of furlongs here, but is now handicap qualified and definitely capable of victory at that level.

x   Am I Appropriate (6th): Her only run had been when second in a five horse bumper (confusingly including a horse called Oksana behind her) and this hurdle run suggested that the form is a bit ordinary, although she failed to get home for reasons of stamina and/or fitness.
Naranja (4) and Am I Appropriate (1) set the pace, Kalarika (2) and Queen Of The Wind are airborne and Roksana hides behind Kalarika

Race 3: Free Tips Daily On Novices’ Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Cucklington     2: Plantagenet     3: Dontminddboys

Winner owned: Mrs Christine M Hinks, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Harry Cobden

The first of two eventful chases. Belmont Park blundered and unseated at the fourth fence, the open ditch at the bottom of the hill. A lap and a bit later he carried out front running Double Accord when he made a dart for the stables on the top of the track. Double Accord had been architect of her own misfortune as her inclination to jump off to the right at her fences prevented David Noonan from staying on the inside rail and out of harm’s way – in this scenario the role of “harm” is played by the brown gelding Belmont Park and the role of “man that seized the opportunity” is played by Harry Cobden. Also starring Cucklington, as himself. Although Double Accord was still travelling well at the time, she had a long way to go and had not had a race for fourteen months, so there was plenty of time to reel her in for Cucklington, for whom having blinkers added cancelled out a short history of awkward jumping and needing a right-handed course.

+   Plantagenet (2nd): Made his chase debut here after four hurdle wins on the bounce since joining Seamus Mullins. His jumping did not impress on the first lap, but it got better with time. A workable beginning, and he seemed fine with the slightly longer race distance.

x   Double Accord (UR): Officially an unseated rider, but she was carried out before the jockey was dislodged. No doubt her bad luck will be remembered in some quarters, but her jumping right throughout should not be forgotten as a hindrance when she is sent out to gaining consolation.

x   Velvet Cognac (4th): This race ought to have ended up suiting a former pointer who trundles around safely but not with excess speed. The track was not visibly a problem, it was just a very, very sluggish effort.
Velvet Cognac (red silks) has seen enough, Plantagenet and Belmont Park pretend to inspect a fence - Dontminddboys (grey) would like a chance. Cucklington is AWOL

Race 4: Download The Attheraces App For iPad Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Ding Ding     2: Rothman     3: Chef D’Equipe

Winner owned: Ian Poysden, trained: Sheena West, ridden: Marc Goldstein

A popular win by diminutive local heroine Ding Ding, who keeps raising her game every time that the handicapper seems to have collared her. All four wins have been at Plumpton, and this is the second on her autumn debut – although the other was when on a handicap mark of 87, which now looks like a gift. She was being slowly reeled in by Rothman at the end, which is not characteristic of that horse, but all the way from the last it appeared that the winning line would arrive in time. In third place was French import Chef D’Equipe. He won once in France from twenty starts, that being at Auteuil in the lowest prize money bracket that they do. For this record he fetched an eye-watering E130,000. Third place in this, not beaten far, suggests that he can do a job, but is it one worth the cash laid out? The oddity of the race was that after Rothman and Chef D’Equipe combined to set the pace, Ding Ding was the only one able to come from behind and foil them. In form Fixed Rate had gone up a lot for a recent win but ran too feebly to blame that alone, eventually pulling up and Vive Le Roi offered a rather underwhelming effort.

+   Kincora Fort (4th): Last ran when winning in May 2015 and looked as if this exercise would be needed. He actually ran above that, beaten thirteen lengths. Considering that all the help he got after thirty months off was the same handicap mark as his last race, it was very encouraging stuff and not getting any closer to the first three is totally forgivable. Beware the bounce next time.

x   Vive Le Roi (5th): Brought form to this that said he was well capable of winning it and his autumn comeback run was not too bad. What was missing was dynamic success (his wins were both a bit easy) and the verdict of “ridden three out, did not find much” confirmed the worst fears from his past record, unless you have some sort of phobia regarding the compromised punctuation often found in race readers’ comments.

Race 5: Visit Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Red Square Revival     2: Frank N Fair     3: Minella Web

Winner owned: Halewood International Ltd, trained: David Pipe, ridden: Tom Scudamore

When the Pipe team’s ultra-quiet summer ended with a few winners, David Pipe commented that his dad never used to get going until November anyway, which is a recollection that approximately 0% of people would agree with. What Pipe M would have loved is pinching this 0-100 chase with a bumper winner who had failed in all his hurdle runs, although it came courtesy of a classic Plumpton error by Firmount Gent. That was a case of misjudging the last and unseating his rider when having a slight lead and going the better of the pair. Red Square Revival did well not to trip over Harry Skelton, who was thrown into his path, and the loose horse tried to rough him up once the “throw jockey at him” tactic had failed. Frank N Fair, who herself had done well to avoid an unseated jockey tumbling in front of her at the fourth from home, sprinted past a very tired Minella Web for second place.

  Firmount Gent (UR): Has been known to finish very feebly and his Bangor win was only 2m 1.5f so it is possible that fatigue led to the error, not inherently bad skills. He would certainly be more interesting in trying to make up for this if trying a shorter race. Also he has been beaten by a horse called Fair Frank in the past, so he may have heard something on the commentary that confused and frightened him as the eventual second stormed up the straight.

+   Frank N Fair (2nd): Having her first run of the autumn/winter, she should have blown away the cobwebs ready for a return to three miles, and her sensible and safe jumping is a plus around Plumpton – the unseat in her form was actually due to being badly hampered (see Double Accord earlier for a sympathetic ear).

+   Minella Web (3rd): A triple winner in British points, his weak finish was more likely due to not having raced for 15 months, and with that considered it was a very respectable effort for the class of race.

Race 6: Read Barry Geraghty’s Blog On Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: The Game Is A Foot     2: Posh Totty     3: Mab Dab

Winner owned: The Secret Circle Racing Club, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: William, Featherstone

And here endeth the lesson, which sayeth that just because a horse excelleth in point-to-pointing, meaneth not that the performance will translate to hurdles. Posh Totty was the horse in question, and she came here with a hurdle rating based on form in 2011, when she was doing a perfect impersonation of a horse with no talent. Since then she has run in 35 point-to-points, winning fourteen and being second in thirteen. It is twenty-nine races since Posh Totty finished out of the first three. What happened here is that all of it was trumped by Plumpton course specialism, in the shape of The Game Is A Foot, who waited in the rear and made a decisive move around the railway bend. At that stage Posh Totty was labouring to see off Quiz Master and Mab Dab, so would probably have been a bit startled when the winner flew by – another experience her pointing efforts have not produced. Neither of the horses making their debut in handicaps, Quiz Master and Be Daring, ran as if the rating awarded was a gift, but different course/distance/going combinations can improve them.

+   The Game Is A Foot (1st): His Plumpton record in races below three miles reads 132411 and the two three milers have both been honourable fourth places. Why would he look elsewhere?

+   Posh Totty (2nd): Showed she is competitive off of her derisory mark, but not a good thing. The way that she was outpaced in the back straight and on the final bend might make a longer race a better fit as well.

+   Mab Dab (3rd): As he is a known and proven three miler, this race was presumably chosen just to fine tune his fitness. Job achieved, and he did not perform too badly.
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