Plumpton, 7/4/19

This was Sussex race day at Plumpton. What a traveller from beyond the stars would have learned about the South Saxons is that they exist mostly on a diet of chocolate, jam and chutney. They drink real ale and anything that can be made from apples, and dress exclusively in knitwear. The dogs are forced to wear weird clothing and the main hobby is throwing balls at a stool and trying to whack that ball away in awkward style with an undersized bat. Anyone who has watched the county cricket side at the crease lately will know what that looks like.

On an admittedly small sample, their horse trainers win a healthy five-sevenths of races staged in Sussex as well.

Going: Good - potentially rode Good to Soft after a mid-meeting rain shower

Race 1: William Purslow Memorial Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Finnegan's Garden     2: Mrs Burbidge     3: Hit The Highway

Winner owned: Mr K Corke, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Page Fuller

A strange race as it seemed to start before everyone was ready, including two of the six horses. However, the report to the stewards afterwards was that Don Des Fosses whipped round as they neared the line and Mrs Burbidge seriously considered joining him. Due to a sedate early pace the pair regained contact with the main force by the third fence. After that the horses mostly did what we should have expected of them – Flashman responded to the first threat of a challenge to his lead with a panic and soon after a rapid loss of position. Hit The Highway took the lead without shaping as if intending to stay there because it is an undulating track, and Finnegan’s Garden, “travelling like a travelly thing,” picked him off on the railway turn. Mrs Burbidge finished well but only to the extent of nicking second. The disappointing show was well backed favourite Western Morning, who was totally unable to react when the pace picked up approaching the fourth fence from the finish.

+  Finnegan’s Garden (1st): In handicap chases where up to six run he is 411231U111, but when there are seven or more the record reads P6352U3329326. This joyous exploration of class 5 racing is likely to be out of reach for a while, but his small field days do include class 4 functionality.

+  Hit The Highway (3rd): His record on undulating courses is PPU73 now. He dispelled slightly the idea that he needs to be back hurdling but level tracks are looking essential.

Flashman (5th): He has nothing to fear but fear itself but sadly he seems terrified of fear itself. There seems to be no way out of this existential condundrum.

Race 2: Hepworth Saxon Sussex Stakes Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Zanzi Win     2: Mountain Rock     3: Andapa

Winner owned: Kate & Andrew Brooks, trained: Harry Whittington, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

The field was packing up nice and tightly at the bottom of the hill with an exciting finish threatening, but the eyecatching orange kit of Vision Clear sort of spoiled it by misjudging the hurdle there and flinging Josh Moore to the floor. That put the jockey out for the day and off of two later winners (but for the jockey choices for the yard’s two runners in the next, it could have been three) and it left Zanzi Win to win zanzily, although gut feeling pointed to Vision Clear still having plenty in hand when he ceased to take part. Mountain Rock, once a very good bumperer, had no answer from the final flight. After two solid looking bumper wins, Andapa unseated at the first on hurdles debut and then had a bit of an educational next – possibly her choice not the jockey. She was with the main two until the second last this time and is back going in the right direction. After a career of 5th (Irish bumper), pulled up (Irish point), two years off, pulled up (British hurdle), O’Rahilly finished this off quite strongly from the back and looks to be worth monitoring for more progress. Slicker jumping would be a good start.

+ + Andapa (3rd): For her debut she was noted on this site as being short but stocky. Since then she has appeared to get stockier, which creates an optical illusion of getting shorter. Now that she has got the hang of hurdles watch out for handicaps or one of the weak mares only novice hurdles that crop up in spring. Having won longer than average races in bumpers, two miles is not likely to be her peak hurdling distance.

+ Vision Clear (UR): Going well and misjudged one hurdle in the crowd, which showed that his luck was not in. The only concern is that on the flat and his two hurdle runs he seemed rather one paced, so he might not have been able to get the result that was looming.

x  Mountain Rock (2nd): Due to time off, it has not been hard to forgive his hurdling duck so far but he is at the stage where achievements are not nearly up to scratch for a horse quick enough to be eighth in the Champion Bumper.
The runners hop off into a rather wintry sky. From front to back, as it looks from here, Zanzi Win is at the front chased by Andapa and Mountain Rock (yellow cap). Next we see Royal Goldie (other yellow cap) and Singer In The Sand. Some of the feet of Vision Clear are ironically telling us that he is hidden behind Singer In The Sand

Race 3: Download The New Sky Sports App! Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: It's Got Legs     2: Mellow Ben     3: San Pedro De Senam

Wiinner owned: Galloping On The South Downs Partnership, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

The lack of regular front runners did have an impact on the race but the speed they went, whilst slower than average, was not a farcical canter, as per the worst case scenario considered. The circumstance conspired to open up the race for It’s Got Legs to gain his first win, at the fifteenth time of asking. He was able to control the race from the front and when Mellow Ben demanded that It’s Got Legs desist and let him through, there was no co-operation from the leader. There will be some who point to Mellow Ben’s having to carry 12-7 as the reason for the defeat but It’s Got Legs had 11-11 himself and the real difference maker was that he really pinged the last three hurdles and made ground at each one – the final margin was a length and a half and he gained more than that. This brought Gary Moore’s losing run at Plumpton to an end on a total of forty-two – the departure of Vision Clear half an hour earlier exhausting all the brickbats that fate had to play with. So much so that even San Pedro De Senam ran quite well, although never really a threat to win.

+  It’s Got Legs (1st): It has taken a long time to get there but the assertive manner of his win means that he could be one of those horses that snaps into a regular winning percentage once the aura of gloom has been dispelled.

x  Sea’s Aria (6th): The handicapper is trying to be helpful but even on a career low rating he was the outsider and last to finish. There is still class 5 racing to explore, which would not be appealing whilst he is so totally flat at a higher level.

Race 4: Hepworth's Crazy Horse Cup Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Cadeau Du Bresil     2: Little Windmill     3: The Wicket Chicken

Winned owned & trained: Grant Cann, ridden: Tom O'Brien

This was all set up for Cadeau Du Bresil as long as he did not do anything daft and the rain had eased concerns that he would find the going too quick. Daftness was avoided and thanks to Little Windmill having one of his increasingly rare going days – no one tried to head him until the second last, which was very much to his liking – Cadeau Du Bresil also avoided winning by a margin that risked a big hoik up the weights. The Wicket Chicken was a danger until the bottom of the back straight on the final lap but Big Meadow was far less enthused about it all and did not need much excuse to let the others run away from him.

+  Little Windmill (2nd): Pulled up in his last four, the policy of when stuck in the quicksand send him to Plumpton nearly worked again. His course record is now 11U33321P2. Not an amazing one but far more consistent with the positive runs than he offers elsewhere.

x x  Vieux Lille (PU): Has been mired in a spell of awful form (a couple of good excuses this season including a broken rein) but had a chance to liven up today against far less fearsome opposition than has been thrown at in the past. It only took one error to get him thinking too hard and a second to call it quits. Unsupportable in chases until he has shown that the confidence is back.

UK-Jumping Selections – The Wicket Chicken (3rd): Went pretty well until lack of a recent run caught her out, and whilst she does not always look totally assured at her fences, this was more effective than her worst days.

Race 5: Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Age Of Wisdom     2: Molliana     3: Bazarov

Winner owned: The 1901 Partnership, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Niall Houlihan

The one big frantic bunfight on the card – and they were hard and crusty buns, not stodgy hot cross ones. Well, some of the horses were quite cross, but they are ones that always are. Barazov was a worthy favourite but horribly short at 6/4 and he was bounced out of the win by Age Of Wisdom, one of several that were a serious enough threat to make the short price very easily ignored. Right on the line another of the proper enemies, Molliana, even stole second place. Also not in Barazov’s favour was taking on the over-enthused Snippetydoodah for an early lead. It made for a strongly run race and the four of the first five finishers were horses that loitered at the back for the first half of the race. There were also three in first time cheekpieces that did not show any improvement and one that was ditto for a wind op. So whilst it could be argued that they were, when on song, not a bad bunch for a 0-100 Plumpton race, many were out of tune and did not show any signs of picking up the key.

+  Sirobbie (4th): This was his handicap debut after a very modest set of achievements in novice company. Although losing this by ten lengths is hardly wonderful, he hinted in bumpers that a little more is still possible.
Age Of Wisdom pulling up ahead of Molliana and little bits of Bazarov

Race 6: Strong Flavours Catering Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Brother Bennett     2: Champion Chase     3: Micquus

Winner owned: The Secret Circle, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Page Fuller

A repeat of his 2018 success in this by Brother Bennett. All he needs is for the race to disintegrate around him so that he can do the job without resorting to maximum effort, for only an utter fool would give 100% race after race after race. In this case Champion Chase ran well until losing his pitch half a mile out (more or less as usual). Micquus made mistakes at the third and fourth and jumped indifferently after that. Lightentertainment would not have been enamoured of the mid-meeting rain but getting into an early scrap to lead with Champion Chase was unhelpful as well. Howlongisafoot was never on a going day (outpaced in the shortest race that he has ever contested in hurdles or chases?) and Goonjim was pulled up before the ninth, just as his effort was fading. It is a simple script.

Empire: Brother Bennett (1st): Perhaps we have come to some arrangement that he will win when attending to support him involves missing a local point-to-point in the process. Let us pray for a daft fixture clash next spring.

Race 7: SW Catering Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 1.5f]

1: Strike The Flint     2: Baddesley     3: Mr Harp

Winner owned: Table For Six, trained: Suzy Smith, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

This race was memorable for a tactical masterstroke from Gavin Sheehan. Sending Strike The Flint into a twenty lengths lead quite early, he took things very easy going uphill and let the field catch up. The second strike was at the foot of the back straight and he soon had every else in trouble – half of the oppo were newcomers and this sort of variety blew their minds. The race was won with a furlong to go but to his credit Baddesley finished very strongly in second, accounting for Mr Harp who had already been placed on course and distance. As he is out of the popular hurdler Material World, it will not take unbeatability for the people to get behind Strike The Flint.   here.
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