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Plumpton, 7/2/20

With non-runners in the news, there were only four on the card here but they had an impact in excess of their numbers. A three horse race was cut to a head-to-head, briefly. More on that to come. And in the the staying hurdle the two defectors were the only ones proven over three miles. A nice guessing game remained.

Going: Good to Soft, deteriorating to Soft by race five

Race 1: Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Maiden Hurdle (2m 4.5f)

1: Game Socks     2: Captain Biggles     3: Sameer

Winner owned: Chris Stedman & Mark Albon, trained: Richard Newland, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies
Description
Early days in the race and Right Hand Of God leads Clongowes and Blarney Bateleur. Just behind the leader is Bunny Boru.

This was not, on what we know of them so far, the strongest of maiden hurdle races and the betting suggested that two of them were head and shoulders above the rest - at 11/1 Sameer was third favourite. The pair that headed the market finished first and second, so it was all boringly predictable, right? Not really. Firstly it was Captain Biggles that was the odds-on shot, and secondly Game Socks was not really travelling with any zest from halfway and only really emerged as a possible winner after the second last due to his jockey's faith exceeding the horse's self belief. His change of mind on the value of success was so dramatic that Game Socks even had time to make a bit of a mistake at the last, which helpfully nudged Sameer out of his rhythm. Unsporting but legal. The step up in trip did not appear be a total success of an experiment for Captain Biggles but it was not as if he suffered a drubbing.

+ +  Sameer (3rd): A mile and a quarter flat winner in Germany, he had a first time tongue tie on for this hurdles debut and gave it a really good shot.

Right Hand Of God (5th): Set the pace pulling hard and still clung on to fifth with a bit of enthusiasm, only being ruled out of success at the last. He has some learning to do but is far from a lost cause.

Blarney Bateleur (8th): Having her first run for six hundred days after a win in her only Irish point, she mixed up front with Right Hand Of God, but tended not to jump as fluently. Divine retribution was to shuffle her back down the field in the home straight but she should improve on it.
Description
Business end and Game Socks has just got the measure of Captain Biggles (the grey), with Sameer putting his head somewhere that he may regret

Race 2: Betting.bet Novices' Chase (2m 1f)

1: Thebannerkingrebel

Winner owned: League Of Nations, trained: Jamie Snowden, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

Two lined up and favourite Stratagem thumped the first, just finding a leg to stay up but decking his rider. That fence is usually Plumpton's least ferocious test. Therefore a winning debut proved nothing about Thebannerkingrebel other than his ability to school around over a dozen fences - although he misjudged the ninth. He is rated 139 so it is possible that he can evolve into a talented chaser.

Race 3: Download The At The Races App Mares' Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Midnight Reflection     2: Ding Ding     3: Hawthorn Cottage

Winner owned: Case Racing Partnership & Anita J Lush, trained: Ben Case, ridden: Bryan Carver

As mentioned in the intro, there was no evidence that said any of the quintet of runners would stay 3m 1f, but Ding Ding, despite six Plumpton victories, held only a 6436 record over this distance, although the third was quite close due to being in a race of similarly stamina afflicted individuals. The race looked like it could be won by the horse least inconvenienced by circumstances. Descending the back straight for the final time, Ding Ding was holding third safely but losing ground on the first two. Her rally to nick second on the line is a strong criticism of how well Hawthorn Cottage stayed, but meanwhile Midnight Reflection (beaten by half length at 2m 7.5f at Ascot last time) had scooted off for a very easy win. She did not need to stay the complete distance but probably did.

Midnight Reflection (1st): She looked very badly handicapped before this run and any improvement unpackaged by the longer race could very easily be undone by another rocket up the ratings for winning by fourteen lengths.

x  Martha Brae (4th): In two disappointments this season she has not made the running, which was a common thread in her good form last term. Admittedly she had Hawthorn Cottage taking her on but after getting to the front, the effort to stay there left a lot to be desired and suggested tactics were not the issue in her recent failings.

x x  Jully Les Buxy (5th): Never one whose enthusiasm was infallible, she marked her debut for new yard by throwing in the towel at the first obstacle. Ouch. 
Description
Midnight Reflection trying to keep the margin / handicap rise down and not succeeding.

Race 4: Read Jumps Stable Tours On attheraces.com Novices' Hurdle (2m)

1: Smurphy Enki     2: On My Command     3: Wargrave

Winner owned: Miss Jane Goddard, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

This was a potentially decent race by Plumpton standards. Smurphy Enki started odds-on and eventually won with a bit up his sleeve, but On My Command put up a battling show until the second last. Wargrave gave his supporters a scare when fluffing the first hurdle, but the damage done was far less than the margin he lost by. He had Quiana, Dorking Rogue and Whydah Gally snapping at his heels on the line, but had retained the energy to keep them at bay. The one concern regarding the race was that the field as a whole showed some fairly ragged jumping skills - Whydah Gally was the ring leader - and that needs to be fixed if the physical ability is to be exploited to the max.

+ Smurphy Enki (1st): His otherwise solid early career had a question mark as the close third from his recent hurdle at Chepstow was a ten year old, 79-rated maiden, who had pulled up since. The rest looked fine and that anomaly was put to rest with an ultimately commanding display.

Quiana (4th): A triple winner on the flat in France, he had shown up respectably at Newbury when making his hurdles debut, only to not progress on it at Fontwell afterwards, although he was eased a lot when clearly doomed to third place. This was another fair effort and he can do better now handicapped.

Beaufort (9th): Looked the part in the paddock but prior to a wind op he had lost all three hurdle races by at least sixty lengths. He only cut that to fifty here, but nothing more was asked of him than a civilised meander around at the back. Watch for significant progress in handicap company.
Description
This time around On My Command leads Smurphy Enki. That order did not last.

Race 5: Follow At The Races On Twitter Handicap Hurdle (2m 4.5f)

1: Thibault     2: Northern Poet     3: Westbrook Bertie

Winner owned: Farm Fencing And West Racing, trained: Adam West, ridden: Tom Cannon

Twelve lined up and a significant number were lightly raced types with potential to improve from ground, distance or handicap assistance. The winner was a 33/1 upset as Thibault had been cast out from Kim Bailey's yard after disgracely failing to develop on his hurdles debut - nine lengths third to Epatante. A flat tune up for the current team was nothing special but he came good with a vengeance here after kicking on rounding the railway bend. Northern Poet (previously best in all-weather bumpers or on good to firm) plugged away without giving his supporters much hope, apart from the most crazed optimists. Behind him there was a good scrap for third, as Westbrook Bertie just nicked it from Good News, who had done a lot of the donkey work up front.

+  Thibault (1st): Contested this off of 109 and can win again as long as connections can keep him in the mood that was demonstrated this time.

Kaproyale (5th): When the bookies prices went up his was favourite but failed to sustain that degree of popularity. This was his first run beyond two miles and the + is on the basis that he will not be trying it again imminently. He would be a clear x if playing at being a two and a half miler again.

Kenyan Cowboy (8th): A winning British pointer who had been nicely progressive in novice hurdling, this proved to be a disappointing handicap debut, with the increased race distance not a convincing excuse.

x  Sirop De Menthe (11th): Fell when in with every chance of win number six in his most recent race and was backed into favourite on the basis of it. That tumble might have got to him mentally as he just sat at the back and did nothing at all to change that. On the one hand a bit more riding urgency would have been a desirable thing, but on the other the horse never looked as if he was lurking with a devastating assault waiting to be unleashed.

x x  Dante's View (7th): The hurdles record today was fourteen tries, thirteen of which ended in second, third or fourth place. The exception had been a sixth place, and even though the going was wrong for him, he is not one to trust when it is better.

Race 6: Sky Sports Racing attheraces.com Handicap Chase (3m 1.5f)

1: Special Acceptance     2: Smuggler's Blues     3: Ivilnoble

Winner owned: The Syndicators 2, trained: Paul Webber, ridden: Tom O'Brien

Turning for home, the first three had gone clear and it looked as if front running Ivilnoble had a strong chance of holding his irritants at bay. Unfortunately he blundered two out and as he stumbled to the right, he gave Smuggler's Blues a severe clout - that horse being unable to avoid him due to having Special Acceptance hemming him in. Despite this, Smuggler's Blues was running the fastest of them going for the last. This situation was uncharacteristically unacceptable to Special Acceptance, so he really knuckled down and prevailed by a neck. Smuggler's Blues was a genuinely unlucky loser, and Ivilnoble found that the error had knocked the stuffing out of him but could ease up a little with no risk of losing third once doomed to nothing better.

Special Acceptance (1st): Turning sound performance into wins had caused him great difficulty in the past but it is possible that now he has done it once he can manage a repeat - there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Ivilnoble (3rd): Has looked less than convincing with his jumping skills over fences and it only took one error to break his chances.

x  Uallrightharry (6th): Last season he was a staying chaser on the rise and his indifferent seasonal comeback before this could have be forgiven. He was off his game again here, running in snatches throughout. Cheekpieces or blinkers might be the answer but two duds in a row is discouraging.

x  Ballymagroarty Boy (7th): Had been in respectable form without success so far this season. This was a simple bad run and perhaps the four miler at Hexham last time took more out of him than it looked at the time.

Race 7: Watch Plumpton Race Relays On attheraces.com Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race (2m 1.5f)

1: Gelino Bello     2: Datsalrightgino     3: Sandy Brook

Winner owned: Mr and Mrs JD Cotton, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

The first impression was that this was at the top of the tree as far as Pumpton bumpers go and the big fear for course regulars is that these future stayer friendly races are going to become tiresomely fashionable. As for the race, those who had run could boast some fair efforts and all six newcomers were fielded by trainers that do send out bumper winners, in some cases very often. Also, when a horse attacks and gains a few lengths off of the home turn in these races, the talent discrepancy oftens results in the field quickly getting strung out. This time, when Gelino Bello went on, he still had five opponents breathing down his neck as he passed through the wings of the final hurdle. That group got so preoccupied with outlasting each other that nobody managed to work out how to drag back the winner. Datsalrightgino had been third in his debut, the second having won two hurdles since, and Sandy Brook finished fifth in an Irish point from which all those that beat him had subsequently won. The favourite, Piaff Bubbles, was only sixth but did not really get the clearest run when Gelino Bello quickened.

+  All of the first eight - Gelino Bello, Datsalrightgino, Sandy Brook, Sheldon, Robin's Dream, Piaff Bubbles, Cobbs Corner, Galurin - merit future scrutiny, although it would be amazing if they all become short term successes. Even the other four could show up well with the experience gained and being dropped into lesser races
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