Plumpton, 12/2/18

The meeting was not overburdened with runners as only thirty seven made it all day, but it is hard to imagine a card in which so few runners could make for such unpredictable racing. Events began with a space hopper race in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund. Tom Scudamore won it, then tried to get some return from the IJF by crossing the line with a somersault. It proved to be about 75% of one. Perhaps we should congratulate him on a) good, if not complete, space hopper skills and b) making the most of the soft landing offered by the wet ground. Still, we half expected to hear Milton Johns announce that Tom Scudamore will be giving up his rides due to space hopper related injuries.

Going: Heavy, with plenty of sand

Race 1: SW Catering Mares' Novices' Hurdle [2m]

1: Harmonise      2: Kaloci     3: Tierra Verde

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

This was probably the least competitive race on the card, and we stll had the first two in the betting scrapping out a good finish for the neutrals. With Kaloci shortening from 11/10 to 4/6 and Harmonise drifting from 11/8 to 5/2, the number of neutrals was probably limited and the partisans were mostly going to end up disaffected - this could have been Yugoslavia in 1945 all over again. As Kaloci's rider Ciaran Gethings noted afterwards (about horses, not the political machination of Josip Broz Tito), Kaloci did nothing wrong, but she could not concede a winner's penalty and a four year olds' allowance to Harmonise, who is a 71-rated flat horse showing potential to be better over jumps. She had run an excellent first race until losing out in a final hurdle melee at Ascot and the concern here was that she is quite headstrong and could run herself into trouble again. That did not happen but the commentary refrain of "Harmonise jumps out to her left" was spot on.

+   Tierra Verde (3rd): Showed some modest bumper ability, only to flop a bit on hurdles debut. This was an improved show as far as the second last and there remains something to work with when handicapped.
Kaloci taking a more circumspect appraoch the final hurdle was no use once Harmonise had flung herself at it in a less risk-free style and survived

Race 2: The David Ashforth And Friends Novices Limited Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Eamon An Cnoic     2: Holbrook Park

Winner owned: The Angove Family, trained: David Pipe, ridden: Tom Scudamore

A disappointing three horse turnout started as if it may be a tiresome procession, with San Pedro De Senam leading Eamon An Cnoic, who in turn was in front of Holbrook Park. It all changed when San Pedro De Senam made a total mess of fence ten and dropped to third. Never happy afterwards, he was tailed off when unseating at the last, wasting a good piece of jockey gymnastics to survive the original error. Eamon An Cnoic had endured a long thought regarding how close the stables were at fence nine, but he was not a problem afterwards and just held at bay a revitalised Holbrook Park for the win - the runner-up making his own error at the final fence to confirm the outcome.

+   Holbrook Park (2nd): Won his chase debut at Fakenham, pulled up in his next two and then toddled off for a wind operation. He also pulled up in the return appearance, but bringing back the tongue tie helped here and good to soft or quicker ground is likely to work more in his favour.
Eamon An Cnoic pops the last fence nice and easily. Purists will want to quibble with what Holbrook Park is up to

Race 3: IEP Financial Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Graasten     2: Ding Ding     3: Norse Legend

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

So we now were forced to embark on the two-thirds of the cards where fields of six or eight were almost impossible to narrow down to a genuinely short shortlist. Graasten won visually impressively in what was his first race since March 2017, but the other five all finished very tired and the race opened up for him like a badly sealed envelope. In his absence he has rounded out some stamina issues that were a possible challenge here. Ding Ding was the only danger two hurdles out, but whilst he likes it a lot here (played 13, won 4 now) he only has one career run on heavy and did not have conditions to bring out a lifetime best effort, which is what was needed. The betting market went nuts for Norse Legend, debuting for Colin Tizzard. He did not reciprocate the appreciation. Leading early, he was headed with half a lap left and just plodded on at one pace - at least it was a one pace slightly quicker than the that offered by fourth placed Theydon Park, who was gieven a cold shoulder in the betting.

+   Graasten (1st): If he fails to repeat this comeback run, do consider the bounce factor and give him another chance after it.

+   Justification (6th): A stablemate of the winner, he ran well in his last race at Wincanton, and has a Sandown win in the past. After a smattering of efforts on left-handed tracks that were all atrocious, he has been avoiding them. Expect a revival when (not if, surely) he is back going clockwise.

x x   Justification (6th): Anyone making excuses for past failures going this way round watched him noodle around in rear without ever looking enthused about it. If he comes back here, or to Fontwell or Lingfield, stay well away.
Graasten is actually in this shot, behind the yellow jacketed Ladofash. Norse Legend is in front, Theydon Park behind them. There is a coincidence exacta to put in with Norse Legend and Ladofash, but it was nowhere near paying off here.

Race 4: Strong Flavours Catering Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Sir Hubert     2: Le Couer Net     3: Ramore Will

WInner owned: Captain Adrian Pratt & Friends, trained: Richard Rowe, ridden: Andrew Glasssonbury

'Twas the end of an era at Plumpton, with the usual fornightly query of "will today be the day for Sir Hubert?" no longer to be asked. He started out with some indifferent jumping (again) but he did warm up and cause himself minimal inconvenience late on. Le Couer Net had tried to sieze the race on the railway bend, but Sir Hubert drew alongside going the better and only had to avoid doing anything stupid from there. That was not a guarantee, but the pantheon of Hubertist gods smiled upon him this time. After a bit of an educational in his first chase here, Two Hoots choosing to jump off in front looked a significant change of tactics. Until fence eight that is, where he blundered and slithered and slid along until Nick Scholfield could hold on no longer. Just about all of them bar the winner finished very tired, so Ramore Will ended up losing by barely five lengths, having been a good candidate for distant last going into the back straight.

+   Moneystown (4th): He had contested three novice hurdles and a novice chase without being able to get involved. Today he made his handicap debut after ten months off and ran alright really. Looking back to his Irish pointing, he had two seconds and a win, and might have found a workable handicap mark (90) for when he is spot on for fitness. Different going might matter as well.

x   King Cool (5th): Does not lack the raw ability to win this from top weight, but does have a gap where adequate jumping skills should be. Well worth taking on in chases.

UK-Jumping Selections: Le Couer Net (2nd): After being a bit frustrating/disappointing/evil (select your own adjective depending on how much of your money he has frittered away) it did look last time that he had found his niche. Now we are not too sure.
The result - pictorial evidence

Race 5: Nigel And Barbara Collison Supporting The IJF Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: The Golden Hour     2: Sandhurst Lad     3: Cheque En Blanc

Winner owned: Nigel Sharp, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Tommy Dowling

The lesson put to us here is that once a horse has had a successful improvement from a wind operation, it is still a requirement to find the right course, distance and going. Last time The Golden Hour ran on from well back at Leicester over two and a half miles. For this race she also sat at the rear but made progress, under a bit of pressure, heading into the last mile. She outsayed two in-form horses in Sandhurst Lad (second over this trip at the last meeting at Plumpton) and Cheque En Blanc (winner of his last two, both three milers). A bit like the two and a half miler earlier, the first two got control as the rest weakened dramatically. Blame over enthused front running or lack of stamina or just being a bit below par. The other horse with a recent medical procedure was Sartorial Elegance. In the past he just about stayed this far but was better at about 2m 5f and he has not been keen on heavy ground. This ended in fourth place, which would imply the wind work was wasted, but we might see different over shorter on slightly better ground conditions. Or not. After all, a track covered in sand was not enough to get a win for Sandhurst Lad. Who said information is power?

+   The Golden Hour (1st): Delivered on past moments of promise and ought to be capable of more efforts like this. The one concern is that with the first two suddenly finding themselves a long way in front, the handicapper would have a valid reason for putting them both up a lot.

+   Somerset Jem (6th): His last two runs, at Taunton and Bangor, were respectable, but this one was not. Consider forgiveness back at a sharp, LEVEL venue.

x   Somerset Jem (6th): Started favourite for this despite a dismal history on undulating courses. He was not inclined to rewrite history when the race sorted itself out going downhill in the back straight and the hint needs to taken by punters as well.

x   Achille (7th): Had definite talent in France in 2014/15 but after one British run he was stuck with a two year absence. This was his third run back and all have been not very good. Stable form is weak at the moment, but a little bit of life needs to be seen before assessing what he is now capable of doing.

Race 6: Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Cassivellaunus     2: Be Daring     3: Ormskirk

Winner owned: Vectis Racing, trained: Daniel Steele, ridden: William Clarke

It is the rule at Plumpton that racegoers must go home confounded and bemused. The engine for this is the 0-100 handicap hurdle. This was achieved today by making it a conditional riders race and we saw horses joint sixth in the betting, from eight runners, make the frame, and Be Daring fail yet again, despite being favoruite. Cassivellaunus hung left on the run-in (jockey had his whip in the right-hand as well) and took Be Daring with him - plus Upham Running followed for the fun of it. The runner-up was not close to being bumped and lost by about a length, but we have to wonder if it was enough to intimidate the not necessarily at all daring Be Daring. By method of running in a straight line up the stands rail, the fast finishing Ormskirk stole third late, narrowly missed second and probably did not need many more yards to consider a win. Returning to the topic of the winner, he turned around a situation of being well beaten by Upham Running last time, and having only six previous races under his belt, more progress is viable.

+ +   Ormskirk (3rd): This looked a bad option for him due to the heavy ground and missing headgear. After a poor effort on his stable debut, this was light years better and he seems ready to deliver this spring.

x   Be Daring (2nd): His jumping record comes riddled wih alarm bells and breaking his winless status will need a bit more ferocity than shown today.

x   Drewmain Legend (7th): Disappointed in the first time cheekpieces, but after a bad error three out, he faded a bit tamely. It is probably the mistake that should draw the finger pointing of blame, but after a fine show in second last time, he is in a race against time to find an opening whilst the mud prevails and this result is not confidence enhancing.
ADDENDUM / EPILOGUE / APPENDIX (delete as seen fit)

After a rush of feedback (two emails) pointing out that when a meeting is short of runners, site policy is usually to give everyone a mention, this demands adding to the Plumpton report. Do not fear a future rush of unashamed populism. 

Legend Of France (race 1, 4th): Trundled on for fourth at a distance not as far back as might have expected. Not the worst hurdles debut of all time, but nothing to spark any interest prior to handicapping.

Chloe’s Court (race 1, 5th): Finished a not too close fourth on her bumper debut, and did no better on her hurdling debut.

Atalanta’s Gold (race 1, PU): Finished miles back on her debut, but at least did complete. She only lost touch from the third last, but that was exactly the time when it became necessary to show what she was made of.

Ladofash (race 3, 5th): Caught some eyes with his very low weight after the four year old’s allowance was applied. He was prominent when fluffy hurdle nine and made a similar mess of the next. From that point he was not able to stay in touch with the main contenders, but he did not look out of place before the naïve errors.

Shoofly Milly (race 5, 5th): She has intermittently shown more stamina than some of her opponents, but after losing the lead she was quickly dismissed from being a factor. She has been in wobbly form since her win last March and as he does not really function left-handed, this was just the outcome expected.

Landscape (race 5, PU): He is becoming very unpredictable, and his recent good run here at two miles (when seemingly having become a stayer) is looking like an alternative to three milers, not a complement to them.

Sixties Idol (race 6, 5th): Went up and down through the field (one or two errors did not help) and then the changes came to an end from the third last. Or so it seemed, until he edged back up a couple of places after the final hurdle. 0/25 now, mostly for the reasons specified.

Kalarika (race 6, 6th): Showed a bit of hope in bumpers and then seemed to be on educationals in novice company. That has proved to be wrong, as she is struggling in handicaps as well. This was her least bad hurdling result, which is ominous.

Third Act (race 6, 8th): He was doing well as recently as the summer, although it was in chases where he has not yet managed a win. In recent months he has gone right off of the boil, and this return to hurdling did not sharpen him up.
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