Plumpton, 13/3/18

It was all about rumours and conspiracy theory at Plumpton today. The theory on the spot was that racing would be abandoned halfway through due to bad ground and ongoing rain. Having already been at Fontwell in much worse this year, which they got through to defy pessimism, and recalling past Plumptons that have endured a greater degree of testingosity, abandonment was never really expected, but nobody could blame the officials for monitoring the state of play with a hint of anxiety. A tin foil hat would at least keep the rain off. However, even a relatively sparse card for runners did a lot of damage to the surface. Apologies to fans of pictures made indistinct by raindrops – did not even take the camera and descend into to the inevitable fail.

The other, more interesting, paranoid manifesto, was the Douvan/Altior scenario. Firstly Willie Mullins had said that Douvan was headed for the Ryanair Chase (as if anyone really wants to win anything sponsored by Ryanair). Then he is declared for the Queen Mother, with Ruby Walsh available. Hmmm. Then Altior is reported lame, although not a definite non-runner. It is not unreasonable to think that Mullins W had a doubt about Altior before the declarations stage, but do bear in mind that what he tells the media about running plans and which races are contested by which horses coincide more rarely than many choose to remember. It would be nice to think that he fobs off the press with any old nonsense and then goes off to do something important (by which we do not mean lay Douvan for the Ryanair…)

Going: Heavy

Race 1: 188bet 10% Back At Cheltenham Tuesday Novices’ Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Larry     2: Seaston Spirit     3: Solstice Twilight

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

The predicted favourite Dell Oro was vulnerable to the original going, which was only soft, so his withdrawal was sort of inevitable, and it only left the race for a horse in the same stable and ownership. Larry and Seaston Spirit did not appear as far apart on ability as prices of 4/11 and 9/4 implied, but Seaston Spirit did not jump fluently enough to prevent Larry making all the of the running. As they bypassed the first hurdle in the home straight, the first two had accepted the final outcome. That did leave a good scrap for third, with the more experienced Solstice Twilight plodding over the line just ahead of Judge Judy.

+   Judge Judy (4th): This was an extremely mediocre performance, but it was only the second race in her life, and she had pulled up on the debut. The fight for third will have taught her something and it is not hard to see her slowly progress into class 5 handicap competitiveness. Or winning a maiden point next season.

Race 2: Peter Earl Memorial Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Duhallow Lad     2: Le Couer Net

Winner owned: Burnham P&D Ltd, trained: Alan Jones, ridden: Tom O’Brien

When only two of six starters completed this, some people were heard claiming that the conditions were too difficult for chases, which rather overlooked the fact that Duhallow Lad was making his Rules chase debut and the circumstances did not seem to bother him too much. Le Couer Net was lucky to finish, but that was because a loose horse very nearly carried him out at the tenth fence. After that he took things cautiously. The other chase debutant, Western Sunrise, was sticky at the first two and chucked off Brendan Powell at the third. Ramore Will, who won his first chase but has since looked less than 100% sure that it is his preferred career path, unseated at the tricky first fence at the foot of the hill – lots of horses do this, irrespective of the ground. Lillington had two far from foot perfect previous chases and was not taking a surprising route when he unseated next, and Sir Hubert fell – another horse who has not been error free in the past. So is it the ground or simply the limited skills of the horses that guided us to two finishers?

+   Duhallow Lad (1st): The bare requirement of winning this was minimal, but the matter of fact way that he went about it with only pointing experience of fences was encouraging. He looked well in the prelims too.

  Lillington (UR): Ended up second favourite, but confirmed why he is not one to be siding with over fences.

UK-Jumping Selections: Le Couer Net (2nd): Should have been suited by the race distance but has not really gone on from the apparent confidence boost of his first win.

Race 3: 188bet Best Priced Mullins Cheltenham Wednesday Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Tambura     2: Ballyheigue Bay     3: Clondaw Bisto

Winner owned & trained: Godfrey Maundrell, ridden: Zac Baker

The theme of the day was that small fields did not make for uncompetitive races and in this case six runners still produced a 3/1 favourite (as per the second race) and a 7/1 outsider. That outsider was Tambura, one of the four to have contested the same course and distance race at the end of February. That day the order was Ballyheigue Bay (1st), Sandhurst Lad (2nd), Tambura (5th) and Clondaw Bisto (6th). Sandhurst Lad was fourth, so the January form was worth following. The story of the race was that Ballyheigue Bay set such a sensible pace – not often his modus operandum – that once headed and dropped to fourth as they left the station behind, he could even fight back for second. No sniff of success for him, however, as Tambura had been steadied in rear, then laboured through a bit of a sulk halfway before perking up when she got to cruise past some tired horses without it being excessively hard work.

+   Amberjam (5th), Pop Rockstar (6th): Both ended up tailed off, but this was a class 3 race and their better efforts were in class 4 or 5, so, knowing that they can function at three miles, they just need less intense opposition. Also, any horse with a name referencing marmalade needs to be endorsed.

x   Tambura (1st): Did nothing devastatingly wrong and has proven that she will stay pretty much any distance that can be thrown at her. But she has developed a moody vibe and is not one to be risking at short prices.

Race 4: 188bet Faller Refunds At Cheltenham Thursday Mares’ Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Snippetydoodah     2: Iconic Sky     3: Loves Destination

Winner owned & trained: Mike Roberts, trained: Tom O’Brien

Things were much as per the previous race, with 3/1 joint favourites and the winner owned by her trainer. The resemblance ended there as Snippetydoodah was the low weighted mare rising above her normal class, a policy which had not paid dividends one race earlier. Going around the final bend Iconic Sky was shaping as if she could reel in Snippetydoodah, but the winner had snapped out of a mini-slump that had brought about a couple of indifferent performances to kick off her winter campaign. Loves Destination gave it a good shot but was too busy holding off Molly Carew for third to be worrying the first two. Molly Carew was a bit disappointing as the stable form has picked up since her latest runs, but maybe she just needs a bit more time to get her best back. The risk is that the ground dries out before that happens.

+   Jubilympics (5th): Looked well and has managed some interesting form so far but despite a win on heavy had never encountered such epically Plumptonian going before. She appeared to loathe it. Give her another chance to prove her worth.

+   Daytime Ahead (UR): At the time that she shed her rider, by landing awkwardly rather than making a dismal blunder, she was losing her position. Forgive the flop as she needs to go right-handed (one performance that contradicts that is very suspect form).

x   Ding Ding (6th): Has won on soft at two and a half miles round here, but looks as if shorter is preferred in the mud. Not being terribly attractively handicap is also a current issue.

Race 5: 188bet Extra Places At Cheltenham Friday Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: The Lion Dancer     2: Sounds Of Italy

Winner owned: The 25 Club, trained: Charlie Mann, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

Another chase with two finishers out of six starters. In this case three pulled up. Black Franks Angel because she hates this going. General Girling because he nearly fell at the fifteenth and did not subsequently have the energy to finished the race. Hansupfordetroit because he is old enough to realise that saving his energy for a nicer day had no downside. Of the remaining three, Dancing Conquest was too tired to land at the last and tipped up, but The Lion Dancer had swept into command by that stage anyway and she was not ending up better than second place. Sounds Of Italy completed in at his own convenience on his handicap debut. At least defeat saved us from some fool singing O Sole Mio as he passed the post.

+   The Lion Dancer (1st): His Irish point form has a respectable aura, but he had steadily disappointed so far, even allowing for getting handicapped in races where he was out of his depth. Waltzing to easy success does not add up to a great deal, yet it was at least a small degree of progress that was so far not coming his way.

x   Dancing Conquest (F): She had shown nothing before today, tailing off in three chases before pulling up in her last two. She was weakening but in the process of doing much better when falling at the last. It took her a long time to get her breath back and get back on her feet, and it would be less than amazing if a certain bitterness about chasing is left in her mind. As would be true with punters who followed the dance related Exacta.

Race 6: Strong Flavours Catering Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Mr Lando     2: Lubatic     3: Landscape

Winner owned: The Lansdowners, trained: Johnny Farrelly, ridden: Gary Lavery

The defection of King Cnut deprived the commentator (and UK-Jumping) of plenty of pun-ishing references to the amount of water on the course. Still disappointment was put aside to think about what may be left to happen. What we had were three on top of the card that demanded consideration, Landscape in the middle who could not be ruled out on his peak standard but whose litany of ailments are making his intermittent good displays rarer and rarer. Landscape was not on one of his worst days, but was only toiling for a place behind Mr Lando, who ran out a clear winner in the end. Royal Etiquette does not show up well often hurdling but tends to see Plumpton as a place to think about it, and he only narrowly failed to take third place. Dude Alert ran better than his 50/1 price for a long way, but when he ran out of steam he quickly dropped out to the back, where he met the lacklustre Sweet’N’Chic.

+   Mr Lando (1st): Managed a close second at Taunton last month, which was the first sign of emerging from a slump that had nearly reached two years. He confirmed that the recovery was underway here, and remains well enough handicapped to add to it, plus he is not dependent on bottomless going.

+   Lubatic (2nd): Before this he had one run on soft, losing narrowly in a first time hood and one run on heavy where he was tailed off in a non-handicap. The inclination is to give him a benefit of the doubt and hope for him going one better when the conditions are nicer. Define his idea of nicer!!

x   Goldslinger (5th): Just over a year ago he ran well enough in a Newbury novice hurdle to suggest that a class 5 race like this would be very winnable. Before getting a chance for his old yard he moved to Gary Moore, but where that would normally make him Plumpton class 5 gold, yet he has now run two very sluggish races for the yard.

x   Royal Etiquette (4th): Won three on three flat – from fifty-nine races so far – but he is now 0/19 hurdling and demands a grade deal of optimism to be supporting, even if you like his each-way claims in Plumpton two milers.
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