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Plumpton, 13/2/17

A genteel six race card at face value, but dotted with some unexpectedly tough to derive handicaps. The result was one placed favourite and a big Placepot dividend. What a civilised way to spend a Monday.

Going: Soft

Race 1: Download The Award Winning At The Races App Mares' Novices' Hurdle [2m]

1: Postbridge     2: Chandos Belle     3: Hermarna

Winner owned: P Mott, trained: Warren Greatrex, ridden: Gavin Sheehan

Before it started, this appeared to be a race for which the word unexceptional was invented, although classicists will insist that it first appeared in connection with Pompeii’s volcanic eruption evacuation plan. For those involved in the first four, they can take consolation from the fact that they put some daylight between themselves and the pack. Before now Postbridge and Phoeniciana had been peppering the places, in a way that was beginning to get anonying. Those pesky classicists got together and made for Phoeniciana to be favourite, but it was Postbridge who had slightly the stronger form, and the race bore out that the civil engineer’s choice was the better horse. Between them finished Chandos Belle (third on debut at Doncaster in a race that appeared quite weak) and Hermarna, seventh on hurdles debut in a race of potentially better quality than this.

+   Chandos Belle (2nd) & Hermarna (3rd): This form does not amount to a huge performance, but they both hinted at going the right way as they get to grips with hurdles, and have not yet given the handicapper a reason for being too harsh.
+   Harvey (6th): Avoided being thrashed in her bumper debut in a bad race, but had not repeated that modest level of achievement since. She was far from embarrassed here and can perhaps do something if allowed into class 5 company.
+   The Golden Hour (8th): One her first run for twenty months and first go at hurdling, she was too rusty to compete with the big four, but went through the race in a likeable style for future handicaps.
x   Phoeniciana (4th): Has a run of places to her name that was already ominous, and this weak finishing effort fuelled the fire of suspect determination.

Race 2: Read Barry Geraghty's Blog On attheraces.com Novices' Limited Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Minella On Line     2: Royals And Rebels     3: Royal Salute

Winner owned: AHB Racing Partnership, trained: Oliver Sherwood, ridden: Leighton Aspell

Only five runners, and a case could be made for all five of them as a potential winner, being very aware favourite Royal Salute had the attraction of two recent course and distance wins. This proved to be a step too far and he was struggling a long way out, although at least he strived his way into challenging for a place until the last fence. The race was turned into a cakewalk by Minella On Line, whose jumping showed exactly why his last two races were a win and unseated. When he got them right, he really pinged them, but the concept of closing his eyes and guessing was used at a few as well, and he did not guess well. Royals And Rebels was making his chase debut and ran in snatches, until stretched by Minella On Line and being off the bridle for the rest of the way. Like the jolly, he did see it out to the line, but the winner was a dot on the horizon.

x   Tea Time Fred (PU): Has done some good work over hurdles, but hit the deck on chase debut and dropped out rapidly after two miles this time, despite no jumping horrors.
x   You Say What (PU): Just has not taken to chasing at all, and is to be ignored until back hurdling or showing some intermediate progress towards competence. Both runs on sharp turns have been woeful, and that may carry back to hurdling.

Race 3: Follow At The Races On Twitter Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Ding Ding     2: Cobolobo     3: Amron Kali

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

This race featured ten runners. Eight could be given some degree of chance on form at various stages in the last year, and the ground turning out to be less soft than expected only made choosing between them harder. The other two were more off of their game, but were at least well handicapped on peak efforts some time hence. One of those was ruled out on the basis of bad stable form. So, in a field of ten, does nine possibles count as a shortlist? The purists would say no. The nineists would say it does not matter, because the number nine is important. The fear of a mass finish was coming true at the second last hurdle, but Ding Ding emerged from the pack, she was chased by Cobolobo (who had not got into a threatening positions as early as Ding Ding, which harmed his chances). They put a wild four lengths between them and the five pursuing hard. After going up in the handicap all season, Ding Ding raised her game again to cope with the less exposed runner-up. By the standards of Plumpton, this seemed like a fair race, and there is a good chance that it will generate some winners in the near future.

+   Amron Kali (3rd): Has found some seriously functional form since joining her current yard, and although beaten here, she ran perfectly well, and can deliver again in a less tough challenge.
+   Holbrook Park (4th): Represents a yard going through a quiet spell, and has shown signals of being a bit of a Warwick specialist so far. Therefore this counts as a respectable effort and better is perfectly possible.
x   Kings Walk (6th): Headed the betting and plenty of people’s not-very-short-lists for the race but put in a fairly tame effort when it all got a bit manic late on. Disappointing, but perhaps he needs genuinely bad ground.
x   Margot Fontane (9th): Surprised with the promise shown in novice hurdles and then fluffed her handicap debut by not staying 3m 1f here – it looked like. Setting the pace in this shorter race, she ran out of steam very quickly after the fourth last, and past compliments on here now come with severe reservations.
Description
Ding Ding takes control at the last, as Holbrook Park (hooped cap) weakens and Amron Kali (10) gains second place only to lose it soon after to the dark eminence that is Cobolobo.

Race 4: Your Cheltenham Guide At attheraces.com/Cheltenham Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Clonusker     2: Brice Canyon     3: Miss Oscarose

Winner owned: David Yeadon, trained: Linda Jewell, ridden: Thomas Garner

Clonusker made his chase debut here in the sort of deep mud that he relishes and ruined it by falling the first time that he made a mistake. On ground that would have seemed to lack the juice to suck the will from his oppo, he got his first win over fences, and in quite convincing fashion over a distance that had formerly been a problem for him. It helped that Miss Oscarose ran a sluggish sort of race, like a slow horse that enjoys testing ground bringing the others down to her level (see also Clonusker). Also useful was that Brice Canyon’s yard is high up the cold list, as he only struggled home after leading for a long way – although he at least struggled willingly enough to regain second from Miss Oscarose.

x   Gardiners Hill came here with three wins on the spin, but was not at his best and was eased before the last fence, a well beaten fourth.x Gardiners Hill (4th): Ran as if his spell of peak performance has evaporated, but at least he made the most of it when it was around. The handicapper will be his worst enemy from here on in.
x   Ma'ire Rua (5th): Finished with a bit of relish, but significantly did so when the jumping was almost done, and on the whole he is not a horse that has got stuck into chasing with much interest.
xx   La Paimpolaise (PU): Started adequately in Britain, but has quickly soured and hated this chase debut from an early stage. Options are running out.

UK-Jumping Selection – Clonusker (1st): Got it right next time after the tribulation of his chase debut. When conditions are right, he can do it again, but we must remember that consistency has not been one of his stronger attributes.
Description
With the field quite spread out early on, Clonusker (5) and Finnegan's Garden (9) strive to fill the gaps with their own body parts. Gardiners Hill knows enough to stay out of this nonsense

Race 5: At The Races Sky 415 Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Act Now     2: Wishicould   3: Homers Odyssey

Winner owned: Barrow Hill, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Noel Fehily

The staying hurdle proved to be the one race where the horses finished as tired as soft ground at Plumpton would suggest was coming. Act Now was the only runner to really look at home and she had the opposition hard at work with a long way to race. The horse that he deposed as favourite, Wishicould, had the awkward problem of being outpaced in what was quite a slow race, but she at least kept going to the line in her first staying hurdle. Telling the tale of Homers Odyssey on handicap debut is not easy, and it is not down to interruptions from sirens, serpents, cyclops etc. He did make himself more competitive than he had done in novice hurdles, but for all we could see this distance was too far for him. However, he did not go through the race like a horse in need of a shorter (and probably faster run) race. Somewhere it can fall into place for him, but more evidence is needed to predict when and where. Similar was true for fourth placed Raising Hope, whose gentle improvement from a dismal base was halted here in a non-staying effort. So with hope having been raised, she just slightly undermined the edifice today.

+   Act Now (1st): Lived up to her name and won like a horse that can act in future as well. She did not have the hardest of races, and a spin under a penalty should be taken seriously. Her novice hurdle runs at shorter did have a whiff of the not letting her full ability be revealed, but she responded well to the three miles plus - more so than could reasonably have been forecast.
+   Wishicould (2nd): Lost by a disappointing eighteen lengths, but it is possible that she just was in the wrong place on the wrong day, and can be given another chance.
x   Itoldyou (6th): A respectable staying chaser on his day, he was very unexposed over hurdles, but potentially well treated. The adaptation back to the smaller obstacles befuddled him enough to ruin the day.

Race 6: Download The At The Races App For Ipad Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: The Game Is A Foot     2: Dragoon Guard     3: Landscape

Winner owned: The Secret Circle Racing Club, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Frankie Penford

Another competitive race in which the ones on a lower weight had a chance to sucker punch horses that had done more obvious things of merit, and had higher weights as a consequence. It did seem that as they passed the railway turn, Dragoon Guard had shaken off the rest and just had to stroll to glory. However, The Game Is A Foot is used to competing over further and he began to erode the lead quite quickly. Nothing else emerged from the pack, so they faced the stands in a head to head in which the heads were not yet facing up with each other. The Game Is A Foot jumped the last couple of flights more slickly than the tiring runner-up, and eventually came home a couple of lengths to the good. Having been placed in the same novice hurdle here recently, Funny Oyster and Work ran to similar form against each other and were well beaten in fourth and fifth. Take a look back at the race won by Bastien and have second thoughts on the value.

+   The Game Is A Foot (1st): Had run well in his last two, both at further, and that distance flexibility enhances his options when trying to find a race before the handicapper takes a look at the current rating.
+   Landscape (3rd): Has been a long time in the doldrums, and was still well beaten here. His yard, however, have turned around the odd struggler of similar profile before in these bottom drawer handicaps, so do not dismiss this performance too readily.
x   Mollylikestoboogie (PU): Started 3/1 as her first run for Nigel Twiston-Davies and in a tongue tie made people expect progress from abysmal past efforts. For half the race it was on the cards, but the effort stopped abruptly in the back straight. She might get there, but time is needed.
Description
Mollylikestoboogie is still in front and pulling hard passing the stables. Look to the rear for the winner where The Game Is A Foot indeed. Dragoon Guard is the one in red and black in mid-air. The other three in view are Work, Sparkling Ice and Blackwood Rover
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