Plumpton, 16/4/17

Easter Sunday is always busy at Plumpton. The less than blazing sunshine prevented a maximum crowd cramming in but there were still a lot of people. The only ones who caused a degree of annoyance were the ones whose suspiciously clean and shiny Land Rover broke down in the exit after racing. Cue chaos.

As far as the racing was concerned, the big event, the Sussex Champion Hurdle, was a competitive affair, as it has been each year since inauguration, but it was paired with two so-so novice hurdles and four very low level handicaps. More runners of a fast ground preference might have been expected as the prize money was not all bottom level.

People present had a chance to witness one of the shoddiest on course promotions in history. As sponsor, the Tote offered anyone putting on a Placepot the chance to go into a draw to present the trophy for race five. For all those contact details collected, they never even managed to offer the winner a free bet.

Going: Good to Firm

Race 1: Toteplacepot Easter Hurdle Novices Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Peak To Peak     2: Our Reward     3: Cap Horner

Winner owned: Mrs & Mrs Mark Woodhouse, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

Despite being well backed from 8/11 to be returned as the 1/2 favourite, Peak To Peak did not win impressively. Admittedly he did not need to be ferociously ridden to ensure success by a couple of lengths, but he may not have 100% enjoyed his first spin on quick conditions. Our Reward was urged along from the third last, keeping on at one pace thereafter and recovering from a position where it seemed that hurdle debutant Cap Horner would biff him for second place. As Cap Horner had not lost any of his bumpers by fewer that twenty-three lengths, his four lengths loss casts a shadow over the value of the form.

+   Cap Horner (3rd): Despite the reservations expressed above, he must surely have performed better than in his bumper races and is one to watch for regarding further progress. In handicapping terms, he could do with the ratings men being suspicious of this form.

Race 2: Toteexacta Handicap Chase[2m 3.5f]

1: Remember Forever     2: Code Of Law     3: Rude And Crude

Winner owned: The Forever Partnership, trained: Richard Rowe, ridden: Andrew Glassonbury

In a race contested by horses that did not catch the eye as built to be taking on fences, the one horse who looked like he should be doing the job gained the win. This was the third success of the season for Remember Forever, all at roughly this distance but in a nice variety of ground conditions. He coped with Code Of Law trying to confuse him by leading to the second, making a mistake and being steadied to drop to fourth, leading again at fence ten, and then just going on at just one pace when asked to attack two out. Rude And Crude made a move on the railway turn, but it petered out quickly and the first two went away from him fairly readily.

x   Code Of Law (2nd): Winless in his career overall, he is 222U2 in chases, and despite the nearness of this miss being encouraging at face value, it is time to wonder just how weak a race he would need to get his nose in front.

x   Goring Two (5th): Prefers cut but has suggested an ability to operate on fast ground when the oppo is weak enough. This line up did seem to fit the bill, but he was just outpaced all the way.

x   Grayhawk (UR): Jumped solidly when badly outclassed in two small field novice chases, but when pitched into more realistic handicap company he has fallen and unseated, both at the bottom of the back straight. Problems, problems, problems, although a flatter course might confuse him less.

x x   Killabraher Cross (4th): Had course form that made this race seem very, very winnable, but has lost his way in recent races. Adding cheekpeices seemed to perk him up initially, but as soon as he made an error mid-race the backpedalling started in earnest. A dramatic cure is needed.

Race 3: Totequadpot Easter Novices Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Lake Chapala     2: Lovely Bubbly     3: Give Him Time

Winner owned: Butler Spencer Partnership, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Marc Goldstein

This was working out like a perfectly normal race, but then mutated into a brawl on the far side of the course. It began with some jostling for position and then got serious when Give Him Time jumped badly left and crashed into Flashman, who quickly weakened and was pulled up. His rider dismounted, but the horse was able to be walked back to the stables. Not long afterwards it was apparent that not only had Give Him Time taken out a major rival, he had also damaged his own chances. That left the finish to be contested between Lake Chapala, debuting for Chris Gordon after some extremely wayward antics when in Tim Vaughan’s stable and Lovely Bubbly, a chasing debutant from who else but Tim Vaughan’s team. Of course the resentment of being sent away in disgrace motivated Lake Chapala but after a promising hurdles effort here last season, the runner-up has not been covering himself in glory and may not have taken much beating.

+   Flashman (PU): Came here with the advantage of being proven on fast ground, and his defeat was possibly bad luck – although it is hard to say what may have happened without GBH from a rival. Give him another chance.

x   Lake Chapala (1st): Absolutely on his best behaviour today. Will it continue? It is easy to be cynical, but possibly the invigorating of a new yard will last a while longer.

UK-Jumping Selections – Lovely Bubbly (2nd): The form of his good hurdle effort here still holds up, but he has not replicated it. This chase debut was not his worst effort, but it will need some more verve before it is time to get enthused about him in this part of the job.

Race 4: Totepool Sussex Champion Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Tommy Silver     2: Song Light     3: Regulation

Winner owned: Done, Ferguson, Mason & Wood, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Stan Sheppard

Quite a disappointing race as a spectacle in the end, as Tommy Silver ran out a comprehensive winner. All that it took to do this was him running somewhere near his best and the others tending to perform at the bottom end of their range, or in their least convincing style – which in some cases is quite shambolic indeed. Tommy Silver was last seen finishing midfield in the conditional jockeys’ handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, so must have found this splendidly easy in comparison. Song Light is also used to higher company, his last three runs being the Greatwood Hurdle, the Betfair Hurdle and the County Hurdle, all Grade 3 valuable handicaps. He had been placed in two of them, but what we saw was why Song Light can do that yet struggles to find wins when put in more manageable races like this – no ability to quicken when the heat is on. He is a nice each-way option in those major events.

+   Regulation (3rd): Only he and the winner were not using headgear, but two of his occasional wins were in cheekpieces. When they return he could be worth taking a chance on as he likes fast ground. A hood was tried recently to no avail.

x   Rossetti (PU): Proven on fast ground, he had been off for five months since pulling up in the Greatwood Hurdle. Appearing fit enough to be a factor, he was disappointingly rushed off of his feet from a fairly early stage of the race and is not currently handicapped to contest lesser races.

x   Bleu Et Noir (PU): Often a crazed front runner to the degree of using up his energy long before the race has ended, he did settle a bit better here in first time cheekpieces, but from the point when they passed the post with a lap to go, he faded from contention. It may be that there is no sensible option for him, although in smaller fields and less competitive company, he can at times bluff his way to success from the front.

x x   Caid Du Lin (PU): Dogged his way to defeat at Fontwell last month and has unseated since. He was too apathetic today even to be in a position to throw potential success away.

x x   Excellent Team (4th): Can win races, but often finds nothing when pressure is applied. Today was one of those days, and they are beginning to outnumber the functional days to an alarming degree.

Race 5: Totetrifecta Easter Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Adrrastos     2: Bardd     3: Zephyros

Winner owned: Mrs KB Gunn, trained: Jamie Snowdon, ridden: Aidan Coleman

After places in two bumpers and finishing second or third in all four hurdle runs, the fear was that Adrrastos knew far too well how to lose. Connections had dabbled with a hood, but the horse declined to respond to the attempted assistance. What worked for him now was making the running on fast ground, when the favourite, Bardd, did not act on it all that well. In their mind, every owner probably envisages a perfect storm of positive factors like this, but rarely sees it happen. Hurdles newcomer Zephyros acquitted himself well in third. That is not a perfect storm of positives, but he did put the wind up the favourite in battling for second.

+   Zephyros (3rd): Won twice on the flat in Germany, and once over 1m 2f in Britain. Even then his flat rating was an unexceptional 62, but this was an encouraging start considering that he pulled hard early and made a couple of awkward errors at hurdles six and seven. Eliminate this stuff and winning form is there.

Race 6: Totepool Happy Easter Novices’ Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Little Windmill     2: Lord Aldervale     3: Instingtive

Winner owned: D Caldwell & Neil King, trained: Neil King, ridden: Trevor Whelan

Three horses had a close tussle to start favourite. It ended with Little Windmill and Instingtive on 2/1 and Kentford Myth on 9/4. The race was less close. Kentford Myth was never comfortable and pulled up at halfway. Instingtive had not repeated his chase debut win effort in two races since, and was tailed off in this one. Secret Sting also failed to show any improvement from poor hurdle results in his first look at fences. So that left Little Windmill battling it out with Lord Aldervale, who jumped to his right from the off, and did so worse and worse as the race went on. To his credit he kept trying in the home straight and had given away more than the seven lengths that he lost by. Little Windmill had two chase wins over 2m 6f but previously at 3m or more had results of 47064, and in his chase career had shown some real off days with his jumping. Both of those flaws deserted him today.

+   Lord Aldervale (2nd): Placed in a couple of staying hurdles here and when he last ran he won a point-to-point at left-handed Kingston Blount. So it is a bit of a mystery why he went off to the right so often this time. The inclination is to see how he conducts himself in his next chase, and if he does not repeat the daftness, trust him to be able to win a class five long distance handicap chase. A perfectly reasonable bargain to make with him.

x   Instingtive (3rd): Finished seventy lengths behind the winner. The chase debut win here (admittedly heavy ground and 2m 1f) at the end of January seems awfully far away at the moment.

Race 7: Collect totepool Winnings At Betfred Shops Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Romeo Americo     2: Cosmic Statesman     3: Definite Ridge

Winner owned: S Mullins Racing Club, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: Daniel Sansom

The biggest influence on the outcome of this race was Shaddaii, who in the role of “horse without rider” dictated the nature of the play. From the third last and rounding the railway bend he managed to be a nuisance to just about everyone except Romeo Americo – who had been at the rear of the pack and gave Dan Sansom time to plot a clear path – and Pippa The Dancer, who was tailed off. Realistically only Cosmic Statesman was close enough at the finish to be able to make a vague case that his finishing position was possibly affected. The leader at the time, well backed Orions Gold, had been very keen in front and would likely have tied up without external factors. The winner is well below his old handicap peak and had been showing signs of reacting positively to it. Performing at two and a half miles or on an undulating course was a new skill for an exposed horse.

+ +   Shaddaii (Unseated): Never had a chance to make a bold bid for victory here, but whilst we are in a dry spell he should remain very competitive in class 5 races as winnable as this one. He is not badly handicapped for now, and his previous run of places is not too worrying as he has not looked like a win shirker in the past.

x   Orions Gold (5th): Well supported on handicap debut and on first run for a new trainer, but he was far too keen in front to make it pay off. It may be that he is given a shot at a shorter race. There has been no sign that he is quick enough for that.
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