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Plumpton, 18/3/19

An extra meeting compared to the normal Plumpton calendar with a small crowd and low key races. The main talking point was the sudden inability of Gary Moore horses to win races here. The losing streak was at 36 and four more got turned over here. The rarity value is that it is not down to dire stable form as at any other place the winners are coming at more or less normal rates. If anyone sees a voodoo priest sacrificing a chicken at the final hurdle, it will not take much to work out where he came from.

Going: Good to Soft, Soft places

Race 1: Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Shut The Box     2: Vision Clear     3: Avonmore

Winner owned: The Shut The Box Syndicate, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

At the point of declaration this was a possibly interesting race with two horses that had debuted hurdling in notable races and one newcomer who had achieved a flat rating of 82. The latter was Dream Machine, whose mud tolerance was open to question and he did not turn up anyway. That left Shut The Box (fifth to Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills on course and distance previously) to fight it out with Newbury fifth Vision Clear. They were head and shoulders above the rest. Initially Vision Clear set off to be the head, despite whacking the third last. Then Shut The Box declared that his rival must be the shoulders. The rest were far enough behind to see some sort of botched decapitation at work. Consistent front-runner Avonmore was looking set for third only to weaken and lose it to outsider Awesome Rock, who had pulled up in the Pentland Hills race and has only won once in fifty-nine flat runs. Whilst not wishing the take away the credit when he does think in awesome terms, our future thoughts lay only amongst the first pair.

Shut The Box (1st): Set a reasonable mark in losing his bumpers and has a future as modest handicapper, unless the jack in the box is unleashed for chasing.

+  Vision Clear (2nd): A 78-rated flat horse, Gary Moore pitching him at Newbury to start was a positive sign and he did not do badly this time either. Closer in defeat here, there must be success possible in handicaps.

Race 2: attheraces.com Mares’ Novices Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: The Cull Bank     2: Queen’s Magic     3: Shaw’s Dilemma

Winner owned: Mrs June Watts, trained: Alan King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

This race was supposed to be a stroll for The Cull Bank. For a while course bumper winner Queen’s Magic was not taking that sort of dismissal lying down, but then the Cull banker put a little bit of zip into her race and it was all over. Although it took her four races to win an Irish point, The Cull Banker was taking on Festival Bumper winner Envoi Allen in one of them and getting stuck into this inferior oppo will not do her morale any harm. Her complacency might suffer…but Queen’s Magic is probably not that much worse in raw talent, based on evidence seen so far. What she is failing to do is turn it into results having been beaten at odds-on twice this year already. After setting the pace Urca De Lima weakened disappointingly under pressure and the first time tongue tie did not seem to help.

Queen’s Magic (2nd): She is making defeat a habit that has not any bearing on the relative skills of the oppo. So whilst this one is easily forgiveable, in the context of her failings since moving out of bumpers, tolerance is reduced.

Race 3: Follow At The Races On Twitter Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Another Venture     2: Morney Wing     3: Holly Bush Henry

Winner owned: Racing For Maggie’s Partnership, trained: Kim Bailey, ridden: Mikey Hamill

Another small field with the handicap spread over only five pounds, so a potentially fascinating race. Three we knew stayed this far, the other pair were untried but not obviously taking an absurd stab in the dark by trying it. Graasten was one of these, coming after his infamous defeat at 1/8 in a novice chase over shorter here at Plumpton. This is part of the crazy run of Plumpton non-success that Gary Moore is having and he hit the deck here – jumping has not been on the radar as a Graasten problem before this. Morney Wing has had a cracking season in staying chases, with wins at Fontwell and Sandown and three places, but he had gone up 29 pounds as a reward and that turned today into a laboured effort. A creditable second in the circumstances but one that he will struggle to improve upon. Enjoy Responsibly had run well at three miles in his most recent race, around Doncaster, so was worth trying over a touch further. More of an issue is that whilst he can have a good day on almost any going, it is more likely on good or good to firm and he got caught out by not having the absolute perfect race on a plate. Another Venture, in a first time visor, made all, jumped mostly well, went right at a few when not spot on, then tried to spoil it by failing to remember that the second last fence was there. He survived and was going too well to be caught but it was an unsporting tease of Morney Wing, who was then obliged to try even harder with a win back in the realms of possibility. Holly Bush Henry had fallen to an eye-catching handicap mark and James Bowen had come to ride him. There was a livelier show this time but not enough to generate a win. An interesting aside – when carrying 11-12 in handicaps he has won all four races contested. The new rule where if the lowest weight is above 11-0, the weight range is moderated downwards to count up from 11-0 (as happened in this race) could be a conspiracy against him. We are having a whip round to buy Holly Bush Henry a tin foil hood.

Holly Bush Henry (3rd): Has one fair run this season sandwiched into some terrible efforts and this was next best of the term. What he has been over the years is keener on hurdling than chasing and those responsible for a sharp contraction in price might have a chance to get some it back if he drops to the smaller obstacles.

Race 4: Watch Sky Sports Racing In HD Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Enforcement     2: Collodi     3: Royal Concorde

Winner owned: Jon Hughes, trained: Martin Keighley, ridden: Harry Stock

There are some 0-100 handicap hurdles here that get course regulars/specialists and horses in some sort of rising form that lead to them being a case study in bottom tier competence. There are those that fail in almost all of those aspects, and this race sat firmly in that category. There is also the spectre of horses that spent the winter failing by wide margins (especially in novice hurdles) now sneaking into this level and having the chance to react to a much reduced degree of threat from their rivals. When all this was weighed up the race was marred by Whipcrackaway breaking down badly in front of the stands at halfway – just at the most awkward point for getting the screens and vets in attendance due to all the equipment that blocks them. Alain Cawley gets 10/10 for jumping off whilst keeping control of the horse and ensuring that he was a static and calm as was possible during the hiatus. The race itself was a very close call with Collodi looking to have led for most of the run-in and them lose out on the nod to Enforcement. A stewards’ enquiry was called as the winner edged left on the run-in and Harry Stock had his stick in the right hand so could not use it to correct the drift, but in the current environment it was not enough to change the result.

Ermyn’s Emerald (7th): After falling twice in succession last autumn, he had put a lifetime of indifference behind him and been placed for three races in a row – two at Huntingdon, one at Fontwell. That was enough to make him joint favourite but those places had been in races two to four furlongs longer and the uphill finish did not bring his stamina into play.

x x  Oscar Maguire (8th): Missed out on the places but was not embarrassed in his one bumper run. Three hurdling goes this season looked a little less than do or die efforts, so seeing him sneak in here for the handicap debut was notable. He was terrible, quickly outpaced with a lap remaining. Unless some miracle headgear is found, that bumper run seems doomed to be his all time high.

Race 5: Download The At The Races App Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: The Dubai Way     2: Vicenzo Mio     3: The Tin Miner

Winner owned: NWA Bannister, trained: Charlie Mann, ridden: Harry Bannister

The third five horse event was reduced to four when Beet Topper defected before racing began – the wind had left him with some beet to attend to. Then it cut to three when Le Capricieux (Gary Moore) pulled up suddenly four out. He was dismounted but Jamie Moore was able to walk him to the infield without a problem and after a brief inspection of a foot, Le Capricieux was in the horse ambulance in a jiffy, so hopefully it was just a minor knock. From this point The Tin Miner was struggling to keep up in a race that had suddenly quickened, and The Dubai Way (in cheekpieces for the first time) always had the measure of Vicenzo Mio’s finish. It would be nice to think that later that evening The Dubai Way was standing in his box thinking “I did not really do much today yet somehow I got a win and lots of congratulations. Why can’t every race be like that?” Instead, he was probably dreaming of hay.

Race 6: Watch Today’s Race Replays On attheraces.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 1.5f]

1: First Lord De Cuet     2: Mr Harp     3: Mario De Pail

Winner owned: Potter, Pipe And Pete, trained: David Pipe, ridden: David Noonan

After winning his only Irish pointing run, First Lord De Cuet changed hands for a considerable amount of money. The new owners were probably a bit worried when he got beaten in a Taunton bumper on British debut, but this race was turned into a comprehensive rout and the next thing we need to do is pay attention to the one that hunted him down at Taunton – Perfect Predator. The seemingly unfancied newcomer Mr Harp made a race of it until the early part of the home straight, then his lack of experience when coming off of the bridle showed and he struggled to hold second from Master Sam Bellamy and Mario De Pail, another newcomer whose lack of race savvy was even more sharply apparent than Mr Harp.

+  First Lord De Cuet (1st): This was not the best bumper of Plumpton’s season but he could do no more than win so easily and he appeared to relish every yard offered in the race distance.

+  Mr Harp (2nd): Mr Harp, that’s my name. That name again? It’s Mr Harp. Respectable racing debut.
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