Plumpton, 18/12/17

Back on the Plumpton circuit after two diversions to Fakenham. And it was an unusual day, with a seven race card allowing three different stables to post doubles. Gary Moore got a novice chase and a handicap hurdle. Zoe Davison got two handicap chases and Anthony Honeyball got two bumpers. Officially one was a hurdle, but so few of them were jumped that it was a bumper in all but name.

Going: Soft, Heavy places

Race 1: J H Builders Novices Hurdle [2m]

1: Lisp     2: Knockanuss     3: Paddy’s Poem

Winner owned: Mr & Mrs R Kelvin-Hughes, trained: Alan King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

As far as the betting market was concerned, only two horses mattered in this, but it took a while to decide in what preference. The pair finished 1-2, but Lisp had ended up as second favourite. His only hurdles runs was defeat in a juvenile hurdle, but the three year olds’ weight allowance was a big plus in the testing conditions. Also in his favour was that Knockanuss (chortle, again!) takes quite a keen hold and does not keep much energy in reserve. It had drawn him into defeat here last time, and possibly did so again, although Lisp only headed him at the final hurdle. The rest of the line up seemed quite keen to stay out of handicapping harm’s way and there may be some improved showings to come from the also rans. A note on names of horses. Rebel Collins is by Jeremy, out of Million All Day. As any Pearl Jam fan will confirm, it is a travesty in justice that he is not called Spoke In Class. Let us try to forget this, try to erase this.

+   Paddy’s Poem (3rd): So far his performances had gone bad, good, back to bad. This was nearly good. He is a big, nicely constructed creature and the inconsistency probably reflects a lack of readiness and maturity so far. One to keep onside in future.

+   Montycristo (4th): Debuting over hurdles and looking well before it, he sat out the back and made belated progress to pick off the strugglers in the last half a lap. Better should be possible, but the stable does prefer to win handicaps. As a 43-rated flat horse, it would take something special for him to break that trend.

+   Not A Role Model (5th): Raced fairly prominently until being outpaced in the back straight. He kept plugging away and only lost fourth well after the final hurdle, which he had might a right mess of. Another potential improver and there have been some interesting horses in front of him so far. Interesting in a positive way.

x   Dream Baie (PU): Ran twice in Ireland for Joseph O’Brien, failing to impress in a bumper but offering more in a hurdle of reasonable quality when tongue tied. It seemed ominous that he had been moved on so quickly after that, and today’s spin was very disappointing, left behind in the back straight before pulling up. The words “wind” and “problem” spring to mind.
Lisp (grey colours) does something really annoying to Knockanuss and his supporters at the last hurdle.

Race 2: Happy Birthday Chris Kinane Novices Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Not Another Muddle     2: Fixe Le Kap     3: Good Man Hughie

Winner owned: Saloop, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

This was one of the weaker Cheltenham bonus races that the course will stage and all four were making their chase debut and coming back from a long summer break. It dropped lower in rank after Silverhow landed belly first at the initial fence and tipped Harry Cobden off sideways – more like Sliver? How? From here we had an upset as 1/5 favourite Fixe Le Kap was picked off at the final obstacle by Not Another Muddle. Apart from jumping a bit big at a couple of early fences, Fixe Le Kap did nothing blatantly wrong, and a form line in the Imperial Cup had him over twenty pounds in hand on Not Another Muddle, therefore defeat was not an acceptable option. As well as fitness factors, there was an extra half-mile here, and the winner turned it around this time despite a clouting the fifth and the tenth fences. It was noticeable, however, that Jamie Moore left it as late as possible to ask him for the decisive attack, as if he is not a straight-forward ride. It is possible to envisage how things may go awry in future.

x   Fixe Le Kap (2nd): Just the sort of hurdler that Nicky Henderson is able to cherry pick races for to make a productive season, this was not an auspicious start. Too soon to demonise him totally, we still have to approach warily now.

Race 3: Derek Hunnisett Memorial Novices’ Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Sam Brown     2: New To This Town     3: Delire D’Estruval

Winner owned: TC Frost, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Aidan Coleman

An utterly farcical and futile event as eight of the twelve hurdles were omitted. By all means run the race for the benefit of connections who had turned up, but as a betting heat it should be deemed a void race. In this case it was won by a horse who had jumped indifferently on hurdles debut and the omissions potentially had a massive impact on the result.

Race 4: G E White & Sons Agricultural Buildings Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Frank N Fair     2: Bears Rails     3: Talk Of The South

Winner owned: The Secret Circle Racing Club, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Tommy Dowling

Another interesting betting race. Two weeks ago, over course and distance, Talk Of The South was about to be picked off by Frank N Fair when he unseated three out. Despite that, the money from the overnight shows was all in favour of Talk Of The South and Frank N Fair was fairly weak in the betting. The reality was fairly comfortable success for the latter, eased down to let Bears Rails lose by only four lengths or so. He is not the most consistent, but on a going day he can be quite handy, so Frank N Fair did well not to be frightened by his ominous substantial presence.

+   Frank N Fair (1st): May well be headed to the Sussex National early in the new year, where her presence as an in form mare on bottom weight (probably) is not to be sniffed at.

+   Talk Of The South (3rd): His winning percentage leaves a bit to be desired and he sometimes goes off too hard in front to last out his races well. But he is well handicapped for when things pan out right around him.

x   Velvet Cognac (5th): Might not be a Plumpton horse, but his growing reputation as a tricky customer was not at all dented by adding a visor.

x   Leith Hill Lad (PU): His race ended when he pulled up lame two out, just as he was losing the battle for third. However, the story is more detailed. After only two chases before this, he was a potential improver, although one with question marks regarding the course, the distance and the going. Instead he thumped the first and made several other errors, in the style of not being an improver at all.
A bit of a wobbly start as City Supreme (1) veers right at the threat of the race starting. Talk Of The South and Bears Rails get things underway, Leigh Hill Lad hides behind City Supreme. Riddlestown (2) and Frank N Fair (7) function more steadily.

Race 5: A & D Staff Christmas Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Le Capricieux     2: Landscape     3: Café Au Lait

Winner owned: A Foreman & G L Moore, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: William Clarke

The finish of the day, with the first three separated only by two necks, just like giraffes either side of Kilimanjaro. The win for Le Capricieux was in defiance of his past hints of resenting soft ground and connections fear of trying him on undulating tracks. With two rivals breathing down his neck, we can work on the basis that these are not really the tragic problems feared. As expected, Landscape showed that the pipe opener last time had done a wide world of good, and having made the running, he snapped back at Le Capricieux once headed with a bit of passion. Café Au Lait failed to justify the guesswork that made him odds on for his Skelton team debut, but clearly he ran quite well anyway. He is well handicapped compared to his best form, so no massive progress is needed to be a contender next time.

+   Landscape (2nd): Is beginning to become a bit of a place regular, and the difference between that and victory soon may be a slightly longer race (although it would be harsh to say getting beaten by a neck counts as not handling two miles).

+   Hollywood All Star (6th): Tends not to be productive when lacking a recent race and a ten lengths loss here is encouraging enough to think he has set himself up for a serious go at something in the near future.

Race 6: Hepworth Brewery Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Finnegan’s Garden     2: Easter In Paris     3: Black Franks Angel

Winner owned: Mr K Corke, trained: Zoe Davison, ridden: Tommy Dowling

On the card, this proved to be the most ebbing and flowing chain of events. At fence four, well backed favourite Finnegan’s Garden blundered and had a slipped saddle. Tommy Dowling was able to keep a steady nerve and get the tack sorted and wedged into a functional place without losing any ground, and the horse made no more errors that could have caused an issue. A circuit later he was going clear with Stoical Patient (looking for her fourth straight win) when the mare fell and left him with a school round to land the prize. Excess energy was not expended. Easter In Paris was far behind at the line after Finnegan’s Garden was eased down, but she never looked as if better than second was remotely possible.

+ +   Easter In Paris (2nd): Reportedly very tubby for her seasonal bow, she still needed the run here, so second place was as good as could be expected. Her winning percentage is weak, and she can be inclined to jump right, but her yard excels at finding a winnable race for this sort of horse.

x   Black Franks Angel (3rd): Previously trained in Ireland, she has brought with her a handicap mark that bears no relation to the form that she actually posted – and in an adverse way. See is probably going to Doolittle until dropping down the weights a bit.

Race 7: Tie The Knot Wedding Catering Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 1.5f]

1: Hideaway Vic     2: Black Lightning     3: Glentrool

Winner owned: Michael & Angela Bone, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Aidan Coleman

Of the seven runners, six had not raced before, and the other, Hideaway Vic, had run very well to finish second on his only appearance in a big field at Wincanton. He had a tongue tie added for this and unless he mistook it for a carrot and tried to eat it, what could go wrong? Not much, and he did win, with most of the opposition sent packing a long way out. However, Black Lightning put up a splendid effort, even if not exactly lightning quick and gave Hideaway Vic plenty to worry about. Glentrool showed his inexperience, but gave clues that he was getting the hang of things when the final turn had been cleared.

+   Black Lightning (2nd): Plumpton bumpers rarely add up to much, but this was a likeable debut, and the winner is potentially above average for the track.
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