PLUMPTON, 20/9/20

The first rule of Bridge Club? Don’t talk about Bridge Club. The second rule of Bridge Club? Bring some water as it can get quite warm up there. And tuna sandwiches probably as well. As far as the racing goes, it was very much like Plumpton early August meetings in days of yore – very quick conditions, but now with more runners.

Going: Good to Firm, Good places

Race 1: Strong Flavours Catering Juvenile Hurdle [2m 1.f]

1: Peat Moss     2: Bourbali     3: Treaty Of Dingle

Winner owned: Atlantic Friends Racing, trained: Nigel Hawke, ridden: David Noonan

In a race of this quality, being too far off of the winner would have destroyed any optimism that connections could be retaining about a horse, although every time Nigel Hawke has a juvenile hurdle success people do bandy about the words Tiger and Roll irresponsibly. The market leaders disappointed, with Prince Percy going from travelling well three out to pulled up by the next, and pace making Calidus Mirabilis running out of puff by the last. Where some positives come from could be third place, as Treaty Of Dingle (flat rating 67) has three seconds and a win on the flat recently, so did not come here dragging a funk of failure. From the entrance to the straight it was hard to call the winner immediately as the first two were only a head apart, but Peat Moss had come from the back and may well have increased his lead with further to run. He had already lost two juvenile hurdles quite comfortably, so here we are back on the bad omens.

+  Bourbalis (2nd): Despite the reservations about the standard of opponent, this was his first ever race, so he may well be up to raising his game, although if a great deal were expected, would Plumpton in September have been the chosen start?

Calidus Mirabilis (4th): Did he just do too much in front or does the use of a tongue tie on stable debut imply something more fundamentally amiss?

And away we go

Race 2: Andrew “Super Wack” Jackson Memorial Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 3.f]

1: Captain Speaking     2: Easy Bucks     3: Enforcement

Winner owned: We Live In Norfolk Partnership, trained: Nick Littmoden, ridden: Joshua Moore

On such ground as they got here, horses could expect to travel a bit quicker than normal but this race seemed to be run at an unsustainable pace early on, and consequently the finish turned into a dour struggle for the line rather than some form of cavalier dash. Captain Speaking had gone up a lot for an easy Uttoxeter win but he handled it and a slight error at the final fence made it look as if Easy Bucks had a better chance of nicking a great result than was really the case. Enforcement, who has lost interest in hurdles but shown a positive curiousity about what may be possible over fences, did well to be third on going not likely to bring out his best.

+  Easy Bucks (2nd): Apparently a hopeless case in novice hurdles, his first chase / handicap debut here was much more to his liking and he is lightly raced enough to wonder if he can up his game a little bit more.

+  Enforcement (3rd): As noted above his recent hurdles form is declining but he seems to have got the hang of fences and the past suggests that he would prefer ground softer than good.

Golden Poet (5th): In his previous race it was suspected that the waiting tactics were overdone and killed his chance, and there was a lesser hint of that two runs ago. They were reused here and by fence ten he was right in touch with the main action, only to finish in very one paced style. No excuses this time. Maybe aggressive front running is the key.

x  Easter Eric (6th): The most appealing of the chase debutants before it started, he never really got stuck into it at all, and was well beaten with half a lap to race. It may have been a lack of chase confidence or possibly dislike of the ground, but he should be handled with caution until showing a bit more life.
A nice even start with only Stand By Me (4) and Golden Poet (3) loitering. Stand By Me ended up making the early running anyway. Captain Speaking is two from the rails, jockey in a red cap, with Enforcement on the other side of him. Easy Bucks is in the yellow.

Race 3: Sky Sports Racing Maiden Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Zarrar     2: Highway One     3: Rikoboy

Winner owned: Miss Victoria Markowiak, trained: Rae Guest, ridden: Nick Scholfield

Being a race lacking a horse likely to step up much from “Plumpton on a bad day” standard actually made for a fairly competitive event. Rikoboy went off 9/4 favourite and five of the eight were priced at 15/2 or less. Zarrar was the outsider of that quintet, possibly because he had failed to revisit jumping after a disappointing debut two years ago. With the yard in red hot form, he picked the right time to try again, and quickened away neatly after the second last, despite having made a lot of the running. Highway One appears very nervous of the fame and stress gained from victory, having gone 0/24 on the flat and now 0/3 over hurdles. However, the standard that she has achieved marks her out as one who could get that elusive win in a bottom drawer handicap hurdle one summer. But which one?

x  Zarrar (1st): Nothing wrong with the performance, but with apparently over-rated horses on 120 and 117 in third and fifth, he is in severe danger of an unworkable mark himself.

x  Rickoboy (3rd): Stuck with Zarrar throughout and appeared to be travelling the better on the railway bend. From there he found disappointingly little.

x  Cherry Cola (UR): Started second favourite on the basis of her hurdles debut in March being very respectable and being a Sheena West horse at Plumpton at this time of year. She did not jump too well (going to blame?) and took a long time to work herself up to challenge for a place, only then to unseat at the last hurdle. The hunch is that she might not be ready for an early move into handicaps, but a third run will hopefully be more enlightening.

Race 4: Win With Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Get Back Get Back     2: Vision Clear     3: Foreign Secretary

Winner owned: Get Back Get Back, trained: Harry Fry, ridden: Sean Bowen

With a maximum rating of 130, this was the main event of the day, and it saw the downfall of Jamacho’s summer regime of terror, although with his rating having climbed from 99 to 129 after four wins on the spin, he was looking down the barrel of a defeat soon anyway. Under the circumstances a five lengths loss was quite a sound effort, even if it was only enough to be fifth. The battle for first was fought out between Get Back Get Back and Vision Clear, two phrases combined that can bring health and safety people into a state of sexual near ecstasy. Rather as with Captain Speaking earlier, an unconvincing jump at the last made Get Back Get Back have to work harder to secure the win than was necessary and he was potentially worth more than the final margin of a length. Foreign Secretary was three lengths and two places behind today’s winner last time and adding cheekpieces got one of those lengths back. So did they provide value for money? Interestingly (or not), the foreign secretary when he was foaled was future chancellor Philip Hammond, so asking such questions is strangely topical. However, Foreign Secretary was sired by Galileo (winner of the Derby in both Britain and Ireland) and is out of Finsceal Beo (winner of the 1,000 Guineas in both countries) so whatever has been paid for him in the past, washing up at Plumpton in late summer probably does not justify it.

+  Foreign Secretary (3rd): Seemed to be one of the least likely to need fast ground in this line up so third was a decent effort and there is reason to think that he can improve when we get a touch of rain.

+  Limelighter (PU): Still going well on the railway turn, he was nearly knocked over by Karakoam, and whilst Niall Houlihan did well to stay in the saddle, he lost his irons and had to pull up. As a form negative, this can be discounted.

Race 5: Thank You NHS Key Workers Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Sixties Secret     2: Oldabbey Bridge     3: Flying Focus

Winner owned: Michael Moriarty, trained: Sheena West, ridden: Niall Houlihan

We quickly moved from the highest grade of race on the card to the most numerous, although a couple of non-runners reduced it to twelve horses. Quick consolation came for the trainer and jockey of the unlucky Limelighter, but it involved a different owner, so karma was being a bit slapdash on this afternoon. Naughty karma. Relatively speaking it mirrored the two miler with the second to sixth finishing in something of a heap, and Sixties Secret scooting three lengths clear after the second last. Oldabbey Bridge is fairly steady when he has headgear on, so by class 5 standards this is not the worst race imaginable.

+ +  Hoot At Midnight (4th): She had not shown much in bumpers, and all of her novice hurdle runs had been on soft or heavy ground, at places as diverse as Ascot, Plumpton, Huntingdon and Fontwell. On her second race after a wind op, she was allowed to avoid the mud for the first time and made a handicap debut that suggests she can pick up a minor mares only race.

+  Flying Focus (3rd): Could not win on the flat if his life depended on it, but after winning a two and a half mile handicap hurdle on good to firm two weeks ago, his starting price of 16/1 was mystifyingly high. The evidence here suggests that he is worth keeping a very close eye on when offered quick conditions.

x  Hidden Depths (6th): After two flat wins and a place during this summer led into a close place hurdling too (over three miles), he was an underachiever here and it is not clear what measures are needed to turn the not yet disastrous defeats into wins. He does have a good name, by Dark Angel, out of Liber Nauticus.

x   Skylanna Breeze (8th): A winner at Southwell in early August, he has now been tailed off twice after being raised ten pounds for it, and in terms of competitiveness, that success stands out like a sore thumb against any other racecourse outcomes.
Another neat start, although Midnight Jewel nearest the camera is trying to be disruptive. Sixties Secret (9) has helpfully adopted a camera friendly position. Oldabbey Bridge is in pink, middle of the front rank, Flying Focus is the second row with an orange cap and it is back to the first row for Hoot At Midnight, who has orange and green colours

Race 6: Annual Memberships Now Available Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Carolines Charm     2: Barman     3: Kiruna Peak

Winner owned: The Affordable Partnership, trained: Neil Mulholland, ridden: Robbie Dunne

This was a bit of an odd race. By the standards of the day and especially in the context of a two mile chase, the early pace looked reasonably steady, but when Carolines Charm and Kiruna Peak injected a little bit of extra zip on the bend at the top of the hill, three of their four opponents were suddenly struggling badly, without any great excuse – although Jaytrack Parkhomes was later reported to have had a breathing problem. Kiruna Peak was the first of the leading pair to crack, although he was not dropped from the leading trio completely, and after that Carolines Charm (an actual good to firm going winner in the past) always had Barman’s measure. Darebin kept on when it was all far too late and almost nicked third from Kiruna Peak.

+  Carolines Charm (1st): As mentioned already, he had already been triumphant on quick ground, his only previous win, and here he was on 112, a pound below that winning mark. Add in a race of between this distance and 2m 6f, and his magic ingredients are there for all to see.

Barman (2nd): Won a few hurdles for Nicky Henderson without threatening to be a stable star but this was only his third race in 1,010 days around moving to Amy Murphy, so his durability on quick conditions was a concern, even though they suited in the past. He had also been stuffed on chase debut, although with the excuse of probably needing the run and not liking good to soft ground. As it turned out he ran excellently and has wins in him if able to stay sound enough to keep chipping away.

x  Kiruna Peak (3rd): Two recent wins were at around two miles and in her career undulating tracks have conspicuously been avoided as far as possible. Her jumping was unimpressive and the undulating track comes out of it as a bigger warning sign than the race distance, although nearly losing third to toiling Darebin is not a great omen either.

Race 7: Plumpton Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 1.5f]

1: On My Command     2: The Trampolinist     3: Serenisa

Winner owned: I Neocleous, trained: Amy Murphy, ridden: Jack Quinlan

With thirst driving the decision, departure was prior to this race, which turned out to be a wide margin win for On My Command, previously third and fourth by unembarrassing margins in the mud. Her leading victim, The Trampolinist, was a Uttoxeter bumper winner on debut at the start of the month, so there is a squeak of a chance that it will not turn out to be as weak as would normally be expected for such a race here in September. To counter that, Serenisa was tailed off in her only race in Ireland…   here.
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