Plumpton, 22/9/19

Renewal number whatever it is for the great Plumpton tease, whereby we have a late September meeting as if the autumn season is about to fly into action, only for a wait of a month until the next one comes along. There was also an ominous appearance of a giant marquee in the middle of the track to impede viewing as if in some sort of Chelmsford tribute, but we are assured that when the repairs to the stone base are completed imminently, it will be back to the usual, more sensible site. The upside of the afternoon was the threatened rain staying well away and for those who like a wild each-way connected guess, winners at 16/1, 20/1, 20/1 again and 28/1. Somebody somewhere has had a belter of an afternoon.

Going: Good to Firm

Race 1: Core Spreads Novices’ Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Gateway To Europe     2: Ban Shoof     3: Not Going Out

Winner owned: A Whyte, K Loads & G Stevenson, trained: Neil King, ridden: Bryony Frost

In advance this opener stood out as a head to head between the raw flat pace of Archimento and the raw Irish bumper pace(?) of Gateway To Europe. Plus the chance of a dramatic improvement of a rival climbing the learning curve with enthusiasm. Since those glib assessments of the main pair, we have learned that Archimento cannot jump for toffee (or does it like he is jumping out of toffee) and Gateway To Europe has sharpened up as a hurdler, although his win was at 2m 3f. The pre-race theory worked a treat for the well supported Gateway To Europe and just as feared for Archimento. Not Going Out has one hurdle run of great interest at Wincanton (finished slotted between The Flying Sofa and Chapmanshype) and might have been second but for the fact that he sat on Archimento’s right throughout, despite that horse going off that way at almost every hurdle. Newcomer Ban Shoof was travelling well down going the back straight – as far as we could tell on television – but made a meal of the third last hurdle and lost some ground. He never suggested that it would all be recovered but did at least get really stuck into securing second.

+  Ban Shoof (2nd): A four time flat winner but rated only 64 and quite a late convert to hurdles, he did a 98% decent job. Second to a 121-rated winner by three lengths does not look helpful for future handicapping, but he was receiving seven pounds from a horse that did not appear to be flat out after the last and could escape with a mark around 110. Also, there will be weaker novice hurdles than this in the next few weeks. He might win one, or might drag his potential rating down by losing.

x x  Archimento (4th): Just reminder of previous observations on his totally absent knack for jumping hurdles.

Race 2: Core Spreads Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Zamperini     2: Cubswin     3: Romanor

Winner owned: Robert E Tillett, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Josh Moore

A respectable £20,000 prize here drew only six runners but no more could be asked for in the way of competitiveness and the market prices ranged from 11/4 up to 7/1. It also gave us a reminder that the proper winter season is approaching as we had the reappearance of Jumping Jack. This horse runs a lot, mostly finishes second and has been publicly condemned by trainer Chris Gordon for aversion to success – he beat the equally flaky Kapdad on course, distance and going in a three horse race but has been second on seven of his other fourteen hurdling tries. To the amazement of all sane people, you could read of him being tipped in the media – the Racing Post selection box had him in for Postdata and the Daily Express, plus the National Tips Challenge showed The Sun On Sunday, and Western Morning News on his side. Do these people seek ridicule? When in the paddock he looked in need of the run too, and the only surprise was that he was sixth instead of second. A first time visor had no effect but surely would have been used before if any was truly expected. The horse that was in a tussle with the evil one to be favourite, and prevailed, was Cubswin. She ran very well but after a good summer sits high in the weights and whilst she has been either winning or losing narrowly she has oddly not proven that good to firm was necessarily acceptable. In the end Zamperini wore her down but it was quite hard work considering how well he was travelling before the third last. Romanor was close to success several times at the height of summer but has put in two consecutive subdued efforts in a row now but rather than a clear need for time off, this was part of a developing bias against undulating tracks.

x  What Will Be (4th): A three year old delving into all age handicaps, he was on a mark of 124, which seemed very, very harsh for a horse that has lost three out of four at an uninspiring time of year for juvenile hurdles. The complication was being left ten pounds out of the handicap by his age allowance, but regaining seven of those via jockey claim. All that mathematical machination was obliterated by his jumping in this far more challenging company being quite poor.

x  Harmonise (5th): She has never been very lucky over hurdles and since a win here in early 2018 her jumps form had regressed. The appeal today was from recent flat efforts – two wins and a second. Not for the first time her jumping got worse and worse as the race went on. The yard excels at finding races for this sort of just below mid-range handicapper, but she looks a bigger challenge than most, even if the usual hood is brought back.

x x  Jumping Jack (6th): No. Just no.

Race 3: Andrew “Super Wack” Jackson Memorial Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Chill In The Wood     2: Alexander The Grey     3: Gold Mountain

Winner owned: David Cramm, trained: Dominc ffrench Davis, ridden: Mark Grant

Turn up looking as the race may be needed a little after ten months off, get left eight lengths at the start, potter through two miles at the back, sneak up the order as rivals begin to wilt, spring clear from the last and win by ten lengths. Surely these are the tactics that every staying chaser should be aspiring to, as was unequivocally demonstrated here. Obviously it helps being in a line up of non-stayers, declined veterans and one who is allergic to victory, but still, the evidence is in the book to prove the theory. In the past Chill In The Wood’s jumping has been rather in and out, and getting that right was a difference maker here. Alexander The Grey jumped well in front, bar the last, but by then Lilly Pinchin’s efforts to kid him home without the horse realising what was unfolding had already failed. Gold Mountain had seemed to stay three miles over hurdles before having a breathing operation, so his apparent failure to get home was a bit of a disappointment, although there is nothing to say that Chill In The Wood would not have had his measure at three miles. Mr Satco excels on quick ground but has never stayed anywhere near this far and unamazingly was again found wanting in that respect.

Chill In The Wood (1st): Has had a wind surgery since last running so there is a realistic possibility that this is the new him rather than just a beneficiary of the limitations of others.

High Hatton (PU): Has a good record in points, although great big holes have been eaten into the form of his two 2019 wins like a huge mouse attacking a cheese mountain. As usual, he suffered complete stagefright when racing under Rules, even in company that posed minimal threat to him.

x x  Alexander The Grey (2nd): Had only once raced beyond 2m 4f and the suspicion was that resentment of a longer race was a bigger threat to his chance than something as obvious as lack of stamina. He could not be coaxed into a first ever win, despite many things going his way, and now has six second places over fences.
High Hatton (right) has just let slip that he really cannot be bothered with this, which has led to Gold Mountain being shocked into thinking that there may be some pressure of expectation on him

Race 4: Core Spreads Juvenile Hurdle [2m]

1: Limelighter     2: Brambledown     3: Catch The Cuban

Winner owned: Ricki Vaughan & Partner, trained: Sheena West, ridden: Marc Goldstein

Before the race, and bearing in mind her hurdles debut second at Fontwell in what seemed an OK race for the time of year, the question was “who can beat the undersized Local Affair?” The answer lies above as a shoddy round jumping left her in fourth place. Limelighter is a very modest flat handicapper who had been tailed off in last on jumps debut, so the clairvoyants who opposed Local Affair still had their work cut out to select Limelighter as the horse to exploit an opening. Lightly raced Brambledown was only beaten a length and a half in the end, less than he lost by not handling the back straight hurdles on either lap terribly well. There was an extraordinary effort from Catch The Cuban in third. He jumped hesitantly to begin with and a lap out was at the back and seemingly devoid of interest in the job. Having failed to get himself tailed off, he flew home to make the places in the last few strides.

+  Brambledown (2nd): A little bit of brushing up his skills in the air could be a big difference maker, or if he comes back here and repeats the showing, maybe trying a level track.

x  Catch The Cuban (3rd): This looked seriously like the penny dropped in the final half mile, but there were perhaps some instances of opponents not seeing out the race and we do not know if the hare-brained first mile is his normal way of doing things. Also he had to be ridden along passing the stables, which is a bad omen.
The first three in the order that they finished. When Limelighter and Brambledown stop and look around they may be amazed to see who was in third.

Race 5: Friends & Family Remembering Norman Sharpe Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Young Wolf     2: Sizing Granite     3: Glanvilles Guest

Winner owned: Mrs Gay Smith, trained: Jonjo O’Neill, ridden: Jonjo O’Neill jr

There was a touching tribute in the racecard noting that as a supporter of Hibs and Scotland, it was racing that was the only sport that gave Norman Sharpe something to cheer about. That is the way it needs to be marketed. The race itself was not a thriller despite the small field being generally in strong recent form, with the order not changing after the first, unless Sizing Granite led briefly with a circuit to race. The decisive move was at the third last hurdle, when Young Wolf quickened and Sizing Granite made a small but irrecoverable error. The runner-up bashed away but Young Wolf always had his moves covered. Glanvilles Guest did well enough considering her possible negatives of fast ground and undulating track but Percy Street, who is better right-handed, was exposed as soon as the pace picked up.

x  Young Wolf & Sizing Granite (1st & 2nd): Both are in the same boat – showing good form this summer and now in the handicapper’s icy grip. In Sizing Granite’s case the chasm between chase and hurdle rating has been eroded. They are not inevitably doomed to defeat for the rest of the season but will need to raise their games yet further. Or benefit from some very cagey placing.
Young Wolf keeps going due to the fear that Sizing Granite might take a bite out of him. Surely Sizing Granite should be fearing wolves?

Race 6: Core Spreads Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Noble Saffron     2: Torhousemuir     3: Goldslinger

Winner owned: Mrs JA Chenery & RJ Chenery, trained: David Bridgwater, ridden: Brendan Powell

This race had a horse on top weight who was debuting in a chase and only once managed to lose over hurdles by fewer than twenty lengths. If you want punting minefields, Plumpton is the place to be (see also race 7). The victor came from the other end of the scale, another newcomer to fences, who had previously shown no racing skills at all, but did have a nice weight for age allowance as a four year old. Noble Saffron made the running and fought back when headed at the fourth last, where Goldslinger celebrated hitting the front by misjudging the fence completely. Overexcitement is a powerful weapon – for the opposition. This was the latest episode in Meet The Goldslinger, in which he repeatedly shows a modicum of racing ability but cnnot find the right course, distance, going, discipline etc to make a success of it. Torhousemuir had crept neatly into contention by this stage but failed to use the threat carried. Perhaps cheekpieces for the second time did not have quite the same effect.

x  Taaffes Castle (7th): Having become a bit prone to finishing second, adding cheekpieces here was an interesting option. They certainly had an impact, but knocking him back five places was not the desired one.

Gaelic Poet (PU): The unfortunate top weight, chasing did not transform him at all, and he even seemed to be unnerved by the possibilities, not making it as far as fence five.

Race 7: Core Spreads Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Magen’s Moon     2: Glendun     3: Musical Stardust

Winner owned, trained & ridden: Phil York

Race seven proved it was proper Plumpton, a 0-100 handicap hurdle at full strength in numbers. Unlike some, we had a fair array of horses that had recently been in a competitive state of mind, so even the stand out selection of those, Musical Stardust, was knocking around at 4/1 in the betting ring. With the third last hurdle approaching plenty of horses were clumped in position to challenge, until it became obvious that cruising down the outside without a care in the world was Magen’s Moon, over twenty lengths behind Musical Stardust last time. When she went on by a few lengths, her recent conqueror set off to chase with Glendun, but the concept seemed to freeze the rest (Surprise? Terror? Constipation?) and all of a sudden we had a three horse race on, which Magen’s Moon was able to cope with. Just a note of interest. Gin And Tonic made his comeback here. Since drawing a blank in his first racing year, 2014, a winless calendar year has never occurred for him, and 2019 is still on nil points, with his hurdle rating lower than that for any of his five victories. Another note of interest. Hermosa Vaquera made her comeback here from eleven months off. She also has a win in every calendar year from 2015 onwards, but is still rated higher than in any of her hurdles ones. She also had more winless years before the sequence started.

+  Magen’s Moon (1stt): Struggled when hurdling in Ireland but showed more promise on the flat with two minor wins. This was only her second run for Phil York, so more progress is possible.

+  Glendun (2nd): Did at least win on the flat – in 2017 – but is 1/18 in that discipline. Two recent close second places in 0-100 handicap hurdles implies that success in one is not beyond him.
The Venerable Yorkie brings Magen's Moon home from a moderately satisfied Glendun
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