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Plumpton, 23/9/18

The autumn opener at Plumpton featuring autumnal rain all morning to scare away the more casual attendees and then bright sunshine all afternoon to make them feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves for being so half-hearted. There is always some form of change around in the summer here, and this time, thanks to Betfred fleeing the course betting shop in one of their founder’s regular fits of pique, that facility has moved to a different stand and the old betting shop combined with one of the smaller bars and been redecorated. It looks to be a rather fine job, although a bit prone to “supermarket syndrome” where people decide to stop and look around or chat at the exact points where the flow of movement needs to be greatest. Sounds as if the owners and trainers has had a similar do over as well.

Going: Good, Good to Soft patches

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

1: Lord Condi     2: Ilewin Geez     3: High Command

Winner owned: Owners For Owners Lord Condi, trained: Martin Keighley, ridden: Aidan Coleman

This was a very comfy win for Lord Condi, but not one to get carried away about considering the displays of the proven horses in the field. Panko was due to be favourite but chickened out due to the rain, which left Ilewin Geez, who was known to operate on good and good to soft, at the head of the betting and supported from slightly odds against to 8/11. He saw off the outsiders easily enough but was very one paced from the railway bend, only getting second because High Command tied up plenty in the last furlong. Given how hard that Ilewin Geez had pulled on the first lap, it might have been predicted that he would be the one to tire badly at the end of the race. The winner had nabbed a weak bumper and finished third on hurdles debut, but that was quite ordinary form and it is hard to imagine that he took a giant leap forward here.

x   High Command (3rd): Has not won on the flat for over a year and a half, but did so in races as long as 1m 6f, so his weak finish here was disappointing, despite the obvious flaws in his most recent flat performances. There is time to get it right, but do not trust his reasonable flat rating as a guide to his current ability level.
Description
Dowhatudobeat does for about half a race, but beside him Lord Condi is looking about as ominous that anything covered in hearts can be. The pursuit are High Command, Noble Attitude, Ilewin Geez and Epsom Secret at the back

Race 2: Core Spreads Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Phoenix Dawn     2: Jumping Jack     3: Shining Romeo

Winner owned: Winterbeck Manor Stud, trained: Brendan Powell, ridden: Brendan Powell

This race was on the 0-135 ratings band which makes it a big deal in the Plumpton microcosm, but the horses that took part were not the most dependable group that we will witness all season. The main eyecatcher was East Indies, who won this race last year from the same handicap rating (obviously he achieved little afterwards to get in that position) and also landed the juvenile hurdle in 2016. His return to action at Fontwell had been a bit indifferent, and he offered more of the same here. Bleu Et Noir set a strong pace compared to the opener, and Phoenix Dawn went with him. The difference later on was that Bleu Et Noir folded very quickly whereas Phoenix Dawn (sun) rose to the occasion. He held on by less than a length, but it was Jumping Jack leading the pursuit, so nobody in their right mind thought that the result would change late on. Not every person here made that very simple qualification. Third to sixth finished in a heap, with Shining Romeo edging out Garo De Juilley. The latter is interesting as he was a cheapish purchase from Paul Nicholls' yard. He does not hold his form very well and needs lots of breaks, but he is definitely capable of further wins - how do you guess when?

+   Phoenix Dawn (1st): Inconsistency is his main concern, but he is definitely in possession of enough talent to win again when the mood takes him.

  Shining Romeo (3rd): All three wins have been right-handed and he had no form of worth on undulating tracks, so whilst he lost by seven lengths he showed something that we may not have believed he could do before this race.
 
  Phoenix Dawn (1st): When he does not fancy it, any interest in him is a waste of time and retina cells expended watching it.

x x   Jumping Jack (2nd): Another autumn season, another second place for him. People who have followed him through results of 43222242U22 are in need of something spectacular to make a dent in their losses.

UK-JUmping Selection: Regulation (5th): Over the summer he has been achieving reasonable results without performing extra well. This was another one of those, as he seemed to want to do things in his own time, and the others declined to co-operate.
Description
A bemused crowd watches as Phoenix Dawn gets less excited about impending success than Brendan Powell. A bemused Jumping Jack has got foolishly close and needs to find a way to lose. And quickly. A bemused Shining Romeo is putting his foot down for third, harrassed by Regulation, Garo De Juilley and Melody Of Scotland

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

1: Little Windmill     2: More Than Luck     3: Leg Lock Luke

Winner owned: The Ridgeway Racing For Fun Partnership, trained: Neil King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

Nothing is as it seems. A six horse race was in Little Windmill's favour based on his full record, but behind the numbers is that he wants an uncontested lead. With one other regular front runner and two that do it significantly often but with less dogmatic obsession. Leg Lock Luke went with Little Windmill for a while, but did not persist with it and the lack of others trying to hassle the leader pretty much handed the race to him. Little Windmill can still sail into defeat from here on off days (and the loss of fast ground was an excuse), but the balance was heavily tilted in his favour. He did not look in much danger from the third last, as More Than Luck lacks the speed for making up any significant deficit under pressure.

+   More Than Luck (2nd): Won a hurdle last time and has had a wind op since - presumably a minor one as it was only three weeks ago. His chase history is marred with lack of jumping fluency but with his breathing improved (we assume) he did a better job in that department and could plod on to success in a minor staying chase.

x x   Royals And Rebels (5th): Has really lost his way and was ridden along after a mile.

x x   Celtic Thunder (PU): Subject of an horrendously wayward betting splurge on his stable debut, he was just as sulky from an early stage as on that day and looks like one to avoid.
Description
Not a good quality picture but it reinforces a point. If you are up against Little Windmill, the one thing that absolutely should not let him do is lead like this. Leg Lock Luke has been off of his best so maybe tried to block it but could not. The others in the background are more guilty.

Race 4: Core Spreads Juvenile Hurdle [2m]

1: Sixties Secret     2: Malangen     3: Royal Household

Winner owned: Michael Moriarty, trained: Sheena West, ridden: Marc Goldstein

Not much of a race, with horses tending to have made very modest hurdling contributions so far and unexciting flat performances before that. The exceptions were Twenty Twenty, who won at Fontwell earlier in the month, and Sixties Secret, who was set for a decent second before taking a very late tumble at Newton Abbot. This time Twenty Twenty took to terribleness, being beaten on the railway turn and easing down. In the meantime Sixties Secret was handing out a rout to the others. She has come from one of Sheena West's steady sources of juvenile hurdlers, but is not the undersized afterthought that some of the others, including good ones, have been. Of the two David Pipe horses Mutanqel seemed the more promising sort, but he was outpointed by Malangen, who had two flat runs, winning a seller second time up. He improved on his mediocre hurdles debut, but let us not get carried away. In contrast Royal Household ran almost soundly on hurdling debut but looked less at home this time. An interesting French import in the Munir and Souede colours was Raffles Surprise. Unfortunately the surprise was that he managed to go from hanging on in contention to hopelessly tailed off in less than half a lap. However, whatever the limitations shown even by the placed horses, there is the chance that they find a weaker race imminently.
Description
Sixties Secret finishing the job nicely. And not in any state of concealment.

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

1: Ennistown     2: Bugsie Malone     3: Anteros

Winner owned : Jones, Kelly & Whittle, trained: Anthony Honyeball, ridden: Rex Dingle

The outcome of this race was almost immediately into random mode, with Buckle Street jumping off problem-free and seemingly more than happy to be involved, whereas the popular favourite, Psychedelic Rock, was clearly far less comfortable from an early stage and it need a monstrous riding effort for him to end up fourth, beaten only nine lengths. Even Bugsie Malone, who looked a bit lazy in recent runs, travelled better through the race, although the longer distance and accordingly slower pace would have helped him in that respect. They were all trumped by Ennistown, an occasional winner these days who possibly let a win pass him by recently and this had first time blinkers on today. They seemed to work. The eye-catching run was Anteros, who was allowed to loiter around at the back and attack very late. This worked at Cheltenham a couple of years ago, but failed narrowly here. It should be noted that he was right behind the leader approaching the last and started to lose ground, although not much, on the run-in.

+   Ennistown (1st): Well handicapped on his best, he can repeat this if the blinkers continue to work on him. Having a good seven pounds claimer on board is no harm either.

x   Anteros (3rd): Most of his winning is ancient history, and whilst he would have been served well by softer going – more so than the oppo – he just gave the impression of not being terribly determined when required to work hard for a couple of furlongs. The first 2m 7f were a doddle for him.

  Buckle Street (5th): In a fine mood today, he has been up to antics at the start twice recently, so is still not totally to be trusted to take part in any given race.

UK-Jumping Selection: Bugsie Malone (2nd): Ran well enough, on going that could have been turning against him but found Ennistown just a bit too good. He is about to exit his time on the list, just as it looks as if he has gone as far as he can for now.

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

1: Eric The Third     2: King Cnut     3: Spoilt Rotten

Winner owned & trained: Tim Vaughan, ridden: Alan Johns

A potentially tricky race was broken up by three non-runners and fans of nmber sequences were rewarded when Eric The Third carried on as per type from results of 121212. It was a good effort as King Cnut jumped efficiently on his chase debut and was getting lots of weight for being only a four year old. The other four finishers were quite a way behind that pair. The well beaten ones did not put up much of a fight, but the first couple could do more than go well clear.

  King Cnut (2nd): Ran his best hurdles races on soft, so with a competent display of jumping skills offered this looks like a valuable educational exercise, and the one that beat him has been having a prolific summer.

+   Opechee (4th): Acts on good and fast ground, but not good to soft or worse. He also has a record on undulating tracks that now reads 0P56U4 and this thirty four lengths loss was probably the best of the completions. Therefore this race was a complete waste of a day and can be forgiven when he is on a level course and better ground.

  Wisecracker (6th): On his chase debut and second run after wind surgery he caught the eye as one that could could improve a bucketload from a low weight, but he was not a fluent enough jumper. Plumpton is not the easiest place to put in a clear round, but it was still an inauspicious start.

Race 7: Core Spreads Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Hermosa Vaquera     2: Gannicus     3: Shadow’s Girl

Winner owned: Michael Baldry, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Joshua Moore

Even after three non-runners there were still a dozen to try an unravel here. Hermosa Vaquera might not have been top (or second, or third) on many lists because he was still well above his last winning mark of 88 and has been steadily placed in the ensuing two and a half years, showing that he seemed to be handicapped out of success. As he brushed aside Canford Thompson on the final bend, it was apparent that a rethink on that view would be necessary. As it happened Gannicus, Shadow's Girl and Maratt motivated each other to try and chase him down and whilst the latter pair broke, Gannicus got within half a length.

+   Shadow's Girl (3rd): On the flat she managed the majestic rating of 36. Her jumps form is less bleak, with a bumper third and this closer third in 0-100 company. She is probably capable of winning one of these when on song/

x   Scrutinise (8th): When last flat racing two years ago his rating was 95, so for him to now be lining up in bottom drawer 0-100 handicap hurdles is a terrible indictment of his complere failure as a hurdler. One effort at Stratford in spring 2017 was not so bad, and another last December, but this sort of thing should hve been a doddle for the talent that he once had.
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