Plumpton, 24/9/17

The first Plumpton is usually a fair sign that the winter season is upon us, but the weather disagreed with that concept. As with old fashioned Plumpton openers, runners were thin on the ground apart from the last race, but the betting was very competitive from what we had, including a five horse race that was for a long time 3/1 the field, and a four horse chase that was 2/1 the field. Surely this is more fun than a ten runner race with an unopposable odds-on favourite.

As far as changes go, the coffee stand has swapped places with the confectionary stand. If you have not been to Plumpton, you will not realise just how confusing this set up can be. And then you realise that the burger van and noodle bar have also swapped places and we are left in a Ballardesque dystopian nightmare where everyone eats a jacket potato because it is the only food option that they can find.

Going: Good, Good to Firm places. On a warm and breezy day, early results implied that it had dried out further, but later races seemed to comply with the official description a bit more directly.

Race 1: Extech Novices Hurdle [2m 1.5f]

1: Arthington     2: Gibson Park     3: Vancouver

Winner owned: Clive Baldwin, trained: Seamus Mullins, ridden: Kevin Jones

Via the application of intense cunning, three of these seven modest horses had won four hurdles between them. In each case this was despite their raw ability, not because of it, but the trend continued for them as there was no reason to expect the winner to not be one of that trio and they filled the first three places. Vancouver was allowed a soft and not particularly frantic lead, but Gibson Park overtook him three hurdles out. The new leader has an inclination towards weak finishing, and he was in turn brushed aside by Arthington, who readily went clear on the run-in. Vancouver nearly recovered second, but that was all about Gibson Park slowing up.

+   Onehelluvatouch (5th): Does have a Brighton flat win at 1m 2f on fast ground, but has shown little in three hurdles. However, the “little” is more than nothing and also enough to wonder if significant improvement may crop up in class 5 handicap hurdles.

x   Gibson Park (2nd): He has been able to find a couple of bad and winnable races so far over hurdles, but his tendency to get all introverted in the latter stages will continue to knock his chances. The string of placed efforts is leading to him being underpriced, and thus opposable.

Race 2: SW Catering Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: East Indies     2: Comanche Chieftain     3: Lord Huntingdon

Winner owned: Redec Ltd, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

This race seemed to have an obvious script – Comanche Chieftain and East Indies charge off like lunatics, and whoever lasts longest has to try and deal with the other three late on. Instead, East Indies settled very nicely at the back and Comanche Chieftain soon had an uncontested lead of ten lengths. As has been reported before, jumping efficiently is a low priority to this horse, and the same was true again, allowing East Indies to come breezing through on the trade winds and win by a tidy four lengths – finally showing what he could do when not using up 75% of his energy in the first 50% of the race. For good measure Comanche Chieftain belted the last hurdle, his third significant error to add to a general shortage of jumping fluency. Lord Huntingdon was right in contention approaching the last, but flattened out a little disappointingly, both in the race and his recent arc of performance improvement.

+   East Indies (1st): His three wins have been on good to firm twice and this nearly quick going once. Now that he understands the concept of patience and forward planning, the range could expand, because physical ability is not the problem.

x   Regulation (4th): Had a race run to suit in ideal conditions and has won a handicap from as high as a 123 rating, being on 117 today. There have been a couple of respectable runs this summer and his chance in this small field was so obvious that even trainer Neil King had to admit in a brief interview that anything getting towards his best would be good enough. He was not anywhere close to that and perhaps he has passed his current peak.

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

1: Doitforjoe     2: Fort Gabriel     3: Little Windmill

Winner owned: B & S Vaughan and Rose Farm Developments, trained: David Dennis, ridden: Noel Fehily

Only four went to post and Fair To Middling unseated early enough to make it an even smaller field. Little Windmill lost interest after going just more than a mile and so we were left with Fort Gabriel versus Doitforjoe, the Plumpton equivalent of Alien Vs Predator. Before the race the two had a comparable chance based on their history, but Doitforjoe’s team have been on a long winless run, so it was expected that Fort Gabriel would be the more resolute stayer on the day. It was looking that way until Fort Gabriel had a mini-falter before the last and the glimpse of weakness galvanised Doitforjoe (or rather convinced Noel Fehily to convince Doitforjoe) that this one was not all over. Got up close to the line. Annoyingly close if you had, hypothetically, backed Fort Gabriel.

+   Doitforjoe (1st): Beating one serious opponent does not quite prove that the stable slump is over, but it will help morale. It may also be a stepping stone to this horse going on to more chase success.

+   Fort Gabriel (2nd): Racked up a hat trick when he transformed into an especially skilled jumper of fences. He is up 27 in the handicap for it, but can still pick up wins in small field staying races. His two previous losses were on soft and over 2m 6f, so stick to 3m plus on good or good to firm.

x   Little Windmill (3rd): He has won chases, two on this track, but he is unable to move past the concepts of going too fast for his own good and then sulking when not allowed to. It gives him the potential to lose in any circumstances available.

x x   Fair To Middling (UR): Showed up well on chase debut at Stratford over a trip far too short for him, but instead of developing on the capable start he has fallen and unseated in his last two. Back to the drawing board, as his skills are below fair to middling at the moment
Doitforjoe’s apparent mistake at the last did not cause him to break stride, to the dismay of Fort Gabriel and his many supporters.

Race 4: J. H. Builders Juvenile Hurdle [2m]

1: City Dreamer     2: The Raven Master     3: High Wells

Winner owned: ARW Marsh, trained: Alan King, ridden: Tom Cannon

Those that had past hurdle experience had not done a great deal with it, the exception being Fontwell winner Lord E, who was on wet and easing ground that day. Therefore the attention was on newcomers High Wells and Jumping Jack, who were both rated in the 70s on the flat so theoretically capable of a major impact over this five minutes. And so we were all blindsided by City Dreamer, who cruised through the race in extreme comfort and won going away. His hurdle debut was not awful but still an odds-on defeat and he had since burst a blood vessel and pulled far too hard in races trying to go one better. Lord E did not handle the going and High Wells never managed to get alongside pacemaking The Raven Master to see what he could offer in a scrap. Jumping Jack was fourth, not being very good at hurdling in the first mile and then not getting in a blow in the second mile when showing plenty more skills. So what we got from this was a clear result and probably nothing other than face value to take from the race. So, normal for juvenile hurdles in September.

Race 5: Crystal Services Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Holly Bush Henry     2: Bugsie Malone     3: Kentford Heiress

Winner owned: P Middleton, M Lowther, trained: Phil Middleton, ridden: James Bowen

This victory took the Middleton stable’s winning streak to four, but as late as the second hurdle from home it seemed the least likely of four possible options. However, Holly Bush Henry surged to the front approaching the last and had too much sting for Bugsie Malone from there – the runner-up had been off for five months and might just have lacked a match ready edge. This win probably ended the argument (if there was one anywhere but on this site) that he is really a mudlover who can sometimes compromise, and also proved his stamina over a longer distance than previously tackled. Kentford Heiress was not certain to function on the undulating track, but did far better here than her smattering of past attempts, despite getting a bit sweaty in the prelims. Probable non-stayer Linguine set the pace at a solid speed, but as expected did not last home. Staying in contention to the second last was more durability than shown before.

+   Bugsie Malone (2nd): A chaser having what may be a fitness fine tuning run (although his stable is very content to mix and match hurdles and chases), he did very well in the circumstances. Success has not yet come often for him, but some seems to be on the way.

  Linguine (4th): Won regularly on the flat, but over jumps is as tricky to manage as long strings of slippery pasta and has one win compared to seven second places. On the way he ran here, it is viable to wonder if going hard from early over 2m 6f might be an answer. Do not trust him over too many chances though.

x   Byron Blue (PU): Can intimidate modest opponents into a real hammering when on song, and whilst this oppo was not weak enough to qualify for victimhood at his hands (hooves), there were signs that despite quiet stable form he was personally in the sort of form to contend here. In fact he was barely sighted, and his warm spell seems to have cooled off quickly.
Linguine leads Byron Blue and Bugsie Malone. Then we have Mercers Court hiding behind Holly Bush Henry, with Kentford Heiress at the back. The crowd are wisely not getting over excited about a staying hurdle that has two laps still to run.

Race 6: Tie The Knot Wedding Catering Novices Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Ramore Will     2: Flashman     3: Code Of Law

Winner owned: EJ Farrant, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: David Noonan

A race of this type often attracts the prefix “eventful” and after a mostly run of the mill body of work, it did catch us out at the end. Flashman had tried to make all, harried and often much afeared of The Tin Miner. He finally wilted on the railway bend, but the role of The Tin Man’s nemesis immediately passed to Ramore Will, and he had a lead of a couple of lengths two fences from home. By the last, The Tin Man was alongside and staying on the better. Clearly some supporters were counting chickens before the hatching arrangements were confirmed, as the horse tried to fit in an extra stride where none could fit and flung his rider off over his neck. After that, the first three completed at wide margins.

+   Ramore Will (1st): Making his chase debut, he did a decent job, although he was in the process of being outstayed when handed the prize on a plate. That was a bit odd given that his hurdle win at Fontwell was over a quarter of a mile further, so we are left wondering if his mind was wandering a bit. Still, he can win another chase, perhaps.

+   The Tin Man (UR): Another having a first go at chases (and handicap debut), his hurdle form was FU64, with even the fourth place being low level form. After taking his tumble rate to 60%, pessimism is justifiable, but he at least showed that he has ability at the bottom level of handicaps, so all that remains is for connections to get intense work in on sorting his skills and agility – the unseating was not his first error, so cheekpieces alone are not the answer.

x   Flashman (2nd): Now has a Plumpton record of 41321P2, but he has achieved it in erratic style and needing rousting along each time that The Tin Man nosed ahead of him, e.g. when they jumped the drop fence at the top of the back straight. He is not a dependable option.

x x   Vital Evidence (PU): After a promising chase debut, when a close second, he had fallen twice. Although already behind, he nearly came down again at the open ditch before the final bend and quickly pulled up. He is not a chaser.
Flashman (left) edges The Tin Man over the fence that would end the latter’s chance a lap later. Ramore Will is the one in noseband and hood on the far left, with Master Bones and Code Of Law on the inner. Appropriately, the view of Vital Evidence is as incomplete as his jumping skills.

Race 7: Brixton Barbarians Cricket Team Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Rob Robin     2: Kenyan     3: Magical Thomas

Winner owned: The Select Syndicate, trained: Chris Gordon, winner owned: Tom Cannon

The card was finished by a fourteen runner, class 5 bunfight over 2m, which is the sort of race that occupies four slots on the top five impossible Plumpton races at the end of each season. It seemed the sort of event that crazy Osgood occasionally pops up in, but he shed his pilot at the first, and Fontwell winner Magical Thomas set off to try and double up from the front. He did a fair enough job which proved both his wellbeing and his limitations, but Rob Robin was far too strong at the business end. He was off racing from February 2016 to June this year, but seems to have spent plenty of the downtime in the gym and is a better horse than before. This victory was a logical extension of his third at Fontwell last month. Kenyan is only a three year old and was making his handicap debut – his performance indicates that the assessors have a realistic, possibly even slightly sympathetic take on the juvenile hurdle form so far.

+   Rob Robin (1st): Lightly raced and gently progressive since the return, he could add another win before the rains come and spoil his autumn.

+   Kenyan (2nd): On this evidence, he has a squeak of transforming mid-table mediocrity form in juvenile hurdles into class 5 handicap success.

+   Kereman (5th): The other youth in the field, he never got into contention with the main bunch, but kept on nicely from the railway bend without being given an ultra-hard race. Keep an eye peeled for further improvement, as he never raced on the flat so should be learning more with each race than the opposition.

x   Too Many Diamonds (4th): Had his moments of glory earlier in the season when winning four times in one afternoon (or so it seems). Since then he is just not handicapped to get the better of ALL of the opposition.

  Camakasi (12th): Started off as the 7/2 favourite, based on winning last time out on the flat. His hurdle form has been mostly terrible, and trying to convert flat improvement to hurdling failed. Again.
Working... Please wait