Plumpton 27/1/20

This was day two of the big south-east triple header. Fontwell, then Plumpton and Lingfield on Tuesday – weather permitting as ever. Never have so many 0-100 and 0-105 handicaps been gathered together in such a multi-day festival. On the subject of the weather, the rain came with a vengeance in mid-meeting and the second chase was borderline raceable. Do we care? Not a jot!

Going: Heavy

Race 1: Place Settings Equipment Hire Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Cap Du Mathan     2: Hit The Rocks     3: Chasamax

Winner owned: The Stewart Family, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

At this stage the meeting seemed quite sensible, not too cold, not too wet, but it was mostly uneventful stuff with odds-on favourite Cap Du Mathan running to his best and main obvious threat Chasamax being less at home on the going. That led to Hit The Rocks nicking second but it could have been worse for Chasamax as Funambule Sivola was definitely a place possible when he fell two hurdles out. If anyone has any innovative suggestions on what is needed to liven up this race report, email them in and they will be given due consideration. Maybe a picture of a volcano?

+  Hit The Rocks (2nd): Did not finish off his hurdles debut all that well but looked stronger in sealing second this time, especially after making a right mess of the fourth hurdle. Watch for him in handicaps, or maybe weaker novice races in spring.

+  Funambule Sivola (F): Ended up in second for both French hurdling runs but boiled over on British debut and was very badly tailed off. For this he calmed down a great deal and should be able to go on for it – a gentle crumple into the easy ground will hopefully not be a cause of him being set back mentally.

x  Chasamax (3rd): Had run twice and been placed in both on good ground. Notably the second saw him four lengths runner-up to Tea Clipper, whose current score is played four, won four. However, the fact that Nicky Henderson sent him to Plumpton as the yard’s only runner of the day, rather than to more typical (esteemed) haunts was not a great omen and he was found wanting.

Race 2: Catering Service International Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Wenceslaus     2: Scaramucci     3: Vicenzo Mio

Winner owned: Deauvulle Daze Partnership, trained: David Bridgwater, ridden: Brendan Powell

This turned out to be a pretty good win for Wenceslaus as he had top weight, going that had tended to be avoided previously and just over seven weeks since his last race, which was not a plus either. It did not prove that he had talent beyond what had been seen in chases before now but did expand the horizon over which he is able to spread it, like some sort of wonderfully equine marmalade. And the win was fairly comfortable in the end. On his chase debut Scaramucci did not quite adapt to the conditions as well as Wenceslaus but at least gave us a reason to think he can work with it and for all of his flaws, Vicenzo Mio is at least a dependable yardstick. With his bog snorkelling credentials established over hurdles, Clondaw Robin was a well backed favourite. However, he did not handle the course and tended to hang on the way, to the left, not the obvious way to the right – odd for a Fontwell winner, but he did drift onto the inside rail when he won, which is left from the final hurdle. He did sprint (sort of) home to take fourth place.

Scaramucci (2nd): No need to get excited, for that is not our fate, but it was a functional chase debut and the least concerning of his hurdling failures was over three miles.

+  Fethard Flyer (F): Took a late tumble when challenging for a place and the first time tongue tie definitely brought improvement on his past efforts. If the roll in the mud has upset him mentally, trying the tongue tie in a hurdle could pay off.

x x  Vicenzo Mio (3rd): Just over six years, and twenty-eight races, since his last win he got to have a go in a visor, and in the press some tipsters hilariously made him their selection. The performance was the usual.

x x  Beet Topper (R): Just lost the plot at the start and when finally Paddy Brennan stopped him crab sideways long enough to convince the starter to let them go, the horse said enough.
Down at the start and for some of them things are already starting to go wrong. Left to right: Scaramucci, Fethard Flyer and Vicenzo Mio. And Beet Topper is way out of view to the right.

Race 3: Actiph Water Novices’ Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Cat Tiger     2: Moroder     3: Young Lieutenant

Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Paul Nicholls

Cat Tiger only had three to deal with here and he repeated the front-running format that worked for him last time. He was twenty-five lengths plus in front at the last and the only event of vague significance in the race was Moroder rallying to take second from Young Lieutenant, who was eased and allowed to walk home once it was clear someone else was serious about taking second place. That was just about the only change of the running order in the whole race.

Moroder (2nd): Had won a five horse bumper when the joint-favourites flopped but the general trend is that his form numbers of 2134 were more attractive than the performance standards set en route. He already had a handicap mark of 115, which seemed potentially viable, and lost this sufficiently comfortably not to spoil that.

Race 4: Back Yard Coffee Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Vaziani     2: Hideaway Vic     3: The Wicket Chicken

Winner owned: Chris Pugsley & Acorn Builders Dorset, trained: Robert Walford, ridden: Stan Sheppard

A tricky small field race in which only The Wicket Chicken was a proven stayer, but she was tackling heavy ground for the first time. Setting off in front to avoid the race becoming a falsely run affair, she was headed three out and seemed done two from home when blundering, although she stuck on from there and was closing slightly afterwards. This was possibly because the slow motion finish ahead of her was all part of Vaziani and Hideaway Vic not quite doing 3m 1f in really bad ground. Initially it looked as if Hideaway Vic was going to cling on for a narrow win but from the last Vaziani had a bit more stamina to employ – he had given the distance a shot before and hinted that he might cope, whereas Hideway Vic was totally in unknown territory.

+ +  Hideaway Vic (2nd): He has never been out of the first three in his life but coming here on a 120 rating did appear to be a bit of an underachievement compared to the potential shown in bumpers. All runs have been on soft or heavy so we can blame the distance for stopping him. He would likely have got away with it had the winning post come after three miles.

Vaziani (1st): Having earned a vaguely positive review on here in autumn, he was just starting to seem like one of those who could not finish the races off and was doomed to an eternity in the minor places (not as a pit pony, that would be miners' places). Now that barrier has been broken down, more should be possible.

Race 5: Hairy Dog Brewery Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Ask The Weatherman     2: Pres     3: Gleno

Winner owned: David Martin & Paul Barber, trained: Jack Barber, ridden: Ben Jones

In his Preview on this site Erik Bloodaxe noted Ask The Weatherman’s elite pointing record (nine wins out of ten and second in the sole loss) plus a very solid start to hunter chases that saw him fifth in a Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham. The problem seemed to be a slight lack of flexibility for fences under Rules that had limited him to only a hurdles success since. Today, with a nod of appreciation to the handicapper, he finally found his level, albeit one a touch disappointing compared to what seemed possible in his amateur days. He was harried all the way by Gleno and Pres, less experienced chasers with room to improve but shoved them aside as the field exited the railway turn. Coming here with a suddenly improved run last time (second of sixteen) and a totally confusing record on different goings Bill And Barn was still in contention when he fell four from the finish. He is unproven beyond 2m 7.5f so it cannot be overlooked that things were going downhill from there, even on the uphill stretch.

+  Pres (2nd): Fought back earnestly to keep the margin down to three lengths and now that we have more evidence it can be argued that he does not do right-handed tracks all that well.

x x  Clondaw Bisto (PU): No signs here that the New Years' Day miracle was anything but a one-off.

Race 6: Strong Flavours Catering Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Bard Of Brittany     2: Legal OK    3: Sadma

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

This race had somehow assembled an unusually in-form bunch, involving recent wins and places as well as defeats out of the frame but only by whiskers. And quite often the in formness was being witnessed around Plumpton over two miles as well. To make things slightly less confusing for the surviving punters, two of the least exposed but interesting declarations were non-runners – handicap supposed to be newcomer UAE Soldier and Chinwag, who had improved a lot in his handicap debut but still ended up just behind Sadma. The race proved less competitive than expected. By lining up a bit wide of the others, Phil York managed to pinch half a dozen lengths of advantage on Legal OK at the start. Sadma tentatively went after the pair before halfway but the only horse who was able to resist the standing water and close the gap was Bard Of Brittany, who had been knocking on the door since moving from Mick Channon’s yard and was a fairly predictable winner in first time cheekpieces. The first two were well in front of Sadma, with Scrutinise and Hymn And A Prayer battling for fourth and being the only other finishers.

+  Legal OK (2nd): Perked up with a stint in points early in 2019 and had been showing life in minor handicaps last summer. After more than six months off he made a pretty good comeback and in the process also proved a talent for bad conditions – the sort that tended to be avoided in the past.

x  Outrath (PU): Has been having a very consistent non-winning season but the waterlogging was beyond his powers this time.
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