Plumpton, 27/2/17

Bad weather cursed this meeting, with a late call for a morning inspection, which conceivably stymied the crowd as well. There were a lot of runners which would not want the heavy ground, but were stuck with it. The intention was to use this as a reason/example to indulge in a rant about something vaguely associated with this phenomenon, but in the cold light of day, the details had gone. As there was a Pie And A Pint for £5 offer prior to the first race, it may well have been pie-related. Or something about self-indulgent luvvies at the Oscars. Both combined is unlikely.

Going: Heavy

Race 1: Real Pie Company Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Cigarisi     2: Comanche Chieftain     3: Argyle

Winner owned: RAS Offer, trained: Philip Hobbs, ridden: Tom O'Brien

With the race contested largely by horses yet to show any great talent for racing, the main protagonists merely had to cope with the ground, rather than relish it. And that is what they did, although for the jumps-bred 1/3 winner, lack of maturity meant that he only just survived the challenge of the more experienced flat converts. Cigarisi has shown plenty of potential in a short career up until now, and is the type to come into his own as a chaser - in time. Not often will he finish a race this slowly and still win. Comanche Chieftain has only been a modest flat horse, rated 67 and winning once in twenty-one races. He ran above that here, perhaps responding to the hood being used for the first time. Argyle sort of repeated his debut effort over course and distance - always heading for a place without threatening the win. He at least was unperturbed by being repeatedly booed by an Exeter City supporter.

v   Cigarisi (1st): A reasonable prospect headed steadily in the right direction. He had not raced on heavy before and will likely be better when avoiding it.
As Cigarisi outplods Comanche Chief to the line, it requires a giant earwig to highlight the biggest of the challenges that they faced.

Race 2: Peter Earl Memorial Novices' Limited Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: City Supreme     2: Mr Fitzroy     3: Golan Dancer

Winner owned: San Siro Six, trained: Anthony Honeyball, ridden: Noel Fehily

The finish of the day, unless you were onside with Mr Fitzroy, as he led by about three lengths over the final fence and was caught in the last metre of the race. His hurdle form made it look very unlikely that he would stay this far in testing ground, but a short head defeat is hardly a case of raging lack of stamina. What probably cost him the race was a bad error at fence ten. It knocked him back much more than the inches he was beaten, and would have drained some vital energy. Having concentrated on the defeated, it is necessary to be complimentary about City Supreme, who willingly ploughed through the puddles and happily offered more when asked to reel in the leader at the bitter end. This pair were new to fences, but the oppo consisted of two horses that had clearly been totally befuddled by the bigger obstacles, and Bagging Turf, who seemed to be remembering her fall last time - ruining a far more positive chase bow, which she won.

+   City Supreme (1st): Had worn a hood in the past and had been doing well at three miles lately, so it seemed as if this chase debut might not be the perfect race. Anyone worried about his hurdle record of a single win from seventeen tries would have been pleasantly surprised by the way he wore down the winner. Perhaps chases have been what he needed all along.
+   Mr Fitzroy (2nd): Added to his repertoire of workable race distances, and took to chasing mostly well. Still, he would be most appealing in future at about 2m 2f.

Race 3: Sharing Success Mares' Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Snippetydoodah     2: Kayflin     3: Willshebetrying

Winner owned & trained: Mike Roberts, ridden: Tom O'Brien

Not long ago, Snippetydoodah could have been a very confident pick for a race like this, but she ran so badly here in early January - her second time being seen off by Kayflin - that knowing what to expect was hard. Eight weeks off was time to put right whatever may have been amiss over New Year, but maybe there was something about Kayflin that just caused her to implode on contact. Well, all's well that ends well, as Snippetydoodah won this well, leading unchallenged by spoilsport rivals throughout, teasing the pursuers with a little clout of the second last and seeing out her race as strongly as any other horse on the day. Kayflin actually ran pretty well considering that two of her three past heavy ground races went rather badly. Willshebetrying (a non-runner on account of bad going in Snippetydoodah's off day) clung on in touch and was eased on the run-in when assured of third and clearly unable to improve her position. The rest came home in fits and starts.

+   Willshebetrying (3rd): Has found a little bit of form lately and can probably find a race in class 5 company.
x   Deckers Delight (6th): Since her Hereford win and subsequent unseat when going well, she has gone off of the boil quite dramatically. The drop in race distance was unlikely to suit today, but at the point when her stamina might have been expected to assist in reeling in a few stragglers, she ran out of steam completely and was soon tailed off. Disappointing again.
x   Dainty Diva (pulled up): Had been best at two and a half miles in Ireland, but has been given surprisingly few chances to prove it in Britain, mostly running at two miles. The rise in trip failed here, and she is beginning to look a little bit of a sulker.

Race 4: RABI Joan Collison Memorial Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Sea Wall   2: Camron De Chaillac   3: Shimba Hills

Winner owned: Draper Edmonds Draper, trained: Chris Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon

For a two miler this was really hard work, but the pace was strong for the conditions and even habitual front runner Sea Wall took a pause and let somebody else do the silly stuff. In front by hurdle six, he opened up a very dangerous lead and would not have been in much danger had he avoided walking through the second last hurdle. Camron De Chaillac was making inroads into the lead, but having handled the last flight better, Sea Wall had the race won, however much he slowed on the run-in. Which was quite a bit. The only other heavy ground hero in it was Rathealy, whose pace setting efforts took their toll late on, leaving him tailed off. That has been the outcome in both races since he left the David Pipe yard, who kept running him in sellers and claimers until someone took the hint.

+   Camron De Chaillac (2nd): Had first time blinkers on and improved for using them. His modest best before now had always been on good ground, so it is possible that even better is on the way - he has had few enough races to believe the best has not been seen yet.
+   Goldslinger (5th): Ran in two novice hurdles in 2015 without distinction, but there was a touch of life when he tried once more at Newbury recently. This handicap debut was a big failure, but it is unlikely that connections came here hoping for or expecting heavy ground, and he is worth another chance. The worry is that wins seem to have dried up on the flat.
x   Shimba Hills (3rd): Won his last two, beating the same horse into second by roughly the same distance in both. This was a better quality of opponent, and his limitations were exposed - although his fans, friends and family could mount a defence that heavy going is not really his cup of tea.

UK-Jumping Selection - Sea Wall (1st): Had the right race, conditions and opposition - unlike his last couple of races, his love of heavy ground was not applicable to most of the enemy. At his peak he could have won this with a bit in hand, but even missing it did not stop victory being scraped. He was reasonably handicapped today, so is capable of remaining competitive.

Race 5: Howden Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Coolking     2: Saroque    3: Big Georgie

Winner owned: Sir Peter & Lady Forwood, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: James King

The main event of this was an amazing recovery by horse and jockey after Replacement Plan walked through fence four. There were legs at all angles, like an ice skating giraffe, but the horse was determined to keep going for a bit further, and Sean Houlihan somehow found a way to work with him. Alas, it was all in vain, as they pulled up at the top of the hill for the final time. At this stage of the race, Coolking had all four of his opponents working furiously to keep up, and all of them failing at it as well. Other than the fences, the only thing left to stop him was an after effect of running in (and winning) a punishingly fast three and a half mile race on heavy just a week earlier. Horses, fences, fatigue? Coolking ate them for tiffin today.

+   Big Georgie (3rd): Had not done much under Rules, but did gain a close place in a hunter chase on heavy ground. He had also won five point-to-points, so there was a chance of him trundling round in a vaguely threatening way. He was outpaced early and never a danger, but under a persistent ride he did not miss out on second place by far. His yard has just passed thirty runners without a win, and a success in the mud might come when the team are generally doing better.
x   Saroque (2nd): In contrast to Big Georgie, it looked as if his yard was just finding a mini-hot streak, so his inability to be a danger here was underperforming, as he has run well under big weights in testing ground more than once. The one possible excuse is that sharp tracks are his enemy.
Coolking coolly finishes the race off with ease

Race 6: Strong Flavours Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: Minella Gathering     2: Landscape     3: Comical Red

Winner owned: Ed Hawkings, trained: Paul Henderson, ridden: Tom O'Brien

The deteriorated going added to being the fourth hurdle race of the afternoon meant that this race was a bit of a mess to predict. We had a choice of horses that would go on the ground but appeared unconvincing candidates to stay up against ones who either would not like the ground or represented out of form stables. The finish was a very slow motion affair to bookend the first event, and whilst Landscape showed some long absent determination once headed, Minella Gathering nurdled his way along just fast enough to pass the line in front. As neither of these were proven over this far and all bar out of form Comical Red had long since given up, it would not be wise to assume that the main pair proved their staying power at this distance.

+   Minella Gathering (1st): Seems to lack consistency, but is not long back from thirty-two months on the sidelines, so there is a chance that he can repeat the result. Perhaps dropping to no more than three miles will help.
+   Landscape (2nd): Is at least getting a semblance of competitiveness for his new stable, and is interesting when dropping down a bit in distance. The big worry is a generally unimpressive winning percentage.
x   Simply Blessed (pulled up): Had the visor on for the first time, having had to declare it when the going was a more amenable good to soft. She needed rousting along just to lead at the first, and was never travelling with any conviction. She did look as if the challenges were as much mental as ground related.
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