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MORTENS LEAM (Michel Hawker), 12-1, official rating 117

Early in his career he looked like a horse that could eventually make a handicap impact. That happened in his thirteenth race, winning a five horse affair at Fakenham. Instead of building on it, he drifted off into the wilderness, but bounced back at this time last year with a couple of 2m 5.5f Fontwell wins. The highest mark won from is 109, which does not look good in this context (but see later) and when he was a close second from 117 in March, only three took him on. The poor run last time can be forgiven because it was too far (three miles) and he usually needs the exercise in the opener.

VIRNON (Sarah Humphrey), 11-11, or 113

He began life with a couple of bumper wins on soft, before not doing disastrously in defeat when upped in class. Instead of going hurdling he deserted us for flat racing, at which he did not do disastrously… The switch back to hurdles, in November 2015, saw him win the first two (both on heavy at Carlisle) but the hint was not taken and he has mixed and matched flat, hurdles and chasing as he has passed through a couple of yards prior to this one. His comeback for the autumn ended with an unseat at halfway, which did not help lessen a harsh looking handicap mark.

LE COUER NET (Anthony Honeyball), 11-10, or 112, tongue tie

In the style of Mortens Leam his early career was far from lacking in encouragement and it too took him thirteen races to get off of the mark, although he disappointingly failed to deal with some pretty miserable threats en route. The opening bullseye was here over 2m 1f on soft and his later win was also a minimum distance race, this time on heavy at Ffos Las, when rated 105. Since that he has one bad day, a length and a half second to Finnegan’s Garden, for which he is a healthy eight pounds better off, and a four lengths third on seasonal return at Ffos Las last weekend. What counts against him is uncertain stamina (he oddly seems happier at 3m on good than this sort of trip) and a tendency to see following someone else home as a success.

DUHALLOW LAD (Alan Jones), 11-5, or 107

If you were more impressed by Le Couer Net than Bloodaxe is, please do not ignore the fact that in Spring 2018 this horse beat him by fifty lengths on course, distance and going. Admittedly the timid hearted one did not get luck in running, but they were both rated 105 that day. In twenty months since he has only managed four races, but they included an Exeter second off of 112 and three losses in the 12-14 lengths range, including his return from seven months off last month. With heavy ground being by far his favourite he is bang in the mix here and has not really run an utterly bad race since early 2018, when still looking for a handicap mark.

FINNEGAN’S GARDEN (Zoe Davison), 11-3, or 105

Over the last two seasons he has won seven chases, including three on course and distance and two on heavy (one of them curse and distance). He has had a comeback run for the autumn, admittedly not a very good effort. The only glaring negative is a highest winning mark of 97, but he has tricks not solely effective in class 5 company. The main one is his record in handicaps when six or fewer run – 411231U1111P. The P was last month and the fourth in what has proved to be an unsuitable three miler. It is plausible that against rivals in the same boat his high mark becomes insignifcant.

BAD BOY DU POLDU (Gary Moore), 11-0, or 102, blinkers

At the end of 2017 he had a close pair of second places in chases and appeared sure to find a winnable event over fences. After a couple of sub-standard runs he was fifth at Huntingdon but only lost by six lengths, with the restored promise spoiled by nineteen months off. After a run of the mill comeback he came to the last meeting here and in a tight five horse finish a lack of room led to an unseat two from home – success was possible at the time. He failed to last 2m 5.5f at Fontwell on Sunday, so after a hard race there he looks very opposable if taking part.
EIRIK BLOODAXE'S DAILY RACING PREVIEW
The Plan is to pick a race each day and give it a fairly detailed preview - hopefully picking up a worthwhile punt, but not scrabbling around for one. In reality, the "every jumps day" might prove impractical. For instance, you have been to Plumpton, had a couple of pints, get the train back, go to the pub. There might well be time to go through a race and publish, but no-one wants the unintelligible guff. So The Plan and The Harsh Reality may not always coincide.

The verdict is simple for each horse: The more Axes the better, but lay, or at least avoid, the Stalins. Keep a wary eye on the Mysterons
In order to handle changeable ground, a preference table has been added - the key is:
Y+ = Strong preference      Y = OK      Y? = Probably OK      ?Y = Maybe OK      ? = insufficient evidence
?x = Maybe a problem      x? = probably a problem      x = definite problem      blank = no evidence to judge
Preferences
18th November, Plumpton 2.30, Follow attheraces.com On Twitter Handicap Chase (class 4, 0-115)

Course: Left-handed, sharp, undulating

Distance: 2 miles 3.5 furlongs

Going: Heavy, Soft places

Stables in form: Anthony Honeyball

Stables out of form: Sarah Humphrey

Claiming Jockey Watch: Philip Donovan (Mortens Leam) claims 7 lb, 16 wins. Ben Godfrey (Le Couer Net) claims 7 lb, 10 wins. Page Fuller (Finnegan's Garden) claims 3 lb, 60 wins.
THE BLOODAXE VERDICT
HorseGoing DistanceCourse Comments
HeavySoftGd-SoftGoodGd-Firm2m 3.5fLHSharpUndul
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Mortens LeamYYYYYYYY?
VirnonYY?Y?YYYY
Le Couer NetYYx??Y?xYYY
Duhallow LadYY???YYYY
Finnegan's GardenYYY?YYYYY
Bad Boy Du PolduY?Y?Y?YYY?Y
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DUHALLOW LAD,  FINNEGAN'S GARDEN
MORTENS LEAM,  VIRNON
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Points of Order
Three wins and two places from six visits do show that for Finnegan’s Garden, Plumpton is a magical wonderland, and he is far from alone here in sporting an unhelpful handicap mark. Four wrongs do not make a right, but can be a great leveller. Meanwhile, the occasionally sighted Duhallow Lad is in the right conditions and is the best handicapped horse in the race. Take 3/1 or more on Finnegan’s Garden or Duhallow Lad
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