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Sandown 5/1/19

Two notable points. Firstly an example of racing’s swings and roundabouts. Gary Moore fielded an interesting newcomer in the opening race, until it departed at the first hurdle, then soon afterwards a runner at Wincanton that was just outpaced from pillar to post. In the next forty minutes he won two chases at Sandown and might well have had a third at Wincanton had Cheque En Blanc handled the downhill fences in the home straight there. The second point was Barrygate, as nobody apart from UK-Jumping has labelled it. When Barry Geraghty hobbled across the Sandown paddock to ride the outsider of two in the mares’ hurdle, he looked more set to audition for the part of Unlucky Alf in a rerun of The Fast Show than a man ready to take part in a strenuous sporting event. After that one he was well and truly turned over on the favourite in the Tolworth Hurdle and gave up his ride in the final race. Was he ever fit to ride?

Going: Chase – Soft, Good to Soft places, Hurdle – Good to Soft, Good & Soft places

Race 1: Unibet Juvenile Hurdle [2m]

1: Torpillo     2: Fukuto     3: Paddy The Chef

Winner owned: Simon Munir & Issaac Souede, trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Daryl Jacob

Torpillo’s winning hurdle debut was the best jumps form on offer here but his yard’s losing run had just hit thirty, so there were reasons to look for glimpses of promise elsewhere. That did not work as nothing caught the attention as being ready to up their contribution and in the race itself Torpillo was the only horse able to sustain a gallop for the whole two miles – although he was hardly fantastically fluent at either of the final pair of hurdles. In the case of Paddy The Chef his flat win was on quick ground and his encouraging hurdle debut came on good, so this did not surprise at all. For Fukuto a win at Argentan on good to soft was better prep and he gained places late on without giving Torpillo a moment of concern.

+  Fukuto (2nd), Paddy The Chef (3rd): Both of them did reasonably well and when attention moves away from the major tracks they can think about winning races.

Race 2: Unibet Handicap Chase [1m 7.5f]

1: Darebin     2: Capeland     3: Poker School

Winner owned: Chris Stedman & Mark Albon, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

Only four took part in this but racegoers could not have asked for any Moore from a race as coming to the second last fence the quartet were tightly grouped and each of them had a chance of first place. The inconsistent Darebin was very much in a positive mood, making all and unleashing the sort of determination on the run-in that it takes him about a year to save up. Capeland had a strange race – not for the first time. In the railway fences he dropped a few lengths off of the others for no obvious reason. Then he sprouted wings approaching the last and simply met Darebin on the wrong day. Although narrowly defeated at this sort of distance in 2017, Poker School has not won at two miles for nearly four years, so his third was just what was expected.

+  Yorkist (4th): Usually saves his best for sharp tracks, although every now and then he does something to tease us that he can work on other types of course. He was not thrashed in fourth, so look for a better result on tight turns soon.

x  Capeland (2nd): UK-Jumping last saw him when completely downing tools at Fontwell in the autumn, and the little wobble in the back straight cost him the race today – probably. It seems that we are Capelandbane, a magical elixir of great power as between these encounters he has won three times. There are reasons not to trust him but it is understandable why people who only have seen the good Capeland would disagree.

Race 3: 32Red Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Larry     2: Darius Des Bois     3: Western Miller

Winner owned: Galloping On The South Downs Partnership, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: Jamie Moore

In contrast to the earlier chase, patience was required to deliver a triumph here. Darius Des Bois was steady by choice but Larry got stuck at the back thanks to misjudging the first two fences and some brain settling time was needed. It worked because he sneaked his way to the front at the Pond Fence three from home and was full of running when the startled oppo tried to sort that out. Darius Des Bois was the least effective in that job as at said Pond Fence he did not pick up at all. The jockey was asking but he only answered at the last, which was too late to lasso Larry. Dream Bolt was the opposite of that pair, setting a searching pace only to weaken three out. Western Miller did the best job of being both prominent in the race and as the field was finishing, but he found the run-in hard work, although he had just enough to regain third from Vocaliser. Two runners were using specific headgear for first time. Creep Desbois (cheekpieces) and Lithic (visor) did not seem to get any particular benefit nor harm from them.

+ +  Vocaliser (4th): All four chase wins have been at 2m 2f or shorter and he did not get home at this distance. Despite that major inconvenience, especially for anyone who backed him each way, this was a better effort than he was managing late last year, so watch out for a drop in race distance soon.

+  Prairie Town (6th): Like Vocaliser he does not really stay 2m 4f but enthusiasm for improvement is less strong because he can be a touch moody even in races that should be up his street.

x  Western Miller (3rd) Although Sandown is less suitable for him than sharp turns venues, this proved to be a very typical chase run for him. He is not obviously incompetent over fences, but one win from ten suggests that he is finding the job a bit tiresome.

UK-Jumping Selections – Dream Bolt (8th): Needs a quick reappearance to excel most of the time but had been off for six weeks or so. Led, wilted, nobody shocked.

Race 4: Unibet Mares’ Hurdle, Listed [2m 4f]

1: Laurina     2: Sensulano

Winner owned: Sullivan Bloodstock Limited, trained: Willie Mullins, ridden: Ruby Walsh

The defection of two out of the four runners rendered this race as a grand irrelevance in the seasonal scheme of things but even if those two had stayed put, it would have told us little about Laurina’s Champion Hurdle prospects. Of course, we did learn that the much entered, never raced mare really does exist in the body corporeal and is not just a ghostly haunter of Willie Mullins dreams. The chance of an upset lay in Sensulano doing something innovative and unpredictable. That could have been dressing up as a famous serial killer to frighten Laurina or charge off as if pursued by the hounds of hell, in order to bewilder Laurina. Sitting two lengths behind the jolly and letting her run her own race was an immediate surrender.
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Laurina, actually a real live creature, and the massed ranks of the enemy

Race 5: Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle, Grade 1 [2m]

1: Elixir De Nutz     2: Grand Sercy     3: Southfield Stone

Winner owned: Terry Warner, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: Tom O’Brien

In recent years this race has tended to attract small but subsequently very capable line-ups but the initial impression was that 2019 might be a down year. The hype was all about Rathhill , who had been a dozen lengths runner-up in an Irish point and won his hurdle debut in taking style. Whether that merited a starting price of 6/5 is debatable. It proved irrelevant as he could end up fourth and was in trouble soon after turning for home. See the intro for a query as to how much was the horse not being as super as billed and how much was other factors. Up ahead Elixir De Nutz showed top levels of resolve to hold off the persistent challenge of Grand Sercy and to a slightly lesser extent Southfield Stone. Before the race the ground was a prime suspect to undermine Elxixir De Nutz’ challenge, but the same applied for Southfield Stone (won all three hurdles contested, each on good or fast at Taunton) so the conditions were either riding better than the official mark or an equal nuisance for the first three as even Grand Sercy had looked as if mud was not his thing, until fourth in the big pre-Christmas Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Ascot. As well as he ran, Grand Sercy is very exposed and the fact that a good case could be made for him being the winner shows that the oppo had not really inspired as future champions up to now.

+  Elixir De Nutz (1st), Grand Sercy (2nd), Southfield Stone (3rd): The trio all emerged with reputations enhanced but they probably need one more big performance on soft to prove that they can show their best on it.

Race 6: Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase Final [3m]

1: Houblon Des Obeaux     2: Theatre Guide     3: On Tour 4: Rock Gone

Winner owned: Julian Blackwell & Mrs Angus Mclay, trained: Venetia Williams, ridden: Charlie Deutsch

The old timers’ final attracted the usual big field and was won by Houblon Des Obeaux, who was not one of the eleven year old whippersnappers pitching at the final. In the end it was a comfortable margin but that was due to the 2018 champ Buywise tipping up at the last fence. Houblon Des Obeaux is no mug but by the standards of this type of race Buywise is a quick horse and whilst he had some lengths to make up, it was not so many that he was not capable of doing so. We will never know. Theatre Guide inherited second place. He has not won for just over two years and his couple of runs this winter involved finishing behind plenty of today’s opponents. It would have been an improved show even if he did only end up third. That slot went to On Tour, in the same yard and ownership as Buywise, which amounts to a fine contribution from a horse that has never won beyond two and a half miles, especially as he overtook the less exposed and more proven stayer Rock Gone after the final fence. The rest of the finishers were just a bit too remote to get much in the way of positive vibes from their input.
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Old timers are usually impressed by visual effects on the camera but the veteran chasers do not seem to give a hoot about fisheye photos, and at this point in time they did not know that it was going to be a bad one.

Race 7: 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Monsieur Lecoq     2: Our Merlin     3: Eragon De Chanay

Winner owned & trained: Jane Williams, ridden: Lizzie Kelly

If Houblon Des Obeaux finished off the previous race by bounding up the run-in with deceptive youthfulness, then Monsieur Lecoq did it with youth that he does actually have. Never let it be said that UK-Jumping does not research all the detail in depth. When Monsieur Lecoq attacked before the second last hurdle, he opened up a gap quite quickly but there was still a bit of a hike up to the line and a mistake could have stopped him in his tracks. Instead he was the horse who kept up a good gallop and the ones chasing closest did the wilting. Our Merlin was burned off by eight lengths or so and it was similar back to Eragon De Chanay.

+  Monsieur Lecoq (1st): Is going to get a hefty climb in the weights for this but if there is a race to dive into for a quick reappearance this was not as hard work as last race of the day on softish ground might normally be.

x  Court Royale (5th): The apparent better conditions than officially described passed him by as on good ground he had every chance of being a factor but could not pick up at all in the home straight. Or was the ground not to blame?
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