Sandown, 12/11/17

For this meeting last year the weather was cold and horribly wet, resulting in a depleted crowd, although slightly above what may have been expected. This time it would have been mild but for a quite chilly wind blowing into the faces of the horses in the home straight. Hard work for them, but it got a noticeably bigger turnout and even people making use of the picnic area. Do we laud them for being upstanding British eccentrics or deplore the fact that they all scoffed it quickly and made a beeline for the warmth of the stand? Either do eccentricity in full or leave it alone – it is not a game for part-timers.

Going: Good to Soft, Soft places

Race 1: ATP Tennis At 188Bet Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Golan Fortune     2: Sunnythaliateigan     3: Bastien

Winner owned: P Middleton, M Lowther, trained: Phil Middleton, ridden: Fergus Gregory

The way this race turned out was totally in line with horses finishing uphill into the teeth of the wind, but it surprisingly did not set the tone for the day. Sunnythaliateigan had been in the vicinity of the leaders throughout, and kicked on leaving the back straight. Capeland jumped to the front at the last having been gradually reeling the leader in, but he failed to see out the race and was soon headed by the plodding on Golan Fortune. That sounds harsh but it was a) true, b) sufficient to win and c) brave, as an error three out seemed to have knocked Golan Fortune into a disastrous loss of position. Bastien also looked like a lost cause at that stage, purely on a basis of inadequate galloping, but rallied nicely up the heel to nick a place in the last five yards.

+   Capeland (4th): Had won at 2m 2.5f but had never raced over this far before. He was only beaten by three lengths, but watch for a return to shorter anyway after emptying in the last fifty metres.

UK-Jumping picks: Dinsdale (7th): Not travelling early, he staged a mini-revival in vain approaching two out, then weakened again. Not a big worry in an unsuitable race.

Race 2: Rugby Betting At 188Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Jameson     2: Western Miller     3: Deauville Crystal

Winner owned: Walters Plant Hire Ltd, trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Jamie Bargery

Before the running of this, it looked to have a field of nice young horses that had typically a good chance of flourishing in chases, provided their jumping skills held up. Yet at the finish, the two that had found the fences problematical had pulled up and seven of the survivors had been brushed aside by the first two, both of whom had chase experience. When Jameson loomed up alongside the aggressively ridden Western Miller (apart from a breather before the railway fences), it seemed that eight would be brushed aside by one, but Jameson misjudged the final fence and then had to get hard to work to edge Western Miller by a neck. The next six were split by barely five lengths as they strived slowly for the winning post. With the four year olds age allowance, Deauville Crystal ended up comfortably with the lowest weight and on the run-in this benefit really cut in.

+ +   Baden (4th): Having his first run since the Punchestown Festival, he made a couple of small errors on the back straight and seemed to have knocked himself out of contention. From the final turn he began to make ground under less than severe pressure and he took the last three fences efficiently. Although exposed as outclassed at top level over hurdles, he potentially has lots of improvement to come from this chase debut.

+   Touch Kick (7th): Impressed when winning his debut bumper but found success hurdling harder to come by. He did not excel here in his first chase, but did nothing especially badly. He is not the tallest but is sturdily built so if he does make minor errors, he is designed to handle them. Woe betide the fence that takes him on.

x   Chalonnial (6th): A tall horse who is built to del with top weight and had a first time tongue tie on, he was set for third and went to pieces on the run-in. He may come on for the race, but this weakening had a dubious look to it.

x   Capser King (PU): He was a very sloppy jumper over hurdles but is constructed to be a chaser, so everyone then hopes that he respects the bigger obstacles more. Apparently nobody had told the horse it is supposed to work that way and after several errors he called it quits.

x   Qualando (PU): After a promising chase debut this race ended early when one serious error at the first open ditch got him detached and soon pulled up – he may well have been distracted by a Casper King mistake. Before rushing to forgive him, remember that since landing the Fred Winter in spring 2015, he has not won a thing.
Bally Gilbert has a short lived lead from Western Miller and Chalonnial. The grey is Baden and Jameson is the much darker presence between the second and third

Race 3: Download The App At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle [2m]

1: Irish Prophecy     2: Trust The Man     3: Resiliency

Winner owned: Nicholas Mustoe, trained Emma Lavelle, ridden: Leighton Aspell

A very unsatisfactory event. When the starter let them go, everyone sat around looking for someone else to do something. When Irish Prophecy reluctantly went on, the rest gave him a six lengths start, which occasionally stretched to further, and never did the field do a jot to reel him in. It was almost as if they all feared ending up too close for handicapping comfort to a horse who had won a couple of minor bumpers impressively… Irish Prophecy fluffed the first because, as commentator Richard Hoiles noted with a hint of frustration, he was going too slow to jump it properly, and the horse was also awkward at the last, probably in surprise at breaking into a gallop. By winning the dash for second, Trust The Man showed his surprise Plumpton place to have been no fluke.

+   Irish Prophecy (1st): This display proved little and he remains a horse of potential, rather than a known quantity.

+   Leapaway (5th): Contesting his first race in any shape or form, he was only run out of a place at the final hurdle and probably had more to gain than anyone from what turned into a glorified schooling session.

x   Captain Simon (7th): A winner of his only point and only bumper he has now flopped in both hurdles, and irrespective of the reliability of this form, he is clearly having issues with the job at the present time.

Race 4: 188Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase, Listed Race [2m]

1: Might Bite     2: Frodon     3: Label Des Obeaux

Winner owned: The Knot Again Partnership, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Nico de Boinville
After this, taken with a lap to go, the first two swapped positions. It seemed at the time that more happened.

They came in numbers to see Might Bite, some to admire his talent, others to see if he might not so much bite as do something crazy. All that the latter faction got was a mistake at the twelfth and a couple where he got in close but fiddled them quite dextrously. You may wonder if that would be something done so comfortably in a more competitive race, but then it is necessary to make a list of how many top class horses are there to run in the King George? Eh? Eh? (Assuming Colin Tizzard decides to have all of his best horses in the same race over Christmas and New Year.

+   Frodon (2nd): Fell at the last when tired in his only other three mile race, but on this evidence he is growing slowly into being a stayer. He is not well handicapped after last season, so something is needed to change his paradigm, or some other waffly nonsense.
Every picture tells a story, don't it?

Race 5: Play Casino At 188Bet Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Maria’s Benefit     2: Monbeg Oscar     3: Garo De Juilley

Winner owned: PD Wells, trained: Stuart Edmunds, ridden: Ciaran Gethings

After her win last time, Stuart Edmunds was gushing the compliments over the potential of Maria’s Benefit, and how often do we hear that and it proves to be exaggeration born of the adrenalin rush of victory? Based on the style in which she led all the way here, there might be more substance to this case. Her cause was helped a lot when Fidux blundered and unseated at the last, but at the time he was challenging and thus not inevitably going to get the better of the winner. At the second hurdle from the finish, Monbeg Oscar was also a danger to Maria’s Benefit, but his goose had been cooked when he inherited second place. For those down the field who never got a chance to nip at Maria’s Benefit’s heels, it was not a good day at the office, but in the general mess of two mile handicap hurdling, others will pan out a bit better.

+   Maria’s Benefit (1st): Impressed, and whilst she can expect a bit of a climb up the handicap, it is perfectly possible that she deals with it.

Race 6: Veterans’ Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Houblon Des Obeaux     2: Third Intention     3: Loose Chips

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

At the declaration stage this had the makings of a fine eight runner race. Instead two were non-runners, one was never at the party (Vino Griego), one who should know better had his jumping fall apart after a lap (Pete The Feat) and Double Ross had a brief race that went “mistake first, sent jockey airborne second.” That left us with three serious contenders, of whom Loose Chips dropped away quickly approaching the third last. Third Intention was at that time working hard to keep Houblon Des Obeaux at bay. However, Double Ross had been hinting that he felt that he should still have a part to play in this, and after a couple of near misses he found between the last two fences a means to get in the way of both of the pair fighting for the win. Houblon Des Obeaux endured less tribulation but might have won anyway. Third Intention kept his no wins beyond 2m 4.5f and finish behind Houblon Des Obeaux records intact and at this distance can ill afford the sort of aggro he met.

x   Loose Chips (3rd): Had a pre-race course and distance record of 212132 but this was a bad third placed run to add in. He was not as lively as usual on his comeback run last month and the thought is that time has caught up with him now.

Race 7: Bet £10 Get £20 At 188Bet Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Mercy Mercy Me     2: Classic Ben     3: The Butcher Said

Winner owned: Malcolm C Denmark, trained: Fergal O’Brien, ridden: Paddy Brennan

This had the makings of a decent quality bumper and it was run at a proper pace as well. The two horses that caught the eye with their form filled the places, although Punchestown Festival runner-up The Butcher Said failed to justify market support and also failed to lead all the way. When Classic Ben caught him halfway up the home straight, he only briefly got a lead before debut making Mercy Mercy Me took that slot and opened up a little daylight. He won it all a bit stylishly.

+ +   Mercy Mercy Me (1st): Representing an owner who has plenty of horses expected to make an instant impact, this was a very impressive debut run.

+   Classic Ben (2nd): The only attribute that he showed in Irish points was clumsiness, but he was second and more impressive in his obstacle-free bumper debut. If anything this was an improvement. He needs to get the jumping skills sorted out, but has plenty of raw talent.

+   The Butcher Said (3rd): For an expensive purchase this was an unexceptional British debut, but time may tell that it was not such a flop after all.

+   Ostuni (8th): Caught the eye in the paddock, but being an expensive buy for an unraced horse, that is only to be expected. Not a great deal was asked of him here, and inexperience cut in when The Butcher Said turned the screw. Better should be on the way.
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