Southwell, 23/6/19

With only two meetings pencilled in for UK-Jumping attendance in June it was looking, however implausible it sounds, that both would be off due to waterlogging. Instead Southwell heroically stepped into the breach and put on an extra meeting here, despite already having one scheduled over jumps for the following day. As ever, a week's notice of a new fixture was not enough to draw a big crowd but with admission dropped to £10, those who did get there appreciated the effort. Then for an added bonus, they witnessed two jockeys ride their 1,000th winner. There was not much fuss about Aidan Coleman hitting the mark in race two, but when Sam Twiston-Davies caught him up, somebody realised that we had seen a unique occurence.

Going: Good to start but after race 1 it was changed to Good to Soft (Good places). The minor splurge of non-runners suggests that some felt it to be even softer.

Race 1: Visit Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Bletchley Park     2: Phoenix Rock     3: Isle Road

Winner owned: DR Ellis, trained: David Loughnane, ridden: Bryan Carver

Having built a pointing reputation as a talented but blunderful option, Bletchley Castle had a small spell incident-free this season then, when running the oppo ragged in a hunter chase, went back to his old tricks at Huntingdon. He looked to be appealingly handicapped here but the key thing was an error free round on a track that does not make such a thing easy. He managed it, to the apparent surprise of some of his enemies within the race. Phoenix Rock, adopting hold up tactics that are tricky to pull off in bigger fields here, never got any nearer than the two lengths that she was beaten at the line. A way back local legend Riddlestown was pipped by Isle Road for third. Everyone else was tailed off, with added pulled up in some cases. Interesting note from the betting ring. Making his debut for Ben Pauling, Canyouhearmenow started favourite. He has shown glimpses in the past and had been residing in a yard struggling for form. Whether he needed a different training regime or just to be healthier, how much progress can be expected in a couple of weeks?

+  Isle Road (3rd): Won twice last summer from ratings in the 80s and whilst this was not a great run despite looking well enough to offer one, it was progress on his stable debut and he may be building up towards another success. His wins were at about two and a half miles.

Phoenix Rock (2nd): Whilst she has definitely been running better recently, she is still finding wins elusive, so do not get carried away with her immediate prospects.

Eaton Miller (PU): Won a chase in April but this was a third straight failure to finish and he did not seem at all enthused about the job, jumping awkwardly from the start.

x  Canyouhearmenow (PU): In defiance of the rhetorical question above, he jumped off placed prominently and lost interest at an ominously early stage, dropping back through the field without a qualm or thought for those who had been on the bandwagon.

UK-Jumping Selections: Shady Glen (6th): He had been off of the boil and had too long between races to support this time, so his indifferent effort was as expected.

Race 2: Happy 50th Birthday Andy Gardiner Handicap Chase [2m 4.5f]

1: Western Miller     2: Wolfcatcher     3: Elkstone

Winner owned: The Pantechnicons IV, trained: Ian Williams, ridden: Aidan Coleman

This race showcased a classic pitfall that hold up horses run into on the wrong day here. Al Shahir fell at fence ten, Midnight Maestro came within in a whisker of being brought down. A couple of others lost a little momentum dodging the incident and all of a sudden Western Miller and Wolfcatcher had taken complete control of the race. Wolfcatcher ran out of steam at between the last two fences, nearly losing second to Elkstone, and Western Miller came past the post in glorious isolation. Fortunes Hiding came here seeking a hat trick with a small question mark about the race distance and a bigger one over the sharp track. He walloped the eighth and immediately pulled up but seemed perfectly fine. Give him a second chance next time but he has suffered a twenty pounds rise in the handicap ratings. Yuk.

+  Elkstone (3rd): Used to be averse to success but broke the spell of ennui with a treble in 2018. So far this year he had been off of that standard of form but this was a gentle signal that he may be considering the option of recovering it.

x  Western Miller (1st): Likes to front run but does not always judge the manner of doing it so well. The follow up attempt could easily go awry.

x  Midnight Maestro (5th): The pre-race verdict was "not made a chaser." Nearly getting flung to the ground did not help his cause here, but if you really, really need to be optimistic, surviving to finish is a plus. There is still more than enough to prove.     here.
Aidan Coleman's 1000th winner. Western Miller seems to be subtlely pleased by it but nobody else is going overboard

Race 3: Sky Sports Racing Virgin 535 Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Raise Your Shades     2: Safe Home     3: Lovely Touch     4: Bridey's Lettuce

Winner owned: Foxrot Racing Raise Your Shades, trained: Ben Pauling, ridden: Tom Bellamy

This sumptuous array of class 5 hurdlers went about the race in their accustomed fashion, which means that by the second last hurdle they had filtered out three to scrap it out for the win, with the others all thinking about how long to get home and get tucked into their dinner. The big trio then 66.67% imploded. Safe Home ran out of steam but inherited the runner-up slot when Global Rhapsody tipped up at the final obstacle. That left Raise Your Shades to win clearly but he was not necessarily destined for second best when Global Rhapsody came down.

+  Safe Home (2nd): A visitor from Ireland, he had reached thirty-four races in his career with only a flat win to his name, then he burst into life with hurdle win last month. Given the number of times he has failed to make the top ten, that could easily be written off as a fluke, but he ran well here - the softening ground was probably not ideal.

+  Global Rhapsody (Fell): Ran an improved race last month on his handicap debut and was doing the same again until falling. He was down a while but seemed fine when getting his breath back. As long as his memory does not linger on the tumble, a win should be creeping up on him.

Speedy Gonzalez (PU): Although stuck with top weight, it seemed possible that notable improvement would come now he had got into handicaps at the lowest possible level. It did not turn out that way.

x x  Trafalgar Rock (8th): At his best form (rated 125) he was a handicap gift this time but even on 96 he was unable to make a serious play. There is nowhere lower to go now.

x x  Showem Silver (PU): Another who once got a hurdle a rating above 120, and he did it in Ireland, which the British handicapper thinks is worth a bit more over here. In his last nine runs he has six pulled ups (first time visor here) and a fall, plus losses of 48 and 58 lengths. LIke Trafalgar Rock he has sunk to the bottom drawer and there is no Plan J.

Race 4: Southwell Racecourse Joules Clothing Sale 24th July Handicap Hurdle [1m 7.5f]

1: The Vollan     2: Jacbequick     3: Knight Destroyer

Winner owned: M Scott, trained: Charlie Longsdon, ridden: Aidan Coleman

Three non-runners made this tricky race look tempting to some, with a mere nine to unravel, and the market signals were right as The Vollan, sporting a tongue tie for the first time, was just that little bit too nippy for Jacbequick. In fairness those who found the winner would have been happy from the second last as being a touch faster than Jacbequick is a little attribute that quite a few horses have been adopting recently. With course, distance and going looking to be right up his street, it was unexpected that Knight Destroyer would drop away so tamely in the home straight, but possibly he set too a pace too strong for his own good.

+ +  Gwalia (PU): There was a developing suggestion that he prefers to go right-handed and that would seem to have been endorsed by this run. There have been two respectable efforts going left-handed but on a clockwise course his record is 234124.

The Vollan (1st): Appreciated the use of a tongue tie and since moving into handicaps he has two good runs and one flop, the latter being at two and a half miles. The perfect formula seems to have been established.

+  Mercian King (6th): Looked like he would improve for the match practice after more than six months off and had a jockey having only his fourth career ride. He will come on for the run and looks to have a workable hurdles rating.
The Vollan after his win. Is there a superstitious post-winner routine in the Charlie Longsdon yard - horses included?

Race 5: Follow At The Races On Twitter Handicap Hurdle [2m 4.5f]

1: Zubayr     2: Mister Universum     3: Duhallow Gesture

Winner owned: PJ Vogt, trained: Ian Williams, ridden: Bryony Frost

As it turned out the feature hurdle turned out to be the most thrilling of the day although with a case to made for any of the six to win, it would have been a shame had someone made a cakewalk of it. Three horses attacked the last in a line and even with a shortish run-in we were well along it before spotting who was going to prevail. Duhallow Gesture, who had made the running, was first to crack and initially it appeared that Mister Universum had the advantage. That was not a concept that Zubayr was willing to recognise and in the end he got home by more than a length. It sounds like little but in the manner of the race unfolding, it is a lifetime. Zubayr, it is noted, was well handicapped on his old best and his record on good to soft now reads 11522081 - the 08 coming in something of a general slump. Mister Universum was beaten half a length in his previous run and then had a wind op. Is it time to argue that by doubling his margin of defeat the procedure has set him back? Favourite Full Bore, debuting in handicaps after a relatively sane effort last time out, ran no sort of race at all. He had only ever tackled good going before, so we can allow him this one flop.

+  Zubayr (1st): After such a close race he ought to be competitively handicapped next time, and woe betide the oppo if he gets good to soft ground.

+  Forecast (5th): Looks terribly handicapped on what he has achieved and leaving the hood off appeared to be inviting failure. Take note when it returns because that may signify enhanced confidence from the stable.

Duhallow Gesture (3rd): Ran a decent race as number two in the weights but she has not yet turned into the hurdler that her bumper form suggested was possible and with a rating of 130, she will not be awash with easier options.

Race 6: Sky Sports Racing Virgin 535 Mares' Novices' Hurdles [1m 7.5f]

1: Nordican Bleue     2: Bannixtown Glory     3: Zoutoise

Winner owned: Canard Vert Racing Club, trained: Richard Newland, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

As summer mares only novice races go this may not be a bad one, but that is a little bit guessy because quite a few lacked hurdling experience. At least they had mostly done well in bumpers - notably Miss Heritage, who had two wins, two seconds and only struggled when in a Grade 2 race. She pulled far too hard here and dropped out from the final bend. Nordican Bleue, on the other hand, bounced back from a wind op to nab the race - realistically her three efforts as beaten favourite last year might have represented sufficient talent to win anyway. Credit to Bannixtown Glory who did not look quite as fit as most of her rivals but forced the pace and frightened most of them away. Bergamot made slow and understated progress in bumpers but did not start hurdling all that well and is back to square one.

+ +  Sitron (4th): Almost fell on her hurdles debut and did so on the second. This saw her sit at the back and stroll through the race, getting fourth late on. She did also win the head-to-head of the citrus fruit with Bergamot, so all you lemons, limes and tangerines out there should be shaking in fear.

+ +  Bannixtown Glory (2nd): All in all a very sound hurdles debut and she is one to be financially stalking in mares only company.

+  Nordican Bleue (1st): Her rating of 108 did not appear overly harsh so it was a small surprise that no attempt was made to use it in handicap company. If connections can dig up a race for her before it goes up, take serious note.   here.
Sam Twiston-Davies' 1000th winner. Nordican Bleue is doing the celebration properly, although she might just be a desperate attention seeker.

Race 7: Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Novices' Handicap Hurdle [1m 7.5f]

1: Chef De Troupe     2: Naasik     3: Made For You

Winner owned: CE Stedman, trained: Richard Newland, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

A rather strange closing race because Chef De Troupe was more or less allowed to win unthreatened. As he often jumped severely off to his right, he was inviting others to come and turn it into a proper ruck, but nobody was interested. The obvious candidate would have been handicap debutant Made For You. However he set off in rear and struggled to make any progress - he had only raced on good ground before this. That allowed the often well beaten and rarely placed Naasik to secure a non-impressive second. Biscay Bay seems to have settled on a commitment to waiting tactics, and both this race and his last one have not been compatible.

Biscay Bay (4th): Can come good when the race is run to suit - give him a swerve on sharp bends. Maybe Worcester should suit, although Uttoxeter last month ought to have been easier to manage than he made it look.

x  Chef De Troupe (1st): Has run better in his last two races but will likely go up a lot for this and we shall see what he is made of should anyone take him on properly.    here.
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