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Stratford, 16/7/17

This meeting last year was followed from the old raialway embankment on the far side of the course, which was pleasant. This time, the need for shade (and, where possible, air conditioning) meant that going into the course on family day was risked. Most of the additional stuff for the occasion was in the middle of the track, where all it did was make the viewing worse. As far as the notes below are concerned, horses who did not fancy it today will tend to be forgiven due to the heat - unless they have past wobbles telling us that it is not a one-off.

Going: Good, Good to Firm places - surely must have been the other way round by the end of the afternoon? Or even the middle.

Race 1: Pertemps Juvenile Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Adams Park     2: Parmenter     3: Go Now Go Now

Winner owned: ValueRacingClub.co.uk, trained: Richard Newland, ridden: Aidan Coleman.

At face value this could be a fair race for the time of year - which means a very low scale of measurement - but the couple of 70+ rated flatters with hurdle exeprience had managed two defeats each, so it was a warning that perhaps the 70+ rated new converts are not inevitably destined to excel over jumps. If we learned one thing from the first two Terminator films, it is that there is no fate. Another feature of this race is that it tends to be a tad hairy over the first couple of hurdles. Red Miracle seemed to be the one who had attracted morning interest, but that support had rather dried up by the time that the on course market got going. These two latest statements do have a conjunction, because after the field charged at the first hurdle and all got over it, complacency set in and the jumping was pretty slapdash. Go Now Go Now (it sounded as if the commentator was calling his Gonad Go Now for some reason), ran around approaching the third, fluffed it badly and hampered Parmenter. Red Miracle pulled too hard, jumped without fluency and fell at the fourth. Adams Park was not too slick at the obstacles either, and after he thumped the second last very hard, Parmenter seemed to have his measure, but could not get to the front on the home turn. She weakened from the final hurdle and was beaten by four lengths. Probably a race of minimal future significance.

x  Adams Park (1st): Did not jump well enough in a first time visor to scare away competent potential future opponents. His prospects if failing to do that are very limited, although competent jumping could easily make him ten lengths better.

x Parmenter (2nd): Finished more weakly than expected and the only plus is that it was a more competitive effort than any of her flat runs as a three year old.

Race 2: New LDV V80 Van Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: One For Billy     2: Salto Chisco     3: The Yank

Winner owned: Paul & Clare Rooney, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Only four ran, but all had a good claim for being a potential winner and the market sort of over reacted to One For Billy's recent second place in his first run over fences. The risk with him was the tendency to need to come with a late run on a track that is unhelpful to that approach - although only tackling three opponents offset a great deal of that worry. The Yank was a likely front runner and with Salto Chisco and Sage Monkey also patiently ridden more often than not, it was possible to see The Yank nicking this from the front. As it happened, One For Billy proved to be tactically flexible and hung on the coat tails of The Yank. Sage Monkey weakened from the third last, and rounding the final bend the other three were bunched and all ridden along. From there, the finishing order absolutely tells the story of who was strongest. The winner was not massively impressive but a mistake in which he went right at the final fence (contra the run-in dog leg) dented his superiority. The quartet finished in racecard order.

+ +  The Yank (3rd): Is looking to be very appealingly handicapped, and ran a bit more dynamically than on recent flat efforts. When connections drop him into a class 5 race take note - take two notes if it is on tight turns track.

+  Sage Monkey (4th): Looked as if he would need the run a little, but was backed into second favourite as if the opposite were true. He ran as he looked, and will be better next time. His historical strike rate has been suppressed by sloppy jumping, hence just the one + now.

Race 3: Rio Gold Syndicate Novices' Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Hatcher     2: Cybalko     3: Golden Friday

Winner owned: P Betts, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Potentially this was interesting stuff to watch. Hatcher has plenty of ability to cruise through his races and won two bumpers, but even after a wind operation, he does not finish hurdle races off well. A win has come in a very weak race, but he always looks vulnerable - in the past we tended to blame a bad attitude, but now we can be more generous and at least consider the option that it is due to physical limitations. Thus Hatcher is not the type to trust at long odds-on but this is the sort of oppo that he got that solitary hurdles success against. All of this waffle is in place of a report on a race that failed to live up the initially stated potential and was almost devoid of incident. Elviz unseated at the third, after mistakes at the first two. Hatcher dashed off in front and gradually got further and further in front from Cybalko, who at least offered a bit more than on his bumper run more than a year back. The most fascinating thing about this was that for the second race in a row the four finishers all ended up in the same position as their racecard number. When it is this hot, you need your ration of fascination from things that demand very little thinking about.

x   Hatcher (1st): If connections risk him in tougher company, he has a big chance laying an egg and needs to be taken on.

Race 4: PSA Group Handicap Chase [2m 6.5f]

1: What A Laugh     2: King Spirit     3: Drumhart

Winner owned: Steve Edkins, trained: Gary Hanmer, ridden: Alex Edwards

This was a race populated specifically to make choosing the winner as hard as can be possible when only seven horses are involved. Approaching the third last, all seven runners were well bunched, but Fair Frank made a right old mess of it, and not only did he ruin his own chance, but he knocked over Doitforjoe in the process - there was no Joe present to take advantage. More incident was coming as What A Laugh attacked on the inner, and approaching the last it did rather look as if Nico de Boinville on King Spirit was a bit too aggressive in trying to block him off, actually deviating from his own line for the obstruction rather than simply holding his own direction. What A Laugh squeezed through anyway, and the race was his when Drumhart blundered at that last obstacle. Getting outsprinted by a thirteen year old is not a huge compliment to the vanquished.

+  King Spirit (2nd): A slightly disappointing second place, even operating at the limits of his stamina. However, it is not enough to dismiss the idea that the handicapper has given him a break during the time of next to no racing activity and therefore a small race can be found.

x  No Dice (5th): Tends to get outpaced in his races, so took a step up in distance by over a quarter of a mile. Consequence? He got outpaced down the western side of the course. Something very innovative is needed now.

Race 5: Mid Warwickshire Cleaning & Charles Peters Recruitment Handicap Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Red Tornado     2: Regulation     3: Melody Of Scotland

Winner owned: Notalotterry, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Althoough only six ran, the highest rated horse was on 130, so it was set up for a frantic dash around Stratford, and that is what we got. Red Tornado blasted through his early hurdling like, errm, a tornado in red. Since that five win blast he had lost a dozen in a row, but he has had some close calls from notably higher handicap marks. The perfect storm of handicapping, race conditions and opposition slotted in here, and he was a well backed and easy winner - comfortable enough to see him going be backed into the realms of finding success difficult when the ratings guru has had a look. Regulation, on the other hand, likes to be towed along in a big field, so this was not his race. Second makes for a good effort. After her solid British debut at Aintree, Melody Of Scotland had been edged up in the ratings, from what seemed a very difficult rating already - it was based on her winning a bad race in France, so this was probably as good as she was capable of.

x x  Royal Irish Hussar (5th): Became very difficult to win with for Nicky Henderson, last doing so in late 2013. Since his last run he had moved yards and had a wind op. It did not cheer him up one iota.

UK-Jumping Selections: Regulation (2nd): When seven or fewer run his results before now were 53264775464, so he reinforced his stated criteria with this, i.e. needing at least eight runners.

Race 6: Coventry Live Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Brinestine     2: Two Hoots     3: Valshan Time

Winner owned: Brians Buddies, trained: Emma-Jayne Bishop, ridden: Jamie Bargary

The field for this modest handicap chase thinned out quickly as Spoilt Rotten spoiled his own record with a fall at the second and the potential improver Admiral Kid pulled up lame after the fifth. Two dropped away from the open ditch in the middle of the back straight, and Brinestine went into the final bend travelling best and an in front. Two Hoots, a popular favourite, rallied to threaten like a Great Grey Owl at the last. However, Brinestine took off from that fence like an ultra-alert rodent, and it was not a close call in the end. Two Hoots is better going right-handed and had the very tight final bend not been such a problem for him (he inefficiently exited it on the outside rail), maybe it could have been a different story. But that is exactly the excuse made for him more than once in the past.

+  Valshan Time (3rd): Got thrown into some tough chases in order to get handicapped and whilst he was not close to the first pair, he has shown twice now that winning a 0-100 handicap just needs a bit of luck in finding malleable opponents.

+  Welsh Designe (4th): Does not quite give as many positive vibes as Valshan Time, but he has also been showing signs that a race might fall into his lap one day - previous failure to crack the first three without being tailed off in the process could lead to a long priced place or two instead.

x  Two Hoots (2nd): Connections have tried just about everything in their power and he just cannot seem to get his head in front. Not for the first time he was a beaten favourite today, and whilst some would choose to offer him yet another chance, they should only do so at long prices. The sort of long prices that are never available on him.

x x  The Kvilleken (5th): Made a few appearances as a report negative for being a fearsomely one-paced hurdler, but he has not really got the hang of chasing, so he is not even getting close enough to need to dodge success late on.

Race 7: Birmingham Live Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle [2m 2.5f]

1: Tidal Watch     2: Lord Fendale     3: Canford Thompson

Winner owned: Ms Diane Carr, trained: Jonjo O'Neill, ridden: James Bowen

As is normal for this meeting, the event closes with a completely impossible race. The numbers were not as high as some years (in 2017 there were two divisions to deceive us), but the horses were a typically bewildering assembly. The result was as as uneasy on the eye as the research was uneasy on the brain. Going around the final bend long time leader Lord Fendale had been headed by Tidal Watch, who seemed poised to surge onwards after clearing the last but inexplicably decided to wait for Lord Fendale and only hung on by neck. On a day devoid of close finishes, it at least was something different. Meanwhile, Canford Thompson, who had been given a lot to do (it appeared) got within a few lengths of the first pair and was then very shy about getting any closer - hinting that the excess steadiness earlier was forced upon the jockey by the horse. Even fourth placed Kingston, who was in rear for a long way, looked as if he was making very hard work for his jockey earlier on, at a time when the race did not appear to be going on at a dramatic pace.

x  Tidal Watch (1st): Only had four hurdle races to his name, and certainly had potential to be well handicapped, but he hardly landed this like a horse to be depending on in future.

Canford Thompson (3rd): Has not sparkled in two runs back from a long absence, but did something a bit better here. Then he undermined it with a reluctant approach to the last couple of furlongs.

x  Kingston (4th): Turned the tables on Suffice, who had been ahead of him when they met recently. However, he made a minimal achievement look like one of the labours of Hercules, which does not augur well for future challenges. He has struggled on sharp courses in the past, but still...
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