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Stratford, 20/5

It is Sunday, it is hot, it is Stratford. So it must be summer jumping, except that we have not even had hunter chase day yet, even though it is hunter chase night. The ice cream van has an exciting new range of products, so it really must be summer.

Going: Good (Good to Firm places)

Race 1: Inspire Racing Club Novices' Hurdle [2m 6f]

1: The Drone     2: Henry's Joy     3: Flynnvincinble

Winner owned: Gumbrills Racing Partnership, trained: Alex Hales, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

One for anyone still trudging along on the "outsider of three" system. The Drone, who had not raced since a pointing win a year ago, made the running, but seemed set to yield when the other two drew alongside him after the second last hurdle. Instead The Drone just droned on determinedly whilst Henry's Joy was very one-paced and Flynnvincible was simply vincible. In the losers' defence Flynnvincible struggled to get round the very sharp final turn at top speed, managing to rally and nearly pinch second place, and all of the best of Henry's Joy has been seen in muddy conditions. So it seems wise to hold judgement on plus and minuses for the trio.

Race 2: Inpsire Insurance Services Handicap Chase [2m 1f]

1: Modeligo     2: Mercian King     3: Box Office

Winner owned: Simon Gegg, trained: Matt Sheppard, ridden: Stan Sheppard

This was a daft or amazing race, depending what you were expecting from it. Initially Diese Vu, Accessallareas and Myroundorurs set off at a blazing pace which was clearly unsustainable, but the chasing pack got caught a little in two minds - they took things more steady as a plus, but also seemed to fear getting too far behind and thus pushed their own comfort zones. The exception was Modeligo, who did let a gap develop, but eventually won going away. This was his ninth win in total and sixth from only twenty-five chases. From the miscreants at the front, they collected a fifth and two pulled ups - just as they set themselves up for. The interesting side effect was that a race of ten runners that at one stage had three 11/2 co-favourites, and three more priced between 6/1 and 7/1 got all rather ragged very quicky.

+   Modeligo (1st): He had got some relief from the handicapper this season and despite winning two of his last three, he is capable of going in again soon.

+   Box Office (3rd): So far he had not looked comfortable in chases, but after the early pace forced a couple of errors into him, he did much better until a last fence mistake. This does not generate wild enthusiasm, but it is a step in the right direction.

Empire - Brother Bennett: The mad early pace irritated him, and he hated going flat out on quickish ground. Due to that, his jumping had an error or two, which made it even harder to stay in touch and he eventually pulled up.
Description
Modeligo realises that if as a Model, i go like this, all the angles will be amusingly weird

Race 3: Ford Allen Mares' Novices' Selling Hurdle [2m 0.5f]

1: Miss Adventure     2: Geni Johnson     3: Quimba

Winner owned: P Middleton, M Lowther, trained: Phil Middleton, ridden: Richard Johnson

This may not have been the last chance saloon for Miss Adventure as connections bought her back after the race, but if she had thrown this race away, where else could she go? Into hiding probably. What Richard Johnson did on his first time in the plate was ensure that she got so far clear that any nonsense that Miss Adventure could indulge in was no longer critical to the outcome. Quimba gave it a shot at staying in touch, just in case, but failed utterly. At least she tried and did not really deserve to lose second in the last few strides.

x x   Miss Adventure (1st): Having been found an opportunity that she could not, erm, miss, she did open her account. However, a less demanding race is hard to imagine and she is not yet earning our trust that she will behave in tougher company.

Race 4: inspireracingclub.co.uk Handicap Hurdle [3m 2.5f]

1: Generous Chief     2: Join The Clan     3: Fingerontheswitch

Winner owned: The McPherson Racing Partnership, trained: Graeme McPherson, ridden: Bryony Frost

Unusally for a hurdle race of this length, we only had one runner unproven to stay the distance and that horse, Fingerontheswitch, had recently seen out 3m 1f very stoutly at Huntingdon. This did not stop the race splintering in the last mile. Allthegear No Idea pulled up after a mistake at the tenth, but Victor Leudorum and Tea Time Fred just could not do a job that they have completed in the past. The race was decided approaching the final hurdle. Generous Chief was in front and there for the taking, but Aidan Coleman was reluctant to pass him too early with Join The Clan. So the sequence was a) be steady off of the final turn, b) make a mistake at the last, c) rally briefly and d) accept defeat when realising that the final hurdle error was totally disastrous.

+   Generous Chief (1st): All five wins have been on good ground at sharp, left-handed tracks, so he was totally immune to the flaws which stopped some opponents. He has had sixteen races in these conditions, so they do not make him unbeatable, just give him an edge that he often decides to use.

+   Fingerontheswitch (3rd): Does not really do sharp tracks, so this one can be written off and let him go about his business at a suitable venue.

x   Join The Clan (2nd): He is on a bit of an undesirably long losing run and is now phenomenally well handicapped. So it is therefore very worrying that he was unable to put this race to bed without having to get lost in tactical phaffing about.
Description
At this point Victor Leudorum leads Generous Chief, but it did not stay as such for long. Rank two is Allthegear No Idea (red cap) and Fingerontheswitch (yellow cap)

Race 5: Zoe's Place Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle [2m 6f]

1: Mr Mafia     2: The Mad Well     3: Gaelic Flow

Winner owned: Peter Boggis & John Abernethy, trained: Martin Keighley, ridden: Harry Stock

The first duty here is to report a crime. On 26th March 2010 a horse was born. His sire was Catcher In The Rye and his dam Suspicious Minds. He was named Catcher On The Go, when any failure to name him Caught In A Trap should have resulted in a short custodial sentence or hefty community service. And it would be true in another context as he is stuck being only able to win at Ffos Las, where he has a flat race, a bumper and a hurdle snaffled up. Seventh here was all he has earned, although it is harsh to blame the horse for somebody making a name faux pas. The race played out very similarly to the previous one, with the final hurdle deciding it. In this instance Mr Mafia, on stable debut, really pinged it and got an advantage that The Mad Well could not recover, despite approaching the hurdle alongside the winner. The absence of achievement by Gaelic Flow after his debut is a concern for the strength of the form, but there is now a case for saying he needs quick ground to get anything done.

+   Mr Mafia (1st): It was stated afterwards that this race was picked because a follow up was in mind and he will not have a penalty for winning a conditional riders' race. If he turns out in this mood, he will be tough to oppose, but for past stables he was a bit prone to being second.

+   The Mad Well (2nd): Had his best form in Ireland, so unsurprisingly has a good record on undulating right-handed tracks, but the biggest worries before this were the absence of cheekpieces and a seven race career in Britain that had been with three different trainers. This broadened his repertoire and finally made him look like one to be onside with next time.

+   Rocket Ronnie (4th): Appears not to stay 2m 4f so was wasting his time in this race. Under the circumstances he did as good a job as possible, so watch for a drop down in race distance shortly.

x   Kilronan Castle (PU): Had the benefits of a left-handed, sharp course and a likely uncontested lead for this first non-chase run in two years. He also had blinkers for the first time and they may have been too effective, as he charged off in front and stalled completely when headed.

x   The Flame (PU): Won impressively on his first race after a wind op and it seemed that he would be well ahead of the handicapper. Unfortunately he stopped very quickly after the third last and now we are left speculating if the operation had a permanent benefit.

Race 6: Inspire Racing Club Novices' Handicap Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Allelu Alleluia     2: Celestial Magic     3: Sea's Aria

Winner owned: JP McManus, trained: Jonjo O'Neill, ridden: Aidan Coleman

The race was landed by a horse making his first appearance in nigh on a year and who was one of three chase debutants. Apart from a little sweat that was forgiveable on a warm day, Allelu Alleluia caught the eye in the paddock and won fairly easily. He made the often unforgiven/unforgiveable error of jumping right at the last with a left-handed dog leg looming, but recovered to win going away. It helped that fellow paddock eye-catcher Celestial Magic was too tired to raise much of a gallop on the run-in, plus Sea's Aria and Floresco had gone into one-paced finish mode as they took the final turn.

+   Allelu Alleluia (1st): Took to fences quite well and was worth more than the six lengths that he won by.

x   Floresco (4th): Whilst making fewer mistakes than on chase debut, he was quite laboured in his jumping and the energy spent took a toll late on. He is tentatively labelled "not a chaser."

x   Everybody's Talkin (6th): Also debuting in chases, he sat out at the back and made several errors, which meant that he stayed at the back. His hurdle form had been nothing to write home about, but he at least has the look of a horse that might be hoped to do better over fences. One more chance?
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At halfway Celestial Magic leads from the less than fluent jumper Wildmoor Boy. Destiny's Gold is at the head of the pack, with Allelu Alleluia tucked in behind. On the far side, cheekpieced Floresco seems to be making too hard work of this.

Race 7: Inspire Racing Club Membership Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m 0.5f]

1: Strike In Milan     2: Magical Miss     3: Rapper

Winner owned: RS Brookhouse, trained: Tom George, ridden: Tom Scudamore

There was a lot of material incident for a seven horse bumper. Rapper had his rhyme stymied when Hardessa pulled up lame, and for a racing debutant he did well to bounce back and be third. Edabean was shaping like a non-trier at the back, and when he was asked to try he veered all over the course and had to be pulled up so that he did not have to climb the old railway embankment. Despite starting favourite THe Wolf ran a stinker, and just when it seemed like Magical Miss was going to get a win. Strike In Milan, who also had not had a clean passage, nabbed the success from her paws. Returning to the theme of the first race, before predicting too much who will thrive and who will not, let us see what they can do in a normal sort of event.
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