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Uttoxeter, 27/7/18

This was Ladies' Day and therefore highly busy, but the racing was not up to much. A maiden hurdle and bumper can be anything but probably not a great deal as we are getting late in the summer. They were backed up by five handicaps - a 0-100, a dodgy novices' 0-110 and three sub-par 0-120 ones. This is a perfect recipe for Dan Skelton, one of whose skills that does not get much attention is to ensure that almost every bad race that crops up has one of his horses in it with the potential to win. There was uncertainty in the 0-100 as he chucked three at that race, but the other four runners won, and after he nicked the novices' handidcap hurdle, raceday commentator Tim Peters got an interesting interview on the nature of wind operations. As any fule kno, doing well at sport is easier when you can breathe properly than when you cannot, but at Cloudbase Skelton it has been noted that a successful procedure also makes happier, better eating and more enthusiastic horses - even the ones whose best ability is not all that great.

A weather note - despite predictions of fierce equatorial heat, it was not nearly that bad, and most of the afternoon had a nice breeze blowing. The weather was therefore not quite the excuse for failure that it has been in some recent meetings.

Going: Good

Race 1: Project Solar UK Mares' Handicap Hurdle [2m]

1: Newt     2: Pretty Reckless     3: Sprogzilla

Winner owned: ValueRacingClub.co.uk, trained: Alastair Ralph, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

The biggest field of the day with twelve involved and the lowest grade of the day at 0-100. As bottom drawer events go it was, on preview, far from the worst to be seen, with some lightly raced participants that could progress further than this. The betting concentrated on the top four on the card, those who have been most obviously flirting with competence, but the winner emerged from the middle. Newt is only a four year old, but she was quite strong here, working hard to keep Pretty Reckless at bay, never being complacent with a six lengths lead. What makes the form suspicious is that long time leader Sprogzilla, blessed wih bottom weight and a claiming jockey, looked as if she was being swamped three out, but managed to plug on and retain a place, just ahead of Darlyn, who opted not to run out this time. Good for her. There were two outsiders that have shown the skills to one day have an impact in this level, but this race went well for neither. Crumpledandcreased has not developed since she graduated from Irish bumpers and this handicap debut was poor. Fifty Peach Way was losing her position when she took a heavy fall two out. It may take her some time to get over it.

+  Newt (1st): Since leaving Sir Mark Prescott, she has had seven races yet represented three different stables in that time. This was her second for Alastair Ralph, and perhaps he has got her right as a hurdler. All the time that she can stay in class 5 races, she is worth considering.
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Newt pings the final hurdle, whereas Pretty Reckless looks as if this was as high as she had the energy to jump.

Race 2: Nigel Kirby Photo Finish Maiden Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Sonic     2: Celtic Sally     3: Night Manager

Winner owned: Special Piping Materials Ltd, trained: Donald McCain, ridden: Brian Hughes

With the non-participation of Express Pierre (connections must be kicking themselves given the way that the race played out), this was expected to descend into a two horse duel, but not with both of the pair that did fight it out. Sonic is quite exposed as a hurdler, and was winless because we know he needs to front run but has had zero sense of the right pace to do it at. At last he got it spot on here, and did not mentally collapse when he found the unfancied Celtic Sally giving him plenty to think about on her hurdles debut. It always looked as if he would hold on, although the margin for error was small. Night Manager keeps peppering third and fourth in a modest style of defeat/degree of performance. Here he got the best of the odds-on favourite (more of him below) in the very seperate battle for third.

+  Celtic Sally (2nd): She had shown her first minor show of promise in the first time hood on her previous run, but all of her previous form was left well behind for her first hurdle race, despite being a bit stiff and awkward over the first couple of flights. She could have had a second + but the risk is that she was too close to a known 118-rated quantity to preserve a functional handicap mark - unless this form is utterly reliable. Then again, if it is she could win a weak mares only novice race.

+  Night Manager (3rd): The numbers by his name say that he has been doing solidly in bumpers and hurdles. The facts are that he has been only showing class 5 handicap form, but after two finishes in the first four, connections have a chance to going for that early.

x x  Mountain Rock (4th): Seeing a horse that finished eighth in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival Champion bumper appear here in July is not expected. However he had not been a raging success in hurdles, two seconds in so-so races with two worse efforts and his Irish connections had looked at flat racing in a way that said they were not convinced he could live up to expectation as a hurdler. This was his debut for Ian Williams and it was very disappointing, right in the fashion that supported the view of the previous team.
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A lap remains. Sonic leads Night Manager and Mountain Rock. Norm The Storm is next, but the patient Celtic Sally is considering how long to wait before making her move

Race 3: Advanced Packaging Novices' Handicap Chase [3m]

1: Premier King     2: Royal Supremo     3: The Wicket Chicken

Winner owned: Foxtrot Racing: Jane Lamb, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

This turned into a cakewalk for Premier King, but only on the run-in as Royal Supremo (pulled up with a burst blood vessel in his sole past chase) kept trying to reel him in. The winner got the better jump at both of the last two fences, and the runner-up was kind of eased down after the last. Behind them it was bedlam, and the blame lies with Sulaimani The Late, who ironically went to post early. He was in third and staying on (not well enough, but be thankful for small mercies) when he almost refused the third last and unseated. The outcome was that he got in the way of every other horse that was still going. None of them were going to catch Premier King in a million years, but the margins were significantly widened as a consequence. Premier King is 2/2 after a wind op, but after this he may be difficult to place in a muppet race, which has been the target so far.

x x  Sulaimani The Late (UR): Looked a bit of an underachiever hurdling and he jinked and unseated on chase debut, but just as the note was made that this race seemed to have inspired him to pretend he is normal, he refused. You see that oaf? That's him, that is.

UK-Jumping selections: The Wicket Chicken (3rd): She was outside her conditions, but only by having a gap between races of four days more than specified, which does not excuse a feeble run that needed an oaf to set her up for a place. Maybe she is bidding for a return to hurdles.

Race 4: Follow Sun Racing On Twitter Novices' Handicap Hurdle [2m 7.5f]

1: Boston Heather     2: Glanvilles Guest     3: Calarules

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

A very dicey sort of race to get involved with as it was full of unproven stayers and not necessarily horses that had been doing terribly well in shorter races. It was won by Boston Heather, whose owner/trainer was not overly complimentary about her after the race - summed up as very limited ability, but tries. Boston Heather was making her stable debut after wind surgery, but it does not sound as if the trainer is anxious to find a buyer, unless it is someone with a gloomy outlook on life. Glanvilles Guest did not quite stay, as could be foreseen, and jumped without skill, which has been seen in most of his past races. Calarules and fourth placed St John's were disappointing in the degree to which they were seen off, but probably did not run well enough to be a factor even if stamina had been a stronger weapon.

x  Glanvilles Guest (2nd): Nobody can be blamed for forgiving this loss were he to drop down in distance for future races. However, the margins that he concedes with his primitive jumping attempts tend to stop him in more suitable races.

Race 5: Remembering John Douglas Handicap Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Notnow Seamus     2: Mr Caffrey     3: Vivant

Winner owned: BGC Racing Six Pack, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

Notnow Seamus went into this seeking a hat trick, with what looked to be a fair bit more on his plate this time around. It was not an easy win as Mr Caffrey ran a cracker, but a few lacklustre efforts down the field left the pair with little worry about events behind them. There is not much more to say about the race, with the first two in the betting dominating, and the others, who were much of a muchness, getting involved in a play-doh swords at sunset sort of conflict for third place.

Mr Caffrey (2nd): At face value he ran a strong race after a year off. There are reasons why he may not repeat it, even if the bounce factor does not come into play. After losing his first 21 races, he joined RIchard Newland and won two out of two. They were both class 5, which is below the level he is forced into now. And the yard has been in red hot form, with six of the previous eleven runners winning. So instead of a nice comeback from a year off, it is possible that no more can be offered. Undo all this if he goes over fences.

x  Vivant (3rd): Quickly oustays his welcome in yards, but he won a terrible maiden hurdle on his Tom Lacey debut, then failed to repeat it and had a wind op. On this evidence it has not made a difference, but more generously inclined people may offer one more chance in case he comes out of this race with greater sporting confidence.

x  The Detainee (7th): Has been very consistent on decent going in a short hurdles career but in a race where there were no excuses he ran a stinker. What next?
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.Early in the race The Detainee on the far side and Vivant try to box in Notnow Seamus, oblivious to the fact that he has a lap and a bit to find a way out. Behind them Amirr (5) and Skilled are getting bewildered about what the loons are up to in front.

Race 6: TLA 20th Anniversary Handicap Chase

1: King's Reste     2: Omega Springs     3: Box Office

Winner owned: Michael Fennessy, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

As per the intro, this was a classic bit of Skelton poaching. Drop in a horse that has had one race for the yard and won it and watch it unfold that he only has four motley opponents to take him on. Job done. However, it was not as easy as expected with Omega Springs, debuting for Dai Williams with the baggage of an uninspiring Irish career, gave the winner no peace and did have a moment two out when he could entertain thoughts of victory - something he managed just once from thirty races in Ireland. They left the others labouring, in the process showing that Box Office's solid run last time was false dawn number 872 (approx).

+  Omega Springs (2nd): This was a bit of a surprise that he would be so instantly competitive for the new stable, but he only had three runs over fences in Ireland and there was a sense of gentle improvement about them. Possibly it can be replicated, although the low win percentage is not enticing.

x  Box Office (3rd): Won a bumper and two hurdles from his first four races (in France). Since then he has one success from twenty-four tries and almost every time that he puts up an effort that catches the eye in a positive way, he finds a method to reset the status quo very soon. When he tempts you, resist.

Race 7: Like Sun Racing On Facebook Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: We've Got Payet     2: Full Bore     3: Druide Premier

Winner owned: Steve Ashley & Gary Pettit, trained: Olly Murphy, ridden: Richard Johnson

Before the race what caught the eye was that Richard Johnson was booked for newcomer We've Got Payet, rather than his stablemate, the previously bumper placed but apparently extremely angry and sarcastically named This Lovely Lady. Also with solid efforts in the book was Full Bore who had shown his inexperience but gained a win and a second. In the race it looked for all the world as if Full Bore was cruising to success when, inside the final furlong, he stopped. The race is thus handed to We've Got Payet on a silver platter. Why might Full Bore stop? There are three possibilities, listed in ascending order of probability. A) He thinks the first horse to see the winning post is the victor, not the first to pass it. B) An injury. C) A rather severe breathing problem, e.g. swallowed his tongue.

+  We've Got Payet (1st): Despite inheriting success rather than scrapping it out, he does look a nice enough type. Hopefully he can be better than the typical late summer bumper runner.
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