Warwick, 24/4/17

This was a strange meeting as the racing became very hard to engage with. There were incidents and situations meriting a bit of attention, but much of it all seemed very processional. The sort of stuff that non-fans of Formula 1 (and some actual fans) love to moan about, but which is thankfully rare in jump racing. It does not help if you choose to go and stand near the last fence for the two races that produce the closest finishes…

Going: Good

Race 1: £188 First Goals Wins At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle [2m 5f]

1: Abbotswood     2: Speedalong     3: Bradford Bridge

Winner owned: Swanee River Partnership, trained: Charlie Longsdon, ridden: Richard Johnson

Actually, this was a moderately interesting opener. Abbotswood did not have much to beat on the basis of two races ago and had also finished ahead of a now 125-rated chaser when winning his Irish point. His last race had been poor, but he had been given more than five months to get over it, and the money in the betting market spoke in his favour. At the end of the back straight Abbotswood was being ridden along when others at the front were not, but having teased us that he may be very one paced, he quickened up neatly after the last to put the race to bed. Speedalong has shown some promise, but less than the winner, and having been in the lead over the final hurdle, he could well have spoiled a workable handicap mark, as third placed Bradford Bridge is already on 115 and appears not to have done enough to deserve it. Overall the slow pace let the third and others of even worse history get closer than they are used to, and for that reason the form is not trustworthy.

+ +   Abbotswood (1st): A nice big horse, this was a decent enough effort but if you were connected with him, you would be very much looking forward to staying handicap chases.

+   Speedalong (2nd): Ran out when confused by a funereal pace on bumper debut about a year ago, and despite slow progress since, he was probably not suited by this being a very sedate affair as well. It was a good effort, but had he lost by more, a very, very tempting handicap mark was on the way, hence the positive with reservations.

x   Bradford Bridge (3rd): Lost by about three lengths here, which is the nearest he has been to the winner by quite some way. The slowly run race may have flattered him so wait and see whether he can repeat the result.
Abbotswood is looking quite interested in what running around Warwick may do for him

Race 2: PJ & KR Smith-Maxwell Horse Ambulances Handicap Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Minstrel Royal     2: Earls Fort     3: Boy In A Bentley

Winner owned: Mrs Rita Brown, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Jeremiah McGrath

This was one of those races where any of the runners could be the winner, some being slightly more likely than others. What was less expected than unpredictability was that it would be run at a pace as modest as the opening event. Consequently the race mutated into a sprint up the home straight, and five had a shot at victory approaching the final hurdle. The worst case scenario was with The Tailgater, who fell. The tide turned the way of Minstrel Royal who had the best turn of foot. Earls Fort had a winning run and went up the handicap, yet tries hard enough to finish second in his last couple. There really should be a single word to encapsulate this situation. Will “chupatilious” do the job?

+   Atlantic Storm (4th): Got caught out tactically, challenging from the rear too late in a race where nobody else was going to be stopping. After getting his first win last time, this was disappointing, but there is every chance that he can deliver again in a more normal race.

+   The Tailgater (Fell): Probably would have given Minstrel Royal something to think about had he stayed on his feet, and as he is not an habitually inept jumper, he has to be considered as a possible winner in the near future.
Minstrel Royal makes sure that as winner he can be the centre of attention. Midnight Jitterbug (left) does not care but Saint Cajetan (right) has a need to get involved.

Race 3: Best Odds Guaranteed At 188Bet Handicap Hurdle [3m 1f]

1: The Tourard Man     2: Thumb Stone Blues     3: Dragon’s Den

Winner owned: Mr & Mrs F Bell, N Farrell, A Marsh, trained: Alan King, ridden: Kevin Dowling

Story of the race. Robin Of Locksley made the running. Thumb Stone Blues and The Tourard Man stalked him and swept by when his stamina expired two out, with the rest well adrift. Thumb Stone Blues took it up and The Tourard Man gave him the same treatment at the final hurdle. The long time leader faded into fifth, the first two were well clear of the rest and Golden Doyen fell at the second hurdle. As The Tourard Man had been fourth in the Pertemps Final and then run another strong race at Aintree in Grade 3 company, he was a tougher class of opponent than the lower weighted horses were accustomed to – and he made it pay.

+   Thumb Stone Blues (2nd): Taking a big step up in race distance, he stayed it well enough, but the quality of the winner was too much for him. Well backed before the race, those riding that bandwagon can forget the dirty rotten deal and give him another chance on this evidence.

+   Doitforjoe (6th): Put up some consistent efforts last autumn, and was coming back from a long winter break. He did not do that well here, but will come on for the race.

x   Another Frontier (4th): Usually loses heavily, but did snap out of it once and win a three mile hurdle at Taunton. The style of his loss in a visor last time was full of unenthusiasm when the work got hard, and even with the headgear off, he was all a bit sluggish today.
Race 4: UBS Wealth Management Novices Handicap Chase [2m]

1: Doitforthevillage     2: Abidjan     3: Contre Tous

Winner owned: The Rockbourne Partnership, trained: Paul Henderson, ridden: Paddy Brennan.

The five runners began in single file and proceeded in racecard order: Doitforthevillage, Contre Tous, I’dliketheoption, Abidjan and Mr Cardle. In the back straight Abidjan overtook two, helped by some mistakes in jumping from I’dliketheoption. He was closing rapidly on the winner right at the end, but Doitforthevillage always looked as if the line was coming in time. The surprise element to this was that the main four (Mr Cardle was well out of his depth) all do their fair share of clobbering fences, and whilst they have not been falling exceptionally often, clumsiness was expected to have more bearing on how the race finished. Contre Tous was going left-handed for the first time in this country and coped with it – the previous avoidance perhaps was just coincidence.

+   Abidjan (2nd): Jumped better than noted in his earlier chases. Imagine if he were to do this on an habitual basis.

x   I’dliketheoption (4th): The antithesis of Abidjan here, the option he needs is to multiply the skill shown by minus one. The silliness of it all was that despite no experience on undulating tracks, he was at his unskilled worst on the flatter parts of Warwick.

Race 5: 188Bet Handicap Chase [3m 5f]

1: Big Casino     2: Global Dream     3: Morney Wing

Winner owned: The Jukes Family, trained: Nigel Twiston-Davies, ridden: Sam Twiston-Davies

Another adrenalin free event. Big Casino made the running, Morney Wing kept him company. Then came Herbert Park and Global Dream. From that starting point, the result that we got depended on not much happening, and Big Casino being able to control the race from the front allowed him to win it, despite being the fourth most likely of the four runners to be winning races at 3m 5f. Morney Wing was the one participant to have triumphed over this far, but he finished off the race rather flatly, as if it was one race too far in a long, but productive, season. Global Dream plugged on gamely and although he was catching Big Casino, it was not happening at the required rate.

+   Morney Wing (3rd): After a nice summer break he will be interesting in very long distance chases next season, and perhaps good ground is something he tries on and tolerates but does not completely relish.

x   Herbert Park (4th): His stable has not been in the best of form in recent weeks, and his chase career has been glaringly inconsistent so far, which meant that getting a stuffing here was not surprising. The worry for the longer term is that the off days are beginning to dominate.

Race 6: Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, Div I [2m]

1: Not That Fuisee     2: Quick Pick     3: Equus Amadeus

Winner owned: Colm Donlon, trained: Dan Skelton, trained: Harry Skelton

The form in the book here was not overly exciting, and the five newcomers all represented stables that have a solid share of bumper winners – hence a race where the betting was 9/2 the field. The paddock picks were Equus Amadeus (third in a bad five runner race on debut), Tanacando and Balach More (both debuting). The one of these with sporting experience was a major player in a race that became a dash over the last quarter of a mile. The other pair had their inexperience ruthlessly exposed. On the other hand Not That Fuisse was also new to racing and he impressed. He sprinted ahead of the pack with his jockey only needing to offer a couple of gentle nudges down the neck, and the style in which he did the job allayed some concern about the quality of the challenge that he had to contend with.

+ +   Not That Fuisse (1st): We shall see what he can do in a more frantically run race, although the pace here looked more average than a complete dawdle, but he showed an impressive ability to quicken.

+   Quick Pick (2nd): Ran in three Irish points. The second was a terrible race and he was runner-up, then he won a race full of serial non-finishers, although the second has broken ranks and won since. This was a much more promising effort, even in defeat.

Race 7: Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, Div II [2m]

1: World Premier     2: Boughtbeforelunch     3: Gortroe Joe

Winner owned: Sophie Pauling, trained: Ben Pauling, ridden: Nico de Boinville

Compared to division one, this was a) run over three seconds quicker and b) surprised with that because the contenders were far more clueless about racing than those in the opener. World Premier, the betting ring selection, made the running but had no idea on how to run in a straight line, and bumped a couple of opponents early one. The race also split into a ragged mess quite a long way out. Gortroe Joe had gone round with the winner, but weakened late on, losing second to Boughtbeforelunch, who was a long way behind as they hit the home straight. He also nearly lost third to Mahlervous (paddock pick) who was tailed off and hard ridden with half a mile to go. Strange stuff with the potential to be a source of winners.

+   World Premier (1st), Boughbeforelunch (2nd), Gortroe Joe (3rd) & Mahlervous (4th): All had significant flaws in their performances, but only the third had past experience – did well in an Irish point that has been producing winners – and it would be normal for them all to improve on what was shown here.

Race 8: Warwick Folk Festival Crudwell Cup Open Hunter Chase [3m 1.5f]

1: Bear’s Affair     2: Iron Chancellor     3: Helpston

Winner owned: GB Barlow, trained: Philip Rowley, ridden: Alex Edwards

After putting up a decent show in the Aintree Foxhunters, Bear’s Affair found this a much more workable opening, especially after Mr Mercurial (close behind at Aintree) blundered away his rider four fences out. For coincidence backers, there was some mileage in going with Bear’s Affair at Warwick, but odds of 5/6 did not make any of them rich. Getting in two warm up runs after three and a half years absence did not appear to help Helpston in any way, and the lesser but more recent achievements of Iron Chancellor brung unto him second prize. After there was a hunter chase at Stratford the day before (slightly different race conditions) having one here was not the best bit of race planning, hence a small field.
Bear's Affair and his unexplained desire to act like a puzzled dog. Iron Chancellor acts like a puzzled first minister of a prototype unified Germany.
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