29th October, Wincanton

Autumn gets serious when the Sunday meeting at Wincanton comes, even though it was annoying mild here today – that horrible inbetween zone where it is not clear whether a warm coat is needed or not. The theme of the day was fitness, with lots of horses returning from the summer break appearing almost ready but not quite spot on. There was also an unusual clump of runners that were having their first race for eighteen months.

Going: Good (Good to Soft places). This had eased since Saturday, despite a lot of water on the ground around the premises.

Race 1: Hauser & Wirth Handicap Hurdle [2m 5.5f]

1: Steely Addition     2: Jennys Day     3: Groundunderrepair     4: Lougharne

Winner owned: Step By Step, trained: Philip Hobbs, ridden: Micheal Nolan

Here we all are, desperately acclimatising to the early start and Wincanton digs up a seventeen horse handicap hurdle for us – initially it was nineteen, but two horses did not like the look of the clocks changing and opted to stay at home. A strong pace was set by Scrupuleux, debuting in Britain twenty-three months since his last French effort - is this eighteen months in Sterling time? Needless to say, he could not keep that going all of the distance but it did prevent plenty of his opponents from getting a sight of the leader, whoever that may be at the time. Steely Addition, a challenger when falling at Exeter earlier in the month came from the back to win with a bit of style, but Jennys Day had been nagging at Scrupuleux, only to not find enough to deny Steely Addition, yet sufficient to be an unhelpful ten lengths clear of the third horse.

+   Laugharne (4th): Seemed as if he would come on for the race, and could add to his three mile Taunton victory. Perhaps even over fences.

+   Scooby (5th) & Lord Bryan (6th): Both stayed within spitting distance of the leaders but could not respond when Steely Addition swept by and were not given a hard time in search of fourth place. Coming back from the summer off, both are likely improvers for the effort, although with only one win between them so far (for Scooby) wondrous things are not expected.

+   Cotswold Road (12th): Ran a decent race until drop[ping away approaching the second last, and will have progressed for the exercise.

x x   Cotswold Road (12th): Last season’s form read reluctant to race and refused at the first, reluctant to race and well beaten in sixth, fell first. So as eye catching as this spin was, there seems to be a strong chance that when asked to develop it, we can expect a two fingered salute. Possibly with nasal insertion for reinforced effect.
Scrupuleux (9) leads Jennys Day (4) and the grey Cropley, who is more interested in experiments with aerodynamism. Just behind them Cotswold Road (also grey) is on surprisingly good behaviour.

Race 2: Scotch Corner Designer Village Novices Hurdle [2m 5.5f]

1: Red River     2: Coup De Pinceau     3: The Ogle Gogle Man

Winner owned: The Red River Syndicate, trained: Kim Bailey, ridden: David Bass

Assuming that this relates to the famous Scotch Corner, way, way up the A1, the sponsors have to be seen as unlikely candidates to crop up in Somerset, but there was a big charity event going on and we are not all expected to head up there out of loyalty – although a Catterick trip has been pencilled in, just in case. The winner was impressive, sweeping aside Coup De Pinceau (himself bearer of two bumper wins and perfectly respectable form on hurdles debut) as well as leaving the rest a long way back. Red River’s Irish point run, when second, has not seen many runners even reappear, but people who currently own the beaten horses will be feeling rather chuffed by now.

+ +   Red River (1st): Did have, it became clear, a fitness advantage or a major ability advantage over all but one of his opponents, but the prize was landed in the manner of a horse that can go up in class. He is not the biggest horse that Kim Bailey has had so do not expect a rush to go chasing.

  The Ogle Gogle Man (3rd): Finished very tired and blundered through the last, but hung on for third because nothing was ambling on from the back. He was progressive in Irish points and when he won his fourth try, he had two subsequent winners chasing him home. Better is to come.

+   Sam Brown (4th): Ended up 2/2 in bumpers, including beating the successful Lalor. On the final bend he was cruising along with Red River, but went out like a light. A big horse, he may well come on for the run, his hurdling bow, and is not to be written off as a hurdler yet, despite being beaten 38 lengths.

+   Flemcara (5th): A bit in and out during his brief career so far, he had a first time tongue tie and saw out the race despite being unable to hang on with the big players from the fourth last. One for handicaps.

Race 3: BT Novices’ Handicap Chase [2m 4f]

1: Wilberdragon     2: Farm The Rock     3: Compadre

Winner owned: Don Sebastiao Partnership, trained: Charlie Longsdon, ridden: Paul O’Brien

In advance this had the potential to be an OK race, but nobody told the horses and it turned into a display of failed jumping skills. Without these moments, how would we know to appreciate the agile and clever? By fence six the departures were Favorito Buck’s, Never Learn and Polkarenix. Based on the way that he shunned his rider after having sidled up to a couple of other people whilst loose, it seems that Never Learn believes that it was jockey error. He can expect to not be living up to his name once he gets home. With leader Wilberdragon mostly jumping left and his closest pursuer, Ken’s Well, going around to Wilberdragon’s left, it was a bit surprising that no others hit the deck or were taken out in an inappropriately situated game of British Bulldog. In advance, the thought on the exposed Wilberdragon that one day he would find a race where a clear round and some mostly enthused plodding along would be enough to win. It was surprising that this was the one, but he did not mess it up, despite jumping less well in the first time cheekpieces than he has done of late.

+   Farm The Rock (2nd): With the caveat on the form possibly being weak, he took a step forward from his autumn/chase debut. He needs one more small step forward, which would be more confidently predicted had he managed to win over hurdles.

+   Boagrius (PU): Having his first run since April and debuting for the yard, he was not guilty of doing anything wrong but drifted out of contention and eventually pulled up. Galloping tracks do not seem to suit him, so improvement looks to be very likely somewhere else.

x   Favorito Buck’s (Fell): Was giving out the “not taken to chasing” signals and if he had half a mind to get it right, this should have him wishing for a return to hurdles.

Race 4: Willis Towers Watson Handicap Chase [3m 2.5f]

1: Mr Mix     2: Forgotten Gold     3: Gentleman Jon

Winner owned: Ian Fogg & Dan Macdonald, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

This was a success for a lightly raced and unexposed chaser – his spring win was in an uncompetitive small field that proved next to nothing. Being possibly ahead of the handicapper may have helped get him in the mix, but the big helping hand came when Forgotten Gold fluffed the last fence. Given the manner in which Mr Mix ran on, he may well have won anyway, but his rival did not make it hard for him. Gentleman Jon came into this on a slightly lower mark than when he won the race last year, but that was on good to firm ground, and whilst he ran an honest race from the front, the easier elements of the conditions (which he has won on without conviction in the past) were enough to blunt his edge. Back in fourth was Bally Longford who was a big danger three out, but did not find much under pressure. This was his first run of the autumn and he has history regarding failure when going beyond three miles, so all in all it was not a bad showing.

+   Mr Mix (1st): Proved himself in a competitive race here and whilst he will be up a few pounds for it, be surprised if it is the last win he manages.

+   Bally Longford (4th): A very suspect stayer at this sort of distance, he set himself up nicely for a winter of adventures at three miles or slightly shorter.

+   Mosspark (5th): A disappointing pull up at Kempton to close last season left his right handed record at 111321P. Although only fifth here, he lost by no more than eight lengths and a last fence error stopped him getting fourth, possibly even third. His jumping was not done very fluently, and in the spirit of forgiveness, he could be less rusty at it next time.

x   Our Sox (PU): Attracted some money to move from 20/1 to 9/1 but it was badly off of the mark, and he was losing touch at halfway. There was a strong chance that the ground was not sound enough for him anyway, but his winning percentage in Ireland was a mediocre one and progress in softer ground is far from certain.

Race 5: Universal Music UK Juvenile Hurdle [1m 7.5f]

1: Thounder     2: Black Prince     3: Risk And Roll

Winner owned: Tony Head, trained: Gary Moore, ridden: William Clarke

On the whole, this was not a strong juvenile hurdle. Thounder was the one who had created a good impression on his hurdling so far, and that notion was confirmed with a fairly easy success. Ordinary flat horse Black Prince is built to be a jumper, but his 56 rating on the flat is the sort that only occasionally translates to success outside handicap company when jumping – and usually for horses that were wasting their time on the flat anyway (as if that is untrue for any of them). This was not a bad start though. Having been quite rude about Risk And Roll for winning at Kempton last week, he showed up a bit more positively by making the running. He also confirmed that whatever tools he has to use, speed is not amongst them.

+   Thounder (1st): Looks able when bashing up the limited opposition. A rise in class has been earned, and there is a fair chance he can cope.

+   Black Prince (2nd): Although not highly rated on the flat, he showed the willingness to win there, and ability was shown in this first jumps run. It is now up to connections to find him the correct race.

x   Broadway Dreams (6th): Finished runner-up in two of his four flat races and got a 75 rating for it. Bad jumping undermined his chance here, and whilst he cannot be written off yet, there is plenty of work to be done.
Thounder is not totally dominant at the last, but he properly dashed clear of Black Prince from this point. And Risk And Roll faded as well.

Race 6: Dominic And Ossie Baker Memorial Novices’ Hurdle [1m 7.5f]

1: Smaoineamh Alainn     2: Storm Home     3: Contented

Winner owned: Yeo Racing Partnership, trained: Robert Walford, ridden: James Best

All right minded people will agree that tributes to semolina are not adequately represented on racecourses. In fact racing has too little semolina in general. We (the right thinking) may be in the minority, but in Smaoineamh Alainn we have a Joan Of Arc figure who can bring semolina appreciation to the fore, especially with a dollop of marmalade. Our contribution is to keep mentioning semolina whilst she does the more extravagant marketing by winning races. This was an interesting win as despite being weak in the betting she accounted for the well backed Storm Home. Two out she was cruising as the runner-up was ridden along, but the slight shortage of fitness after the summer off prevented her finding as much as looked possible. Smaoineamh Alainn did, however, get her just desserts, which reminds us… Rumour has it that the thing that has made Contented highly contented is unlimited semolina.

++   Storm Home (2nd): Had not run for eighteen months since falling at the last when in a battle to win his only Irish point. Bought for a lot of money afterwards (as was the one he left to win it), he did not live up to the price nor the punt on the day, but under the circumstances it was a very decent run.

+   Smaoineamh Alainn (1st): Loses her novice status on 1st November after now going 2/2 for Robert Walford. This was a potentially good race and she won her April effort easily so a tough handicap mark is on the cards, but she appears to be talented enough to potentially work with it.

+   Contented (3rd): Finished a close third in an ordinary Irish bumper in his only other race, this was improvement and it ought to be possible to find less ferocious opposition.

+   Unsafe Conduct (6th): Hopeless in two bumpers, he had shown up better in hurdles but showed his name to be accurate when he fell in one then clipped heels and went to ground in the other. Finishing safely here was a big plus and showed the doubters that it was not a case of a horse that felt a roll in the mud to be the objective of a day out. There is more to come.

+   Sensible Friend (8th): A big horse with an impressive bearing, he has shown glimpses of ability and just time to grow into himself. Handicaps will help.

+   Tikken Away (11th): A stable mate of the winner, his last race was second of seventeen at Thurles, but he was not fit enough to repeat that here. This defeat was far from the limit of his capabilities.

Race 7: Boden Handicap Hurdle [1m 7.5f]

1: Ivor’s Queen     2: Templier     3: Global Thrill

Winner owned: Ivor Perry & Ashton Selway, trained: Colin Tizzard, ridden: James Bowen

This was something of a nondescript closer, the seven horse line up generating a shortlist of six. Global Thrill’s hot spell came to an end, forced out by stronger opposition than he has been beating, and the in-form Bobble Boru made the mistake of taking on mad Templier for the lead. Templier lasted this better than usual, having one of the lesser stamina tests around and dropped in class, but he caught Ivor’s Queen on a good day and she put plenty of daylight between them.

+   Ivor’s Queen (1st): She has now run well in three of her four visits here. The case for going further afield gets weaker with time.

x   Templier (2nd): Appreciated the drop in class and failed to turn that into a victory as he is his own worst enemy, seemingly content to stay that way. Better the enemy you know, apparently.

x   Thundering Home (4th): Another horse who likes it here, winning three out of ten before now. He used to be a right-handed track specialist but has become a little more tolerant over the years. Also relevant was that he had the recent race that often brings out his best, but there was only a little bit of improvement on disappointments of the last few months.
Working... Please wait