Worcester, 24/10/18

What a strange meeting. A cracking good novices’ handicap hurdle with a good prize to highlight the card. A bumper with a potentially better set of horses than might be expected for the course to have at the end of summer. Then a bunch of races that look almost certain to punch below the weight quality-wise. Fortunately it was still ice cream weather, so that makes up for some of it.

Going: Good

Race 1: Richard Wright Memorial Mares’ Handicap Chase [2m 7f]

1: Marienstar     2: Hollow Park     3: Psychocandy

Winner owned: Kevin Taylor & Gary Ambrose, trained: Neil King, ridden: Wayne Hutchinson

Four went to post for this and such was their recent ferocity that Psychocandy, up to now twenty races into a career still lacking a win, was backed as if defeat was unthinkable. The clue is in the name, and she travelled sweetly for a long way bar a couple of slow jumps and then did not bother with any form of late effort. Ditto for Barton Rose, whose recent feeble finishing efforts were at least a warning of what to expect here. That set it up for the slow but soundly jumping novices’ selling hurdle winner Marienstar to outwaddle Hollow Park to success. “Did nothing badly wrong” is a fairly minor compliment, but it is all that she is getting. Exclude a futile try in cheekpieces from the memory and it is not impossible to see Hollow Park winning a bad long distance event like this.

x  Psychocandy (3rd): Was subsequently reported to be slightly lame, but she only got the sort of result seen when perfectly sound.

x  Barton Rose (4th): For a few races now she has been scooping up minor money with the sort of efforts that do not deserve it, and he standard of performance is less than a

Race 2: Fred & Mercy Rimell Memorial Handicap Chase [2m 0.5f]

1: Peppay Le Pugh     2: Mercian King     3: I’dliketheoption

Winner owned: Hools & Forces Partnership, trained: Dan Skelton, ridden: Harry Skelton

In the lull rounding the cathedral end bend, there was in-commentary reminiscence of the really classy horses that have been winners of this memorial race in the days when it was a longer distance novices’ chase. Now it is a 0-130 handicap and attracted the sort of horses that would not be trusted to hand in a 10p piece that they found on the floor without poohing on it first. It did produce an exciting race with Peppay Le Pugh, Mercian King and I’dliketheoption more or less in a line two out. The latter had a slight lead, but he had been lugging 12-7 around and from the final fence began to wilt. Mercian King had a slight lead at that point, and it was all about how much serial finder of nothing under pressure Peppay Le Pugh would offer. He did not summon up much extra, but it was enough to the tune of a head. For a horse that likes life to be easy, this was far too sweaty for comfort. Mercian King ran his second excellent race since a wind op and I’dliketheoption has shown himself better with lesser weights, so gets credit for trying up to two out. Then he looked quite reluctant to indulge in some serious work when needed. Interesting note – Barry Geraghty coming over from Ireland for JP McManus horses this summer has been treated as ever so significant by some people, but the results have not borne that out. An attempt by Truckers Highway to win this fresh for a second year in a row (rated lower this time as well) was never a threat to succeed.

+  Mercian King (2nd): Won his first race post-vet visit and the form was boosted when the fifth ran really well in defeat at Kempton on Sunday. He did nothing wrong here and avoided his all too common habit of a mistake at one of the last two fences. A return to winning in a small field, where his high handicap rating is a lesser problem, is perfectly possible.

x  Peppay Le Pugh (1st): Apart from winning less easily than looked on the cards at the last fence, he was quite well behaved and honest here. We should just be careful about expecting him to leave things very late and timing right again and again. Getting it right here was the difference between x and x x.

x  Brave Dancing (PU): Pulled up lame, which is not a reason for giving a negative comment. His presence with an x, after his debut for Ben Pauling, is that his French hurdles form is nothing special, his Angers place over fences was followed by an Auteuil tumble so chasing skills are unproven, and his rating of 130 seems very harsh, and not boosted by pulling up in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March. So when he is prominent in the market, as here, he needs to be opposed – as also appeared to be the case here.

x x  I’dliketheoption (3rd): Is very able when he wants to be, but the days that involve very half hearted finishing efforts seem to be coming along more and more often. Thick and fast some would say, and the horse may well fit that description also.

Race 3: Richard Davis Memorial Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase [2m 7f]

1: Allelu Alleluia     2: Classic Ben     3: Poker Play

Winner owned: JP McManus, trained: Jonjo O’Neill, ridden: Barry Geraghty

There is no reason for this to be a dodgy race based on qualification bandings and prize money, but it drew a bunch of highly suspect loons for the 2018 show. Allelu Alleluia was the winner, sent by the gods to shoot down the Barry Geraghty presence observation from race 2. The horse may have been a bit fortunate as Baden was still in front when he broke down and unseated between the last two fences. Allelu Alleluia showed none of the monkey spirit that afflicted his last chase run, but Baden has had an antic or two up his sleeve in the past, and had he not suffered an accident, it cannot be said that he would definitely have won. He would not have been worse than second because Classic Ben showed no enthusiasm late in the race and Poker Play, having his first race since wind surgery in the spring, was taking things quite cautiously on his chase debut. The other finisher was Oh Land Abloom, who has shirked his share of hard work over the years as well.

+  Allelu Alleluia (1st): The generous view is to offer the benefit of the doubt, as other than his tantrum over fences three months ago, he has not been habitually troublesome.

+  Poker Play (3rd): Reported as finishing lame, but there were also various other reasons (see above) for taking this chase debut steadily, plus always having run on softer going in the past. Therefore it is very possible that he can do better than this over fences.

x  Oh Land Abloom (4th): In a report from Plumpton probably/hopefully since deleted, it was noted that going over fences might be the sort of shock tactics that forces him to liven up his ideas. Apparently that theory was very, very wrong.

x x  Classic Ben (2nd): Got beaten by Lil Rockerfeller on chase debut, which could have been forgiven if the way that he went about it had not been so ugly. All out effort was not on his agenda again here, and whilst he stays over fences, he is one to avoid.

Race 4: Myson Complete Heating Solutions Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race [2m]

1: Enrilo     2: Glen Vine     3: Ferrobin

Winner owned: Martin Broughton & Friends 4, trained Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

Apparently, Paul Nicholls had said before the race that he was fielding probably the best bumper horse ever to run at Worcester. Well, we are only a handful of years on from a Festival Bumper winner taking part on the course so he was suffering from either a) a short memory, b) being tempted into saying what the owners wanted to hear or c) having a championship bumper horse ready unusually early in the autumn. It took Enrilo a while to assert but there was a nice turn of foot in the closing stages, and Glen Vine, also new to racing and out of Gaspara (a Cheltenham Festival winner herself), was finishing off his day in taking style. Ferrobin and Rapper, both placed fairly closely to the winner in their sole races to date, were chasing them home, so the first two emerge full of credit. And heat, if the sponsors were alert to the fading temperatures. Even fifth placed Midnight Sonata had only lost be six lengths when sixth on his own debut.

x x  Enrilo (1st): Possibly his trainer’s assertion was a false rumour, or he was trying to wind up Nigel Twiston-Davies, but it was a proper good job on racing debut.

x x  Glen Vine (2nd): More green than the winner early in the race (as the name would imply) he was coming home at least as strongly and it would not be amazing to look back on this in a few years and find that he had become the more productive racehorse.

Race 5: Fixed Brush Hurdle Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Series Final [2m 4f]

1: Monty’s Award     2: Commodore Barry     3: Whitley Neill

Winner owned: Alan Halsall, trained: Charlie Longsdon, ridden: Sean Bowen

This was the really good race mentioned during the intro. At some time at a business meeting, an anonymous person from ARC suggested having a novice hurdle series over the summer, and then stage a handicap series final in late October, when the ground is all wrong for the sort of horses to be expected to have lined up in the qualifiers. As that irrational malefactor was then belayed with malice aforethought upsides the cranium with a thesaurus, they did not live to see their germ of an idea pay off in spades, as the ground survived in a comparable state to that met in qualifying. The consequence was that from thirteen runners (two had dropped out on the day), no less than eleven had won within their three latest races and their combined last thirty-nine races had produced fifteen first places, thirteen second places, four thirds and four fourths. So the winner was obviously going to be Monty’s Award, one of the duo not bringing recent success in his baggage and also contributing two of three unplaced efforts. He was a well supported favourite as well. Despite the big field, the pace was sensible allowing Commodore Barry (led much of the race) and always prominent Monty’s Award to hold on at the vanguard, whereas Whitley Neill came from a long way back, but did not get the targets to slow down enough to change the outcome. Others who tried to copy his tactics, such as Captain Peacock, made a mistake or two weaving through the crowd and lost momentum that could not be spared. A race that should product a few winners, although plenty seemed less than generously handicapped already.

+  Monty’s Award (1st), Commodore Barry (2nd), Whitley Neill (3rd): Transparently sound performances in a tough race, so well worth considering in the near future.

Peggies Venture (6th): At the last she was challenging for a place but once over it she was on a fairly hasty retreat. As a past course and distance win makes blaming lack of stamina difficult, it was a rather discouraging end to an otherwise fair performance.

Race 6: R&A Mason Maiden Hurdle [2m 4f]

1: Dr Sanderson     2: Ballyfarsoon     3: It’s For Alan

Winner owned: Million In Mind, trained: Paul Nicholls, ridden: Harry Cobden

Dr Sanderson had won a bumper at Carlisle for Stuart Crawford, been sold to Million In Mind, moved to Paul Nicholls team and watched from Somerset as his victims occasionally popped out and ended up unplaced in subsequent runs. So being a well odds-on favourite was less an evidence based thing as a faith in Million In Mind buying the right horses. For instance, although Ballyfarsoon had been quite a bad flat horse, he had been runner-up in solid fashion in both hurdles contested – an undynamic sort but persistent enough that nobody dare mess about against him. And also we had to consider Dancing Doug, who had bumpered less well than Dr Sanderson but progressed a lot when jumping over stuff. The trio were in a line two out, only for Dancing Doug to fall, allowing Dr Sanderson to sprint clear of one paced stayer Ballyfarsoon. Just as the betting predicted.

+  Dancing Doug (F): Until the second last hurdle he had been going the right way over hurdles. He may need a confidence booster after this, but keep an eye on him from here.

x  Dr Sanderson (1st): It cannot be ruled out that he is a pretty decent horse in the making, but the two racecourse wins are yet to prove it, and a short priced loss is not out of the bounds of possibility – it is not hard to see Ballyfarsoon racking up a sequence of low level places without having the turn of foot for an actual victory and making this winning performance seem quite ordinary.

Race 7: Book Christmas Parties At Worcester Racecourse Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle [2m]

1: Oscar Rose     2: Tomorrow Mystery     3: Wilde Spirit

Winner owned: Mrsk Exall\thegeneralasphaltcompanyltd, trained: Fergal O’Brien, ridden: Paddy Brennan

The card opened with a ropey mares only race and it closed with one as well. Fearful symmetry indeed. Oscar Rose at her best had set a reasonable standard of form in this context, but she had also lowered herself to lose some quite bad events, and she was therefore battling in the market with long absent flat convert Tomorrow Mystery, when her history of near misses might normally have got the ring more clearly on her side. Each way punters got a raw deal as on win only boards the main pair were both priced at about evens, and the third in the betting, Wilde Spirit was 40/1 or 50/1. On each-way boards, Wilde Spirit was 9/1 or 10/1 (and these seemed to be the prices going to the shops) with three others at 33/1 or less. After this talking point regarding the excessive discrepancy – and a 124% over round, which was the longest of the day – the race was mostly a non-event, as Oscar Rose easily found the race weak enough that she could not lose it.

+  Another Theatre (4th): Looked well but very tubby in the paddock, and in the race she had a school round without coming off of the bridle. Gut feeling is that her gut was too big to better fourth place, but there is a chance she might have been third with more effort asked. This should not ear mark her for a horrible handicap mark and she is worth keeping track of. Before today she had pulled up in a strong Irish point and been placed in a pair of weak ones.

x  Oscar Rose (1st): She could easily revert to her defeat seeking norm from here.
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