Sunday 14th May

Ladies Day at Plumpton took place under beautiful blue skies with a bumper crowd in attendance to enjoy a seven-race card. The going was good to firm with good places and the track had a good covering of grass with the going stick reading 8.3 on the hurdles track and 8.5 on the chase course.

Knocknanuss had enjoyed a near two-year sabbatical since winning a bumper in Ireland and appearing in the opening maiden hurdle on the card, but dispelled understandable concerns about his wellbeing by recording a pillar to post success. He was very free and pulled hard throughout the first circuit but hurdled adequately and his ability shone through over the final three hurdles as he quickly saw off a modest field of rivals. Trainer Gary Moore said afterwards that they would see how the horse reacted physically after this return but suggested that if all was well, he could return in the next month under a penalty. The efforts of Jackblack in trying to stay in contention with the winner told late on as he tired significantly in the latter stages leaving Mamoo to run on late in proceedings to claim the runner up spot with Rasasee, who hurdled far more efficiently here than on his debut, a head further back in third. Both the second and third could find small handicaps but the winner is the horse to take from the race and hopefully he will get the opportunity to show his ability in the months and years ahead.

The staying handicap hurdle was run at a painfully slow pace for the first two circuits until Thomas Garner took the initiative with a circuit to run by sending his mount Bostin into a clear lead which his rivals were never able to recover. Back to back wins for Bostin now but what the form of this race is worth is very much open to question. Kayflin, who looked very well in the paddock, claimed the runner up prize whilst the early pace setter Phare Isle plugged on to take third in a very moderate event. Garner should be commended for his ride here.

Charlie Mann continued his impressive strike rate here at Plumpton when Royals & Rebels defied top weight to record a comfortable success in the staying handicap chase at 3.15. Either in front or pressing the lead throughout, his rider Gavin Sheehan was able to see off the brief challenge of runner up Roparta Avenue rounding the home bend and quicken clear in the straight. Of the others, Killabraher Cross ran a decidedly moody race twice looking to duck out at the stables before coming down at the fence at the top of the hill on the final circuit. Royals & Rebels will face a rise in the handicap for this which will make it tough for him in the immediate future, especially when you consider the quality of the rivals he has seen off here. Hopefully the handicapper will consider that and not be too harsh on him.

Too Many Diamonds had not won in 41 starts prior to joining the Dan Skelton yard but broke his maiden tag with a facile success in the two-mile handicap hurdle at 3.45. The six-year-old did not hurdle particularly fluently and pulled very hard throughout but still ended up winning in such a decisive manner that you feel he could have won with two riders on his back. He must be noted under a penalty in the very near future as the improvement shown here was quite unbelievable and a little shocking in truth.

Daniel Sansom once again showed his worth as a conditional rider by taking the handicap hurdle restricted to such jockeys at 4.15. His mount was the four-year-old I See You Well who had been quite highly tried in some of his previous outings. Sansom brought the winner into the race travelling down the back straight for the final time and kicked clear with former winner of this race Ossies Dancer as they exited the back straight. He eventually imposed himself and was value for his three and a quarter length success.  Miss Crick plugged on for third spot but never looked totally happy on the track and may want a more galloping or stiffer track at this trip. Not beaten far she should be kept onside through the summer whilst the winner obviously has scope for further improvement. Sunnytahliateigan ran okay but this step up in class was a little above him on this occasion. Not a bad contest at all going into the summer and it should throw up a few winners.

Perfect Timing was a convincing winner of the handicap chase run over just shy of 2m4f at 4.45 and followed up his win here over course and distance at the Easter Festival. Trainer Neil Mulholland spoke of the horse as a summer jumper and likes to give him time between his races. I cannot imagine the handicapper being too harsh on him after beating his exposed rivals here so there are very likely to be further opportunities for this horse in the months ahead. Gores Island once again ran respectably without winning and continues to prove difficult to win with. Jay Are showed little on this return after a long absence despite attracting market support.

The concluding bumper went to Madam Anna for the Linda Jewell yard who attracted some money in the morning and substantial support on course. The four-year-old went clear off the home bend to win in good style. A daughter of Papal Bull, she looked to have more of a flat pedigree prior to this contest but the decisive nature of her win showed her well up to this test. Rebel Commander travelled well throughout the race but could not live with the winner after that horse quickened and stayed on for a clear second. He will come into his own when faced with a test of stamina. Cintex proved disappointing but is another who will fulfil his potential over much stiffer tests of stamina than he faced here.

Monday 17th April

After racing finished on Day 1 of the two-day Easter Festival here at Plumpton, the clerk of the course, Mark Cornford, immediately started preparing the ground for Day 2 and overnight put between 4 and 6mm of water onto the track to maintain the accurate description of Good To Firm ground. The going stick readings were adjusted to 8.7 for the hurdles track and 8.8 for the chase course. Opinions from a variety of jockeys confirmed the going description to be accurate. The day was mild with a gentle breeze.

The opening race was a match between two former course winners and Miss Oscarose proved concerns about the staying trip were unfounded by picking up the long-time leader Flugzeug after the final fence to record a second win over fences. It is also further enhanced the excellent course record of trainer Paul Henderson with his chasers. This was a welcome success for a modest type against a thoroughly exposed individual.

Neil Mulholland is undoubtedly one of the rising stars of the National Hunt training ranks. His juvenile hurdler Most Celebrated was able to gain a confidence boosting win to round off his first campaign over timber when narrowly winning the juvenile event over nearly two miles. A summer at grass will do Most Celebrated the world of good and he can look forward to a handicap hurdle campaign next term, although the trainer was considering a crack at the flat toward the backend.  East Indies gave the winner most to do and is gradually starting to relax in his races and whilst limited in ability he will be placed to advantage by his trainer for handicap hurdles across the region in the future.

Perfect Timing returned from a break to give Neil Mulholland and Tom Scudamore a quick-fire double when taking the near 2m4f handicap chase. A little rusty at his fences early on, he warmed to the task and picked off the prominently ridden Lemons Gent early in the home straight. The nine-year-old will be campaigned over the summer and is described by the trainer as gradually getting a little physically stronger. Assuming the handicapper does not get too carried away by this performance he should continue to prove competitive in similar grade in the near future. Lemons Gent strikes me as a horse that the handicapper has in his grasp whilst Little Windmill found the quick follow up after yesterday’s success beyond him with the drop in trip not looking to particularly aid his cause.

Leading course trainer Gary Moore saw his Ryeolliean snatch the near 2m5f handicap hurdle out of the fire under a strong drive from Josh Moore. Tracking his three rivals in rear, Ryeolliean moved up to challenge the long-time leader Money Talks rounding the home bend but it took all the home straight before he was able to finally get on top in the dying strides. Victory had not seemed likely for much of the straight as Money Talks kept grinding it out in front but Moore’s strength in the saddle finally galvanised the necessary extra from the odds on favourite. On this showing, Ryeolliean may find it difficult to claim the hat trick under revised terms and Ding Ding, who finished third, looks to be now in the grip of the handicapper.

The drop in class worked the oracle for Pearls Legend in the 2m1f handicap chase, who was given an excellent attacking ride by Jamie Moore. Always toward the fore of the four-strong field, he produced some big leaps at crucial points to assert his authority and produced a course record time in the process. Hopefully this will provide a confidence boost to the horse who we may see turned out again quickly to take advantage of his obvious wellbeing. Gores Island came home in second but once again looked an individual not too keen on going out in front on his own. Lou Vert was under pressure with the best part of a circuit left to run and his time with the multiple champion trainer now looks limited.

The novices’ handicap hurdle over nearly 2m2f went the way of the Sam Thomas trained Wonga Swinger who showed his first worthwhile form on the race track. He looked well in the paddock prior to the contest and taking up the running down the far side for the final time, he ground out a decisive success after skipping clear of his field rounding the home bend. This was a low-grade affair contested by a field of runners who had to this point found winning over timber beyond them.

The staying handicap hurdle over an extended 3m1f that closed the card produced a close finish with top weight Mab Dab holding on to a diminishing advantage from the closing Yukon Delta. The winner under Marc Goldstein had built a clear advantage rounding the home bend for the final time and it was left to Yukon Delta, who had been outpaced in the middle part of the contest, to stay on tenaciously in an ultimately vain attempt to cut down the leader. Mab Dab has been very lightly raced and this was his first venture into handicap company. The handicapper surely cannot be too hard considering the margin of victory and there is definitely scope for improvement from this son of Papal Bull. Yukon Delta has a good attitude to the game and will find other staying events of a similar nature in the fullness of time and the way the front pair came clear, suggests they are both worthy of consideration under similar conditions in the weeks ahead.

Sunday 16th April

Day 1 of the Easter Festival here at Plumpton and the going report read Good To Firm and going stick readings of 8.5 on the hurdles track and 8.7 on the chase course. A very good crowd in attendance for what is always a popular day’s racing on the Plumpton calendar. The course had taken 48mm of watering in the week leading up to the meeting.

The outstanding conditional jockey of the season, Harry Cobden, rode the first winner of the day in the shape of Peak To Peak. He always appeared to have matters in hand aboard the Paul Nicholls trained son of Authorised who cosily repelled his rivals by two and a quarter lengths. Cobden said afterwards that he felt the five-year-old would make a nice chaser next season. Despite the narrow margin of success, Peak To Peak always appeared to have another gear up his sleeve and was a decisive win. Our Reward was a little disappointing coming off the bridle a long way from home and was ultimately run out of second by Cap Horner. The latter travelled well into the race but was unable to quicken with the winner before the final flight. He will find a run of the mill handicap based on what we have seen today.

Trainer Richard Rowe was concerned that his chaser Remember Forever did not like Plumpton but he had those thoughts dispelled as his seven-year-old battled on bravely up the straight to snatch victory in the final fifty yards of the near 2m4f handicap chase. He caught Code of Law who had led after a mistake by Remember Forever three from home. In all honesty, Code of Law did not find a great deal after travelling well into the straight and was picked off after the final fence by a horse described by his trainer as a lot more confident and mature than at any previous stage of his career. He added that, in the fullness of time, Remember Forever could end up over staying trips and the manner in which he finished this race added substance to those beliefs.

A switch of stable once again seemingly did the trick of rejuvenating a horse as Lake Chapala took the 2m1f novices handicap chase in emphatic fashion. Jockey Marc Goldstein barely had to twitch before sending the now Chris Gordon trained eight-year-old into a clear lead and crossing the line with a ton seemingly left under the bonnet. It would be no surprise to see Lake Chapala turned out again very quickly to take advantage of his current mark.

Trainer Paul Nicholls made it two wins from the last three renewals of the Sussex Champion Hurdle when his top weight Tommy Silver hunted down Song Light turning into the straight before keeping on resolutely to win by a decisive nine lengths. This French bred five-year-old had been highly tried in the autumn in such races as the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury. He did not quite live up to those expectations but has now proved himself a bonny horse with a good attitude who looks made for a fence come the autumn of this year. Song Light ran another creditable race here without claiming the number one prize whilst Regulation showed a bit more zip in finishing third with the hood he had worn on his last two starts removed.

Adrrastos made virtually all the running to win the maiden hurdle in good style. With the exception of the final flight he hurdled fluently to score comfortably. The trainer believes he will jump a fence in time. Bardd was a big disappointment to favourite backers and was not as fluent as the winner at his hurdles. His limitations have been exposed and he may require a step up in trip and handicaps before finding the winning path. Zephyros made an encouraging hurdles debut and will be placed to good advantage by his astute trainer. There is more to come from him especially as his hurdling technique becomes a little sharper.

Little Windmill allayed fears that the extended 3m1f of the novices’ handicap chase would be beyond him as the seven-year-old saw out the trip well to beat his four rivals in convincing fashion. Trainer Neil King said that she would return to the track tomorrow in an attempt to take advantage of his current wellbeing. This was undoubtedly a weak contest but Little Windmill did everything that was asked of him and this success opens up new options for connections.

The concluding conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle saw another good ride from the promising Daniel Sansom. He looks excellent value for his claim at present and gave Romeo Americo a confident ride to produce him between the final two flights before keeping him up to his work and record a first success since 2012. The conditions of this race could not have suited the winner any better. With the confidence of victory in the bank perhaps he can progress to claim another small event in the not too distant future. Whatever, his rider is worth having on your side with his current claim.

Monday 27th March

A lovely, sunny spring day for everyone who attended Injured Jockeys Race Day at Plumpton to enjoy. With the dry spell continuing, the going description was ‘Good with good to firm places’ and going stick readings of 8.1 on the hurdles track and 8.2 on the chase course. This description was altered prior to the third race to read ‘Good to Firm with Good places’.

The opening maiden hurdle went the way of trainer Warren Greatrex and his five-year-old gelding Little Chunk. Sent straight into the lead, the son of Mr Dinos was a little sticky over the first two flights but quickly settled into a nice rhythm and appeared to enjoy the better ground. He displayed a good attitude when challenged by market rival Ruwasi at the penultimate hurdle and ran right the way to the line to score in decisive fashion. The trainer commented post-race that Little Chunk was a nice straight forward individual who would in time just a fence. The runner up Ruwasi was keen throughout the contest and if settling better in future should certainly find a race or two before the end of the campaign.

The staying handicap chase at 2.30 saw the three runners dawdle around in the sunshine for the first two circuits before upping the pace with three to jump and sprinting home from the home bend.  Turban finally took advantage of his falling handicap mark to score in this lower grade after taking up the running from the second fence. It is difficult to get over excited about the value of the form but connections will be pleased with a decent prize money return for chasers of this grade. Olivers Hill was keen throughout the first two circuits and maintained second place with Frank N Fair third. All three jumped at least reasonably throughout and this will be a boost to the confidence of the winner whilst it is difficult to say categorically if Olivers Hill benefitted from the step up in trip

Gary Moore has won the feature handicap hurdle twice in the last three years and made it three from four when his outsider Mr Fickle bolted up by eleven lengths. The American bred had been out of form for some time but relished the return to better ground and was able to take advantage of his falling handicap mark to record his first win since winning at Sandown in 2015. Beggars Wishes was well found in the market to make it a hat trick but was unable to go the pace when they got racing down the far side and weakened tamely out of contention. Ultimately the race was about one horse and Mr Fickle may well be turned out quickly to take advantage of his sudden return to form.

The Moore stable made it two on the day when Flashman recorded an ultimately decisive success in the 2m1f handicap chase. He has run well here previously and repeated the level of form he produced behind Mr Medic here in October to take advantage of this easier opportunity. That task was made easier by a poor round of jumping from Brother Bennett who is now becoming a disappointing individual. No No Cardinal looked to have every chance as the race developed but weakened very disappointingly whilst Goonjim may benefit from a step back up in trip.

Drama on the first circuit of the staying handicap hurdle as Boher Lad came down and hampered top weight Dragoon Guard who then unseated his rider. The three remaining protagonists continued with Ray Diamond out in front. He was dropped after the third last by both Yukon Delta and Thepartysover and it looked as though the latter was just travelling that touch better when Josh Moore on Yukon Delta asked his mount for a big leap at the penultimate flight. He hit the flight and unseated Josh, leaving Thepartysover to cruise home to victory. The win gave trainer Paul Henderson a double on the card to further embellish his impressive course record.

There was yet more drama in the 2m4f handicap chase, the penultimate race on the card. Favourite Code of Law was jumping well out in front until he got the ninth all wrong and fell. As he crashed out he badly hampered his pursuer Kayflin and knocked that mare’s rider Jack Sherwood out of the saddle. With the race transformed, Mr Jim, who had been travelling nicely in behind, was left in front. He saw off a brief challenge from Goring Two down the far side, whilst Killabraher Cross weakened quickly after the fifth last, and was left to come home clear and readily record a facile success. Not the strongest race you will ever witness but certainly a dramatic one.

The concluding bumper saw the locally trained Huntress make all to win in good style. The emphasis is always firmly on stamina in Plumpton bumpers which are run over just shy of 2m2f. The daughter of Flemnsfirth put her previous experience to good use under an assertive ride from Jack Sherwood and saw the stamina imprinted in her pedigree come into play in the latter stages. Favourite Jubilympics did not enjoy a smooth passage throughout the race and was rather caught out of his ground leaving the back straight as he picked his way through weakening rivals. With his rider choosing to swing very wide round the home bend, she was left with too much ground to make up on a rival who was not stopping out in front. Of the remainder, Major Davis travelled well for a long way before running green in the closing stages and gave hope for his connections whilst Ballintara raced prominently throughout and stuck to the task in hand to also give hope that he can progress from this racecourse debut. A pleasing success for Huntress, who will no doubt be brought along steadily by trainer Suzy Smith and placed to advantage when the emphasis is on stamina over hurdles next season.

Monday 13th March

The forecast overnight rain did not materialise prior to Anglo-Irish Race Day here at Plumpton and the seven race card took place under bright and occasionally sunny skies with a spring feeling permeating the whole day. The going report improved to ‘good to soft with soft places’ and the going stick readings on the morning of racing were 6.2 on the hurdles track and 6.6 on the chase course.

The opening novice hurdle featured two individuals that had good progressive profiles and the favourite Fountains Windfall proved he was just a little too wise for his younger rival Solighoster. Aidan Coleman aboard the winner set his own pace and hurdled well throughout the contest before putting the race to bed between the final two flights. Solighoster ran on well to the line nut found this challenge just too much at this early stage of his career. Both will continue to provide plenty of fun for their connections and both look to have the scope to jump a fence next season.  Moneystown finished in third and looked a good sort in the paddock beforehand. Given a very considerate ride, he showed enough on this third hurdles outing to suggest that this former point winner will be able to pick up a low grade handicap for connections in the not too distant future.

The novices’ handicap chase proved to be an eventful affair with a number of the runners departing at various stages. Brice Canyon attempted to once again make all the running but he was cooked after jumping the third last when headed by old rival Clonusker who moved into the lead travelling well. His final challenger proved to be Goonjim, who drifted markedly in the market but was produced by his jockey Ricjie McClernon between the final two fences before jumping to the front and coming clear to win nicely by a couple of lengths. A good ride and a good result for this lowly rated individual. Of the others Remember Forever looked decidedly uncooperative before being hampered and unseating at the fourth last. Carqalin was the dark horse of the race for a powerful yard but looks to either have a problem, which may be the case judged on his awkward running style, or he is just limited in terms of ability. Not the greatest novice chasebut one that will have provided the connections of Goonjim with a deal of pleasure.

The 2m1f handicap chase at 3.05 looked a trappy race for punters to solve with three of the four runners not having scored since 2014. However, Starkie took advantage of his significant fall in the handicap over the last season or so and ran away from his field after the third last to win in emphatic style and confirm the excellent form of his trainer Chris Gordon. He may well be found another opportunity very soon before the handicapper can take retribution. Rude and Crude has seemingly had his problems down the years and looks like a horse with issues these days whilst the performances of Edgar and Un Anjou seemed to confirm that the handicapper has their measure at present.    Not the strongest race of its kind but a conclusive success for Starkie who could well follow up in a similar contest with his confidence boosted by this performance.

Ballyheigue Bay was very well supported for the staying handicap hurdle at 3.40 on just his fourth start of the campaign and justified that faith by making all the running to win. He had seen off all of his rivals by the home turn with the exception of top weight Midnight Tune who appeared to be travelling well as the pair turned into the straight. Moving alongside as they approached the penultimate flight it looked his for the taking but he reckoned without the grit and determination of Ballyheigue Bay who responded gamely and quickly extended to once again go clear before the final hurdle and then maintain his advantage in decisive fashion. The win provided a double on the card for jockey Tom Cannon and a second winner for Chris Gordon. Ballyheigue Bay mixes hurdling with chasing and looks set for a good spring judged on this performance and his relative freshness at this stage of the season will be to his advantage.

The mares’ handicap hurdle at 4.10 saw the strong favourite Top And Drop disappoint her supporters with a dismal performance. There were early signs of her impending fate with jockey Aidan Coleman niggling and pushing the daughter of Kayf Tara along entering the back straight for the final time. She eventually dropped out tamely to finish last and has a question mark about her now unless a physical ailment comes to light. The finish of the contest was fought out by top weight Hopes Wishes and Funny Oyster at the foot of the handicap. The latter came with a run after the final flight and with the assistance of the stands rail was able to forge ahead on the run in and make it a treble on the day for the Chris Gordon team. It was a good ride from the conditional Harry Reed who was also to good advantage earlier in the day when second on Solighoster. He looks a promising youngster providing good value for his claim on this first occasion that I have seen him in the flesh. His mount Funny Oyster took advantage of this opportunity but with the favourite not appearing to run her race and the second relatively exposed this can only be evaluated as moderate form for the grade.

Trainer Charlie Mann has an excellent record here at Plumpton and improved it when Royals And Rebels struck in the finish of the day. After the near three and a quarter mile journey the first three home punched and counter punched all the way up the run in and the result was in doubt until the line. The three protagonists, course regulars iItoldyou and Venetian Lad along with the winner, all looked likely to score at various moments on the run to the line but it was a strong late push down the outside of his rivals that saw the conditional rider Tommy Dowling aboard Royals And Rebels grab the spoils in the final stride.  The forte of the winner appears to be stamina and at just seven he should continue to progress in the staying chase division and will be placed to good advantage by his shrewd and knowledgeable trainer. The improved ground conditions were the most likely reason for the improved performance of the old stager Venetian Lad who had to settle for second with Itoldyou running with credit off of what still looks a viable handicap mark.

Thundering Home appears to have had his enthusiasm reinvigorated after his win at Wincanton recently and made it back to back wins when taking the concluding handicap hurdle here.  The finish was another excellent spectacle for the Plumpton crowd to enjoy with four in contention over the final flight. Thundering Home has been rated a great deal higher than his current mark and could well be seen out shortly in a bid to make it three in a month. This was not a bad race for the grade and he will prove a formidable opponent under a penalty in similar grade.

Monday 27th February

After 20mm of overnight rain, clerk of the course Mark Cornford revised the going description to read heavy all over with going stick readings of 4.0 for the hurdles track and 3.8 for the chase course. Showers continued throughout the day, some of them heavy, placing the emphasis firmly on stamina, fitness and courage.

The opening novice hurdle was won by Cigarisi for the Phillip Hobbs yard who improved his record to 4 from 6 at the course this season in the process. The son of Kalanisi never looked totally at home on the track and jockey Tom O’Brien commented that the horse became unbalanced on the home bend. Cigarisi quickly got back on an even keel to challenge at the penultimate hurdle before staying on to grind out a decisive victory. His future will surely lie over further and he is a good looking individual. Argyle ran with some promise but it was no surprise to see his challenge peeter out in the home straight as the horse got very worked up in the paddock beforehand. He can progress from this given some better ground. Commanche Chieftain looked a nice type in the paddock beforehand and ran well on hurdles debut to finish runner up after attempting to make all. He will have some options when handicapped.

Bagging Turf was very disappointing in the following novices limited handicap chase. Niggled and shoved along with a circuit to run, she has regressed since her win at Huntingdon earlier in the campaign. The finish was fought out by two chase debutants in Mr Fitzroy and City Supreme with the latter prevailing after rattling up the run in to snatch victory from the luckless top weight. City Supreme has suffered for his consistency over hurdles and it again looked as though despite his best efforts the handicapper would once again have his measure after Mr Fitzroy appeared to have taken a decisive advantage between the final two fences. The picture changed halfway up the run in as Mr Fitzroy emptied and responding as usual to his riders every call City Supreme gained a deserved victory. Likely to go up again he may find it difficult to follow up although the option of a step back up to three miles could help.

In the mares handicap hurdle Snippetydoodah returned to form after a dismal effort last time to make virtually all the running. He stuck on gamely to maintain his advantage over Kayflin up the home straight and record a welcome victory for his Bodle Street Green yard. The form does not amount to much and his chance was made significantly easier by the disappointing performance of top weight Deckers Delight. From a stable in form this was a very disappointing effort especially as stamina cannot have been a concern.

Sea Wall appeared to enjoy the change of tactics in the 2m handicap hurdle and bounced back to form to take advantage of an attractive handicap mark. Well fancied at Lingfield on his penultimate start when disappointing, trainer Chris Gordon changed the approach and it paid dividends with the horse sticking to his guns to claim a decisive victory. Camron De Chaillac looked a threat to the winner rounding the home bend but was quickly seen off. He did however plug on resolutely and could find a similar race before the season is out.

Coolking made it a hat trick of wins in the staying handicap chase. This was a very easy success against a field that lacked any depth and with Saroque not showing a great deal of enthusiasm for the job at hand, he ran out a facile winner.

The staying handicap hurdle that concluded the card saw the locally trained Landscape step up to three miles for the first time and he was narrowly denied in a driving finish by the very well punted

Minella Gathering. The winner is certainly bred for the winter game and despite coming off the bridle with a circuit to run his rider was able to get him into the fray turning for home and he just had enough up his sleeve to see off Landscape by half a length. The Henderson charge is relatively lightly raced and could progress as should the second and both will be of interest in a similar contest in this grade before the season is out.

Monday 13th February

A fine and sunny winters afternoon for At The Races Raceday on Monday the 13th of February. The going was soft with going stick readings of 5.2 on the hurdles track and 5.6 on the chase course. The times suggested that the ground was very holding, placing an emphasis on stamina.

The £10,000 in added prize money made the extended two and a half mile handicap hurdle a very attractive race for the grade and it produced a competitive looking field. Ding Ding continued her fine season for local trainer Sheena West by making it three wins here this term. The six year old hit the front at around the second last hurdle and established herself a handy advantage which she maintained to the line. Certainly not an easy victory but one which never looked in doubt after another well timed and executed ride from Marc Goldstein. On slightly better terms and over this longer trip, Ding Ding reversed Fontwell form with Amron Kali who came home third with the pair split by Cobolobo. The latter ran a race which strongly suggested that three miles on a stiffer track will be amenable to his requirements but Sheena West was also adamant in the winner’s enclosure that Ding Ding will stay further as well. Of the others, Kings Walk disappointed on his handicap debut whilst Margot Fontane has shown nothing like the promise of her two earlier outings here this season. Overall, this looks solid form for the grade where with the prevailing conditions and true pace, stamina most certainly came to the fore.

Stamina and resolution was again in evidence in the opening hurdles contest for mares where Postbridge made the majority of running to gamely fend off all comers and break her maiden over hurdles at the third attempt. With the well supported favourite Phoeniciana appearing to run below par, the form is slightly devalued. However, nobody can deny that in seeing off the strong travelling runner up Chandros Belle, Postbridge demonstrated a good attitude and the potential to improve when stepped up in trip, a view supported post race by her trainer Warren Greatrex.

In winning the novices handicap chase over nearly three and a quarter miles by 35 lengths eased down, Minella On Line will not have done much for his future handicap mark. The top weight was never threatened out in front after it became apparent that the well supported favourite Royal Salute was not on a going day. The Oliver Sherwood trained winner remains a little chancey at his fences and unless this aspect of his performance improves it may see him compromised at some of the stiffer jumping tracks. There is no doubt however that he stays very well and appears to have a good attitude to the job in hand.  Royal Salute either had an off day or the positive effect of the blinkers that had seen him win his last two outings here are starting to wear off.

At the last meeting in January when Clonusker made his belated chasing debut at the age of nine it did look as though he was particularly enjoying chasing before falling when dropping back through the field. Here today however in the extended 2m3f novices handicap chase he raced near to the leaders and jumped far better before pulling clear to win decisively by seven lengths. His trainer commented post race that only problems in training him had prevented him from going chasing at an earlier stage and that she always felt this was the sphere in which he would fulfil his potential. He could exceed his best hurdles mark based on this performanceThe runner up Brice Canyon ran on really well late on after becoming outpaced and looks another who could pick up a modest chase when presented with at least another half mile.

Wishicould was another who stayed on late in the day after becoming outpaced, this time in the 3m1f handicap hurdle. He managed to claim second very late in the day but never got anywhere near the facile well backed winner Act Now. The step up to a trip in excess of three miles for the first time did the trick for the Anthony Honeyball trained eight year old who left behind a poor run at Lingfield to record his first hurdling success here. Relatively lightly raced over hurdles there may still be scope for further improvement.

The concluding conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle looked for the majority of the contest as though it too would go the way of trainer Anthony Honeyball, whose top weight Dragoon Guard travelled well throughout before sauntering into a clear lead off the home turn. However, as he approached the final hurdle he started to falter on his return from a break and the big weight told on him as The Game Is A Foot came from a long way back to rattle up the outside, hit the front within a matter of strides after jumping the last and win at the line with a degree of decisiveness. The win was just the second over hurdles for the Zoe Davison trained charge whose previous success came back in November 2013. That obviously anchors the form somewhat but will not trouble connections who will have enjoyed this performance enormously.

Monday 30th January

24 mm of rain fell on the eve of the Winter Race Day here at Plumpton, turning the going report to heavy with going stick readings of 4.4 on the hurdles track and 4.5 on the chase course were registered. A very damp, dark day, although there was little or no rain to speak of.

The weight of support in the market suggested that Oscars Boss would prove to be a tough nut to crack in the opening contest. Paddock inspection confirmed him as a big rangy impressive physical specimen but not the sort who would necessarily be suited by the tight configuration of the Plumpton track. In the race itself he proved a little clumsy at his hurdles and despite running with promise for the future he was unable to land the spoils and justify the strong market support. His second place finish was respectable and judged on his massive frame he will be over fences sooner rather than later. Victory went to The Caller, himself a nicely bred individual, and the eight length success came despite the ground rather than because of it according to his trainer Warren Greatrex. Overall this looked a moderate affair with the winner likely to appreciate a step up in trip in the fullness of time and the trainer having no fancy plans for him.

The novices’ handicap chase that followed was certainly an eventful affair. The switch to fences was not to the liking of Clonusker who was in trouble long before he fell at the first in the back straight on the final circuit. Bonnie Major had departed at the fifth and Grayhawk was still moving well in second when taking a crashing fall at the fourth last. Market support suggested this one would go well and if able to recover from this nasty departure he has the scope to pick up a race in this lowly grade. Yourholidayisover has always had his quirks and was given a lovely ride by Felix De Giles to challenge the long time leader Instingstive after the final fence. However, as soon as he hit the front he stopped and threw away what should have been a second consecutive victory and allowed the strongly ridden Instingtive to provide trainer Gary Moore with yet another course success. Not a race of any great depth and the rise in the handicap now faced by the winner will on the face of it make life very tough for him going forward. Yourholidayisover is certainly not a horse to entrust with the family silver.

The extended 2m4f novice hurdle saw a nice hurdles and rules debut from Jerrysback to win comfortably. He settled nicely in rear and was eventually put into the race leaving the back straight for the final time. He readily made up the ground to challenge at the second last and despite being a little awkward at the last two drew clear to win with ease. The five year old will benefit greatly from this experience and looks a reasonable prospect. King Uther was noted staying on late in the day and can progress from this if he sharpens up his hurdling. Clondaw Bisto looks hard work at present but was still firmly in the shake up at the penultimate flight before tiring late on.

The staying handicap hurdle produced a very brave performance from Eminent Poet to defy his big weight in the gruelling conditions. Only a six year old, concerns over his ability to see out this stamina test were cast aside as he ran on up the home straight to win decisively. City Supreme produced another solid performance to fill the runner up berth and he is an admirably consistent individual and that trait may be playing against him now. Margot Fontane was found out by the ground according to her trainer and deserves another chance.

The staying handicap chase that followed saw Royal Salute follow up his recent course and distance victory in good style. Always in the van, he jumped really well and repelled the late challenge of Talk of The South who had been held up early before being produced with his run approaching the final fence. The pair should continue to prove competitive at this level. Like Sully also ran with great credit on his first attempt at this trip. He will be much better suited to drier ground and this performance opens up some different options for him. He lost his action after the last and was quickly pulled up. Hopefully it is nothing too significant. Have a Go Hero was let down by his jumping throughout and if he can improve in that department all is not lost. Overall, a decent contest for the grade.

The concluding handicap hurdle over two miles went to the handicap debutant Bol D’air in convincing style. He has been keen in his races previously and wore a hood to help in this respect. He was allowed to bowl along in the lead before quickening clear rounding the home bend and drawing clear to win by ten lengths. He seemed well suited by this style of running and will now face retribution from the handicapper. Trainer Chris Gordon is starting to hit top form and can find another opportunity for this progressive sort in the near future. Royal Etiquette was a never dangerous second and gives a reliable marker to the form.

Monday 16th January

Approximately two millimetres of rain fell at Plumpton on the morning of the meeting which changed the ground to soft with heavy patches and through the afternoon there were very light occasional showers and no real wind to speak of. The going stick read 4.9 on both courses and the jockeys’ felt the going report was an accurate reflection of conditions.

The staying handicap at 3.05 was the feature chase on the card and conditional jockey Harry Cobden once again advertised his skills in the saddle with an excellent ride to get Royal Salute home in front. The application of blinkers for the first time kept the seven year old’s focus on the job in hand and with Cobden producing him to challenge at the final fence he ensured there was little opportunity for the Anthony Honeyball trained gelding to lose interest as he had done at Wincanton on his previous outing. It is always good to see the precautions taken by the trainer pay off and for his plans to be executed perfectly by the jockey. Whether Royal Salute will respond in a similar manner next time is a matter of conjecture but this success confirms his ability to stay this trip well and that if this experience does sweeten his attitude he has the latent ability to progress further. Henllan Harri overcame my pre-race fears about the ground to post a very brave front running performance. Still lightly raced for a nine year old over fences he was just run out of things on the run in and is putting concerns about his relish for the challenge of steeple chasing behind him after two solid performances.  Itoldyou looked far more tractable today and finished third under what look like his ideal conditions. The eleven year old has deteriorated since his Sussex National triumph but should still have enough ability to win again when faced with a slightly weaker contest under similar conditions.

The maiden hurdle at 3.40 threw up a couple of very good performances from the ultimate winner Kings Walk and the runner up Not Another Muddle. The former had run against probably the best novice hurdler seen here at Plumpton this season when fourth behind No Comment and gave the form a boost as he travelled well here before being tackled by the runner up between the final two flights and then fighting back resolutely to get back up and win by a neck. The son of Kings Theatre has a high knee action and enjoyed the ground but we won’t see the best of him until he is confronted with fences and a staying trip. The run of Not Another Muddle here was extremely encouraging for his connections. Far too keen from flag fall and throughout the first circuit, the six year old still managed to cruise up to the leader between the final two flights and look all over the winner. His early race exertions coupled with his long absence told only on the run in and I am certain that if he can settle earlier he will progress significantly later in this campaign. If I had to take a horse home with me from today’s card it would undoubtedly be this son of Kayf Tara.

Alan King maintained his excellent course record when Bastien romped to victory in the opening novice hurdle. He tracked the pace setting Not Never until the second last when he cruised past his tiring rival and came home well clear of his field to defy his penalty and make it two from two over hurdles. The pair had been clear of their field from after the fifth flight. Not Never was a little keen and a bit novicey at these hurdles and tired significantly up the home straight to eventually finish fourth, being passed by two rivals on the run in. He can progress from this. Bastien has a piece of excellent bumper form to his name and it is not inconceivable that he may be the type for a valuable novice handicap hurdle. Connections believe he will eventually enjoy a greater test of stamina so the EBF Novice Final at Sandown could be a realistic target off of a light weight.

Kid Kalanisi justified the switch back to hurdles after his chase win at Fontwell with a gritty success in the staying handicap at 2.35. He picked off the long-time leader and well backed favourite Ghost River between the final two flights before gradually drawing clear to win decisively. He is not the most fluent over any type of obstacle but has progressed for the step up in trip. The run of Ghost River was a little disappointing. He set out to make all and travelled really well until challenged running to the second last. He wore a tongue tie and the manner in which he capitulated so quickly suggests that he may have a physical issue, probably with his wind, which is preventing him from producing more. Newsworthy was very well backed on his step up in trip and travelled well for a long way before appearing to fail to get home. His profile is leaning toward that of a horse not totally in love with his day job.

The handicap chase over two miles went to Yourholidayisover and seemingly won with a little in hand under an excellent ride and the concluding two mile handicap hurdle went to the top weight Catchin Time who found the return to this grade much to his liking with a comprehensive win.

The Sussex National 2nd January 2017

A beautiful winter’s day with clear blue skies and little or no prevailing wind provided the setting for an excellent card on the Sussex National Race Day here at Plumpton. The going description was soft all round after 13mm of overnight rain.

The feature contest was the £30,000 ATR Sussex National Handicap Chase and a competitive field of fourteen went to post. The near 3m5f trip on soft ground was a searching test for this group of stayers and the Charlie Mann trained Morney Wing followed up the promise of his run in the London National at Sandown by grinding out a well deserved success here. Tracking the leaders and jumping efficiently throughout, Paddy Brennan sent his mount on rounding the home bend for the final time and fended off the challenge of the pursuing pack to claim a notable prize. Brennan had come in for the ride after Noel Fehily stepped down for the afternoon after feeling unwell and gave the progressive staying chaser a lovely ride. He relished the softer ground conditions here and accurate jumps at the final two fences allowed him to maintain the advantage he had claimed leaving the back straight. Dawson City produced another very respectable performance by filling the runner up spot and things might have been different for him if he had not made a significant error with a circuit to run. Yet to win over fences, it is surely just a matter of time before he notches his first success in this sphere of the game. Market moves for both Mysteree and Onderun went astray though the latter ran with credit in fourth and looked as though a stiffer track would play to his advantage. The youngster Sartorial Elegance was still travelling well when unseating his rider at the fourth last and still looks a reasonably treated individual though it was obviously too far from home to know whether he would have seen out this marathon journey. All credit to the undervalued Charlie Mann team, who enhanced their excellent record here with a horse in Morney Wing that is still on an upward curve and one who should continue to be competitive in these long distance events.

The day started well for punters when the heavily backed Golden Birthday ground out a narrow but decisive success for the Harry Fry team. His previous Newbury outing had looked very promising and he progressed on this softer surface to win well. It is likely that his optimum trip will be well in excess of this bare two miles. Action Replay put in an improved display to fill the runner up berth but never looked likely to repel the challenge of the winner.

The novice chase over an extended two miles saw the first four in the betting all attract support to some degree, suggesting it was a race of some depth. Ultimately, the front running Baron Alco took the spoils. The future remains bright for the 6 year old gelding whose trainer Gary Moore spoke of the Scilly Isles being his next port of call, with the trip and emphasis on jumping at the Esher venue of that event sure to suit him very well. Both Solatentif and Starchitect ran with credit and look sure to benefit when switched to handicaps in the fullness of time. The latter will also appreciate better ground and jumped with greater accuracy here than on his chase debut.

No Comment made it back to back wins over course and distance when defying a ten pound penalty in the extended 2m4f novice hurdle. The Phillip Hobbs trained gelding again jumped with alacrity and saw off Minella Awards on the run in after the two had pulled clear of their rivals between the final two flights. Connections of the runner up will probably feel a little disappointed that they could not take advantage of the weight concession they were receiving from the winner. However, No Comment is clearly a more than useful individual who is gradually improving with each outing and has some solid form to his name already. A good contest from which further winners should come and the third placed finish of Margot Fontane will have delighted local trainer Anna Newton-Smith. The mare has a super attitude and will stay three miles and the only question is how the handicapper will respond to two very encouraging efforts here in the past month.

Johns Luck registered a win for trainer Neil Mulholland in the 2m4f handicap chase and may just be one of those horses who is difficult for the handicapper to keep up with. Following up his win at Ffos Las, where he also won by a narrow margin, he looked in command between the final two fences but appeared to idle and look around in front. Johns Luck does not appear ingenuine, just a little tricky in the finish and he could be a horse that can take further steps through the ranks as this season develops.

It was also good to see Kayflin bounce back to winning form in the 2m4f handicap hurdle for Linda Jewell and Shimba Hills won the concluding event quite snugly and showed that he is in great heart after following up his win here in December.

Christmas Raceday 12th December 2016

A damp day here at Plumpton for the Christmas Raceday with the rain that fell as the afternoon began. The description of good to soft going was supported by the jockeys in the weighing room as the damp didn’t seem to soak into the ground until the last couple of races in which the ground opened up and the mud went flying.

The opening contest was a novice hurdle over two miles and a very short priced favourite in the shape of Khezarabad for the powerful Nicky Henderson yard. However, the well backed 1-4 shot bit the dust for punters as leading course trainer Gary Moore took home the spoils with his hurdling debutant Templier. Moore appeared as surprised as anyone with the ease of the victory for his Mastercraftsman gelding who had been kicked into a clear lead leaving the back straight for the final time and effectively came home unchallenged. Moore had no plans for his winner who is still a juvenile, but it would be no surprise to see him step back into the juvenile division and up in grade next time. Khezerabad is a good looking individual but possibly has temperament issues as he seemed reluctant to knuckle down with any enthusiasm to the task at hand, ultimately being run out of third by Jam Session. The latter will benefit from a step up in trip or a track that puts a greater emphasis on stamina.

Theos Charm was making his chasing debut in the novice chase that followed at 1pm. With the two mile trip always going to be an insufficient test of his stamina, he set a brisk gallop out in front and jumped very well on his first attempt over the larger obstacles. Tracked by market rival Theinval throughout the early stages, Theos Charm tried to get away rounding the home bend but Theinval was able to draw upsides at the second last and just nudged ahead at the final fence before pulling clear under a drive to win driven out by two lengths. Both horses come out of the race with great credit but I am inclined to think that there is much more to come from Theos Charm when a greater emphasis is placed on stamina.

No Comment has been progressing nicely as a novice hurdler, improving his hurdling technique with every run and did so again in the 2m4f novice hurdle as he travelled sweetly before drawing nicely clear to win decisively from a couple of nice prospects. Before the race it had looked as if No Comment was a little further ahead of his rivals in terms of experience. With that in mind the efforts of Stowaway Magic and Potters Approach should be marked up and both look capable of winning races this season. This did not look a bad race at all for its kind and the Jevington trainer Anna Newton-Smith was delighted with the fourth placed finish of her mare Margot Fontane. She featured prominently in the contest until getting outpaced by the front three rounding the home bend. Knuckling down to the task in hand as they ran up the home straight she closed on the leaders all the way to the line and should be noted for a novice event in Sussex between two and a half and three miles in the weeks and months ahead.

The staying handicap chase was turned into a rout by the Colin Tizzard trained Sartorial Elegance who relished the step up to three miles plus and had the race in the bag from a long way out. Jumping well in front, the five year old’s pedigree (from the family of Earthstopper) had strongly suggested staying would be his game and so it proved to be. It would be no surprise to see him turned out quickly to take advantage of what is obviously a lenient handicap mark at present. Tothemoonandback was ultimately well beaten but showed here that trainer Gary Moore is getting him back on track and he can find a similar contest in the fullness of time.

The staying handicap hurdle was taken in good style by Drive On Locky under a well-judged ride from Brendan Powell. Travelling sweetly behind the leaders, he was eased into a more challenging position as the field approached the third last and allowed to fill up around the home bend before being given the off as they ran toward the second last flight. Ridden between the final two hurdles, Drive On Locky maintained a couple of lengths in hand of his nearest pursuer as the lack of a recent run started to show, but he maintained his advantage with a degree of comfort to ultimately score by a length and a half from long-time leader Jappeloup. Drive On Locky can progress from this outing but possibly will not appreciate too much more cut in the ground.

Miss Oscarose justified strong market support throughout the day to take the 2m4f handicap chase by eight lengths. The race changed dramatically at the second last when Tikkapick crashed out when still in front and although he had not sealed the contest he looked sure to be involved. However, Miss Oscarose asserted her superiority running to the last and took advantage of her stable’s good recent form and a falling handicap mark. Of the others, Hit The Headlines and Goring Two look to have attitude issues whilst Cor What An Apple would have finished closer if he hadn’t belted the third last. Good ground and a drop back in trip should help this relatively inexperienced chaser. Tikkapick will be given another chance in this grade by many but this was a very modest event.

Shimba Hills built on his placed effort at the last meeting here with a decisive success to claim the closing handicap hurdle. The five year old, travelled well in midfield before being produced on the run to the final flight and asserting on the run in. He can continue to progress and has a good attitude. Sir Hubert ran a nice race once gain for his owner Captain Adrian Pratt and can hopefully find a similar race whilst top weight Magnus Romeo travelled well into the race but could not cope with the ground as well as his rivals. He can be given another chance on better ground.

28th November 2016

The going was officially good to soft with going stick readings on the day of 7.3 on the hurdles track and 7.4 on the chase course. A sunny afternoon and a strong north easterly probably dried the course out a touch more and race times suggest the going was nearer to good ground.

The opening novice hurdle saw a very encouraging performance from River Frost as he quickened up nicely after travelling and jumping well throughout the two mile contest. Low sun meant the hurdles in the straight were omitted. Dan Horsfield, assistant to winning trainer Alan King, was very pleased with the progression shown by River Frost from his debut at Huntingdon and suggested that the four year old was amongst the nicer novice hurdlers in the yard. Make no mistake, this was a not a hot contest and other than the runner up Burrows Park, who was the only rival to get anywhere near the winner, the others look to have work to do to find winning opportunities in novice company.

Top Notch allayed any concerns about the ground being too quick with an impressive front running performance to win the 2m1f novices chase in ready fashion. The performance of the former Triumph Hurdle runner up and Champion Hurdle sixth was particularly notable for the clean and accurate jumping he produced. On just one occasion when he got in a little close down the back straight he shortened well and showed great dexterity. With softer ground he can progress again and looks graded material which gives his trainer Nicky Henderson a strong hand at this early stage with Altior also in the team. Roman De Senam ran with great credit on his seasonal and chase debut for Paul Nicholls and will surely pick up good prizes in this sphere and when Overtown Express sees a little more cut in the ground and a step up in trip he will be placed to good advantage by his shrewd team. A very good novice chase for the track and proves the value of the £60,000 Cheltenham Bonus.

The complexion of the mares handicap hurdle changed markedly with a circuit to race when the strong travelling favourite Very Extravagant departed after a fall. Seemingly none the worse there will be other days for her but it was Tambura who rallied bravely to take the spoils in a tight finish. Concerns about the ground were wiped away by the mares’ performance here and she clung onto her advantage from the closing Theatre Goer to win by a diminishing neck. A rise in the weights will not make life easy but if placed well Tambura could find another handicap back on soft ground.

Ding Ding was an impressive winner at the last meeting and many felt that the 8lb rise afforded her by the handicapper was very fair. That proved to be the case as the five year old daughter of Winker Watson bounded away from her rivals on the run in to win the 2m handicap hurdle with something in hand. Obviously well suited by the decent ground, it will not be a surprise to see her turned out again in the next couple of weeks whilst the ground remains dry. The turn of foot she is showing in this grade will make her a tough opponent in contests of this nature and even off a light weight slightly up in grade, but I would emphasise that the ground is key.

I was concerned before the staying handicap chase that the ground may not best serve Yukon Delta on his return to chasing and despite running very well he could finish only a close up third and my interpretation is that he will benefit from a return to proper winter ground. Water Wagtail took the spoils on this occasion and is another who could be said to be a little better for softer underfoot conditions. He jumped well and eked out a lead up the home straight that he was able to maintain after a good accurate leap at the final fence. He is quite well exposed so whether he can defy a weight rise is a matter of conjecture. What is clear from this race is that Itoldyou is becoming an increasingly tricky ride. He was never easy and here did little to assist conditional Tommy Dowling who I thought did everything he could to get the 10 year old motivated. Ultimately runner up here, with  a little more willing he would surely have won quite comfortably off what is now a very workable handicap mark.

Regular readers will know that I believe the bumpers here are very tricky to read but we did appear to see a nice type in the Harry Fry trained If The Cap Fits. He quickly put this contest to bed on ground that his pedigree suggested would suit. Sussex trainer Nick Gifford was also delighted with the effort of Puppet Warrior who came home second on his debut.

14th November 2016

A heavy morning dew and a short, sharp shower before racing did not affect the going description of good with good to soft places for Pompadour Race Day with going stick measurements of 7.1 for the hurdles track and 7.2 for the chase course aligning with the official report from clerk of the course Mark Cornford.

The opening novice hurdle was certainly an eventful affair with Black Caesar crashing out at the first hurdle on his jumping debut before causing mayhem at the next and bringing down three of his rivals in the melee that ensued. Citrus avoided the mayhem and led from that point onwards and after seeing off the challenge of the heavily supported favourite Boudry before the second last had just about enough in hand to hang onto his lead from the fast finishing racecourse debutant Bubsy Burbridge. Citrus at last showed some of the potential that persuaded the David Pipe team to bring him over from France and enhanced the trainer’s excellent record here at Plumpton. The horse to take from the race however was certainly Bubsy Burbridge who is trained by Neil Mulholland. The trainer has developed a number of the family with success and this home bred individual looks a chaser in the making and considering his inexperience should extend his families winning record in the fullness of time, probably over a stiffer trip or track. Boudry was very disappointing, galloping in a very ungainly fashion and not looking to have progressed from last season.

The novice chase saw the market principals Baron Alco and Wishing And Hoping duel for over a circuit at a very decent pace until the latter clipped the top of the first in the back straight on the final circuit and hit the deck. This left Baron Alco clear to come home in his own time and whilst Jamie Moore did not sound 100% happy with the horse in his post race review, this was a good piece of experience for the promising five year old. It also suggested that there is more expected of him and trainer Gary Moore also suggested that he believed the horse would improve on his hurdles form now switched to fences. Coole Charmer came home in a distant second but is a good type and will build on this before eventually being switched to staying handicaps in the fullness of time. Supporters of Wishing And Hoping should not be too disgruntled as this was a typically novicey error and he should pick up races judged on the way he travelled and jumped until he departed.

Eight of the nine sent to post for the handicap hurdle over an extended 2m1f were trained in Sussex and Sheena West claimed the bragging rights as her Ding Ding ended up winning decisively. Battling away tenaciously when looking to hang onto the leaders, the Marc Goldstein ridden mare ground her way to the front off the home bend and the previously strong travelling Sir Hubert was unable to find the response required to get back to her and eventually weakened quite disappointingly to come home only third. Modest form overall but the winner should be competitive under a penalty possibly on a stiffer track. Sea The Springs filled second place and could improve with a step up in trip to win a similarly low grade contest.

The amateur riders event saw the in form Earls Fort comfortably register a hat trick and cement a good day for the team of Neil Mulholland, who whilst this was his only winner would have garnered great encouragement for the future of his other two representatives on the card. The only other notable performance in the race came from Letemgo who raced up the straight to take second after being in a hopeless position leaving the back straight. Trainer Chris Gordon should bring him on from this and place him to advantage in the coming weeks. Earls Fort still looks an individual that can be competitive in this grade after the handicapper has reassessed him.

Minella On Line made it three wins in this race for trainer Oliver Sherwood on his debut for the yard since leaving Rebecca Curtis. Not always inspiring with his jumping he was one of a number who have fallen markedly in the handicap and was produced in good condition to win this contest, looking stronger as the race went on. He will be placed to best advantage by his wily trainer and his confidence will have been boosted by this experience and who’s to say he cannot start to finally fulfil some of the potential he showed earlier in his career. Of the others, Like Sully showed promise on his return and may be able to find a race off of this mark whilst a number of the others are looking as though their best years maybe behind them.

The closing bumper went to the Sussex yard of Nick Gifford with his Shantou gelding The Mighty Don who stuck doggedly to the task to repel the late thrust of Count Meribel. The form previously shown by the runner up suggests this race has its ceiling in terms of quality but as ever with Plumpton bumpers the form could well prove very misleading. The Mighty Don looks a good sort and another who caught the eye prior to the race Im Still Waiting could prove a useful type in the fullness of time.


31st October 2016

On the final day of October, the weather was dry and bright with light winds prevailing. The second meeting of the month took place on good watered ground. The track had a lush covering of grass and gave going stick readings of 7.6 on the hurdles track and 7.7 on the chase course.

Concerns about the suitability of the trip for Graasten did not deter punters from making him a strong odds on favourite for the opening maiden hurdle and they were proved correct as under a front running ride from Jamie Moore the four year old ground out a three length success. They went a very good pace throughout and after stealing a handy lead on the home bend, Graasten was able to maintain his advantage to the line. Alberta stayed on from off the pace to lay down the final challenge to the winner and had every chance at the last. Ultimately he was outstayed by Graasten and this success underlines the fact that the Moore yard is now hitting full stride.  This horse has potential at a reasonable level to progress with a longer trip or stiffer track and some more juice in the ground.

The mares hurdle went to the most interesting runner on the entire card, that being Queens Present. By the quality sire Presenting out of a winning full sister to Kicking King, it was all a matter of how the mare took to the game and how ready she was over what will ultimately prove to be an inadequate trip. Hurdling well in midfield, she responded to pressure leaving the back straight to really knuckle down in the home straight and deny the odds on favourite Queens Well by three quarters of a length. Connections stated she will stay over hurdles for the time being but that they see her potential being fulfilled over fences. Queens Present certainly has the size and scope to jump a fence and it will be interesting to follow her progression. Queens Well ran a nice race and probably will enjoy a step up in trip as well and time may show this was an effort of some merit. Two mares to follow in their class.

A typically eventful staying handicap chase at Plumpton saw the long time leader Bennys Girl crash out at the fourth last when still holding a couple of lengths lead from the strong travelling Dawnieriver. The two were clear of their field at the time, which had already seen a number of casualties. Dawnieriver ultimately went on to score by a very wide margin, making it a hat trick of wins in the process and continuing the impressive strike rate of his trainer Michael Scudamore from a limited number of runners (5 from last 12 runners now). This was not the deepest race you will ever see but this good looking mare is definitely a completely different proposition these days and will be well placed by her shrewd handler.

Guards Chapel raced into the lead rounding the home bend in the 2m4f handicap hurdle and this decisive move quickly settled the race as a contest. An exposed eight year old he represented the leading course trainer Gary Moore and he comfortably beat a field of moderate or disappointing types. Snippetydoodah tried to make most of the running and gave his running to clalm second whilst another creditable effort was forthcoming from Mount Vesuvius who came home third. Form representative of the grade and life may be tougher for the winner should the handicapper take the seven length success too literally.

Spock made all the running to win the 2m4f handicap chase by just a head from the favourite Shows Over. He fended off the challenge of the Tim Vaughan trained favourite from before the final fence and hung on gamely. Two good jumps at the final two fences were the difference and Spock was given another nice ride by Lorna Brooke. Shows Over was unable to break a lamentable record here for his trainer but ran with credit and can find a race of this nature in his turn.

They went a good pace on the ground in the final handicap hurdle and Harry Cobden patiently held up the eventual winner John Biscuit in rear. He brought him through with a beautifully timed challenge at the last before urging him to the front half way up the run in to claim Hermosa Vaquero. The latter had taken the lead travelling well rounding the home bend.  However, when the challenge of John Biscuit arrived he had nothing left to offer. A good performance from the eight year old John Biscuit who may well be turned out again quickly after this success.


17th October 2016 – Moorcroft

After 9mm of rain over the weekend a further 3mm fell early on race day and the going description was changed by the clerk of the course Mark Cornford to good on both courses. A bright and sunny start to the afternoon prevailed throughout with a light breeze blowing across the course.
The opening maiden hurdle saw good support for the Gary Moore trained Graasten who was backed into favouritism as the morning market leader Blue Surf drifted. However, the race itself saw the market misplaced as Blue Surf managed to grind out a narrow success from Djarkalin with Graasten a close up third. The Amanda Perrett trained winner was not convincing with his hurdling but had enough about him to battle back past Djarkalin who had led at the final flight. Graasten was off the bridle rounding the home bend and lost some valuable ground to his rivals but stayed on resolutely after the final flight. He could benefit from a little more give in the ground. This was a nice race for the track and the front three all look reasonable novices who should be placed to advantage away from the bigger stages. Lithic was held up and never really put in the race, trailing home in midfield. On pedigree and appearance he should have more to offer and this experience should benefit him long term whilst Cashanova displayed some ability and has always been well regarded by his trainer. Ravenous managed to steal a long lead as the tapes went up and was not headed until approaching the penultimate hurdle.
Unify showed his usual resolute attitude in an attempt to defy his revised mark in the 2m3f handicap chase for the Josh Gifford Memorial Trophy. Despite fighting his way back to the front after being headed with a circuit to run, the six year old was ultimately defeated by the weight as he was headed at the second last by Code Of Law. The Neil Mulholland gelding looked set to go on and take the spoils but did not look too happy being in front and he himself was eventually picked off on the run in by top weight Olivers Hill who was produced with a nice run by Nick Schofield. Subsequently his trainer Lawney Hill revealed that Olivers Hill was not the most resolute and was given the ideal ride. The winner has an inconsistent profile and everything fell just right for him today.
Austin Friars finally came good for the Lewes based Jim Best stable in the 2m handicap hurdle but that had not looked likely passing the stands for the first time. Out the back and off the bridle, his rider Brendan Powell kept him in touch and was rewarded for his efforts as the horse started to respond to continued pressure as the field rounded the home bend. Long time leader Executive Prince had blundered at the third last which compromised his chance and he and Bolister were flat to the boards in front exiting the home bend. Goodwood Moonlight travelled strongly into the contest and looked set to play a big part entering the straight but then Austin Friars arrived and went on between the final two filghts before clearing away to win decisively as Goodwood Moonlight found disappointingly little fading into third. Bolister plugged on resolutely to claim second and now looks exposed.
The reappearance of the Gary Moore trained Remind Me Later caught many peoples eye for the feature race of the day, the 2m4f novices handicap chase. Returning to the track after an absence of nearly a year, the son of Zerpour proved a little ring rusty in the race itself and after tracking the leader Mercers Court was brought to challenge exiting the home bend. In front at the second last, his lack of a recent outing began to tell and he weakened before the final fence to eventually come home third of three. Potentially unsuited by the sharp track it would be folly to write off the young chaser and the winner Mercers Court was winning for the fourth time in seven starts over fences. He sets a good standard and is a credit to his connections, performing with great consistency on the track. This win may well make him a little vulnerable in handicaps but he will be well placed by his astute trainer. Jarlath took second and put in another creditable effort,
The staying handicap hurdle over nearly three miles and a furlong saw Kamool crash out at an early stage and with front running Inidan Rupee dropping out tamely with a circuit to run, Unanimitie improved David Pipes excellent course record with a facile success. This was ultimately a schooling round for the five year old and whether he can progress from this in the hustle and bustle of a competitive handicap hurdle remains to be seen. Royal Battalion plugged on for second place and this race was disappointing as a spectacle and for the sad loss of Kamool.
In the novices handicap chase over 2m1f, Robert Walford embellished his already impressive course record with the very well backed Mr Medic. The transition to fences worked a treat for the five year old son of Dr Massini who relished the decent ground, something he never really encountered in a short if uninspiring career over hurdles. He travelled strongly, jumped well and fended off his rivals to win decisively. The favourite Chakisto also travelled and jumped well until the second last where he was produced to challenge by Richard Johnson, but the Tim Vaughan runner found disappointingly little when push came to shove. Flashman was ridden prominently throughout and kept on willingly to claim second.
In the concluding two and a half mile handicap hurdle, the odds on favourite Oskars Eva was denied a second consecutive victory when he was grabbed on the line by the Gary Moore trained Yukon Delta. A fine ride by Joshua Moore saw his mount rally bravely on the run in to claim the equally well ridden favourite on the post. Back in third was Generous Jack who looked no easier a ride for the application of a visor. Some of my colleagues suggested that George Blackwell may not be that popular for having been claimed on the line but in my opinion he gave his mount every chance under a big weight and it is no slur on his reputation that he could not repel the fine ride produced by a very high quality and far more experienced pilot.


18th September – Family day
A warm and sunny afternoon on which to welcome back racing to Plumpton. There was a good covering of grass on the course to give a good cushion to the good to firm ground on which they raced. Common bends were in place and the going stick provided readings of 8.4 on the hurdles track and 8.7 on the chase course.

The opening novice hurdle was contested by just three runners after two late defections and whilst it was not the most competitive race we will enjoy this season it certainly provided an uplifting story. After suffering horrendous injuries in a fall back in April, jockey Tommy Dowling returned to action aboard Baltic Storm. The combination recorded a facile success after taking up the running with three to jump and pulling clear thereafter. This will have provided a great boost to Dowling, whom it was initially feared may never ride competitively again. The only disappointment for the winning team was that Baltic Storm struck into himself during the race and could not return to the winner’s enclosure. The injury was not thought to be serious.

The second race of the afternoon saw six runners go to post for a competitive handicap hurdle over two miles. The consistent Irish based mare Colla Pier had the race run to suit her and jockey Robert Dunne was able to deliver her approaching the final flight after having sat off of the quick pace at the rear of the field. She put her seal on the contest quickly after the last. If the strongly supported runner up Royal Irish Hussar had jumped with any alacrity and shown a more willing attitude perhaps the result here may have been different. His hurdling was indifferent throughout and his attitude now has to be firmly questioned as he appeared to be hanging and carrying his head awkwardly at various points of the race. Regulation was right in the firing line at the final flight but his saddle slipped at that point and his rider lost his irons which ended any pretensions he had to winning the race. Brotherly Company produced another disappointing effort here and does not appear to be progressing.

The staying handicap chase at three o’clock provided a welcome return to form for top weight Take A Bow. The Lawney Hill trained seven year old kept plugging away as others around him wilted and it was undoubtedly his stamina that won him the day here. The son of Norse Dancer loved the quick ground and won by seven lengths from Golanova who plugged on from the rear to pick up weakening rivals and claim the runner up spot. Despite having been absent for over eleven months and stepping up in considerably in trip, Mr Burgees was very well supported to win this but after moving into a challenging position he  quickly wilted from the home turn. He loves this type of ground and whether it was stamina, fitness or a combination of both that saw his effort fizzle out up the home straight I do not know. The time of this race was the slowest of the day by some way and emphasises that this was not form that is likely to throw up a bunch of subsequent winners.

The juvenile hurdle produced a terrific ride from Joshua Moore to somehow win on the hurdling debutant East Indies. The progeny of Authorised are noted for having a few quirks and East Indies certainly has a few at present. He pulled like a train as the field set off on their two mile journey so much so that Moore was forced to let him have his head. It was not until they reached the top bend that Moore was able to get a breather into his partner before asking him to quicken as they ran down the hill into the back straight for the final time. Moore got another breather into his mount on the home turn as he was joined by the well supported Ahraam. Having been headed, East Indies and his pilot somehow managed to find enough reserves to force his head back in front on the run in and narrowly claim the prize. East Indies was not cheap at £31,000 from Godolphin and if Gary Moore is to get that outlay back he has a bit of work to do with this juvenile. Ahraam was much inferior to the winner on the flat and ran with credit whilst Jim Dandy is starting to look very expensive to his connections now after failing to ever land a blow. Moderate form at best.

A quartet of runners went to post for the staying handicap hurdle at four o’clock with the top weight Knight Bachelor looking to land a four timer. He made a bold bid from the front under Gavin Sheehan, who set decent fractions on the Greatrex trained six year old. The gelding certainly could not have been said to have failed for stamina but he did not seem to improve for the step up to this trip. He gave his all and has an admirable attitude but was quite easily picked off by Listen And Learn who went on to score a cosy victory. The Jonjo O’Neill trained runner could not have been said to be well handicapped prior to the race and this first win in two years looks to put a reliable peg on the standard of this contest. Knight Bachelor hung on bravely for second with Volcanic and Mercers Court close up behind him.

Little Windmill finally lost his maiden tag when taking the novices handicap chase over just shy of two and a half miles. This however looked somewhat unlikely when after having been in front throughout he was headed rounding the home bend by the strong travelling On Your Max. When On Your Max went clear approaching the penultimate fence the contest looked over. The Phil York trained runner jumped out to his right there and seemed to lose concentration approaching the final fence where he wandered before  idling on the run in to allow Little Windmill to get up on the post and snatch success by a short head. Victory at the twenty second attempt will have delighted connections but they will be aware that the second threw this away. Empty The Tank was in a well held third when departing at the last and will appreciate a drop back to two miles although he appeared beaten before stamina became an issue and the switch to fences does not seem to have elicited improvement from the gelding.

Sustained support came throughout the day for the Neil Mulholland trained Zarliman in the concluding two mile handicap hurdle and continued on course. Ridden far more prominently on this occasion, he was sent to the front at the second last and had seen off all bar the top weight Osgood approaching the final flight. The Gary Moore trained nine year old led narrowly early on the run in and despite his conditional dropping the reins, maintained that advantage to win a cracking finish by a neck. With the consistent Mount Vesuvius nearly four lengths further back in third, this looks decent form for the grade. Osgood has won nine times under both codes for the yard and has been lightly raced since winning off this same mark in August of last year. Connections of Zarliman will be disappointed to have been so narrowly denied but he should find a race of a similar nature some time soon.