Preview for Ladies Day, Sunday 14th May

Ladies Day will round off the season at Plumpton with the first race on a very popular race day scheduled to get underway at 2.15pm. A little rain in the days leading up to the meeting has helped the clerk of the course, but the going forecast remains on the quick side as good to firm with good places. The going stick readings are 8.4 for the hurdles track and 8.5 for the chase course and despite another 6mm of watering to the course on the eve of racing and a forecast that includes a little more rain in the early hours of race day itself, the going description is very unlikely to change.

The feature event on the card takes place at 4.15 and is a Class 3 handicap hurdle over an extended two and a half miles and is restricted to conditional riders only. The eight contestants that make up a competitive looking race for the £10,000 in added prize money are headed by the mare Miss Crick. She had a very successful summer in 2016 and has been quite highly tried in recent outings. Her stable has an excellent record here and Alan King has employed the services of his claimer Kevin Dowling very well in his short association with the yard. They have a 21% strike rate together. Miss Crick ran with some promise on her last outing after a change in tactics was employed. If given a more forward ride here and with the forecast conditions looking ideal, I expect the six-year-old mare to prove a tough nut to crack on this drop back in grade.  Sunnytahliategan has returned after a break to win two races in good style and although suitably punished by the handicapper for those successes the five year old does not look out of place on this step up in class. Indeed he has previously seen off some of today’s rivals and looks set to do so again here despite the rise. With a strong pace it is quite easy to see him proving very competitive and continuing the recent good form of the yard. Ding Ding is something of a standing dish around here and has shown a great attitude in winning three times at the track. I do worry that even taking into account a 2lb drop in the ratings, she might be rated beyond her capabilities at this trip in what looks a competitive event for the grade. A switch from Skelton to Henderson has not yet reaped dividends for the connections of Baratineur who continues to show flickers of potential off of marks around his current rating but does seem to disappoint when the gun is put to his head. I would pass on him until he shows me he wants to win and of the others I See You Well is a four year old who cost a tidy sum and has been highly tried whilst a few of these have ground to find on Prouts Pub who seemed to improve for the blinkers last time. In summary, I really like the chance of Miss Crick who I feel could continue to improve throughout the summer with the unpronounceable Ian Williams runner looking the principal danger.

The maiden hurdle over just shy of two miles that will open the card looks on paper to be at the mercy of the leading course trainer Gary Moore and his declaration Knocknanuss. A six figure purchase in Ireland after winning a point to point, the son of Beneficial then went on to show promise in a couple of warm Irish bumpers, registering a win and a second in the process. The only concern for the horse here is that all happened back in 2015 and the seven-year-old has not been seen on the track ever since. A paddock check and a look at the market are necessities before supporting Knocknanuss here. Of the others, Rasasee may prove best of an ordinary looking bunch if he sharpens his hurdling up from his debut at Ludlow where he was decidedly shoddy.

The staying handicap hurdle at 2.45 looks a real conundrum with a number of the runners having questions to answer. Romeo Americo was a popular winner here earlier in the campaign but is now vulnerable against a slightly better grade of individual. Phare Isle heads the weights and is in good form at present after winning narrowly last time. He definitely has the credentials to run well here as he has previously won in much better company. He is, however, twelve years old and had been out of form for a very long time prior to his two most recent outings.  Jamie Snowden is represented by an unexposed individual in Olivers Island and in a tricky event I will take a sporting chance with him at what should be a good price. His pedigree suggests the marked step up in trip should suit and there have been inklings of ability. I also thoroughly respect the stable, know the jockey is capable and this unexposed type could exploit a mark which looks feasible.

At 3.15, the staying handicap chase will take place and is another contest that looks wide open. It is interesting to see course winner Killabraher Cross stepped up markedly in trip. A dual point winner over three miles it is not unreasonable to suggest that this test of stamina will prove to his liking and off a mark a stone below that of his last win he looks as good an option as any in a modest race where the majority are fully exposed.

It will be fascinating to see if the in-form yard of Dan Skelton can transform the 41 race maiden Too Many Diamonds into a winner when the six year old makes his stable debut in the two mile handicap hurdle at 3.45. Good luck to connections in that endeavour but personally I feel that this prize is at the mercy of course and distance winner Osgood. Four pounds below the mark that saw him win over course and distance back in November of last year, surely the only concern here is the missing visor in which he recorded that success and his three other most recent wins. Osgood is also significantly better off with Taurian on their form at Taunton recently. The latter would be the alternative should the lack of headgear on Osgood compromise his performance.

Little Windmill has won three of his last five starts and continues to give connections a lot of fun. However, he was in the process of being put firmly in his place before unseating on his last outing here at the Easter Festival by another of today’s rivals Perfect Timing. That race did come 24 hours after winning on the opening day of the Easter Festival and connections appear to be banking that the race came too soon and that the revised weights will help to bring about a performance that can see Little Windmill reverse form with Perfect Timing when they clash again in the 4.45. Conditions will be very similar and it is not a forlorn hope but personally I feel that Perfect Timing has more in his locker and can resist his rival once again. Of the others, Jay Are has been off for a long time and the market should prove a guide whilst Gary Moore’s other runner Gores Island does not seem to enjoy being in front and whilst he has a consistent profile is not one to trust to put his head down in a finish. Kingston appeared to improve for the better ground on his last outing and looks the principal danger to Perfect Timing. He was initially tried in some fair races before that and there could be more to come but with his revised rating and his stable out of form, I will stick with the proven track record of the selection Perfect Timing.

The bumper that will conclude the card and racing at Plumpton until September will see the market as probably the best guide. Despite the forecast quick ground, stamina will be important to these young horses and the pedigree of Rebel Commander suggests he should have plenty of that. Wakiki Waves was a bit disappointing at Fontwell on debut for Gary Moore whilst Cintex was not cheap at the sales and East Wing hails from a yard that should always be respected. A very tentative suggestion is Rebel Commander, but that may change after we see them in the paddock and take in the market messages.

Preview for Easter Monday 17th April

The second day of the two-day Easter Festival here at Plumpton offers a seven race card for the holiday crowd to enjoy and despite some relatively small fields the afternoon looks set to produce some entertaining fare. The going is once again likely to be on the firm side of good. The clerk of the course, Mark Cornford, has done everything in his power to ensure safe racing ground and the course looked in good condition on day one, with an excellent covering of grass across the whole track. It would be no surprise however, if the going stick reports of 8.5 on the hurdles course and 8.7 on the chase course were to increase a touch for day two.

The opening race features the smallest field of the day with just two runners going to post for the staying handicap chase over an extended 3m1f. Miss Oscarose is now just a pound above her last winning mark and has a course success to her name. If the contest should become a game of cat and mouse with sole rival Flugzueg one could see her out speeding that rival in the run to the line. However, with Flugzueg also having winning form at the course and distance the alternative view of him grinding his rival into submission also has some credence. This race looks something of a toss of a coin.

A juvenile hurdle over two miles presents us with our next conundrum but I am confident that Neil Mulholland can taste success with Most Celebrated. The four-year-old son of New Approach has won just one of his four hurdles to date, coming up just short against some above average individuals on his last three outings. This contest looks an ideal confidence booster before embarking on his summer holidays. Of his rivals, Masterson has not yet looked to have improved for hurdles in four starts over timber whilst East Indies has a course success to his name and appears to be relaxing a little more in his races recently.

Despite a field of only four contesting the near 2m4f handicap chase it looks quite a competitive event. Perfect Timing returns after a mid-winter break and will look to build on a ready success when last seen at Huntingdon in October. The nine-year-old gelding should be ideally suited by going and trip. If ready for this return he can play a major part with the Paul Webber trained Lemons Gent likely to prove his principal rival. Connections will be hoping a little improvement can be gleaned from the slight change in headgear, as the gelding has found marks around his current level beyond him in his recent outings. Little Windmill is set to return after yesterday’s success and will be popular for that very reason. This looks a slightly stronger contest and whilst respected this may prove just beyond him, especially if Perfect Timing arrives tuned up after his break.

The handicap hurdle over nearly 2m5f has Holbrook Park at the head of the weights. He has been struggling to get his head in front of this mark for a few runs now. He is now at a weight advantage with Ding Ding behind, whom he finished over course and distance in February. The pair look closely matched now, although the better ground they will encounter here may allow Ding Ding to come out on top. However, leading course trainer Gary Moore has good lines of form on both and it would be no surprise to see one of his two representatives come out on top. My preference is for Ryeolliean who I feel the yard have always thought to be capable of more than he has achieved to this point on the track. The market will be a sound pointer but I expect to see the Moore stable take this prize.

The 2m1f handicap chase is another contest that despite its field of just four looks a competitive event. Top weight Pearls Legend is slipping in the weights and it would not be a surprise to see him bounce back. Lou Vert was very much in the contest when coming down at Wincanton on his last outing whilst Starkie has been gradually reclimbing the weights this season. I very much hope Lou Vert will put the disappointment of Wincanton behind him.

The novices handicap hurdle over nearly 2m2f provides the biggest field of the day. Gary Moore has three entries of which Bolister looks the pick and perhaps the break he has enjoyed will see him return in good enough form to win this open contest.  The concluding staying handicap hurdle could make it a really good end to the two days here for Gary Moore as I foresee his Yukon Delta gaining recompense for his mishap last time.

Preview for Easter Sunday 16th April

The going report issued on the eve of the opening day of the two day Easter Festival here at Plumpton read ‘Good to Firm with Good places’ with going stick readings of 8.5 on the hurdles track and 8.8 on the chase course. The clerk of the course Mark Cornford has watered the course every day for over a week and the track has a good covering of grass. However, he believes that come the start of racing the course is very likely to ride good to firm all over.

The feature event on the opening day is the Sussex Champion Hurdle, a valuable handicap that has attracted a number of powerful stables in search of some very good prize money. It is also a very tricky puzzle to solve. The fourth placed finish of Song Light in this year’s renewal of the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle looks the best individual piece of form on offer but there are concerns over whether the quick ground will suit off of a handicap mark that allows the six year old little leeway. However, it is his first drop into this grade over hurdles since running a close up third in this event two years ago and I would place him on the shortlist along with top weight Tommy Silver. The Paul Nicholls trained five year old was out of sorts in decent company during the autumn before returning to win at Taunton and then taking in the Cheltenham Festival. The drop back in trip could suit and if things do not happen too quickly he is another worthy of respect. It is interesting that the hood is removed from Regulation for this contest. He has disappointed the last twice but that has led to a drop in the weights for him. He will relish conditions and is now back on a mark that is below his last winning effort. Excellent Team is another sure to relish conditions and comes after a good win. He has also had a good break through the winter and although it is difficult to know how well handicapped he is based on what we have seen, it is not inconceivable that he will feature on this step up in grade. I found this a very tough race to solve and look forward to enjoying what should prove to be an exciting racing spectacle whilst looking for value in the market from those horse mentioned to reward any cautious investments.

The opening novice hurdle at 2.05 seems to provide a good opportunity for Our Reward to get back to winning ways. He enjoys a quick surface and this looks his easiest opportunity for a while. I expect the seven year old to pop out in front and with his principal rival looking to be the seemingly regressive Peak To Peak, I believe he will prove tough to catch. Trainer Jamie Snowden has his team in good form and the five pound claim of conditional rider William Featherstone, who has won on him before, will also come in handy.

The handicap chase over just shy of 2m4f at 2.35 looks quite a competitive event of its type. I was keen on Remember Forever when he unseated here in March but he quickly put that disappointment behind him when winning at Fontwell recently. Up in the weights he has his chance here as does Code Of Law who was well fancied at the last meeting before crashing out after a circuit. However, trainer David Bridgwater has an excellent record with his chasers here at Plumpton and has Lakeshore Lady entered on the back of a good win at Fontwell last week. Scheduled to run under a seven pound penalty, Bridgwater has booked claimer Mitchell Bastiyan to negate the claim and the conditional has three successes over fences to his name. I am wary of Remember Forever but believe Bridgwater can once again weave his Plumpton magic.

Three of the five field for the 2m1f handicap chase are debutants over the larger obstacles. Flashman has winning course and distance form and should be suited by the forecast ground. He comes into the race on the back of a win here and represents the leading course trainer in Gary Moore. The only blemish on his CV for this contest is the welter burden of weight he is asked to carry. However, on what we have seen under either code for these runners, Flashman is the clean simple choice.

Rumours at one time suggested that Bardd could be a very good novice hurdler this season for the powerful yard of Nicky Henderson, so the fact he is entered in the maiden hurdle here over 2m at 4.20 must be a disappointment to his connections. The return to better ground should suit him and even on the form he has showed to date, it would be a big surprise were he not good enough to finally break his maiden over timber in this contest.

The staying handicap chase over 3m1f at 4.55 is for novices and has attracted a field of five. Little Windmill has won two of his last three but did not enjoy his last visit to the track when jumping very poorly and not appearing the most straightforward. If that proves to be just a blip then the seven year old can regain the winning thread here against some moderate rivals.

The concluding race on the card is a conditional jockeys’ event and I would suggest the top weighted Romeo Americo for trainer Seamus Mullins. He drops back in trip here and comes into the race in reasonable form. He has a very handy ten pound removed from his weight as Daniel Sansom takes the ride, a jockey who caught the eye when steering Chesterfield to victory in the final race at Aintree last Saturday. If the ground proves okay he should give everyone a run for their money.

Preview for Monday 27th March

Injured Jockeys Fund Race Day will provide a seven race card starting at 2pm and the meeting is likely to take place on ground which will be just on the quick side of good. On the eve of racing the clerk of the course Mark Cornford issued a going report of Good all over with going stick readings of 7.2 for the hurdles track and 7.3 for the chase course. However, with no rain forecast, sunny and relatively warm conditions highly likely to continue through to the meeting itself, Mark is certain that some good to firm places will appear on the track.

The feature event of the card is a Class 3 handicap hurdle with an excellent prize money fund of £16,000. Fourteen of have been declared for this extended 2m4f contest and it looks a highly competitive event of its kind with a number of stables that have enjoyed a strong season represented. Trainer Chris Gordon has been in outstanding form in recent weeks and is once again finishing the season strongly. His King Uther is lightly raced for a seven year old and has a very good attitude to the game. He received a great ride from Tom Cannon to snatch a win that looked unlikely for the majority of the race at Lingfield last time out. The partnership renew their acquaintance here and appear feasibly handicapped. I am a little concerned that the combination of the sharp track and good ground may catch him out but he represents an in form team, is improving and is worthy of respect here. Lewes trainer Suzy Smith has entered Clondaw Bisto who has a win at the course to his name in a bumper but who has yet to score in five hurdles outings. Indeed she has form with King Uther that suggests they will be in close proximity to each other. Whether the ground will be ideal for Clondaw Bisto is again open to speculation. Beggars Wishes has been transformed in two handicap victories since returning from a break. Both wins came with plenty in reserve.  This step up in grade and trip will present new questions for him to answer but will be acclaimed as a beautiful piece of placement by trainer Bowen should it come off. With a pedigree that strongly suggests the change in ground and trip should be no problem, the six year old looks a real player here especially with the booking of leading course jockey Jamie Moore another positive. There are a number of individuals that could find some improvement for their good yards and include Groundunderrepair, Hadfield and Beau Du Brizais. They will have their supporters but I am keen to latch onto the ascendant profile of Beggars Wishes and recommend him strongly.

The opening contest is a maiden hurdle over just shy of two miles and the Greatrex trained Little Chunk will be at the head of the market after two very encouraging runs over hurdles. The form of each race has worked out nicely and this improving individual ticks a lot of the boxes here. The ground is the one issue and if a short price is offered that would be a major consideration for punters. For me he sets the benchmark but Plumpton’s perennial leading trainer Gary Moore has a more than useful recruit from the flat in his yard now in Ruwasi. He will relish the going and was given a very considerate introduction on his hurdling bow when showing promise behind two useful and reliable individuals at Kempton. The market will as ever be a good guide to the belief behind the Moore runner. Keep an eye on Legal OK who can progress in the weeks and months ahead but could find it a little difficult to cope with the aforementioned pair in this contest.

£10,000 is a very good prize for Class 4 handicappers to be competing for and the staying handicap chase at 2.30 offers the field the chance to do just that. Olivers Hill  was a winner here earlier in the campaign and loves better ground. Whether this is the trip for him must be open to question. Weisentraum also loves this ground and will get the trip but has shown nothing for a very long time. Turban was bought out of the Willie Mullins yard, but has showed little to me in his outings for Paul Henderson. However, this is a drop in grade and Henderson has a superb record with his chasers here at Plumpton. The booking of Brennan is also eyecatching. Hes A Bully is likely to head the market. I am concerned about his jumping and a little by his attitude.  In a trappy contest I feel the best option would be Turban to exploit the drop in grade.

The Class 5 handicap chase over just shy of 2m1f features Brother Bennett, a horse I have been watching for some time. With the ground now coming into his favour, this looks a decent opportunity for him to break his duck over fences. I think that he will appreciate further in time but from a very lenient mark he should be able to overcome the trip on this occasion. Flashman is top weight and looks the principle danger to the selection as he loves the ground and has solid form here in this type of contest.

The staying handicap hurdle over the best part of three miles and a furlong brings some old friends back to the track. Landscape was only just denied on this step up to course and distance last time and for much of the race travelled like the winner. The form looks very solid for the grade and with better ground conditions he could well be the one. The top weight Dragoon Guard takes a marked step up in trip and if it works the oracle he could be the principal danger for a yard that should always be noted.

In the conditional jockeys handicap chase I will side with the top weight Code Of Law. He emanates from a great yard, has a good youngster on board and the form of his course and distance effort here earlier in the campaign suggests he will be tough to beat. Kayflin switches back to fences and is feasibly handicapped and is rather exposed but looks the principal danger here.

The bumper that concludes the card will place the emphasis firmly on stamina for these youngsters even with the better ground expected. The extra two furlongs of Plumpton bumpers than you see at many courses really requires a predilection for stamina and looking at this field there are a few flat bred types that may fail on that score. Jubilympics is a tentative selection as he showed some promise in an all weather bumper at Lingfield, running on late. He hails from a good yard and the 5lb taken off by Kevin Jones is very handy. Others to note are the Suzy Smith trained Huntress who is certainly bred to want a lot further and the Diana Grissell pair Ballintara and Miss Malarky who also have staying pedigrees. The paddock will always prove a good guide in races of this type.

Preview for Monday 13th March

Anglo Irish Race Day is scheduled to take place at Plumpton tomorrow and the seven race card gets underway at 2pm with the gates opening at noon. Clerk of the Course Mark Cornford describes the going as ‘Soft with good to soft places’ and going stick readings on the eve of racing registering 6.0 on the hurdles track and 6.2 on the chase course. There is a little rain forecast during the evening prior to race day whilst the weather during the meeting itself is forecast to be bright and sunny with a light north westerly wind prevailing.

The opening novice hurdle may only have attracted a field of four but does include a couple of decent prospects that both have winning form to their name. Fountains Windfall won in a canter on very soft ground at Wincanton at the start of March and had previously run with great credit when placed in a highly competitive and valuable handicap at Sandown on his previous start. In terms of the bare form he is very much the one to beat here but the race is made very interesting by the presence of a relatively unexposed individual that we have yet to see the best of. Solighoster represents the excellent Neil Mulholland and this bumper winner has progressed to win his first two starts over hurdles in relatively moderate company. The five year old has done so without being challenged and it is thought by connections that this step up in trip will also benefit the gelding. The son of Loup Solitaire will learn a lot in this contest with Fountains Windfall and should be noted in the paddock but with the latter having the experience of Aidan Coleman on board and coming from a yard in fine form at present it is likely Solighoster will have to play second fiddle today. Whatever the outcome, two nice horses for Plumpton racegoers to enjoy.

The novices’ handicap chase at 2.30 features a rematch between Clonusker and Brice Canyon who were first and second respectively at the meeting here on February 13th. I had suggested Clonusker on his chase debut here in January when he jumped poorly before falling. Disenchanted with that performance I passed him over for the race in which he beat Brice Canyon comfortably! A typical scenario I am sure you have all experienced yourselves. Brice Canyon is 12lb better in for this rematch with Clonusker and that brings them quite close together here. However, I am going to oppose the pair with a Sussex trained horse that ran well twice earlier in the season behind what was then and may still prove to be a very well handicapped individual. Remember Forever is trained by Richard Rowe and his performances behind Mr Medic both here and at Lingfield were not without credit. Although disappointing on his last two outings, there are viable excuses for both performances and this looks a good opportunity for the seven year old.

The 2m1f handicap chase is another field of just four. Edgar is trained by David Bridgwater who has an excellent record here with his chasers. He is the only horse in the field to have won since 2014 but does have concerns at this trip on a relatively sharp track. The drying ground will be to his benefit but he does not appear to have much in hand of the handicapper at present. Trying to suggest which of his rivals will be able to take advantage is no easy process. Top weight Starkie had been plummeting down the weights until showing a little more when second to an in form rival at Taunton last time and could be on the verge of striking. Un Anjou is not a horse I would recommend and is another looking in the grip of the handicapper whilst Rude and Crude will have to strip a lot fitter than he did at Leicester when returning from a lengthy absence. However, he did not jump badly that day and if he is much sharper he has fewer convictions than his rivals here and could overcome his lack of experience and get back on track. Faith is strengthened by the fact he was very well backed at Leicester last time which suggests he is on a viable mark.

The staying handicap hurdle over just shy of 3m1f appears to present a decent opportunity for the Chris Gordon trained Ballyheigue Bay. Lightly raced so far through this season, he has fallen to a viable mark and is sure to enjoy the conditions he faces here. The application of cheek pieces for the first time may well assist him and the yard have a good record here and also at this time of the year. Of his rivals, Minella Gathering has not been overly punished for his win here in lower grade and although that success was narrow both he and the runner up came well clear of their field.  However, if Ballyheigue Bay can be brought back to something near his best, this field could struggle to cope with him.

The mares’ handicap hurdle at 4.10 looks an excellent opportunity for Top And Drop to gain compensation for her recent tumble when she was still in with every chance in a chase at Wetherby. Back over timber should not prove an inconvenience to her and although Hopes Wishes is approaching a feasible mark, Top And Drop should have the ability to take care of this field.

The staying handicap chase at 4.40 sees course regular Itoldyou head the weights. He reverts to fences after a disappointing outing over timber last time and still looks feasibly treated if his trainer can invigorate his enthusiasm. A number of his rivals here are struggling with the handicapper although Royals and Rebels is an exception with just two chase starts to his name and hails from a stable with a great record at this course. These low grade staying chases are always a tricky puzzle to solve but I would suggest that the winner of this contest will come from the two mentioned.

Caution is the watch word when considering the concluding handicap hurdle at 5.10. Thundering Home is undoubtedly a well handicapped horse at present especially after his emphatic success at Wincanton last time. However, this horse has been very inconsistent in recent times and at Wincanton he saw everything drop into place for him during the contest at a venue he absolutely adores. All the weights and measures tell you he will take a lot of beating here but he is not guaranteed to always run his race. I would put forward the recent form of Royal Etiquette as representing a very good alternative to the likely short priced favourite. Royal Etiquette has proven form over course and distance and in finishing runner up to two well handicapped types on his last two outings, has proved his wellbeing and his ability to be competitive in this type of contest.

Preview for Monday 27th February

February Raceday here at Plumpton and the six race card that will get underway at two o’clock promises to provide some competitive action for us all to enjoy. According to the clerk of the course, Mark Cornford, there is some rain forecast for race day which could alter his eve of racing going description of good to soft with soft places. At the time of our conversation the going stick readings were 6.3 on the hurdles track and 6.4 on the chase course.

A maiden hurdle over just shy of two miles will open the card and two trainers with excellent records with their hurdlers here at Plumpton are likely to fight out the finish. Phillip Hobbs has a 29% strike rate with his hurdlers here over the last five years and is 3/6 this season. His Cigarisi has some form that in the context of this race looks sure to make him a leading player. His opening effort at Taunton in December when fifth has worked out reasonably and the son of Kalanisi then progressed from that to place third at Exeter. Both races have thrown up subsequent winners and Cigarisi is sure to progress again for a yard that is starting to find regular winners after a sluggish campaign by their own high standards. His chief rival may prove to be Argyle from the stable of leading course trainer Gary Moore. An attractive looking stayer from the flat, Argyle showed there was something to work with when making his National Hunt debut here behind The Caller. Of the two, I would suggest that Cigarisi is step further down the line in his progression and would be the most likely winner here.

The novices’ limited handicap chase at 2.35 presents an excellent opportunity for Bagging Turf to get back on track over fences. The seven year old mare showed a good attitude to win on her chase debut at Huntingdon and jumped very well on that occasion. To see her subsequent fall at Wincanton surprised me but perhaps the very upright fences at the Somerset track along with the quality of the contest just caught her out early in her chase career. If there are no repercussions to her confidence from that experience, the Gary Moore trained daughter of Scorpion will make a bold show here in what is a drop in class. The decision to switch City Supreme to fences at this point of the season must be an acceptance from connections that his hurdles mark is just beyond him. That is due to the admirable consistency this horse has showed. If the switch does realise a few pounds of improvement he is likely to prove the main threat to Bagging Turf.

The handicap hurdle at 3.35 over nearly two miles has at the head of the weights a horse sliding down the handicap. The nine year old Sea Wall will appreciate every drop of rain that falls between now and post time and is starting to look dangerously well handicapped. He was very well fancied at Lingfield earlier this month and if his trainer can get him back to the form of last season he will make a very bold show here. The market should prove a good guide to the chances of handicap debutante Royal Hall. The Gary Moore trained French import has shown little to get excited about in three novice hurdles but they have come in decent contests in comparison to this relatively easier event and he could all of a sudden join up the dots here. Also worth a mention is Dragoon Guard who looked to have his race at the last meeting here all wrapped up before his welter burden that day took its toll late in the piece. This is tougher and he is being asked to defy a higher rating but his stable are worth the utmost respect. However, I will stick with the view that the top weight Sea Wall still has something to offer.

Coolking is turned out quickly after taking the Surrey National at Lingfield in decisive fashion just a week ago. This 3m2f handicap chase is nowhere near as competitive as that race but the horse is in sparkling form with back to back wins behind him. I always worry when an individual is asked to reproduce a dour staying performance very quickly after the last but there is certainly a lack of depth to the field he will face here. However, there is Saroque. Venetia Williams has her team in great form and this type of contest is where her yard excel. The trainer also has an excellent record here and Saroque has been showing signs of a return to his best. His run at Bangor last time came in a stronger race and built on an equally promising effort on his penultimate start. With conditions now looking ideal for the ten year old I will take him to deny the likely favourite.

The mares handicap hurdle at 3.05 takes a great deal of effort to decode and even then you are left wondering about the assumptions you draw! I tend to end up siding with current stable form in these low grade contests and the Nigel Hawke yard are certainly enjoying a productive spell. The drop back in trip for his representative Deckers Delight could well prove the deciding factor for this six year old who was able to win a handicap in December off just a pound lower in the ratings. She looks a solid proposition here if ridden nice and prominently to ensure a truly run race in what are likely to be testing conditions.

The concluding stayers’ handicap hurdle is a similar race to the mares contest. Daniel Steele has produced a couple of winners in the last week on the all weather and the decision to step Landscape up to this trip is an interesting one. This former Paul Nicholls inmate has had lots of niggling problems down the years, but judged on his outing here last time, his trainer may just now be getting to the right place with him. If the trip is the key it is likely to produce the required improvement to make a bold bid here.

Preview for Monday 13th February

At The Races Raceday is with us once again and a healthy 55 declarations were received at the overnight stage for a six race card that promises to provide some interesting and competitive racing for race goers to enjoy. The meeting is scheduled to get underway at 2pm and the going description on the eve of racing is soft all over with going stick readings of 5.1 for the hurdles track and 5.2 for the chase course. Clerk of the course Mark Cornford has reported that his weather forecast suggests no further rain at the track and that we could all be enjoying a little winter sunshine, even if the easterly wind does ensure we will all have to wrap up warm.

The Class 4 handicap hurdle at 3pm is a valuable one for the grade and has attracted representatives from a number of leading stables. Team Tizzard have the recent course and distance winner Kings Walk in the line up and they will be very hopeful that he can take this transition into handicaps in his stride. He does not look overly penalised by a rating of 118 and will be very well suited by conditions. Bound to be toward the fore of the market, he cannot be discounted. If you could forgive Margot Fontane for her last run here she would definitely be in consideration on earlier form from this season here at Plumpton, when she finished in front of the Tizzard horse. Never travelling from an early stage last time, the former pointer was reported not to have enjoyed the going conditions that day, which was something of a surprise to many based on her previous form. Lightly raced individuals such as this should all be forgiven one run and if she bounces back here she should be very much involved at the business end of this contest. Cobolobo is a big horse and certainly a future chaser who should be suited by the forecast ground and trip but whether a sharp track of this nature is to his liking time will tell. The O’Neill trained five year old won an ordinary handicap despite getting outpaced at Chepstow and is up in the weights here. Lightentertainment and Leviathan have both been struggling for form in recent times but this has resulted in them falling significantly in the ratings which will give connections hope, whilst the Irish import Amron Kali has a verdict over Ding Ding on her UK debut and gets in here off of a very handy weight. A very open race and I am prepared to give Margot Fontane the chance to redeem herself here after the disappointment of her last run and she should be available at a reasonable price to boot.

The novices’ limited handicap at 2.30 will see Royal Salute attempt to make it a hat trick over fences here at Plumpton in the past month. He progressed well to win his last outing two weeks ago in very impressive fashion and now faces a step up in grade. Concerns expressed about his resolution appear to have been dispelled by the application of blinkers and he has been found a good opportunity here. Minella On Line is a course winner as well but has not been seen since coming down at Lingfield in November when still very much in contention. He has top weight and can be a little sketchy at his fences but will ensure that the likely favourite Royal Salute is kept honest. Tea Time Fred was well supported to make a winning chase debut in a three runner affair at Taunton but crumpled on landing when still very much in the contest. This is a stronger event. Overall, Royal Salute looks to have enough in hand to defy the rating and class rise.

The 2m mares’ novice hurdle that kicks off the card is well subscribed and sees Molly Carew attempt to defy a penalty for her recent win at Lingfield in very attritional conditions. She is at a weight disadvantage with Postbridge who was back in third at Lingfield and the sharper nature of this track will not put as much emphasis on her undoubted stamina. With weight and track favouring Postbridge it could be quite tight between the two. Phoeniciana may well be able to break her maiden after three starts over hurdles and three in bumpers. The form of her last two outings read very well in the context of this race. Chandos Belle was nibbled at in the market on her hurdling debut and could have been closer bar a mistake two out. The winner is likely to come from these four and I am quite taken by the claims of Lucy Wadham’s Phoenicianna.

The concluding conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at 4.30 is a contest where the market should give us guidance. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is an infrequent visitor to Plumpton but has a winner and six places from his nine runners over the past five years. His Mollylikestoboogie makes her stable debut here after a break when she was summer jumping for former connections. There is not much to recommend her but the yard are in superb form and always worthy of great respect. There should not be much between Work and Funny Oyster on their running here over course and distance in January when the latter came out marginally on top. A number of the others have old form that would make them worthy of consideration but as is so often the case in races of this nature it maybe who turns up with their “A game” on the day that will prevail. Funny Oyster has fewer convictions than most and would be the tentative selection.

In the staying handicap hurdle at 4pm I am quite sweet on the chance of the former winning pointer Wishicould. Two pieces of rules form suggest to me that this mare could have the quality for an event of this nature. Undoubtedly bred to appreciate a test of stamina, this Charlie Mann trained mare could just have been found the right race to break her duck under rules. On the recent form we have seen from Itoldyou over fences it does now seem that this one is in steady decline but the change of discipline for him could see him run well with conditions sure to suit. I’ll go for Charlie Mann to improve his excellent track record still further whilst assuming an each way position with Itoldyou should the market allow.

Gardiners Hill will look to extend his winning run to four under the burden of top weight in the novices’ handicap chase over 2m4f at 3.30. Connections seem to believe he is most effective at a longer trip but he keeps finding enough to win and has to be respected. Brice Canyon is another who looks as though a little further would suit, but this former winning pointer should also give a good account. For my selection I will turn to the tried and tested combination of Gary Moore and son Jamie with a horse they imported from France in La Paimpolaise. Although disappointing to this point, she has been operating in a far better standard and this switch to fences will hopefully hold the key to the dual French winner. The market should also be a guide to expectations for the five year old.


Preview for Monday 30th January

Winter Race Day here at Plumpton is scheduled to get underway at 1.40 with a six race card promising some competitive action. On the eve of racing the going report given by the clerk of the course was for soft ground with the going stick readings at 5.3 for the hurdles track and 5.5 for the chase course. Further rain is forecast through the day and into raceday itself. However, the rain expected could well relent during racing which is a prediction that all racegoers will welcome.

The feature hurdle on the card takes place at 3.20 and is a £10,000 added handicap for conditional riders. Despite only six being declared the race still has a very competitive look to it with a couple of top stables represented. David Pipe has an excellent record here at Plumpton and his novice Stay Out Of Court makes his handicap debut here after finishing third in a bumper last June and subsequently filling the runner up berth in two novice events this winter. His pedigree suggests he should ultimately enjoy a test of stamina. He is still only six though and at this stage the extended three mile journey in such tiring ground will present a stern challenge to him. His form reads quite well at this early stage of his development and the trainer has decided to apply cheek pieces to help keep him focused and he will prove a popular choice for many. I am also concerned that the trip will be an issue for the top weight Eminent Poet. His only previous attempt at three miles previously saw him weaken out of contention quite rapidly at Huntingdon in January of last year. The year on his back may well have seen him strengthen up but he remains only a six year old and with the forecast ground likely to be very tiring added to a welter burden of weight that is enough for me to pass him over here. Ballyheigue Bay has only raced over hurdles once in over two years but returns to the discipline here on an attractive mark compared to his chase rating. He is sure to enjoy the stamina test and is from a stable who are in pretty decent form at present and with a good record here. This is also a notable drop in class and he will ensure there is no hiding place for his rivals. This is his first outing since November when he took a fall and only his second outing of the season which does suggest the possibility of problems in his preparations to this point. The market should be a reasonable guide. City Supreme is another dropping in class and he also enjoys this type of stamina test. He has been consistent this term without winning and he will ensure that his rivals have to reach a certain level of performance. Whether he is just in the grip of the handicapper is a concern for me. Margot Fontane is trained locally by Anna Newton-Smith and has displayed a super attitude in her last couple of outings here at Plumpton. A former point winner she looks certain to improve for the step up to this trip, will relish the going and does not look to have been at all harshly treated for two excellent runs behind the best novice hurdler seen here at Plumpton this season in No Comment. I am confident she is a winner waiting to happen and very much hope that day will arrive in this contest.

The feature chase on the card comes up at 3.50 and is another staying test for handicappers with £10,000 in added prize money. The near three and a quarter mile test is a step into the unknown for Like Sully who remains a horse on a feasible handicap mark. He may ideally be suited to better ground but ran well in his last outing here. If he copes with this big step up in trip he could be competitive. Talk of the South probably brings the single best piece of form into the race. His second to Brandon Hill at Newbury in November has subsequently been advertised by the winner and if his jumping stands up he is not without a chance even under top weight here. Sun Wild Life looks like he will appreciate a return to this softer ground and he has eased in the ratings as a result of two below par outings recently. With a very capable young trainer, he has a number of positives in his favour here. Arbeo is back below the mark he was able to win off in January 2016 and is another who will relish the soft ground. Royal Salute won here at the last meeting despite looking a little bit of a character and he has the natural ability to be competitive again. Much will depend on his attitude but conditions look ideal. You Too Pet is up in grade but could just be coming to his peak and has only a light weight to carry. That is a significant advantage and this unexposed nine year old is respected. Obviously a very competitive event which could depend on who turns up with their A game on the day. Look for value in the market first and foremost. A tough race to be confident about but I will go with Sun Wild Life to appreciate conditions and exploit a feasible mark.

The opening race on the card is named in memory of the father of the clerk of the course here at Plumpton. Bill Cornford introduced his son Mark to the sport of racing some fifty years ago and from that day forward Mark was smitten. Mark will be joined by his brothers for the day and I hope they enjoy remembering their father and recalling his influence on them and their times together. The race itself is a two mile maiden hurdle and the market looks to be dominated by two horses of potential rather than proven form. Oscars Boss is handled by the excellent Neil Mulholland and has won two Irish bumpers from four racecourse starts. The son of Norse Dancer is tricky to evaluate but this looks a nice starting point for him. His principal rival is likely to be Royal Hall from the local yard of Gary Moore. Purchased from France where the yard have excellent connections, they indicated the regard with which they hold this horse by starting off his UK campaign at Newbury in a hot novice hurdle that featured some powerful yards. I very much hope that the experience of that run will be an advantage that will see the leading course trainer register another success here. However, for punters, the market is sure to provide a good guide to what is expected on the day.

The novice hurdle over an extended 2m4f at 2.45 sees another likely favourite who is all about potential rather than form in the book. Jerrysback is a former winning Irish pointer who will be making his UK debut. From powerful connections this son of Jeremy will catch the eye of many but I would recommend paddock inspection and a view of the market to help evaluate his readiness for this assignment. Groundunderrepair represents Warren Greatrex and this son of Milan was placed twice from three starts in bumpers before chasing home a highly regarded newcomer at Fontwell earlier this month. He seemed to enjoy the soft ground and step up in trip that day and should progress again. Clondaw Bisto has a verdict over King Uther in a bumper here last season but was very disappointing at Wincanton on his last outing when pulled up. If he can be forgiven that performance he would hold sound claims here. This is another contest where the market should help us significantly and I am loathe to commit to anything at this stage.

In the concluding handicap hurdle I was immediately drawn to the Chris Gordon trained Bol D’Air who makes his handicap debut after showing some promise behind some very nice prospects in novice company. He looks to be on a very exploitable mark for a trainer who knows the time of day and who has his string coming into decent form. The novices’ handicap chase is an absolute minefield for punters. Yourholidayisover is sure to be prominent in the market after his recent win here but he up in the weights and has his quirks. It is very late in the day to be teaching old dogs new tricks but Clonusker is in reasonable form and will love the conditions so if taking to the larger obstacles he could be of interest.

Preview for Monday 16th January

The second meeting of the new calendar year here at Plumpton is Timeform Race Day and consists of a six race card scheduled to get underway at 1.25pm. The going report on the eve of racing is soft with going stick readings of 5.1 on the hurdles track and 5.0 on the chase course. For those who follow the going stick here at Plumpton that is something of an anomaly with the chase reading lower than the hurdles. It is forecast to remain dry overnight and into race day and no frost is expected by the clerk of the course Mark Cornford.

The feature chase on the card takes place at 3.05 and this extended 3m1f handicap looks a tricky puzzle. There are a number of stables represented with excellent records here including that of the local Falmer based trainer Sheena West. Her 12 year old Leg Iron is a favourite with many here and has a great course record. Slipping toward his last winning mark, conditions look ideal for him but enthusiasm is considerably tempered by his two appearances to date this season. If rediscovering some zest he would be worthy of consideration. David Pipe runs Sweettoothtommy and the switch to fences at Taunton appears to have procured some improvement. However, that was a weak contest for the grade as well as being very eventful and whilst this trip should not prove a problem the calibre of his opposition may well do. Top weight Howlongisafoot takes a marked drop in grade here and he is also a course winner for Chris Gordon. His pedigree suggests this trip will suit him but he has yet to show anything like his best form at just three miles and the combination of an extra furlong and the welter burden could prove difficult to overcome. He does however enjoy the course and his falling rating will I am sure be exploited by the trainer in the fullness of time. Whether it will be here I have my reservations. Peter Bowen sends Henllai Harri who is another dropping in class. His run at Newbury last time definitely puts him in the frame here but prior to that his performances over fences have not suggested a great relish for the game. Also there must be concerns about the testing ground he will encounter here. Royal Salute hails from a stable I respect and this seven year old has run creditably in three of four races over fences to date. He was under pressure from an early stage at Wincanton last time when upped in grade before staying on late in the day to grab a place. The application of blinkers for this next run concerns me a little but he does have scope for improvement on what we have seen to date. Talk of the South is from another yard with an excellent record here and has winnng course form to his name. I get the impression he is slowly working toward his best but again whether things will fall into place here I could not be certain. My idea of the most likely winner here is Itoldyou. He undoubtedly has some character and I am trusting him to turn up in the right frame of mind. Taking this as a given Itoldyou is very well handicapped, carries bottom weight at a track where he has winning form and is afforded the luxury of having Tom Cannon in the saddle. Ground and trip are no problem and the re application of the tongue tie suggests to me Linda Jewell believes this is the day for Itoldyou to produce.

The feature hurdle contest of the card is at 2.35 and is also over a staying trip, this time 3m1f. The novice season form shown by Newsworthy last term would give him a seemingly outstanding chance in this Class 4 handicap but he has twice moved stables subsequently and has shown little in three starts this time around. Now with the excellent Neil Mulholland, one would expect him to ultimately maximise his potential. The ground here must be a concern to the trainer and this step up in distance is another unknown, although his pedigree gives hope on that front. The application of blinkers for the first time could work the oracle but also gives the suggestion that possibly Newsworthy has his own ideas about the game. Ghost River is of a similar calibre with an excellent profile as a bumper and was highly tried as novice. His two starts this season have both been disappointing but the return to soft ground here could be the making of him. If that is the case, this could well prove a worthwhile trip from Pembrokeshire for Peter and Sean Bowen.

The opening novice hurdle at 1.25 sees a very interesting prospect from the flat make his debut over timber. Rated in the nineties on the level. Not Never was purchased by the Gary Moore team at the Horses In Training Sales at Newmarket back in November for 70,000 guineas. A son of Notnowcato, this five year old will appreciate further than the bare two miles he faces here given time but this looks a good opportunity for him to get his hurdling career off to a good start. Alan King is always to be respected here and runs the Fontwell winner Bastien under a penalty whilst the David Pipe team saddle Work, who on flat ratings would have an awful lot to find with Not Never. Up The Navan Road is another interesting runner with form behind a subsequent winner in an Irish bumper before joining Michael Roberts. However, if taking to this discipline one would think they will all have to go some to stop Not Never.

It would be great to see Sir Hubert finally in the winner’s enclosure after two seconds on his last two outings here at Plumpton. He has crept up the weights a little but has a very solid chance over a course and distance where he has proven form at this level. However the fly in the ointment could prove to be Clonusker. A course and distance winner who loves soft ground, the Linda Jewell trained nine year old is back below a winning mark and may well be the one to side with in a race of little depth.

There are a number of interesting individuals declared in the maiden hurdle at 3.40. Warren Greatrex is represented by Bob Mahler and Alan King brings Bulfin Island back after a long absence as does Gary Moore with his runner Not Another Muddle. It will be interesting to see how they all perform but on the day I expect them all to toil in the wake of Kings Walk. The Colin Tizzard trained son of Kings Theatre ran with credit behind the very useful No Comment here at the last meeting and with the softer ground likely to suit even more this future stayer can grind his rivals into submission and break his hurdling maiden at the third attempt.

The Class 5 2m1f handicap chase at 2pm looks very much like a match to me with the top two in the weights likely to fight out the finish. Very Live is on a winning mark and is suited by the forecast conditions and can overcome Triple Chief. Very Live has seemingly not fulfilled the hopes once held for him but in this grade he will prove difficult to beat.

Preview for Monday 2nd January 2017 – The Sussex National Raceday

An excellent card for the first meeting of the New Year that promises to provide some competitive racing for the Plumpton crowd to enjoy. At the time of writing, the official going description is soft with good to soft places but the clerk of the course Mark Cornford is expecting further rain prior to the meeting and his expectation is for the track to ride soft all over by the time runners go to post for the first race at 12:50pm. On the eve of racing the going stick read 6.0 on the chase course and 5.9 on the hurdles track.

The feature contest is the £30,000 At The Races Sussex National Handicap Chase which has attracted sixteen declarations overnight with a plethora of powerful stables represented. The performance of Sartorial Elegance here at the last meeting was extremely impressive on his first attempt at a trip beyond three miles. The now six year old’s pedigree had suggested it would benefit him and that proved to be the case as he romped to an easy success, jumping well throughout. The yard are in tremendous form and he is sure to be popular in the market. My reservations are his youth, this is a demanding stamina test for a horse of his age, and the handicapper’s response to his win here. The turnaround in the weights with the Gary Moore trained Tothemoonandback is significant and with the softer ground in prospect, I am concerned about the conditions of this race at this stage of his development. Tothemoonandback on the other hand will relish the softer ground and looks like he has been laid out for this by the leading course trainer. Mysteree comes here on the back of a good win at Haydock under similar conditions. He was fourth in the Eider last year and looks a progressive staying chaser for the Scudamore team. His 9lb rise will mean he has to progress again but that is not out of the question. Rigadin De Beauchene was twenty four lengths behind Mysteree at Haydock but is favoured by the weights. His trainer is noted for her prowess with this type of horse, though I am not certain this track will play to the twelve year olds strengths. Onderun impressed with his jumping when returning from a long absence to win well at Lingfield in December. He is at the right end of the weights, represents a stable who are going well this term and has to be the dark horse of this contest. Morney Wing represents a yard that do very well here and his run in the London National at Sandown clearly indicates he is in good form and is another with a progressive profile. He should also enjoy the softer ground than he experienced at Sandown. Dawson City is yet to win over fences but has run some nice races. Conditions look suitable and he has won over hurdles here. This is a highly competitive race and the suggestion is to look for the value in the market. I will put forward Morney Wing and Tothemoonandback as each way suggestions.

The latest qualifier for the £60,000 Cheltenham Bonus Series takes place at 1:20pm over an extended two miles. I am slightly surprised to see Baron Alco dropping back in trip after yet another fine effort on his last appearance over 2m4f at Cheltenham. With a penalty to carry, perhaps this is a stepping stone in his preparation for a handicap chase at the Festival in March, although the softer ground will help bring his stamina into play. Laissez Dire is a French recruit to the Alan King yard who was very impressive on his UK debut at Catterick in November. This is a sterner assignment but as we all know the trainer has a superb record here and is still the only trainer to claim the Bonus. Running Laissez Dire may be an indication of what the trainer feels this horse could potentially be capable of and conditions look to be ideal for the five year old. However, this is far from a two horse race with the Tizzards’ sending a very decent handicap hurdler over fences for the first time. Solatentif has run twice with great credit at Cheltenham since arriving from Ireland as a part of the new relationship between the stable and his owner. He will enjoy the ground but will need to progress on this chase debut but that is not out of the question. Starchitect is the fourth protagonist with a viable chance in this five horse contest and he was another very useful handicap hurdler, with a number of excellent performances to his name, particularly when finishing runner up in last season’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He embarked on his chase career with a third at Bangor and will need to tidy up his jumping and possibly the ground here will be a little on the soft side for him. A fascinating contest where I very much hope Laissez Dire will add a touch of class and quality to the day.

It is great to see No Comment back here again after his fine success at the last meeting and he will bid to follow up in the 1:50 over the same extended 2m4f trip. The Phillip Hobbs trained gelding improved his hurdling to win easily here last time but will have to shoulder a ten pound penalty on this occasion. I fully expect him to make a bold bid against a field which, with one exception, I feel he should have the measure of. The exception is Minella Awards who fetched £120,000 at the sales and who has shown promise in two runs for Nicky Henderson in novice events last term. The son of Oscar has now been switched to Harry Fry and the rising star training will be keen to justify the faith shown in him with this horse. I expect him to arrive tuned up and ready to run and believe the weight concession he receives here allied to the form of his second to Champers On Ice gives him every chance of breaking his hurdles duck at the third time of asking. For the long term, keep an eye on Margot Fontaine who ran well on her last start for Anna Newton-Smith and who will ultimately make up into a nice staying handicap hurdler.

Noel Fehily is booked to ride Minella Awards and he could have a very good day. In the concluding handicap hurdle he is booked for Cottesloe who will definitely appreciate the softer ground on this return to hurdling and is falling to a workable mark. Fehily also teams up with Neil Mulholland in the 2m4f handicap chase at 3:20 where Johns Luck can follow up his recent Ffos Las success off of what looks a very workable mark. They are starting to understand the requirements of this horse who had his win last time franked by the runner up. In the opening contest at 12:50, Fehily also looks to have an outstanding opportunity with Golden Birthday for Harry Fry. If he handles the softer ground, his recent run at Newbury behind High Bridge should see him prove very competitive in a race of this nature.

Preview for Monday 12th December

After 3mm of rain on Saturday night, the clerk of the course has described the going for December Raceday as good to soft, good in places 24 hours before racing is scheduled to get underway. Going stick readings of 6.6 for the hurdles track and 6.9 on the chase course fit in with the description given by Mark Cornford. With a dry forecast ahead and just the chance of the odd shower during racing, this going assessment should prove accurate.

The latest qualifier for the £60,000 Cheltenham Bonus has attracted just three runners, not untypical of this division, but has once again succeeded in attracting a couple of very nice recruits for us to enjoy here at Plumpton. Theos Charm is trained in Sussex by Nick Gifford and although the son of Presenting is not the biggest individual, his trainer has always thought that chasing is where he would maximise his potential. Ideally suited by much softer underfoot conditions than he will be asked to race on here and probably in need of a stiffer test than the sharp extended two miles of this contest. This raises questions for today, but the six year old showed his quality in a fixed brush Grade 3 handicap at Haydock on his seasonal return when filling the runner up berth and undoubtedly has the ability to pick up good events during the campaign ahead. His only realistic challenger here is Theinval from the powerful Nicky Henderson yard. He too would prefer a stiffer test of stamina but will relish the ground and does have the benefit of a considerable amount of experience over the larger obstacles. Some of the contests Theinval has competed in have been of a very decent standard and whilst falling short he has produced some very respectable efforts behind some highly thought of individuals. It will be fascinating to see what Theos Charm can produce on his first public test over fences and overcome the conditions of this race against a rival whose experience should count for plenty. If he can, much deeper waters will beckon for this likeable individual.

Nicky Henderson can get the afternoon off to a winning start with his novice hurdler Khezerabad in the two miler. Back on much more suitable ground than he experienced at Haydock on his last start, the four year old should be able to overcome the penalty he has incurred for an impressive win at Sandown earlier in this campaign in a contest which has been given a boost with the runner up subsequently running very well in a decent race. The trainer has a good guide to the level of form required as two of his rivals here finished behind a representative from the Henderson yard in a Kempton novice event. Action Replay and Give Him Time both look reasonable prospects but Khezerabad is taken to win this before moving onto better things. Jam Session should be noted with the future in mind whilst the Gary Moore trained Soiesauvage was set a stiff task on her introduction to the track at Newbury and could sneak into the frame here as she is obviously fairly well regarded by connections.

The novices hurdle at 1.30 over an extended two and a half miles has attracted two or three nice individuals and should prove to be an informative contest. Phillip Hobbs is not a regular visitor here and the appearance of No Comment is welcome. He sharpened up his jumping to win at Market Rasen last time over an inadequate trip and previously bumped into a very well regarded individual when second at Aintree. The son of Kayf Tara is progressing nicely and should make a bold bid to overcome the penalty he has incurred here. His principal rival is likely to be another Nicky Henderson trained individual, Stowaway Magic. He beat a fairly modest bunch on his hurdling debut at Warwick in fairly comfortable style but will need to step up on that achievement here. A big individual he may not be ideally suited by the track here but coming from such a powerful yard, he must be respected. At this stage I would imagine that No Comment would be slightly further forward in his development and he would be my choice. Of the others, Potters Approach was sent off at odds on for a contest at Sandown where he finished second to another Henderson inmate and that form is respectable. In receipt of seven pounds from the aforementioned pair, he could prove troublesome, especially if progressing from that initial outing. However, I will stick with No Comment to defy the penalty.

The staying handicap chase over an extended 3m1f looks to have provided Sartorial Elegance with a good opportunity of getting off the mark on his third chase start. From a family of decent staying chasers, he should enjoy the step up to this trip and the better ground will enhance his chances. Only five years old is a concern, but his trainer has an excellent record with this type of horse and against a field of mostly exposed rivals he could make light of his current mark. Tothemoonandback will enjoy this trip far more than his run over a much shorter distance on his last outing and trainer Gary Moore will find these individual opportunities through the season. Quite whether he is ready to show enough now is the question that concerns me but I will be watching him closely for a similar race further down the line. Coolking has the ability to win this off of his current mark if trainer Chris Gordon has reinvigorated the gelding’s enthusiasm for jumping fences. Pulled up in four of his last five starts over fences and you can appreciate why I am not overly optimistic. Golanova has been running consistently off of his current mark and his conditions in his favour. He usually finds something to beat him however and if Sartorial Elegance does find the trip too much for him at this stage of his career, Golanova could be the one to benefit.

The three Class 5 handicaps that round off the card look decidedly tricky. The two and a half mile handicap chase appears to revolve around the form of a recent contest at Fontwell. If the form can be relied upon one would expect Bonds Conquest to go well along with Tikkapick. The fly in the ointment could be top weight Hit The Headlines. If the stable have him ready this is the easiest opportunity to break his chase duck. Another top weight is suggested for the concluding handicap hurdle from a stable that have been doing well with the ammunition they have. Magnus Romeo drops into this grade after a respectable performance last time at Exeter and could have too many guns for this field. In the staying handicap hurdle, it is another Johnny Farrelly runner I will turn too in the shape of Drive On Locky, who pulverised a similar type of field over course and distance back in May. Quite where the improvement he showed that day came from is unclear but if he does reproduce it he is sure to play a leading role once again.

Preview for Monday 28th November

After a very dry period leading up to the November Race Day, coupled with brisk northerly winds in the past few days, the track has dried out significantly. On the eve of racing the Clerk of the Course Mark Cornford posted a description of good to soft and with the forecast remaining dry and the winds continuing to blow, he anticipated both courses riding nearer good ground come race day itself. At the time of writing the going stick readings were 7.1 for the hurdles track and 7.3 for the chase course which are in line with the clerk’s official going description.

In terms of quality, the best race of the six scheduled will clearly be the novice chase at 1.25. The extended two mile contest has attracted a field of just four but they include representatives from some top yards with aspirations to make an impact in this particular division over the course of the season ahead. Top Notch is declared for Nicky Henderson and this former Triumph Hurdle runner up has made a pleasing start to his chasing career. The event at Uttoxeter in which the five year old finished a close third behind Charbel has received a couple of form boosts subsequently. That was a very satisfactory debut over the larger obstacles for Top Notch and came on ground that was probably not ideal. Indeed, his preference for soft ground does open a potential question about conditions for him here. His subsequent easy success at Warwick was also impressive and connections will have been very satisfied with the way he jumped around that course, which is noted for its emphasis on jumping technique. Top Notch clearly has the required class to win this event here at Plumpton even under the penalty he shoulders but the one hope for his rivals is that the ground will inconvenience him. The son of Poliglote also has an edge on experience and fitness as none of his three rivals have appeared over the larger obstacles in the UK and are all returning from absences from the track. However both Romain De Senam and Polkarenix have the handy four year old weight allowance and both have decent form to their name, be it here in the UK or back in France. Romain De Senam was just touched off in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham last term. He has showed a tendency to be very keen in his races to this point and hopefully the summer will have calmed his temperament somewhat. He will relish the trip and ground here and if improving can make certain that Top Notch does not have things all his own way. Polkarenix has winning listed hurdle form to his name in France and has potential as does the final member of this field, Overtown Express. Harry Fry’s charge is very lightly raced for an eight year old and could want a little more cut to be seen to best advantage. All four runners make this a very decent novice chase for the track and should all be watched closely with the future in mind. Personally I believe Top Notch can overcome any concerns about the ground and defy a penalty here, although I would be loathed to get involved in the market at the likely cramped odds he will be offered at.

The opening novice hurdle does look a little bit of a conundrum for punters to solve. Undoubtedly, River Frost will be well to the fore of people’s minds as a likely winner given his third placed finish on hurdles debut at Huntingdon in what looked a reasonable contest. He did look to be lacking for a little pace that day but was well found in the market and with his trainer Alan King having such an impressive record here at Plumpton, he looks certain to feature at the business end of this contest. Of the others, much has to be taken on trust and again the market is likely to provide clues. The Venetia Williams trained Burrows Park has some winning form to his name in France and his pedigree gives hope as well. January Don is brought into training with Gary Moore from the pointing field and has a pedigree to suggest he may want a stiffer test.  Admiral Kid hails from a yard I respect very much but his hurdles debut was most disappointing prior to his falling and the form of his bumper win is not working out very well to this point. An outsider worth consideration is Daniel Steele’s Well Painted. He has experience from the flat where he won four times but this switch to hurdling does come rather late in life for him. The safe option here is undoubtedly River Frost to further expand the King stables excellent overall record here.

The staying handicap chase over an extended 3m1f at three o’clock should be fought out by a couple of individuals with contrasting profiles. Yukon Delta has been in smashing form for his trainer Gary Moore this season and will be suited by the trip and track. The type for fences he returns to them now after a couple of wins over timber and in his current frame of mind should make a bold show here. Itoldyou on the other hand has been quite disappointing in recent times. However, this has led to the ten year old slipping markedly down the handicap to a very feasible mark based on his highly successful 2014/15 campaign when he won a couple of times including the Sussex National here. If Linda Jewell has got the horse back this season in anything like the form he has showed previously, Itoldyou would be a very interesting proposition. His recent return over an inadequate trip did not tell us much, but a trip to the paddock before this race should serve punters well. I would be prepared to nominate him here over the Moore runner in what shapes up as a two horse contest in my view.

Class 5 handicap hurdles are always proliferated with inconsistent moderate animals making them something of a mine field for us all to unravel. However, those of us who saw Ding Ding win here at the last meeting will have little doubt that if reproducing that effort, he will go very close to taking the spoils again under what looks to be ideal conditions. The 8lb rise he incurred for winning a similar event here looks very fair and the Sussex yard of Sheena West has a very strong record at this track.

With underfoot conditions looking to be against Tambura in the mares handicap hurdle, this contest is best left to the improving Neil Mulholland mare Very Extravagant. She was pitched in at the deep end last time out and probably saw the ground go against her that day as well. Back in these calmer waters she looks to have enough left in the locker to defy her current mark and top weight on the day. Bull and Bush is worth keeping an eye on with the future in mind. The Charlie Mann trained mare had reasonable form to her name during her last campaign.

Preview of Monday 14th November’s card.


Nine and a half millimetres of rain during Saturday have adjusted the original going report to good to soft with good places but do not be surprised, should the weather forecast prove correct, if that description flips over to good with good to soft places by post time on race day. The six race card is scheduled to get underway at 1.05pm and Pompadour Race Day celebrates the association between Plumpton and its counterpart in France.

The SIS Novice Chase at 1.35 has attracted a small field but features a very useful five year old from the stable of leading course trainer Gary Moore. Baron Alco had a highly successful campaign over timber last season winning his first three starts including a valuable handicap at Kempton followed by a narrow second place finish in a Grade 3 handicap at Ascot before running with great credit to finish sixth in a Cheltenham Festival handicap. The son of Dom Alco started off his novice chase campaign this season with a very respectable third at Cheltenham over an inadequate trip, behind a couple of more experienced rivals. His jumping that day suggests he should be as good a chaser as he was a hurdler at the very least. Indeed, Baron Alco could well improve plenty this season and this looks an ideal stepping stone for him at this stage of his career over fences. I fully expect him to rise to this challenge with conditions looking just about ideal but the opposition he faces is not without merit. Alan King has a superb record here and he has introduced plenty of nice chasers in this race, winning it twice in the past ten years, most notably with Uxizandre. Whether his representative for this renewal, Wishing And Hoping, can reach the heights scaled by that subsequent Festival winner is open to question, but the six year old does have some respectable hurdling form on his CV and has always been viewed as a potential chaser by connections. He should ensure that Baron Alco has a good workout. The talented Neil Mulholland is represented by Coole Charmer who cost £70000 at the sales. A bumper winner, he was very lightly campaigned over hurdles without winning and at this stage of his career under these conditions may find the Moore and King horses know a little too much for him. He is, however, worth noting for the medium to long term future when it is likely he will be tackling far stiffer stamina tests.

The opening novice hurdle over just shy of two miles is a good chance for Boudry to finally start fulfilling some of the belief that connections have expressed in him. Overly keen in races and generally immature last season in bumper contests he managed just one win from four starts although trainer Warren Greatrex had thought him worthy of Aintree in April should paper reports be believed. The trainer has been on an upward curve in recent seasons and produced and placed horses at some of the leading tracks so his thoughts are worthy of great respect. It is now time for Boudry to start repaying that faith. If he does settle and has matured mentally, this contest should be well within his scope. His dam was not very good on the track but is a half sister to Sprinter Sacre and hopefully even just a fraction of the genetics transmitting themselves forward to Boudry would allow him to prove a racehorse that can earn his keep. Of his opponents, Nick Gifford paid £62000 at the sales for Give Him Time and he remains a horse of potential despite a couple of uninspiring appearances over hurdles earlier in 2016. David Pipe has a very good record here but his runner Citrus has shown precious little in three efforts since arriving from France. He has however attracted support on a couple of occasions and there may be some latent ability floating around unseen to this point. Bubsy Burbridge is from a family well known to trainer Neil Mulholland and this debut is likely to bring him on whilst the Phillip Hide representative Black Caesar was a modest individual on the flat but one who did win on three occasions over six and seven furlongs . For me, today is the day for Boudry to start realising the potential his trainer believes is within.

The Extech Handicap Chase at 3.10 looks a real trap for punters but nevertheless could be quite informative for the season ahead. Top weight Gores Island, Comeonginger, Minella On Line and Itoldyou all had relatively disappointing seasons last time around but have as a result all fallen quite markedly in the handicap. This opens the question as to which one will rediscover the levels of their previous form, if any, and in respect of this contest which are best placed to taken advantage of conditions. It certainly looks as though Itoldyou would appreciate a stiffer test than this contest will provide and the same can be said of Minella On Line judged on the way he has been campaigned over the past two seasons. The latter’s trainer does have a good record in this race but that came with two horses that were setting out on their chasing careers and not at all similar in profile to this year’s representative. Comeonginger is now on a mark lower than that which he last won off and that came on a sharp track over a similar trip in ground that is likely to be similar to that we see here. Also his trainer registered his first winner since May this week. With a previous record suggesting he goes well fresh, many will be drawn to Comeonginger to exploit his falling mark. Gores Island comes from the Moore yard and will undoubtedly be popular for that very reason. He may prefer a bit more juice than he is likely to get here and does not want to be in front for too long, which brings its own complications. In addition, the vast majority of Moores horses have improved for their first outing this term, in my humble opinion. So Comeonginger has good credentials but do you want to be supporting a horse whose form has been deteriorating? The alternative would be Like Sully for Richard Rowe. A little hit or miss last season the horse did however manage to progress during the campaign and this trip and ground look ideal. His fitness will have to be taken on trust but the yard did have a good Sandown winner recently and paddock inspection will help. Comeonginger and Like Sully would be the two for me against the field.

The bumper which concludes the card has attracted a number of powerful yards. Nicky Henderson, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Harry Fry have not had bumper runners here in five years. Henderson clearly has the both course record and he introduces a 42,000 euros purchase in Milzipa, a four year old gelding by Milan. The Twiston-Davies team seem to me to be just going off the boil at present and the form of his runner, Count Meribel, looks nothing out of the ordinary. Black Mischief for Harry Fry is sure to be prominent in the market and that is a stable clicking into gear whilst local trainer Suzy Smith introduces a well bred type in Huntress and Neil Mulholland and Fergal O’Brien (two upwardly mobile stables in my view) have interesting newcomers. A real puzzle to conclude but one well worth staying on to see.

The other two handicaps on the card both look tricky affairs with Sudden Wish for Gary Moore and Earls Fort for Neil Mulholland taking my eye although the latter would be hard pressed if the enigmatic Extreme Impact were to adopt his racing hat for the day, but as anyone who knows him will testify, that can be a difficult day to predict.


Preview for 31st October 2016

Clerk of the Course Mark Cornford and his hard working team have done another great job in preparing the course for the second meeting of October and despite the absence of rain they have produced good ground for the runners to perform on. The going stick reports of 7.6 on the hurdles track and 7.8 on the chase course are consistent with Marks description and the watering regime he has implemented has also given a very lush covering of grass to the track, which will provide the bonus of a nice cushion for the horses.

The opening maiden hurdle over two miles looks like being quite an informative event. Graasten ran very well here at the last meeting when a very creditable third in a nice contest and his trainer’s string are now looking to be on the verge of hitting full stride. Graasten should improve a little from that effort but there are a number of other individuals here who were rated to a similar level on the flat. They include Jack Bear from the Harry Whittington yard who was well fancied on his hurdles debut at Newton Abbot only to unseat his rider at the second hurdle. The 10lb claimer aboard that day has been dispensed with and with Gavin Sheehan now in the plate connections will be very hopeful of getting back on track here. Alcatraz has yet to appear over timber but has to be considered on his flat rating and the market and paddock will indicate his readiness for this event. Alberta is the most experienced of these over hurdles and has some reasonable form to his name and comes here off the back of a win on the flat when last seen in September. An interesting race which should prove informative but it is difficult to be overly confident, although I am sure this short list will provide the winner. If pressed I would side with the potential improvement from Graasten, allied to his experience, tilting things in his favour.

The novices’ handicap chase over an extended 3m1f at 2.40 is contested by a number of runners from in form stables. None more so than Leg Lock Luke from Colin Tizzard’s rising empire. This horse cost 100,000 at the sales and has won a point but nothing in his rules form to date would suggest you should go anywhere near him. However, this is his first attempt at chasing and the better ground he will encounter here could be a reason for improvement. He was heavily backed on his handicap hurdle debut, suggesting that he may have been showing something at home, but he was never really seen with a chance in the race itself. Punters will embrace the in form stable and possible potential angle with him but it is a big risk. Indeed this race is a little like that full stop. Only Kapgarde King gives you proven form winning form at the trip and on the ground. He is a five year old who won a poor event on his chase debut and can be expected to progress again. I think that the Gary Moore trained Flashman bumped into one at the last meeting here and can be marked up for that run. However I did not expect him to be switched from that 2 mile event to this staying test on his next outing. Potentially very well treated, if he does get this trip he would be my choice to take this contest. It is a big question mark for this flat bred individual. Dawnieriver is a mare that has won on her last two starts over fences for an in form team. Michael Scudamore does well with chasers and steps up this former pointer in grade and to this trip for the first time under rules. Dawnieriver could well progress but needs to if she is to continue her winning run. I am very much looking forward to this contest but realistically could only give Dawnieriver a very tentative vote if pressed for an opinion on what will win.

The extended 2m4f handicap hurdle is another trappy event for punters to solve. David Pipe has an excellent strike rate here and runs the winning pointer Awesome Tunes. The six year old son of Milan has hardly set the world alight in four starts for the Pipe yard and there is a big element of trust in supporting him here. Guards Chapel for the Moores’ is exposed now at the age of eight but will like the ground conditions and has won off of a pound higher, be it was in 2013. Druids Lodge represents Neil Mulholland and has produced two very uninspiring efforts over hurdles since failing to make the frame in four bumper outings. Red Orator and Mount Vesuvius are closely matched on their Fontwell running earlier in this campaign. The extra distance they will encounter here perhaps suits Red Orator more and I would expect him to confirm the form. At the head of the weights Threebarmymen has been given what looks a fair mark and he has the potential to progress. How much he will need this first outing since May is open to question but in a race of many questions he is suggested for a place for his capable trainer.

Quite the most fascinating runner on the entire card is Queens Present who is scheduled to go to post for the mares novice hurdle over an extended 2m4f at 2.10. A daughter of Presenting by a dam that won her only start as a bumper, this five year old made £55000 earlier this year at the sales. The dam is a full sister to Kicking King and Queens Present makes her rules debut here after winning the second of her two runs in the Irish pointing field. It will be very interesting to see how ready she is first time up over what looks a suitable trip to start with and in a contest that has also attracted a couple of fair performers. They include Queens Well, who progressed from a bumper to run with encouragement when second on her hurdles debut in a race at Chepstow earlier this month. She can be expected to confirm the form of that outing with Ivors Queen here on a pound better terms. Ivors Queen will need to brush up her hurdling technique if she is to progress. The three should have this between them with my vote going to the experience of Queens Well but with more than half an eye on Queens Present with the future in mind. This could end up being a very nice mares contest for Plumpton race goers to enjoy.

There are two competitive looking Class 5 handicaps to close the card. Repeat The Feat is an interesting runner for the in form yard of Charlie Longsdon in the concluding hurdle contest whilst the connections of Spock will be hoping for better luck in the chase at 3.40 after the eleven year old was nabbed near the post on his last start at Ludlow.


Monday 17th October – Moorcroft

The second meeting here at Plumpton since the annual summer sabbatical is scheduled for Monday the 17th October on a day that the valuable work of Moorcroft Racehorse Welfare Centre is celebrated by those who have and those who continue to benefit from the important services they provide. There are seven races scheduled to take place on ground described on the eve of racing as good with good to firm places. The Clerk of the Course Mark Cornford is very pleased with the condition of the track and was pleased to see approximately 8mm of rain fall on the Saturday prior to racing. He believes the good to firm places are few and far between and the going stick some 24 hours in advance gave readings of 7.9 on the chase course and 8.1 on the hurdles track supporting his view that the ground is predominately good.

The Gerald Karn Memorial Chase is the feature event on the card and this novices’ limited handicap has been contested by some smart individuals in its three year history. Subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Uxizandre won the race in 2013 and last year arguably the best two mile novice chaser in the country, Ar Mad, was surprisingly beaten in this very race. Leading Plumpton trainer Gary Moore is responsible for the latter and has chosen this year’s renewal for the return of Remind Me Later. When I spoke with Gary he said the horses absence had been due to injury but that it had been nothing serious and that he had learnt from his sole chase appearance at Ascot in November 2015 that this eight year old was definitely a top of the ground horse. Gary is now happy to bring him back to the track for the first time since that Ascot outing and with conditions in his favour ground wise and his previous hurdling form suggesting the trip will be fine, I can only believe that Moore will be very disappointed if he does not leave Plumpton on Monday afternoon with this prize in the bag. However, Mercers Court will not be a push over as he has already won three of his six chase starts and had a nice return here at the last meeting when running with promise in a staying handicap hurdle. This trip is the bare minimum for him these days and I would not be surprised to see him try to put his undoubted stamina to good use to try to expose any chinks in the armour of Remind Me Later. Jarlath makes up the three runner field and has been busy over fences throughout the summer months running with great credit for his connections. His ability to be able to cope with a horse of the potential of the Moore runner however has to be questioned and whilst conditions will suit here I doubt his handicap mark underestimates his full potential.

Half an hour later at four thirty, the Class 3 SIS Supports Moorcroft Handicap Hurdle is scheduled and has attracted a field of five. The weights for this staying event are headed by Unanimite who is a relatively young horse at five to be taking on trips in excess of three miles. The American bred has undoubted ability as his form figures show but I have grave reservations about his desire and as such have passed him over here.  David Pipe however, is an excellent trainer with a very good record here and there will be those willing to trust that he will find the key to this horse. Kamool has enjoyed a good spell and is a nice chaser in the making for his connections. It may just be that he has now reached a mark which is too challenging over hurdles but he will give his running and sets a good standard. Extreme Impact is in the words of his connections a ‘complete rogue’ and you never know what you are going to get from him. Royal Battalion is another five year old in the field and has pulled up and finished unplaced in two attempts at three miles plus. The application of blinkers may elicit further improvement and the race in which he was beaten at Warwick last time was a nice race for the grade. For me, the interesting runner is the bottom weight Indian Rupee who has not looked totally at home over fences since joining his current handler from Ireland. His hurdles form in the Emerald Isle suggests to me that he could take advantage here of a lenient rating in a contest where the conditions look ideal and he could be allowed to dictate from the front.

The Josh Gifford Memorial Trophy at three o’clock is a contest that looks open to all sorts of interpretation. Unify showed admirable battling qualities to register a second consecutive win despite the ground at Fontwell last time and in this grade his tenacity is of great value. Whether the rating is now too high is a question many will ask but the return to better ground is an undoubted plus. Top weight Olivers Hill is very inconsistent but should enjoy the ground and this drop into lower grade could spark a renaissance in his fortunes. Killabraher Cross won this last year off just a 2lb lower mark and conditions are in his favour whilst the dropping by 19lbs after just one run potentially gives the former pointer Bay To Go a chance after that race threw up a couple of subsequent winners. The combination of Neil Mulholland and jockey Noel Fehily will attract many in the market to Code of Law, but to be frank I think this is a race best enjoyed for the sport rather than for any financial investment.

The opening maiden hurdle is a good looking little race and Alberta won the Jump Jockeys Derby at Epsom for Jamie Moore and Jim Best. However, Jamie has deserted the horse in favour of his father’s runner Graasten who ran with promise behind a useful individual at Fontwell on his return to hurdling recently. Subsequently out with the washing in the Cesarewitch the horse does have something to prove but sets a decent standard for his rivals to aim at here.  Alberta missed a race at Market Rasen on Saturday to be here and with Joshua Moore replacing Jamie many will be taking the hint that this son of Choisir has been found a contest by his astute trainer in which he can finally shed his hurdling maiden tag at the sixth attempt. Cashanova is an individual that I know trainer Nick Gifford has time for and he will be very interesting to note with the future in mind. However, in what is a nice race with some interesting types they may all struggle to cope with the Jonjo O’Neill trained Lithic. Tried in a Listed bumper at Newbury behind subsequent Cheltenham bumper winner Ballyandy after easily winning on his racecourse debut at Southwell last term, this £40,000 purchase may represent the best quality race goers at Plumpton get to see tomorrow.

With another three handicap contests on the card that have attracted some good sized fields it looks like being another very enjoyable day of National Hunt action as the season starts to move into gear and I hope my insights here will aid your enjoyment of the action.


18th September – Family Day


Plumpton is looking forward to hosting its first meeting since May and the track has a lovely covering of grass which will help the runners on the predicted good to firm going. At least 10mm of Friday morning helped out the clerk of the course Mark Cornford who has been watering the track for some time. Mark expects the ground to be riding on the easy side of the going report come post time for the first race at 2.00pm.
The opening novice hurdle over two miles, one furlong and 164 yards has attracted a small field but has the potential to be a strongly run contest with the three time winner Bleu Et Noir heading the weights. His slick hurdling has certainly been an asset this summer and his front running style will be well suited to this course. The Vaughan yard have also been in superb form recently. Conditional George Blackwell has shown promise and his allowance will reduce the effect of the triple penalty he incurs here. On the downside, Blackwell is still very inexperienced having had just one ride here previously and the stables overall record at Plumpton is very poor in terms of strike rate. His principal rival looks like being Baltic Storm, a five year old gelding who hails from another in form yard, that of Charlie Mann. Tommy Dowling will take the ride, his first since suffering horrendous injuries after a shocking fall in April. Baltic Storm’s form behind Red Tornado reads very well in the context of this race and he will like the conditions, has experience here at Plumpton and the weight he receives from the top weight is an added bonus. In contrast, his hurdling has not always been the most fluent. You should never dismiss a Gary Moore runner here and his Civil War ran with some credit at Fontwell on his return from a 15 month absence. The going is likely to be as quick as he would want it and his day may come further down the line in handicaps. Kandahar Bay has little to recommend him here but Tell The Tale is a hurdles debutant for an upwardly mobile stable and just like Civil War his performance here should be noted for handicaps further down the line. His pedigree suggests a stiffer test of stamina will aid his cause. In conclusion, Bleu Et Noir will not be easy to peg back and Baltic Storm will have to cut out the jumping errors if he is to take advantage of the weight concession.
The second race is another interesting contest, this time for handicap hurdlers over the minimum two mile trip. Regulation heads the weights and is now 10lb higher than his last winning mark but has run in some decent races since that victory. His run behind Mountainside at Uttoxeter is strong form for the grade at this time of year. He enjoys the ground and trip. The Nicky Henderson trained Royal Irish Hussar is a winner of Grade 2 and Listed juvenile hurdles in his time. It would seem he has had some issues however as he has been very lightly raced in the past two years mixing flat and jump racing. His first start over hurdles in nearly a year came at Newton Abbot where he was far too keen but was not disgraced in a warm race for the grade at the time of year. The drop back in trip should suit, the ground and track look to be a plus and if he can settle better he is an individual who is starting to look well handicapped. The services of his professional jockey are a boost as is his trainers fabulous strike rate from a limited pool of runners here. Good to see the Irish challenge of Colla Pier who is a dual handicap hurdle winner in the Emerald Isle. She looks a nice consistent type who will be suited by conditions. Her current mark however may test her but she will give supporters her running. A collateral form line suggests Brotherly Company could be closely matched with the Nicky Henderson runner here. He is dropping in grade here and at four you would expect there to be the scope for further improvement. My Brother Sylvest has done well since leaving the Pipe yard in the summer and this front runner will keep them all honest. Whether he can defy this mark in this grade is open to speculation. Lord Ben is another ageing warhorse who is rated 17lb higher over fences. It is two years since he last won and one would expect a couple of these to have a little too much foot for him. My conclusion is that Royal Irish Hussar and Regulation will fight out the finish.
The first chase of the card is scheduled for three o’clock and is to be run over an extended 3m1f trip. It also looks a real puzzle to solve. Mr Burgess has now joined the David Pipe team but has not been seen on the track since last year. This is a considerable step up in trip for the horse and his absence through the summer suggests he may have issues. The top weight Take A Bow has been lightly raced and did not set the world on fire on his two recent runs. Golanova returns from a summer break and does enjoy this ground. He is nothing special but is feasibly handicapped and has had only two previous tries at trips in excess of three miles. Shady Glen has been forced up in grade after a successful summer, winning twice. He will need a career best to score here but is in form and the potential that this trip could bring further improvement is there. Amber Flash has been on the go over hurdles and on the flat since March of this year. The former pointer returns to fences here and runs off a mark two pounds lower than she has won off over hurdles at a trip comparable to this test. If she can give her running she could be a player off of bottom weight in a contest where there are many imponderables.
The juvenile hurdle comes next and local trainer Gary Moore will be hoping that East Indies can get off the mark at the first time of asking. Purchased from Godolphin for 31,000 guineas at the May Sales, Moore must be hoping this 1m2f two year old winner can translate his ability to hurdles. On flat ratings the only other viable opponent would look to be Alan Kings Jim Dandy, for whom the trainer paid £40,000 before campaigning him at two and three on the flat, where he managed to pick up a win in an AW maiden. Harry Whittington is a trainer to follow through this season and he has acquired Ahraam who was very poor on the flat but as we all know flat form is not always transferred to the National Hunt game.
The 3m1f handicap hurdle will let us see if the top weighted front runner Knight Bachelor can continue the progress he has shown in recent outings. He steps up to this trip for the first time and with his confidence high on a track that should suit he is the one with the most scope in a field where the others all look pretty exposed. If the Warren Greatrex trained runner can progress again for the extra distance he could have too many guns for Listen And Learn, Mercers Court and Volcanic, who all appear to be in the grip of the handicapper. If he doesn’t, then this contest could go to any of the three mentioned.
Empty The Tank won on this card a year ago and will attempt to repeat the feat when he makes his chasing debut in the novices handicap chase over 2m4f. He is prone to pull a bit as we saw on his seasonal return at Fontwell over hurdles and that could be an issue here over the furthest trip he has encountered to date. Do We Like Him has proved very disappointing this year, whilst Little Windmill showed a very erratic fencing technique in five starts over the larger obstacles before reverting to hurdles. Mr Bien is an unknown quantity really for his Irish trainer but nothing leapt out of the page in terms of his form in Ireland. Lakeshore Lady is another who does not seem to have progressed to this point but is trained by David Bridgwater who has an excellent record here. This may best be left to Empty The Tank, who if he takes to the fences and settles may well supplement last season’s win on this card.
The concluding 2m handicap hurdle looks a minefield for punters with fifteen runners and not a whole host of form to go on. Little Buxted has been well spoken of at times by his trainer but is not producing on the track. If trainer Neil Mulholland can get Zarliman in the right frame of mind for the challenge of hurdles, this dual Flat winner could be very well handicapped and is a tentative selection.