by Simon McInnes

Courtesy of an RAC van carrying out it’s own rolling roadblock on the A20, I only managed to catch half of the first race, but that did not dilute from a meeting full of incident nor the report from a variety of water fowl related comments.

Gillian Jarvis Memorial Open Maiden (2½ miles)
Only five lined up in this race for five to seven year olds. The finish was fought out by newcomer Yallah Habibi and the more experienced Shoveontommy. The former got the verdict, Nick Gifford maintaining his form from the last meeting. Alex Embiricos was pushing and shoving for all she was worth after the last, but the horse looked to be going painfully slowly. However, Shoveontommy was similar but worse. Given that he ran as if staying 2m 6f last time when the trip was 3 miles, it was disappointing to only see out 2m 3f this time around. The other three runners were beaten so far that massive improvement will be needed to break their combined duck (is that some sort of mallard?).

South East Bookmakers Restricted
Due to the ground, there was a suspicion that the maidens last time were more about survivors than talent, but it was still a minor surprise to see Sheriff’s Friend, who won one of them, turned out in a hood so soon after. Perhaps it failed to have the desired effect as he slowed up badly approaching the last and took plenty of riding to get home after the bulk of the opposition had called it a day at the top of the hill. Oxendale was the main threat under a waiting ride, but he seems to be able to make the frame at this level without often hinting at winning, and Sheriff’s Friend gave him every chance this time. Similar can be said for third placed Quick Bowler, who might find stamina limitations holding him back. As is common, Chill Factor plodded on to make the frame. Irish maiden winner Bricanmore attracted money in the ring but was pulled up after a severe disagreement with the open ditch. Unbeaten James Isaac (one out of one) looked as if this seasonal debut was needed and he was beaten when falling three out. As long as that has not frightened him, he can do better next time.

Hobbs Parker Mens Open
One of the real local stalwarts, Seod Rioga, headed the market, despite a tame seasonal debut. After a few wins and many excellent places in opens, this weak one ought to have been easy meat, but perhaps age is catching up with him, as it was only another place achieved. After being niggled along a circuit out Seod Rioga led four out but was headed two fences later. Thus Wibbley Wobbley won, overcoming a tendency to run wide on the turns and also having done the donkey work for two laps. A good fight back by both horse and Jamie Hawksfield when it seemed their goose had been cooked. Third placed Brackenheath did as well as can be expected for a horse that seems to close his eyes and guess when approaching a fence.

Princess Grace Hospital (London) Ladies Open
A stewards enquiry into improved form! The winner, Storm Castle, was the subject and it can be put down to the fact that he was considerably fitter than two weeks ago, and the opposition less able. The field was well strung out as early as the sixth, but Dragon Lord made a fair fist of challenging the winner. Having fallen on his last appearance under Rules and his first point-to-point, he was surprisingly reliable in the jumping sphere. A noteworthy performance came from long time absentee Stonesby. He was promising under Rules, and looked fit despite managing just one run since April 1999. Due to a slow start, he was well adrift by the first, but made stealthy progress after the fifteenth to be a possible threat as he storked(!) the leaders. Just as supporters were sellotaping their betting slips back together, Stonesby’s rally petered out. The first impression was that it was a noteworthy debut, but later review of his Rules form revealed that two miles on fast ground was his trip, so perhaps this is as good as he will do pointing.

South East Hunts Club Members
Fifteen took part in this and those present were witness to the justification for why these reviews have been prone to refer to Chris Gordon as The Great Man. He was reunited with the capable but ever so totally barmy Physical Fun, rapidly becoming known as a Great Loon of the area. As early as mounting up time in the paddock, the horse had his ears back and tried to avoid getting a jockey on board, clearly having little intention of making a contribution to the spectacle. But today the plan was to confuse him into joining in. At the start, he ambled around 100 yards behind the rest. The starter gave signs that the tape was about to go up, and The Great Man cantered Physical Fun towards the field. He was on terms and mobile at the off, and they were over the second before he had recovered his wits and thought about refusing. But this was only half the battle, and the other riders were clearly a touch surprised to not just see the pair racing, but prominent. Three out, it was between Physical Fun, Cormeen Lord and Tough Terms. At the next, Cormeen Lord had the race at his mercy, but he faded and when he gets this far Physical Fun is a capable tool, enough to pinch the race in a barely needed photograph. Tough Terms ground to a near halt after running his best race in some time, and Jimmy Dan and High Learie filled the frame. The verdict on the result: This was not evidence of a reformed character in the winner, and he is worth opposing next time, as he will not want to be conned at the start again!

Marsh Private Clients/TBA PPORA Club Members Mares Race
This initially seemed to be a present from the local bookmakers to punters, as after a fine effort in the last men’s open here Satcotino was widely on offer at evens in far lesser company. After a laborious first lap, it seemed for all the world that the oddsmakers had got it spot on, but once she warmed to the task, Satcotino dominated totally. The second horse, Allrite Pet, showed signs of a return to her best, especially as she was given an awful lot to do on the last circuit from the back of the field. In recent comparison to the winner, Viking Lily won the members race at the last meeting and stayed on late this time, never nearer than at the finish. At eight, she could still have some improvement in her. These were the only finishers, and in fact just one more horse went further than the fifteenth. That was Thatcham Island, who ran excellently until her stamina ran out, looking pretty tired when she fell at the fourth last.

Grants Cherry Brandy South East Hunts Club Maiden
Sixteen went to post, but plenty gave up the ghost well before the end. Whilst one or two were hampered by fitness, the prominent finish of a horse that had previous given no indication of an aptitude for racing is never a good sign. In this case, Gabaka De Thaix is the horse in question and a good jump two out gave thoughts of a big upset occurring. However, Harry Fowler and six year old Leading Case had other ideas and reasserted themselves, despite a tendency to jump right. The winner was bred and is mostly owned by David & Heather Silk, who were no doubt delighted to win the David Silk & Peter Rylands Challenge Salver as a result, although had he not fallen at Horseheath when well in front, Leading Case would have not been qualified for this race. So delighted, surprised and relieved connections? The Winkster was third again, and had no excuses having got close enough if good enough. Fourth was an exposed nine year old, Hatch Gate, whose second consecutive completion gives him a career total of two. So a promising youngster delivers, but big doubts about the strength of the form. Although he was struggling to stay with the first pair, Two Paddies’ fall four out cost him a place in the frame. Ominously he has pointing form of UF, but seems to have some ability if the jumping gets sorted out.