Good to Firm (watered)
By the time this review makes it onto the website most areas ought to have received their first significant rainfall in weeks, but it was never going to come soon enough and / or in significant enough quantity to assist the embattled groundstaff all round the country in producing genuinely good, safe going.
Some point-to-point tracks did not get anywhere close to racing this weekend, of course, with four fixtures lost due to unsafe going, but Dingley has the advantage over most of a river from which to draw. In the event, though, it took five days of watering and the near-total draining dry of that river to produce the good to firm ground on which racing ultimately took place. The efforts were rewarded to an extent, and several courses would have given their eye teeth for a total of 42 runners (plus one late withdrawal) this weekend, but there was a demonstrable lack of quality to the card as a whole, especially in the feature race.
RACE ONE: MEMBERS
Four times a winner under Rules for Phillip Hobbs and rated 135 at his best over hurdles, he never really scaled the same sort of heights over regulation fences despite landing one ordinary Chepstow beginners’ contest, and he is clearly a more contented creature over the smaller obstacles found in points. This was, incidentally, his first win of any description on going with the word “firm” in the title, although in truth he had very little to beat here and he’d need to repeat the dose in better company before truly convincing as being as good on a quicker surface.
Stablemate UNGARETTI, with the other Hutchinson sibling Sam on board, cut out the early running but had already been headed when blundering at the 12 th and was never going to overhaul Limerick Leader at any stage after that. A confirmed plodder, he may have been more lucratively placed in the Four-Miler given how much that race cut up on this occasion. Nevertheless, his finish here looked to have given the Hutchinson family first and second in the race until it transpired that Sam had failed to weigh in, thereby effecting a disqualification for the gelding and a £60 fine (first offence) for the rider.
Rank outsider SOCIETY SCANDAL was completely outpaced on the final circuit before picking off a couple of exhausted rivals late on to claim a pre-disqualification third. The horse’s performance offers little hope for better (he is now 1-37 in points), but how good it was to see a fully-recovered Serena Tyler back in the saddle following her lay-off with neck tissue damage following a fall from the appalling Mukdar at the previous meeting.
RACE TWO: CONFINED
A little disappointing in her first British season when trained by Cowley himself last year (Alana West trains her now), she has found her form again with a vengeance in the last few weeks, and if the old adage of keeping mares running when they hit form is to be believed, connections could do worse than finding something else for her post-haste.
To a certain extent Arctic Sky was unlucky to happen across a resurgent rival on this occasion, and he was making a bit of ground back late on even taking the winner’s idling into account, but the bare facts are that he is now 0-12 in points, and his lack of tactical speed is still costing him races. His time would really be better spent trying to grind out a result over more of a stayer’s course than this.
Nothing else really landed a blow, with NOEL’S PRIDE once again looking no good thing to defy a 5lb penalty in a well-held third. Seven times a scorer over hurdles at up to 3m1f during 2001 and 2002, he continues to look 27,000gns poorly spent by Nick Bell.
RACE THREE: CONFINED MAIDEN
She behaved herself well enough in the race proper, though, not pulling too hard or boiling over despite the funereal pace, and having taken the inside route throughout joined longtime leader KIM BUCK four out before leaving that rival trailing in her wake turning for home. Quite what Miss Bobsleigh achieved is debatable, as the opposition was not up to much and the winning time was the thick end of 15 seconds slower than that of any other race over the 3m trip today. The raw material is certainly there, but in following her from here on you are effectively placing store in there being more to come if she behaves herself better in the preliminaries.
Kim Buck was hopeless under Rules for Kevin Morgan and was completing for the first time ever when a 32l third at Garthorpe last time out. He sweated badly early on here but jumped nicely enough in front before being picked off by the winner and ultimately finished quite tired, a slowly diminishing 3l ahead of Patrick Millington on DROMIN. That rival got badly outpaced as they made their final descent before two out, and whilst he clawed back some of the lost ground late on, a fifteenth straight defeat in points always looked the likeliest outcome.
COREY CRACKER made it four pulled-ups out of four after a lifeless display, and his mum, four-time steeplechase winner Dubelle, must despair of him. Jimmy Tarry has a lot of work on his hands to make this one into anything approximating a racehorse.
RACE FOUR: MIXED OPEN (Fernie Four-Miler)
It did produce a thrilling finish, however, with three different horses holding the lead from the turn for home onwards. Odds-on favourite GOOD VINTAGE took a small lead at flagfall, which he then stretched to around 4l starting the final circuit in an attempt to put all his rivals to the sword. However, the distress signals were being sent descending into the dip for the last time, and by the time he emerged from it he had been pocketed by TROOPER, who maintained that lead until around 25 yards from home. However, Tony Woodward’s gelding has a reputation for moodiness and recalcitrance stretching back to his Rules days from 3 ½+ years ago and more (connections even admit that this was how they acquired him so cheaply), and, having decided he had done enough, he was outbattled close home by a rival in PARSONHUMFRYWEBBER galvanised into decisive action by Claire Allen.
The winner is hardly the most willing hero nowadays himself, having only a Northaw Members win to show from an extensive 2006 campaign and nothing at all from three prior starts this, and this victory owed plenty to Allen not allowing the old rogue his own way when it looked like he was on the verge of dropping himself off the pace approaching two from home. The race is likely to be of more lasting significance to the rider – as part of her ongoing chase for a first Ladies’ Title – than to the horse, for whom any great revival of fortunes off the back of this result really ought not be expected.
The same comment applies to Trooper, whose win in a match at Flagg Moor at Easter constitutes his only win from his last 31 starts and whose doggy tendencies appear terminal. Notwithstanding him having to do the donkey work, Good Vintage’s faltering effort late on has to rate as a bit disappointing, and if he does head back to Folkestone for the 3m7f hunter chase next, this did not offer too much hope of him going two places better this year than last.
RACE FIVE: RESTRICTED
At the business end, COSI CELESTE made it two from three for the season, and two from two over course and distance, by battling to the front on the home-turn bend having looked in all sorts of trouble on a couple of occasions previously, not least when dropped by the leading group by some four lengths at halfway. Tim Lane refused to panic on the Apeldoorn 10yo despite either this trailing margin or a succession of indifferent leaps, and there was still enough left over after the last to repel the renewed late challenge of Ashley Bealby and SCATTERED SCARLET. The latter has been disappointing since getting a head verdict in a Thorpe Lodge maiden in January on ground much tackier than this, and it would require him to string together a couple more decent efforts in succession before he would rate as worthy of recommendation at this sort of level.
In a race not short of jumping errors, arguably the most crucial was committed by the favourite RORY’STOWN BOY, who was disputing the lead when getting five out completely wrong. Despite sustained driving by Tony Williams to try to regain lost ground subsequently, the gelding’s bid to follow up his Tabley Maiden win basically went west with that error. However, such was the authority with which he recorded that win previously that he would not be one to cast aside in Restricted class just yet, although clearly mistakes of this magnitude are not for repeating too often.
RACE SIX: OPEN MAIDEN
Left a length clear by GREEN COLLAR’s departure five from home, Lane did not let his Kadalko 6yo extend to any great extent until heads turned for home, but once given the office The Fast Frog quickly put further daylight between himself and his toiling rivals, and whilst the official winning margin of 7 ½ l was perhaps a shade generous, he definitely counts as a decisive winner. A nice looking sort, he is in good hands to progress.
TAKEN ON TRUST was effectively making his serious debut here, having lasted only three fences on his first start last time. His round of jumping on this occasion was basically pretty assured, and having been held up early on he emerged within the final mile to chase home the winner and pull a distance clear of the third. Although nothing much on breeding (his dam has produced a couple of Rules winners off platers’ marks, plus the odd modest scorer between the flags, but nothing better), this was a run of some promise and Jimmy Tarry should be able to find him something comparable before the season’s end.
ITSTHEKINGMURPHY, possessive of the same silly walk most famously practised by Shotgun Willy in recent times, appeared to run in snatches before staying on again all too late at the death. This rated a career-best effort in points, but at the same time didn’t mark him out as an obvious winner in waiting. ALFLORATTA failed to build on her Kingston Blount effort to any particular extent, whilst the two Millington runners, MERRIMAC and EDIE MCCREDIE, enjoyed their own private battle for the last two finishing positions, Matt Briggs on the former out-riding the owner-trainer on the latter.
Of the non-finishers, MON AVIS, a Terimon 6yo bred out of a prolific point winner, had shown more youthful petulance than ability previously, refusing in two of his four career starts. Prominent for much of this contest, he still had not come to the end of his tether when falling four out, but whilst one could argue he would have gone close but for his spill, that still makes his career record read five non-completions from five and it will take a leap of faith to side with him until he proves capable of registering a clear round.
WITH A DASH, twice off the track for a prolonged period and only fleetingly competitive in his sporadic pointing starts to date (still bang there when unseating late on last time), was taken down early to post, proved most reluctant to line up with the others, and ultimately whipped round when they did set off in earnest, gifting all his rivals 30 lengths. He pulled up at halfway having looked thoroughly cheesed off throughout and may be best trodden carefully with next time out.