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West Street Tickham
Saturday 26th January 2008
by Simon McInnes

An earlier start than usual for the south-east saw the weather in co-operative mood, indeed from the top of the hill, the crowd could see deep into the wilds of Essex, and the fans came out in decent numbers. For the horses, and some of the riders who had been out of action since May, the ground was in decent nick, but there was a stiff wind blowing down the straight, and the runners would be finishing the race going uphill right into it over the last three fences. The signs of a generally mild winter were that few of the very healthy numbers (and, for the most part, quality) of runners turned out looking in need of the exercise.

Going: Good

Race 1: Giles Hopper Memorial Open Maiden
1: Balableu 2: Master Brew 3: Millview
Winner owned: Mr EMG Roberts, trained: Suzy Bull, ridden: Peter Bull
Due to taking one wrong turn and being at other times stuck behind some terminally bemused road users, I only arrived in time to note down the runners for this and watch the race, so positive and negative pre-race signals went unspotted. Balableu, who unseated his rider as he was about to leave the paddock, adopted quite aggressive tactics, and having been clear four out, he found a little bit more late on when the others had very gradually reeled him in. As this was race number two of his career, there could well be more improvement to come. At the age of ten, Master Brew has shown his limitations in various theatres, but as Millview has made the frame in the past, this sort of form could get him a win eventually. Connections of Some Story were fined for using the racecourse as a training ground, but it really would be some story if they used this educational as a route to landing a maiden win with this twelve year old.

Race 2: Keenhay Services Confined Conditions
1: Balau 2: Gielgud 3: Daretobedifferent
Winner owned: Mr C Cheesman, trained: Alison Hickman, ridden: Philip York
Like the first race, the winner held on after making a fairly early attack, and in Balau's case it also maintained his frustrating history of winning when he does not fall. Despite chasing hard, Gielgud could not take advantage of dropping down from Hunter Chases. The surprise of the race was Daretobedifferent, who had not been spotted on course very often in recent years, and had shown little when he did emerge. Having missed last season Exodous, who was possibly a little short of 100%, ran well until being pulled up entering the straight. A very promising comeback for the near future, although he is not the most prolific of winners. On the other hand, Nathos, who had become a bit jaded under Rules, did not look refreshed by going pointing, having second thoughts about continuing after both times that he passed the post.

Race 3: Ovenden's Restricted
1: Dante's Storm 2: Beareen Lad 3: Dizzy Massini
Winner owned: Mr IM Cobbold, trained & ridden: Philip York
A typically unconvincing Restricted field, won by the unbeaten Dante's Storm. His form figures looked much better than his rivals, but he is the only one doing anything to show the two previous successes in a favourable light. Eventually he will be backed into an unwinnable corner, surely? Irish import Beareen Lad did not post a bad first effort, but he does not look to be anything out of the ordinary.

Race 4: Global Food Technologies Ladies' Open
1: Heaven Is Above 2: New Entic 3: Heracles
Winner owned: Anthony Ward-Thomas, trained: Jenny Gordon, ridden: Claire Allen
Eight went to post for this, and from the off they went a good lick, with none of the participants happy to sit off of the pace. Heaven Is Above pulled his way to the front at the sixth and kept finding a bit more when Claire Allen asked, and the other placed horses were snapping at his heels over the last three fences. Since his switch from Rules, this was New Entic's best effort as a pointer, although there is still a suspicion that he needs a gentle three miles, or slowly run race. After missing the last two seasons, connections must have been delighted for Heracles to be in the frame and so close to the winner. Fourth placed Peachy made too many mistakes to stay in contention. The sponsor's name cried out GM Frankenstein Foods, so perhaps they have something up their sleeve to sort that out.

Race 5: Volkswagen Touareg Men's Open
1: Honourable Spider 2: Noakarad De Verzee 3: Turnstile
Winner owned: Mr EMG Roberts, trained: Suzy Bull, ridden: Peter Bull
Another tick on Honourable Spider's roll of honour, although he was not at his best today, in an open where the first four home were encouragingly youthful. He jumped right often, and hung over to the right on the run-in. For those who had not seen him in action before, there should be better to come later in the season. After disappointing on his UK debut, Noakarad De Verzee showed much more life this time around, and he should be winning an open sooner rather than later. Having succeeded in all disciplines that he has attempted in the past, the same is possible for Turnstile, but the fact that he left Howard Johnson's yard at a fairly tender age (six) is a slightly ominous fact. Fourth was Kadount, who faded from the eighteenth after being in front or with the leader all the way. There is a stamina question about him, and the conditions and tactics found him out today. As is becoming traditional, The Grey Baron put in a laboured and generally uninspiring seasonal debut. Will he repeat his usually gradual enlivening?

Race 6: PPORA Club Members Conditions, Novice Riders
1: Bucket Awl 2: New Lodge Express 3: Charm Lord
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs AH Walter, trained: Alan Walter, ridden: Miss J Carr
All in all, it had been a rather sensible day, but the last race put that right. On the second of the three occasions that the fences in the home straight were taken, the first pair were bypassed. The second had been hit hard by a faller, but there were no obvious reasons for the first. As they approached them for the final time, the markers had been removed from the second of these two fences. Commonly, if a fence is bypassed once, it tends to be repeated for the rest of the race, and Anthony Ward-Thomas presumably had this in mind as he decided at the last minute to steer around it on Splash And Dash. At the same time Native Performance did not jump it either, possibly due to being carried around it by Splash And Dash. These two crossed the line first and third, but after a prolonged deliberation by the stewards, and a public reminder to all jockeys to weigh in, just in case, Splash And Dash and Native Performance were disqualified. Having backed Bucket Awl, I cannot deny that Splash And Dash would have beaten him as the sudden detour lost the hapless 'winner' ground and only an uncharacteristic blunder at the fence or Native Performance could have deprived him. All credit to the rider of Bucket Awl for looking a tidy rider and also not being distracted or made at all uncertain by the chaos around her. New Lodge Express and Charm Lord inherited two places that they not otherwise have got, although the latter at least posted a better effort than he has for a while. Lively Lord may be recorded as having run out, which would be due to a tack problem after a mistake early in the race. This seems harsh, but he is even more cantankerous these days, so do not expect a massive change in future.

Plus Points
Balableu (race 1): Pulled up on last year's debut, won first time up this time. There is every chance of more improvement to come.
Exodous (race 2): An adequate performance returning from a long absence
New Entic (race 4): Had the race run to suit, but looked up to the task on this occasion (unlike at Cottenham)
Noakarad De Verzee (race 5): Is getting there step by step
Turnstile (race 5): The doubt about his going pointing so early remains, but in a true test his stamina seemed to hold out quite well.
Bucket Awl (race 6): A fortunate winner, but had all of them jumped two out, his effort would have still be a decent one

Down Arrows
Dizzy Massini (race 3): A performance are not quite as encouraging as the form number it produced and it could be over-estimated in a similar race
Peachy (race 4): Needs to brush up the jumping skills to be challenging in competitive Open races Kadount (race 5): Appears to be a likely candidate to struggle over three miles
New Lodge Express (race 6): Was the one most flattered by the outcome of the stewards' work

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