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South East Hunts Club
Sunday 22nd February 2009
by Simon McInnes

If there is one area of entertainment that the sports fan could normally go expecting consistency and reliability, it is Charing point to point. The course never changes layout, the going is always good or good to soft, nothing ever quite surprises. But today, change was afoot. No mobile betting shop. No aptly named Splendid Meat Company. No mulled cider stall. Possibly one less PA tower, so standing uphill from the open ditch rendered the commentary inaudible. But there was redemption, in enjoying the misfortunes of others. Normally, being a number board operator in the south-east is a pretty cushy number. No more than half a dozen runners to flag up, and sort out the riders from a small list. Well today, we had runners coming out of our ears - the fifth race was almost divided - and it made for some excellently competitive racing. And to their credit, the startled board team rose to occasion excellently, getting the data up and running much more promptly than other meetings achieve with far less runners. Of course, had it been lubricated with mulled cider, it could have been even better!

Going: Good

race 1: Gillian Jarvis Memorial Club Members Maiden, 4-7 year olds, 2m 4f
1: Pingaro De La Vire 2: Moderano 3: Swing State
Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Kim Smyly
After being caned by a plunge on a Don Cantillon newcomer in this last year (which has gone on to prove useful under Rules), the presence of another debutant four year old from that yard caused the bookmakers to price up the race with understandable caution; he was in contention for two miles and then outpaced in the last part of the race, like several others, as there were seven still in the main bunch as they turned into the straight next to the A20, but Pingaro De La Vire and Moderano had ten lengths daylight at the end. The winner battled on well from the second last after being headed for a stride on two on the run-in, but two things cost Moderano dear, as he was beaten half a length. One was a blunder three out in an otherwise solid round of jumping, and the other was that being a four year old, he was allocated 10 stone 7 pounds in the weights, but Peter Bull, like most of the well-nourished local riders, had no chance of being that waif-like and put up seven pounds overweight.

race 2: South East Bookmakers Club Members Restricted
1: Droppy's 2: The Longest Day 3: Comeonourfella
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Godfrey Maundrell
Having maybe felt that they had got it right in the opener, the bookies probably suffered a bit in this one, even on a day when they were quite busy throughout, as whilst I was queuing to burden another horse with the weight of my money, a bet was taken of £1,000 to £50 on Droppy's, and when the race unfolded with only The Longest Day (who tends to pull up a lot, so will have found this a long day/race indeed) and Comeonourfella (only marginally more impressive) challenging Droppy's, the worst looked inevitable. In fact it took a good jump from Droppy's two out to get control and he was being reeled in again on the run-in. The form looks suspect, and not just because of the placed horses. The winner appeared to be in a bit of a bad mood in the paddock, and instead of the unplaced runners staggering home in vain, the fourth to sixth all finished strongly, battling for the £25 minor prize, which suggested that all of their jockeys misjudged the pace up front or that the three horses all perked up when running back towards the horse boxes. This could/should/might do better gang included Detling winner Nessa and Lunch Was My Idea. The mob of less positive outcome had the legendary local loser Parzando and Round And Round, both of whom were again someway short of their previous best efforts.

race 3: Shepherd Neame Men's Open
1: Bee An Bee 2: Highland Chief 3: Another Dude
Winner owned & trained: David Robinson, ridden: Stuart Robinson
This was the area's Brightwell's Order Of Excellence, and with Bee An Bee adding to his already impressive winning streak, the points went to a deserving contender. He did well considering that he appeared to be a touch short of peak fitness and Highland Chief (admittedly a much lower rated handicap chaser) had already turned out and won this season. Rather like the first race, the winner made most and rallied gamely when the runner-up had the temerity to poke his nose in front. In other respects this was more Charing-like, with the beaten horses well scattered. Master T ran well for a while on his pointing debut, but has dubious stamina in this context, whereas the proven stayer Undeniable could have jumped better - although for a 120+ rated handicap chaser is on offer at 12/1 for a race of this nature in the south-east, it is perhaps a sign that expectations are not high.

race 4: Penny Peate Ladies Open
1: Myson 2: Theatre Knight 3: Big Moment
Winner owned: Random Optimists Partnership, trained & ridden: Rose Grissell
A good standard Ladies' race (several made a three figure handicap mark in professional yards) produced a close four horse finish, and it was announced afterwards that this was Rose Grissell's first win in points as a rider, which was a surprise, as although she has not had a huge number of mounts, most regulars would have assumed she would have won a three runner hunt race at Catsfield (or similar) along the way. At the second from home, the race looked in the bag, but Myson, a solid two and a half miler that rarely ventured far afield under Rules, came to the end of his tether and Theatre Knight began to close again, but not quite quickly enough. As this was happening, Big Moment was in close attendance but concentrating his efforts on securing another short priced defeat. Forest Miller arrived on the scene late, being beaten barely a length for third, and first impressions were that his rider timed it badly, but when with Richard Philips he won less frequently than he ought to have done, and it may be the horse that was at fault. Bonne Noel's won a suspect standard open at Higham in January and found his aspirations to a repeat horribly exposed as a sham. A sham!

race 5: RCL Swimming Pool & Hot Tub Company Club Members
1: Young Collier 2: Go North 3: Independent Trader
Winner owned & trained: Ann Blaker, ridden: Phil York
What with a vast horde of runners and missing number cloths forcing two of them to run in the wrong number, trying to keep track of what was going on was so stressful that I was forced to have a portion of shepherd's pie to help the concentration. Mysaynoway causing a false start and then running out at the first when they got going did not help things. Even after this, the race looked to be run quite fast, but the official time suggested otherwise. Some sort of beef and potato inspired optical illusion. Young Collier had shown a hint of a rekindled racing flame before falling in an open last time, and the experience oddly seemed to inspire him to come good - that and the drop in class. He saw off the progressive Go North with a bit to spare, but the runner-up did at least leave the rest trailing a long way behind him, and the next three home, Independent Trader, No Refuge and Soldershire can all be handy in this class on their day.

race 6: Grants Cherry Brandy Members Maiden
1: Mooresini 2: Captain's Legacy 3: Marine Gunner
Winner owned & trained: Linda Cannon, trained: Tom Cannon
Stamina held the key to this, as Captain's Legacy was repelling the all the niggling challenges of Mooresini from the fourth last, only for him to finally falter at the final fence, and give Mooresini one last glimmer of hope, which was grabbed at with aplomb by Tom Cannon. Being a nine year old, the number of times he had not quite managed to get there was becoming ominous for the winner, but he does give the impression that he will run into some rivals with which he has a mental affinity in restricteds from now on. It could also be argued that Captain's Legacy has too much ability to be contesting maidens as an eight year old, and is therefore somewhat less than straight forward. However, he was a better hurdler than Alfies Isle, and that horse started favourite in his first point, although he seemed to hate every minute of it and was soon trailing. As far as the future goes, it would have been more encouraging for them to have been more than a length ahead of Marine Gunner who surpassed his previous performances by quite some way today.

Plus Points

Moderano (race 1): A slightly unlucky loser and seems good enough to get off the mark soonish.

Highland chief (race 3): Gave a scare to a prolific winner and went down with honour intact.

Forest Miller (race 4): Inclined to give him one more chance, despite the baggage he brings with him.

Young Collier (race 5): Awoken from a three year slumber.

Go North (race 5): Defeated but a good effort all the same.

Down Arrows

Swing State (race 1): From a yard that normally has them ready to run first time, it was a fairly average start to his racing career.

Droppy's (race 2): Possibly had an already soft race gifted to him and could struggle upped in class.

Undeniable (race 3): Jumped safely by cautiously and looked a shadow of his old self.

Big Moment (race 4): Has had his, and found it underwhelming.

Mysaynoway (race 5): Inclined to be a bit manic out in front, but running out was a new slot in her repertoire.

Alfies Isle (race 6): Gave cause to exercise extreme caution by failing to get even a little involved.

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