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Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace
Saturday 5th February 2011
by Simon McInnes

A first visit to Horseheath, a track which manages to give a sense of being in a remote place, off the the beaten track, whilst remaining very accessible from the major road network, with the exit going direct onto the A1307. Usually we have to rely on America for leading the way in convenient located wildernesses, with good services. Although Horseheath has more toilets. And less bears.

The main weather feature of the day was the wind, which had dropped since Friday but still blew like mad. The dip in the centre of the track, where all the facilities and the paddock sit, provided some degree of shelter, but as soon as either slope was climbed to be near the course proper, it was very noticeable how much it increased. Some of the brimmed hats took off faster than the horses were running. Most amusing to those not wearing one, and our thanks go to their owners for amusement provided.

Going: Good (Good to Firm places)

Race 1: Grant Thornton Members
1: Bluegun 2: Where's My Baby 3: Evening Echo
Winner owned: Mrs P Rogers, trained: Simon Andrews, ridden: Gina Andrews
There were only eight entries for this race, but a healthy turnout of six ensured a competitive race of a decent standard, and all were well bunched descending the hill to the fourth last, where something happened. Unfortunately, looking into the wind was causing eyes to water, and whatever did occur opted to do it as I was brushing them clear. The suspicion was that one ran out and another unseated, with The Rodeo Clown and Irish Rebel departing. The results of an enquiry included Where's My Baby in the incident, but deemed it all accidental, so perhaps whichever "ran out" just had no room to do anything else. Appearing over the rise into the straight, Bluegun had hit the front, but he was unable to dash away from the persistent challenge of open winner Where's My Baby and the less predictable presence of Evening Echo, who has only won up to Restricted standard. Bluegun was quite highly rated under rules and certainly did not run to that level, but he also looked as if he would come on a bit for the run. However, since his hurdles debut in April 2008, this was the first time he has got his head home first, so he seems beatable. Under the circumstances, Where's My Baby did not post a bad first run of the season, but it could have been even better had he been able to ratchet up the pressure on the winner.

Race 2: Alexanders Open Maiden, 4-7 year olds
1: Bavard Court 2: Chief Of The Pack 3: Lord Francoise
Winner owned & trained: Joe Turner, ridden: Louise Allen
A maiden that proved quite interesting, with an ebbing and flowing of fortune for those involved in the finish. Bavard Court, who had struggled a little climbing the hill into the back straight, came from off the pace to lead three out, seemingly travelling best of all. Almost unnoticed, which is unusual for a grey except in fog, Chief Of The Park emerged to take the lead at the last, all set for a glorious start to his racing career - having looked a bit small and anonymous in the paddock. Whether it was lack of nous, or race fitness, he found Bavard Court coming back at him, and could not hold off the rally. A fine start and he looks like a winner in waiting. Lord Francois looked the fittest horse in the race but was a bit one paced at the end, at least finishing well clear of Gentle Jim in fourth, who has not built on a promising debut at Detling - previous assertions that he would "definitely do better" are looking very over-optimistic. Irish maiden runner-up Redbridge Perk ruined his chance with a cluster of sloppy jumps, and Karintino did the same in the last half mile or so, ruining her moving through the field very sweetly to challenge, having started well off of the pace.

Race 3: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Members, Novice Riders
1: Ballygalley Bob 2: Carapuce 3: Early Wings
Winner owned: Miss C Fryer & D Taylor, trained: Caroline Fryer, ridden: Richard Collinson
Four runners went clear in this going across the skyline before five out, and it appeared that one by one Ballygalley Bob had burned the other trio off. However, the climb into the finishing straight proved hard work all day, and he also suffered, having to be ridden out to seal a win that had appeared no sweat. He had his moments under rules, both in a good way and a bad one, so having taken his pointing tally to two runs, two wins, Ballygallley Bob is almost due for a flop. Since switching to points, the speciality of Carapuce has been to finish without managing to stick his neck in front, and it was the winner tying up that flattered him a bit here. Early Wings lived up to his name, working hard in the first mile, and paying the price at the end, being in danger of losing a place when Captain Knock unseated at the last - the fourth time he has gained a U in five runs, spoiling any positives for his distant completion at Charing last week. Greek Star, who was detached from the start and tailed off with a fair way to run, refused to stop and as others did not follow his example, he ended up an unlikely fourth.

Race 4: Greene King Men's Open
1: Denvale 2: Aughlea Bridge 3: James Pine
Winner owned & ridden: Richard Hunnisett, trained: Gerald Bailey
Last year's winner repeated the feat for 2011, with Denvale taking advantage of the overly aggressive tactics of his main dangers. Five from the finish, James Pine - placed in hunter chases last season - and Aughlea Bridge were going head to head, and also leaving the oppo well behind. At that point they were head on into the wind, and the effort told (although the rest were far too distant to have any claim to waiting cunningly in the slipstream). Denvale began to close on the downhill stretch, and rising into the straight the previous leading pair were treading water and he passed them with ease. He also looked as there was a small amount of fitness improvement to come. Aughlea Bridge outlasted the exhausted James Pine for second, but has now been found wanting in a couple of fair standard opens. That is not to say he cannot win a less well contested one. Rydal Park, who won three last season, was very laboured with over a lap to go. On looks, he did not seem to be at full fitness, but ran even below the expectation derived from that view.

Race 5: SCB Holdings Ladies' Open
1: Mid Div And Creep 2: Kilcasan 3: Ungaro
Winner owned: Mrs K Exall, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: Gina Andrews
Seven lined up here, but the betting had it as a two horse race. Mid Div And Creep had not been beaten in six previous visits to Horseheath, but she had the 2010 bet365 Gold Cup runner-up Hoo La Baloo to contend with this time. They were similar prices, which reflected the fact that Hoo La Baloo, whilst able to boast occasional very strong form, had disappointed with regularity and seemed often to be pursuing his own agenda - one in which racing was a peripheral interest. Mid Div And Creep is woefully named, as she likes to be out in front and it was business as usual. When Hoo La Baloo challenged and took a slight lead before the fourth last, the course streak appeared in serious danger, but Mid Div And Creep recovered her poise and forged ahead in the straight. The main two both found the home straight a stiff challenge, with Kilcasan coming through to get second, having been well behind with six furlongs or so to race. This was above what he has managed in the past, but he is only seven, and with an Ampton run to put him right, might be a genuine improvement. Hoo La Baloo even managed to lose third to Ungaro in the last couple of yards, for which his rider was fined. Owner Andy Stewart is unlikely to lose much sleep over the fifty quid it cost him.

Race 6: Cheffins Restricted
1: Ide No Idea 2: Galway Jack 3: King's Chase
Winner owned: Mrs S Fryer, trained: Caroline Fryer, ridden: Rupert Stearn
The pendulum swung dramatically for Ide No Idea, who posted cracking form in his only point in Ireland,* but mostly lost the plot quite badly. This was his first run in Britain, and fellow Irish migrant Galway Jack harrassed him all the way, but there was no sign of his morale breaking. Another that has only just turned seven, this reignition of the spark still has time to carry him to better things, and two losses on heavy at Punchestown (latest in blinkers) suggested that he never totally forgot how to race. Galway Jack is a year younger, and also showed his best Irish results most recently, so in theory supports the view of Ide No Idea being revitalised. Slightly concerning for the form was the close proximity of King's Chase. He had won a maiden in Ireland nearly two years ago, but his form since (which was mostly under rules) looked like a spilled tin of Alphabetti Spaghetti. And the fourth, Harty's Quay was also a little too close for comfort considering his previous efforts. The counter views are that recent winners Particular Man and Up And Away were blown away by the first four and a rapid winning time of 6m 11s (only beaten in the Ladies' Open), but talking of being blown away, maybe the strong winds were making conditions faster as the afternoon progressed.
* Beat dual Grade 1 winner Realt Dubh, a distance clear of the other quintet, four of whom have won since.

Race 7: ProCam Agricultore Open Maiden, 8 year olds and older
1: Batalov 2: Royal Gesture 3: Hoola
Winner owned: A Howland Jackson, trained: Simon Andrews, ridden: Gina Andrews
This did not impress as a strong race, and although the winning jockey will be rightly delighted with her treble, Batalov was far from convincing in achieving it. The form of his third at Ampton had been let down by Vote For Doodle at Charing, and even once he had control in the lead, he approached the last unconvincingly, and the head on view was one of a horse with half a mind to call it a day before jumping it. Once this step had be negotiated he lumbered on a bit less slowly than the exposed Royal Gesture and Hoola. The two newcomers for this both looked appealing in the paddock. Charlie's Chance weakened rapidly and pulled up before fence twelve, but Polirock D'Aron was going like a major contender when he fell five out. His jumping had been fine until then, but there was still a way to go and for anyone thinking he would have won, plenty changed on the day in the last half mile or so.

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