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Crawley & Horsham
Saturday 26th March 2011
by Simon McInnes

A first visit to the course since it switched from being right-handed to left handed. The effect on the racing is that the horses have a short, sharp ascent to the winning post, which is preferable to an awkward, turning, short, sharp drop - except maybe for those riding non-stayers. Also reversed was the facilities lay out, where the all the trade stands, entertainments, paddock etc are now on the outside, and the car parking on the inner. This makes exiting after racing far more difficult than it used to be - unnecessarily so? And on a day where the crowd was excellent, it all felt a bit cramped around the paddock/bookies/refreshments.

The meeting got off to a disappointing start with the second and third races cutting up to three runners each, but numbers picked up in the second half, and the throbbing mass that attended as a sign of indifference to Wales vs England football did not seem discouraged by the early stutter.

Going: Good / Good to Firm

Race 1: Thakeham-Lovelock Members
1: Keltic Moon 2: Jazz Attack 3: Haile Deadly
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Ray Glennon
Despite an unexceptional early pace, this unfolded as if the leading pair had gone off too fast. The betting had Jazz Attack odds-on and Haile Deadly second best, and they quickly put some daylight between themselves and the other pair. However Keltic Moon, who has won under rules, ambled along confidently and closed up under minimal pressure around the fourth last. The first to crack was Haile Deadly, and Keltic Moon came to the second last with the disappointing Jazz Attack enduring a far more frenetic effort from his rider. After that the winner eased ahead, with his jockey showing notable composure considering it was his first ever winner that was looming

Race 2: Tim Dunlop Memorial Restricted
1: Winnie Wood 2: Onlyfiftyquideach
Winner owned & trained: Heather Cobb, ridden: Philip York
It is always disappointing when an area with a disproportionately high array of hard to place troublemakers can only summon up three to run in the restricted, but there was the makings of close finish emerging when Westcoat Lad fell at the fourth last. He was giving Winnie Wood a little bit of aggro at the time, but the caveat would be that he seems to struggle to see out three miles, hence the mare being favourite despite often pulling up. Winnie Wood was left well clear of Onlyfiftyquideach, who was well behind from the start and took no serious part in the race.

Race 3: Harwoods Mixed Open
1: Peadar 2: Master T 3: Elenas River
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce
With only the rarely enthused Master T and strolling veteran Elenas River up against him, the biggest threat to Peadar's victory was the recent run of bad luck that the Tindall/Pearce horses had been suffering, but memory suggested that every wrinkle in the list of things that could go wrong had been ticked off, and the cosmic joker is not big on repetition. Master T was actually on one of his better days here, but after deciding that Elenas River had not been setting a fast enough pace on the first lap, Peadar went on, quickened things up and mostly outjumped his main threat, leaving the race to comfortably finish in the order that the bookmakers predicted.

Race 4: Latilla-Campbell Open Maiden
1: She Is A Cracker 2: And Your Point Is 3: Kanga Gold
Winner owned & trained: Carolyn Gorman, ridden: George Gorman
Although eleven went to post, this was a weak maiden, with an awful lot of letters in the form of the runners, dominated by the letter P. She Is A Cracker had shown glimpses of ability over hurdles, and seemed a potentially worthy recruit to pointing, but after twice showing up well early in her races and then ending up well beaten, it was beginning to seem as if her stamina was letting her down. After turning this race into a stroll (and giving her jockey his first win since graduating from pony racing), it seems that faster ground may be the key, as the new layout does not leave any margin for error as far as staying power is concerned. She was as little fortunate as she was a few lengths behind Mr Maybe when that horse unseated three out. Mr Maybe was not apparently under any sort of pressure at the time, but his completion rate in the UK has been abysmal, so some form of accident was hardly surprising, and this was his third fall or unseated in his last five races. And Your Point Is has become a reliable completer of these races, but did not go at all well in the race and merely struggled on past fading rivals to be a non-threatening second, leaving Kanga Gold to outplod the disappointing Uncle Eli for the minor place. Amongst the others, Aspiring Actor was fading when fell with quite a way to go, Grumpy Bee unseated two out when well beaten and Mister Robin came to grief six out, bringing down Over The Page. The attendance of Gina Andrews to ride Over the Page led to him being fairly prominent in the betting, but buyer beware! The horse has now, in a four race career, managed to be carried out, refuse and be brought down. In medieval times he would be banished from the village for the cloud of ill-fortune that he brings with him.

Race 5: Rathbones South East Hunts Club Members
1: Dusshera 2: Thenford Ryde 3: Delgany Gale
Winner owned: JA Gillett, trained & ridden: Phil York
This ended up with win number three for the progressive Dusshera, who has now handled stepping up in class from maiden to restricted to this with equal aplomb. She was odds-against in the betting here as there were a couple of runners that had done more in the past than she has to date. Control Man had returned from a very long absence to be second on his debut this season, but his race hit the buffers early on. Dad Says Heazle blundered at the second, and gave Control Man a hefty bash. If that was not enough, Dad Says Heazle's rider spent a hundred yards or so desperately trying to avoid being unseated as a consequence, and after gravity dragged him off to his right, the temporary solution was to lay across Control Man's hindquarters whilst trying to push himself back into the saddle on his original mount. It failed, and Control Man can be forgiven for being deeply unimpressed by his involuntary role in the drama. Delgany Gale also had shown the ability in the past to be factor in this, but had made a fairly feeble seasonal debut at Tweseldown. At least he completed this time, but behind the moody Thenford Ryde, who had led most of the way, but did not find anything to make a fight of it when Dusshera came alongside. The winner did need to be ridden along for a while, around fence fourteen - is that a sign that she has gone as far as she can for now, or just a brief effect of the faster ground?

Race 6: Michael Burrows Memorial South East Hunts Club Members, Veteran & Novice riders
1: Lillie Lou 2: Sam Whiskey 3: Boomerang
Winner owned & trained: Raymond Fielder, ridden: Chris Dennington
The new course layout caused some problems here. The first fence, which is very close to the start, was omitted because of the angle of the sun. No theoretical reason for an issue there. However, at the start Parkbridge Dream unseated and See The View was baulked in the process. The commentator initially suspected a false start had been called, but then suggested he had mistaken the chequered flag man, warning about the fence to be bypassed, for the starter's flag man. The snail-like pace with which they began hinted that perhaps one or two riders were not 100% certain either, and it did seem that See The View might have been able to get going and catch them quite quickly. Some form of disruption was always on the cards, as the nine runners had made 20 appearances this season and only contrived three completions. Two of those were by Boomerang, but the form of his Tweseldown win had been let down by Uncle Eli in the maiden earlier, and he looked a bit of a plodder at the end of the race. The two ahead of him were Lillie Lou, and intermediate winner last year who had unseated on her only run in 2011 and Sam Whiskey, a hurdle winner with two runs this term that both ended in unseating. Sam Whiskey survived both the fences and a certain degree of harrassment from the loose Space Cowboy (ran out at the fifth), but Lillie Lou was far too quick for him in the last few furlongs - perhaps surprisingly given his hurdling background. Orfeo Conti, the only other one with a finish in 2011, after three pulled ups, had his second consecutive fourth place, but well beaten. In complete contradiction to the stats, a couple more finished this, although badly tailed off

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