HUNTINGDON, Sunday 3rd November
Not much good ground around when this card took place, so perhaps a few folk with runners at Huntingdon this day were relieved – there had been rain here too, though, as the going in the car park was a bit worse than on the track.
Race one of eight was a 1m7f171y claiming hurdle and we won’t spend much time dwelling upon this event. Neither did some bookmakers, who didn’t appear to be trying to make a balanced book, having the middle of the market – the likes of Great Hall and Candy Burg – at getting on for half the price they were on other boards, with Great Hall available at 9/2 and 8/1 at the same time, and Candy Burg between 8/1 and 12/1.
It was taken by the consistent Ballyellis, who posted his fourth win in his last five runs – all in sellers and claimers – and looked in a different league to the others, not extended after leading at the third last.
Great Hall didn’t look great in his coat but gave his running, chasing the winner after three out but readily outpaced after coming under a ride on the home turn, while Throckley didn’t look fully fit and made a costly blunder at the fifth. Size Matters, who reportedly whinnied approaching the last, was pulled up and dismounted.
The following juvenile hurdle over the same course and distance looked ordinary, but the ones at the top of the (more balanced than the claimer) betting market came to the fore.
Building Bridges (leggy, angular) was the pick of the paddock and, supported from 5/2 to 7/4, took this by the scruff of the neck when pressing on in front starting the back straight, and finding more under pressure from the second last. His jumping has got to improve though, as he made mistakes at four of the eight hurdles.
Silkstone (leggy, on his toes, 3/1 to 9/2, SP 4/1) was the best of the hurdling debutants in this line-up, rated 80 and just about staying 1m2f, and shaped well despite a couple of mistakes, looking held when pecking on landing at the last and fading a little in the last 100 yards, shaping as though he might not stay this sort of trip on a stiffer course.
Waterproof raced keenly and faded from the home turn having chased the winner to that point, while the fancied Rafiot, placed in an ordinary juvenile at Kempton on his hurdling debut the previous month, drifted in the betting (5/2 to 3/1) and weakened from a good position on the back straight, ridden and going worst of the field after the fifth and pulled up before the third last.
The quality on the card improved with the next event, a 2m3f137y novices’ hurdle; although the bare form is ordinary, this was full of future chasing types – several haven’t yet filled their frames and this could be a race to look back on, several of this field likely to still be around in three years’ time.
Once-raced pointer Do Wanna Know, tallish and unfurnished, bought for £50,000 at the Cheltenham Sales in February, is sure to do well over fences one day, but it would be disappointing if there wasn’t more to come over hurdles first, even though he was perhaps a slightly fortunate winner. Bandaged in front and going off at 14/1, the five year-old travelled comfortably up with the pace and jumped soundly, left in front when Fricka fell three out and ridden out from approaching the last.
Hurricane Harvey (4/1 to 3/1 favourite) is tallish and sparely made, quite weak at the moment, and will be stronger next season. All the same he arguably should have won this, going comfortably when hampered by the faller at the third last and ending up with plenty to do two out as a result, really picking up from approaching the last and only going down by half a length. Compensation awaits, but he wouldn’t want too much racing this season.
Mickey Buckman looked very well and ran a nice race, up with the pace and having a chance from the home turn, though not going as well as the winner approaching the second last and fading when blundering at the last; he’s medium height, and doesn’t appeal as a future chaser.
Known looked the better of Nicky Henderson’s two runners in the paddock, and even though he was behind Captain Woodie in the betting he proved the better in the race as well, taking a keen hold, in contention when forced to jump the fallen jockey three out, and picking a couple of rivals off after the last. Like several others in this, he’s a chasing type who should do well over the larger obstacles next season. His stablemate Captain Woodie (well made) was sweating behind and had two handlers, and fared the worst of the pair, taking a keen hold early, weakening between the last two and finishing tired.
The mare Fricka, about the smallest in the line-up, was the hard luck story of the race; she tried to make all and, having knocked down the seventh, was still looking comfortable in front when unluckily falling at the third last – she jumped it perfectly well,but stumbled on landing. A mares’ novice will be hers for the taking on this showing, even under a penalty for her previous win.
Other chasing sorts present here who might be worth keeping in mind for next season are Bullsempire, who never got out of the rear this time; Dog Of War who, like Hurricane Harvey, is little more than a skeleton at the moment; Republican, who didn’t jump well; and Shah An Shah, who raced prominently to the third last where he was badly hampered by the faller, weakening quickly after.
Next up the race of the day, a competitive and well above-average Class 3 novices’ chase over 2m3f189y, with ten runners taking part – an unusually large field for the race type – the bottom rated of which, on BHA ratings, was 124; indeed, if this field comprised the line-up for, say, the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ at Wincanton the following Saturday, you’d think ‘this is a good renewal’. There’s lots to take out of the race for the coming months, even though one or two didn’t perform on the day in what was a well-run race, and we could well be seeing more of the winner this season.
Deyrann De Carjac (available at 20/1 early) wasn’t one of the most taking sorts in the field, only smallish, but improved considerably on his Cartmel win in May to take this stronger event, not making any noted mistakes, readily moving up to challenge long-time leader Whatmore at the third last and pressing on from two out, idling a little when in the clear. There’ll be more to come from this one; he’s shaped as though 2m6f to 3m would suit before and the Kauto Star Novices’ at Kempton on Boxing Day looks a suitable target. Roy’s rating: 139
Pym hasn’t grown since I first saw him before a Kempton bumper in February 2018 and remains a medium-sized gelding, to be fair not the smallest in the line-up (bigger than the winner for one). More than once he’s shaped like a stayer and looks ready for 3m now, outpaced from three out after chasing the leader and looking held at the second last, staying on strongly from the last to take second on the post. He jumped soundly and is likely to bag a couple of chases. Roy’s rating: 131
Whatmore (6/1 to 9/2), a well-made type, looked well but did well to get a place in the end, as the frailties that were on show during his Market Rasen-solo were evident again. He jumped left throughout, and occasionally slowly (especially at the open ditches, but credit to him as he stayed on when the winner went on at the third last, and still held second until collared for the silver medal on the line. He’s worth persevering with over fences, but needs to go left handed (all hurdles wins that way round). Roy’s rating: 135
El Presente (medium height, well made) had an absence of 541 days to overcome, but looked fit enough and outran his odds (33 to 25), keen early, ridden and outpaced from the third last before keeping on under a ride from two out, seeing the race out well; he, too, should win a novice chase. Roy’s rating: 127
Erick Le Rouge (tallish, workmanlike, two handlers) was let down by his jumping in this stronger race than he won at Uttoxeter on his chasing debut (whilst respecting the fact that the form of that worked out), blundering at the ninth then losing his place on the final circuit, well held when making a mistake at the last.
Cotswold Way (medium-to-tallish, workmanlike) jumped soundly enough, but had nothing to offer when popped the question in rear at the third last, and might have needed the race more than it looked, while more disappointing was the EBF Final winner Third Wind, who’s tallish and well made and looked well in the paddock, but raced off the bridle for much of the way, making his first mistake at the seventh, doing nothing under a strong ride after the third last and well in rear when blundering at the last – Cotswold Way’s worth another chance, but a watching brief on Third Wind is the recommend in the near future.
A progressive two-mile chaser took the 2m104y 0-115 handicap chase and is on his way to races of a better grade: this was run at a strong pace and, with the exception of the runner-up, those up front early weren’t there at the finish.
Twotwothree (13/8 to 6/5 favourite), only workmanlike, looked well and absolutely breezed this, looming up at the third last and clear with two to jump, getting in tight to the last but not needing to be shaken up at any point for a blitheringly-easy victory – the hattrick looks very much on. Roy’s rating: 118
Rock On Rocky used to be better than this grade, but the 11 year-old looked well and showed that he’s not a total back-number, the only one who had a prominent position throughout to still be in contention for a place at the last, keeping on under a ride.
Vue Cavaliere (about medium height, leggy) was made too much use of over the 2m4f-trip at this track on her previous start, and shaped much better over the minimum trip, kept away from the sharp end, pushed along in midfield turning out of the back straight and in contention for a place when blundering at the last, staying on in a battle for second in the last 100 yards – she’d have got the place but for the mistake and could be interesting next time.
Defi Sacre is tallish and showed some aptitude on his first British chase start, in contention for a place till the last, while the Warwick winner from two starts ago Tikkinthebox weakened after leading on the home turn, and as for arguably the best-known ‘bridle’ horse in training Go West Young Man (tallest horse viewed all day, led in at the start), his ending up in front at the third last was the worst thing that could have happened and he checked out from the second last.
Next a 2m3f189y 0-105 novices’ handicap chase, eight of the ten-strong field making their debuts over fences; although the favourite Imperial Elysian (medium height, well made, looked well in his coat, 5/2 to 3/1) fell at the first and the big odds-outsider finished runner-up, the form is probably reasonable for the grade. Global Ruler‘s pressing on from the tenth took out some of the field, but also did for him.
Elite Garde (medium to tallish, leggy, looked well, 12/1 to 14/1) looked well, if a little on his toes; surviving a bad peck on landing at the first, he settled in midfield, ended up chasing the leader from the ninth and made a mistake four out, but was clear from the second last and the only danger on the run-in was a loose horse.
Cagliostro (tall, close-coupled) outran his 66/1-price, creeping closer on the final circuit and holding a chance on the home turn, one pace from the second last – it remains to be seen if he can back it up – while Global Ruler (tallish, looked well, 4/1 to 11/2) was lit up by the first-time blinkers and did too much on the final circuit, clear from the tenth before readily fading from two out.
There was a move on Petrucci (medium height, angular, looked well), from 14/1 into 7/1, but having chased the leader from an early stage, mistakes took their toll (worst ones at the ninth and 12th) and he weakened after the third last.
Two divisions of a 0-105 handicap hurdle over 3m1f10y – they could be all important, those ten yards, else they wouldn’t appear in the published race distance – concluded proceedings. I’m against dividing handicaps the way they do these days – it would surely be much better to combine the fields and have a 19-runner race with each-way first four-betting – but everyone seems to want more racing, any way that it can be achieved, so there we are. Whinge over, thank you for listening. Both legs had a strong favourite, the one in the first division justifying his market position.
If you’d seen Mr Love‘s previous run at Worcester you wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere near him at a short price here (indeed he drifted from 11/8 to a still-unbackable 2/1, unbackable for this punter anyway), but new trainer Dan Skelton put cheekpieces back on him and he was transformed, always travelling sweetly in the first two and never in danger after he was booted clear on the home turn. On his toes in the paddock here, he’s tall enough to go over fences at some point.
Silent Encore (5/1 to 4/1) was outpaced after the third last and took second thanks to the mistake at the last by Robyndzone (smallish, 4/1 to 11/4), the latter having tracked the leaders throughout, whilst pace-setting The Happy Chappy, who used to be better than this grade, kept on for fourth after Bryony Frost had been at him on and off from the first, riding him into several hurdles.
Division two revolved around the hattrick-seeking Jimmi Chew, but he disappointed and a horse showing his first sign of ability – and fancied to do so – took the honours, although it might well have gone to Our Nest Egg but for that one’s error at the last.
Out The Glen (rough in his coat but fit, medium height, well made), from the Tobefair-stable of Debra Hamer, had gone off at odds between and including 40/1 and 100/1 on all his previous four starts – beaten 53 lengths or more in them – yet the biggest price I saw for him here was 7/1, and he showed his first ever ability, prominent throughout, ridden and outpaced on the home turn and staying on strongly approaching the last, upsides Our Nest Egg when that one’s mistake left him in front, and ridden out to win by three parts. I’m not sure he’ll be up for a follow-up.
Our Nest Egg (lengthy, light bodied, 11/2 to 9/2) shaped well at Hexham on his previous outing, ridden from off the pace, and this was a similar performance; held up and making headway wide on the final circuit, where this differed from the Hexham-run was that she was put into the race earlier, disputing the lead after the third last. After that she looked the winner going to the second last, on the bit whilst everything else was under a ride, and still looked the most likely victor until making a crucial mistake at the last, handing the advantage to Out The Glen. A win for this mare is getting closer.
Peter’s Portrait, a well-made chasing type, was in contention with horses rated in the 120s till the home turn at Southwell on his previous outing, but this first handicap-outing suggests that he’s perhaps flattered by that, in rear and ridden on the turn, picking up between the last two and unable to do more after a mistake at the last; the small Mamoo was supported from 12/1 to 7/1 but was well held from the turn after making the running, while Jimmi Chew (close-coupled, looked well) couldn’t go on from the home turn under a ride, his winning run coming to an end.
Horses to take out of the meeting
Do Wanna Know
Deyrann De Carjac
Pym (over three miles)