SOUTHDOWN & ERIDGE
6th February 2005
by Simon McInnes
This constituted a much earlier start to the Godstone season than has previously been the case and results were mixed. The negative was that the crowd appeared, to the naked eye, to be reduced from the norm, on a day when the weather could not be blamed. The fact that Tweseldown, less than an hour away by car, raced on the same day probably did not help. The positive was that easier ground resulted in bigger, more competitive fields than usual - although perhaps a bit lacking in quality.
Wilkins Family Members
A mere five entries was ominous, but all of them went to post, and the crowd were treated to the closest finish of the day, with Struggles Glory carrying David Robinson to victory, thanks to his undiminished aptitude for jumping quickly and accurately. The runner-up was six-year-old Get Off My Cloud, who was not even born when Struggles Glory established himself as a star of the south-eastern area. He went down by a neck, but there were bad signs in the run, as Philip Hall seemed very anxious to avoid hitting the front too early, staying in second on the bridle after two out, despite the short run-in. With the horse having run out in an Irish point, he might not be the most straightforward of creatures to ride.
Mitchell & Cooper Restricted
A late withdrawal left the field at eleven, but the number of placed efforts in many of the runners' repertoires gave plenty of reason to doubt their resolve and/or stamina, and this race started the theme of the day, which was that the sticky ground caused many contenders to call it a day on the steep rise to the thirteenth. As it turned out, only three completed in this. It was probably a good result for the bookies, as not only were they betting to a dismal 190%, but the winner was down to be ridden by Chris Gordon, only to have a change of jockey to Alan Merriam, which may have discouraged some possible backers (not as a criticism of the stand-in, more a reflection of the mystical powers that the absent jock often displays). A bookie-bonus was that the withdrawn horse was 6/1, producing a 15p Rule 4 deduction, despite having no obvious credentials for being that price. The winner in question was Sanamour, an Irish maiden winner making his UK debut. It was a smooth effort, and an impressively comfortable win, with the only niggling doubt being the quality of the opposition. No Reward was a big threat as late as three out but did not find a huge amount for pressure, ending up soundly dismissed, with serial completer in vain Jolly Jake the only other one to get home. The complexion of the race changed five out, when Forest Fortress, who had led most of the way, started to struggle, and he was in touch, but working harder than the first two when falling two fences later.
Highfield Farm Ladies Open
Ten lined up, and there were plenty of course regulars on show. Cedar Chief was challenging The Wiley Kalmuck for favouritism, and to make his chances easier, he lashed out at Esprit De Cotte in the paddock, failing to make sufficient contact to force that rival out of the event. The main hindrance, however, was an inability to dominate a race run at a good pace, and he ended up towards the rear, before staying on when the field thinned out to be third. The winner was Millennium Way, placed at this level before but never managing the win. He has changed stables this year, and based on the impressive success recorded, he approves of the switch wholeheartedly. Esprit De Cotte, who looked in very fine fettle in the preliminaries, was second, but easily seen off, and he does not have the best of strike rates. A more interesting effort was by Gladtoknowyou in fourth, as he will come on for the run and had a good, hard work out today. The Wiley Kalmuck was dropping away when a slow jump at the thirteenth saw him pulled up, which was pretty much the way it went for all of the Turner family East Anglian raiders on the day.
Ian Askew Men's Open
This race was in the bag a long way out for Tom Cobbler and Philip Hall, as they only had one rival in serious contention, and that was River Bailiff, whose stamina limitations are well proven. He was going well until hitting the proverbial wall after two and a half miles, and thereafter Tom Cobbler strolled clear. River Bailiff held the second spot from Gigs Gambit, who has been absent for a very long time and may therefore benefit from the exercise.
Calcutt MacLean Standen Confined
After a fairly mundane Mens Open, this race more than picked up the slack in incident. Horses finishing alone are not uncommon to see, but when six lined up and the winner was the sole remaining competitor six from home, there is a certain novelty element. Little Farmer, another Philip Hall ride, was the beneficiary of the circumstances, although his winning form at Open level implied strongly that he would have taken plenty of beating in any circumstance. But what of the others? Homeleigh Mooncoin refused on his pointing debut (as he had in his last novice chase - so not one for the life savings to be staked upon). Castle Arrow was never travelling and pulled up some time soon after halfway. Both Momentous Jones and Tubber Streams ground to a halt approaching the thirteenth, where Lord Alpha (who had made a few minor careless errors earlier on) decanted Declan Phelan. And that was the end of that.
Dalgleish Open Maiden
With a mares maiden to follow, this was for geldings and horses only, although the entries declined to field a challenger. It was won by a formerly fair bumper horse, Jac An Ree, who put some hurdling let downs aside to make it a hat-trick for Philip Hall. Watching from the top of the hill by the fence that is numbers 1, 7 and 13, I did not have a great view of the finish, but going towards the final obstacles Jac An Ree appeared to be still going quite well. Second was Bermuda, whose form to date lacked obvious encouragement, and casts a small cloud over the form. My personal hero of the day was third. Hendrix took great exception to any attempts to mount him, sweated up badly, had to be kept well away from the other runners at the start, and then took advantage of a delayed off to head forcefully towards the adjacent field. He did jump away at the rear, and made stealthy progress through the field to eventually be third. He obviously has ability, and if he ever gets his brain in gear, he is well capable of winning. But his sire is Henbit... A disappointing under-achiever in chases and hurdles, Shannon Quest made it three pulled-ups in a row pointing, showing that there was nothing personal in his earlier failures for connections. Warren Hill had a good lead when he fell with a lap to go. It was too far out to predict what might have happened, but he had form in the book to think he would have been there or thereabouts had he stood up, and his jumping prior to the fall had been good.
Panacur/TBA PPORA Members mares' Maiden
If anyone in the area can find a half-decent mare, there is a race waiting for them, as this event has yet to attract any top young female horses. Today's winner was a second on the day for Alan Merriam, and she is only six, so progress could still be made. The mare in question is Waterliner, but the opposition did not make it too hard for her. The only danger three out was Fond Farewell, who fell at that fence, and her record in points of two runs and two falls suggests she is in need of a confidence booster. That was what Hills Of Rakaposhi, also a faller on her debut, got and she completed for third, without ever convincing that she had faith in herself over the obstacles. Sugar Toi inherited second late on, but she is already nine and this was only her second run. Neither have suggested that she is up with some of the more illustrious bearers of the Silk family silks.