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REVIEW

EAST SUSSEX & ROMNEY MARSH
CATSFIELD
Sunday 9th April 2006

by Simon McInnes

From memory it seemed that Catsfield fell earlier than ever before, being a moveable feast, but it was actually the same weekend as last year. The difference was that a late Easter had left it further forward in the south-eastern schedule than usual, and the ground was confusingly not as fast as tradition dictates. The number of entries was not encouraging, but the smallest field was five, and most events ended up being competitive.

The meeting was started with a couple of pony races, and they had served to bump up the crowd for a meeting that is usually pretty well supported anyway. This caused bedlam in the betting ring, but whether the bookies were gaining from it is hard to tell as the majority appeared to be indulging in open mouthed gawking rather than investment. In the Ladies Open, I was intending to back Carryonharry once having ascertained that he was fit enough, and when I approached the ring, 4/1 was available. By the time I had fought my way to the front, 5/2 was the best on show, and not in my vicinity either.

The organisation of trade stands on the outside of the course, apart from a couple of overspills on the inner, does help the viewing immensely, and placing the Splendid Meat Company, Davenports and Home Made Bhajis next to each other made life much simpler for their regulars.

Friar House Antique Jewellery Members, Subscribers & Farmers
1: Magniolia 2: Glory Trail 3: Beacon White
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained: Jenny Gordon, ridden: Chris Gordon

With the yard bouncing back to their best a week earlier, Magniolia was at the head of the market for this, a valid form choice but a the fact that he ran out here a year ago hardly inspired great confidence. He did tend to jump left, and ran very wide at the exact spot of the earlier infraction, but had too much in hand for a game but one-paced Glory Trail. Only a six year old, there is possibly a decent race in Magniolia when caught in the mood and he runs as good as he looks, but he is not one to be taking short prices about. Newcomer Lutin Collonges made a race of it for two and a half miles, although his jumping could have been better. A rare new addition to former area powerhouse team owned by Mike Roberts, there is every reason to think Lutin Collonges will improve for the experience. Beacon White was well back in third, but was a first career completion for Matthew Braxton, and Galeaway was giving his owner a decent first ride, not being totally out of contention when unseating at the fourteenth.

1: Rakatia 2: Battle Honours
Winner owned & trained: Joe Turner, ridden: James Owen
The Turner operation has continued to support the south-east points well in the last couple of seasons despite the journeys down from Suffolk reaping little in the way of reward. With more bedlam than usual on the M25, the trip must have been worse than ever, so the success here was a thoroughly hard earned one. For the future, the manner in which the race unfolded means that it is form of little value. The favourite, Court Award (valid to be market leader, but surely not a 1/2 shot) slipped and lost his rider on the bend after the third. A lap later, Miss Biddy, who caught the eye in the paddock, pulled up when still in front. The other paddock pick, Nigels Dream, was running an odd race gaining and losing his position at frequent intervals, and his challenge fell away from the third last. He was well beaten when coming down at the final fence, in one of those slow motion events when you can feel instinctively a few strides before the fence that the horse does not have confidence that he can jump it, but it is too late to avoid doing so without a very sharp refusal. Fortunately horse and jock emerged unscathed, and the accident left Battle Honours to clamber over the last to claim a very distant second on his first completion for two years. As for Rakatia, he too almost found the last to be a fence too far, and the fact that he had pulled up in four of his five other runs in 2006 casts a big shadow over the 1 that he has now added.

Barretts Land Rover, Ashford Men's Open
1: Little Herman 2: Fair Exchange 3: Owen's Pet
Winner owned: Mrs I Colderick & Mr S Taylor, trained: Alison Hickman, ridden: Peter Bull
With Peter Bull standing in for Chris Gordon after Court Award's unceremonious dumping in the last race, Little Herman gained a small consolation for his narrow defeat in the Kent Grand National, with a stiff track and slight cut in the ground playing very much to his strengths. He and Fair Exchange went clear at the end of the back straight but the challenger could not summon anything resembling a change of gear and Little Herman, hardly an equine Ferrari himself, always had the situation in control. Owen's Pet was never travelling well, and gained third by not giving up. With two wins under his belt this season, Ichi Cavalo was a possible contender, but his jumping was devoid of fluency and it was all he could do to stay in touch at the back until pulled up with a lap to go.

Drewett Neate Ladies' Open
1: Carryonharry 2: Militaire 3: Dick McCarthy
Winner owned: Mrs H Silk and R Purkis, trained: Emma Leppard, ridden: Cynthia Haydon
Even as late as the thirteenth, all six runners were in 'close enough if good enough' mode but Physical Graffiti was about to run out of stamina and Newick Park was also on the verge of dropping out. This was most unfortunate as being the only ES&RM qualified runner, he would have picked up a handsome trophy simply for finishing. The veteran Dick McCarthy was next to crack, finding the pace too hot, but he did eventually stay on past fellow 14 year old Caldamus to nick the minor placing. Between the front pair, the race unfolded similarly to the mens' race, with them kicking on leaving the far side and the second placed horse doing all it could to worry the leader, whilst that rival refused to concede. Carryonharry had been a good staying chaser for Martin Pipe, but his last couple of seasons were very regressive, and this less strenuous opposition proved much more to his liking. As for Militaire, second to a chaser once rated in the 130s is a creditable run, but he would not win many trophies for consistency, so who knows how he may choose to develop on this.

Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors Confined
1: Perange 2: Magnus Veritas 3: Old Kilminchy
Winner owned: Mrs M Merriam, trained: Di Grissell, ridden: Alex Merriam
This was the tightest race of the day, being well above the average standard for a confined in these parts (the first pair have been in the frame in hunter chases already in 2006, and the third has won two confineds), and also in it's unfolding, with four horses approaching the last well enough bunched to be in consideration for the win. Monarch Ruler came down there, when not looking as if he was going as well as the others. The fall was highly adverse luck, as having been taken wide by Rupert Stearne, two rivals jumped sharply right just in front of him, and there must have been an element of distraction. Old Kilminchy was unable to summon extra effort at this point, as early leader Magnus Veritas rallied to regain the lead early on the run in. However, Alex Merriam was determined not to be denied and recovered to get home by a neck. Alas the bookies were at their worst in this, with the prices sitting for a long time in the region of Evens, Evens, 4/1, 5/1, 6/1 and 12/1 - an over round of 159% in a six horse race, whereas under Rules something like 118% would have been likely. Although the third to fifth favourites drifted a little to make the margins about 140%, outsider Gola Leader never did, even though his recent form compared to the opposition entitled him to be something in the region of 50/1.

Grants Cherry Brandy Open Maiden
1: Grayslake 2: Laurier De Cotte 3: Barrels Pal
Winner owned: Mrs H Silk and R Purkis, trained: Emma Leppard, ridden: Peter Bull
As mentioned on a previous review, since his four-timer at Aldington in 2005, which was a first ever multiple winning day, Peter Bull has been picking up doubles a-plenty, but this has to be the luckiest. The first came on a spare ride, and in this his horse looked cooked in second when left clear at the final fence. The race appeared in advance a match between two coming from Rules both having unseated last time and off course since early 2004. Grayslake would have been rated about a stone the better by the handicapper, but Hercules Morse looked to have an edge in fitness. They were clear rounding the top bend, and although both were hard ridden, Hercules Morse was maintaining an advantage of a couple of lengths when he ran down the last and unseated Philip Hall. To the naked eye, it looked a bit of a soft unseated for an experienced jock, as Hercules Morse did jump the fence, but there had been no previous hint of him doing it, so maybe it was the surprise factor that did the damage. With the race having him done him good, and his jumping solid after a bad blunder at the fifth appeared to act as a wake up call, Grayslake ought to be able to win a restricted at least. Ditto for Hercules Morse, as long as the incident at the last does not prove to be typical of him. The only other finishers were a very long way adrift, but as neither Laurier De Cotte nor Barrels Pal were legless at the end, it has to be presumed that it was a fundamental talent deficit rather than stamina or fitness that caused them to be so far back. The only newcomer was Ballynonty, who did not jump well enough to stay in the battle for the minor honour and pulled up at the fourth last.

 

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