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East Sussex & Romney Marsh
Catsfield
Sunday 13th April 2008

by Simon McInnes

As ever, it was a pleasant day at Catsfield, but it was a shame that two efforts by the organisers to boost the opens (refunded entry fee for runners in the Men's and double prize money in the Ladies') were not rewarded. I suppose that in the overall cost of keeping a horse for a year, a refunded entry fee is just a drop in the ocean. There was one extreme oddity. The members race attracted no less than 10 runners, the biggest line-up of the day, and competitive as well, more or less being 3/1 the field. A trend bucker indeed. Backing winners was easy - all you had to do was follow what you had seen at Parham a month ago. I sadly, was not at Parham...

Going: Soft (Heavy in places)

Race 1: Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors Members
1: No Reward 2: Kingsun 3: Galapiat Du Mesnil
Winner owned: Mrs D Braxton, trained: Di Grissell, ridden: Matt Braxton
With Major Jon ensuring a ferocious pace, this race looked to be almost anyone's to claim at the halfway point, but after the leader unseated at the fourteenth, and Tates Avenue fell, the field suddenly became rather scattered, and No Reward soon established a decisive lead. With untypically testing ground, he also saw out the race better than his rivals to give Matt Braxton a first ever winner. Kingsun gave the best chase, but had seen enough three out and may not even have held on for second had Glory Trail not blundered and unseated two out. This gave reason to speculate on the nature of the human instinct for self preservation. Charlotte Grissell ended up around the horse's neck, and then dangling under it, as Glory Trail ambled to a halt. She showed outstanding perseverance to stay there, even when it got to a point that she was as near to the ground as she was going to get, and had hit that ideal time to bite the bullet and go to ground for the softest possible landing. Fortunately, a wily campaigner like Glory Trail showed no inclination to jump the last. In fact, he headed for the beer tent.

Race 2: Friar House Antique Jewellery Restricted
1: Halcyon Times 2: Balableu
Winner owned: Mr B Belchem, trained & ridden: David Kemp
A race of the type that is often euphemistically described as eventful, by which we really mean chaotic. Seven lined up, but only two finished, with consistent favourite Halcyon Times easily disposing of Balableu, who set off last, pulled himself to the front by the sixth, and was a spent force in the last half mile. Jumping errors took out Lillie Lou, Prey Bird and Little Mickey (far too keen on his first run since 2004) and Nearly Ahead pulled up. Sounds Good, winner of a maiden at Parham but since beaten in a Restricted, stopped at the far end of the course, and it was unclear whether rider or horse took that decision.

Race 3: Media Communications Ltd Men’s Open
1: Sheriff's Friend 2: Old Kilminchy
Winner owned: SP Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce
With only two going to post, this was a non-event as a race. The pair lobbed round together, and when Old Kilminchy showed signs of struggling four out, Nick Pearce kicked on and it was all over. Verdict? Nice to see Sheriff's Friend win open number eleven, but it did not demand too much of him.

Race 4: The Ostrich Hotel, Robertsbridge Ladies’ Open
1: Carryonharry 2: Myson 3: Danaeve
Winner owned: Mrs H Silk and Mr RK Purkis, trained: Emma Leppard, ridden: Cynthia Haydon
Just four went to post, and the tricky bend after the third caused John The Mole to slip up, leaving a trio to see out a cagey sort of race. Carryonharry kicked ahead six from home and the other two never got back at him. Myson ran well, and briefly threatened two out, suggesting that his stamina should be fine on decent ground and maybe OK on soft. After his defeat of Honourable Spider, Danaeve reverted to the more enigmatic style that he demonstrated earlier in the season.

Race 5: Batcheller Thacker Intermediate
1: Merry Vic 2: Magic Of Sydney 3: Magnus Veritas
Winner owned & trained: Mrs CM Gorman, ridden: Marcus Gorman
This was the performance of the day, from a six year old who looks set to make a big name for himself in the coming years. The field of six was full of known quantities, mostly who were justified in being at this level, and the money came for hat trick seeking Glenbower Woods. But they who dared to plunge had not reckoned on Merry Vic, who won this by a country mile. He had beaten Nathos a reputed 80 lengths at Parham in a confined, and this distance could not have been much different. Magic Of Sydney, the early pace setter, but not the most convincing jumper, held on for second, from the consistent Magnus Veritas. Glenbower Woods was pulled up four out, to spare him the morale sapping sight of Merry Vic disappearing into the far horizon whilst still on the bridle.

Race 6: Grants Cherry Brandy Open Maiden
1: Nicobar 2: Kanga Gold 3: Master Shuil
Winner owned & trained: Nigel Hacking, ridden: Sam Hanson
The verdict from Parham was that Nicobar had enjoyed a bit of an educational on his racing debut, loitering in contention to the fifteenth, then quickly eased and pulled up when the heat was turned up. Early on he was all the rage in the betting, but a late splurge on Master Shuil almost saw him nab favouritism. In the race it was no contest, as Nicobar was always travelling well and won by nearly as far as Merry Vic, a mistake at the last being the only blemish. Newcomer Kanga Gold was as popular in the market as a carrier of bird flu, but he stayed on for a modest second. Master Shuil did not seem to fancy it.

Plus Points
Halcyon Times (race 2): Put in a decent effort to win the restricted, even allowing for the self imposed problems met by the others.

Myson (race 4): Was not a proven three miler under Rules, but seemed to see out the trip soundly enough, just losing out to a decent rival.

Merry Vic (race 5): Seems to get better with every race, and at this point is more impressive working his way up the levels than even recent area stars such as Real Value and Honourable Spider. Dare the name 'Struggles Glory' be whispered in comparison? Bear in mind for next season that despite looking plenty fit enough, he was beaten on his seasonal debut, won unexceptionally soon after and has only since then looked invincible.

Nicobar (race 6): Had very little to beat, but at least did not struggle to do it.

Down Arrows
Danaeve (race 4): Was always travelling worst of the three survivors, repeatedly niggled, but looking set to tail off, he then was staying on at the end, not beaten too far. It did appear the work of a moody soul.

Master Shuil (race 6): Never comfy at the back, and no amount of cajoling seemed to get him interested in the race. He does always complete though.

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