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North Norfolk Harriers
Higham
Sunday 25th January 2009
by Simon McInnes

Going: Good (Good to Soft places) - but getting softer as the day progressed.

For the second year in a row, the evil gods of travel sucked me in with a swift journey to this meeting and a nightmare return. I know that I am making the right sacrifices to the right entities, so it must be the North Norfolk Harriers that are letting the side down. Maybe many other people saw what was coming, or more likely, were dissuaded by the terrible weather, and the crowd was below par, put off by no more than loads of rain and a healthy wind. There were plenty of runners, but presumably a fair chunk of them were expecting better ground and faster races as is more normal for the course.

race 1: Openfield Agriculture 5-7 year olds Open Maiden, Div I
1: Delgany Run 2: Captain Marshall 3: Sharp Action
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs CM Wilson, trained: Nicola Pollock, ridden: Matt Smith
It takes a bit of imagination to conjure up a similarly uninspiring maiden as the first division of this, where the only unraced contender, Witch Hazel, did not look fit enough to do herself justice, even if she had the requisite ability, and the rest of the field had worked hard to prove that they lacked the talent. The bookies, presumably fearing a plunge on an otherwise innocuous horse, offered prices that varied between the laughable and the risible. However, the form in the book counted as Delgany Run had been behind subsequent winners Quotica De Poyans and Nessa last time out. Alas, he had been a long, long way behind but it was a straw to be clutched at. Delgany Run launched his attack four from home, and that was that. Captain Marshall had pulled very hard in front and the fact that a) he clung on to second and b) he ran like a non-stayer in his only other point, does not say much for the oppo.

race 2: Openfield Agriculture 5-7 year olds Open Maiden, Div II
1: Not Another Barney 2: Doctor Kingsley 3: Monashee Grey
Winner owned & trained: NW Padfield, ridden: Gina Andrews
At face value this seemed to be the better division, but it could be argued that as several of the runners were quite experienced maidens, they had less scope for improvement that the earlier bunch. Riding a good race from the front, Gina Andrews set a steady early pace on Not Another Barney and gradually wound things up, causing the oppo to drop away one by one. The final outcome was a wide margin victory, from a second placed horse that had pulled up in all three previous runs. It is possible that Doctor Kingsley has improved in his close season break - could it have been to a miraculous degree? Monashee Grey showed some plodability as a hurdler, and it was more of the same, only worse, on his pointing debut.

race 3: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members, Novice Riders
1: Master Rex 2: Nokimover 3: Independent Trader
Winner owned: Ms A Embiricos & Mrs S Embiricos, trained: Alex Embiricos, ridden: Johnny Bailey
This proved to be the most exciting race of the day, although at the second last Master Rex and Independent Trader were far enough clear that the chances of Nokimover getting within a whisker and Rare Gold being hot on the heels of the leading trio seemed quite slim. Master Rex has the valid excuse of being a teenager of long-established stamina limitation, and his managing to just hang on and end a long term losing streak was a timely moment of heart warming sport just as the conditions were at their bleakest and leaving one or two people present wondering how they reconciled there attendance in a cold, wet field in Suffolk to claims of being well-rounded, sensible individuals. Independent Trader looked the most likely winner at the third last, and although he tied up sharply, it was his first run since May and his jumping never faltered, so all is not lost.

race 4: Smiths Gore 8 year olds and up Open Maiden
1: Viceroy Close 2: Clande Boye 3: Fenny Lane
Winner owned: The Oak Partnership, trained & ridden: David Kemp
As was the theme of the day, Viceroy Close made his move to steal the glory at the far end of the track, and for the third time so far it paid of handsomely. The race was quite eventful, as a series of ragged attempts to start ended up with the field jumping off with three horses a fair bit adrift, Activator, Best Deal and Fenny Lane. The field was further disrupted when the first of those, having fallen, ran loose the wrong way and brought down Mountain Emperor, as well as hampering some others. All this, plus some indifferent skills at the fences by Clande Boye, added up to making Viceroy Close's job a fair bit easier. Fenny Lane's rider did not panic to make up the ground lost at the start, but he was not good enough to catch Clande Boye, so it is hard to imagine that he would have beaten the winner had he jumped off on terms.

race 5: Barratt & Cook Intermediate
1: Pouilly 2: Jazz Attack 3: Took My Eye
Winner owned: Fraser Duffin, trained: Fleur Hawes, ridden: Matt Smith
A competitive race for a mere six runners, in which bumper winner Pouilly made a successful debut in points, but was rather fortunate to do so. The early pace was funereal, and after a mile of so, Matt Smith took the bit between his teeth, transferred the metaphor to Pouilly, and rode an aggressive race from the front. Market leaders Peppershot and Took My Eye could not handle it, but Needs Time, who missed last season, did react and on his comeback run looked the most likely victor when he hit two out and eventually shook his rider to the ground, in disrespect of an heroic effort to cling on. He was only alongside Pouilly at the time, but the winner was so tired from the last, it is hard to believe Needs Time could have finished any slower, even with the momentum lost in the error. Jazz Attack was looking very fit in advance and in coming second posted his best effort in a long while.

race 6: East Anglian Horsebox Co Ltd Men's Open
1: Chilling Place 2: Another Dude 3: Tuesday's Child
Winner owned & trained: MJ Tuckey, trained: Ben Tuckey
Poor old Another Dude. He was second to Kjetil in this last season, ended 2008 being runner-up to Kadount, and turned up for his seasonal debut this time only to bump into Chilling Place. That horse had been lightly raced lately, but he looked fit enough and his history of coming second had been in good handicap company and at up to three miles as well. Chilling Place, who has not changed owenrship, won quite comfortably, as form and betting suggested he ought to, and Another Dude was an honourable best of the rest. With Basic Fact running below par, even if allowing for stamina doubts, third was sort of up for grabs, and the fact that Tuesday's Child popped into this slot in defiance of all standard logics that can be applied to the science of predicting race results probably does not mean a great deal.

race 7: Oasis Sport & Leisure Club Ladies' Open
1: Bonne Noel's 2: Mai Cure
Winner owned: Ms C Cuselle & Mr R Mills, trained: James Owen, ridden: Kelly Smith
The case for this being a decent open was fairly sparse, and when the favourite, Scotland Yard unseated at the eighth* it thinned out even more. And the race itself is of suspect form as a suicidal pace meant that a steady chain of runners had bash at leading before they dropped away for good. Bonne Noel's was a touch hesistant and jumped left at the last two, presumably due to fatigue, but had only Mai Cure, with no wins above maiden company, left going against him and not quite really challenging for the honours. Tallow Bridge would have been third had he not almost fallen, and thus unseated, at the last. Again fatigue was a big factor, but the landing sides of the fences were getting very battered by this stage and logic says that there must have been one or two places of suspect footing.

* From my perfect vantage point, at the opposite end of the course in the drizzle, the mistake did not look as if it registered too highly on the modified version of the Richter Scale often referred to in jumping circles.

race 8: Stevensons of Norwich Countryside Alliance Club Members Conditions
1: Bob Justice 2: Quid Pro Quo 3: Duke Of Stradone
Winner owned: Paul Rackham, trained: Simon Stearb, ridden: Rupert Stearn
There was an early fear that this could be divided, but in the end only six went to post. Three were worthy of consideration. Armaturk (would he stay?), Bob Justice (would he get home in the ground?) and Quid Pro Quo (was he fit enough?). The Armaturk challenge ended when he was quickly pulled up five from home, and Quid Pro Quo hit the wall half way up the straight. Thus the hardy few that managed to see it out to the end watched Bob Justice trundle home by default.

Plus Points

Nokimover (race 3): Fifteen and with a shed load of wins to his name, showed sufficient verve to suggest something like one of these novice riders' heats could let him add to the tally.

Saafend Rocket (race 3): Was alongside the second and fourth when he fell two from home, and having always looked happier going right-handed, he ought to be capable of better than this.

Shaamit The Vaamit (race 4): Might have been second had be not blundered at the second from home causing his jockey to have to complete without the use of stirrups. In the ancient world, riders would have shrugged off the inconvenience (or wondered what a stirrup was) but for The Vaamit, it meant he ran much better than the final result.

Needs Time (race 5): An unlucky loser who can develop on the effort if the jumping error does not prove typical.

Another Dude (race 6): Is good enough to win again in Opens, with a bit of luck in avoiding the top notch oppo.

Manoram (race 6): Should have had a chance of nabbing third on his best form, but he is not the most consistent horse, and his less than 100% fitness at least gave a good reason for being below par.

Quid Pro Quo (race 8): Will be better for the run and seems to appreciate a good old slog on a testing course.

Down Arrows

Not Another Barney (race 2): Is forced out of maidens by a win barely worthy of the name - will he be able to lift his game?

Siam De Baune (race 3): Ran well for a long way, but as he got tired his jumping became scrappy, which seems to be a regular problem for him.

Took My Eye (race 5): Won three last year, and was placed in a hunter chase, but was beaten a touch too easily, even allowing for an eight month break and the easing ground.

Peppershot (race 5): His best form looks decent, but his completion rate is disturbing.

Mai Cure (race 7): Is not suddenly an open class runner so taking this result at face value is probably unwise.

Bob Justice (race 8): Won far and square but did not prove his stamina when conditions are testing.

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