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Cambridge University United Hunts Clube
Cottenham
Sunday 30th November 2008

by Simon McInnes

Having watched a rugby match played out in near darkness the previous day, on driving north to Cottenham the prospects for clear viewing seemed a bit grim, but with rain the likely culprit for providing the obscuration - a word amazingly not rejected by spell checker! On arrival, it was cold, with a breeze strong enough to provide an uncomfortable bite, but the drizzle was light enough to allow the far side to be viewed, although it did often tease by getting a bit heavier during races. The course itself was in fine condition, much better than the pitch for the televised football match at nearby Histon, and whilst the rain would have got into the ground, only horses preferring extremes of going would have been too bothered with what was on offer. As opposed to the crowd, whose response to the news that the last race was to be divided was not really one of unequivocal approval.

Going: Good to start with, changed to Good to Soft quite early on

Race 1: Streets Whitmarsh Sterland Chartered Accountants PPORA Club Members, Novice Riders
1: Frosty Run 2: High Rank 3: Erte
Winner owned & trained: MS Burman, ridden: Emma Bell
In the absence of a small field hunt race, we had a small field novice riders one instead - perhaps the issue is simply one of getting up early on a Sunday morning. Despite only four runners (from five entries), there was not an odds-on favourite. With some half decent Rules form* and a Ladies' Open winner last season, perhaps Frosty Run should have been. He won like one as well, loitering off the pace set by Erte, before leading at the 13th and gradually easing into total command. High Rank is also an Open winner, and he kept on dourly for second, but a very long way behind the winner.

* Some may argue that Frosty Run was a touch inclined to give the winning concept a bit of a cold shoulder.

Race 2: James Graven & Sons Ltd Men's Open
1: Burntoakboy 2: Killarney Prince 3: Ballyowen
Winner owned: Dr RDP & Mrs LJ Newland, trained: Richard Newland, ridden: Tom Weston
With a win and a place at the last two Cheltenham festivals, Burntoakboy was a warm order for this, but prior to his third in the Kim Muir, he had not looked totally convincing as a chaser, and most of his rivals had a height and build advantage over him. The fences proved no problem, and the rather key edge for Burntoakboy was ability to run quite fast, which he demonstrated plenty of aptitude for doing. Killarney Prince kept to the task to end up second, and there will surely be more winnable Opens than this one for him to get involved in, but after setting the pace and jumping well, Ballyowen's bad blunder at the fourteenth probably cost him the opportunity to hold off Killarney Prince for the minor honours. Ballyowen is one of the few that would have been happier on faster going, but he may be a bit too headstrong for his own good, even when conditions are right.

Race 3: Baileys Horse Feeds Ladies' Open
1: Big Moment 2: Minouchka 3: Salinas
Winner owned: Ross Douglas, trained: Jenny Gordon, ridden: Claire Douglas
As she did not look 100% tuned up in the paddock, it was not a total surprise that Minouchka lost her unbeaten record in points on this occasion. The shock was perhaps the horse that did it, and the manner in which it all came about, as the first two were miles clear of the other finishers, suggesting Minouchka was only a little bit short of her peak. Big Moment was a very good flat horse, initially a decent hurdler, and for a couple of years or more, one that has declined every new and interesting challenge that was set to him. The fact that, after going wide on the final turn (Minouchka was outside Big Moment, so no great advantage went either way), the winner did not have an attack of the sulks was encouraging, as was the semblance of his old turn of foot shown on the run-in. But was today a one-off Big Moment, or is this a shape of things to come in the near future? As for Minouchka, there seemed no reason not to expect business as usual from her next run. Salinas was not too far behind the main pair when he launched a vicious assault on the third last, and having sunk his chances, he was allowed to come home at his own convenience, ahead of Interdit. The flop of the race, based on suitable ground and eye-catching fitness, was Olivier, who did not jump with great fluency and saw the curtain fall on his effort quite quickly. Sapega, about to turn fourteen, was another that dropped away a bit tamely but will have accrued benefit for the race.

Race 4: Cosequin Restricted
1: Stroom Bank 2: Mysaynoway 3: All Thyne Greats
Winner owned & trained: Mrs SJ Stilgoe, ridden: Mark Bennison
Ten of the eleven entries turned out, and it was in the back of the mind that Stroom Bank had done quite well under Rules, but the fact that he was qualified for the Restricted suggests that some rose-tinted spectacles may have been in use. He found this level much more to his liking, and the only horse to threaten was Mysaynoway, who ran her usual manic race from the front, and found whether it be points or hurdles, she again set the race up for someone else - one bad race at Peper Harrow was the exception to prove the rule. All in all, it seemed that Stroom Bank battled on quite well, but maybe the runner-up was just coming to the end of her tether. Balableu was not out of contention at the third last, but he definitely ran out of steam, which was exploited by the ambitious, and ultimately falsely, named All Thyne Greats.

Race 5: Bar Hill Motors Open Maiden, 7 year olds and up
1: More Trouble 2: The Galleryman 3: Grey Shark
Winner owned: IR Mann, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: James Tudor
Another numerically good field, with only one of sixteen original entries not running. Having been runner-up under Rules on his last run, More Trouble was favourite for this, but he was hassled all the way by The Galleryman. The second found that his case was greatly helped by the omission of the tenth and nineteenth (the first fence in the home straight), becuase he was rather unconvincing at many of the ones that they did jump - something that blighted his career under Rules as well. At face value it was a promising effort, but in a rematch, backing More Trouble to repeat the success would be the percentage call. Grey Shark pulled hard early on and inevitably faded in the latter stages. Another encouraging start to a pointing career, but rather like The Galleryman, he seems the sort to have the physical ability to win a race but a whole host of vulnerabilities that conspire to prevent it happening. Whosethatfor, back in fifth, appeared fit enough in the paddock, but had a quietish introduction to pointing, and is worth keeping an eye on next time.

Race 6: John Bull & Co (Bedford) Ltd Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds, 2m 4f, Div I
1: Quotica De Poyans 2: Nessa 3: Glad Star
Winner owned & trained: Mrs SH Shirley-Bevan, ridden: Kelly Bryson
It was getting really quite dark by this stage, and events on the far side of the track were all a bit vague. That failed to disguise a very impressive effort by debutant Quotica De Poyans. He was slow away, a touch unsure at the first (perhaps) and came round into the straight looking like a definite non-trier. However, as soon as the field in front began to thin out, he cruised through into the lead and won with miles in hand. Had he been up with the pace earlier, a very severe drubbing would have been handed out to the rest. Nessa showed a flash or two of promise in bumpers, so is probably not a complete slowcoach, and she kept on well enough to leave the rest of the field quite a way adrift. Glad Star was in midfield all the way and probably should have tried to respond when Quotica De Poyans passed him, rather than when it was all too late - did it affect any more than the margin of defeat? Almost certainly not. Fourth placed There Ya Go did not jump well early on, but warmed to the task as the race progressed and showed signs that there is better to come from him.

Race 7: Isle Veterinary Group Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds, 2m 4f, Div II
1: Gentleman Anshan 2: Idun 3: Podium Pete
Winner owned & trained: Rosemary Gasson, ridden: Hannah Watson
Runner-up in Ireland in May, Gentleman Anshan appeared to have washed up in the weaker division, and after standing out in the paddock, he also did so in exploiting his experience in the race, emerging from the gloom quite some way in front of Idun, and completing a double for the four year olds in the short distance maidens. Idun was another to pull too hard early on, but was not hassled too much in vain late on, and should have learned something from the whole first look at obstacles in anger - she had raced on the flat, so was aware of a concept that vaguely resembled that which she encountered here. Podium Pete, running in this due to a lack of suitable pony races, did not do badly, but his stature, or lack thereof, will surely be an ongoing hindrance to a potential fencing career. Porto Vechio was a paddock eye-catcher - perhaps he has some natural luminescence - but with several chase runs in France to his name, a better showing might have been expected here, as he was only fourth.

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