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East Sussex & Romney Marsh
Catsfield
Sunday 18th April 2010
by Simon McInnes

A big crowd gathered at Catsfield, basking in the clear, aeroplane-free blue skies of Sussex to watch the south-east season enter it's closing stages, with one sometimes decent, one always awful and one hunter chase fixture to follow. Turning up to see the number board describe the going as firm, when the early week bulletins had wide use of the phrase "good to soft" was worrying, and when only two turned out for the Members, despite nine entries representing eight different owners, the concern rose, but the other thing that increased was the number of runners, and for a course that is not known for vast fields, the sizes were better than average. Is that phenomenon one that is because of the volcano or despite it?

Going: Firm

Race 1: Friar House Antique Jewellery Members
1: Mr Tee Pee
Winner owned & ridden: Matt Braxton, trained: Rose Grissell
This had all the signs of a typical two runner members. Outsider Soldershire takes them along gently (inclusive of a horrendous blunder at the ninth) for a while, favourite Mr Tee Pee goes on after a couple of miles and wins comfortably without humiliating his rival. Except that Soldershire was not interested in a two length defeat so ran out through the wing of the second last. Thus Matt Braxton was able to retain the trophy. Soldershire, who is not known for this sort of behaviour, may well have jinked at the sight of a volcanic ash cloud, or perhaps remembered what a problem that fence had been a lap earlier.

Race 2: Media Communications Ltd SE Hunts Club Novice Riders
1: He's On His Way 2: Myson 3: Ballynonty
Winner owned: The Huntin Shootin Fishin Partnership, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Tom Cannon

This was a stronger race than a year ago, and produced a decent finish, with the distances between the first three being a couple of lengths and the same. He's On His Way had looked happy in a bog at Aldington, and thus can be considered to have adapted to the conditions rather well, as Myson had form on good, and perhaps a bit faster, going under Rules which suggested that he could turn around the defeat suffered against He's On His Way. However, Tom Cannon has been in top form all season and when Myson's challenge got serious from the second last, he and his horse were up to the task of repelling it - and the frequency with which Myson is managing to come second in the last couple of years is getting a touch ominous. Ballynonty has been runner-up in a novice hunter chase but on the whole has competed at a lower level than the two ahead of him, and to run them so close was a pretty decent effort. Although the third and second placed horses were the paddock stand outs, Independent Trader did not look too shoddy either, despite this being a belated seasonal debut, and he was not too far adrift when calling it a day at the fourteenth. He won at Peper Harrow last season and a repeat would hardly be a shock.

Race 3: The Bell Inn, Ticehurst Mixed Open
1: Highland Chief 2: Master T 3: Some Story
Winner owned: Mrs PA Wilkins, trained & ridden: Philip Hall
Four declared for this, but Ben Alder did a couple of laps of the paddock and was withdrawn, apparently due to an ominous smell of Icelandic volcano drifting in from the north-west. This made life a little bit easier for Highland Chief to go one better than he did in this race last year, and he achieved that. It was not easy, and the failure to assert from the third last probably reflects that he has not actually been in the best of his form all year. But any time you are in an effective match and not feeling tip-top, it does help having an undisciplined talent like Master T taking you on. Some Story was outpaced from the off, and made a bad blunder at the third, from which point he was tailed off and aimed simply at completing.

Race 4: Charles Stanley Stockbrokers SE Hunts Club Members
1: Sheknowsyouknow 2: New Street Express 3: Delgany Gale
Winner owned & trained: Michael Hawker, ridden: Mark Wall
Of those that lined up, Sheknowsyouknow has been just about the most regular winner, and paddock appearance confirmed that she was primed for this, with connections travel arrangements unaffected by the flight ban. In fact, it was the aerial aspect that was nearest to being her undoing, as a few sloppy jumps sapped energy that might have been decisive at the end. As it turned out, New Street Express, who had made most of the running before dropping back to third, could only plug on at one pace, which was not enough to frighten favourite backers. He was third in this last year and went on to finish the season with a win and a second, so perhaps New Street Express will prove to be a late spring horse again? Crossing the final bend, Nessa appeared the biggest danger to the winner, but she did not have a great season in 2009 and again faded a bit tamely, admittedly on her first appearance of this one, eventually losing third to Delgany Gale, who plugged away with fair resolve but no hint or threat of success.

Race 5: Nick Mills Memorial Restricted
1: Balableu 2: Ilikehimmac 3: Corybride
Winner owned: Ms H Williams & Mrs D Broad, trained: Diane Broad, ridden: Claire Douglas
After suffering four winning favourites on the spin, the bookies had some early relief as Achieved, who had jumped badly when winning at Charing, dived off to his right and unseated at the first fence. Second in the betting Toubougg Welcome nearly repeated the trick at the next, and although he survived, he found himself shuffled to the back anyway, in a field that quickly got strung out - the riderless Achieved running across the take off side of fence two did not help. After that, the pace at the front was frantic, bordering on insane, and of the pair that set it, routine non-stayer Trenley Lawn threw in the towel four from home. The more plodological Ilikehimmac showed resolve to rumble onto the line but had nothing in reserve when Balableu was cajoled forward to take up the lead at the last. Balableu had made a bad error at the second from home which gave Ilikehimmac a glimmer of hope, and the winner would have been further clear passing the post but for it. With her Irish form suggesting the ground was not at all suitable, Corybride trundled along for third, her best effort in this country but still a bit disappointing based on her best in Ireland.

Race 6: Grants Cherry Brandy Open Maiden
1: Tostig 2: Classic Pearl 3: Particular Man
Winner owned & trained: Ray York, ridden: Phil York
Three of the six finished this, but the favourite was beaten, this time because of an unexpected choice of jolly. Tostig was last of three on his racing debut at Aldington, with obvious scope to have learnt from it. Particular Man had been second twice over Easter and is well enough exposed in Irish pointing and hurdling to imagine that was as good as he is. However, Particular Man headed the market, albeit as a drifter and there seemed to be some money for Tostig, but not a deluge. The paddock selection was the big five year old mare Classic Pearl, who had been last in both her bumpers but showed a modicum of progress in her only point. The pace was set by Grumpy Bee, who still just about held the lead when he ran out at the fourteenth - more volcano related mischief? At this stage the two outsiders had called it a day, and Particular Man had been five lengths adrift and being ridden for quite some time. The early pace began to tell, and a mere refusal to give up was allowing him to close the gap after the fourth last, but it proved not to be happening quickly enough. Tostig held the upper hand and Classic Pearl, who had been under pressure as early as fence twelve, was able to threaten him, but not pass, going down by half a length, with Particular Man a never nearer two further off. Those clued up on their early medieval history will have appreciated the irony of a horse named Tostig winning at this particular venue, and those whose specialist subjects lay in other fields of interest can always work it out via Google.

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