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Cambridge University United Hunts Club
Cottenham
Sunday 6th December 2009
by Simon McInnes

An early rise on Sunday morning gives plenty of time to contemplate the previous day of sport whilst having a bacon sandwich and consider the reality against the hysteria. For instance, Big Zeb's record in chases when more than 7 run? F1FF. Despite a career wining rate of fractionally under 50%, Well Chief's career record on soft before the Tingle Creek? 1111. A long wet winter and soft ground at Cheltenham, with only five runners might give Master Minded a cause for concern, but meanwhile he gets a nightly rub down from an array of nubile maidens, followed by a sound night's sleep. Apart from very rare exceptions such as Dublin Flyer, why is it such a kiss of death to a horse's talent to put the word "Flyer" in it's name? Will trimming the number of presenters on the horribly over-staffed Channel 4 Racing do any harm? No. Will they purge the right ones? Probably also a no. And the biggest question of all - can this really be Cottenham, with no rain, a clear, sunny day, and only a slightly wintery wind? Apparently so, but it does not seem right and things that do not seem right leave people confused, frightened and angry, sometimes riotous. Which explains a lot.

Going: Good (Good to Soft places)

Race 1: Cowley Road Garage PPORA Club Members, Div I
1: Lease Back 2: Presenting Express 3: Olival
Winner owned: Chris Cox, trained: Linda Cannon, ridden: Tom Cannon
The field here posted a rapid time of dead on six minutes, but the clue that the ground was much more amenable than usual for the track is that they achieved it without seeming to have to try ultra hard. Presenting Express, who was far from hopeless for Emma Lavelle, bowled along at the head of things. Four from home he was still travelling nicely, but when Lease Back powered past, the game was up, and the winner gradually widened the lead against a runner-up that would have been giving away a chunk of weight had this been a handicap chase. Xila Fontenailles ran well for a long, long way, only to be battled out of a place on the run-in by Olival, a horse not entirely unfamiliar with the concept that placed is plenty good enough. One to note from this race is Anns Benefit, who had not much more than a warm-up for the future, where presumably she and Ann can both show the benefit. Ronan The Warrior is entertainingly inconsistent, but today's non-performance can be blamed on lack of fitness, and a much better show next time is perfectly possible. Or not.

Race 2: Cowley Road Garage PPORA Club Members, Div II
1: Forget The Ref 2: Sirius Storm 3: Real Cracker
Winner owned: R Abrey & I Thurtle, trained: Robert Abrey, ridden: Rupert Stearn
All in all, this division gave the impression of being a fair bit weaker, and the field came in spread out in such a way that it can also be deemed less competitive, with only four finishing. After some jumping early in the race that was indeed best forgotten, Forget The Ref was much the strongest horse in the last half mile, as Sirius Storm's rather unrestrained pace setting efforts began to tell and Duke Of Stradone weakened very quickly once under pressure. Real Cracker, returning from a season off, could not have been given away in the ring even with free cake thrown in, so with the assumption that expectations were low, the performance was not a disaster. However, the unlucky horse of the race was Freedomofthecity, who was third, with a squeak of catching Sirius Storm, when he slipped up on the final bend. He was quite poor last season, and gives the form a downbeat shade of shadowy beige, but might just have improved over the summer.

Race 3: James Graven & Sons Ltd Men's Open
1: Cedrus Libani 2: Yann's 3: Selassie
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs W Rucker, trained: Angela Rucker, ridden: Richard Burton
It only took three races into the meeting for something that inspired some fun but pointless what-if musing. Three horses had gone well clear by the fourth last, with Cedrus Libani and Yann's being stalked by the outsider Robin De Sherwood. The last of the trio seemed to be going significantly better than the other pair when he hit the second last, and managed to catapult his rider into the atmosphere. It was not the worst mistake of all time, just one of those where the angles and laws of physics combined to exaggerate the damage. Would he have won? Oral evidence says yes, the formbook puts a question mark against his stamina (and the BEST of his last four runs under Rules was an 88 length fifteenth!!). Cedrus Libani, who looked as if he would come on a little for the race, ground out the win from a one-paced Yann's. Selassie, who never quite got into the fight at the head of things, stayed on to take a distant third at the expense of Moscow Court, who also will have gained plenty from the rigours of his exercise.

Race 4: Baileys Horse Feeds Ladies' Open
1: Big Moment 2: Petit Lord 3: Great Grimsby
Winner owned: Ross Douglas, trained: Jenny Gordon, ridden: Claire Douglas
In this race last year, Big Moment took the illustrious scalp of Minouchka, and he repeated the win this time around, in a race that seemed to have plenty of sound Ladies' race contenders. He did it the same way, pouncing late on, and using the remnants of his youthful pace to seal success. The aspect that he will be looking to not replicate is the inability to win any of his subsequent runs, but there is the thought that he is a horse that is best caught fresh, and also is suited by large, flat pastures of the type often found in East Anglia. The handy Petit Lord confirmed his superiority over Perouse (4th) and will be fitter for the effort. Great Grimsby was a bit of a plodder under Rules, and despite his relative youth in pointing terms - soon to turn eight - he was one-paced here, but a more testing or longer course will suit him better. Shareef looked fit and extremely well in the prelims, but dropped to the rear early and ran a rather mediocre early race, followed by a worse late one. Chef De Cour, returning from a long spell off to make his pointing bow, was never in the race, but whether he has the talent, or stamina more specifically, to hit the mark at this level is unproven.

Race 5: Vectin Restricted
1: Posh Dude 2: Lotta Presents 3: Oaklands Bobbie
Winner owned & trained: S Sherwood, ridden: Jack Sherwood
Having recently developed the super power that allows the picking of the winner in large field Restricteds (a mere eighteen here), this race proved that it is a tricky power that takes experience and training to manipulate - a whole host of hairy jumping early on set the tone for the whole race. The selections it gave were Lotta Presents (every chance last, outbattled narrowly by the very gutsy winner), Taken By Storm (disappeared during the last lap, returned with rider a long time after the majority - possibly Taken By Aliens) and Kilcasan (either blundered or hampered badly at the sixth fence, and tailed off as a consequence). The Power gave no information about Posh Dude, possibly out-debated by the more established Memory, who referred to the defeat of Posh Dude by a long way in an unexceptional restricted at Kingston Blount towards the end of the last season. My co-correspondent on the line was very complimentary, in an anthropomorphic sort of way, about the way the winner stuck out his head when he saw the finishing post looming. The favourite was Oscar D'Angron, who won a two and a half miler last spring, but pulled after a midfield meander in this and did not really put his stamina to the test.

Race 6: John Bull & Co Open Maiden, 7 year olds and up
1: Goscar Rock 2: Bynack Mhor 3: Greek Star
Winner owned: Peter & Lisa Hall, trained: Peter Hall, ridden: Phil York
With a short maiden also on the card, the field of older win avoiders did not look very strong and Goscar Rock turned it into a procession for the last mile or more. Favourite Bynack Mhor was being given reminders with a circuit to go, and as much as the winner looked to have gone off quite fast, the oppo showed no sign of having anything to offer if or when he tied up. Lightly raced bumper runner-up Snakecharm fell at the first. He started out his career as if having a modicum of ability, so who knows where he may go from here (and don't say 'India').

Race 7: Masters Of The Trinity Foot & South Herts Beagles Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds, 2m 4f, Div I
1: Inner Steel 2: Knightsbridgelives 3: Just Judy
Winner owned & trained: Don Cantillon, ridden: Simon Walker
Usually when something bright and yellow appears in the sky over Cottenham, the search is on for the child that has lost a balloon. However, this time, in a unique occurrence, it was the sun, and it led to the fences in the home straight all being omitted, cutting the number jumped in the race to eleven. That suited Inner Steel, who was a bit green and not 100% fluent early on, but made ground rapidly after the second last, and had the most pace on the run-in. Knightsbridgelives hinted at a little ability as a hurdler, and showed a bit more this time than on his pointing debut. Third placed Just Judy unseated when doing well last time, and confirmed that she is not a lost cause. Oaklands Robbie and Over Budget caught the eye before the race. The former unseated at the second, the latter led early on and then dropped out a bit too quickly to draw much optimism.

Race 8: Masters Of The Trinity Foot & South Herts Beagles Open Maiden, 4-6 year olds, 2m 4f, Div II
1: Leader Blue 2: Monkerty Tunkerty 3: Mr Johnson
Winner owned: Norman Thomas, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: James Tudor
Cottenham without the Hill/Tudor combo picking up a win is as normal as a cat in a wetsuit, but they left it a touch late to do the job this time around. Leader Blue showed some ability in bumpers and hurdles, including a three miler, but as this turned into a semi-flat race, he was given a serious fright by arguably the worst named horse in western Europe - Friday's Sandown winner Spunk is his main challenger. Approaching the last fence, Aussie Bay was reeling them in, but when the pressure came, he found nothing at all, and weakened severely, losing out for a place to the outpaced but determined Mr Johnson, and then also being nabbed for fourth Slyne Head. Mini mare Royale Bruere did not go unsupported for her racing debut, and was in the lead, but ridden along, when she departed two out. She has an engine, but her lack of substance will limit her ability to overcome any errors. Gibraltar Star looked a nice, but unruly, horse in the paddock, but he has not lived up to it since his bumper debut.

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