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Southdown & Eridge
Sunday 1st April 2007
by Simon McInnes

After the morass sacred away the lily-livered majority last time, the turn in the weather meant that the course enjoyed a bumper crowd to compensate for the earlier disappointment, although pre-match pony racing is beginning to boost the attendance wherever it is staged.

The main events were pretty competitive, boosted by some out of area visitors, and when the favourite opened odds-on, it generally looked flattered by the accolade, and subsequently drifted. Pleasant sport, chance of a bet or two and a nice day out.

Powell & Partner Open Maiden
1: Furze Hill 2: Noble Present 3: Frozen Assets
Winner owned: Dave & Elaine Mee, trained: Nicola Pollock, ridden: Alex Merriam
Hardly the greatest maiden ever seen on form, but the entire field seemed to have bloomed in the sun, so that the big problem for punters in this was that the two horses that had given most cause for encouragement both fell on their most recent runs. A nice sensible pace meant that the skill at the obstacles of all runners was not challenged very much, but some ominously were niggled along early despite that. Everything went to plan for Furze Hill, near the front all the way and easing clear after three out. Noble Present was never actually that far behind, but he never convinced that he was going to find any more than the winner. It was a good run on his second UK appearance, but Tim Underwood bizarrely was called in by the stewards for the improved run – surely unique for a horse that did not win. The excuse that it was only his second run for the yard and that the racecard form was incorrect apparently proved watertight! Faster ground might have been a factor also. The presence of Frozen Assets in third sort of devalues the form, even though he was well beaten, as prior to his last run he was a serial non-completer by any means at his disposal, yet today was still in front four fences from home. Young Rocky was the main flop of the race, prominent early on, but fading after a mile until eventually pulling up. This has been about par for the course for horses that the Turners send into the south-east in the last couple of seasons.

Barfields Restricted
1: Montanel 2: Court Award 3: Kingsun
Winner owned & trained: Nigel Benstead, ridden: Philip York
With a disappointing entry of nine, it was a pleasant surprise to get five runners, never mind a race that proved a tight affair. Montanel won his maiden last time but had looked criminally insane prior to that, pulling up on those days when he was unable to run out or fling his rider to the ground. How long can the new leaf remain turned, before the wind flips back where it was? Court Award was a long term threat but proved as one paced in the end as would be expected for a horse whose habit is to be second when he finishes. Although not too far behind in third, Kingsun could have been a serious threat but for a bad blunder four out, when he stumbled left and lost all his momentum. This was his best effort in the UK and he might win a restricted soon.

Highfields Farm Ladies Open
1: Fiery Ring 2: Millenium Way 3: Leatherback & Persian King
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained & ridden: Jenny Gordon
Even allowing for the fact that Millenium Way has an inspired record here, and that Fiery Ring had a mystery (i.e. out of sight) fall here at the mudfest, it was amazing that Millenium Way was favourite as Fiery Ring does look to be the better horse. It was a deserved win for the owner, who has supported the course as sponsor and with runners since it’s inception and after his odds-on favourite departed at the first fence of the first race of the first meeting, things had only rarely perked up. The burning one went clear of Millenium Way at the final ditch and despite the usual game effort from the runner-up, it was pretty much game over from there on in. Leatherback ran well and probably deserved to keep third, but Persian King trundled on to grab a dead heat for the minor spot, appreciating the faster ground.

Volkswagen Touareg Mens Open
1: Quarrymount 2: Little Farmer 3: Cape Stormer
Winner owned & trained: EJ Farrant, ridden: Chris Gordon
The bookies put up prices that meant backing both of the first two favourites would post a small profit and it was hard to see which of the other four was going to spoil the party. Quarrymount had won a confined on Kent National day, which is usually open class form, and at the age of six he is an up and coming performer, with plenty of potential improvement. Cape Stormer, on the other hand, was starting the season too late to retain his title as the winningmost horse in the land, and although I thought that he looked quite fit, everyone I know disagreed with me, and the manner in which he folded approaching the third last was very much an endorsement for the evil majority. The winner looks a very decent prospect, a potential challenger for the top horse in the vicinity. Little Farmer ran up to best and a bit more, although it is three years since he won an Open, and form like this will make him a short price in lower grades.

1: Pipes A’Calling 2: Mysaynoway 3: Firecracker Lady
Winner owned: Mrs J Butler, trained: Victoria Collins, ridden: Rilly Goschen

This is normally an endearing feeble heat and the injection of some outside blood hardly did much to beef up it’s stature. Pipe’s A’Calling had been a very well beaten second here earlier, falling on a subsequent run, and when she started to struggle a lap out, it seemed another failure was on the cards. However, some vim from the saddle and a bit of guts by the horse allowed her to go on and gain that elusive win. She was helped by Mysaynoway hanging left on the home turn and also along the home straight – not the first time that the mare has looked less than optimally steerable. Third placed Firecracker Lady is a nine year old with only two runs to her name, both pulled up, but this unique experience of racing with a warm up run to her name did seem to suit. Paddock picks were Eva’s Edge, a horribly one paced fourth, and Twinkling Star, beaten when falling for the second run in a row.

Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members Novice Riders Race
1: Willie The Kid 2: Indoux 3: Rakatia
Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Kim Smyly
All in all this was a fairly eventful heat, with a rare double figure field for the course producing plenty of ebb and flow of fortune. Willie The Kid was up there most of the way round, rallying well after an mistake at the fourteenth to go to the front soon after and keep paddock pick Indoux at bay. Indoux is a notoriously tricky customer, but he does have a history of running for a novice rider, even though that novice was far better than average. Rakatia spoiled his chances with a bad error as soon as he hit the front but it was a fair effort to be third. The Grey Baron, who should have been too good for this, was at the rear early on and ambled round to never be a threat to the leaders. It was reported that he was never travelling, but the counter point is that he was never subject to a vigorous ride, which has motivated The Grey Baron in the past. New Lodge Express was also ridden with excess patience, but his rider did get a bit more serious, albeit too late, and he finished like a train to be fourth, and probably could have been second. All part of the educational experience. The other that stood out in the paddock was Soundtrack, who set the pace and once headed was treated by his rider with all the respect he has earned in his fourteen years, and as a non-stayer.

Robert Wilkins Members
1: Winters Beau 2: Sanamour 3: Lively Lord
Winner owned: Mrs PA Wilkins, trained: Susanna Hall, ridden: Philip Hall
As they took the third last, this seemed set to be a close race, but Winters Beau put on a bit of a spurt, and the injection of speed caused Sanamour to be a little lacking in fluency over the final pair of fences. Winters Beau had to work a bit harder than when winning his members before, but he ought to be competitive in Restricteds on this evidence. Prior to unseating on his seasonal debut, Sanamour had either won or pulled up on every run, so to have been second must have sent him home in a fog of utter bemusement. Any chance that ageing nutcase Lively Lord had on form was wasted when he went wide on most of the bends, and he was easily defeated in the end. With his allocated weight at 12-5 and the petite Keely Harrison on board, the clerk of the scales presumably had to pilfer some lead from the church roof to make up the full burden.

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