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South Midlands Area Club
Sunday 15th February 2009
by Simon McInnes

Photos by Graftonwood

At last Tweseldown manages to defy the weather and stage a meeting. Obviously one of the main aims of a Tweseldown review is to motivate Steven Astaire into a robust rebuttal of one or two comments via the Jumping For Fun discussion forum. So here goes. Firstly, nobody had the good grace to sit down with the racecards and cross out 8th February and replace it with 15th February. That just shows no pride in the job. Secondly, the grass was the wrong colour. It was all a pale, tired and lackadaisical green, when the crowd needed a bright, stimulating one. Frankly, we all despair for the future. On a more serious note, the attendance was a touch on the thin side, augmented by some late arrivals, and in the current financial climate, charging £3 for a racecard with glossy cover that provides no enhancement to it's overall functionality seems likely to discourage sales. Finally, due to the depth of flooding, the tunnel under the track was shut. This is a personal disaster, as I find that there is no better way to put a losing bet out of your mind than splash an innocent bystander and then blame a nearby irritating child.

Surprisingly, given the lack of recent meetings, field sizes were on the small side as well. Dividing the open maiden in advance saw six of 23 and seven of 24 line up from the original entries, when it might have been imagined that there are hordes of maidens gagging for a run. On the other hand, having two club members, the first open to all that have not won under Rules except for hunter chases in the last couple of years, the other also excluding open race winners, just seemed a convoluted way of having two four runner races instead of one more appealing one. As the latter race has a memorial trophy, that could be awarded to the best finisher in a combined race that is yet to win an open.

Going: Good (Soft places)

Race 1: PRCC Ltd Club Members
1: Back To Ben Alder 2: Maestro Please 3: Reviewer
Winner owned: Mr M Loggin & Mr M Blackford, trained: Sam Loggin, ridden: Stuart Morris

Only four runners lined up, and the pace was very sedate early on. This manner of running was bound to play into the hands of once decent hurdler Back To Ben Alder, who found sufficient of his youthful speed remained to become a strong weapon and his vulnerability in stamina trivialised. As Maestro Please is proven over further, even once Back To Ben Alder went three lengths or so clear, he never quite shook off Maestro Please, who has been second on both runs since he returned from missing last season. The suspect nature of the form is in the effort of Reviewer, who was dropping away after two miles, but snapped out of that flat spot and instead of tailing off began inching into the lead, suggesting that the two in front were not sprinting home.

Race 2: Retraining Of Racehorses Restricted
1: Mysaynoway 2: Glen Tulloch 3: Billie Bay
Winner owned: Tork Family, trained: Kevin Tork, ridden: Gordon Gallagher

The official going was faster than anyone might have expected, and that seemed to include both the crowd and several riders in this race. Mysaynoway charged off in front as per her norm, and when Glen Tulloch and Pretty Lady Rose joined her in going twenty lengths clear, we all donned a Mr T mohican wig and declared them crazy fools. How wrong we were! Pretty Lady Rose weakened off of the front two, fading into obscurity, but Mysaynoway and Glen Tulloch had a good old battle for the lead and gave their all on the run-in, where the former secured a pillar to post success. Neither was more obviously tired than normal for the end of a Restricted. Favourite Cotton Bay led the complacent pack, but did not even manage to hold on for third as Billie Bay - win secured as sole finisher in a two runner race - appeared to excel himself in winning the separate race for third. Thenford Ryde appeared to be fairly fit but will no doubt have gained some benefit for the run, ending up in a dead-heat for fourth with Sideline Critic.

Race 3: Ramsay Health Men's Open
1: Armoury House 2: Cheyne 3: Mister Bertolli
Winner owned: Miss A Reed, trained: David Buckett, ridden: Tom Ellis

A substandard looking open was brightened up by 'did all he needed to' front running performance by Armoury House - a low 80s rated chaser recently switched to pointing. Limited opposition plus a win already this season led to Cheyne being odds-on, but he sabotaged his chances with some laboured jumping and could do no more than lumber along in the home straight. The pair were miles clear of Mister Bertolli, who had endured a similar drubbing on his seasonal return but seems to be the sort that either needs a couple of runs to come good or prefers the milder weather of late spring. There were plenty of entries with decent form that may rue missing a weak opening - Chilling Place, Kingscliff, Dantes Storm, Milesian King, We're Confused. Indeed, we are.

Race 4: Vales Press Ltd Open Maiden, Div I
1: Little Fountain 2: Doug 3: Orient Legend
Winner owned: Mrs C Saunders, trained: Gerald Bailey, ridden: Richard Barrett

Only six went to post, but they contrived to serve up a cracking four way finish, and as they had all been placed, often at venues that would be expected to stage decent maidens, it might prove to have been a fair heat. Villa Mara made the running early on, and then stuck with Little Fountain when he took it up. The early leader, who has had a few chances and failed, weakened around the last, and she was passed by Doug and Orient Legend. Doug had stood out for fitness before the race, but a lack of jumping fluency (no risk of falling, but ground often lost) sapped at the energy margin and he could not get up to strongly finishing Little Fountain - whose belated appearance in the parade ring had prompted a flurry of betting activity and a price collapse from 4/1 to 2/1. Strapping youngster Orient Legend had been narrowly beaten over 2m 4f at Barbury last time, and three miles with an uphill finish proved a little too taxing for him on this occasion.

Race 5: SMAC Open Maiden, Div II
1: Isle Of Skye 2: Mooresini 3: Marsden Marksman
Winner owned: Mrs S Sutton, trained: K Smyly, ridden: Mark Wall

With the opposition appearing to be far less fearsome than she would have had in the first division, Isle Of Skye opened her account by dashing up a clear winner. For a long while it seemed that Marsden Marksman was a serious threat, but when he needed to hit a bullseye, he began to run more like the horse that had pulled up on all three runs last season and not the one that had amazed us for 2m 6f today. This allowed Mooresini to nab second right on the line. Kanga Gold, who showed a modicum of promise in a couple of runs last season, did not get involved seriously in the race, but had he been asked to, his fitness would have let him down.

Race 6: National Hunt Trainers Intermediate
1: Fox John & Master Alf 3: The Camerengo
Winner (Fox John) owned & trained: John Manners, ridden: David Bass, (Master Alf) owned: The Bull Family, trained & ridden: Peter Bull

Only five were declared, but it was a competitive race, and the end result was a dead heat between the prominently ridden Master Alf and Fox John, who adopted more stealthy tactics. A spot survey found that there was an exact 50/50 split between racegoers over which horse that they felt had won, but some pedantic statisticians would quibble the merits of a two person sample. From the third last, the main duo went head to head, and whilst neither ceded an inch, Peter Bull did lose his whip at some point along the way, which may have made a difference, irrespective of which of the surveyed people you are inclined to trust. The leaders left The Camerengo - some decent efforts but only one win - trailing in their wake.

Race 7: National Hunt Trainers Ladies' Open
1: Bedtime Boys 2: Manners 3: New Entic
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Holly Campbell

Another race that went the way of those that were up with the pace, and it was very pleasing to watch prolific winning twelve year old Bedtime Boys not just get the dozen up but pound along the run-in with rare verve, as if he was ready for another lap. In fact, Manners also saw out the last furlong or so very well, just not as powerfully as the winner. New Entic faded late on, but he has never been one to win trophies for enthusiasm. There was a benefit in paddock watching jockeys for this, as the rider of Touch Closer emerged wearing a thick coat over her colours and generally giving the impression that she thought involvement in this to be a really bad idea. After that, Touch Closer, who was a legitimate contender on form, was one to be wary of, and he was off the pace early, and just wandered home in fourth, having never been asked to get competitive. On a similarly surreal note, there seemed to be an extensive inquest into the run of Ski. As she has had plenty of chances and has a 100% failure to complete rate, refusing if the rider does not have the decency to pull up, it is hard to imagine anything new was learned about her today.

Race 8: Astaire & Partners Ltd Club Members
1: East Lawyer 2: Ghonnywiththebowe 3: True Legend
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Lucy Cowen

It may only have had four runners, but the last race served up quite an extraordinary finish. For reasons of absent fitness, will or inclination to complete, none of the quartet was an appealing betting option, and the prices bobbed up and down like a gang of herons in an infinitely populated fish pond. The battle for the win was being fought out by UK newcomer Ghonnywiththebowe (won an Irish point and then lost the plot completely) and True Legend (four wins in all but missed last season, and two handlers in the paddock, plus signs of too much nervous energy). Approaching the last, Ghonnywiththebowe put himself in the driving seat, but suddenly it became clear that East Lawyer was putting himself in the picture. He had been detached from as early as the second fence, despite a slow pace, and was hopelessly tailed off four from home. Somewhere in the cutting, he livened his ideas up a bit, and decided belatedly to migrate from non-trierdom to one of the least likely victories imagined. Two out he was only slightly less adrift, but really flew home in the straight, poking his head in front in the last yard or two. As far as the future goes, East Lawyer (whose brief forays into the limelight for Paul Nicholls were deemed by the race conditions to be a distant irrelevance, a bit like the way the Antiguans regard the cricket outfield) is unlikely to get away with this again, and True Legend will be tuned better by the run.

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