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West Street Tickham
Sunday 18th January 2009
by Simon McInnes

Aaaah (as in soothing, rather than alarmed), the beginning of the south-east season. A mild sort of day for mid-January offset by being perched in the wind whistling over the top of the North Downs, cars getting stuck in the mud on the way into the course, dozens of disobedient dogs, a good turnout of runners and, erm, only a month to the next meeting in the area. And with a safety limit of 18, the open maiden was divided into two races of nine. I blame the teachers...
The going remained good throughout, although the riders reported that the lower points on the far side and end of the track were getting a bit battered as the day progressed and some slow motion finishes were fought out, especially for those chasing the minor places . One of the fences has been removed from the back straight (eaten by cattle?) so there is a very long run between the fourth last and third last, which was exploited by shrewd riders a couple of times today.

Going: Good

race 1: Giles Hopper Memorial Open Maiden, Div I
1: Sidney Charles 2: Star Gift 3: Caged Tiger
Winner owned & trained: Annie Blaker, ridden: Peter Bull
The opening show in the ring for the first race of the season had an ominous over-round of 282%, and even after a writing error - copied faithfully by the other bookies - on the first board to price up was corrected, changing Star Gift from 4/6 to 4/1, it was still over 220%. Greeted by utter indifference, the prices eased, so that 150% seemed a bargain later on. All things are relative... The first division contained a smattering of interesting contenders but did not prove as competitive race as might have been expected, with Sidney Charles a fairly easy winner in the end. Given that the winner showed modest promise over hurdles and is now in a yard that has livened up one or two performers in the past and Caged Tiger's Rules failures were often far from disastrous, Star Gift's debut in splitting them was not a bad effort. Round And Round made the frame a few times in Ireland but ratted out his supporters on this occasion.

race 2: Giles Hopper Memorial Open Maiden, Div II
1: Nessa 2: Podium Pete 3: Trooper Kit
Winner owned: Mrs KH York, trained & ridden: Phil York
Phil York fielded four of the eighteen declarations in the open maiden, so nabbing one winner from among them was not an excessive reward for supporting the race. Nessa had shown promise in bumpers and on her pointing debut (when the unpronouncable winner was ridden with exaggerated waiting tactics and may be a lot more superior than the bare margin says), and having led at just after halfway, that ability was enough to burn off all of the oppo, with only two other finishers, both at a respectable distance. The time was seven seconds slower than the first division, and only part of that was due to the easier time of it that the winner enjoyed. Podium Pete and Trooper Kit are rather known quantities and that is not yet showing them as likely maiden winners.

race 3: Keenhay Services SE Hunts Club Members Conditions
1: Highland Chief 2: Magnus Veritas 3: Theatre Knight
Winner owned: Mrs PA Wilkins, trained & ridden: Phil Hall
This was not a bad race at all and Highland Chief was very impressive in dismissing the opposition, his jumping being noticeably efficient. He was consistent at a modest level for Alan King, and can probably step up in class from this. Magnus Veritas, who is generally fit and raring to go first time up, is a good, steady yardstick in second, and he was well beaten. The conditions on the course, in combination with the recent cold snap, were seen to effect in the trundle for third. Myson was clear in that position over the last, but was so tired on the run-in that Theatre Knight, travelling at milk float speed, was able to pass him in the shadow of the post.

race 4: Ovenden's Restricted
1: Master Alf 2: Cotton Bay 3: Ilikehimmac
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs P Bull, trained: Suzy Bull, ridden: Peter Bull
Since his maiden win, Master Alf had chanced his arm under Rules, and not been embarrassed once he qualified for modest staying handicap chases, and it was enough to make him favourite on his return to points. Only two rivals appealed as a threat - Cotton Bay and Charm Lord. Cotton Bay, an import after winning one of two in Ireland, had every chance but was done for when he made a bad error at the last. A promising British debut, but in general horses named after maritime geographic features do less well than those named after land based ones. Picking two random examples - Calgary Bay compared to Arkle. Charm Lord played up going to post, but was far more reliable in the race until he made mistakes at five out and the next, from which he lost too much ground to make up and he just chugged away to finish fourth.

race 5: Ladies' Open
1: Roaringwater 2: Big Moment
Winner owned: Michael Haydon, trained & ridden: Cynthia Haydon
After his defeat of Minouchka at Cottenham, Big Moment was inevitably a warm order in this six runner race, but his bravery had been questioned under Rules, and there was reason to suspect that a long slog uphill to the line was not his thing at all. The trouble with this train of thought was picking what would beat him, as Roaringwater, brought to his pointing debut the baggage of a questioned atttitude, and Young Collier's interesting form is beginning to seem a bit distant. Young Collier did show up a bit better but he had been shaken off when falling heavily three out. Meanwhile, the excellent Cynthia Haydon had gone for home a long way out on Roaringwater, and as suspected, Big Moment either could not or would not cope. He was not beaten that far in the end, neither finisher appeared full of zest on the run-in. Returning to the point about geography in horse names, it is presumed that Roaringwater is a river feature, and can thus be used to justify points in favour of marine and land based arguments.

race 6: Men's Open
1: Dante's Storm 2: Lord Trix 3: Lord Atterbury
Winner owned: Mr IM Cobbold, trained & ridden: Phil York
A year ago, Dante's Storm won the restricted on this card in a canter, despite blundering at the last, and he has swept unbeaten up the rankings to enable him to do exactly the same on his Open debut this time, even as far as the final fence faux pas. This was only a so-so race of the class, as Lord Trix was the sole rival really shaping as if he could make a race of it, so Dante's Storm will meet tougher challenges in future - the officially announced margin was two lengths, but Dante's Storm was only mildly encouraged along so that was a touch flattering to Lord Trix. Lord Atterbury, whose trainer/rider team usually have their debutants looking pretty fit, ran a very laboured sort of race, and Glenbower Woods never appeared to be travelling very well.

race 7: Horsemart PPORA Club Members Conditions, Novice Riders
1: Jack's Present 2: Lord'n'Master 3: Indoux
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained: Nick Pearce, ridden: Joshua Moore
With the horse having won three times in 2008, including an intermediate, and the rider being brother of Ryan and Jamie, plus father Gary there to watch, Jack's Present was an unduly warm order to win this, and did so fairly unruffled, although credit to Will Hickman and Lord'n'Master, who did not allow the winning combo to have things all their own way. Veteran enigma Indoux does have a history to being uncharacteristically helpful to novice riders and ran a decent race again, only seen off from the runner-up spot after jumping the last.

Plus Points
Star Gift (race 1): Sound effort on first racecourse appearance, and a possibly stepping stone to imminent success.

Mooresini (race 1): Looking back at his Rules form, it was not as strong as memory suggested, but he needed the run today, and is probably capable of winning a maiden when fitter, most likely on soft ground.

Castle Banquet (race 2): Jumped right all the way but was in the mix when a bad blunder knocked the stuffing out of him four from home. Promise was shown for a feast on a more suitable track.

Jacobin (race 2): Had come a long way for this, but did not get home up the hill, and was not knocked about in vain before pulling up before the last, which is convenient for the exit from the course. With the run under his belt, he can do better.

Highland Chief (race 3): A steady performer in handicap chases, he was qualified for a modest UK pointing intro and can go on to better things after looking a useful recruit.

Ballyrainey (race 3): Was a disappointment in the respect that he pulled up, but his fitness was not 100% and normal service should be resumed shortly.

Cotton Bay (race 4): Probably will not find opponents as strong as Master Alf in restricted races after this.

Lord Trix (race 6): Does not have a huge number of wins, but ran OK and will have blown away some cobwebs.

Down Arrows
Good Gordon (race 1): Went encouragingly until he ran out of steam nearing the second last and having run well already this season, the problem seems to be with his stamina.

The Tailor Carey (race 3): Made a mistake at the second and got stuck in the rear, progressed to be second (as the winner kicked on) at the fourth last, only to fade out of it coming home up the hill. He has not yet lived up to his promising maiden win.

Ilikehimmac (race 4): Has won a maiden, hence running in the restricted, and seems to do his best, without looking like that is enough to rustle up another win.

Parzando (race 4): There is a suspicion that he dislikes Charing least of all, but a new season arrives and Parzando is as Parzandishly non-winning as ever.

Roaringwater (race 5): Just as Big Moment's fifteen minutes of glory was not to be relied upon for a repeat, his defeat of Big Moment might also have been something of the time, the place and, erm, the moment. He was also a far inferior chaser to hurdler in his old yard, and may yet decide that even pointing is too much like hard work.

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