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Southdown & Eridge
Sunday 3rd April 2011
by Simon McInnes

An awful lot of work had been done to keep the ground tolerable, and whilst some may have wished for easier conditions, the current conditions meant that they could not have expected anything better than what they got. This year has been the tenth season of racing at the track, and there have been more runners than ever over the three meetings. So the end of a good stint at Godstone in 2011. All it needs now is a classic four miler...

Going: Good / Good to Firm

Race 1: Bewl Water Open Maiden
1: Gemini Jim 2: Hansom Prophet 3: Parkbridge Dream
Winner owned: The TKP Family, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Tom Cannon
Get anyone to create a scale of excellence for rating maidens, and this one would sneak in at the bottom level of the grading – as a tribute to, perhaps it should be referred to as the Bradshaw Scale. Messrs Beaufort and Richter would be jealous. The betting was dominated by a recent import from Ireland and a nine year who has become an occasional competitor – as they had at least managed to finish in some of their races, which the rest of the runners were finding an impossible height to scale. Gemini Jim (a seventh and a sixth from six tries) showed more zip in younger legs, and easily got the better of Hansom Prophet. Having seen Parkbridge Dream earlier this season, he seems to have suspect wind, a total lack of composure and wavering intent to co-operate, and his rider was fined for forcing him to complete whilst tailed off by half a circuit. At least the others can stay in maidens - Gemini Jim has a right old challenge on his hands to add to this.

Race 2: Southdown & Eridge Foxhunter Restricted
1: Sartori Strike 2: Tobougg Welcome 3: Onlyfiftyquideach
Winner owned: Miss Sarah LM Wilkins, trained: Rose Grissell, ridden: Hannah Grissell
A definite improvement in quality for the restricted, but with reservations. Louisthenineteenth, who made a bit of a lemon of himself at Penshurst, was subdued and pulled up when dropping off of the first two home as the rounded the final bend – looked a little lame. Improvement by Onlyfiftyquideach was anticipated due his owner making way in the saddle for Phil York, but a run that saw him more involved in the race did not produce a better outcome. That left the race primed for an upset and Sartori Strike made more or less every yard of the running under a finely judged ride (the pace seemed solid to quick to the naked eye). After trying hurdles in Ireland late in 2008, he had gone missing until a recent comeback, where he pulled up but clearly blew lots of cobwebs away (we now realise). Despite being an outsider here, he is not a necessarily one to ignore for following up. Tobougg Welcome had pulled up three times in a row, but his first and a second a year ago were in terrible races, and he, in contrast, is not to be trusted to repeat this except in small fields. After an impressive start to his season, Particular Man has gone backwards and he may be a horse to catch first time up and fear horribly after that.

Race 3: Highfields Farm Mixed Open
1: Freddies Return 2: Honourable Spider 3: Peadar
Winner owned: Mr R Gurney, Mrs S Fisher & Mr D Rhodes, trained & ridden: Phil York
Freddies Return was unflustered by the fast ground, and won a race that looked a fraction stronger than the one he landed at Penshurst, even though it ended up with the same horse, Honourable Spider, in second. That made it six wins this season, and pretty much everything the south-east can muster has had a pop at him and failed. Peadar was in contention, but when the pace was upped, he faded without much effort. This is not the first time he has wilted when the going got very tough, but his trainer has reported him to have been under the weather not so long ago, so perhaps that is the root of the problem, rather than an objection to 100% effort. Rocja, who won three races in 2009 but missed last season, made his comeback and did perfectly well, until finding the rise to fence thirteen too much and calling it a day. If he came out of it in perfect working order, it was probably target achieved. Making his pointing debut was Green Gamble, a five time chase winner who had lost his way a little in recent years. The problem is that he was only ever a two miler under rules, and whether his stamina will carry his proven ability, or what remains of it, is a question mark at present.

Race 4: J&J Franks Open Maiden (4-7 year olds), 2m 4f
1: Doran's Lodge 2: Village Secret 3: Fort Severn
Winner owned: Mr G Rowe & Miss A Collibns, trained: Alycia Collins, ridden: Nico de Boinville
Only four ran in this, but from an entry of only eight, that was not too bad. Doran's Lodge, already second twice this season, turned it into a non-contest, kicking on approaching four out, and finding neither of Village Secret and Fort Severn able to react to that – newcomer Marge Ana failed to get beyond the first fence. Fort Severn started his life with a close second in a bumper to Somersby, but never managed to win on the back of it, and it is not hard to see him pulling a similar stunt pointing, although in fairness he was not too upset by the loose horse nearly carrying him out at the second.

Race 5: Dodson & Horrell PPORA Members, Novice Riders
1: Flowersoftherarest 2: She Is A Cracker 3: Lillie Lou
Winner owned: The Huntin, Shootin, Fishin Partnership, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Freddie Mitchell
The biggest field of the day included some fair performers at this level. Flowersoftherarest had won one of these race at the course already in 2011, and this time did it without getting himself tailed off first. He did wallop the sixth, producing a good challenge to his rider's balance and gymnastic talents, but from then on it was all plain sailing, and he scooted clear in the last quarter of a mile, like a horse ready to give another lap a try. She Is A Cracker had won a rather modest looking maiden at Parham, but excelled herself in managing second here, and perhaps is the sort of mare who raises her game to match those around her. Certainly an on song Lillie Lou, also successful at Parham, is a good yardstick to measure She Is A Cracker against, although the fourth placed horse was Space Cowboy, who is a bit too mentally unpredictable for most novice riders. There was a chance of a massively emotional result, as seventeen year old legend Carryonharry was close up and in with every chance when he unseated at the fourteenth. A place at least was definitely on the cards, and the old horse knew it as well, as after crossing the line he made a beeline for the place where those in the frame unsaddle – a location not unfamiliar
to him at Godstone.

Race 6: Robert Wilkins Countryside Alliance Club Members
1: Little Legend 2: Thenford Ryde 3: In The System
Winner owned: Michael Haydon, trained & ridden: Cynthia Haydon
The most impressive performance of the day was posted by Little Legend in the final event, as he led, jumped notably well apart for a faux pas at the third last, and galloped the opposition into oblivion. Thenford Ryde is not necessarily one to pick as your champion if your life depended on his bravery, but he can travel in his races, and simply could not keep up, which was also true of In The System, whose Detling and Irish wins came on soft ground and he ran in snatches on this quicker surface. Dawn Display was bang in the mix when he tried to refuse and unseated at fence twelve. That brings his form in the last seven races to R41UR2U, and he should be given the bargepole treatment, even though he has the physical ability for the job. But returning to the subject of excellence, Little Legend is capable of competing, and perhaps winning, in some less ferocious opens.

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