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South East Hunts Club
Sunday 30th January 2011
by Simon McInnes

After a chilly night, there was no problem with frost halting the meeting, although what was a crisp, but still, day became decidedly cold as the wind picked up in the course of the afternoon. Certainly the number of people sheltering on the leeward side of vans and trailers was gradually increasing. And when the fifth race was divided, despite one less declaration than the safety limit stated in the racecard, it did not seem to get a universal thumbs up. Other than that, it was a good day of sport, with plenty of runners and some eyeball to eyeball finishes. Good old Charing. One thing was an oddity. Standing in exactly the same places as usual to take photographs here, most were ruined by the sun being at a bad angle, which has not been a problem in the past. This suggests that there has never been sunshine at Charing before - can that be true?
Going: Good

race 1: Gillian Jarvis Memorial Members Maiden, 4-7 year old, 2m 4f
1: Baroque Star 2: Dusshera 3: Adept Approach
Winner owned: L Gilbert, trained: Jenny Gordon, ridden: Tom Cannon
Baroque Star had been totally ineffective in bumpers, but did manage third of six in a weak novice hurdle. This was good enough to have him heading the market in a members maiden, and he repaid the faith. He led most of the way, and steadily winding up the pace from the top of the hill, gradually wore down the opposition. At the second last he seemed to have the race in the bag, but with the last fence omitted, the run-in was very long and racing debutant Dusshera plugged on very gamely for a creditable defeat. Now she has a bit of experience under her belt (she was a bit nervous when the time for mounting came), she ought to be able to win races. Adept Approach and fourth placed Sum Say So were also closing the gap late on, and both seem likely to appreciate a return to three miles. After a promising run at Detling, Gentle Jim did not fare so well dropped to two and a half miles. Meanwhile, after a poor seasonal debut, Our Poppy Day ran out at the seventh here, and again when riderless but with the field at fence eight. It does not seem unfair to label her with "proceed with extreme caution."

race 2: South East Bookmakers Members Restricted
1: Pingaro De La Vire 2: Vote For Doodle 3: Blue Dark
Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Kim Smyly
Sensing an irrational phobia of seventeen runner restricteds, checking for solutions on Google tells me that there is nothing irrational about it at all. So, once the panic attack had subsided, the horses did their bit, and going onto the final lap, every runner was still competing - despite eventual fourth Isle Of Skye having appeared to have ensured an overly fast early pace. There were a few pulled up nearing the top of the hill, as usual, and a sudden collective loss of jumping skills going down the slope on the far side. Having switched to rules with stunning lack of success, or even threat of it, Pingaro De La Vire gave a return to pointing a big thumbs up, hitting the front around fence thirteen and refusing to let a determined Vote For Doodle get past - a couple of mistakes en route did not help the Doodle's chances. Blue Dark ran well again but also showed that slight lack of stamina that cost him second at Detling. He probably needs a level, easier track than this. The favourite, who was one point, one win, like Vote For Doodle, was Scholar George. He had every chance four from the finish, but could not raise his game from there and ended up sixth. Having had a bad 2009, and an absent 2010, Dr Flight ran reasonably well for a long way in this comeback, before pulling up at the top of the hill when not struggling as badly as some. It is now a long time since his two wins in little races, but this could possibly be a small step towards a repeat.

race 3: Shepherd Neame Men's Open
1: Freddies Return 2: Letterman 3: Fort View
Winner owned: R Gurney, trained & ridden: Phil York
An unusually large field, for the area, with twelve lined up for this, although there was a fair gulf in class between the most likely and the nowhere else to goes. Freddies Return made the traditional attack crossing the skyline, but could not shake off Letterman, who took a small lead after the the third last. However, the same scenario was repeated, and Letterman found himself in front but being excessively hassled by the horse in second. Freddies Return moved wide to make a final challenge approaching the last, and a slightly more fluent jump gave him a bit more momentum, allowing him to marginally outbattle Letterman for the win. Back in third was Somerset visitor Fort View, who came across as surprisingly one paced for a horse that had won a 2m 5f novice hunter chase - but in points he has only succeeded at restricted level, and here he met the proven at open level Letterman, and a "jumping more efficiently than he did in novice chases" Freddies Return. Veteran, but fading, handicap chaser King Harald was did not respond positively to his first experience of pointing. Having behaved better than at Detling, helped by being mounted on the track, Bannister Lane showed up prominently early in the race, then faded. The going was hopelessly wrong for him, and faith is not yet lost on soft or heavy.

race 4: Jeffrey & Penny Peate Ladies Open
1: Alphabetical 2: Master Alf 3: Carthys Cross
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Sarah Ash After a really tight finish in the chaps' race, the ladies matched it, with Alphabetical just holding off Master Alf's challenge on the far rails, and also Carthys Cross, who was breathing down his neck on the near side. Alphabetical had appeared to have lost his way almost beyond redemption in handicap chases, and even three tries in hunter chases last season were not up to his old standards. With Master Alf's jockey in only her second ride, and Carthys Cross not exactly a horse that convinces that he wants to win, the race may not have taken much winning. Favourite was Big Moment, who prefers flatter tracks, and was never in contention and was pulled up on the run in and dismounted. His main apparent threats were High Five (carried out by a loose horse at the second fence) and Which Pocket (outpaced and only began to stay on once it was far too late). It all suggests a race that is suspect as a reliable form guide. What with Ask Oscar escaping from the paddock as the riders were about to get on board, and Ben Alder unseating and then ruining High Five's day, it was an eventful ten minutes.

race 5: Southern Counties Fuels Members Conditions, Div I
1: Tommy Thunder 2: Man From Moscow 3: Haile Deadly
Winner owned: C Hall, Mrs P Wilkins & Mrs W Cooper, trained & ridden: Phil Hall
For a while this was shaping up to be a repeat of the Men's Open, with Tommy Thunder being stretched as far as possible by Peadar. However, like stable mate Letterman, Peadar tied up late on, and having been eased, dropped from second to fourth on the run-in. Ultimately Tommy Thunder passed the line unthreatened by the placed horses, but it was not a job as easy as that makes it sound. Bear in mind that Man From Moscow in general does not make the frame (at least since a brief hot spell in 2009), and Haile Deadly made the running but was apparently dropping out once headed, only to suddenly find himself inheriting a place again. Righteous Glory, who has won an intermediate, had a real off day this time. He is sometimes glorious, occasionally righteous, and also sometimes quite stroppy. After several occasions where she has flattered to deceive, Xila Fontenailles gave up unusually early - has being brought down last time got to her?

race 6: Southern Counties Fuels Members Conditions, Div II
1: What Of It 2: In Media Res 3: In The System
Winner owned & ridden: T Edwards, trained: Sophie George
This was another race that looked over and won with, only for the leader to find that the charge for home had come a fraction too early. That leader was Commander Kev, who ended up out of the frame, despite having a fractional lead over the other trio jumping the last and being less than a length behind the winner. Speed away from the last was likely to be essential, but In Media Res had it, and What Of It still managed to nick the race from him in the last two feet. What Of It is another intermediate winner, and had run well for a long way in an open on his seasonal debut. In Media Res should be the cue for a topical phone hacking joke, but that involves translating Res to Criminal Behaviour. When winning his restricted at Detling, the money came for In The System, and he was popular in the betting again. Finishing third may have been a step backwards as a result, but losing by such a small margin is beyond criticism. And the same for Commander Kev, except that breaking his run of finishing in the first two must be slightly demoralising.

race 7: Grants Cherry Brandy Members Maiden
1: Particular Man 2: Chosen Few 3: And Your Point Is
Winner owned: Miss K Keefe, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Tom Cannon
Of all the races today, this was the one that became most spread out, and from quite and early stage. For a while at the top of the course, Particular Man did not seem to be going that well, but once he got wound up to full speed (which would be quite modest) he picked off those ahead of him one by one, and quite relentlessly. Chosen Few did look as if he would come on for the race, but once he got going there was no sign of struggling, simply one horse that could run faster than him. Until the third from home, it seemed And Your Point Is would manage to be in the shake up, despite being desperately unpopular in the betting ring. A tired error killed off his challenge, but overall it was not a bad show. He's Up The Road was fourth, which being a completion, was an improvement. The presence of Alysia's Flame, a stable mate for Fort View in the race was of note, because of the a) distance travelled, b) the fact that she had managed to finish outside the first nine on his only run (in this area the maidens never have ten or more finishers) and c) being in the Polly Gundry yard, was she actually a trier in that debut? She was detached by the second here and eventually pulled up. A bit of a quiet run, but is she any good? Well, her jumping did not inspire great confidence...

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