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Southdown & Eridge
Sunday 20th February 2011
by Simon McInnes

In lieu of doing some fairly simple research, the lazy option is to outright declare this the most successful Godstone racing in the track's ten year history. There have been bigger crowds, although this one was not bad, but sixty-five runners on the day is double what the course normally seems to attract (plus there were historical regulars such as Carryonharry and Cape Stormer in the sponsored ride after racing). In addition to the quantity, the quality was not too bad as well. A heart warming success story for the south-east area, although the damp, but not too wet weather leading up to the race day was probably ideal for Godstone - it can get too wet or more dry than ideal very quickly indeed. The weather during racing was misty and bleak, and one or two times the mist began to close in, threatening to spoil the view of what was going on out in the wilds of far end of the course, but even that sympathised with the racegoers, and beat a hasty retreat.

Going: Good to Soft (probably)

race 1: Wellingham Members
1: Louisthenineteenth 2: Adept Approach 3: Magnus Veritas
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce

Magnus Veritas, at thirteen, was older than the other pair of runners combined, and after going off in front early, he found younger legs had his measure and he completed in his own time for third. Simply having youths competing in this sort of race, rather than it be a veteran's bolthole, was unusual. The betting favoured Adept Approach (age five, placed in Ireland , third at Charing over 2m 4f on British debut) over Louisthenineteenth (age six, Irish winner, pulled up on British debut). The race circumstances went against that view, as sloppy jumps at the last two fences, and a general indication that he would rather go left handed, prevented Adept Approach from catching Louisthenineteenth, who had come on for his seasonal pipe-opener, as the runner-up stayed close enough to exploit it had that not been the case.

race 2: J & J Franks Ltd Open Maiden
1: Dusshera 2: Cut The Lugsreilly 3: Road To Kilkenny
Winner owned: JA Gillett, trained & ridden: Phil York

Thirteen runners went to post for this, and they certainly provided an eventful seven minutes or so, as bedlam early in the race moved onto a cracking close finish between three runners. First the chaos. Anothercarryon ducked out on the inner at fence three. For reasons not totally clear at a long distance, this resulted in four other departures as well - abnormal for a simple case of a horse running out. What was reported was that the first action caused debutant Over The Page to shed his rider before the fence, and three others bypassed the fence making evasive manouevres of their own. They seemed to be Accordingtoval and Rameses Direct (both also in their first race) and Nehemiah, a faller on his pointing debut. Officially they a likely to be listed as having run out themselves, which is a little harsh on them. By the time the finish came round, Dusshera, who had made a fine start to her career when just ahead of Adept Approach at Charing, had made her attack early, but found her stamina waning in the last furlong, and she went from "all over the winner" three out to "line came just in time." An easier three miles is going to be needed. Cut The Lugsreilly finished so strongly that a mistimed run could have been blamed, but the winner tying up did flatter him a bit, and he seemed to need a lot of winding up before finding full speed, which was unexpected for a horse that posted two really decent efforts in bumpers. And he did catch Road To Kilkenny, who made a very expensive blunder two out, probably costing him the race. He pulled up in five of seven Irish tries, fourth in the other two, but looked better than that today - apart from the jumping. At Penshurst last season, Parisien looked to be about to break his duck, in an admittedly weak race, when falling two out, and on that evidence was perhaps one who would find a win in 2011. He followed a pulled up and a fall with an unseated here - a slightly less productive season than was foreseeable.

race 3: Mitchell & Cooper South East Hunts Club Members
1: Pingaro De La Vire 2: Starburst Diamond 3: Keltic Cliche
Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Kim Smyly

Although the finish was even tighter than in the previous race, this result was altogether more predictable. The favourite won, quite a few of the sixteen gave up at about the furthest point of the course from the horsebox park, Captain Knock made the running until he unseated (for fifth time already this season) and Citizen Shan raced with zest for about six furlongs and then made the decision that enough was enough. A certain degree of familiarity is comforting to us all. It could have been all a bit more upsetting, as Pingaro De La Vire had the race sewn up three from home, only for his jockey to take it easy for a bit too long, and find that Starburst Diamond was finishing much more strongly than the horse who surely most right thinking people refer to as Pingu. The jolly held on by a head, but another ten yards, possibly even five, and he would have been beaten. And nobody should have been that surprised, as the runner-up was a 130-rated hurdler, who simply found chases at that level bewildering, and there is no reason why he will be so out of his depth in points. Under the circumstances, Keltic Cliche's well beaten third, plodding on from the back and stealing the minor place from a more aggressively raced Jazz Attack, was a decent show, as rules form would have left him in a different parish to Starburst Diamond. The only worry was that at the start and the first fence he did seem a bit hesitant - although it was not repeated once he had warmed up. A couple of runners appeared who have had productive seasons but did not live up to them in 2010. Neither Glenbower Woods nor Maranach gave any hints of a return to former glories. The latter did not look to be given a hard day's work, but perhaps that is the way he has to be ridden - performance being inversely proportional to effort demanded.

race 4: Highfields Farm Mixed Open
1: Freddies Return 2: Honour's Dream 3: O'Gara
Winner owned: R Gurney, trained & ridden: Phil York

A six runner field for a race that was really to be contested by three of them, the betting ring was certain, and the way the race panned out, correctly so. As they emerged from dip around fence fourteen, Honour's Dream was being left behind by the leading pair. Freddies Return had the lead, and as they approached three out, he was being nudged gently along, whereas Letterman was cruising comfortably, three lengths behind. The race ended there, as Letterman fell, and Freddies Return was left to jog home clear of Honour's Dream, in turn clear of the pair battling for third. What would have happened without Letterman's departure? Who can say - probably fluency over the last two fences would have been the decisive factor. Elsie's Pride had his moments in low level handicap chases and was debuting in points today. He ran very tamely and will be hard to place unless he livens his ideas up a bit.

race 5: Up The Junction PPA/PPORA Club Members Mares' Maiden
1: Alecia 2: Coka 3: Pannochka
Winner owned: D Coles & M Holman, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Tom Cannon

Since the advent of this track, the annual mares' maiden has attracted some spectacularly bad renewals, and most of the other years one competent horse has waltzed through the race with ease. In 2011 they came from far and wide to try and grab a piece of the action, and the cosmic joker being what he/she/it is, the race was dominated by a couple of south-east based horses who appear to be a step or three above the standard the locals have traditionally fielded. Despite not having raced since August 2009, and never having won despite trying flat, hurdling and chases, it was hard not to impressed by Alecia in the paddock, especially on fitness. The softer ground than she usually tackles was no big deal, and once she shook off Coka on the final bend, the race was won. Just for once, a horse that can potentially compete up in restricteds. Coka is only five, and once took on Mille Chief in a juvenile hurdle (with inevitable lack of success). Her hurdle form was poor, but after being third on her pointing debut over two and a half miles, she shaped like a mare capable of improvement, but also perhaps better back down in distance for now. Pannochka showed little in two bumpers and fell on her only point (back in 2008). A clear round and a place is perhaps something that can be developed upon. Tenawa headed the betting, but after walloping the ninth and losing a good position, she never recovered and called it a day five out. Two others to catch the eye were Golden Tangle (but sadly not eye-catching enough to have noticed why she did not finish, or where she stopped) and Delgany Diva, who was in the mix until a bad blunder at the eighth appeared to persuade her that competing was not common sense. She might improve for only her second ever race. After showing her disdain for being settled in the pack at Charing, Our Poppy Day was allowed to charge off in front. She seemed happier with this unsustainable tactic, until a bad error at the eleventh almost unshipped Tom Garner, who gained extra kudos for climbing back in the saddle and also managing to keep his horse in a line to the rapidly looming next fence. They had a slight lead crossing it, but dropped out rapidly from there. Is there a tactic which can work with her?

race 6: Hankin's Restricted
1: Ringa Bay 2: Himalayan Express 3: Dusky Lory
Winner owned: M Kehoe & MHD Barlow, trained & ridden: Philip York

His mount may have been challenging to be favourite, but the Philip York hat trick was completed on the toughest test of the day. When Ringa Bay went to the start, he set off with such purpose that we could all here distant echoes of Meat Loaf's breakthrough album bouncing around the North Downs . At the start, Ringa Bay was steadied and jumped off last, but there is a downhill run after the first fence, and by the time they reached the trough of the dip, he had dragged his way in to second. So to nurse Ringa Bay round for a win, in which he seemed none the worse for trying to expend all his energy before anything major had occurred was no mean feat. It also perhaps explained why he had followed his solid Detling win with a failure to even be placed in this type of race. It helped that Himalayan Express, a 2m 4f maiden winner, ran like a non-stayer, whereas Dusky Lory was the opposite, lacking a bit of pace but sticking to the task doggedly when having lost too much ground to make a real fight back. Florence Mary would have been fourth but was too tired to jump the last, despite not being that far off of the third horse. Irish winner Backhomeinderry looked the part in advance, and ran well until he pecked at the ninth, and then lost some jumping confidence, eventually pulling up. He also fell on his first British run, yet gives the impression that he is capable of doing much better than form of FP suggests. Medic also had the look of a fit and ready to go horse. Alas, his opportunity to prove that (or otherwise) lasted to the tenth where a terrible error gave his rider the chance to experience both the power of levitation, and what happens when it suddenly ceases.

race 7: Southdown & Eridge Foxhunters Intermediate
1: Comealong Cornwall 2: Orient Legend 3: High To Winner owned, trained & ridden: Mark Wall

Eight declared for this, and they came across as a thoroughly solid bunch, even if perhaps one or two had their best days behind them. The quartet most likely to be involved consisted of Orient Legend (runner-up in an Intermediate already this season), Vote For Doodle (two wins so far in 2011), Comealong Cornwall (winner this season, beating Dusky Lory) and, added on paddock viewing, Haile Deadly, a horse with the sort of tank-like build that should mean that if there were any accidental interfaces with a fence, the obstacle is the most likely to come off worst. That four endured a mixture of fortunes. Comealong Cornwall was an impressive winner, outstaying a game Orient Legend from the final bend. The winner was convincing in how she did the job with relish, and has only six runs to her name, so could easily improve enough to compete in Open races. Vote For Doodle almost departed at the twelfth, struggled thereafter and pulled up two out. As noted, he has won a maiden and a restricted already this season, but in addition to today, I have seen him lose an apparently unexceptional restricted at Charing. If connections wish to pay me to go somewhere else when he is running, let negotiations commence. Haile Deadly began to tail off at the thirteenth, and unseated two fences later. His indestructible appearance is being belied by British form of F3U, but one day, perhaps on bottomless ground, he might turn it all around. High Toby ran a blinder until the fourth last, considering that hunter chases last spring demoralised him a bit and he had also pulled up on his seasonal debut. He ran like one of more spritely twelve year olds here.

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