Roy Waterhouse Steeplechasing




Play The Ace leads the field in the 2m5f handicap chase, in which he finished third to Templehills  


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FAKENHAM, 18th December 2016
Going: GOOD TO SOFT (Soft in places)

An absolutely rammed Fakenham for this pre-Christmas fixture, and it's great to see a small track getting such a good crowd.

An ordinary mares' novices' hurdle over two miles kicked things off and it saw the penalised Owners Day, who's only smallish in stature, overcome a mistake at the last and get a second win over hurdles, giving 7 lbs to the runner-up: she was held up and made ground with three to jump, led approaching the last and came away from it a neck down after her error, but she rallied in genuine fashion to lead again on the short run-in. She goes to 116 on my handicap, and that is sometimes good enough to be competitive in Class 2 mares' handicap hurdles.

Beyond Measure (4/1 to as short as 9/4, SP 3/1), a Flemensfirth mare, was the pick of the paddock and ran close, making a lot of the running, ridden and headed approaching the last and briefly presented with a chance by Owners Day's mistake at the last, going a head up, but headed again close home. She'll stay 2m4f, while hurdling debutant Comely (medium height, a little on her toes) showed ability and stepped up on her ordinary bumper form, outpaced approaching the last.

There wasn't much promise behind, but the distant fourth Pettal is a tall sort with some body to her and should do better in low-grade handicap chases, particularly mares' events.

Next a weak 2m7f95y 0-115 handicap hurdle, taken in ready fashion by Soupy Soups, who looked well in appearance on his second run of the week, having won at Wincanton five days previously; he made a mistake at the fourth and led from the sixth, going clear after the third last. Connections are likely to try and win another race with him quickly, but he'll likely have a mark in the 120s next time and that would be too high on this bare form.

Shinooki (well made, straight backed), who was rough in his coat and a little sleepy in the paddock, lost his place and was ridden from the ninth, staying on to chase the winner from the home turn but unable to make any further impression. Daliance, who also seemed half asleep in the preliminaries, couldn't find any more after the third last.

If there's one to take out of the race it's the fourth, point winner and maiden hurdler Modulus, who was seeing Fakenham for the first time and found the whole thing happening too quickly for him, losing his place from the seventh before passing beaten ones under a ride in the last half mile.

Following that was the best race on the card, a 2m5f44y 0-125 handicap chase - a Class 3 in terms of status, but containing some novices that have the potential to get to Class 2 standard, one of which won the race while the other two fell.

Dual hurdle winner Templehills, an angular type, fell at Southwell on his chasing debut and made a string of mistakes here, the last of which four out was his fourth noted error, but he led at the next and made the best of his way home from the second last, clear at the last. He can improve, but needs to jump better.

Raktiman (workmanlike, deep girthed) stepped up on previous efforts over fences to chase the winner home, making good ground from the third last and left second at the last, while the third Play The Ace, not a chasing type but very fit, made much of the running till the winner went on with three to jump.

Cody Wyoming (compact, deep girthed) had a tough task under a penalty for his clear win at Lingfield eight days earlier and a mistake at the 12th was the beginning of the end of his challenge, weakening from the second last - he'll need to come down the handicap before winning again.

It's to be hoped that Drumlee Lad makes a recovery after coming back clearly lame from his fall at the last; he'd been held up and made headway on the final circuit to chase Templehills two out, and was boxing on though looking unlikely to challenge the winner when knuckling over on landing. He was standing on all four legs, having stopped in front of the enclosures, before screens were put up whilst he was loaded into a horse ambulance.

Shanroe Santos was the pick of the paddock, a well-made chasing type. He'd already won a Class 2 contest as a novice hurdler - over three miles on Musselburgh's Festival Trials card in February 2015 - and has great potential over fences, but, having been slow at the first, he fell at the sixth when going okay in midfield.

The two-mile 0-105 handicap hurdle had the day's biggest field with 12 runners, but it was anything but a competitive race, a lot of horses beaten with more than a circuit to run and the three year-old G'Day Aussie in no danger after the second last.

G'Day Aussie, tall for one of his age, followed up his Sedgefield success quite easily, going nicely in a prominent position and not having to work hard to make good ground from the third last, clear and in no danger when knocking down the last. He goes to 106 with me for this, which is a best-to-date, and holds an entry at Ludlow on December 21st.

Helium (sweating behind) is falling on hard times, having lost his way over fences on his last two starts, and is off a much lower mark over hurdles. Although he ran into one here, he'll be 12 on New Year's Day and isn't really one to support when he bids to go one better next time.

Jade's Legend (patchy coat) is a medium-height mare, well made with it, and, dropped to the minimum trip, did enough to suggest that she's not without hope in a similarly poor race, here beaten by one thrown in and one well treated, prominent throughout.

A second horse to take out of a race on this card for trainer Peter and jockey Ryan Winks was in this - Back To Balloo, who dropped away after overdoing the pace-setting. Sometimes what happens at Fakenham is that jockeys on front-runners get sucked into going faster than ideal round this super-sharp course, tearing into the bends, but the race distance here measures the same as it does at normal tracks, and Back To Balloo didn't last as long as he might have done if this race was run elsewhere, not even finishing in the first five after dropping away. I was surprised that he was as big as 11/1 in the betting after his good second to Satanic Beat at Doncaster and he's worth another chance.

There wasn't a great deal to enthuse about in the 2m5f44y 0-105 handicap chase. Bonnet's Vino, very fit but not a chasing type in appearance, won in workmanlike style with little in hand, leading three out, clear at the last and driven out.

Tommy The Rascal (deep girthed, compact), making his chasing debut, ran well in his bid to follow up a Huntingdon hurdles-win off just 69, leading at the 11th till headed at the third last - his jumping was sound, but it'll be a bad race he wins.

Northandsouth is a tall sort who should win an ordinary chase, possibly back at 2m over which trip he won twice over hurdles, here making no impression from the second last. He made a mistake at the seventh but his jumping was okay otherwise.

The field for the closing 2m4f maiden hurdle wasn't a great bunch in terms of looks with none of them having the size and scope to make chasers, the pick on form Argante one of the smallest, but he justified favouritism (10/11 to 5/4, SP 6/5) and posted the first win of his career, leading three out and going clear from the next. He's probably up to winning a Class 3 handicap.

Third Estate, a 25,000-purchase for the Lil Rockerfeller-yard of Neil King at the Tattersalls Cheltenham Sales in May, looked rough in his coat but shaped okay, making a mistake at the sixth, headway from the third last and no extra from the home turn, and should be up to winning an ordinary handicap in three runs' time.

Ardmayle looked in need of the run and made most of the running, surviving a couple of mistakes and dropping back from the second last, left in third by the last flight-fall of the second favourite Admiral Kid, who chased the leader to two out and had faded into third when departing - he, too, can win a modest handicap hurdle this season.

Horses to take out of the meeting
Back To Balloo

Trainer to keep an eye on
Neil Mulholland - had a double with the first two winners on this card and another run well in the last before falling

Thank you to...
My lovely wife, who allowed me to use her photographs for this piece - the one of Play The Ace at the top and below, which was from the fifth race - photobombed by the riderless Uranox


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