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Sandown Notes 9/3

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    I attended this afternoon’s meeting on the Esher Slopes and thought I would offer a few notes on the action. The first thing to say is that the heady heights of Tingle Creek Chases and Coral Eclipses were a million miles removed from today’s moderate fare.

    The anachronism that was today’s card had three races open only to riders serving in the Armed Forces. The ground was generally good/soft and had probably benefitted from yesterday’s rain though it seemed quite tacky in places.

    The opener was a handicap hurdle over two miles which although officially a Class 4 was in truth a seller in all but name. It was well won by DEN MASCHINE, who had run well in a Hereford seller and saw off THE PRETENDER up the hill. WELL GREEN was badly hampered and clipped heels at the end of the back straight resulting in a six-day ban for Private Allen, rider of ALAGHIRAAR. There was no information as to whether he also got a court-martial or a night peeling potatoes at barracks.
    THE PRETENDER isn’t one of the stars at Ditcheat and ran as though needing a bit further while hardy perennial in this race, VERTUEUX, looks to be on the downgrade.

    The second event saw the first of the afternoon’s two hotpots in AMAURY DE LAUSIGNAN, who went off 4/7 or thereabouts for the two mile Class 3 handicap chase. He did it well enough in the end though he wasn’t convincing on the way round, having been taken on for the lead by BASEBALL TED. Whether that slightly unsettled him or not I don’t know but he was being niggled from some way out and only really asserted after the Pond Fence. The 2011 winner of this race, OWNER OCCUPIER, who was well backed on course, plugged on for a modest second in receipt of 22 lbs. and the winner is a bit better than this grade.
    I wonder if he might be the type to go to Aintree for a handicap chase

    After the obligatory Military Wives singing and a minute’s silence for the six soldiers killed in Afghanistan this week, we had the Grand Military Gold Cup, a Class 3 over three miles. Let’s be honest – it’s a Class 3 but doesn’t deserve to be – indeed, when HOO LA BALOO won in 2007, the race was worth some £7,800 to the winner – today it was worth £4,765 so it’s a race on the downgrade. It produced a right turn-up with a return to form for MASKED MAN who won at 25/1 defeating the favourite RED HARBOUR with HOO LA BALOO third.

    If you go back to the spring of 2010, MASKED MAN won a couple of chases round Kempton but has shown nothing since including in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup over course and distance when he was beaten a country mile. Today, he travelled well, jumped beautifully and was too good for RED HARBOUR, who travelled well to the last but simply couldn’t live with the winner up the hill. HOO LA BALOO may find a small prize on the summer circuit but that’s being optimistic on this evidence while BATTLECRY and SIZING AMERICA took each other on for the lead and cut each other’s throats.

    Race four was an interesting handicap hurdle over two miles and six furlongs. The Nicky Henderson-trained SEMI COLON was well supported and raced prominently until dropping out on the home turn. BOBCATBILLY was well beaten when falling at the last while HEATHCOTE, not for the first time, flattered to deceive having looked to have a real chance on the home turn.
    HILDISVINI had won well at Market Raspberry but had been well beaten at Wincanton, albeit in a better race than this. He battled well up the hill to win and I wonder if connections will be tempted to send him chasing next season. He out battled HAWKES POINT who went down with plenty of credit and the second could be another to prosper over fences next season having won an Irish point-to-point in his younger days. HAWKES BAY looks a real staying novice chaser to watch next year and has proven to be effective on both good and much slower ground.

    Of the others, STARS DU GRANITS was well beaten while KASBADALI ran ok but with the suspicion the handicapper has his measure.

    The next was a two and a half mile hunters’ chase for military riders. GWANAKO was 1/5 and had an exercise gallop. I was standing with the part owner of a hunter chaser and he was noting that the second got £824 while he had collected barely £900 when his horse had won a Folkestone maiden hunter’s chase. GWANAKO has plenty of speed but didn’t get that high at several of his fences but was never under any pressure in a race which really didn’t achieve much.

    The concluding race was a novices’ hurdle over two miles. Nicky Henderson set us a bit of a poser by running two but the morning money had been for the apparent second string based on jockey bookings, OSCARA DARA, but this gelding put up the performance of the day and fairly sprinted clear up the hill to win by twenty lengths from outsider CRYSTAL SWING with favourite COUSIN KHEE well back in third.

    It’s probably fair to say OSCARA DARA didn’t beat much but he was coming back off nearly a year’s break since a promising second in an Ascot Bumper in early 2011. I’m not sure where he could go next – Aintree perhaps or connection may opt for a slower, more cautious approach. He’s certainly gone into my notebook and was a bright exception on an otherwise modest afternoon.

    Eclipse First
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    Once upon a time the Grand Military Gold Cup was a very important race on the calendar. Mind the Imperial Cup was also the most important hurdle race of the season then as well.

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    Thanks for a good report Stodgy. Surely Friday racegoers should expect better fare than this.

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    Yes, there were incredibly four NH meetings yesterday including an all-chase card at Leicester.

    As for Sandown, those with long memories will recall the all-chase card which used to occur at the end of March – now, I may be on dodgy ground but the two and a half mile hunter’s chase we had yesterday is a relic from that card.

    I’m not sure that card wasn’t the Royal Artillery meeting, parts of which have been shunted to its new mid-Feb date.

    That meeting seems to be flourishing but it’s at a different time and stood up well to the competition of the rescheduled Newbury card. Yesterday’s card is a social occasion and allows the Esher set to meet up for the first time since the winter.

    It certainly doesn’t deserve a place in a modern racing schedule and four meetings on a March Friday is ridiculous.

    phil walker
    • Total Posts 1376

    Alastair Down wrote a great article in the Racing Post a few weeks ago about the decline in jump racing at Sandown. Races such as the Mildmay/Cazalet that used to he be held in January and the Gainsborough chase in mid February have both long since gone. Today’s Burnt Oak and Special Cargo novice chase used to be a much better race, and the race previously known as the Whitbread is now a very pale imitation.

    Its a real shame as Sandown is my local course and I used to go there all the time, but I hardly ever go anymore, especially as the cost in admittance is a joke. I even went to Aintree in December rather than go to Sandown, as it didn’t cost that much more to go all the way up there rather than paying the entry fee for Tingle Creek day.

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