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Monday, 22 October, 2018

British weather not without blame for small field sizes

Chelmsford stages racing on Thursday
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The trouble with Britain is that it’s in the wrong place. That’s why one week the going is too soft and the next it’s too hard. Towcester started the season in October on good to firm ground, moved steadily towards heavy going, achieving it in February, and has now reverted to good to firm going.

The result is a lot of small fields. Four of Thursday’s seven races have fewer than six runners and only the opening handicap hurdle boasts as many as eight. It has encouraged some strange sights.

Aytach Sadik, seeking his first winner since July 2014, runs both Sussex Road and Finch Flyer in the five runner novices’ handicap chase (3.50) but the chance of victory is still remote. Sussex Road, rated 62, is 31lb out of the handicap while Finch Flyer, rated 44, is 49lb “wrong.” To look on the bright side, if they both complete the course owner-trainer Sadik will collect at least £702.

An hour later, in a four runner handicap chase (4.50), Michael Chapman’s 13-year-old Feeling Peckish, rated an alarming 34, runs from 26lb out of the handicap. Last place is worth £238.50 but less encouragingly, Feeling Peckish has been pulled up on five of his last nine appearances. Never has the expression “hope springs eternal” been more apposite, except perhaps when facing a firing squad.

At Wetherby the advance going is good but there are still two races with six runners each and one with only four. On the other hand, the nine runner selling hurdle (2.30) poses some engaging questions. Will Coolanure, with form figures this season reading PPUUPP finally record a number rather than a letter? Will Copt Hill, rated 73 and Exit To Freedom, rated 76, demonstrate that in selling and claiming races handicap ratings are as much of a guide to the outcome as tea leaves? Or will Mister Spingsprong, rated 128 and carrying the same weight as those two rivals, provide evidence to the contrary?

The last time Brian Ellison’s ten-year-old ran over hurdles, in 2014, he was rated 140. This January he finished a respectable third over fences off a mark of 125 and if he is to win again before old age sets in, now would be a good time to do it. Danny Cook didn’t win the Grand National for Ellison on Definitly Red but he could well win the Racinguk.com/daypass Selling Hurdle for him. Cook would doubtless prefer it to be the other way around but you can’t have everything.

What else? Well, at Chelmsford, in the five-runner maiden fillies’ race (3.10), Lady Green takes on the might of Godolphin and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum with her home bred yearling Luna Magic.

In order to avoid jeering crowds, it’s important to point out that Lady Green is not Lady Tina Green, the yachting partner of Sir Philip Green but Lady Jennifer Green, the author of Mr Bunny’s Carrot Soup and possibly the cause of a white rose also named Lady Jennifer Green.

Never has the expression “hope springs eternal” been more apposite, except perhaps when facing a firing squad
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