HORSE RACING FIXTURES AND RESULTS
HORSE RACING FEATURE
Pobble-bly the best jumps race in the world
As the countdown to the Cheltenham Festival gathers pace, Nic Doggett takes a look at the best race of the 2016/17 National Hunt season so far - and it might be a surprise.
To some, form (as in how a race is working out) in horse racing is seen almost as an irrelevance. To some, it is everything. The reality is that the best balance is probably somewhere in-between, however there are times when you just have to sit up and take note of a race that is proving to be not just a reliable tool, but an essential one. The race in question challenges the oft-held notion that races held at the biggest racecourses provide the best form. Uttoxeter, for all its positives, is only the biggest or best racecourse in Staffordshire because, unlike in the 20th century, it is the only racecourse in Staffordshire. The course’s most notable race is the Midlands Grand National, held the day after the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which is usually seen as a severe test of stamina, an attribute that is generally common for a lot of races held at the track, despite it being a relatively fair and galloping course. However, the race in question occurred in November, rather than March, and was the Wychwood Hobgoblin Chase (Novices’ Limited Handicap). The sponsors deserve a mention here, if only for being a better advert for the market town of Witney, where the ruby ale is brewed, than its former MP David Cameron.
Run over two and a half miles on soft ground, in a time of 5min 8.2sec, the class 3 novices’ handicap didn’t immediately appear to be anything largely out of the ordinary, as the comment from the Timeform race reporter reveals: “A few interesting profiles in this field and it's the sort of race that'll throw up some winners over the coming months, though on the day a strong pace seemed to expose some fitness deficiencies and only the first three were anywhere close to form.” Subsequent performances have exposed that initial verdict to be the equivalent of a builder’s (under)estimate.