Thursday, 3 September 2015

A visit to Les Landes in Jersey

LES LANDES (Jersey) – Monday August 31st

Going – Good To Soft, changed to Soft after Race 3, but there was no rain during the meeting so assume Soft throughout

A course that has been ‘on the list’ has finally been ticked off, my wife treating me to the full Members’ Marquee package as a birthday treat.

The Jersey Race club run a programme of nine meetings from Easter through to the August Bank Holiday, with an additional meeting run by the Guernsey Race Club at their L’Ancresse circuit on May Bank Holiday. Although the pool of horses on the island is not huge the sport is well supported and the racing competitive, with a number of mainland trainers supporting the Les Landes events. Six bookmakers were present and, though the SP margin is large, there is enough competition to make a competitive market. The JRC runs their own Tote including a Jackpot on races 2 to 5 of the five race card. Each Les Landes meeting opens with a hurdle race then followed by four flat races. Results are covered on the Racing Post website and comprehensive stats are available on the Jersey Race Club website . For those wanting a taste of the action race replays are posted on Jersey Race Club’s Youtube channel.

The course is a mile round and sharp, but with a stiff uphill run-in of two furlongs, the turf being very well cared for. There is a specially constructed area of grass banking which allows a good view of the course, with officials and jockeys facilities plus public toilets located underneath. Admission is £10 for the public enclosure and £20 for the Members’ enclosure, the latter giving access to the Members’ Marquee. Tickets can be booked in advance on line at and I received two days members’ tickets within a couple of days of order. Race programmes are available on course for £1.50, giving a fair guide to the event though lacking some of the detail provided in the UK, notably headgear details.

The course is located in the north west corner of the island, about 25 minutes drive from St Helier. A bus service is laid on from Liberation Bus Station for racing and tickets are £9 bookable on the JRC website.

The weather was rather grey and dreary, which probably kept the attendance down a bit. However, it didn’t rain and was certainly a bit brighter by the end of the afternoon when we had a clear view across to Guernsey, Sark and Herm.

2.30 2m Hennessy Hurdle (Handicap) 77-103

The pool of hurdlers is small, only around 15 including mainland challengers, but the one hurdle race per card continues despite a threat to go all flat some years back. The hurdles are brush hurdles similar to those used at the likes of Southwell and Worcester. The highlight of the Jersey hurdling season is the Champion Hurdle won this year by the Aly Malzard trained novice hurdler Rossetti.

Three pitched up for the final hurdle. FOURNI, ridden by Les Landes regular and clear winner of the Channel Islands jockeys’ title Mattie Batchelor, turned round a 5 length defeat by Dalmo on revised terms. In truth the weights made little difference as the mare had this race won from the home turn and was considerably eased after the last. She was recording a first win since a maiden hurdle at Punchestown in May 2014 and looks to be going the right way now. I would presume connections will be looking to the Champion Hurdle here next year.
DALMO beat Fourni over half a mile further here last time, but was niggled along before the end of the first circuit and then outpaced before staying on late for second. He looks to need a longer distance but only has a couple of opportunities during the season.
GRANIT MAN is a nine-year-old maiden and very moderate, but if you have a jumper here it’s worth keeping it in training since there was £315 available for third place. He was outpaced down the far side for the second time and out on his feet turned for home as the gluey ground took its toll.

3.05 5f 110yds Liberation Brewery Handicap (39-65)

A closely contested sprint event.

There are no stalls used at Les Landes and being alert and ready at the start can make a big difference. Mattie Batchelor had COUNTRY BLUE away well and always near the pace. Taking it up two out and grabbing the ‘golden highway’ firmer ground up the near rail, he was stretched to hold on but saw his race out to the line for a fourth win this season.
PURLEY QUEEN was rather tardy from the start and had to be rousted along early. She picked up well under driving in the closing stages but the line came a bit too soon. A four time winner here, she looks set to continue close battles with the winner.
MOVEMENTNEVERLIES raced with the pace but was held from the furlong pole. She’s probably better over the seven furlong trip she won at last time, but was by no means disgraced on this occasion.
PAS D’ACTION has done almost all his winning over seven furlongs and has never won at the minimum Les Landes distance. He took the inside route after the final turn, which probably didn’t help and though not beaten too far was held from over a furlong out.
I remember CHESTER’SLITTLEGEM from her days with Lisa Williamson and saw her at Hamilton on one occasion. She needs quicker ground and could never get on terms.

3.40 1m 4f Ross-Gower Associates Clarendon Trophy Handicap (22-80)

One of the sought after prizes of the Channel Islands racing season and this renewal billed as one of the most competitive contests of recent times by course commentator Mark Johnson.

In the event we were treated to an impressive performance by AUSSIE LYRICS who pulled clear in impressive style up the straight, being given the office over one by Phil Collington and sprinting clear. He has gone from strength to strength since moving from France and will rate high 80s after this. There will likely be some lop-sided handicaps over this trip next term, so it will be interesting to see if trainer Christa Gilbert contemplates a tilt at a prize or two in the south of England.
WICKED TARA raced from 23lbs out of the handicap but at this time of the season, with runners having appeared regularly, condition can make all the difference and she looked a picture in the paddock. While never getting near the winner Wicked Tara stayed on honestly to take second spot. While lowly rated, she is 3 from 8 in the Channel Islands and there are plenty more forlorn hopes contesting these races. Bookies here are stingy on outsiders and 11/1 looked very short, but maybe someone knew something?
HERBALIST, taken down early as is normal, kept on up the home straight for a creditable third. He is probably best at ten furlongs.
Veteran KING KENNY, who looked a bit dull in his coat, made his move to have a chance entering the straight. He saw his race out to the line and keeps his enthusiasm.
STEELY is a big animal and looks and out and out stayer, though he did win a four runner ten furlong race last time. He set a decent pace but could not match the principals once turned for home.
MAJOR MAXIMUS, a multiple winner in previous seasons, has made only intermittent appearances of late and looked as if he probably wasn’t at peak fitness. That said he was by no means disgraced in this company though not able to make an impression in the straight.
ROSSETTI is at his best when able to dictate and Steely got away from him early on. He faded badly from the home turn and is much better than this form suggests.
RIVER DU NORD has won over this trip but found this way too competitive.

4.15 1m 2f Jersey’s Finest Establishments ‘Glory Bee’ Handicap (12-53)

A contest for Channel Islands trained horses that haven’t won in the current year.

LADY PETRUS came into this race rated only 12 and 6lbs wrong, but won with just a little spare and presumably will now find herself on a lofty mark near on 20! No fluke though as she did this nicely, putting daylight between herself and the rest from over a furlong out. She doesn’t win all that often but goes close regularly enough to keep connections interested.
CARRERA never looked like winning but stayed on for second place. He often starts at a short price but has a high tally of second places to his name and only one win.
The nine-year-olds BECK’S BOLERO and REBEL WOMAN*, looking as fit as any, had their chances but were held from the furlong pole. (*Racing Post results for the race confused Rebel Woman (9 b m)  with a similarly named USA bred three-year-old)
ALBECQ was generally well beaten in the UK and cut no ice on Channel Islands debut, beaten two out.
RAINBOW CHARLIE was soon detached and looks slow even in this company. The fact that he was mounted on the track wasn’t a good sign either.

4.50 1m 100yds HSBC Handicap (11-56)

Not highly rated animals in the main, but they provided a cracking contest to close out the Les Landes 2015 programme.

Any number were in with a chance two furlongs out and it was the filly LARCH, racing for the Jersey branch of Highclere Thoroughbreds, who prevailed in a tight finish. Previously trained by Richard Hannon, Larch has adjusted nicely to this circuit and stayed on well up the near rail to lead close to the post. She is going the right way and may well pay her way in future at Les Landes.
Consistent LUCIFERS SHADOW did nothing wrong and was just denied a fourth win of the season. He’s a consistent sort at this trip.
One eyed FIRST CAT wandered about a bit under pressure and couldn’t summon an extra effort in the closing stages having had every chance.
Veteran FAST FREDDIE, notching up a century of appearances, disputed the lead and stuck to his task to finish a close fourth.
CAPTAIN JAMES was held from two out as was ROLY TRICKS who has yet to make an impact in Jersey.
FRANKKIE M flies the flag for Jersey breds but was dismissed as ‘useless’ in the race programme. He was outpaced early but closed to two furlongs then finding no extra under pressure.
SPEEDY WRITER and OCEAN CRYSTAL disputed the lead but weakened once headed turning for home.

And so ended the 2015 programme in the Channel Islands. Mattie Batchelor took the Champion Jockey prize, Jemma Marshall was leading female jockey, Aly Malzard took the trainer’s prize, Sheikh A’Leg Racing the leading owner title and Country Blue nabbed enough points to overtake Rossetti as Champion Horse. I think Aussie Lyrics won the competition for Jersey Trained Champion Horse, as the point system is different from Champion Horse, but I can’t confirm as the programme kept the points scoring system a secret!

A thoroughly enjoyable trip and I’d recommend Les Landes to anyone who gets the chance.

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