Sunday, 4 March 2018

Horses To Follow - March Update

With a lull due to the snowy weather it gives a chance to catch up with Horses To Follow performances to date:

BAL DE RIO – L, L, L – A tad frustrating to date but has plenty of ability and can find a race, possibly on good ground.
BEYOND THE CLOUDS – w4/6, w2/5, w7/1 – I’m not sure some have cottoned on to how good this one is. Beat the southern challengers on soft ground that wouldn’t have shown him at his best at Musselburgh. Very decent.
BIGIRONONHISHIP – L – Faded to a stand still on the run in over 3m 2f at Carlisle with no report of an ailment, so presumably his stamina gave out in testing going.
BIG RIVER – w11/5, L, L, w6/4 – Heart problems earlier in the season, but looked back to his best recently. Entered in the RSA at Cheltenham but more significantly in the Midlands National.
CELTIC FLAMES – L, L, w5/2, L, L, L – Made a very promising chasing debut when winning at Hexham, but below that in the main since. However, should have won at Musselburgh but for a misjudgement by Derek Fox and there is a staying chase iwn in him.
CLOUDY DREAM – L, L ,L,L – A twilight animal consistently finding one too good. Presumably aimed at the Ryanair at Cheltenham but once again there will probably be noe or two too good.
COCKLE BAY – Not yet run
FAGAN – L – Run behind Black Corton doesn’t look half as bad as I thought and he will be waiting for good ground.
FLY RORY FLY – Yet to appear for his new stable
JONNIESOFA – w 11/4, L –A very promising novice chaser. Well held in a 3 runner ebvent at Haydock, but that course in a bog is no fun.
JUST MINDED – L, L, L, L – Running as if he has a problem.
LADY SAMBACK – Entered once but withdrawn due to the state of the ground.
PLANET NINE – L, L, L, w11/2, w3/1 – Has come into his own when presented with a stamina test
SIMONE – L,L – Well below par at Musselburgh last time and jury is out right now.
SOME REIGN – L, w1/2, L, L, L – Another graduate of ‘that contest’ at Kelso. Won well next time but not reached that level since and temperament is a question.
TESTIFY – w11/4, w5/2 w8/15 – Very useful novice chaser who has gone under the radar a bit. Five entries at Cheltenham and worth an interest in his chosen engagement as he has done nothing wrong to date.
THOMOND – L, L – Below expectations in two hunter chases and a point. That said, he has been one who has popped in an unexpected decent performance in the past so not a lost cause.
TOTAL ASSETS – L,L,L,L – Not running badly but handicapper may have her measure. That said she goes well at Kelso and there will be opportunities at the Borders course.
WAITING PATIENTLY – w4/5, w13/8, w2/1 – Saw off a class field at Ascot, including a most determined Cue Card, and looks as good a chaser as has come out of the North for some years. If the ground is soft and he turns up for the Ryanair would take some beating.
WEYMSS POINT – L, w7/1, L – Won well at Wetherby and not disgraced under a penalty when third there next time.

Runs - 52
Wins – 18 (34.6%)
Returns – 60.22 (115.8%)

Very pleasing win percentage and returns to date. Good that there are a few good ground horses for the spring.

I've been a bit out of the loop recently so haven't been able to post any meeting reports. Kelso was lost yesterday but the hope is to stage the meeting next Sunday. Even a slight temperature rise has started to shift the snow here in fife so fingers crossed the game up here will be back on the og by next weekend.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Early January - Horses To Follow and Kelso

PLANET NINE was a fair third at Catterick yesterday. It’s taken time this season but the penny is starting to drop over hurdles.

On Saturday WAITING PATIENTLY puts his unbeaten chasing record on the line against the likes of Josses Hill, Smad Place and God’s Own at Kempton. This one is on the way up and probably better than his current 156 rating giving him every chance here.

BIG RIVER takes in the Listed Novices Chase at Warwick. Presumably back on track after his heart scare, Lucinda Russell’s gelding would have every chance if at his best.

The weather forecast is favourable so we should be back at Kelso on Sunday after losing the two December meetings to frost.

COOLE HALL looks a class better than the others in the opening staying novices’ hurdle.

Of the list horses SOME REIGN has his chance in the two mile novices’ hurdle, but after refusing to race at Musselburgh he came up short last time. At his best he can win this.

Two decent races on the card with a Class 2 two mile handicap hurdle followed by a Class 2 middle distance handicap chase. In the latter contest CARALINE had struggled for a while but made a return to form at Wetherby on Boxing Day and in that form has every chance.

THOMOND makes his debut for the Alexander stable in the hunters’ chase. Only five runners here but all are capable of winning hunter events on their day and it makes for an interesting end to the card.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Horses to Follow Update

My apologies for not updating the blog in recent weeks. My mother fell ill in mid-November and subsequently passed away so I have been pre-occupied with family matters. 

I hope to be at Kelso on December 29th and get back into the swing of things nito the New Year.

The Horses To Follow list has done quite well to date and below is a summary of performances and prospects:

BAL DE RIO – L – Ran into a decent one in Slanelough at Carlisle. The only prominent finisher yet to win from ‘that race’ at Kelso and is entered at Sedgefield on Boxing Day on a pretty reasonable mark of 115.
BEYOND THE CLOUDS – w4/6, w2/5 – Won at Kelso in a race which has thrown up multiple winners and then sluiced up from a 132 rated animal at Musselburgh. Looks all over a Graded class novice hurdler that I suspect will be kept to better ground.
BIGIRONONHISHIP – L – Faded to a stand still on the run in over 3m 2f at Carlisle with no report of an ailment, so presumably his stamina gave out in testing going.
BIG RIVER – w11/5, L – Put in a sound performance on Kelso debut, but suffered a fibrillating heart on his next outing at Haydock. Presumably recovered after treatment by the vets at the excellent Easter Bush facility as he is entered at Kelso on the 29th December.
CELTIC FLAMES – L, L,  w5/2, L – Made a very promising chasing debut when winning at Hexham, but was well below that form at Newcastle. The latter course can throw up some odd results and I’d give this one another chance.
CLOUDY DREAM – L, L ,L – Three very creditable second places on the face of it, but carried his head at an odd angle when running at Cheltenham. Quoted in the betting for races at various distances at Cheltenham.
COCKLE BAY – Not yet run
FAGAN – L – Put in his place by Black Corton at Cheltenham which was disappointing.
FLY RORY FLY – Yet to appear for his new stable
JONNIESOFA – w 11/4 – Picked up where he left of two seasons ago when jumping like a veteran to win at Carlisle on chasing debut. Entered at Wetherby and Kelso in Christmas week. A very promising novice chaser.
JUST MINDED – L, L – Ran as if there was a problem on last outing and a watching brief is advised at the moment.
LADY SAMBACK – Entered once but withdrawn due to the state of the ground.
PLANET NINE – L, L – A bit one paced over 2m 4f to date but has ability and should step up on this form in time, maybe over three miles.
SIMONE – L – Unlucky to run into a decent mare at Musselburgh, bearing in mind this department is generally weakly contested up here. That said, the effort was step up on Perth form and this one should win soon. Entered at Doncaster and Kelso on December 29th.
SOME REIGN – L, w1/2, L – Another graduate of ‘that contest’ at Kelso. Won well next time before blotting his copybook when refusing to race at Musselburgh recently.
TESTIFY – w11/4, w5/2 – Two decent efforts over fences to date, particularly given that it could be argued he’s run over a distance short of his best. Has beaten decent opponents on both occasions and the McCain stable look to have a very decent novice chaser on their hands.
THOMOND – Yet to appear for his new stable.
TOTAL ASSETS – L – Decent enough effort in a competitive Class 3 chase at Catterick last time and capable of winning a race or two in the coming months against less stiff opposition. Entered at Kelso on December 29th.
WAITING PATIENTLY – w4/5 – Very impressive at Carlisle on seasonal debut and arguably the best northerner chaser ahead of stablemate Cloudy Dream.
WEYMSS POINT – L, w7/1, L – Won well at Wetherby and not disgraced under a penalty when third there next time.

Record to date
WINS 10 (33%)

A good win percentage though prices maybe a little disappointing. Still we are in profit and 33% wins is better than I might have expected.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Kelso: Winning Chase Debut for Big River

KELSO – Saturday October 28th
Going - Good

Turf in superb condition once again for the first autumn Saturday meeting.

The form of the maiden hurdle from the previous meeting first by TEMPLE MAN (5th prev.) who won the first division and then by SOME REIGN ,winner of the second division, who was 3 lengths down to Beyond The Clouds last time. The latter is entered at Wetherby on Saturday in a novice event under a penalty but it will take a very good one to beat him. Looking back to the previous meeting KELPIE'S MYTH (sixth having made much of the running) now comes into the equation as a future winner.
The opening heat including a number of animals that look like long term projects and performed encouragingly at this stage. SILVER BULLION is a big boat of an animal sure to come into his own over fences, but possessed sufficient speed to win a bumper and get involved in a five way battle here.
ECHO EXPRESS is more of a hurdling type and looked the most likely winner until headed virtually on the line and should gain consolation in a run of the mill maiden or novice.
ROCKALZARO was bang there all the way to the line as was the free-going POOKIE PEKAN, a definite chasing type, who was headed two out but battled tenaciously to finish a close fourth.
MOORES NOVELTY looked as if the race might do him some good, but loomed up behind the leaders approaching the last before weakening on the run-in

SOME REIGN had to be ridden out to win his maiden, but was doing very little in front and the distances to the others don’t tell of his superiority. Better to come methinks!
TRESHNISH stayed on nicely for second here and looks one to improve over further with experience.
Lucinda Russell's BIG RIVER impressed on chasing debut, potentially the stable star this season with the enforced absence of Grand National winner One For Arthur. He jumps big and bold and could well contest top level staying novice contests this season. Big River's task was made somewhat easier when Paul Nicholls charge GIVE ME A COPPER jinked sharply at the 'chicane' going away from the second fence and unshipped Sam Bowen. The latter seems a keen going sort.
The other three contestants weren't remotely of the class of the winner by well done to Chris Grant, whose ACDC showed promise on chasing bow, and Kenny Johnson who fielded two to hunt round for 3rd and 4th prize money.

The feature handicap chase was won in comfortable style by Nicholls trained AS DE MEE, but he was probably favoured by the small field and doesn't look totally straight forward. WAKANDA ran a sound race on seasonal debut and will strip fitter for this run, while ASH PARK ran well from out of the weights and will be interesting back in a lower class race. FIRTH OF THE CLYDE had stamina to prove here and wasn’t a factor from the home turn, while THE CLOCK LEARY may be a bit high in the handicap now and struggled in this company.

It was good to see Alistair Whillans's MEADOWCROFT BOY win the two handicap hurdle. He was a 137 performer at best but clearly had problems and raced here off 105. He won well enough to suggest he might have a bit in hand at this level and may be able to follow up.
CIVIL UNREST ran creditably in the second, this 0-117 is his level, and he will have his chances in the coming months. ALIZEE DE JANEIRO stayed on for third place and is another capable at this level on her day and a previous course winner.

The Class 4 2m 7f handicap chase had a selection of contestants with plenty of previous offences to be taken into consideration. I’ve been dismissive of HAVANA JACK in the past, but he has worked his way through the hunter ranks and improved enough to win this race. He rallied well when challenged from the last and Leonard Kerr should take credit for the improvement he has coaxed with this animal.
ACHILL HILL BOY raced prominently and harried the winner from two out. He ploughed through the last and couldn’t get back up to the winner but this was decent effort.
NOTONEBUTTWO isn’t the most consistent animal but does get competitive in this class when things fall right. Good thing is that he often starts at a fancy price (33/1 here) and can be worth a little interest where there’s nothing progressive to latch on to.
DOKTOR GLAZ got no nearer than chasing the leaders from two out.
FRENCH SEVENTYFIVE led or disputed to four out and, though held, didn’t completely throw in the towel from four out. He was 10lbs wrong here and if he could perform like this would have a chance in a Class 5 event.
MO ROUGE was out the back most of the way and is not enamoured with steeplechasing.

The card finished with two divisions of a 2m 6f 0-105 handicap hurdle not strong in depth and the results favoured those at the top end of the weights. BUCKLED held off TOO MANY CHIEFS in the first heat, both having won in similar company last term, with the veteran BESCOT SPRINGS showing he retains some ability in third place. The second heat was dominated by less exposed animals at the top of the weights, consistent REIVERS LODGE coming clear from CHAPEL STILE, with CEEGEM staying on for third having been outpaced. If I was taking one from the two heats it would be the latter, though the form looks no better than average for the class.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

An Exciting Novice Hurdler at Sedgefield

SEDGEFIELD - Wednesday October 25th

A fairly standard autumn card at Sedgefield but one or two interesting pointers and one potential star.

The star act is clearly the Brian Ellison trained RAVENHILL ROAD who dotted up on the bridle on hurdling debut. This one was an easy winner of two bumpers and a point and recorded a very decent time to win this contest. He may well be destined for the very top of the novice hurdling ranks.

It might be worth noting INNISCASTLE LAD, 23 lengths back in second, who was clear of the remainder. He built on the hint of promise shown at Bangor and is capable of making his mark against standard opposition in the north.

INDIAN VOYAGE has dropped significantly in the handicap and took advantage in a Class 4 handicap chase. His previous wins have come in bursts so he is worth keeping an eye on for the next few weeks.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Northern Horses to Follow 2017/18

I didn’t have a particular number in mind, but I’ve come up with a round 20 horses trained in the North and which may be seen in Scotland and the North in the coming months. There’s a spread of known names, up and coming and few left field ones.

BAL DE RIO (Brian Ellison)
Twice a winner on the flat this one has run into some decent sorts in three hurdles runs, particularly when running into two potential Graded level novices at Kelso. He did nothing wrong in keeping on for third on that occasion and then ran into Slanelough, who had run into a number of decent animals last season. Bal De Rio has earned a workable mark of 115 for handicaps, but is well capable of winning a non-handicap novice hurdle or two. He coped well in heavy ground in France so won’t have any problems in winter conditions.
Impressed in bumpers and then looked distinctly decent when beating a promising opponent at Kelso (Some Reign) with two others fair animals over 20 lengths back. He looked a bit green when hitting the front up the Kelso hill but galloped on very well in the style of a potential Graded class novice. I suspect he will be kept to better ground so may have a light winter campaign but is an exciting novice for a predominantly flat based stable.
Prospects look bright for the Dobbin stable and I expect this nice chasing type to make up for lost time after failing to score in his first season over fences. He had the look of a chaser when first appearing over hurdles, and ran three decent second places plus losing the plot at Newcastle when refusing to race. We can forgive him that aberration I believe.
He held on well in a fair looking Class 4 event and should show himself better than that level in the coming months.
BIG RIVER (Lucinda Russell)
I’ve had this one marked down for chasing for a while. He performed well in staying handicap hurdles last term, completing his campaign with an impressive 10 length win from a decent field at Kelso over the extended 3m 2f trip.
I understand he will go chasing this season and this likely raced progressive type should make his mark in decent staying novice events.
CELTIC FLAMES (Lucinda Russell)
A lightly raced animal that returned this autumn after an extended period off the track. Beaten but not totally disgraced in novice and handicap hurdle company, I believe he will go chasing before long which should prove his forte. Expect a mark to be made in novice handicap chases assuming he takes forward his hurdles mark of 108.
CLOUDY DREAM (Malcolm Jefferson)
One that flew the flag for my Ten To Follow last season was just a smidgen off the top level in two mile novice events, managing to get Altior off the bridle at Cheltenham in a feat achieved by few animals to date. Recording a well deserved win over 2m 4f at Ayr shows he can handle the longer trip and he can make a mark at the very top level at middle distances.
COCKLE BAY (Lucinda Russell)
Had a record of three pulled up and a brought down before winning his Irish maiden point, but that doesn’t tell the whole story and the third from his win dotted up at Fakenham recently. He got competitive in the two races before his win and has now moved to Arlary.
He will be aimed at staying novice hurdles this season, with a staying chasing career likely sooner rather than later.
FAGAN (Gordon Elliott)
A very useful staying novice hurdler in 2o16, this one had a spell off the track before being left clear by the fall of his one serious rival at Perth on his second chasing outing. He then ran a decent second to top class Ballyandy over 2m 4f on heavy ground, neither trip nor ground particularly favouring him. He will be better when stepped back up in trip and from previous evidence needs ground no worse than good to soft (or Musselburgh soft!) to show his best.
FLY RORY FLY (Nick Alexander)
His new trainer didn’t expect to secure this promising animal and reading between the lines I believes Kinneston have high hopes going forward. After winning his maiden hurdle last spring for Noel Meade, he showed promise in a couple of chases without winning. It is possible he will prove best on decent ground and I would expect Nick Alexander to get a chase win or two out of this one in the coming months.
JONNIESOFA (Rose Dobbin)
A decent novice hurdler two seasons ago, good enough to run at Cheltenham, this one got a niggle and was off the track last season. He was right come the spring but didn’t get the soft ground he needs so his trainer didn’t hurry him. Rose Dobbin is currently waiting for the rain and expect this one to prove a useful novice chase with cut in the ground.
A fair novice hurdler last season in a fairly light campaign and now expected to go chasing. He should be capable of picking up novice chase wins in the North and will be interesting in handicaps off a hurdles earned mark of 122.
LADY SAMBACK (Maurice Barnes)
A mare from left field that might take advantage of the weakly contested mares’ novice division in the North. She showed pace in a couple of bumpers, particularly when leading for a fair way in a contest won by the decent Scottsdale at Perth. Built to jump a fence I suspect she will come more into her own once obstacles are placed in front of her. A speculative inclusion in this list that might just pay dividends.
PLANET NINE (Rose Dobbin)
Winner of a bumper at the Perth Festival in pleasing style, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one turns out to be an above average novice hurdler. The dam’s four other runners have all won and generally been suited by a distance of ground, with two reaching ratings over 140.
SIMONE (Luicinda Russell)
This one didn’t pull up any trees on debut for Arlary, but her bumper profile is sound enough and she should win in mares’ company this winter and hopefully prove able enough to make a mark in mixed company. If you want a strong pointer she’s a half-sister to Simonsig!
SOME REIGN (Rose Dobbin)
Unfortunately ran into one in Beyond The Clouds at Kelso on hurdles debut, but wasn’t disgraced in finishing a couple of lengths down and his trainer has left something to work on. Considered worthy of contesting a Grade 1 bumper at Aintree, there will be plenty of opportunities in the coming months for what could prove to be a very useful novice hurdler.
TESTIFY (Donald McCain)
A decent novice hurdler for the McCain stable last season, there is an expectation from connections that this one will turn out to be an above average staying novice chasing in the coming campaign. He’s run well on soft and heavy ground to date, but found himself well outpaced at the Cheltenham Festival on quicker ground.
THOMOND (Nick Alexander)
A newcomer to the Alexander stable with a few miles on the clock. He was a fair handicap chaser for Noel Meade, if not the most consistent, but ran a stormer when sixth in the Topham Chase from 14lbs wrong in the handicap. He was raced mostly on good ground, so presumably doesn’t handle cut, and may be one for the decent ground at Musselburgh if raced in the winter. Might pop up at a decent price.
TOTAL ASSETS (Simon Waugh)
Effectively over fences and hurdles, this one kept improving last season and a cracking first run of the autumn at Hexham suggests she may continue on an upward curve. Stays 3m 2f well and is a four time winner at my regular haunt of Kelso.
WAITING PATIENTLY (Malcolm Jefferson)
The whisper I got regarding this previously unexposed animal last autumn proved to be right on the mark. He turned into one of the best middle distance novice chasers seen in 2016/17 and his win over Politologue at Haydock was a cracking performance. Denied a chance to take a tilt at Cheltenham following an injury he should be right up there in middle distance chases along with his stablemate Cloudy Dream. All of a sudden the North has some decent animals to take into battle.
WEMYSS POINT (Philip Kirby)
I spotted this one rattling home for second in a mid-season Musselburgh bumper behind Senatus. He bagged a couple more seconds before an unsuccessful tilt at flat maidens. I presume the stable will now return their sights to hurdles, probably over the minimum distance and kept to good ground. Musselburgh meetings are likely to be highlighted in the Kirby stable diary.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Kelso - First October meeting

KELSO – Sunday October 8th
Going – Good (Good To Soft in places) – Seemed Good all round to me. A Going Stick reading was given as 7.0, but since that was taken at 16:00 on Saturday must be of questionable value.
Kelso gets back into the swing of things after the ‘Kelso-lite’ introduction via the September twilight which I missed due to other commitments.
A pleasant enough day and a decent crowd looking to be well in excess of 3,000 in attendance. The sun was out for the first few races and then conveniently disappeared before proving a problem as it got lower. The ground seemed more for less perfect and my impression was of good ground throughout. Drainage work hasn’t taken place after the turn for home, an area that has turned a bit gooey on occasion in recent times.

1.35 2m (96-117)Handicap Hurdle (Division 1)
The most competitive of the handicap hurdles on the afternoon, with a number of horses at or near their best. Brian Ellison’s NEWSTART just prevailed in a blanket finish, staying on from two out and having a little more in reserve.
MARTILA was second on seasonal debut, will come on for this run and can make a mark in a grade higher class in time.
DESERT ISLAND DUSKL is decent at this level when on his game. He was thereabouts from three out and saw his race out to the line.
SUPERIOR COMMAND made significant progress to the last and kept on to the line. This run will have helped his fitness.
PRINCE KHURRAM is a sound marker and more or less ran to his form, fading to a close fifth on the run-in.
Jean MacGregor has struggled to find competitive horses in recent times, but in SIERRA OSCAR she may have one that can win a race. He got to the heels of the leaders going to the last but could find no more.

2.05 2m (96-117) Handicap Hurdle (Division 2)
A weaker division than the first race, but won by a lightly raced sort that can progress from here. PICTURE PAINTER just got the better of a prolonged battle with a determined front runner. He weaved about a bit under pressure, but has the right attitude and is going the right way.
DANCEINTOTELIGHT set off a decent pace and saw off all but the winner by the run-in, and even then didn’t go down without a serious battle. A good front running ride from Abbie McCain who is a useful jockey to have on your side with an allowance and against fellow amateurs.
ALPHABETICAL ORDER finished a respectable third on return to hurdling after 3 year break.
DARK AND DANGEROUS was up there to two out, but seems in the grip of the handicapper.
ASUM ran well for a way but was reported as bleeding from the nose.

2.40 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

A very interesting contest, the leading pair duelling to come well clear of their rivals.
BEYOND THE CLOUDS, a decent winner of two bumpers, proved stronger of the leading pair in the closing stages. He came away encouragingly on the flat and Kevin Ryan has a decent novice on his hands, one that can go on with this run behind him. He first caught my eye when sluicing up in a bumper at Musselburgh in January. Bred to win a sprint, but he showed no signs of stopping at the end of two miles here though I suspect he will be kept to decent ground.
SOME REIGN will have benefitted from the outing and put it to the winner up the straight. Marginally outpointed he will doddle a similar event with this run behind him.
BAL DE RIO ran a perfectly respectable race to take third and will find an easier opportunity.
Although looking over-rated at an official 134, BULKOV does at least set the standard and ran a fair race in fourth, if left behind from two out. His true level looks somewhere in the 110-115 area, so needs a serious drop to be competitive in handicaps.
KELPIES MYTH tried to match the first four but dropped away before two out. He will come on for the outing.
The rest were running in a different race, but TEMPLE MAN stayed on in the closing stages without ever getting into the contest. He showed promise in bumpers and can step up significantly on this in time.

3.15 2m 7.5f Class 4 Novices’ Chase.

A weakly contested novices’ chase, and on the face of it a likely doddle for POINT THE WAY. It turned  out far from the case though. The winner doesn’t impress as a looker, and a note of caution was raised by admittedly light bandages on his forelegs. The second put it to him going to the last and he hit the fence, but held enough in reserve to prevail. One to be a little wary of under a penalty.
AN LAOCH made a most encouraging chasing debut. Travelling well three out he put it to the winner from two out and only gave way on the run-in. He lost a front shoe which won’t have helped and seems to have found his game over fences.
ROBINTHEAULAD had every chance but gave the impression he was getting the worst of the argument when falling four out. The jury is out though he has ability.
WSTEND THEATRE is an ordinary performer but completed in his own time.
HERE COMES LOVE is a poor maiden but pootled round for fourth prize, left behind from the tenth fence.

3.50 2m 5f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

COOLE HALL confirmed the promise of his Perth debut just holding off MAYO STAR, the pair a few lengths clear.  They both look fair novices at this stage and will stay competitive in similar class in the north.
BESTARIUS wasn’t as far forward as some Nicky Richards runners can be. He ran a respectable race in third, outpaced from before the last but keeping on to the line.
WIDE AWAKE has been difficult to train but showed a degree of promise on this occasion. Held up at the rear, then tapped for pace three out, he made significant progress from the home bend before flattening out approaching the last. There’s just a hint that patience may be rewarded for enthusiastic owners Midnight Racing Club.

4.20 2m 1f (127-154) Handicap Chase

Probably one of the best if not the best short distance handicap chase to be run in the North this autumn.
FOREST BIHAN was a decent novice last year, second in a Grade 1 at Aintree, and continued on an upward curve. Taking up the running after two out he saw his race out well to the line. He’s on the fringe of the top class and may need to be cannily placed this year but will likely take his place in Grade 1 chases over two miles.
SIMPLY NED is handicapped to his mark now, but he’s a trier and stuck to his task on the flat, as last year closing to the line in second. Presumably Nicky Richards will be looking out for the better two mile handicap chases but tyhey are few and far between.
THEFLYINGPORTRAIT won this last year and performed admirably ‘defending his title’. Disputing or leading from the start, he was headed two out but didn’t give way easily. 
ROCK ON ROCKY had a tough task but kept on to take fourth place some way behind the first three. This was a decent enough effort and he will have his chances dropped in class.
DOUBLE W’s weakened from two out and could be a bit high in the handicap after a successful spring campaign.
JUST CAMERON never got into a challenging position in the last mile, WISTY didn’t look comfortable being taken on for the lead and ALAMEIN struggled in this decent class.

4.50 2m 5f (79-107) Handicap Hurdle (Division 1)

A race lacking horses in form horses and not a great contest for Class 4.
CRAIG STAR boasted the best recent form here, twice a winner in Ireland last year and there or thereabouts in most race recently. He came clear from two out with only a loose horse for company, getting a bump from that animal on the run-in. Note sure that the winner achieved an awful lot here and if he goes up a fair chunk he may struggle.
REIVERS LODGE kept on to finish a clear second best and is competitive at this level, though remains a novice.
CASTLEOWEN showed moderate form last season after moving from France. He led two out before weakening approaching the last. The race will have brought him on and it’s encouraging that he got competitive here.
IT’S PANDORAMA was there two out but held afterwards and is plenty high enough in the handicap.
JUSTATENNER came down at the third, but was the loose horse pestering the winner and does at least seem to have a competitive streak. That is encouraging from a horse that hadn’t shown a lot since moving to Barry Murtagh from Colin Tizzard.

5.20 2m 5f (78-107) Handicap Hurdle (Division 2)

This division looked even weaker than the first. The winner has been difficult to make progress with but the two lightly raced horses in behind offered some encouragement.

Nick Alexander’s patience with BENNY’S SECRET as rewarded. This one was on my list to follow as a novice but has been adept at avoiding winning for the most part. Given a peach of a waiting ride by Lucy Alexander, Benny’s Secret showed sufficient resolution on the run-in to hold on close home.  Not an obvious one for a follow up.
JUST CHILLY is a lightly raced sort that had shown some glimmers of form. He coped well with the step up in trip, holding every chance from two out and just held on the run to the post. Her trainer can squeeze a similar contest out of her off a mark which is unlikely to move much from the 78 here.
CHAPEL STILE ran acceptably well on fourth hurdles run. He has found his level and will be competitive in similar contests around this trip.
ROMULUS DU DONJON had a chance but was held before the last and doesn’t look particularly well treated currently.

BETANCOURT could follow up handicap debut win under a penalty, fading from two out having been in touch up to that point.