I pointed the car south of the border for a first visit to Newcastle. A decent crowd in on the Bank Holiday and competitive racing with a few potential pointers to the future.
2.10 7f 2yo Maiden
The favourite CRAIGSTOWN brought forward a solid performance from Goodwood and was duly made 2/5 favourite. However, I had an eye on the Kevin Ryan newcomer ALEXANDER CASTLE, who looked pretty fit for his first run. I'd seen Ryan's newcomer Anosti win at Hamilton, looking as if there was something to work, so a fit newcomer from that yard hit the right spot. In the event the colt was very impressive, taking over inside the last furlong and a half and galloping away from the field without being asked for too much extra effort. ALEXANDER CASTLE is well entered up in staying 2yo events, so worth keeping an eye on, though I suspect those of us who snapped up better than the 5/1 SP had a corking bet, and a couple of chaps next to me at the paddock were also on.
INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU took a while to settle in the paddock. He also pulled hard going down, but set a decent pace and, although well held by the winner, showed the rest a clean pair of heels and looks a future winner.
NARMEEN looks a strong sort, but her form's exposed and she plugged on for third. Meanwhile the favourite CRAIGSTOWN was scrubbed along 2 out and only found one pace.
2.45 1m Claimer
Too many of these didn't perform and with the 3rd DOMESDAY having shown little previously it's questionable if the form is worth a lot.
PENEL stayed on best, but was entered for only £5000 here. He has a few wins on all weather in his record, so may be worth a glance in similar events on that surface.
YO PEDRO is a frustrating sort. His jockey commented that things went well until he saw too much daylight and he needs covering up. He may win a race but needs things to go for him, so isn't a sound betting proposition.
NUIT SOMBRE, wearing bandages on his forelegs, raced alone on the far side and looked to lead 2 out, but was a spent force in the final furlong. I'm not sure that the ground on that side was a problem, but lack of company may have been, so this run can probably be ignored.
BAYLAW STAR, another bandaged in front, led early on the near side, but fell away.
3.20 1m 2yo Handicap
A competitive nursery labelled the 'Blaydon Race'. A group near me couldn't understand why they played 'The Blaydon Races' before the start.....doh!
They went very fast early on, so those prominent such as BOOMTOWN, DREAM EXPRESS and MADISON HEIGHTS probably didn't do themselves justice. MADISON HEIGHTS in particular is a big, striking individual and I'd keep him in mind for a staying nursery.
Those held up came through at the end, the 25/1 shot TUANKU battling well and staying on nicely. The race went his way, but this was a sound enough performance.
WELCOME RETURN battled well after being headed and lost nothing in defeat. Jockey Kevin Darley spent a good deal of time discussing the performance with connections, commenting that Welcome Return was progressing well, and he particularly mentioned that he felt the ideal target for this filly is the mile nursery at the Ayr Western Meeting.
MARNING STAR belied the 50/1 with a determined performance to finish a close third. RELINQUISHED ran respectably in fourth without threatening to figure in the finish.
NATURAL RHYTHM looked in a good nick, a good deal better than when I saw him at Hamilton in July. He’s been heavily campaigned recently, but seems to have blossomed. He was held up going well, but was blocked when going for a run and didn’t have the pace in this company to get out of trouble. With enough ability to win again, an easing in class would be helpful.
3.55 2m Handicap
I didn’t see an awful lot of this as I was down at the two mile start getting some photos. However from my position I could see SOM TALA set sail for home entering the straight and, under pressure from a long way out, he kept on but couldn’t find more than one pace. I think this lack of extra pace is the problem, and being raced prominently in long distance races is his best chance for success.
KASTHARI led 2 out looking the winner, and didn’t do much wrong but was headed close home by grand old Gosforth Park specialist MARJAN who triumphed to a huge cheer from the crowd. Len Lungo’s charge is clearly a real favourite in these parts and received a rousing reception when he returned. The 8 year old KASTHARI is clearly no back number.
DOWNING STREET ran a fair enough race in fourth, but he’s paying the penalty for a 13lb rise following his 13 length win at Thirsk, a race which rather fell into his lap.
4.30 1m 4f 3yo Handicap
John Dunlop trained DOUBLE BANDED had shown a degree of promise at Newmarket and advanced on that leading close home here. He won’t be penalised too much for the win and there may be more to come.
LA VECCHIA SCUOLA has been upped in distance rather dramatically,, having won over 5 furlongs earlier this season, but performed very well, leading most of the way and holding off BOZ before being ‘done’ by the winner. Kelly Harrison got a day suspension for careless riding, interfering with Boz, though it made no difference to the placing of either. BOZ had every chance but was third best.
FALCON’S FIRE, looking very fit, moved up from 7 furlongs, but had won a hurdle recently. He raced just off the pace, found himself struggling to hold the leaders 2 out but then found a second wind once pulled out and finished quite well in fourth.
ALWAYS BEST was up with the pace but weakened in the straight.
5.05 6f Handicap
The field was a quite well spread out at the finish for a good ground sprint.
DAKOTA RAIN was disappointing last time but came back to form here, leading one out and going clear. No reason why he shouldn’t continue to be competitive even with a rise in the weights.
The second RAINBOW FOX is consistent, did nothing wrong here and is worthy of consideration in similar class. GUEST CONNECTIONS was presented to challenge on the outside but hung fire, and is possibly a little quirky.
Of the others CHARLES PARNELL ran respectably in fourth, YORKSHIRE BLUE looked very well but never threatened, and the same could be said of CONNECT. LORD OF THE EAST went down very early, having to be mounted on the track as getting him to stand still seems a bit of a trial. He then performed very poorly.
5.35 5f 3yo Handicap
A lot of these got very fractious, and although three were due to go down early at least five were down as soon as they could be.
NOMOREBLONDES made this a one horse race, quickly away, settling in front and then pulling away in the final furlong. Looked a decent performance to me and there could be more to come.
MANDURAH ran well enough in second if never threatening the leader. PEGASUS DANCER, one of those who was stroppy in the paddock, couldn’t get to the leader and headed a group of four just behind Mandurah. BAYBSHAMBLES misbehaved in the paddock, and I was told had done it before, but stayed on belatedly in fourth and may be interesting with a drop in class. TRIPLE SHADOW ended fairly close without threatening and DUALAGI had every chance on the outside but simply didn’t have the speed at crunch time. Favourite WOQOODD, a winner over 6 furlongs last time, never figured.