Saturday, 29 December 2007

New Year Sprint Day

MUSSELBURGH – Saturday December 29 2007
Going – Good To Soft (Good in places)

Horse racing met ‘human racing’ as Musselburgh held it’s New Year Sprint meeting, the cross-ties (a term which is presumed equivalent to semi-finals) and final of the event formerly known as the ‘Powderhall Sprint’ taking place between the horse races.

A decent holiday crowd on a sunny day were treated to some pretty decent racing.

12.15 2m 4f Maiden Hurdle

Thirteen runners here, but many who weren’t competitive.

LABOREC, who had run in two pretty decent novice events at Aintree, was settled nicely in behind the leaders, led at the last and held off a couple of challengers.
GUNS AND BUTTER, who looked hard fit, was brought through to challenge in the straight, but couldn’t summon up the extra pace on the flat. There’s probably a small race for this one.
One that caught my eye in the paddock was the big, strong gelding SEA SENOR. He has bits and pieces of decent form but disappointed on his previous run. He had every chance at the last but couldn’t summon the pace to hold the first two. He strikes me as one which might make a chaser.
MYSTIFIED led until 3 out then only offered one pace, being overtaken by CRIPSEY BROOK whose form here pretty much matched his 5th on hurdling debut.
I couldn’t get excited about any of the others.

12.45 3m 0-100 Handicap Chase

MISTER JUNGLE led early, was headed 6 out by Stoneriggs Merc and looked to be in difficulties entering the straight. However, it’s clear that he does stay and showed bags of determination, keeping on doggedly all the way up the straight, he got his head in front right on the line. His form has not been great this season, but this was a decent effort at its level. It would seem that three miles would be a minimum requirement.
STONERIGGS MERC didn’t do much wrong, and proved he stays three miles, looking the winner most of the way up the straight. I wonder if the 2 miles 6 furlong trip at Kelso might suit him?
SPORTS EXPRESS never got to the leaders but did stay on for third place. Back over fences, BAWRAAH was another one who never got to the leaders, he couldn’t find any extra pace once turned for home. COUNT FOSCO threatened after turning for home but faded from 2 out. CASH ON FRIDAY is probably better at shorter, but never got into the argument.
ASTON has ability, but was not on good terms with himself, jumping poorly and lasting 11 fences before being pulled up.

1.20 2m 3yo Novices’ Hurdle

LOS NADIS confirmed previous form, leading most of the way and staying on too strongly for the rest.
LA VECCHIA SCUOLA looked the danger on form, but she made an awful hash of the second and, though recovering, struggled to get back into the race. She stayed on into fifth and should be kept in mind for another chance.
FIRST BUDDY made a decent hurdling debut. He pulled hard early, but went well once settled and was in contention down the straight though held on the flat. On this evidence he must surely win a hurdle.
DANISH REBEL kept on for a distant third, and DESERT RAT, having been prominent early, faded into fourth.
CALZAGHE went well before almost coming down at the sixth, after which he had no chance.

1.50 2m 4f 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

I wasn’t a fan of PATAVIUM on the flat but he performed really well here. Settled behind the leader jumping well, he took over 4 out and hurdled swiftly and accurately in the straight then held of JACK THE BLASTER, the two of them clear of TICKATEAL.
JACK THE BLASTER did nothing wrong and should pick up another race.
TICKATEAL moved up on the final bend but never got to the leaders, similarly ROYAL MELBOURNE who was fourth.
HEAVENLY CHORUS was outpaced on the home bend, finishing a one paced fifth.
TIGER KING is possibly on a stiff mark now, prominent early but fading in the straight.

2.19 New Year Sprint

16 year old Craig Robertson of Gala running off a 9.5m start won by 0.03 seconds from David Rae (8.5m) of Hawick. The heats and final were closely contested affairs, suggesting that the ‘sprint handicapper’ knows his job!
The young winner this year, 16 is the minimum age for entry, is in contrast to last year’s winner Tony Bowman who was 71. Bowman didn’t get past the heats this year.

2.20 2m Introductory Hurdle

Though the opposition may not be great shakes, KALAHARI KING doddled up here. He should progress.
LUNA LANDING was well held in a moderate maiden here earlier in December. He led until headed by the winner in the straight, but stayed on under pressure for second.
SPEEDY DIRECTA, a long distance traveller from Oxfordshire, raced prominently and kept on in third. COLLATERAL DAMAGE moved up to challenge three out, but couldn’t go with the first two, fading into fourth.
KNIGHT VALLIANT looked impressive when winning the first leg of Luna Landing’s maiden here in early December, but he was put in his place here, having every chance and seemingly not good enough, finishing sixth with TUCKER (fifth) turning round previous form.
STILL AT LUNCH had shown form in moderate bumpers, but struggled here. He pulled hard, looked distinctly green down the back and never got out of last place.

2.55 2m 0-125 Handicap Chase

I had a fair handle on this event since I’d seen all bar Some Touch in live action over recent months.

The importance of swift accurate jumping was illustrated perfectly by the winner SHARES. Over the four fences down the back straight he gained a length on the field at each, then his jumping was superior to that of SOME TOUCH over the final four fences. I doubt he’s as quick on the flat as his rival, but his jumping was the key. SHARES was 12/1 here, and I availed myself of that since he's consistent at this level. His Ayr run can probably be excused due to the heavy ground, Ayr can be hard work in the mud, and his fourth at Kelso was a creditable hurdles performance.
SOME TOUCH hit a couple when the chips were down, but his form suggests he will probably find a race soon. He went well enough in front, but being harried by the hard-puller YANKEE HOLIDAY probably wouldn’t have helped him. YANKEE HOLIDAY wasn’t disgraced in third, and despite his headstrong nature is competitive at this level.
MAJORCA was not out of it when unseating three out.
GETON and GUERILLA never got to the leaders and look to need a drop in class.

3.25 2m 0-135 Handicap Hurdle.

At the overnight stage this had threatened to be a one horse race, but with Thursday’s easy Kempton winner Palomar being pulled out it suddenly became a competitive heat. All the runners had a chance entering the straight, and I fancy there might be a winner or two to come out of this contest.

ALONG THE NILE had a creditable novice victory on his debut, and dealt creditably with more experienced rivals here. Four were in with a chance approaching the last but swiftly away from the flight, Along The Nile got the upper hand on the flat. I can’t see him going up a huge amount for this win, so another victory would seem likely.
FOLK TUNE raced prominently, held every chance and couldn’t summon up the extra pace, but he’s in decent form and goes well at Musselburgh.
The best pointer here might be for STAINLEY who put up decent performance on bottom weight. He led jumping accurately, and once challenged battled well before being found wanting for pace after the last. There will be less competitive races for him, particularly if eased I class a little. Make a note of this one for a two mile handicap on similar ground.
REGENT’S SECRET and DANCING LYRA had every chance between the last two, but couldn’t summon extra reserves. MASAFI settled in second and was in contention early in the straight, but faded. CLASSIC GOLD similarly faded in the home straight, but his best form is on top of the ground and the overnight rain would not have helped.

Monday, 10 December 2007

December 9/10 Kelso and Musselburgh

KELSO – Sunday December 9
Gong – Good To Soft (rain most of the afternoon)

One of the best cards of the season at Kelso for this meeting. A bit of a soggy day, with the wet weather carrying over from Saturday.

12.20 2m 6f 110yds 0-105 Nov Hcap Hurdle

A moderate contest to start the day, with few of these showing any strong recent form.
Lightly-raced MENSIO stepped up on previous form, setting a decent pace, quickening clear into the straight and then holding on grimly on the long run-in. DORIS’S GIFT had shown glimmers of ability previously and came out of the pack to chase the winner, staying on determinedly but just held. Rated 79 and 76 respectively the first two at least have a chance of making progress up from their marks.
BEAU SADDLER plugged on into third, once again being tapped for speed down the side of the track. I suspect 3m+ staying hurdles in the North will probably be his most likely chance of success.
MR FLOPPY moved up 4 out, but lost his action and pulled up 2 out. MR EQUITY raced prominently but had nothing at the business end, and many of the rest were being shoved along with a circuit to go.

12.50 2m 6f 110yds Novices’ Chase

Kelso does throw up some cracking novice events, even if they are sometimes light on numbers.
NUDGE AND NURDLE, owned by the Yes No Wait Sorries and clearly named after my own batting style, make a very encouraging chase debut. Not hurried into the contest he moved up going very well 2 out and, once in front, battled well to hold on. Sometimes battling qualities are more a mark of quality of victory than ease of a win.
MR STRACHAN raced in second, challenged on the flat but was just held.
ICE TEA possibly had a little to find here but was not disgraced, jumping very well in front until ‘missing out’ the last after which he found the front two too strong.
LOVE THAT BENNY had a good run in the summer but possibly needed the run after a long off, since he was left behind from 3 out.

1.20 2m 6f 110yds Mares Only Novices’ Hurdle

Many were struggling with a circuit to go here. ZAFFARELLA was disappointing, dropping away and pulling up going out into the country for the final time.
VALENTINES LADY was prominent the whole way and battled well when clearly getting tired. UNCOMMITTED led at the last but then found the winner too strong.
Two were coming off long lay-offs, BONNIE ROCK was the only one making any forward progress at the finish, so is presumably favoured by a stamina test, and CRYSTAL RUNNER went third 3 out and kept going well enough to finish fourth.

1.50 4m 0-140 Borders National Handicap Chase

Another one of the Nationals!
Top weight RAMBLING MINSTER showed the class he possesses to win this with a bit in hand. He moved up 4 out, led on the flat and was always doing more than enough. PETITE MARGOT ran very creditably in second and should be a force in similar events this season.
KING KILLONE stalked the leaders on the final circuit, but ultimately had to settle for third. STRONG RESOLVE, a winner here recently, found the move up in class a bit more than he could handle, but lost nothing in defeat having been in the firing line from the start then fading on the flat.
On the evidence I’ve seen TRISON’S STAR doesn’t stay 3m 4f let alone 4 miles, so it seems odd that Ferdy Murphy persists with him over these trips. Until there’s evidence to the contrary, I’d oppose Trison’s Star in races further than three and a quarter miles. He was struggling going out on to the final circuit here and soon pulled up.
RUSSIAN SKY was up with the pace for a way then struggled, but this is way above his normal class.

2.20 2m 110yds 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

BUFFY was up with the pace as usual but knuckled on landing over the fifth. I wouldn’t worry about the blip, keep Buffy in mind.
KEMPSKI pulled to the front and set the pace but weakened from 2 out.
AUGUSTINE moved up 2 out, led on the run-in and was always doing enough to hold on.
SOUBRIQUET kept on well when headed on the flat and this was a decent effort in defeat.
The third LE ROUFGE FATAL and fourth HUSH TIGER had every chance.

2.50 2m 6f 110yds 0-145 Handicap Chase

Another decent class chase won by the lightly raced PATRICKSNINETEENTH, making the long haul from Cropredy in Oxfordshire. This 10 year old gelding has plenty of ability which has sometimes been hidden by his stop-start career. He is still more than capable at this level.
SCRIBANO EILE, stepped up significantly in class, ran a cracker in second, just being held on the flat. On this evidence he must surely win again very soon.
EURO AMERICAN plugged on for third, and EVER PRESENT, who is 9lbs higher than his latest winning mark, went well to 2 out before fading.

3.20 2m 110yds Maiden Hurdle

I thought Lucy Normile might have a decent prospect on her hands when SILVER BY NATURE won a bumper at Perth in April. Having shown up well over two and a half miles on his hurdle debut, Silver By Nature battled gamely to win here.
VICTORBANO was headed on the flat but didn’t give in easily.
SKIPPING CHAPEL disappointed on his previous outing but ran creditably here. He’s bred to turn in to a jumper so it’s worth keeping this one on a list of horses to keep an eye on.
SILVER STEEL was held by Silver By Nature at Perth and got no closer over hurdles. He probably has ability though, so don’t give up on this one yet.
Favourite SINITAS couldn’t go with the first two on the flat.

MUSSELBURGH – Monday December 10
Going – Good (Going stick 8.8)

This course soaks up any amount of rain, and despite a pretty miserable weekend in the Edinburgh area the ground still came up as genuinely good. The weather was bright but chilly, free soup tokens given out at the gate were welcomed.

A pretty run-of-the-mill Monday card, but there may be a few pointers for the future given that there were a number of novice contests.

12.20 2m Maiden Hurdle

A few interesting newcomers here. KNIGHT VALLIANT had the look of a jumper more than some and in retrospect I made a mistake siding with the jump form of Yachvili. KNIGHT VALLIANT looked well readied for the race, was prominent and jumped well, coming away from the rest with the minimum of fuss. He had fair form on the flat, but putting hurdles in his way seems to have been helpful.
YACHVILI had no answer when the winner went past two out and could one find one pace to finish fourth. He weakened over 2m 4f last time and seemed to lack two mile pace here, so placing may be a problem.
TUCKER is a strong sort and was a clear second best. His jumping wasn’t as sharp as the winner.
RUN TO SPARE probably needs further and stayed on to snatch third on the line.
NANTON’s flat form suggested he might get into the argument here, but he was never close enough to challenge.

12.50 3m C.J. 0-105 Handicap Chase

A case could be made out for any of these in what appeared a fairly open contest.
FINLAND fell at the third. WORLD VISION seemed to be going well enough but Tom Dreaper lost his irons at the eleventh and had to pull up, so the run can be ignored.
BALLITO was nicely backed, jumped and travelled well and left Four County Lad behind from two out. FOUR COUNTY LAD led from the second to three out and was well clear of the rest.
PHYSICAL FORCE just snatched a remote third on the line, but was well out of it in the home straight. LOST IN NORMANDY was left behind in the straight.
DOLLY DAGGER led early but didn’t jump well enough to have any chance.

1.20 2m Maiden Hurdle

The strong favourite here was POWERBERRY, dropped in class from his Irish runs. He was held up, but left flat footed as the leaders accelerated turning for home. He stuck on and didn’t lose ground, but only gained second on the run to the line. The obvious conclusion is that a longer distance will suit.
SEEKING JUSTICE had been down the field in similar company in Ireland, but in general it’s tougher to win Irish maiden hurdles. He led 3 out and went clear from 2 out. When questioned by the stewards, his trainer reported that the horse was suited by the better ground on this occasion. Since good ground is quite rare at this time of year in Ireland then that doesn’t seem unreasonable.
SUPERIOR STAR probably repeated the level of his Kelso effort in reaching third place. LUNA LANDING was ridden prominently but faded and finished fourth on a satisfactory hurdling debut.
TITINIUS promised to get involved but weakened in the straight. I believe connections were not displeased with the run and have a contest identified at Christmas time.
P’TIT VOUSTER led but faded quickly from 3 out.

1.50 2m 4f Novices’ Hurdle

CHECKERBOARD stayed on to win, being kept up to his work. On the face of it not an impressive performance, but he wasn’t stopping and I rather suspect he will be suited by further.
THE GLEANER a strongly built, very calm sort in the paddock, had every chance 2 out but a mistake at the last gave Checkerboard a decisive advantage.
JAZRAWY stayed on late for third. He’d pulled the jockey’s arms out on the way down so it was a reasonable effort. Needs to settle, but would not be without a hope of winning something.
MR BARNACLE led round the paddock by two handlers, showed a modicum of promise in fourth.
LOCKSTOCKANDBARREL who ran creditably in a handicap last time, led until running out of steam 4 out. ROURKE’S STAR and JOSHUA’S GOLD weren’t anywhere near good enough.

2.20 2m 4f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

A competitive looking contest won in some style by top-weight KING DANIEL. He led 5 out and nothing got to him in the home straight, though BLUE POIS was gaining at the line. Given that each will probably get a 3 or 4lb rise it keep them in the equation in similar events.
SUPER BABY looked very fit but didn’t have the pace of the first two.
NICOZETTO who looks a hard puller, was held up but found himself unable to get in a blow in the straight. He did keep on well enough to suggest that a return to a longer trip will be of assistance.
SNOW’S RIDE was well placed when falling 4 out, and is still competitive at the weights given the ground doesn’t turn too soft. EVER SPECIAL was hampered by the fall but seemed to be struggling anyway.

2.50 2m 4f 0-100 Novices’ Handicap Chase

A lot of these were either lightly raced over fences or chase debutants. The winner OCARINA showed what an advantage a decent jumper can have at this level. Always prominent, he did hit one early on, but jumped well after that and was too good for the others once turning for home.
STONERIGGS MERC bandaged in front, moved into contention down the back, keeping on for second.
CASH ON FRIDAY kept on for third place but was never any closer, similarly COUNTRYWIDE SUN who kept on into fourth.
DIAMOND MICK went well enough in front to the eleventh but then faded.
LOADED DICE jumped poorly on his last outing. He wore blinkers here and, after early reminders he never got going and was pulled up. STICKY END looks a well built jumping type but is proving rather slow.

3.20 2m NH Flat

The one to impress me most in the paddock was DREVER ROUTE. This didn’t translate on the track. He was kept handy, but tapped for speed on the home bend and was always on the limit chasing the leaders, eventually finishing fourth. He has the look of a racehorse, but may just need a little time.
BROADWAY STAR finished second at Hexham first time out, and stepped up on that, forging clear in the final furlong.
CLASSIC MOON ran two decent races in big field Irish bumpers, and confirmed promise in a creditable second.
ROOM AT THE TOP is possibly getting the hang of racing, staying on for third.