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.