Wednesday, 6 February 2008

MUSSELBURGH - Sunday February 3rd 2008

Going – Good To Soft (Soft on bends)

Musselburgh's most value ever jumping card pulled in a crowd bigger than midweek attendances, but maybe a little down on might have been expected. A clash with France v Scotland rugby and Hibs v Rangers may not have helped.

Musselburgh suffers less from the ravages of winter weather than most, so the going was nowhere near the boggy ground that many other courses have been experiencing recently. For this reason, it’s sometimes worth putting a line through heavy ground form from elsewhere when assessing Musselburgh jump cards. I know some of the Irish trainers bring their horses here because they know they will encounter better ground that at the Irish tracks.

1.30 2m 4f Novices’ Hurdle

The card started with a competitive looking novice event.

LA VECCHIA SCUOLA had shown promise over this distance here last time, and confirmed that, staying on nicely in the straight to win with a bit in hand. She’s progressed well in the last year, having won over 5 furlongs here last year but now seeing out every yard of the two and half miles. Jim Goldie is a decent duel purpose trainer, and his placing of this filly illustrates his ability well. This run might well prove a good pointer to the ability of PRINCESS FLAME, who finished just over twelve lengths clear of La Vecchia Scuola over the same C/D previously. The latter is apparently being aimed at the Mares’ Final at Newbury and must be considered a decent contender.
LABOREC didn’t do too much wrong in second place. He seemed a little unsettled in the paddock, was pushed along for a while early, but stuck on well over the last three if never quite getting to the winner. He should continue to be competitive under a penalty in similar contests.
APRIL SAN was held up, moved up down the back straight but never got to the first two. He seems to lack a bit of acceleration and may need further round here, or perhaps a stiffer track.
MY ARCH looks a nice sort to me and probably as fit as he could get. Another who didn’t get to the leaders, but stayed on well enough. He might be worth aiming at novice handicaps.
SILVER BY NATURE was a bit disappointing. Having set the pace early he couldn’t respond when the tempo quickened down the back straight second time, and could only keep on at one pace.
SPITFIRE SORTIE was teeth grinding in the paddock. I noticed he was wearing boots front and back perhaps suggesting he’s inclined to knock into himself at pace. He quickened the tempo down the far side, but weakened once turned for home. Not a bad effort coming off a layoff.
INSTIGATOR, a big but immature looking gelding, has time on his side. He never got competitive but strikes me as a prospect for the future, probably over fences.
BAL BIRNIE had some respectable NH Flat form, but jumped clumsily and was always at the back.
HOOKY’S HOPE form doesn’t look very impressive, but she raced prominently to 4 out and wouldn’t be a total lost cause if dropped to selling class.

2.00 2m 4f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

This looked a decent event, with a few recording form near their best recently. There was a decent pace on from the start, so the form is likely to prove sound.

DUNDOCK won this quite nicely, well ridden by useful 7lb claimer Ewan Whillans. The gelding has a nice ‘I mean business’ air about him in the paddock, settled nicely in the race, moved up down the back for the last time and stayed on in the straight to win just a little cosily. He’s progressing nicely and, running off a mark of 104 here should get more chances in similar company.
Irish challenger THE JOKER didn’t do a huge amount wrong in second. He raced prominently, led at the 6th, responding well to urgings in the straight and ran on well when headed. He had won over fences on his previous outing so his trainer has a few options.
IPAY ISAY was well favoured on the back of a fall when in contention last time. He was fourth and ridden on the home bend, but stayed on to take third if never getting near enough to threaten a win. This was a sound enough performance to suggest a win may be imminent.
This was slightly different from the three mile chase at Sandown that BACKBEAT won on his previous run. Off his lower hurdle mark he raced prominently most of the way, but was unable to raise his game over the last 3 hurdles. He remains in good form.
SEA SENOR finished sixth plugging on, but was never in the contest.
VOX POPULI was prominently early but gradually faded over the final circuit.
PATAVIUM and STAINLEY were never in the race and are capable of better.
At the lower end of the handicap, the likes of WALLY WONDER, MR MIDAZ and MR TWINS found the pace too quick to handle.

2.30 2m 1f 4yo Novices’ Hurdle

This race started in the back straight, though the runners jump the same number of hurdles as in two mile races.

A dramatic event in which the winner came from a away back to take the opportunity offered by the misfortunes and failings of other.
The favourite HARPER VALLEY looked a bit edgy in the paddock. He made progress down the back, but rapped the fourth last which knocked him out of the race and he was pulled up before the next. He returned sound and was looked fine being led around the paddock before entering the ‘sample box’.
LOS NADIS led but didn’t jump at all well and probably lost 15-20 lengths through the race due to clumsy jumps. Having been headed before two out, he was then left in front, but bunny hopped the last and lost momentum which cost him the race. The fact that he finished so close suggests he has plenty of speed, but his jumping needs attention.
PERTEMPS NETWORK raced prominently, led before two out going very well, but skewed on landing and his rider came out the side door. He looked likely to win.
ACT SIRIUS did not get into the race until the straight and on the face of it was rather fortunate. However, his jumping was crisp when it needed to be and he had the most momentum over the last two hurdles. I suspect he can continue his improvement.
TAMIMI’S HISTORY showed a lot of promise on hurdling debut, never quite getting to the leaders but jumping adequately and going on at the finish. A 101 rated performer on the Flat in Ireland, a novices’ hurdle would seem at his mercy.
SMUGGLERS BAY settled better than at Kelso and ran pretty well up to that level of form in fourth place.
The Johnson second and third strings, GRAND ART and SONARA weren’t good enough in this company. They are both qualified for handicaps now.

3.00 2m Novices’ Chase

STROMSTAD, coming off a very long lay-off but looking plenty fit enough, set a decent pace in this 5 runner event. He generally jumped well, and fiddled adequately when he needed to. He didn’t have the pace of the winner in the straight, but this was a very encouraging return and he looks a future winner.
JACK THE BLASTER can be a headstrong type, but he settled well. Jumping accurately he galloped on well in the straight for a second chase win.
THE DUKE’S SPEECH ran an abysmal race at Fakenham last time, but improved a bit on that this time, though never threatened the first two. I’d keep a watching brief for now.
Rayson Nixon’s JUST POSH is basically slow, but pootled round for £400+ prize money.
The sad aspect to this race was the injury incurred by Peter Monteith’s Geton. He broke down badly on his off hind leg in front of the stands. Looking at the replay, his leg went about three strides before the fence, but on the inside Timmy Murphy had no escape route, and hence no choice but to jump the obstacle before pulling up. The vet administered a tranquiliser, and the crowd was hushed hoping that the horse could be saved, but sadly Geton had to be put down. What I found disturbing was that the screens went up, and spectators ushered away from the scene as if the whole thing would go away if no one saw it. Whatever the outcome, it would have been nice to have been told officially what had become of the horse. I did try to get a word with the trainer, but understandably he had things on his mind.
I have been very fortunate to have witnessed few equine fatalities in the best part of 40 years of racegoing, but such incidents tug at the conscience.

3.30 2m 1f 0-145 Handicap Hurdle

A disappointing turn-out of only 7 runners, despite decent prize money. Nicky Richards was reported to the BHA under the ‘Withdrawal of Top Weights in Handicaps’ Order following his scratching of Premier Dane. My own ‘bet of the day’, Roman Villa, was also a non-runner.

ASTARADOR made it three wins in a row for the Howard Johnson stable. Richard Johnson rode a gem of a race from the front here, aiding by a willing and able partner. Astarador was sent straight to the front, hurdled well, stretched the field down the far side and stayed on in the straight to record a third win in five races. He looks progressive and may well pick up another handicap.
BORDER TALE was taking on tougher company than usual, but acquitted himself very well. He had every chance over the last three but wasn’t good enough to hold the winner. However, he ran on well and will appreciate a drop to easier company.
ALONG THE NILE was just held in the battle for second place. He has performed very well twice in handicap company, considering this was only his fourth hurdles appearance.
FOLK TUNE seems handicapped to the hilt at the moment and is struggling to hold better handicapped opponents. He couldn’t hold the first three on this occasion.
DOUBLE VODKA looked fit and well on his seasonal debut. However, he’s now on a mark 8lbs higher than his last win. This takes him out of the 0-130 class that he can cope with, and he may well need a drop of a few pounds before getting back on the winning trail.
MARCEL, returning from chasing, jumped deliberately and found the pace too hot to handle.
THE WEAVER was 21lbs out of the handicap here so had no chance. More pointedly, he was raised 20lbs for winning a seller from a bunch of out of form or incapable opponents in January. His previous form suggested he might be competitive over 2 miles in handicap hurdles, but certainly not overweighted by 20lbs! His only chance of a win in the foreseeable future would appear to be if dropped to selling or claiming company. He strove valiantly to keep up here, but simply isn’t good enough in this class.

4.00 2m 4f Claiming Chase

This was labelled a Class 3 contest, but in reality few if any of the competitors are up to winning a ‘normal’ Class 3.

CATEGORICAL has had a busy time over jumps considering he’s only 5. Perhaps this tells us he’s a tough sort, and although only a previous winner of 1 out of 14 NH races, significantly he has never finished worse than seventh. He moved up on the home bend, challenged two out and galvanised by Phil Kinsella ran on determinedly to get up on the post. Dependent on what mark he’s given following this run, he would probably be competitive in novice handicap chases.
GALERO likes to be up with the pace, and this course plus the ‘iffy’ nature of much of the opposition allowed him every chance. He’s had a stop-start career after a novices’ handicap chase win here a couple of years back, but clearly retains a fair amount of ability. Taking over 4 out, he led over the fences down the straight only to be pipped in the shadow of the post.
DÉJÀ VU was well out of form last season. He at least shows he retains some ability though may find it hard work in handicaps.
SPORTS EXPRESS needs three miles and kept on at the end.
SUPREME BEING should have been in the mix judged by his handicap mark, but ran well below that.
THE NOMAD may well be feeling his age a bit and can’t keep up at the business end. HIGH MOON is too slow now.
TRY CATCH PADDY was placed in a couple of lowly hunters’ chases last season, but finds this sphere tougher. I believe he is still qualified for hunter races, and they would appear to be his best chance.
MAN OF REPUTE stumbled on a stands’ bend which cut up during the afternoon, unseating his rider in the process.
DUKE OF STRADONE led to 4 out then quickly capitulated and was pulled up. He at least proved he can jump well enough and has speed to be competitive for a way.
STAR FEVER was struggling from 5 out and pulled up, and finally RUCOLINO struggled to keep up and was well adrift when falling 4 out.

4.30 2m NH Flat

Not the most competitive of bumpers, but the fact that the first four were well clear of the others, and a couple of them had at least reasonable previous form, suggests that there is hope for the future.

DOESLESSTHANME comes from a stable recording only a second win over jumps. However, this is a nice looking type with time on his side. Doeslessthanme led all the way and stepped the pace up nicely when asked three out, staying on too well for a previous winner. While the bare form here probably isn’t a lot to shout about, there’s much promise for a jumping career.
DESERT VISION couldn’t go with the winner but saw off the remainder well enough to confirm the form of his last time out win.
McMURDO SOUND is bred well enough to suggest he’ll win races. To my eye the trainer has left a bit to work on, and he had nothing extra to give in the final two furlongs after having every chance. He can be made fitter and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s brought back to Scotland for another run in a similar event.
DO IT FOR DALKEY’s form is not wildly exciting, but this was another improvement and he kept on in the straight if short of the pace of the first two. He impressed me in the paddock and, given continued progression, may get competitive over hurdles in time.
RICH GIRL a stockily built mare, was very green in the paddock. She race prominently before weakening from the turn for home. She’s worth keeping an eye on since there is a hint that she may make a racehorse in time.
ANAY CAR had shown promise on his debut but was always out the back here.

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