Friday, 25 April 2008

Perth Festival 2008 - Day 3

PERTH – Friday April 25 2008

Going – Good To Soft

2.05 2m 0.5f Novices’ Hurdle

This race was run at a decent pace, so the form is worth noting.

The winner, CLASSIC MOON could be fairly decent. He was very impressive here, building on a hurdling debut 3rd at Downpatrick. He looks a nice strong sort, and in the race was settled just off the pace. Moving up at the sixth, he led two out and went away to win with a bit in hand. Jimmy Lambe often brings horses to Perth, so we may well see Classic Moon return, but keep an eye out for a run in Ireland as well.
DANCING MIST is a nice looking sort who is going the right way, having shown a degree of promise previously. He had every chance two out but couldn’t go with the winner from there. He was just headed for second, but got the placing back in the stewards’ room. I would imagine Vic Dartnall should find a race for this one sooner rather than later.
JUSTTHEONEFORYOU , a strikingly big gelding, looked very good going down to the start. He kept on for second but was then relegated. He’s been tried over 2m 4f and 3m and I get the impression the longer distances will favour him. He’s had a break and taking that into account this was a promising run.
SKIPPING CHAPEL was unsettled in the paddock. He was outpaced 2 out but plugged on for fourth.
SPARTACUS BAY was equipped with a cross noseband and tongue tie. He also had boots front and back which suggests he may cut into himself. He was prominently early but faded.
Most of the rest either couldn’t cope with the early pace or faded in the second half of the race.

The owners of the winner, Burnt Toast Ltd., are donating Classic Moon's winnings to the Marie Curie Cancer Charity. They have 15 horses in training under the Burnt Toast banner.

2.40 2m Novices’ Chase

A very impressive looking foursome in the paddock.
MARODIMA jumped and galloped his rivals into submission here. Setting off in front he was never pressed and came home well clear of the one remaining chaser. I understand the connections are looking to sell, possibly because he’s in a twilight zone lacking opportunities.
NEVERTIKA was attempting a forward move when falling at the eighth.
CEDRUS LIBANI had been chasing Marodima, but he’d slipped to third and took a tired looking fall three out. Thankfully he got up Ok and was ridden back, and Nevertika ran past me looking ofr a course exit, so he seemed none the worse!
HUSH TIGER seemed to me to be ridden sensibly without trying to sustain a pace he couldn’t keep up. He jumped well enough and should serve Rayson Nixon well over fences.

3.20 2m 4.5 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

A race that was clinched by Rose Davidson’s decision to kick on after three out. Having seen her mount GUNS AND BUTTER finish second at Musselburgh earlier in the season, I felt he would be better ‘pushing the pace’ and clearly connections made a conscious decision to do just that. The ‘Irish cavalry’ were arriving fast at the end, but Guns And Butter had enough in hand. A stiffer track or longer distance might play to the winner’s strengths.
WINTER STAR came from a way back to take second, and would have been in front in another 50 yards. He seemed to come off worse in when sandwiched between the third and fourth on the run-in, so may have been unfortunate. MHILU stayed on to take a close third and the ‘hidden form’ horse, Tony Martin’s ANOTHER AMBITION was not far away in fourth. Martin seems to have a knack of burying this type away in big Irish fields and then exploiting low marks in the UK. Interesting that there seems a 10-15lb discrepancy between Irish and UK marks, the latter being the higher.
BEAU LARGESSE followed the first four quite closely and didn’t put in a bad effort. Having ogt into contention 2 out, he couldn’t maintain the effort.
SEEKING STRAIGHT, placed in a heavy ground handicap at Ayr, led to the sixth then quickly faded and pulled up. CAST IRON CASEY was never better than fourth or fifth.
Last time winner LADY SAMBURY took over at the seventh, but gave way at the next and faded. Even allowing for her penalty she was two pounds out of the handicap, so there will be easier opportunities. This races suggests she should not be written off.
Another front out of the handicap, MISS MORELLI raced prominently to the seventh, and may find easier races.
Nothing else got competitive at the sharp end.

3.55 3m 3f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

SO NOW was brought through smoothly from the rear by Harry Skelton, led 2 out and stayed on. The extreme distance clearly favours him since there was a decent pace from the start. He had been competing at decent tracks in the south, with form from both Newbury and Cheltenham, so this win was hardly a surprise.
GIULIANI looked very fit and ready for this race. Having raced midfield he was left flat-footed 3 out, but to his credit showed determination to battle his way back into contention. His recent form has more letters than numbers, but this was a decent effort and his trainer may try for another staying event this side of the Irish Sea. He has won on good to firm which may prove significant.
SOLWAY BEE won a novice event here on Wednesday and found the step up in trip and into handicap company no problem. She challenged on the final bend, but wasn’t quite as quick as the first two.
IN DREAM’S led to the ninth and was then one paced. His best form is at trips just short of three miles.
KING’S ROCK raced prominently to three out, but was under pressure when falling at the next. Possibly a combination of the longer trip and a 10lb rise was against him, since his wins have all been at 2m 6f.
RATHOWEN raced fourth or fifth, and didn’t help himself with poor jumps at the 8th, 9th and 10th flights. He was then found wanting for pace, before plodding past a couple in the straight.
NICOZETTO was always in the rear, and pulled up 2 out.
ASTYANAX and DALAWAN were prominent early but fell away once the race began in earnest.

4.35 3m 7f The Press And Journal Highland National Handicap Chase

I don’t normally make a song and dance about sponsors, but since the P and J have made this race such a prominent part of the Scottish racing calendar I’ll give them due acknowledgement. Anyway the Press And Journal is a decent regional newspaper!

I’ll make no bones about it, this is one of my favourite events of the year! Yes, sad isn’t it? Once again the race filled to capacity, with a decent compliment of in-form lower grade staying chasers.

As usual this was a battle of attrition with contenders falling away one by one in the latter stages. It was won by Chris Grant 7 year old LAERTES who has enough time on his side to progress as a staying chaser. He was in touch with leaders for most of the way, leading 6 fences out and stretching on from there to win with a bit to spare. Potentially an interesting campaigner in slightly higher grade events next term.
Irish trainer Gordon Elliott’s LYDON HOUSE ran creditably in second. He had every chance three out put Laertes pulled away. There aren’t a huge amount of extreme distance chases run in Ireland, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this gelding return to compete in staying chases in Scotland and the north.
THE GANGERMAN has been running in similar events in the south. He was another who found the winner staying on a bit better. I wonder if a slight drop in trip may be in his favour. He’s a slightly frustrating performer in some ways since he has only one win to his credit, but on the other hand has collected a pile of place money.
I have questioned in the past whether RUSSIAN SKY can cope with these extended trips. On the evidence of a gallant fourth, he can. He was just a bit outclassed towards the end of the race, but certainly worth persisting with in these events.
ESKIMO JACK never quite got to the leaders and was left behind over the last four fences.
I’m still convinced that this is beyond TRISON’S STAR’s best trip, and I’ve said it more than once before. He has yet to convince me he stays extreme distances and looks much better campaigned at around 3 miles. MEMO to Ferdy Murphy – keep Trison’s Star at shorter distances…… or maybe don’t, then he might be a longer price!
GETINBYBUTONLYJUST went strongly to 6 fences from the finish, but then came under pressure and lost touch, eventually coming in a tired looking seventh.
CUONTESS TRIFALDI was eighth and never threatened. AMAZING VALOUR and HIDDEN BOUNTY were never closer than their eventual ninth and tenth places, and NO PICNIC showed up briefly in the leading group but wasn’t in contention on the final circuit.
The rest were pulled up, TREASULIER cutting out the early running but weakening early on the final circuit, BRANDY WINE, ALMIRE DU LIA and FINZI racing prominently early then fading. Hat-trick scorer HELLO BUD was very disappointing, racing in midfield for a way but never near the front. ORKI DES AIGLES and DERE LYN were in the rear for a couple of circuits before the towel came in.

And that readers, was the story of the Highland National of 2008! All done from a position near the last fence without hearing the race commentary, and proving my race reading is coming along nicely!

Sad postscript to the race - It was reported that NO PICNIC collapsed and died after the race.
5.10 2m 4.5f Novices’ Handicap Chase

A right old battle between two up the run-in, with locally trained SPIRIT CALLING overhauling the Wylie/Johnson challenger TOP DRESSING close home.
SPIRIT CALLING lost a little ground 4 out, but moved up to challenge over the last three. Having just led over the last, he was headed again on the flat, but battled back determinedly. He ran poorly at Musselburgh in January and clearly appreciated the break. ~This was a first win, but I doubt it will be his only success.
TOP DRESSING didn’t do much wrong and was well clear of the rest. He had good form around two miles and clearly stays every yard of this trip.
CLASSIC HENRY was never near the front but stayed on from the back to finish third, a great improvement on his previous jumping efforts.
SOMETHING SILVER raced in touch, but couldn’t muster an effort over the last three.
BARNEY led until 2 out, but the effort burst him and he weakened quickly into fifth. Off his mark there should be scope to drop in class and he will find easier opportunities.
BILLESLEY raced prominently for a while then faded. DIVEX and LORD SAMPOSIN never got competitive, and NATIVE COLL raced with the leaders but weakened 4 out.
STAND ON ME was beginning to make significant progress when coming down 6 out and might be interesting in similar events.
BONCHESTER BRIDGE ran as poorly here as he did in a hurdle on Wednesday.
LOFTY LEADER is well out of sorts and pulled up again. LOCKSTOCKANDBARREL was prominent early but lost touch and pulled up.

5.45 2m 0.5f NH Flat Race

A few decent looking types in the paddock.

DIABLO, a winning pointer, was very impressive. He led all the way and galloped away from his rivals, three winners amongst them. He was one who least impressed me in the paddock, but ‘andsome is as ‘andsome does.
HEART O’ THE WEST came from some way back to take second place. I would guess he will come into his own at longer trips over obstacles.
CARRICKBOY raced prominently and kept on in the straight. This was a very good debut and he should build on it.
PONTOP stayed on from the back for fourth. George Charlton has the useful bumper horse Knockara Beau, and it seems this one has some ability.
DASTARDLY DICK represented the first previous winner to finish. He raced prominently but couldn’t find extra reserves once in line for home.
WEATHER FRONT had every chance turning for home but dropped away.
GAVROCHE GAUGAIN was right out the back until the straight and made moderate progress. Worth at least keeping an eye on.
The remainder were well held.

And so endeth the Perth Festival for 2008. My notebook now heads for the flat meeting at Hamilton on May 9th, though I’ll keep an eye out for the jumpers in the meantime.
PERTH – Thursday 24 April 2008

Going –Good To Soft

Morning rain meant the going eased to good to soft, and there were showers during the after, a particularly after the third race. The ultra-keen Course Manager Sam Morshead even gave up on his presentation during the latter downpour!

As is often the case at this time of year it was difficult to tie down winners in some races. It’s a mix of horses blossoming in the spring, and those which have been on the go starting to fade.

2.10 2m 0.5f Novices’ Hurdle

This race basically involved four competitors and five make-weights.

LAZY DARREN won this nicely enough, making progress down the back straight, leading between the last two and staying on for victory. His third at Aintree looked decent enough and so it proved.
FRANK CROW’s last two runs had been disappointing. However, he was more on his game in this event. He’s an easy going sort, bright and alert in the paddock and settled well. Although finding Lazy Darren too strong he kept on well for second and, given that he has only had the one win, there must be scope for placing him in the near future.
QUICUYO looks a strong type who might go on to make a chaser in time. Found the first two a bit quick in the straight but wasn’t disgraced. Behind him, COOL OPERATOR ran up to previous form in fourth.
Of the others there is a glimmer of hope for STEEL MAN. His previous form was dire, but on this occasion he was at the head of affairs until weakening quickly after the sixth flight. He had a wind problem previously and, assuming this has been attended too, may have the ability to win a seller.
Hurdles debutant ART INVESTOR showed nothing significant.

2.45 2m Handicap Chase

COACH LANE looked an absolute picture in the paddock. He’s a strong, handsome sort. The pace was strong here, Coach Lane being raced up with the leaders. He led 2 out and looked as if he’d win with a bit to spare. However, Yankee Holiday pressed him on the run-in, the pair finishing well clear.
YANKEE HOLIDAY is a bit of a quirky character, with two handlers in the paddock and pulling hard as usual going down. That being said he normally gives a decent account of himself on the track, coming late here to bustle up the winner close home. He will presumably be campaigned in similar races here over the summer.
ORMELLO had every chance but didn’t have enough pace over the last two. He ran well enough though and may be another to contest similar events here in the coming months.
LOCH OSCAIG ran creditably enough but a rise in the weights may have stopped him. He looked at peak fitness here, so this may be as good as he is. He moved up on the inside three out, but couldn’t go with Coach Lane.
BILLYANDI was made favourite, presumably on the strength of his trainer’s show on the first day, but was never a factor. A mark that sometimes horse can be favoured because of the trainer, but that ignores the form book facts.
MANHATTAN BOY has ability, but was very cussed on this occasion. Mounted on the track, he planted and needed extreme encouragement, his rider eventually bumping him a furlong or two with feet out of the irons. Somewhere along the line Manhattan Boy sustained a cut mouth. The injury was cleaned up at the start, but the fuss couldn’t have helped and he was behind early.
NORTHERN QUEST was another who wasn’t particularly co-operative. He went down early, the rider going a couple of furlongs with feet out of the irons. He was pulled up 2 out.
BEGGARS CAP was well fancied but very disappointing.

3.20 3m 0.5f Class 2 Novices’ Hurdle

According to Sam Morshead, this was highest rated hurdle ever to take place at Perth. It was certainly a decent event, a good second tier target for those just off the top of the staying novice ranks.

The pace was steady early and only picked up going on to the final circuit. The leader was local challenger SILVER BY NATURE. I had this one down as an interesting prospect when he won the bumper here last year. I’ve never quite fathomed him since then, but he was just a little bit out of his class and faded in the straight, being eased when beaten.
LODGE LANE battled well to hold the favourite TAZBAR in a tight finish. Neither lost anything in a fine race and both look useful prospects for the future.
VIKING REBEL matched the front two until the last and then gave way.
Significantly, PRIDE OF DULCOTE goes into next season still a novice hurdler. Given that he was so close to three useful previous winners, he looks a shoo-in in a bog standard staying novice event. Only a 5yo too, so there would seem much to come from this gelding.
OH PICKLES found the company too tough, being the first to drop out of contention.

3,55 3m Class 2 Handicap Chase

A cracker of a staying handicap chase, quite possibly the strongest ever to be staged at Perth. Last year’s renewal was won by Dream Alliance who went on to finish second in the Hennessy at Newbury.

This race was one in gritty style by ERIC’S CHARM. Having taken the lead four out he looked likely to be settling for a place in the straight, but battled back most tenaciously after the last to head the leader almost on the line.
The 11 year old BROOKLYN BREEZE looked sure to take this prize when leading 2 out. He hadn’t won for a couple of years, but ran a cracker here, and the suggestion is there’s still a handicap chase in him.
BROOKLYN BROWNIE ran a fine race in third, the first two getting away on the flat. He raced prominently in a race which was run at a decent pace, so I suspect this was a significant performance. He may just be slightly better at a shorter distance.
ST MATTHEW ran well enough without threatening to win. This effort suggests possibilities in less competitive events.
KENZO III was up with the pace from the start and probably paid for that a bit. He weakened in the straight to finish fifth. UNDENIABLE ran a fair race in sixth have been in contention down the back straight on the last circuit. Another who probably found the race a tad too competitive.
BLUE SPLASH made a bad error at the eighth and his rider was unable to recover, so pulled up. Unfortunately his record is littered with errors, though he has won a couple of chases.
STANDIN OBLIGATION ran no sort of race. I have seen it suggested he didn’t like the right handed track, but since he got three vigorous slaps before the first bend had been reached, I’m not sure that was the case. For whatever reason, he wasn’t interested. Much the same could be said for PETITJEAN who hit a couple early and never looked interested.

4.30 3m 7f Hunters’ Chase

The only slight doubt in this contest was whether NATIAIN would stay the extended trip. In the event he had no problem whatsoever, and judging by his comparatively relaxed state in the unsaddling area he could probably have gone round again. His jumping was immaculate and he was basically hunted round, with a gear or two to spare. The second moved up briefly at the 20th fence, but Natiain just upped the pace enough to go clear.
HARLOV ran an honest race in second. Compared to the winner he could have blown a house down afterwards, but then since he would have been receiving two stone plus in a handicap it was understandable. Harlov is a fine stayer at his level, but found the winner way too good.
Vicky Simpson nursed JACKSONVILLE round once he lost touch with the leaders, making sure of third place.
BE UPSTANDING was still up with Natiain when taking a nasty fall 5 out. Fortunately both horse and rider were up quickly, and apparently noe the worse.
KAUSSE DE THAIX and TYNEDALE both jettisond their riders early on, with LOST PROPERTY and UNCLE NEIL not remotely fast enough at this level.

5.50 2m 4.5f Handicap Hurdle

A competitive handicap hurdle to finish the card. The start was held up by the antics of WISE CHOICE. Having jettisoned Dougie Costello, he set off on two circuits of the track the wrong way, and was having none of it when various people encouraged him to stop. He eventually got tired and stopped to walk when his jockey retrieved him, Wise choice having been withdrawn in the meantime. It occurred to me that since he is trained at Glenfarg, if he’d run in a straight line he would have been halfway home!

Anyway back to the race which was won nicely by DE BLANC. He took the race by the scruff of the neck early in the straight, and though the others closed he had a bit to spare at the finish. He has been running creditably this season and recorded a first win for two years. He’s won over hurdles and fences so there’s scope for placing him.
PACHA D’OUDAIRIES was held up, and stayed on for second. He was unlucky on his previous run, and given the run of the race might be expected to record another win soon.
LEGALLY FAST ran a decent race from up with the pace, leading into the straight but one paced once passed. I noted that he was the only blinkered runner on the entire card, which must be unusual for a jumps card with 73 declared.
BOLLIN RUTH kept on for fourth, finding this event a bit tougher than the mares’ only race at Ayr. KEY PHIL has been alternating between hurdling and chasing, running up with the pace for a long way but fading into fifth.
TAMIMI’S HISTORY struggled on a first venture into ‘senior’ handicapping company. He has ability though, and given a race or two it’s likely he will adjust and win a handicap hurdle.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Perth Festival 2008 - Day One

PERTH – Wednesday April 23 2008
Going – Good

Damp weather but it made no difference to the going which was just right for the first day of the Perth Festival. The meeting plays host to trainers from far and wide, and it was the Cheltenham stable of Nigel Twiston-Davies that stole the day, recording a four-timer.

2.10 2m 4.5f Maiden Hurdle

A low key start to the meeting, with a maiden full of one paced and slow types.

Irish-trained CARRICK DHU made the running here, but his jumping was not that special. However he was still in front when running out at the third last and dumping his rider. He’s had plenty of chances and this run suggests there will always be reasons to oppose this one.
SOLWAY BEE has lacked a bit of pace at the business end, though putting up some fair performances in novice company. She forged clear in the straight to win with a fair bit in hand. Presumably her future now lies in handicap company where she has acquitted herself well previously.
THUNDERWING , although not sticking with the winner, did stay on for second. His efforts over 2 miles suggested a lack of finishing pace so presumably he will be campaigned at tis distance or further now.
GENERAL LEDGER had a chance entering the straight but was then left behind. His form suggests real test of stamina may be needed. He’s a winner of a bumper at Hexham and I wonder if a return to Hexham for a 3 miler may help.
CULCAVY was left behind from 3 out having raced prominently. His record to date does not pick him out as a potential winner.

2.45 3m 0.5f Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

A competitive novices’ handicap hurdle with a quite a few coming into it with promising recent form.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ THE GREAT ALFIE was restrained at the back for much of the trip, brought through steadily from 3 out and led on the flat to win well. This was only his fourth race over hurdles so, given that the step up in trip clearly suited, it’s likely that his trainer can secure a win or two more.
MY ARCH has performed well this season in novice events in Scotland and the north. He didn’t do much wrong here, being produced to challenge in the straight but just found out by a better handicapped winner. He should continue to perform well in handicaps and I would be interested if he goes chasing.
ANDYTOWN had every chance, and lost momentum after hitting 2 out probably cost that chance. He quite lightly raced, clearly has ability and I suspect will improve on this.
HEEZ A STEEL has run some decent races, but is collecting a long list of places.
PARADISE BAY might be worth watching for in a lower class event since he ran a decent race in fifth. He made some progress down the back, but couldn’t sustain the run in the straight. He’s on a mark of 94 which gives Gordon Elliott a chance to drop him in class.
STRAVAIGIN ran well enough in sixth, but found this company tougher than previous races. As has been the case in her previous races she came off the bridle some way out, but this time couldn’t battle her way back into contention.
VON GALEN had decent form going into this but was struggling from the start and pulled up after a circuit.

3.20 3m Novices’ Chase

A competitive stayers’ novice event for decent prize money.

The pace was steady for the first two miles.

ALLBORN LAD set the pace with Sharp Reply, but he’s not as good as these and struggled once the tempo increased. His sights need to be lowered.
I liked the look of NUDGE AND NURDLE as a chase when he won at Kelso earlier in the season. He was held up here, and made a couple of early mistakes, but moved into contention between the last two fences. He led on the flat and just held the late rush of the runner-up.
FLEET STREET finished with a flourish, just too late to get his head in front. This was his first try at the distance, and the suggestion is that he stayed very well, though remember that the pace was steady.
THE WHISPERER was outpaced on the flat, having led over the last two. Past from suggests he’s a real stayer, and a faster pace or stiffer test would be helpful.
LOVE THAT BENNY disappointed last time, but on ground that suits him ran well here. He’s one to watch out for in the next few weeks when the ground is on the fast side.
SHARP REPLY helped set the pace but ran out of petrol between the last 2.
FLYING FALCON has been in good form but his jumping let him down here.

3.55 2m 1/2f 0-125 Handicap Hurdle

I marked LITTLE BOB down as a future winner last spring. It took him a little time to notch a win, but this was his second success and he now moving in the right direction. He led on the flat, Paddy Brennan riding another ‘hold up’ race as he recorded his third success of the afternoon. I think Little Bob can win again soon.
SUMMER SOUL is a lightly raced import from Ireland. Coming off a break, he was up with the front-runners down the back straight and kept on well after the turn for home. A very promising run and looks a ready made winner for Lucinda Russell.
LONGDALE is a well exposed sort who ran up to his form in third, as did STAINLEY in fourth.
AMAZING KING was given every chance but couldn’t quicken between the last two.
ORANG OUTAN won last time out after a break, but this may have come to soon and he was pulled up. Bear in mind also that he was up in grade and running on faster ground, so it may be the run can be forgiven.

4.30 2m 4.5f 0-125 Handicap Chase

NIRVANA SWING had decent form coming into this race, two wins followed by a UR when in contention. He kept his good run going, racing prominently and showing plenty of determination on the flat.
GREAT JANE showed some promise last year, but then hit a flat spot. She was another who raced prominently and kept on well, finishing well clear of the rest. A good run in what looked a competitive event, and form which suggests another win won’t be far away.
CATEGORICAL won a claimer at Musselburgh in February over this distance. He didn’t threaten the leaders but stayed on for third. I get the impression that he is handicapped to the hilt over fences.
CLASSIC CAPERS has been dotted about between staying events and these middle distance chases. To his credit he acquits himself well enough whatever the distance, though is another who seems handicapped right to his ability.
DO L’ENFANT D’EAU is another who has been swapped between distances. In general he has been campaigned at this level though he ran well enough here, if lacking the pace of the placed horses, and the suggestion is a drop in class would give him a chance of his mark of 99.
GOLD HEART was not far away for much of the trip, but didn’t have enough at the end. He’s shown a hint of ability since moving from France, but yet to threaten a victory.
SEEYAAJ got into contention three out but fell away. He is running quite well but off a mark 9lbs higher than his last chase win. He is 8lbs lower over hurdles, and was a creditable second to Palomar on his last outing, so I suspect Lucinda Russell might try to exploit this.

5.05 3m 0-100 Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle

Another Twiston-Davies winner in MAJOR MALARKEY, and another winner held up. He made a couple of hurdling mistakes out the back, but this didn’t inconvenience him and, coming thorough to lead at the last, stayed on nicely. This win takes him out of 0-100 class in the future, but he did win a 0-115 at Ludlow, so there’s hope of another victory.
LILY TARA never quite got near enough to threaten a win, but ran on well for second. She went up 14lbs for her last win, but still seems to be competitive.
COLDWELLS was up with the pace for much of the way, but couldn’t match the first two once they went past in the straight. He’s yet to win, but he ran well enough to suggest a minor staying hurdle might be within his compass.
LADY ROANIA plugged on for fourth. She’s 7lbs higher than her win at Ludlow in the autumn and would probably need to drop a few pounds.
SELECTION BOX looked threatening, but then whacked the second last which ended his chances. Invariably his Irish outings are in huge fields, so it might be that another trip to the Scotland may provide his best opportunity. Without the poor jump he may well have finished first three.
I’M YOUR MAN Stayed on in sixth. He won three times last summer, and has dropped below his last winning mark so is possibly one to note when the sun shines.
OLIVERJOHN and ASTON both seem out of sorts at the moment. The latter has looked unwilling at times in the past.

5.40 2m 4.5f Maiden Hurdle

Making his hurdling debut ANDREW NICK showed determination to see off Tuskar Rock and Diamond Frontier on the flat. I’m not sure this was a very strong race, but Andrew Nick showed enough promise to suggest he will progress.
TUSKAR ROCK doesn’t seem to have a change of pace, but his attitude seems good. He looked the winner after the last, but was headed in the last 100 yards.
DIAMOND FRONTIER performed to more or less the same level of his previous runs. He is competitive in these events and should pick up a maiden or novice eventually.
POLITICAL PADDY ran on, having been outpaced 3 out. His form suggests a stiffer test is required.
PRINCE DU BEURY looked strongest on form, but was disappointing having had every chance.
There didn’t seem an awful lot of promise from the remainder.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Scottish Grand National Meeting

AYR – Friday 18th and Saturday 19th April 2008

Going: Friday – Good To Soft, Saturday – Good

The ground dried out very quickly over a few days, having originally been reported as heavy a day or two before the meeting.

The heroine of the meeting was LA VECCHIA SCUOLA. This versatile filly, a winner over 5 furlongs last June and a creditable fifth in a 3 mile Grade 1 novices’ hurdle at Aintree, won on both days of this meeting. On Friday, having been under pressure from a long way out, she came with a burst of speed to snatch the 2 mile mares’ handicap hurdle right on the line, just nicking it from BOLLIN RUTH, the latter having shown determination to hold off the others. La Vecchia Scuola came out in the opening novice event the next day and won with any amount in hand. Jim Goldie intimated that the tough filly may go for an event at Punchestown this week.

KERRY LADS was retired after the claiming chase on Friday. He’s been a good servant to the Russell stable for a number of years, but on this occasion couldn’t muster the pace to match AUNTIE KATHLEEN. Difficult to know quite what to make of the form, since the winner appeared to make significant improvement. The third GEEVEEM never seemed to be travelling that well and lost touch with the first two in the latter stages. CASH BONANZA disputed for a long way, but on handicaps marks he had a tough task and couldn’t stay with the principals in the straight.

REAP THE REWARD came from a long lay-off to take Friday’s 2m 5f novices’ handicap chase on his chasing debut. He ran on well for a comfortable win and he’s low enough in the handicap for the mark to be exploited in the next few weeks. One or two in the race jumped stickily, but Reap The Reward did the job nicely. The Robson stable followed up on Saturday when OVERSERVED won a handicap hurdle.

QUWS LAW won the 3 mile handicap hurdle on Friday. Having struggled in the sticky ground previously this one was suited by the drier conditions and won the race nicely. He has a sound record at the track to date. RATHOWEN came rattling home from the back to snatch second.

Apparently well considered NOLAND was put in his place in the Future Champions Novices’ Chase on Saturday. He was put in his place by STARZAAN who had too much pace on the flat. Noland has perhaps been hyped a little though, and strictly on the handicap figures the result was right to the length. FRANKIE FIGG was beaten but not disgraced here, leading to 2 out and then giving way, finding the opposition just a bit too strong.

The Scottish Champion Hurdle (a 0-160 Handicap) looked a very decent event. BORDER CASTLE found extra on the flat to hold TAKEROC, and in third the novice KALAHARI KING put up a cracking performance. FRENCH SAULAIE also performed creditably in finishing fourth. BYWELL BEAU made the pace, as is his way, and kept on when headed but could only finish sixth. He’s a bit between two stools at moment, since he’s erratic at chasing and high in the weights in handicap hurdles. LOUGH DERG, presumably trying for Order Of Merit points, found things happening much too quickly for him at two miles on this ground.

The Scottish National was won in impressive style by 66/1 outsider IRIS DE BALME. I would love to say I had been on the horse at those odds, but I only profited by virtue of drawing him in the office sweep! Clearly suited by the extreme distance and the decent ground, he whizzed away from the very decent Halcon Genelardais over the last two. Iris De Balme now goes for the Gold Cup at Sandown next week, though I feel he’ll find that a lot tougher, since it’s a different track and likely to be a classier event overall. HALCON GENELARDAIS lost nothing in defeat, since the rest were held. FLINTOFF finished well to take third and on this evidence may be a force in staying chases next season. OLD BENNY ran well enough in fourth if never quite getting to grips at the sharp end, and PHILSON RUN added another decent performance to his record in fifth. STRONG RESOLVE ran well for a long way, but faded from a mile out and finds this class tough these days. ANOTHER RUM trundled round at the back without getting to the leaders. NOIR ET VERT threatened briefly on the last circuit but fell away after a mistake at the twentieth fence.

MARCEL seems at his best in small fields. He beat 6 opponents over 2 miles here and performed similarly in a small field at Kelso the run before last. He found a more competitive event at Aintree too much to cope with. JEFERTITI has been in good form, but this class was too much for him and he was beaten by 40-odd lengths. However, I would imagine he’ll be in and pitching at Perth or possibly Kelso in the near future.

Ecclefechan trained MERIGO was an impressive winner of the 3m 1f Novices’ Hacp Chase (0-132), racing up with the pace and staying on well at the finish. He’s likely to stay further and is one to keep on the list for staying chases in Scotland and the north. BALLABRIGGS finished second, and I get the impression a bit more give would suit better, but this was a creditable run. I liked this one when I first same him, and I would expect the McCain stable to find a chase or two for him next season. James Ewart’s RAINING HORSE was going well when falling 5 out.

The National Hunt Flat looked a competitive event with a few piinters to the future. Kelso debut winner KNOCKARA BEAU confirmed that form with a solid second behind Paul Nicholls’ CONFLICTOFINTEREST. I’ll be looking forward to seeing KNOCKARA BEAU in Scottish novice hurdles next season. Lucinda Russell’s BRACKEN LAD ran well enough in sixth palce to give encouragement for the future.

Focus in Scotland now turns to the Perth Festival which commences on Wednesday 23rd April. The strength of entries suggests some competitive racing on ground which is likely to be good.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Kelso - Sunday April 13 2008

Going – Heavy

After heavy rain in the Borders over the past few days the meeting survived an inspection. Better than the previous week when my wife and I drove through the snow toward Hexham, only to hear at 1p.m. that the meeting was off.

One fence and hurdle down the back straight were missed out due to the bad ground.

2.20 2m 0.5f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

CASH MAN raced prominently all the way. He was headed at the last but fought back tenaciously on the long run-in and certainly doesn’t lack determination. The time was decent compared with others on the card, even allowing for racing on the freshest ground.
NAXOX moved up after 3 out, and came to win the race at the last, but couldn’t muster quite the pace of the winner. He stuck on well enough and didn’t lose much in defeat, finishing. He handles better going so is worth watching out for in the next few weeks.
SILVER BY NATURE has ability but is difficult to ‘tie down’. Having been prominent early he seemed to be going nowhere 3 out, only to stay on again to take third. I suspect he is favoured by better ground, and since Perth is his local a visit or two to that course over the coming months may confirm this.
JENTRIS GIRL stayed on for fourth just behind Silver By Nature. This was a fair debut over hurdles. PROSECCO raced prominently for a long way then faded from 2 out, but was not disgraced. The remainder were well held.
PEREZ, with no form to speak of previously, pulled to the front and led to the third before disappearing without trace. The likes of BRIARHILL LAD, JANAL and FIRST FOOTPRINT were in the rear early and never competitive.

3.00 3m 1f Novices’ Chase

Not a bad event even though only four turned out.

GYSPY GEORGE led early, jumped well, and saw off Ma Yahab and Truckers Lady in the straight. The two beaten horses are decent markers, and the winner’s form suggests he should be first on the list whenever the ground comes up testing.
MA YAHAB came off a decent performance in handicap company at Cheltenham. He tried hard enough after the last put was just held. Could be interesting back in less classy handicap company than he found at Cheltenham.
TRUCKERS LADY is still a maiden but has run some decent races. She was found out by two better horses in the straight. Her handicap mark of 109 may be helpful.
LOVE THAT BENNY was not out of it when whacking 2 out, a mistake which knocked the stuffing out of him. He was coming off a break here so performed adequately given that he’s probably better suited by good ground or faster. He will presumably be aimed at spring time Perth and Kelso contests on better ground.

3.30 2m 2f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

Officially a 0-130 but top weight was on 120. The pace was steady until 3 out.

Tight between four two out with consistent performer JOHN FORBES gaining the upper hand from the last.
TARTAN SNOW took a heavy fall at the last when looking tired. It looked bad but he got up OK. He had gone well enough, and performed creditably to remain in contention after a bad mistake at the hurdle down the far side.
HUSH TIGER and FRONT RANK, both having every chance two out, faded out of contention. HUSH TIGER in particular can find an easier opportunity.
TRAGIC OHIO, coming from a long lay-off, had his rider stoking the coal facing two out, but stuck on well on the flat. The performance offers encouragement, and it’s worth noting that though a winner on heavy his bumper form proves he can handle better ground.
KARATHAENA stayed on for third. She may win in her turn but is well exposed.
SOUBRIQUET was left behind once the pace increased. His current mark looks a tough one.

4.00 3m 1f 0-132 Handicap Chase

Slightly less than the 0-145 billing, but nevertheless a decent handicap chase for Kelso.

A gem of a ride by Timmy Murphy. Holding up top-weight STANDIN OBLIGATION at the back, Murphy brought his mount through to lead on the flat and win with a degree of comfort. He’s been lightly raced this season, handles fast ground and could be interesting if aimed at the better handicap chases this spring.
GETINBYBUTONLYJUST was prominent on the final circuit and did nothing wrong. Headed on the flat, he had seen off the remainder comfortably but was well outpointed by the winner. He’s on a low mark, and if he remains at 110 or less would squeak into the Highland National which would be a good deal easier than this race, though it may come a little too soon. If he turns out at Perth I’ll have a good look at him in the parade ring.
ANOTHER RUM was way out the back until the run-in as he arrived to snatch third. He stays 4m+, but doesn’t win very often.
CANADA STREET has run well in a number of similar events this season. He plugged on for fourth. He’s not been campaigned in the summer, so presumably will be put away until the autumn.
BANNISTER LANE and GIDAM GIDAM were prominent early at a decent pace but faded in the tough conditions. STRONG RESOLVE and THE OUTLIER were also up there early and then found things hard work on the final circuit. CHABRIMAL MINSTER made some progress on the final circuit and had a chance 4 out but then faded.
ROSS COMM never showed, JONNY’S KICK was shoved along vainly going on to the final circuit , and CRACKADEE ran no sort of race in the conditions, pulling up before the eleventh.

4.30 3m 1f Hunters’ Chase

This race was turned into a procession by the Borders area’s favourite hunter chaser NATIAIN. Blazing the trail in his familiar style, he jumped immaculately and had all his opponents bar one on the stretch for most of the way. He couldn’t cope with the better opposition at Cheltenham, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to hold him at Kelso. The Bajan Bandit was a non-runner here, but I’m not sure even that capable performer would have held him.
LORD WHO was waited with off the pace, moved up well on the final circuit but was well outpointed at the sharp end. He ran creditably in the Perth long distance hunter event last season, and would be interesting if aimed at that race again since he wasn’t pushed too much once beaten.
ANSHAN SPIRIT paid the penalty for racing up with the winner for a circuit and fell away, finishing a tired third. Probably best on decent ground, there was enough promise here to suggest a minor hunter chase should come his way soon.
The remaining five weren’t remotely good enough and were strung out around Kelso.

5.00 2m 6.5f Novices’ Hurdle

The decent gallop here saw off the slowcoaches.

SUPREME BUILDER will be presumably be aimed at a chasing career. He was all out to beat an apparent lesser performer here, but he stays well and is determined enough.
POLITICAL PADDY was only just pipped and is clearly suited by a stamina test. On this evidence should pick up a staying novice event. I would imagine a 3 miler round Hexham would be up this one’s street.
AUTOGRAPH, back to hurdles after a spell chasing, led to three out but couldn’t offer enough from the last. She gives her trainer options over hurdles and fences.
EGERMYSTER’s fourth place may be of interest since he was making a rules debut. Took over three out and then was one paced once headed at the last, but the fact that she got seriously competitive offers much encouragement.
The rest led by MONEYLAWS were beaten a long way, and OF COURSE may have had a problem since he went out like a light after 3 out.

Currently a favourite mare of mine and of my work colleagues, STRAVAIGIN did us proud again at Carlisle last week, just being pipped on the line by Wise Choice. Keep an eye out for her on good ground.

Can't make the meeting, but will post a Scottish National meeting report at the end of the week. It's then on to the Perth Festival, April 23rd to 25th, before starting my Scottish Flat season with Hamilton on May 9th.