MUSSELBURGH – Friday 28th November
Going – Good to Firm (Good in places)
Musselburgh began its jump racing for 2008/09 on a bright but chilly late November afternoon. This is the driest area of the UK, Dunbar just down the coast is apparently the direst town in the country, and the going here is often a few degrees faster than for other courses. I’m quite happy to put a line through the soft and heavy ground form recorded elsewhere. Being next to the Firth of Forth the course escapes the ravages of all but the hardest frosts. It was pretty chilly towards the end though, presaging an overnight frost, the effects of which have claimed Newcastle’s meeting as I type this.
The stands’ bend chopped up last season and, despite the ground description, was cutting up again. The management will have to move the rails about to keep the bend in racing nick.
I’ll take this chance to blow the trumpet for Musselburgh. It cost me £13 to get in, saving two pounds booking in advance and the race programme is free with admission. The refreshments here are very reasonably priced, £5.50 for a main course in Pinkies Servery, and none of the snack meal constituents are more than £2. The scotch pie is a delicious example of the local delicacy and costs only £1. There’s the Rosebery Hall Café in the Links pavilion where I purchased a delicious blueberry muffin and a cup of filter coffee for £1 each. Good news for local jumps fans is that the 2009 Fixture List boasts 10 meetings, an increase on the 8 in 2008.
A pretty average days racing but there might be one or two pointers that are useful for the coming meetings at the course.
12. 10 3m ½ f 0-90 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
A very moderate event to commence the Musselburgh jumping season with only two previous winners in the field. I was rather amused at the paddock when the man next to me suggested, “They don’t look very fired up do they?”
Tim Vaughan spotted a real opportunity here for LITTLE SHILLING, even under 14lbs of penalties. The trip from South Wales was rewarded very comfortably, Little Shilling cruising through the field in the latter stages and coming clear with the minimum of effort and being eased considerably close home. He’ll presumably get a rating of 100 or more now, so a rise in class will be forced. However, he’s in such good heart that another win would not be a surprise.
I felt HOOKY’S HOPE showed some signs of ability last year, and while she isn’t very quick, she does appear to be going the right way. Popping out of the pack two out she stayed on for second. She may have to be aimed very low, but does at least show enough ability and willing to suggest a small event might fall her way.
BAYFIRTH has put in some moderate efforts before this and his presence in third tells us a lot about the lack of quality here. He can presumably be a handful since he had two handlers in the paddock, but he stayed on late which does at least demonstrate he’s going the right way.
MONTCHARA raced up with pace but faded in the straight. It’s questionable if he achieved much in finishing 20 lengths fourth,
GLEN ROUGH followed the pace, but couldn’t respond in the straight.
CINAMAN was cussed at the start, but went to the front once they set off. He was headed when he hit the eighth flight and then plugged on gradually losing touch with the leaders.
ROCKNEST ISLAND was in the rear form most of the way and picked her way through the field late on for seventh. She was a two-miler on the flat, and just stays.
The trainer of the second reported on the phone that “it was a very rough race”.
The commentator clearly has trouble counting since he kept informing us there were 14 flights to be jumped instead of 13, and throughout the afternoon he called the last in the back straight “the middle one down the back”.
12.40 2m Class 4 Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle
No strength in depth here, though the winner did the job nicely.
DON’T STOP ME NOW, wearing a cross noseband, sent to the front and had her field on the stretch by the fifth. The others came back to her on the last bend, but forged away once the runner-up laid down a challenge. The fact that she was aimed at a decent event at Wetherby first time suggests the stable rate her and another win is on the cards. She won over 1m 6f on the flat, so a step up in distance wouldn’t be an inconvenience.
Under favourable terms HOUSTON DYNIMO turned round the form with La Fortalesa and then some. He progressed to challenge before three but couldn’t wear down the winner. He’s progressing and won’t always find such a tough opponent.
The remainder were well seen off. Irish challenger CALL ME AL couldn’t respond from three out.
The Foster clan took a chance to make the short trip from Dalkeith for a day at the seaside. MERRION TIGER, who looked a decent sort to me, was the best performer keeping on into fourth. I wouldn’t be surprised if he steps up on this. Of his stable companions, KARGAN and BOURSE were always behind, and BRIGHT BOYS BRIDE is small and slow.
LA FORTALESA won at Newcastle and looked a good deal more mature than the others, but might find others improving past him. Having chased the leader he weakened in the straight.
1.10 2m 4f 0-105 Novices’ Handicap Chase
Many here were on their chasing debut, and there was a lot of iffy jumping on display. It turned out to be a battle of attrition, even on fast ground.
BOW SCHOOL, who came to racing from the pointing field, hit one early on but raced prominently. Taking the lead at the tenth of 16 fences he led down the straight then gave the last a fearful thump, being knocked sideways, but recovered to keep going on the run-in. His previous third to Tell Henry reads well so there may well be a bit more to come.
FINE PARCHMENT made a very satisfactory chasing debut, particularly given that he was coming off a lay-off of 182 days. He chased the leader from four out and couldn’t raise his game enough when the leader bungled the last. However, he was well clear of a previous winner and should pick up a similar event.
RUN TO SPACE probably found the quicker ground against him here and didn’t get to the leaders.
THE GINGER MAN completed at his own pace, inheriting fourth as opponents departed in the straight.
The non-finishers in race card order:
INDUSTRIAL STAR looked very fit, was in the rear and disposed of his rider at the fifth.
AJAY was never going and pulled up.
MICK FINAN looked held in fourth when falling 4 out.
SNOW’S RIDE had conditions right but didn’t enjoy this, was soon adrift and pulled up after the eighth. He’s shown plenty of ability over hurdles in the past but looks out of sorts at the moment.
HARCAS hit a few and the tenth finally knocked the stuffing out of him, he went little further before pulling up.
TEVIOT LASS was making a little progress when falling three out. She was in the process of running a respectable chase debut and is work keeping an eye on.
HO PANG YAU led for the first circuit, but folded quickly once headed at the tenth. He was adrift when falling three out.
BRONZE DANCER showed no more here than he did in three hurdles efforts, pulling up at the tenth having made mistakes.
JUPSALA is getting no nearer to winning at the age of 11 and pulled up.
1.45 2m 4f Class 5 Maiden Hurdle
An ordinary maiden with many who will struggle to make an impact over hurdles, and they looked a right bunch of ‘liquorice allsorts’ in the paddock.
James Reveley on Jane Of Arc seemed to mistake where the start was, heading off to the two mile start, only realising where the others were when he turned round to inspect what he perceived to be the ‘first hurdle’. That being said the filly was only gently cantering so wouldn’t have wasted much energy.
One who did stand out in the paddock here was DEE CEE BOLTER. He’s a nice strong jumping sort, and being a brother to Waking Ned I wouldn’t expect him to make an impact at this stage of his career. He ended in midfield, keeping on in the latter stages under gentle encouragement.
GLENCREE made in three on the day for Howard Johnson. He made a slightly disappointing debut at Wetherby, but saw off his only serious challenger on the flat here. A step up in trip beckons.
BROADWAY STAR didn’t do much wrong in second; he just didn’t have the speed of the winner after the last. The stable had a similar performer in Guns And Butter last season and found a race for that one.
LE VERT GALANT stepped up on hurdling debut form and the penny is beginning to drop. His bumper form suggests some basic speed, so there’s every chance he’ll pick up a hurdle in future. He stayed on, so this trip and more is in his favour.
JANE OF ARC wasn’t inconvenienced by here round about route to the start. She raced prominently and kept on well enough to finish fourth. There’s hope given time and experience.
DANZATRICE plugged on from the back to offer a little hope on hurdling debut. Her flat from was over extended distances on good or fast ground.
POSEIDON set the pace for a long way before being left behind from 3 out.
HURRICANE JACK made a little progress past tiring opponents late on.
OVERTHROW made little impact and can’t have been helped by a pair of boots that didn’t seem to fit properly.
2.20 2m 0-130 Handicap Hurdle
A decent field for the feature race of the afternoon.
It’s sad to report that MR JACK DANIELLS broke down badly on the flat first flight and had to be put down. The flight was missed out down the finishing straight as the vet attended the stricken gelding.
I rattle on about patterns of course winners, but totally missed AMAZING KING in a race with a few showing decent form. I saw him win here in February off 8lbs less, and he scooted clear after taking it up before the last. He will be penalised but might just be low enough to get into the handicap on the New Year sprint card here. His other target here might be the County Hurdle trial in February.
REGENT’S SECRET, as is his way, stayed on from the rear for second.
ECOLE D’ART made a satisfactory stable debut returning from a season away from hurdling. He led and was still 3 lengths to the good three out, but the effort told in the latter stages. Jimmy Lambe should be able to place him to advantage.
MANEKI NEKO was shunted up 4lbs for his second at Cheltenham and that may be enough to hold him at the moment.
CASTLETOWN BOY ran respectably after a lay-off, having been reported with a vertebra out of line after his Perth run in July. I suspect he will progress from this.
LOS NADIS may have reached an end stop as his jumping isn’t sharp enough for him to make further progress now he’s rated 128.
FARNE ISLAND was dropped right in at the deep end on handicap debut, being 9lbs out of the weights. He looked very well, but a drop in class is essential.
2.55 2m 0-120 Handicap Chase
BEGGARS CAP, a keen walker in the paddock, would appear to have appreciated the move to faster ground here. He was produced between the two leaders at the last, and saw them off with minimum fuss.
MOOR SPIRIT put up a creditable performance in second, staying on once headed. He’s versatile in distance which gives his trainer a few options.
DECEMBER SUN, rather fidgety in the paddock, set the pace until the last and found no more. He is suited by quicker ground and he’s more likely to get that this side of the Irish seas, particularly at Musselburgh.
ALL FOR THE CAUSE had every chance three out but was unable to raise his game.
ORANG OUTAN struggled in the straight. His winning from is on softer ground.
YANKEE HOLIDAY, though attended by two in the paddock, didn’t seem to have his usual fizz. He raced up with the pace, but jumped big and left and faded from the eighth fence. He probably needs a drop in class, but looks out of sorts at the moment.
NOTRE CYBORG, suited by the trip and conditions, was coming there with every when capsizing three out.
3.25 2m NH Flat
I take a close look at these bumper fields in the paddock but nothing really stood out. Southerness was probably best but his form tells us about him anyway.
MERIDIAN CITY built on a promising debut, leading 2 furlongs out and asserting in the final furlong. He won’t be a leading light in the stable, but has ability to take to a hurdling career.
NOW THIS IS IT had every chance from 3 furlongs out but was held in the run to the line. A good debut, and his Irish trainer took advantage of the fast ground and less competitive field than in his homeland.
SOUTHERNESS ran to the level of his previous efforts. He’s got the build of a jumper.
STORMIN EXIT had run a number of times in points before debuting in a bumper at Fairyhouse in March. He was last there but showed more here, setting a good pace to two out and not being left too far behind. He will improve with jumps in the way.
VINCENT PIPE has a decent looking pedigree but lost touch with the leaders in the straight. He may need a little time.
SHAMBOYANT looked very green in the paddock, taking in the surroundings. She didn’t show in the race, but was encouraged past one or two late on and does not look a total lost cause.