MUSSELBURGH – Monday 8th December
Going – Good to Firm (Good in places)
Kelso didn’t survive the frost on Sunday, but Musselburgh’s position on the coast and in the driest part of the UK means it is more likely to survive harsh weather than most. Racegoers were met by a chill day with some watery sunshine. Unless we hit a sudden severe wet spell it would surprise me if there isn’t a mention of Good in the going description here for the rest of the season. As previous though, the stands’ bend did seem to cut up a bit more than the rest of the course. The rail here is being moved from meeting to meeting to save the ground.
Horses were funnelled on to the steeplechase side of the course at the finish, the part nearest the stands being saved for the humans in the New Year Sprint.
A moderate card, with even the apparently competitive handicap hurdle becoming a procession. However, there are normally some future pointers here, particularly with seven further meetings to come at the track this season.
12.20 2m Class 5 Maiden Hurdle
The maiden hurdle divided, giving racegoers one more race for their money. Heat one was run at a steady pace until the straight when the less able were left behind and the runners ended up strung out.
CARAVEL disappointed in more testing conditions at Aintree. However he had plenty ability demonstrated by a succession of Flat wins for Sir Mark Prescott, and found the better going to his liking here. He jumped fluently and saw off a more experienced hurdler in the latter stages. He did the job well and should turn into a decent handicap hurdler in time. Chances are he will pick up a novice event in the meantime, and given that he needs the better ground a return to Musselburgh is likely.
DIVERS represented the established hurdles form with honour. He wasn’t quite as quick as the winner at the death, but his winning turn seems merely delayed. He was another who seemed to benefit from the better ground.
ALBERTS STORY was out-pointed by the first two from before the last, but is moving in the right direction as a hurdler. He steered clear of soft ground in the main on the flat, so it seems likely he will be kept to this sort of ground over hurdles.
GRAND DIAMOND had every chance 3 out before giving way. Not a bad debut and seemed to last the two miles.
MARCH MATE was held up early and made late progress through the field though was reported as hanging left up the straight. Not disgraced in three attempts over hurdles which qualifies him for handicaps which will give him more chance than level weights contests.
SHOPFRONTSPECIALST looked to need the race and made a little progress late on. He showed a glimmer of ability in Ireland, and is another who might benefit from being handicapped.
OZONE TRUSTEE is a strong sort who won an uncompetitive maiden at Hamilton for Alan Swinbank. Looked well enough here and got into contention three out before fading. May need time over hurdles and I wouldn’t give up hope yet.
ELLA WOODCOCK had every chance and was a little disappointing on hurdle debut.
Irish raider HI BIG SPEC looked fit and ready but his first hurdle in public proved his downfall.
12.50 3m 0-105 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase
KALMO BAY had not shown much this season, but he returned to the scene of his February triumph. As on that run he was held up and brought smoothly through to challenge at the last. He went away with a minimum of fuss and does seem nicely suited by a quiet ride round here, and proved that three miles holds no terrors under the right conditions.
DIVEX has blotted his copybook more than once with dodgy jumping. However, he got his act together here, leading 2 out before being headed at the last. He kept on and has chances at this level given a clear round.
STRAVAIGIN looks on her mark now. She settled and jumped well, but found the leaders going away from her from 3 out, though stayed on again to grab third. It’s a pity there aren’t longer races round here since a longer trip might suit her. The only other option for a longer trip on a similar course might be the Highland National but that would be a big step up.
LEOPOLD never got much closer than his finishing fourth. His recent form has been at Fakenham which is a specialists’ track.
GENRAL LEDGER made a creditable fencing debut. Up with the pace all the way he started to feel the pinch in the straight. He thumped the last, probably doing well to stay upright, and faded on the run-in.
STONERIGGS MERC had conditions in his favour and ran well to four out, but he weakened from there. He’s not near his best, and has been busy recently, so I wonder if a rest might be of benefit.
ANOTHER CLUB ROYAL looked well enough after a lay-off but couldn’t respond to pressure down the back straight for the last time.
INNISFREE has shown ability in the past, particularly during a purple patch in 2007, but is a moody character and seems completely off his game at the moment. He never looked happy in the rear and pulled up before 4 out.
JUPSALA is a proven sluggard and has no chance in this company.
BEAU SADDLER has some ability, but was on bad terms with everything in the paddock. Perhaps he was objecting to a tongue-tie, bit with side-bars (full cheek snaffle?), visor and cross-noseband? He jettisoned his rider at the third and, unless Lucinda Russell can work the oracle, he’s one to steer clear of.
1.20 2m Class 5 Maiden Hurdle
Possibly the weaker of the two heats, though it’s likely the winner is the best performer to emerge from either.
RED MOLONEY looked to have this race at his mercy if reproducing anything near Listed race flat form. He travelled well, was matched for a while by Skylancer, but after two accidental bashes with that rival went away approaching the last to win comfortably. I’d expect him to step up a good deal on this form, but from a betting perspective he’s never likely to be particularly attractive as the stable’s runners are invariably under-priced.
KING IN WAITING never got to the winner but stayed on determinedly to take second on the run-in. On the face of it his jumping profile isn’t brilliant to date, but this run suggests he’s improving and should win a hurdle.
I must admit I didn’t expect to see flat sprinter GEOJIMALI staying on at the end of this event. However, he did all his best work from 2 out to take third. The ground here probably helped him see out the trip.
SKYLANCER probably paid the penalty for taking on the useful winner from two out and lost a couple of places on the run-in. It wouldn’t surprise me if he turns out a little better over hurdles than the two directly in front of him. Two clashes with the winner, firstly on landing over two out and then on the run to the last won’t have helped him. Given that he acted well on this surface it wouldn’t be a surprise if James Lambe brings him back to Musselburgh before long.
SIMONSIDE ran prominently for a long way but was gradually left behind in the straight. He’ll struggle in conditions races, but should have a chance in handicap company. He did pull and may need to learn to settle.
The remainder were seen off in the straight, including the not un-fancied ROOM AT THE TOP who was reported as unsuited by the fast going.
1.50 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle
This looked a competitive event with some fair jumping and bumper form on offer.
LUNA LANDING ran into a few decent types last season, having contested the maiden here on debut last season. The step up in trip here did no harm whatsoever as he galloped away from the field over the last three flights. He looks the type to go on from here, but a note of caution is that he returned with an over-reach on his near fore so may need a little recovery time
It was a close scrap for the minor placings with the Wylie/Johnson contender NIGHT FORCE staying on for second if not threatening the winner. He looks destined for handicaps.
INNER VOICE forced his way between third and fourth on the run-in. This was a sound effort under a double penalty and I reckon he’ll improve for a step up in trip.
JANE OF ARC ran a good race to back up her promising effort at the last meeting. She was right up there from the start, not finding enough in the run for the line but not giving in easily. She would be a nice prospect if aimed at a mares’ only event.
PAKINEO DES PICTONS was put in the race from 4 out, but once again didn’t find a lot in the latter stages.
I noted SCALE BANK has large hooves that might be better for ploughing through the mud. He did run well in soft at Southwell in a bumper, and this run was a little better than his hurdling debut.
CASTLETOWN BOY seems better off in handicaps but was still a little disappointing, and HUMOUROUS found this a lot tougher than the soft staying event he won at Perth in July.
NUMERO DUE pulled up with a broken leg and was put down.
2.20 2m 4f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle
What seemed a competitive handicap hurdle was turned into a one horse race by VIPER who set off in front and nothing ever got near him. He looked to be going a bit quick over the first three, bur David Dennis steadied him on the bend and got him into a rhythm. He was 30 lengths clear with 3 to go and wasn’t stopping down the straight, being eased to a walk yet still winning by 10 lengths. He will go up a large amount for this, assuming the handicapper takes into account his ease of victory and mid-130s is the minimum he might be expected to be on once re-assessed. What his trainer does with him now is anyone’s guess, but given the right circumstances he is clearly very useful over hurdles.
David Dennis completed the set of jump courses in Britain and now has only three tracks left to ride a winner at each. He commented that Viper is a relentless galloper who was suited by the course and going here.
KYBER ran a creditable race in second. He effectively won his own race, seeing off the rest with a fair bit to spare. He was always near the head of the chasers, but presumably his rider expected the winner to come back to him as did most onlookers. He got busy over the last three and Kyber pulled well clear of the remainder. He will presumably go up a few pounds but seems in good nick and should make a mark in similar events.
DORIS’S GIFT ran a fair race in third but couldn’t go with Kyber in the straight. This was a sound effort after a break.
TEXAS HOLDEM was never closer than his finishing fourth place. This was a great improvement on his Kelso effort, proves his ability hasn’t deserted him and offers some hope for the future.
SPEED UP weakened in the straight having been up with the chasers.
MOTIVE raced at the head of the chasing group to the eighth but folded quickly and ended up remote. The effort suggests a drop back to two miles might help, though he was struggling before that point here.
TIGER KING had bandages all round and was never competitive. He’s struggling at the moment.
REGENT’S SECRET, normally foot sure, unseated at the second.
BACKBEAT sadly broke a leg on the bend after the third and was put down. As he fell he hampered TENSION POINT who unseated.
2.50 2m 4f 0-100 Handicap Chase
Some moderate jumping from this bunch.
FESTIVAL KING was raced prominently and it seems to suit him more than the hold up tactics sometimes adopted. It’s notable that he was raced up with the pace when second at Kelso two runs ago. This is probably a minimum trip for him and he stayed on from the last after his main rival hit the fence hard. It has taken time for the penny to drop, but he’s getting competitive now, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he scores again.
CYBORA challenged in the straight and had every chance approaching the last. He gave the fence a right clout, took a few strides to recover and his chance had gone. A sound effort under his penalty.
ZA BEAU ran well to a point but found it too much to go with the leaders over the last three. He seems to have reached the limit of his ability. His best chance may be to wait for a soft event next spring or summer.
BENMADIGAN lost touch with the leaders after the twelfth, but plugged on again in the straight. This wasn’t a bad chasing introduction and the chances are he’ll learn from it.
SILVER STEEL led for a way but struggled once turned for home. He hit a couple of fences and has a bit to learn.
SMART MAN, who was bandaged in front here, won a Newcastle event big on numbers but low on quality and was found out in this better event. He lost touch after the twelfth.
LERIDA was another who recorded a win in a pretty naff event. He was found out for the second time since that run here.
SHAVHALE wore blinkers for the first time but still performed dismally and has shown evidence of any serious ability so far.
AMOUR DARIA, a winning pointer, was much too low at the fourth and shot Gary Berridge out the front door.
GIANT STAR fell at the ninth before the race had begun in earnest.
3.20 2m NH Flat
This didn’t look a strong contest and most will fail to make a mark under Rules.
HILLVIEW BOY built on a promising debut at Ayr, overcoming the second in a duel from the two furlong pole.
SAVEIRO unloaded his rider quickly on debut but, maintaining the partnership here had every chance 2 out and kept on once held.
VINCENT PIPE stayed on in the latter stages. This run seemed a little better than his previous effort here and he is clearly learning. The chances are he’ll improve for being upped in trip once he goes jumping.
LUNAR STORM is bred to be a decent flat middle-distance performer, but his presence here suggests either problems or that breeding doesn’t always work out that way. He couldn’t go the pace in the latter stages and the jury is still out.
NEW SHUIL is a nice sort and showed a little on his NH debut having been well held in Irish points. He was a bit spooky in the paddock, and might learn from this experience.
I was very taken by BROMLEY BAY in the paddock and he looks a strong jumping sort. Having made the pace to three out he then faded but I wouldn’t give up on him just yet. His trainer doesn’t have many runners under Rules and I wonder if he might be one who will go pointing eventually.
RUSHWEE was made favourite but ran a poor race and no explanation could be offered.