Tuesday, 16 December 2008

'Santa Sunday' at Musselburgh!

MUSSELBURGH – Sunday 14th December

Going – Good (Good to Soft in places)

Musselburgh avoided the bulk of the rain but what there was enough to ease the going a shade from good to firm. The ground certainly appeared to a bit loose on top. As documented here Musselburgh’s sandy soil allows the course to drain very well, so it seldom gets testing. Perhaps somebody might like to communicate this fact to Tom Segal of the Racing Post, who dismissed the meeting on the basis he thought the going would change significantly. Now this is only my hobby, but I’m pretty well versed on how different courses will take their rainfall and, if I hadn’t been living up here, I’d have checked the rainfall patterns. However it seems that such research and knowledge is beyond Mr Segal, which I consider a sad comment on someone who writes a tipping column in the sport’s only daily paper.

Back to the Sunday fare at Musselburgh. Not an outstanding days racing, but enough future pointers to make the notes worthwhile.

12.25 2m 4f 0-100 Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase

DIVEX ran a sound race here earlier in the week and, presented with a golden opportunity against some out of form opponents, obliged with victory, though he had to work for it. He’s probably better suited by this trip than Monday’s three miles and, with his jumping holding up again, held his challengers on the run-in.
With BALAKAR what you see is what you get, as he’s often there or thereabouts but doesn’t win all that much. He was placed in this race three years ago but in the main has been campaigned on the flat and over hurdles since. Having led three out he was headed after getting a bit too close to the last and couldn’t summon up enough to haul back the winner.
SNOWY offered encouragement on his return. He stayed on in the latter stages and there may be better to come, but he does have a tendency to throw in some sulky efforts and needs to be caught right on the day.
YANKEE HOLIDAY performed better than recently being at or near the front most of the way. He kept on having been driven before four out. I do think his ideal trip is two miles, although it needs to be round here for the better ground and in this class, and it depends on race planning.
HAPTHOR never got in a serious blow. He is a winning hurdler but has some work to do if he is to win over fences.
MR TWINS shows up occasionally but today wasn’t a going day.
KING’S ENVOY was 17lbs out of the handicap and wasn’t good enough. It’s not easy to get enthusiastic about one rated 57.
OCEAN DANCER managed his first completion for a while, leading for a way, but he’s getting on in years and looks a back number.
STORMY BEECH was soon out the back and showed no inclination to exert himself. He needs professional handling and a trip back to Sedgefield.

12.55 2m 4f Class 5 Maiden Hurdle

Some no-hopers in amongst this lot.

DIVERS stepped up on Monday’s creditable second. He probably caught a fair performer in Caravel on that occasion, and this time was more than good enough to see off this bunch. He stayed on well and a step up in trip would not be an inconvenience.
STARBOUGG stayed on late for second having been stretched 4 out. He picked up a fair bit of ground in the straight and is another likely to be suited by further.
PERCUTANT belied his 100/1 odds and kept on for third. His previous poor run may have reflected being brought down on his second last run, so he may go on from here.
SPELLCHECKER charged off in front pulling too hard for his own good. Passed before two out he dropped away. Unless he learns to settle he’ll need to be dropped back to two miles.
The favourite CHORD, who was best of the official ratings, could find nothing once turned for home. He seems to be regressing.
KING OF THE TITANS and ROMANCE DANCE both performed well in bumpers but are finding hurdling a different matter altogether and struggled in the last half-mile.

1.25 2m 4f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

There was a big spread of ability here but a few interesting pointers for the future amongst the leading group.

HERNANDO’S BOY picked up significantly on his first effort at Sedgefield. Disputing or leading all the way he jumped confidently and saw off the opposition up the straight. He should progress to win in novice company.
LABOREC was flat to the boards four out, but still challenged three out. He lost any chance he had with a less than fluent jump at the last, but comes out of the race with credit and looks a future winner particularly if upped in trip.
PAMAK D’AIRY as held up early but brought into the picture from four out. He couldn’t match the first two close home but this was a decent and assuming he remains on a mark of 112 he would be interesting in a novices’ handicap.
GUNS AND BUTTER showed much promise on his chasing debut. He going well enough at the twelfth but made a bad mistake which saw Rose Dobbin pitched up round his neck. Not rushed back to the pace after the error, he was briefly left flat footed around four out, but picked up nicely in the closing stages to finish fourth. He should have no trouble picking up a similar event.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY set the standard here but is becoming a little frustrating. The problem is that he’s running into one or two better animal in non-handicaps and has been close enough to acquire a rather harsh mark for handicaps.
MAT HILL Went well enough to four out but found the leaders too strong from there. He’s got plenty of placed form in Irish points, including a win on heavy ground so it’s safe to assume that he will be helped when stamina is at a premium.
ASTON LAD was always in the rear, and he struggled to get over the last three fences when his rider should probably have called it a day.
ANDIJAN was always out with the washing and hasn’t inspired over fences to date.
PENDLE FOREST was once again outclassed, but did at least manage a first completion over fences. She has no chance in this company and the only hope seems in the very lowest handicap company or back over hurdles.
SADLER’S COVE, a 10 year old on chasing debut, offered no encouragement and pulled up.
BEN TIRRAN was prominent early but found it two tough from a mile out and pulled up. Other than a glimmer on bumper debut he has shown very little evidence of being competitive.

1.55 2m 0-125 Handicap Hurdle

This looked a competitive event, but in the end JOE JO STAR comfortably ditched his maiden tag and seems to have thrived for a move to Richard Fahey’s stable, particularly given that he was held in a Ludlow seller last time out. His manner of victory suggests another win is not far away.
SUN KING is an exposed 11 year old who hasn’t run a poor race for a while and is a sound marker.
DOUBLE VODKA, back over hurdles after a lay-off, generally goes well round here but just felt the pinch from the second last. He’ll come on for this race and will find opportunities. All his wins have come after a race within the previous six weeks.
REGENT’S SECRET plugged on from the back late on as is his way. I presume his trainer will try over another half mile again sometime should a suitable race come along.
ECOLE D’ART led until 2 out and was then left behind.
PROGRAMME GIRL was reported as having a breathing problem last time. She never got into the race here.
SOUBRIQUET didn’t get into the race. He’s off his game at the moment, but it’s noticeable that most of his placed form has occurred after the turn of the year and perhaps February to April might his time.
VALAMAREHA made a brief effort three out but never troubled the leaders. He might be worth a go in a maiden hurdle this side of the Irish Seas since such events are less competitive than those in Ireland.

2.25 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

This race was run at no sort of pace early and turned into a sprint from the last bend.

DOESLESSTHANME looked to have a bit in hand on previous form and proved it, coming clear with very little fuss in the closing stages. He’s now on a double penalty at this level and might be aimed at better novice events such as the Listed hurdle he contested at Haydock last time.
MORNING SUNSHINE lost very little in defeat. He briefly threatened to bustle up the winner, but wasn’t good enough. He should find a minor novice or maiden event.
ELLA WOODCOCK chased vainly from two out. This was a slight improvement on his debut but a bit away from promising a win.
BRADDOCK ISLAND plugged on past beaten rivals for fourth, but that was probably more testament to the lack of quality in this race than any ability on his part.
BALYAN might have been expected to do better than a remote sixth. He could have needed the race, but this performance was not encouraging.
ART BANK was prominent to the sixth, but then eased considerably afterwards.

2.55 2m 0-115 Handicap Chase

Very little in the way of progression in the profiles of these, but one who had hinted at better was GO SILVER BULLET. The right-hand track suited much better, and his jumping held together nicely as his leap at the last was enough to see off his only serious challenger. I presume Lucinda Russell will be looking out for suitable races here in the near future. The only other close at hand right-handed option at this time of year is Carlisle, which is a totally different challenge to scooting around Musselburgh Links.
MAJORCA signalled a return to form, and looks an interesting prospect for the near future provided the handicapper doesn’t up him for this prominent run.
OR DE GRUGY showed a good deal more zest than on recent runs. His trainer’s opinion is that he’s best around 2m 4f and likes this track, but she has struggled to find opportunities for him so had to have a go over a shorter trip.
NOBEL was returning after a long lay-off following a tendon injury back in summer 2007. The impression was that his trainer would be glad to see him come through a race, and I can appreciate it can be a question of treading on egg-shells in the situation. He jumped big and left early on but got round in his own time and, though he’ll probably need another run or two, gives some hope for the future.
SMART STREET was prominent when departing at the sixth. I was taken with him as a trail-blazer over hurdles, but he seems to be going nowhere over fences.
KING’S JESTER, making a chasing debut, didn’t help himself when lunging at the seventh and hitting it. The writing was on the wall soon after and he fell 2 out when tired.
MYSTIC GLEN was held when tripping over King’s Jester two out. He didn’t help himself by taking a keen hold early on.

3.25 2m NH Flat

MERIDIAN CITY raced prominently and got the better of his nearest challenger one furlong out. His stable will presumably look for an easy introduction to hurdling.
STORMIN EXIT once again set the pace and though held didn’t throw in the towel once passed. He kept on well enough to regain second close home. He should be interesting once he goes over hurdles or fences. He found the three mile trip stretching his stamina in Irish point-to-points.
PRINCE OF GDANSK took on the winner from two out but faded in the final furlong. This was a fair enough effort to back up his second at Ayr.
ROSCO was held from three furlongs out.
WEST DANCE was tailed off on his only appearance in Ireland. Tongue-tied here, he didn’t sow an awful lot more despite being well supported in the market.
ROWDY RAMPAGE won a maiden point at Sligo in May. The likelihood is things happened too quickly at this level and he will probably need fences and a distance of ground to be seen to best effect.

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