Thursday, 29 January 2009

Newcastle - A Tale of Mud, Sunshine and Pea Soup

NEWCASTLE – Wednesday 28th January

Going – Heavy

Gosforth Park kept the National Hunt flag flying as Leicester and Exeter succumbed to the rain, but the conditions were very testing. Even here the weather varied within a short space of time, from bright sunshine to thick fog.

12.50 2m 4f 0-90 Handicap Chase

This was a very ordinary event which provided an excellent opportunity for NELLIEDONETHAT to add to his Musselburgh victory running off the same mark since that race was a conditionals’ event. He was always going well; he shook off a blunder 4 out to lead 3 out and held the second on the flat. He seemed to have felt he had done enough on the flat, and I get the impression there’s still a bit more to come.
MR TWINS does put in some creditable efforts at times but there are many poor runs in his record recently, it’s ages since he won and his record is 2 wins from 66. He led to three out and didn’t let the winner get clear, sticking on well on the flat.
STORMONT DAWN was never in the hunt but picked his way through late on for third. His only win was at Carlisle and it seems clear that he needs the mud, and the field to come back to him in the latter stages of a race.
WOODVIEW raced prominently but was under the shove by the eleventh and gradually faded in the straight.
BALLYNURE was struggling when blundering badly at the eighth. He kept on past a few in the straight. He’s dropped down to near his winning mark, and his form picked up last spring.
NEIDPATH CASTLE normally benefits from a run after a break, so the outing may help, but he’s not got very close to the winner for some time.
MISTRAL DE LA COUR faded from 5 fences out, and trailed in some way behind. Remarkably he beat Kauto Star by a short head in 2005, but is furlongs behind that form now. It may be worth noting that he has a decent record on fast ground, so it might just be worth noting him for a lowly handicap come the spring.
RING OF BEARA looks slow and has done nothing of note since crossing the Irish Sea.
FARNE ISLE was pulled up and recent form gives no encouragement.
STAR OF RAVEN had lost touch by the tenth and was pulled up before four out. He has won on soft, but I suspect good or faster would serve him better.
PERLY SPENCER is not suited by these conditions, and why his connections choose to run him on ground he struggles on I have not a clue.
SOUND OF CHEERS showed a glimmer of form first time out, but has put up two dismal performances since.
WEE GEORGE’s form to date is very poor and it was no surprise that he was pulled up.
WHISPERING MOOR won a hurdle at Perth in 2005, but looks in terminal decline these days.

2.30 2m ½ f 0-105 Handicap Chase

The two fences going away from the stands were omitted due to the low sun.

SHELOMOH added to his hard earned Towcester win with another battling victory. He challenged all the way up the straight and held off a less than keen looking second on the flat. A rest might be needed now, but given time to recover may not have finished winning yet.
TOULOUSE EXPRESS had every chance having been prominent all the way. He gave the impression he could have won this, but didn’t look all that willing close home.
DRUMBOY got closer here than he has in Ireland, but that probably says much about the lack of quality in this race. He looked to be struggling four out, but kept on well enough to be back in contention at the last only to be held from there.
CARRIETAU raced prominently but once again offered nothing at the business end.
WATCH THE WIND was beaten a long way last of the five finishers. He has shown nothing of note this season and has yet to win over fences.
PASS THE CLASS was leading three out when hitting the fence and falling. Given the way the race panned out he still had a chance. That being said this isn’t the first time his jumping has let him down in the latter stages of a race.
FRITH was plugging on when brought down by Pass The Class. He remains competitive in this class and generally gives his running.
DUKE OF MALFI was struggling a long way out and pulled up before four out. The event he won at Hexham was nothing special and he’s struggling off a 9lbs higher mark.
LERIDA never looked interested.
PLAYER departed at the first, appearing to over-jump and knuckle on landing.

3.40 3m 0-110 Handicap Chase

Little more than an hour after bright sunshine had required the omission of two fences, fog descended to bring a hint of farce to the proceedings. The track could barely be seen from the stands and the race commentator had plenty of time to fill between intermittent glimpses of the runners. It was so bad that the only way he could identify the winner was by the picture of a single horse pulling up! One assumes that the measure of seeing the next fence was passed, but the whole event was a bit ridiculous. My comments are based on rough form comments and glimpses from the video.

This was an event full of out of form or regressive chasers, a few with many miles on the clock.

PANAMA AT ONCE had not got far enough in two outings to be tested, once when coming down at the first and the next time when his jockey performed a rodeo act at Sedgefield. He was disputing the lead entering the straight, and came clear from that point. He won on his chase debut at Hexham in 2007, and clearly possesses some ability, but hasn’t shown it very often. I suppose one could surmise that he acts in a bog in the fog, but that is of questionable value!
GETBYBUTONLYJUST is a frustrating individual who possesses ability but doesn’t seem inclined to exert himself to the full. He might pick up one of these plodders races, but would things to fall for him.
MANOUBI is regressive. He’s falling down the handicap but not threatening to win and made his way through from the rear for third.
DARINA’S BOY apparently had every chance and wasn’t good enough from four out. He probably needs less testing conditions and at least managed a completion which wasn’t the case on his last two efforts.
SHARP BELLINE raced prominently for much of the way then faded. He’s falling down the handicap and the years appear to be catching up with him.
SKENFRITH is an all or nothing performer, and the nothings vastly outnumber the alls. He may pop up again sometime but is desperately tough to catch right.
ALMIRE DU LIA was prominent early but finished well behind. He’s out of sorts at the moment.
HIGH FIVE was with the leaders early, but was struggling by the eleventh and pulled up before four out. He was 8lbs out of the handicap and needs to be in a lower class to be competitive.
The form of GLACIAL RAMBLER’s last two outing read strongly with 5 of the placed horse having won since. However Glacial Rambler showed nothing here being pulled up after two miles.
TRISON’S STAR looked to have an opportunity in this company, but fell at the tenth.

James Ewart’s stable continued in fine form, BISHOPS HEIR emerging from the gloom as the winner of the bumper. This one is a brother to Turbo Linn and built on a promising debut at Kelso to win with some comfort, judging by the six length margin. The chances are that the Ewart yard has a decent one on their hands here.

The going is currently Good/Good to Soft for Musselburgh’s top jumps meeting of the season this coming Sunday. Hopefully there will be a decent crowd and there should be some competitive racing. Howard Johnson’s horses are well entered up at the East Lothian venue and it would not surprise me if he adds to his fine seasonal record at the track.

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