Friday, 27 February 2009

Catterick - February 24th

Going – Good

The races were re-timed following an accident in the first race involving Jacqueline Coward. She was knocked unconscious and needed to be airlifted to hospital. Latest word was that, although still a bit woozy, that she was on the mend.

A couple of chases on the card.

3.10 (off 3.40) 2m 0-115 Handicap Chase

Plenty of pace setters in here and they set off hell for leather.

EBORARRY sets the pace when he can but had to follow the brisk lick set by Falcon’s Tribute. It may well have suited Eborarry, as his rivals dropped away over the last three and he kept on well to win. He’s not a prolific winner and needs a race run to suit, but places quite often and is at least some sort of measure at this level. I consider him for ‘shape of race purposes’ but oppose for betting purposes.
WHATCANYASAY progressed to hold every chance three out but was held in the latter stages. He’s running consistently right now, and it might be worth bearing in mind that he is a four time winner at Sedgefield.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY has dropped a bit now it has dawned on the handicapper that he’s not as good as some of his placed novice form. He kept on at the end and might be interesting upped in trip now that he seems to have found his level.
MAJORCA possibly needed the run after a break, running on from two out without threatening the leaders. His current mark would seem about right and he looks ‘win in his turn’ material.
MISS PROSS threatened to get involved three out then faded. She is 9lbs higher than her winning mark over fences, and not yet getting much relief.
SUPER BABY was below the level of his recent form and was reported as having lost a shoe. His stable is going well and it might be possible to forgive him this effort.
STORMY BEECH raced prominently but faded from four out. He is capable of winning at this level, but one thing you can guarantee is that you don’t know what you are going to get. At best he needs to dictate the race.
ROYAL GLEN was always in the rear. Might be worth a try around Carlisle as his best recent form has been at the track.
I’M YOUR MAN had a good spell in the late summer and autumn when there was less competition, but isn’t producing too much in these events at the moment.
STAGECOACH AMBER is unpredictable, if able on his day, but had an excuse here since he was another to lose a shoe during the race.
FALCON’S TRIBUTE went very fast in the lead to three out and then weakened rapidly to last place. His best placings have been on good to firm ground.
BESTOFTHEBROWNIES never showed an interest.

4.10 (off 4.30) 3m 1½f Beginners’ Chase

CHIEF DAN GEORGE has been brought along steadily by his trainer, and came clear of a moderate field here. It would seem he is nowhere near his hurdles form over fences and his current mark of 131 would make it tough moving to handicaps.
GREAT APPROACH ran near to his form in second place, but it’s frustrating that he manages to avoid being involved close home.
PASS THE CLASS made mistakes here, but ran a decent race to place. He will presumably revert to handicaps, and is favoured by fast ground.
ESME RIDES A GAINE led to four out then dropped away. This was better than previous efforts under rules, and does at least promise a little for low class handicaps.
ANGLICISME has won a couple of selling hurdles recently, but a race like this seems a different matter. There is no immediate promise of a chasing win and a current chase rating of 112 looks harsh.
TREEHOUSE has looked slow since moving up from pointing.
MASTER BUILDER was perhaps feeling the pinch when coming down at the fourteenth.
OH PICKLES couldn’t keep up and pulled up.
TULLY HILL has proved inordinately slow since moving from Ireland. Connections would appear to wasting their time racing him.

Eider Chase Meeting at Newcastle

NEWCASTLE – Saturday 21st February 2009

Going – Heavy

The Eider Chase is one of my favourite races of the season, though it has lost a bit of prestige in recent years. Comply Or Die did the race no harm last year, using it as a stepping stone to Grand National success.

1.50 2m 4f 0-135 Handicap Chase

DALDINI was generally campaigned on better ground than this last year, but seems to thrive in the testing conditions, notching up a fourth jumps win on soft or heavy. After a slow start to the season things have gradually improved and this was a second win on the trot. He led all the way, jumping accurately, and showed plenty of determination in the latter stages.
JACK THE BLASTER is lightly raced but making up for lost time and performed admirably on his seasonal debut and in only his fourth chase. He looked to be going easily two out but didn’t have enough left to see his effort through. He’s won on heavy and on good to firm, so ground conditions all come alike. I’d expect a win from him in the near future.
SILVER BY NATURE coped well with decent class handicappers here and should improve on a decent third here when stepped up in trip.
CROZAN was well held up the straight and is struggling presently.
CRACKADEE lost touch by the seventh but continued to finish a remote fifth. He won in a similar class last season, but is way off his game this term.
CORLANDE is probably too high in the weights and was struggling a long way out.
SILVER SEDGE hit the first and dislodged Paddy Aspell.
EDMO YEWKAY was getting the worst of the argument when coming down very heavily four out. He got up OK, but the fall may leave its mark.
PASAGAI, inexperienced but with some fair form on record, dropped away from five out and was very disappointing.

3.30 4m 1f 0-136 Handicap Chase

This race is programmed as a 0-150, but the top rated was only 136.

MERIGO looked likely to be second when five lengths down at the last, but he had reserves where the leader and none and stayed on to land the spoils. He stays and stays and his target is now the Scottish National, a race his owner would love to win. I would imagine he might turn into a Grand National contender in 2010.
MORGAN BE looked the winner at the last, but the tank registered empty and he couldn’t find anything to fend off the challenger. He is another aimed at Ayr for the Scottish Grand National, and it’s worth noting that his course record there is 211111, so given slightly less testing conditions a reverse of form would not surprise.
RIMSKY was never up with the leaders, plugging on late for a remote third.
STAGECOACH DIAMOND is a maiden over fences and was a never dangerous fourth here.
HARMONY BRIG made some progress over a mile out but the effort was short lived.
JASS was shunted up 13lbs for his Doncaster win, and it may have been a combination of that and the testing conditions which found him out here. He weakened from five out.
Leading Northern Hunter chaser NATIAIN has been forced into these events by a change in conditions of some hunter chases. He’s been found out in the very top hunter company, and found this beyond him. He led in his customary style until six out but then weakened quickly. I understand the conditions of the Kelso hunter chase at the end of March allow him to run, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him aimed there.
MINSTER SHADOW was weakening when running out two out. He was still in contention to four out and this was an improvement on his seasonal debut. Don’t write this one off yet.
CHABRIMAL MINSTER was appearing for the first time since Uttoxeter in June and was never going well enough here. He was outpaced a mile out and pulled up before four out.
FAIR QUESTION was going well when taking a heavy fall at the twelfth. He got up and made a nuisance of himself to some of the field, so presumably was none the worse.
IWILLREMEMBERYOU unseated at the eleventh before the race had begun in earnest.
PASS ME BY led six out but weakened from three out and came down at the last. He has performed creditably over the Cheltenham cross-country course so might be aimed there for the Festival.
TOY GUN had no chance at the weights and pulled up with a circuit to go. I think this sort of event could be his forte, but he needs dropping in class.

4.35 3m Class 2 Novices’ Chase

SKIPPERS BRIG made heavy weather of justifying favouritism here, but he does keep staying on and that was too much for his opponents. He’s run six times on heavy going and won the lot, and you can’t crib at a record like that. Word from Len Lungo is that Cheltenham probably won’t suit him, and the going is unlikely to be soft enough. It might be a question of looking at the race programme when the rain is about.
DREAM GARDEN was headed at the last and kept on. This was a promising effort from a gelding with time on his side.
STAGECOACH OPAL is 18lbs lower rated than the winner, so did well to be in contention to the last. He jumps rather exaggeratedly, giving his fences plenty of height. The hope is that the handicapper won’t punish him for finishing close behind superior opponents.
BELON GALE clipped the top of the eighth fence and came down.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Ayr and an additional Musselburgh

AYR – 20th February

Going – Soft (Heavy in places)

The second last fence in the back straight was missed out once again.

2.10 2m 4f 0-90 C.J. Handicap Hurdle

A very ordinary event won very comfortably by ZAFFARELLA. She won this cruising clear over the last two hurdles but will be punished by the handicapper. Her best chance of a follow up is likely to be coming out quickly with a penalty.
PAY ON stayed on late for second but one win in 28 goes doesn’t inspire. He was followed by long-standing maiden BABY SISTER who put the race in context.
One to take out of this contest may be PENDLE FOREST. She has looked totally miserable bumbling round at the back in novice chases, but looked much happier here bowling along in front. Unfortunately she hit the seventh and here rider lost the irons, having to pull up. There is just a chance she could pop up at a fancy price in a similar event. Pendle Forest has since run third in a selling handicap at Catterick and this has probably blown any chance of a decent enough price in a similar event.

2.40 2m 4f Class 5 Maiden Hurdle

Very few got into this and there was a lot of dead wood.

SCOLBOA MUSIC MAN moved up to lead before three out. He was under pressure from a fair way but kept on well enough.
DANCING DIK stepped up on previous hurdles efforts, closing quickly after the last but just held. He seems to be getting the hang of hurdling, seemed to appreciate the step up in trip, and can win a similar contest.
SIRKEEL was held up at the back and in retrospect seemed too far out of his ground. He chased the leader in the straight but couldn’t get to grips. He should win at this level given a slightly more enterprising ride.
STORMIN EXIT is a game sort and is steadily progressing. Racing prominently, he led before three out and though headed stuck on well. One more race will get him a handicap mark and I think that will be the most likely field for this one to record a win. His attitude will stand him in good stead at a lowly level.

3.10 2m 0-110 Novices’ Handicap Chase

STORM SURGE was very impressive here, jumping boldly in the lead and coming clear once turned for home. He’ll go up a fair bit for this, but he’s an improving young chaser and might well be capable of handling a higher grade.
TOULOUSE EXPRESS ran a decent enough race but couldn’t hold the winner in the straight. He normally finds at least one too good.
CARRIETAU ran to his established level, staying on for third. He’s run consistently without threatening to win and needs lowering in the handicap.
MORE LIKE IT was left behind from five out. He won twice before the turn of the year, but the second race was a soft event and he’s probably a few pounds too high.
HICKORY LANE faded from 5 out and his form is moderate.
DUKE OF MALFI departed early.
FRITH has been unlucky twice now, and he was pulled up early on after his rider lost his irons. He’s on a mark he be competitive off, and is better than recent form figures suggest.

3.45 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

This was a one horse race as the big and impressive looking QUWETWO saw off vastly inferior opponents comfortably. It was difficult to draw too many conclusions from this race, but he may now go to Cheltenham.
MAXWELLTON BRAES impressed with his attitude as he chased the winner determinedly from three out. He wasn’t remotely good enough to hold such an opponent, but he has shown enough to suggest a small race might come his way, and this third hurdle means he is now eligible for handicaps.
DALLAS BELL and PRINCE TAM ran respectably in third and fourth, but will need to show more to threaten a win.

4.15 3m 1f 0-110 Handicap Chase

The second last was missed out, presumably due to damage caused first time round.

Not a brilliant event for the class.

ALMIRE DU LIA made it three out of three in this event in the last three years. He was presented with the race when the runner-up made a complete hash of the last, but did at least show some resolution. He seems a different horse round here to anywhere else, but consistency isn’t a strong suit.
PANAMA AT ONCE looked to have come to win his race at the last, but gave it a whack, did well to stay up and couldn’t get back up. This was a third decent effort in a row, and he seems to be thriving for being kept on the go.
INNOMINATE was left behind from three out. His jumping isn’t good enough yet.
TRISONS STAR is well held and is regressing.
SOMETHING SILVER has yet to prove he stays this distance and never got competitive anyway.
INCAS was coming off a long lay-off and blundered away his rider at the ninth. It remains to be seen if he retains his ability.
NELLIEDONETHAT was raised in class here and fell away disappointingly from the twelfth. The way he quickly capitulated suggests a problem.
BENBEOCH led but jumped moderately. He gave way in the straight and came down at the last.
CHAMACCO never showed and pulled up with a mile left.

4.50 2m NH Flat

The stable of James Ewart have been going really well recently, and introduced a decent looking newcomer in TURBO ISLAND. He still has some growing to do, and word is that he won’t be hurried, but this performance showed much promise. He came clear from two out under gentle encouragement.
BIG BOOTS set the standard here having been a clear winner of a similar event here last year. He came back well after a break and forged well clear of the remainder. He looks an interesting prospect once going over hurdles.
TURTLE SPIRIT, by Turtle Island, would have had conditions to suit but was left behind down the straight. ERRINGTON improved on the home bend but could offer no more from there.

5.20 3m 1f Hunters’ Chase

After the loss of the opening Musselburgh and Kelso events, the Scottish Hunter Chase season finally started with a small but select field. A change to the conditions of some Hunter Chases this season sees them restricted to winners of no more than three chases. This would presumably be to keep out those older horses coming out of handicapping, but the effect is to lessen opportunities for some of the regulars on the hunter circuit.

The race turned on the fall of ALWAYS RIGHT four out. The pace was just picking up and he had led jumping well but misjudged the fence and came down. The suggestion was that he has made the transition from novice hunter company. He brought down established performer ROBBERS GLEN who was going well at the time. This was an improvement on his seasonal debut in a point.

BROOKLYN BREEZE ran a fair third on his seasonal debut at Bangor and stepped up on that here, getting on top from two out. He seems to have retained his ability as a 12 year old, and only last year he was second in a competitive 0-140 at Perth.
SLEEPING NIGHT ran well enough but was held from two out. He still retains some ability but isn’t as good as he was and will need an easier event to score.
TYNEDALE didn’t jump all that well early on, and on the basis did well to be beaten just over nine lengths, particularly as he is rated 19lbs worse than the winner. If he can repeat this form he may pick up a minor hunter chase.
TIME TO REFLECT didn’t look good enough in this company and was well held from five out.

MUSSELBURGH – Friday 20th February

Going – Started out as GOOD, but with steady rain had become GOOD TO SOFT (SOFT in places) by the fourth race.

This was an additional meeting following the loss of a couple of earlier meetings to frost.

2.00 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

RED MOLONEY sluiced home here, having won twice over course and distance previously. He is now aimed at the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham, but with only form from Musselburgh over hurdles it’s difficult to gauge how good he is.
HOUSTON DYNIMO has yet to win, but hasn’t done much wrong in three races, and chased the winner home. He must surely pick up a run of the mill event, though he needs to settle a bit better than he has done to date.
GEOJIMALI sees out the trip well for a sprint bred performer. Given decent ground, a sharp track, the minimum trip and less accomplished opposition he looks to be capable of picking up a race. One of the lesser events at Perth in the spring could be a target.
RAINCOAT was once rated 109 on the flat having finished second in the Dante Stakes. He was making his jumping debut here and put in a satisfactory performance. He made progress to three out but had no more to give from the next.
PAKINEO DES PICTONS pulled up. (March 9 - David Parry who runs the DPRP informed me that the gelding broke a leg and sadly had to be put down. A blow to a group who are good supporters of racing in Scotland.)

2.35 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

ROLE ON recorded a confidence boosting win here. He jumped well, led three out and stayed on, taking advantage of the runner-up’s jumping going to pieces late on. The longer trip here clearly suits.
STRIKING ARTICLE looked very promising when cruising home at Hexham in October, but in retrospect he probably didn’t beat an awful lot that day and he hasn’t progressed since. He was in the firing line from the start here, but he jumped markedly left down the straight and threw his chance away. It could be said that he needs a left-handed track, but he looked like one trying to get himself right at the fences by running down them, and that doesn’t augur well for a step up to handicap company as he’s rated 132. One to oppose until he proves he can get his jumping together.
REEL CHARMER was staying on at the end. He was a 130-rated three mile winner over hurdles, so a step up in trip would help.
WATCH MY BACK ran a decent race in fourth getting a bit closer than official figures might have suggested.
HERNANDO’S BOY was out of sorts and beaten a long way.

3.10 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

The first two here had both shown decent course form previously.

Already a winner over a longer trip at Kelso, GRAND THEATRE put his staying power to good use in the latter stages to come clear between the last two hurdles.
DIVERS couldn’t hold the winner and seemed to run a bit below his mark, judged by the ratings of the third and fourth.
EMPTY SKY kept on for third. He’s yet to win over hurdles and gives the impression a step up in trip might help.
STARBOUGG looked in trouble at the ninth, but stayed on again up the straight and is another who stays rather than having serious pace.
NIGHT FORCE led to three out but had been headed and was under serious shoving when coming down two out.

3.45 3m 0-135 Handicap Chase

No particular strength in depth in this race and I’d be a bit wary of this form carried forward at the same level.

BRAVE REBELLION picked up on the leaders on the final bend, took over two out and battled well enough to hold on close home. Allowing for a ‘refused when knackered’ in heavy at Doncaster in December, and a pulled up in competitive company at Ascot he’s pretty consistent, but will likely be a few pounds higher than ideal when the weights are adjusted for this run.
TOP DRESSING seemed to see out the trip well enough on a first go at three miles. He is another as high as he would want to be in the handicap.
NOIR ET VERT was getting into the race when hampered four out and failed to muster an extra effort from two out. A quick change of pace is not his forte and he would need farther to show his best.
SOUTH BRONX was prominent early but held from five out. In these conditions the trip would have stretched his stamina, and anyway consistency wouldn’t rank as a strong point.
KALMO BAY was held up as usual, couldn’t get into the race and needs to be dropped in class. His best efforts have been conceding weight to inferiors, and softened ground here would not have been ideal. He’s still worth noting in the right circumstances.
MR PREACHER MAN was struggling before two miles were up and soon pulled up.
HAS SCORED, as with many runners from the stable, was totally outclassed and lost touch five out before pulling up.
OUR JASPER had been near the head of affairs all the way, and led four out, but came down. He last won off 116 and despite a losing run of 8 has gone up to 125 …go figure!

4.20 2m 0-105 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

As with many similar events this was strong on numbers but weak on solid form.

ORMUS led three out and held off a previous winner. He probably gave his best to produce this win and wouldn’t want to be shunted up far.
STROBE ran to his form in pushing the winner to the line. Given that this was short of his ideal distance there may still be a little in the locker over a longer trip.
FARNE ISLAND was in a class where he had a chance and he stayed on for third. This is his level and there’s a chance there’s a bit more to come over hurdles. A mark of 90 gives scope for a drop in class.
BEAU LARGESSE in fourth did quite well coming from off the pace and may benefit from further.

4.55 2m NH Flat

SAVEIRO boasted the best form against a distinctly ordinary bunch and saw them off with the minimum of fuss. Unless aimed at Cheltenham or Aintree, where he would need to find extra, I assume he will now go hurdling.
WAVE POWER was a winner at Leopardstown in December, but looked ordinary here being held in the last three furlongs.
MOSCOW MISCHIEF has enough about him to suggest he will advance when going jumping, but had only one pace up the straight.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Musselburgh - Additional Meeting

My thanks to Steven Rafferty of Musselburgh Racecourse for providing the following message.

The East Lothian track has secured an additional National Hunt meeting on Friday 20 February, gates open at noon and first race is 2pm.

And in a further boost for disappointed punters Musselburgh have slashed admission prices for this race meeting with race goers paying £10 at the gate (normally £15) and concessions priced at £5 (£10).

Musselburgh Racecourse general manager, Bill Farnsworth, said: “We’ve lost two meetings due to bad weather since the start of the year but we are determined to pull out the stops and do what we can with extra fixtures and discounted pricing wherever possible.

”For more information visit

Mty apologies that I was a bit slow picking up this message.

Carlisle - Monday 16th February

Going – Heavy (Soft in places)

Another all-chase meeting at Carlisle and I presume they will now run the whole jump season with just chases. The day’s meeting at Market Rasen balanced things nicely since they ran only hurdle races.

The first fence in the back straight was omitted.

2.15 2m 5f 0-90 Handicap Chase

MITCHEL HENRY has run some honest enough races since graduating from the pointing field and deserved his win here. He looked held two out but stayed on determinedly to collar the leader close home. A rise in the weights will probably take him out of the 0-90 range, though he should still be competitive at a slightly higher level.
IT’S A CLASSIC ran a cracker, disputing the pace for much of the way before taking over three out. He looked the winner at the last, but was running on fumes on the flat and got caught 50 yards from home. He refused at Fontwell when very tired two runs ago, then fell at Uttoxeter last time, but seems to have brushed that off and in his current form should pick up a minor handicap chase.
BABE HEFFRON went with the pace but felt the pinch from three out. He had been off the track since March 2007, and this was a rules chasing debut (Irish maiden point winner), so there is almost certainly better to come.
SEEK THE TRUTH as given a quiet ride and moved to the fringe of the leading group at the bottom of the hill. He couldn’t get any closer from that point. He’s on a mark he can win from, but probably needs better ground than this.
JOHNS SQUARE got closer than he had done in three efforts over hurdles, but couldn’t get to grips with the leaders and I’d need to see more to be interested.
MR TWINS led early but was seen off up the final hill and his losing run is now 27.
TULLY HILL won an Irish point back in 2005 but his record since has been abysmal and he pulled up not far past halfway, subsequently being reported as having a breathing problem which explains a lot.
LUZENIE was never going and pulled up. Since moving from France he hasn’t got closer beaten 50 lengths and was reported as having a breathing problem.
GUNADOIR wasn’t interested from the start.
JACKSONVILLE is an elderly hunter chaser, last seen nursed round third of three finishers behind Natiain in April (3m 7f – Perth), and was easily held in this company.
NICOZETTO seems to have been unnerved by his fall at Musselburgh as his two subsequent runs have been poor.

2.50 2m 5f Class 4 Mares’ Only Novices’ Chase

RATE OF KNOTS comfortably saw off her one serious opponent here. She led two out and stayed on. I suspect she will find it tougher in open company or handicaps and might be under-priced in such races.
TASTES LIKE MORE led but hit a flat spot around halfway. She came back into contention three out and chased the winner home from there. Her handicap mark of 100 looks accurate, so she wouldn’t want to go up for proximity to this winner.
TACINJA had every chance three out but found the first two too good from there on in. She was coming off a break so there may be a little more to come.
DEFINITELY IT has looked slow over jumps and had no chance here. She went well enough in front to the eleventh but then quickly fell away.
CUTE N YOU KNOW IT, making her chasing debut, never looked happy and was being niggled along from early on.
SUNNY BROOK won a handicap at Hexham in November but had a stiff task here. She ran a fair enough race, being in contention until after two out, but took a heavy fall at the last when beaten.

3.25 2m 0-115 Handicap Chase

This looked a decent little handicap and I suggest the form can be taken forward with confidence.

LE ROI ROUGE had been running creditably without being able to get into the final argument in Class 2 races. The drop down to a Class 4 event clearly suited and he stayed on well to lead within the last 50 yards. This win will take him out of Class 4 company, but he will still have opportunities if keeping to the next grade up, maybe 0-120 or 0-125.
The veteran HOLLOWS MILL is a bit difficult to catch right and looked up against it in this company. However, he had a real going day on this occasion and looked likely to prevail before a gelding nearly half his age mugged him close home. This effort shows what he can do on his day, but he hasn’t won for two years and isn’t win betting material.
NORMINSTER has progressed over the season and produced a career high on this occasion. He was pushed along four out but responded admirably if never quite able to get to the leaders. He’s showing a good attitude right now and may well pick up another handicap if dropped a little in grade, always bearing in mind he’s best round Carlisle or Hexham.
ET MAINTENANT performed creditably on going which I would imagine was on the testing side for him. Back on better ground he should be in the mix in similar events and I suspect a step back up in trip would do no harm.
CANTGETON had every chance two out but then gave way. He’s sliding down the handicap but not threatening a win.
ANGLICAN went well to the bottom of the hill and then cried enough. This was his best effort in the UK, but there is still some way to go before he can get involved in the finish.
INCORPORATION raced prominently until three out. His best form is on flatter tracks in less testing going.
EURO AMERICAN made headway to four out but then dropped away. Course and conditions suited, so there seemed no excuse.
STORMY BEECH looked happy bowling along in front but soon capitulated once headed. He needs things his own way and decent performances are few and far between these days.

OSO MAGIC fell heavily at the fourth though got up OK, and brought down BOG OAK. This was uncharacteristic of Oso Magic who had never failed to finish in 20 chases before this.

4.00 2m Class 3 Novices’ Chase

Each of these performed much as a pre-race analysis suggested.

PSYCHOMODO won this with the minimum fuss and is now off to Cheltenham for one of the handicaps.
AURORAS ENCORE ran a fair race in second but couldn’t go with the winner from three out. He needs a longer distance on less testing ground.
STORYMAKER was no match for the first two from three out. He was always going to struggle against two higher rated opponents and his trainer must look for easier races.
PISTOL BASC continues to look slow.
ALMOND COURT fell early on, and his recent form is dismal.
KEMPSKI shows no aptitude for chasing and I’m surprised that Rayson Nixon tried him over fences again.
AUTUMNGOLD is an 11 year old with a seventh place in one Irish maiden point in 2004. He was soon left behind, pulled up, and gives not a hint of being a racehorse.

4.30 3m 4f 0-130 Handicap Chase

RacingUK didn’t have a replay of this race available, so analysis is performed off the bare result and form book comments.

James Ewart clearly has a progressive staying mare on his hands in OVERLADY. She beat nothing of great note at Sedgefield she’s moved on to seeing off some established performers here. She clearly revels in a good stamina test and kept on well having led approaching the last. Ewart must be looking forward to aiming this one at the Northern staying chases in the future. One point that should be made is that she is not the biggest mare and might be best kept to races where she has light weights.
BOLD RANSOM stuttered a bit last time at Ayr, but seems to have continued his upward progress with this effort, being outstayed on the flat. He’s another comparatively young staying chaser who is one to note for similar events.
Twelve year old HUKA LODGE represented the established brigade and ran to his form. His problem is that he’s never won off as high a mark as this over fences.
ROSIE ALL OVER is mare who has improved through the season. She’s probably reached a ceiling mark for now, but ran a sound race here leading from four out until just before the last.
ROYAL MACKINTOSH should have had no trouble with the trip, but faded from two out. He’s had a succession of races in tough conditions and it could be a rest is needed.
BORIS THE BLADE was upped by half a mile on anything he’s tried before and didn’t see out the trip, weakening up the final hill. Three miles in the mud seems best for him.
MATMATA DE TENDRON looked to have missed out on an opportunity when Sedgefield was called off the previous day, and though conditions were ideal here the company was too competitive. Given the right race and conditions I’d still bear him in mind.
BELLANEY JEWEL won on his seasonal debut, but has been well off his game in three attempts since.

5.00 2m 5f 0-115 C.J./Am Rid ‘Hands and Heels’ Handicap Chase

TEENANDO returned to his best here, and gave the impression there may be more improvement in him. He kept on strongly up the hill.
MANOUBI has developed a habit of staying on just too late to get involved. He pipped Honour’s Dream for second on the run-in.
HONOUR’S DREAM was driven along a mile out but kept responding though never having enough left to challenge the winner. He would appear to be handicapped to his mark.
RED SCALLY pulled up three times last spring, but performed a good deal better for his new stable on his first run since then. He had every chance until weakening before the last. It is reasonable to assume he might come on a bit for this and could pick up a similar event
CHICKAPEAKRAY couldn’t go with the leaders from four out and seems held at the moment. She tries hard and places now and again but that means she stays on the same mark.
MANDINGO CHIEF ran prominently to five out and showed a little more than of late.
LAGO took a horrible fall at the eighth and I didn’t see him get up. I’m not sure he survived the fall.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Racing held up by the freeze

The cold and snowy weather of the past week and a half has limited racing nationally and, though Ayr survived last Saturday, it looks a while before we will have any action in Scotland and the North.

Yesterday's Musselburgh meeting looked a possible after a less cold night, but an early morning temperature drop put paid to that one. That's two days lost this year and Anthea Morshead intimated that Musselburgh might bid for any additional fixtures if they are up for offer.

The snow and frost in the Borders saw today's meeting at Kelso abandoned and tomorrow's meeting at Catterick has gone the same way.

Sedgefield are due to race on Sunday and Carlisle on Monday. The forecast is for slightly warmer weather in Northern England from Saturday so both have reasonable chances.

Looking ahead a couple of weeks, the Scottiah circuit has a double header over the weekend of 28th February/1st March, with Kelso holding the Premier hurdle card, the feature being a Grade 2 Novices' Hurdle supported by two Class 2 chases. Musselburgh race on the Sunday in what is planned to be their last meeting of the jumps season.

Ayr survives the freeze

AYR – Saturday February 7th

Going – Soft (Heavy in places)

Ayr avoided the worst of the freezing weather over the preceding week and, following a double inspection, survived the overnight frost. The going remained heavy, and it has been testing at the course for the whole of the jumps season to date.

The second last fence in the back straight remained out of action.

1.0 3m ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

This looked a golden opportunity for GRIZEBECK, dropped in class from Grade 2 events, and he obliged with the minimum of fuss. His strength is that he is such a good stayer, and the heavy ground emphasises his stamina advantage.
MERIGO ran a respectable race in second. His hurdles mark is a good deal lower than his chase mark and, provided he doesn’t get put up too much for this run, it would seem sensible to try a long distance hurdle.
MANADAM should have got closer here and seems to be going backwards.
The remainder were well held.

1.30 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

SILVER BY NATURE ran a good race until falling here over a longer trip last time. The mishap has clearly had no ill effects, and he jumped well here to take this event with a couple of novice winners in the race. He should have no trouble winning again and a step back up in trip wouldn’t be a problem.
BORIS THE BLADE made a very satisfactory chasing debut, keeping on for second place. He stays further than this, and should win over fences before long.
CROMWELL COURT ran well below previous form. He won here over two miles last time, but has proved he stays further. He’s better than this.
ASTON LAD performed much better here than on his previous efforts over fences. He seems to have got his jumping act together.
SA SUFFIT crashed out at the third, but seemed none the worse for his mishap.

2.00 3m 1f 0-145 Handicap Chase

A disappointing turn out for the prize money here, though travelling difficulties caused by snow in various places may have put trainers off.

SILVER SEDGE was encouraged into contention four out, led three out and ran on for victory. He may be capable of following up.
MONEY TRIX has been very lightly raced for a nine year old, with a couple of significant absences from the track but has only missed out on a first two finish once in 8 attempts. His jumping was not good, and he took a fall at Newbury on his previous outing, yet he was still in contention in the latter stages and bustled up the winner all the way. He’s a very useful handicapper, and this run suggests his not inconvenienced by his current mark. Assuming he jumps better in future I’d expect him to win a decent handicap.
WILD CANE RIDGE goes well here having recorded four course wins. He led, jumping well, but was feeling the pinch once turned for home. However he was still in with every chance until a blunder at the last put paid to his chances. His current mark looks about fair.
SEE YOU THERE didn’t jump at all well. He’s much more comfortable at Carlisle.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY was flying too high here, struggled from the twelfth and was pulled up. He’s run some fair runs in defeat in novice events, but that’s put him on a handicap mark that he can’t currently justify.

2.35 2m 4f 0-110 Handicap Chase

SAMMY SPIDERMAN remains in excellent form. He contested the lead down the straight, gained the upper hand on the run-in and found more when challenged once again. I got the impression there was still a little more left, and it wouldn’t surprise me if his winning run continued, since although he’ll go up he will still be eligible for this class.
RUN TO SPACE battled hard in the latter stages, but just found the winner too strong for him. He handled the testing conditions well enough. A good effort though he may go up a few pounds.
SOMETHING SILVER tired from three out having set the pace. A mark of 104 looks to high since his best winning mark is 94. (I note he subsequently dropped to 98, though another drop is probably needed)
CLOUD TEN, three times a winner in France, has made no impact in two UK outings. He was struggling a mile out and ended up a remote fourth.
INNOMINATE unseated early on, and his jumping is not good enough at the moment.

3.10 2m 5 ½ f 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

This was a competitive event for its level.

The star of the Willie Amos stable LIE FORRIT has been doing them proud and produced another solid performance to win this. He made steady progress in the straight, challenged at the last then ran on well. This was a handicap debut and there may still be a little more to come.
THATLLDOFORME won a chase at Sedgefield last time out. He kicked on in the straight, and then hit the second last before being caught at the last. He didn’t give up without a fight but will rise a bit in the weights since he was clear of the third. He lost nothing in defeat however, and is capable of being thereabouts off a higher mark.
CAPAL DUBH ALAINN made a promising handicap debut, staying on down the straight without getting to grips with leaders. Staying is clearly his game, a step up in trip will see him in even better light and I’d be surprised if a small handicap doesn’t fall his way soon.
AIRHILL LADY plugged on late, as did NEWMAN DES PLAGES but never remotely threatened the leaders.
KIRKSIDE PLEASURE was on the premises for much of the way but couldn’t get competitive at the business end and hasn’t won for three years.
LONGDALE moved to chase the leaders before the home turn, but that was as close as he got.
TWELVE PACES, who has two ways of running, never looked remotely interested.
Course specialist KEMPSKI was taken on for the lead on this occasion and gave way from the seventh, pulling up before three out. He needs things his own way up front.

3.45 2m 0-135 Handicap Chase

The top rated here was on 127 and this wasn’t a particularly strong event.

POLAR GUNNER is really thriving and relishes soft ground over the minimum trip. At the age of twelve he was winning off a mark 5lbs higher than his previous best. He made all and was too strong for his opponents in the latter stages. He will likely rise to a mark over 125 which might make his options a bit limited, but he should be a factor in similar class and conditions.#
FIRST LOOK hit a couple of fences in the straight, including the last, but had enough left to stay on for second. He performed poorly on his last outing here over 3m 1f, but dropped in trip performed much better. His best form is round here, though he has a first and a second at Kelso, and his record suggests a trip up to 2m 4f and cut in the ground are required.
QUICUYO didn’t get to bowl along in front this time, though he did stay in contention until the last. This probably wasn’t a bad effort on handicap debut and he looks capable of winning such an event.
ARIGNA ran a little better than previous efforts this side of the Irish Sea, but isn’t getting competitive.
ECHO POINT was making progress under pressure when coming down four out. He was returning to chasing after an up and down spell over hurdles. I think he will be hard pressed to make an impact off a mark of 127.
SOTOVIK was making his chasing debut after a lay-off of over two years, so the fact that he was in contention when unseating two out was creditable. He handles the testing ground very well and stays 3 miles plus, so on this evidence of a run here at the minimum trip his trainer has plenty of options. He looks a ready made chase winner.

4.20 2m 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

In contrast to the previous handicap hurdle on the card this wasn’t a strong event.

NELSON DU RONCERAY had the race run to suit him here, coming form off a strong pace to lead three out from which point he stayed on to stave off the runner-up’s attentions. He will rise in the ratings for this and bearing in mind things fell right here he may find things tough in the near future.
OPEN DE L’ISLE ran his best race of the season here, keeping on after the winner up the straight. On balance though his current handicap mark is about right.
ARDESIA had shown little form recently, but stepped up here, staying on for third. A drop in class would make him an interesting proposition based on this form.
ETHAN’S STAR has dropped in the weights but made no serious impact.
STAINLEY is out of form and if anything the application of a visor made him run too freely to help. He was pulled up.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Musselburgh - Cheltenham Trials Day

MUSSELBURGH – Sunday February 1st

Going – Good (Good To Soft in places)

A decent crowd of around 4,000 was present for Musselburgh’s best card of the season. Indeed this was probably one of the best jumping cards Musselburgh have put on since they began racing under National Hunt Rules in 1987. It does strike me as rather odd that a day's race on a flat track with sharp bends in Scotland holds a Trials day for a meeting at an uppy-downy track in Gloucestershire, but I suppose it's a good selling point. Certainly Nicky Henderson thought it worth the trip from Lambourn.

Derek Thompson spent the afternoon wittering away to all and sundry from his position in the paddock. Tommo is not my cup of tea, but on this occasion he provided plenty of useful information for the punters and did some good interviews, and can at least be said to be giving novice racegoers some idea about the sport. He provided some continuity for the crowd in the gaps between races.

A few extra catering wagons had been brought in to feed the throng and, though there were queues, they served their purpose well. The hidden gem of the Rosebery Cafe seems to miss the hustle and bustle a bit, but is well worth a visit for one of the better value cups of coffee on the racing circuit and for some decent cakes and sandwiches.

The snow that arrived on Monday was presaged by a stiff chilly breeze blowing off the North Sea. The course had dried out in the days preceding the meeting.

1.30 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Hurdle

A few competitive in this heat, but the majority were making up the numbers. The Fife and Kinross women’s brigade arrived mob-handed, with Glenfarg-based Lucy Normile running four, Lucinda Russell sending two from Milnathort and another pair travelling form Sue Bradburne’s Cupar yard.

KNOCKARA BEAU ended a lean spell for his trainer George Charlton, looking on his toes and ready in the paddock and winning nicely. He proved useful as a bumper horse last year, and proved no slouch over hurdles on this occasion. He was moved up to the leader after the fifth, took over on the home bend and then had too much pace for the runner-up on the run to the line. I got the impression there was a little more in the tank. A step up in trip once again would do him no harm.
DIVERS won here last time and lost nothing in defeat under a penalty. His mark of 119 sets the level for the race. The first two kicked on clear of a promising third and I reckon the form is sound.
STORMIN EXIT, who led home the Fife and Kinross representatives, caught my eye on two bumper efforts and may a sound enough hurdling debut here behind proven performers. He set the pace as previously, but was outpaced once turned for home but stayed on for third. His best chance over hurdles looks to be a minor maiden event in the short term, but whatever happens I think this one will win races.
LORD RAGNAR went well for a way but was quickly left behind from the third last. He is a big gelding who probably needs a bit of time to strengthen up and was presumably here as a box filler for more talented stable-mates. There was enough here to suggest he’ll offer more given time and might be one to watch out for round the likes of Ludlow and Hereford in a while.
FIRST STREAM, a Group 1 performer in Germany, hadn’t been stretched when misjudging the seventh and coming down. He was easy in the market, which reflects the fact the Howard Johnson’s runners were reported held up by recent bad weather.
FRANCESCO looked fit enough but proved slow, and LADY CHATELAINE ran to more or less her previous level, the visor not making an appreciable difference.

2.00 2m 4f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

This appeared a potentially well contested event, but in the end the first pair were able to dictate. Whether they could do the same again if bustled up a bit is debatable.

STROBE was lifted 15lbs for his second to Woody Waller in a novice event here last time. This looked harsh, given that he’d been well held by Kyber here off a lower mark earlier. However, Strobe maintained the last time out form level, comfortably turning the tables on Kyber. He was allowed to dictate the pace for the final circuit, along with Danish Rebel, and the two never looked like being caught once they kicked on entering the home straight.
The 10lb claims for the first two riders must surely have helped, and Alex Voy on the winner showed his promise, outriding Jakub Kocman on the flat. Voy comes form nearby Haddington and looks an interesting prospect on the evidence to date.
DANISH REBEL was hindered by a slipped saddle last time. He ran some fair races last season and kept on for second having contested the lead. He will no doubt go up a few pounds for this but this run suggests he has prospects in this class.
DONT TELL THE WIFE, making his handicap debut, stayed on for third without ever threatening the two leaders. He won a bumper at Towcester in heavy, so is likely to appreciate more of a stamina test and has found his level in this company.
SIMPLE JIM led the pursuers three out having been out the back early, but couldn’t get any closer. He was put in a difficult position when the leaders pushed on. This probably wasn’t a bad effort on that basis and he should be competitive in similar events.
I couldn’t get enthusiastic about any of the others. KYBER was favourite and held Strobe on previous form, but never looked like winning this. The step up in trip might not have favoured him as much as the winner, but he just seemed below par. NOSFERATU was well backed but performed poorly. STAINLEY was pulled up and seems well out of sorts at the moment.

2.30 2m Class 2 4yo Novices’ Hurdle

Billed as a Triumph Hurdle Trial, but I fancy the best here might be more ‘Fred Winter’ material if taken to the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicky Henderson travelled to Musselburgh for the first time to take advantage of the better ground. I got the impression he was suitably impressed and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him visit again. Henderson’s GIORGIO QUERCUS disappointed in testing conditions at Chepstow, but Musselburgh is totally different, and revelling on the faster ground he came away from the last. It was a sound performance but he has many lengths to find for the Triumph Hurdle and I’d expect the Fred Winter Handicap to be the target. I’d be surprised if his 130 handicap mark changed much if at all for this.
NINE STORIES ran better than some Howard Johnson competitors at the meeting. He had every chance at the last but was held on the flat. Two mile novices or handicaps on decent ground and sharp tracks look his level.
WEST WITH THE WIND won here in December, but found the opposition tougher. He set a decent pace, but couldn’t summon up enough extra once passed. It looks as if he’s more stamina oriented than the first two.
SACRILEGE placed twice previously wasn’t good enough. He stayed on and will win a novice event once his sights are lowered a bit.
TREEKO was poor on the Flat in Ireland and was out of his depth on hurdling debut. On this evidence he’s selling class.
RECOIL pulled up in a seller last time but, tongue-tied here, at least managed a completion. He’s very slow.

3.00 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

The course executive must have been well pleased to see some decent novices turn up for this event.

KALAHARI KING is being quoted in single figures for the Arkle, but I can’t get that enthusiastic about him on this evidence. He had to work hard to see off a decent but not star novice in Astarador. He jumped well and got the upper hand essentially because he got the last right and the second didn’t. It could be argued that he will be better suited by a drop back to two miles, particularly given fast ground, but I fancy there will be one or two too good at the top level.
ASTARADOR, whose chase win came when gifted a lead by a shambles of a start, went along nicely in front, though awkward at one or two fences. The winner was under driving coming to the last but got a better leap than Astarador whose handicap mark of 135 would appear to set the level here.
WATERSKI bumbled round at the back, picking off his wooden spoon rival in the straight to gain a third prize.
UPTOWN LAD looked as if the race would bring him on. He had no chance and had to settle for fourth, though his jumping improved after being sticky over the first four. He has won three times earlier in his career, and with this race behind him a small handicap might not be out of the question.
PALOMAR, wearing earplugs as previously observed, was fit and on his toes. He was settled chasing the leaders, but was being stretched when hitting four out and well held when tumbling at the second last. The impression is he’s more comfortable seeing off inferior opponents.
HERNANDO’S BOY went comfortably enough before falling heavily at twelfth. He got up and appeared to be unharmed. Given that he’d gone well enough he should win again when aimed at easier contests.

3.30 2m 0-135 Scottish County Handicap Hurdle

Possibly the best class handicap hurdle ever run at the course, the race was run at a decent gallop with proven front runner Bywell Beau setting the pace. There were six in with a live chance at the last.

EUROPEAN DREAM has two ways of going, ‘go or ‘slow’ and Paddy Aspell reported that he knew the horse was on a going day as he headed down to the start. The gelding has to be held up until the last possible moment, so the fact that there were six in contention jumping the last must have been a help. For all that he can have off days his hurdles record is very good with 4 wins and 6 places from 18 efforts, so he’s always worth consideration in this type of event.
ALONG THE NILE was dropped back to a trip that suited him better than the two and a half miles he tried here last time. He challenged late on couldn’t quite get to the winner. He likes this course and needs decent ground; he’s not done anything on ground softer than good to soft.
AMAZING KING had won twice in two goes here, but the rise for his last win just held him on this occasion. Nevertheless this was a very good effort and he suffered a little as Along The Nile drifted on the run to the line. He does go well here but off a current mark of 131 his chances at the course are limited.
HIBIKI, making the long trip from Somerset, has proved consistent over hurdles and ran another creditable race. He couldn’t produce the speed of the first two on the run-in. To a certain extent he pays the price for his placed efforts as he is gradually rising up the weights.
JOE JO STAR was bottom weight here so up against superiors and certainly didn’t disgrace himself. He has been kept on the go on the all-weather since his win here, and is in decent form. He shouldn’t go up in the weights for the fifth here, and looks a sound proposition if dropped in class. Decent ground does seem to be a key on turf.
BOLODENKA was moved up in class having run Kyber close here last time. He was in contention at the last but felt the pinch on the run-in. On the evidence of his last two runs he barely sees out the trip, so fast grounds and a sharp track look essential, and he needs to be dropped in class.
BYWELL BEAU led the field at a decent gallop but gave way three out. He still retains his zest for racing, despite an indifferent spell chasing, and if his trainer can find a handicap hurdle at Kelso then he might just manage another win.
FOLK TUNE was shifted up 7lbs for his win here last time and that mark of 122 looks as if it will stop him.

4.00 2m 4f Class 4 Claiming Chase

There are very few claiming chases run in the UK, and I’m not sure I can remember a horse being claimed out any that I have seen. To me horses in these races seem to be entered at way over the value people are likely to pay anyway.

Evan Williams spotted an excellent opportunity to place CHRYSANDER and his charged had a little too much for a runner-up racing off 25lbs worse than handicap terms. The winner is suited by decent ground, which is almost a constant here, but would struggle to get into any handicap chase at Musselburgh given his current rating of 132. His rating owes much to his novice form and on this evidence he might find handicaps tough.
CATEGORICAL won this race last year and, for all that he has only recorded two wins over jumps, gives his running on most occasions. His future prospects depend on how the handicapper views this form. Given that he was close behind a 132, and beat two 117s comfortably he may be penalised. Even if we judge Snowy to have run to form in third then based on today’s terms Categorical would be moved up about 10lbs.
SNOWY ran as well as could be expected in third. He led but understandably had no answer over the last four fences.
ET MAINTENANT is rated a respectable 117, but his purchase of 6500gns seems a little low for a double winner this season. It could be he will need a little time to adjust to new surroundings, and he was below his best in conditions that should have suited.
BESTOFTHEBROWNIES was below form, as were many from the Johnson stable at this meeting. His two wins have come on good to firm at Sedgefield, and he could be better come the spring.
BARTON SUN, ridden by a Louis Bouldoires a Frenchman who rides cross-country chases, had no hope at the weights and trailed the field.
SYBELLIUS D’ARTAIX, who looked fit and on his toes, has ability but has shown very little for a couple of years. He lost touch from 6 out and pulled up.
ARIGNA unseated early and has shown nothing in three runs since moving from Ireland.
OCEAN DANCER was tried in a tongue tie here but was stones wrong at the weights and had no chance.
LOFTY LEADER was struggling after a circuit and his form has gone totally to pot in the last year and a half.

4.30 2m NH Flat Race

This was an interesting bumper run in the gathering gloom. As usual in these events there was a vast range of abilities.

Nicky Henderson introduced a nice looking sort in BELLVANO who was reported as attracting interest in the Cheltenham Bumper market. Whether he’s good enough for that I’m not sure, and I’d need further evidence, but he saw off a determined second and the pair pulled clear in the straight. He clearly seems to have plenty of raw ability and a second outing might give us more of a clue. If he does go to Cheltenham I would be happier if a stronger jockey then Mr J.P.Magnier were riding since, although he’s a fair enough amateur, the pros would outride him.
Karen McLintock has a decent bumper horse in Bygones Of Brid, and the evidence is that she has another distinctly useful recruit in NODFORMS VIOLET. He’s a big strong sort and a keen walker. He ran in snatches and got hampered on the stands’ bend and then took a bit of time to get back into the race but picked up ground in the straight. He was outpointed in the final furlong, but was well clear of the third and must surely win a bumper, and next outing if kept to this level. Nodforms Violet will learn from this and I suspect there is better to come.
EXCITING CAR showed promise on a single outing last season and kept on for third twelve lengths adrift of the second. He looked fit enough for this run, so would probably have to avoid anything decent if he’s to pick up a bumper, but there are plenty of run of the mill events on the northern circuit.
RED ONION was once gain found wanting in the latter stages having been in touch to half a mile out.
BUNGLASHA JAKE weakened quickly from two out. He was an expensive Wylie purchase having won a maiden Irish point and looks like a chaser.
DUAL OBSESSION looked to need the race and, having lost her place early on, found everything happening too quick for her. She’s a half-sister to Trabolgan and Huka Lodge, so a bit of time, a distance of ground and some jumps in the way will all help.