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.