Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Yet another all-chase meeting at Carlisle

CARLISLE – Thursday March 26th

Going – Good (Good to Soft in places)

The ground was a good deal better for this meeting than it had been for most of the season. However, after a lapse at Sedgefield where all fences were jumped, the ‘area requirement’ was once again invoked with the second last fence being missed out for ‘damaged ground’. Methinks urgent attention is needed for the future. Meanwhile, the first fence out in the country was removed from service ‘damaged’ after the first race, presumably a result of Cornerback’s error and fall.

The prevailing conditions seemed to favour those ridden from the front or close to the pace.

2.25 3m 1/2 f 0-110 Novices’ Handicap Chase

GARLETON hinted at ability last year and is now fulfilling promise, recording a second win here. Always going well he stayed on to lead on the flat and win with a little in hand. He has been placed in heavy conditions, but gives the impression he’s suited by better ground. He’s moving forward now and probably hasn’t stopped winning.
INDY MOOD lived up to his name on this occasion, running creditably from a little out of the handicap staying on under pressure. His last win was in 2005, and he has a period in the wilderness, but his last two efforts have promised a little more. He will be off a mark of 90 next time, but there should be scope to find a minor handicap.
CHORIZO proved better on this surface than in the mud. He as in front at the last but found no more from there.
AIRHILL LADY plugged on up the hill and this was a fair effort on chasing debut, but she was held from three out as was CHERNIK who never troubled the leaders.
IT’S A CLASSIC flattered briefly at the bottom of the hill before crying “enough”. His form suggests testing ground is required.
BEAU SADDLER looks more amenable recently, but having run with some zest to four out he fell away up the hill. This track may be too stiff for him.
TOY GUN is out of sorts and dropped away in the last mile.
There was major carnage at the ninth, CORNERBACK hitting the fence and falling, with SUPREMELY GIFTED, who had gone quite well to that point, being brought down and EASBY MANDARIN being hampered and unseating.

3.00 2m Class 3 Novices’ Chase

AURORAS ENCORE took advantage of below par runs from opponents here to win this with a stack in hand. He ran creditably to three out over 2m 5f at Cheltenham and returned to a more straightforward task here.
PANTHERS RUN led to two but was comfortably outpointed from there. He’s only rated 68 which doesn’t bode well for those behind him.
STUMPED’s form has steadily deteriorated in five chases.
SOUBRIQUET should have at least comfortably seen off the second here, and this was well below his capability.
DEGAS ART has plenty of ability from hurdling days, but has yet to prove he’s a chaser. This was a dire effort.
ALMOND COURT was beaten 60-odd lengths here and his form is best judged on the fact that this was a best effort in his last six races.

3.35 2m 5f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

Tjade Collier recorded a treble as CASH MAN, who had been handicapping, stayed on well to take an event in which the favourite seemed to have a problem.
SOTOVIK put his poor Ayr effort behind him, staying on for second. His hurdling win was over a longer distance.
PAMAK D’AIRY was one paced and held from the bottom of the hill. He had the highest handicap mark in the field and better would have been expected.
TREEHOUSE and ESME RIDES A GAINE moved from the pointing field this season and are struggling against the opposition in these events.
LINLITHGOW LAD led to the tenth and then struggled before pulling up.
The favourite CHECKERBOARD chased the leader three out, but weakened very quickly as if he had a problem.

4.10 2m 5f 0-110 Handicap Chase

I’d always reckoned OPEN DE L’ISLE would be best around the minimum trip, but he proved me totally off the mark here. He led before the last and was pushed out for victory. He was probably running near to his reasonable handicap mark here though, and a rise for the 8 length win will not help him in future.
TEENANDO would probably have finished second but for unseating at the last. He’s reached his level now, but does perform well around Carlisle.
MANADAM ran a fair enough race in second, but gives the impression of one who has established his level.
WISE CHOICE never got near to the lead but plugged on up the hill for third.
MARLEYBOW struggled from the bottom of the hill as did PASS THE CLASS.
ATYANAX was always out the back, and PEN GWEN led early on but had dropped away before the two mile mark was reached.
NILE MOON was leading when falling at the ninth, but his overall profile is not encouraging with just one novices’ hunter chase place in ten efforts under Rules.
DAY OF CLAIES hasn’t shown anything in two runs since a long break.
BALLYVOGE ran no sort of race and pulled up.

4.45 3m 2f 0-95 Handicap Chase

NELLIEDONETHAT bounced back to form. He was always going well and idled in front, so the impression is that there may still be a little in hand.
BENBEOCH was held up early but made good progress to join issue at the twelfth. He stayed on well but was held by the winner. He has dropped from a mark of 93 to 71 in the past year. He’s not run as well as this for a while and the big question is whether he produces the form again. He may be under-priced next time.
GETINBYBUTONLYJUST was in the fray all the way, but was held from the last. He manages to find one or two too good for him. I would imagine the Highland National might be on his agenda.
BAKER FLINN showed a glimmer of encouragement once again if one paced from three out.
SUPREME’S LEGACY dropped away from the eleventh. He generally gets involved up front somewhere along the line, but lacks oomph in the latter stages.
MITCHEL HENRY ran another lack lustre race.
JBALLINGALL ran prominently until turning towards three out.
JACKSONVILLE had run passably well at Ayr but was never going here and ended a remote last.
GLACIAL RAMBLER ran prominently early, but folded quickly after halfway.
CUTE N YOU KNOW IT and MISS TOSCA were both struggling by halfway and pulled up.
IKEMBA ran quite well last time, but was well held here in a much more competitive race. He was another to be pulled up.

5.20 2m 0-100 Handicap Chase

OSO MAGIC recorded a first win since 2005. Even with a rise in the weights he will still be on a decent mark, and ran with a good amount of zest here, but the big question is whether or not he is inclined to exert himself in future.
BAMBY ran creditably in second but never got to grips with the leader. It should be possible to find another race for her.
UPTOWN LAD inherited third at the last and was flattered.
COTE D’ARGENT, a decent winner over hurdles last time, was in the process of running a very creditable race on his chasing debut when coming down at the last. He was probably held but it was a good effort.
NORMINSTER was staying on, as is his way, when he couldn’t avoid Cote D’Argent and unseated at the last. He may now find his handicap mark telling but still remains in good heart.
HOLLOWS MILL didn’t get to the leaders, BOG OAK didn’t make a serious impact and LERIDA, a winner here earlier in the season but not the slightest bit reliable, dropped away after racing prominently early on.
DUKE OF MALFI added to a lengthening list of dismal performances.
DREAM ON DREAMERS ran like a 66/1 shot.
ROSSIN GOLD lost his place quickly after the third and was pulled up after jumping one more.


Monday, 30 March 2009

Sedgefield - March 24

SEDGEFIELD – Tuesday March 24th

Going – Good (Good To Firm in places)

With the ground coming up on the fast side this was a meeting which may have a bearing on racing in the spring and summer. The ground was reported in very good condition by trainers and jockeys.

PROFESSOR HIGGINS has produced some decent placed form if just been pipped for the winner’s spot a couple of times. Once the rather wayward Beherayn had departed this was a straightforward task and it’s difficult to judge in relation to the future.
BEHERAYN has dipped out of races before and veered towards the small gap between wing and rail at the sixth. He crashed through the rail and chased the winner on the vehicle track inside the course. Thankfully he decided against running into the course enclosure and was apparently none the worse. He remains a horse to be wary of.
WHATADIFFERENCE displayed some fair hurdle form in Ireland in 2005 but has had below par results since then. He couldn’t trouble the winner here and needs trying in a handicap.
LINDSEYFIELD LODGE plodded around for third. She isn’t very good.
BILLSGREY has been well beaten in all 19 races he has contested.
FORTUNE’S FOOL had been poor over hurdles recently and didn’t provide any more encouragement back over fences.

4.00 2m 4f 0-95 Handicap Chase

NICOZETTO’s recent form had been poor but it seems a change of yard has revitalised him. A tongue–tie was applied here, having not been noticeably successful when tried on the odd previous occasion. Pulling hard from the start, he led after the fifth and ran away from his field down the straight. He has dropped a long way in the handicap and, assuming he remains in good heart, is likely to score again.
I’M YOUR MAN stayed on from two out without ever threatening to win. He was in decent form last summer and will presumably be kept on the go.
PISTOL BASC is starting to show some ability. He seemed to handle the quicker ground well enough and, while never getting to the leader, stayed on for third. He has dropped 5lbs since his last outing and seems to be progressing steadily.
SANDS RISING hasn’t won for two years and was held from three out.
LONGDALE made progress until hitting three out. He took a while to recover but was staying on when stumbling after the last.
NAVAL ATTACHE went up 20lbs for winning an uncompetitive maiden chase here last time and that may have put paid to his winning chances in the near future. He was well held.
SYCHO FRED mad no impact, and SYBELLIUS D’ARTAIX and MALT DE VERGY both saw jumping errors put paid to any chance they had.
SPIVITUS ran a poor race. His stable has been going well but he is right off his game.
PHYSICAL FORCE ran prominently early but was feeling the pinch when unseating at the ninth.
ARCTIC GHOST and PRINCESS STEPHANIE were both always behind and were pulled up.

5.00 2m 4f Open Hunters’ Chase

BELEM RANGER, a win under Rules at Musselburgh last season, looks in good heart this season having won his Club Members’ at Corbridge recently. Staying on behind the leaders from two out, he stood off the last and stumbled on landing, but recovered to run on for victory. He goes well on fast ground and should continue to prove competitive in this sort of event.
NOUVEAU MAIRE ran a sound enough race but found this a bit tougher under a penalty than his previous race here. He appeared to run to his previous level.
WILLYWONT HE was run out of it after the last but performed creditably on his first effort over regulation fences.
The was a big gap back to the remainder, led by SMART CAVALIER who went off in front as at Kelso, but too fast for his own good and was done for from the third last.
STROOM BANK and OAKLANDS LUIS raced prominently but struggled from four out.
BENWELL made no impact and his sixth position was as close as he ever got.
BEN NELLY has shown no ability to date and was always in the rear, while maiden point winner HIGH MOOR couldn’t cope here and finished a remote last.
BILLSLEGACY, from a stable full of slowcoaches, has never been closer than beaten 99 lengths under Rules and isn’t a racehorse.
RIVER LINE lost his place after halfway and was pulled up. He has achieved very little to date.
JIMMY’S DUKY hit the first hard and Lucy Bell had no chance of staying in the plate.
JUPITER’S FANCY never got competitive and unseated two out when tailed off.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Racing on drier ground at Kelso

KELSO – Friday March 20th

Going – Good (Good to Firm in places)

The going dried out for this meeting following a spell of sunny weather in Scotland. Some of the form might be a pointer to spring and summer meetings.

2.20 2m 6 ½ f Maiden Hurdle

BIG BURROWS clearly benefitted from the step up in trip, staying on too well for his rivals. Three mile plus races look likely to be his forte, and he has the makings of a chaser.
SIRKEEL again found one too good, and the step up in trip brought about no improvement in form though he did see out the extra distance.
GILSLAND was left behind after two out, but this was a fair performance stepped up from the minimum trip. He’s a half-brother to an Irish National winner and will no doubt be seen to greater effect over fences in time.
PRIORYJO had no answer from two out though ran to her best form and was not hindered by the step up in distance.
STORMIN EXIT set the pace until before the last, but was left behind from that point. I reckon he’s better using his front running pace at a shorter trip. He may be one to look for in handicaps now, but could be seen to better effect in short or middle distance chases.

2.50 2m 6 ½ f Class 2 Novices’ Chase

This was probably as good a novice event as we have seen run in Scotland this season and the form looks solid.
CHIEF DAN GEORGE has been brought along steadily by James Moffatt, but looked to run near to his 145 hurdles mark in winning this. He jumped well and ran away from his field from the last. Word is that he will go for the Scottish National. Whether he’s good enough in that company at this point is debatable, but I would imagine he should acquit himself well enough in handicaps.
SA SUFFIT lost little in defeat and I would judge he performed to what I considered his potential level in the mid-130s. He jumped as well as ever but was held on the flat by a better opponent. The trip didn’t appear to inconvenience him,
RAZOR ROYALE had every chance before the last but was well held from that point. He was highly tried as a hurdler and hasn’t quite achieved the same level over fences to date. His trainer always sets up a tilt at the Perth Festival, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him travel north once again.
ROLE ON seemed to set the standard here, running a decent race until left from before the last.
MILL SIDE retreated before the straight. He was a three mile winner over hurdles but has struggled to see out the distance over fences so far.
CAMDEN GEORGE was stepped up in trip, leading or disputing to the twelfth fence before giving way. It’s possible he found this event a little too competitive.
REEL CHARMER has yet to show enough to make a mark at this level over fences.
DOC ROW wasn’t good enough and needs a stiffer test of stamina.
WATERSKI was presumably entered in the hope the field might cut up, and was outclassed.

3.25 3m 3f 0-90 Handicap Hurdle

A lowly bunch who just gallop on at the one pace at best and the only previous winner notched his victory in a maiden point-to-point.

BARTON GREY broke her jaw in falling at Catterick late last year. Understandably it has taken her time to recover her from since but she stayed on to win comfortably here. The form has to be taken in context, she beat some moderate performers, but she clearly has more ability than this level and is going the right way.
HOOKY’S HOPE isn’t particularly quick but does run an honest enough race at her own pace. She’s been unlucky to run against two progressive performers in Little Shilling and Barton Grey, but probably has enough ability to pick up a minor staying handicap.
BEAU PEAK stayed on for third without getting seriously involved. Unfortunately for her they don’t run four mile hurdles.
Very little to encourage from the remainder, SEEKING STRAIGHT presumably finding the fast ground against him. There’s a possibility a couple of races in heavy on consecutive days at Ayr might have left a short term mark.

4.00 2m 1f 0-135 Handicap Chase

TOM’S TOYBOX picked up from where he left off on quick ground last summer. He stayed on to get up on the line and is one to keep in mind for the coming months.
NIKOLA led from the start and battled determinedly on the flat only to be pipped close home. He now has nine seconds over fences, but there was little to fault in his attitude. He’s another Twiston-Davies animal that may be aimed at Perth in April and should give his running.
SHARP REPLY challenged from three out but couldn’t offer any extra in the final furlong. He’s another one with a Perth target lined up.
CAST IRON CASEY acquitted himself well enough on a first try in a handicap chase and a step back up to 2m 4f would do no harm.
SEEYAAJ performed respectably after a five month break, running well until hitting two out and still not beaten far.
BILL’S ECHO kept on from the rear but never figured seriously. He needs a longer distance.
MARCEL looks handicapped to the hilt at present.
LE ROI ROUGE was beaten from four out. His UK wins have been in a lower class.
MANHATTAN BOY was feeling the pinch when falling three out.
NATIAIN was in a sour mood. He delayed the start once and then dug his heels in when the rest departed. He’s eligible for the hunter chase here on March 29th so it will be interesting to see if he’s more amenable.

4.35 3m 4f 0-130 Handicap Chase

The top two in the weights came out reducing the quality of the event.

MISTER APPLE’S been going very well approaching the last and ran on well on the flat. His 108 mark gives a little scope for choosing future events.
STAGECOACH DIAMOND set the pace and responded admirably once headed. He runs an honest enough race but finds one or two having too much pace at the sharp end.
KING BARRY is probably handicapped to the hilt on 130 and performed as well as could be expected in third.
RIMSKY got into the issue down the back straight last time, he looked held but stuck to his guns and wasn’t beaten far.
HAS SCORED hadn’t an earthly from miles out of the handicap. A typical entry from a stable that specialises in running horses in way too high a class.
PANAMA AT ONCE has improved all winter and hadn’t been asked too many questions when unseating three out. Off his current mark of 108, and bearing in mind he seems to be holding his form and is versatile ground-wise, a tilt at the Highland National would seem a reasonable plan.
HIDDEN BOUNTY was struggling with a circuit left and was soon pulled up.

5.10 2m 2f Class 5 Maiden Hurdle

The low sun came into play for this event and we lost the two hurdles in the straight, meaning that only six were jumped and the race turned into a four furlong sprint for a leading group of seven.

I wonder if the course might have given a thought to moving one of the last two hurdles to the side of the track. With a little thought in positioning I reckon it would be workable, and would at least mean the exclusion of only one hurdle because of the sun.

FIRST STREAM finished fast to get up close home. Given that he has Group race flat form in Germany and he fell first time over hurdles, the removable of a few obstacles wouldn’t have harmed his chances.
BEST LOVER is running consistently but can’t quite raise his game sufficiently close home. It’s likely he’ll benefit from going chasing but will surely pick up a minor novice hurdle before long.
CASUAL AFFAIR battled to the end but was just held by the first two. His winning chance over hurdles seems only delayed.
LEGION D’HONNEUR couldn’t hold the leaders in the final two furlongs.
ARCH ran passably well in fifth and is slowly improving. He may be worth aiming at a novice handicap now he’s qualified.

5.40 2m ½ f NH Flat

This was basically a sprint in the straight, but STORM BRIG came clear with some authority. He’s a half-brother to winning jumpers and is a decent prospect.
LILLA SOPHIA ran on late for second. It would appear a longer trip would help, so a step up to hurdling looks essential.
BARRON WATLASS ran a fair race in third, being done for pace from a furlong and a half out.
BOGSIDE, a half-bother to two chase winners, shaped well enough in fourth.
CHICAGO OUTFIT, an expensive Wylie-Johnson runner, and NORTHERN DUSK both showed enough to offer optimism for the future.
KINHARVIE, Rose Dobbin’s first runner as a trainer, ran very green once turned for home. She may need time but there could be better to come.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ayr - March 19th

AYR – Thursday March 19th

Going – Soft

The going had dried out a bit from the last meeting but it was still pretty tacky and hard work for moderate fields.

2.20 2m 5f 0-105 Handicap Chase

VICARIO made a winning return to chasing, jumping a bit stickily early on but warming to the task. He won well enough but it wasn’t a competitive race.
SOMETHING SILVER set the pace but couldn’t hold the winner in the closing stages. He is a tough sort who has run all his 27 races on good to soft or softer. Chances may be limited for the rest of the season, but he’ll return in the autumn on a handy mark.
WISE CHOICE couldn’t muster enough pace after the last, but given that this was only his third attempt over fences there was a degree of promise.
RECKLESS VENTURE was well beaten which is not promising, but it’s worth bearing in mind that he’s a different performer at Hexham.
WHISPERING MOOR had no chance on these terms and ran that way.
TOY GUN lost touch from the eleventh. He probably needs further, but that wouldn’t have been the complete explanation here.

2.50 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

ERNST BLOFELD was best on previous form and stayed on well under pressure to win. I presume he may be aimed a little higher next time.
STEADY TIGER put in a sound performance in second. He played up at the start, but was more co-operative in the race, just being outpointed in the later stages. He will be one to watch when progressing to chasing next season.
ASIS SUPREME was headed three out and quickly outpaced. He did show enough to suggest there is something to work with.
DREVER ROUTE was tongue-tied here but it didn’t seem to help much since he weakened three out.

3.25 2m 4f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

NETHERLEY and BLEAK HOUSE contested the lead until both came down independently at the eleventh. Sadly the fall cost NETHERLEY his life.
BLEAK HOUSE jumped markedly right all the way and has problems to sort out if he’s to make the best of his ability over fences.
The departure of the leaders left Jimmy Lambe’s runners to fight out the finish.
BAD DAY BAD DAY went lame in the latter stages, so it’s impossible to judge the winner GENERAL STONE HILL though he did at least run on well enough.

3.55 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

Another small field, a theme of recent racing at Ayr.

WOODY WALLER was well favoured here receiving a stone less 5lbs claim from his main rival. He won at Musselburgh earlier and may well step up again though I suspect decent ground will help.
COMHLA RI COIG needs a decent pace or a longer distance. He was anchored by the double penalty but this was a fair enough effort. I’d expect this lightly raced performer to move on to chasing next term.
PRINCE TAM had no chance with the first two but plugged on for third. He is progressing at his own level.
HOWARDS DREAM, from a stable with a consistent losing record, and CRACKERJACK LAD do not look inspiring.

4.30 2m 0-105 Handicap Hurdle

COTE D’ARGENT saw off a bunch of moderate performers in decent style. He does at least seem to be going the right way over hurdles.
BALAKAR regularly finds one or two too good for him these days and isn’t inclined to over exert himself. His amateur jockey was more of a hindrance than a help in the latter stages.
ETHAN’S STAR ran his best race since moving from Ireland. He was prominent all the way but held from three out. He stayed on again and, though not endowed with stacks, might be worth noting in moderate events on better ground in spring and summer. The face that he was twice a winner in Ireland offers some encouragement.
SOLIS led from three out until after the last but was then held. This was as close as he has got over hurdles.
The performances of the remainder didn’t offer too much encouragement though CATAI may have been closer but for hitting the last.

5.00 2m 0-115 Handicap Chase

ET MAINTENANT continued the progression he has made since moving to Scotland. He ran on well from three out to win with a bit in hand. He goes well on good or fast ground so Lucinda Russell will surely be eyeing a target or two at Perth for spring and summer.
CANTGETON performed well enough if held from two out. He seemed to have the run of the race at Kelso last time and might be one to oppose if put in at the head of the market.
HI DANCER, running in his third chase, was one paced in the straight. However, this was a fair effort off a two month break and this versatile performer may progress enough to pick up a minor handicap chase.
OLEOLAT is a big sort whose future has always looked over fences. He jumped adequately but was tapped for speed. He will learn from this.
ZA BEAU needs better ground that this and is better off against lower class opposition. Her current rating does at least give her a run in 0-100 or 0-105 class.
ATHOLLBROSE performed above himself being beaten 24 lengths from 30lbs out of the handicap, but a current rating of 59 pretty well sums up his remote chances of picking up a race.
AZTEC PRINCE struggled from halfway and was dismounted after pulling up before the last.

5.30 2m NH Flat

Possibly not a lot of strength in depth, but the first two look interesting for the future.

WITHERSPOON gained experience with a second in an Irish maiden point. He impressed here, going well three out and requiring only a couple of cracks to see him about his business. He picked up very nicely and looks a prospect for the future.
WILLIE HALL lost nothing in defeat here, and looked a little green in the last two furlongs. He moved up three out and was then nudged along to keep up two out but couldn’t respond to the winner’s pace.
TURTLE SPIRIT ran well enough in third to establish the level of the form.
BIG SHU, a half brother to a fair bumper performer in Big Boots, showed enough to promise better in the future.
The rest, including a couple of decent priced purchases in FAIRLEA BOB and IT’S BROWN, were well held.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

CARLISLE - mid March Meeting

CARLISLE – Sunday March 15th

Going – Heavy (soft in places)

As has been the case all season at Carlisle the going was heavy though it seemed to have dried a little on the surface, and gave the impression of not being quite so testing as previous meetings. On this occasion the fence missed out was the second last. The ground around one or two of the other fences, notably the third last, is looking well chewed up and desperately in need of a summer of rest.

2.00 2m 5f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

This looked a straightforward opportunity for HOCKENHEIM who had run some respectable races in the past couple of seasons without getting his head in front. He led and stretched his field from the bottom of the hill and won with a fair bit to spare. On the basis of what we have seen so far his handicap mark of 119 seems a true one.
PASS THE CLASS looked in trouble three out but stayed on up the hill. He’s run like this before and is rather frustrating.
INDY MOOD has come to chasing late in his career, presumably in an attempt to rekindle his enthusiasm since his hurdling form had dropped away. This was an improvement on his debut, and a move to a handicap over a longer trip may help.
ASTON LAD never got seriously competitive here. He’s got very little chance in these events as his jumping is still a little tentative, and his handicap mark seems a bit stiff.
FLEMEN LOON is a poor performer and had no chance from four out. #
CALFRAZ was well behind from the tenth, and didn’t jump that fluently.

2.30 2m 0-95 Handicap Chase

A run of the mill event, with plenty of well tried novices. However it was a fair old race from the bottom of the hill.

NORMINSTER enjoys himself round here and at Hexham and has been in fine form most of the season. He made progress from three out and led before the last. Clear after the last he idled, but then pulled a little more out of the bag when it was needed. He regularly gives his running and the impression is that he’s still a little better then the 92 he ran off here. Credit once again to his trainer Rayson Nixon who made it an impressive 8 winners from 50 runners this season.
WEE GEORGE struggled in his early career, but now seems to be getting the hang of the game. He looked held at the last having raced prominently, but stuck his head down and had a right go on the flat. On this evidence he should land a handicap at this level. The drop to the minimum trip seemed to have done him good at this stiff track.
WORK BOY showed a degree of promise behind Banoge on his chasing debut and built on that here. He stayed on well and longer distance should see further improvement.
FRITH is possibly handicapped to his limit now. He held every chance before the last but couldn’t muster the extra required to challenge.
ASTYANAX, with ‘sideburns’ replacing blinkers, produced his best chasing form to date, being well in contention most of the way but producing no extra from before the last.
MOYNE PLEASURE flattered briefly three out but then dropped away. He did at least show a little more than of late, but isn’t offering too much encouragement overall.
DUKE OF MALFI never really got into the race and was held from three out.
BULLIES ACRE was prominent early, and led two out but weakened from that point. Although finishing last this was more encouraging than his run at Hexham three days previously.

3.05 3m ½ f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

LE BEAU BAI showed no ill effects from his Cheltenham outing where he was pulled up in the National Hunt Chase. More at home in this less demanding company, he disputed from three out and ran on well on the flat.
Oliver Sherwood brought MOUNT SANDEL up from Lambourn for this event. Given that his best from is on sharp tracks he performed well here just running out of steam after the last. Back on a more suitable circuit he should continue to pay his way.
TASTES LIKE MORE was rated 29lbs worse than the second, so to get within in ¾ length was a creditable effort. She appeared held two out but stuck to her guns in the latter stages. She would certainly be interesting in a mares' only race or back in a handicap.
BELON GALE’s jumping did not stand up against competitive opposition and he was tailed off by three out. Time is on his side though.

3.35 3m 2f 0-95 Novices’ Handicap Chase

A very moderate looking event.

SABREFLIGHT set a varying pace, staying on determinedly when the others came at her up the hill. She is trained in Wiltshire but given her record at Sedgefield, 2213 in four attempts in a bumper and over hurdles; another venture north might pay dividends.
IKEMBA pulled up in a point last time, but it was in the company of Amicelli and Killone King which looked an impossible mission. His rules record isn’t all that bad and he might be worth another go at this level. He never quite got to the winner but was only beaten a half length.
MINSTER ABBI had an impossible task last time, and on this occasion was held after the last. This is here level.
POLOBURY made a satisfactory chasing debut in fourth, not beaten far. She stays well and does have years in hand on the remainder here.
TREASURED MEMORIES was given reminders early, but held every chance when coming down two out. Three falls in five attempts may not do her confidence much good.
BAKER FLINN s comfortably outpointed from turning away from the far side.

4.10 2m 5f 0-130 Novices’ Handicap Chase

The top rated here was 120 which should be borne in mind for those who consider the class.

STORYMAKER is a versatile sort who has won over two and three miles over hurdles. He picked up nicely from the last and just held the rallying Teenando. He wouldn’t want to go up too much in the ratings as 114 is probably about his mark.
TEENANDO put right the hiccup last time with a much better run here. She had an uncontested lead on this occasion which certainly helped. She looked one paced two out but found more on the run-in and doesn’t look finished with yet. Form around Carlisle is 113152.
PACCO won at Towcester last time and the 6lb rise might just have anchored him, the opposition here being a wee bit tougher. He had every chance at the last but couldn’t muster any extra on the run-in.
MISTER POTTER put in a fair effort in fourth considering he was lugging 11-12 in this going.
BOUGOURE is not in the form he was a couple of years back, despite a drop of 12lbs in the ratings.
BANOGE seemed to find the trip beyond him round here in the conditions.
FIFTYFIVE DEGREES was just being pushed along when taking a false step landing over three out. His jockey took the wise precaution of pulling up, but it seemed there was no serious damage.
LA PANTERA ROSA never got involved and was very disappointing.

4.40 3m ½ f 0-90 Handicap Chase

A bunch of plodders in the finale, led by STORMONT DAWN who recorded a second course win. She went clear from the last but is not the most predictable though a decent performer at a lowly level on her day.
STARK RAVEN joined issue at the fourth but was held once headed before the last. He ran to his form.
SUPERROLLERCOASTER has not recaptured last season’s form despite dropping down the ratings.
KIDITHOU needs better ground than this.
The previous effort here may have told on THE MAYSTONE who was never travelling.
HAS SCORED knocked into another runner on landing at the first and lost his action. His rider reported a ‘dead leg’, though I always thought such a description was a human feel of a knock!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Russell goes close at Cheltenham

Scotland was less than a length away from a Cheltenham winner as Mirage Dore's late charge up the hill saw him fall just short of victory for Milnathort-based Lucinda Russell in the Coral Cup. He really gave the Irish winner Ninetieth Minute a battle. Since the ground has now come right for Mirage Dore it would seem no harm to take in a race at Aintree, the 2m 4f handicap hurdle on the opening day being the obvious target, though the 3m handicap on the second day might be a possibility given the sharper track.

With Lucinda Russell's stable upping their game year upon year it would come as no surprise to see a Scottish runner enter the cHeltenham Festival winner's spot in the next couple of years. Keep an eye out for James Ewart who will be eyeing a similar achievement in years to come.

Congratulations to David Parry and his partners on a fine performance by Nine De Sivola, just pipped for second in the National Hunt Chase. I would imagine the Scottish Grand National would be the next target, a race in which Nine De Sivola was second in 2007.

Another performer who has shown up well on the Scottish circuit this year is Knockara Beau who lost nothing in defeat when an excellent fifth for George Charlton in the Ballymore Properties Hurdle.

I'd questioned whether Kalahari King would be good enough to win the Arkle Chase, but Ferdy Murphy's gelding was inches away from proving me wrong. A fine effort and maybe a Queen Mother Champion Chase challenger in future.

Northern Chasing in Cheltenham Week

SEDGEFIELD – Tuesday March 10th

Going – Good (Good To Soft back straight)

With Cheltenham taking most of the attention the Northern circuit continued in low key mode. The going here was bordering on good all round after a dry spell. Despite that the apparent area ‘requirement’ to miss a fence continued, with the second in the back straight being missed out.

2.20 2m 4f Class 4 Maiden Chase

This was a weak event, and NAVAL ATTACHE rated only 70 and recording a first win at 25 attempts won it fairly comfortably. A step up in trip seemed to help and he wasn’t stopping at the finish. His future prospects depend on how the handicapper treats this race since he’s only a lowly performer in that sphere.
QUINCY DES PICTONS made a satisfactory debut, having been recruited from French provincial racing mainly in their equivalent of bumpers. He challenged two out but was held. He needs to move forward from this, but it was a sound start.
EASBY MANDARIN should have won this on official figures, and looked the winner having led to three out. He went out like a light two out which isn’t encouraging.
PADDYMcGINTYSGOAT is basically slow and was left behind from the fourth last.
SCUZME jumped poorly on his chasing debut.
TURBULENT FLIGHT is very slow.
CUCCINELLO has yet to even place in 22 attempts.
PRESENT EDWARD looked totally clueless and after a succession of poor jumps pulled up after the fifth.

4.15 2m 4f 0-110 Handicap Chase

STAGECOACH AMBER led his field a merry dance here, jumping well and having his rivals burnt off by two out. His problem will be that his rating will no doubt be bumped up near to 120, and this class is basically his level so life could be difficult from now on.
TARABALOO stayed on for second and with fewer miles on the clock is probably the one to take out of this race. His hurdle win came on fast ground and, boasting three places in four chasing attempts, he looks one to keep on the right side over the coming months.
CYBORA is consistent, but up to a rating of 100 now and that may find him held. He chased from three out but couldn’t get to the winner.
SANDS RISING kept on for fourth having been well back early on. He seems to run honestly enough but the years are catching up.
CARRIETAU didn’t benefit noticeably from a step up in trip.
SOUND OF CHEERS never got into the race and struggles in anything but the lowest handicap class.
DAY OF CLAIES was returning after the best part of two years off. He never got into the race, but the outing will no doubt do him some good, though it remains to be seen how much ability is retained.
WHATCANYOUSAY won the race last year, but retreated quickly from three out. This was too bad to be true.
TEVIOT LASS decanted her rider at the eighth. She probably has ability enough to win a small race but sometimes clumsy jumping holds her back.
THE HEDGE travelled from Northern Ireland but made no impact and pulled up. That’s 26 runs without a win now.

4.55 2m 4f Hunters’ Chase

This looked a poor event, but well done to his one horse trainer Miss Morgan-Murphy for revitalising NOUVEAU MAIRE. Twice a winner in France, he had lost his way totally in recent runs there, but was produced to win comfortably here. His only previous attempt in Britain had been off 120 in a Cheltenham handicap but this seems more his level.
WITNESS RUN is currently rated 105, though it’s doubtful this form reached that level. He had every chance but couldn’t make an impression on the winner. The shorter trip may well suit better than three miles in points and he may have a chance in a similarly weak event.
YANN’S is a thirteen year old whose ability is on the wane. He just plugged on from three out.
BENNY BOY got closer here than on previous attempts under Rules, staying on late for fourth. The impression is that a longer trip will not be a problem.
SIMPLY SMASHING jumped poorly in the rear early, but picked off a few late on.
HASPER offered only one pace from two out.
PARADISE BAY ran some decent races last spring and may benefit from the sun on his back, but dropped away from four out here.
JUPITER’S FANCY had a decent season last year but needed the race on this occasion.
WINDY HILLS, made favourite, had every chance three out but faded quickly. His NH form from two years back is much that this suggests.
EMERALD DESTINY raced up with the pace early but weakened quickly from the tenth.
INCAS finished last and it could be that the years are catching up.

HEXHAM – Wednesday March 12th

Going – Soft

This is one of the ‘cult’ days for followers of Northern jump racing with the annual running of the ‘Hexham four-miler’. Thus do the likes of ‘yours truly’ get their excitement.

As has been the case all season, the fence at the top of the hill was out of action. ‘Area requirement’ satisfied!

2.20 2m ½ f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

SA SUFFIT was balloted out of his intended race at Cheltenham but found a straightforward consolation prize, seeing off his only serious rival very comfortably. He led at a steady pace and then kicked no two out, none of the others being good enough to respond. He really wasn’t out of a canter once he reached the hill up to the straight. He jumps well and is progressing nicely. Assuming the third ran to form this run has to be worth the mid-130s and I would imagine that James Ewart might seek out a race either at Aintree or the Ayr Scottish National Meeting. He has the potential to become the best chaser trained in Scotland.
THE DUKE’S SPEECH found his limitations exposed here and was left behind from three out though stayed on to take second. He seems better on flatter tracks.
SOUBRIQUET probably ran more or less to his mark in third place. He hit three out, which stopped him in his tracks, and would probably have bagged second otherwise. He may well be worth trying in a novice handicap, since he doesn’t seem over-rated at 115.
PENDLE FOREST once again had no chance in this company, but her jumping was sound and she pootled round for £477 in fourth.

3.35 4m 0-110 Handicap Chase

There was a disappointing turn out for the ‘big event’ but nevertheless competitive with the whole field having bits of form which gave them a chance.

Three mares met three geldings and it was the distaff side that came out on top, BELLANEY JEWEL staying on better than the remainder from the bottom of the hill. She has run three races at Hexham, is unbeaten here, and has a very decent 7 wins from 25 NH races.
CAPYBARA is decent at this level on his day, though his jumping can go awry occasionally. He was on his game today and had every chance before the winner slipped her field up the hill but kept on after the last. He’s very lightly raced for an eleven year old and may still have a few miles in him. Targets like the Highland National or the Durham National could figure in plans.
GETINBYBUTONLYJUST has become a most frustrating character. He normally manages to get himself involved in the latter stages without ever getting his head in front. I presume he might be another Perth bound come late April, though on a rating of 94 he wouldn’t necessarily get a run, 95 having been the lowest rating in the race last year.
KORELO would have lapped these in his hey-day, but he could only raise one pace late on. This was a bit better than other recent efforts though.
OVERLADY is only small and, given that I wouldn’t have thought going or trip would be a problem, the weight may have stopped her. She found only one pace from two out and may be better aimed at higher class races off light weights.
SHULMIN weakened quickly from three out then pulled up and was reported as having a breathing problem. Assuming she’s none worse I’ll be looking out for her when I visit Sedgefield on April 7th.

4.55 2m 4 ½ f 0-95 Handicap Chase

A really poor event.

The winner NEIDPATH CASTLE has shown up quite well at Ayr last time, and saw off some untalented or out of form rivals. I would presume that the handicapper will shunt him up by a double-figure poundage, which would end his prospects of a repeat.
TULLY HILL has been very slow this season, but managed to keep up here and plodded on past a couple of rivals for second. This at least shows he has a modicum of ability given bad enough opposition, but on the face of it he achieved very little.
MISTRAL DE LA COUR couldn’t cope once they hit the hill.
BULLIES ACRE disputed or led for a way but had called enough as the field took the hill.
MR TWINS jumped poorly and lost touch by the tenth, getting a little closer as his rivals hit the wall late on.
BALLYNURE didn’t go a yard and seemed to resent any encouragement.

NEWCASTLE – Saturday March 14th

Going – Good (Good To Firm in places)

A total turn round in the going within a week from West coast to East.

3.20 2m ½ f 0-105 Handicap Chase

ZA BEAU is suited by the fast ground. Her jumping can be a bit dicey sometimes, but she is useful on her day and could pick up a race or two at this level on the decent ground expected in the spring. Word has it that she is to be covered by Kayf Tara, so it might be worth looking out for baby Za Beau’s in years to come.
IT’S BERTIE has been in good form recently and ‘kept the winner honest’ over the last three. He was a long way clear of the third and may well pick up a race stepped up in trip.
HUTCH had been absent for a long while and performed moderately encouragingly in third. He’s still a maiden over fences, but there was enough to suggest his trainer might place him to win a weak handicap chase.
MR FLOPPY was never dangerous. His profile is not brilliant but does suggest a longer trip is required.
HICKORY LANE is slow and struggling, a mark of 67 here meaning he was 10lbs out of the handicap. His form suggests he would need a very bad race to figure.
MALT DE VERGY was restrained in midfield until tipping over at the sixth.
STORMY BEECH led to the eighth but the towel quickly came in once headed.

4.20 3m 0-110 Handicap Chase

JORVEYBROOK left previous form behind on his second attempt over fences. He looked held four out but really got going in the straight, but then a poor jump at the last handed the initiative to the second. He battled back well and is the type to progress as he gets experience.
SEEK THE TRUTH offered promise for the future at only his second attempt over the trip. He saw off the remainder comfortably only to find the winner too strong close home. His best runs have come at Carlisle and Newcastle, so a stiff track seems to help along with good or fast ground.
DARINA’S BOY led to five out then dropped away from three out.
WIZARDS DUST threatened to get involved when going well at the thirteenth, but dropped away to be well held. He had no real excuse here since he had conditions to suit.
ANGLICAN made mistakes early on and never got into the race.
LOST IN NORMANDY raced prominently early but the white flag seems to be raised very easily these days.
ORANG OUTAN made mistakes and didn’t give his running here, weakening from five out and pulling up.
TRISONS STAR is going backwards and put in another lack lustre performance.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Kelso - an additonal meeting

KELSO – Sunday March 8th

Going – Soft (Good to Soft in places)

An extra card at Kelso completed a run of Northern meetings.

2.25 2m 2f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

An event low on quality.

SIR TANTALLUS HAWK was the one competitor coming into this with winning form. Having been kept handy he moved up to challenge at the last and eased away on the flat. He will struggle to defy a double penalty, so presumably will be aimed at handicaps now.
NONOTREALLY was up with the leaders most of the way and led two out. He couldn’t match the winner from the last but this was a fair return after a two and a half year break. The big question now is whether this is a one off or can be built on. I’d like to see another run first.
SUNDAE BEST didn’t jump very cleanly early on but warmed to his task in the latter stages. He may need a bit of time but isn’t a lost cause.
MAXWELLTON BRAES didn’t build on his Ayr for and was a disappointing and well held fourth.

2.55 2m 6 ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

SPHINX is an 11 year old trying to make up for lost time over hurdles. On this evidence it’s a shame we had to wait so long to see him, since he came away from his field nicely. Given that he is fairly fresh in this sphere and going forward he may well pick up another race.
CLASSIC CUT is another interesting prospect from the progressive yard of James Ewart and sported the familiar noseband and white boots. He ran a bit green on the flat, it’s a long old run-in at Kelso, but stayed on and should win a staying event.
CASSIUS’s level of form is pretty well established and he sets the level on an official figure of 100. He ran well enough but was well held on the flat.
OSCAR HONEY raced keenly in front in first time blinkers but came down at the seventh. He hasn’t found his feet over fences in the UK so far and I hope this hasn’t knocked his confidence over hurdles since he should be capable of picking up an event of this quality.
The rest of the field were beaten a long way.

3.25 2m 6 ½ f 0-120 Novices’ Handicap Chase

This was a race which seemed between three, Super Baby, Bow School and Cornerback. In the event Bow School was below par and it was to the other two to fight it out.

CORNERBACK was held up early, but made steady progress to track the leaders down the back straight for the final time. She got a bit unbalanced over two out, but soon recovered to challenge at the last and was allowed to stride on in the final furlong. There may be a little more to come from this one since her jumping can be tidied up a bit. She won on better ground over hurdles and in a bumper, so is likely to progress through the spring.
SUPER BABY jumps well and gave an honest performance, being outpaced in the final furlong of the long run-in. He looks on his level at 112.
WATERSKI was dropped back to a more reasonable standard than his Musselburgh race. He went well for a long way but gave best from two out. He’s yet to win and needs another drop in class for a chance to prove himself.
ANGLICISME isn’t as good over fences as his 104 mark suggests and is currently held.
BOW SCHOOL didn’t jump well enough to make up for a 9lb rise following his Musselburgh victory. He faded quickly from three out, pulling up before the last.
PRINCE MOUSE has shown a glimmer of ability in a belated career under rules, but it seems too late now to make a mark. He fell at the thirteenth when feeling the pinch.
SUPREMELY GIFTED hasn’t lived up to his name over fences to date and fell away from three out before pulling up.

3.55 2m 1/2 f 0-135 Handicap Hurdle

GRINGO challenged before two out and was pushed out on the run-in. He did the job well enough but these are exposed performers and there wasn’t a lot of strength in depth for the level. He is definitely best on decent ground so should have conditions in his favour and might just manage another win before the handicapper gets hold of him.
ORMUS challenged before two out, lead at the last and kept on once headed. He’s another whose profile suggests good ground is best.
MARCEL has been switched back to hurdling after his chase mark rose into the 130s. This was an improvement on his last two efforts but he still needs to find more to win a race even off 115.
COCONUT BEACH was third in a Catterick seller recently and that level is all that he has won at in recent times.
MOHAYER was made favourite but came down at the fourth.

4.25 2m 1f 0-135 Handicap Chase

BOLD RANSOM is lightly raced and has a sound record to date, particularly in the mud. This was his first chasing win, but he goes well for one so inexperienced and stayed on too well for his closest rivals on the run-in. He is progressing and may well win again.
TWELVE PACES is useful on his day but difficult to predict and spends as much time trundling round at the back as he does up front. He runs his best races when able to get near the front.
MORE LIKELY was much happier here bowling along in front, but the trip starts to stretch her stamina ad she gave way on the run to the line.
CRACKADEE performed better than previous efforts this season but was held from two out. He may well be worth an interest in the near future given that he’s down below his previous winning mark
SCARVAGH DIAMOND couldn’t go with the others from three out and has been out of sorts all season.

4.55 2m 2f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

SINGING WIZARD led two out and battled back when headed on the flat. He showed more determination at the death. He jumped right so a switch to a right-handed track might bring about some improvement.
SPELLCHECKER came there cruising after the last but found very little when asked and is currently worth opposing.
BEST LOVER led at the seventh but, having go the rail on the run to the line, couldn’t respond when the first two went past. He hasn’t progressed since a second to Steady Tiger on his debut.
LEO’S QUEST made no impression from two out. This was a satisfactory hurdling debut.
SAM PATCH was one paced from two out, but showed a glimmer of ability on hurdling debut and may get more competitive next time.

5.25 2m ½ f NH Flat

PREMIER SAGAS doddled up here and, given that the trainers of the second and third know the time of day in these events; the form is likely to prove decent. This course has a record of producing decent performers from bumpers and Premier Sagas looks likely to add to the list.
BALLYMACDUFF led briefly before the home bend but was outpaced by the winner once turned for home. He is a half-brother to a couple of pointing winners and should progress from here.
COOL MISSION cost 44,000gns as a three year old, so there are clearly some strong expectations. He took a while to warm to his task, but stayed on well in the later stages.
CLAUDE CARTER made a respectable debut in fourth.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Ayr - A day with the owners

AYR – Saturday March 7th

Going – Heavy (soft in places), but with rain arriving mid afternoon I’m sure it would have been Heavy all round by the sixth race.

A very disappointing turn-out, but given that the going has been soft or heavy here all season, and at the likes of Carlisle, then we are probably running out of heavy ground performers ready to run. In the event 34 runners in 7 races provided decent entertainment for a comparatively sparse crowd.

I had intended to give what looked a below par card a miss. However, I took up an offer of a spare owners’ badge from David Parry who runs a dozen partnerships with horses trained by Ferdy Murphy. One of the partnerships has a runner at Cheltenham this coming week so look out for the talented, but a shade enigmatic Nine De Sivola in the National Hunt Chase. My only previous remote involvement as a connection was attendance at Windsor when a racing club horse ran in a six furlong seller. It was tailed off and if you read further on you’ll see my luck hasn’t changed much!

2.25 2m 2f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

The day was tagged Irish Raceday, though I can’t say I saw an awful lot ‘Irish’ going on. However, three of the runners in this race travelled over the Irish Sea and saved a Lucinda Russell walkover!

It was pretty much a case of the result telling the full story. It was a slog for the three Irish runners up the straight and they basically kept on each at their own pace.

OH SO HUMBEL justified favouritism, dictating the pace and then gradually forging clear over the last three. He stepped up on his Downpatrick second and might have more chance travelling over here in future.
MIGHTY MASSINI struggled to even finish a point-to-point, but has at least shown a fair amount of ability over hurdles and followed the winner home. He had his tailed tied up which always strikes me as sensible in the mud.
SCOLBOA MUSIC MAN didn’t find enough from three out. He won here previously but his two main opponents here were a bit better than the opposition on his then.
TOMMY TOBOUGG jumped big and got left behind in the final mile. He hasn’t shown much promise yet, but may be worth a go on better ground.

2.45 2m 4f 0-125 Handicap Chase

This was a decent opportunity for CORLANDE, a soft/heavy ground specialist, against opposition with questions to answer. His last race was two weeks previously and he looked in good nick for this run. He was always in the first two, leading before the last and staying on. Although he has won at Kelso, his record suggests one who is favoured by a flat track, but bear in mind that cut in the ground seems a must.
SOMETHING SILVER, back to a more favourable trip, jumped well in the lead but had only the one pace when headed before the last. A good enough and he is another who relishes these conditions. His best form has been at Ayr, but then most of his races have been at Ayr.
CADOUDALAS was comfortably held from three out. He’s still learning over fences and seems best on slightly better ground. He is probably better than the bare form here suggests and worth keeping in mind.
ASTON LAD has not looked the most natural fencer and had a tough task here. He struggled after hitting the eleventh and was a remote fourth when unseating at the last.
SOTOVIK showed promise on his return from a long lay-off last time, but maybe felt the effect of those exertions on this occasion. Conditions suited, but he was struggling in the straight and was pulled up before two out.

3.20 2m 4f 0-125 Handicap Hurdle

Graham Lee gave an exemplary ride on the talented by not altogether predictable KEMPSKI. One thing clear about this gelding is that Ayr is his course and heavy is his ground. He’s at his happiest setting the pace, so the small field played into his hands here. Lee saved enough to enable Kempski to hold on from a determined pursuer in Echo Point. His trainer pointed out that Kempski hates the whip so his rider was under instructions to keep the persuader tucked away. Rayson Nixon recorded his seventh win this season from 47 runners, a fine record for a stable with horses of comparatively limited ability.
ECHO POINT’s recent form has been up and down, but he gave things a good go here, gradually clawing back the winner’s advantage but finding the post coming too soon. He’s versatile as he’s run creditably in chases which gives Nicky Richards an option or two.
MANADAM has every chance two out but couldn’t raise his game to that of the winner. He’s handicapped to his mark now and finding one or two too good.
YOUNG ALBERT stretched his losing run to 11. He showed promise as a novice but hasn’t moved on from there. His better form is at shorter trips and I’d like to see him tried back around the minimum.
MONOLITH lost touch from the seventh and came home in his own time. He did win in heavy on the flat, a Windsor maiden 8 years ago, but he appears not to relish going this testing.

3.55 2m 0-125 Handicap Chase

The rain was falling steadily by this point and got increasingly heavier as the afternoon progressed.

SELECTION BOX ran off 106 in Ireland, yet won off 121 here which demonstrates the gulf in method or assessment between the UK and Irish handicappers. His trainer appeared to clock that he wasn’t badly off and the horse did the business, running on well in the closing stages. His future depends on how both handicappers handle the result. Why they can’t get together and have one scale I haven’t a clue, with modern technology you would have thought consultation would be a doddle.
I commented to my neighbour in the stand that ORMELLO looked out of it four out, yet he stayed on again from two out for second. I’ve seen him race any amount of times since he joined the Russell yard and I still haven’t fathomed him. A trip to take on the Punchestown banks last time ended in disappointment.
DANCER’S SERENADE never threatened once they started racing in earnest. Conditions and course suited, so there wasn’t much of an excuse.
NELSON DU RONCERAY, returning from hurdling, set a decent pace but faded from two out. This was his first effort in a handicap over fences and it could be that he’s plenty high enough.

4.30 3m ½ f 0-110 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

Notes from the remaining races were done from memory since my notebook was starting to get a bit soggy!

The result pretty much followed the form here with steadily progressing LOCKSTOWN picking up from three out and going clear to win with a stack in hand to provide Graham Lee with his third winner of the afternoon. His problem will be if he has a big rise in the ratings since this race was uncompetitive.
SEEKING STRAIGHT appeared only a day after a second place here but performed very well and must have an iron constitution. Regrettably he was once again vulnerable to anything that could raise the pace even a jot and he could only keep on for second place. He’ll need things to fall for him and some even more paceless opponents to win, but it’s worth noting his record at Ayr is P23822 and all in soft or heavy. I have a bit of a soft spot for this one since connections blagged me into the unsaddling area on his hurdles debut!
Everything else was left behind in the straight, CLASSIC ACT finishing a well held third. He’s got closer at Hexham and Carlisle, so may need an uphill finish to slow the others down.
FLEMROSS and SOUL ANGEL retreated from three out and HARRISON’S STAR never got competitive.

5.05 3m 5f 0-110 Handicap Chase

The main event as far as our party was concerned with the DPRP Nellerie Partnership running LUCKY NELLERIE. A very soggy group waited until as late as possible to enter the parade ring. The horse himself was brought in late as he is ‘a bit of monkey’ who has lot of energy to expend, a fact confirmed by the cross-noseband, two paddock handlers and being mounted on the walk. He did look in excellent condition having had a five-week break since running down the field in a competitive four miler at Doncaster.
LUCKY NELLERIE was able to take his place in 0-110 class for the first time for over a year. Ferdy Murphy and Graham Lee had worked out both a Plan A and a Plan B dependent on the pace on in the race. In the event, even down to Plan Z wouldn’t have been any use since the gelding misjudged the first fence, slipped on landing and came slithering almost to a halt. He stood up but Lee had to check that his mount was sound and by the time the pair were ready the field had gone. In such testing conditions chasing the others would have been futile so a day was called. Lee cantered his mount back and he seemed to be none the worse. There should be other chances for Lucky Nellerie in this grade.

Meanwhile, back on the racecourse in the teeming rain, proven out and out stayers SKENFRITH and DICKIE LEWIS shared the pace, the latter the one we had identified as the horse to beat. In the event the enigmatic but sometimes talented stayer SKENFRITH galloped the remainder into the mud, coming away from his challenger in the straight. He’s one I’d always consider for these events, but the patience of a saint is required waiting for the win! Much jumping up and down and hugging amongst connections.
DICKIE LEWIS emptied out three from home and just held on as those behind came at him. It was very gruelling out there and he may well need a little rest, but the Highland National might suit if the going came up on the soft side in late April.
JACKSONVILLE is presumably in handicaps since the ‘three strikes and out rule’ applying to hunter chases keeps him out of many of them. He didn’t get near the lead but finished with an apparent flourish, though it may have been he was just slowing down less fast then Dickie Lewis.
ANOTHER RUM won the National Hunt Chase in 2005 but has studiously avoided winning since. He’s falling down the handicap but not getting any closer to winning. Like Jacksonville he stayed on and would have caught Dickie Lewis in another 100 yards.
MATMATA DE TENDRON is suited by testing conditions, but his best form is at Sedgefield and he was never going here, eventually calling it a day two out.

5.35 2m NH Flat

If the conditions for this race had been prevalent at midday I think the meeting would have been called off. It was absolutely desperate by this time.

The runners went along at suitably sedate pace in the closing bumper. James Ewart’s interesting prospect TURBO ISLAND had only to see off one serious rival and did so being asked to do no more than he had to. He is an athletic type, but still with a bit of growing to do, showing the low head carriage typical of many a French-bred or influenced jumper. Skenfrith had carried the same colours, so their people had more jumping up and down and hugging to do.
QUANNAPOWITT upheld his line of Northern bumper form, keeping on honestly enough while basically comfortably held. He looks to have the build and ability to mark over obstacles. For trivia buffs, the Racing Post informs me that the name Quannapowitt is that of a lake in Boston, Massachusetts.
BIRNIES BOY lost touch on the final bend and came home in his own time.
These conditions were hardly the best to introduce a newcomer and Brian Harding called it a day on MITHIAN a long way out.

Just to finish this narrative, Ferdy Murphy told us the tale of Tony McCoy’s Friday evening. Having ridden in the 5.05 at Sandown, McCoy departed for a local airfield to be flown to Northern Ireland for a Cheltenham preview evening. Having done his bit he returned the next day to ride in the first at Sandown. McCoy is in my opinion the best jump jockey the sport has ever seen and, on the above evidence, an ambassador for the sport second to none.

Ayr - Friday March 6


Going – Soft(Heavy in places)

A hard slog once again in the west of Scotland as the ground bordered on heavy for the start of the early March meeting.

2.20 2m 4f Class 5 Maiden Hurdle

The majority of the field missed a marker when the seventh flight was omitted, so only two of the finishers were given places and fines and bans were dished out to errant jockeys.

SERAPHIN was one of only two to take the correct course. Graham Lee realised that most of the remainder had dropped a clanger and didn’t over push his mount for the rest of the race.
GRAND OPERA was the other horse to take the correct course but was miles behind.
EXTALAR was getting the better of Stormin Exit when the latter departed at the last. He at least retains his maiden tag and should win a similar event.
STORMIN EXIT is gradually progressing. He set the pace as ever, battled back well once challenged but seemed likely to be held when coming down at the last. He’s got a good attitude and a race should be found.
EASTER VIC stayed on for a well held ‘second’, but has something to find to threaten a win in any but very moderate company.
SIRKEEL, who seemed to have a golden opportunity here, came down at the first.

2.55 3m 1f Class 5 Beginners’ Chase

This was a poor event.

SADDLERS WAY ran a respectable fourth in what looked a fair novice hunter event at Perth last May. He didn’t need to perform any better to win this. He stayed on well enough but will struggle to make a mark under a penalty.
MAT HILL was found wanting from two out, inheriting second at the last.
BEAU SADDLER looked on much better terms with himself than when last seen at Ayr. He challenged up the straight but hit the last halfway up and tumbled. His jumping seems destined to be a weakness when pressure is applied.
NOBLE HILL showed nothing on his debut under rules. Having jumped the tenth and eleventh slowly he looked on the point of refusing when his jockey pulled him up at the twelfth.

3.30 2m 0-105 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

AGGLESTONE ROCK is progressing nicely off what looks a generous handicap mark. He won this a bit cosily and more value than the 2 ½ lengths margin. He is being kept on the go over hurdles and on the all-weather and it seems likely he’ll pick up another handicap hurdle.
QUATRO PIERJI has yet to win over hurdles but didn’t do much wrong against a well handicapped opponent. He only has to repeat this form to win a handicap or a minor maiden/novice hurdle.
CHIEF SCOUT stayed on in third having been tapped for pace three out. He may win a race over hurdles eventually but he’s not progressive.
It was difficult to draw much encouragement from the remainder since the well held fourth LUGANO has not won in sixteen goes over hurdles.

4.05 3m 1f 0-125 Handicap Chase

SILVER BY NATURE bowled along in front before departing at the fifth. He then continued and almost took out the remaining runners on the bend after the stands.
PANAMA AT ONCE had a patchy start to his career, but has really come on in leaps and bounds recently. He suffered as much as any at the hands of Silver By Nature, neatly sidestepping as the latter fell and then getting a bash as the grey tried to find the exit later on. He stayed on well and his progression continues, now boasting a record of 3 wins and 2 seconds from 9 chases.
SAMMY SPIDERMAN was upped in trip, having been successful at 2m 4f/2m 5f previously. He challenged after two out but was outstayed.
COMMERCIAL FLYER, a useful hurdler, had never seemed happy over fences and departed this world after a fall four out. Admittedly it’s with a hindsight, but it does seem a pity that a horse who seemed to have fallen out of love with the game was unable to enjoy a retirement.

4.40 2m 5½ f 0-105 Handicap Hurdle

FRANCESCO had a little more potential improvement than most here. He beat one 9lbs out of the handicap and another who had won since 2005. His mark of 90 looks about right and he doesn’t strike me as future betting material.
FALSE TRAIL ran well on unfavourable terms, but it wasn’t much of a race and presumably he will be punished for finishing so close.
I wondered a while back if KID’Z’PLAY might be ready for retirement but he showed some zest here. He goes well on right handed tracks and it might be nice if he could be prepared for a ‘last hurrah’ at Perth in April.
BALAKAR was off his game and produces the goods only occasionally these days.

5.15 2m 4f 0-95 C.J. (Hands and Heels) Handicap Chase

RED SCALLY had dropped down to a more manageable mark and was able to exploit it in a poor event. He’ll probably struggle to find such a poor bunch of opponents in future.
QUINNTOWN stayed on for second, but he’s an 11 year old maiden running off 66 …
NEIDPATH CASTLE won a bumper many moons ago and missed a good opportunity here. He’s deteriorating.
STAR OF RAVEN has shown nothing in three runs since returning from a 19-month break.
BALLYNURE led to four out but looked held when crashing three out. He did at least show a little more zest than of late.
STORMONT DAWN had conditions to suit, but ran no sort of race and pulled up after the seventh.

5.50 3m ½f 0-95 Handicap Hurdle

VICARIO stayed on to win this. On the face of it he has been regressive, but has dropped a long way in the weights. Unfortunately the rise for this will take him out of 0-95 company.
SEEKING STRAIGHT led at the ninth but as ever could only muster one pace when headed two out. He goes well enough here and in the conditions, but has nothing to offer at the business end.YOULUCKYMAN was left behind from three out and led a bunch of beaten horses with little immediate prospect of winning.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Carlisle - Steeplechasing March 5th

CARLISLE – Thursday 5th March

Going – Heavy (Soft in places)

A busy end to the week commencing with a day chasing at Carlisle, then two days at Ayr followed by an additional card at Kelso.

Another slog in the mud here, as has been the case for much of the season. The heavy ground meant that the first and third fences out in the country were omitted.

2.10 2m 0-115 Novices’ Chase

Only five runners in this ratings limited novice event, but a decent little field nevertheless and a few pointers for the future.

BANOGE won a moderate event at Sedgefield first time over fences and seemed to step up on that here. He led going comfortably two out and stayed on up the hill. The conditions didn’t trouble him and it seems likely there is more to come.
ET MAINTENANT ran to pretty much the form of his fourth in a course and distance handicap last time. His level seems set and he looks the measure here.
ACTION STRASSE showed promise on his chasing debut, leading to before four out then being held from two out. He should learn from this outing and I’d expect him to be competitive at this sort of level.
WORK BOY had hinted at ability over hurdles at Southwell last time and showed up well enough to suggest that he may make a chaser. He came to racing late so ahs few miles on the clock for an eight-year-old.
TEENANDO had fifteen pounds to find with the principals here, but having pulled too hard he had an uphill task, fading from the bottom of the slope. He’s better off in handicaps and should not be written off yet.

2.40 2m 5f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

LA PANTERA ROSA has taken a time to fulfil promise, but stayed on to win what looks a moderate event. It’s the first time he’s run on heavy ground, so that could be the key.
CHECKERBOARD led until the flat before giving way. A fair effort and he looks below his 109 hurdles mark over fences so far.
TARTAN SNOW challenged up the straight on his chasing debut, but looked just held when falling at the last. He has a bit to find to match his 126 hurdling mark.
WEE GEORGE ran as well as could be expected against superior rated opponents.
This looks a last throw of the dice for INDY MOOD who didn’t get competitive.
BENBEOCH is let down by his jumping and finished well beaten.
LEGAL JOY has been poor over jumps and was pulled up here.

3.15 3m ½ f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

No more than a nice school round for JAUNTY FLIGHT who is stones better than the others. It should give her plenty of confidence.
MINSTER ABBI plugged on for second.
CUTE N YOU KNOW IT lost touch from three out and needs a more realistic task.
BACK TO BILLS, an Irish point winner coming off a 12-month break, had no chance from four out. He probably needed the race and the jury is out, though current evidence does not favour him.

3.45 3m 2f 0-110 Handicap Chase (15 fences)

SUPER ROAD TRAIN is not one who will do things quickly but he jumps well and just gallops on, and his staying power won the day here. He has sound record round here and the course plays to his strengths. He is entered with a penalty in the ‘Hexham four miler’ during Cheltenham and since his rider takes off the penalty with his allowance it could be his event.
ITS A CLASSIC was very tired when jacking it in over this trip at Fontwell. However, there was no such problem this time and he had every chance at the last only to find the winner too strong. He’s in good form and should find a race.
SUPREME’S LEGACY led until the tenth at which point he came under pressure. He found it tough going up the hill but inherited third on the run-in.
MANOUBI was held up and plugged on up the straight to finish fourth. This distance round here looks a bit tough for him in these conditions.
PADDY’S TERN never made an impact and has yet to do so over fences.
MAGE D’ESTURVAL led the field from the tenth to the twelfth but dropped away up the final slog.
BALLYGALLEY BOB has found it hard to recapture last season’s chase form. He never got into a competitive position.
HEVER ROAD has pulled up twice since returning from a long break.
MITCHEL HENRY had a hard race here last time and this may have left its mark since he was never going and pulled up.

4.20 3m ½ f -0-90 Handicap Chase

SMART THINKER has run a succession of decent races recently. Given a six-week break after slogging round Towcester, he showed once again he can handle an uphill finish, staying on to catch the idling winner close home.
THE MAYSTONE made a real impact on his chasing debut. He jumped well and looked all over the winner approaching the last. Once in front it seemed he felt he had done enough, and Smart Thinker picked him off in the shadow of the post. Nevertheless a good effort from one so lightly raced, and he must surely pick up a race in time.
SUPERROLLERCOASTER stretched the field going to four out, but found his exertions taking their toll two out. This was a significant improvement on his previous six efforts, and the fact that his rating now allows a crack at this class will help in future.
SCOTT’S MILL raced prominently to four out then weakened.
MISTRAL DE LA COUR’s best efforts have been over shorter distances and he didn’t see out the trip.
INSTANT SHOT had a tough task here on handicap debut and made no show.
HOLLOWS MIST comes up with occasional bit of form in lowly handicaps, but didn’t get competitive on this occasion.
HIGH FIVE is another who is a capable stayer at this level on his day, but he’s been way off his game on recent runs.
TIME TO REFLECT was well beaten in a hunter chase first time, and didn’t last far past halfway here.
HERBIE’s jumping let him down once again. He’s not a safe conveyance.
FIGHT THE FEELING added another P to his collection of letters and has shown nothing significant for some time.
ANSHABIL had a two race purple patch back in 2006, but has been a sluggard since.

4.50 2m 0-100 Handicap Chase

BAMBY won a couple of hurdles last year and improved on recent hurdle form to make a winning chase debut. He jumped well enough and came clear up the hill. Previous history suggests it may pay to oppose a repeat.
NORMINSTER recorded another sound effort in what has been a decent season. He’s handicapped to his mark, but runs his race when coming to here or Hexham. His trainer sticks to local tracks, Carlisle, Ayr, Hexham, Newcastle and Kelso, and has a fine record from a string of moderate ability.
The enigmatic LERIDA probably ran to her best in third but isn’t one to trust.
THATLLDOFORME ran well to two out then could only muster one pace. He looks happier on a less testing track.
PISTOL BASC performed as well as he has over fences, but fifth place sums up his limited ability.
HOLLOWS MILL has run well here a couple of times this season, but doesn’t win often these days and mixes the good stuff with some poor efforts. Today was not his day.
BOG OAK showed a glimmer but two runs back but seems to be going backwards.
Triple Midlands winner THIEVERY looked an interesting placement from Henry Daly, but had nothing to offer from four out.
DUKE OF MALFI has gone to pieces since a win at Hexham in November.
STORMY BEECH needs to be in front and doesn’t show an interest if, as was the case here, he can’t dictate.
ISAN made mistakes and pulled up before the final hill. He’s shown no aptitude for jump racing date.
ROYAL GLEN was making no progress when coming a real pearler four out. I hope she was unscathed.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Newcastle and Catterick - early March

A sequence of Northern meetings which sees racing on each day through to next Sunday continued at......

NEWCASTLE – Tuesday March 3rd

Going – Good to Soft

3.20 3m 0-120 Novices’ Handicap Chase

FIFTYFIVEDEGREES was moved up in class here and dealt with the better company in fine fashion. His Hexham maiden hunter form has been well backed up by Overlady of late, and he’s progressing nicely. He looks like another decent stayer for Raymond Anderson Green.
BORIS THE BLADE looked held three out but kept staying on, if never quite looking like getting to grips with the winner. He’s basically handicapped to his ability now.
MARLEYBOW is headstrong and paid for his ‘negative exertions’ in the latter part of the race.
TOP CLOUD’s form is going downhill fast and he was a remote fourth here.
ROSIE ALL OVER came under pressure five out and quickly dropped away. It could be that she had a problem, but I wonder if this was just one race too many since she has been kept on the go in testing conditions.

4.50 2m 4f 0-130 Handicap Chase

FLAKE rather got the run of the race here, leading from a long way out and then showing determination to hold his challenger. This probably wasn’t the strongest 0-130 (highest rated was 125) and I think he would struggle in a more competitive event.
DE BOITRON had every chance was out-battled close home. He coped with the rise in ratings well but have to be aimed at a nominally lower class to succeed again.
NIRVANA SWING was left behind in the straight.
OR DE GRUGY was disappointing, being another left behind in the straight, particularly given that his soft ground form should have made him competitive in this. However, it is worth noting that four wins out of his 5 have come in the spring.
CANADA STREET needs farther.
THE GLEANER went well enough before thumping the eleventh which knocked the stuffing out of him before he was pulled up. More evidence is needed as to whether he is favourably treated with a clear round.

CATTERICK – Wednesday March 4th

Going – Good To Firm (Good in places)

3.20 2m Class 4 Novices’ Chase

The second last fence was omitted as a jockey was being treated by ambulance staff.

HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY finally managed to find and opportunity to get his head in front. He’s ideally suited by a greater stamina test, and just kept galloping to the end. He’ll need more of a test to win again.
PROFESSOR HIGGINS had the rest of the field well beaten off and second to an established performer is a creditable effort. He should win a similar event.
KILKENNY ALL STAR was well seen off down the straight.
NAVAL ATTACHE had no chance at the weights, but on strict interpretation ran to his form in fourth.
LINLITHGOW LAD was never a factor.
BILSGREY bumbled round in the rear overtaking the proven tortoise TULLY HILL late on. ABLE DARA was pulled up and shows no prospect of achieving anything over jumps.
BALLABROOK led until hitting the third and jettisoning his rider. From a stable who know what to do with their chasers he should improve with time.

4.20 3m 1 ½ f 0-100 Novices’ Handicap Chase

This was a very ordinary handicap in which most were out with the washing by the third last.

GARLETON showed some promise last year and was yet another Smith charge well prepared after a break. He had been close behind some fair performers and stayed on to see off his only serious challenger. Make a note of Sue Smith’s runners coming off a break as they are normally ready to run to their best.
GENERAL HARDI stays well and bustled up the winner close home. He has recorded 6 seconds, but has yet to win in 23 goes.
THE ARTFUL FOX was four pounds wrong at the weights, but made most to four out and stayed on at one pace to hold third comfortably. He’s slow but at least going the right way.
KINFAYRE BOY was left behind in the straight. He has just one selling hurdle win to his credit in five years racing.
BLEU POIS threatened to get involved briefly four out but soon went backwards. He may learn from a first attempt over fences.
CLEAR THE WAY made no serious show.
GLACIAL RAMBLER hasn’t shown much over fences in the UK.
AJAY recorded a well beaten second two runs ago, but was schooled round that time and seemingly doesn’t handle the hustle-bustle of these contests.
I’M YOUR MAN never got close and unseated two out.
PENDLE FOREST, back over fences though I do wonder why, lost touch after two miles and pulled up before three out. My thoughts on this one over fences have been well documented.
PADDYMcGINTYSGOAT shook off his rider at the second.
JETHRO TULL threatened a win earlier in the season, but managed to avoid getting his head in front and pulled up two out here.

4.50 3m 1 ½ f Class 6 Novices’ Hunter Chases

Enough moderate horses got into contention here to suggest this wasn’t much of a race.

I SEE A STAR jumped very poorly but, given a breather after his howler at the last down the back, battled back in the straight and got in front on the line. A typically expensive Wylie purchase, he really needs to get his jumping act together to produce form that his £48,000 price tag warrants. Almost certain to be underpriced in future.
SHANTEEN LASS has three point wins to her credit but had been running moderately recently. She led three out and was still two lengths up at the last only to be pipped close home. She’s well exposed and what you see is what you get.
GUNNER ROYAL is rated 82 which sets the level, and even then he jumping appallingly though he must have a solid constitution to stand up to hitting a couple of the fences in the straight halfway up. He recorded a well beaten second to Sonevafushi at Overton, and might just manage to pick up a similar event if putting in a clear-er round!
NECTAR DE GUYE plugged on for fourth but has yet to win a race in 32 attempts under rules and in points.
OCA DE THAIX, a maiden point winner who has been frustrating since, was held from two out.
FARMER FRANK a three time point winner, lead at the twelfth and pushed on after the sixteenth. However, he soon weakened and his rider looked untidy from then on.
SIMPLY SMASHING won a maiden point in Ireland but has done nothing else and lost touch quite early on.
EL FARGO, a very moderate maiden pointer, made brief progress at the fourteenth but was soon on the retreat and pulled up.
CUPID’S MISSION is rated 63 and wasn’t anywhere near that before pulling up!
PERSIAN PRINCE, owned and trained by the race sponsor John Wade, clearly didn’t read the script. He found the pace too taxing by the fourteenth and soon pulled up.
HEAVENLY LEADER was behind after a mile and pulled up not long after halfway.
ALISON’S TREASURE was behind early on, got in touch briefly with a circuit to go, but soon threw the towel in.

Musselburgh Jumps Finale

MUSSLEBURGH – Sunday March 1st

Going – Good To Firm

Musselburgh hosted the finale to its jumps season. The recent drier weather meant that the quick drying links turf was now on the fast side of good. The weather was a mixture of sun and showers, and the sprinkling of rain may just have taken the edge off the going. As predicted after the first meeting. The word ‘good’ appeared in the description of the going at all meetings, and this means decent fields on a regular basis since trainers will aim their decent ground horses at Musselburgh.

2.30 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

Howard Johnson has dominated the trainers’ table at the course this winner and the first race here provided a ‘penalty kick’ for his CARAVEL. The ‘ball’ was duly slotted away, the gelding coming clear after the second last. Decent ground is the key and Caravel will presumably have his sights raised to Aintree.
CASUAL AFFAIR had shown promise in two previous outings and once again showed up favourably. He was held from before the last, but kept on determinedly after the winner. He must surely pick up a novice hurdle before long, and might be one for a novice or maiden at the Perth festival.
SPEED UP, returning from chasing, never seriously threatened the front two but plugged on for third.
HILL BILLY ROCK is strong sort who pulled going down. He stepped up on his opening Doncaster effort, having a chance two out but then unable to raise any more than one pace. He’s going the right way, but may still need a little time.
PONTOP was a bumper winner, but is proving moderate over hurdles to date. He couldn’t go with the leaders from two out.
MISS TARANTELLA looks more of a racehorse now than she did at Hexham in October and was on much better terms with the world than she was that day. Her two runs since that have been much better. She was basically held in this class, racing prominently to six furlongs out before fading, but will still be one to consider dropped back to low level handicaps.
I couldn’t draw any encouragement from the remainder.

3.00 2m 4f 0-110 Handicap Chase

There was a sharp shower before this race.

JOHNNY ROCHE, equipped with an X-noseband, pulled hard going down. The headstrong nature didn’t affect him unduly in the race, and nor did a 403-day layoff, as he came through smoothly to take it up three out and win with a bit to spare. He is lightly raced and looks progressive.
CATEGORICAL is starting to get rather frustrating. He runs a lot of sound races as his form figures would testify, but doesn’t get his head in front that often for one of his ability. He never got into the argument here, but stayed on late for second.
GUNS AND BUTTER looked trained to the minute as there was hardly a spare ounce on him, despite being off the track for a couple of months. On the track he disappointed, being brought with a chance to three out but offering no more from that point. It could be that softer ground would help.
According to the man behind me, connected by phone to a colleague watching the exchanges, ZA BEAU was offered at 6/5 when leading on the final bend. At that price laying her was money for old rope since she’s held in this class and neither of us thought there was much chance she would stay in front. She was held by better opponents here and faded in the straight.
SOUTH BRONX is capable on his day but in unpredictable and made no significant show here.
PEN GWEN was in the rear and receiving reminders by halfway, with no real response.
STONERIGGS MERC, bandaged in front, was prominent early but had called enough by as they exited the back straight for the final time.
BENMADIGAN’s jumping was poor and he was tailed off by the twelfth. He didn’t look on good terms with himself in the paddock.

3.30 2m 0-130 Handicap Hurdle

The last of a sequence of competitive handicaps at the minimum distance here over the season, but the top rated was 8lbs less than the top mark. The contest was run in heavy rain.

TOSHI was last seen tripping over the tumbling Tony Dobbin at Kelso back in November 2007. He was in the process of running a decent race that day behind Akarem, but suffered a chipped knee which had kept him off the course. In the meantime Jim Goldie acquired the gelding from Peter Monteith, and his patience paid off as the gelding moved through the field in the straight, leading on the flat to win a little cosily. Toshi could be on a decent mark and it would be no surprise to see another win this spring.
LOS NADIS has got his jumping together now. He got away with it as a novice since his superior speed set him up, but since facing better company in handicaps he had struggled. However, he went well here and looked the possible winner two out only to be overhauled after the last.
HAZELDENE appears to be progressing. He led and stretched on going down the back straight. Having led the field it was to his credit that he was still in contention going to the last, but there was nothing left after that. In a competitive field this was a fine effort and he should be capable of picking up a run of the mill handicap hurdle.
JOE JO STAR came to hold every chance two out, but rapped the hurdle hard unbalancing his rider, and from that point his chance had gone. A sound enough effort which proved he remains competitive off his current mark.
STROBE was asked significantly tougher questions in this company than in his previous races, particularly bearing in mind he is suited by further. Ultimately he found the rise in class too hard to overcome, but ran a sound enough race if offering only one pace in the straight. One to watch out for stepped up in trip and maybe eased a little in class.
QUICK WILL had conditions to suit but, having been prominent for a mile and a half, dropped away in the straight.
CALCUTTA CUP, moved up from novice events, made no impact. Evidence suggests he barely sees out the two miles and the tougher competition would put pressure on him.
ALONG THE NILE was going well enough when falling at the sixth flight.

4.00 3m ½ f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

The rain which had been falling for much of the last hour cleared before the start. This looked another competitive contest.

PERCUTANT won here in January and progressed from that leading two out and staying on to capture a second win. He overcame a 9lb rise here, is lightly raced, progressive and looks capable of dealing with a step up to the next grade.
ORANG OUTAN returned to hurdling here, having run respectably over fences at Catterick. Wearing the familiar Ewart sheepskin noseband and white boots, he raced prominently. He jumped big at the early hurdles, adjusting back to the smaller obstacles, but settled after a while. He looked outpaced two out but stayed on determinedly on the flat. He’s versatile and his able trainer should place him to advantage before long.
SINGHALONGTASVEER was better off with the winner for 1 ¼ lengths, but is more exposed and ran to his previous level. He generally gives a good account of himself.
KYBER raced up with the pace or led for a long way, eventually only able to raise one pace from two out. This was better than last time and he seems to stay, but the handicapper may well have caught up with him.
ITZACLICHE, sweating significantly in the preliminaries, was at the back for a long way but plugged on past tiring rivals in the straight.
FESTIVAL KING looked fit enough after a break and had every chance three out but gave way. A hike of 12lbs hasn’t helped him in hurdles.
DORIS’S GIFT raced prominently to four out and then weakened.
RUSTY RED made no impact on return after 11 months off and STAINLEY made no show moved up in trip.
The Johnson pair of SONARA and LABOREC were both in trouble a long way out.

4.30 3m 0-95 Handicap Chase

The jump races at Musselburgh closed for the season with a plodders' championship.

SNOWY retains ability, but is handicapped to his mark and needs to be caught on the right day. He went prominent after a circuit and wound it up from four out, staying on to win with a bit in hand. He’ll go up for this and will have a job on his hands to win again.
STRAVAIGIN is honest enough and had conditions to suit, but hasn’t got a turn of pace and when she hit the fourth last the odds were against here. She stayed on after the winner on the flat. If Jim Goldie could find a race over an extended distance, fast ground and a flat track she would be in her element. I identified the Highland National as a possible, but the bottom rated last year was on her mark of 95 so she wouldn’t be guaranteed to get in as she is on that mark now.

SHULMIN is much better round Sedgefield over 3m 3f, so did creditably to finish a staying on third here. Watch out for her back at her favourite track.

It was difficult to find any encouragement amongst the rest who were, in racecard order;

ARCTIC GHOST is a handsome grey who impresses in the paddock but appears slow and clumsy right now and, having jumped awkwardly early, fell at the sixth.
NELLIEDONETHAT, even allowing for a rise up the handicap, seems to have gone over the top now given the going wasn’t an obvious excuse.
YANKEE HOLIDAY has re-acquired the x-noseband and looked as fizzy as ever. He has placed over this distance but it’s basically too far and his winning form is fast receding into the past. He runs often presumably because he has so much energy to burn, but his best bet would have to be an uncompetitive fast ground race at shorter, probably at Perth.
BAKER FLINN was making his first appearance for Alistair Crow after a year and a half lay-off. He struggled from the tenth.
ESQUILLON was very novicey in her jumping and couldn’t keep up, being detached from the third fence. She has no immediate prospects over fences.
MR TWINS never got to the front and had had his fill by the fourteenth.
GRAND MANNER, who has had a seriously interrupted career, made no serious show.
JBALLINGALL, off the track for 803 days, was up with the pace for a way. He might at least be worth watching to see if his old form returns.
HICKORY LANE still doesn’t threaten even off 75.
KING;’S ENVOY is slow and clumsy and added to his record of failures. Somewhere in the past I actually found an excuse to back this one!

5.00 2m Class 5 NH Flat

Various strands of bumper form met in what looked a fair event despite a smallish field.

It was fitting that Howard Johnson should finish a season of dominance at Musselburgh with a winner in the final contest. ALVARADO looked fit and would appear to have progressed more than his previous conqueror Hunters Belt. He did show a few flashes of temperament though, ditching Denis O’Regan in front of the stands and then flashing his tail as he got a lead down to the start. He came to challenge three out but had to be encouraged to go about his business if doing it well enough in the final furlong. He has ability but on what he showed here I would be a little wary.
HILLVIEW BOY strikes me as a nice sort with a bit of scope. He pulled hard in the rear early but came through to chase the winner in the final furlong. His form looks solid as Saveiro, whom he beat at Doncaster, won easily here next time. He handles the fast ground and might be one to watch in the coming months.
NICK THE DREAMER has improved for joining Alan Swinbank. He set the pace and didn’t give in easily once headed. This looks sound form and he is going the right way.
Even allowing for a switch in the weights, it was reasonable to expect HUNTERS BELT might have been closer. It could be that he was cherry ripe first time where a few here have progressed. It is possible a slight ease in the ground would help.
TIPSY DARA is related to a couple of staying winners. She found things happening too quickly and will need time.