Thursday, 30 April 2009

Perth Festival 2009 - Final Day

PERTH – Friday April 24th

Going – Good (Good to Firm in places)

The crowd was an impressive 5,100 for the last day of the Perth Festival. The promised rain had once again failed to materialise and hence the ground had dried out a little, there must have been more ‘places’ than the previous day. Certainly on crossing the course the ground seemed slightly firmer in places.

2.10 2m ½f Class 4 Maiden Hurdle

There were five non-runners for this but none of those could be given a serious chance.

This was an uncompetitive maiden that looked a ‘penalty kick’ for the favourite HAZELDENE. He dictated the pace and kicked clear three out and which point he pretty well had the race in the bag. My impression was that he was finding little extra once pushed out in the closing stages, and I’m not convinced he will score against tougher opposition. The proximity of Solway Blue, pulled up here on the first day, puts a question mark against the form.
SOLWAY BLUE stayed on for second, stepping up on previous efforts.
PATRIOT showed some promise on hurdling debut, plugging on for third. He will have to progress to stand a chance of winning anything other than a poor race.
PRINCE TAM jumped rather big and lacked the pace to make an impression.

2.45 2m Class 2 Novices’ Chase

SALFORD CITY had a mixed lead up to this race, his last outing being a hurdle at Wexford with previous outings over hurdles at Saratoga. Blinkered on his return to chasing he did the job very well, leading at the sixth and seeing off Doctor David over the last three. I stood by the final fence and Salford City really impressed as he pinged the final fence.
DOCTOR DAVID, highest rated of these, drifted in the betting on his return and just gave the impression the race would help. He raced prominently but couldn’t hold Salford City from two out.
ASTARADOR will find his level in handicaps, though is jumping may need brushing up a little, and he was comfortably held here in third.
ALL FOR THE CAUSE wasn’t good enough on previous form and was held from four out. Given that he was well below the others in the ratings, a deficit of 22 lengths at the end was respectable.
PREMIER DANE was never going well or jumping well enough to suggest he would get involved and he faded from four out.
ATHOLLBROSE, rated only 59, followed the others at a distance to get round. His trainer thinks the rating doesn’t reflect his ability, but though he jumps accurately enough he does it terribly slowly.

3.20 2m 4½f 0-110 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

This was not a lofty event in terms of ratings, but competitive nevertheless with a number of the entrants going in the right direction.
DANCING MIST looked an easy natured sort in the preliminaries. He settled nicely up with the pace and responded well when driven to contest the lead three out. Mad Moose got a run on him in the straight, but the impression was there was more in hand and Dancing Mist responded well when the leader landed flat-footed at the last.
MAD MOOSE took up the running two out, but met the last on a wrong stride, landed on all fours and couldn’t respond to Dancing Mist’s run. His Taunton run suggested he’s not entirely straightforward but he has shown enough to suggest he should be capable of picking up a race.
HEEZ A STEEL is an eight-year-old maiden, but it’s difficult to fault his commitment and he was picking up ground to get within a length of the winner at the finish. He may lack a little bit of pace when the race quickens, but ridden up with the pace he stays on well enough to suggest that a race will come his way.
The front three pulled clear of QUINY BOY who had every chance two out but was one paced from there. He stretched the field down the back straight, but maybe paid for that effort after turning for home.
PALOS CONTI just got up in an ordinary race at Fakenham and, after being behind early on, he picked up places late on.
SEVEN IS LUCKY was another to pick up places late on and needs more of a stamina test than he had here.
STROBE led to the fifth but quickly went backwards and may have had a problem.

3.55 3m 3f 0-125 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

This race contained a mixture of staying hurdlers and those flitting back and forth between hurdles and chases as opportunities presented themselves. A couple of the more fancied runners, Merigo and Great Approach, came out due to lack of rain.

C’MONTHEHAMMERS has progressed from average novice form to a couple of wins, the first in a maiden hurdle and the second here against senior company. He looked far from the winner for much of the race as Tom Molloy was working hard from early on. In the end he won comfortably as he picked his way through the field to lead after the last and saw off a consistent performer in Easby Park. The course certainly didn’t suit and he is one who is always going to be staying on. An extreme distance such as this or a tough finish will play to his strengths. A staying hurdle at Towcester might be a good target.
EASBY PARK was continually trying to stretch the field, and ultimately paid a bit of a price for that as he couldn’t respond on the flat. It was a good effort nevertheless, and he won’t be far away in similar company. He’s not one that catches the eye in the paddock, an angular gelding, but handsome is as handsome does.
SCOTS DRAGOON appeared hale and hearty after his apparent problem on the first day. He had every chance in the straight but couldn’t offer an extra effort on the flat. He’s suited by the fast ground and would be one to keep on the go in the summer.
DOCTOR KILBRIDE tried to take on Easby Park from three out and came off worst. He form going into this race was nothing to get excited about, but this was a fair effort from 4lbs out of the handicap and one might expect him to challenge in a lesser class.
STAGECOACH OPAL, reverting to hurdling, was going well to three out but found only one pace from that point.
LILY TARA and SOLWAY MINSTREL are both summer types whose trainers will be seeking to exploit softer opportunities in the coming months. Both ran well enough for a way to give some hope.

4.30 3m 7f 0-115 Highland National Handicap Chase

A competitive field once again for the season end plodders' championship in these parts. From the second that Ballyvoge set off at fast pace it was clear that there would likely be only a few finishers. A few were out of contention by the end of two circuits, and many of the rest gave up the ghost during the next half mile.

Last year’s LAERTES had been in pretty dismal form all this season, but came back to form with blinkers substituted for his regular visor. The race fell to him in much the same way as in 2008; he joined the leaders going out on to the final circuit and then stretched on approaching four out. From that point his proven stamina was enough to burn off Kells Castle and he was the only one keeping up a decent gallop at the finish. An attempt at the hat-trick would need another dismal campaign next season since he went into this race on 114 and will surely be shunted up a few pounds. Another win in the immediate future would seem unlikely.
KELLS CASTLE was trying an extended trip for the first time and saw it out well enough if held from two out, and untidy jump four out having given Laertes and advantage he never relinquished. Gordon Elliott must fancy his chances of picking up staying chases with an animal who seems well handicapped.
DARINA’S BOY led for a long way but was outpaced from the eighteenth. This was a sound enough effort from racing up with the pace. He’s not one who will be progressing at this stage of his career, but at least he’s in good heart.
EIGHT FIFTY SIX was tailed off five out, but Alex Merriam persisted to the point where he stayed on well enough to wrest fourth from The Gangerman on the line. His best form is on very fast ground, but one win in 36 attempts sums him up.
THE GANGERMAN reached the fringes of the issue at the seventeenth but struggled from that point. He often places but seems difficult to win with.
BALLEYGALLEY BOB was up with the pace from the start and led briefly five out but found the exertions had taken their toll and he faded to finish last of the six completions.
The remainder pulled up and in racecard order:
FLORIDA DREAM was never better than mid division and called it day when tailed off after five out.
BALLYVOGE charges off in the lead and had burst himself before the final circuit, pulling up when well in arrears at the eighteenth.
The inconsistent NATOUMBA was never going and pulled up at the thirteenth.
TWILIGHT EAGLE was struggling after a circuit and never got competitive.
SAMSBRO, still a maiden and optimistically made 5/1 favourite, raced prominently for two circuits before weakening quickly. A drop back to three miles offers the best of chance of breaking his duck.
THE LUDER chased the leaders for two circuits, the effort taking its toll and he pulled up before four out.
PANAMA AT ONCE didn’t look interested and pulled up before two circuits were completed.
AIRHILL LADY, on only her second chasing outing, was struggling after two miles and pulled up with six to go.
Tony Martin’s MILLANYMARE has disappointed recently, and though held up never got into the race pulling up alongside Airhill Lady.
SCARVAGH DIAMOND was fancied here, but she was never going and pulled up after one fence of the last circuit. She really hasn’t hit her form this season.
FINZI looked totally disinterested and had given up the ghost after a circuit, eventually pulling up after the last water jump.
ANOTHER RUM had an even worse dose of the sulks than usually and barely tried a yard. His jockey gave up the ghost after two miles.
Well, that was the story of the 2009 Highland National with the runners strung out all around Perthshire. Apart from Kells Castle it was difficult to get much encouragement for the future, but sad cases like me eagerly await the 2010 renewal!

5.00 2m 4½f 0-120 Novices’ Handicap Chase

MAJOR MILLER was making his chasing debut and jumped very well taking that into consideration. Disputing the lead from five out he jumped left down the straight, carrying his main rival with him, and when he hit the last it set him back but he had enough in hand to hold off a weak finisher in Guns And Butter. He clearly has some ability, despite only having recorded a bumper win previously, and may well progress.
GUNS AND BUTTER challenged from four out and, though carried left over each obstacle up the straight, was in the lead after the last despite being hampered, but not for the first time couldn’t summon up enough on the run-in.
DOC ROW plugged on for third and needs further.
FRITH ran respectably above his class, but was struggling in the straight and needs a drop back in trip.
ET MAINTENANT was well held from three out and may now be plenty high enough in the handicap.
SOPRANO was under pressure around halfway and never figured.
FIRST BOY was comfortably held when unseating three out, and a shorter trip would appear more appropriate.
GOLDEN CHILD hit the first and unseated his rider. He then proceeded to complete three and a bit circuits of the course before coming to a halt. This was slightly inconvenient for those of us inside the course, since we weren’t allowed to cross until the course as clear. Golden Child will need time to recover from his exertions here.

5.30 2m ½f NH Flat

The pace was slow for the first mile here.
Half-brother to the previous winner, GENERAL MILLER led a furlong and a half out and ran on to beat a previous winner. He took very little out of himself here and will move on to better things over jumps.
RUSSIAN WAR ran a respectable race in second if well held. He’s a winner of an Irish point so is likely to improve for more of a stamina test over jumps.
MONTOYA’S SON was held from two out, but was noticeably tenderly handled in the closing stages, just holding third.
SOLWAY ALLY struggled when the pace picked but stayed on determinedly in the final two furlongs, demonstrating a degree of promise.
SHERIFF HALL led after three furlongs, pulling very hard, and seemed determined to head towards the outside rail despite Richard McGrath’s best efforts to persuade him otherwise. He went at some pace and had not long been headed when going the wrong side of a wing two furlongs out. He’s got plenty of basic pace if his wayward tendencies can be kerbed.
CLAUDE CARTER had shown promise on two occasions previously, but made no mark here.

That was the final story of the 2008-2009 though there were only two days to the start of the next season in the area covered.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Perth Festival 2009 - Day 2

PERTH – Thursday 23rd April

Going – Good (Good To Firm)

The promised rain didn’t materialise and the weather remained bright for the second day of the Festival. There was no change in the going.

2.10 2m ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

Nigel Twiston-Davies often makes an impact at Perth, and his FRONTIER DANCER id the job soundly to see off two serious rivals in this event. HE had been held in much better company at Aintree, but on this occasion raced prominently before taking over approaching the last. He ran on to win comfortably.
ERADICATE was tried in a tongue-tie for the first time, but it didn’t make a significant difference and he was outpaced going to the last, though keeping on for second. That’s three defeats in a row as short priced favourite.
MHILU had a stiff task under a double penalty and was held from two out. His future is in handicaps.
DREVER ROUTE has filled out noticeably in the time since I first saw him. He lacks pace over hurdles but looks a chaser in the making and should be of interest as a novice over fences next season.
The remainder show little promise currently.

2.40 2m 0-135 Handicap Chase

The leaders went too fast in this and it was left to those coming from behind to pick up the first two places.

CANTGETON had a race fall into his lap at Kelso earlier, and it happened again here. He only really came on the scene two out and went clear after taking over at the last. A fourteen length victory means he will be punished by the handicapper and things will be very tough in future.
ORMELLO ran a similar race to his Ayr effort, being outpaced going to four out before staying on again for second. His UK wins both came in races with a decent pace on and his best chance will be when front runners take each other on.
COACH LANE, winner of the event last season, tracked the leaders and took over four out. He held the lead until headed before the last and then weakened.
KILKENNY ALL STAR plugged on for fourth but never got into the race.
SHARP REPLY was not particularly co-operative going down, and made no impact in the race. The impression is that he needs further round here.
NELSON DU RONCERAY was unsettled in the paddock and the energy wasted wouldn’t have helped as he weakened in the straight.
GENTLE JOHN set a fast pace but once headed four out dropped back steadily. He took a tired fall at the last and, given time to recover, took sometime to get up. He seemed OK eventually but might appreciate a rest now.
BERMUDA POINTE is an impressive animal, built like the proverbial brick-outhouse. However he took too many liberties with the fences here and was pulled up after belting four out.
TOM’S TOYBOX and COOL OPERATOR couldn’t go the pace and were pulled up approaching three out.

3.10 3m ½ f Class 2 Novices’ Hurdle

The runners went a steady pace, the speed picking up gradually on the final circuit.

ZEMSKY had been headed going to the last, but didn’t look out of it when left clear at the last. This was only his third attempt under Rules and he shows much promise. He already has a solid hunter chase performance behind Robber’s Glen under his belt and is one to watch when going chasing.
STAR LORD kicked on from two out, but got the last hopelessly wrong, paddled it and took a tumbling fall. The fall didn’t look quite as spectacular close up as it did on the video, but the gelding couldn’t get up at first. Photographer John Grossick was quickly across to hold the horse’s head and the screens went up. My initial thoughts were that given time he would rise, but it seemed an age before Star Lord eventually got to his feet. He was clearly very shaken, rather ‘starry’ as he stood by the final hurdle, and trainer Tom George declined the offer of a ride back in the horse ambulance as he was worried Star Lord might ‘get down and not get back up again’. He was led into the centre of the course and led quietly around the polo ground the next quarter of an hour. He has plenty of ability and I hope a summer’s rest will enable him to cast aside the memories of this race.
BIG BURROWS, a big chasing type, was held from two out. Like most of these a fencing career beckons.
CLASSIC CUT found the company a little taxing here and was held after an awkward jump three out. He looks a fizzy sort and had two handlers for a while in the paddock, being mounted on the course. His jumping was sticky at the slowly early pace but did improve until the error three out. Provided James Ewart can point his energies in the right direction his future should be over fences.
STEADY TIGER, another viewed as a chasing prospect, was well held from three out tried at this trip for the first time.
MIGHTY MAGNUS was making up the numbers and lost touch from three out. In the short term his chances might be best in minor staying handicap hurdles.

3.40 3m Class 2 Chase

There was quite a reasonable field for a race which was a handicap last year, though weakened by the absence of potentially useful Money Trix.

POSSOL is a six year old moving in the right direction, and impressed on this occasion. He was momentarily tapped for pace going to five out, but he was brought steadily back to the leaders to put his head in front on the home bend and stayed on well up the straight. He looks a type for the decent handicap chase next season, though I suspect he wouldn’t want to be ploughing through the mud in the winter.
OLLIE MAGERN bowled along in front and put in an excellent round of jumping. However, he couldn’t hold the leader once headed and it seems he isn’t as good as he used to be.
FAASEL never got seriously involved but stayed on for third. His quirks have been well documented and his stable’s best bet could be searching out place money in races like this.
APPLEADAY ran a cracker of a race considering his rating compared to the first two. He was beaten quite a way, but probably paid the penalty for matching the leader to four out. He will have prospects in handicaps below the top grade next season.
ERIC’S CHARM won this race last year when it was a handicap, but ran no sort of race this time.
LOVE THAT BENNY was feeling the pinch at halfway and was pulled up when well behind three out.
O’MALEY met a sad end, dropping his hind legs in the water and sustaining a leg injury which resulted in him being put down. There are too many injuries caused by similar incidents and I do think it’s time to jettison an obstacle that to my mind adds very little to the spectacle.

4.10 2m 4 ½ f Hunters’ Chase

This event was previously a 3m 7f slog, but was dropped back in distance significantly. The leaders went off at a rattling pace and many in the field, including a number of those well fancied, didn’t get into the race.
SIMONSBERG, a progressive six-year-old who looked well set up for the race, worked his way into the race down the far side for the final time, led two out and galloped clear. This was impressive and he may make a mark at high level if kept to hunter chases.
ROWDY YEATS performed very respectably given that he went with a fast pace from the off. He couldn’t respond once passed two out, but kept on well enough for second.
BRISCOE PLACE carried his decent pointing form through to this event, but paid the penalty for going so quickly early on and faded from four out, tired but just holding on for third.
THUNDER HAWK didn’t get seriously into contention but plugged on to challenge the third close home.
ALLUMEE was held up but couldn’t get into the race on his stable debut. He doesn’t look a potential winner.
SEAFIELD BOGIE led or disputed to four out then gave way.
Two in-form contenders THE REVEREND and BELEM RANGER couldn’t go the pace and were always detached. THE REVEREND was dismounted just after crossing the line.
MODEL SON looks slow and couldn’t keep up.
TIME TO REFLECT went off fast but ran out of puff, and SMART CAVALIER, normally a front runner, couldn’t get his head in front. Both were pulled up.
DEVIL WATER was restrained this time and showed nothing of the promise he had before his departure at Kelso.

4.40 2m 4 ½ f 0-140 Handicap Hurdle

A lop-sided market for what should have been a competitive handicap.
The market got it right as previous course winner SOUTH O’ THE BORDER saw off his principal market rival WIKAALA on the flat. Of the two the lightly-race WIKAALA has the best prospects off a decent mark, particularly if dropped back to a shorter trip.
ECHO POINT charged out of the paddock and was taken straight to the start. He ran pretty much to his level, staying on for third.
LOS NADIS never looked like winning but stayed on well enough to suggest this trip is no problem.
ENGLISH CITY was held from three out, but will benefit from the outing and should be more competitive next time.
QULINTON charged off in front but went too quick for his own good and was well spent three out.



Sunday, 26 April 2009

Perth Festival 2009 - Day 1

PERTH – Wednesday 22nd April

Going – Good (Good to Firm in places)

The 20th Perth Festival starting in bright sunshine, on a surface described as perfect by those involved, and attended by a healthy first day crowd in excess of 3,000. The excellent parkland turf and the ability to water using water direct from the Tay enable Perth to provide regular decent ground ensuring competitive racing.

2.10 2m 4 ½ f Class 4 Maiden Hurdle

The programme commenced with a decent maiden hurdle, though a few of the principals had question marks against them.

Gordon Elliott will be a familiar name to Northern Racegoers and the Irish-raider produced CHICAGO GREY to do the business here. Taking closer order four from home he took over two out and forged clear. This was Chicago Grey’s debut for the yard and there was enough here to suggest he might progress on decent ground.
BALTHAZAR KING is another to have had a few chances and ran respectably in second place. He has looked stronger as the going has dried out, and is worth keeping on the go now.
ON SPEC was comfortably held from two out and, as with PRINCE DU BEURY who finished just behind, lacks pace in the closing stages.
MAOLISA showed as much as on any outing to date.
WHISPERING DEATH disappointed back in sixth.
STORMIN EXIT set the pace as usual but weakened from two out. He’s struggling to see off the opposition in no-handicaps and a move to handicapping may be worth a try.

2.45 3m ½ f 0-115 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

MR WOODS impressed me couple of times in the past. He had stiff tasks on his previous two outings but seemed to have a sound chance off top weight here. He set the pace and was 15 lengths clear by the fifth. He basically kept up the gallop and was never seriously threatened. He will have tougher tasks in future but could well move on to chasing soon.
PRESENTING FOREVER jumped big and gives the impression of a chaser in the making. He couldn’t get to the leader but plugged on to hold second.
ROBBIE DYE kept on from a long way having never been seriously in contention. The break may have helped and this was a better effort than his previous two runs. SOLWAY BAY did creditably to secure fourth from out of the handicap and it should be possible to find easier opportunities. She saw out the trip well enough and would be interesting in 0-110 contests on this evidence.
MAIDSTONE MIXTURE, very highly tried on the Flat and over hurdles, has found his level in this class. His stable’s muddling method of placement surely can’t help their charges.
STRONG REBEL won a bumper here but hasn’t got close in hurdles.
PROSECCO is well exposed now and could only make moderate late progress.

3.20 3m Class 2 Novices’ Chase

JAUNTY FLIGHT had impressed with her jumping previously and it made a difference here. She jumped well all round until having a difference of opinion with her jockey at the last when well clear of her two remaining opponents. Her trainer is considering aiming at the Hennessy in the autumn and I’ve seen enough to suggest that’s a realistic target.
SILVER BY NATURE was in the process of running a personal best when unseating three out. He jumped well enough in front until then, though does have a tendency to sling in a sloppy leap. He will pick up a handicap or two, and will progress provided his jumping is sharpened.
LODGE LANE raced wide and jumped left. He was well held from three out.
THE MARKET MAN pulled up at Cheltenham and was below par here, losing touch from four out.
POP may have been feeling the strains of the season, and was struggling from the eleventh, pulling up before four out.
MARLEYBOW wasn’t good enough here and his jockey called it a day four out.

3.55 2m ½ f 0-125 Handicap Hurdle

A competitive contest in which few could be counted out before the start.
TOP MARK recorded Gordon Elliott’s second win of the meeting. He has made steady progress throughout the season in Ireland and saw off a progressive second here. It can be difficult to follow the progress of handicappers from Ireland since the two sets of handicap marks don’t tally, and it really is about time the UK and Irish handicappers sang from the same hymn sheet.
TOSHI made a winning return to hurdling at Musselburgh and, given another rest for this one, gave his best if just held close home. He gives the impression there’s a bit more to come and should find opportunities around here in the coming months.
SOLIS seemed to me pre-race to have a better chance than the odds of 25/1 suggested since the conditions suited. I got a good deal better at exchange prices and my hopes rose as he was in contention to two out. Unfortunately that was as good as it got and he couldn’t offer any more. However, Peter Monteith must be heartened by this effort and there must surely be a lowly contest for him this summer.
MARCEL isn’t quite the performer he was but performed reasonably well in fourth.
WEATHER FRONT, having led three out, was headed two out and quickly dropped away. He looks a bit of a softie who needs things to fall for him.
BENETWOOD, McCoy’s only ride at the Festival, jumped poorly early on and was pulled up, while Southwell winner FUJIN DANCER found things much tougher shifted up 10lbs and lost touch from three out.

4.30 2m 4 ½ f 0-130 Handicap Chase

NATIVE CORAL missed the Scottish National, and at a mile and a half shorter this might have been considered an odd alternative. However he took the opportunity well staying on from two out. The Perth Gold Cup might be a possible target since he has a good record around here.
JACK THE BLASTER made progress from the rear to four out and had every chance up the straight only to be held on the flat. He has a history of not finding a lot in the closing stages.
STAGECOACH AMBER set a decent pace and was one paced once headed two out. A good run in a competitive race though life may now be tougher off 120.
MANHATTAN BOY stayed on for fourth. He’s been eased a bit in the handicap might get seriously involved in a slightly less competitive race.
KING OF THE ARCTIC was going well to three out but couldn’t raise his game any further. This wasn’t too bad an effort on his annual comeback and I would expect to see better during the summer campaign.
RIMSKY raced prominently but was well held from four out. He frequently involves himself in the serious action, but has a poor wins to runs ratio in recent times.
OR DE GRUGY was aimed at this meeting but faded disappointingly in the straight.
ABRAGANTE never got involved seriously. His recent form is poor and he’s still 5lbs higher than his last winning mark.
LE ROI ROUGE has proved better at the top of the weights against lesser opponents. He made a couple of mistakes early and didn’t get involved in the contest.
CATEGORICAL was behind from the tenth. This was an uncharacteristic effort and the first time he’s been out of the first six over jumps.
WEE FORBEES pulled hard early and was struggling when hitting four out. He was pulled up in the straight.
SCOTS DRAGOON lost his action approaching the water and was quickly pulled up.
ITS CRUCIAL, normally consistent without winning, was struggling with a mile left and was pulled up three out.

5.05 2m 4 ½ f Class 4 Maiden Hurdle

QUINCY DES PICTONS stayed on to win in a tight finish. This was hardly full of contenders and it would be difficult to imagine a win under a penalty, so it could well be a case of taking a chance against the handicapper.
OCONNELLS PIKE looked the likely winner two out, but he hung left going to the last and seemed to stick his head in the air a bit on the run to the line. On the face of it this was a decent hurdling debut, but I’d be tempted to oppose him at a short price.
CASUAL AFFAIR had a sound opportunity to break his hurdling duck here and disappointed.
SAM PATCH kept on for fourth, with the rest well held.

5.35 3m ½ f 0-100 Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle

There was a strong pace on early here and with the first two coming clear their form should prove sound.

AND WHATEVER ELSE led at the eighth until headed after the last. She battled back on the flat and showed plenty of the right qualities and there’s every chance she will go on from here.
SOLWAY SUNSET was eased forward to join issue three out. She appeared to be ridden to conserve stamina up the straight, but was just held close home. This trip probably stretches her to the limit, but dropped back in trip she will have every chance of adding to her victory tally.
WISE CHOICE was left behind from three out but kept on for third. He looks on his mark off a rating of 95.
GETINBYBUTONLYJUST plugged on from two out and ran creditably without looking like winning.
The remainder were strung out like washing on a line.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Hexham in the sun

Hexham – Monday April 20th

Going – Good To Firm (Good in places)

A glorious sunny day in Northumberland, though the racing wasn’t quite as glorious as the weather.

2.30 3m 1f 0-105 Handicap Chase

The afternoon commenced with a contest high on numbers but low on quality. A number of the competitors here have been on the go for a few months, but it’s difficult to tell when many of them are going to put their best hoof forward.

The ‘eternal optimists’ (see Sedgefield April 7th) certainly new more of TREEHOUSE than I did. Once again backed at fancy prices, the horse got the message and stepped up significantly on previous form under Rules, his previous placed form having been in maiden points. He moved through to lead three out and battled back when headed. He was given an ugly ride by Adrian Lane who was way too liberal with the whip and duly got carpeted for it. It remains to be seen if this leaves its mark.
KORELO continues to encourage and stayed on though able to offer no extra in the last half furlong. He may pick up a minor staying handicap sine he seems in good heart.
ASTYANAX couldn’t follow up his Carlisle win form a 9lbs higher mark. He led from the fifteenth until two out but could only plug on one pace from there.
MITCHEL HENRY is better with cut in the ground and didn’t look that keen though fourth place probably wasn’t a bad effort. It would be a surprise if he is now put away until the autumn.
PENDLE FOREST was waited with and brought through steadily to two out but couldn’t sustain the effort up the hill. She’s been bumbling round at the back most of the season, so this offers just a glimmer of encouragement.
RECKLESS VENTURE was never close enough to get in a blow.
SILVER DAGGER was under pressure down the back straight and called ‘enough’ two out, CELTIC FLOW dropping away around the same time.
It could be that the ground didn’t help SEEK THE TRUTH, but I suspect he’s just and up and down performer.
LA PANTERA ROSA was the last to complete the course, isn’t the most consistent performer and was way off form here.
HOWS TRIX was never going on his first appearance since moving from Ireland.
BEAUCHAMP PRINCE is hampered by a wind problem and pulled up.
NOW THEN SID raced prominently early but faded quickly from the thirteenth, pulling up a couple of fences later.
BLUNHAM HILL won first time out this season but has been abysmal since.
BENBEOCH produced a good effort last time which fooled the betting public into making him favourite, be reverted to uncooperative mode here.
SOUND OF CHEERS was another to be pulled up and has offered little encouragement since his seasonal debut.
HOLLOWS MIST managed to rid himself of his pilot at the fourth.

3.20 2m 4 ½ f Gee Aker Malayo Handicap Chase
This race was named after the Lucinda Russell inmate who perished at Hexham last year.
NOUVEAU MAIRE made a successful step up from hunter chases with Ferdy Murphy taking charge instead of his daughter, though it’s probably only a nominal thing anyway. He picked up well up the hill, led on the flat and held on well. He’s in good form and may follow up in similar class.
PAMAK D’AIRY led three out and battled back when headed on the flat. He lost nothing in defeat. He’s come down the handicap a bit and may find a small race.
YANKEE HOLIDAY fizzed along in front, as is his way but, as is also his way, had precious little to offer in the last quarter of a mile and faded to third.
PASS THE CLASS disputed for much of the way but was one paced from two out. He’s only won once and that was three years ago.
ROYAL HILARITY was disappointing after his Newcastle effort.
STONERIGGS MERC hit a couple early and was never going well enough.
HUTCH had shown promise at Kelso, but his effort here was feeble.
BALLYNURE has been poor in recent times and NICOZETTO is just unpredictable, if possessing ability.
NAVAL ATTACHE was poor here and may just be more at home at Sedgefield.
MOOR SPIRIT showed so little I actually checked to see if he had been a non-runner. To all intents and purposes he was since he didn’t get involved seriously.

4.30 3m 1f Hunters’ Chase

HASPER’s pointing form looked up a little last year after a wind operation. He probably didn’t achieve a huge amount in a race full of has-beens, but he stayed on to hold Yann’s. I wouldn’t place too much weight on this win for the future since his pointing form is nothing over exciting.
YANN’S had shown a little life in moderate events recently and stretched the field from three out. He had nothing left once passed before the last.
BEN NELLY has generally struggled to get round in hunter chases, but got close here, still closing on the front two close home.
One-eyed SLEEPING NIGHT is a shadow of his former self and couldn’t get to grips with the leaders.
INDERDIT was put in his place from three out and is another light of former days.
LAWYER DES ORMEAUX was fighting a losing battle from four out, and WAYNESWORLD started to issue distress calls a bit before that.

Scottish Grand National Day

AYR – Saturday 18th April

Going – Good

Glorious weather for Ayr’s big day of the season. The ground was watered overnight, though the drying conditions meant that there were a number of absentees.

1.45 2m 3 Novices’ Hurdle

There was a surprise result in the first event of the afternoon but, to my mind, with a fast pace I would trust the form.

George Charlton’s APARTMAN was settled at the rear of the quartet coming through to challenge three out and then quickly going clear. A couple of these had solid novice form and this one looks very interesting for the future. I wonder if the stable might take a chance on a trip to Punchestown. One thought is that if Apartman had been trained by a ‘big name’ instead of G. Charlton would he have been such a long price?
GIORGIO QUERCUS, with conditions to suit, was ridden coming out of the back straight and under the shove all up the straight but kept on well enough to gain second after the last.
SATICON could offer only one pace up the straight.
MARC AURELE paid for setting a scorching pace and soon tailed off once headed.

2.20 2m 4f Grade 2 Novices’ Chase

DEEP PURPLE led, getting a bit close to some fences early but fiddling his way over, was driven to three out, responded well and stayed on for a decent win.
I’MSINGINGTHEBLUES gave his running in second place but was held by the winner from two out. This was a decent effort.
RAYSROCK was outpaced from five out but secured third.
TOT O’WHISKEY struggled from a long way out and, having been kept on the go for a long while, might be feeling the effects of the season.
TURKISH SURPRISE was held up off the pace and didn’t get in a blow, fading from four out.

2.50 2m 0-158 Grade 2 Handicap Hurdle

This was competitive renewal of the Scottish Champion Hurdle with decent form brought from various hurdling fields.
NOBLE ALAN, fresh from a break, was impressive in the latter stages. Picking up nicely from two out he ran on well after the last to win with a little in hand. His trainer has him marked down as a future chaser.
SECRET TUNE ran a cracker from 4lbs wrong in the handicap, being on the premises for most of the race and sticking to his guns once passed by Noble Alan. He’s picked up a couple of ‘middle of the road’ handicaps at Newbury in recent times, but looks set to contest the better class handicap hurdles next season.
HARPER VALLEY set a decent pace jumping well. I wondered if he might fold once headed, but to his credit really stuck to his task and hung on for third.
BLUE BAJAN is a twilight horse, not quite good enough to challenge in the top class hurdle races whilst having to carry big weights in the best handicaps. He tried his best here and his fourth place means he’ll get no respite in the immediate future.
MEDERMIT acquitted himself well on stepping up to ‘senior class’, lacking extra pace from two out.
SNAP TIE is in a similar position as Blue Bajan and ran a fair sixth here. He did manage to pick up a race in front of Katchit first time and maybe he is best fresh.
SKI SUNDAY pulled too hard and had raced himself out by the home turn.

3.25 4m ½ f Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase

The biggest race of the Scottish jumping season and I haven’t been able to see the race. No recording on Racing UK or the Racing Post sight so I’ve relying on eye witness accounts and race comments. Thanks to fellow racing fanatic workmate Keith Orr for a bit of an insight. Scottish interest disappeared when Merigo was declared a non-runner due to the ground, and one of the favoured competitors Tricky Trickster was pulled out along with two others.
HELLO BUD has progressed from a mark of 85 at the start of 2008 to race off a mark of 133 here. He shrugged that off fairly comfortably in what was probably one of the stronger Scottish National renewals of recent years. He made all the running and then galloped on to see off challenges in the closing stages. This was a cracking performance from an 11 year old who just keeps progressing and the long term target in the 2010 Grand National. Mean while his form confirmed the Twiston-Davies stable set for a strong challenge at Perth.
The sometimes apparently superhuman qualities of one A.P.McCoy cajoled GONE TO LUNCH into second place. He picked up ground in the last mile and was gaining on the winner close home. The problem is that getting him to produce his ability is such a hard job.
OUT THE BLACK was held from two out but ran another solid race. He’s not been over-raced for an 11 year old so there is still scope for a win or two next season. He would be interesting if aimed at the Veterans’ staying events next term.
The step up to extreme distances has done CHIARO no harm, since he won over 3m 7f at Hereford last time and lost nothing in defeat stepped up in class here. As a progressive seven year old not fully exposed at long distances he is one to keep in mind for staying events in 2009-10.
CHIEF DAN GEORGE didn’t disgrace himself in thrown in at the deep end in senior chasing company. I thought he was too short a price at 11/2 but he has been learning steadily and will be a challenger to be reckoned with next season.
L’AVENTURE, carrying the North money in the work sweep, performed to type, staying on when the contest was all but over.
KING BARRY has a very good record here but simply ran out of stamina.
SEA DIVA seldom wins but often runs fairly well in these events. She was never really going but picked up a place or two late on.
COE and BROOKLYN BROWNIE appeared not to stay.
WEST END ROCKER made mistakes early on was pulled up after being badly hampered at the twentieth.
THAT’S RHYTHM fell at the twentieth. Given that he had only own a beginners’ chase previously he seemed to be going well enough at the time.
NINE DE SIVOLA was never going and the accepted wisdom was that the going didn’t suit.
LE TOSCAN has been well out of form and was unable to climb the mountain presented to him.
DEAR VILLEZ had a tough task with top-weight in a race that generally favours the lower weights. He made a couple of mistakes and was well behind when pulled up in the straight.
ARTEEA ran a lifetime best in the Aintree National and it’s reasonable to assume that the effort told on him.
A couple of mistakes didn’t help SOUND ACCORD’s chances but it appeared the trip was beyond him.

4.00 2m 5 ½ f 0-150 Handicap Hurdle

THE POLOMOCHE has been out of sorts since a good effort at Ascot in December. It should be noted though that the intervening contests were at Cheltenham and Aintree and were top class handicaps. He found it easier here off top-weight, making most and battling back when headed briefly on the run-in. He’ll go up a bit for this and will find life increasingly difficult over hurdles.
HALLA SAN is an admirable dual-purpose performer, and his last run was on the all-weather at Kempton. He’s still on a mark which can be exploited in a handicap hurdle on this quick ground.
WORKING TITLE saw out this extended trip well enough in third if held by the first two.
WARSAW PACT performed soundly coming off a break.
MIDDLETON DENE was decent as a novice but has found life tough in senior handicap company this season and needs a drop in the weights.

4.35 2m 0-152 Handicap Chase

Those at the top end of this decent class handicap looked in the grip of the handicapper and those contesting the finish came from the bottom end of the weights.

PEPSYROCK has been running some decent races round the decent tracks in the south, and found the West of Scotland to his liking as he saw off Beggar’s Cap in a close finish. The two were clear and the form reads well. BEGGAR’S CAP deserves credit for being the only one to bustle up the favourite and both are the right end of the age scale and can take this form forward.
DOMINICAN MONK stayed on late for third but found the rise in class a little tough to handle.
LESLINGTAYLOR hit two out when making a little progress from the rear and his effort came to an end. He comes out of this season with a degree of credit and is not on an impossible mark.
LORD HENRY led or disputed until a mistake two out at which point he folded. He has his work cut out to win off 150.
PABLO DU CHARMIL weakened from the final turn. He is another who has had some stiff tasks of late and needs respite from the handicapper.
KILMACKILLOGE, coming off a break, raced off a career high mark and it remains to be seen if he can cope. He offered little encouragement in pulling up here.
ANDREAS was struggling when falling three out. He hasn’t recaptured his decent ground form from last spring.

5.05 3m 1f 0-130 Novices’ Handicap Chase

Another decent contest on a very fine card.

AURORAS ENCORE benefitted when his nearest challenger almost departed three out. That being said, he saw off the remainder plenty easy enough. He’s won over 2m and 3m over fences this season and performed creditably over hurdles last time, so his trainer has plenty of options.
VALLEY RIDE raced prominently but was chasing in vain from three out. He has good form round the sharp tracks at Newton Abbot and Fakenham and his current mark should still give him options at those venues.
RUSTARIX was left behind in the straight. His form going right-handed looks stronger than on left handed courses.
FRESH AIR AND FUN was still in contention when clouting three out. He then made a pig’s ear of the last and lost a couple of places. His jumping has been decent in the past so he may be forgiven this one.
SEIZE won in lesser company at Musselburgh off 12lbs lower, but this was beyond him.
SHOULDHAVEHADTHAT’s form tends to go up and down, and this was not his day.
STORYMAKER has ability on his day but doesn’t always produce evidence of it.

5.35 2m NH Flat Race

A shock result but the form looks sound enough with decent winners behind.
Bill Amos produced decent bumper performer Lie Forrit last season so it’s not a huge surprise to see him come up with another. CARTERS REST was tried in a tongue-tie which worked the oracle turning a moderate performer into a decent one. He’s related to winners and may go on from here.
Another stable that has produced a decent performer or two in the recent past is that of George Charlton, and he sent out MASTER BEAU to bustle up the winner here, well clear of the third.
Alan Swinbank’s newcomer SIR FRANK ran a fair race in third, if well held and the stable should place him to advantage.
WITHERSPOON won well here last time but was put in his place this time. The fast ground may not have helped and he will benefit from a stiffer test.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Ayr - Day 1 of the Scottish National Meeting

AYR = Friday April 17th

Going – Good

Scotland’s top meeting of the year began on a sour note, with two fatalities in the first contest. The runners were racing on watered ground followed a lengthy dry spell which has completely changed the soft and heavy ground that has been prevalent throughout the winter. Following the mishaps on the final bend in the first race there was a lengthy delay as the track was investigated, but it was found that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the state of the turf.

2.20 3m ½ f 0-135 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

Two horses slipped up on the home bend in this event with FRESCHEZZA sadly suffering a fatal injury. DANCING DIK was the other to come down.

PERCUTANT was a swiftly progressing hurdler having won nicely on two occasions at Musselburgh. He was in contention when suffering an injury to his near hind on landing at two out and was swiftly taken out of the race. Sadly the injury resulting in the gelding having to be put down.

GRAND THEATRE was left clear following Percutant’s mishap and won very easily. His profile to date has been one good run then one bad run and it doesn’t seem possible to tie down any clear reason for his flops.
EASBY PARK led until the eighth but was well held from that point though he did enough to hold on to the second place that he inherited two out.
Irish challenger CURRAGOWER stayed on up the straight for third without ever threatening the leaders.
The remainder were well held, DESCRIPTION, seemingly caught by the handicapper after a run of wins, fading to finish fifth.

2.50 2m 5f 0-125 Novices’ Handicap Chase

After a lengthy delay whilst the track was inspected, this race commenced 35 minutes late and minus two intended runners.

FESTIVAL KING bowled along nicely in front, jumping well, but paid for misjudging the thirteenth and dislodged his rider.
As only two finished it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from the form, EVEN FLO ridden out to hold BOUGOURE after the last.

3.25 3m ½ f 0-125 Handicap Hurdle

Another smallish field and DISTILLER was able to dominate in the straight. Despite an awkward jump three out he stayed on nicely to lead on the run-in and needed no more than nudging to see him home. There is a suspicion that he is rather quirky, but there may be more to come. The Twiston-Davies stable is running into form in time for an assault on the Perth Festival next week.
MIGHTY MASSINI led from halfway until overtaken on the run-in. He failed to finish in his first nine efforts in Irish points, but has been better since going hurdling and, though he has yet to win, it should be possible to find a race in the coming months.
LEAC AN SCAIL ran soundly in third place and is basically handicapped to his level.
CLASSIC ACT was outpaced approaching the final bend and plugged on up the straight. The extreme distance (3m 3f) at Sedgefield last time probably suited a bit better and the idiosyncrasies of that track may well bring out the best in him.

4.00 2m 4f 0-145 Handicap Chase

TELL HENRY was tapped for toe five out, but found his stride in the straight to take this event with a great deal in hand. He hasn’t been over-raced this winter, was in fine fettle following a break and is progressing nicely.
CALATAGAN hit a couple as the race was warming up but kept on for second. He’s possibly a little better at shorter distances since his only win over this trip has come at the sharp Stratford circuit.
MISTER McGOLDRICK has struggled a little following last year’s Cheltenham win and a subsequent hike in the ratings, but ran a decent race back on his previous winning mark. He would still be worth a glance if an opportunity could be found off this mark at his favourite Wetherby.
CAST IRON CASEY acquitted himself well enough taking on the toughest chasing company he has faced. A mistake three out cost him his chance but dropped in class he would have every chance of picking up a handicap.
MEDICINAL struggled from four out and looks on a stiff mark at 144.
DALDINI has been kept on the go all winter and this lack lustre effort suggests that a rest may now beckon.
SILVER ADONIS had a stiff task and was always out the back.
WATCH MY BACK jumped poorly and was never competitive. This was a stiffer task than he had faced before, but he’s better than this run suggests.
PATMAN DU CHARMIL’s jockey lost an iron early on and he was pulled up after the fourth.

4.35 3m ½ f 0-130 Mares’ Handicap Hurdle

Carrying a penalty for a recent win at Hexham, ELZAHANN sat handy and led at the last, going away on the flat. The race was run at a decent pace so the form looks solid enough and Elzahaan is progressing nicely.
REEL CHARMER ran to her form in second on a return to hurdling after a less than successful spell chasing.
PURE GENIUS wasn’t far off her mark in this race, keeping on after being headed two out. This is as high as she would want to be in the ratings at the moment, though off 100 there is scope for a drop in class.
SOLWAY BEE had a tough task here and performed very well to post a fourth place from four pounds out of the handicap. Prevailing conditions suit, so her trainer may be able to find a small race in the coming weeks.
MORE LIKELY stayed on late but found everything happening a bit too quick for her here. It may still be possible to exploit her lower hurdle mark in a slightly lower class, perhaps at Kelso.

5.10 3m 1f Class 3 Claiming Chase

This is one of a handful of claiming chases held in the north throughout the season, and from memory the best quality of them, although everything is relative.

This seemed to be an excellent opportunity for UNGARO to get in a clear round and have his confidence restored after a disappointing spell. However, having been hampered when Cardington unseated at the second he crashed out at the fifth fence.
The race was left as a contest between the 123 rated ANDREW NICK and BAGAN. ANDREW NICK was the one to take advantage, leading five out and keeping on with BAGAN chasing resolutely if vainly from four out. Given the distance in front of the third, it is reasonable to assume that the first two ran near to their best.
EASBY MANDARIN had a struggle on at the weights and was outpaced in the straight.
RATHOWEN was returning after a lay-off since last May. He led until five out but quickly weakened and was tailed off.
CARDINGTON was untidy at the first and jettisoned his pilot at the second.
THEBOYFROMBULAWAYO was struggling soon after halfway and pulled up before five from home.

5.45 2m 4f 0-125 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

SOLWAY SUNSET’s career has been characterised by wins interspersed with moderate runs. Coming off a moderate performance at Haydock six days previously, she recorded a career high performance off to win this event. She made progress in the straight, then hit the second last but recovered to lead at the last and win with a little in hand. Sometimes difficult to pin down for a particular run, she does however have an impressive career record of 6 wins from 21 runs.
CORKAGE ran a sound race, battling hard to dead-heat for second. He’s higher in the handicap than he needs to be to have winning chances.
SHERIFF HUTTON is another that ran a sound race but is handicapped to his mark.
ANNNIBALE CARO made headway three out but was soon on the retreat. This could be this came a little soon after his Kelso victory, and a drop back in trip wouldn’t do any harm.

Meanwhile at Sedgefield (Going – Good To Firm), where the fence at the top of the hill was omitted, there were three chases on the card:

5.55 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Chase

STRIKING ARTICLE impressed when left to do his own thing at Hexham first time out, but his fencing has not looked good when he has been put under pressure. Bowling along in front he got low at a few fences and paid the penalty at the eleventh.
ROLE ON took advantage of Striking Article’s misfortune to take the race comfortably. He’s consistent, jumps tidily and goes well on fast ground.
NATURALLY INSPIRED stayed on from two out to take second. He was well held here but is learning over fences and should make his mark at a lowly level.
MOYNE PLEASURE kept on for third apparently performing better than his rating of 62, though I would be tempted to take the form with a pinch of salt.
OVERLAW is slow but kept going well enough for fourth.
DESERT MAZE looks too headstrong at present and was a spent force from three out.
FORTUNE’S FOOL looks a poor performer over fences and completed in a remote sixth.
Neither REGAL CONFUSION nor EBAC jumped well and both were pulled up.

6.25 3m 3f 0-110 Handicap Chase

POLAR GALE continued the good form of his previous effort over course and distance, staying on to win this with something in hand. A wind operation has paid dividends. He is suited by good or fast ground and now has four Sedgefield wins to his credit.
BLEU POIS stayed on for second if unable to hold Polar Gale. This was a creditable effort behind a more experienced opponent.
BIG BONE produced his best run since returning from a season off. He had every chance going to two out but could only manage the one pace from there.
LUCKY NELLERIE raced prominently, leading from the seventh to two out, but weakened once headed He has been off his game this season, but this effort was at least a little better than any since October.
PADDYMcGINTYSGOAT was left behind from three out and offers nothing at the business end.
TULLY HILL was well out of the handicap and did as well as could be expected to be up with the leaders to the fourteenth.
ESQUILLON jumped stickily in the rear and doesn’t look comfortable with chasing.
BOBBY ICATA had run eight awful races in bumpers and hurdles (pulled up six times) and was back peddling when coming down heavily at the eleventh.

7.00 2m 4f Novices’ Hunters’ Chase

CRAIGLANDS, a steady improver in points and winner of a maiden at Tranwell, challenged three out and was in control when veering towards the course exit on the run-in. He then appeared to idle a bit but found enough to hold on. He’s still a bit raw but has time on his side.
PARADISE BAY is exposed as an essentially moderate performer. He made progress to two out but couldn’t get to the leader.
OH SO PERKY, making her seasonal debut, ran a creditable race in third but was well held from four out.
LITTLE ROCKER kept on from a long way back for fourth.
SILVER PALOMINO and FIFTH COLUMN both got round but were well beaten and are slow.
LEADING PEARL had been in good form in points, running up a hat-trick, but failed to cope over regulation fences, pulling up before two out.
WILLYWONT HE went well to three out but was dropping back when hitting two out hard and unseating.
BARRY THE CRACKER set off in front but had run out of puff by three out. He’s only six and if he can be restrained a little more and his jumping sharpened he isn’t a lost cause in these events.
TEMPLE GLEN is a point winner but has found things too tough on two hunter chase outings, and BILLSLEGACY is proven slowcoach who bumbled round until pulled up approaching the eighth fence.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Carlisle - Easter Meeting

CARLISLE – Saturday April 11th

Going – Good(Good To Firm in places)

With drier weather around in the North East the going has become decent at Carlisle. As a bonus this meant that all fences were jumped, something which hasn’t happened often, if at all, previously this season.

Due to time constraints a few of the notes are necessarily brief.

2.20 2m Class 4 Novices’ Chase

A big hole was knocked in this event by the absence of the two main contenders, Sa Suffit and Fit To Drive, and two other absentees left only five to contest the race.

SOUBRIQUET was left challenging for the lead when the leader ducked out before the sixth and eased away comfortably in the closing stages, though it’s doubtful he achieved too much.
GENERAL LEDGER was held from two out.
LADY CHATELAINE was held by two more gifted performers but at least showed she jumps competently and seems better over fences than hurdling. She might be of interest aimed at lowly handicaps in the coming months.
PANTHER’S RUN went along nicely in front until ducking out approaching the sixth. He’s on a long losing run and doesn’t look one to trust.
PAPERCHASER fell at the fourth.

2.50 3m 2f 0-95 Handicap Chase

An event for some low grade ‘grinders’.

ASTYANAX was prominent all the way and took charge on the flat. He was unproven at this trip but saw it out very well on this stiff track. His overall profile suggests we can’t rely on a follow up.
SANDS RISING plugged on fro second. He’s running well at the moment but lacks any pace at the business end.
NELLIEDONETHAT has run well over the winter and produced another sound performance in third, though he is probably held by the handicapper now.
STARK RAVEN hit a couple of fences as the race warmed up and couldn’t get back into the argument from three out.
ESME RIDES A GAINE shows a little ability but is basically fairly slow. Having been outpaced down the back she stayed on again up the hill but the leaders had gone. This was an adequate handicapping debut and she may come on with experience.
STAR OF RAVEN, SUPREMELY GIFTED (reported as finishing sore) and PACK DRILL could make no impact from a mile out, while SHULMIN was always out the back and probably needs a return to Sedgefield.
GETINBYBUTONLYJUST, normally consistent if frustrating, ran a lack lustre race and was reported as not suited by the ground.
POLOBURY jumped poorly and had lost touch by the eighth.

3.25 3m ½ f 0-130 Handicap Chase

This is normally one of the better handicaps held at the course over the season, but the field did strike me as all that brilliant.

ANTONIUS CAESAR was taken wide for much of the way. He disputed the lead from the tenth and coasted into the lead three out, and went away from there before being eased on the flat. The trip from Northamptonshire was well worth while and his trainer may be eyeing up a few races now the going is decent.
THE WHISPERER stayed no from the bottom of the hill without remotely threatening the winner. He has had a stop-start career to date, but his record reads well and he may go on from here.
CROZAN showed some evidence of a return to form, keeping on for third.
MILL SIDE made a creditable first appearance in handicaps, lacking an increase in pace over the final three fences. He has shown promise in novice events this season and will find his level in handicaps and with experience will pick up a race or two.
RIMSKY led or was prominent to three out but then gave way. His best form has generally come at courses with uphill finishes, but he probably raced a little too freely on this occasion.
ROYAL MACKINTOSH has run well through the winter, but may just welcome a break. He’s still on a mark he can cope with when at his best and I would keep him in mind round here in testing conditions next season.
NOIR ET VERT went prominent after halfway but was struggling before four out. He seems a bit too high in the handicap.
BAFANA BOY was always at the back, and BANNISTER LANE faded from a mile out having led to the tenth.
OPEN DE L’ISLE as not proven at this trip but seemed in trouble after two miles, so that would not have been the excuse. His trainer suggested to the stewards that the fast ground was the problem.
JUST FOR MEN performed poorly and pulled up, but then his only previous effort on this sort of ground ended being well beaten, so it seems reasonable that the ground was against him.

3.55 2m 5f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

ISN’T THAT LUCKY Seemed to have a golden opportunity here and so it proved. He had no trouble seeing off Logans Run from the last. He’s now finished for the season and the likelihood is he will be aimed at decent class middle distance handicap chases next season.
LOGANS RUN showed he retains the ability suggested by his hurdling efforts and ran creditably here if held by a better opponent. It should be no problem to get a novices’ chase win out of him, though his ability is now exposed and he will be short priced.
CORNERBACK went well for a way but was firmly put in his place from three out.
CLASSIC HARRY had a very tough task here and had lost touch before four out.
SPIVITUS, LUSENTO and ALMOND COURT were way out of their depth here.
4.30 3m ½ f 0-110 Novices’ Handicap Chase

CHERNIK put aside some indifferent previous chasing form to take this ridiculously comfortably. He had shown a glimmer last time, but this effort was way in advance of three previous goes over fences. He will go up a long way for this and to remains to be seen if a repeat effort can be made. Able to dominate from the front it could just be that the race fell his way.
INDY MOOD was left behind from the bottom of the hill and this effort seemed a bit below his last two runs.
CUTE N YOU KNOW IT stayed on for third, but had been well held on previous chasing efforts putting the form into context.
CLASSIC CHIC was outpaced from the thirteenth but plugged on up the hill and doesn’t seem to have much basic speed.
EASBY MANDARIN was left behind in the last mile.
PISTOL BASC weakened from the bottom of the hill and has to prove he can see out the trip.
NGONG HILLS should have been involved on recent form but was left well behind from a mile out.
JORVEYBROOK won what looked a soft event at Newcastle, didn’t jump well here and was pulled up five out.
TOY GUN has lost his form totally in recent runs and may have a problem.
GLEN OMEN and FINLAY’S FOOTSTEPS both pulled up, neither offering any encouragement recently.

5.05 2m 0-115 Handicap Chase

The Twiston-Davies stable has hit form at this time before, and BERMUDA POINTE looked well readied for this one and he won easily despite whacking the last. He has run over assorted tracks and distances quite consistently, but the impression is that a stiff two miles is best.
WATCH THE WIND ran well from 10lbs out of the handicap, although on what he had achieved previously it puts the others’ performances in context. He had shown glimmers of form in the past and I suspect he’s a spring performer.
HOLLOWS MILL had one of his better days in third but isn’t ready betting material these days.
MASTER PAPA was held from the bottom of the hill. He’s better on a sharper track, and is back below his winning mark.
IT’S BERTIE couldn’t dominate here and he has gone steadily up the handicap without recording a legal win.
SOME TOUCH was outpaced from three out. A couple of seasons back he would have had these fro breakfast, but his form is falling away.
CANTGETON blossomed for a couple of runs but was well held here.
SOPRANO fell last time, and that may have affected his confidence as he didn’t get involved and pulled up.
NORMINSTER probably found the ground a little quick, but this was so far below his form that he may have had one race too many.

5.35 3m ½ f Hunters’ Chase

HARTBURN has been showing plenty of progression in points and won this with a fair bit to spare. Handling regulation fences clearly holds no terrors and she should progress in hunter chases.
GARDEN FEATURE has won over four miles in points and stayed on for second here. Connections may look for a real test over fences.
BEN NELLY has been well beaten on most fencing efforts but performed respectably here given his 74 Official Rating, being beaten 32 lengths in third.
TEERIE EXPRESS went well enough until a serious blunder four out knocked the stuffing out.
NOCATEE completed in his own time in customary style.
HENRY’S PRIDE led early but gave way swiftly up the hill.
BLACK SMOKE completed slowly in handicaps last year and did the same in this class.
NATIAIN seems to have been thoroughly soured by a number of tough tasks in handicaps this year. He failed to start on one occasion and the towel went in quickly from five out on this occasion. At his best he would have carried these and a place behind Black Smoke shows how much his form has tailed off.
GEEVEEM made mistakes and toiled in the rear, as did JACKSONVILLE who stays well but had no chance in this event.

Friday, 10 April 2009

A Visit To Sedgefield

SEDGEFIELD – Tuesday 7th April

Going – Good to Firm

Having spent the season writing sagely about events at Sedgefield I thought that it was about time I visited the place!

We stayed at Lumley Castle Hotel which overlooks the Riverside Cricket Ground at Chester-Le-Street. A pleasant enough place to stay, though rooms in the castle are rather dimly lit. Chester-Le-Street as a town is desperately suffering from the economic downturn and presumably it's proximity to the Metro Centre. Lot's of posh houses to the east of the town, but I suspect they stay away from the town centre. If using Chester-Le-Street as a base, Durham is well worth a visit, and when we pottered over to the coast we found a nice cafe on the sea front at Seaham, not generally noted as a tourist destination but worth dropping in if you are passing.

Sedgefield is another small Northern course which basically sticks at doing what it’s good at, that is providing bread and butter racing in decent surroundings with a decent atmosphere. The facilities are compact and functional, with enough covered to standing to satisfy the crowd. I found the best place to see ‘as near as damn it’ the entire course was on the terracing past the winning post. The slight disadvantage is that the straight is head on, but such is the layout of the course that this is a problem in any of the stands. There was no big screen but a decent pair of binoculars gives a good view all round, with the runners going out of sight only for a second or two at the end of the back straight.

The course is noticeable undulating, with a rise up the back straight followed by a fall once turned for home, though with an uphill final 100 yards. I can understand why this is a course specialists’ venue. The paddock and unsaddling area are in front of the stands, though this does present the age old problem of a course exit for the horses before the winning post, and Gamma Velorum sought to prove this point in the last race. Viewing of the parade ring is only on two sides which does mean you have to be early to get a position, though the pre-parade ring can be easily accessed.

The race card is an A3 sheet folded five ways and it’s a format that works quite well, although the information is confined to race details and misses out a lot of course information supplied at other venues.

The going was reported as fast but decent by the jockeys, the bends cutting up a little. The decent field sizes near or on the safety limits reflect that view.

2.20 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

This was a distinctly uncompetitive event where only a handful could be given a chance.

I noted SCALE BANK as having big hooves, which often signifies one who copes with soft ground, but he had no problem with the fast ground here. He was battling with Posh Bird when the latter came down at the last, and he went on to win by 42 lengths. He handles this ground and should be competitive off a mark of 104 in handicaps.
Irish challenger POSH BIRD had come under the shove but was battling hard when coming down at the last. She should win a race but took a heavy fall here.
MARDOOD plugged on for second and probably ran near his mark of 77, but he’s basically slow, and the presence of apparently very slow BERNSHAW in third sums up most of the field.
HIGHTORI is rated 100, but that is based on two season old form and he doesn’t seem to have retained that ability.
SPEARMAN, a well backed Irish point winner but an angular gelding that didn’t please the eye, went out like a light after the sixth and was pulled up. He was reported as having a breathing problem, but I got the impression he rapped himself on the hurdle as well.
THE CLASSIC FOX provided pre-race entertainment on his intended hurdling debut. He looked an awkward sort in the paddock and then dumped Barry Keniry exiting the paddock. Once re-united, Keniry was helpless as The Classic Fox hurtled off on a circuit of the course before the inevitable withdrawal. He was poor when last seen on the flat in 2005 and looks a nutcase.

2.50 2m ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Chase

This wasn’t a bad contest at the ‘front end’ with four rated in the range 117 to 125.

INGRATITUDE, a 35000gns purchase from Nicky Henderson’s stable, won over hurdles at Kempton when last seen in December, having previously been successful in a Towcester chase. He came clear from two out here and looks like one who may make hay while the sun shines.
ALL FOR THE CAUSE went on at the sixth but couldn’t respond once passed on the run to the last.
THE DUKE’S SPEECH was below par again and struggled from three out, though kept going well enough to hold third. The application of blinkers didn’t seem to make a difference.
PILCA was always going to struggle on these terms and ran to form in fourth.
HEAVENLY CHORUS made an eye-catching chasing debut, staying on in the straight. She’s a hurdles winner and on this evidence there is something to work on over fences. She likes fast ground though an initial chase rating of 108 looks a bit stiff.
MADGE was beaten a long way in sixth.
OUSTE looked fit enough but was well held when falling at the last.
ABLE DARA, FORTUNE’S FOOL, THE RINGER, headstrong in the paddock but showed nothing on the track, and OVERLAW are all very slow and pulled up.
KINGOFTHESWINGERS was losing touch when unseating at the seventh.

3.20 2m 1f Class Selling Novices’ Hurdle

Since these events are pretty much ‘what you see is one you get’ we adjourned for a bite to eat before this event. These events fill well perhaps due to John Wade’s continued support of the Series which culminates in a decent value Final in June, and on this occasion the race was oversubscribed by 11.

This event may well have thrown up a decent contender for the Final in CAN’T REMEMBER who stepped up on moderate Bumper form to take this cosily. Ridden after the second last she took over at the last and asserted on the run-in in a manner which suggests she can go on to better things. She was bought by Andy Crook for 6,800gns.
NEWGATE is basically selling class and ran adequately in second but was held in the latter stages.
THUNDERWING never got to the leaders but kept on for third. Rated 98, it might have been reasonable to expect better at this level.
CATHERINES VERSE was headed two out and kept on and was clear of the remaining poor bunch.
LINDSEYFIELD LODGE showed just a glimmer of ability in a chase last time but reverted to type on this occasion.

3.50 2m 4f 0-110 Handicap Chase

Nominally the feature event of the afternoon, though everything is relative.

LAWAAHEB has changed stables and was coming off a 313 day break and was set up nicely for this race. Always going nicely in behind the leaders, he led before the last and was driven out. He’s consistent, though only wins in turn.
NAVAL ATTACHE looked harshly treated following his maiden win here, but proved that his current rating of 88 is quite fair, chasing the winner from two out and staying on determinedly up the hill. This was a decent effort and he has come along nicely in recent weeks.
GENERAL HARDI broke his maiden in an uncompetitive event at Newcastle over three miles, but suggested here that another win is not far away. Making the pace to use his stamina, he couldn’t match the speed of the first two close home, but stepped up in trip there seems no reason why he shouldn’t pick up another race.
BUCKSTRUTHER has always looked more likely to make a chaser and showed more promise than on his previous two attempts over fences. He couldn’t quite go the pace from three out but kept on for fourth. He has time on his side and is progressing at his own level.
LONGDALE plugged on to dead heat for fourth and generally runs best here.
WHATADIFFERENCE never got seriously competitive, making some progress from the back at the top of the hill, but mustering no more afterwards.
PARKING TICKET never got involved and his recent form is moderate.
IMTIHAN raced prominently early on but was struggling after the tenth fence.
MAJOR CATCH jumped deliberately and had no chance from four out.
WHATCANYASAY was always in the rear and has gone off the boil.
AVIATION impressed in the paddock, but lost touch by halfway on the track.

4.20 3m 3f 0-90 Handicap Chase

POLAR GALE seemed to benefit from a break, having had a wind operation, and stayed on from three out. His best form is round here or at Catterick and, provided he stays in good health should continue to be competitive in similar events here in the coming months.
The one to take from this is SIMPLY SMASHING, equipped with a tongue-tie, who jumped really well out in front. He saw out this trip well and should stay extreme distances and looks one for a win in the coming months.
KIDITHOU was well backed but never near enough to get in a serious blow, staying on for third place.
HEVER ROAD improved on three dire displays previous to this, running prominently before fading from the top of the hill.
PRINCE OF SLANE ran a good race last timer at Warwick, but never got in a blow here. He has ability but it’s ages since he won and he’s basically frustrating these days.
CELTIC FLOW, an infrequent visitor to the track these days, ran well to three out then weakened.
The Smith pair of SCOTT’S MILL and PRESENTING ALF once again disappointed.
MATMATA DE TENDRON normally goes well round here, and his hurdle run last time proved fast ground is no problem, but he was going backwards at the top of the hill.
TREEHOUSE looked no better in a handicap than he has in novice events and those who backed him in to 7/1 must be eternal optimists.
BADGER was struggling before halfway and dropped back to finish last.
STONERIGGS SILVER and AMOUR DARIA are slow and both pulled up, joined by ISLAND KEY who is capable of better but didn’t get involved stepping up in trip.

4.50 2m 1f 0-90 Handicap Hurdle

Another low quality contest, this time with a slightly controversial finish.

GAMMA VELORUM looked plenty fit enough following a break. He was under driving at the top of the hill, but kept responding and led after the last. He then veered right, despite Campbell Gillies giving him a couple of cracks with whip in right hand. He ran across Simple Jim who stumbled, but Gamma Velorum went clear despite veering again close home. Gillies was given a 5-day suspension for ‘careless riding’ which means he misses the Perth Festival meeting, but to my mind he could not have done much more and, far from being ‘careless’, did his level best to straighten the horse. Sometimes I do wonder if I’m watching the same race as the officials. I can’t help thinking they had to be seen to be taking action rather than doing the right thing.
FOLLOW ON stayed on in the latter stages for second. He probably ran to his mark, but bear in mind most of these were out of form.
SIMPLE JIM was under the cosh approaching the last and was held when hampered and stumbling on the flat. He probably lost second on the flat but wouldn’t have won and seemed to have reached an end-stop on this mark.
HARCAS was detached by the fourth but made up a stack of ground to finish 11 ½ lengths down. It would be nice to think this signals a return to form, but he doesn’t look one to trust.
CEILIDH LASS was another to stay on from the rear. She’s lightly raced and may be suited by a longer distance.
PETE looked to be going really well to two out but folded tamely.
It’s difficult to take any encouragement from the remaining runners.

Kelso - April 6th

Going – Good (Good to Firm in places)

A slight turn in the weather, with some rain about, but no change in the going meaning that this form should be taken forward for spring and summer.

2.30 2m 6 ½ f 0-115 Novices’ Handicap Chase

This race was decimated four out with four horses departing the race. Ambrosinni fell and brought down I’m Your Man, Doc Row falling independently though he wouldn’t have avoided the others anyway and La Pantera Rosa unseating as he tripped over ‘the wreckage’.
NILE MOON had been out in front since the sixth so avoided the carnage. That may conceivably have devalued the form, but I’m not convinced anything would have stopped him here. That being said this was a big step up on anything he had produced under Rules though he did win a maiden point in a decent time at Corbridge in 2007. That race was on good to firm, so it could be that these conditions are the key.
COLDWELLS had been in decent form before a break following a fall at Catterick. She was held after the last but stays further and remains competitive.
GUNS AND BUTTER had every chance towards the last but, as at Musselburgh, finished disappointingly.
PADDYMcGINTYSGOAT is slow and lumbered round a remote last of four finishers.
AMBROSINNI went well enough though received a couple of reminders before falling four out.
I’M YOUR MAN had conditions to suit and was working his way into the race when unable to avoid Ambrosinni.
DOC ROW was prominent early and then hit a flat spot, but he was not out of it when possibly distracted as Ambrosinni came down and he fell independently. He stays well and could not have been counted out of the race.
LA PANTERA ROSA was getting the worst of the argument when hampered and unseating four out.
CLASSIC HARRY fell at the fifth.
PRINCE MOUSE came to NH late from points and isn’t making an impact.

3.00 2m ½ f 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

ANNIBALE CARO was consistent on the flat last summer but hadn’t run over hurdles since December 2007. However Jim Goldie had his charge well readied for this race on his first appearance for the stable. Always going well he challenged at the last and came clear on the flat. He’s suited by the conditions and can go on from here.
FARNE ISLAND stayed on for second without threatening the winner. The uphill finish seems to suit him.
MARCEL has been below form recently but seems on a low mark over hurdles and may be better with the sun on his back these days.
STORM PROSPECT is pretty much handicapped to his level, but stayed on for fourth and does seem favoured by the drier conditions.

3.30 2m 1f 0-125 Handicap Chase

PROFESSOR HIGGINS is a progressive novice and won this with a fair bit in hand. He’s suited by the fast conditions and should pick up another race.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY ran an honest race in second and did at least do his best to put it to the winner after the last. He was held but won’t always come up against a progressive type and his jumping was a good deal sharper here.
JUSTWHATEVERULIKE stayed on for third having been in the rear for much of the race. A drop in class would do no harm.
MISS PROSS raced in midfield and was left behind from two out. She raced off 7lbs higher than her previous winning mark which is no help.
SCHINKEN OTTO raced with zest, but jumped right which didn’t help and he was struggling after three out. He’s suited by fast ground but has won over fences for some time.
MANHATTAN BOY struggled from halfway.
LOFTY LEADER had been out of form but was in the process of running his best race for a long time in third place when falling at the last. This was a good effort from 9lbs out of the handicap. He had a succession of good runs at Perth in 2007, but has collected more Ps than Bird’s Eye since then. I would be happier with further evidence of a renaissance.
KING DANIEL looked distinctly uncooperative and was pulled up after four fences, and a jockey’s report that he was ‘never travelling’ was an object lesson in stating the obvious.

4.00 2m 6 ½ f 0-110 Handicap Hurdle

INDUSTRIAL STAR settled nicely in front and nothing got to him in the last mile or so. All his wins have come on good or faster ground, and he was a stayer on the flat so this trip does him no harm.
HEEZ A STEEL was going well three out but didn’t get to the leader. He’s yet to win over hurdles though he didn’t seem to do too much wrong here. His amateur partner looked rather untidy on the run-in.
LAWGIVER threatened to get involved three out but couldn’t raise his game significantly. He was rated 102 here and his wins have come off 90 and 94.
LADY SAMBURY raced prominently but was found wanting from two out. She has won a couple but her best performances have been with cut in the ground.
DORIS’S GIFT was prominently early but was knackered by two out and struggled to lift himself over the last flight. He doesn’t look in the form he was last spring.
ORANG OUTAN was disappointing, but finished lame so had an excuse.

4.30 3m 1f Maiden Hunters’ Chase

Looking at my notebook for this one, I can seldom remember writing quite so many notes for a steeplechase. I’m also indebted to that superb publication Hunter Chasers and Point-To-Pointers 2009 by Mackenzie and Harris, an indispensable aid to those interested in these races, and a superb read even for those who aren’t.

Much of my note taking centred on James Ewart’s steeplechasing debutant DEVIL WATER who has the potential to be a decent chaser. I stress the word ‘potential’ however. He pulled very hard and was distinctly ungainly at the first few fences, his jockey hailing a cab on at least one occasion. Having pulled into the lead he jumped consistently to the right, but had his field on the stretch until walking through the fourth last and giving his rider no chance of staying aboard. He was a comfortable winner of a maiden point first time up and I’m pretty sure he would have won this had he stayed up. He remains interesting, but his wayward tendencies need to be kerbed.
LUKSAR took advantage of Devil Water’s mishap and a good jump two out gave him a nice lead he didn’t relinquish. He was a consistent performer in points and stepped up on that here. He has a good chance of following up.
PADDYS UNYOKE has had a disappointing pointing career, though he did show ability in Ireland in 2006. He ran a fine race here, being held on the run-in.
SENORA MOSS, who won an Open at Balcormo last April, looked to be struggling three out but stayed on again late.
DR HELLIER was in the rear early and came from a long way back to finish fourth. He is a decent pointer and the experience in this class may prove beneficial.
LADY BRIG, a fair performer in points, made no impression from three out.
HIGH EXPECTATIONS is one of the better performers in a stable of under-achievers, but felt the pinch from three out. Anno Domini may be catching up.
SHANTEEN LASS ran well in a poor event at Sedgefield but found this tougher contest beyond her.
OCA DE THAIX was beaten a long way and Ian Stark doesn’t seem to get the same out of his pointers as his does from eventers.
HURRICANE BASIL, who has been plagued by wind problems, looked held when falling at the thirteenth.
HOOKY’S QUEST has proved a weak finisher in points and is hopelessly out of his depth in hunter chases. The same comment goes for BEAUCHAMP VALLEY and both of these outsiders were pulled up.

5.00 2m 2f Novices’ Hurdle

This was a doddle for DOESLESSTHANME who is better than this level. His attitude is second to none, he jumps accurately and a chasing career beckons.
SOUL MAGIC saw off the remainder for second. This was better than his October effort at Aintree but he beat little.
The second favourite CATAI has achieved little in the past and was pulled up here, which sums the event bar the winner.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Sunny Sunday at Hexham

HEXHAM – Sunday April 5th

Going – Good (Good to Soft in places on chase course and Good to Firm in places on the hurdle course)

Bearing in mind the pleasant weather we have been blessed with it’s surprising to reflect that this meeting succumbed to the snow last year, a fact my wife and I only found out at 12.45 having got two-thirds of the way through very unpleasant conditions. This year however the meeting was blessed with bright sunshine, and I had two staying steeplechases to study.

3.20 3m 1f Class 4 Novices Chase

This race lost a little of its attraction as two of the potential contenders were non-runners.

BLEU POIS was fifth in a 0-100 handicap on his chasing debut which perhaps gives a clue to the ability on show here. However, he would seem to have benefitted from his debut. He looked destined for third going up the hill, but stayed on determinedly after the last to gain the day. He stays well and should make a mark back in handicaps.
HARRY FLASHMAN stepped up on a disappointing chasing debut at Perth last July, looking the possible winner at the last, but was caught close home. It looks as if he will be kept to this sort of ground.
FREEZE THE FRAME was best in on official figures but palpably didn’t run to his rating here. He was up with the pace all the way but one paced on the flat.
JIMANDGREY ran well to the last and weakened on the flat. He’s an Irish point winner and this was a fair start to his chasing career.
STARBOUGG never got competitive on chasing debut and fifth was the closest place she occupied.
PENDLE FOREST performed a bit better than previously over fences. Having been held up she progressed to be on the heels of the leaders going up the hill but then weakened. The better ground may have helped, but she didn’t see out the trip.
SCUZME was prominent early but fell away down the back straight for the final time.
BILLSGREY proved once again that he is very slow.
TURBULENT FLIGHT went well enough until hitting the twelfth. He gave the next a whack and quickly dropped away to be tailed off.

4.50 3m 1f 0-115 Handicap Chase

DARINA’S BOY is a proven spring and summer performer. He led approaching the sixth, pushed on from three out and idled in front allowing the second to close.
KORELO seems to be recovering a little form. He didn’t get to the winner but stayed on well for second and has run two consecutive decent races here.
OVERLADY won a slog at Carlisle off a low weight, but might well be handicapped to her limit in these contests now. She couldn’t get to grips with the winner and could only muster one pace once turned for home. She proved she can handle faster ground.
CATCH THE PERK was prominent early, and then dropped back before staying on for fourth. This was a reasonable pipe-opener after a break and he will back on his stamping ground at Perth soon.
PLAYER didn’t get much better than midfield. Considering his chase win came off 95 a mark of 110 here seems very harsh.
SILLY WUPPLE, a course winner in October, was prominent for a way but weakened four out. . Like his recent efforts, this was uninspiring.
CRACKADEE was struggling fully a mile from home.
EMERALD DESTINY was well out the back early and passed a few tired rivals late on.
STONERIGGS MERC moved up on the heels of the leaders with four to go, but then went backwards. His decent winter form seems to have left him.
CARRY DUFF was always detached.
SOUTH BRONX raced in touch until dropping away from the fourteenth.
SADDLER’S WAY was in midfield when unseating at the twelfth and was the only non-finisher in the afternoon’s two chases.

We are away to the Durham area for a few days next week, dropping in at Sedgefield on Tuesday. I'll report on that meeting, and on Kelso's meeting on Monday at the end of the week.

Musselburgh opens the 2009 Scottish Flat Season

MUSSELBURGH – Friday April 3rd

Going – Good to Firm (Good in places)

Like the curtain at the start of a play, the coastal fog lifted just before the start of the first race, and so there was a sunny start to the Scottish flat racing season 2009. The ground reflected the dry weather of recent weeks, being recorded as generally fast.

2.20 5f 0-70 Handicap

I had marked NOMOREBLONDES as a potential repeat winner, but sadly that was back in August 2007 and it’s taken her that long to get her head in front again. She managed to work her way from an outside draw to lead the field and held on under a sustained challenge from SANDWITH. The winner is rated 66 and looks to me to need to stay in the 0-70 band if she is to follow up. She may go up a pound or two too much.
UNTIL WHEN made a satisfactory return in third place, if held in the final furlong.

2.50 5f 2yo Maiden

MONALINI, from a stable who know their way with two-year-olds, looked well set up for this ordinary event and won nicely.
My interest for the future in centred on the second MR SMITHSON who looked distinctly green early on but warmed to his task nicely. He won’t have to do an awful lot more to pick up a run-of-the-mill maiden.

3.30 7f 0-70 3yo Handicap

GREEN AGENDA was rushed up to grab a prized prominent position around the far bend, and wasn’t significantly troubled after that. He looks well forward and his trainer will be looking for a chance to run under a penalty.
PETER’S GIFT showed enough in second to suggest she has trained on.

4.05 1m 4f 100yds Selling Stakes

This was not a bad class seller with ratings between 78 and 60, though ages ranged from 5 to 9 and all are pretty well ‘what you see is what you get’.
RAUCOUS was highest rated here and won well enough, but a handicap would be different kettle of fish. He could be best kept to sellers and claimers for now.
BRIDGEWATER BOYS ran creditably in second. His recent record in sellers and claimers is 1212612132, so he’s one of the first on the list in this sort of contest.

4.40 1m 0-85 Handicap

A race full of exposed sorts, with JUST BOND holding on in a tight finish from CELTIC CHANGE. JUST BOND idled in front and just held on from a runner-up who has a record of 1 win in 18 goes.
WIND SHUFFLE went a little too quick for his own good, but finished quite close in third and looks the one to take forward from this contest.

5.15 1m 1f Maiden

Both the winner UNION ISLAND and the second AKBABEND showed a tendency to hang here, and some of those beaten didn’t look madly amenable either. AKBABEND should have won it but hung toward the stands’ rail.
I would be loathe to trust either of these two in the short term.

5.45 2m 0-70 Apprentice Handicap

DON’T STOP ME NOW impressed as front running hurdler over the winter and showed her tenacity from the front in this event. She was headed around the furlong marker but battled back. She goes well on fast ground and her trainer may have options on the flat or over hurdles in the coming months.
DANZATRICE led briefly but was worried out of it, and is another who ran with some credit over hurdles.
LOS NADIS, another coming off a winter hurdling, flattered briefly two out before giving way.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Two chases at Newcastle

NEWCASTLE – Monday March 30th

Going – Good to Firm

2.40 2m 4f 0-110 Novices’ Handicap Chase

ROYAL HILARITY’s previous venture north ended in a disappointing performance on soft ground at Catterick. He was much more at home on this fast ground and held off the persistent challenge of Mongorno. He’s ordinary but Peter Bowen is willing to travel to find the right races, although I presume even Bowen will be glad when he gains a ‘local’ in Ffos Las come June .
MONGORNO preformed adequately bearing in mind he’s probably best with some give in the ground. Having been ridden patiently he had every chance but couldn’t wear down the winner after the last. He may go up a pound or two for this and wouldn’t want to be too much higher in the handicap.
CARRIETAU has consistently been found wanting in the later stages of his races, whether at two miles or stepped up to this trip. Once again he raced prominently but couldn’t offer any extra in the straight.
CHIGORIN was left behind from four out, and his overall jumps record of 1 win from 27 is not encouraging.
MORE LIKE IT made some moderate progress before four out, but his effort didn’t last long. His winning form has been with give in the ground.
TOULOUSE EXPRESS found a race soft enough to get his head in front at Market Rasen last time, but reverted to type here and weakened from the twelfth.
BASKERVILLE never got involved and is struggling currently.
GUERILLA raced prominently early but was struggling by halfway and was pulled up. He has produced no worthwhile form for over a year.

4.10 3m 0-105 Handicap Chase

Against some out of form opposition this looked like a golden chance for GENERAL HARDI to drop his maiden tag and he didn’t fluff his lines. He was always going well and forged clear up the straight to win with a bit in hand. His previous form against Garleton reads well since that one won again, and it maybe that there’s a little more to come from General Hardi since there seems nothing wrong with his attitude.
SANDS RISING ran an honest enough race in second place, but he’s woefully short of pace at the business end and never threatened to win.
YANKEE HOLIDAY struggles to truly see out this trip even on fast ground and weakened from two out. He’s a fizzy sort who is kept on the go and his stable will look for opportunities over shorter distances. However his win record is poor.
SCOTT’S MILL seemed to have a fair chance of making an impact here but wasn’t up to the task. He could offer only one pace in the straight.
PRESENTING ALF ran a fair race at Hexham in the autumn when third, but has been well off the pace since then and lost touch before the straight.
TRISONS STAR was tried in a visor but if anything he seemed even more indolent, losing touch by the ninth and soon pulling up.
GLACIAL RAMBLER raced prominently for a way but his recent form is appalling and he was struggling before four out, eventually being pulled up before two out.
SOUND OF CHEERS gave the third a good rap giving his rider no chance of staying aboard.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Kelso - Ladies' Day

Kelso – Sunday March 29th

Going – Good (Good to Firm in places)

A bright and breezy day greeted visitors to Kelso for Ladies’ Day. Although there was still a bit of a chill in the air, one or two of the equine population clearly benefitted from the sun on their backs and hearing their hooves rattle just a little.

2.10 2m ½f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

Alan Swinbank’s hurdling newcomer TOUCH OF IRISH went well to two out at which point Lord Larsson’s fall left him with an easy task and he went clear with minimum fuss. He’s only eligible for novice events up to October 31st, and connections may take him to Aintree, but the long term plan is to go chasing and it wouldn’t surprise me if that happens in the autumn.
LORD LARSSON was the only one going with the leader and hadn’t been put under pressure when crashing out two from home. Presuming no lasting damage he may pick up another novice hurdle but he’s another likely to go chasing in the not too distant future. The form of his Newcastle win looks sound as third Steady Tiger ran creditably here next time and fourth placed Reindeer Dippin won at Catterick. It might be worth keeping an eye out for the second there, MAGELLAN STRAITS.
SEA STORM ran on into second place. He’s 11 and vulnerable to younger improvers, but he likes this ground and it will pay to keep him on the go in the coming months.
WHEATFROMTHECHAFF was well held but showed promise with a debut third. A decent effort from one who was moderate at mainly sprint distances on the flat and is worth persevering with on fast ground over hurdles.
NONOTREALLY challenged before three out but offered only one pace from that point and there was nothing immediately encouraging from those behind.

2.40 2m 1f 0-115 Novices’ Handicap Chase

In terms of pure racing speed you could make a case for saying High Bird Humphrey and First Boy have a little more to offer than SUPER BABY. However, the latter knows how to jump accurately and that made the difference. He was able to settle in front and dug deep to see off the two challengers on the run-in. This was another testament to the talents of Langholm trainer James Ewart whose schooling is second to none on the evidence of racecourse performance. This winner saw Ewart hit double figures in a season for the first time, but I’ll bet it won’t be the last. Super Baby won’t necessarily find it easy in the future with a small move up the ratings likely, but his jumping will always give him a chance.
FIRST BOY made a couple of bad mistakes which did not help his cause. He battled on doggedly on the flat but was always just being held. If he gets his jumping together there is more to come.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY is pretty well exposed now but performed creditably, although as with the second his jumping can be sharpened. He’ll get involved in the finish in similar events.
One I would really take for the future from this event is HUTCH who put up an excellent effort from 11lbs out of the handicap. He was held on the flat, but this was a good step up on his seasonal debut and if he repeats this form he is surely capable of winning a lower grade handicap.
LADY CHATELAINE ran respectably from either farther out of the handicap than Hutch. She clearly goes well on this ground and Sue Bradburne may run her a time or two at Perth in the coming months.
ANGLICISME was well held and hasn’t shown an awful lot sparkle over fences and I only a selling winner over hurdles.
PENDLE FOREST was left behind from three out.

3.15 2m 2f0-125 Handicap Hurdle

On paper this looked a contest between two progressive performers, and so it proved no turf as DESCRIPTION showed plenty of determined to fight off the persistent I’m Delilah. Description has really blossomed since returning from a break and on this evidence I see no reason why we shouldn’t assume there is more in the tank.
I’M DELILAH is another coming on in leaps and bounds and was unlucky to run into one going the same way. She stuck her head down and saw the race out very well. She will go up in the ratings as the two were 26 lengths clear, but she is progressive.
CURRAHEE was a remote third and left for dead from two out. This was a fair enough effort given that he is ideally suited by a bit of cut.
CASTLETOWN BOY is probably a little high in the handicap.
TOSS THE CABER set the pace to before two out but quickly weakened.

3.50 2m 6 ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

James Ewart notched a double at CLASSIC CUT picked up this novices’ hurdle which was heavy on numbers but with no more than a handful of serious contenders. He kicked on going to the seventh and, though driven to two out, stayed on well. He is progressing and handles the better ground which augurs well for the spring.
FRANKIE ANSON ran creditably enough in second, but having got close to the winner after the last couldn’t sustain the effort. This was a sound enough effort on his second hurdles outing and he’s going the right way.
DARK MOON stayed on from the rear for third and will stay further.
FLACO, a brother to Character Building and an impressive winner of a point in April last year, ran a fair fourth here but will be seen to better advantage over fences.
FISHING INSTRUCTOR had stayed on into third, and looked likely to get involved in the finish, but crashed out at the second last. Assuming the fall does no lasting harm he is another going in the right direction.
KOPYLOVA showed a glimmer of improvement stepped up in trip.

4.25 3m 1f 0-125 Handicap Chase

The ground came right for OR DE GRUGY. Sue Bradburne ran this one at Musselburgh in the winter to get a run on decent ground, but a step up in trip brought about enough improvement to see him get his head in front. He might be worth looking out for here for the remaining meetings since his Kelso record is now 211.
SNOWY can be a moody soul, but he is in good heart now and followed up his Musselburgh win with an excellent effort moved up in class. He was staying on best of the first three and gaining at the line.
LE ROI ROUGE worked his way through the field to be in with a shout three out. Going well to the last he couldn’t quite keep the momentum going close home. This was a big step up in trip and he may just be a little better at slightly shorter.
SCARVAGH DIAMOND showed signs of a revival after a disappointing winter. She was well held but at least kept on for fourth place.
MR PREACHER MAN never got seriously involved.
RAINING HORSE was in the rear early and never got better than mid division. HE picked off a couple of soft looking events in March 2008 but looks held off his current mark.
MONTEVIDEO needs things his own way and was never competitive.
NATIAIN is another who needs things his own way and is struggling in handicap company. I was surprised connections didn’t take advantage of his entry in the hunters’ chase since a confidence booster seems desperately needed at the moment.
NOBEL went well until headed approaching three out, but subsided quickly after that and recent runs have not been encouraging.
SHREWD INVESTOR was in midfield when unseating at the ninth, and STAGECOACH OPAL seemed to be going well enough behind the leaders when crashing at the fifteenth.

5.00 3m 1f Class 5 Hunters’ Chase

A disappointing turn out for this event, with three serious competitors.

THE REVEREND made a good impression on hunter chasing debut last time and stepped up on that to see off Cheltenham fifth Robber’s Glen. Leading approaching the last, The Reverend battled well to hold on, with Lucy Horner giving her mount slightly more assistance than Val Jackson. The form reads well.
On balance there seems little to choose between the first two, though ROBBER’S GLEN could have been feeling the effects of a big effort at Cheltenham. Ultimately he couldn’t summon up the extra required in the final furlong.
A BOY NAMED SIOUX hit the twelfth and unseated Rose Dobbin before the pace had picked up significantly.
NOCATEE couldn’t keep up but plugged on in the later stages for third. I n past years I’d have said it might be worth taking him to Perth in April, but this year the 3m 7f event has been reduced to 2m 4 ½f.
TIME TO REFLECT raced prominently early but folded after whacking four out.
THEATRE RIGHTS was pulled up, and the highlight of his career to date was being beaten ‘only’ 65 lengths in a Perth bumper in 2005.

5.30 2m ½ f NH Flat

The bumpers here normally produce one or two with promise. This event was won in emphatic style by newcomer GILBARRY who came clear under no more than hands and heels. His trainer is plenty capable, should place this one to advantage again very soon and has a decent prospect on his hands.
CLAUDE CARTER, a promising fourth on debut, set the standard by keeping on for second. He should find a run-of-the-mill bumper before progressing to jumping.
ROLLWITHTHEPUNCHES was left flat footed turning for home but kept on for third. He showed a little more on softer ground first time out.
RED TANBER was well there turning for home but one paced from that point though made a sound start to his career.
MOSCOW MISCHIEF struck me as more of a jumping type and was left behind from two furlongs out.