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.