HEXHAM – Saturday 13th June
Going – Good (Good To Firm in places)
Hexham racecourse gradually wends its way toward the end of the spring campaign and a number of the usual suspects contested the two chases on offer.
3.35 2m ½ f 0-115 Handicap Chase
TRAFALGAR MAN continued in good from disputing for most of the way, taking over two out and staying on after the last. He is in very good heart and it would be no surprise to see him record another win as he remains a bit below the best mark he reached over hurdles.
EBORARRY tried hard enough in second but wasn’t good enough to hold the winner. As mentioned before though, he does need the race to fall for him if he is to win a race. That being said, he’s not often outside the first four and does regularly give a decent account.
CITY AFFAIR had every chance two out but was one paced from that point. This was a creditable enough effort dropped back in trip, and back around 2m 4f I would expect Tim Vaughan to find a race that he can win. He’s entered up for the first meeting at Ffos Las.
HOLLOWS MILL came into this in excellent form but he hit one or two early on and that set him back. He did get into the argument up the hill but needed more at that point and there wasn’t enough left.
NORTHERN QUEST had every chance going to three out but hit it hard and that finished his chance. He was injured in a fall here last year and might just need a run or two more to recover his jumping confidence.
CROFTON ARCH had no chance from 19lbs out of the handicap and his recent efforts in lower class have been poor.
CADOULATIQUE couldn’t cope with the move form hunter chases to handicap company and was struggling by halfway.
4.45 2m 4 ½ f 0-100 Handicap Chase
The race was contested by a group that wouldn’t be considered amongst the most reliable of characters. The first four finishers were all out of the handicap, which doesn’t say an awful for those above them.
UPTOWN LAD’s recent jumps form has been abysmal. However there was just a hint on a recent flat run that there was still life in ‘the old dog’, and so it proved on this occasion as the race was run to suit him. Sat right out the back off a decent pace, he latched on to the tails of the leading group going up the hill and then went away comfortably on the run-in. The pattern was similar to his previous wins back in the ‘dim and distant’. Could he repeat the form? We had only a couple of days to wait…
PAPERCHASER jumped better than at Cartmel, and ran a decent race in second. He’s still a maiden, but does at least seem to be putting it all in, and a win is not out of the question in the next month or two.
BALLYNURE had run a succession of lifeless races, but showed clear signs of a revival on this occasion. He raced up with the pace and led before the last only to be picked off at that point. He may pick up a weak race, but his profile in recent times is not one to encourage monetary involvement.
CELTIC FLOW needs to be dropped to the minimum class if he is to win, but showed enough here to suggest that’s not out of the question. Allowing for the fact that another mile would do no harm he did well to secure fourth place, basically being tapped for pace in the latter stages. If connections could find a low grade staying chase he wouldn’t be a forlorn prospect. However, finding that race may not be easy at this time of year.
LONGDALE, a hurdle winner here on a week previously, was still in the hunt two out but held from there. His jumping isn’t quite sharp enough over fences.
DEUTERONOMY raced prominently to two out and then gave way. He was backed into 5/2 favourite here, not good value for one who has won one race and that off a 12lbs lower mark.
STORMY BAY has a profile littered with letters and didn’t get into the race here.
FREEDOM FLYING is a one paced hurdler who showed up no better on chasing debut.
BUCKSTRUTHER has often struck me as having latent talent, but it’s struggling to come to the surface and he was never going here.
KINFAYRE BOY needs further, but never got into the race here anyway.
DIVEX has produced his best form in mid-winter over the last couple of seasons and ran a poor race here, being beaten from a long way out.
ROOKERY LAD has been running as if there’s a problem and was reported as having broken a blood vessel on this occasion when pulled up.
RATHOWEN showed briefly early on but capitulated past halfway and seems on the downhill slide.
COUNTRY SERVANT came a cropper at the first to keep up a dreadful record to date.
SEDGEFIELD – Monday June 15th
Going – Good To Firm (Good in places), changed to Good To Soft before the second chase.
I’ve made a number of uncomplimentary comments about Bob Johnson and his ‘inmates’ over the winter. However, the Tyne and Wear trainer has hit form big time in the last few days and a chase double on this card made it 6 winners from 30 runners in the new jumps campaign, with a couple of flat winners thrown in for good measure.
3.30 2m 4f 0-115 Handicap Chase
ONIZ TIPTOES unseated at the fourth, knocking Harry Haynes out as he was ejected sideways. Haynes recovered, but the fourth last was missed as he was attended.
I’ve said some uncomplimentary things about TOULOUSE EXPRESS’s commitment to putting his head in front. For the third time in six runs he proved me off the mark, leading or disputing all the way and asserting down the hill to the last. Whether he can keep producing this form is a moot point, but his attitude couldn’t be faulted here.
The winner was ridden by 7lbs claimer James Halliday, and I have a lot of time for this young rider. He has a neat style and seems to get horses running for him. Without wishing to cast aspersions on the stable’s regular rider Kenny Johnson, I’d be more inclined to back their horses with Halliday aboard.
Sedgefield specialist POLAR GALE stayed on well to take second, a creditable effort over a trip short of his best.
PAMAK D’AIRY ran a decent race to finish a close third. He is his own worst enemy though, since he pulls hard and has a tendency to fluff a fence or two, a mistake at the last maybe costing him second here.
PILCA had a chance two out but weakened. He couldn’t repeat his Perth effort and is frustrating.
I’M YOUR MAN was outpaced form the top of the hill. He’s another frustrating performer, mixing the good with the bad.
NILE MOON dropped back in trip, couldn’t repeat his Perth effort in this lower class event. He’s a bit high in the ratings now, but really should have held on a little better here.
5.00 2m 4f 0-85 Handicap Chase
So, with the rain pouring down and the ground significantly softened, we saw the return of Hexham winner UPTOWN LAD. Could he reproduce the form shown in Northumberland just to days earlier? Turned out he could and he produced it in spades, though his backers must have been wondering about it with a circuit to go.
Held up off the back of the field, UPTOWN LAD was detached after a circuit, though it must be said that Paul Callaghan didn’t seem over-concerned. His confidence was well placed since Uptown Lad steadily picked off the stragglers to lie fifth before two out. He then conjured a fair rattle down the hill, leading at the last and sprinting away like a sprint bred two year old to the finish. Will he win again next time? To be honest, I haven’t a clue, but if he produces anything like this form again then he will.
The form is perhaps put in context somewhat by the presence of BIG BONE, somewhat maligned previously by your scribe but running an honest race here in lowly company. In retrospect he was probably slightly to catch Bob Johnson’s ‘flyer’ on a serious going day since opportunities won’t appear for him every day.
LADY ROANIA performed a good deal better than of late, but looking to be going best two out she found little when the chips were down. This possibly sums her up and it’s two years since she poked her head in front where it counts.
PERSIAN PRINCE disputed for much of the way and led four out. He was held when unseating at the last.
DIX HUIT CYBORG plugged on for a distant fourth and is moderate even in hunter class.
NOW THEN SID struggled from five out but did at least complete for the first time since his extended lay-off. However, beaten 51 lengths doesn’t inspire.
The fact that MIGHTY FELLA, NOBEL and RED DAWN finished behind Now Then Sid pretty well sums up their efforts.
PERLY SPENCER raced well up there to the twelfth, but once headed he dropped back very quickly and the suggestion might be that he has some sort of breathing problem once the pressure is applied.
MYSTIC GLEN has been mainly well beaten in recent times, and on this occasion took very little interest in proceedings.
SILVO raced prominently early but was struggling going on to the final circuit. His best form in recent times has been at Fakenham.
That's 'cheerio' to Sedgefield until late August. Hexham has a Saturday finale to come before putting up the shutters for the summer, leaving Perth and a single Cartmel meeting to keep the northern jumping show on the road for a couple of months.