...to see the Blaydon Races.
NEWCASTLE – Monday August 31st
Going – Good To Firm
While Cartmel had to protect against the rain Newcastle were watering the day before racing to ensure good to firm ground for this fixture. The weather was generally overcast, but there was only a brief light sprinkling of rain in mid-afternoon as 5.600 attended the course’s Family Day, billed aslo as the 'Blaydon Races' in memory of the meeting of yore. I understand the latter came to an end following persistent crowd misbehaviour, but thankfully tthis day's attendees were generally orderly!
All races were run on the straight course due to planned drainage work on the round course. As far as I can understand the latter was either finished or didn’t take palce, but since the races were set in the Racing Calendar the programme was run as originally set. As far as watching the racing is concerned the only view to be had of the length of the straight course is from the stand farthest down the track, and even then the silver birches by the football centre are starting to block a little of the view. However, mixing viewing with the big screen provides a decent enough view of races. Essentially I had half of the stand to myself, so if you spotted a lonely chap with binoculars and an otebook then it was probably me.
2.15 7f Class 4 2yo Maiden
Mark Johnston has a sound record in this event and produced newcomer CONO ZUR to take this year’s renewal. He looked straight enough for this first outing but it’s worth noting that Johnston two-year-olds generally gain some benefit from a run. Half-brother to a NH Flat and hurdles winner, with a dam half-sister to Arcangues, it’s likely that this one will benefit from a longer distance in time. There was plenty to like about the way he ran on to see off his two chief rivals.
UNSHAKABLE WILL caught my eye at Hamilton in June if only for the fact that he proved very green in the preliminaries. He ran passably well that day and would appear to have benefitted from the experience. He’s strengthened a bit over the intervening two and a half months and put up a decent performance on this occasion. Up with the pace early he was briefly outpaced three out but was staying on after the winner in the final furlong. He should win a race and will stay further.
MR CORBY was the most exposed of this field with two decent runs in the bag. Having been up with the pace all the way he was held in the final furlongs. The chances are others might improve past him in these events so it is likely that Mick Channon will aim at nurseries.
STARRY MOUNT ran passably well in fourth, pulling clear of the remainder and stepping up on his Chepstow debut form.
Of the rest only CALDERCRUIX caught the eye though only for showing how green he was. Skittish in the paddock and taken to start early he started slowly, was then rushed up into contention but fell away in the final three furlongs. He’s half brother to a couple of multiple winners but seems to need a bit of time.
2.50 1m Class 6 Claimer
As is often the case with such events the action involved those at the top of the weights with the more lowly valued competitors making up the numbers.
FORTUNATE BID took them along at a decent clip but paid the penalty for his exertions, fading from a furlong and a half out. He is more than capable of winning a similar event but just needs to restrained slightly.
Battle hardened WOVOKA, with eight wins behind him, looked well favoured as the top rated animal in this event. He was taken down early and tucked away for the first half of the race. Making progress three out he took it up before the furlong pole and ran on to win with a little in hand if perhaps drifting to hinder the second a little close home. He has been struggling off marks in the 80s in handicaps but is now down to 77, 3lbs below his most recent winning mark.
TOP TRIBUTE has placed twice in seven runs previous to this and showed much promise in second. He looked well in the paddock and confirmed his well being with an excellent second place. He kept on though slightly squeezed for room near the finish. If remaining on or near a mark of 61 he should win a handicap.
ROWAN LODGE ran a creditable race in third given that he is rated 13lbs worse than the winner. He had every chance and wasn’t quite good enough.
IGNEOUS appeared to run well above previous form in fifth if lacking the pace to stick with four better horses in the final two furlongs. The big question is whether this was just a flash in the pan.
3.25 7f 56-75 Fillies’ Handicap
Not a bad little contest with a few in-form fillies in the field.
POPPET’S LOVEIN looks a progressive performer. Although misbehaving at the start, she followed up her Chepstow maiden win with a convincing performance, showing a decent turn of foot in the final furlong. I’d be surprised if she didn’t win again soon at 7 furlongs or a mile.
LEONID GLOW is probably as high in the handicap as she would want to be. She kept on after the winner but never threatened to get her head in front.
SANVEAN picked up in the final two furlongs but arrived too late to trouble the first two. She has won over a mile on the all-weather and either a step up to that trip or a return to Polytrack might help.
DANCE CLUB was always prominent but held from the furlong pole. A slight ease in class, maybe a 0-70 might give her the chance to get her head in front again.
Tony Hamilton will probably admit that his ride on SHE’S IN THE MONEY was not his finest hour. In a small field he managed to find trouble more than once and the filly finished with a rattle from the rear but way too late. She won in a slightly higher grade than this at Catterick and has enough ability to win off her new mark of 74.
It’s a bit of a hobby horse of mine, but TINA’S BEST and HANSOMIS both entered the paddock just before the signal to mount was given and only did a circuit of the paddock. This isn’t good enough and the authorities should be looking to clamp down on those trainers who are not properly prepared for the preliminaries. Trainers do get fined on occasion, but since the BHA has been tardy with recording their Stewards’ Enquiry notices I don’t know whether action has been taken on this occasion. Before somebody tells me that my report isn’t up very fast, I can say that they get paid for the service and I’m doing this as a hobby.
4.00 1m Class 2 2yo Handicap 'Blaydon Race'
Mark Johnston must have blinked a few times when he saw that his convincing Doncaster winner LAYALI AL ANDALUS had got in on a mark of 88. That looked promising, a view backed up by a paddock view of this big strong colt who looked in fine fettle. There are occasions when just looking at a Johnston competitor against the remainder makes them a bet. Your correspondent seldom bets at short odds, least of all in handicaps, but I couldn’t resist having a go here.
LAYALI AL ANDALUS didn’t disappoint in the race. Clearly well drilled from the stalls, a positive normally associated with Johnston youngsters, he raced up with the pace and was pushed out from the two furlong pole to win with a fair bit in hand. The time was 1.2 seconds quicker than 77 rated Wovoka in the claimer, and allowing for weight-for-age makes this a significant performance possibly near 110. Sights are justifiably raised with the Royal Lodge Stakes as the provisional target.
BONFIRE KNIGHT could almost be treated as a winner since he saw off the remainder comfortably. He should be worth an interest in coming races.
AQUARIAN SPIRIT ran to previous form in third. He has form with cut in the ground and might just be favoured by the rain that is about at the moment.
TRES CORONAS put a moderate Goodwood effort behind him by finishing fourth, seeing out the trip nicely.
JEHU stayed on from the rear but doesn’t seem especially well treated at the moment.
LETHAL COMBINATION was less than perfectly behaved in the preliminaries and went too quick for his own good early on, weakening from two out.
Paddock Gripe Number Two – Bonfire Knight’s lad had no number card on his sleeve. Just to make things even more difficult the number cloth had flipped back and when I asked the lad what number he was I got no reply.
4.35 6f 0-80 Handicap
A well exposed bunch of four-year-olds and upwards.
AVONTUUR hit the boxes, led until the furlong pole and then fought back determinedly after being headed. He could pick up another race now he has hit form and his All-weather record of 4 from 19 might make him an interesting prospect at Wolverhampton.
INCOMPARABLE looked likely to take the race when leading one out but gave way from there. He regularly performs decently without winning all that often and pays the penalty as he seems a little high in the ratings.
JOHN KEATS is another exposed performer who wins in his turn. He was stretched for pace three out but stayed on again in the closing stages.
BRAVELY is a keen type who probably doesn’t help himself. He finished a fair fourth, but his UK win was over 5 furlongs and the impression is that he’s better off at that trip.
5.10 5f 56-75 3yo Handicap
This race was marred by an early race fall for All Spin and jockey Paul Mulrennan. Mazzola’s rider Tony Culhane got a 14-day ban which saw him veer across Dispol Grand and thus squeeze up All Spin who took a fearful tumble against the rails. Mulrennan was lucky to get away with only a broken collarbone but All Spin sadly broke a leg and was put down. It was a crass piece of riding by Culhane who in my opinion was darned lucky to get only 14 days. His excuse that he thought there was only one horse inside him doesn’t wash. When you make a manoeuvre to rail you have to ‘know’ what is inside you, otherwise you should stay straight.
NOODLES BLUE BOY made progress two out, took over at the furlong pole and kept on well when pressed in the final furlong. He’s been consistent in the summer, and won’t go up a huge amount so there may still be scope for another first prize.
FASLIYANNE led until the furlong pole and then battled back once her blinkers allowed sight of his opponent. She’s another who has been consistent but may have to produce a personal best to win a race.
MAZZOLA finished third but was disqualified for the previously mentioned incident. He didn’t seem over keen to go through a gap approaching the final furlong. He’s now 21 runs since his last win.
PISTE stayed on having failed to go the early pace. Her win at Windsor came off a similar mark but in a slightly lower class.
IGOYOUGO, on a hat-trick, was held in the final furlong and the mark of 71 might just be above his limit.
DISPOL GRAND was effectively taken out of the contest after a furlong and not pressed afterwards. This run can be set aside.
5.45 5f 64-60 Handicap
A ‘whose turn is today’ sprint handicap run at a furious pace.
NOMOREBLONDES won on this card two years ago and a decent run in a seller signalled a return to form. This was nominally a step down up in class, but the seller winner was rated 72 so it could be argued Nomoreblondes was well placed here. She stormed clear in the final furlong to win by 2 ¼ lengths which won’t be easily forgiven. Her paddocks value might have gained a few bob.
KING OF SWORDS, twice a winner recently, kept on well enough to suggest his chance of winning in the near future hasn’t gone out of the window.
MILTON OF CAMPSIE, wearing light front leg bandages, appears rejuvenated by a change of stable and he kept on for third.
JOYEAUX kept on to be thereabouts as is often the case.
CAYMAN FOX showed zip down the centre but paid the price in the final furlong.
TOY TOP raced on apparently slower ground on the stands’ rail and may be forgiven this effort.
GARSTANG, generally a consistent performer, missed the break allowing the principals to get away. He had no chance after but picked up ground nicely late on and is normally in the mix in similar contests.