Monday, 12 October 2009

Carlisle - A visit to jumps 'Hoof Off Day'

CARLISLE – Friday October 9th 2009

Going – Good to Firm (Good in places)

The forecast wet weather didn’t make an appearance. However there was a strong wind blowing from the south which dried the ground out even more than had happened over the past days. There were a significant number of non-runners.

The new hurdles course has been laid out inside the chase course but it will need at least another growing season before it is ready. The plan is to use the course in spring 2011. In the meantime the flat course continues to serve hurdle races. There is evidence of the drainage work that took place on this course as there are clear drainage lines in the area after the winning post.

2.00 2m 1f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

This looked effectively a two horse contest, although one other with bumper form got involved in the closing stages. The pace wasn’t great with most of the runners still in touch three out. From that point the class of the main contenders told.

ALVARADO won this in quite decent style. I’d first picked up this Wylie/Johnson horse in a couple of decent looking bumpers at Musselburgh early this year. He didn’t cope with the move up to the Punchestown Champion Bumper, but dealt with the opposition competently on hurdling debut here looking well primed for his seasonal reappearance. Settling in touch, he made progress up the final hill and asserted on the run-in to win with a bit in hand. He should be capable of making his mark against better opposition.
McMURROUGH was dropped in at the deep end in hurdles last season. Back at a more realistic level he found one too good and basically just stayed on up the hill. He doesn’t look to be one for which things happen quickly, but there should be a novice hurdle to be found before a move to chasing which I suspect will show him at his best.
COCOA KEY was disappointing at Perth, but it’s a totally different test around Carlisle and he seemed much better suited by the stiff haul to the finish. A bumper winner, he showed enough to suggest there should be a race in him.
TIPSY INDIAN was previously beaten in a seller and remained close due to the slow early pace. He does hint at ability and will be better off in handicaps as will the fifth WEETFROMTHECHAFF who was never near the leaders but picked up pleasingly in the latter stages.

2.30 2m 4f 4 Beginners’ Chase

The names of Wylie and Johnson appeared often on the winners’ role on ‘my patch’ last season and the pattern was well set by the time this second race was finished. Their CHECKERBOARD showed plenty of promise last season without winning, and has polished his fencing in the meantime. He led or disputed all the way and he stayed on gamely up the hill as he was pressed by the second and third.
LEASE LEND has huge feet which can be a sign of a preference for soft ground. However, recent evidence suggests that over fences he’s better on good ground or on this occasion faster. He stayed on up the hill but couldn’t hold the winner.
If there is one I would take out of this race it would have to be the third GANSEY. Off the track for 538 days and having had a breathing operation in the meantime, he stuck on grittily from three out and was gaining at the line. He looked as if the race might bring him on and looks a nailed on winner of a similar event.
Rose Dobbin’s stable hasn’t fired to date and MIDDLETON DENE might have been expected to run better than he did here. He jumped rather tentatively on his chasing debut and was struggling from three out. If he gets his jumping together he would potentially have been better than the principals here, but the stable haven’t produced anything worthwhile to date and I’d keep a watching brief for now.
BE BRIEF as well held up the hill. He had some fair places on soft in novice hurdles and a bit of rain might not do any harm.
YACHVILI proved an ordinary sort over hurdles. He was blinkered on his chase debut here, not a particularly good sign, and he was feeling the pinch four out.
DREAM ALONG had little chance on previous evidence. He went OK in front to the seventh but whacked that one and quickly gave way.

3.05 2m 4f 0-90 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

A very ordinary contest with very little solid form to latch on to.

Paddock watchers were treated to the long and short of the game. CINAMAN is not much more than pony-sized whereas LIZ’S DREAM is huge and must be well in advance of 18 hands. I suspect there was at least a foot difference between them, and perhaps even more. In the event Cinaman showed more fizz, though in the wrong direction since he ditched Graham Lee as the field charged the tape and then did a 2/3rds circuit back to the stands. Some discipline was then administered by his stable lass to call him to book. Liz’s Dream meanwhile is basically a slow old boat, not often seen on the racecourse and tongue-tied as well. He lumbered into sixth place.

DUNBRODY HOUSE showed up well in a couple of bumpers early in the summer. On his handicap debut this poor company was easy enough for him to cope with. In the front rank two out he forged ahead on the run-in. He will have to take his form up a notch or two to cope with a rise in the ratings.
TANTOBIE showed his first promise when running fourth at Kelso on Sunday, and advanced on that staying on for second in this contest. It’s taken a while for the penny to drop, and he’s hardly overloaded with talent, but at least he is progressing at this level.
SEA VENTURE never got near to the leader but stayed on from two out, snatching third close home. He has been rated around 100 so it’s to his advantage to be eligible for this 0-90 company.
PUGNACITY led the way up the hill but ran out of puff after the last. The contest she won at Sedgefield was even more dire than this.
ON MY TERMS struggled from two out and seemed to find the final hill a step too far.

3.40 2m 0-125 Handicap Chase

My betting plans were blown out of the water in this one when Camden George and Glingerbank were pulled out.

The key here lay with the pace and SOME TOUCH got a soft lead. I had expected him to be taken on by Go Silver Bullet, but that one was never asked to pressure the leader seriously. Denis O’Regan made it a hat-trick for the connections as Some Touch made all to win with a bit in hand. His jumping can be a bit iffy if he is pressured but he wasn’t troubled here. I think he will struggle off a higher mark.
I wouldn’t expect this course to bring out the best in NUDGE AND NURDLE but he put up a respectable performance in second, though I wouldn’t have backed him with buttons at 6/4. However, this run was good enough to suggest he hasn’t finished winning yet if appearing at a less exacting venue.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY ran his normal sound race, keeping on after the winner if never getting to grips with him. He’s desperately hard to win with, his only win came when scraping home in a Catterick maiden chase, but regularly picks up place money so keeps himself in oats.
I don’t think this course will bring the best out of GO SILVER BULLET. He was as fit as could be here, but was feeling the pinch at the bottom of the hill. He did keep on well enough to take fourth though I think he’s better being able to dictate round a sharper track.
PORTAVADIE ran respectably on return to chasing. Tat being said, he didn’t threaten to get involved in the finish and needs easing in the handicap at both disciplines.
DIVINE GIFT looked well enough on his return but didn’t make an impact.
LE ROI ROUGE’s best form is with cut in the ground, with three wins on heavy and two on French ‘very soft’, so might be excused this run. Keep him in mind when the rains arrive.
SOUBRIQUET raced well to two out but then gave way. He hasn’t made a mark in handicap hurdles and chases off a level of around 120 and some easing looks required.

4.15 2m 1f 0-110 Handicap Hurdle

This was a better contest than the earlier novices’ handicap but once again the form lines were not laden with positives.

BENMADIGAN was noted picking up from the back late on at Perth over three furlongs further last time. It seemed the slog up the hill here outweighed the drop in distance as this was his first try over the trip since his hurdling debut. He challenged going to the last and forged ahead of four close chasers.
WENSLEYDALE WEB proved there is ‘life outside Cartmel’, rallying well up the rail on the run-in though arriving too late to trouble the winner.
ROOT CAUSE ran up to form but couldn’t make inroads from the last. This was a decent first effort for Donald McCain following arrival from Ireland.
SEA COVE was moved up in class under a penalty but put in a fine effort, just being raced out of it in the last 100 yards. She will presumably be moved to around the mark of 96 that she ran off here but might not be held just yet if carefully placed.
CHIP N PIN had every chance at the last but got the worst of the argument from that point though not going down without an effort. Tim Easterby might coax a handicap out of this one eventually.
BORDER FOX charged off like a lunatic out in front and was knackered when headed after two out. KNIGHT VALLIANT looked interesting when winning a maiden at Musselburgh a couple of years back, but he was well in arrears on his debut for Barbara Butterworth. WALDO WINCHESTER continued a desperate run of form when dipping out through the wing at the fourth.

4.50 3m ½ f 0-115 Handicap Chase

This race was diminished in numbers by four defectors. Four well known ‘locals’ took on raiders from Wales and Gloucestershire.
Peter Bowen’s Haverfordwest yard provided a very comfortable winner in RIPALONG LAD who came clear of his field over the last three fences. He an erratic maiden in points but seems to going the right way now and his chase record reads 2 wins from 3 attempts. His jumping was basically sound and this evidence suggests he may be a good deal better than the 100 mark he ran off.
NATIVE CITY let himself down with some slipshod jumping but McCoy kept him going late on to take second. He hit the last but the maestro rousted him enough to pip Nelliedonethat for the consolation prize.
NELLIEDONETHAT performed well in this class and looks refreshed following a break. If he reproduces this form he should pick up another race in a lesser class.
GETINBYBUTONLYJUST often gets found out for speed unless it’s a real stamina test and was feeling the pinch from two out.
CATCH THE PERK was never going with any ease and was held from the bottom of the hill. He’s fine when in the mood but I’m not sure he appreciates this track these days.
SAM CRUISE has two speeds, ‘Very Fast’ and ‘Stop’, and his jumping is enthusiastic but often hairy. His fast gear was engaged until as he tired he hit four out at which point ‘Stop’ was selected by default and he was allowed to coast to the finish. He has plenty of ability and is capable of winning in this class but his tearaway tendencies make things so difficult. He’ll probably pop again sometime but his backers have to be possessed of a thick skin!

5.25 2m 1f NH Flat

They went a pretty decent pace in this race and a handful came clear, so I suspect the form can be taken forward with trust.
LAST OF THE BUNCH had a couple of moderate runs to show from earlier in the year. Presumably the summer has served this one well at a key point in development for a potential young jumper. She raced up with the pace, took over one and a half furlongs out and ran on well to the line, hanging a little toward the rail but having a bit to spare. Given that the second and third looked ready to do themselves at least some justice then I think the form will prove sound.
SOUTH LEINSTER looked the pick of the paddock, a very nicely made sort though probably having just a bit still to work on. He pulled hard early on, took over after five furlongs then kicked on up the hill. He didn’t have enough to repel the winner and was possibly slightly intimidated as that one hung across him. He was however second on merit. A good debut and this one should win a race.
GLINGERMILL, from the family of a couple of winning hurdlers, has been given a bit of time and will come into his own over jumps. He didn’t quite get to the first two but showed a decent attitude.
Debutants CHIEF BUCANEER(4th) and DONTGIVEAMONKEYS(5th) showed enough to give hope for the future.
PLAYINGTHEFIELD, placed in a point, was a solid 7/1 in the market but would seem more of a long term prospect for jumping.
GLACED OVER showed some promise at Perth but tried to dip out at the exit gate by the stands and was pulled up.

My thanks to Paul Ostermeyer for being my guide to Carlisle. He does regular updates from on course at selected meetings on his excellent website and I’m sure punters will find his news very useful. Paul has reviewed all of the courses in the UK and a number in Ireland, and has written some thought provoking articles.

I find Carlisle a ‘fair to middling’ venue. The course is easy enough to access off the M6 and parking is across the road from the stands, though crossing the road is not a lot of fun after racing. The course really needs a policeman directing traffic on the main road to ease congestion coming out of the main car park.
Viewing is OK but by no means perfect. I couldn’t find a position from which all of the course could be seen and viewing of the third last fence and the dip is not good. The big screen has to be used at some point. There’s open terracing in front of the main stand but arguably a slightly better view from the back of the Tote Stand just past the winning post, though the view of the finish is almost straight on. The view from the roof of the weighing room isn’t bad, but it’s open and the finish is completely head on. Being in quite a lofty location it’s plenty breezy enough.
There’s plenty of viewing around the combined parade ring and unsaddling enclosure, access from the Tote Stand being very convenient and there is decent access to the pre-parade ring beyond.
Food and drink prices are not too bad, though £3 for a steak pie that I would pay no more than £1.50 for at my local non-league football grounds is over the top. Add to that, the pies at Crossgates Primrose* are far superior……, even if the football isn’t great! On the contrary the B.L.T. baguette here for £2.70 was excellent. Coffee for £1 varied from one drink to the next.
As so many competitors here venture into Scotland I keep a close eye on the racing, but I suspect it’ll probably be an occasional track rather than a regular.

*For those interested, the best football pies I have come across in Scotland are at Crossgates Primrose, Brechin Victoria and Eyemouth United. None of them well supported but the faithful few are well fed! On the senior side the steak bridies at Dunfermline Athletic take some beating, although the team have been below Par(s) lately, and Kilmarnock’s pies are legendary.

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