December 27th - 29th
The Northern jumping scene is currently in deep freeze. Musselburgh was off today and is doubtful for New Year's Day. There's just a hope that the conditions might ease for Ayr on Saturday, but it's damned cold as I write this!
Meanwhile there's still an interest elsewhere ......
A cracking performance by SILVER BY NATURE saw him finish second to Dream Alliance in the Welsh Grand National. The slog in the mud suited Lucinda Russell's grey down to the ground and he was staying on to get close at the post. The owner would like to have a go at the Scottish Grand National, and given the right ground Silver By Nature would be very interesting in that event. We would need a wet spring to give suitable going. The Irish National has been mentioned as an alternative.
The winner apepared on my radar a couple of years ago when winning at the Perth Festival. He went on to be second in the Hennessy, but suffered a horrible tendon injury in 2008 which nearly ended his career. Nursed back to health, he ran a respectable second in a hurdle and produced a fine performance to win this ultra-competitve handicap.
COE was one I'd noted for staying races in the mud. He came sixth here, but don't forget him as he still had every chance when blundering badly three out. That knocked the stuffing out of him, and though he recovered he couldn't get a blow in.
Not remotely northern, but one which really caught the eye at Chepstow was ME VOICI winner of the Finale Juvenile Hurdle. This one looks far from the finished article, but he's a fnie big individual. He showed his greenness in the straight, his hurdling certainly needing to be polished up, but he stayed on stoutly to go away from his field. This win could be viewed as a bonus as he's not the sort who would readily be marked down for a juvenile hurdle, but Me Voici really should come into his own over fences.
My faith in the form of MONEY TRIX oh so nearly paid dividends as Nicky Richards's grey gelding was closing on What A Friend at the finish of the Lexus Chase. He needed to be bustled along form five out, and Davy Russell was piling on the coal rounding the home turn. However, Money Trix stays well and is as game as they come, eventually coming up half a length short. If he can avoid the very top class performers, to whit anything trained by Paul Nicholls(!), then Money Trix must surely win a decent staying prize.
DARK BEN and HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY both appeared at Kempton last Sunday. DARK BEN's exuberant jumping style was put under pressure here and he was 'half-lengthed' a few times by the fellow pace setter. He dropped out from four out and was puleld up before three out. He was near the bottom of the weights here and will be much better off in a lower class.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY ran a respectable race in the closing handicap hurdle without ever threatening seriously. Held up in rear, he briefly hinted at getting involved on the home bend but couldn't produce any more. He's another who will be closer in a lower class.