Thursday, 28 January 2010

Musselburgh emerges from hibernation

MUSSELBURGH – Wednesday January 27th

Going – Good (Good to Soft in places)

Jump racing returned to Scotland after a weather enforced break of well over a month. The weather was fair on ‘The Links’ and the going as close to good as it will be anywhere at this time of year, though it did cut up a bit on the bends and toward the end of the meeting.

The circuit in my area pauses for a while before picking up again in the middle of next week at Newcastle followed by another Friday visit to Catterick. Musselburgh’s big jumps meeting follows on Sunday February 7th, John Smith’s Cheltenham Trials day, and the Scottish racing community will be hoping the forecast cold snap is not severe or prolonged.

1.10 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

INVENTOR brought forward solid credentials in the form of an Ascot win and a fourth in a decent contest at Kempton. He set the pace, stretched his field from the fifth and had too much for his sole challenger from two out. He came clear nicely to win with a bit in hand and will presumably be given another try against tougher opposition.
MISTER WALL STREET progressed from his hurdling debut form, being the only one to get near the winner from three out. On this form there should be a hurdle in him soon.
POKFULHAM never got to grips with the leader but stayed on well enough for third and much the same can be said of LADIES BEST, staying on from two out to secure fourth place.
BALE O’SHEA came from way back to take fifth place and looks to need a stiffer test than the minimum trip around here.
APOLLO SHARK didn’t make as much of an impact as some from the Johnson stable have in recent days. He was a winner over seven furlongs on the flat and this sort of track is the place where he will make a mark if he can.

1.40 2m 4f Class 4 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Like many events of its ilk this was light on quality.

KARINGREASON showed promise on her hurdling debut and built on that, taking up the running three out and pulling clear from the last. She comes from a jumping family and might be expected to improve with time, though she will have to progress if taking on ‘open’ company.
AINT SHE THE LADY, rated 103, sets the level and performed adequately in second if held from approaching the last.
The dampener on the form is the presence of 10-year-old maiden CRYSTAL RUNNER in third place. She set the pace but couldn’t respond once passed approaching three out, though kept on well enough to record her best ever placing. MISS VERTICAL was back in fourth, outpaced form three out and the form does not read well for her.
Evan Williams hurdling debutante TIMOCA cost £28,000, but she was readily left behind here and will have to come on in huge leaps to justify her price tag.

2.10 3m 0-90 Handicap Chase

This was a dire handicap chase with very little recent form on offer. Even the apparently in-form favourite was running on ground which may not bring out his best.

The race provided a Scottish winner as Milnathort based Lucinda Russell’s COPPER’S GOLD took the honours. He hadn’t gone close before but has 9lbs from his original handicap rating since starting chasing, and as a six-year-old does at least have time on his side. He led all the way, jumping well in the main and when he hit the last the fact that the second did the same helped him. There won’t be many worse contests btu at least he showed some ability.
CUTE N YOU KNOW IT had some fair form over hurdles, recording a win and reaching a mark of 100 at best. She hasn’t gone close of fences before but the poor opposition, and possibly the application of blinkers, gave her a chance here. On balance she would have won if she hadn’t jumped right down the straight, but then failings abounded in this contest.
If there was one pointer to the future it might be that SHULMIN was staying on at the finish. She’s been well off her game but picked up from the home bend though never able to get to grips with the leaders. She’s well below her last winning handicap mark, and remember that she is 4 from 11 at Sedgefield.
RUSTY RED briefly threatened to get involved but could make no impression from four out. He may have needed the race but is nowhere near his Irish form.
INSTANT SHOT was found out from three out. He performed much better at stiffer Newcastle in the mud.
MANOUBI is a moody sort who hasn’t won for a long time and never got involved here.
SKIPPING CHAPEL gave a glimmer of hope for the Fife based Alexander stable. While seventh in this contest is hardly to be shouted from the hills above Kinneston, he made significant progress to close on the leaders to four out. A blunder there finished his chances but the race should have brought him on and he should be closer next time.
ELLANDSHE looked after himself as usual and got round in his own sweet time.
WITCH POWER made it a full house of completions form the field, but he was struggling from halfway and well adrift before the home turn. The Monteith stable have struggled since the weather enforced break.

2.40 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

ASCENDANT was three-time winner for Sir Mark Prescott on the flat, including a win here in September, and was the obvious choice here if converting flat form to hurdling. He was awkward at a couple of hurdles early on, though that may have had something to do with the fact that he was a bit keen early on. He raced prominently, challenged two out, came clear comfortably from the last and looks capable of mixing it with better opposition.
KIND HEART, a winner first time out at Aintree, didn’t do much wrong in second. She kept on after the winner having led for much of the way and would be shoo in against female only company. That aside, she is well capable of winning an open novices’ contest. It would no surprise to see her back here as all her racing has been done on decent ground.
GORDONSVILLE was a fair handicapper on the flat bur never got to grips with the leaders on a track where he runs well. His hurdling technique was very novicey and needs to be sharpened considerably, though he takes some credit from keeping on for third.
SI BIEN progressed from his hurdling debut in finishing fourth and provided encouragement for the future.

3.10 3m ½ f 0-110 Handicap Hurdle

Evan Williams has mixed hurdling and chasing with the progressive, but perhaps inappropriately named THE SNAIL. Mind you, the name didn’t do L’Escargot any harm did it? This particular gastropod is moving along nicely, forging on from two out to win cosily on this occasion. The move up in trip certainly didn’t do any harm and there must be every chance of a further success.
SONARA has been in the jumping wilderness since a promising debut in 2007, his poor jumping not helping him. He jumped competently here, suggesting that he may have benefitted from schooling work. Hitting the front going to two out, he was run of it by a bang in form opponent. Sonara should win a similar contest if conjuring up a repeat effort, and it’s worth noting he needs decent ground.
WITHERSPOON had run poorly on two outings since a promising hurdles debut at Hexham in October. This seems more like the horse that won a bumper first time up and it is hoped he will now progress. He won his bumper on soft, but the impression is that he is better on good ground.
GRAND UNION stayed on for fourth place, the ground and trip seeming to suit.
RARE COINCIDENCE led until three out then faded. It’s a few seasons since he won over hurdles.
SEIZE ran well enough to offer encouragement when returning to chasing and, though he faded up the straight, the race should put him right.

3.40 2m 4f 0-109 Handicap Chase

A fairly open contest where any number could be considered to have a chance, but where there were also question marks about a few.

Top weight QUITO DU TRESOR made it two wins on the day for Lucinda Russell. He raced prominently, led four out and forged on up the straight to win with a fair bit in hand. His jumping was accurate on this occasion and he seems to have finally adjusted to the British game, adding to three wins recorded in France. He has won on very soft in France but the impression is that this better ground helped and he should move on from here.
TOP DRESSING’s recent chasing efforts had been disappointing. However, his record at Musselburgh now reads 3122, he seems well suited by this track and stayed on well from four out if held by the winner. If he holds his form he might be one for Perth in the spring.
FRED BOJANGALS won here in December but found this a tougher contest. That being said he matched the winner until found out for pace from three out, and put up a sound effort off his highest ever mark.
EURO AMERICAN threatened to get into the race entering the straight but made no further progress. He was hampered by the fall of Strobe at the tenth fence, but even allowing for that looks held off his current mark of 102 on what he has shown over fences.
CATEGORICAL kept on for fifth from a long way back but is well short of his best.
SEA VENTURE, winner of a poor moderate contest here in December, was found out in this company and back pedalling from four out. A rise to 105 has put him out of his comfort zone.
BALLABROOK lost touch as a group went clear after the twelfth and never recovered the ground. His recent good form has been in softer conditions.
KALMO BAY closed up to fifth going to the last on the far side but got no closer. Even faster conditions are probably better, he needs the pacemakers to come back to him and a return to three miles would do no harm.
YAWL SPRINGS was always at the rear of the field. Still a maiden, his two best performances have been on fast ground and over shorter trips.
YANKEE HOLIDAY raced up with the pace early but seemed to lose interest after the sixth. He was tailed off when pulled up, and this was totally out of character for a keen going, fizzy sort.
STROBE led until the eighth but had been headed when falling at the tenth. This was a tough ask in ‘full’ handicap company and I feel he has shown enough to make a mark in a 0-100 novice handicap, presuming such a contest can be found to suit him.

4.10 2m NH Flat

This contest didn’t go at all the way I expected. I reasoned that it would be between Bridlingtonbygones and Chester Lad, but more of those two anon.

Jim Goldie introduced MISS ABBEY, a mare out of a five times point-to-point winning sister to Grey Abbey. On that basis you might think a bit of experience would help. However, the fact that she was seeing a racecourse for the first time at six suggests connections have applied a little patience with this £3,000 purchase. She rewarded them nicely, leading inside the final two furlongs and showing the right attitude and ability to keep on for victory. She might be an interesting prospect when going jumping.
Another newcomer, PAMOJA, filled second place. She has a decent middle-distance flat pedigree and proved here that she has some speed, being thereabouts from the home turn and staying on if held in the final furlong. Martin Todhunter isn’t noted for prominent runners in bumpers but seems to have one with a bit of ability.
Newcomers had a 1-2-3 as Lucinda Russell’s FIGHTSTAR arrived late to snatch third, a sound first effort.
BRIDLINGTONBYGONES was up with the pace until held from the furlong pole. It could be that a tougher test of stamina may help.
HOBSONS BAY, a £180,000 Graham Wylie purchase, looked rather green, trying to duck out on the stands’ bend and being a bit keen. He should leave the form behind in time.
CHESTER LAD impressed me when second here last time, but disappointed, never getting to grips with the leaders and fading from three furlongs out.

The race was marred by a horrible looking leg injury sustained by BEATEMALL near the winning post. I presume the injury was untreatable, it appeared to be a break in the lower leg, though the media sources provided no news. While I hope my eyes tricked me I fear the worst, a real blow to a stable who brought both their in-training animals to the course and has the satisfaction of a better effort from Shulmin, but presumably returned with a space in their horsebox.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Low key stuff at Sedgefield

SEDGEFIELD – Tuesday January 26th

Going – Soft(Heavy in places)

This was a low key card though there’s a possibility the maiden chase might have thrown up a fair staying chaser.

Course layout note - The first hurdle away from the stands was so close to the bend that it was almost turned into a ‘hurdling Canal Turn’! The final hurdle was placed after the second last fence quite a way down the straight.

1.30 2m 1f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

Four were seriously concerned in the last half mile, each of them having shown promise previously. The last hurdle was omitted as a jockey was down following a first circuit fall.
TARA ROYAL built on decent opening effort at Ayr, pushing on from two out to win a shade cosily. The three behind all had form previously so he should have enough in hand to win under a penalty.
COLOUR CLASH provided a further indication of that the Dobbin stable have shaken off their problems. He stayed on from two out, never got to the winner but appears to be going in the right direction.
BENNY BE GOOD brought forward sound bumper form, his sixth last time being in what looked a very decent race. He made a satisfactory hurdling debut, keeping on down the straight after racing prominently.
KELLYSTOWN LAD won over further at Musselburgh and he stayed on late to suggest that a step back up in trip is required.

2.00 3m 3f Class 4 Maiden Chase

As is often the case in these events there was a wide range of ability on display.

Three time Irish point winner VFORVICTORY looks a very interesting recruit to the chasing ranks. He put up a promising effort over hurdles on his Rules debut and stepped up here, pulling clear in the straight to win with stacks in hand. He should now go on to take better contests than this.
WORK BOY performed as well as his handicap mark of 97 suggested he would. He was close up when making a mistake three out and chased vainly from that point. Work Boy went close in handicap chases last season, and that’s where his chances lie.
SAMSBRO has been running in fair to middling staying handicaps, but he never got into the contest here. He was well below his best and finished a tired third.
SMART MISTRESS plodded around for fourth and despite form figures of 24 has achieved little in two chases.
DOC WELLS raced prominently early but was feeling when he fell at the first fence on the final circuit bringing down BRIG OF AYR, another struggling at the time.
EDITORS ROSE had run a creditable race but was just plugging on when unseating two out. This wasn’t a bad start in the UK and she would be better off in low level handicaps.
CLOISTERS HILL raced prominently to the fifteenth but dropped away and was pulled up two out. He has shown nothing that suggests he can cope when a race begins in earnest.
Maiden point winners CULLEN’S CAPER and GREENANDREDPARSON were never competitive and pulled up two out having raced in the rear.
VIEL GLUCK should have shown up better than he did. He was struggling when hitting the sixteenth, his jockey calling it a day soon after.

2.30 3m 3½f 0-100 Handicap Hurdle

There are so few hurdles over this distance that it is questionable if there’s much to take out of such races.
FRENCH TIES had unimpressive chasing form in Ireland but clearly stays well, picking his way through the field in the final mile and staying on under pressure. Unless he gets his chasing act together seeking out extreme distance hurdles, or those run at stiff tracks, would seem the obvious way to go.
GOURANGA seems a little more versatile than some in this contest and signalled a return to form with a staying on second place. He has hit form early in the year on more than one occasion. He had enough speed to win over 2m 5f at Warwick last season.
PADDY’S TERN chased the leaders but was held for pace from three out, and ONIZ TIPTOES got within hailing distance on the final bend before fading.
TOY GUN was suited by the conditions but never got into the race seriously, plugging on past a few for fifth. He’s hardly the most consistent and seems better over fences these days. His jockey reported that he 'ran flat' which he does quite often.

3.00 2m ½f 0-90 Handicap Chase

This was a dire contest won by the one horse progressing at the moment.

DESPERATE DEX caught by eye before his race at Huntingdon, mainly because I guessed that Ferdy Murphy must have seen something in him despite a set of form figures befitting his name. He did the business on that occasion and followed up with the minimum of fuss here despite being bumped up 25lbs in the handicap for a win from 16lbs wrong. He’s clearly stones better than the 61 he was rated at the start of the campaign and the evidence of this win is that he could stand a rise in class, the Huntingdon race being a good deal better class anyway. It’s telling that Ferdy Murphy has run him around the minimum trip when all his previous jumping efforts had been over 2m 5f plus and many over extreme distances.
LERIDA occasionally shows fair form at this level though is totally unpredictable. He performed creditably against a well handicapped opponent, but probably won’t reproduce the form next time.
TROODOS JET was in touch two out but was left behind from that point.
KINKEEL, a surprise winner at Southwell last time, was outpaced before three out and could only plug on from that point.
WHATCANYASAY has been off his game for a while and dropped away before two out.
There was no fairytale ending to Peter Beaumont’s training career as FENCOTE MYSTERY dropped away from four out to finish last of six finishers. He had shared the pace up to that point but is a very moderate maiden chaser.
MISCHIEF MAN raced prominently early but was struggling by the eighth and pulled up before two out. He has never produced the goods in soft or heavy ground. His jockey reported thta he didn't handle the ground.
ANGLICISME was always towards the rear and pulled up before two out. He won a selling hurdle this time last year but his form since has become steadily more dire.
ONE BLACK fell at the first fence he has attempted in public.

3.30 2m 4f 0-88 Handicap Hurdle

If the staying handicap hurdle was bad there is a case for saying this race was worse.

I’M YOUR MAN can be difficult to catch right, but he’s plenty good enough against this opposition if on his game. He raced up with the pace and forged clear from three out. The problem is that there’s no guarantee he’ll do the same next time.
NIGHTBOAT TO CAIRO produced a second consecutive career best, chasing the leader from three out to take second place. She might conceivably pick up a similarly low key race and the step up from the minimum trip appeared to do no harm.
ALLANARD went prominent halfway and plugged on in the straight to take third.
The phrase ‘passed a few late on’ suits AMJAD to a tee and he did the usual in staying on for fourth.
SAMIZDAT remains a maiden. This looked a good opportunity but he wasn’t good enough once the runners had turned for home.

4.00 2m 1f Mares’ Only NH Flat

This looked a moderate mares’ bumper won by the Richard Fahey trained LESANDA, well held on two previous occasions but good enough to go on from two furlongs out here. She would appear to have a bit more scope than others in the field and may progress once sent hurdling.
CATLEEN stayed on for second place without quite getting to the winner. She was promising in Irish points, stamina is the family’s strong suit, and she is another likely to benefit from going jumping.
The remainder were well seen off, PORTWAY GIRL held once passed two furlongs out and Hereford winner SAINTLY LADY only able to plug on for fourth.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Newcastle extra January meeting

Fingers crossed that the weather will hold for the next few days with Sedgefield and Musselburgh holding racing this week. Musselburgh hold their Cheltenham Trial meeting on Sunday February 7th and I just hope the weather falls right for that one. It wouldn't surprise me if Musselburgh angle after an extra jump meeting or two given that they have had four abandonments since mid-December.


NEWCASTLE – Monday January 25th

Going – Heavy (Soft in places)

This was an extra meeting arranged after the loss of a succession of meetings in December and January. It turned out to be a bit of a benefit for Howard Johnson, and even more do for Paul Carberry who substituted for the injured Denis O’Regan. The pair landed 3 winners and 3 seconds on the six race card, though Jim Goldie flew the Saltire as his Uplawmoor team recorded wins in the last two races.

The going was testing but the horses were getting through it, and though it was nominally worse than the Catterick going last Friday the horses seemed to be getting through the ground a bit better.

1.15 2m Class 4 Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle

STORMY WEATHER was equipped with a tongue tie on this occasion having been found out under pressure in his previous race. The addition seemed to do the trick, Johnson and Carberry opening their account as Stormy Weather pulled clear on the run-in. The first pair were clear and the second has strong form in the bank, so the chances are that there is another race to be won fairly soon with this one.
BOCAMIX, third at Chepstow in a Grade 1 after Christmas, was held on the flat having raced prominently. He needed a decent jump at the last but didn’t get it and the error cost him. He still only carries a single penalty and there should be a similar contest for him.
VERONICAS BOY was comfortably held in third though saw off the remainder with a bit to spare. He has been running consistently without threatening a win, and is much better at this trip than the 2m 4f he tried last time.

1.50 3m Class 3 Novices’ Chase

Essentially a two horse contest with Howard Johnson’s DOOR BOY proving too strong for his rival from two out. There was no pace on so it’s difficult to draw too many strong conclusions from the race, but everything this one did he did nicely. Rated 140 he will presumably be considered sharp enough to contest Graded level, though he was found wanting in that class over hurdles.
FABALU tried to match the winner but was one paced over the last two fences, but since he’s rated 22lb inferior to Door Boy then there was no disgrace. However, this was a good deal better than his chasing debut at Market Rasen and a similar contest should be within his compass. All his racing under Rules has been done in testing ground though he did win a point on ‘good’ in Ireland.
CLASSIC CUT finished a good deal closer than might have been expected and impressed in staying on well to chase Fabalu. It should be borne it mind that the pace was slow, but a staying event in the mud looks his sort of event.
SUPREME BUILDER closed up down the back straight but was well held from four out. He missed most of 2008-09 and hasn’t hit the mark since his return though he has ability to rate 107 currently.
THE GREEN HAT was clear lowest rated of these and, as has been the case in the past, was given an unreasonably difficult task. He dropped back quickly after the thirteenth fence.

2.25 2m ½ f 0-115 Novices’ Handicap Chase

This event was light on runners but nevertheless contained a number of promising performers and it wouldn’t surprise me if the form proves significant in the coming weeks. The winner made it three out of three for Johnson and Carberry.

BLACKS BRIDGE seems to have found his forte at this distance over fences, recording a second win in two attempts around the minimum trip. He challenged going well three out but was being asked questions by Ockey De Neuillac when the latter came down at the last. I felt that Blacks Bridge had enough in hand to hold off his challenger, though there wouldn’t have been much in it. As a son of Turtle Island he might be expected to thrive in these conditions.
OCKEY DE NEUILLAC moved smoothly through to put it to the winner from two out. He took quite a heavy fall when challenging at the last but, assuming the fall doesn’t knock his confidence, he showed that he is progressing and is well capable of picking up a similar contest. His two best performances in the UK have been here at Newcastle since he recorded a decent second over hurdles in similar going.
PAMAK D’AIRY set the pace with a tendency to jump right, though he clears his fences well. He plugged on down the straight but was tapped for pace from two out. He is probably as high as he would want to be in the handicap.
PRINCE TAM produced what was arguably a career best in fourth place. He matched the leaders to two out before being held and seems to be going the right way though may need a drop in class for a chance to win.
BALTIC PATHFINDER was well held from three out.
ST KILLIAN’S RUN was beaten before entering the straight, but I get the impression that the Monteith string might be short of a bit of work right now.

3.00 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

BYGONES OF BRID impressed me when I first saw him at Hexham in October ’08. He was understandably held in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham without being disgraced and benefitted from the drop in class here. Previous evidence suggests the stamina test suits and he stayed on two well for a talented flat stayer in the latter stages. He doesn’t quite cut it in the best novice company and may be better aimed for handicaps.
WASHINGTON IRVING was a little ponderous at his hurdles but had every chance before being held from two out. Paul Carberry was apparently of the opinion 2 miles on better ground would be more to his liking. My own opinion is that he may need this trip on better ground, but time will tell.
The third previous hurdles winner in the field EDGE OF TOWN performed well enough to fill third place though held from three out. He won’t always run into two such decent performers and should find a run-of-the-mill event to add to his win tally.
LUSO’S LAD, the Johnson second string, moved into the picture three out but couldn’t make a mark after that. He’s bred to stay and this was a very encouraging hurdling debut.

3.35 2m 4f 0-125 Handicap Chase

Regular readers will know that I have held STORMIN EXIT in decent regard ever since I saw him make his Rules debut in a Musselburgh bumper. He’s a trailblazer who has plenty of determination once passed. That being said he had failed to win previously but broke his duck in typically determined fashion on his chasing debut and his debut for Jim Goldie. This looked a tough assignment but he jumped like a natural and battled back on the flat after being headed by Jack The Blaster. His attitude will help in a quest to add to this victory.
JACK THE BLASTER looked likely to make it four on the afternoon for Johnson/Carberry but was held by a determined winner. He lost nothing in defeat and looks more than capable of picking up a race, though it should be noted that he appears to benefit from a break between races.
OCARINA came to my attention when jumping a moderate field silly at Musselburgh a couple of years back. He jumped well here but probably found the company a bit sharp for him from two out. He seems to be well enough after an enforced break and looks capable of picking up a race on current form, particularly if dropped in class.
JUST FOR MEN hit a couple of fences early on but worked his way into the race four out. He weakened from the second last and needs a ‘clear round’ to make his mark.
DALDINI performed quite well at Cheltenham recently, but otherwise his recent form has been below par and he was beaten by the turn for home here.
DEUTERONOMY had a tough task in this company and was crying’ enough’ before the home turn. He often runs well but is not a prolific winner and needs an ease from this class.
CORLANDE raced prominent until losing his place at the twelfth fence. He seems best when settled at or near the front and not pressurised, possibly in small fields.
NIRVANA SWING dropped away quickly from the eleventh and finished tailed off. He was in good form early this season but has been well below par on his last two runs.
EXTALAR went out like a light before four out, pulling up before the next fence and there must surely have been some problem. His rider reported that he ‘ran too free’ but I’d be surprised if that is the whole story.
NOUVEAU MAIRE was never going and pulled up the best of a mile from home and was reported as having a breathing problem.

4.10 2m 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

The flexibility shown with granting of handicap marks was exploited by Jim Goldie as he recorded a second win of the afternoon. GRANDAD BILL was handicapped off the back of just two fourth places in novice events. He has recorded six wins on the flat, so his winning credentials were there to be seen, and he didn’t look like getting caught from two out. He could be a step in front of the handicapper.
HIGH STAND LAD lost nothing in defeat as he continued to chase the winner determinedly once passed. His run at Sedgefield looked too poor to be true and this was more like the form of his Musselburgh victory.
LIGHTENING ROD stayed on for third without threatening the first two. He faded over a longer trip last time but stills hints that he needs further than this.
MOTIVE had a chance going to two out but was one paced from that point. He’s on his previous winning mark but is a difficult one to pin down and his form is rather erratic. It should be noted that his three wins have come on good or fast ground.
NELSON DU RONCERAY was another Monteith runner who faded in the closing stages.
SUMAK was disappointing and reported as not handling the

Monday, 25 January 2010

Catterick - January 22nd

CATTERICK – Friday January 22nd

Going – Soft

The ground cut up and the later races in particular turned into a real slog. As is often the case at Catterick there were decent field sizes and some competitive racing. I would normally just stick to reporting the chasers at Catterick, but since there's been so little racing and more bad weather is forecast I'm covering as much as I can.

12.50 2m 0-90 Selling Handicap Hurdle

This was a poor event.

SHADRACK had been well held in novice company, but found this level more to his liking and stayed on nicely from the sixth to win with a little to spare.
ROYAL FLYNN has yet to win in 19 attempts over hurdles, though he is a 7 time flat winner. He chased the winner from two out and at least kept Shadrack honest.
The two were a long way clear of NIGHTBOAT TO CAIRO who stayed on from the rear for third, just pipping top weight NOUS VOILA close home.

1.20 2m 3f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

FORTYSECONDSTREET looked the most likely winner of this event when leading three out. He looked to have sealed the race when John Forbes made a hash of the last, but Howard Johnson’s charge slowed on the run-in and was caught close home. His hurdles wins were on good or fast ground and the testing ground may have found him out.
JOHN FORBES, who had four attempts over fences in 2007 but has been kept to hurdling since, chased the leader down the street. He looked finished when whacking the last but responded with determination to get up close home. He showed enough to suggest he can score again.
ANOTHER CHARMER was starting to feel the pinch in third when n hitting four out and was allowed to come home in his own time.
Double hurdles winner KING FONTAINE dropped back swiftly after the seventh and appeared to have a problem.
SEVEN IS LUCKY started to lose touch by the sixth and, having just struggled over the eighth, was pulled up before the ninth.

1.50 2m 3f 0-130 Handicap Hurdle

This proved to be a test that favoured the bottom weights, with the first 6 finishers emerging from the bottom 7 in the handicap.
SENDALI was tucked away in midfield for most of the way, move through to the head of affairs two out and stayed on from the last.
DANCING DIK has been running well this season. He held every chance down the straight and challenged at the last, but was held in the final 100 yards. He should be capable of picking up a similar contest.
THE GLOVES ARE OFF led approaching the second last, staying in contention to the flat, but was held close home. This was a creditable debut for his stable after a move from Ireland.
Versatile WOODY VALENTINE bounced back after a poor effort at Hexham. He was 50/1 here but his overall recent form isn’t bad and slightly better ground might see him back in the winner’s enclosure.
BRACKENMOSS never got into the race but stayed on through the field for sixth place, previous evidence suggesting that even more testing conditions would be helpful.

2.20 3m 1½f 0-119 Handicap Chase

A decent sized field for this contest was comfortably put in its place by top-weight BALLABRIGGS. Donald McCain’s charge impressed me as a future chaser when I first saw him. It’s taken some time for him to fulfil promise but his long term target is now the Topham Chase after he cruised home here. He joined the leader at the twelfth, over jumped three out but was pulled up from on his nose, then stayed on far too strongly for the remainder. He should progress to make his mark against better opposition.
DARK BEN impressed at Newcastle, but ran disappointingly at Kempton over Christmas when a lost shoe was the excuse. Back to form here, and jumping exuberantly as before, he raced prominently before being outpointed form three out. He showed enough here to suggest it won’t be long before he wins again.
HERECOMESTANLEY is a tough sort and followed up a second at Fakenham on Monday with a sound performance to take third here. He’s well exposed but is tough, genuine and in decent form.
CROSS COMPLIANCE raced in touch with the pace before finding extra effort beyond him from three out. He’s lightly raced, had shown some promise on his previous run here and might be of interest dropped in class.
COLDWELLS closed up at the twelfth and was still in contention on the final bend. However, the tank emptied from that point.
CANADA STREET is a dour stayer who often finds himself tapped for pace at crucial stages. He couldn’t raise his game once outpaced approaching the last in the back straight.
MIRPOUR, in first time visor, was under pressure by the thirteenth and faded. It’s a while since he’s shown any worthwhile form.
TOP CLOUD raced prominently to a mile out before gradually dropping out of contention. He’s been disappointing of late.
DARINA’S BOY led or disputed early but had lost touch before the twelfth and completed well in arrears. His jumping wins have all been on better ground and he is in the twilight stage of his career.
DAWN RIDE raced in the rear and finished remote and tired.
ADARE PRINCE lost touch from the fourteenth and finished a very tired last.
BENNY THE PILER unseated at the second.
SHREWD INVESTOR was never going and is better in smaller fields where his jumping is not put under pressure. I’ve got him as one to follow when running in fields of 8 or less. It’s an arbitrary figure but a reasonable guide.
EBAC ran a couple of fair races in novice events last summer, but most of his form is dire and he was pulled up with a mile to go.
DO L’ENFANT D’EAU almost fell at the third, was tailed off by the eighth and his jockey called it a day going on to the final circuit. He had been off the track for a long time and his form is a light of former days.

2.55 3m 1½f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

This was a tiring slog and two went clear, MILANS MAN, racing up with the pace, going on from two out and holding the lead on the flat despite hanging to the right. With two wins under his belt I would presume his trainer will now aim at handicaps and in the long term go on to chasing.
TILT chased the winner from two out and performed creditably enough, finishing over 60 lengths clear of the third.
SADDLERS MOUNT plugged around for third and looks a long term project, this double Irish point winner’s future likely to be over fences.
PERSIAN GATES won at Southwell but proved well below the level required here and was a remote last of the four finishers.

3.30 2m 0-113 Handicap Chase

CARRIETAU has been galvanised by the application of blinkers. Before the aids were applied he was a poor finisher and dropped away in the latter stages. However, the one strength he has shown in recent efforts has been stickability. Things got tough close home and his resolution was tested, but to his credit he did enough to hold on after being at the head of affairs for most of the way. I get the impression he hasn’t finished winning.
DREVER ROUTE was driven along before halfway and detached from the main group. He stayed on through the field late on to secure second place, but the over-riding feeling is that he’s not achieving as much as his raw ability merits.
MISS PROSS was with the leaders when hitting four out. She was ridden to close again on the home turn but was tired and held from two out. The race may well have done her some good and she still seems competitive off a mark two pounds higher than her top winning rating. She has a sound record at Sedgefield but hasn’t run there for some while.
BAMBY raced with the leaders but was treading water from two out. She has needed the run after a break before and might come on for this outing.
CROW SPINNEY broke her duck in a hurdle at Perth last June, but has done very little since and lost touch early on here plugging on for fifth.
BRADDOCK ISLAND won at Sedgefield in November. He showed up well at Musselburgh until falling on his next attempt but he’s shown very little otherwise. He lost touch from the eighth.
KARMADICE took a heavy fall at the seventh when in midfield. He got up OK but his jockey Shane Byrne stayed down. TRANOS was impeded and unseated.
FARNE ISLAND has yet to break his duck but seemed to be going best three out. He fell and with that went a golden chance, though he has shown enough of late to suggest a small handicap may fall his way.

4.05 2m NH Flat

Cambridgeshire based Mrs Humphrey has a respectable record with a small string and seems to have unearthed a fair performer in CARPINCHO. This race became a three horse race in the straight in the cut up ground and two came clear in the closing stages. French-bred Carpincho was an Irish point winner in October, looks a chaser in the making and there are winners in the family.
VANNIN was a promising second at Carlisle first time out and kept on well here if held in the final furlong. As a four year old he has time and should make up into a hurdler.
ATTAGLANCE never got competitive with the leaders but stayed on well for third. This home bred sort gives some promise for the future and the yard is clever enough to get the best out of him.
ALLOW ME led to five furlongs out and battled back to challenge three out though was held from that point. He shown enough to suggest he can be competitive over hurdles.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Extra meetings announced and Zaynar possible for Kelso

For those who follow the northern circuit the latest news is that there will be an extra meeting at Newcastle this coming Monday 25th January. Entries are out today and declarations are made as standard on Sunday.
The BHA have also announced an additional fixture in the north on Friday 12th February. From a purely selfish point of view I hope the fixture goes to Musselburgh as it's my local and they've lost 4 fixtures in recent times.
Good news for the Scottish scene is that fancied Champion hurdle contender Zaynar has been lined up for the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on February 18th, added some icing to what is normally a decent meeting. The alternative for trainer Nicky Henderson would be a trip to Fontwell for theNational Spirit. Here's hoping the Scottish option comes off.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Northern circuit back up and running at Newcastle

NEWCASTLE – Wednesday January 20th

Going- Soft (Heavy in places)

The Northern jumping circuit finally got underway for 2010 after a spell in the deep freeze. It was mid-December when we last saw any action, and the big question to be answered was which stables had been able to keep their strings on the go during the enforced break? As it happened previous form worked out quite well on the day.

1.10 2m ½f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

An uncompetitive event that on first analysis concerned only two competitors though in the end one dominated two others.

Evidence from this race suggested Howard Johnson’s string have been kept on the go as DIAMOND FRONTIER eased clear from three out. He was facing easier opposition here than he had done at Carlisle and it clearly made a difference.
JUSTTHEONEFORYOU was held from three out though stayed on to win the tussle for second place. He has been handicapping and struggled at Doncaster last time in a race were a few were below form. His places have been over two miles but he gives the impression a slightly longer trip would be more favourable.
SMUGGLERS BAY made an early blunder, but otherwise jumped soundly enough on his chasing debut. He had a battle up the straight for second but was held on the flat. He’s been below par over hurdles recently, but showed enough here to suggest he can find his level over fences.
NEPTUNE EQUESTER was never near the leaders but plugged on for fourth on his racecourse debut.
PRINCE TAM made no impact here and has yet to get seriously involved at the sharp end over hurdles or fences.
SKIPPING CHAPEL set off last and stayed there before being pulled up in the straight. He was unlikely to have had any chance here, but I suspect his stable will welcome the chance to get some gallops in their horses as endurance canters have been all they could manage during the cold snap.
RECOIL was very slow over hurdles and looks no better at chasing.

1.40 3m Class 3 Novices’ Hurdle

I normally cover just the chases in England, but there were plenty of Scottish raiders no the day and there’s been so little action recently that I might as well cover all angles.

The looked a match between The Knoxs and Wymott and so it proved. Confirming that the cold spell hasn’t affected his Crook stable unduly, Howard Johnson’s THE KNOXS proved just too strong for the other previous winner in the field. I like the runner-up and I suspect that these two may prove amongst the better staying novices this season. He is worth a try in Graded company.
WYMOTT did nothing wrong in second, the winner having just too much for him from the last. His return to the winner’s spot is only delayed.
CLUB CLASS led until being overtaken and left behind from three out. Nevertheless this was a creditable effort on his hurdling debut and he’s not going to run into two such capable opponents every time. He’s related to decent staying chasers and looks capable of picking up a minor maiden or novice event.
TYRONE HOUSE stayed on from three out to secure fourth place.
Of the Scottish raiders, newcomer BEL HUGO was up with the pace to three out before fading. James Ewart’s newcomer looks more of a long term project, and probably needed the race anyway, but is worth keeping tucked away for future reference. Simon Shirley-Beavon’s MINOUCHKA could only plug on at one pace and her problem is that a chase rating of 116 seems rather stiff and she's in the twilight zone at the moment.
Sue Bradburne’s SOLDIERS TREE was another debutant and made a little ground four out but gave way from that point. This one won an Irish point in November and has some long term hopes.
Jim Goldie’s TOO COOL TO FOOL made some progress after halfway but fell away in the last mile. He hasn’t shown enough of significance to date. The same trainer’s RETURN PERK was pulled up and reported as having a breathing problem which doesn’t augur well on a first run.
Nick Alexander’s SEEKING POWER would be better off in lowly handicap chases and was always in the rear on this occasion, another suggesting the stable’s inmates may need some sharpening on the gallops.

2.15 3m 0-127 Handicap Chase

Not a bad little contest for the feature event on the card.

ITS TEESCOMPONENTS struggled last time at Doncaster, but apparently there were excuses and she picked up her progressive profile once again. She jumped very well in the lead and, though coming under pressure from three out, proved game enough to hold challenges from two out. I suspect there is still another win or two to come.
SAMMY SPIDERMAN’s last two runs had hinted that he was recovering his form. I must admit I’d been a little doubtful about whether he’s best at this trip, but I have to admit that Alistair Whillans’ judgement was spot on. Sammy Spiderman worked his way to the fore in the straight to challenge at the last. He was just held on the flat but lost nothing in defeat against a progressive opponent. He looks likely to find a race before long.
WILD CANE RIDGE performed much better than he had on his two previous runs. He was close up all the way but, though keeping on, couldn’t impact on the winner from two out. Rose Dobbin has struggled to get any decent form out of her charges to date. I wonder if the cold spell might have shaken off a bug or two and this performance may herald an upward trend.
MINSTER SHADOW was tried in a visor, a measure which apparently revived his form. He had to be cajoled from the thirteenth but stayed in contention until held from two out. He hit form around this time two years ago and is now running off 10lbs less than his last winning mark.
ROYAL ROSA plugged on in the straight which is pretty much all he does these days.
CRACKADEE was struggling to keep up at the twelfth but picked off tired rivals late on to finish sixth.
QUATTROCENTO, a winner at Ffos Las last time and on a career high mark, faded from five out. Recent evidence suggests he needs better ground.
BORDER REIVER ran a creditable race at Catterick last time but appeared to find this more of a slog and never got seriously involved. He appears to need better ground.
QUWS LAW soon lost touch and trailed around last. He has had breathing problems, but it strikes me he also seems to lose interest on occasions. It will be interesting to see how he responds when returning to Ayr, scene of his four victories under Rules.
JIMMY BOND made some progress at the thirteenth but the effort was short-lived and he was dismounted after being pulled up in the straight.
STAR PLAYER made a mistake at the eleventh and was quickly pulled up hinting at a problem.
MR WOODS raced prominently early on but faded from a mile out and was pulled up in the straight. He’s happiest when able to dominate.

2.50 2m 4f 0-105 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

This was a bit of a slog up the straight and the race was one by the horse who stayed on best. That was YOUNG BUDDY who appeared to be going nowhere after three out but saw the leaders coming back to him late on. In the end he was going away and the obvious conclusion is that a longer trip will do no harm.
PALOS CONTI forged into the lead up the straight but was unable to respond as Young Buddy passed. He didn’t take to fencing and seems much happier at this level over hurdles.
MISTER PETE led at a decent pace until two out, keeping on well enough to secure third. He seemed suited by dictating the terms.
SAFIN raced close up and had every chance two out. He was coming back into the contest when a mistake at the last killed off his chances. A drop to the lowest level of handicap could see him pick up a race.
Lucinda Russell’s DELIGHTFULLY kept on for fifth place followed by Jim Goldie’s SOMETHING SILVER in sixth.
TURTLE SPIRIT should have been suited by the conditions, but the way he and stablemate DUKE OF CHESTERWOOD dropped away before the straight suggests the run will do them no harm. THATLLDOFORME is one who has needed the run after a break so it’s reasonable to assume he will come on for this outing.
O’SOGOOD pulled up and was reported as having hung left. The presence of a tongue tie and a pod full of Ps in his form suggests multiple problems.

3.25 2m 4f 0-90 Handicap Chase

A group of the ‘same old suspects’ appeared for this event with a few positives but no shortage of negatives.

I’d marked TOY GUN down as one capable of picking up a race given heavy ground. The fact that Howard Johnson had recorded a couple of wins added some confidence and he stayed on down the straight to hold a single challenger. Patience is helpful with this one as even given the right conditions he doesn’t always produce. However he does win now and again when the mud is flying and is worth a punt under such conditions.
INSTANT SHOT had shown nothing of any great note before, but on his second run for Jim Goldie bustled up the leader down the straight. It may be an act of faith relying on a repeat, but Instant Shot has at least indicated he has ability to win a similar contest.
THE FABRICATOR had a chance until left behind from four out. His best hurdles efforts were on good or fast ground and it could be there is better to come over fences.
HURRICANE JACK made moderate progress to four out but was outpaced from that point. On bare form he achieved no more than previous moderate efforts.
THE GREEN HAT disputed or led until five out but was outpaced from that point. This was step backwards from his Hexham effort, though it’s possible that the run was needed after the cold spell.
ELLANDSHE looked after himself in customary style and arrived home in a remote sixth place.
SEEK THE TRUTH was well held when coming down three out. He’s never been as good in soft as on better ground, so I would set this run aside once back on good ground which is only likely at Musselburgh at this time of year.
RECKLESS VENTURE raced close up to the tenth but quickly weakened and was pulled up before four out. That’s three ‘failed to completes’ in his last three runs at Newcastle and he’s much better at Hexham, the scene of both his wins, where his recent record is 262322.
INDY MOOD fell at the tenth when in the rear and offers no encouragement presently.
CONTENDO raced in rear and pulled up before the eighth, having dropped back quickly turning away from the stands . Post race scoping revealed no problem and his trainer hinted that he may have sulked and has now reached 'last chance saloon'!
NEIDPATH CASTLE has shown nothing of note since winning a soft event at Hexham last March. Having received reminders in the rear from early on he was pulled up before three out.
LUSENTO thumped the fifth and jettisoned his jockey. He has been a poor jumper of fences to date.

4.00 2m Class 4 Mares’ Maiden Hurdle

Numbers aplenty in this event but solid form was distinctly thin on the ground.

DIKLERS OSCAR brought forth the best form and proved too good for her two main rivals up the straight. She led at a decent pace which was enough to burn off all bar Tchikita, Gwyre and Hydrophonic by the time the final straight was reached. She eased clear over the final three hurdles to win very comfortably and suggest that she is capable of taking on stiffer tasks.
GWYRE kept on for second but never got quite close enough to seriously challenge the leader. She has enough ability to pick up a minor mares’ novice at one of ‘the gaffs’.
TCHIKITA disputed the lead or chased the leader most of the way. She could only summon up one pace in the straight, but the race may do her some good and she seems to be going in the right direction.
ALONG CAME ROSIE looks no better than selling class but kept on to inherit fourth in the closing stages.
HYDROPHONIC ran creditably for one coming off a 517 day lay-off. She led the main group for a long way but faded from three out. Rated 65 on the flat, she handles soft ground and should benefit from this outing.
There wasn’t a lot of encouragement to be taken from the runs of a group of Scottish trained runners out with the washing though PROFICIENCY threatened to grab fourth before making a hash of the last hurdle. SPARKLING ZOLA was down the field and is likely to need a serious step up in trip.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Musselburgh hoping that the thaw continues

It's a age since there was any northern racing to report on, and over five weeks since we saw any action in Scotland. The has been a thaw in recent days and Musselburgh hold out hope of a resumption on Friday. That hope is tempered by the fact that temperatures haven't risen as much as expected and it looks touch and go for the Friday meeting***. Looking at the forecast temperatures it could be a freeze on Thursday night that scuppers the meeting. However, presuming Wetherby goes down the pan then Musselburgh are programmed to step in with an additional card on Saturday, with Channel 4 coverage likely. Here's hoping that the thaw sets in sufficiently well as the planned card looks quite decent with a Class 2 Handicap Hurdle as the feature event.

Keeping up with a few stables on line gives us a clue as to how stables see their way through the cold spell. Nick Alexander's blog at gives a fascinating insight into the way a small set up battles against the odds. When the tractor couldn't cope with the snow drifts family Alexander set to shifting the snow, thus allowing the stable's inmates to do a steady 5 or 6 miles cantering a day to keep them ticking over. Meanwhile, just across Loch Leven at Arlary, Lucinda Russell has kept her string ticking over on the sand with a view to putting an edge on prospective runners once there's a little more warmth. Word from her website ( ) is that she was chivvying Musselburgh's management regarding conditions of contests to be staged on Saturday. Pictures from the Alexander and Russell strings show horses with frosted whiskers and manes in the bitter weather of recent days, with Russell's Seeking Straight looking particularly like an equine Santa Claus!

In the Borders James Ewart ( ) has managed keep enough areas clear to gallop on either peat or the snow. He's another who has kept his string ticking over with a view to 'finishing' them ready to run once the temperatures rise. Ewart had hit decent form before the bad weather arrived and it must have been very frustrating for a flying string to be stopped in it's tracks. Take a look at the Ewart website to see more images of horses exercising in 'the freezing bitter'.

My thanks to the on-line presence of the above three trainers for supplying a little background into coping with severe weather.

Assuming Musselburgh goes ahead I shall be at Saturday's meeting though I can't make it on Friday. I'll do the usual round-up for whatever racing takes place. My commitment to this on-line endeavour is a bit up in the air at the moment since I am being made redundant in mid-February. What exactly that means as far racegoing and reporting is concerned I haven't a clue at the moment, much depending on what future employment I can secure. It may be that I can devote more time to the sport and wouldn't I just like to..., but we'll see how things work out!

*** An inspection will be held at 8 a.m. on Thursday to determine prospects for Friday's meeting.