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.