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