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.