Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Kelso - Zaynar beaten in the Morebattle Hurdle

KELSO – Thursday February 18th

Going- Soft (Heavy in places)

What would be rated a fair midweek card was boosted by the re-arrangement of the Morebattle Hurdle, and the attendance of Champion Hurdle contender Zaynar. The latter appeared to have an easy task, but more of that later. Suffice to say the testing going more than likely had an influence on a number of results.

1.10 2m ½f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

The card opened with a novices’ hurdle which had plenty of runners but boiled down a contest between a handful.

BISHOPS HEIR continued the good form of Langholm trainer James Ewart. He was forced to work very hard in a slog up the run-in but showed sufficient resolution to hang on in finish of bobbing heads. He revels in this going, having recorded this three wins in soft or heavy. Given that the third is rated 122 and suited by the conditions, on the face of it this seems a decent performance.
PEGASUS PRINCE stepped up on previous hurdling form, pushing the winner all the way to the line despite being carried a bit to the right. A three times winner on the Fibresand, this is the first time Pegasus Prince has run in such testing conditions and they certainly didn’t do him any harm. He should win a similar event before long.
HOLLINS had every chance until ridden and one paced from the last. Assuming he ran to form I would make him the measure here.
CHECKLOW made a solid hurdling debut, challenging two out but unable to find another effort from the last.
LADY RUSTY hasn’t inspired me on paddock inspection, but she was noted putting in some fair work late on. It appears that she handled these conditions and may find her level in a moderate mares’ only event.

1.40 3m 1f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

Two of the main contenders here failed to finish which possibly devalues the form.

BLUE SHARK went well enough until hitting the fourteenth and unseating. CLASSIC CUT hadn’t jumped well for much of the way and finally decanted Harry Haynes at the sixteenth. He has ability to win these events in testing conditions, but he needs to sharpen up his jumping.
This was MR PREACHER MAN’s sixth attempt at chasing and he hasn’t covered himself in glory previously. That being said, his best chasing efforts have come here, and it’s fair to assume he ran to at least his 105 chasing mark on this occasion. He stays well and handles the testing conditions.
DOUBLE DEFAULT set the pace, jumping well. He looked the likely winner at the last but tired and was caught in the last 50 yards. He was pulled up last time, but went well for a long way and stepped up on that form here. The race should do him some good and he would have every chance of picking up a similar contest in the mud.
The presence of SMART MISTRESS close up at the finish might cast some doubt on the form. She’s been well held when completing before. However, she apparently stays well and I would imagine the course and conditions brought out the best in her.
ISLA PEARL FISHER was beaten a fair way though is rated well below the first two. However, despite some jumping howlers, he remained in touch until after three out. His jumping must be sharpened if he is to make any mark.

2.10 2m 2f 0-105 Handicap Hurdle

BOB’S DREAM seemed a decent pre-race choice in a contest where there were doubts about the form of most of the runners. Twice a winner over fences in recent times, he ran no sort of race at Hexham in December. That form was cast aside on this occasion as he led at the last and kept the runner-up at bay under pressure.
SOTOVIK, another recently returned to hurdling, raced up with the pace and kept the winner honest. A bad mistake at the last didn’t help his cause. He has ability and might pick up a hurdle but his chasing career to date has been littered with jumping errors.
ORMELLO has had varied campaign in recent times which has taken in a cross-country chase at Punchestown, a chase at Clairefontaine and the Swedish Grand National at Stromsholm where he finished a close second. Dropped back to hurdles here he ran a respectable race if well held once turned for home. I presume the Swedish National in June would be his target for the year.
PILLAR OF HERCULES has been well off his game since moving from Ireland. After a lay-off he offered some hope, showing up well before weakening on the flat.
TCHIKITA is well bred and looked in with a chance on handicap debut. She ran a disappointing race, dropping away before three out.

2,45 2m 6½f 0-132 Handicap Chase

OR DE GRUGY wouldn’t appear to be the most consistent performer, but his record at Kelso is up with the best, now reading 211U1. He has been raced over shorter distances, but his best performances have been over this trip or a little further and the test here suits. He led three out and stayed on better than the others on the flat. One dampener is that this will take him well above his career high winning mark.
DOC ROW generally goes quite well here and is suited by cut in the ground. He was near the pace most of the way but held from the last. This was his first outing of the season and he should come on for the run.
ZITENKA’s profile produces best form when returned to the course after a quick run. On that basis his third here was creditable given that he had been off for 82 days, being tapped for pace from the last fence. Although on a high mark he would be interesting if brought out within a couple of weeks.
CORLANDE set the pace early, dropped back for a while and then forced his way into the issue three out. He weakened from the last and though he won over a similar trip over hurdles I reckon he’s better around two and a half miles.
SILVER SEDGE faded from three out.
WATCH THE WIND had no chance in this company, with overweight 41lbs ‘wrong’, though hadn’t lost touch when falling at the thirteenth.

3.20 2m 2f Class 2 Hurdle

The focus of this race centred on Champion Hurdle contender ZAYNAR, but in the end he was held by a lesser animal better suited by the conditions. Zaynar was niggled at before two out and though he stayed on willingly he couldn’t hold Quwetwo on the flat. Henderson reported that he was unsuited by the going and the conditions will be totally different at Cheltenham. That being said, I believe there are one or two better two mile hurdlers.
QUWETWO is a chasing sort with an action that suggests these conditions are right up his street. He galloped on determinedly form two out and showed no signs that being off the course since March was a problem. His trainer believes that a rest between races helps, the plan being to go to Aintree in early April. If that’s the case he may hold an ace or two over those coming off Cheltenham runs, particularly if the going comes up soft.
KEMPSKI likes small fields where he can dictate, but he was outclassed here. He didn’t look keen once overtaken but plodded on to inherit third two out.
TARTAN SNOW, theoretically third best here, chased the leaders before feeling the pinch three out, falling two out when beaten.

3.55 3m 1f 0-93 Handicap Chase

A field full of generally well exposed moderate performers. There was always the chance that a more lightly contender might find something and that turned out to be the case.

This was a family celebration for the Alexanders, trainer Nick recording a first winner of the season and his daughter Lucy recording a first victory under Rules. Lucy Alexander, with a fair amount of experience in the pointing field, rode a shrewd race here, bringing SEEKING POWER into the race steadily on the final circuit and putting him in a position to use his staying power from the home turn. Nick Alexander is quite forthcoming on both his website and blog and had hinted that this sort of race would be a target. Seeking Power’s remote third in Hexham novice didn’t read too badly at the weights and, with conditions clearly suiting, showed his ability here.
RECKLESS VENTURE ran a decent race once again, but once again found one too good in the latter stages. He kept on well enough and it’s difficult to carp too much as he does keep contributing to his keep.
THE MAYSTONE has shown he has ability to be competitive at this lowly level. However his two decent runs have mixed in with a host of poor runs. He got into contention three out here and stayed on if not quite able to summon enough to trouble the winner. He needs testing conditions and a rare going day to take a hand in the finish!
BENE LAD came in to the race as one of the more unexposed competitors. He had run two previous chases without a completion, though was well in contention when unseating here two years ago. He subsequently ran well over hurdles before being forced off the course for 653 days. He had to give way in the closing stages but this was a good effort and he has a chance of securing a similar event.
POLOBURY was in amongst a group with a chance approaching three out, but he’s a soft touch and gave way.
PADDYS UNYOKE has struggled to make the mark in handicaps after a step up from hunter events. He was in the leading group three out but a mistake was followed by him fading out of contention.
EDITORS ROSE showed a little promise in a maiden chase at Sedgefield last month. She raced up with the pace for a long way but was beaten before two out.
TULLY HILL raced with the pace until weakening three out. His best runs have been at Hexham where the uphill bits slow the others down.
SEEK THE TRUTH is better on faster ground and back pedalled from four out. He’s run five races in soft and heavy and the best has been a well held fourth. I think a line can be put through this effort.
DESTINY HILL is a poor maiden and was beaten from halfway.
DO L’ENFANT D’EAU hasn’t won for a long time and was pulled up here as he was last time following a long break.
NEIDPATH CASTLE raced prominently early but was struggling with a circuit to go. He reserves his best for Hexham.
TREASURED MEMORIES raced towards the rear until falling at the eleventh. He’s done little over fences and what form he has shown has been at Ayr.
RUSTY RED unseated at the first.

4.30 3m 1f Class 6 Hunters’ Chase

ROBBERS GLEN was gifted this race when Benbeoch fell two out. Val Jackson is a sound judge of pace and I don’t think her mount would have been far away if Benbeoch had stood up. He passed a very tired Natiain on the run to the last and plugged on.
NATIAIN, now back with his owner, inherited the lead two out but was out on his feet by this time Robbers Glen passed and struggled home very tired. He looked reluctant at the start and isn’t the horse he was two seasons ago.
FIRST LOOK plodded round in the rear for third.
BENBEOCH took over at the sixteenth and was 10 lengths clear when falling two out. He’s yet to win a chase but this was a decent effort.
DIX VILLEZ was 10 lengths down on the leaders when falling at the fourteenth.
ANSHAN SPIRIT fell at the eleventh but he needs good ground or faster to show her best.
FLOREANA, a point winner recently, was in touch when falling at the eleventh.
SENORA MOSS wasn’t good enough here and, behind by halfway, pulled up after the thirteenth.

5.00 2m ½f Mares’ NH Flat

Alex Voy stole this race with an enterprising ride on PORTWAY GIRL, the most experienced runner in the field. The Lucy Normile trained filly, a fifth Scottish-trained winner on the afternoon, was 20 lengths clear passing the stands. Voy ‘throttled back’ at the far end and then kicked on into the straight and had it won from two furlongs out.
TANZANITE BAY made a sound debut in second, chasing the winner in the straight.
ROCK ‘N ROSE kept on form two furlongs out.
HANNAH JACQUES showed promise on debut. She was a bit flatfooted two out but stayed on in the final furlong.
HOLE IN ONE was another to stay on late and will need a stiffer test in time.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Musselburgh close their winter campaign

MUSSELBURGH – Wednesday February 17th

Going – Good (Good To Soft in places)

There was overnight frost and in a chilly Fife I was not confident this meeting would go ahead. In the end three inspections took place before the OK signal was given was given at 12.30 thus allowing Musselburgh to finish their jump season as scheduled.

Mike Cattermole was on duty in the commentary box and has apparently discovered a hitherto unknown feature at the East Lothian track. He kept referring to ‘the hill’! Now there maybe one or two links-land undulations, but there certainly isn’t anything that might be described as a hill. New spectacles, Mike?

1.50 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

LAST OF THE BUNCH caught my eye when winning a bumper at Carlisle back in October. She hasn’t looked a natural jumper to date, but does have a bit of flat speed and showed too much toe for this moderate field. She may find things tough off a penalty unless she improves her hurdling.
GRAND ZOUKI never got into the race proper but finished well under pressure for second place. This was an improvement on his previous efforts.
DEVIL WATER jumped accurately in front, kicked on from the seventh but was held once caught on the run for home. He’s going the right way.
AIN’T SHE A LADY stayed on for fourth without troubling the leaders.
Well backed despite chucking away his chance here last time, SUNARRI was disappointing and looks unreliable.

2.20 2m 4f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

Musselburgh put on a succession of similar events over the jumps season and they are normally interesting contests.
GRANDAD BILL finished a very respectable fourth in the Scottish county Hurdle last time. On that basis it didn’t need a lot imagination to see that he had a decent opportunity here providing he saw out the trip. See it out he did, holding a persistent runner-up from the last. The step up in distance suited and he should be capable of defying a rating rise.
SIMPLE JIM challenged approaching the last and kept the winner honest. He has never won on anything softer than good and is one to keep in mind for a spring campaign on drying surfaces.
FIRST STREAM stayed on under pressure for third though well held by the first two. A 6lb rise since his win here may have anchored him for now.
BALE O’SHEA kept on from two out. Presumably he needs this ground, but he seems to find this track a bit on the sharp side.
QUICK WILL couldn’t respond from three out and this was a disappointing effort when compared to his second here last time out.

2.50 2m 4f Hunters’ Chase

BELEM RANGER won the last running of this race in 2008, and his accurate jumping was sufficient to see off the opposition. He’s plenty game enough and held the less than foot perfect second from two out.
BOW SCHOOL should be good enough to win a similar event, but his jumping hindered him in the straight. He did particularly well to stay in contention after thumping three out and he kept on after the leader if just held.
BENNY BOY steadily faded from the home turn. He’s a winning pointer but finds one or two too good in these contests.
I SEE A STAR looked unwilling after seeing a loose horse dart toward the exit on the stands’ bend. It was all his rider could do to guide him into the back straight and he didn’t look keen for the rest of the contest.
TO THE WIRE put in some poor jumps in the rear, his rider hailing a number of cabs, but continued to finish a remote fifth.
RUN FOR MOOR raced up with the pace until over-jumping and keeling over at the eighth.
BRISCOE PLACE took a heavy fall at the tenth but thankfully climbed to his feet. He made some awkward jumps early on and was never going particularly well.
SIMONSBERG was chasing the leaders though looking to be labouring when taking an odd looking fall three out. Having jumped a bit left, he stumbled on landing, recovered his feet and then appeared to trip over himself a couple of strides on.

3.20 2m 0-110 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

ORSIPPUS has run into a number of places but his attitude could not be questioned. His third behind Carlito Brigante promised much and he delivered emphatically at this lower level. He cruised to the lead two out and came clear. He will presumably be hit by a big rise now, but with careful placement might pick up a non-handicap under a penalty.
NEW TRICKS set a decent pace and kept on well enough for second. He has found his level and raced with some zest here.
POKFULHAM has lacked pace at the business end and this showed up once again here.
STRIKEMASTER was never better than his finishing place of fourth and seems held off a rating of 110 awarded on the back of a win in a soft event at Cartmel.
FIRST BAY and VERONICA’S BOY, both with fair runs behind them, had no answer to the leaders from the turn for home.

3.50 2m 0-129 Handicap Hurdle

Another decent looking handicap hurdle which ended up as a Johnson/Wylie benefit contest as their runners finished first and second.
CARAVEL clearly loves a sharp circuit, he’s also won at Sedgefield which is a smallish circuit, and made it three out of three by holding off his stable mate in the run to the line. He is one to be noted when the accent is on speed since his wins have been on good or faster.
DOESLESSTHANME battled hard but was just held on the run to the line. He seems to go well when brought to Scotland, his record at Musselburgh and Kelso reading 111F12. He should pick up a handicap on decent ground judged on this performance.
PALOMAR looked to have every chance, but he is not straightforward and there was a hint that he was not putting everything in. He was held on the run to the last.
AMANDA CARTER made a respectable handicap debut in fair company, keeping on but held for pace from two out.
LOS NADIS looks plenty high enough in the handicap at the moment and was held from two out.

4.20 2m 4f 0-107 Handicap Chase

Favourite DAR ES SALAAM lost his chance at the start, being cannoned into by another horse and Wilson Renwick dislodged. His last two runs now read PU, but that can be ignored if placed in this class once again as he has won a similar event here.
SILVER DOLLARS travelled from David Arbuthnot’s yard at Compton near Newbury, an area I know well having been born a few miles away. Arbuthnot clearly spotted an opportunity and Silver Dollars won this quite comfortably. He will go up a fair bit for this and has struggled off higher marks around the small tracks in the south before. He wouldn’t necessarily be one to mark down for a follow up.
QUINCY DES PICTONS kept on for second without seriously threatening the winner. He wouldn’t be one I’d fall over myself to support.
RED DYNAMITE, making his chasing debut, got to the heels of the leaders four out but could not raise his game from that point. As a nine-year-old maiden he doesn’t inspire.
EBAC ran a couple of good races last June but seems to have reverted to ‘non-achievement’ mode. His chance had gone before the straight.
Given that he finished fifth, ART BANK wouldn’t immediately stand out for future reference. However, he did jump well up with the leader until tiring from four out and then allowed to come home in his own time. His jumping might stand him in good stead at the lowest handicap level.
CHAPEL FLOWERS, in fair form in the autumn, was in touch when falling at the tenth.
STROBE set the pace but his jumping was starting to look a little ragged when he hit the eleventh fence and unseated. His problem is that he has been getting tired and not seeing out his races as well as he did over hurdles.
ORMUS fell heavily at the second fence.
Chasing debutant LE PLATINO raced prominently to past halfway but then lost touch and was pulled up.
MONTAUK HIGHWAY was never going and tailed off when pulled up before four out. He won an Irish point, but his Irish Rules form is nothing to shout about.

4.50 2m NH Flat

The field went no sort of pace early on and Dougie Costello took the race by the scruff of the neck, sending AMUSE ME on and kicking clear entering the straight. Nothing got to him from that point. The winner is flat bred and clearly has a bit of pace.
Alan Swinbank’s STETSON kept on from three furlongs out but couldn’t match the winner. He’s another coming from a family of mainly flat racers.
STEEL EDGE and ROCK ‘N’ ROSE were held from two furlongs out and probably performed to their respective debut levels.
One to tuck away for future reference might be FORCEFIELD who kept on up the straight though never getting near the leaders. Dismissed in the market, he comes from Nick Alexander’s Fife yard, not noted for their bumper performers. His dam is a well related middle-distance flat performer. He showed the right attitude and should go on from this.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Mid-February in North East England

CATTERICK – Monday 15th February

Going – Good To Soft (Soft in places)

Catterick started a burst of Northern meetings which, weather permitting, would add a bit of continuity to a programme which has been stop-start at best in recent weeks

2.20 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

EMPTY SKY stepped up on a previous win in a claimer. The third has a reasonable amount of ability for the level, so I think the form can be taken forward. Donald McCain managed a 1-2 here and the winner dictated most of the way, picking up from two out and galloping on too well for the remainder.
TWENTYNINEBLACK showed ability in bumpers and was not given a hard time on his hurdling debut last time. He improved his position before two out and kept on from that point. Moving forward, he looks capable of a novice win.
MISTER WALL STREET was once again found out for pace in the latter stages of the minimum distance and the impression is that he needs further.

2.50 2m 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

KING’S COUNSEL set the pace from the start and was allowed too much rope. He was 6 lengths in front leaving the back straight and kept up the gallop under pressure. This was a first ever win, but I wonder if he might find things more difficult if not given an easy lead.
DON’T RUSH IT stayed on best of all for second. He had placed form over 3 miles in Ireland and needs to step up in trip.
ELK TRAIL kept on for third, running about as well as his current mark allows.
LIGHTENING ROD was staying on two out but couldn’t raise his game approaching the last. He ran well at Newcastle last time, so maybe he needs a stiffer track.
HARRY THE HAWK closed going well to the last but for the second race in succession faded quickly. On current evidence he’s a weak finisher.

3.20 3m 1 ½ f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

The runners ambled to the first where DESCRIPTION fell heavily. To my eye they weren’t going quick enough to clear the obstacle properly. Description got up to run with the others so would appear to be none the worse.
POKER DE SIVOLA suffered a breathing problem last time, but appeared to have no such difficulties on this occasion and would probably have beaten his main rival even if that one had stood up at the last. He looks a fair performer, jumping tidily here, and should progress provided the previous ailment doesn’t recur.
VFORVICTORY travelled well and took over three out. He was tired when falling heavily at the last fence. The turf here can sap the energy and he’s worth another chance.
PASSPORT CONTROL went along in front, but his tendency to jump right cost him ground and he was out on his feet once passed before three out. He inherited second place at the last.
DOODLEBOP had no chance in this company but kept going at his own pace to secure £1,000 for third place.

3.50 2m 3f 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

Alison Thorpe’s raider OENOLOGUE added to an easy Fontwell win, easing into the lead at the last and going clear with any amount in hand. The revitalised performer will have stiffer tasks in future but looks well capable of defying a rating rise.
KING IN WAITING represented the best of the northern form and performed creditably to secure second place. He won’t always run into such a well handicapped performer and should win a race soon.
RARE COINCIENCE and PATAVIUM, exposed win in their turn perfomers, filled third and fourth respectively.

4.20 2m 3f 0-127 Handicap Chase

Catterick put up decent prize money for the feature event and were rewarded with a competitive eight runner contest.

LEASE LEND has progressed steadily this season and having travelled well, cruised through on the flat to take the race. He’s consistently competitive, having only been out of the first four once in his last twelve outings, and looks talented enough to stand a rise in class. He’s honest and uncomplicated.
Uncomplicated wouldn’t be a term to apply to STORYMAKER who has plenty of ability but doesn’t always show it. He was run out of it after the last but ran a sound race. His wins have all come in soft or heavy going.
DE BOITRON seems held at his level in the handicap and could make no impression from between the last two fences. He gives his running regularly though and may have chances in a weaker event.
CARRIETAU set the pace as is his way and tried hard enough, but couldn’t hold the first three from two out. This was just a little too competitive for him, but he lost nothing in defeat.
DOUBLE VODKA struggled on his first venture in handicap chasing. He chased the leaders to three out, but was under pressure at that point and subsequently outpaced.
FLAKE lost touch form the ninth and finished tailed off. He needs things to fall his way and was never going to get that in a competitive contest.
OUSTE ran no sort of race and was pulled up. He shows no wins in 18 attempts in the UK.
SOME TOUCH recorded two wins making all and his jumping gets put under pressure when others dictate the pace. He was well behind when pulling up before two out.

4.50 2m NH Flat

RUPERT LAMB’s credentials didn’t immediately catch the eye. However, given the way he came clear it appears that veteran trainer Sally Hall might have a decent performer on her hands. A first foal whose dam is a sister to hurdles and chase winners, Rupert Lamb clearly possesses some flat speed which augurs well.
VANNIN is the marker with two previous second places to his name, and he just held JERSEY BOYS who stepped up on a fourth at Southwell.
BITTER BLUE will need a longer distance in time while SMITHY THE HORSE, ‘writer’ of a regular newspaper column(!), ran respectably and will come on for the experience.

NEWCASTLE – Tuesday 16th February

Going – Heavy (Soft in places)

2.10 2m Class 5 Maiden Hurdle

TAIL OF THE BANK has shown some promise in a couple of efforts at Newbury. Such races at my former ‘local’ are normally quite decent and this one proved good enough brought north. His breeding suggests that we may not see the best of him until he goes chasing.
Jumps bred BETTERTHANLIKELY made an encouraging debut, staying on for second. He ought to win a race on the evidence of this effort.
SI BIEN ran to pretty much his previous level in third and may be helped by qualifying for handicaps.

2.40 2m 6f Class 5 Mares’ Maiden Hurdle

A poor quality contest became a shambles as five runners took the wrong course in front of the stands first time. I’ve seen much discussion about the matter, but the course is clearly marked, the jockeys know the markers and they should be familiar with the course. The rider of the leader, Jason Maguire, held up his hands and admitted his responsibility. Subsequent criticism of the course by Lucinda Russell and Peter Scudamore seems to me to be unjustified.

DIAVOLERIA held BOLLIN FIONA but both are well exposed. MAOLISA was beaten a long way in third but is a poor performer and I’d give little weight to this form.

3.10 2m 4f 0-100 Handicap Chase

This was a dire contest, but CATEGORICAL who is more than capable at this level seems to be recovering his form now. He came back to his best and cruised clear in the latter stages. He has run well off marks up to 110 so if he holds his form he won’t necessarily be inconvenienced by a rise, It might be worth bearing in mind that heavy ground here would not have been ideal.
SEVEN IS LUCKY remains a maiden but stayed on late for second, providing a further signal that Peter Monteith’s string are running into form.
SIR BUMBLE raced prominently and ‘bumbled on’ into third. He’s yet to win and doesn’t look a strong finisher.
MONEYLAWS stayed on for fourth on his chasing debut and his previous run over hurdles suggests a longer trip will help.
NATIVE COLL was returning from a break following an injury sustained at Carlisle more than a year ago. He went well enough until tiring in the straight. He has a modicum of ability and can be made fitter.
CHIGORIN never got involved and was the last of six finishers.
Returning a break since winning a maiden point at Kelso in April, LUKSAR never got in a blow and pulled before the eleventh.
MIRPOUR was well behind when hampered and unseating four out. It’s a long time since he showed anything worthwhile.
One-eyed THE GREEN HAT was prominent early but faded from a mile out and pulled up.
HURRICANE JACK was held when falling heavily four out.
BEST CHINA is either slow, uncooperative or both and finally refused five out. He has a nice collection of letters but little solid form.
CLASSY CHAV tried to match Categorical but was weakening when hitting the last and unseating Timmy Murphy who took a nasty tumble. This one is lightly raced, this run providing a good deal more encouragement than anything shown previously.
As their ratings indicate ISAAC BUTT and MISTRAL DE LA COUR are very slow and both were pulled up.

3.40 2m 0-95 Handicap Hurdle

CRYSTAL RUNNER has run some fair races recently and his trainer found a soft contest here for a first win at the age of ten. He led at a decent pace and stayed on down the straight.
PRIORYJO is only selling class but ran a respectable second, with previous winner of a moderate contest DEVILS DELIGHT not good enough when burdened with a penalty.
SKIPPING CHAPEL reverted to hurdling at the minimum distance and ran a fair race. With the leaders entering the straight he faded in the tough conditions but held fourth. In better conditions in a two and a half mile chase he may be worth a minor interest.

4.10 3m 0-110 Handicap Chase

BLAZING DIVA caused a surprise here winning at 50/1. It is significant that this was the toughest stamina test that she has been set, and that her best form was hurdling at Exeter and Towcester in testing conditions. It would have very difficult to base selection on that form, but in retrospect it may tell us the key to this one. Given similar conditions she may manage a repeat.
TREEHOUSE is turning into a good measure in this company and plugged on for second if unable to raise his game to challenge from the last.
MASTER SEBASTIAN, presumably benefitting from a drop in class, performed creditably on his second outing of the season. He’s won off 115 and a mark of 110 looks something to work with given this performance. All six wins have come in soft or heavy ground.
SAMMY SPIDERMAN regressed from his last run here, making no impression in the straight. Although he has seen out this trip, I think he needs a drop to two and a half miles or thereabouts.
TOP CLOUD has not threatened recently, the application of a visor plus re-application of a tongue tie having no discernable effect.
GILSLAND raced prominently and still had every chance when falling three out. Lightly raced, he should learn with experience.
Another lightly raced runner JIMANDGARY raced with the pace until falling at the ninth.
SYCHO FRED was rallying and not out of the race when falling three out. He’s running well at present.
CRACKADEE remains out of sorts and was pulled up.

4.40 2m 4f 0-99 Handicap Hurdle

MISTER PETE was beaten by YOUNG BUDDY here in January but turned the tables convincingly on this occasion, making all and staying on from two out. YOUNG BUDDY was in trouble approaching the third last and was well beaten.
Lightly raced LOCKEDINTHEPOCKET stayed on well for second and looks a ready made winner of a similar contest. He handled the conditions well.
TOO COOL TO FOOL stayed on for third but was never near the front. He’s another not over raced and in Jim Goldie has a trainer capable of placing him to advantage.
ARDESIA isn’t very good, but briefly threatened three out before being tapped for toe.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Ayr mid-February meeting survives the frost

AYR – Saturday February 13th

Going – Good (Good to Soft in places)

Friday’s extra card was called off and I reckon most Scottish racing followers expected this card to go the same way. However, an overnight rise in temperature meant the green light was shown. Good news as this was a decent card for the first Ayr meeting to go ahead since well before Christmas. With little rain or snow of late the ground had dried out significantly.

Ayr has a record in recent times of having a fence missed out and once again it was the second last in the back straight.

1.40 3m ½f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

EDGE OF TOWN had to do nothing more than repeat previous form to pick up this contest with a fair bit to spare. I’m not sure we learnt much more than we knew previously, but Edge Of Town looks another McCain staying chasing in the making.
CLUB CLASS was held by the winner from two out, but kept on to secure second. This type of test suits and there should be a modest maiden or novices’ contest within his compass.
BEL HUGO progressed from his debut form to keep the second honest close home.
FLY TIPPER, an exposed maiden, was best of the rest, followed by one who suffered a breathing problem last time with two apparent slowcoaches pulled up.

2.10 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

GANSEY impressed me at Carlisle back in October and he has progressed into a decent novice chaser. He led jumping well and had the race comfortably won from three out. Given what he has achieved in three wins he must be worth a try in Graded company. He was considered worthy of that level as a hurdler and his chase form suggests he’s better over the larger obstacles.
EYRE SQUARE has shaped nicely over hurdles and the move to fences seems to his advantage. He saw off a decent performer in third and Keith Reveley should be sharp enough to find a contest for him.
MIRAGE DORE should have had conditions in his favour here and did not progress from his Market Rasen win. He was tapped for speed from four out and probably needs further, but nevertheless this was disappointing.
BATTLE OF SONG and RICO HOMBRE offered little immediate encouragement, both being well detached from the eleventh.
MR WOODS set the pace but jumped markedly right and an exaggerated right twist at the tenth dislodged Garry Whillans. He ran well going right-handed at Carlisle and a move back there may help, but this effort suggests a confidence problem over fences.

2.40 3m 1f 0-134 Handicap Chase

BALLABRIGGS doddled up at Catterick recently and beat a better field here just as comfortably. His declared aim is the Topham Chase. Certainly the way he jumps, and the fact that he hails from a stable who know their way around Aintree, suggests he would have every chance in that event.
GYPSY GEORGE raced up with the pace took over four out. He couldn’t answer once Ballabriggs passed but lost nothing in finishing second to a progressive opponent. The race won’t have done him any harm, he went well in first time blinkers and he must have a sound chance of winning soon.
NEWMAN DES PLAGES plugged on for third but was held from three out. A drop back in trip might help as he won over five furlongs less at Carlisle earlier this season.
EXTALAR disappointed once again, though he plugged on past tiring rivals for fourth place.
HIMALAYAN TRAIL was struggling before the straight. His jumping let him down as it has done before, and I suspect he needs a bit further these days anyway.
CRAIGLANDS was left behind from four out. He has had some tough tasks of late and would appear to need a drop in class.
HARRY FLASHMAN was another struggling from four out and was not helped by some iffy jumping. He had a very tough task here.

3.15 2m 4f 0-110 Handicap Chase

FIFTYFIVE DEGREES hinted at a return to form when running third to Mill Side and confirmed the impression with a decent win here. He challenged from four out and came clear from the last. He looks good enough to overcome a rise in the weights.
SOMETHING SILVER, three times a winner at Ayr, ran a very creditable race, leading at a decent pace and keeping on once headed. I’d expect him to be there or thereabouts in similar contests here and I would expect Jim Goldie to be thinking along similar lines.
OCARINA was tapped for speed towards the end of the back straight but stayed on all the way up the straight. He seems to be in fair heart and a longer trip might aid his winning chances.
WATERSKI probably needed the race off a break. He’s as high as he would want to be in the weights, though can get closer next time.
NELLIEDONETHAT was feeling the pinch when tipping over five out. A twelve pound rise for winning an ordinary event at Musselburgh seemed very harsh and he could pay for that for a while.
LIVINGONAKNIFEDGE never got competitive but needs softer ground.
JUSTTHEONEFORYOU struggled from the tenth, remains a maiden and needs to sharpen his jumping in this company.

3.50 2m 5½f 0-115 Handicap Hurdle

Lucinda Russell lost the promising WITHERSPOON, killed by a fall two out.

TARABALOO moved into contention down the back straight, pushed on from two out and held enough in hand on the flat. A chase fall at Aintree may have dented his chasing confidence, but he seems on a decent level over hurdles and may pick up another handicap.
TIME OUT stayed on up the straight for second, though never getting to the winner. He has improved with increasing trips and a move up to three miles might do no harm.
WATERCOLOURS made a promising handicapping debut in third, staying on from three out. He will have learned from the experience and should be placed to advantage before long.
PALOS CONTI kept on from two out and dead-heated for third place. This was a second creditable run in succession, but he’s not obviously well handicapped.
BIRCH HILL BEDOUIN looked well out of it four out but put in sterling work up the straight. Of a mark of 95 there is scope for a drop in class, he is a winner, having won a bumper and a tougher stamina test might put him in the mix.
QUWS LAW has been off his game over fences and a return to hurdles brought about no improvement.
KEMPSKI probably found this too competitive and has tough tasks off his current mark three pounds higher than his last win, the latter coming when he dictated here in a small field.
OLIFAN D’OUDAIRIES won a poor race here in December and found this more competitive contest beyond him.
DUNDOCK, twice a winner at Musselburgh early in 2008, in right out of sorts at the moment and was pulled up.

4.25 2m 0-124 Handicap Chase

There was a time when I would have avoided FRED BOJANGALS like the plague. Earlier in his career he seemed a type very good at getting near the front, but somehow avoiding winning. He has become a real force at the head of action and put up arguably his best performance to see off this field. He was going well three out then took over at the last, going away on the run-in. He has won over half a mile farther, though I get the impression he’s best around the minimum trip and he wouldn’t want the ground too much softer.
STORMIN EXIT ran a creditable race staying on for second, though I get the impression the step down in trip did not favour him. Given that his win was at Newcastle over 2m 4f in heavy then a second place here on near good is decent form. A stiffer test should se him back in the winner’s spot.
ET MAINTENANT had every chance and kept on for third though pretty well handicapped to his mark.
CHARINGWORTH came to challenge two out for then faded. His win was over half a mile further and that seems to be what’s needed since he was found out for speed here.
I put up CAMDEN GEORGE for ‘List To Follow’ this season as I felt that he’s capable of picking up an event like this. He’s getting to be hard work, receiving reminders from early on and fading from four out. He needs soft or heavy ground and might pop in at a fancy price, but I suspect backers may need patience.
STORM SURGE was stepped up significantly in class and found things too tough from the final bend. He has ability but needs to be pitched in with opponents at his own level.
LE ROI ROUGE was held up until hitting the seventh and falling.

4.55 2m 0-112 Handicap Hurdle

The closing hurdle went to the top weight RAYSROCK and didn’t look a great event. This run was from his third stable in three runs, but it would appear that Peter Monteith has found the key, and perhaps more encouragingly is a better result following a quiet spell after the cold weather. He seems to have lost his way over fences, and isolating his record in hurdles shows three consecutive wins.
Maiden BAAHER kept on for second and may pick up a minor contest though he doesn’t seem particularly consistent.
BAMBY kept on for third hand hasn’t been running too badly mixing hurdling and chasing.
SIRKEEL kept on and looks suited by a longer distance.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sedgefield covers do their job!

SEDGEFIELD – Tuesday February 9th

Going – Heavy

All credit to Sedgefield for working so hard to make sure racing took place. They covered the course, but on arrival in the morning found the covers had snow on them, the weight making them difficult to shift. Hard graft saw the snow removed and then the covers came off to allow the racing to go ahead, though it was very hard work in heavy going. Some horses just didn’t handle the conditions and many were very tired at the end of their races.

My report concentrates on the steeplechases, my chosen study area for races over the border, but I’ve put in a few notes on the hurdle races.

3.10 2m 4f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

This was essentially a three horse contest run at a sedate pace until the last mile.

RIGUEZ DANCER, a 125 rated hurdler, is apparently well regarded as a chasing prospect and did no harm to that view in winning this event. He needed to be reminded of his job after the twelfth, but he moved to the front two out and ran on better than his nearest rival. He created a good impression behind the useful Reindeer Dippin last time and, as I suggested then, stepped up to win a race. There should be a novice event for him under a penalty.
MIDDLETON DENE jumped a good deal more fluently than he did at Carlisle, though the stable was under a very dark cloud at the time. Rated a few pounds higher than the winner over hurdles, he maybe just need another chase under his belt but he performed well enough here.
VASODILATOR made the pace but he jumped noticeably right-handed from the start. This suggests a need to go right-handed, but it could also be that lack of confidence in jumping means he needs to set himself by running down the fence. He was feeling the pinch three out and lost touch with the first two from two out.
Lowly rated CLOISTERS HILL kept up with the slow pace early but was comfortably left behind from three out.
HELVIC HEAD started to lose touch four out and got tired as the pace increased. He was pulled up before two out and his current profile is regressive.

4.10 2m ½ f 0-113 Handicap Chase

A regular in similar contests, MISS PROSS has an excellent record at Sedgefield and made it 4 wins from 7 attempts at the track. She went on four out and found plenty in the latter stages to hold on, clearly having no problem with the testing conditions. A sound performance here, though it pushes her to a career high.
MOULIN DE LA CROIX was the only one to trouble the winner in the straight. This was a decent performance coming off a break and he looks plenty good enough to pick up a minor handicap chase, particularly since his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is not afraid to travel for the right race.
PLAY THE ROCK lost touch at the fifth but plugged on past tiring rivals from three out to secure third. He probably needs a bit further and this run suggests he’s much better over fences than hurdles.
SCALE BANK raced up with the pace, but the distress signals were being issued by three out. Previous evidence suggests he will be much happier once the ground dries out and, assuming we take that as read, this probably wasn’t a bad effort.
ADARE PRINCE was mulish on the way to the start and has a reputation of being a rogue. He led at the eighth but looked reluctant from three out. He has ability but the quirks in his brain are getting in the way.
KING OF THE ARCTIC gave way at the fourth last. He has won on soft but I suspect he found things too tough here, and his last three haven’t shown much sparkle.
MORE LIKE IT raced prominently for the first half of the race but tired and was pulled up after two out. A little give seems fine, really testing finds him out.

The opening novices’ Handicap hurdle was won by DEVIL’S DELIGHT who had been well beaten efforts but held off SAMIZDAT who has ability but is desperately frustrating. Chaser NAVAL ATTACHE, who has gone well around here, was tried over hurdles with no better return than disappointing recent chase efforts.

BENNY BE GOOD confirmed promise of his previous run to give John Wade a novice hurdle winner though he may have tough tasks under a penalty. SAVEIRO chased him home, but has been a weak finisher over hurdles to date. TILT was at his cussed worst, digging in his heels at the start before setting off 20 lengths behind and not co-operating afterwards.

BEAMAZED seemed well suited by the extreme stamina test over 3m 3½f in the handicap hurdle. He kept up the gallop to win from ONIZ TIPTOES who runs often but doesn’t win much these days. The Scottish representative DO IT FOR DALKEY pulled hard early on and that can’t have helped here as he had to settle for a well held third.
DUKEOFCHESTERWOOD’s best form has been on better ground and he seemed to hate it in the mud. I wouldn’t write him off on this basis of this run.

EAGLE OWL took the bumper but it’s difficult to say he achieved much when the previously moderate efforts of the second POWER FLOW are considered. Eagle Owl can probably mix it with better animals but may be under-priced in such circumstances.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Musselburgh - John Smith's Cheltenham Trials Day

MUSSELBURGH – Sunday February 7th

Going – Good To Soft (Good in places, Soft on the bends)

Half an inch of rain on from Saturday onwards softened the ground a bit, but everything is relative and Musselburgh was still able to produce a decent surface for its big National Hunt occasion.

Looking at the card it could have been seen as a contest between The North, represented principally by Howard Johnson, and The South represented by Nicky Henderson. Henderson came out best of the duo with two winners from his 6 runners, but Johnson drew a blank and regrettably lost two of his charges to fatal injuries during the afternoon.

The mist hung over Fife and then around Edinburgh as I travelled to the course, though the cloud lifted a little after the second race. The car park was plenty soggy enough, and the neighbouring box park was even worse as it appeared that a number of boxes had to hauled out of the mire. Howard Johnson’s box, parked near the entrance to the public car park, caused a few problems for traffic getting out, but if I was his driver I’d have parked on the hard surface as well.

Derek Thompson was in full flow from my arrival at 12.30 and still rattling on when I left. While his continuous prattle is not my cup of tea, I must admit that he does get the crowd involved, particularly those who aren’t familiar with the sport. Thommo, you have your uses, but just leave me in peace now and again!

Thommo Note 1 – “Where’s Tanganyika?” – Tanganyika is now known as Tanzania. Why didn’t you listen to me?
Thommo Note 2 – “Where’s Dar Es Salaam? ….. Thank you, sir, it’s in Ethiopia!” – No, it’s not, it’s the principal sea port and former capital of Tanzania (see above). Sadly I was at the wrong end of the course to put him right!
Thommo Note 3 – “Scotland have just scored a try!” – Scotland didn’t score any tries….

On the up side there were plenty of informative interviews throughout the afternoon, and it did no harm having a Tote man explain their bets at the start of the meeting.

Meanwhile, on the racecourse …..

1.30 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Hurdle

The card opened with a cracking novices’ hurdle, a race from which I would give all seven contestants a chance of winning a race be it sooner or later.

CANDY CREEK won Aintree’s mares’ bumper last season and has transferred that ability to hurdling. She tracked the pace, took over two out and cruised clear with a minimum of fuss. She would clean up any decent mares’ novice prizes if aimed that way, but on the other hand looks sufficiently talented to make her mark in ‘open’ Graded company. In the long term connections must look forward to breeding from a decent mare with various winning relatives.
ALVARADO was tapped for toe from two out and held when hitting the last, but comfortably held the runner-up spot.
BACKSTAGE, the winner of the Perth Gold Cup over fences last summer, has swapped back and forth between hurdles and chases over his career. He’s held by the better novices in these contests but is in good heart and stayed on for third. He is being trained with the Grand National in mind and as an eight-year-old may be reaching his prime as a chaser. Elliott was relieved of £560 since the gelding’s vaccination record was not in order.
The one that I was looking out for here was DEVIL WATER. This one caught my eye on his first run in a hunter chase at Kelso early in 2009. He attempted to singlehandedly demolish every fence on the Borders circuit, yet was still in front and apparently going well when his pilot’s ‘super glue’ ran out four from home. There was evidence of a good engine, but he needed to be taught to give the jumps some respect. Devil Water subsequently disappointed in a hunter event at Perth where a number of the favourites didn’t perform. On his second hurdling appearance Devil Water bowled along in front jumping neatly, which is a good sign, but was outpaced once passed after three out. He stuck to his task against sharper opponents and gave much encouragement for the future. Winner of a maiden point at Overton, Devil Water has a markedly round action suggesting that soft ground will prove most suitable. To my eye he has filled out since his last appearance, looking notably strong and deep-chested these days. I await a re-appearance over fences with interest.
CARTERS REST was always going to have his work cut out in this company. He was outpaced three out but picked up late on to press Devil Water for fourth. He has done enough to suggest that on softer ground and in easier company he can go close.
Third of the Scottish representatives, CUIGNY, was another dropped in a bit above his head here. Predictably he struggled from four out, but he has enough about to suggest he can be competitive if dropped to a lesser contest. He will now qualify for a rating and may have opportunities if aimed at a novices’ handicap.
On the face of it BUBBLY BREEZE’s form does not suggest he will win in the near future. Nevertheless he caught my eye in the paddock as a nice enough sort who will make up into a chaser given time. He’s a brother to decent staying chasers Idle Talk and Belon Gale, and I will keep him tucked in the notebook for the right occasion.

2.00 2m 4f 0-120 Handicap Hurdle

Musselburgh put on a succession of competitive events at this level over the winter. It’s just a pity we have lost so much racing at the course since December.

Repelling southern raiders, Scotland scored a one two and it was celebration time for the Whillans clan, Donal training the winner LEITH WALK and amateur Calum riding his first ever winner. Competently ridden by a jockey who is hoping to go ‘conditional’ next season, the Hawick-based winner burst into the leading group approaching the last and stayed on well. She has been off the track since last June and break seemed to have done her no harm. Her next run will tell us much, but she settled nicely, travelled well and hinted there may be more to come. Whillans had to follow his mount into the unsaddling enclosure, the mare ditched having her rider after the finish.
QUICK WILL stayed on into second place a Ewart stable now hitting form. He went close here at Christmas ’08 and has been a bit under a cloud since, but he has mixed it with slightly better opposition on occasion and looks primed to pick up a race if going on from here.
STOPPED OUT raced prominently and finished best placed of the pacesetters. He’s only a five-year-old and may be capable of progressing, particularly racing on decent ground.
CASUAL AFFAIR ran a creditable race in fourth, but is a jumping maiden and rather frustrating. He does seem the type that might can a bit of confidence if his trainer could find a soft event.
HARRY THE HAWK, having raced close up, took the lead two out and still led at the last but then the petrol ran out. Racing up with the pace, a sharp two miles might be the answer.
The stoutly constructed and normally consistent HAZELDENE dropped out quickly from five out having made the running. The chances are the race was needed but my main concern in the paddock was that he looked a bit stiff when walking. That being said there was no visible problem once galloping.

2.30 2m Class 2 Scottish Triumph (Juvenile Novices’) Hurdle

A small field turned out for this decent prize, but this was nevertheless an interesting contest with a strong Cheltenham contender confirming credentials. The runner-up set a decent pace and saw out his race, so I suggest that the form is sound.

The race was delayed for some twelve minutes as Ultimate’s reins broke on the way to the start. Although the runners were ready at 2.40 they circled to allow a race at Southwell to be completed, though thankfully it was only a six furlong contest! It should be noted that the course and all involved made efforts to get back on track to the point where the last race started on time. Well done to everyone, even though we have more fun and games later (see 3.30 race).

I hadn’t considered the significance of CARLITO BRIGANTE’s win here in November until he doddled up at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. At that point it became clear that Gordon Elliott had a Triumph Hurdle contender on his hands, provided the going doesn’t get too soft. Good to soft here proved no problem, and the Irish would presumably rate it ‘good’ anyway, Carlito Brigante showing a good turn of foot to race clear of the others from the last. Some doubt has been expressed over the weight of Musselburgh form going forward, but the key point is the going prevailing here and his Leopardstown form dispels worries about different topography.
ULTIMATE bustled along in the lead and stretched his field going to three out. He had three winners struggling from that point but found the winner a bit better. Nevertheless this was a decent performance and he should surely pick up another. Credit goes to Keith Mercer who judged his pace-making as well as he could have done.
ORSIPPUS is consistent but just lacks that ‘oomph’ needed to force his head in front and performed to his best in third.
MELANGE only won a seller, but form since suggests he’s probably a little bit better than that level and he stayed on to press the third on the run-in. He seems to have the right attitude, it’s just a case of his trainer aiming lower. Interestingly Jan Faltejsek was called in to explain why he eased off for a short while after the last. I would guess it was just a slight misjudgement and he certainly rode out strongly enough for third place.
BACCALAUREATE caused a shock with his 100/1 victory at Cheltenham, but it was as you were here. The course probably didn’t help but it’s difficult to relate last week’s win to anything else he has achieved.
ASCENDANT was desperately disappointing following a decent win here recently. He gave way quickly from three out and looked very tired when being led around waiting to give a requested sample.
LADY RUSTY is a narrow, sparely made filly who couldn’t keep up in this company. She was reported as having a breathing problem which doesn’t bode well.

3.00 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

A well contested contest this year for an event which primed Kalahari King for the Arkle last season.

I’d put FIENDISH FLAME on to my ‘no longer value’ list after a couple of defeats. I got a slap across the wrists for my impatience here as he set the pace and stayed on too well for six other winners. Having pecked when overjumping at the first, he jumped left early on but settled down nicely and stretched his field going to the fourth last. Nothing got to him after that. Rated 135 before this contest this run will probably justify a mid-140s mark.
WORKING TITLE appeared to run to his 137 level or maybe slightly better in second. He came to challenge three out but was held from two out. He was running a decent race when coming down at Newbury and is a useful animal for Nick Henderson to attack ‘second level’ events with.
DOOR BOY looks a stayer to me and the trip on this ground didn’t play to his strengths. He’s entered in the RSA Chase and seemingly has bit to find, but the stiffer test of stamina looks a must.
DOUBLE VODKA is a fair performer at his level and found three too good though and at worst ran to his rating of 123. He will have chances in lesser company.
MR CRYSTAL was flying a bit high here and had lost touch by the twelfth fence. He still managed to beat THE POLOMOCHE who ran no sort of race and Barry Geraghty reported he was never travelling.
DAR ES SALAAM was touted by a few optimists before racing but the form of his handicap win here was far below the level of this race. He will be better off back in handicaps.
ART BANK was presumably entered in the hope the race might cut up. He jumps well enough, but at his own pace and pootled round detached before Mark Bradburne blew the whistle approaching four out. Off a rating of 72 he wouldn’t be a lost cause in a 0-90 chase and needs aiming in that direction.

3.30 2m 0-142 Scottish County Handicap Hurdle

For the second meeting in a row the fire alarm went off and the grandstand had to be evacuated. On the face of it this appeared to go smoothly although it’s interesting that other activity on the course, Thommo talking, horses parading and jockeys appearing for the next race, continued with few questions asked. The fire engine came through the gate to turn a few heads, the firemen investigated, found no fire, reset the alarm and, after a few children had admired their vehicle, returned from whence they came.

despite all the fuss we were not far short of back on time for the start of this competitive hurdle. Sadly it was marred by the fatal injury caused to RED MOLONEY who broke a shoulder when falling at the second. Brian Hughes was flung clear but it says much for him as a horseman that he was quickly up to calm the stricken gelding. As the field bypassed the hurdle in the final straight Red Moloney was departing this world at the scene of his three hurdling victories.

Nick Henderson entered the lightly raced ERADICATE, last seen running second at the Perth Festival. He led three out and ran on well from the last to capture this decent prize. He is aimed at the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.
PALOMAR is plenty capable at this level but has spent a while in the wilderness since falling over fences here at the same meeting last season. He briefly threatened to take the race but had to settle for a valiant second. Back on form his current mark of 125 doesn’t look over harsh and he should be placed to advantage, possibly in Scotland which has been a regular destination.
I felt that DONTFERRYMAN lacked a bit of acceleration when campaigned on the flat. He regularly placed but couldn’t get his head in front. After a placing at Hamilton I suggested that he needed hurdles to slow the others down, and on the evidence of two recent wins I was right. He has run some decent races this term and possibly just needs a slightly stiffer test, though he takes credit for a good close third here.
GRANDAD BILL performed well for one upped in class on only his fourth hurdles outing, keeping on from two out if held. There will be plenty of easier opportunities and he is likely to land one of them.
DR KILDARE was in contention going to the last but gave way from there. He’s another flying a little above his level and there should be chances dropped in class.
This is EUROPEAN DREAM’s sort of event but questions are being asked off a career high at present and he hasn’t quite enough in the tank to respond.
ALONG THE NILE was second to European Dream last season but hasn’t matched that form since. He was desperately disappointing here, losing touch before the end of the back straight and finishing tailed off.
ASTARADOR was another well below form, running up with the pace before weakening quickly from three out. His chasing form tailed off somewhat and this run gives little cause for immediate optimism.

4.00 2m 4f Claiming Chase

A race that looked like a battlefield by the end. All horses were up by the finish, but it subsequently turned out that an injury suffered on the final bend by the favourite STRIKING ARTICLE required the gelding to be put down. This capped a miserable afternoon for Howard Johnson and Graham Wylie which saw their box return with two empty spaces.

The one contender here who had ability combined with lack of ‘baggage’ was JOHN FORBES. He impressed when beating Fortysecond Street at Catterick and on this occasion had his rivals well held as they departed in the latter stages. He will take on tougher opposition but is capable and has the right attitude.
I reckon YANKEE HOLIDAY is equine psychologist territory, but he seemed to have set aside whatever was troubling him last time. He’s never hit the ground in a race and picked his way past flailing bodies and limbs to come home in his own time for second place. While he makes win backers tear their hair out, and is presumably a bookies’ friend, he has now placed 25 times in 50 races, 24 out of 41 in chases, and regularly contributes to his keep. Although attended by the customary two handlers, and looking a bit fizzy, he does seem to have calmed down a little as a ten-year-old.
LINDSEYFIELD LODGE set the pace but the winner was past and going away when he fell heavily three out. Thankfully he was up OK though Paul Callaghan was a bit battered. The horse’s flailing legs caught SNOWY’s jockey as Scotland’s favourite grey passed and Graham Lee exited stage left. Snowy was entered for £6,000 which most here would consider an insult since we all know he’s priceless. He was held when departing, and was up against it here, but is showing enough zest to suggest we might get a chance to lift the roof once more before our hero departs to retirement.
LAHIB THE FIFTH looked booked for second but took a tired looking fall two out to leave just two standing.
MIDNIGHT STAR, boasting an unimpressive pointing record, isn’t remotely good enough against these, couldn’t keep up and was well behind when falling at the tenth.

4.30 2m Class 5 NH Flat

Time had been recovered by the scheduled time of this event with the runners at post in plenty of time for 4.30. This was a good effort, the course officials no doubt mindful that there’s not much light to play with early in February in the East of Scotland.

This was won by TALE OF TANGANYIKA, a nice looking flat bred animal who showed some of the suggested speed to pull clear from the furlong pole. The first thought that crossed my mind was to wonder whether the stable might aim this one at a flat maiden somewhere along the line in ‘Swinbank’ fashion. His dam was placed in German Classics, a bit below top level but nevertheless a suggestion that a Flat campaign wouldn’t be a lost cause.
ALLOW ME sets the level from Northern bumpers and kept on once passed to hold second. He should be good enough to press for a win over hurdles.
OWEN GLENDOWER won nicely at Taunton on his previous run, but was tapped for pace in the straight here. He never really got near the front but is a nice enough sort for whom a stiffer test will do no harm in time.
ROBBIE wasn’t disgraced in fourth if held from two out, form probably about the same as his previous effort here, while WYSE HILL TEABAGS stepped up on his first effort though he was another to give way from two out.

Early February at Catterick and notes from further afield

CATTERICK – Friday February 5th

Going- Good to Soft (Soft in places)

The going seemed to be very testing despite the official description, and the hurdles course in particular was like a ploughed field in mid-afternoon. I suspect a few that didn’t perform might have genuine excuses.

I’ll cover the hurdlers for this meeting but it may be that time constraints will restrict me to the chasers for North of England meetings in the near future.

1.05 2m 3f Class 5 Selling Hurdle

Lightly raced HASSADIN took this contest and has enough ability to continue making a mark at the lower end of the scale. Backed up by a recent flat form he’s in sound nick and may score again soon. BEWERY MAN ran up to form in second and NODFORM WILLIAM performed well following a break to secure third place. A few others with fair form but having had problems were well beaten, notably WALTHAM ABBEY, who left Caroline Bailey cheaply, BOING BOING, off the course for two years, and thirteen-year-old SUN KING, another coming off a long break.

1.35 2m Class 4 Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle

An event big on numbers but distinctly low on decent form, and I suspect that many of these will struggle to pick up prize money.
JERONIMO JOE stepped up on a Southwell fifth, staying on from two out to hold WARRIOR ONE whose form set the moderate standard. The exposed HELIEORBEA was third, and BARBARIAN performed better than on his debut, fading from two out but securing fourth place.

2.10 2m 3f 0-119 Handicap Chase

LEASE LEND has run a succession of decent races and ran on well from two out to record a win here. He has an admirable record, 6 wins and 11 places from 22 outings. He will be forced up in class after this win but has the right attitude to continue to run well.
I’M YOUR MAN is well exposed but is currently running well off his highest ever chase rating. He runs often, and has spells on and off the boil, but is certainly in good heart this winter. He was held after the last but lost little in defeat.
QUITO DU TRESOR, a winner at Musselburgh last time, found the 7lb penalty anchoring him in the closing stages after having every chance two out. He is due to run off a 4lb higher mark than this in future and will need to up his game significantly.
SHAKE THE BARLEY plugged on for fourth without threatening the leaders. He’s 10lbs higher than his last winning mark and may need to be eased.
HEAVENLY CHORUS lost touch with the leaders on the final bend and looked to find this surface too testing.
OR D’OUDARIES back pedalled from three out and has been well held in his last three races.
GENERAL HARDI was hampered three out but seemed to be getting the worst of the argument by then anyway. He was another who would be aided by less gruelling conditions.
James Ewart’s stable is just picking up after the break, but SUPER BABY ran a poor race. His exuberant jumping seems to have deserted him, he made mistakes here, and I wonder if he has a problem.
OSOLOMIO raced prominently and was still in and pitching when unable to keep his undercarriage at the third last. This is more his distance than the extreme trip he tried last time, so I would bear him in mind in similar company.
NOUVEAU MAIRE has had breathing problems and is struggling. This was a third consecutive ‘pulled up’.
MISS PROSS made progress on the home bend but stopped quickly and was pulled up before two out.

2.45 3m 1 ½ f Class 3 Handicap Hurdle

The jockeys spent much of their time seeking what decent ground was left after the opening hurdle races. There were a few coming into this race in decent form but it’s likely some will use the ground as excuse for failure here.
Donald McCain’s stable is in good form and PETERS STAR was another winner for them. He seems a bit of an all or nothing performer, decent on his day but just as likely to end up out with the washing. On a going day he showed enough determination to hold the persistent challenge of the second KILCREA ASLA, a chaser who was presumably out for a confidence restoring run. The latter looks capable of taking a handicap hurdle on this form.
FINAL VETO stayed on for third, stepping up on his two efforts this season.
YOUNG BUDDY stayed in contention until after two out and showed enough to suggest an ease in class might find him in the winner’s enclosure once again.
BRACKENMOSS faded to a stop after the eighth and it would be no surprise if she suffered a wind problem. I’ll add a note if an official explanation is given.

3.20 2m 3f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

TRUCKERS HALL was made favourite to take this and duly obliged, though he was asked to work all the way by previous winner EMPTY SKY. The pair were clear and would both be worth noting in similar company.
BARAFUNDLE got the heels of the leaders two out but could only plug on in vain afterwards. A step back up in distance might help.
PYRACANTHA performed respectably in fourth, particularly given that the stable were badly held up by the snow. He will come on for this race and would be one to keep in mind when next appearing.
Winning pointer QOLLIOURE performed respectably in fifth and went some way to confirming the promise displayed last time. He will be seen to better effect once he goes chasing.
HOLD FAST was in touch going to two out but faded quickly before pulling up. The ground was surely the excuse and he will be seen to better effect on a faster surface.

3.55 2m 0-120 Novices’ Chase

An interesting ratings limited novices’ chase in which there was no more than 10lbs between the runners. Given that fact, it was significant that the winner OCKEY DE NEUILLAC was the most comfortable victor on the afternoon. He led three out and came clear with ease to confirm the promise of his Newcastle effort. This ground clearly suits, he’s progressive and this won’t be his last win.
CARRIETAU showed more of the determination that blinkers seem to have instilled in him. He was held by a better opponent but stuck at his job well to secure second place.
TRAFFIC CONTROL raced prominently, his jumping holding up better than on his chasing debut, but he was held from two out.
FAITH AND REASON plugged on for fourth place and ANOTHER CHARMER saw out the race at his own pace in fifth.
SMUGGLERS BAY failed to confirm the promise of his chasing debut and weakened from three out, finishing just in front of WOODY VALENTINE who had an off day.
QUICK FIX has been poor in three efforts over fences, never in contention pulling up before two out here.
SPELLCHECKER broke a blood vessel and pulled up after four out. Physical frailties may let him down.

4.30 2m NH Flat

This contest was dominated by newcomers. The first four are all types to improve over time given jumps and a trip. In the short term they may be vulnerable to flat bred types in similar contests to this.

PICKWORTH is related to jump winners and out of a 10-time winning hurdler and chaser. Despite being momentarily tapped for tow two furlongs out she picked up to secure the race in the final furlong. Her pedigree suggests there will be better to come.
CLASSICAL MIST is another with winning jumping relatives that might be expected to progress with time. She tried her best from two out if just held.
ALLBARKANOBITE is yet another stoutly bred sort and stayed on up the straight to secure third place, whilst FOXY GALE stayed on from the rear to bag fourth.


Saturday February 6th – DONCASTER and WETHERBY

Previously a winner at Musselburgh, TAZBAR confirmed the favourable impression from previous wins with a very comfortable victory at Doncaster. Keith Reveley has not committed himself to Cheltenham as yet, feeling that the gelding needs more experience.

I’M DELILAH caught my eye on her first jumps outing at Kelso in 2007. She fell at the last on that occasion, and subsequently took a little time to click over hurdles. However, she has been a revelation over fences this season. This mare has determination in spades and a fair turn of foot to back it up. She made the pace and then quickened the tempo in straight, seeing off all bar WOOLCOMBE FOLLY who caught her in the shade of the post. This was a cracking debut for WOOLCOMBE FOLLY who must surely gain from the experience and could be a leading contender for the Arkle. I’M DELILAH on the other hand might just be capable of putting her speed to best use in the 2 mile novice event at Aintree, the Maghull Novices’ Chase. My plan with her would be to ignore Cheltenham and keep her fresh for Aintree.

KALAHARI KING made a winning return in the Blue Square Handicap Chase. Evidence was that the race would bring him on, and it could be interesting if Ferdy Murphy is able to take fresh horse to Cheltenham for the Champion Chase, particularly if the ground is good.

GIDAM GIDAM has run in a few staying handicap chases in the north but his only win in such races had been seeing off a field of iffy characters (Stoneriggs Merc was second) at Catterick last season. He stepped on previous efforts, staying on to overhaul gallant veteran TURPIN GREEN at the last in the Doncaster four-miler. GARLETON was one I have been keeping an eye on but he could only plug on for fifth, though I’d be happier seeing him back in distance in a lower grade.

SOUTH LEINSTER finished second in the staying novices’ hurdle that closed Doncaster’s card. He doesn’t look to be one that does things in a hurry, but he will pick up a stamina test soon. The winner WAYWARD PRINCE could prove distinctly decent now he has been moved up to three miles plus.

At Wetherby, Howard Johnson produced VECCHIO SENSO off a two year break to win the 0-100 handicap hurdle beating the in form SHADRACK who looks a decent measure. Presumably VECCHIO SENSO has had problems which Johnson felt he could overcome and there is a chance he is very well handicapped.

Scottish National winner in 2008, IRIS DE BALME made a return to the track after a long lay-off and performed encouragingly to finish fifth to BABYSITTER in the 2m 6f novices’ hurdle. IRIS DE BALME will be back on the staying chase trail, with the Eider Chase as his first target followed by the Grand National. MONOGRAM made an encouraging hurdling debut in second place and should win soon.

As SA SUFFIT sprinted clear of a decent handicap chase field commentator Stewart Machin said he “could be a young horse going places”. I can claim to have got there first since I’ve being shouting this one from the rooftops for sometime now. The trip did him no harm and, given that he didn’t jump as well as he is capable, there should be a fair bit more to come. As I expected he has taken the mantle of top rated Scottish chaser and should put his talented trainer in the limelight.

KNOCKARA BEAU ran a respectable race if held by his Cheltenham conqueror WEIRD AL. The former may be one better served by a trip to Aintree than Cheltenham.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Newcastle off but Musselburgh prepare for big day

The freeze hit again today as Newcastle's fixture has been abandoned. Snow is forecast for late today and Catterick will be hoping for some improvement in the weather for their meeting scheduled for Friday.

Rising temperatures are forecast for the weekend and it's hoped that northern trainers have opportunities at Doncaster and Wetherby on Saturday. Those of us north of the border are optimsitic that the weather should allow Musselburgh's Cheltenham Trials meeting to go ahead on Sunday. News is provided courtesy of a course press release:

'A long-term strategy and a dollop of good luck have combined to bring the strongest jumps field ever to assemble at Musselburgh Racecourse this Sunday. (Feb 7)

The John Smith’s Scottish Cheltenham Trials Day has come of age, reckons Musselburgh boss Bill Farnsworth, and punters will benefit from the opportunity to take in some first class racing.

Now in its third year, the Cheltenham Trials has now developed in to a serious try-out event for the country’s top trainers with an eye on the Cheltenham Festival proper. Add to that the dreadful winter weather over the last month which led to mass abandonments affecting all UK tracks, and trainers have seized the opportunity to give their mounts a run-out in Musselburgh’s highly competitive meeting.

Total prize money on the day tops £100,000 and feature race is the John Smith’s Triumph Hurdle, supported by the John Smith’s Scottish Country Hurdle, with both races carrying a £30,000 purse.

General manager Bill Farnsworth said: “It is without doubt the best quality jump card we have ever had at Musselburgh and I hope racing fans will come out in large numbers to enjoy the occasion.

“When we started the Cheltenham Trials Race Day it was with a view of trying to capture the attention of the leading trainers who were preparing for Cheltenham. We have succeeded in building up this fixture as a dress rehearsal but we have also had a little luck with the adverse weather which has restricted racing opportunities. While we suffered ourselves with five cancelled meetings the upside is that many of the leading stables are desperate to get their horses ready for Cheltenham and that is reflected in the quality of the entries we have received for Sunday’s meeting.”

In the John Smith's Scottish Triumph Hurdle a quality entry is headed by previous Musselburgh winners Carlito Brigante and Ascendant and includes Tom Tate's unbeaten youngster Kudu Country as well as the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Baccalaureate, the 100-1 winner of Cheltenham's Finesse Juvenile Hurdle at the trials meeting last Saturday.

The unraced According, one of a large number of potential Musselburgh raiders from the powerful Nicky Henderson stable, is sure to attract interest. The Lambourn trainer has described the four year old in glowing terms and the likelihood of good jumping ground at the East Lothian venue has tempted him to use Musselburgh as the starting point for his Triumph Hurdle prospect.

Henderson has also entered his Totesport Gold Trophy contender Stravinsky Dance for the £30,000 John Smith's Scottish County Hurdle. Owner's son Sam Waley-Cohen will partner this expensive purchase but the lightly raced five year old will face stiff opposition from the more experienced northern handicappers Premier Dane and Red Moloney, already a dual winner at Musselburgh and a probable starter in Cheltenham's County Hurdle at the Festival.

No less than 32 runners have been penciled in for the John Smith's No Nonsense Novices’ Chase but Tazbar looks the one to be on. The star of Keith Reveley's Saltburn stable chased home Long Run in Kempton's Grade 1 Feltham Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day. He has since gained a bloodless victory in lesser company at Market Rasen and has a variety of options at the Cheltenham Festival.'

I am looking forward to an enjoyable afternoon and will I'll be on the spot to provide a report and analysis of the afternoon's action.