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.