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.