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.