Ayr staged its two day pre-Cheltenham meeting in a good deal more clement conditions than in 2009. I attended the second day last year and the group was like a swamp come late on Saturday afternoon. In contrast this year the going was good on the Friday and was fast enough on the Saturday for a few withdrawals from the hurdle races.
The second last fence on the far side remained omitted from every race both days, but I would hope it will be available for the Scottish Grand National.
AYR – Friday March 12th
2.10 2m 4f Class 5 Maiden Hurdle
The opening event was won with consummate ease by NAFAATH who looks capable of going on to better things. He was rated 102 on the Flat in Ireland and the way he came clear from two out suggests he might get near to the equivalent 142 over hurdles. He would doddle a novice hurdle under a penalty and might conceivably be worth aiming for Aintree.
SAVEIRO ran a creditable enough race in second, keeping on once passed going to two out, and his rating of 115 sets the standard.
CAERLAVEROCK ran a fair race in third though was held from three out.
MOSCOW MISCHIEF and SOLWAY SAM both picked up a little ground late on, whilst DEVIL WATER led until three out but was then left behind as he found a few too good once again.
2.45 3m 1f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase
TEXAS HOLDEM was going nicely when falling at the thirteenth. At the age of eleven this was only his second chase, but he did at least travel well and jumped well until his mishap.
The departure of Texas Holdem left GILSLAND to see off a single remaining opponent. He set the pace for most of the way and came comfortably clear over the last three fences.
INVERLOCHY LAD was hampered when Texas Holdem came down, but was well held by Gilsland in the straight.
3.20 2m Class 4 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
OVERTURN ran well off this mark at Doncaster the previous week and was never in difficulty here. He came clear very comfortably and can move up in class again with some confidence.
NEW TRICKS has now found his level and kept on after the winner without looking like troubling him. Decent ground suits and there should be a few opportunities in similar events in the coming weeks.
In third NIGHT KNIGHT was held by New Tricks as at Musselburgh and the rest seem nothing special.
3.55 3m 1f 0-120 Handicap Chase
CATEGORICAL has been a consistent type, he’s only finished out of the first six 8 times out of 52 attempts. He’s been frustrating as far as winning is concerned but has hit form big time now, going clear two out and hosing up here off a career top mark. He might just have another win in the locker while in such good heart even off an increased mark.
FIFTYFIVE DEGREES stayed on for second though not able to match the winner. This was a sound effort and he will have decent chances in similar company.
JUSTWHATEVERULIKE was back in his class here after taking on Sa Suffit at Kelso. He seems on his mark now and kept on for third.
CAMDEN GEORGE was towards the rear most of the way, chased the leaders up the straight and stayed on for fourth. I thought he might win a handicap or two this season, but other than going close when haring off in front at Market Rasen he hasn’t really threatened.
Unusually for him the normally sure-footed SNOWY has capsized a couple of time of late. He set the pace here but didn’t have enough to offer once passed. He might still pick up a minor handicap now the ground has dried out.
HARRY FLASHMAN has not been a good jumper of fences and a few mistakes let him down here. He was outpaced in the straight.
GENERAL HARDI faded from five out and disappointed given that the ground should have been right for him.
EL BANDINDOS, returning after a spell with injury and now resident with Peter Monteith, was always in the rear and lost touch before pulling up four out.
ROYAL MACKINTOSH isn’t at his best on drying ground and was struggling from a mile out, pulling up before the fifth last.
4.30 2m 5 ½ f 0-105 Handicap Hurdle
DIAVOLERA recorded a third consecutive win suggesting the handicapper hasn’t caught up with her. She led approaching two out and pulled clear from the last.
DELIGHTFULLY was equipped with a visor instead of blinkers here and there seemed to be some improvement. Held by the winner she kept on for second.
SOMETHING SILVER ran a fair race back over hurdles but was one paced from three out. He’s best on softer ground.
AINT SHE THE LADY ran a fair race in fourth but looks on her mark and it might be a question of working out favourable conditions to get the best out of her.
The remainder were held.
5.05 2m 4f 0-95 Conditionals/Amateurs ‘Hands And Heels’ Handicap Chase
An equine psychologist would have a field day with this bunch. A tale of their quirks would stretch this report to a few pages.
YANKEE HOLIDAY is difficult to win with but does place quite often and there was a thought that if he got into a rhythm here he might have enough to see off this bunch. He jumps well, which is a real help in this company, and looked happy once settled in front or sharing the pace. He came away down the straight and was kept up to his work to win with a bit in hand. His second at Musselburgh was better than some would give credit for, even allowing for mishaps to others, and he’s never fallen in 51 races.
MANOUBI normally stays on from the rear but raced a little more prominently on this occasion. He stayed on from two out but didn’t get near the winner.
VIEL GLUCK has been a disappointing sort and didn’t pull up any trees in finishing third here, making progress from four out and keeping on.
CLASSY CHAV is a poor maiden and was well beaten here.
INSTANT SHOT ran a decent second at Newcastle in January but has disappointed since and was last of the five to finish.
HURRICANE JACK is a brother to Silver By Nature but isn’t a patch on that one for ability. He fell four out when chasing the winner, but he was being ridden and not closing. He probably has a little ability but has been disappointing to date.
JANAL raced up with Yankee Holiday until the eighth but he was outpaced approaching four out and fell when fading at the last.
5.40 3m ½ f 0-86 Handicap Hurdle
A really moderate bunch of mainly exposed hurdlers and nothing of any use for the future for me.
SOLWAY BEE returned to some sort of form after a very poor spell of form. GLEN ROUGE is a poor maiden who places occasionally and stayed on into third in front of AUBERGE who is pretty much on a par with the second on previous efforts.
Bottom weight DESTINY HILL raced in front to two out but faded finishing just in front of the temperamental pony-sized CINAMAN.
AYR - Saturday March 13th
Going – Good (Good to Firm in places)
2.10 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle
This wasn’t the strongest novices’ hurdle and Fairyhouse handicap winner DRUSSELL proved a good deal better than the others. He won this comfortably.
SI BIEN led two out and stayed on once headed. He’s steadily improving and should pick up a hurdle race before long.
BUCEPHALUS confirmed his Newcastle fourth was no fluke with a third place here, held from two out, though he may need to be aimed for handicaps before he can win a race.
Australian import ONAJET has raced 52 in all disciplines, had every chance here and was held from two out.
KELLYSTOWN LAD, a winner over half a mile further at Musselburgh, faded from three out and presumably needs the longer distance.
2.40 2m 4f 0-125 Handicap Chase
I thought that QUITO DE TRESOR might have been collared by the handicapper after his Musselburgh win, but that assumption was proved wrong here. He jumped well in front but was tiring and only just held on in the end.
STORYMAKER has been a bit hit or miss but is useful at this level on his day. He stayed on from three out and was close to catching the tiring winner at the finish.
CAST IRON CASEY was another doing his best work at the end. He goes well on fast ground and may pick up a race soon.
WATER TAXI is out of form and was beaten by the turn for home.
BILL’S ECHO needed the race after a year off, pulled a bit hard early on and was struggling by the home turn.
NIRVANA SWING raced prominent early but dropped out down the back straight and was pulled up.
3.15 2m 4f 0-124 Handicap Hurdle
Quite how RAMSDEN BOY was going to cope with this ground was a bit of a mystery before the start. Add to that the fact that he’s been well out of form and he wasn’t an obvious choice here. He handled the ground with no problems, leading before two out and running on well.
PONTOP is suited by fast ground and it’s coming to his time of year. He chased the leader from two out, and though pulling away from the rest couldn’t reel in the winner.
SON OF FLICKA set a good pace and kept on once headed on his return to hurdling.
TERENZIUM ran a fair race in fourth though making no impression on the leaders from two out.
LEITH WALK kept on for fifth and repeated Musselburgh form with QUICK WILL who finished sixth.
3.50 2m 0-125 Handicap Chase
As with Categorical on the previous day’s card FRED BOJANGALS has gone from consistent at his level to very much a progressive sort. I did think he was a bit of a soft touch at one time, but he has proved me wrong big time recently. Off a career high mark he was going well all the way, challenged at the last and was driven out to the line. He only won by half a length so could score again off a revised mark.
CALCULAITE, jumping better than he did at Doncaster last time, led until the last and ran on once headed. He lost nothing in defeat.
KNOCKAVILLA was going well four out but a slow jump there cost him ground and he could only stay on for third place.
ALL FOR THE CAUSE is yet to win a chase and was found wanting from two out.
DAR ES SALAAM had a tough task off bottom weight, made a few errors early on and could make no impression from three out. He would have a better chance in 0-110 company.
CHARINGWORTH faded from four out.
4.25 3m ½ f 0-104 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
Liz Harrison scored a second win in two days as SOLWAY ALLY stepped up on a staying on second at Carlisle two days previously. The step up half a mile in trip made no difference, and if probably suited this mare. Disputing most of the way she led two out and ran on. She is going the right way and it would be no surprise to see her score again provided the going remains good.
WATERCOLOURS followed up a fair handicap debut run here last time with another sound performance. He looks to have the ability to pick up a staying handicap before long.
TURTLE SPIRIT raced on better ground than at Kelso but didn’t seem too inconvenienced. He was held from two out but remains in good form and would be a good bet in a similar race if we got a bit of rain.
BLED led from the seventh until three out, putting up his best effort so far.
CUIGNY had the blinkers applied here. I’m not sure they are necessary, but he didn’t seem to see out the trip.
5.00 3m 3 ½ f 0-109 Handicap Chase
A furlong and a half was knocked off the distance of this contest compared to last year’s race, but it didn’t increase the field as we had two less runners.
SEIZE was waited with, took over three out, saw off Lucky Nellerie at the last and was pushed out. Conditions were spot on since all his best form has been on good or quicker ground.
ROSIE ALL OVER challenged the leader four out but she hit three out and looked finished. To her credit she stayed on again and took second place on the flat.
LUCKY NELLERIE led until the last but couldn’t respond once Seize went past and lost second on the run to the line. He’s favoured by slightly softer going and I believe his long term target is the Grand Pardubice in October, an event in which he ran out last time when seeing the too much daylight at the front of the field. I’d love to follow him to that event for my fiftieth birthday present, but a quirk of the school holidays means my wife can’t get away for that weekend. Doh!
The other runner DAWN RIDE was settled in the rear and fell at the seventh.
5.30 2m NH Flat
WYSE HILL TEABAGS had shown promise in a couple of bumpers at Musselburgh on similar ground to this and put that experience to good use here. He had two previous winners behind him, the three coming clear, so it’s hard to pick holes in the form. He caught the leader in the final furlong and ran on.
YES TOM, a winner at Down Royal previously, led and pushed on three out. Looking the likely winner he was caught in the final furlong.
STORM BRIG challenged a furlong out but could offer no extra from that point. He was well clear of fourth SHAYNOUR who did make some late progress.