KELSO – Saturday March 6th
Going – Soft(Heavy in places)
Kelso staged an interesting card headlined by the Grade 2 totepool Premier Kelso (Novices’) Hurdle, a contest which attracting some promising northern novices. In the Premier Chase locally trained Sa Suffit laid his reputation on the line in a warm up for his planned Aintree.
The track had a distinctly tired look toward the end of this harsh winter. The turf was dull with a yellowy tinge, indicating that there had been no growing for some months. That being said, having come through still lying snow south of Edinburgh I should be grateful that the frosty conditions had finally relented in the Borders. We really do need a warmer spell to ‘green things up’ a bit.
1.55 2m 1f 0-115 Handicap Chase
RAYSROCK showed his well being with a hurdles win at Ayr in February. He looked the most straightforward in a contest where many had questions to answer. He led three out and better than his pursuers on the flat. He has won a few times on soft and heavy, but his Ayr win was on much better ground. He will be on a career high mark, but is in good heart.
PADDYS UNYOKE had struggled to make the step up from hunter chases, but this was his best effort of the season from 3lbs out of the handicap. He was outpaced three out but came back strongly up the run-in to wrest second place close home. His three best efforts have been at Kelso and this run suggests he needs further.
DUKE OF MALFI had every chance but he got tired on the flat, drifted toward the stands’ rail and lost second close home. He ran creditably given the rise in the weights.
JUSTTHEONEFORYOU is a maiden after fourteen attempts and was run out of the first three in the final furlong. He’s a big strong sort who often runs passably well but is rather frustrating.
NATIVE COLL ran a decent race form 10lbs out of the weights. He got into the race for the places a furlong out but couldn’t hold higher rated opponents. He’s in good heart and would be an interesting contender in a lower class.
TOULOUSE EXPRESS led early but faded once headed. He is capable on his day, and has a decent win record in recent times, but he does need things his own way.
PRIMROSE TIME, coming here off the back of two promising runs behind Bedlam Boy, was always struggling in her first attempt at handicap chasing. She finished tailed off and connections could offer no explanation.
CLOUDMOR looked plenty fit enough on return after 876 days, but was struggling past halfway and was pulled up before three out.
2.30 2m ½f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle
KING O’ THE GYPSIES was made favourite off the back of a second at Wetherby in a race from which the first and third have since one. Howard Johnson’s charge, apparently still an entire, was forced to work hard to add to the Wetherby contest’s tally, but his gameness saw him home. He looks good enough to follow up.
COLOUR CLASH had shown promise when placed at Sedgefield before falling at Newcastle. None the worse for that mishap he made the winner pull out all the stops and shouldn’t be kept out of the winner’s position for long.
EUROHUNTER has joined Willie Amos since being well beaten in an Irish bumper last June. He had every chance though was unable to match the pace of the first two, but this was a sound start over hurdles.
TURBO ISLAND, a winner at Ayr back in December, led until the flat but was tapped for pace in the run to the line. He needs further than this, and his big jumping style suggests he will be seen to better advantage in time over fences.
CHESTER LAD was on his toes in the paddock and took a firm grip going down. He caught my eye as a potential jumping sort when I first saw him and gave at least a glimmer of ability here. It appears that he could be quirky but the basic ability is there.
3.00 2m 1f Class 2 Novices’ Chase
This valuable novice event boiled down to a match between two useful chasing recruits in Bedlam Boy and Silk Drum with the others left to come home in ratings order for the remaining places.
BEDLAM BOY tracked the leader most of the way and took over on the flat, staying on to go clear in the final furlong. He’s aimed at the Arkle for which Ferdy Murphy thinks he at least in with a chance.
SILK DRUM is only a five-year-old and has more time on his side than the winner. He was held from the furlong pole but performed soundly.
TARTAN SNOW was ridden to finish third and in the end stayed on well to get within eight lengths of Silk Drum. He jumped soundly here and this will have done his confidence some good.
ST KILLIAN’S RUN earned an expected fourth place, losing touch with Tartan Snow before three out.
The race was named in memory of Cyril Alexander, and the sponsoring family was represented by SKIPPING CHAPEL who was hopelessly outclassed here. He settled better than on his last effort over hurdles at Catterick, but was understandably struggling from four out. That being said he pretty well ran to his mark and might still be of interest in a low grade middle distance chase.
3.35 2m 6 ½ f Class 2 totesport.com Premier Chase
James Ewart remarked earlier that SA SUFFIT had “destroyed the box again” on the way to the course. Apparently this is a good sign and Sa Suffit justified odds-on here in decent style. He was settled close up, challenged at the last and forged ahead from the furlong pole. The second seemed to run to form and Scotland’s top rated chaser is now aimed at the John Smith’s Handicap Chase, a three miler at Aintree.
WILL BE DONE was held on the ratings, but did at least make it a decent test. Turned out looking very well, he took over at the second jumping well in front and kept on once headed on the run-in. A prominent show might be expected back in a handicap.
WILD CANE RIDGE jumped slowly early on. He was outpaced going to three out and looked likely to fill fifth place behind his inferiors, but he stayed on again up the run-in to take third.
JUSTWHATEVERULIKE, lowest rated of the five contestants, was outpaced but grabbed fourth place close home.
NOT LEFT YET, lightly raced in recent times, stayed close to two out but weakened once turned for home.
4.10 2m 2f totepool Premier Kelso (Novices’) Hurdle
A decent turn out of winning novices from the northern circuit were firmly put in their place as BYGONES OF BRID set the pace, then galloped clear of the field form the last. Karen McLintock’s charge revels in these conditions. I was impressed when I saw him sprint away up the hill at Hexham in October 2008 and he has come along nicely since then. He needs the soft so plans are fluid, with Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown all possible destinations if the rain arrives. The intention is that he should go chasing next season.
Michael McAlister isn’t a rider necessarily noted for getting involved in the finish of a Graded race, but he was understandably beaming at the end of this event as SOFT SPOKEN GUY left a number of fair novices in his wake. He proved in this race that his Hexham defeat of Sitting Tennant was no fluke and a run of the mill novice must surely come his way under a penalty.
PREDICTIVE raced prominently and plugged on once held. One would imagine the McCain stable will be thinking steeplechaser in the long term.
WASHINGTON IRVING was disappointing and faded quickly on the run-in. Presumably he will be tried on better ground as he seems to be struggling with the trip in the mud, but signs aren’t encouraging.
BISHOPS HEIR was firmly put in his place from two out and seemed to find this company a step too far.
4.45 2m 6 ½ f Man That Oo Ca’ Bill Hunters’ Chase
A race named in honour of recently passed rugby commentator Bill McLaren. It’s perhaps appropriate that his name should be associated with a hunter chase since it’s the sort of ‘sport in the raw’ event which would have appealed to the Hawick stalwart.
ALWAYS RIGHT saw off his only serious opponent with the minimum of fuss, taking over on the run-in and coming comfortably clear. He’s an imposing sort and may be more up to the task of taking on the top hunters this season.
DOC ROW ran respectably against a decent opponent, setting the pace until passed at the last. He goes well around here and would be unlucky not to pick up a similar contest.
KNOW THE ROPES completed for third in his own time. He jumped very accurately and that might at least enable him to pay his ‘bus fare’ with the odd placing at this level.
FIRST LOOK drew gasps from the crowd as he clouted the fence in front of the stands, flinging Claire Metcalfe over his head in the process. Miss Metcalfe was none the worse for the tumble.
5.20 2m 6 ½ f 0-109 Handicap Hurdle
The card finished with a moderate handicap of mainly exposed sorts.
I always make a mark against animals by Turtle Island when the going is soft or heavy. TURTLE SPIRIT obliged here, leading at the last and staying on better of the principals. He had shown some promise at Ayr previously and might be capable of building on this performance given similar conditions.
DON’T RUSH IT is a fetching sort who ran a second decent race since coming to the UK from Ireland. He’s yet to win a race, but this was only his twelfth visit to a racecourse and he seems to be improving with age. Showing the right attitude here it seems only a matter of time before he wins a staying hurdle.
SIRKEEL isn’t blessed with exceptional pace but does tend to stay on when others are stopping and occupied third here in front of THATLLDOFORME who led two out but was one paced once headed, though progressing a shade form recent Newcastle efforts.