Sunday, 25 April 2010

Perth Festival 2010 - Days Two And Three

Thursday April 22nd

Going- Good (Good to Soft in places)

2.10 2m ½f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

Venetia Williams normally saves at least one banker for this meeting, and this year it was CICERON who was much too good for this field of novices. He eased into the lead after two out and quickly went clear. He was an easy winner of handicaps on his previous two outings but gives the impression he can still defy a current mark of 128. Other than that, Miss Williams may search out non-handicaps where the conditions are not harsh on a three times winner.
There was plenty of promise in behind, the remainder being led home by WIND SHUFFLE who is progressing steadily at his own level. Despite clouting the last he kept on for a clear second and should find a minor event if repeating this effort.
BALGANORE made a satisfactory start over hurdles, held form two out but keeping on for third. It could be that a slightly stiffer test will suit him over hurdles, but he will certainly learn from this experience.
ACCORDINGTOTHEBOSS stayed on for fourth if never getting near the leaders. He wasn’t fancied here, and is more of a long term project, but he showed enough to suggest he can be placed to win in time.
I saw TANGO FOXTROT contest a maiden hurdle on my visit to Bellewstown in 2005. He remains a maiden almost five years later and no nearer to winning, setting the pace but offering nothing once headed two out.

2.40 3m ½f 0-112 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

GRAND UNION returned from a couple of unsuccessful attempts over fences, staying on well late to snatch the race on the line. He’s lightly raced and could now be getting the hang of the game.
BALLYMACDUFF raced prominently, as is typical for this headstrong sort. He looked the likely winner, keeping on to the line, but was but was just held in the run to the line.
PROFICIENCY acquitted himself well on his first effort in a handicap. He took it up two out and looked the winner but was run out of it in the last 50 yards. The application of the visor seemed to do no harm and Sue Bradburne should be able to secure a race with this one before long.
SOLWAY ALLY has been in good form lately, but an extra seven pounds might have made the difference and he was anchored approaching the last.
THE GROOVY MULE improved on previous hurdling efforts, outpaced two out but keeping on again from the last. He looks one who will need a stiff test to show his true worth.
PLAYING THE FIELD, nine pounds clear at the top of the handicap, should have had a class advantage. However his temperament showed through. He hung left and then dipped out at the course exit past the stands. One to treat with caution at the moment.

3.10 3m 2½f Class 5 Hunters’ Chase

The hunter chase at this meeting has been run at three different distances in three years, firstly at 3m 7f, then dropping to 2m 4f before splitting the difference this year. I think this is about the ideal distance for the billed ‘Champion Stayers’ in this class.
LEADING MAN had offered encouragement in a recent pointing win and confirmed his well being, showing the reason for his 128 rating in coming clear from three out. He had his nearest challenger held when one departed two out and if staying in this mood can trouble better company.
DIX VILLEZ led until four out but could not raise his pace form that point. He is racing honestly enough but just stays on.
TYNEDALE stays well but was struggling form the fourteenth.
FLOREANA pressed the leaders four out and was pursuing the winner when unseating two out. She was running way above her rating here and would doddle a minor hunter chase if fortune and brain were in gear at the same time.
ISLAND FLYER was close up but slow at the fifteenth and was pulled up swiftly before two out. He may have knocked himself as his rider thought he had lost his action, but he returned sound.
OPTIMISTIC HARRY won at Sedgefield when the others came back to him, but that didn’t happen here and he was tailed off when pulled up in the straight.
ALMOST BLUE was held on ratings but performed so far below par that there may well be something amiss at present. (Whatever was the problem Almost Blue ran second in the Members’ at Balcormo Mains two days later, though I’m not sure all is well.)

3.45 3m Class 2 Kilmany Cup Chase

A desperately disappointing turn out for this event given a strong five-day entry. It will be interesting to see if the course executive considers reverting to a handicap in the future.
BROOKLYN BROWNIE has not really fired this season, and finished distressed on his last outing, but he does go well around here. He was going well three out, soon took over and stayed on well to the line. Options are being kept open, with retirement a possibility though hunter chasing is another option.
OLLIE MAGERN is on the downgrade these days but kept on for second though well held from two out. Given his falling rating, if he is kept racing next season then he seems to keep enough enthusiasm to be aimed at veteran chases.
SELECTION BOX last won in the mud at Ayr in March 2009. He was outpaced from four out.
BACKSTAGE weakened quickly down the far side for the last time. Connections couldn’t tie down a particular problem and it could be that the exertions at Aintree were still being felt. He was one of my selections for the National, and desperately unlucky as he tripped over a loose horse which fell in front of him. He’s got plenty of time and it would be worth targeting the Grand National in 2011.

4.20 2m 0-134 Handicap Chase
Peter Montieth has had a low key season, struggling for a while after the freeze, but at least he managed to record a win at the Scottish finale as versatile NELSON DU RONCERAY took the Bill and Bunny Cadogan Trophy. This one has dropped to a manageable mark over both hurdles and fences, challenging on the flat to wrest the race from front-running Go Silver Bullet. Monteith has options for the future for this one.
GO SILVER BULLET had a good attempt to make all but was foiled on the run to the line. He needs good ground, perhaps even faster, and this runs signals his well being. He does need things his own way but Lucinda Russell should find him race off his current mark of 120.
DE BOITRON couldn’t follow up his Cheltenham win though was only run out of it on the run-in. He’s probably suited by being held up in a bigger field, so to go close was a decent effort.
TRAMANTANO had every chance approaching the last but the first three had greater reserves. He’s another who needs covering up and might have seen too much daylight in this small field.
The veteran POLAR GUNNER unseated at the seventh.

4.55 2m 4 ½ f 0-131 Handicap Hurdle

Venetia Williams landed a second win on the day as QUARTZ DE THAIX made his class tell in a decent little contest, following up a good win at Cheltenham. He stayed on to lead at the last, and has benefitted from a return to hurdling having looked a little hesitant at times over fences.
PONTOP normally gives his running and lost nothing in finishing second to an in-form opponent for the second time in a few days, being headed at the last and unable to respond.
HEARTHSTEAD DREAM kept on from two out for third. He runs often but his wins are few and far between these days and the handicapper has him at his level.
LEAD ON ran respectably in fourth. Hard to get to the track regularly he could step up on this while in good heart.
LOS NADIS returned from an unsuccessful attempt at chasing but was held from three out.
TILLIETUDLEM couldn’t dominate in this tougher company and was well beaten.

Friday April 23rd

Going- Soft

Morning rain meant the ground turned soft and ensured a real test for the Highland National, the finale to the Scottish season.

2.05 2m ½ f Class 4 Maiden Hurdle

SOLWAY SAM had run in a Grade 2 at Aintree, but this was a much more sensible level and Liz Harrison landed a second win at the meeting. He chased the leader two out and took over approaching the last. Harrison will no doubt be looking to keep her string on the boil ready for an assault at her local Cartmel meeting in late May. Solway Sam is arguably a little better on a sound surface so a dry spell would do no harm.
RUBIPRESENT stayed on form two out to snatch second close home. He showed some promise in bumpers and should progress with a stiffer test.
DEISE DAN led and was still going well two out. His jumping seems to have been sharpened in the McBratney yard and he kept on once passed, His winning turn looks merely delayed.
MR TALLYMAN ran with a degree of promise in fourth place. He will be better placed after another run qualifies him for handicaps.
MALIN BAY was shade disappointing back in fifth and made no impression on the leaders in the straight.

2.40 2m Class 2 Novices’ Chase

GRINGO looked a very nice prospect when winning at Sedgefield before Christmas and he confirmed the promise against tougher opponents here. He made progress to challenge at the last and stayed on best of the three principles to win The ‘Little Bay’ Trophy. One who has taken time to mature, he shows an aptitude for chasing and might be one to look out for in handicaps next season.
RORY BOY led for most of the way and though staying on was headed near the line. He ran pretty much to the pound with the winner according to official ratings and lost nothing in defeat. He’s a five-year-old and it’s possible he has a little more in the locker.
RIGUEZ DANCER was held from the last but another to emerge from the race with credit since he had something to find with the first two. He goes well in the mud so the morning rain was in his favour.
RIGHT OR WRONG couldn’t match the first three from the third last. Nevertheless, he was another to emerge from a decent looking contest with credit since he was making his chasing debut.
STAR TENOR had no chance at the weights an unseated at the second, having jumped the first two awkwardly. As an aside, he jumped a good deal better when unencumbered with a jockey!

3.15 3m 3f 0-124 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

A contest reduced to six by two withdrawals, and one that was slog in the mud. This was the final of a Conditionals’ Series sponsored by Betfair and just a shame that field cut up.

Some very promising young jockeys were on show and Keith Donoghue took the honours as Tony Martin kept one up his sleeve for the meeting. ELBOW HIGH has clearly been difficult to keep fit, but he showed he has plenty of ability and staying power, leading at the last and winning driven out. He clearly stays all day and given that he’s a half-brother to Dun Doire, might be an interesting prospect if able to get a full season under his belt. He has few miles on the clock.
Sam Twiston-Davies, newly turned professional, took second place on VIKING BLOND who chased the winner up the run-in. He dived at the last which didn’t help his cause and was held from that point. He’s related to winning chasers and long term might be a staying chase prospect.
SIBENEK led three out but could only offer one pace once headed at the next. This was his best effort since moving to Martin Todhunter. His two Irish wins came in heavy and soft/heavy, and in Ireland they tend to judge going a degree better than the UK, so it’s clear the deeper the conditions the better.
WATERCOLOURS lost touch after the ninth but managed to overtake a rapidly weakening WILD CANE RIDGE. The latter can handle the ground but might have found this one test too many for now.
NIGHT FORCE unseated at the seventh before they had starting racing in earnest.

3.45 3m 7f Press And Journal Highland National 0-120 Handicap Chase

This event was upped in class by 5lbs to a 0-120 and has turned into a fitting highlight of the Scottish season’s finale day. Given that the Scottish National runners were rated 116 upwards then it neatly covers the ‘second division’ of the staying chase brigade. It seems to me that this year’s renewal was the best yet, though double winner Laertes was still handicapped out of it on 125.
James Evans hadn’t been to Perth since his riding days a couple of decades and the rest ago, but he spotted an opportunity for his French-bred stayer OMIX D’OR who was recording a third win of the season. Revelling in the conditions, he kept on better than his tried opponents towards the end of the slog in the mud, even a bad mistake at the third last not taking the stuffing out of him. He has presumably earned a nice rest until the autumn.
PETITE MARGOT isn’t the most consistent but she stays all day and kept on to the line for second. For all that she can be frustrating, she’s now recorded 11 wins and 8 seconds from 45 visits to the racecourse.
PANAMA AT ONCE signalled a return to form at Hexham on Monday and stayed on through beaten rivals to secure third. He was tired himself but is game and stays well in these conditions. It’s pleasing to him back to his best as the crunching fall he took at Kelso earlier in the season looked like ‘curtains’. After a period of recuperation he was below form, but with confidence restored he can now challenge again at his level.
LYDON HOUSE was runner-up here two years ago but was clearly tired down the far side and couldn’t summon reserves to get close from that point. To his credit he has attained a career high mark at the age of eleven.
OVER THE CREEK led for the first three miles. He was still in contention approaching three out, but the petrol gauge was well into the red zone and he had only enough left to get home. He comes out of this race with as much credit as any and it was game effort.
LAVENOAK LAD completed the finishers having weakened four out. He has had some tough old slogs this winter and this may have been one too many.
BLAZING DIVA fell at the second, badly hampering BEAR WITNESS who was pulled up before the next.
NOBLE BILY was well beaten in seventh when Alex Merriam was unseated in agonising slow motion three out. He won in a similar slog at Folkestone, but the relentless pace set by Over The Creek did for a few here.
The remainder pulled up and are listed in racecard order, led by MINSTER SHADOW who was in rear going on to the last circuit and pulled up before three out.
KELLS CASTLE was second in this event last year but he struggles in the mud and was struggling by halfway, pulling up before the final circuit.
STAR PLAYER, totally out of form in recent times, raced well enough for a couple of circuits but lost touch form the nineteenth and was soon pulled up.
SHREWD INVESTOR is suited by small fields and was struggling early, calling it day before the twelfth.
ROYAL MACKINTOSH has yet to prove he sees out extreme trips and all his best efforts have been at Carlisle. He raced towards the rear, was struggling at halfway and pulled up going on to the last circuit.
SIMPLY SMASHING needs good or fast ground and his rider called it a day after a circuit. He’s much better than this and wasn’t forced to over exert himself once it was obvious he was struggling.
SAMMY SPIDERMAN is unlikely to be suited by the extreme trip. He was held up in rear but could never make progress even to midfield and was pulled up before the eighteenth. Three miles or less is more realistic.
SOLWAY BAY hasn’t done anything over fences to suggest any hope in this event. He raced in rear, lost touch before the final circuit and his jockey soon called it a day.

So that’s it folks, the story of one my favourites races and its 2010 renewal.

4.15 2m 4½f 0-115 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

DANISH REBEL, coming off a 446-day lay-off, went off in front and stayed there. He was twenty lengths up by the third flight, given a breather mid-race and had more than enough in hand from two out.
STOPPED OUT chased the leader from the sixth but never got to him. He won easily at Kelso last time and this was a decent follow up effort.
SOLIS is a well exposed maiden who sometimes finishes well but seldom threatens to win. He kept on for third.
The remainder were strung out like washing on a line with a handful skipping the last couple of flights.

4.50 2m 4½f 0-128 Novices’ Handicap Chase

NEDZER’S RETURN made a quick return to the track and cruised up as easily as he had done on Wednesday. He led from the final bend and came comfortably clear.
SINATAS stayed on from two out and shaded the race for second. This run confirmed the impression from his first chasing effort that he should win a chase or two.
Maiden chaser SOTOVIK raced prominently but could only keep on at one pace once headed three out. However, this was as good an effort as he has produced over fences.
POSEIDON was close up to four out but outpaced in the straight.
DAR ES SALAAM had made progress from the back when hitting four out and unseating.
CARRIETAU led but he was headed at the ninth and pretty much downed tools from that point. This was disappointing from one who has shown great resolution this season.
MR WOODS never got near the front and weakened on the run to four out at which point he was pulled up, PAMAK D’AIRY being another to pull up just one fence later having raced in rear.

5.20 2m ½f NH Flat

It was unclear to me exactly what happened, but both the favourite FAIRYNUFF and NIPPER NIAL decanted their jockeys at the start. This was a disappointing finish to the meeting.
Of those that remained SKIPPER ROBIN had the best form and he stayed on from two furlongs out to take the race.
FORCEFIELD gave some encouragement at Musselburgh on his first outing, and confirmed the promise by staying on in the straight having been caught for pace about three furlongs out. The Nick Alexander trained gelding looks to have enough about him to pick up a race or two over jumps.
Lucinda Russell’s FIGHTSTAR was a one paced third, just ahead of the Alexander second string NORTHERN FLAME who will be better suited by a greater test of stamina.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Perth Festival 2010 - Day One

Wednesday April 21st

Going – Good (Good To Soft in places)

There’s been a decent dry spell in Scotland, caused by the same high pressure that has seen the volcanic ash hang around in the atmosphere with chaotic consequences. Nothing like natural forces to prove how small we are? Perth opened their three day Festival opened on a bright afternoon, though the turf was showing clear signs of the hard winter suffered in this part of the world. The grass growth in Scone Palace Park is not what it might have been and it might need another month or so before the course is in its best condition.

2.10 2m 4 ½ f Class 4 Maiden Hurdle

First blood to the Irish raiding party in the opening maiden hurdle, the more competitive of the two divisions. These events are less well contested this side of the Irish Sea and it isn’t unusual to see Irish winners of such events at Perth.
Maiden point winner KILBRANNISH HILL had shown improved form when fourth at Downpatrick and proved best here. He was forced to pull out all the stops to hold on though and would struggle under a penalty in a novice event. Rated 110 he would appear well collared in handicaps.
PEGASUS PRINCE had every chance but carried his head rather awkwardly on the run-in suggesting he’s by no means straightforward. Three times second he’s becoming a bit frustrating.
APACHE COUNTRY made satisfactory comeback after a 14-month break and would appear the one most likely to go forward from this. He disputed most of the way but weakened after the last. It wouldn’t surprise me if Gordon Elliott brings this one back here for a similar event.
The third of the Irish challengers I NEED A HERO was one paced from four out.
CIRCUS CLOWN, well held in heavy ground before this, made a little late progress.
ROLL OVER ROSE, promising at Hexham, struggled in the final mile and was pulled up. Campbell Gillies reported that the bit slipped through the mare’s mouth.

2.45 3m ½ f Class 2 Novices’ Hurdle

Not a big field but nevertheless this was a competitive event. As can happen at this time of year form from a big meeting was let down as the favourite was beaten.
Gordon Elliott’s MEATH ALL STAR showed promise at Musselburgh earlier this season and had recorded two UK wins since. He was lowest rated here, but his presence at Cheltenham suggested he’s highly regarded, and he proved his quality here going away from an Aintree third on the run-in.
POSSOL, third to Big Buck’s at Cheltenham, let down favourite backers when unable to respond once passed going to the last.
SOFT SPOKEN GUY had done Maurice Barnes proud in recent weeks and was not disgraced in third less than a length behind Possol. He looks an honest sort and should be a fair prospect for staying handicaps next season.
CARSONSTOWN BOY has made steady progress since winning here last May. He could make no impression from two out.
THE KNOXS was very disappointing and eased right down once beaten two out.

3.20 3m Class 2 Novices’ Chase

DIABLO was one I had marked down as a chasing prospect when I first saw him at Perth. He’s taken time to get off the mark but, apart from a struggle at Aintree in the Topham, is going the right way. He pushed on in the straight and stayed on under pressure.
BARCADERO ran about as well as could be expected on previous form at these weights. He couldn’t raise his game from two out.
LATANIER seems to have tailed of for the season and may be in need of a rest. He produced a second consecutive tame display, being beaten by the entrance to the final straight.
EL BANDINDOS had done nothing lately to suggest he could trouble the other three. He didn’t look keen, was detached by the twelfth and soon pulled up.

3.55 2m ½ f 0-125 Handicap Hurdle

David Pipe’s stable have been firing of late and SURE JOSIE SURE was backed down to favourite for a competitive handicap hurdle. A drop back in trip here seemed to suit and she stayed on under pressure. The mare seems versatile as she’s recorded good form at a number of different tracks and handles good ground as well as heavy.
NEARBY has been running well from a mark which pretty well reflects his current ability. He pulled hard early, which may not have helped, but chased the leader honestly enough from two out if held. He is a winner on fast ground so might be kept on the go for the summer.
DRUMSHAMBO ran a respectable third on handicap debut and should be capable of picking up a similar event with the experience behind him. He’s only four years old and probably still has a little strengthening to do.
WORD OF WARNING was held from two out and will probably benefit from a step back up in trip.
FRONT RANK stayed on late and is not especially reliable.
SANTA’S SON has struggled over fences and has been sent back hurdling of late. He led or disputed to two out but was unable to produce extra once challenged, not looking particularly well treated off 125 at this time.

4.30 2m 4 ½ f 0-130 Handicap Chase

NEDZER’S RETURN might prove to be a fair bit better than the 121 that he ran off here. Progressive before falling at the Canal Turn in the Aintree Foxhunters’, he continued his progress here with a comfortable win. Despite idling on the run-in he had plenty in hand and could be one to kick on into decent handicaps next season.
STORYMAKER is in decent form at the moment and ran a creditable race against a well handicapped opponent. He saw off the rest well enough and should be capable of picking up a race in this form.
QUICUYO closed to four out but was held once turned for home.
NIKOLA was close enough two out, but belted the fence and with that went his chance.
SAFARI ADVENTURES likes to dictate the pace so had a tough task on here and gave way from four out. Small fields probably give him his best chance off his current mark.
EMERGENCY EXIT jumped abysmally and his chance had gone approaching four out.
SUPER BABY had a tough task here and, though he jumped better than of late, he was beaten from four out.
MIGHTY MASSINI was never going and pulled up before three out. It’s possible his fall last time has knocked his confidence.
BRAVE REBELLION jumped moderately, was struggling early and pulled up before two out.
OR DE GRUGY, rated 123, has not won off a mark in the 120s. He struggled from halfway, pulling up before three out.

5.05 2m 4 ½ f Class 4 Maiden Hurdle

CAULKIN, an Irish point winner, was a comfortable winner of a weak looking contest after being switched from hunter chases. This was good placement, or fortunate placement given that the race was divided, and life will be tougher under a novice penalty.
PATRIOT is well exposed and his second place does precious little for the form of the remainder.
CHARLIE BUCKET made late progress into third while ROSSINI’S DANCER couldn’t up his game from two out.
DEVIL WATER was below his best and James Ewart’s stable have been struggling in the last couple of weeks. His jockey claimed he wasn’t suited by the going, but quite frankly I don’t buy that excuse.

5.40 3m ½ f 0-100 Handicap Hurdle

Anyone who writes about horse racing will tell you that there is always one horse out there waiting to make you look stupid. It my case it’s the Liz Harrison trained LIZ’S DREAM who I wrote off as big and slow at Carlisle in October. Having found a good reason to explain a Newcastle win as a fluke it was clear he had no chance here… You can imagine that I was sitting rather uncomfortably as ‘the slow old boat’ cruised up behind the leaders going down the far side. In the end he had to work quite hard for victory but did it well enough, and this lightly raced ten-year-old is making up for lost time.
MANADAM moved into contention approaching the last but was held on the run-in. On the face of it this was a fair effort, but this wasn’t a strong event.
TOP BRASS stayed on well for third while AGHILL posted a fair fourth upped in distance, though showing a lack of pace in the latter stages.
LEITH WALK was disappointing taking on an easier task than her last two runs.
BUBBLY BREEZE, noted in a hot novice at Musselburgh, raced promisingly until two out. He’s going the right way and I’m sure he will leave this form behind if going chasing.

Hexham - Four staying chases

HEXHAM – Monday 19th April

Going – Good to Firm changed to Good to Soft from race 4.

Time constraints mean by observations are in quick note form.

2.30 3m 1f 0-99 Handicap Chase

1 PANAMA AT ONCE – back to form; confidence restored; on a very low mark of 87 here and may win again.
2 BENNY THE PILER – stayed on from three out; good sign for new stable; acts on fast ground.
3 ESME RIDES A GAINE – off bridle in rear most of the way; stayed on for third.
4 I’M YOUR MAN – went well until fading in the straight; needs things his own way.
5 SYCHO FRED – faded from two out.
6 FINBIN – no show and tailed off.
7 PRINCE OF SLANE – tailed off; out of form.
8 TORA BORA – prominent early but faded from fourteenth; seems a moody sort.
9 ANOTHER DARK RUM – staying on three out, weakened quickly form the bottom of the hill; may be a bit better long term.
P - CRACKADEE – pulled up twelfth and out of sorts this season.
P – COLDWELLS – rear until pulled up before last.
P – NORMINSTER – breathing problem; well out of sorts; Nixon stable in the doldrums.
P - PANTHERS RUN – rear from halfway and pulled up with a breathing problem.

3.00 3m 1f 0-97 Handicap Chase

1 COPPER’S GOLD – went on four out and clear last; good follow up to Musselburgh win off a break; goes well on fast ground.
2 GREENANDREDPARSON – outpaced three out but stayed on late; best effort to date.
3 TULLY HILL – close up to two out but tired from there.
4 SEEK THE TRUTH – weakened from two out; disappointing recently.
5 WINDY HILLS – weakened four out and tailed off.
UR – HASPER – feeling pinch when hit four out and unseated.
F – BARDOLET – midfield when fell twelfth.
P – KALMO BAY – held up and took no interest; pulled up before three out.
P – CASH ON FRIDAY – disappointing after last time; unpredictable.
P – OLD NODDY – disappointing back over fences.
P – ANOTHER CHARMER – never better than midfield; pulled up before four out.
P – WITNESS RUN – never going; pulled up twelfth; regressive.

3.30 2m 4 ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

1 CHESTER LAD – confirmed promise here; came away flat to win very nicely; learning fast.
2 LAST OF THE BUNCH – kept on for second; jumped better.
3 DICE – held from the top of the hill; some promise.
4 COUNTY COLOURS – held in the straight; frustrating.

4.00 3m 1f 0-130 Handicap Chase

Decent event for a quiet Monday.

1 LEAC AN SCAIL – versatile and consistent; always prominent, led three out, held on bravely.
2 BAY CHERRY – steadily improving staying chaser; stayed on flat, just held; will win soon.
3 HARRY FLASHMAN – always prominent; stayed on flat, held; decent effort; chance if dropped in class.
4 CAST IRON CASEY – never quite get to leaders and held from three out; possibly better at shorter.
5 ZITENKA – lost touch from three out; all wins within 15 days of last run.
6 NEWMAN DES PLAGES – weakened three out; below form of late.
7 WAR FOOTING – never going; tailed off.
UR – MR POINTMENT – unseated at fourth.
P – REEL CHARMER – lost touch four out; disappointing; trainer felt race may have come too soon.
P – SEIZE –reported as not suited by the softened ground.

4.30 2m ½ f 0-112 Handicap Hurdle

1 HEAVENLY CHORUS – back to hurdling; closed two out and ran on to lead near line; trip over this stiff course suited.
2 MINI MINSTER – led or disputed all the way; denied close home; good effort and in good heart; good record at Hexham.
3 CHIP N PIN – every chance last, one pace; still a maiden and lacks finishing pace.
4 LADY SAMBURY –stayed on late for a well held fourth.
F – NEVSKY BRIDGE – covered up for a challenge when falling heavily at the last.

5.05 3m 1f Class 6 Hunters’ Chase

1 ELIZA DOALOTT – game mare; jumps well; led last and ran on well; good effort in decent event.
2 PEN GWEN – led or disputed most of the way; ran on; held by better opponent; in good heart.
3 SILVER SEDGE – held flat; another decent effort.
4 WILLYWONT HE – one pace form last; jumped better than previous Rules efforts.
5 AREYACODDINMEE – lost touch two out; found this too tough.
6 QUEEN OF DIAMONDS – weakened from the top of the hill.
7 ANSHAN SPIRIT – struggled form a mile out; reported as not handling the ground, though it’s been no problem before.

5.35 2m ½ f NH Flat

1 TIPTOEAWAY – good turn of foot in final two furlongs; impressive looking sort; should make a decent jumper.
2 MASTER MURPHY – led four furlongs out, kept on once passed; half brother to winning pointer.
3 NOBLE SCHOLAR – kept on; improvement on debut effort.
4 SHOOTING TIMES – one pace final two furlongs; will need a test of stamina.
5 JAGO RIVER – disappointing favourite; struggling from five out.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Scottish Grand National Meeting

Going – Good

This was a rattling good meeting for the home contingent with five winners over the two days, including the first Scottish-trained winner of the big event since Ken Oliver’s Cockle Strand back in 1982.

The weather has been dry for a week or two in Scotland, so the ground had been watered to maintain good ground. The area of ground around the second last fence on the far side, troublesome for the last two seasons, saw the fence removed completely and the hole filled to enable the chasers to gallop through. There was still a problem with the ground however, the horses in Friday’s third race disturbing the ground and revealing a large hole caused by a collapsed drain. There was a thirty-five minute delay before the while the area was fenced off.

Friday April 16th

1.45 2m ½f 0-127 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

I’d marked down TILLITUDLEM as one to look out for as he matured, and I bored a few work colleagues at a Hamilton meeting telling them how this one would do well over hurdles. I doubt anyone remembered, and we’ve gone our separate ways since, but Jim Goldie’s grey gelding proved me right given the right tactics, distance and ground. Kicking on from the start, and with a couple of the southern challengers exiting at halfway, he had his field on the stretch coming into the straight and was in no danger from that point. He’ll go up in the weights, but the family have got better with age and Jim Goldie may still be able to place him to win with the sun on his back.
McMURROUGH has proved a slightly quirky soul if perfectly capable on his day. Coming off a good win at Haydock he stayed on for second, though a tendency to hold his head awkwardly and a couple of sloppy jumps didn’t help in the closing stages.
BENNY BE GOOD has been performing solidly in northern novice events and ran to his level in third if held from two out. He should be competitive in staying handicap hurdles in future.
LARKS LAD fell at the sixth hampering SHADOW DANCER who unseated, and the remainder, RAVETHEBRAVE, exposed SOLWAY BAY and disappointing MUDAWIN (poor jumping again) were well beaten.

2.20 2m 5f 0-118 Novices’ Handicap Chase

PHONE IN had shown intermittent promise in the past, and things clicked on this occasion. He jumped soundly enough, moved up smoothly to lead four out and ran on well in the closing stages. This was a good effort and he might be interesting aimed at similar events in the coming weeks.
WORK BOY has been in good form of late and ran to his best if just held off his revised mark.
SMUGGLERS BAY ahs proved frustrating but put in a solid effort in staying on to take third. He certainly saw out this trip well enough.
BENE LAD and PRIDEUS set a decent pace but paid for it in the latter stages, dropping away quickly form three out. Scottish trained BENE LAD might put this race behind him given the right circumstances.
THE PANAMA KID and MARCUS both performed poorly and were tailed off in the later stages.
STAR BEAT led early but was struggling down the far side and was pulled up.
Kauto Star’s half-brother KAUTO THE KID departed at the first on his UK debut.

2.50 3m ½ f 0-123 Handicap Hurdle

FEDERSTAR, a recent winner at Hexham and Haydock, found no difficulty with a step up in trip and came clear from two out. His mark should go into the 130s now which will force him up in class.
ITS TOUGH ran a fine race from the bottom of the handicap for a stable who have struggled at times this season. He’s plummeted down the handicap since a promising start to his hurdling career and looks primed for a win if dropped in class.
WATERCOLOURS stayed on late she has done previously. She’s well related and should win a race or two in time over this sort of trip.
SIRKEEL stayed on at one pace but is desperately short of finishing pace. It would be hoped that he might use superior jumping to make a mark over fences in time.
DELIGHTFULLY slipped and fell after the third and may have injured herself.

3.25 2m 4f 0-148 Handicap Chase

A cracking competitive chase on a card full of decent contests.
Regular readers will know that I’ve had a high regard for STORMIN EXIT ever since I saw him makes his rules bow. He has a fair turn of speed, but more importantly has guts and determination in abundance. He progressed down the straight and led on the flat under driving. Given his qualities, Jim Goldie has a decent animal to take into middle-distance handicaps next season.
FIVE DREAM, whose attitude has been called into question in the past, was held from the last but put up a solid effort in second. Over fences he seems better on a relatively flat track as his other wins have come at Aintree and Fontwell.
TAKEROC closed on the leaders to two out but an extra effort was just beyond him.
CHANINBAR needed some encouragement to line up. It’s amazing how persuasive a trainer waving a racecard can be! He was thereabouts all the way and pressed on down the far side for the final time. Headed at the eleventh he could muster only one pace and maybe his efforts at Aintree may have made the difference.
LASKARI go to the heels of the leaders in the straight but was held. If you strip out his efforts over longer trips his form reads 112135 and he was only beaten six lengths here so always worth considering around this distance.
CALATAGAN chased the leaders from four out but couldn’t get to them.
MISTER MCGOLDRICK found it a struggle from the final turn and may just have had one race too many for this season. He seems to retain his zest and we may well see him again after a break.
GAELIC FLIGHT normally runs well off a break but dropped away form the home turn.
BILL’S ECHO jumped poorly and ended up tailed off. He may be better on good ground against inferiors.
TAROTINO fell five out when still on the bridle, hampering RAYSROCK who unseated and was feeling the pinch anyway.
CHARINGWORTH was held up in the rear. He was staying on when falling at the last and looked likely to finish in the first three. This was a good effort for one relatively inexperienced and he would have every chance in a less competitive race.
BIBLE LORD’s recent profile ins nothing to shout about and he struggled from halfway, pulling up down the back straight.

4.00 3m ½ f 0-141 Mares’ Handicap Hurdle

CAROLE’S LEGACY came here following a decent second to Quevega at Cheltenham. That performance suggested class enough to hold off opponents rated 125 and less. She tired on the run-in but had gone clear and won on merit. She’s useful versatile sort and Nick Henderson has both hurdling and chasing options.
The consistent POKANOKET ran creditably, staying on for second with DOUBLE HIT repeating Newbury form with winner.
James Lambe’s RING STREET ROLLER picked up from the rear to stay on for fourth. This was a good effort from just out of handicap and Lambe will presumably target a race or two in the UK in the coming weeks. The same goes for the other Irish trained runner POSH BIRD who secured a sound fifth against decent opponents.

4.35 3m 1f Class 4 Claimer

The training contingent in the UK don’t seem keen on these events and only five went to post. However, Lucinda Russell had spotted an opportunity for the evergreen CATCH THE PERK and he looks full of zest for the game at thirteen, recording a fourteenth career win. He clearly enjoyed the chance to dominate in this small field and always looked the winner once turned for home. He probably needs things his own way, but retains his ability and one last hurrah in a handicap doesn’t look beyond him if he’s inclined.
COQ HARDI racing on exact handicap terms with the winner looked less keen on exerting himself from four out.
HARMONY BRIG, blinkered for the first time, weakened from four out and needs things his own way.
MARLEYBOW was tiring a mile out and ended up well tailed off. He has ability but there could be something ailing him.

5.10 2m 4f 0-125 C.J. Handicap Hurdle

RAMSDEN BOY has made great steps forward now the ground has dried out. He stayed on strongly from two out to take this event and may score again.
DEGAS ART led until just before the last. He had a disappointing spell chasing but a break and return to hurdling seem to have revitalised him.
PREMIER DANE ran a creditable third off top weight. He’s on a manageable mark and likes this ground, but hasn’t won for quite a while.
SUMMER SOUL plugged on for fourth but is basically frustrating.
KNIGHT LEGEND was a well held fifth, while BENMADIGAN ran creditably from near the bottom of the handicap and is much better carrying weight in a lower class. I would keep him in mind under those circumstances.

Saturday April 17th

1.45 2m Class 3 Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle

HUNTERVIEW dictated from start to finish and nothing got near him. He ahs had some stiff tasks and was much better off in this easier company.
Lucinda Russell’s DEVOTION TO DUTY showed plenty of promise in second place. He was held up and never got near the leader, but was a clear second best and looks an interesting prospect for the coming weeks. His jumping let him down first time, but given a chance to settle he performed solidly and I’ll put him on my list to follow.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN is a solid performer and ran to his best his third, while ASCENDANT has more ability than his novicey jumping is allowing him to show.
ADVISOR was disappointing and was beaten three out.
TOMBOV was promising on the flat but went backwards. He moved to James Ewart from Alan King after some moderate hurdles efforts and Ewart has some work to do on him. He was held from four out.

2.15 2m 4f Grade 2 Novices’ Chase

This was a very interesting contest with five progressive sorts, though we lost KANGAROO COURT at the first when he fell.
FRENCH OPERA has performed well all season and stayed form two out to see off the persistent Tchico Polos. He made his mark in the Grand annual and will presumably be aimed at a string of top middle distance handicaps next term.
TCHICO POLOS was held from the last but performed to his best. He looks another likely to follow the route taking in Cheltenham middle distance handicap chases and similar.
FIENDISH FLAME ran nicely in front but is a bit below the top level of novices and wasn’t good enough from three out.
FORTYSECOND STREET is below the level of the others and struggled from five out. He’ll be better of chasing middle grade handicaps next season.

2.45 2m Grade 2 Scottish Champion Hurdle (0-147 Handicap)

As has been pointed out elsewhere, the concept of a ‘Champion Hurdle’ and a handicap are contradictions, though coming hard on the heels of Cheltenham and Aintree, and with Punchestown coming up, I can see the reasoning for making this a handicap. That being said this is a pretty decent contest if accepted for what it is.
Progressive handicapper OVERTURN took this. His hurdling is still a bit messy and there’s plenty of scope for improvement in this free-going sort if he gets his jumping act together. He stayed on well and nothing in this field got to him.
GLOUCESTER needs holding up and though brought through the field in the straight could make no impression on the winner.
ARCALIS isn’t as good as he was when a top hurdler in his younger days. However, Howard Johnson has certainly rekindled his enthusiasm and he stayed on for third here to add to a second in the County Hurdle. Hold up tactics seem to work well and he could be of interest if aimed at the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May.
ERADICATE won at Musselburgh in February but found this a good deal tougher and was held from two out, ten lengths behind the third and just holding off FRONTIER DANCER and Irish challenger LADY HILLINGDON .
MICHAEL FLIPS was beaten when falling three out and looks high in the weights at the moment.

3.20 4m ½f 0-153 Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase

The Crown Jewel of the Scottish jump season resulted in a home victory. MERIGO, aimed at the race all season, owned by staunch supporter of Scottish racing Raymond Anderson Green, ridden by his son-in-law Timmy Murphy and trained by Ecclefechan-based Andrew Parker, galloped on relentlessly to land the prize with a bit to spare. He led or disputed all the way and nothing could get to him in the final half mile.
Merigo is a fine strong staying sort who would no doubt go well around Aintree, though Anderson Green is not keen on the big test so we are unlikely to see him take on the big test. I would imagine he may go for the Welsh National next season, and event he missed this term after being snowed in. He may well be primed for a return to Ayr next April though and will remain competitive off a revised mark over extreme trips as he keeps galloping when most have slowed. There was a feeling that Merigo is best with cut in the ground but, as I pointed out elsewhere before hand, he recorded one of his best runs when defeating Ballabriggs on good ground here two years ago.
GONE TO LUNCH went close last year but was a definite second best this year. That being said, he stayed on well at the end and saw off the others for a gallant second place.
NO PANIC ran a storming race from out of the handicap. Still in his novice season, he has run some sound races and is a tough sort who has retained his form despite being kept on the go since last May. He is generally kept to better ground though has won in soft.
RAZOR ROYALE deserves credit for serving it up to the tough winner until the last half mile. He weakened from that point though retained enough energy to hold off Dom D’Orgeval for fourth. The trip probably just found him out here though he has speed to win back at three miles and has improved 20lbs over the winter.
DOM D’ORGEVAL found his stamina failing in the straight, though his exertions at Aintree may just have told in the final reckoning.
OUT THE BLACK couldn’t match his run of last year and was well beaten from four out.
IDLE TALK started to struggle going on to the final circuit. He looked tired down the back but was allowed to complete in his own time. His last win was in 2006.
AURORAS ENCORE departed at the first.
ACCORDING TO JOHN led until knuckling over at the fourth where his owner’s other runner THAT’S RHYTHM also came down. LOTHIAN FALCON was hampered and unseated and SUPERIOR WISDOM was another to fall. The fence was missed on the second circuit as Robert Walford(Lothian Falcon) was treated, but reinstated on the final circuit.
Also down was MONTERO who hadn’t been pressed when falling at the seventeenth.
The remainder were pulled up and are listed in racecard order. KILLYGLEN raced prominently but poor jumping sapped his strength, he dropped away and was pulled up before the eighteenth.
HALCON GENELARDAIS is struggling form a mark of 150 these days and weakened down the far side, pulling up before four out.
MOBAASHER hit ht first down the far side on the final circuit, dropped back and was pulled up before four out. As a seven-year-old he has time on his side and will do better in such races.
FAASEL is a cussed soul, didn’t jump well and never got involved. He kept going longer than many but his rider called it a day before two out.
THEATRICAL MOMENT made headway on to the last circuit, but started back pedalling after a couple more fences and was pulled up before two out.
POKER DE SIVOLA made progress on to the last circuit but was hampered when Montero fell and couldn’t recover. He’s better than this and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s back here and competitive next time.
GIDAM GIDAM has got himself high in the weights after a personal best at Doncaster. I don’t think he’s as good as that suggests and was struggling going on to the final circuit, pulling up soon after.
HIMALAYAN TRAIL didn’t look happy and probably needs it softer. He lost from the sixteenth and was pulled up before five out.
CHIARO made progress down the far side, but found the leaders galloping on too strongly for him. He was pulled up before three out.
MA YAHAB was off the bridle early on, not good in such a race, and well behind when pulled up before four out.
MEANUS DANDY went prominent approaching the last circuit but soon back pedalled and was another to skip a few in the straight.
PRESENT M’LORD, one who normally sticks on at the end, was struggling with eight to go and pulled up five out.
LORUM LEADER is right off his game at the moment. He was always in the rear division and pulled up five out.
SCOTS DRAGOON found this a lot tougher than the Grand Military Gold Cup. He felt the pinch from the fifteenth and was amongst a host who gave up the ghost five out.
CLENI BOY was never going, seemed to lack confidence in the big field and was pulled up at halfway.
WESTERN GALE, a winner at Hexham in October but off the track since, lost touch going on to the final circuit and joined the crowd of pullers-up five out. This was a big ask which he wasn’t up to.
CRAIGLANDS was outclassed in this company, couldn’t stick with them from halfway and was tailed off when pulled up.., you’ve guessed it, five out! He’s consistent at a lower level but was shooting for the moon here.

3.55 2m 5 ½f 0-144 Handicap Hurdle

ANDYTOWN bounced back to form taking the lead at the last and staying on well. He’s not been over-raced but is a decent performer in handicaps and is now 5 from 18.
RIPTIDE doesn’t look the most willing partner but Timmy Murphy, entitled perhaps to be basking in the glory, kept at him all the way round and still managed to coax enough to hold on for second. He’s not untalented and has won three over hurdles, but backers have to know what they are dealing with.
I used to think GLINGERBANK needed a rest between races, but it seems he just needed an injury free campaign and he recorded a sound third place if held from three out.
CASSIUS found this class just beyond him and couldn’t make any impression form two out. There are races to be won if campaigned at the right level.
RED HARBOUR has been progressive but was held form two out here. He did get bashed sideways by the wayward Riptide three out and that didn’t help him.
GRANDAD BILL was held in this company and probably needs to be pitched into 0-130 races.
KING OF CONFUSION downed tools going on to the last circuit and virtually pulled himself up. He stands little racing and on this evidence is none too keen when appearing.

4.30 2m 0-148 Handicap Chase

NOBLE REQUEST isn’t the easiest ride, but Richard Johnson saved some finishing speed and he ran on well for victory. There’s no guarantee he’ll produce the same next time.
FRED BOJANGAS has improved all season and produced a gallant effort in second, though unable to wear down the winner after the last. He’s a credit to his small stable who have had a fine season, ‘Fred’ and Treehouse doing their yard proud.
QUITO DU TRESOR challenged two out but couldn’t raise his game any further. This was a fair effort and a step back up in trip may see him find a little extra.
TAKEROC went well enough to four out before the effort of his Friday race must surely have taken its toll.
PEPSYROCK weakened two out while I’M DELILAH was struggling at halfway and is much better than a well beaten sixth here suggests.
FOLK TUNE was detached by halfway and pulled up.

5.05 3m 1f 0-134 Novices’ Handicap Chase

BALLY WALL broke a run of seconds, battling back having been headed two out and staying on well to win from NIKOS EXTRA who seemed to last the trip but might be better dropped back down a furlong or two.
MONT PRESENT was held from two out and EYRE SQUARE weakened form three out. The latter will do better over fences in time as he is a tough chasing sort. It could be that stiffer tracks play to his strengths.
MIDDFLETON DENE was desperately disappointing as was CORKAGE. Both were struggling not long past halfway and were pulled up. TANKS FOR THAT led form the third until four out before the effort told and he was pulled up after dropping back quickly.

5.35 2m NH Flat

Two came well clear. Nick Henderson’s SPRINTER SACRE looks something special since he won this cosily, being nudged out to get his head in front. He could be a bit special next year in novice hurdles.
Irish trained YES TOM lost nothing in defeat since he was 20-odd lengths clear of the rest. He tried hard to see off the winner but couldn’t get that one off the bridle for the most part.
Many struggled to match the leader from six furlongs out, though previous winner MISS ABBEY stayed on through the field for third.
HABBIE SIMPSON kept on for fourth.
INNOGGO probably has ability put pulled hard and paid for that once turned for home.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Amateurs' Day at Sedgefield

SEDGEFIELD – Monday April 12th

Going – Good (Good To Firm in places) – The ‘cross fence’ at the top of the hill was omitted in all chases.

An all amateur riders’ meeting and the ground dried out. My report is rather brief due to time constraints but I’ll try to cover the key points.

2.10 2m Class 4 Amateurs Riders’ Novices’ Hurdle

Progressive COASTLEY pulled clear from two out. With dry conditions suiting I presume he will have a target at Perth and will take the beating. SUMAK just held off pint-sized but big hearted RAVASWAMI for second. THE ONLY WAY kept on to finish close behind in fourth.

2.40 2m 4f Amateur Riders’ 0-105 Handicap Chase

I’ve asked questions in the past about TOULOUSE EXPRESS, but on his day he is very decent at this level and takes some passing. He had too much resolution for this field, recording his third course win. The ground is no problem and he’s still on a workable mark.
GENERAL HARDI chased from three out but couldn’t make an impression from the last. He’s only won one race in 30 attempts and that was on fast ground.
VIEL GLUCK seemed a good deal more willing than of late and only gave way approaching the last.
LAWAAHEB won in similar conditions here a year ago but was held form before the last off a higher mark. He is clearly difficult to keep fit as he has been lightly raced of late, but he’s worthy of consideration when fast ground prevails.
MISTIC ACADEMY was held from two out but was a fairly close fifth, a best effort on his eighth jumping effort.
WITNESS RUN faded from two out and it’s a long time since he won.
MUTUAL RESPECT weakened two out and is sliding down the handicap without out showing signs of winning.
IMPACT ZONE plugged on form the rear but never got into the race.
JANAL was never dangerous, MANOUBI has been running well lately but can be moody and never got involved and WHATCANYASAY is right out of sorts at present.
CLOUDIER led to three out but then quickly retreated.
EBAC showed a chink of light last spring, but that flame seems extinguished and he was well beaten when unseating two out.

3.10 2m 4f Novices’ Hunter Chase

OVER TO JOE stayed on well to lead close home. He was very ordinary in handicaps and just beat SEAVIEW LASS, a mare who pulled up on her only other effort under rules in 2007. Both are point winners but not likely to make an impact in tougher hunter chases.
CRASHTOWN HALL stayed on late having been well behind. His hurdling form suggests he would be better than some of these, but there was no hint of that here.
RACING ACE was outpaced from three out and needs more of a stamina test.
MISTALAD and FIFTH COLUMN were beaten from halfway.
FAIRY SKIN MAKER slipped up on the top bend.
BARRY THE CRACKER led until three but was tired when pulled up after two out. He looks too headstrong to last out under Rules.
JOHN DILLON and THE VIKING were prominent early but both faded and were pulled up in the straight.

3.40 2m 1f Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Selling Hurdle

The title of the race says it all.
Consistent but moderate PRIORYJO was good enough to hold the in-form SAMIZDAT. Both acquit themselves well enough in non-sellers.
The remainder, led by TAR and SILK AND ROSES, do not look win material.

4.10 3m 3f Hunters’ Chase

OPTIMISTIC HARRY looked to have no chance for most of this contest. Samantha Drake was rowing away form early on, but finally got a tune out of her mount as the others tired. For one rated only 71 over fences he has a reasonable record of 4 from 11 over jumps but as he is an 11-year-old that suggests he’s difficult to keep fit.
DIX VILLEZ looked the likely winner when Floreana jacked it in, but was out on his feet when caught on the run-in. Raw ability gets him in the mix, but his jumping isn’t the best when pressed and that hinders him in competitive events.
NADOVER was flattered when left a remote third approaching the last.
SENORA MOSS chased the leader early but was struggling on the final circuit and finished well beaten.
FLOREANA looked most likely to win approaching the last a couple of lengths up, but veered right and declined the fence.
WAS I RIGHT disappointed recently at Vale Of Lune and struggled going on to the final circuit before being pulled up.
FORTY SHAKES raced prominently early but was exhausted when clambering over two out at which point his jockey called it a day. With hindsight he probably wouldn’t have taken the second last.

4.40 2m 5f Hunters’ Chase

ROBIN DE SHERWOOD was once rated 130 and has been in good form in points. He challenged going to the last and just prevailed in a battle to the line. He looks to have enough about him to win again in this sphere.
PEN GWEN was always prominent and gave of his best if just foiled on the run-in. He had been struggling in handicaps but seems in better heart after a spell hunting.
BRIZE NORTON stayed on from well back for third.
BELEM RANGER unseated at the first in the Aintree foxhunters’ but jumped round after. He must have felt the effect of those self imposed exertions from three out here since he had every chance on his best form.
BAL DES CHAMPS raced keenly in front until headed and weakening before the last. This French import might be of interest in these events if he settles a little better.
KINFAYRE BOY lost touch from three out and LUCIUS RUFO dropped away after whacking the eleventh.
ALLUMEE is a light of former days, once rated 124, and was pulled up two out after never getting involved.
OCEAN DANCER has a dreadful record in recent times and has dropped from pulling up in handicaps to pulling up in a hunter chase. Retirement beckons as racing him seems futile these days.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Ladies' Day at Kelso

KELSO – Sunday April 11th

Going – Good to Soft(good in places)

Ladies’ Day at Kelso provided a bit of a taster before two of the major Scottish Festivals, The Scottish Grand National meeting at Ayr followed by the Perth Festival. A decent crowd, just in excess of 4,000, was in attendance on a glorious sunny day in the Borders.

Two pony races were run as preliminaries to the senior action and it’s a sound idea to have these races before the ‘main course’ rather than tacked on at the end. Clerk Of The Course Anthea Morshead did ‘stable girl’ honours for Over to Kerry, a runner in the six furlong 148cm and under race. The pony was ridden by one Henry Morshead. Nicely bred for the racing game, by Sam out of Anthea(!), the 12-year-old proved to a chip off the old block as he rode Over To Kerry to victory. The first race was smaller ponies was a mad dash, but tactics came into play in the 148cm class with the riders biding their time until two furlongs out. Young Morshead showed decent style in riding his mount out from that point.

2.20 2m ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

PYRACANTHA stepped up on a couple of fair runs in novice hurdles and came away from the last to win the opener. The drying ground may well have had an influence on his improvement and he might pick up another similar race soon under a penalty.
QUATRO PIERJI won what looked a soft contest at Hexham last time. However, he kept on well enough once headed to take second here and this was a respectable effort.
QUACITY picked up nicely in the straight and finished well to take third place. Lucinda Russell should be able to find a contest for this son of Sagacity who stepped up on the glimmer of promise shown at Newcastle.
BISHOPS HEIR was made favourite but the impression I get is that he needs softer going and the ground was drying up under the warm sunshine. James Ewart’s runners aren’t in top form at the moment, Sa Suffit having been very disappointing at Aintree.
HOBSONS BAY plugged on late but was a well held fifth with the remainder not showing nay immediate promise.

2.50 2m 1f 0-115 Handicap Chase

BOB’S DREAM has done well seeing off lesser opposition and came up trumps for the fourth time in seven outings. He was brought steadily into the race approaching three out having been held off the strong pace set by the two leaders. He led inside the final furlong, just holding the game runner-up in a ding-dong battle to the line. He shouldn’t be penalised too much for a narrow win and may find further opportunities against lesser animals.
CARRIETAU was unlucky at Carlisle last time, being hampered and virtually put out of the race early on, but was right back to his battling best here. Helping set a very strong pace which saw two horses 10 lengths clear by halfway, he went on at the eighth. He looked held in the final furlong, but has demonstrated deep reserves since being equipped with blinkers and battled back in the last 100 yards. From my postion overlooking the line it looked as if Carrietau had prevailed, but the photo told otherwise and the Murtagh stable had to settle for second. Against inferiors Carrietau clearly isn’t weighted out of races yet.
ST KILLIANS’S RUN remains in good form and stayed on to finish a close third. He was close enough to suggest that a rise in the weights has not finished his chances of recording another win.
STORM PROSPECT stayed on from three out and finished clear of the rest. However, he’s basically frustrating.
ICE IMAGE led the chasing group until three out, but then chased the leading group in vain from two out.
ISLA PEARL FISHER was outpaced going to three out. The better ground brought no noticeable improvement in performance and I fancy he’ll have to be aimed at the lowest grade.
STUFF OF DREAMS never got near the leaders, and hitting the third last put the kybosh on any chance he may have held.
LINDSEYFIELD LODGE matched strides with the second to the eighth, but isn’t nearly as talented as Carrietau and he weakened quickly from the second last.
TARTAN SNOW didn’t look happy in this bigger field. He doesn’t look a natural when his jumping is pressed as it will be in double figure fields.
OLEOLAT ran no sort of race and finished a remote last.
PACCYS UNYOKE lost his place early and pulled up before four out. It turned out he had broken a blood vessel.
AGAINST THE WIND never got involved and was pulled up having lost touch going to four out.

3.20 2m 6 ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

On the book this race seemed to involve three, but in the end two pulled well clear.
The second has been progressive so that’s a marker of SOFT SPOKEN GUY’s performance as he galloped away from his only serious rival from the last. He stayed on to finish second in a Graded event here in March, and this proved that was no fluke. Indeed the increased trip seemed to favour him.
CAERLAVEROCK chased the winner in vain from the last, but was twenty lengths clear of the remainder and lost nothing in defeat. He will find easier opponents in this class.
ALMOND COURT plugged on best of the rest but is an ordinary maiden.
LITTLE PROMISE was another Ewart runner to run below par. He was outpaced from three out, but he should prove best when put over fences.
I WITNESS made no impression from two out, WARMASTER looks headstrong and a trifle wayward, while LOCHORE made moderate late progress without getting into the race seriously.
Mark Bradburne suffered a back injury when SOLDIERS TREE decanted him at the first. At the time of writing he was due a scan to find out the exact damage to a vertebra.

3.50 3m 1f 0-125 Handicap Chase

RAMBLING MINSTER has had a poor season, but whether by application of blinkers or the drop in class he was galvanised here. His rider pushed on down the back straight for the final time and had his field stretched. He stayed on well enough after the last but found one just too strong for him.
REEL CHARMER raced prominently and was the only one left to match the leader going to the last. He led after the elbow and just had too many guns for his spirited veteran opponent.
The pair were well clear of MINOUCHKA who put in one of his better handicap chase efforts in third. He looked to be weakening on the home turn but stayed on after last and gives his stable a little more cause for optimism.
JUSTWHATEVERULIKE made smooth progress to close on the leader going to two out but could make no impression once turned for home.
TEXAS HOLDEM closed approaching three out but was another to fade after the final turn.
DREVER ROUTE went well enough to four out but then faded. It seems likely he didn’t stay.
NELLIEDONETHAT looked very well in the paddock but was disappointing, fading from halfway.
PRIMROSE TIME was in touch when falling heavily at the open ditch away from the stands on the final circuit. OR DE GRUGY was hampered when Primrose Time and was soon pulled up. MOKUM was feeling the pinch at the same point and was another pulled up soon after.
THE SHY MAN and WATERSKI both struggled early on the final circuit and were pulled up before two out.

4.20 2m 2f 0-119 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

STOPPED OUT won this under a beautifully judged front-running ride by northern circuit ‘journeyman’ Richie McGrath. He kicked on going down the far side on the final circuit and nothing got anywhere near the pair after that. He will be well tested off a much higher mark next time, but good ground or perhaps faster looks a must.
TOP IT ALL made progress three out and chased the winner in the straight, but was never going to do better than second. This was an improvement on previous form and he will have chances at this level or lower off a mark of 95.
SOLIS kept on for third without ever threatening, which is pretty much typical and the well exposed PATRIOT stayed on late for fourth.
MINI BECK raced near the head of the chasing group but made no impression from two out while NEW TRICKS, admittedly better up front, was disappointing and is becoming a little frustrating.
PREMIER SAGAS was well backed but dropped away after hitting three out.

4.50 3m 1f Class 4 Hunters’ Chase

SILVER SEDGE welcomed the drop in class having run respectably in handicaps of late. He pressed on from two out and held off a determined runner-up in the final furlong. He might pick up another race if sticking to this company.
ANSHAN SPIRIT is no spring chicken but has served connections well, proving here that she retains both ability and enthusiasm. She led from the eleventh until two out and battled back to challenge on the flat.
HIGH FIVE has never been very fast, but does stay and plugged on for third.
THUNDER HAWK raced up with the pace for much of the way but was outpaced from three out.
ALMOST BLUE was detached early and plugged on past tired rivals.
WHAT OF IT raced prominently early but lost after four out and was beaten a long way.
PANGBOURNE has spent his career trying not to win. He showed speed to halfway but was struggling going on to the last circuit and came home a remote last. About the only positive thing is that he reminds me of my home village of Bradfield in Berkshire, situated just a few miles from Pangbourne!
BENBEOCH took no interest in proceedings and was tailed off on the last circuit before being pulled up before three out.

5.20 2m ½ f Open NH Flat

I’ve rattled on about it on numerous occasions, Kelso bumpers are good pointers to the future. The form of this one seems sound enough.
STORM BRIG, clearly benefitting from his run at Ayr, repeated his course and distance win of March 2009. He pulled clear from two out and offers Alistair Whillans chances over hurdles next season.
SUNNYSIDE has been consistent in bumpers and ran a sound race for second. He’s a point winner in Ireland and seems to have enough about him to prosper over obstacles.
ATTAGLANCE led until three out was outpaced form that point. He looks to have a bit of scope for strengthening and the family have winning hurdles form.
The one that really caught my eye in the paddock was FREDDIE BROWN. He’s not untypical of a few George Charlton inmates and has the stamp of a chaser about him. On that basis it’s not likely we will see the best of him in these events and he was outpaced three out though kept on galloping for fourth. I presume he’ll go hurdling next season, but I’d really look forward to a chasing campaign with this one.
GLENORA GALE made a fair debut in fifth, keeping on form the rear. The family boasts decent chasers and that’s where this mare is likely to show up best given time.
PAPAMOA showed promise at Newcastle last time, but Graham Lee was niggling from a long way out and he dropped away quickly from four out.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Scottish flat season kicks off for 2010

MUSSELBURGH – Sunday April 4th

Going – Good to Soft

Musselburgh flies the flag for the Scottish flat scene until May. The season started with a competitive Easter Sunday card topped by the Musselburgh Gold Cup.

It might be considered rather uninspiring that the card started with a seller, but the nine furlong event was very competitive at its level. FREMEN, consistent in sellers and claimers last season, picked up where he left off. He led two and a half furlongs out and ran on too strongly for the remainder. There was no bid for the winner so he should continue to make his mark at this level. WIND STAR chased the winner home but could make no impression in the last 300 yards. ISLAND CHIEF kept on well from the back having never achieved his favoured front running position.

The sprint handicap was won by LUSCIVIOUS who has been running moderately well on the all-weather. He ran on well to win with a little in hand from the staying on HIGHLAND WARRIOR who was to follow up at the next meeting. The rest are pretty well exposed, RIVER FALCON (5th) picking up late ground, but then he wins seldom and often runs the same way.

Mark Johnston’s runners usually come to Musselburgh with a decent chance and he landed the maiden with SKYFIRE, stepping up considerably on a disappointing Wolverhampton debut. CHUSHKA made the winner pull out the stops and appears to have trained on. She should win a maiden and would be a good bet in a fillies’ event.
BAJAN FLASH is sprint bred but stayed on for third over this seven furlong trip.

The Musselburgh Gold Cup was landed by MY ARCH last seen here winning a handicap chase in November. This one is versatile and could be aimed at flat, hurdles or chases, though I believe the target is a Ripon handicap. I’d have liked to have seen him aimed at Perth later in the month, but the trainer seems to think otherwise. He finished like a train down the centre to take the race having been well touted beforehand. VELOSO was caught on the line having looked to have done enough and carried forward his all-weather form with credit. BOGSIDE THEATRE impressed over hurdles at Ayr and made a brave attempt to make all the running, keeping on determinedly once headed two furlongs out. She should find a run-of-the-mill handicap off her mark of 75. DAZZLING LIGHT made some progress from the rear in the straight having been at the back for much of the way, whilst Jim Goldie’s other contestant GORDONSVILLE never got involved.

SHE’S IN THE MONEY impressed me toward the end of last summer and looked the bet of the day in the all-age seven furlong handicap. She won with authority and remains progressive, with this trip suiting her best. TOLEDO GOLD ran well in second but he was best fresh last season after which his form tailed off. MOUNTAIN Cat was slightly hampered by the winner around the furlong marker and couldn’t get a challenge in afterwards. He should be close up in similar events. RA JUNIOR has slipped down the handicap and hinted that he might be returning to something like his best. He kept on at one pace and looks one to note in -85 or 0-90 company.

The all age handicap was won by Pat Eddery’s GOODLUKIN LUCY confirming the promise of her Doncaster debut. DANCING DUDE made a sound debut, keeping on but not over-pressed by his rider once held. He should come on for this race and a maiden seems there for the taking. Six-year-old bumper winner HUNTERS BELT stayed on from the rear for third. He looks an out-and-out-stayer and would be one to keep in mind for handicaps now that he is qualified for a rating. MAJOR POP led and kept on once passed. He’s another now qualified for handicaps.

ESUVIA, a winner of a maiden last season, has clearly progressed over the winter and won the closing three-year-old handicap with ease, coming clear in the final furlong. Her trainer will presumably try to strike while the iron is hot. DIMAN WATERS kept on for second and will be competitive in similar company. DAZEEN and DOWER GLEN both look handicapped to their mark, the former showing good speed while the latter stayed on late.

MUSSELBURGH – Friday April 9th

Going – Good To Soft (good in places)

The opening two-year-old event of the Scottish season saw a disappointing turn out. The three runners went a slow pace for three furlongs led by LAS VERGLAS STAR, unplaced in the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster, who quickened away from his two opponents. The winner’s stable-mate MICA MIKA stayed on late to go clear of GARTSHERRIE.

The following seller was a two horse race from quite a way out. ODDSMAKER kicked on entering the straight in a tactic used successfully with him in the past. He saw off all but SUDDEN IMPULSE who wore him down from the two furlong pole. Both are suited by the 1m 4f trip around here. BIRKSIDE stayed on for third and recent selling hurdle winner ALONG THE NILE, outpaced as the early leaders took off, passed the remainder in the straight to take fourth.

HIGHLAND WARRIOR confirmed promise of Sunday’s run to take the sprint handicap, pulling well clear in the final furlong. He needs to be brought out again under a penalty to exploit his current well being. INGLEBY STAR goes well here and was helped by the drying ground, just holding on for second. MANDARIN SPIRIT, best when able to dictate the pace, stayed on through one paced and weakening rivals for third. GRISSOM made a satisfactory return, keeping on for fourth. THE BEAR had a purple patch last summer and showed plenty of pace until weakening in the final furlong.

Although the all-weather has diluted the effect somewhat, I always keep an eye on early season three-year-old handicaps to note any progressive types who have done well over the winter. The winter from two to three years can be the most significant part of a young horse’s maturation period. In the event the seven furlong contest here was won by an exposed type in ORPEN ARMS. However, Richard Fahey has his string buzzing and this one looked as if she had a bit more in the locker. COOLELLA was a bit keen in touch with the leaders but kept on well after the winner and looks to have progressed over the winter. SO BAZAAR made late progress and may benefit from a step up in trip. OCHILVIEW WARRIOR raced prominently, but he’s headstrong and difficult to steer. His energies need to be channelled in a better direction.

Two pulled clear in the mile 0-85 handicap and both INTERNATIONALDEBUT and GOLIATHS BOY are significantly better than a well exposed bunch. The former is versatile and seems in good nick for his new stable, though he will be forced into tougher company. The latter progressed steadily last season and remains in good fettle.

The nine furlong maiden was fought out between Richard Fahey’s HIGH OFFICE, notching the trainer’s fourth winner on the afternoon, and NISAAL. Both are well exposed and the latter has a rather off-putting head carriage. The one that caught my eye was the one that finished last BROOTOMMITTY. She looked very green on only her second visit to a racecourse, pulled hard early on and couldn’t make any impact on the others. However, she’s a pleasing sort to the eye and should be one who will find her level once handicapped.

The card ended with a mile apprentice handicap full of well exposed runners. ZAPLAMATION was able to assert against animals of this class with second in the weights LAURELDEANS BEST following him home. This didn’t tell us much other than that you can drop some in the weights as much as you like but ultimately it doesn’t make a jot of difference to the outcome. ZAPLAMATION, ridden confidently by Ian Brennan, is an uncomplicated sort who goes well for apprentices and amateurs.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Easter Saturday at Carlisle

CARLISLE – Saturday April 3rd

Going – Heavy, changed from Soft after Race One…, so that’s Heavy all afternoon then!

The Easter programme has been weakened in recent years, and with Newton Abbot abandoned the cards on show were a shadow of former years. Carlisle did lay on some competitive fields however, an all steeplechase card allowing the hurdle/flat course to recover a little for the summer season.

2.15 2m Class 4 Novices’ Chase

A straightforward task for DIAMOND FRONTIER with the race in the bag from three out. He did dive at the odd fence or two and he would have to avoid such errors in better company.
LORD LARSSON got round for the first time I five attempts, but he basically kept on in his own time.
DAR ES SALAAM has his work cut out in non-handicaps and will be better served running in handicaps. He was beaten when falling heavily at the last, though he was up after a brief pause for recovery.
LOS NADIS once again suggested he isn’t at his best over fences.
NIGHT REVELLER completed for remote fourth, but like the pulled up ROCK PORT she doesn’t demonstrate much ability.

2.50 3m ½ f 0-130 Handicap Chase

This was fine competitive contest which proved a good advert for Carlisle on national television.
HIMALAYAN TRAIL seems to suffer from a bad press at times, but he’s in his element given a stiff test in the mud. He stayed on from the rear to challenge two out and stayed on determinedly for victory.
MINSTER SHADOW wasn’t my idea of a contender in this contest, but he has steadily dropped down the handicap and is suited by testing conditions. In fact he’s seldom seen out on anything faster than soft these days, so if the ground dries out he’d presumably be put away from the season.
BAY CHERRY is an improving stayer and one I’ve got in mind for extreme distance contests next season. He was outpaced form before the last but this was a sound effort. He has few miles on the clock and is one to keep on the right side.
MA YAHAB didn’t figure seriously but stayed on up the hill for fourth.
BUFFALO BOB, a good second in a slog at Uttoxeter recently, led for much of the way before giving way three out. He may now benefit from a rest.
SUPREME KEANO made no impression from the bottom of the hill.
MORGAN BE was never going and finished last of seven to complete.
HUKA LODGE fell at the fourth, hampering HOCKENHEIM who unseated.
LORUM LEADER hadn’t been asked any questions when unseating at the twelfth.
CHERNIK was never better than midfield and probably found this contest a mite too competitive.
APPLEADAY seemed to find this distance in the mud over a stiff track testing his stamina and he was pulled up.
NOT LEFT YET never figured and was pulled up with five to go.
WILD CANE RIDGE raced prominently for much of the way but weakened from the bottom of the hill and joined those skipping the last few fences.
CATEGORICAL wouldn’t have been ideally suited by three miles in the mud here, but did run well for a long way, weakening before three out and being pulled up soon after.
ANTONIUS CAESAR raced in rear and was tailed off when pulling up with two fences to jump.

3.25 3m 2f 0-89 Handicap Chase

As the previously race was difficult to fathom so was this contest, though for precisely the opposite reason. Each of the contestants had reasons to be opposed.
In the end the race was taken by BILLSGREY, a gelding who has had his light hidden under a bushel, not necessarily by his own lack of ability. His previous handler, Swanee Haldane, is apparently a very cheerful chap, but his record as a trainer was dire. Billsgrey has moved to Willie Amos, a decent trainer given the ammunition, and fulfilled his promise against incapable, unwilling or infirm opponents. He led going well four out and came clear from two out. Given that he clearly has ability more than his 64 rating, he may be capable of scoring again even given a rise.
EDITORS ROSE has proved clumsy in chases, but has some stamina and held off the remainder for second.
PANAMA AT ONCE has been off his game since taking a pearler of a fall at Kelso, a fall many of us feared might have killed him. However, he ran well enough in third here to suggest his confidence might be coming back. If so then he would beat most of these hollow at his best.
SHULMIN ran well until three out, but she was out on her feet by two out and was a very tired fourth. She is running fair races at the moment and wouldn’t be a lost cause in the lowest company at Sedgefield.
LUSENTO got slightly more involved than of late, but once he made a mess of the thirteenth he was soon on the retreat.
Off a long lay-off PRINCE OF SLANE didn’t suggest that a revival is on the cards and was struggling from a mile out.
POLOBURY raced up with the pace early, but had to be cajoled to do that and predictably hung out the white flag early on the final circuit.
ILOVETURTLE raced prominently to halfway but was on the retreat when he saddle slipped and he was pulled up before five out.
RED DANCER has been racing mainly in cross-country events in Eastern Europe in recent seasons, and at the age of 14 didn’t suggest that a return to ‘orthodox’ racing would serve any good. He weakened from the tenth and was pulled up before the fourteenth.
ESME RIDES A GAINE looks totally disenchanted with the game at present. She lost touch after a mile and was pulled up after halfway.
THE MAYSTONE followed his last decent run with a series of dire efforts, so it didn’t come as a surprise that he produced nothing here after his Kelso third.

4.00 2m 4f Class 3 Novices’ Chase

Despite the small field this was an interesting contest with five capable novices in attendance.
HEEZ A STEEL made the most impact with an impressive chasing debut, staying on well from the last. He’s always looked the type capable of making a chaser in time and went a fair way to confirming the view by seeing off four previous winners. George Charlton will surely be capable of placing him to follow up and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pitch up at either Ayr or Perth in the coming weeks.
MR WOODS is the marker for the form as he won last time and did nothing wrong here, just being outpointed from the last, seemingly tiring in the testing conditions.
YOUNGSTOWN is plenty capable but he’s a quirky character and was no and off the bridle for much of the race. He stayed on from the rear for third and is likely to be more of a stayer in the long term, though he was very disappointing in the four miler at Cheltenham.
GINOLAD was beaten from four out and finished fourth while FINNEY, who jumped left early, lost touch from four out and was pulled up.

4.30 3m ½ f 0-96 Handicap Chase

SEVEN IS LUCKY has been up and down in form and hadn’t won a race before this. He stayed on from the bottom of the hill, responded to pressure on the flat and got up close home. His two best efforts in recent times have come in heavy ground.
In form TEERIE EXPRESS looked likely to prevail but was caught close home. Even after a serious rise in the weights he’s still on a competitive mark and capable of winning again.
ROSENEATH ran to his mark in third, keeping on under pressure from two out and gaining credit for finishing close on the heels of the first two.
POLITICAL PENDANT, from a stable which has not fired this season, made headway to three out but hit that and got no closer.
THE GREEN HAT is weak when the race warms up and faded from the bottom of the hill.
DARK GENTLEMAN has struggled in two efforts over fences and hasn’t shown much this season.
SEEKING STRAIGHT threatened to win over hurdles this time last year. He’s been regressive t6his season and broke a blood vessel here to add to his problems.
SEEKING POWER had course and ground to suit. He has jumped well last two outings but was sticky early on lost touch and was never going, pulling up before four out. He’s capable of much better.
TULLY HILL led pulling hard but struggled from a mile out and was another who was pulled up.

5.30 2m 0-113 Handicap Chase

ET MAINTENANT is difficult to tie down to a pattern. He’s capable on his day but I struggle to fathom when he’s likely to produce his best. His wins have come on anything from fast to heavy, and over distances up to 2m 4f. A stiff test probably favours him, but I wouldn’t take that as gospel.
CASH MAN ran a solid race in second. He’s probably handicapped to his best but is in good heart.
SHELOMOH had conditions to suit but was never going well enough to threaten a win. In the event he kept on under pressure to take third, which was more than looked possible four out.
NATIVE COLL seems to run about the same regardless of class and was a creditable fourth here off bottom weight. He’s suited by the mud.
SOTOVIK was prominent for much of the way but made no impression from three out.
QUICUYO didn’t build on a promising comeback last time and was held from three out.
BAMBY has good form at Carlisle but was well held from four out, JUSTTHEONEFORYOU never got into the race after being hampered at the seventh, while NORMINSTER continued a wretched season with a well beaten ninth place.
FLAMING HECK needs things his own way and was never happy, finishing tailed off.
TARTAN SNOW and ICE IMAGE, fallers in recent races, both came a cropper before the race began in earnest. CARRIETAU was nearly brought down at the fourth and couldn’t recover the ground and was soon pulled up. His performance here can be set aside.

5.35 3m ½ f Hunters’ Chase

A wide spread of ability in this event and it was a cakewalk for FAIR QUESTION who led all the way and had his field beaten a long way out. He did scare his backers by whacking three out, but his rider held on and was able to ease to a walk on the run in.
AREYACODDINMEE stayed on up the hill to take second but was never near the winner. He is giving his connections some fun and reward under Rules though.
KNOW THE ROPES got round but was very tired in third.
HASPER never got into the race and was pulled up before two out.
The remainder also pulled up. TRISONS STAR was a difficult sort at best and now looks disenchanted with racing. SILVER PALOMINO felt the pinch form halfway and SILK PARASOL, a front runner in points tired quickly from the eleventh, pulling up a couple of fences later.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

A brief tour of Northern England in late March

Friday March 26th

The ‘free market’ threw up a clash of fixtures in the north, Sedgefield and Carlisle operating the same afternoon with the inevitable result that fields sizes suffered. Don’t you just love the OFT?


Going – Heavy

Plenty of rain about meant tough conditions for the sparse fields. The card opened with three hurdles, in the 2m 4f novice Rose Dobbin’s CAERLAVEROCK comfortably overturning odds-on shot SILENT CLICHÉ who quickly ran of steam from two out. Dobbin’s stable is starting to click and CAERLAVEROCK looks progressive.
The quality of the following seller was summed by the fact that Colin Russell saw fit to make RECOIL his Racing Post selection. No reflection on Russell, it was a dire contest, but if Recoil took on a tortoise then the latter would have to be given due consideration… DR VALENTINE looks a very awkward ride, and his action is very ungainly, but he had more speed than the others.
In the 2m 1f novice hurdle LORD VILLEZ easily landed the odds, a handful of pursuers finishing in a heap.

4.15 2m 4f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

PEMBERTON survived a bad blunder at the first but soon closed up. He had the second held when stumbling at the last, but recovered to hold on with a bit to spare. He was a promising novice hurdler and should go on from this over fences.
GREENBELT, a fair marker, seemed to run to his level in second, but he’s not been easy to win with in recent times.
GINGER’S LAD is a poor chaser and lost touch before the straight, passing a tired rival for third before the last.
Having seen the pony-sized CINAMAN in the flesh I doubted his ability to cope with fences. He tried hard enough and got round, but the extra effort required to clear the obstacles saw him out on his feet by three out.
MARLBOROUGH SOUND was a fair hurdler at a lowly level up to 2008, but pulled up here following a remote finish at Carlisle on his belated return. At the age of 11 he offers no hope for a future chasing.

4.50 3m 3f 0-105 Handicap Chase

With conditions suiting him and his class able to tell, LUCKY NELLERIE made most here, a good jump at the last seeing off his only serious challenger. The Durham National might be a target once again.
DARINA’S BOY had shown very little recently and hence plunged to a rating of 81. He revived somewhat here and ran a gallant second.
Long time maiden POLOBURY plugged on for third but never threatened.
SHULMIN went well to four out, but a mistake there put paid to her chances.
EDITORS ROSE raced near the pace until unseating at the thirteenth.
NELLIEDONETHAT made a little headway to three out, but the effort told and he was pulled up before the last. I suspect his stamina couldn’t withstand the test of this distance in the mud.
MAGE D’ESTRUVAL raced up with the pace but struggled down the back for the final time and was pulled up before four out.

The card finished with a four runner handicap hurdle, the in-form MARDOOD finding the weak contest right up his street. He’s one who may be a bit of a thinker but he probably has more ability than he lets on. TIPSY INDIAN is selling class and stayed on for second.

Meanwhile over on the other of the country…


Going - SOFT (Heavy in places on Hurdle course; Good to soft in places on Chase course) changing to SOFT (Heavy in places on Hurdle course) after Race 1. Is it me or do going descriptions get more complicated as the years go by? In my day …

2.10 2m 4f Class 4 Novices’ Chase

EYRE SQUARE was ridden after mistake at the twelfth, but he stayed on best up the hill. This trip suits better than shorter.
DAR ES SALAAM should be well capable of winning a novice handicap and made the winner pull out the stops here. Previous form suggested he’s better on faster ground.
AGAINST THE WIND raced close up but was tired in the latter stages and only just clambered over the last. The performance on chasing debut offers some encouragement for the future.
SOUL ANGEL was left behind from four out while BEAUTIFUL VISION, a Hexham winner in October and winner of a selling hurdle at Ludlow last time up, weakened from five out. He was theoretically best in here, but a run in a seller last time makes you wonder if all is well.

2.45 3m ½ f 0-107 Handicap Chase

TEERIE EXPRESS, promising when winning last time, was the only one who could race a gallop at the end of this slog. He won so easily that there must surely be a fair bit still in this lightly raced ex-hunter’s locker.
SCOTTISH MUNROS was struggling from four out and out on his feet when clambering over the last.
OF COURSE was outpaced form the bottom of the hill and his jockey sensibly called it a day before the last. Good to see that his amateur rider put the horse’s welfare before prize money. Richard McGrath took similar action on BORDER REIVER before two out and this one is better on faster ground.

3.55 2m 0-104 Handicap Chase

TOODOS JET and LERIDA continued their sequence of close contests with the former prevailing on this occasion. Both are running consistently and a credit to their connections efforts, particularly those of LERIDA who have transformed a previously unpredictable animal.
STORM SURGE should be capable of winning such an event but has been coming up just short recently and he tired before the last here.
STAR TENOR was selling class over hurdles and was comfortably held on chasing debut.
ISLA PEARL FISHER gave way from four out and was reported as unsuited by the ground.

5.05 2m 4f 0-115 Handicap Chase

CASH ON FRIDAY, lightly raced in recent times but able on his day, returned fresh from a prolonged break to land this contest. He has an impressive record of 5 wins from his last 14 runs though he wouldn’t want to be much higher in the handicap. It’s worth noting that he’s rated only 79 in hurdles having won off 78 in May 2008, and his previous best form has been on better ground.
CASH MAN led until the run-in, rallied once passed and pushed the winner to the line. All three wins have come on courses with stiff finishes.
JIMMY BOND had a chance after two out but was one paced from the last. He’s in good heart and is a good marker in these conditions.
SILVER SEDGE walked his way through the second, making ah ole in the fence. Despite this early argument he was still in contention two out but was one paced from that point. This was his best effort for a while and he’s now well below his last winning mark.
LIVINGONAKNIFEDGE weakened from three out. Track and conditions suited but he has not fired recently.
OR D’OUDAIRIES, who has seemed suited by a stiff track, was held up until falling heavily five out.

There were two moderate handicap hurdles on the card. BOLLIN FIONA scored for the Hawick yard of Donal Whillans in the two and a half miler, just holding off Ecclefechan* trainer Andrew Parker’s SUPER ALLY. Lucinda Russell’s DEEP SQUEEZE completed a Scottish 1-2-3, I’M YOUR MAN ran well until tiring from two out and finishing first of the English contingent.
SAMIZDAT has now got the hang of things and had the beating of QUINTERO when the latter came down at the last. The pair were clear of TWENTYNINEBLACK who doesn’t look especially well handicapped while ROYAL FLYNN, last win in 2007 on the flat at Haydock, came in third.

* I couldn’t resist the chance to mention Ecclefechan. It is the home of the Ecclefechan Tart which is a classic dish considered a rival to the mince pie.

Hexham – Sunday March 28th

Going – Soft (Heavy in places)

The ground conditions caused the omission of one flight and three fences down the far side of the course.

2.10 2m ½ f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

I was impressed with CHESTER LAD when I first set eyes on him at Musselburgh and he ran a promising race in the bumper that day. He’s been frustrating since but fulfilled promise against a previous winner, holding on all out form KING OF THE GYPSIES at a rewarding price of 18/1. The third home, ROLL OVER ROSE, made a promising debut and stayed on to finish on the heels of the leaders. Willie Amos’s filly is a half-sister to a couple of winners and should add to the family record on this evidence. MASTER FONG finished fourth, not far away, and the stiff test seemed to suit.

2.40 3m 1f Class 4 Beginners’ Chase

This looked a moderate event and the form of the first three is at best moderate.
The three best on form all blew out leaving DALLAS BELL to outstay a couple of slow-coaches from the bottom of the hill. He was nothing special over hurdles and didn’t achieve a huge amount here.
GREENANDREDPARSON took second but is slow and clumsy, though he did at least get round.
CHERRYLAND led the way but as previously had nothing to offer at the business end.
POLITICAL PADDY looked to have a decent chance on Carlisle running but looked no certainty when unseating three out.
QUALITY CONTROL was put more into the race this time but couldn’t stay with the field and was pulled up before three out.
SOLWAY BAY is not a bad stayer at his level over hurdles but has disappointed in two attempts at chasing, pulling up before the last here.

3.15 2m 4½f 0-125 Handicap Hurdle

A competitive looking event was won comfortably by FEDERSTAR who has run some decent races of late. He closed going to the second last, took over up the hill and was ridden clear. TEENAGE IDOL produced much better than previous runs this season finishing second but held from two out. COOL OPERATOR was left in the lead two out but weakened once headed.
MINI MINSTER went well in front until coming down two out. If caught in this mood again she could win a lesser event.

3.50 3m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

A Wylie/Johnson hotpot got beaten here as MILAN’S MAN was outstayed by ONLY THE BEST. The latter looks to be an out and out stayer and may be a type to look out for in staying novice chases next season. WATCH THE WIND has been struggling in handicap chases, often being set stiff tasks, but she ran with some promise here and stuck with two better performers until the top of the hill.

4.25 3m 1f 0-114 Handicap Chase

TREEHOUSE has been most consistent this season and goes really well around here. He put his staying power to good use once again, stayed on well under pressure when challenged in the straight. He won’t get penalised much for this and there will be more opportunities at Hexham or similar stiff tracks.
DOC ROW put up a decent performance behind a fair hunter last time and performed admirably back in handicap company. He led or disputed to two out and stayed on determinedly once headed. He isn’t doing much wrong.
GARLETON has had some tough tasks of late, mostly over longer trips than this. To my mind he’s best up to about 3m 2f and this is his class. He closed to two out and led briefly on the flat before being run out of it close home. I would expect him to pick up a race soon off a mark around his last winning rating.
JUST FOR MEN picked up on the leaders going up the final hill but that depleted his reserves.
ITS TEESCOMPONENTS might have had enough for the season. She faded once confronted by the final hill and may need a break.
MALKO DE BEAUMONT has had a most disappointing season and lost touch from three out.
ADARE PRINCE was apparently none the worse after pulling up at Newcastle. However he lost touch past halfway and wasp pulled up before three out.
BORIS THE BLADE can be a fair performer on his day, but he doesn’t need much of an excuse to lose interest and he had had enough by the tenth fence, being pulled up soon after.
MASTER SEBASTIAN showed signs of a revival at Newcastle in February but has been disappointing twice since, pulling up with the best part of a mile to go here.

4.55 2m ½f Maiden NH Flat Race

Irish point winner LACKAMON appreciated easier company than on his Rules debut. He may well have been suited by the testing conditions since he pulled clear in the final two furlongs. SUNNYSIDE closed up the hill but was put in his place once turned for home while DRUMGREY was beaten a long way in third and achieved less than the placing suggests.