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
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.