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.

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