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.