AYR – Sunday January 2nd 2011
Going – Good (Good to Soft in places)
Racing returned to Scotland, the freezing November weather having put paid to all meetings and hanging on long enough to take Musselburgh’s New Year Sprint meeting with it. The return of Scottish racing didn’t encourage a huge crowd and I doubt there were more than 1,500 present, perhaps due to the clash with the Old Firm game, but possibly it just difficult to get Scottish folk to go racing at holiday time.
A very competitive card ensued, with northern trainers eager to get their charges on to the course. Levels of fitness varied greatly, some stables clearly having kept on the go while others suffered interruptions to their training programmes.
There were a few non-runners during the afternoon, I suspect due to a touch of frost still in the ground. Notably Alistair Whillans withdrew his entire contingent.
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This was a very strong contest and it would be no surprise to see a number of winners emerge in the coming months.
LIVELY BARON looked spot on for this contest, very fit and on his toes in the paddock. He was forced to work hard, being flat to the boards before two out, but responding well when asked and gaining the upper hand on the flat. He can cope with a step up in trip.
KINGS GREY paid Newcastle winner Storm Brig, an absentee here, a compliment with a fine second. Making steady progress from the eighth, he led at the last and stayed on but was overhauled close home. Already a winner of a bumper he should have no trouble adding a hurdle race to that.
SUNARRI is different character this season and produced a gutsy performance ion third. Setting off in front he was headed two out, but rallied to great effect and kept on for a close third. He will be shortlist material in similar company.
One who really caught the eye was the fourth MR SUPREME. Held up in the rear for much of the way on his jumps debut, he stayed on to great effect in the straight and was fast closing at the line. He will have learnt much and looks a nailed on jumps winner.
BERTIE MILAN was turned out in decent condition, suggesting that Sue Bradburne has not been too badly troubled by snow at Cupar. He stepped up on previous efforts, racing prominently and keeping on for fifth.
Unfancied AND THE MAN put in good late work and should get competitive given time.
MISS ABBEY threatened before three out but struggled afterwards. She looked well enough and may need to take on female company.
Cheltenham bumper winner TANZANITE BAY looked much in need of the race and was beaten a long way. MOUFATANGO, another needing the outing, ran prominently for a way but finished well beaten.
SCOTSWELL went well enough until the home turn but took a tired fall two out. He took time to recover but Harriet Graham later commented that he seemed none the worse.
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This didn’t look a strong contest, but the time wasn’t bad so it’s one to ignore totally.
DARNA bounced back from a disappointing bumper effort at Kelso, leading three out and resisting the attentions of the favourite on the flat. He looks an amenable type and Willie Amos should find another race for him.
RUPERT LAMB had every chance but was outgunned after the last. His effort couldn’t be faulted as the pair finished clear of the remainder.
KAOLAK was held from two out. He was ninth in a big field at Newbury previously and this race confirmed that probably wasn’t a bad effort.
Irish challenger DRUM BUSTIBLE couldn’t raise his game from three out on his hurdles debut and FORTUNI faded from three out on his hurdles bow.
Nick Alexander seems to have got through the cold spell quite well, having really suffered last winter, and his charges looked fit. NORTHERN FLAME may well be a long term project, but performed moderately well to fill seventh place.
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THE KNOXS looked the winner of this contest as he pulled clear from three out. He didn’t get high enough at the last and ended up on the floor for the second consecutive time. He hadn’t done much wrong until that point, and his turn will come.
ELZAHANN put in another good round of jumping. She was outpaced three out but presented with the race at the last. Her accurate fencing gives her a chance of adding to this victory.
ROSSINI’NI’S DANCER lost touch with the first two on the final bend but plugged on for second.
COOL MISSION looked plenty fit enough, but he struggled from halfway and was tailed off with five to go. Two departures left him to bag third place money.
GOLFER’S CROSSING won an Irish point in 2008 but this was only his second outing since. He lost touch from the tenth, tailed off and tired when coming down at the last.
Steady Tiger was an absentee here, being withdrawn quite late on. This one impressed me as bumper horse but has a stop start career to date. Nice to know that he at least being readied to race again and I hope he might show something over fences.
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A competitive event, despite four defectors, in which all ten runners could be given some sort of a chance.
SAGALYRIQUE had some decent previous form but hadn’t got home in his two races this season. He was a different horse with the tongue-strap applied and was driven out having been close up all the way. Both his wins off this mark have been hard fought though, and he probably wouldn’t want to be bumped up too much in the weights.
PREMIER SAGAS put up a best performance in chases, pushing the winner all the way. Having been up with the pace, he led three out and didn’t give way easily.
SAFARI ADVENTURES returned from a career best when second at Cheltenham and ran a sound race. He led until three out jumping nicely but was held approaching the last.
MIRAGE DORE made an encouraging seasonal debut in competitive company. He was tapped for pace from three out, but the race will have done him no harm and he should step up on this next time.
LAMPION DU BOST proved that he is no back number, staying on from the rear to fill fifth place. He’s only small, so is probably better in this class with a low weight, but there will be less competitive races for him.
OR DE GRUGY is high in the handicap now and was outpaced from four out.
RAYSROCK, under the charge of Lucinda Russell following Peter Monteith’s passing, weakened from four out. His wins have been at shorter distances.
FORTYSECOND STREET weakened from four out.
COLUMBUS SECRET found the company much tougher than his maiden chase win at Catterick. He will do better in time but his jumping wasn’t sharp enough here.
ROLE ON struggled in the final mile and was pulled up.
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A race full of established horses that the handicapper has the measure of.
This may well be the best trip for DIKLER’S OSCAR. Looking well enough for her seasonal bow, she challenged two out, led on the flat and driven out for victory. She might well be capable of adding another win.
NODFORMS VIOLET, looking very fit considering recent weather, had every chance but was outbattled from the last. He has plenty of ability but I’m not convinced he gave it his all in the closing stages.
STOPPED OUT led three out but had no answer once headed approaching the last. He’s probably on his mark now.
CULCABOCK stayed on for fourth. This augurs well and his mark has dropped if he can recover previous form.
CHESTER LAD was held from two out.
BYWELL BEAU, bandaged in front, looked enthusiastic and put in a zestful front running performance before gradually fading from two out.
Nothing else made a serious impact.
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Sheriff Hall set a strong pace in this contest and few got seriously involved.
CUNNING CLARETS stayed on well to hold the three others who held chance from the home turn. He goes well with some cut in the ground and might be capable of progressing from here.
BLENHEIM BROOK was being niggled at before three out but kept responding to pressure. This was a sound debut in senior company and he should be capable of picking up a handicap hurdle.
RAIN STOPS PLAY stayed on from two out and finished as well as any.
SHERIFF HALL set the pace until two out. He didn’t go down without a fight, but was held from the last.
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Plenty of reasons to oppose most of these on the day and not a contest to get excited about as far as the future is concerned.
Jim Goldie appears to have his string well forward. His lightly raced TOO COOL TO FOOL obliged in this lowly contest, staying on to lead at the last. While they have shown bits of form, neither AGHILL(2nd) and BORDER FLORA(3rd) have set the world alight to date. Both had every chance but were held on the run-in.
YES MATE offers a little encouragement from a mark of 69. He’s run in staying handicap chases previously, so that’s presumably where his future lies. He led until before three out, gradually fading from that point. He might be worth at least keeping an eye on.
AYR – Monday January 3rd
Going – Good (Good To Soft in places)
Ayr survived the forecast frost, the temperature only just dipping below zero, and the racing on the second day of the meeting took place.
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Previous winner FIRST FANDANGO chased the leaders who set a decent pace. Rousted to challenge up the straight, he had to work hard to hold on.
VOSGES set the pace and kept battling away up the straight. Having been headed he was battling back toward the line, not untypical of James Ewart’s charges.
SWEET CAROLINE made progress up the straight, briefly looked the likely winner at the last but was run out of it close home. Together with I GOT MUSIC, a staying on for fourth, she should stand a chance of picking up a minor contest.
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Two very interesting chasing newcomers served up a stirring contest all the way up the straight.
Both WIND SHUFFLE and NAFAATH jumped very well. They matched each other over the last four, both pinged the last and Wind Shuffle held on as Nafaath gained on the flat. Nafaath found Grade 1 hurdlers beyond him, but both of these should find good jumping technique sets them in good stead.
LORD VILLEZ was held from four out, and along with SI BIEN found the first two much too classy.
SAVEIRO had an unenviable task under a penalty and struggled from the eighth fence.
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There were reasons to oppose all of these runners.
SCHINDLERS SOCIETY is nothing special, but Jimmy Lambe found a decent opportunity on one of his regular raids from Ireland. He’s not the greatest jumper but has some speed and stayed on well having challenged from three out.
COLDWELLS is best at longer distances, so a second place here was creditable. Generally below par of late, she raced with zest up with the pace on this occasion. She was bumped in mid air by the winner at the last but looked second best. Her jumping can be hit or miss.
FESTIVAL KING was one paced back in third, another fair effort without quite looking like winning.
The remainder produced varying degrees of below their best. SEEK THE TRUTH struggled in the straight and PRINCE TAM showed once again he’s weak at the business end. DARK GENTLEMAN, having shown enthusiasm at Market Rasen, reverted to his former self and faded from the tenth. SOMETHING SILVER is off his despite encouraging performances from stablemates at the meeting. OLEOLAT, one who has had long breaks, was never going.
NATVIE COLL was receiving reminders going on to the final circuit though he was in touch when falling at the tenth.
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EYRE SQUARE is an improver for John Wade. His main challenger fell at the last, but he won a trifle cosily and could have more in the tank. He travelled well all the way and looks one to win again.
ISLA PEARL FISHER worked his way through the field to challenge at the last. He knuckled over on landing, but ran well enough to suggest the handicapper hasn’t put the kybosh on his winning chances.
TOP IT ALL continues in fair form, chasing the winner after the last.
ON GOSSAMER WINGS raced prominently. He was hampered by Isla Pearl Fisher at the last but wouldn’t have won, though this was a career best in handicap chases.
SOTOVIK was disappointing at Carlisle in November. He was held from two out and is as high in the ratings as his trainer would want him. He was Alistair Whillans’ only representative at the meeting following a host of withdrawals.
RAINING HORSE had every chance two out but couldn’t raise his game. Not a bad effort after a two year lay-off and he may improve on this effort.
BANOGE was out paced from four out.
WATERSKI lost touch with a mile left.
FLAMING THISTLE was a shade disappointing here, racing in rear and coming down at the last when well beaten. Nevertheless he has the make of a chaser and patience may be required.
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A largely exposed bunch but ARCTIC COURT could be progressive at this level. He was a bit below par at Aintree, but this backed up his Kelso effort and he stayed on from the last for victory.
OIL BURNER stayed on up the straight. He looks one who needs to settle and it may be that an uphill finish will allow him to make his stamina pay.
BALLYMACDUFF ran a sound race for third, leading for much of the way if unable to produce any extra from the last.
MORE EQUITY kept on for fourth. She’s a shade frustrating, running a few decent races without getting her head in front.
DELIGHTFULLY stayed on for fifth place having been out the back for much of the race. She needs a stiffer track.
Kelso novice winner TORTA NEL CIELO never got in a serious blow while WHAT A DREAM, second to the former at Kelso, raced keenly until a blunder three out saw him backpedal.
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After two poor runs BENE LAD bounced back to form, admittedly in a weak race. He raced prominently, pulled clear from two out and had plenty in hand when idling from the last. There still looks to be more in the tank if he is inclined to show it.
SAMBELUCKY confirmed the promise of his amateur handicap win at Catterick in December. He closed no the urn in though was always held. He seems in good heart and is worth considering in similar company.
CLASSIC HENRI ran a sound race following a two year layoff, keeping on from three out. He’s low in the weights and may pick up a race if he can build on this.
WINTER ALCHEMY plugged on into fourth, while veteran MANOUBI was well held from two out.
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Previous second CLOSE HOME and newcomer KOULTAS KING pulled well clear in a battle royal up the straight. There was nothing of immediate encouragement from those behind.
We’ve been under snow here in Fife since late November, the North’s December campaign being reduced to one meeting at Catterick on December 14th.
Amongst a number of run-of-the-mill contests the bumper looks to have been a decent event. LITTLE HERCULES made steady progress to lead in the final furlong and ran on for victory. FOURJACK stayed on for second and has more of a chasing pedigree than the winner, so it’s all the more creditable that he is mixing it at the finish this early in his career.
DUNOWEN POINT raced keenly, yet only gave way in the final furlong. He needs to settle, but there should be better to come. CROWNING JEWEL is bred to be a hurdler and finished close up in fourth, while the more exposed BUNCLODY was just behind and has put in three reasonable efforts to date.
STAR BEAT won the staying chase and goes very well here. ZITENKA came back to form with a solid second and as I’ve said before is worthy of consideration off the back of a recent run.
LETHAL GLAZE and MOON INDIGO were well clear of the rest in the 2m 3f novices’ hurdle and their form looks sound.