MUSSELBURGH – Friday January 14th 2011
Going – Good to Soft (Soft in places)
The temperatures having risen significantly in Scotland, Musselburgh were able to run in their first meeting since November 26th. The course looked in pretty decent nick given that it’s been under snow and ice and/or frozen since that time.
12.50 2m Country Refreshments Maiden Hurdle (Class 4)
KING FINGAL raced keenly but needed up winning more due to putting in a clear round than necessarily being quicker than the others. Left in second place following Aikman’s fall departure three out, he was then presented with the lead when the runner-up made a pig’s ear of the last. That being said, he wasn’t stopping at the end and it looked a fair performance. This was about as soft as he would want the ground having arguably been best on faster on the flat.
KAOLAK was hampered two out but still held every chance until blundered at the last. He couldn’t recover quickly enough but kept on for second, confirming the promise of his Ayr effort.
Multiple pointing winner AIKMAN set the pace until three out. Like many of James Ewart’s horses he rallied once passed and led again when giving Harry Haynes a crunching fall two out. He has plenty of ability and should win a hurdle race.
WYSE HILL TEABAGS progressed at his level in bumpers. He plugged on for a well held third, his jumping can be improved and he looks to need a greater test of stamina.
DR FLYNN was well held from three out, FORTUNI seemed once again to struggle to see out the trip and CHOCOLATE CARAMEL, second in a poor contest here in November, was comfortably put in his place.
1.20 3m Country Refreshments Beginners’ Chase (Class 4)
After a solitary hurdles outing, a creditable fourth at Cheltenham, ON HIS OWN pressed to the discipline he was bred for. He had too much in the locker for his exposed main rival and stayed on gamely to take first prize. He should go to bigger things over fences.
NINE DE SIVOLA may be many things, but a ‘beginner’ he ain’t! This must be surely be the only time a Scottish Grand National and National Hunt Chase placed horse has competed in a beginners’ chase. He was outbattled on the flat by the winner and will presumably revert to staying handicaps, though of course he’s eligible for another tilt at ‘his’ Cheltenham event. It is worth noting that 3 miles around Musselburgh doesn’t play to his strengths.
ROSSINI DANCER ran about as well as could be expected to finish third.
POSH BIRD was comfortably put in her place from four out, while SOLDIERS TREE was outclassed, lost touch down the far side and was pulled up before four out.
1.50 2m 4f Country Refreshments 0-101 Handicap Chase
This was not the strongest contest for what was nominally a 0-110 handicap and most were below their modest best.
NELLIEDONETHAT had hinted at a return to form last time and was a comfortable winner here, pulling clear in the straight. He will be bumped up a bit for this and face tougher tasks.
GUNS AND BUTTER, as on many previous occasions, was caught flat-footed in the run for home, but kept on for a well held second.
LAHIB THE FIFTH kept on from some way back for third, suggesting a stiffer test would help. However, he looks ordinary even at this level and has run prominently at this distance.
SADDLERS DEAL interested me first time over fences but hasn’t progressed. He weakened three out and was well beaten.
EMOTIVE was held up and never got into the race.
GOLDEN GLOBE was struggling three quarters of a mile out.
DEVIL WATER showed promise early in his career but has regressed. He was coming out of the back straight for the final time.
CYBORA raced prominently early but was spent by the tenth fence.
SPIRIT CALLING was feeling the pinch after a circuit and was pulled up when tailed off with four to go.
2.20 2m Country Refreshments Juvenile Hurdle (Class 4)
VOSGES kicked on from the home bend. He had to be driven after two out but forged ahead on the flat under pressure. He appeared to see out the trip better than the second.
MAKBULLET’s stamina is going to be a question mark in anything but the fastest conditions. H couldn’t hold the winner from the last, but his class might see him through against inferior opponents.
DANCE FOR JULIE was held form before the last and CAPRICORNUS was booked for fourth place from two out.
2.50 2m Country Refreshments Selling Hurdle (Class 5)
POKFULHAM won this my virtue of being more straightforward in the run to the line. He’ll probably be competitive around the 100 mark in handicaps as he gains experience.
LENNON, rated 135 over fences, was dropped to the lowest level over hurdles. His attitude from three out suggests he’s getting disenchanted with the game. He did run on better once finding the rail from the last but looks booked for retirement on this evidence.
LAKIL HOUSE is an 11-year-old on the downgrade and was held from three out, while there was no encouragement from any of the other runners in a weak contest.
3.20 3m Country Refreshments 0-120 Handicap Chase (for the Kilmany Cup)
Nick Alexander’s Fife stable is having a decent season, despite having been badly hit by the snow in recent weeks, and the progressive ISLA PEARL FISHER leads the way. He wouldn’t go down as the prettiest to look at, but he has stamina and a decent attitude. Always going comfortably, he challenged two out and came clear from the last. I understand that the long term plan is to aim for a race at Ayr or Perth in April.
This win should guarantee a place in the Highland National and the fact that he’s shown no signs of stopping in recent races suggests the race might be worth a try.
FESTIVAL KING led two out but was held from the last. This was sound effort in the class and he could go in given a drop to easier company.
BALLY WALL kept on for third. His jumping was messy early on which won’t have helped his cause.
LOCKSTOWN finished a one paced fourth. He won in heavy and softer ground would help.
TOP DRESSING was beaten from two out and has struggled in recent runs.
GO SILVER BULLET led until three out and then weakened. He needs to have comfortable lead and probably needs slightly better ground anyway.
BALLABROOK was beaten five out.
SOPRANO jumped in rear and was pulled up before two out along with NEW SHUIL who was very disappointing and is better than this.
3.50 2m Country Refreshments Intermediate Open NH Flat Race
Previous winner JUKEBOX MELODY proved too strong in the final quarter mile, despite having been very keen early on. A stiffer test will do no harm.
PYJAMA GAME emerged from the pack to chase the winner. He’s a half brother to a winner out of a well related mare so there’s every hope he can pick up a bumper before going hurdling.
THURNHAM ran a sound race but just lacks a bit of pace in the closing stages.
DIZZY RIVER and THINK AGAIN both kept on late to give connections hope of better.
Kelso suffered too abandonments due to snow and frost. With a promising forecast it’s hoped Musselburgh will pick up the reins in Scotland on Wednesday 26th. My own racegoing commitments are limited to weekends at the moment, but I’m eagerly looking forward to ‘Trials Day’ at Musselburgh on Sunday February 6th. He’s hoping the freeze doesn’t return!