Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mid February Action in Scotland and The North

CATTERICK – Monday February 14th

Going – Good To Soft

MAC AERA and EIGHTEEN CARAT were clear in the staying novice hurdle which opened a run-of-the-mill jumping card. Both look out and out stayers with Mac Aera possessing a little more scope to progress. STREAMTOWN was well held but might make an impact in handicaps in time.

CHAMIREY’s departure when going well three out left YOU KNOW YOURSELF to come home in isolation to secure the staying novice chase.
ONLY THE BEST unseated five out when dropping away behind the first two. The penny took a bit of time to drop over hurdles and he might just need some learning time over the bigger obstacles.

PRET A THOU won a fairly decent Class 3 2m 3f handicap chase and is going the right way. DE BOITRON was held from the last but put in a sound effort and is a good marker.
COLUMBUS SECRET was not disgraced in third. He was held by the first two from three out, but he’s going in the right direction and acquitted himself well in this company, performing better than when I saw him at Ayr in January. He will be of interest in handicaps if dropped in grade.

NEWCASTLE – Tuesday February 15th

Going – Heavy

The ground was very testing at Gosforth Park and most of the runners were struggling to get home. The vast majority of chasers were out on feet by the turn for home, despite not having to jump so many obstacles with two missed out in the back straight. It may be worth ignoring form of some of the beaten horses as conditions will seldom run as testing.

The opening maiden hurdle was won in comfortable style by BUNCLODY forging clear with ears pricked. This wasn’t the toughest opposition, but he looks capable of better and this run aids weight to the form of his previous conqueror, STORM BRIG.

PRINCE TAM is not the strongest finishers, but it was ability to keep galloping that mattered in the 2m Class 5 Handicap Chase. He forged clear from four out and, though tired, saw out his race steadily. THE GREEN HAT is a bit of a slow plodder who has tried at various distances, but he kept on for second. MIGHTY MAGNUS was well held from four in the gluepot.

JERINGA led all bar the last fifty yards of the Class 4 Handicap Chase, adding another runner up spot to his record. His effort couldn’t be faulted though and he should eventually get his head in front where it counts. TEERIE EXPRESS had just a little more in reserve to pass his only surviving opponent, the other two still standing having sensibly called it a day when very tired.

WILD CANE RIDGE finished the best part of a furlong clear of the only other finisher in the three mile chase. After MISTER MARKER unseated three out when tired, the winner just clambered over two out and it looked touch and go if he could get over the final obstacle. Stoked up approaching the fence, Wild Cane Ridge responded gamely and a fine leap at the last saw him home. Future prospects depend on whether the handicapper lends any weight to this form.
TOP DRESSING plugged round for a distant second. IT’S TEESCOMPONENTS emptied very quickly before five out having led up till then.
SEE YOU THERE just couldn’t handle the conditions and KING KILLONE, pulled up once again, now looks a back number.

MUSSELBURGH – Wednesday February 16th

Going - Soft (Good to Soft in places)

We’ve had a fair bit of rain in the East of Scotland recently, the going at Musselburgh being as testing of late as it has been for a few seasons. The bends in particular chopped up badly as the East Lothian course brought there winter campaign to a close.

1.50 2m 4f EBF NH Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

BLENHEIM BROOK jumped accurately all the way round and had no problem seeing off a moderate field, winning by 16 lengths eased right down. He is now aimed at the EBF Final at Sandown in March. I think he will need soft going to make a mark at Esher.
SMITHY THE HORSE kept on from three out and seems to be going the right way. He should progress in staying events given time.
BLAZING BAY plugged on for third but doesn’t look any great shakes as yet.

2.20 3m 110yds Weatherbys Private Banking Handicap Hurdle (0-100)

VALLANI has improved since joining Lucinda Russell from John Barclay’s yard. She’s not madly quick, but does stay on and her determination was enough to wrest the race from a gallant second. When her jumping holds up she’s competitive at this level.
FESTIVAL KING, in form over fences, ran with zest out front only to be denied the race near the finish. He’s in good heart and this augurs well for which ever target Pauline Robson points him at.
FAIRYNUFF, equipped with a first time tongue-tie, ran a sound race though unable to match he first two from before the last. If the breathing aid continues to work then he may well land a small staying hurdle.
PROFICIENCY was well there most of the way held from two out. A small mares’ staying event might be her chance, while WOTCHALIKE ran respectably coming off a break and should come on enough to have win prospects in the spring.

2.50 2m 4f Eildon Hill Stables Hunters’ Chase

That aside, the ‘fun runners’ showed up their full time counterparts by serving up the biggest chase field of Musselburgh’s season. It’s been a struggle to fill the course’s steeplechases all season.

The start here was a mess, KINFAYRE BOY being very reluctant and severely interfered with NIRVANA DU BOURG. The starter should have some serious questions to ask since I can see no way this could be considered a fair start. One wonders what he was watching!

ZEMSKY had some decent novice hurdle form when with Nicky Henderson. He’s been successful in the pointing field and only had to kept up to his work to win this, having run prominently from halfway. He looks the type to win another hunter chase or two.
SPELLCHECKER won a moderate maiden chase at Sedgefield last season. He probably isn’t the most resolute performer but should find this sphere easier. He led at the twelfth but wasn’t good enough once passed by the winner two out.
THUNDER HAWK is another better off in hunter chases. He led for the first half of the race, dropped back down the far side and then stayed on again from three out. This sharp two and a half miles would not have favoured him.
BOW SCHOOL never got into the race here and could only plug on into fourth. The race won’t have done him any harm and he can be more competitive.
NIRVANA DE BOURG, carrying forward a dismal pointing and hunter record from last season, caught up with his field after the starting debacle. He dropped away down the far side but too his credit stayed on a bit in the latter stages, a first time tongue tie seemingly eking out just a glimmer of improvement.
QUECHUA DES OBEAUX’s brief effort approaching four out came to nothing.
SCOTCH WARRIOR briefly threatened approaching four out, but was getting the worst of the argument when coming down at the next fence.
ATHOSS made no impact against opponents better than himself, BARRY THE CRACKER faded before the final bend and has made little impact under Rules,whilst PENDLE FOREST continues on the downgrade.
Five-year-old MARKADAM made a winning pointing debut recently. He ran well enough before a bad mistake at the twelfth put paid to his chances. He hints at ability and might be worth keeping an eye on.

3.20 2m Nairn’s Oatcakes Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (0-104)

This race yielded a future Grade 1 winner last season in Orsippus. I can’t see that being the case this year, but the winner does at least progressive, ANTOELLA setting a decent pace and pulled clear comfortably from two out.
MIEREVELD was keen early on, which won’t have helped, and could only keep on after the winner.
CAPRICORNUS stayed on from three out. Evidence to date is that he’s not a possessor of great pace, but might do a bit more if given a stamina test.
Brian Toomey gave LADY PACHA a few too many cracks to my mind after the sixth. It may be the filly doesn’t give it her all, but the rider’s effort did not look pretty.

3.50 2m Weatherbys Wealth Planning Handicap Hurdle (0-130)

DONTPAYTHEFERRYMAN won this in fine style. Having set the pace from the start, he quickened three out and then stayed on determinedly in typical fashion. He’s been in decent form on the flat recently and a jumps follow up looks possible.
POKFULHAM chase in vain from three out, but this was another decent effort. He should find a handicap opportunity off his current mark.
GRAND DIAMOND kept on for third, but his only hurdles win came when the race fell ‘into his lap’ at Kelso and he does need things to go his way.
VIVA COLONIA was held here despite stepping back down in trip.

4.20 2m 4f NSPCC Social Services Novices’ Handicap Chase (0-110)

ROSSINI’S DANCER has been running reasonably well of late without threatening to win. He put things right here with a determined finish, working his way into contention before four out, leading two out but then hitting the last before rallying and staying on tenaciously.
QUINDER SPRING led or disputed until headed two out, got the better jump at the last only to be headed near the line.
POSH BIRD plugged on for third from well back, but isn’t especially well treated.
GUNS AND BUTTER weakened three out and regularly finishes weakly.
NONOTREALLY jumped left for much of the way. He got in touch by the eighth but soon dropped back. His amateur rider wins no friends for needless whip wielding on the turn out of the back straight when his mount was clearly going nowhere.
LOCKED INTHEPOCKET went well until falling at the eleventh.

4.50 2m CMYK Digital Solutions Standard Open NH Flat Race

GRANDIOSO, out of Westerner by 12 furlong winner, is bred to be favoured by a stamina test. He stayed on well if a bit green, and this must augur well for the future.
PYJAMA GAME was outpaced early in the straight before staying on for second.
DIZZY RIVER will be better suited by a stamina test over jumps. He was well held form three furlongs out.
THINK GREEN ran out of puff three furlongs out.

KELSO – Thursday February 17th

Going – Soft

A decent midweek meeting at the Borders’ track, headlined by the appearance of Peddler’s Cross in the feature event.

1.40 2m 110yds Kelso Members Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

This didn’t look a bad novice event won in decent style by BOGSIDE, staying on up the long run-in. The form of his Musselburgh third looks solid and he should be capable of picking up further races.
MUSIC OF THE MOOR closed on the run-in and confirmed the promise of her Sandown debut. She will be interesting if returned to a juvenile hurdle and it wouldn’t be out of the question that Tom Tate might take her to Cheltenham.
PRICELESS ART made a satisfactory hurdling debut. He kept on but found the first two a little too nippy from the last.
THE GALLOPING SHOE held every chance before being held form the last. He lost a shoe at Musselburgh first time and this was much more encouraging.
In a race full of notebook horses, RUMBLE OF THUNDER was done for pace form the last. He will be suited by a stiffer test.
Anyone looking for a quiet one to take out of this contest could do worse than put QUEL ESPRIT on the ‘eyecatchers’ list. Out the back until three out, he made steady progress to the heels of the leaders approaching the last and kept on from there. His breeding is unremarkable, and the stable are out of form, but there was plenty to encourage in this performance.

2.10 2m 2f Oswald Hughes Handicap Hurdle (0-110)

CIRCUS CLOWN is a progressive gelding, adding an impressive win here to his Ayr success. He quickened on the flat and had enough in hand to suggest he will add to his two successes.
WILLIE HALL is improving with experience and acquitted himself well stepping up from novice company. He couldn’t hold the winner from the last, but kept on well enough for second.
TEXAS HOLDEM ran a sound race in third. The twelve-year-old’s trainer must hold out hope of a win before long as he often gets in the mix and seems to try hard enough.
NO SUPPER is not the most resolute in a finish. He looked to be going well two out but was held on the flat.

2.40 2m 6f 110yds Lloyd Vaderstad Handicap Chase (0-126)

ALWAYS RIGHT confirmed the sound impression from his previous run here. John Wade’s stable has been spot on of late and this former hunter chaser is well up to Class 3 standard, leading at the last and staying on well.
CAMDEN GEORGE is frustrating, but kept on for second.
HOCKENHEIM led until the last but was then held. A fair effort, but he doesn’t stand much racing and looks collared by the handicapper.
LOCKSTOWN, presented with the race at Newcastle last time, was never looking happy enough here and held in fourth.
Course specialist OR DE GRUGY seems a bit high in the weights now and was held form two out.
DAWN RIDE was outpaced on the run to the fourteenth.
HEEZ A STELL was in rear when unseating at the twelfth.
PHARDESSA took a heavy fall at the first but seemed none the worse.

3.15 2m 1f Timeform Festival Trial Novices’ Chase

PREMIER SAGAS is turning into a decent novice chaser. He proved he can mix it with the handicappers when finishing second to Sagalyrique at Ayr, and this was his second novice victory since that. Although he bit awkward over two out, he generally jumped well and had the race in safe keeping from the last. He’s below the top band of novices but this performance looks to have earned him a crack at Cheltenham or Aintree.
ALFIE FLITS was outpaced to two out, rallying late to reclaim second. He jumped tidily enough here in November, but he has not been foot perfect since and that is holding him back.
KING O’ THE GYPSIES has the pace to mix it in this company, but his jumping here wasn’t good enough. He does have plenty of racing pace, but needs to sharpen his fencing.
THUMBS UP chased the leader two out but came under pressure approaching the last and had no more to give.
SOUL MAGIC isn’t remotely in the class of the first four but completed in his own time for fifth.

3.50 2m 2f Victor Chandler Morebattle Hurdle (Class 2)

PEDDLER’S CROSS maintained an unbeaten record here, though he had to be rousted to see off Bygones Of Brid from the last. He responded well enough, and given that he’s had a interrupted training schedule of late the performance looks sound enough. He’s done nothing wrong to date and, with the champion hurdle threatening to quite an open contest, he goes to Cheltenham with a live chance.
BYGONES OF BRID pushed the winner before being seen off before the final furlong. Things haven’t quite fallen for him handicapping, but he retains his ability and is at his best when there is a decent amount of cut.
HOLLINS ran a fair race in third but was held from two out whilst ORSIPPUS, who weakened on the run-in having looked likely to finish third, needs better ground to show his best.

4.25 3m 1f Connolly’s Red Mills Horse Feeds Open Hunters’ Chase

QUOTICA DE POYANS got the job done eventually but needed severe rousting approaching the elbow. He walked through a couple of fences, something he couldn’t get away with against tougher opposition. Add to that a tendency to hold his head at an odd angle on the run-in and it looks to me that he has few questions to answer before making a mark at the highest hunter level.
Recent point winner OPTIMISTIC HARRY retains his enthusiasm and tried his best if held in the closing stages.
GENERAL STRIKER kept on to take third, whilst RIMSKY and LUKSAR were outpaced from two out.

5.00 2m 110yds EBF/DBS Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race

Unfancied TOUBEERA was a ready winner and Michael Smith looks to have a decent mare on his hands. She might be wroth a crack at Graded Mares’ Bumpers on this evidence.
LUCIA BAY chased the winner from two furlongs out but couldn’t make any impression. She will find an easier contest and breeding suggests she can make a mark over hurdles.
MOLANNARCH was held up, made headway before the straight and kept on for third. There’s plenty of stamina in here pedigree and she may be seen to better effect at longer trips over jumps.
SERENTIATIS and THIRTY DAYS OUT followed the first three and their previous placed form lends some weight to the value of the result.

SILVER BY NATURE put himself in the picture as live Grand National contender with a superb win at Haydock. If anything his jumping improved as teh ontest went on and he left his field behind from two out.

News from Nick Alexander's stable is that his multiple winner ISLA PEARL FISHER recently suffered a hairline fracture to a hind pastern. He's had a spell at the Glasgow University's Equine Hosptial and has been reported as on the mend.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Round Up of recent action including Musselburgh Trials Day

Unfortunately I’ve had very little time to spend doing any writing of late. Picking through my notes from what has been a busy two or three weeks I’ll highlight significant performances, and there’s a full report from Musselburgh’s Cheltenham Trials Day.

MUSSELBURGH – Wednesday January 26th

The weather having relented, Musselburgh is now back in the swing of things. The rains hadn’t hit by this time and the ground was a touch on the fast side.

Exposed SILVERLORD won the opening novice hurdle and might find things hard under a double penalty. The fast ground and sharp track seem best for him.
KAOLAK once again ran a decent race only to find one too good.

ANEYEFORANEYE won a moderate mares’ novices’ event. She has improved with the step up in trip, though may struggle in open company. If entered for another mares’ only event she would be worth noting under a penalty.

AGHILL stepped up on previous form to win what looked a very moderate 0-100 three mile handicap chase. This win will mean a step up to the next grade and he will find that tough. COPPER’S GOLD is fair marker in second at this level.
FROGGY LANE went well enough before falling at the thirteenth. He didn’t handle the bends though, running very wide, and may need a more galloping track. He might be interesting at a fancy price in upcoming engagements assuming he’s none the worse for his fall.

WALDVOGEL came off a long break to win part two of the two mile novices’ hurdle. He beat AIKMAN who is a fair measure, the latter rallying in typical ‘Ewart charge’ style once headed. BOGSIDE has had an interrupted start to his career but third here was a fair effort and there is probably better to come.

EVERAARD won a very moderate 0-110 staying hurdle from well exposed VALLANI, the latter putting up a personal best. Not a race that looked one for future winners.

John Wade’s runners had the 2m 4f 0-120 chase between them. TYRONE HOUSE saw off PERSIAN PRINCE with the others well held. Lucinda Russell’s GO SILVER BULLET was in rear from the twelfth and seems regressive.

FELIX YONGER secured the bumper for Hoard Johnson, forging ahead in the final furlong. There was a hint of a barging match between four in the final furlong and it’s most likely all are fairly moderate, though third placed John Quinn’s DISTIME may well progress.

AYR – Monday January 31st

DARNA confirmed the favourable impression her gave at Ayr’s New Year meeting. Despite being keen early on he had plenty in hand to see off DESERT CRY and previous winner VIVALDI.
I drew attention to FREDDIE BROWN in the spring. He was too keen here and had nothing left in the straight, fading to fifth. Provided he settles, and with this race under his belt, I expect better.

BALLABRIGGS stayed on target for Aintree with a nice win in the two and half mile novices’ chase. This would hardly have played to his strengths, but he was too good once staying power came into play late on. He’s in good heart and Donald McCain can be trusted with his placement. YES TOM stayed on well and won’t always meet one as good as the winner. KING’S GREY was tapped for pace from two out but not disgraced in third.
GOLFER’S CROSSING had not impressed in two chase efforts, but he performed passably well in fourth, outpaced from two out. He’s worth keeping an eye on as he seems to have some ability.

PREMIERS SAGAS, placed in decent handicap company previously, saw off the novices’ chase field and is progressive. BENNY BE GOOD stayed on well for second and will win a chase soon. STEADY TIGER’s jumping still doesn’t cut the mustard and he needs to get his act together.

FESTIVAL KING jumped his rivals silly in the 2m 5f handicap chase. He’s likely to remain eligible for Class 4 events and can win again.
LAHIB THE FIFTH was second but is basically a bit frustrating if capable on his day. I’d back him at long odds, on the basis he might pop in, but not when at the front of the market. DALLAS BELL stayed on down the straight and needs a stiffer test.

QUICUYO won the two mile handicap chase. TARTAN SNOW showed improved form in second and seems to be getting his act together over fences.
THE COCKNEY SQUIRE has ability, but he was much too keen early on and finished a very tired third.

Top weight TEENAGE IDOL beat a moderate field of two mile handicap hurdlers from which I’d struggle to take any value from the beaten horses.

ANYCHANCEDAVE was pushed out to win the closing bumper from INOOGOO, the par clear and both looking to have potential to take hurdling. Nick Alexander’s FOUR FIDDLERS will need a test over fences in time, but has progressed steadily and kept on for third if held from three furlongs out. The latter is worth keeping an eye on.

NEWCASTLE – Wednesday February 2nd - Soft (Good To Soft in places)

Although the ground wasn’t described as heavy it did seem very holding. Many runners simply didn’t get home and a few beaten out of sight or pulled up can be forgiven.

BUBBLY BREEZE struck me as a potential chaser when I saw him in the flesh last season. He’s not likely to be any great shakes, but new trainer Pauline Robson should be capable of prising a race or two from him, hopefully at fancy price. He was going well enough when unseating three out in the opening conditionals’ hurdle. To me he’s more of a chaser and might be interesting if aimed a novices’ handicap chase off what might prove a generous mark.

Stuart Coltherd’s JANAL has been in fine heart of late. Previously frustrating he’s been seeing off the opposition nicely in moderate northern handicap chases. He was tired here but held on from SOUL ANGEL with frustrating NATIVE COLL back in third. The latter is probably better than he lets on, but he’s not getting any younger and chances continue to pass him by.

Alistair Whillans has potential Cheltenham prospect on his hands in STORM BRIG, convincing winner of what looked a fair two mile novices’ hurdle. This one has not been rushed and probably has fair bit more in the tank.
BUNCLODY and BOLLIN FELIX lost nothing in following home a decent winner. Both can take a novice event in the north.

MUSSELBURGH – Sunday February 6th

Going – Soft (Good To Soft in places)

Rain threatened but largely stayed away for Musselburgh’s showpiece jumps meeting, though the ground had softened following a damp week. The attendance of 2,300 was resperctable given a poor weather forecast.
Nick Henderson brought four horses to the track, but required one disappointment before deciding the ground was too soft for the other three.
Derek Thompson spent the afternoon wittering on incessantly from the parade ring. While he does keep the crowd happy, judging by the number listening, it grates when trying to assess the runners pre-race.

1.30 2m 4f Scottish Racing Novices’ Hurdle (Class 3)

This was a fair event despite the small field with Jim Goldie’s WYSE HILL TEABAGS causing a surprise, staying on with some zest to hold off what I suspect were two under performing but more fancied contenders. This one is going the right way and relished the stiffer test, having been hampered when getting into contention on his previous outing over hurdles. Goldie is normally sharp at targeting events for this sort and will no doubt find something in the spring.
MOON INDIGO never got to the winner and might well need a better surface to be seen at his best. That being said, his 130 official rating sets the standard.
Nick Henderson’s SKINT reflected the state of favourite backers after this race. Hard at work coming out of the back straight for the second time he never got to the leaders. He’s better than this given faster ground.
BRIDLINGTONBYGONES wasn’t good enough in this company and will have easier opportunities.
Kilbeggan maiden GENTLEMAN JEFF looks more of chasing type. He led, jumping neatly, until three out before fading and seems likely to be better if sent fencing.
GEARBOX travelled 400 miles to be outclassed on his hurdling debut. His trainer reported that he was unsuited by the going, but he needs aiming lower.

2.00 2m 4f Racing UK (0-120) Handicap Hurdle

SANTA’S SON ran below par when moved to the Pogsons’ yard. Rejuvenated by a return to Howard Johnson’s stable he won this with a bit to spare. Kicking on before three out, nothing got near to him. He’ll go up in the weights for this, no help to an 11-year-old, but at least he seems in good heart back in familiar surroundings.
POKFULHAM stepped up on his selling win here last time out, keeping on determinedly after the winner and well clear of the third. He seems to be progressing quite nicely and has enough about him to suggest a handicap win is not far away.
AMIR PASHA kept on for third without getting near the leaders.
MASTER FONG seemed very fit and though progressing three out could never threaten. His winning form is on better ground and 113 looks a plenty stiff enough mark.
GRANDAD BILL stayed on through beaten horses but is another not looking particularly favourably treated.
SUNARRI was held up, presumably with a head-to-head battle expected, and never got into the race. If he gets into a race that he can dictate this performance can be forgotten.
HAZELDENE, looking well enough of a break, led until weakening before three out.
ALTAN KHAN looked well but made no impact. The trip didn’t seem an excuse, though he may be seen to more effect on a faster surface.

2.30 2m John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle (Class 2)

The top three were rated 120 plus and this didn’t look a bad contest. It may throw up Cheltenham possibles, the Fred Winter Handicap being the obvious target for the first three.
VOSGES is a battled hardened warrior and showed plenty of determination to see off his main rival. James Ewart is concerned that the northern hurdlers aren’t well handicapped against the southerners, which may mitigate against a Festival target. However, Vosges won’t lack for effort and the stiff finish at Cheltenham should help him.
Ewart was on crutches, victim of a ‘fall off a wall’, though he was rather reticent to give any details!
THE STARBOARD BOW bounced back from a disappointing effort at Ayr, pushing the winner all the way in a cracking finish. Peter Scudamore reported that the Fred Winter Hurdle is the target.
DANCEINTOTHELIGHT looked to be going well entering the straight, but was quickly outpaced on the run to three out. He kept on again late on and, given that he’s a Hexham winner, a stiffer track might suit him better.
JOLLY ROGER was outpaced from three out. ELTHEEB was held when falling heavily at the last, while the race was only just warming up when MEETINGS MAN unseated at the fifth.
I get the impression ANANDA KANDA is better regarded than a lost touch from the fourth and pulled up suggests. This was dropped in at the deep end and she needs to aimed lower.
£700 purchase TRULY MAGIC was out of her depth.

3.00 2m 4f John Smith’s Novices’ Chase (Class 3)

Only three runners turned out for what has proved a decent addition to this card in recent times. However, they put on a decent contest, with all three capable of wins at their level.

Film Festival set a steady pace, DIVERS being settled at the back. The slow pace didn’t suit him particularly as he jumped stickily for a circuit. However, once the pace picked up he jumped more assuredly and it was a fine leap at the last gave him an advantage he held on with determination. Well held at Cheltenham behind Time For Rupert, handicaps at the better meetings look the target for Ferdy Murphy’s charge, one of a string of horses owned by David Parry run partnerships. Parry was seen enthusiastically cheering home his gelding from the terracing steps, a host of thrilled owners greeting the winner in the unsaddling area.
NAFAATH matched the winner to the last but lost a length there and that made the difference. I suspect the distance stretches this one’s stamina and slightly better ground will aid him. He has a good attitude and the winner’s spot beckons.
Not quite as good as the other two, FILM FESTIVAL set the pace and matched them to the last, only to held from that point. He ran to his form and will be competitive in decent northern handicaps.

3.35 2m John Smith’s Scottish County (0-140) Handicap Hurdle

This was a contest full of largely exposed but nevertheless decent handicappers.

David Pipe completed the set of winners at British courses, scoring with his first runner at Musselburgh, HUNTERVIEW. He’s not necessarily the most committed of individuals but benefits from the chance to dominate his opponents. Competing for the lead from the start at a decent pace, he kept up the gallop from the home turn and was never in danger. His Cheltenham targets are either the County Hurdle or the Coral Cup. He goes there lightly raced and in good form.
EUROPEAN DREAM needs covering up and picked off a fair few up the straight. His deal situation is to be tucked in close to the pace and being produced for a burst after the last. He’s not easy to catch right but is the sort who can pop in at decent price for those with patience.
ULTIMATE set the pace with Hunterview and wasn’t disgraced in keeping on for third. This was a fair effort and he’s one to bear in mind for similar events, particularly when likely to gain an uncontested lead.
LESLINGTAYLOR, out of form this season, showed he’s no back number by keeping on for fourth.
BUREAUCRAT made steady late progress into fifth. Off a mark of 117 there’s scope for a drop in class and Kate Walton might be able to find a handicap for this one.
CUNNING CLARETS was well held here, but has been asked tough questions twice running and might just be better off up the weights against inferiors.
James Ewart raced a French recruit in PREMIER GRAND CRU, running off 131 here. Struggling from the fifth here, he’s a nice looking sort who will probably do better in time.
KUDU COUNTRY raced prominently but dropped away quickly three out and was pulled up. He was reported as lame.

ORSIPPUS was withdrawn and the following cryptic paragraph appeared in the Stewards’ Room report:
‘The Stewards held an enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of the top weight ORSIPPUS(USA). They interviewed Michael Smith, the trainer, and forwarded his comments to the British Horseracing Authority for further investigation.’
Make of that what you will!

4.10 2m Racing UK on Sky 432 (0-120) Handicap Chase

ELITE LAND is a versatile sort who is regularly there or thereabouts. Close up in a flat race at Southwell in January, he had this contest in safe keeping from three out.
FOLK TUNE kept on for second without getting to the winner. He often runs fairly well but only wins occasionally.
SEEYAAJ led until whacking three out. He was held from that point, but this was a fair effort following a break and Lucinda Russell can place him to advantage.
EARL GREZ raced prominently but was held from three out and tended to lug left over his fences in the final straight.
OD D’OUDAIRIES lost touch from four out and Graham Lee reported his jumping was not fluent. My race note of ‘nt fluent’ suggests I can least match that experienced professional’s opinion!
FOLLOW THE SUN jumped poorly in rear. His recent prominent form has been off high weights in a lower class.
KIT CARSON struggled from halfway and was pulled up before four out. What win prospects he has will surely be in a lower class.

4.40 2m Racing UK Open Intermediate NH Flat (Class 5)

David Pipe wasted no time in adding to his Musselburgh tally, THE TRACEY SHUFFLE proving an easy winner from a small field in the bumper. This one’s a nice sort who looked favoured by the cut in the ground. He eased clear down the straight and will match better opposition than this.
SHANAGARRY was the least taking in the paddock, but stuck on to take second place.
THINK GREEN was left behind from four out, as was SERENADER, third at Carlisle in October but possibly in need of some time.
BELLA REGALO is a nice jumping sort for the future, but hasn’t got the pace for these events and will need time to develop.

MUSSELBURGH – Friday February 11th

Going – Soft

Musselburgh secured a replacement meeting following December and January call offs.

PATTERNING looks a fair juvenile hurdling recruit and ran to hold Catterick third KINGDOM OF MUNSTER after the last. The form might not be too bad, BATTLE HONOUR setting the race up for the first two before giving way from two out.

ALDERLEY ROVER saw off a moderate field in the beginners’ chase. He stayed on down the straight in this three miler and was pushed out to hold his only serious pursuer BALLYMACDUFF. The former might well score under a penalty in novice company, while Ballymacduff looks good enough to win chases.
POLITICAL PENDANT was a well beaten third, while DEVIL WATER is proving to be disappointing for one that showed some zip in his early outings.

DEVOTION TO DUTY was kept up to his work to hold AMIR PASHA in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle. The latter is in fair form and the form looks sound.

LITTLE HERCULES quickened up in decent style to take the two mile novice hurdle. This was a decent jumps bow and this one should take on better company, though as with many Wylie/Johnson horses he’ll be shorter priced than ideal.
TOLEDO GOLD ran a decent race in third, leading and stretching on down the back straight but having no extra to give once passed approaching the last. He might score over a sharp two miles.
MASTER BEAU raced prominently and stayed on for second.

DARK BEN is an exciting sight at this level setting the pace and jumping enthusiastically. He was right on his game on this occasion, keeping up the gallop once turning for home and pinging the closing obstacles.
GO SILVER BULLET ran a bit better than of late over this three mile trip, keeping on for second though not able to get to the winner. I’d always felt he was better on faster ground but he seemed to handle the cut here with no problem.
ZITENKA ran well until hitting two out and will be of interest if appearing within a couple of weeks.
NELLIEDONETHAT was held in fourth, but this was a tough ask in the company and he was not disgraced.
ELZAHANN who has jumped well when leading in the past showed no appetite held up in the rear.

AIKMAN stayed on well to hold consistent RUPERT LAMB in the closing novice hurdle. Both can continue to be competitive but they are exposed and offer little betting value.

AYR – Saturday February 12th

Going – Soft(Heavy in places)

Ayr survived an early morning inspection though the going was testing as it often can be here in the winter. The meeting was rather overshadowed by grim news of equine fatalities at Newbury.

YES TOM won the staying novice hurdle from ARCTIC COURT and SUNNYSIDE, but all three are well exposed. On the plus side they have all shown they have what it takes to win a race.

Bob Goldie’s ALEXANDER OATS popped up at 33/1 in the novices’ chase. There were doubts about the other three, but this half-brother to a couple of point winners took the race on merit. As far as I can tell this was the Ayrshire stable’s first National Hunt winner since May 1996. SIBENEK kept on for second and is a winner this season, but is eminently beatable. STEADY TIGER still doesn’t convince over fences and the race will presumably bring WOODY WALLER on a bit.

LOCKEDINTHEPOCKET was a facile winner of the two and a half mile handicap chase, but will surely be bumped up significantly for this effort. Those behind are much of a muchness, INNOMINATE plugging on for second and GO ON BE A LADY passing a few late on for third.

I’ve got a decent opinion of REINDEER DIPPIN and he made most of the running to take the Class 3 two mile handicap chase. I think he has ability to take on better opposition.
RAYSROCK kept on for second but is essentially on his mark as are most of the others when they are on song.

GARLETON returned to form, doddling up in the Class 4 staying handicap chase. He’s useful on his day at this level but might now suffer for winning by a wide margin. BEAR DANCING and BLAZING DIVA fought out second place at a ‘safe distance’. Both stay well but the impression is that the handicapper has them taped.
SEEKING POWER ran a lacklustre, never getting involved and being pulled up with some way to go. The same stable’s NATIVE COLL was noticeably below par earlier on the card.

LAST OF THE BUNCH and CHARLIE BUCKET fought out the finish in the 2m 5f Class 4 Handicap Hurdle and look to be going in the right direction. Exposed top weight CURRAHEE stayed on for third.

CIRCUS CLOWN won a poor closing handicap hurdle, but this lightly raced gelding pulled clear in decent style and is probably capable of another win or two. KINGS GUARD is okay at this level and kept on for second in front of SEE THE LEGEND.