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.