Saturday, 26 March 2011

Cheltenham..., then on to Kelso

Scottish stables played on the fringes at the Cheltenham Festival, though there were some fair performances and it’s good to see at least some significant presence.

Jim Goldie’s single runner, LA VECCHIA SCUOLA, couldn’t make an impact on her first hurdles outing for a good while. She kept on from two out but couldn’t get a blow in at the leaders.

James Ewart raced two on the Wednesday of the meeting. CAPTAIN AMERICO raced up front for three miles before dropping away in the National Hunt Chase. He didn’t see out the trip but has plenty of ability and can become a decent handicap chaser at shorter distances. AIKMAN put up a creditable performance in the 2m 5f Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. He led until just before the straight and kept on battling away once headed, not being beaten too far in seventh. He will have a future as a chaser and his hurdling performances augur well.

Lucinda Russell’s THE STARBOARD ROW ran creditably on handicap bow in a competitive Fred Winter Hurdle. Meanwhile QUITO DE TRESOR put up arguably the best Scottish effort with a fine fifth behind Oiseau De Nuit in the Grand Annual chase. Having every chance before the last Quito Du Tresor just couldn’t raise his game any further. He’s still only seven and may have a bit of improvement left.

Sandy Forster’s STORYMAKER wasn’t disgraced in finishing tenth, staying on late, in conditions which wouldn’t have brought out the best in him.

Meanwhile Musselburgh can boast two Cheltenham winners who won their prep races. DIVERS landed the novices’ handicap chase having won the novice chase at Musselburgh’s Trials meeting, an event previously won by Kalahari King and Fiendish Flame. More surprising was the Foxhunters’ victory of Musselburgh Hunter Chase winner ZEMSKY. Although he won comfortably at Musselburgh he did seem up against it at Cheltenham. However, even allowing for Baby Run unseating two out, he was looking to have every chance and came home well clear of the remainder for Northern Ireland trainer, and Scottish circuit regular, Ian Ferguson.

If I may indulge a little I can mention my own Cheltenham victory. My propensity for selecting outsiders certainly helped in the The Racing Forum’s Cheltenham Big 4 Competition. With points scored according to price I was much indebted to Thousand Stars, Cross Kennon and What A Friend for their placed efforts in Cheltenham’s Big 4 feature races. Thanks to Tracy Roberts of Turfpix for her support of the competition.

At Hexham Nick Alexander’s SEEKING POWER came close to landing his target race, the four mile Black Grouse Handicap Chase. The race, run in testing going and over this stiff circuit, suits Seeking Power down to the ground. Unfortunately he found the enigmatic MATMATA DE TENDRON on one of his going days, closing on the run-in but not able to get his head in front. The pair were well clear of a partially revived PANAMA AT ONCE who will be better suited by drier ground.

KELSO – Monday March 21st

Going – Good To Soft (Good in places)
With the ground fast drying out we are starting to see a few spring horses coming to the fore. This was a decent card for a Monday with plenty of pointers to future contests.

The opening 2m 2f novices’ hurdle looked a fair contest and I suspect the form will work out. WYSE HILL TEABAGS franked the form of his third behind Bold Sir Brian here last time. Running prominently he was going well two out, went on at the last and was pushed out to come clear. He might be good enough to take a place in one of the novice races at Aintree.
QUEL ELITE continued his progressed, just wining the fight for the places. He’s shown promise on all three outings and is now qualified for handicaps.
FREDDIE BROWN still looks a bit headstrong but he had sufficient in hand to push all the way for second, having to settle for third place close home.
KAI BROON ran a sound enough race, running prominently but just held for the places on the run-in.

ROSSINI’S DANCER had a nice opportunity in the novices’ handicap chase and was ridden clear from the last. The second BORDER REIVER has ability but lacks a bit of oomph at the finish, while MAID IN MOSCOW was held from the last.
WINTER ALCHEMY had been bustled toward the rear at times and unseated after dragging his hindquarters through the open ditch away from the stands.
BLACKPOOL BILLY is looking uncooperative and refused at the third.
CHICAGO OUTFIT departed early as his saddle slipped and he was pulled up after two fences.

In the Class 4 two mile hurdle the leaders came back to the rest and it was those waited with who held sway. BYWELL BEAU set the pace, but he was done with at the last, while POKFULHAM race prominently until thumping two out and weakening. He’s better than this effort suggests.
KING MAK was held up in touch, taking over at the last and staying on. He pulled clear, but is exposed and won’t be done any favours in the weights after this.
LATIN CONNECTION progressed from the rear two out and kept on in vain pursuit on the flat. His Irish based trainer often raids this side of the Irish and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this one pulled out at Perth next month.
COUNTY COLOURS led two out but he’s an awkward customer and was well held from the last.
COOL BARANCA’s rider lost his irons and had a wonky bridle form four out, but stayed in contention until lack of steering told as eh ran out at the last. He seemed willing enough under the circumstances and could find compensation.

The 2 miles 1 furlong handicap chase was a competitive event. TARTAN SNOW took some time to get the hangs of things over fences, and has not had the best of luck recently, but he impressed in winning this. He jumped tidily enough and stayed on well from the last. Allowing for his mishaps he ahs been running well and even at the age of 11 looks one to keep in mind in similar contests.
MY MOMENT led from the eighth until wandered on the run-in and headed. This was his best effort for some while and Henry Daly might be able to place him to win.
GRINGO kept on from the rear for second. He has dropped a couple of pounds despite a good autumn second to Noble Alan here. He has run well in the spring in recent years.
CARRIETAU, wearing a sheepskin noseband instead of his usual headgear, looks just held by the handicapper at the moment and was one paced in fourth. He has difficulty dominated in this grade but tried hard.
QUICUYO raced prominently until fading before the last.
HAZELDENE jumped better than last time but wasn’t good enough in this company.
BOB’S DREAM was easily brushed aside and is struggling at the moment, while HEAVENLY CHORUS was never going here.
In form RAYSROCK hit the sixth and unseated.

A bunch of exposed performers competed in the 2m 6f handicap hurdle. SENDALI burst through from the last to take this event but had to work for it and has nothing special to recommend him going forward. BERTIE MILAN performed to his best in second, but the proximity of the less than reliable LEITH WALK, LAWGIVER and CATLEEN doesn’t give the form a strong look.
GRANDAD BILL has not been at his best this season and never figured. EVERAARD, winner of a weak event at Musselburgh in February, faded tamely from two out.

The hunter chase was marred by the demise of popular performer ROBBERS GLEN who gave Val Jackson a crashing fall at the sixth fence. Despite efforts to save him he was put down and it was a sad way for as fine campaigner to exit.
QUOTICA DE POYANS added another Kelso success to his collection. He made a mistake at the fence in front of the stands but his fencing was generally sharp. He was too good for a game second from the last.
ARDNACLANCY was held up to give him a chance and closed to the last but could only offer one pace from there on in. He’s an honest sort and might pick up a hunter chase if he can avoid the winner.
HOT ‘N’ HOLY was outpaced from three out but plugged on into third. Rated 125 at best, he is on the downgrade but tried hard enough and earned some pocket money.
THUNDER HAWK did as well as could be expected in finishing fourth.
NORTHERN REVOQUE raced prominently until three out. Her best opportunities are in the pointing field.

Kelso bumpers normally throw up a noteworthy performance or two. Another useful performer has come off the Karen McLintock conveyor belt in the shape of NODFORM RICHARD. He was pushed clear in the final furlong and, out of a decent flat performer, has decent jumps form in his pedigree. Expect this one to progress from this.
PYJAMA GAME was well clear of the third and rallied once headed. This one has been second three times but should turn into a jumper and will surely win races.
FARM PIXIE came from well back to take third place. He’s taken time to learn but his last two runs augur well for one who is out of a half-sister to Grand National runner up Blue Charm. One to keep an eye on over jumps.
DOME RUN made headway to chase the leaders on the home bend but couldn’t challenge.
These were followed by two George Charlton horses. MONASHEE weakened into fifth having raced prominently while BALVERNIER came from well backed to fill sixth place. Charlton often has horses ready for bumpers but these two may need a little time.

I'm crossing the broder to Hexham on sunday March 27th so notes to follow from there on a well attended card that sees two races divided.

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