Sunday, 12 June 2011

Cartmel, then Gold Cups at Musselburgh and Perth

Racing flying at us thick and fast at this time of year.

CARTMEL – Spring Meeting

Going was good with the odd good to soft patch for the three days.

Saturday May 28th

RIVAL D’ESTRUVAL collared ESCUDERO in the 2m 6f novices’ hurdle. The first two would appear to have run more or less to their ratings of 115 and 120 at these weights. In the light of that, WINGS OF SMOKE’s effort in third looks creditable and this one should win a staying hurdle race before long.

The 0-100 2m 5½f handicap chase was big on numbers but most have their foibles. Maiden PADDY’S UNYOKE looked the likely winner on the long run from the last, but he seemed to down tools once turned from home, leaving the more determined NIFTY ROY to land the spoils. SOUL MAGIC looked a possible winner at the last but capitulated quickly from the final bend. FRENCH TIES was a fair third but nothing much to get too excited about amongst the rest.
Sadly we saw the exit of ITS TEESCOMPONENTS who broke a leg on the final circuit. It happened close to the first fence on the priory side and Keith Reveley was lucky, but most importantly, skilful enough to steer her around the fence. The mare had struggled of late but was a fair stayer at best and it’s a sad loss.

GLACIAL RAMBLER looked to have every chance if repeating his Perth effort given that he ran off 60 in the staying intermediate handicap chase. He stayed on gamely from the last to record a first Rules win in 24 attempts. That being said, it was a dire contest.

AL QEDDAAF created a favourable impression in the novices’ chase, jumping swiftly and finding plenty when required against a couple of decent opponents. The winner may well go on to much better, whilst PISTOLET NOIR and TARKARI will find easier opponents, both jumping well enough on chasing debut.

REAPING THE REWARD stayed on for second in the maiden hurdle and seemed to find them minimum trip around here a bit too sharp. DUNOWEN POINT has some fair form to his credit and was driven out for victory. THE TIDDLY TADPOLE stayed on for third and is making some progress.

Monday May 30th

As usual Cartmel was packed out for the Bank Holiday Monday meeting, when viewing spots are at a premium amongst the funfairs, gazebos, cars and general throng. Take it for what it is though and this meeting is a unique celebration of British horse racing.

MAID OF MOSCOW had a bloodless victory in the staying handicap chase seeing off five moderate opponents. She only had to be nudged out and will score again if the handicapper considers this wasn’t a great event. CHICO TIME couldn’t match the winner from the last while the rest were well seen off. Not for the first time BYNACK MHOR was well backed at Cartmel, but he’s too big for this course and to my eyes really struggles here. I suspect a few value seekers couldn’t believe their luck at the winner’s 9/4 SP. TOULOUSE EXPRESS finished tailed off, no surprise since the only way he’s going to stay 3m 6f is in a horse box, his second over 3m 3f at Sedgefield having come in a dreadful event run at a slow pace.

The Crawford stable made it a quick double when NOW THIS IS IT, who could be a decent chasing prospect, took the beginners’ chase comfortably. He was pushed clear on the run from the last. Worth looking out for around Perth this summer.

DYSTONIA’S REVENGE looked held with three-quarters of a mile to run in the maiden hunter chase of the year. However, he stayed on in the half mile from the last fence and wrested the race close home. STREEDAGH LADY made most of the running but couldn’t respond sufficiently when passed in the straight. She is on the upgrade though. RICH HILL, twice a pointing winner, wouldn’t be lost cause in maiden hunter company in future as he kept on for third. PAINT ME SILVER was beaten 10 lengths in fourth, seeming better suited by Cartmel than the stiff track at Hexham.

EXECUTIVE’S HALL stayed on to win the 2m 6f novices’ handicap hurdle. I marked this one down as one that could win staying chases. He is gaining in confidence, appears to have strengthened and I look forward to him returning to fences.

Fife trainer Nick Alexander has had rattling good start to the season. His DAASIJ recorded a comfortable win in the 3m 2f conditionals’ handicap hurdle, winning with any amount in hand. The winner looks an ideal sort round here, but is in such good form he would see off most at his level at the moment.

Wednesday June 1st

The meeting closes with a quieter evening meeting.

The second last flight was positioned very close to the third last, presumably due to worn ground, giving a very long run before the final flight.

Lucinda Russell’s OH SO BEAUTIFUL has steadily improved and found an opportunity in the mares’ only maiden hurdle run over 2m 6f. She was ridden out to see off HANNAH JACQUES and is going the right way.

Having shown up prominently on the first day of the meeting, SOUL MAGIC triumphed over a moderate Class 5 handicap chase field when dropped back to 2m 1½f. Trainer Harriet Graham is covering plenty of bases since she freelances as a director for racing TV channels, and she was on duty here, while also picking up the clerk of the course baton at various courses from Anthea Morshead who has moved to the prestige job at York. Soul Magic is probably best raced prominently over a short trip, and the sharp track here helped. MYSTERIOUS WORLD recorded a personal best in second but he’s had 20 goes under Rules and his proximity doesn’t advertise the form.
COLDITZ was momentarily imprisoned behind the first two on the run-in and couldn’t escape quick enough to get his head in front.

STAGECOACH OPAL stayed on up the straight to land the Grand Veterans’ Chase, making a successful return to chasing. His record around Cartmel reads 121. TOP DRESSING got as close as he has for a long time in second, while out and out stayer ONIZ TIPTOES stayed on without getting close enough to threaten. The latter regularly picks up prize money but wins seldom these days.
Highland National winner PETITE MARGOT was never really going and dropped to the rear after the sixteenth. Under driving she picked up enough to finish fourth.
DARK BEN led jumping well but he’s better at shorter distances and dropped away in the last mile.

Former Cheltenham Foxhunters’ Chase winner AMICELLI took the closing hunter chase of the season. He’s well below the level he was at, but he showed plenty of determination to see off FLOREANA and LAGOSTA from the last.

RARE COINCIDENCE doddled up in the 2m 6f handicap hurdle, but he got the run of the race. He’ll get bumped up a fair bit for a comfortable win and I’d oppose him in his upcoming hurdle races. AUBERGE, often thereabouts but not often a winner, was the only one to get within hailing distance.

Talented Joe Colliver rode HEART OF DUBAI to a win in the closing conditionals’ event. This was a moderate event though and the winner might struggle rounds a more orthodox track.

HAMILTON – Thursday June 2nd

THE CLAN MACDONALD made a pleasing winning debut in the opening two-year-old maiden auction event, coming clear in the final furlong. Relations have progressed with time and this one should worry better company.

From the six furlong claimer it might be worth keeping THE FIERY CROSS in the note book. He showed fair speed on a belated racecourse debut, has plenty of speedy relations and should benefit from the experience.

COUNTRYWIDE FLAME made all and held off a very green looking FIRE FIGHTER in a 1m 3f three-year-old handicap. While this wasn’t a strong event, a few have progressed from similar events at Hamilton. The remaining five runners were well beaten and the first two might have more in the tank.

POKFULHAM has been in good form over hurdles and took advantage of a cushy flat handicap mark to win the closing 1m 5f event. He turned in some determined performances over jumps and might come on a bit in flat races.

MUSSELBURGH – Saturday 4th June

My brother Andy chose Derby day to get married. There are three of us, two racing nuts and one other. Guess which one is ‘the other’! Seriously though, we had a great time down on the south coast at Christchurch and wish Andy and Jane all the best for the future.

Meanwhile, back in Scotland, Musselburgh held their big race day of the year, with the Edinburgh Gold Cup as centrepiece.

The two-year-old conditions’ event can throw up a decent animal and might just have shown an improving one in FREDERICK ENGELS. He was a ready winner here and has three entries at Royal Ascot. It’s taken three races to get going properly, but Frederick Engels might be no lost cause in the Windsor Castle or Norfolk Stakes, given that Es Que Love who finished six lengths adrift second has the same Ascot entries.

Thirteen of 15 runners from last year’s Edinburgh Gold Cup have won races since. On that basis I’ll keep all nine runners from this year’s contest in mind for the future. The winner ETERNAL HEART was only rated 87 going into this race, but he’s progressing and this half-brother to Yavana’s Pace might be a good deal better than the bare figures. He’s entered in the King George V Handicap over 1m 4f at Royal Ascot but, given that he showed no signs of stopping over 14 furlongs at Sandown, I reckon he would be well in the mix for the Queen’s Vase.
The second MICA MIKA is a nice sort from a family that progress as three and four-year-olds. He made the winner pull out the stops.
NAMIBIAN, a stablemate of the winner, has been running creditably in Listed company. He stayed on late for third and is another well entered up at Ascot. Rated 103, he is another who might have the Queen’s Vase as an option, though he’s more exposed than the winner.
SWIFT ALHAARTH made it three out of the first four for the Johnston stable. He was raised in class significantly here and off 83 there’s plenty of scope for setting his sights lower. I’d be surprised if he couldn’t win a 0-90 contest.
The quiet one her might be the seventh to cross the line, LEXI’S BOY. Out of the handicap here, he wasn’t totally disgraced if unable to match better opponents. He’d done just enough to win in three all-weather handicaps and might still have a bit in hand if aimed at the opportunities his 76 turf rating might present. A 70 mark on the artificial surface looks very tasty!

BURNING THREAD won the Scottish Sprint Cup on his first attempt in a handicap. He lost ground when rearing at the start, so beating a strong field over a sharp five furlongs was all the more worthy a performance.
The stands’ rail holds an advantage over five furlongs here, so VERINCO did well to finish second from stall seven particularly so since he ran close to the pace.
KALDOUN KINGDOM started slowly, but that gave him the chance to get to the stands’ rail and most of his best runs have come when picking his way through the field. He ran on well to take third.
From stall five RACY was well clear of the remainder of the far side, getting into the race approaching the final furlong but unable to produce any extra. His win came over six furlongs at Pontefract and he may just be suited by a stiffer test.

Given the class of the opening events, the last three races on the card were disappointing, particularly a two runner non-event to close proceedings. The course can and has produced better balanced cards.

PERTH – Sunday June 5th

Going – Good

The popular Scottish track once again drew a huge crowd for Perth Gold Cup day, though the field wasn’t as strong as it could be, economic restrictions keeping the winner’s prize below £10,000.

2.30 2m 4½f Provost’s Plate Challenge Trophy Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

Gordon Elliott is sharp to spot an opportunity and PRIORS GOLD who cruised clear of his only serious challenger up the straight. American import TAP NIGHT made a satisfactory debut over hurdles for Lucinda Russell. One would imagine he’ll need some time to adapt from dirt flat racing to turf hurdling, but the initial signs are promising.
THINK GREEN was left behind in the straight having jumped ponderously early on. He’s from a sprinting family, but gives the impression he’ll need a test himself.

3.00 2m 4½f J.D. Pipes Special Gold Cup Novices’ Handicap Chase (0-130)

PEACHEY MOMENT made it three on the trot, asserting on the run-in after challenging front running MONOGRAM at the last. The winner gave the impression he felt he had done enough once in front and there still appears to be more in the tank.
MONOGRAM was blinkered for the first time and performed well enough, finishing well clear of the other three.
BESCOT SPRINGS ballooned his jumps early, but settled down a bit in the second half of the race. He’d used up too much energy though and couldn’t match the first two from the home turn.
GRAY MOUNTAIN was flattered by his previous win here and never got into the hunt on this occasion. He seems very high in the handicap at 130.
AMAZING KING was struggling from the tenth fence.

3.30 2m Fugro Subsea Services Handicap Chase (0-115)

The good form of Nick Alexander’s stable continued as he added another winner to his tally, this time at his ‘local’. THE PADDY PREMIUM had jumped best of four runners when second on his previous outing here and confirmed the promise, jumping well out front from before halfway and finding plenty when pressed three out. He’s no youngster, but he’s in good heart and must have a chance of another win.
BALNAGORE ran his best race for a while, challenging the winner up the straight, but held form the last. His best opportunities are likely to come while the ground remains fast.
DEFINITE ALL STAR didn’t impress with his jumping on his second outing over fences. He stayed on under riding from three out and it was raw ability that got him so close. If his jumping improves he will win chases.
SCOTCH WARRIOR found this handicap easier than his previous race at Perth. He never got to the leaders but stayed on late for fourth.
Nothing else seriously threatened course specialist REGENT’S SECRET had one of his quiet days, being outpaced from halfway.

4.00 2m ½f Lighthouse Club Construction Industry Charity Cup Novices’ Handicap Hurdle for the Perth Silver Cup (0-105)

Pleasing to see another local winner, with Lucy Normile’s Glenfarg stable winning the Silver Cup. Stabled a few miles down the M90 PARSON’S PUNCH landed the prize, staying on to hold Borders trained BENLUNA from the last. This was a weak event though and the first two will find life tougher in future.
ENDEAVOR stayed on for third, but his previous runs had been uninspiring and his effort doesn’t lend much weight to the form.

4.30 3m Binn Waste Management Perth Gold Cup Handicap Chase (0-136)

Being nominally Perth’s big race of the year it could perhaps had a more fitting title, though no slight intended on the sponsors. I can appreciate that finance is difficult at this time, but a headline race like this really should justify a prize of decent 5 figures instead of the £9,700.

The race was down on quality compared with recent years, given that it has been won by some talented animals. For all that this year’s renewal was captured by an improving seven-year-old who could well go on to better things in the coming months. SONNY MULLEN had been an easy winner of novice events at Haydock and Towcester, and proved himself more than capable in senior company. He led from the start, jumping like a veteran, and had enough in hand to hold on from the last fence. He’s clearly well suited by good ground or faster and should pick up more races while the sun shines.
Best of the Scottish contingent was HARRY FLASHMAN who produced a career best in taking second place, challenging on the flat if held by a progressive winner. He’s a spring and summer type who relishes fast ground.
I’MSINGINGTHEBLUES held every chance but hit the last and that cost him his chance of victory. He hasn’t won since January 2009, but has now dropped to a manageable mark.
SELECTION BOX raced near the pace but couldn’t up his game sufficiently at the death. This was his best chase performance for a while, his last chase win having come in a swamp at Ayr back in March 2009.
GARLETON had a tough task here off a career high mark and weakened after the third last. LOGANS RUN was another raised to a career high and found wanting, struggling before the home turn.
BADGER FOOT didn’t cope with another rise in class, pulling up before the last. He was optimistically made 9/4 favourite but probably requires sights set slower lower in the short term.
All STORYMAKER’s wins have come in soft or heavy ground and the field went too quick for him in the last mile here.
NEWBAY PROP is not as good as he once was and was another to struggle in the final mile, pulling up before two out.

5.00 2m 4½f Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Handicap Hurdle (0-128)

Bought out of a seller at Hexham for 8,200gns by Lucinda Russell, DEGAS ART wasted no time in repaying a chunk of his purchase price. Rated 144 at best over hurdles, he has dropped from that level but is a bit better than selling class, leading or disputing all the way and holding off Chino Valdes from the last despite getting a sideways whack form the runner up.
CHINO VALDES came to challenge at the last but hung left on the flat, colliding with the winner, and he couldn’t find enough.
ZAHARA JOY was flying quite high here, 5lbs out of the handicap, but acquitted himself very well. He stayed on for third if never threatening to win. He’s risen in the handicap by 12lbs since his win at Kelso back in October, but this evidence suggests he’s capable of winning in a lower class.
RAIN STOPS PLAY was noted running creditably recently in a charity flat race at Kelso. He chased the leaders two out but couldn’t get any closer and is essentially frustrating since there was the best part of five years between his last two wins.
QUITO DU TRESOR couldn’t make an impact off a 10lb lower hurdles mark. He’s been kept on the go, and was unfortunate to be brought down at the first on a subsequent outing in a handicap chase at Aintree.

5.35 2m ½f SIS Live Standard Open NH Flat Race

Irish point winner ATLANTA FALCON led and went clear from two out. He was eased in the final furlong and looks to have a decent future under Rules.
MCLOVIN couldn’t make an impact from two out but kept on for second. He did nothing significant in two point-to-point outings but has enough about him to go on from here.
BLAZIN WHITE FACE kept on for third. She’s a four-year-old with scope and should benefit from the run.
MIA MATRIARCH couldn’t make an impression on the leaders from three out. This home bred should progress once going hurdling.
This was a strange choice of race for ANITOPIA, given that Brian Hughes had reported to connection that the big gelding unsuited by Perth on his debut. I can only presume that the owners wish to see their horse run locally. Anitopia will be better off running at stiff or galloping tracks. He was too keen here off a steady pace and not given a hard time once beaten.

HAMILTON – Wednesday June 8th

Generally big fields for a moderate midweek evening meeting.

8 times a winner last season, and three times this season, FREMEN was beaten in the seller, but he’s not so well suited by stiff finishes as he is by sharper tracks. MOODY TUNES is better than selling class and has won a couple of claimers. He kept finding enough to hold Irish challenger BELLE NOVERRE who won over course and distance last term.

Lightly raced four-year-old ZENNOR won the classified stakes from a closely matched bunch rated between 68 and 70. He had all bar KING KURT well beaten and is a progressive sort who should win handicaps. ZENNOR should continue to improve if upped in trip and KING KURT, who has clearly done well between two and three, won over 1m 4f last time so an increase trip would help him as well.