Saturday, 24 September 2011

Perth Grand Finale + A few bits and pieces

Ayr Western Meeting

Work and family commitments kept me away from the Ayr Western Meeting and I wasn’t able to pick up an awful lot on TV either.

Om the first day Scottish yards scored twice, Keith Dalgleish continuing a good season when win in turn performer HINTON ADMIRAL picked up a Class 5 five furlong event. The dual purpose yard of Alistair Whillans won later in the card with SCRAPPER SMITH in the Class 2 Kilkerran Cup Handicap. Five pound claimer Julie Burke is in demand these days and did a sound job in the saddle.

Our Jonathon stepped up on a decent Goodwood effort to take the Ayr Gold Cup in testing going, The going won’t have helped many and there will be a few runs which can be ignored. ETON RIFLES put up another good effort to finish second and is worth considering while the ground is on the soft side. He will probably be brought out a time or two more before season’s close.

ZAKREET bolstered Newcastle maiden form by winning the opening nursery on the Saturday and Newcastle fourth Never Perfect’s next run could be worth a glance. He holds at entry at Newcastle this coming Wednesday the 28th.

LEXINGTON BAY won well in the closing event and may have a bit still in hand in staying handicaps.

A morning at Arlary Stables

Lucinda Russell welcomed Milnathort Racing Club and Tay Valley Chasers members to an open day on Sunday 18th September. Russell goes into this season with her string nearing 100 in strength, most at Arlary with an overspill yard at Kilduff a mile or two away.

It must be a long time since Scotland had two chasers rated 150+, let alone two in the stable, but with the arrival of TCHICO POLOS (rated 157) she now has a performer to rival stable star SILVER BY NATURE (159).

TCHICO POLOS will be aimed first at the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in early November. His next outing after that is likely to be a race which has been framed to accommodate him at Ayr toward the end of November. Some at the Nicholls yard apparently questioned whether there would be opportunities if the horse were based in Scotland but, with a ‘have horse will travel’ attitude and co-operative local tracks, Lucinda Russell should get some profitable mileage out of the newcomer.

SILVER BY NATURE goes for the Betfair Chase at Haydock first off with a trip to Leopardstown over Christmas a possibility. He will only run in soft or heavy ground and may be capable of surprising a few people when given the right conditions.

I have a small interest in OUTLAW TOM who is entered at Hexham this coming Friday. It’s a novice chase and there may be one or two too good, but it’s a good course to get a novice settled and jumping, and there’s prize money down to fifth. There’s only twelve entered at the initial stage so he well earn some keep if just completing.

BLENHEIM BROOK is rated a good prospect over fences for the coming season. He improved steadily over the season last year and should come on for a fair second to Astracad at Perth this week.

Bumper winner NUTS N BOLTS joins the stable from Alan Swinbank. He was considered good enough to run in a decent event at Aintree on his third run and, even though well held there, should win a hurdle or two.

BAWN REAGH is an Irish point-to-point winner who should make up into a decent chaser given time. Another Irish pointing winner to watch out for is BLAZIN WHITE FACE, twice third to decent performers at Perth in bumpers and likely to be aimed at mares’ only events.

Two young horses to keep in mind for the future at BALLYBEN and MUMGOS DEBUT. Both are well rated by Tim Reed who does the prep work for the Russell yard. It’s early days yet but these two may be seen out in juvenile bumpers and have done everything asked of them to date.

CULCABOCK has served the stable well and notched up 8 wins in a 78 race career. His retirement was announced to us and he will be looked after by Jaimie Duff, Russell’s hard working assistant.

PERTH – Wednesday September 21st

Going – Good To Soft (Good in places)

The lower key day of Perth’s Glorious Finale Two Day meeting but one that may have thrown up a Cheltenham prospect. Morning rain cleared to give a sunny afternoon with a strong breeze directly behind in the straight. The ground was in excellent nick though some found it just a bit too tacky.

2.25 2m 4½f Edinburgh Gin Maiden Hurdle (Class 4)

There were really only two with a chance here, but MART LANE eased clear of his only rival so easily that it’s no that his trainer John Joseph ‘Shark’ Hanlon** already has this one earmarked for Cheltenham in March. A good winner of a bumper at Leopardstown in January, he got “bogged down in near unraceable ground” at the Curragh on his subsequent run. The plan is to take in decent novice events at Leopardstown to test him out. He’s a nice sort who will win much better events than this.

The winner was the first as a professional for Brian Hayes and should be the first of many.

HARD TO SWALLOW was well considered by Martin Keighley, but put in his place by a sharp opponent. He finished rather tired, but he still has some growing to do and
doesn’t seem the finished article. In time he is likely to prove decent.

WARANTS A NAME ended up tailed off in fifth. However it’s worth bearing in mind that he was the only one to take on the principles, and paid for that by weakening badly in the last mile. He has shown glimmers of ability and is likely to make a mark once handicapped.

FRONTIER LAD finished in front of something for the first time over hurdles in a distant third, with the slow looking BOSTON LAD well behind in fourth.

** The winning trainer has useful performer HIDDEN CYCLONE in his stable and rates that one a Gold Cup prospect. Only beaten once over hurdles, this one must surely be of great interest when appearing in novices’ chases in Ireland.

3.00 2m ½f Book Your Christmas Party At Perth Claiming Hurdle (Class 4)

ONE FOR JOULES challenged two out, led before the last and came clear on the flat to win a shade cosily, landing a double for Shark Hanlon in the process. The winner was claimed by Mr J L Flint for £10,000, so I presume he will now be running out of John Flint’s yard at Kenfig Hill near Bridgend.

Gordon Elliott’s FOOL’S WILDCAT has plenty of ability, and has won around here, but is rather too easily beaten.

BACCALAUREATE seems best in these events and sellers. He kept on under pressure for third without ever threatening. WHEATFROMTHECHAFF has been off her game recently and could make any impact once turned for home. LAKEMAN won despite jumping poorly at Cartmel. His jumping was totally clueless here and he was beaten turning for home.

3.35 2m 4½f Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Novices’ Handicap Chase (98-113)

QUITE THE MAN was settled nicely toward the rear on his chasing debut. He jumped accurately, working his way into contention approaching the last and wearing down the leader on the run to the line. He is tall, nice looking gelding and should go on from here over fences.

THE COCKNEY MACKEM was making his chasing debut having fallen here over hurdles on his last run back in April. He jumped well enough and pushed on four out. From my position by the last I could see he was coming to the end of his tether, pecking a little on landing and not able to resist the winner’s challenge close home. This was a good debut however, and he should win chases.

BALNAGORE ran prominently or disputing until thumping four out and he couldn’t get back to the leaders after that. This was a fair effort though his jumping does let him down at key points in the race. OTTO QUERCUS’s jumping was laboured for much of the way and he never threatened to take a part in the finish.

THE PADDY PREMIUM went well enough up front until headed four out. He then weakened and unseated after getting thump from Otto Quercus two out. SKY CALLING raced two keenly and was a spent force before four out, pulling up before two out.

4.10 2m ½f Hogmanay Party At Perth Racecourse Juvenile Hurdle (Class 4)

THE ICE FACTOR, a winner of a hurdle at Tramore, put experience to good use here. He led, wound up the pace down the far side and nothing got to him in the straight. Chances are he’ll pick up another hurdle or two before decent horses come out.

PRINCE FREDDIE made an encouraging debut in second. He never got the leader but kept on for second, just ahead of RED RIVERMAN who kept on at his own pace in third. Previous winner COOL NEWPORT found this tougher going than her debut race at Ffos Las. NAY SECRET was struggling a long way but stayed on a bit late on. He might improve on a stiffer track.

4.45 3m Sodexo Prestige Handicap Chase (For the Duke Of Atholl Challenge Cup) (90-120)

This looked quite a competitive event, but POWER PACK JACK was able to make all and stayed on to good effect down the straight. He hit a couple including the second last but held enough in reserve.

ST KILLIAN’S RUN, blinkered for the first time, chased the leader from four out but never got to him.

BESCOT SPRINGS and ROSSINI’S DANCER showed enough here to suggest they can land a steeplechase this season. They were both held from three out but ran well enough after a layoff.

SUPREME BUILDER weakened in the straight having raced in midfield fro much of the way. SOUBRIQUET, last year’s winner, looked as well as I can remember, but was struggling before four out. He wins only in his turn but is below his last winning chase mark.

Of the rest BOB’S TICKET jumped poorly and eventually Adam Nicol at the twelfth. RESTORATION looked well enough, and is an impressive sort, but never got into the race and was well detached when pulling up three out. FLOREANA was out of her depth here on Lucy Alexander made her professional debut, apparently making her the first professional jump jockey from Scotland.

5.20 3m ½f SIS Handicap Hurdle (110-135)

The highest grade event on the card and won with ease by LOS NADIS. Henry Brooke judged the pace to a tee here, leading then winding things up in the last mile. Nothing got close to him from three out. He’s sure to go up a fair way for a 23 length win and his rating is likely to be high 130s which will push him at least a grade higher. That being said this was a second decent win here on the trot and in this form he’s worth a go in better company. When he first started hurdling his jumping technique let him down, but his jumping ability is now such that he jumps fields at this level into submission.

SNAKE CHARMER stayed on from two out with no hope of catching the winner, but he was well clear of the remainder. DEVOTION TO DUTY plugged on for third but was beaten 40 lengths+.

MIRAGE DORE looked well enough after a layoff, but was well behind from three out.

PERTH – Thursday September 22nd

Going – Good To Soft (Good in places)

2.20 3m ½f Edinburgh Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

MANGER HANAGEMENT was never in great difficulty as he made it four in a row, paying testament to Gordon Elliott’s placement of his horses.

WHAT A WARRIOR was eased in once clearly held from two out. Sam Twiston-Davies did well to keep him on track when he veered toward the exit on the first bend, cannily tucking him behind others next time round.

2.55 2m ½f Maersk Oil Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

The country’s most northerly placed licensed trainer, Sue Bradburne, might have a fair hurdler on her hands in JET MASTER. He left two previous winners behind with ease from two out in the style of one who can move up in grade. This could be an exciting prospect for the future.

ESPERAO was held after two out having led until that flight but seemed to run to form, while 139 rated REDERA never looked entirely happy and was held form three out.

STAGS LEAP gave a hint of ability but felt the pinch from three out.

3.30 2m ½f Timothy Hardie Jewellers Novices’ Chase (Class 4)

This could turn out to have been a fair novices’ chase since I know that the stable of the second rate him as a chasing prospect.

ASTRACAD raced close up and forged clear from two out. After a promising start as a hurdler he was given some tough asks in Graded novice company. He certainly looks a decent chaser though, jumping very nicely here and is likely to win a few races.

BLENHEIM BROOK couldn’t match the winner from two out, but his jumping was accurate enough and he won’t always run into one as good as the winner. He will win chases and was well clear of BOCCIANI who jumped well enough but found the company too good.

UNCLE TAFFY was well held in fourth while FOOL’S WILDCAT blundered his rider away at the eleventh as the pace picked up.

Favourite CHAMPION COURT didn’t settle, was less than foot perfect and blundered AP McCoy out of the saddle three out.

4.05 2m 4 ½f George Stubbs Insurance Novices’ Hurdle (84-110)

WHAT AN OSCAR stayed on from two out to land another contest for Twiston-Davies and Son. The Gloucestershire trainer has relinquished his top Perth trainer to Gordon Elliott in recent times, but still saves a few for the far north.

FUNKY MUNKY made steady headway from two out and pressed the winner to the line. This was by far his best effort over hurdles and he would be interesting dropped in class. NORTHERN ACRES held every chance, leading from three out until the last, but couldn’t raise his game any further.

Most eye-catching effort came from PAPAMOA in fourth. I’ve got this on horses to follow list on The Racing Forum and I was well pleased with his effort here. He was outpaced a little after three out but kept on under pressure all the way up the straight, still closing at the line. He needs softer ground and probably a stiffer track and I’m sure he’ll win a novice handicap before long.

4.40 2m ½ f Anderson Anderson & Brown Handicap Hurdle (96-115)

QUITO DU TRESOR took advantage of a generous handicap mark 15lbs less than his chase mark to win this nicely. He led all the way and held enough in hand to win unchallenged. He’s in good heart and should remain competitive in decent handicap chase company.

CADEAUX FAX kept on well enough for second and should gain compensation. ARISEA came from well back to take third place but is well exposed.

5.15 2m 4½f Handicap Chase

THE PANAMA KID seemed well suited by the turning track here and doesn’t seem likely to be especially well treated after a clear win. He raced up with the pace and stayed on from two out

THE DISENGAGER ran creditably in second after a long layoff.

PROSECCO had been distinctly uncooperative when schooling in front of owners on Sunday. He was much better over the obstacles here but had to be niggled on the home turn and couldn’t make an impact from that point. Keep him in mind at Ayr since he’s 2111 from four runs there.

Most of those behind are exposed and didn’t offer immediate encouragement.

5.50 2m ½f Open NH Flat

SIR JOHNSON, a winner of two previously, had this in safe keeping form two out. He should be plenty good enough to win over hurdles.

LUCIA BAY is more of a long term prospect but a second placed bumper effort augurs well. He’s got a nice jumping pedigree and his hurdles debut is eagerly awaited.

PEG LEG and SUN CLOUD kept on without threatening the first two.

Newmarket – Cambridgeshire

Nice to see that versatile perfomer NANTON running a stormer in the Newmarket handicap, staying on relentlessly up the hill for fourth, no more than two or three inches from landing second. Having been a close second over 1m 6½f the previous time, I presume he will be back at Newmarket for the Cesarewitch. This animal must be an absolute dream for Jim Goldie to have in the stable and who’s to say he won’t be involved in the finish of the stayers’ event?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Betfair Scottish Champions Day

MUSSELBURGH – Saturday September 3rd

Going – Good (Good/Soft in places in the straight)

Musselburgh’s Betfair Scottish Champions Day proved to be a great success with competitive fields and a decent crowd. All the finals and consolation races filled to capacity and I’m sure there’s sufficient encouragement for Scottish Racing, and presumably Betfair, to continue this Series next year.

2.35 5f Betfair Sprint Series Consolation Handicap (50-65)

All the runners here were well exposed and at this level it’s often a question of which one gets it right on the day. MONTE MAYOR ONE proved a surprise winner, though nibbled at in the market, and won with a bit to spare to open the day with a Scottish trained winner. He looked as well as she has done for some time, having not sparkled in three efforts this season, but as with some fillies it could just be the time of year. Coming through off a fast pace, she led inside the final furlong and was forging clear by the finish. She’s certainly capable of adding to this victory if she can be kept sweet. It’s possibly significant that this race was run a shade quicker than the following 66-82 contest.
DISTANT SUN, another who hasn’t set the track alight of late, ran on in the final furlong to take second. His overall record of 6 wins and 11 places from 59 isn’t bad and does suggest one who can win once he’s right. The race fell right for a place here as he picked his way through having been outpaced early on.
BALLARINA ran creditably from the front, disputing the lead until having no more to give inside the final furlong. She mixed it with previously progressive IRISH BOY who was burst at the furlong pole and faded to fifth.
SAXONETTE kept on for fourth without ever seriously threatening, but seems high in the handicap at the moment on a mark of 65.

*Race trivia (blame Derek Thompson): Winning rider Duran Fentiman was named after boxer Roberto Duran.

3.05 5f Betfair Sprint Series Final Handicap (66-82)

A competitive event with many of these having recorded victories this term.

The winner INGLEBY STAR has run some decent races during a busy campaign, now boasting a career tally of 10 wins and 15 places. He was taken down to start very steadily a while after the rest, and went into the stalls very late. Always handy, he took over a furlong out and forged clear to win with a bit in hand. This is his highest winning mark to date.
WICKED WILMA has been in cracking form and ran another stormer to fill second place off a career high mark of 73. She is another who has provided sound returns for her owners over the years and has done them proud this year in particular. It’s nice to know such performers have a chance to pitch for decent prize money in this contest.
ROTHESAY CHANCER, outpaced and in arrears in at halfway, stormed through the pack in the final two furlongs to take third. His form dipped a little after a storming start to the season, but I suspect he may still have a bit more improvement in him given another year. He looks a fine sort in the parade ring and was well turned out here.
IGOYOUGO stayed on in the final furlong, a great improvement on recent efforts. He was in decent form last backend and might be the ‘quiet one’ to take forward from this event, particularly given that he mark with allow him to be targeted at a lower class.
TADALAVIL kept on for fifth on the tails of the placed horses and ran a sound enough race.
DOC HAY is a big animal who probably found this five furlongs just too sharp. He dwelt at the start and never got into the race, but I’d forgive him the run when encountering a stiffer track.

*Race trivia: Winning rider Justin Newman is a nephew of Royston Ffrench –
North’s verdict: he looks good enough to make a decent impact in the next few years.

3.40 1m Betfair Mile Series Consolation Handicap (57-64)

The leaders went quickly here and the first three benefitted from being waited with. Half a dozen ranged up with a chance approaching the two furlong pole. JUST THE TONIC disputed the running at that point and forged ahead in the final furlong. The second fought back but she had enough in hand, though doesn’t stand out as particularly progressive.
MILITARY CALL headed the field briefly approaching the final furlong and battled well if held by Just The Tonic. He was favoured by the way the race was run, though you couldn’t fault his attitude.
SOCIAL RHYTHM kept on for third though was held in the final furlong. This was his best effort of the season, a pleasing result for dual purpose Hawick trainer Alistair Whillans who saddled second and third.
EMERALDS SPIRIT performed creditably given that he chased the leaders from the start. Understandably he was held from before the furlong pole but stuck at it to the line.
ISHEFORREAL came from well behind to fill sixth place. This one is a big animal who still looks raw and will never be one to do things in a hurry. He certainly needs a stiffer track than this, he’s not built to handle the tight top bend, but may reward followers given time. He had a couple of bumper outings and might conceivably be targeted at hurdles in the coming months. The alternative could be to target a race at Southwell as he’s out of an unraced daughter of a US Grade 2 winner.
Two pulled up, MANGHAM looked very well but went wrong early in the straight. I haven’t got any report of his condition. OLD ENGLISH appeared to have a tack problem as David Nolan had no irons from early on.

4.15 1m Betfair Mile Series Final Handicap (65-84)

FOCAIL EILE progressed from midfield to lead a furlong out and ran on well to the line. The Stewards Report form his last race said he was ‘unsuited by the good going’. I’m sorry Mr Ryan, but I don’t believe that, aversion to first time blinkers would be more plausible. That aside, he has won twice on heavy going and twice on the all-weather.
IMPERATOR AUGUSTUS wearing a bridle with plenty of bits and pieces on it (don’t you just love my technical jargon?), and accompanied by two handlers in the parade ring, ran a cracking race. Disputing the pace from the start, he repelled challengers in the straight but had no answer to the winner’s challenge. He’s run well on Polytrack before and Patrick Holmes should be able to place him to win again before long, even allowing for him not being straightforward.
SWIFTLY DONE stayed on from midfield for a never nearer third. Not a bad effort for one who appears to need a stiffer test.
SOLAR SPIRIT kept on for fourth but looks plenty high enough in the ratings.
I’M SUPER TOO was well held from three furlongs out. He pulled too hard and I suspect the track’s a bit sharp for him.

4.45 1m 5f Betfair Stayers Series Consolation Handicap (51-67)

THINK ITS ALL OVER is a strong impressive sort for this level. He’s done well on the Fibresand at Southwell and that suggests ‘stickability’, a quality he showed in spades from the front here. He led from the start, and kept finding a bit extra after being driven two and half furlongs out. Julie Camacho, on ‘stablegirl’ duty here as well as training, should find an opening at Southwell for this one.
The winner is cannily named as he’s by Tiznow, though I’m not sure it’s quite so well received in Scotland, and he runs in the ‘Rooster Booster silks’ of Terry Warner.
AMIR PASHA, one I found a little frustrating over hurdles if perfectly able on his day, chased the winner from two out to occupy second place. He’s been consistent this flat season.
POKFULHAM performed well over hurdles and on the flat this year, though ran a lack lustre race last time out. He kept on for third but never got in a blow at the leader. He remains in fair form and still doesn’t seem harshly handicapped off 65.
DANE COTTAGE, looking fit and on her toes in the paddock, ran on from the rear to take fourth place.
Few others got seriously involved in this contest.

5.15 1m 5f Betfair Stayers Series Final Handicap (67-78)

Jim Goldie scored a second win of the afternoon as JONNY DELTA confirmed previous promise. His staying power came into play as he forged clear of his field from two furlongs out. Lightly raced, he looks an interesting sort to take forward, both as a hurdling company in the winter and in better class on the flat.
MEETINGS MAN chased the winner in the closing stages but couldn’t make any impact. He’s consistent and a good measure.
LOS NADIS is well exposed but ran a sound race to finish third, staying on from two furlongs out, followed home by ZENNOR, a rangy filly who couldn’t impact on those in front in the last 300 yards.
UNKNOWN REBEL led until two out and then weakened. Initial verdict might be that the trip is too far, but I’m not sure and I reckon he’ll get the distance as he strengthens with time.

5.50 7f 30yds Betfair Bonus Scottish Racing Apprentice Handicap (46-66)

The youngsters took the stage in the closing contest and winning rider Jason Hart looks one with a decent future ahead of him. This wasn’t a great contest, but the winner CATALLOUT had gone close a couple of times and looked deserving of the win. He wore down the wandering Goninodaethat in the closing stages.
GONINODAETHAT drifted back and forth across the track under pressure and probably should have recorded a first win himself. This was a third placing in handicaps and he looks to have enough ability to land one before long, though he may require a more senior jockey aboard to sort him out.
Previous course and distance winner CHOOKIE AVON wasn’t far away in third, but was held in the final 100 yards.
The remainder were comfortably held.

For the notebook:
IGOYOUGO – when dropped in class
DOC HAY – needs a stiffer track than Musselburgh
ISHEFORREAL – may go hurdling, but worth an interest if aimed at Southwell’s Fibresand surface
JONNY DELTA – he should progress with experience and stays well

NEWCASTLE – Monday August 29th

The Bank Holiday ‘Blaydon Races’ card at Newcastle was disappointing and was suffering from lack of investment. This was decent card a few years but has been gradually downgraded in recent seasons, a pattern not untypical of all bar the top racing days at Gosforth Park.

The 7 furlong two-year-old maiden normally oftens fling up one or two of interest. I suspect the handicapper is likely to have the winner ZAKREET covered for nurseries. Favourite WARCROWN disappointed and couldn’t make an impact form two furlongs out, but he should strengthen with time and shouldn’t be written off. Another to note was tom Tate’s NEVER PERFECT who missed the break but put up some pleasing work in the closing stages to take fourth place. He will step up on this.

The form of the closing six furlong handicap will probably prove strong. Three were clear, LAYLA’S HERO, now back on a workable mark, asserted in the closing stages and can win again. Runner up LITTLE JIMMY ODSOX, a winner twice in three previous races, looks capable of adding to that tally before long. Previous winner SPINATRIX gives the form a solid look after finishing a close third.

CARTMEL – Monday August 29th

The Lakeland track closed their season as a packed house attended as is standard for this fixture.

COUNTRYWIDE FLAME won the four-year-old hurdle very easily and might well pick up another event or two before the season picks up in earnest. Other than that though there weren’t that many strong pointers to future races on this occasion.

Course specialists SOUL MAGIC and SCOTSWELL both scored on the day, making the tally 7 wins from just 11 runs this season for Borders trainer Harriet Graham.