KELSO – Sunday October 2nd
Going – Good to Soft (Soft in places)
Kelso’s first meeting since May signals the start of the Scottish autumn jump campaign. There was heavy rain overnight and in the morning, but the course was presented in magnificent condition.
Proceedings opened with the annual Border Principals Race with various towns from the area that partake of the tradition of Common Riding putting forward a competitor. An interloper from outside the Borders one, with Musselburgh rider Scott Nisbet stealing a 5 length lead on the rest at the start in the two furlong event and never looking likely to be caught. Iain Dick of Lauder was first of the locals home and Tracey McNaughton was third for Edinburgh.
2.05 2m ½f Sunday Mail Handicap Hurdle (115-86)
A bunch of well exposed hurdlers contested the first Rules race on the card. WWETFROMTHECHAFF was well held by better weighted opponents at Perth last time, but led at the last here and held on determinedly in the last 100 yards. I fancy it was just his day on this occasion and he won’t be particularly well treated in future. He held off LAWGIVER, an inconsistent sort who wins occasionally but is eminently beatable.
The pair pulled clear of KING’S CHORISTER who performed respectably from 3lbs out of handicap and is a consistent sort worthy of consideration if dropped in class. Lucy Alexander’s claim will be useful assuming she keeps the ride.
Keen going BORDER TALE led or disputed until giving way at the last, and while CLAUDE CARTER has gone close a few times he is essentially a weak finisher and needs things to fall right.
KNIGHT VALLIANT was pulled up before the last after bashing two out and his rider losing his irons, the saddle having slipped. He went well enough to that point and was in contention.
2.40 2m ½f Unwin Second Half Century Juvenile Hurdle (Class 4)
Lee Edwards stole this race on KIE who travelled from Wolverhampton for this engagement. He set off in front, was soon clear and nothing got near him. The time was a couple of seconds slower than the first race so it was at least respectable.
MICA MIKA kept on for second and made a sound enough hurdling bow. RESIDENCE AND SPA made it four frame finishes from five hurdles runs and might need to wait for the handicapper to slow others down before he can win.
Well backed LEXI’S BOY ran no sort of race, fading quickly after the fourth. I assume there was a problem though nothing appeared on the BHA website.
A forty minute gap allowed us to watch the Prix De L’Arc Triomphe on the big screen. Sadly only those with access to the colours had any idea of who was doing what. Black mark to the usually reliable Kelso executive since there was no commentary over the PA and no colours in the racecard. It’s easy to get the impression that racing from elsewhere is stuck on the screen just to fill the time.
3.20 3m 1f Isle Of Skye Blended Scotch Whisky Handicap Chase (86-115)
STAR BEAT is decent stayer on his day and proved too good for inferiors here. He got into contention from four out and picked off the leader after the last. A nine length win here will mean a move up in class is forced and life will be tougher.
COPPER’S GOLD ran a decent race in second, leading until the last and keeping on to finish a clear best of the rest. He did look in good nick, thrives when’s there’s cut in the ground and may still be capable of improvement.
ROSSINI’S DANCER made a bad mistake at the first and almost unseated. One or two slow jumps mid race didn’t help but he stayed on through the field form two out.
TREEHOUSE, an improver in 2009/2010, hinted at returning to form on his second run after a season off. He plugged on for fourth without threatening the leaders.
SOUBRIQUET gave way from two out and is difficult to catch right. Irish challenger dropped away from two out having made one or iffy jumps.
PRINCE MERANO looked rather lethargic in the paddock and struggled from a mile out, pulling up before four out.
NGONG HILLS ditched his rider at the first, but ran along enthusiastically with the field the rest of the way, which I rate as at least a sign of some interest.
3.55 2m 6 ½ f NSPCC School Service Intermediate Hurdle (Class 4)
Three of last season’s decent Scottish novices appeared in this event.
AIKMAN didn’t disgrace himself in decent company toward the end of last season and I suspect there is still a little more to come. He was presented looking very well by James Ewart, yet still giving the impression there was something left to work on. He pulled clear readily in the latter stages and will now be aimed at chasing, with a beginners’ event at Carlisle on October 20th the first target. He looks one who has been crying out to be jumping fences and is an exciting prospect.
ARCTIC COURT progressed last season and turned into a decent handicapper. He was another who looked as if the race might bring on and he was unable to match the winner from the last, hanging toward the inside rail under pressure. A sound debut on which he should build upon in the coming weeks.
THE STARBOARD BOW was stepped up in trip here. He didn’t jump particularly cleanly and had nothing left in the tank from the last. He can jump better than this and will see out the trip properly.
AFRICAN FLORA was hopelessly outclassed but Kenny Johnson concentrated on getting her round for fourth prize money on here hurdling debut without taxing her unduly.
4.25 2m 2f Alexandra Carrington Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Div 1) (62-95)
The theory that low prize money is causing owners to desert the sport suffered a hole below the waterline as 29 were declared for this event racing for ‘take home prize money’ of £1238. The race was split into two heats and one runner was eliminated. We lost a few due to the change in the going, but plenty are willing to run horses regardless of reward, which suggests it’s viewed as a fun pursuit. Certainly my own very minor involvement in ownership is on ‘money I expect to lose’ basis.
Neither event was particular exciting with two groups of underachievers. ENDEAVOR led three out and was all out in the latter stages to hold BARLIFFEY. The second would not be the most committed to the job, and the rest were held with NISAAL and CARTERS REST doing no more than plug on at one pace to fill the frame.
5.00 2m 2f Alexandra Carrington Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (Div 1) (61-94)
Episode 2 was won by THE DUNION from the yard of Bonchester Bridge trainer Rob Macdonald. Again this was a poor contest, but Macdonald had his contender nicely fit and Campbell Gillies rode a decent race from the front group. The winner responded well when asked from two out and shows enough to suggest there may be another little race for him along the line.
DRAMATIC JEWEL couldn’t make any impression in the final furlong and is basically a very moderate performer. Maiden under both codes TINSELTOWN stayed on under pressure for third.
SYDNEY COVE has proved very headstrong and was restrained in the rear. He picked up some ground in the latter stages and may get competitive once he learns to settle. He’s better than his bare jumps form suggests.
5.30 2m 6 ½ f Radio Borders Handicap Chase (60-95)
SUPER ALLY improved on previous chasing efforts and won this comfortably, pulling clear on the run-in. His probable serious rival whacked the last and the second was 9lbs shy in the handicap so I suspect this wasn’t up to much and that the contest fell into the winner’s lap.
BARRY THE CRACKER ran as well as might be expected for one rated only 60. He doesn’t impress in the paddock, walking rather stiffly, but tried gamely during the race. He led or disputed for much of the way and was only collared from the last.
SOME CATCH had every chance until thumping the last and not recovering. Her form offers more encouragement than some in this race and she would likely have given the winner more to do if not stopped in her tracks. She is worthy of consideration in similar company.
NIFTY ROY raced prominently until fading from three out. He was reported lame at the finish.
FRONTIER BOY looks a nice chasing type, but he made two many errors and lost touch in the final mile. The race will have brought him on.
GUNS AND BUTTER went wrong after three out and was swiftly pulled up. On an optimistic note the screens weren’t put up and he was walked into the horse ambulance.
WATERSKI attracted some interest in the market and looked plenty fit enough. He was well behind when pulling up. A bandage had come loose on his hind leg and surprised me that nobody attended to this when he was brought back to unsaddle, the bandage still flapping loose as he was led away to the stables.
LINDSEYFIELD LODGE, twice a winner around here, jumped poorly and never took a huge amount of interest. He’ll probably pop up at a fancy price when he feels up to, but when that will be is anyone’s guess.
6.00 2m ½ f City Roofing Ltd Standard Open NH Flat Race
No races get my pen and notebook going better than a Kelso bumper and once again there were numerous encouraging signs.
THE WEATHERMAN had run well enough here previously and sprinted clear from the ‘two pole’ for a comfortable victory. He’s not one in the normal McCain mould, being fairly small, but he shifts a bit and looks a decent prospect for hurdling.
MITCHELL’S WAY, hailing from the Swinbank yard who are often in the mix in these events, pulled hard early on but was still bang there two out. He kept without threatening the winner but will find easier opportunities.
Irish pointing winner BAWN REAGH, well regarded at Lucinda Russell’s Arlary Stables, set a steady pace and kept on under pressure to take third. He was reported sore after the race, but showed enough to suggest he will be a winner in time. He was just in front of stablemate RHYMERS HA’ who pulled very hard but is going the right way.
Mares’ bumper winner GROOVY DANCER wasn’t totally disgraced in fifth and will find easier opportunities against her own sex.
A couple of others well down the field caught eye. CALL IT OUT is a steeplechasing type but he’s only four and will need time to mature. His first two runs read as poor form but he may leave those efforts behind in time.
DARK EXILE was last, but he was never going to excel in a race where they only started racing from the mile marker. He’s an impressive chasing type who will surely show better than this run given time.
WILL BE MINE is another who should make a jumper in time. He was left behind from three furlongs out here.
Hexham – September 30th
OUTLAW TOM appeared at Hexham a couple of days earlier and pleased connections in staying on for third in a 3m 1f novices’ chase, beaten about 10 lengths. MAJESTIC MAYHEM ran a sound race in second and looks a good measure, while the winner LACKAMON is worth noting as one who could go on to better things over jumps.
Staying chasers EYRE SQUARE and SIMPLY SMASHING fought out a stirring battle in the 3m novices’ hurdle. No lack of commitment from either who go into the autumn campaign in good heart.
FRITH won the Class 5 two mile handicap chase off a mark of 68. He’s very well treated no his best form and might be placed to pick up a race or two more.
Carlisle – October 7th
The new hurdles course was used for the first time. HOUSTON DYNIMO won the novices hurdle to become the first winner around the circuit. The hurdles track is inside the chase track and noticeably sharper than the outer track used previously. It might just end being a bit of a specialist’s track as it mixes sharpness with a stiff finish.
HUMBIE stayed on to win the Class 4 handicap chase. I’ve liked this one for a while and he might make a mark in a higher class and he saw out this thee mile trip nicely. The story is that he is often taken out for trips in his horsebox to keep his mind occupied as he is a bit of a worrier!
STRONGBOWS LEGEND held every chance and kept on for second. He pulled clear of the rest and it would be a surprise if Charlie Longsdon couldn’t find a race for him.
NGONG HILLS made up for his Kelso mishap, being bang there most of the way and keeping on for third if held by the first two. His trainer has room for manoeuvre off his current mark of 97.
The two and a half mile novices’ chase at this meeting can be informative, but we lost three at the seventh fence. However, the winner TIME FOR SPRING looks to have a bit of scope as a chaser, and those behind him, BALLYCOLIN and ROLECARR created a sound enough impression. BALLYCOLIN will show up better when moved up in trip.
James Ewart has started the season in decent fashion and QUICUYO took the two mile handicap chase. A wind operation seems to have helped him and he is worth looking out for when racing at Ayr as he has a fine record there.
PETE won the conditional jockeys’ hurdle to give Lucy Alexander a first win as a professional. He was in front way too soon as horses either side fell away from two out, but his rider managed to coax more than expected to hold off fast finishing SOLWAY BLUE. The fact that PETE never wins by far does help as he doesn’t get harshly punished, is a good deal better than he sometimes cares to let on, and is ideally suited by a decent sized field where he can pick his way through late on.
Back in third SUPER BABY looked much happier than last season. He gave me the impression that he might have had a back problem last season. He jumped neatly in front here and battled back late on to take third place having been outpaced form two out. He certainly doesn’t look overweighted off a mark of 95.
BARLIFFEY had every chance approaching the last but jumped it very slowly and couldn’t get back into the race. He’s in good form but likely to prove difficult to win with.