MUSSELBURGH - Friday November 25th
Going - Good ( Good to soft in places)
Overnight rain and showers during racuing meant the going turned just the soft side of good in places. A strong wind blew straight into the horses' faces down the straight.
12.10 3m 1f Lagwell Insulation Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (76-100)
This was not a strong event, but GULF PUNCH came away for a clear win, staying on under pressure from the last. Neither second nor thrid would be rated reliable, so the winner will have a tougher task next time, particularly when re-handicapped.
VIA ARCHIMEDE led until two out and stuck on for second. This was probably as good an effort as he has managed over hurdles, but he's eminently beatable, as is ONIZ TIPTOES who stayed on from well back for third. SAM D'OC was another who stayed on up the straight, but he was never nearer than fourth place.
12.40 2m Weatherbys Printing Services Juvenile Hurdle (Class 4)
Not a strong event, and KIE was able to dictate as he had done at Kelso on hurdling debut, making all very comfortably in driving rain. He put a fair effort in listed class at Wetherby last time.
URBAN KODE acquired second two out but did nothing to show he achieved much, and there was no encoruagement elsewhere.
1.15 2m 4f Weatherbys Printing Services Novices' Handicap Chase (85-104)
This contest was marked by some abysmal all round. It's noticeable too that the fences at Musselburgh are very soft as the horses were brushing through them in the latter stages.
BALLYMACDUFF led until falling at the tenth. He's completed in only two otu of six attempts over fences.
SAMBELUCKY disputed the lead at that point but then came a cropper at the twelfth fence. He won a hurdle off 77, but his record otherwise isn't over-inspiring.
Next tale of woe was for SPICE BAR who was left in the lead by Sambelucky's exit. He looked the winner going to three out, but walked through it barely getting above the frame and Tom O'Brien had no chance of staying in the saddle. He would probably have won had he stayed up and his record offers a little more encouragement than others.
BAAHER is difficult to win with, but he had this handed to him on a plate. He looekd to be saving a bit from the last but had the race in safe keeping. His only other win was against a dodgepot over hurdles at Perthm and he's not one to get involved in at short odds.
STAND CLEAR was hampered at the twelfth, and then by a loose horse two out, so her second place has some merit. Allowing for the problems encountered, this wasn't a bad effort and she can improve on this chasing debut.
HOLE IN ONE had every chance if good enough and wasn't nearly that. EQUATION and LE REVEUR were in rear when hampered at the tenth and were never in the race afterwards.
FORREST LEMONS was no great shakes over hurdles, his second place coming in a weak contest, and proved no better over fences. He was well beaten when falling two out.
1.50 2m 4f Buy 2012 Annual Members' Badge Maiden Hurdle (Class 5)
ALLOW ME finally gained a deserved win, staying on better than the second having led or disputed all the way. He's on a mark of 115 which doesn't look to be giving much away if going handicapping. It might be worth James Ewart trying to seek out another non-handicap novice event under a penalty.
EBANOUR was out jumped at the last and couldn't get back on terms.
LA BACOUTTEUSE was well beaten in the striaght, but just held off GLASSON LAD who's two second places were gained a fair distance behind the winners.
2.25 2m Nodram Handicap Chase (105-120)
CARRIETAU was given a chance to dominate from the front here. He's shown in recent times he's best when not hassled for the lead. He was ridden coming out of the back straight, but kept responding from that point and showed good resolution to hold on. He's definitely one whose chances depend on tactical make up of the race, but if he can get an uncontested lead he has to go on the shortlist.
The stewards enquired into Carrietau's improvement. They 'noted' the trainer's explanation that he 'had the run of the race'. Maybe if one of their number invested in a form book they might be able to work it out for themselves, though on this evidence I'm not holding my breath.
VOSGES chased the leader from four out, got level at the last and was then held to the line. He needed the race when running over 2m 6f at Kelso and should be helped by a step back up in trip.
HEAVENLY CHORUS raced toward the rear until the eighth and never got closer than third place. Her best statistic is that she's 3 from 6 at Catterick.
CORTINAS briefly threatened four out, but made no further impact, while SADDLERS DEAL never got into the contest.
HIGH BIRD HUMPHREY loooked to find the pace or the track (both?) too sharp.
THE PADDY PREMIUM was behind four out and can't recapture his Perth form at the moment.
2.55 2m Jeden Business Flooring Handicap Hurdle (84-100)
PARC DES PRINCES is comparatively lightly raced over jumps and could be progrssive over hurdles. He clsoed to the last and stayed on pleasingly on the flat. He's unlikely to be pushed up too far for this win and can win another handicap.
SHERIFF HALL is a desperately frustrating character who hadn't looked entirely comfortable over fences of late. He bowled along in front here but was collared at the last and, though keeping on, was held to the line. To his credit he does rally a bit once passed.
KING's CHORISTER stayed on under pressure but never got close enough to threaten a win, but nothing else got near from three out.
AMAZING STAR was going well approaching three out but went out like a light before the second last. He was reported as having a breathing problem.
3.30 2m Border Safeguard Ltd Maiden Open NH Flat Race (Class 6)
Doanld whillans is not renowned for producing bumper winners, so NODDA HIGH KID's 80/1 SP was less of a surprise than the win here. He's out of a hurdles winner who had a winning half-sister over hurdles, so wasn't a no hoper on breeding and it would be reasonable to expect respectability once jumping. I'm not sure this race was particularly strong, but the winner did show plenty of commitment to hold off BRINDISI BREEZE in the closing stages. Peter Buchanan was banned for overuse of the whip, a second offence in recent weeks, and he may have to tread carefully now.
FLICKA WILLIAMS was held from two furlongs out. He will be better suited by a stiffer test of stamina than the early dawdle here led to.
Sadly Alan Swinbank's ALL AMERICAN broke down in the straight and was put down.
CHESTA stumbled and unseated on the final bend.
James Ewart's stable has hit form with a vengeance and recorded two wins at Doncaster. QUICUYO took the Class 3 2m 3f handicap in decent style, while the promising chaser BENEFICIAL REFORM took a four-runner staying novices' handicap chase.
NEWCASTLE - Saturday November 26th
Going - Good to Soft
I had planned to travel to Gosforth Park for the 'Fighting Fifth' meeting, but I didn't relish a journey of two hours plus in forecast gale force winds. Fortunately the winds didn't affect the course, but I watched from home.
LACKAMON won the opening novices' handicap chase in decent style. He was fifth in a well contested handicap chase at Carlisel last time, and I doubt he's stopped improving yet. TIPTOEAWAY ran a sound race in second, while AIKMAN was disappointing and well beaten in third. The latter didn't look particularly at ease from a long way out, though I doubt the course would be to blame.
QUETZAL led or disputed all the way in the Class 5 three mile handicap chase, finding enough in the latter stages to hold on with a bit to spare. DOLLAR MICK tried to close from two out, but to no avail though he was not disgraced.
Third placed TREEHOUSE stuck on up the straight and will be of interest if set a stiffer stamina test.
David Cormack of The Racing Forum marked TEENANDO down as one of his best two in the paddock, but he was a little disappointing, fading from three out to finish fourth.
PADDYS UNYOKE took a very heavy fall at the twelfth and I hope he was OK.
FILL THE POWER led or disputed all the way to take a competitive class 2m 6f novices' hurdle and is progressing nicely. SOUTH LEINSTER put up a decent effort off the back of a 21 mnoth lay-off, staying on from two out if not threatening the winner.
CUE TO CUE moved on to the tails of the leaders no the final bend, but she couldn't impact any further. She will be suited by a return to mares' company.
ROWDY ROCHER has done well to win a bumper and a hurdle but was outpaced from two out here. He should come into his own once going chasing.
Sue Smith's yard is in fine form and made it three on the day with DOUGLAS JULIAN. He had run down the field at Kelso and Wetherby, but stayed on well to take this race. He improved in leaps and bounds last season, and a drop in the handicap allowed him back into Class 4 here,
BENE LAD was well backed stepped up in distance and looks capable of taking a race before long. TIME OUT kept on for third and should find a small race to break his duck, most likely in handicap company.
RED KINGDOM kept on for fourth but is basically frustrating.
STORM SURGE led for a long way, but his record at 2m 4f+ is 5576, and he looks better around the minimum distance.
OVERTURN followed up a decent win at Ascot by taking the Fighting Fifth Hurdle seeing off BINOCULAR on merit. The winner is a tough old stick, and it's nice to see Perth Summer Champion Hurdle form given a boost. However, it's difficult to see either of these winning a Champion Hurdle and AP McCoy admitted that BINOCULAR was beaten on merit.
STORMY WEATHER matched the top three for quite a way, and is on a decent mark when dropped back to handicaps, assuming the handicapper doesn't take a literal line on this form.
Irish bumper winner MALT MASTER looked a decent novcie prospect when taking the maiden hurdle. The second was closing, but the impression was that the winner had a bit more to give. A potentially useful hurdlers from a Henderson stable crammed full of decent sorts.
CROWNING JEWEL didn't jump well down the far side, but closed at the entrance to the straight. Outpaced from three out, he picked up again in the latter stages and was closing at the line. He shouldn't go long before winning a hurdle.
Back down the field, RUPERT BEAR showed some promise and, although by a sprinter, there's serious staying blood on the distaff side. A typical homebred Walton type, he's unlikely to set the world on fire over hurdles, but don't be surprised if he progresses once chasing over a distance of ground.and is bred to be a staying chaser.
CAPITAL VENTURE was once again raced over what appears a trip shorter than he needs, not having the pace to match the prinicipals. Nick Alexander has been fairly quiet about this one, but I wonder if he might be eyeing up a novices' handicap hurdle over 2m 4f+.
After the victory of Carruthers in the Hennessy, HEY BIG SPENDER was well backed to win the closing Rehearsal Chase having finished just behind the Newbury victor last time. Leading four out and staying on well, he held on well from the last. He might be a bit of a twilight horse now though as this win will take him into the mid-150s.
THE HOLLINWELL put up a career best to finish a close seocnd. His best efforts have been at around three miles with a stiff finish, form reading P12202. He did manage a jumpers' bumper win at Southwell last winter, but that track can be a slog.
Lightly raced ASHFIELD'S DREAM ran a cracking race in third, leading for a long way and sticking at it once passed. He has won over middle distances, but does give hte impression that he's a stayer. Only 7 and worth keeping on the right side.
CAPTAIN AMERICO was otupaced from the home turn before staying on again late on. He won a hurdle over 3m 3f at Kelso last season and does look in need of a longer trip.
MINELLA THEATRE couldn't get a blow in from four out, and GARLETON was off his game having been unable to get to the front.
CARLISLE - Sunday November 27th
Going - Hurdles - Soft, Chases - Soft (Heavy in places)
The hurdles were run on the flat course, the old hurdles course, as the new hurdles track has been a bit loose of late. The flat track is much stiffer than the new hurdles track that'st's worth bearing this in mind when carrying this form forward
Two fences were omitted in the chases, the first on the far side and the open ditch four out.
The opening novices' hurdle over two and a half miles looked a potentially decent contest. I developed into a duel, with SEE WHAT HAPPENS and ANYCHANCEDAVE pulling clear. Both should be noted for future contests as should the nicely bred DREAMER OF DREAMS who was tapped for pace in the closing stages back in third. The latter went well until rapping himself three outt Kelso and should pick up a novices' hurdle.
FRASCATI PARK jumped left in the novices' chase, but had enough in hand to hold his only serious rival KUDU COUNTRY, pretty well reflecting the gap between the two over hurdles.
SADDLE PACK was cannily ridden by Cathy Walton to gain third place. He showed ability in the pointing field and will show up better once handicapped and over a longer trip.
NOWURHURLIN stayed on well to win the 2m 1f novices' hurdles and is another promising sort from the McCain yard conveyor belt, steppnig on previous hurdles efforts. GUESS AGAIN has plenty of decent blood in his family and should win races, fnishing close up in second here. He's been given time and is likely to come into his own once going chasing.
LOCKSTOWN amde it two in a row in the 3m 2f handicap chase, comfortably seeing of EXTALAR and MORGAN BE, both of whom look kept in their place by the handicapper.
HENNESSY showed some promise on his return at Kelso, but his last two races suggest he's going backwards. He faded quickly on the long run to three out.
HIGH RANSOM won the Class 4 handicap hurdle very nicely. She took over form CHESTER LAD when the latter rapped the last and came away to win with a bit to spare. Considered good enough to be tried at Cheltenham last March, she looks one to keep on the right side in the near future.
The fact that maiden Dickie Henderhoop was made 3/1 favourite for the closing amateur handicap hurdle pretty well sums the event up. In such circumstances it sometimes pays to look to the outsiders, but neither 25/1 winner Crackerjac Boy nor the 20/1 Shoal Bay Dreamer had much to recommend them pre-race.
Keep an eye out for:
STAND CLEAR - would probably have won but for being hampered twice at Musselburgh
CAPITAL VENTURE - Needs a step up in distance (2m 4f+) and may start on a decent mark if aimed at a handicap.
DREAMER OF DREAMS - promise at Kelso and not disgraced behind See What Happens. Can win a novice hurdle.
SADDLE PACK - Will be a decent proposition in staying chases, particular if tried in a handicap.
HIGH RANSOM - Looks a progressive type off a fairly low mark in handicaps.