I've finally been able to write a report ot catch up with recent action having been very busy at work in the last couple of weeks. I suppose I really should be grateful to be in that position given the ecomonic situation...
KELSO - Sunday Decmeber 4th
Going - Soft (Good To Soft in places)
There was early morning snow in Dunfermline, but thankfully Kelso avoided the wintry showers though the weather was very chilly.
Outlaw Tom's outing in the Borders National was eagerly anticipated by your scribe.
12.30 2m 110yds Happy Birthday Berwick Speedway's Julie Newton Novices' Hurdle (Class 4)
I must confess to have favoured a decent hospitality turkey dinner in the Paddock Marquee in preference to a paddock side position before this event.
Jim Goldie's MERCHANT OF DUBAI was well touted in this one and ran a sound enough race, but he was outstayed by Willie Amos's EUROHUNTER. The latter created a favourable impression at Newcastle after a break and stepped up on that here. The form might prove decent and I'd expect the first two to pick up winning prize money.
TALKIN SENCE tried hard to match the first two form the last and takes a fair bit of credit on his first hurdling completion. Stuart Coltherd should be able to place this one to advantage in time.
1.00 2m 6f 110yds John Smith's Paris Pike Novices' Chase (Class 2)
A decent contest for a prize fund of £12,400.
LIE FORRIT was making a comeback after missing last season due to injury. He was well enough, but looked as if the race might bring him on just a little, so given that then his victory was very pleasing. He chased the leader from three out and took over on the run-in, staying on nicely to give Willie Amos and Campbell Gillies a second winner of the afternoon. He jumped well and looks to have a bright future over fences.
BLENHEIM BROOK once again found one too good for him, but lost nothing in defeat here against a decent opponent. He should win a race before long, though he will not be much of a price.
141 rated THE PANAMA KID sets the standard here, particularly giving weight away to the two in front of him. He led until passed at the last and could offer no more from that point.
One to take from this event is DANCING DIK, 125 rated over hurdles but potewntially better over fences. He matched the prinicipals until approaching the last from which point he was held. A fine effort after a lay-off similar to that of the winner.
CASSIUS couldn't match decent oppostion on chasing debut and needs his sights lowered.
Long standing maiden PADDYS UNYOKE was unsurprisingly tailed off, but his lively demeanour after the race perhaps suggests that he doesn't exert himself to the extent he might.
1.30 2m 110yds Kevin Oliver Christmas Handicap Hurdle (100-119)
LADY BLUESKY was in fine form on the flat and continued the trend with a gritty performance to win a competitive handicap hurdle. She led and kept finding more form the last to land a third Scottish win, indeed a third win for Hawick stables. Her wins have come at tracks with a stiff finish.
COOL BARANCA pressed the leader from the last but couldn't make any impression.
FLAYGRAY plugged on for third, but he went up 11lbs after his win here and the forced rise in class might just have done for him here. This was a good effort though and he clearly wasn't out of his depth in the company. A step back up in trip may help.
FREDDIE BROWN faded tamely from three out and was pulled up. Jan Faltesjek reported he ran too free, though this wasn't immediately obvious from watching the race. I've always liked him but my patience is running thin.
2.00 2m 6f 110yds Monteith Memorial Champion Chase (Handicap) (119-149)
This was a very good event for a total £17,000 pot and good reward to Kelso for putting up decetn prize money. A fitting memorial also to a much missed Scottish trainer in Peter Monteith.
John Wade's cahsers are ni excelletn form and the progressive ALWAYS RIGHT took this in decent style. Always prominent, he stretched his field from two out and gamely held off his main challenger from the furlong pole. Quoted 33/1 best for the Grand National, this lightly raced former hunter chaser has 'Aintree type' written all over him. If you add in his point-to-point form his record is an impressive 10 wins from 15 races.
Another one presumably aimed at Aintree is last year's National ninth placed SKIPPER'S BRIG. He made almost as pleasing a return as the winner, making good progress from three out to challenge on the flat but then held in the run to the line. Another lightly raced sort, he's 9 wins from 19 races and there's no suggestion he's finished winning yet.
SA SUFFIT is probably as high as he would need to be in the ratings. He made a brave attempt to make all, only giving way a bit short of 'the elbow'. He might just be better suited by a drop back to two and a half miles.
PREMIER SAGAS briefly threatened to get involved two out, but made no impact in the straight. He's another better suited by a shorter trip.
DEN OF INIQUITY made steady late progress having been outpaced down the far side. He's worth noting when dropped in class or upped in trip, preferably both.
TARTAN SNOW ran a decent race from out of the weights and desperately needs to be given less exacting tasks.
Former Scottish national winner MERIGO is definitely a Spring horse and never showed.
2.30 4m Scottish Borders National Handicap Chase (105-137)
This was the event I had been waiting for as it saw the altest outing of OUTLAW TOM, the horse I have a small interest in through the Milnathort Racing Club. He earned a place here follwoing a win over four miels at Hexham, though was asked serious questions here agianst much better opponents. Ridden quietly off the pace by Campbell Gillies, he hit two fences hard with a circuit to go and, despite rallying for a while, could never get back to the field. Eased home in seventh place, he will now be dropped in class and aimed at staying chases over stiff or galloping tracks in 2012.
From the point of view of one having an interest in one of runners these were a scarily good looking bunch of chasers in the paddock.
As you may appreciate it wasn't that easy for me to be objective about this race. I was struggling to the binoculars shaking, let alone concentrate on the rest of the field. however, we were treated to an excellent contest as six horses were involved from four out. I've been impressed by EYRE SQUARE since I first saw him, and this bull of horse stayed on relentlessly on the flat to hold staying on in-form LOCKSTOWN. The winner should take the John Wade colours into the winner's spot again soon as he seems an ideal sort fro these stamina tests. LOCKSTOWN just bottomed out close home but did enough to suggest that he hasn't finished winning yet.
MISTER MARKER wasn't foot perfect here but remained in the mix until held on the flat. This was a decetn effort at his first try past 3m 1f.
CAPTAIN AMERICO added to his list of fourth places, as so often before rallying after being outpaced but unable to make an impact from the last.
DOUBLE DEFAULT, second to Outlaw Tom at Hexham, had a creditable effort at making all in this tougher company. He was still in front at the last, but then weakened. He's slightly frustrating in that he's often thereabouts but looks a weak finisher.
GARLETON found the company tough at Newcastle and may have found the exertions telling in the last half mile. He will now have a rest.
BALLYFITZ went well for two circuits, but having clouted the eigthteenth fence he then unseated at the next.
Seven-year-old BEAMAZED will likely be of long term interest in these staying contests, looking well and on his toes but unseating at the fifth.
3.00 2m 6f 100yds Edinburgh Audi/Melrose Rugby Club Mares' Hovices' Hurdle (Class 4)
Favourtie GLENORA GALE appeared to try to duck out at the second and unseated after htiting the flight. Running loose, she was last spotted being pursued around the golf course by Russell stable staff.
MICRO MISSION had shown promise in the Iruish pointing field, so a 22/1 starting price was a bit of a surprise. She raced promienntly, challenged at the last and forged on fro a decetn win. She's well enough bred and is an interesting sort to take forward.
Previous winner SEEDLESS ran a sound race but couldn't match the winner from the last.
GOLDEN SPARKLE ran at a similar level to Musselburgh form, held in the closing stages.
Deminutive LITTLE FIFI wasn't totally disgraced in fourth, giving way before the last.
MIA MATRIARCH looked best in the paddock, but she was much too keen on the track and had shot her bolt by two out. She can be better than this form suggests if she settles.
3.30 3m 3f SIS National Hunt Novices' Handicap Hurdle (64-98)
A low key event to finish a decent card, but wonj by an animal who is on the upgrade and has been cannily placed to win three races. Only a six-year-old SUPER ALLY had won two chases before this and still seems on a workable mark in both disciplines. He stays well and has shown a decetn attitude.
RIGHT ENOUGH performed very well on first effort in a handicap, making the winner work hard from two out and only just succumbing. Held up on previous outings, this was the first time he had been put into the centre of battle and it made a serious difference. He should win a staying hurdle.
FORCEFIELD was outpaced three out and could only stay on after that.
Backers optimism apparently knows no bounds since long-standing maiden DICKIE HENDERHOOP was once more made favourite, this time a ludicrous 2/1! He never got into the race.
MUSSELBURGH - Monday December 5th
The wintry weather hitting Scotland spared Musselburgh and we enjoyed a bright if chilly afternoon.
Going - Good (Good To Soft in places)
12.20 3m visiteastlothian.org Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase (87-103)
HURRICANE JACK is not the easieat to win with but, given the right combination of course and conditions, he was able to dictate here and was not in danger from four out. Jumping well in front he stayed on nicely to give Grant Cockburn a first chase winner. However, I would be inclined to oppose him next time unless Lucinda Russell finds an equally cushy race.
SOPRANO stays well but ideally needs a stiffer test than course and going presented here. He could never get to the winner but would be of interest returned to a stiffer course.
BOB WILL never seriously troubled the leader and just held off long-standing Irish-based maiden MOLINERO for third place, well behind the second.
GAVROCHE GAUGAIN isn't certain to see out this trip. He seemed to be feeling the pinch when making a bad error at the twelfth, and he was well beaten when pullnig up before four out.
12.50 2m Buy Your Annual Members Badge Today Maiden Hurdle - Division 1 (Class 5)
ALSAHIL confirmed the promise of his previous run here. having gone clear three out he just held on from MAKBULLET who finished best. I'm not sure the form is particularly strong, but the seocnd is probably best around here on good ground as it doesn't stretch his stamina too much. He may win a similar contest.
KAOLAK was left behind from three out and nothing else threatened.
1.20 2m Buy Your Annual Members Badge Today Maiden Hurdle - Division 2 (Class 5)
Just occasionally a performacne makes you do a double take and check what you are really seeing. KEALIGOLANE finished this race a speed which might have troubled a few sprinters, racing clear from two out having led all the way under a well judged ride by Lucy Alexander. The gelding won well in a bumper at Wexford in 2009 but lost his way after. This run suggests the ability is still there and on the evidence of this he will trouble better company. I'd be tempted to take a step back and just watch his next race though!
DEMOLITION made a far hurdling debut in second, comfortably seeing off the remainder. He should win a maiden or novice hurdle. KOO AND THE GANG was a fair third just holding ANNA'S ARCH, though both were held from two out.
1.50 3m 110yds Turf TV Handicap Hurdle (70-100)
I was pleased to see ANY GIVEN MOMENT give his trainer Sandy Thomson a winner, as I have often seen the Greenlaw handler pacing nervously up and down during races. This wasn't a great race, but there seemed no fluke about this as the winner picked off the leaders from three out and won a shade cosily.
The second and third, VALLANI and EVERAARD, are honest enough but not prolific winners.
SYDNEY COVE stayed on late and looks to need a stiffer track. He did appear to see out this trip.
2.20 2m 4f Racing UK Handicap Hurdle (98-119)
As ever the Musselburgh managemnt are not frightened to put up a decent prize pot, and the £10,000 added here was decent for a quiet Monday in December.
GORDONSVILLE might just be very well handicapped. He's been held up twicee now for narrow wins and might just have a bit in hand provided there is a decent pace on and he can pick his way through the field.
FAIRYNUFF looked the likely winner, despite a couple of mistakes at the last two flights, but was caught close home. Compensation awaits.
CHESTER LAD has some speed, but his hurdling is clumsy and let him down once again. If he hurdles more cleanly he'll wipe the floor with opponents at this level.
2.50 2m 4f Scottish Racing Novices' Handicap Chase (77-98)
I had expected RED TANBER to pick up a race somewhere along the lnie. He's settling a bit better these days, and accurate jumpnig made sure he was too good for a moderate bunch. This run boosts the form of Saddle Pack who was noted from Red Tanber's previous race.
O CROTAIGH tried to make all but was held once passed four out. He kept on for second and will have chances at a similar level.
ROYAL MILE didn't seem to go through with his effort at Sedgefiled, and he dropped away very quickly from four out before pullnig up here. Connections said he didn't stay, but I wondered if something is ailing him.
WHY ARE YOU ASKING has picked up a succession of places in weak races, but he didn't threaten in the straight.
3.20 2m Scottish Racing Your Better Bet STandard Open NH Flat Race (Class 6)
It was desperately cold by this time and I can't guarantee the brain was worknig as well as it might have done, but...
A number of long term projects on show here, not least RENDL BEACH who should advance on a decent performance here noce jumping. He stayed on nicely from two furlong out and is worth noting when going jumping.
BALLYVOQUE had two handlers in the paddock and was unruly at the start. He did however keep on nicely in the closing stages and should improve with racing.
EDMUND is a big jumping type who found things happening too fast for him in the straight. He doesn't look one to win a bumper but will be of interest at a longer trip over jumps. Much the same comment goes for RHYMERS HA' who found this track too sharp.
ONES TO NOTE
DANCING DIK - decent fourth behind three useful types at Kelso. Should win a novices' chase.
ALWAYS RIGHT - excellent staying chaser who would have chance if going for the Grand National. Alternatively, could trouble decent horses if aimed at Cheltenham in March.
GORDONSVILLE- Good chance that two close margin wins might disguise how much he has in hand of the handicapper.
NOTES FROM ELSEWHERE:
PEGASUS PRINCE looks a another decent John Wade owned staying chaser, this one trained by Keith Reveley. He just lasted home at Sedgefield over 3m 3f, but it wouldn't surprise me if he steps up on this effort.
SEEKING POWER - Nick Alexander's chaser would be ideally suited by 5 mile races. However, a slog round a stiff track in the mud is just right for one who just keeps staying on, and was closing in third at Hexham behind Celian. Not to be counted out in basement level staying contests.
OUR MICK - Doddled up in a beginners' chase at Catterick in the style of one who can take a decent step up in class.