CATTERICK - Tuesday December 13th
Going - Soft
The Maiden Chase threw up a decent winner last year in Columbus Secret and teh second on that occasion, TIME OUT, returned to win with a bit in hand this time around. He jumped well and went clear from two out, givnig signs that he can step up to match better company. He's favoured by cut in the ground and should win again. It's orth noting the at James Ewart's website has had an overhaul and is now updated at www.jamesewartracing.com.
John Wade's record with chasers, both owning and training, is as good as any in the North. Chris Grant trained ALPHA ONE looks a fair recruit to the string and acquiited himself well enough in second, jumping well but never getting to grips with the winner. He shouldn't be too long in finding a small race, possibly a novices' handicap chase.
BOURNE made a successful winning debut in the 2m 3f novices' hurdle. He kept on nicely and there could be a bit more in the tank as he was rated 97 on the flat. Another decent looking recruit from the flat, INTO WAIN battled tenaciously from two out, stepputg up significantly on Market Rasen hurdling debut. He should win a race before long. CROWNING JEWEL once again came with a wet sail late on. He was outpaced before two out and the obvious conclusion is that this course wouldn't bring out the best in him.
DYSTONIA'S REVENGE came from miles back on the home turn to take the staying handicap chase, mugging the two other finishers on the run-in. Lucky though he was, his record around sharp tracks under Rules is now U4121 and he does stay well.
CORKAGE led until coming down two out. He would likely have finished second at worst and may well have won. This was much better than his Newcastle effort, though he has an enigmatic history. QUEL BALLISTIC, another likely chasing winner from the Wade stable, was chipping away at the elader's advantage when hampered and unseating two out.
The closing bumper was won by SPECIAL CATCH. three race experience presumably making a significant difference. In the long term keep an eye out for PLUS JAMAIS, a half-brother to decent chaser Sa Suffit. He got left behind from the home turn but should put up better performances in time.
NEWCASTLE - Saturday December 17th
Gonig - Good To Soft (Soft in places)
Newcastle really have 'let things a go' a bit in recent times and the prixze mnoey fro this card was pathetic for what should be a decent pre-Christmas card. The feature race was worth over £15,000 to the winenr when last contested in 2008, but only £4.431 this year. I know times are hard, but an effort needs to be made.
The chase course has been re-arranged a little this season. There is now only one fence down the side of the track, but five 'down the back', alleviating some of the problems of having to omit fences because of the low sun.
KING'S CHORISTER has threatened to win a lowly handicap on a few occasions and finally found a very moderate event here. He decided he had done enough in front and idled, but CARTERS REST and DZESMIN had neither ability nor perhaps inclination to pass, and WALTHAM ABBEY arrived too late to trouble the winner.
BLENHEIM BROOK has run into some decent novice chasers this season but finally got off the mark when taking the three mile beginners' chase. He had a straightforward task here and eased clear when asked after two out. He took time to warm to his job as a novice hurdler and I suspect he will fulfil the expectations of his stable at a higher level.
PRESQUE PERDRE improved on his chasing debut and performed soundly enough in second. He won't always come up against one as good as the winner.
AFSOUN has declnied from a career best mark of 166 down to 130. Welcoming the drop in class that the mark enabled, he won the five-runner handicap hurdle very easily. Lucinda Russell's recruit from Paul Nicholls, TITO BUSTILLO went well until weakening before the last and the race should bring him on.
One of the best at bringing horses back at the epak after a break, Sue Smith took the Northumberland Chase with PAPA CARUSO. It wouldn't be surprise if there's a little more improvement in this one.
PROSECCO ran soundly enough here for second, but needs a break between his races. He is essentially on his amrk though and nothing else in this race really hints at being on a decent mark.
Well touted by Lucinda Russell at the Arlary Open Day, NUTS N BOLTS proved to be just as good as suggested on his hurdling debut. He saw off a some fair performers with plenty in hand in the 2m 6f novices' hurdle. The staying novices deaprtment is sometimes a bit light on talent at the top end and it might be that this winner can cut it in Graded company in time.
SOUTH LEINSTER has shown plenty of promise on his two runs this season and looks capable of picking up a run-of-the-mill staying novice event. With two winners filling the next two places the form looks sound.
The Class 4 novices' handicap chase saw a close fought finish with TRANSACT holding on determinedly from DANCING ART and HOLE IN ONE. The eyecatcher ehre though was SADDLE PACK, confirming the encouraging impression given at Carlisle, staying on well from two out and would have been the winner with a furlong extra to cover. He got outpaced down the far side, but stayed on relentlessly from four out if always too late. The run here suggests my observation last time was right, and he will win over a longer trip, but I suspect his proximity at the finish might stuff the odds next time!
The closing juvenile bumper might work out as a decent event. 5/4 favourite HOUSEPARTY was very green thorughout, but raw ability got him into second. He should win a race with the experience behind him.
The winner CALL BACK was much more tuned into requirements having had a previous race. If Donald McCain can win a race with him as a three-year-old then I suggest that signs are good for the future.
BLADOUN led until three out and kpet on honestly enough once passed. He's a hlaf-brother to four jumping winners in Frnace and appears to possess a fair amount of speed.
CARLISLE - Sunday December 18th
Going - Heavy
All credit to Carlisle as their meeting survived a couple of inspections because of frost, meaning that they didn't have a single day called off in 2011. This meeting did have to be reduced to hurdles only though, and the flat course (the 'old' hurdles course) was once again called into action.
A half-brother to decent Irish hurdler Hidden Cyclone, KINGS CANYON put a disappointing seasonal debut behind him to win the opening 2m 4f novices' hurdle with a bit to spare, staying on well up the hill in testing conditions. Irish pointing winner AVENGING ACE was backed into favouritism here, but ran into a decent opponent and is likely to a chasing prospect long term. There should be a novice hurdle for him along the way though.
Donald Whillans' MINI THE MINX kept on for third if well held by the first two.
Neither division of the 2m 1f novices' hurdle looked very competitibve and there may be mileage in opposing the respective winners, DIAMOND D'AMOUR and JACKSON CAGE on their next outings.
ARTIC NIGHT's only previous significant form had been in the mud at Ayr. He was made favourite to take the second division of the 2m 4f Class 4 handicap hurdle and did it with something in hand, suggesting that he can follow up given the right conditions. He stays three miles and is suited by heavy going. He saw off a fair measure here in GULF PUNCH.
Tim Vaughan's ASHES HOUSE came clear from two out in the bumper and a win under a double penalty wouldn't be out of the question. He's already a winner of an Irish point and will be an exciting prospect when going jumping.
Donald Whillans's stable is in good heart and should be well satisifed with the effort of SPINNING TURTLE. Held from two out, he pulled clear of the remainder. This one has been given time, there is winning jumping blood in the family and, being by Turtle Island, he is likely to be at his best in testing going.
CRANBERRY ICE ran passably well in third. Another with winning jumping blood in his pedigree, he will be worth keeping tabs on with a jumpnig career in mind.
Ones to Note:
TIME OUT - jumped well and won with something in hand at Catterick.
QUEL BALLISTIC - was homing in on the leader when brought down by that one's fall at Catterick. A decent prospect for a staying handicap chase.
NUTS N BOLTS - impressive debut and could turn into a decent staying novice hurdler.
SADDLE PACK - confirmed Carlisle promise. Should win a novice handicap chase at 2m 4f+.