OUR MICK followed up a comfortable win at Catterick with an impressive victory in a novices’ handicap chase at Kempton. He galloped and jumped his field into submission and looks one to take forward to the Festivals, probably in one of the handicaps.
ALWAYS RIGHT disappointed in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby. He went out like a light from the home turn, the inference being that there was something wrong. Malcolm Jefferson landed the race with ACCORDING THE PETE who made all the running and held on all out. MERIGO ran another lack lustre race, but previous evidence suggests that he won’t come to himself until the spring.
WETHERBY – Tuesday December 27th
I heard Richie McGrath talking up the performance of EMBSAY CRAG at Kelso, and I must admit to have dismissed it as #sweet talking’ the owners. Richie, I have to apologise, since Embsay Crag showed a decent turn of pace to win the opening novices’ hurdle on the second day of the Wetherby meeting. The quality of this race was dubious, but the winner showed he has ability.
Danny Cook took a horrible fall when Amtired ducked out at the second last, breaking his knee in three places. A desperate setback for Cook who had been having a pretty good time of late.
EMPRESS ORCHID made all, jumping well, to win the beginners’ chase. She may win again. STOPPED OUT stayed on for second place, without quite getting to the winner, and should manage to win a chase before long.
Lucy Alexander coaxed a burst of speed from CHARINGWORTH to snatch the Castleford Chase on the line. That was as good a riding performance as any over the holiday period.
SA SUFFIT stayed on at the end to finish a close fourth. He’s probably more of a middle distance performer these days and this was a fair effort. He remains competitive off his current mark.
CATTERICK – Wednesday December 28th
STAR IN FLIGHT was a comfortable winner of the opening two mile maiden hurdle. He will probably cope with tougher company, though this event seemed heavy on numbers but light on quality.
John Wade’s APACHE BLUE just wore down long time leader SYCHO FRED in the staying handicap chase. The latter is in good heart, but the form looks no better than ‘win in turn’ class.
MALKO DE BEAUMONT went wrong seriously with a circuit to go. I haven’t found a report of his condition, things didn’t look good, and at best it’s probably career ending.
GINGER GREY was clear of CAVITE ETA in the second episode of the maiden hurdle. The latter showed a glimmer of ability in a point earlier in the year, but he didn’t impress in bumpers or novice hurdles before this. Not a race to get too carried away with, though one who ran better than final position suggests was LITTLEDEAN JIMMY, competing for the lead when flattening the last and not recovering.
Sue Smith’s SHADRACK showed tenacity to hold off KING’S GREY in as bobbing finish to the novices’ handicap chase. There are now a significant number of these Class 3 limited handicaps, presumably an alternative to the risk of getting punished by the handicapper for a close finish in non-handicaps. The first two look decent at this level, and ARAUCARIA, a winner of two bumpers and two hurdles, was staying on close behind the first two. He shouldn’t have to wait too long for a chase win.
DOBERDAN pulled readily clear of ON GOSSAMER WINGS in the 2m 3f Class 5 Handicap Chase. Not many I would trust in the field, and the winner had been well beaten by the second here previously. SUPER BABY jumped well in front fitted with a first time visor, suggesting that whatever was ailing him last season is now a bit better, but he was put in his place from the home turn.
KELSO – Thursday December 29th
Going – Soft
A decent post-Christmas card at Kelso, with the weather slowing this fixture this year after the cold had put paid to 2009 and 2010 efforts.
The meeting was well supported by Scottish trainers, and the reward for the locals was 6 winners out of 7 races.
12.00 2m 6f 110yds toteplacepot National Hunt Maiden Hurdle (Class 5)
BRINDISI BREEZE, winner of a maiden point at Loughrea in October and subsequently placed in a Musselburgh bumper, looked well suited by the test of stamina on his hurdling debut. Racing keenly, he jumped neatly enough and took advantage when the runner-up landed flatfooted at the last. This was promising effort from one who will likely be seen to best effect over fences.
One amongst a number of decent acquisition’s by Sandy Thomson in recent months, NETMINDER was perhaps a shade unfortunate not to win this. Favoured by the step up in trip, he looked to be going best until making a serious error at the last and landing flatfooted. He took time to recover, was headed inside the final furlong and couldn’t find any extra. A staying hurdle should be well within his compass.
QUEL ELITE has shown enough to suggest he’s capable of winning a contest like this, but was firmly put in his place from three out. A try at a novices’ staying handicap hurdle could be the route required.
NODFORM RICHARD was most disappointing, being firmly put in his place after four out. He has something to prove.
THE BOOZY BISHOP looks a chasing type, but showed only a glimmer of ability in points. He may have prospects long term, but couldn’t keep up from a mile out here.
12.30 2m 6f 110yds Ashleybank Investments Reg & Betty Tweedie Novices’ Chase (Class 4)
Three very interesting chasings prospects competed here and, despite the low numbers, this could prove to have been a very decent novice event. Certainly three fine looking sorts in the parade ring.
There was a delay to the contest as one of the ambulances got stuck in the muddy ground. A tractor came to the r4scue, but then crossing and track repairs were required at the hurdles/chase course intersection away from the stands.
BOLD SIR BRIAN ran into a couple of decent sorts in two mile events earlier in the season. He clearly benefitted from the step up in trip and, ridden patiently by Peter Buchanan, came to take up the running at the last. He got first run on the stayer Lie Forrit and held on by a couple of lengths. He’s only five, should strengthen and is one hell of a chasing prospect for the Russell yard.
LIE FORRIT would have been suited by a steady pace on the first circuit. Looking a bit sharper than for his previous outing, he got tapped for pace approaching the last, but stayed on relentlessly up the run-in. He’s basically a stayer and will be seen to better effect when there’s more pace on. Worthy of entry in the World Hurdle a couple of seasons back, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be rated a ticket to the major Festivals by Willie Amos.
MOON INDIGO, the least high profile of the three, jumped very well in front and stuck at his task well once turned for home. He wasn’t far away at the finish, jumped better here than in his previous chase, and looks yet another decent chaser for John Wade.
1.00 2m 110yds Eric Gillie 65th Birthday Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)
INTO WAIN confirmed the promise of his gritty effort at Catterick, looking very well in the paddock, leading three out and coming clear with a bit in hand. This franks the effort of hurdling debutant BOURNE in the Catterick event.
RHYMERS HA’ ran a satisfactory second on hurdling debut having shown ability in bumpers. He kept on without troubling the winner and shouldn’t be troubled by a step up in trip.
NEXT TO NOWHERE was left in the lead at the fourth but readily held once passed at the last. He might need to be aimed at novice handicaps.
LA BACOUTTEUSE hasn’t pulled up any trees over hurdles and was readily put in his place from two out as was TALKIN SENCE.
One to keep an eye on for the future is PAS TROP TARD. He showed some ability in bumpers, but I’m told then got a virus. Connections are now testing the water, and suspect that the soft going was against him, but he stayed on steadily from three out having been scrubbed along approaching the fourth flight.
The same connections ran L’EMINENCE GRISE, a private purchase out of Nick William’s yard, and are trying to find out about this one as condition requirements aren’t clear. They learnt nil here as the gelding jinked on the first bend and unseated Zander Voy. Considered good enough to contest the Fred Winter Hurdle at Cheltenham, the jury appear to be in no more than early discussions on this one!
Dramatic action at the fourth flight when MR MANSSON ran out, taking out GETTING READY in the process. Lucy Alexander made strenuous efforts to straighten Mr Mansson, but to no avail, and Brian Hughes was helpless on Getting Ready.
I missed most these in paddock as I nipped off to see HIDDEN CYCLONE’s Leopardstown chasing debut. I got word of this one at Perth in September, and the stable’s confidence was justified with a decent effort here, Shark Hanlon’s gelding jumping well and coming clear on the run-in.
1.35 2m 1f Timeform Race Passes Handicap Chase (102-120)
The likely clash of the front-runners didn’t really happen here. CARRIETAU came a cropper at the ditch away from the stands and STORM SURGE never got the chance to dominate this time. The latter led at the sixth, but was joined at the third last and very tired up the run-in. It might be this was just one race too many and a rest is required.
PRIMROSE TIME is unpredictable but looked very well and was on a going day. She was always thereabouts, led before the last and came clear to win comfortably. She’ll be on a career high mark after this.
PENA DORADA ran a sound race for a novice, keeping on for second though unable to get near the winner. He’s only four and there’s a chance he’ll improve with fencing experience.
WILLIE HALL plugged on for third but was never in contention.
DUKE OF MALFI never got competitive and probably needs softer company.
BOB’S DREAM was beaten by two out and pulled up having lost his action no the flat. He was reported as sound after the race.
CABYLL DOO lost a shoe and pulled up down the far side.
2.10 2m 6f 110yds Bunny Maitland-Carew Handicap Hurdle (88-115)
The wind was starting to pick up by this time, and it was not warm on my regular perch on top of the old stand!
A fine looking sort for which trip, course and company was right here, GLEANN NA NDOCHAIS started at 9/2 which suggests that a few had spotted it. I had this one on my ‘horses to follow’ list this season, and it was no surprise to see a comfortable win. I’ll look forward to seeing this one go chasing but, given that he cruised into contention and then eased clear, he should follow up in a staying hurdle.
CHARLIE BUCKET stayed on well from two out but remains a maiden, though was never near the head of the contest.
POLITICAL PADDY led two out but was headed at the last and could offer no more. This was his best effort for some time.
DICKIE HENDERHOOP ran a fair race without ever threatening to break his duck.
STEADY TIGER led for a good way but weakened quickly once headed and the suspicion is that he has a physical problem. He should promise early in his career but the fear is that he’s in terminal decline.
ANY GIVEN MOMENT folded tamely from four out and was pulled up. He’s not straightforward and may not have fancied it in this more competitive company.
2.45 3m 1f Timeform Jury Handicap Chase (98-121)
ROLECARR made his record around Kelso 3 from 3, staying on stoutly to hold two challengers. He’s also 2 from 2 at this trip and neither win was by far which helps future marks. It wouldn’t surprise me if he wins another handicap chase before long.
The small Borders yard of Alan Mactaggart has only had two horses running for them in the last couple of seasons, but ROYAL MACKINTOSH is a fair performer at best. He’s dropped a fair way in the handicap in recent times, but put up a fine effort here. Setting the pace jumping accurately, he was headed on the run-in but battling back determinedly in the closing stages. Suited by a decent test of stamina, he’s a proven winner in this company and can pick up a handicap chase.
SUPER ALLY had a chance on the flat but was held from the elbow. He remains in decent form.
ISLA PEARL FISHER was held up, asked for an effort from three out but never got to the leaders. Nick Alexander’s hints in his blog that there might still be a bit more to come with this race behind him.
BADGER FOOT was disappointing and struggled from three out.
DODGEY DREAM was struggling from some way out, was pulled up and may have found this too stern a test in the conditions.
BALLYCOLIN faded quickly from two out and dug his heels in at the last when well held.
3.20 2m 2f totepool Handicap Hurdle (102-119)
After a couple of fine performances over the Bank Holidays, Lucy Alexander found herself on the floor 4 times in two days. EUROHUNTER crashed at the last in this event when ridden to fend off a challenge. Informed opinion suggested that maybe Lucy should have kicked on down the far side. However, the winner cruised up into contention and was going the better approaching the last. Eurohunter looks more than good enough to win a similar event.
SURPRISE VENDOR won a weak event at Sedgefield in the spring, but hasn’t done a huge amount otherwise recently. Having made good progress three out he was going best of the leading two when left clear at the last. He’s had a fair bit of racing for a 5 year old, and it’s difficult to find any pattern in his form, though he has won 4 races with two of them on the flat.
BEIDH TINE ANSEO was held up by Grant Cockburn and the leaders had flown before the last. He stayed on for second place.
KING MAK raced prominently but was comfortably held from two out.
MOGHAAYER performed a bit better than of late, being held up well behind by Joel Belbin and keeping on through tired opponents.
Nothing else got near in the final half mile. OPEN DE L’ISLE has ability but pretty much downed tools after a circuit.
ONE TO NOTE
PAS TROP TARD - showed a glimmer of ability in novice company and should make his mark before long.