Saturday, 29 December 2012

Pre-Christmas action in Scotland

I’ve not kept up with racing as much as I should have in the last two weeks. However, I’ve done a summary of significant performances the mid-December action in Scotland which included a couple of very decent cards at Kelso and Musselburgh

KELSO – Sunday December 9th

Borders National day at Kelso saw testing going once again and a strong cold wind chilling spectators to the bone. Ironically the roof of the old stand was one of the better places to be with the viewing place a little more sheltered due to the wind direction.

Alan Swinbank was hauled in front of the stewards for the running of PHOENIX RETURNS in the opening two mile novices' hurdle, but the latter stayed on for third having been outpaced down the far side. He should be seen to better effect with a stiffer test.
EVERYLASTING looks a chasing type and kept on for fourth without ever threatening. He’s one to keep in mind long term.

RIVAL D’ESTRUVAL was impressive in seeing off a small field in the Paris Pike Novices’ Chase. He jumped superbly and was in no danger in the last half mile. He will now have a rest before taking on the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, a race for which he would be no forlorn hope.
PAPAMOA stayed on well enough for second. He stays and stays and will be one to keep in mind long for long distance handicap chases at his own level.
SAPHIR RIVER disappointed once again. He chased Rival D’Estruval from four out but never got near him and was tried from two out. He will now be dropped back in distance.

Poor CASSIUS was labouring as he passed the stands in the handicap hurdle, faltered as he was pulled up and collapsed not to rise again having suffered a heart attack. A blow to the small Mactaggart stable and a sad loss of a familiar performer at Kelso.

DOUGLAS JULIAN is an unreliable performer, but he jumped superbly to win the Persimmon Homes Champion Chase in which the two fences in the straight were omitted (low sun). Always up the pace, he asserted from two out but cannot be relied upon to repeat the form.
LIE FORRIT stayed on well for second, an encouraging sign after a couple of below par runs.

In the Borders National, won by Midlands raider Mortimers Cross, QUACITY stepped up significantly in trip and stayed on in the latter stages. He was running from out of the handicap here and he will have other opportunities against lesser opposition.
COTSWOLD CHARMER was dismounted after the last and transported back to the stables in the horse ambulance. One of the backmarkers had really belted the fence going away from the stands and we did wonder if it had been Cotswold Charmer, he certainly wasn’t going well after that. The good news was that Sam Twiston-Davies ‘tweeted’ that the gelding got home to Naunton safely.

MUSSELBURGH – Monday December 10th

Musselburgh put on an excellent Monday card with £55,000 prize money up for grabs. The race were well subscribed, aided by the decent going which was better here than at any course in recent days.

The opening conditional jockeys’ handicap chase was won by BHALTAIR , who doesn’t look a typical Donald McCain and isn’t the easiest to catch right. Racing in touch, he Bhaltair forged clear down the straight, but wouldn’t be one to trust for a repeat.
EXOTIC MAN has been lightly raced of late, but hinted at a possible win to come with a fair performance in second place. He looks capable of winning a lowly middle distance handicap chase.

The title of ‘Most Northerly Trainer’ was taken over by Jackie Stephen, based way north of any other trainer at Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The permit holder ran SAFARI ADVENTURES in the first race, but couldn’t arrest this one’s slide. He raced near the front until the ninth but quickly dropped to the rear.
Mrs Stephen ran RELAND in the three mile hurdle, but this one struggled to see out three miles in points last year, and dropped away in the last mile. He's capable of making more of a mark in middle distance low grade handicap hurdles.

WALTZ DARLING won nicely in the two mile maiden hurdle, jumping tidily and staying on well. He's got the build of one who can make a chaser and he should go on to better things.

Progressive SWIFT ARROW won a competitive two mile chase. He came to challenge at the last and asserted on the flat. He is now 3 from 4 over fences and I don't think we have seen the best of him yet. He could be back here on New Year's Day for the Honest Toun Handicap Chase over another half mile.

PARC DES PRINCES was given an excellent hold up ride by Dougie Costello in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle, being produced after the last to snatch the race on the line. He's best suited by decent ground and needs holding up, a big field suiting the latter requirement.
UBALTIQUE looked the winner at the last but was caught on the urn-in and might be best dropped back in trip.
CASTLETOWN BRIDGE was not disgraced in fourth and looks a chasing type long term. He could win a less competitive hurdle in the mean time.

Lucy Alexander was seen at her absolute best on ISLA PEARL FISHER, galvanising her father's improving stayer to overhaul Blenheim Brook ridden by Tony McCoy. The Alexander family's gelding looked to have work to do coming out of the back straight, but he does stay and joined the winner jumping the last. His target will be the Scottish National.
BLENHEIM BROOK lost nothing in defeat, looking the winner two out only to be caught on the run-in. He is in good form and should win a similar event soon.
BALDING BANKER was not disgraced in third and appeared to see out the trip. He was lightest raced of these and can step up before long.

SPITZ was impressive in winning the closing bumper, pulling clear from two furlongs out. He looks a bit of a keen type and should have improvement with time.
YES DADDY is a nice jumping sort, worth noting once going hurdling. He was found out for pace here but not disgraced in third.
CLONDAW FLICKA is well regarded in the Russell stable but looks to need a bit of time, as have a few bumper animals from the yard. He will put his fifth place here behind him in time.
SHARIVARRY is a big jumping sort, found out for pace here. He won two points in 2012 and will improve for going over obstacles under Rules.

MUSSELBURGH - Sunday December 16th

Musselburgh were awarded an extra meeting after their November abandonment. Prize money was a bit down on the usual, but given the short notice for this Levy board financed fixture then that's understandable.

LORD WISHES was a comfortable winner of the maiden hurdle and could be aimed at a handicap next time. He is a nice prospect.

BLADES LAD was second to Totalize in the juvenile hurdle. Flattening two out didn't help, but he looked the winner until close home and done on the line. He should win a similar event.

IMPERIAL VIC was bought to go chasing but has proved a fair performer over hurdles, winning for the second time in the staying novice hurdle. Connections are well chuffed at his hurdling efforts and he remains a potentially exciting animal once going chasing.

PRESENT LODGER disappointed in the bumper. This well regarded import from Ireland was expected to produce much better than eighth place. That being said, the stable's bumper horses are not hurried, subsequent Cheltenham winner Brindisi Breeze having suffered his only Rules defeat here last season to an ordinary sort, so expect Present Lodger to step up significantly in time. The race winner AMISFIELD LAD showed some speed, and he's only a three-year-old, so maybe capable of a follow up and can make a mark over hurdles.

Fro those of you looking to  shake off the effects of Hogmanay celebrations, Musselburgh hold their New Year Meeting, featuring a couple of competitive handicap horse races, plus the New Year Sprint handicap race for human sprinters. There should be a great atmosphere and some cracking contests. For those unable to make it, the meeting may well get top billing for the new Channel 4 Racing set up as Cheltenham is not certain to go ahead. The forecast suggests Musselburgh will go ahead, with half decent ground to boot.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Brian goes Boldly at Sandown

BOLD SIR BRIAN won in impressive style at Sandown this afternoon, quickly pulling clear of Pacha Du Polder in the closing stages. He wasn't foot perfect at his jumps but fiddled well at times and had stacks in hand at the finish. Lucinda Russell has pulled her six-year-old out of the King George Chase, the right thing to do as a there's a chance he might be taken off his feet around Kempton. His trainer is thinking more in terms of the Cheltenham Gold Cup long term, with a Wetherby engagement at Christmas time or another Sandown chase early in the New Year as options for 'next stop'. The way he came up the hill suggests longer trip than this 3 miles and half a furlong would prove no problem.

Meanwhile I'm cautiously optimistic that two decent upcoming Scottish cards will take place. All the frost is out of the ground at Kelso and, given that there's only a degree of frost forecast tonight and none Saturday night., course covers should suffice to make sure the Borders National takes place, supported by a number of decent contests though field sizes aren't quite what they might be due to the continuing testing ground.

Musselburgh are forecast to avoid all but a touch of frost before their decent card on Monday 10th December. With three £10,000 pots, one race boasting total prize money of £12,000 and good ground likely, the entry for the meeting is impressive and should guarantee competitive racing. I presume that one race might divide, thus giving an 11:50 start, so breakfast on course might be on the agenda! If you can get along to this meeting it may prove a decent afternoon.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Slogging through the Hexham mud

Hexham - November 21st

Going- Heavy(Soft in places)

The going was heavy once again and it's probably no bad thing that the track gets a three month rest after the pre-Christmas meeting.

A weakly contested juvenile hurdle was won very comfortably by KEALSHORE AGAIN. He did precious little wrong, but his three opponents either were struggling in the mud or just not good enough.

The beginners' chase might prove a significant contest,and there may be a future winner or two from it.
HIGHRATE was a convincing winner, staying on much too well for the rest. His best runs to date have been in the mud and he can score again in similar conditions.
BRANDON THOMAS showed some promise in bumpers but had not quite clicked over hurdles. Setting the pace here, he saw off all bar the winner by the straight, but couldn't muster another effort once passed. This was a decent start over fences and he should pick up a chase before long.
MILANO MAGIC was dropping a mile and a quarter for his chasing debut. Niggled at from halfway, he never got near the leaders but stayed on from two out. The experience will help and he will show more once upped significantly in trip.

The novices' hurdle form doesn't look the most reliable with a disappointing DOTTIE'S DILEMA splitting 125/1 chance GYMDOLI and 150/1 chance LOGICAL APPROACH.
I did hint in the past that LOGICAL APPROACH might be capable of winning a race. Much depends on how the handicapper views this race, as his stuck to his guns down the straight if just outpaced after the last.
Previous winner BONNIE BURNETT, rated 107, was a shade disappointing back in fifth, though two hard races might just have taken the edge off her. She can be given another chance if given a rest.

LEAC AN SCAIL was all out to win the four miler, but he does well round here and his record reads U22111, significantly better than his efforts elsewhere.
The seven-year-old OVERYOU has proved quite decent in these stamina tests and was closing at the line. He should win a similar contest this winter.

RUPERT BEAR still has something in hand of the handicapper it seems, winning the closing handicap hurdle with a bit to spare. He jumps big and looks all over a chaser in the making.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Kelso November Meeting

KELSO – Saturday November 10th

Going – Good To Soft (Soft in places)

The going was testing for this fixture and many of the runners were struggling to get home.

12:25 2m 6½f Premier Traffic Management NH Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

This was a competitive looking contest, but a number of previous winners were comfortably put to the sword by MAGGIO, a winner over the course and distance last time. Coming into this contest on a rating of 127, Maggio had every right to be in the mix. Leading three out, he came clear before the last and won comfortably. He’s just as good a chaser which gives his trainer a few different options.
GREEN FLAG tried to match the winner but paid for the effort and weakened on the run-in. A sound effort on his second hurdles start and he should make a chaser in time. In the meantime another hurdle should be there for the taking as he will not always meet as sharp an animal as Maggio.
Connections were well pleased of the third BOP ALONG on his hurdling debut. Other than the winner he was the only one ‘going on’ at the finish.  He hurdled tidily enough and will likely stay trips beyond this. Bought as a potential chaser he hints that there may be a staying novice hurdle to be won with him.
GROUSE LODGE was outpaced three out. This track can be a stiff test in these conditions and he seemed to find it beyond him at the moment.
BUFFALO BALLET is well regarded at home, the race won’t have done any harm and his trainer was well enough pleased with fifth place. He made some progress approaching two out but never threatened the leaders.
GREEN WIZARD is a tall animal who should make up into a chaser given time. He weakened form three out, but sixth in this race was respectable and he should step up on the performance.
A winner here recently, STREAMS OF WHISKEY was disappointing and never really going.
Sandy Thomson’s THE SHRIMP looked well enough, but the stable haven’t fired so far and it may be worth keeping a watching brief.

1:00 2m 7½f Ship Inn Dalkeith Novices’ Handicap Chase (69-94)

A weak event won with little fuss by TWICE LUCKY who came clear from four out. He saw out this trip well enough, though his staying power will get more of a test in stronger fields.
BALLYBANKS was comfortably put in his place form four out having led to that point. He kept on for second.
WHAT A DREAM never got into the race and was tired when pulled up before two out. Presumably the race was needed.
BOLLIN RIVER was struggling early on, pulled up after the tenth and appears to be of no account as a racehorse.

1:30 3m 3f Graeme Todd Haulage and Friends Handicap Hurdle (103-131)

A tough test in the conditions.

SOUTH LEINSTER was disappointing last time, but equipped with cheekpieces here. Leading at halfway, he was under pressure a long way out but kept finding more, always holding his challengers in the closing stages. He’s hard work but potentially a bit better than the 120 he ran off here.  He may go chasing, but he has leg trouble so George Bewley is likely to take some care with this one.
WHAT A STEEL kept on after the winner, with NIGHT IN MILAN not far behind, However, both are exposed and don’t have a jump on the handicapper.
MILANO MAGIC is less experienced than most of these and is the one with potential to move forward. He was held from two out but the run was encouraging enough for one who I would expect to go chasing in future.
Last year’s winner SOPRANO ran no sort of race, and SCOTSWELL dropped out quickly after leading to the seventh.

2:05 2m 7 ½ f Flannigan Skip Hire Handicap Chase (115-140)

KNOCKARA BEAU was sixth in the Gold Cup last season and is better than this class when on song. Confidently ridden from the front by Lucy Alexander, he had the race in safe keeping on the run-in. He goes well round here, but lack of opportunities these days limits his visits and he will be back in the mid-140s after this. On the upside, he jumped well and is in good heart.
BLENHEIM BROOK kept on well enough to take second. He jumped well and saw off the remainder, so it would be expected that he will pick up a similar event before long.
LACKAMO didn’t jump well enough and was held from two out.
CAVERS GLEN, looking more forward on his second run of the season, would have been third at worst but for blundering and unseating at the last. Testing conditions suit and he looks on the way back to his best.
LOCKSTOWN never got in a blow. It may be that he needs an out-and-out test these days.
Scottish National winner MERIGO is a spring horse and lost touch in the last mile.
DYSTONIA’S REVENGE was pulled up after making a mistake and losing his action. Hopefully this run can be ignored as he is capable of winning staying events in a lower class.

2:40 2m 1f Mayfield Restaurant Handicap Chase (129-149)

One of the better autumn two mile contests in the north, this was won by a southern challenger. Unfortunately the two fences in the straight were missed out, turning the race into a two furlong sprint.

IDARAH stood out in the paddock and showed a decent turn of foot to come clear in the final furlong. He’s not straight forward and has his off days, but proved plenty useful enough on this occasion. Liam Treadwell rode the winner on his first ride at Kelso.
KING’s GREY looks one to take from this race. He appeared to have a tough task in this company, but kept on well for a decisive second place. Like most of John Wade owned or trained horses he’s a decent jumper and must surely add to his sole chasing win before long.
E BOITRON appeared to need the race and was outpaced from two furlongs out.
ULTIMATE made progress to get into contention two out. He was well held from that point and hasn’t sparkled in recent runs. His wins have been on ground good or faster.
TITO BUSTILLO was disappointing, fading from two out. He may be better bullying inferiors if his trainer can find a 0-130 or 135 contest.
STAGECOACH PEARL may well have been feeling the effects of a hard race when third in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree. He faded quickly once passed at the omitted two out. He may need a rest now.

3:15 2m 2f Unwin Family Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (63-100)

The runners were strung out like washing on a line at the end of this contest.

I was in the paddock for the run of SHISHA THREESIXTY, but there was always going to be a doubt about this one’s ability to handle the going. He was always in rear and never got in a blow, pulling up before the last. He was blowing hard back in the unsaddling area, so he had certainly put in some effort, but was galloping on the spot in the last mile. He will now be aimed at Musselburgh where the ground will be better. There is a contest on November 3oth which may suits, but at the moment we go in hope that he will perform rather than with any trust.
ANNA’S ARCH went through the ground and was a clear winner, not in much trouble from two out. He followed up at Sedgefield three days later, so will presumably be bumped up the ratings a fair way.
VITTACHI couldn’t get in a blow from two out. He stays further than this, but got second by virtue of going in the ground rather than any other reason.
CASTLELAWN will need further and was a well held third.
GLACED OVER was well beaten and tired when falling at the last.
Lucy Alexander reported that ANOTHER FOR JOE (pulled up before two out) had run too free.  Since he has won in heavy ground on the flat, I have to go along with that report.
BALWYLLO led until trying to duck out at the bend past the stands. He looks wayward.

3:50 2m 1f Stuart Simon Memorial Handicap Chase (91-115)

This race resulted in an easy win for Donald McCain’s SWIFT ARROW, record a second course and distance victory. He disappointing on his return to the track at Uttoxeter but he pulled quickly clear from two out.  He will be forced up in class a bit now.
SOUL MAGIC kept on from two out. Although a Cartmel specialist, he has a fair record around Kelso which reads 2P232, the pulled up being when priced 100/1 in a Class 2 novice chase.
PRINCE TAM plodded into third but was well beaten.
FREDDIE BROWN set the pace but was out on his feet two out and could barely raise a canter by the line. He’s doing enough to suggest he win a chase, and goes well here, but needs better ground.
LUCKY SUNNY is considered one of the best handicapped horses in Lucinda Russell’s stable but his jumping is a bit hit or miss. Ironically he unseated three out here when over jumping. PETE unseated at the same fence, and was never jumping particularly well.
SADDLE PACK was stretched to keep up when hampered three out and any chance he had was gone.

CARLISLE – Monday November 12th


Course specialist ROYALMACKINTOSH stayed on determinedly to see off FOG PATCHES in the opening 3m 2f handicap chase. He revels in the heavy ground.

WHATS UP WOODY recorded John Wade’s first training win since June by winning the 2m 4f Class 4 Handicap Chase. He led or disputed all the way in the four runner contest, jumping soundly, and stayed on well for victory. He was off his game last season, but has dropped significantly in the weights now and his record at tracks with stiff finishes reads 211P2171. He’s lightly raced and may well have further improvement in him.

ACROSS THE BAY, an impressive winner at Kelso recently, caught the eye once again with a fine front running display in the Graduation Chase. He jumped very well and was significantly eased in beating CAPPA BLEU who made a satisfactory come back. Across The Bay will be aimed at the Welsh National while Cappa Bleu has the Grand National as his main target this season.

SNAPPING TURTLE made a satisfactory chasing debut in the beginners’ chase. Rated significantly below the other six runners, he kept on from the last and will be much better off in a novice handicap.  He’s been given time and should reward patience.

NO DEAL made a promising debut for Lucinda Russell, staying on determinedly to win the bumper.  He will improve when going over jumps and looks a likely hurdles winner in the near future. Fellow Irish pointing winner CLOUD CREEPER couldn’t raise his game in the final furlong, but was well clear of the remainder and Donald McCain should have no problem placing him to win races.
BRAE ON plugged on for third, but probably isn’t the finished article yet and should show significantly better in time for George Bewley.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mussleburgh open their jumps season

The Scottish racing calendar is a little lop-sided this month, with three meetings in three days then a wait until the last day of November. That being said, there are meetings at Sedgefield, Newcastle, Carlisle and Hexham in the meantime, so there are opportunities for Scottish trainers.

MUSSELBURGH – Thursday  November 8th
Going – Good (Good to Soft in places)

A delightful sunny day greeted the opening meeting of Musselburgh’s winter season. The stands bend now has a 170 yard section of Fibresand on the jumps course, relieving the problem of cutting up the turf over the winter. On the evidence of this meeting the solution worked and is more cost effective than relaying the whole bend with turf.

1:00 2m 4f JRF Chimney Specialist (69-95) Handicap Hurdle (Div 1)

A poor contest to start the meeting, full of horses for which there were plenty of reasons to oppose. No surprise then that the race was won by one of less exposed types in GOLDTREK. Given a perfect front running ride by Lucy Alexander, the mare held enough in reserve to hold off two challengers ni the latter stages. Goldtrek had shown ability in the past, winning four middle distance contests no the flat including three on the trot back in 2010. When asked to explain the improvement, Nick Alexander  said that the better going helped and that Goldtrek had been put on a new feeding regime. He could justifiably have added that the opposition was dire, but by dint of the rules the case was referred to BHA. Surely someone in the stewards room can read a form book?
Kit Alexander was spotted arriving at wallyford station on the same train as your correspondent. He was presumably en route from his studies at Durham University. The break from the classroom was rewarded with an excellent ride into second place on KING BREX, the rider making sister Lucy pull out the stops. King Brex hinted at a return to form at Kelso and this was much better.
WORD OF WARNING, held up early,  got into contention from three out but couldn’t quite get to grips with Goldtrek. The run has be seen in context of the opposition, but this was better than recent jumping efforts.
MOMKINZAIN continues to disappoint, fading into fourth. ROLL OVER ROSE threatened briefly, but reportedly finished lame so had an excuse. AUBERGE needs further, but only has one win to his name in 34 goes, while FRONT RANK threw the towel  in quite early on.

1:30 Glow-Worm Renewable Technology Juvenile Hurdle (Class 4)

Tim Vaughan brought DOVILS DATE all the way from South Wales for his debut. He’s a nice enough sort and did the business on the track, pulling comfortably clear from two out. The second has won a race and has run respectably on other occasions, giving the form an air of solidity. Winning jockey Richard Johnson was of the opinion that there is a good deal better to come.
ASTEROID BELT kept on for second without remotely threatening the winner. He was fourth in a Wetherby Listed contest, though that’s never  the greatest pattern race, but he has won a race and should be capable of picking up another under his penalty.
FORSTER SQUARE couldn’t reverse the form with the second on 7lbs better terms for a 1½ length beating.  He may find a moderate race, and will be better off once going handicapping.
GREYHOPE led briefly three out but was held from two out. Although considered ready enough to race as two-year-old last year, he needs to strengthen.
CAPTAIN BALDWIN dumped Lucy Alexander in the paddock, looks headstrong and has no immediate prospects of being competitive.

2:00 2m Buy Your 2013 Badge Mares’ Only Maiden Hurdle

Excessively wordy race title abbreviated. Sorry Bill!
This was a very weak race, but won by a filly who will almost certainly see off much better animals. Donald McCain’s DOYLY CARTE sprinted clear from two out to win with the minimum of fuss. She created a favourable impression in bumpers last year and is a fine stamp of a mare. She can win in open company.
GOLDEN SPARKLE is ordinary, if at least honest enough. Placed in this event last season, she kept on for second but will need to find a weak event to score and doesn’t look especially well treated for handicaps on a mark of 100.
GOODLUKIN LUCY led until three out but was put in her place after. She was bandaged on her hind legs.
LADY OF VERONA will have found this way too sharp and will come into her own with time and a stamina test. Of the beaten mares she is the one to keep an eye on.
The rest will struggle to win anything, and I overheard the trainer telling the owners in as delicate a way as possible that their charge should be doing other things than racing.

2:30 2m 4f Edinburgh Evening News Beginners’ Chase (0-110, Class 4)

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the new novice chasing restrictions, but have to admit that these ratings limited beginners’ events seem to be working. Fields sizes are up and races  are proving competitive.

I’d been eagerly awaiting the chase debut of CIVIL UNREST  and ‘Cyril’, as his stablegirl called him, obliged in excellent style. He jumped really well all the way and stuck on well to see off two 110 rated performers, both with sound chase efforts behind them.  Civil Unrest had a wind op during his time off, from which he would appear to have benefitted from, and appears to have strengthend a bit as well. The winner will presumably go on to novice handicaps now and his accurate jumping will help at novice level.
WILLIAM MONEY fell at the first when I saw him at Kelso, but he jumped in the main here to fill a close second place. His one blunder two out didn’t help at a crucial time, but he should find a similar contest.
MENTALIST was well touted after an encouraging debut at Bangor. He was put into the race approaching three out but just couldn’t match the first two. He lost nothing in defeat, looks a chaser in build and will improve with time.
CALL IT ON went well for the first two miles but was held after.
A winner of the mares’ hurdle here at last year’s meeting, the mare D’GIGI is built to be a chaser. She was held in the straight, but not given a hard time and will do better.  She would be of interest if a mares’ only contest could be found, but otherwise she will be waiting for the handicapper to ease her mark from the current 106.
ANGEL SUN showed promise at Kelso, but was disappointing here and never in the race.
SEAOFEMOTION is a half-brother to decent chaser Seebald, put the wheels come off after that as he is very slow. He was second in an Irish point, but even the winner of that has been beaten miles under Rules!

3:00 3m ½f Racing UK November (98-122) Handicap Hurdle

A close finish to this race, but complications caused as the last hurdle had to be missed out having been damaged. I stood near the final hurdle for this one and the organisation there left much to be decided. It took an age to get the direction signs up and the man with the chequered flag seemed unclear what he was meant to be doing. Ryton Runner in particular was inconvenienced as he had to make a sharp manoeuvre to round the rail approach to the hurdle.
MONETARY FUND  moved smoothly into contention approaching two out and led rounding the omitted last. He may have been headed briefly on the run-in, but stuck his head out determinedly to hold on. He won’t be penalised too much for this and may win again. He wouldn’t want the ground too soft.
JEU DE ROSEAU closed on the flat but couldn’t quite sustain the effort close home.  He has been lightly raced over jumps but has a fair record and remains competitive in this class.
RYTON RUNNER had to make a major corrective move to avoid the last. Given that he was beaten less than a length then that may well have cost him the race. He was better suited by the decent ground here than the heavy at Kelso.
MERRYDOWN led to three out  but was outpaced on the run from the last flight jumped. A fair effort but he hasn’t won since 2009.
PURCELL’S BRIDGE won at Wetherby recently, but this was a much tougher race and he was found wanting. Life will hard from now on as he is up 17lbs from the mark he was on here.
EVERAARD has a good course record but is well off his game at present.
SAGA DE TERCEY had every chance when stumbling badly at the first in the straight. He couldn’t get back into the race after that.

3:30 3m Turf TV (76-104) Handicap Chase

OR DE GRUGY rated 125 early last year, though he’s probably quite up to that now, but Nick Alexander has him in sparkling form at the moment. He’s not as well suited by this course as Kelso, but Lucy Alexander timed her run spot on to lead at the last from the long time leader. Even with another irse in the weights there’s every chance Ort De Grugy can win again soon.
THE BIG FREEZE set the pace and had seen off all bar the winner with two to go. He stuck at his task if held by a better opponent. Unfortunately he may cop it a bit from the handicapper after this run, but he’s lightly raced and on the up.
DUKEOFCHESTERWOOD weakened in the straight and ended up a well beaten. He doesn’t look one to get too excited about at the moment. Well beaten in fourth, OUEST ÉCLAIR was never in the contest.
VIA ARCHIMEDE couldn’t mix it in this company and will now go pointing.
ARCHIE’s WISH threatened to get involved approaching three out, but dropped away very quickly.
BALLYMACDUFF matched the second up front until falling at thirteenth. If his trainer can find a basement level contest he wouldn’t be without a hope.

4:00 2m 4f JRF Chimney Specialist (73-94) Handicap Hurdle (Div 2)

This was the better of the two heats of this contest and won by BENMADIGAN, who does best when picking off opponents of a fast pace. He stayed on willingly and his strike rate of 8 from 46 is better than most at this level.
SOLWAY DORNAL closed on the leaders over the last three flights and kept on under pressure from the last. Best on decent ground but has only won once.
LAYBACH has yet to win, but made a solid fist of things leading here until the last. She kept on well enough and may find a small contest to break his duck.
MOUNTSKIP was well backed to make a winning return after two year break. He ran out of steam from two out, but at least this hints that he retains ability.

MUSSELBURGH- Friday November 9th

Arguably a slightly stronger card for the second day of the meeting.

PARSON’S PUNCH won an incident packed conditionals’ handicap hurdle, in which only 4 of the 10 finished. The winner looked to have OVERPRICED held when the latter jinked at the rail and unseated half a furlong form the line.
SWITCHED OFF looked to have every chance until tripping over two out.  He doesn’t run too many bad races and may find consolation in a similar contest.

The beginners chase was won in impressive style by the front running KIE. He walked through the first, and you wouldn’t get away that at a few courses, but was impressive afterwards and came home a comfortable winner. He wasn’t a bad juvenile hurdler and looks to have decent prospects in chases.

SMADNYIUM held MAYBE I WONT in the novices’ hurdle. The latter has run up a sequence of seconds, but doesn’t seem to be doing too much wrong. The pair were clear and the second is rated 115, so it’s safe to assume that this was at least a 110 effort from Donald McCain’s winner and he should be capable of better in time.

IMPERIAL VIC was bought to go three mile chasing in the long term.  I had a chat recently with one of his owners who was well pleased with the Kelso effort, and this one stepped up on that in easier company in a three mile maiden hurdle. Anything he does over hurdles is a bonus and I look forward to this one going chasing. DANNANCEYS HILL wasn’t disgraced in second and may well find an easier contest at this distance.

NINE STORIES won a competitive Class 3 handicap hurdle over two miles. He had been a bit off his game, but this was a much better effort.
SMART RULER led three out and stayed on once passed. He hasn’t won over hurdles but put up a fair performance here and should take a race if eased in class.
HI GEORGE put up a good effort in third place. He was well held in a competitive contest at Cheltenham last time but proved good enough to trouble contestants at this level. It’s worth noting that his hurdles wins have come over longer trips.

LOCKED INTHEPOCKET was a clear winner of the 2m 4f handicap chase having been left clear when DICA fell two out.  The winner has been moved up to 120 for future races and will find life harder.
BALDING BANKER stayed on for second having been outpaced turning for home. He looks likely to need a stiffer test.
RED TANBER was never happy, presumably needing the race, and was pulled up some way from home.

HEXHAM – Friday November 9th

Going – Heavy

Small fields at Hexham possibly reflecting the heavy ground and poor prize money on offer at this meeting. There was a clash with Musselburgh, though race conditions didn’t really cross.

Nick Alexander’s good form continued courtesy of a double. MAKHZOON, ridden by Kit Alexander recording a first win against professionals, won the four runner seller  and has a fair record, having won a couple of handicap hurdles earlier in the year. Meanwhile PAPAMOA won a beginners’ chase running over a more suitable distance than his recent run. This one can be hard work, often having to be driven to keep up, but he stays very well and can win again in a staying novices’ event. I presume he will now be aimed at handicaps.

Other than Papamoa this didn’t look a meeting to carry much forward from.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Trainer Websites

I've added links to a few local trainer's websites; see list on the left hand side of the page.

Lucinda Russell is quite forthcoming regarding performances of her horses and future plans. The standard of animals in the stable has increased steadily in recent years, the big Festival meetings now being realisitic targets and Len Lungo's Scottish record for winners in a season being well within range. 

Nick Alexander's website and blog are excellent and as good an account of the workings of a small stable as I've come across. The operation has cranked up its equine strength and activity, and the stable is flying at the moment.

Lucy Normile, based at Glenfarg, runs the northern most yard in the UK. Site has plenty of information about stable and their horses.

I'll add more links as time goes on.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Start of November - Ayr and Carlisle

Lucinda Russell gave SAPHIR RIVER a first start over fences at Uttoxeter. He saw off a field containing a number of performers rated in the 120s and 130s in convincing style. Two miles would be two short a distance for the French bred grey and I would expect to see improvement once he is upped n distance. His trainer rates this one a ‘Cheltenham horse’, and nothing seen here suggests that’s off the mark.
Another stable inmate rated a decent prospect for this season is SAMSTOWN who made a re-appearance at Aintree recently. He finished seventh, eased significantly in the closing stages in a race where all the hurdles in the straight were omitted. The race will bring this one on and there will a staying handicap hurdle for him before long.

AYR – Saturday November 3rd

Going – Soft

Back on home territory and Russell made her mark, notching a hat-trick on what appeared to be a pretty decent autumn Scottish card.

There should be a winner or two to come from the opener, what seemed a reasonable maiden hurdle for its level. BONNIE BURNETT built on a decent Hexham effort, forging clear from the last and may well follow up in a minor event under a penalty, particularly if her trainer can find a mares’ event. AYE WELL came from miles back to take second, a big step up on previous form.
ANITOPIA looks to need to go over fences. He’s a big animal for which things tend not to happen that quickly. He jumps big and looks all over a chaser.

SECRET DESERT was given a fine ride by Lucy Alexander in the Class 5 two and a half mile handicap chase, coming to take his race on the flat. TUTCHEC was the one headed on the flat, making a significant step up on Kelso form and looking one who can win at this level.

DAASIJ made it four in a row in the staying handicap hurdle. He missed a year and a bit, so the four-timer has occurred over a long period, but he still looks in front of the handicapper. He can score again even if raised in class.
SOLIS stayed on from a long way  for second, but he has flattered before and his wins tend to be well spaced out.

The 3m 1f handicap chase was closed fought contest with OVERQUEST just holding on. He stays well, is best with cut in the ground and still looks favourably handicapped judged on past form. He hasn’t got a huge amount of miles on the clock for a 10-year-old.
A 10-year-old who has been round the block a few times is ET MAINTENANT who stayed on for second. He goes well in soft ground and has shown his best form on stiff, galloping tracks.
BEAU DANDY was the unlucky one here and the one to take forward. Having jumped well in front, he was still in with every chance when knocked sideways three out as The Hollinwell made a mess of the fence. To his credit he was still there at the last and stuck at it determinedly if not able to raise that little bit extra. This 7-year-old looks a nice prospect for these middling staying handicap chases this season.

Lucinda Russell’s PROSECCO put up a career best to see off a fair bunch of 0-135 chasers over two miles. He pulled comfortably clear of the able, if quirky, BOCCIANI.
Second season chasers KUDU COUNTRY and REALT MOR are capable enough, and will likely make their mark in this company, but both made mistakes here. A race or two more at this level may be required.

The 2 mile handicap hurdle looked a decent contest and was won in encouraging style by TAP NIGHT. He was pushed by the runner up but had other decent performers well beaten. A promising novice last season, he stepped on that form here. He’s aimed at a middle distance event at Ascot before Christmas, and the step up in trip will do no harm.
AUENSCHUTZE stormed up the run-in, and just failed, but he’s flattered in this way before.
UBALTIQUE will win races at this level, but is inexperienced and needs to sharpen his hurdling. Donald McCain will presumably sort him out.
UN GUET APENS is well regarded by James Ewart, but dropped out very quickly down the far side.

One of a host of imports from Ireland, RHYMERS STONE made it three on the day for the Russell stable, kicking clear of his bumper field in the final two furlongs. His trainer reports that he ‘wil lbe given time’, but he looks a nice prospect.

CARLISLE – Sunday November 4th

Going – Heavy (soft in places on the chase course)

The hurdles course was back in use for this meeting, though the going was testing.

Best performance on the card was that of BOLD SIR BRIAN who pulled clear of three decent animals in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase, a race that has produced some very decent performers in the past. Lucinda Russell’s charge has strengthened no end in the last year and she described him as ‘like a tank’ when we chatted a few weeks ago. Initial target may be a Graduation Chase, but Bold Sir Brian holds and entry in the King George at Kempton. Given the ease with which he came clear of an in-form horse rated 143 who had 10lbs less on his back , you can easily come to the conclusion that Grade 1 entries are not unrealistic, even at the age of six. He should be as effective at an easy three miles as at two and a half.
RIVAL D’ESTRUVAL stayed on well enough to take second. He should have chances off 143, and will go better once upped in trip from this two and a half miles.
MR MOONSHINE was rated 152, but has now slipped to a mark of 143. He was put in his place from three out, but probably needs better ground and should not be dismissed.
RAILWAY DILLON dropped away from five out. He’s a law unto himself, a cracking performer on his day when getting his own way but apt to throw in the towel if taken on.

RUPERT BEAR saw off four opponents to win the opening novices’ handicap hurdle, but he’s going the right way and probably idled in front suggesting he may still have a bit to give. I suspect he will make a nice two handicap chaser at his level in time.

The beginners’ chases here can be fair contests and CLOUDY TOO stayed on well to win over 2m 4f. all his previous racing had been done on better ground, but he handled the heavy surface well enough and saw out three miles over hurdles. Stablemate VINTAGE STAR pushed Cloudy Too all the way and was rated on the same 125 mark over hurdles.
Sandy Thomson’s NETMINDER is on my list of horses to follow this season, but the stable has had a slow start from few runners. He dropped out of contention in the final mile but will surely produce better in the forthcoming months.

The Cumberland Chase is a decent handicap chase and was won by Welsh challenger HAROUET, building on an encouraging Chepstow performance in a slightly better class. With the exception of a below par effort in the summer National at Uttoxeter he has been generally progressive this year.
SUPER ALLY ran a much better race than at Kelso. He was only headed at the last and kept on well to the post. Well clear of the remainder, his current mark gives room for manoeuvre class-wise and he looks poised to win soon.
ROLECARR looks held off his current mark unless finding a weaker contest. He was held from two out.
VALLEY VIEW came to win his race before the last, but his stamina gave out on the run-in. A return to less testing conditions will help him.

VINSTAR sprinted clear of his opponents in the juvenile bumper. He recorded an equally comfortable win at Chateaubriant before coming to the UK, and must surely now progress to hurdling as an exciting prospect.