Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Musselburgh - last January meeting

MUSSELBURGH - Wednesday 25th January

Going - Good (a bit loose on top)

1.40 2m 4f Cosmic Case Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Class 4)

Gordon Elliott's Downpatrick winner MAE'S CHOICE dictated from the start and, winding things up on the second circuit, was not pressed to win this event. GLENORA GALE, who has ability but has proved less than straightforward on occasions, chased the leader from three out without making a serious impression. She'll probably find a similar event sometime.
SANDS OF VATERSAY was outpaced in the straight and the other three didn't get in a blow from the home turn, debutante BALLADE DE LA MER falling heavily at the last when well beaten..

2.10 3m Racing UK Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase (70-95)

A right bunch of characters in this one, though the winner had at least hinted at better to come when second here on New Year's Day. TEARS FROM HEAVEN was always going comfortably enough in touch with the leaders and pulled clear from four out, being eased down close home. He entered this on a very lowly mark and even a hefty rise will keep him in this moderate company, in which he must have chances of a follow up.
DESERTMORE STAR had one on two bits of form in points, but hasn't excited in handicaps to date. He was well held in the straigth but kept on for second place, and seems honest enough, though second here is nothing to write home about.
HURRICANE jACK was never able to dominate and Peter Buchanan was 'at him' from a long way out. He kept on for third, but is capable of better if able to get a free ride in front.
STUFF OF DREAMS was in rear for the first half of the race, closed a bit down the far side but lost touch from the home turn. She's shown the odd glimmer of form on decent gorund, but struggles in all but the very worst company.
WHY ARE YOU ASKING is flattered by a row of places and was outpaced from four out.
OH RIGHT has been beaten a long way in all efforts under Rules.
LEOPOLD has done well round Fakenham in the past but is regressing these days.
PADDYS UNYOKE clung determindely to his maiden tag under Rules, dropping away quickly from a mile out.

2.40 Tom McConnell Trophy Novices' Hurdle (Class 4)

Only two threatened to win this and previous course winner INGLEBY SPIRIT took control before the last and came clear to win with a fair bit in hand. The sharp track and good ground suit this one.
Bangor winner ABSINTHE pulled hard early on but led until approaching the last, at which point he ran out of puff and was eased since he was well clear of the third.
MAYBE I WON'T kept on for third, though never near the leaders while L'EMINENCE GRISE did at least take on the favourites before being outpaced approaching three out, an encouraging sign if pitched against less capable opposition.
SNOOKER eased into contention three but soon weakened.

3.10 Boogie In The Morning Handicap Hurdle (105-120)

Once again Musselburgh put their fellow courses to shame with a £10,000 headline prize at a run-of-the-mill midweek meeting.

Determined front-runner DONTPAYTHEFERRYMAN set off at a decent pace and kept up the gallop to record a second successive course win. He really goes well here and he was plenty good enough to cope with this stiffer class.
KNIGHT IN PURPLE pulled clear with the winner from two out, but just couldn't get to grips with that one. He does all his racing on decent ground and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him back here for the Scottish County Hurdle.
BEIDH TINE ANSEO cashed the leader but was outpaced from two out. He got bumped up a long way in the ratings for winning a couple of handicaps and the handicapper has him in his place.
HUNTERS BELT made progress to chase the leaders entering the straight, but didn't make any further impression.
EMBSAY CRAG ran off 119 here and that seemed harsh for winning a moderate event at Wetherby. He struggled after the turn for home.

3.40 Bunny Maitland-Carew Handicap Chase ( - )

The master placer Gordon Elliott put OSCAR HILL in here for a first effort over fences. Taken down quietly, he was set alight once the race started, jumped well in front and nothing seriously threatened. Difficult to wiegh up the performance since he got his own way and he may find it tougher if moved up to a better class now.
RED TANBER's winnnig run came to an end, but he may just have 'run into one' here as he was well clear of the remainder and I'd keep faith with him as he's well capable of winning in this class. He showed himself to be very nimble, having to hurdle a faller at the ninth, but I don't think that incident mattered as far as final position was concerned.
STREAMTOWN, not totally disgraced in a mares' Grade 3 at Cork last time, chased the leader for much of the way, not being helped by the fall of Alpha One, but was not making any headway when thumping two out. She couldn't recover and finished a well beaten third.
SERGEANT PINK has struggled to make a mark since joining Dianne Sayer and faded in the straight having chased the leader for two miles.
HEAVENLY CHORUS never got into the race and was well behind once turned for home.
ALPHA ONE had chased the leader until falling at the ninth. He remains an interesting prospect in similar company.

4.10 Watch Racing UK Online at Standard Open NH Flat Race (Class 6)

This won't have been the strongest bumper in Scotland this season.

The winner IFYOUSAYSO showed a glimmer of ability in a maiden last season, but acquired an 'R' at Alnwick in December! He showed plenty of determination here, leading until after two out, then battlnig back determinedly in the final final to snatch the race on the line. It remains to be seen what the form is worth, but he showed plenty when the chips were down.
FLAMING ARROW cruised into the lead after two out, but couldn't find enough once asked for more and surrendered the race 50 yards out.
SPRING LANE kept on well enough in third just ahead of SPARVILLE who loomed up on the final bend but could never get to grips with the leaders. The latter probably wasn't suited by the sharp track here.

I should be at the Cheltenham Trials day a week Sunday for what is always a decent day's racing. I hope to make the last meeting at Musselburgh on February 16th, though work commitments might now get in the way. Next meeting after that will be Premier Hurdle and Chase at Kelso on March 3rd, with Ballabriggs lined up for his Grand National prep race.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Mid January Northern Report

Bar one little blip just after the New Year, the northern weather has remained generally favourable in recent days. Unfortunately a cold snap cost us a 'well filled' Sunday meeting at Kelso, but I've four meetings to catch up with from the last week or so.

CATTERICK - Wednesday January 11th

Going - Good to Soft

The staying beginners' chase might have yielded a couple of fair chasers. BEST LEGEND raced prominently and then forged on from three out. He was made to work hard by a tenacious second, but held on all out. He’s lightly raced for a 10 year old, having been pointing in 2007 in Ireland before going absent for four years. This was the fourth race his trainer had managed to get into him in recent weeks, and the experience seems to be doing no harm. He has a chance of picking up a staying novice chase under a penalty.
RIVER D'OR has had some tougher tasks than this handicap company. He found the winner apparently getting away three out, but a sustained effort from before the last saw him go close. Unlike the winner he has years on his side and, now that he is operating at a more reasonable level, he showed enough to suggest a similar race is within his compass.
DOVE HILL showed promise on chasing debut early last year, but dropped away down the far side. He has ability and I hope this was temporary blip.

COUNTESS COMET made a pleasing debut in the two mile novices' hurdle. It should be noted that two of the major players the contest but the winner did things well enough. She would certainly be strong contender under a penalty in any mares' novice event. The second MAGIC CAT is warming to his task over hurdles. He was left in the lead when the favourite departed two out, but an untidy jump at the last cost him.
Previous winner STAR IN FLIGHT looked likely to take the race, but unseated when coming clear two out. He has plenty of pace but his jumping technique could be improved.

The North Yorkshire Grand National over 3m 6f was won by a maiden chaser in POSH BIRD. It is worth noting that one of her previous best efforts was on her only other try over an extended trip when second over 3m 4f at Down Royal. She stayed on well and was in little trouble once taking over two out, suggesting that she has now found her forte and that this won't be her only chase win.
COOL MISSION was another trying an extended trip for the first time, and he performed soundly in finishing second. A stumble three out didn't help, but on balance he was second best. He's certainly worth looking at in similar contests on the northern circuit.
APACHE BLUE has jumped up the ratings in recent times and may have found the last increase a little beyond him, though third place was no disgrace. He can still find easier races off his mark of 110.
DYSTONIAS REVENGE needs the field to come back to him and never got into the contest here. He kept on up the straight without threatening the leaders. DERMATOLOGISTE won a lesser event over the trip at Bangor, but never got in a serious blow in the last mile. PEGASUS PRINCE was stepped up in trip and probably found it beyond him. He's got speed at shorter trips and a drop back down would do no harm.
STAR BEAT raced in the lead for a long way but, having been overtaken down the far side, found his chance had gone by the home turn.
HENNESSY didn't show much interest here, driven along early and pulled up before the sixteenth. He's been well behind in his last four races and it may be time to draw stumps.

NEXT TO NOWHERE won the two mile novices' handicap chase, but was third best on the day and very lucky. Having been left in the lead three out, he looked likely to be second to ZAZAMIX before that one came down at the last. Even then fast finishing GENTLEMAN JEFF nearly got up on the line.
I wouldn’t get over excited about any of the above trio, but OTTO QUERCUS went really well in front until hitting three out and coming down. He ran creditably behind Red Tanber at Musselburgh before Christmas, and should be capable of finding consolation for this.

The bumper form should turn out to be solid. Alan Swinbank's BIG WATER whizzed past Donald McCain's SMADYNIUM close home. Both youngsters have enough in pedigree and looks to suggest they can make a mark over hurdles, though they can be placed to win in similar company to this before going over obstacles. James Ewart's UEUETEOTL was found wanting for pace in the final furlongs, but he will probably be seen to better effect on a stiffer track.

MUSSELBURGH - Friday January 13th

Going - Good

The groundstaff at Musselburgh have won the Groundstaff of the Year Award in the Dual Purpose course category, with Ascot in second place. They have regularly produced an excellent surface for racing, and once again good ground prevailed for this meeting.

All races on the card were sponsored by Country Refreshments who provide on course catering at Musselburgh.

12.40 2m Maiden Hurdle (Class 5)

A run of the mill maiden to open the card and many will struggle to make any mark over jumps.

WHITE FUSION had raced too keenly when pulled up at Wetherby first time over hurdles. He raced prominently here but not over keenly, battling hard to hold on from two others after taking over the lead after three out. I suspect he will need to stick to this sort of ground to show his best over hurdles.
ARTISAN pushed the winner hard from three out and went down fighting hard, while BOWDLER'S MAGIC rallied well after being headed in the straight. The pair would have some chance of picking up a similar contest.
The favourite LEMON DROP RED was found wanting from before the last. Three times a winner over 1m 4f on the flat, it could be that a slightly stiffer test is required over hurdles.
MAKBULLET, considered good enough to contest a Class 2 hurdle here last time, was held on the flat.
Big gelding ZARU wouldn't be seen to his best around here, so he takes some credit some four lengths back in sixth.
PAS TROP TARD, noted after his Kelso run, was held up before unseating at the sixth.

1.10 2m Beginners' Chase (Class 5)

This wasn't a bad event Class 5 contest and I suspect future winners will come out of it.

CHARMINSTER showed promise at Sedgefield and asserted from two out on this occasion. He's been well placed to date by his shrewd trainer, not finishing out of the first two in six attempts under Rules. Further success awaits and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see him back here for the 2m 4f contest on Cheltenham Trials Day.
DEGAS ART jumped deliberately early on, but settled into a better rhythm as the race went on. He kept on after the winner from three out though unable to make an impression. He struggled a bit when sent chasing previously, but showed some promise here, and time might show the form to be more than respectable.
VOSGES led until three out, where a mistake didn't help his cause, and he could only keep on at one pace afterwards. He's not been disgraced in any of his attempts over fences, and a handicap may be his best chance.
BOGSIDE jumped untidily early on and never got into the race, while JUST MADDIE found the company too exacting here and needs to be aimed at novice handicaps.

1.40 2m Selling Hurdle (Class 5)

DONTPAYTHEFERRYMAN acquired blinkers here, a surprise to me since he's always seemed honest enough. I suspect the drop in class did the trick as he was able to gallop this selling field into submission. I presume came here as his options are more limited given the stiffer all-weather mark limits opportunities at Southwell. This course suits as he can wind up the pace and keeps galloping.
RED SKIPPER briefly threatened in the straight, but a mistake two put paid to his chances of catching the winner. He's not a prolific winner for one blessed with some ability.
Juvenile PHILHARMONIC HALL disappointed, well held from three out.
KICKAHEAD, one with a fair record at a lowly level over hurdles, was weak in the market and took a keen hold under restraint. He unseated at the fourth.

2.10 2m 4f (85-102) Handicap Chase

RED TANBER made it three chase wins in a row around here, hardly turning in hair in seeing off three opponents on this occasion. He came readily clear from two out and I wouldn't think his new mark of 108 should stop him winning again. Another opportunity presents itself over the course and distance on January 25th.
MARKADAM confirmed his hurdles win was no fluke, performing soundly in taking second place. There's a chance he can find a similar contest if he avoids a progressive type.
BAAHER was a lucky winner here earlier in the season and was comfortably held in the straight on this occasion.
BALLYMACDUFF, having show improved form over hurdles last time, does not convince over fences and faded from five out.

2.40 3m 110yds (70-95) Handicap Hurdle

VIA ARCHIMEDE broke his duck over hurdles, leading all the way and hanging on after kicking on before three out. This form does not inspire since the three who finished close behind, AUBERGE, HOTGROVE BOY and VELVET VIC can boast only one win between them in 58 attempts.
FORCEFIELD had conditions and class in his favour but unseated at the eighth flight.
RAINING HORSE found things no easier over hurdles than he has done in chases and was well beaten.

3.10 3m (99-125) Handicap Chase

I had EVERAARD marked out as a bit of a plodder. Evidence suggests that, particularly around Musselburgh, that is slightly unfair and he took his record here to 3 wins from efforts. Chasing the leader to the last he summoned up a decent finish and snatched the race on the line.
MORE EQUITY looked the winner up the straight only to be pipped close home. This was her best effort of recent times.
KOSTA BRAVA picked his way through the field late on but never got near the leaders. His racing has been done over shorter distances, but this effort does at least hint that he cane be effective over this trip.
SEIZE got to the tails of the leaders four out, but could make no impression from there.
ROSSINI'S DANCER should get involved at this level, but he made too many jumping errors on this occasion.
FRED BOJANGALS never got in a blow, and I'd be surprised if there's anything to be gained by running him at this trip.
SAFARI ADVENTURES led for over two miles then gave way. He doesn't appear to stay the three miles and needs dropping back at least half a mile.

3.40 2m NH Flat Race (Class 6)

KEENELAND came into this race with one 4yos point behind him in Ireland, such contests apparently acting as a shop window for selling on these days. That being said he was a 100,000 Euro purchase as a yearling and £25,000 at Cheltenham in December. He was plenty sharp enough to take this race, quickening two out and holding off a single pursuer. The McCain stable is flying this season, there's jump winning blood in the family and he's in good hands.
PHOENIX RETURNS had hinted at ability previously but may need more time to be seen at his best.
The third HARRIS GARDEN is jump bred and should make more impact given time.

AYR - Tuesday January 17th

Going - Good to soft, Good in places)

Ayr was able to offer decent ground at a time of year when they normally race with a fair bit of cut. The first fence in the straight has now appeared, but the next fence is yet to be constructed.

To save on typing (!), I'll acknowledge at the start that all races were sponsored by

1.10 2m Maiden Hurdle (Class 5)

LEXI'S BOY ran no sort of race first time out over hurdles when pulled up at Kelso, but was on his game here with the race won before the last. He looks good enough to progress from here, presuming any problem is behind him.
FIND A KEY was held by the winner, but this Hexham bumper winner did enough to suggest that a maiden or novice victory is well within his powers.
GOODLUKIN LUCY led the field a merry gallop to three out and kept on once headed. She would be of interest in mares' only company and can be placed to advantage by under-rated trainer Maurice Barnes.
Massive gelding TUTCHEC seems to be getting the hang of things and showed promise with a fourth place. He caught the eye at Hexham in the spring as a long term prospect, with a big frame to fill, and the pieces are slowly falling into place.

1.40 2m 4f Novices' Chase (Class 3)

YES TOM, a winner here over hurdles last year, won this race in the style of a fair performer, easing clear in the straight. He fell last time in a big field, but the form of his fourth looks pretty decent, the winner having acquitted himself respectably in two Grade 2 events.
BLENHEIM BROOK might just have run into a decent performer, and in any case is giving the impression that he needs three miles to be most effective. He was tapped for speed from the home turn but kept on.
DOWD'S DESTINY was held from three out, but he finished lame.
STORMING GALE led early but quickly dropped back when headed at the eighth and was pulled up before three out.

2.15 3m 1f (85-104) Handicap Chase

Visored for the first time, ALLANARD was not threatened from four out. A rise for this win might take him out of his comfort zone.
Course specialist SAMMY SPIDERMAN may have wanted the ground a bit softer as his wins here have come in deeper ground. Allowing for that then this was a good effort.
Irish runners MAPLE VALLEY GALE and BALLYCARRON LAD chased the leader four out but could never get in a challenging position.
QUINDER SPRING was well off his game in a well beaten fifth, his decent form being on softer ground.
ISHLANA was pulled up at the thirteenth. She took a long time to break her duck in Irish points and her Rules form is uninspiring.
DUKE OF MALFI, who had appeared not to stay 21 furlongs on two occasions, unsurprisingly didn't see out this trip. Back to the minimum trip, methinks!

2.40 3m 110yds (95-105) Handicap Hurdle

SHOOTING TIMES, a winner here last March over a slightly shorter trip, returned to form after some lack lustre efforts. He came to challenge between the last two and held on well. His Ayr form has been significantly better than his runs elsewhere.
GLEANN NA NDOCHAIS cruised into contention before three out, but was then asked a question as the winner loomed before the last. He hadn't been asked a serious finishing question in his previous races and inexperienced showed here as he wandered approaching the last. Getting his act together, he rallied again after the last flight and stayed on. I'm sure he can win another handicap before long.
DELIGHTFULLY had every chance between the last two but was held on the flat. He's an exposed sort favoured by a stiffer test of stamina these days, mud and an uphill finish being a help.
Exposed RISK RUNNER ran passably well if held approaching the last, while EASTER VIC was tapped for speed from two out.

3.10 2m 4f (74-98) Novices' Handicap Hurdle

A moderate event won in decent style by TOTAL REBELLION who had hinted at ability on his previous outing. Now handicapped he was able to find his level here, and I suspect not having to climb the North face of the Eig..., sorry Towcester hill, may have helped.
HARRY HANDSOME caught the eye when I first saw him in the spring. He's gradually coming to hand and has enough about him to get in the mix in a similar company, with prospects of making up into a chaser in time.
Sophie Leech isn't frightened to notch up the horse box miles from here Gloucestershire yard, and OLD MAGIC has done plenty of travelling having run at Newton Abbot, Carlisle and Exeter in recent times. He kept on from two out and may need a stiffer test of stamina, though he failed to make an impact over three miles in Ireland.
Once again well backed by optimist followers, DICKIE HENDERHOOP fell at the seventh when well in touch. There are people out there who have presumably seen something that I've missed.
Inconsistent STORMION had a non going day and was well beaten, while SYDNEY COVE looked another Nick Alexander horse just a gallop or two short of his best.

3.40 2m 4f (89-115) Handicap Chase (Conditional Jockeys)

OCKEY DE NEULLIAC, lightly raced for a ten-year-old, is a handsome animal who hadn't quite fulfilled promise over fences. He beat a small field here in impressive style and might just need things his own way, as he picked off his opponents in the straight.
BANOGE stayed on for second but had no chance with the winner.
SOMETHING SILVER generally needs a race or two after a break. This second race might have put him straight, and he has a good record at Ayr.
ALEXANDER OATS was never going with any ease and the enigmatic PRIMROSE TIME slipped back into frustrating mode in a well held fifth place.

4.10 2m NH Flat (Class 6)

Two pulled well clear in this six runner contest.

Irish trained YOUNG PALM is first foal of a once raced but well related mare who appears to have passed on family talent. He strode clear in the final furlong and the Crawford yard has a fair prospect on their hands.
HOWABOUTNOW set the standard with is Bangor win and wasn't disgraced in second. The maiden point-to-point he won in Ireland was a weak affair, but he is bred to be at his best with a test of stamina and has established a sound base in bumpers.
BLAZIN WHITE FACE had been entered in a staying mares' novice hurdle at Kelso's abandoned meeting, and presumably came to this to get a race into here. Outpaced in the straight, she will show up better once hurdling over a distance of ground.

CATTERICK - Friday January 20th

Going - Good To Soft (Soft in places)

ENDEAVOR won the opening handicap hurdle and Dianne Sayer has done well to get four wins out of this one who was still only on a mark of 83. He can be a cussed soul on occasions, having given problems at the start on a few occasions. He idled once in front, not exerting himself any more than absolutely required, but is capable at this level and won't be overweighted after reassessment.

STOPPED OUT once again found one too good in the beginners' chase over 2m 3f, Venetia Williams's CARRICKBOY being too good on this occasion. The second had a decent win record over hurdles and should find a chase eventually. CAPTAIN PAULIE is probably better than fourth place here suggests but has proved adept at hiding his ability since arriving from Ireland. He kept on late without threatening.

RUDEMEISTER stayed on to deny FINNEGAN PADDY close home in the staying novices hurdle and is progressing nicely for Andrew Parker. Penalised SOUDAIN was held from two out, but he may well be one to remember if he goes chasing.
QUEL ELITE showed promise last season, but his last two runs suggests he may have a physical problem as he's struggled to get involved at the business end and hung badly right up the straight here. Caution is advised until he hints at something better.

ALTAN KHAN was a comfortable winner of what seemed a competitive Class 3 two mile chase. He led before the last and had plenty in hand on the run-in if idling a bit. He looks best around the minimum trip at sharp tracks.
LATERLY set a decent pace and stuck at his task up the home straight. Competing for the early lead with CARRIETAU, he quickly got the better of that one who is inclined to lose heart if taken on. Laterly had most of the field beaten but couldn't hold the winner, though this was a sound effort and he would be shoo-in for a small field contest.
FREDDIE BROWN raced near the pace and kept on at one pace for third, though once again unable to raise his game at the business end.
RED KINGDOM kept on for third, giving the impression he would have a chance in lower class, but his overall record is not encouraging.

ALLOW ME found the stiffer test here over 2m 3f preferable to the sharp two miles at Musselburgh. He raced handily, took over two out and galloped on from that point. Given chances at this sort of distance I believe he will continue to progress.
Consistent TEENAGE IDOL is a good marker in second, while SHADOWS LENGTHEN flattered for a while around two out but could only keep on for third. Lightly raced DISTIME picked up places through the field late on, should benefit from this experience might be worth considering in similar company.

In first time blinkers BARDOLET had the staying handicap chase (3m 1f 110yds) in safe keeping from three out having dictated the pace most of the way, being heavily eased on the run-in. I suspect he is best when taking on inferiors and future prospects depend on how the handicapper judges this.
Well exposed 'old soak' TOULOUSE EXPRESS had a going day, keeping on for second having been taken wide in typical Kenny Johnson fashion. It would be nice if Toulouse Express could step up on this next time as it will be his 100th race, and he does boast a record which has seen 9 wins and 22 second or third places.
BEAU DANDY has time on his side as a seven year old and third here was a creditable effort on only his fifth Rules effort, and first in a handicap. He has won a couple of points and in John Wade's hands he's likely to land a small staying handicap.
SAMSON COLLONGES probably has speed to win a race like this, but his jumping wasn't good enough to permit serious involvement.
FEELING PECKISH is only 8 and his record of outings already eclipses that of Toulouse Express. This was his 108th race in all disciplines, but he wouldn't go down as strong betting material with a solitary Ludlow win to show for his exertions.
Musselburgh winner DEFINITE APPEAL wasn't completely out of the contest when unseating four out.

DOYLY CARTE won the bumper in impressive style. The opposition won't go down as the strongest, the second and third looking long term projects, but she could no more than beat it comfortably. She is a half-sister to Dandino out of a half-sister to a French Oaks winner, so you would expect plenty of speed around the minimum trip over jumps. She might conceivably be worth a try in a Flat maiden in the spring.
CRANBERRY ICE is being brought along steadily by John Wade and confirmed Carlisle promise with a respectable second here.
CLASSIC RALLY looks one to carry forward for the future. A big long striding type, he won't have been particularly suited by this track but kept on in the closing stages, despite showing signs of greenness. He's bred to need further than the minimum trip and will come into his own once going jumping.
Back in sixth place BACH PEDDLING hinted at ability, keeping on past a few late on to give connections hope for the future.


RED TANBER - notched up the hat-trick with the comfort that suggests he hasn't finished winning yet.
POSH BIRD – Second and first from two tries at 3m 4f+ and worth persisting with at extended trips.
DISTIME - promising fourth on handicap hurdling bow and should benefit from the experience
BEAU DANDY - creditable third on handicap chasing bow and capable of picking up a handicap chase.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Musselburgh rings in the New year

MUSSELBURGH - Sunday January 1st

Going - Good (Good to Soft in places)

Having been at a Hogmanay Ceilidh to welcome in the New Year, I have to admit I didn't make the effort to get to the New Year's Day meeting at Musselburgh. Channel 4 covered the two feature races and I picked up the remainder from Racing UK replays.

The meeting saw the final of the New Year Sprint, reputedly the oldest established professional sprint event in the world. The event is a handicap with heats held at Musselburgh the previous day, then 4 'cross-ties' (sort of semi-finals!) and the final held shortly before the feature horse race. This year's winner was a handicap blot in Graeme Lister of Kirkcaldy A.C. who "improved five metres in training" according to his coach. Starting off a mark of 12.5 metres in front of 'Scratch', he duly triumphed by approximately 5 metres, taking control from halfway. Other events were held the previous day, and from the times of various events I guess it might be worth keeping an eye out for the 90m Youths Sprint winner BEN ROBBINS who won the event off 3.5m in a time of 10.28 seconds. That seems quite sharp for sprinting on grass and Edinburgh Athletic club member Robbins is only 15 so there should be better to come.

12.10 2m 4f (84-102) Handicap Hurdle

The horse racing card opened with a very moderate handicap hurdle. MARKADAM's previous win was a moderate Members' point. He had shown a little promise in a novice event here on his previous outing and stayed on well in the closing stages. It's questionable how good the form is though, since the second BALLYMACDUFF has been out of form and most of the others have question marks or black marks against them. Top weight WOODMORE was well held from two out, and won't find many cushier opportunities, while LEITH WALK ran to type, staying on late without threatening the leaders.

12.45 3m (69-95) Handicap Chase

Otterburn trainer Susan Corbett recorded her first Rules winner as DEFINITE APPEAL was driven out to beat a small field of 'characters'. Twice a winner of points last year, the suggestion on the evidence of two hunter chases outings was that he was not totally straightforward, but he has ability for this level and is capable of scoring again. He was ably partnered here by Jakub Kocman.
TEARS FROM HEAVEN chased the leader from three out but was held in the latter stages. This was a better show than his previous two chasing efforts and good or faster ground definitely helps him.
LINDSEYFIELD LODGE bowled along in front until four out, but the towel hit the ring quickly once he was passed. He probably still has enough in him to win at this level, but it's anyone's guess if and when he can be bothered.
SADDLE PACK looked an ideal type for this contest but faded disappointingly in the straight. It's possible a stiff 2m 4f might be best but I'm a bit wary of him now.
HURRICANE JACK couldn’t dominate as he had done here last time and looked less than keen on the last circuit.
RAINING HORSE raced prominently, but his jumping once again let him down as the race progressed, two howlers down the far side taking the stuffing out of him before he was pulled up entering the straight.

1.15 2m Novices' Hurdle (Class 3)

On the book this was a contest between Bourne and Eagle Rock, but KAOLAK spoiled the party. Not taking to chasing, and a bit frustrating over hurdles, he put his best foot forward to hold off Eagle Rock. It may be that his confidence is boosted, but I'm not sure I'd want to get involved at short prices about this one. EAGLE ROCK stayed on for a close second and might need a stiffer test.
BOURNE was left behind from three out and this form bore no relation to his Catterick effort. That was over 2m 3f though and it would seem safe to conclude that he's another who needs a stiffer test, particularly as he saw out 1m 5f well enough on the flat.

1.50 3m 110yds (92-118) Handicap Hurdle

An exposed collection of performers contested this with occasional winner EVERAARD forging clear of a similar type in VALLANI. The pair are part of group who regularly contest these events, with no guarantee of repeat form next time.
MORE EQUITY was third, and is another who's thereabouts on occasion but not a prolific winner. She goes best at Kelso.
SOPRANO was disappointing back in fifth having run some decent races of late.

2.25 2m (105-150) Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle

This was a decent contest and due reward for a course prepared to put up decent prize money on a regular basis. However it was run a slow pace, significantly slower than the novice event, so it's questionable how valuable the form is going forward.
PALAWI dictated the pace and had enough in hand to battle back when headed in the straight. I would imagine that John Quinn will be searching events in the 0-140 class where he's at the head of the handicap as I'm not sure he will cope with tougher contests.
NINE STORIES was another who raced prominently and stayed on to hold second, just ahead of ALSAHIL who is a keen going sort who will not have been suited by the slow pace. The latter might have more improvement in him than some in the race.
The key performance here might have been that of GORDONSVILLE who wouldn't have been suited by the dawdle. He stayed on for fourth, but would need a strong pace or a step up in distance. He goes so well here that Jim Goldie might be looking for opportunities at upcoming meetings. He could be a possible for the Scottish County Hurdle as I can't see any contests over 2m 4f on the programme, the Class 3 event on the same card being a 0-120.
A few others such as DESERT CRY and MARSH WARBLER weren't suited by the slow pace here and tapped for speed in the closing stages.

3.00 2m 4f (118-140) Honest Toun Handicap Chase

In contrast to the previous race this contest was run at a rattling good pace. FIENDISH FLAME was always in command despite a pretty lousy round of jumping. The fences are very soft here this season, and he got away with errors he wouldn't have survived elsewhere. A bad error two out made no difference as the race was in safekeeping assuming he got home.
PREMIER SAGAS ran a sound enough race in second but never got to the winner, though staying on in the closing stages. He will be suited by a stiffer track and is capable of taking a race in a similar class.
RIGUEZ DANCER was another who kept on late, and a stiffer track or softer ground would probably help him.
QUICUYO chased the winner for much of the race but was held form four out. His mark of 137 might be as high as he needs to go.
JOHN FORBES never got seriously into the race after being hampered at the first. Fifth place probably wasn't a bad effort under the circumstances and he's better than the bare form suggests.
PHIDIPPIDES raced keenly, made mistakes and never looked like justifying the confidence shown in the market.
Two went at the first fence, which wouldn't have helped the slower starters, ALDERLEY ROVER landing steeply falling and KOSTA BRAVE stumbling and unseating.
MONTOYA'S SON had course and conditions to suit but race no sort of race. FRED BOJANGALS had a tough task in this class and he can be a moody sort if asked to work overhard.
QUITO DU TRESOR chased the leader for a long way but folded tamely approaching four out, eventually being pulled up before two out. He has had an easy ride or dictated the pace when winning, and this form may be set aside if the shape of the race is right in future.

3.30 2m NH Flat Race (Class 6)

As is so often the case in these contests, there no pace early on and the race really only started seven furlongs out. Nicky Richards' newcomer ABBEY GARTH was eased into contention two furlongs out. He held off a previously raced runner-up with the rest well held. How good the form is remains to be seen, but this was a sound start and Abbey Garth should benefit from the run.
GEORGE FERNBECK battled determinedly but was held close home by a slightly better opponent. His breeding is a mix of 7f to staying blood, so there is a fair chance he will see out more than two miles.
Nothing special from the remainder on the day. MILL BAY was well held when third behind Rendl Beach here and pretty much ran to that level here. He will probably be suited by middle distances over jumps.

AYR - Monday January 2nd

Going - Soft (Heavy in places)

Day one of this meeting went ahead, field sizes significantly reduced from last year as there has been plenty of action recently. Day two was blown away, the official reason being a windblown tree threatening the Racetech van, though fearsome weather through Scotland made travel anything between unadvisable and very dangerous. Lucinda Russell's box couldn't get far west and turned around in the conditions, Nick
Alexander didn't risk departure, and Sandy Forster encountered alarming conditions before turning around before reaching the Edinburgh by-pass. The conditions had improved in the west by the afternoon, but travel considerations were surely as important as course conditions.

Only two fences have been built in the straight so far this season, so there's a long run from the third last in chases.

12.20 2m 4f EBF Novices' Hurdle (Class 4)

Effectively a two horse contest and NUTS N' BOLTS probably just had the edge on SUPER DUTY when the latter came down at the last. The latter has been rated 133 and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to rate the former near to that. They look to be a useful pair of staying novices and Lucinda Russell now aims to step the winner up to three miles.
HIGGS BOSON couldn't match the first two but had a nice trundle round in third and will benefit from the experience. There are bumper/hurdles winners in the family and he did enough to suggest he'll be competitive against less exacting opposition.
Willie Young's IF EVER added another P to his pod, finding this way too tough from halfway.

12.50 2m Maiden Hurdle (Class 5)

GETTING READY made up for his unfortunate forced exit at Kelso. He wasn't very fluent at the final three hurdles, but he came clear comfortably and should improve.
GUESS AGAIN put in a solid effort to follow his decent Carlisle debut. He should find a maiden hurdle within his scope.
AMRON LAD was outpaced in the straight. He's probably more of a long term project than the first two and is bred to be a chaser. He was disqualified form second in a Dromohane 4yo geldings maiden last season, his rider failing to weigh in, but the form has worked out quite well with first, third and fourth past the post all running creditably since.

1.25 2m 5f Watch Live Racing At Beginners' Chase (Class 4)

DOWD'S DESTINY was always handy, led two out and was clear at the last. He had a couple of runs in 07/08 but was then off the track until autumn 2010. He's only had a handful of runs since then, but clearly has plenty of ability and can make up for lost time over fences if staying fit.
CIRCUS CLOWN was held on official ratings by the winner and didn't jump well enough to get close. He needs to be bit sharper over his fences, but has prospects going forward and more time on his side than the winner.
Most significant run here was arguably that of ALFRED OATS. Pulled up in a maiden point at Friars Haugh in April, where he raced prominently for 2m 2f, he's been given time by the patient Robert Goldie. He couldn't match two fair opponents, but kept on well for third place. His trainer got Rules wins out of half-brothers Alexander Oats and Easter Vic, so this one is one for the notebook.
QUACITY led until the final straight but quickly capitulated. He was close in a moderate novices' handicap last time and has better chances in that company. Back in fifth, CASSIUS jumped slowly and hasn't offered encouragement over fences or hurdles of late.

1.55 2m 4f Bet Mobile at (97-119) Handicap Chase

BENE LAD has threatened to win a similar event this season and came good given distance and conditions that suit. He jumped really well and was comfortable from the home turn. He's gone up to 107 after this run, but that does keep him in the same class.
ET MAINTENANT kept on up the straight to finish second without threatening the winner. He's now on his lowest mark for three years and hinted here at a return to form.
DEUTERONOMY led or disputed until two out from which point he was put in his place. He's 2 wins from 30 and doesn't make exciting betting material.
SIBENEK and PROSECCO were firmly put in their place up the straight. NELSON DU RONCERAY ran in two point-to-points last year, but doesn't stay three miles so prospects were limited. He went well enough for over a circuit, but dropped away and it remains to be seen whether he retains enough ability to win handicaps.

2.25 2m 4f Bet Live at (105-130) Handicap Hurdle

TEENAGE IDOL, bandaged in front as I believe he has been before, was in control from three out and stayed on nicely for victory. He goes well here, this was a third course win, though is generally consistent anyway.
LOS NADIS's options are limited without putting in some motorway miles now he's rated 130. His nine lengths second was a decent effort given that he's not at his best on really soft ground, and he would still have win possibilities if Jim Goldie can find a 0-130 or 0-135 hurdle on good ground.
THE STARBOARD BOW lost touch from three out and is proving difficult to place.
KEMPSKI couldn't dominate and was struggling with a mile to go.

3.00 2m Play Casino at (88-109) Handicap Hurdle

CARTERS REST was clear from two out and recorded a first jumps win at the sixteenth attempt. The solidly built BUNRATTY kept on for second and has always looked to me as if he needs farther than two miles.
DRAMATIC JEWEL, KING'S CHORISTER, FUNKY MUNKY and SHERIFF HALL followed the first two in that order, all capable on their day but held in the handicapper's straitjacket for now.
The novice NOWURHURLIN disappointed for the second time in a row since his win at Carlisle.

3.35 3m 110yds Best Odds Guaranteed at Victor Chandler (69-95) Novices' Handicap Hurdle

KNOCKANDO was a clear winner of this contest. He'd not gone close before but ground and trip were helpful. Weak opposition might well have helped too, REALIGNMENT running a fair race in second but held from two out, his two runs here a bit better than efforts in Ireland.
FORCEFIELD faded from three out and Nick Alexander has promised to search out better ground for him. Remember that!

SEDGEFIELD - Thursday January 5th

A card full of 'the same old suspects' and not one from which I'll take a lot forward.

GOING WRONG was winner of what looked a fair two mile novices' chase holding off REALT MOR on the run from the last. The latter won an Irish point and a novice hurdle and should win chases.
KING O' THE GYPSIES was never travelling well but kept on to pass the weakening LATERLY for third. The former has looked hard work over fences to date but a step up in trip might help.

ONIZ TIPTOES stayed on to win the 3m 3f handicap hurdle, a slog which saw him just pip FRONTIER BOY. The latter would likely be suited by a return to chasing, though it's dependent on suitable opportunities over a distance of ground. Frustrating stayed MATMATA DE TENDRON looked in trouble two out but stuck on to bustle up the first two on the run-in.

There were two finishers in the two mile handicap chase. Improving TIME OUT saw off the gallant veteran POLAR GUNNER. The former looks capable of picking up another handicap, while the latter keeps his enthusiasm and shows enough to suggest there might be one last hurrah.

NEWCASTLE - Saturday January 7th

NEGUS DE BEAUMONT finally broke his chasing duck at the age of 11. He just held off UPTHEMSTEPS, though you have to feel that the latter would be the one to take out of this contest.

This was a low quality card and I found very little to get excited about. Most of the handicaps were contesting by exposed performers and the one or two I was keeping an eye out for were below their best.

SEEKING POWER plugged on at his own pace in the three mile chase, but this huge gelding needs four miles in the mud and a stiff track. Hexham’s four mile chase in Cheltenham week will presumably be the target, a race he went close in last year.
BEAR DANCING has been disappointing this season and was never going, being pulled up a long way from home.
Winner PLAYING THE FIELD is the youngest of these at seven and could be on the upgrade. SAMMY SPIDERMAN was second, seems in reasonable heart and would be of interest if taking in a race at his favourite Ayr, particularly in the mud.

MY ARCH struggled in the staying hurdle, but the gluey ground here won’t have helped him. He can do better on a sounder surface.
PAPAMOA was scrubbed along for much of the way and could only plug on for fourth. Nick Alexander’s string look a bit short of their peak at the moment.

Donald Whillans's string has been running respectably of late, and he unveiled a dark one in chasing newcomer SHADOW BOXER. He won a weak 2m 4f Class 5 chase without turning a hair and there should be a significant amount to come. He’ll get another go at this level and should take the beating.

LUCEMATIC rates as the cheekiest of winners, Denis O’Regan letting out just the slightest amount of rein to allow her to ease past ARIZONA RIVER in the mares’ bumper. The winner’s dam was nothing special, but she was related to jumps winners and her daughter might trouble much tougher opposition. The runner-up wasn’t disgraced.
MADAME BLAVATSKY who finished fifth is sparely made type and it was no surprise that she struggled in the soft. She may prove better back on faster ground.


TIME OUT – remains on the list and continues in the right direction
GORDONSVILLE – struggled off a slow pace at Musselburgh and can do better in the right race, either with a few frontrunners to set it up or over 2m 4f.
FORCEFIELD – has found the going a bit tough last two runs. A possible for a minor staying handicap hurdle on good to soft or better ground.
ALFRED OATS – Made a pleasing Rules debut and his small yard can prise a maiden or novice chase out of this one.