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 victorchandler.com 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 victorchandler.com 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 victorchandler.com (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 victorchandler.com (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 victorchandler.com (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.
ONES TO NOTE
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.