Thursday, 23 February 2012

Mid February Scottish Meetings

A burst of three Scottish meetings in three days, all offering a decent main prize and rewarded with competitive cards.I’ve struggled to find enough time to pay the racing sufficient attention, so the following reports concentrate on a few significant performances

AYR – Tuesday February 14th

This was an ordinary conditionals’ handicap hurdle contest was won by a 10 year old recording his second career win. On that basis it’s not an event that screams “future winners”. SEVEN IS LUCKY forged clear in the straight and was never in any great difficulty after that. He was well held in better company at Wetherby subsequently and is worth opposing if starting at short odds in future.
James Ewart introduced a nice looking French import UN GUET APENS who created a satisfactory impression in winning the novices’ hurdle. There are plenty of winning jumpers in the family, and this winner has already proved an ability to see out 18 furlongs in testing ground. He may be a nice prospect for handicaps. FIND A KEY represented solid looking form and was probably unlucky to run into a decent performer here. He kept on and should win a hurdle before long as his trainer is adept at sorting out opportunities.
THE TRACEY SHUFFLE showed plenty of promise last season and had the 2m 4f maiden won from a long way out, though he did survive making an almighty hash of three out and two out. He was tired but allowed to coast home. WILDE PASTURES occupied second from three out. This is probably a fair effort having been off since March 2010 and there should be better to come. The remainder were strung out along the Ayrshire coast!
James Ewart made it two winners on the day as in the novices’ chase over 2m 4f as BISHOPS HEIR took the novice chase. He was well held at Catterick, but that was two miles on better ground and the stiffer test here definitely suited. Conversely the second CARRICKBOY looked a bit better over two miles at Catterick and couldn’t match the winner from two out. DANCING DIK jumped exuberantly but tired in the closing stages. A break from the track suggests a problem but, assuming he can be kept fit, he should be capable of winning a chase. KING OF THE GYPSIES and ALFRED OATS never got into the contest. However, the latter will find easier tasks once his level is established and should be able to win a chase given time.
CHARINGWORTH should have won the 2m 4f handicap chase. He was coming clear but stumbled after big jump two out and shot Lucy Alexander out the front door. He looks in good heart, wasn’t moved up much for his Wetherby win and is capable of recording another victory.
TIPSY DARA acquitted herself well stepped up to Class 4 and at a longer trip of 3m 1f. She found two too good for her in the closing stages but would have every chance if aimed at a basement level race around this trip. John Wade’s BEAU DANDY won well in only his second handicap chase, is going the right way and is in capable hands. This trip pushes SAMMY SPIDERMAN’s stamina to the limit and he couldn’t match the principles close home, whilst another course specialist in SOMETHING SILVER found this too far by half a mile and was pulled up.
CLOUDY LANE saw off SPECIAL PORTRAIT in the hunter chase and now heads to Cheltenham for the Foxhunters’. I’m not sure the former will prove quite good enough now at the top level of this discipline, but the runner-up performed solidly and should pick up a win or two on his own patch.

Willie Amos revealed a talented four-year-old mare in DANTE’S FROLIC. She came clear impressively from two out and could be a decent performer. She may be aimed at a valuable Newbury contest in March.

KELSO – Wednesday February 15th
Nicky Henderson brought three decent animals from Lambourn and each won with a bit to spare. LYVIUS won well enough in the opener holding off Lucinda Russell’s Rhymers Ha’ in the final furlong. Lyvius is entered in the Triumph hurdle but that will be a much tougher test than this. RHYMER’S HA’ is going the right way and held off 124 rated ABSINTHE in the run to the line, hinting that step up in trip would do no harm.
BELLVANO made it two for Henderson, leading on the bit on the flat and not stretched to win comfortably. Henderson is likely to keep him fresh for a novice chase at Aintree. KING’S GREY and LATERLY performed soundly enough and will find easier opportunities. MAGGIO got ‘half-lengthed’ by Laterly at the second, blundered and gave Brian Hughes no chance of remaining in the saddle.
BOW SCHOOL came clear from FUNKY MUNKY in the 83-109 rated Oswald Handicap Hurdle over 2m 2f. This was an exposed field in the main and the likely rise will make things difficult for the winner. ROS CASTLE has less experience than many here, and hence potentially some improvement, so third place probably wasn’t a bad effort. He was staying on to the line.
TARTAN SNOW has put in some fair efforts round here and came clear of the field in the 2m 6f Amateurs’ Handicap Chase. Promising BENEFICIAL REFORM fell at the first having been made favourite, but one to note here might be PREMIER SAGAS who raced prominently before running out of stamina on the flat. A drop back in trip should help.
Nicky Henderson’s SIMONSIG easily held off Knockara Beau and Local Hero in the feature Morebattle Hurdle. He’s entered in both the Supreme Novices’ and the Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham, the latter being jockey Barry Geraghty’s choice. One note of caution might be that he hit the last two hurdles, and needs to be sharper at the top level.
KNOCKARA BEAU ran creditably at a distance short of his best. He should acquit himself creditably in his chosen Cheltenham outing, presumably a staying handicap chase.
MARSH WARBLER was disappointing here and finished distressed.
DOC ROW won the hunters’ chase holding off SACRED MOUNTAIN on the run-in, the pair well clear of AGGIE’S LAD who may have found the going a little on the soft side.
Notebooks at the ready, now for my favourite Kelso bumper! This was a mares’ contest won in decent style by BRIJOMI QUEEN who held off a couple of winners. She’s well bred for jumping and should go forward from here. Penalised runners DOYLY CARTE and LUCEMATIC ran creditably and can get in the mix in similar company.
Harriet Graham’s MAGGIE BLUE ran soundly on her debut and looks the ‘quiet one’ to take forward from the contest. There’s plenty of decent staying jumping blood in the family, and she looks a nice one to remember for staying jumps contests in future seasons.

MUSSELBURGH – Thursday February 16th
Musselburgh closed their National Hunt season on ground which was just on the fast side of good in places.
Think Green set a strong pacer in the opening 2m 4f novices’ hurdle, but he was a spent force by the home turn. SAGA DE TERCEY took over and was well clear in the closing stages, being eased down on the flat. Jason Maguire didn’t go overboard after the race, suggesting that maybe this was just a moderate contest. He could be under-priced next time.
BLAZIN WHITE FACE will be better off in a mares’ staying contest. She weakened into third on the run-in, but could next get to grips with the winner.
Lucy Alexander set a new record for wins in a season by a woman jockey, reaching 23 and beating Lorna Vincent’s long established tally. RED TANBER was notching a fourth course win and once again jumped supremely well, pinging the last two fences and coming clear. He will be entered at Cheltenham to ‘give the owners a day out’ according to trainer Bruce Mactaggart, but back at a more realistic level he probably hasn’t stopped winning. Ayr in April would be his next target, it’s just a [pity there’s no more action at Musselburgh this season. CALL IT ON tried hard to match the winner and kept on for a clear second place.
ROYAL ENTOURAGE and CIVIL UNREST had a set to in the 2m 4f 80-105 handicap hurdle; the pair pulling well clear of Stormy morning. The second is worth noting once going chasing as he’s a robust sort, but he may pick up a hurdle if given a stiffer test.
DONTPAYTHEFERRYMAN scored a third course win of the season, galloping his rivals into submission in the feature two mile handicap hurdle. He is worth keeping an eye on should he be pulled out on the flat round here in spring or summer.
The novice SIMPLY NED was disappointing here, never having things his own and his chance was going when he rapped two out. He’s capable of better and should get stronger with time.
The hunter chase, won last year by subsequent Cheltenham Foxhunters’ winner Zemsky, was marred by the fatal fall of SIMONSBERG. The favourite was moving into contention when going straight down on his neck four out, a fall from which he didn’t rise. SILVERBURN went on to win the contest and his target is most likely to be Aintree’s Foxhunters’ Chase, though a summer campaign was mentioned by his trainer. SPELLCHECKER wasn’t disgraced in second place and should find either a hunter Chase or an Open point-to-point before long.
MAKARI was once again made favourite for a bumper but he’s proving a weak finisher. The hope is that he can see out two miles over hurdles. NEMI might be chase prospect in time, but was just pipped by another chasing prospect in point winner LEIGHINMOHR. Time might show this to be a decent contest.

PREMIER SAGAS – ran a decent race at a trip a little past his best; might pick up a handicap at 2m 4f.
MAGGIE BLUE – staying bred mare, showed some ability on bumper debut and worth noting for the long term.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Musselburgh - 'Cheltenham Trials Day'

MUSSELBURGH – Saturday February 11th

Going – Good to Soft

With the weather warming significantly in Scotland, the go ahead Musselburgh executive quickly investigated the possibility of re-arranging their Cheltenham Trials Meeting. The BHA were obliging and the East Lothian track were able to run the fixture with tweaks to race conditions to allow for competition from Newbury, which was called off anyway. Pity then that Channel 4 Morning line coverage seemed much more concerned with what wasn’t taking place rather than what was. There was upside though, since Derek Thompson’s Channel 4 commitments gave our ears a two hour rest from the normal ear-bashing they suffer at such gatherings!

The main contest, the Scottish County Hurdle, was downgraded a little, but was still a cracking contest, and looking at overall average Official Ratings I suspect this may have been the strongest card staged in Musselburgh 25 years of jump fixtures. Southern raider numbers were down, although one traveller from Oxfordshire took advantage of opportunities.

A sprinkling over rain over the previous couple of days eased the ground to just on the soft side, but it’s as good a jumping surface as you will get at this time of year.

1.30 John Smith’s Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

Ding! Ding! Round One!. In the yellow corner, representing ‘The North’, EBANOUR from the yard of Donald McCain, and in the orange corner, representing ‘The South’, CROSS OF HONOUR from the yard of Charlie Longsdon.

The result was comfortable points victory for the Chipping Norton* yard of Longsdon, a trainer who I have a lot of time for and who’s runners always command respect. CROSS OF HONOUR travelled comfortably and forged clear from two out, winning eased down significantly. The gelding had been entered a number of times recently so his trainer was only too happy to travel to Scotland to get a run. He has an entry in the ‘Neptune Investment’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but the trainer’s favoured line is to go for a handicap. Whatever he goes for he does look potentially a 140+ animal.
EBANOUR couldn’t match the winner in the straight, the blinkers maybe not having the same effect as last time. That being said his last three runs read solidly enough and he should pick up another race at his level.
SAMSTOWN, well outpaced in a fourteen furlong bumper in January last year, made a decent impression on his hurdling debut giving encouragement for the future. He stayed on up the straight and forced Ebanour to an effort to hold on for second.
VENITZIA faded in the straight and looks likely to be better off in handicaps.
EDMUND cost £20,000 as a three-year-old and showed enough on hurdling debut to hint that he can return some of that in time. He made an effort three out but couldn’t get to the leaders. I don’t think he’s the finished article and he should strengthen with another summer behind him.

*Before anyone asks, I used to live in Oxfordshire and in Olde Northe’s Oxon Book Of Geography ‘The Midlands’ starts at Banbury, so Chippy counts as ‘The South’! Mind you, by the same token ‘The North’ starts north of Stoke/Nottingham and there’s still a darned long way to Musselburgh.

2.05 2m John Smith’s Scottish Triumph (Juvenile) Hurdle (Class 3)

This event will more likely point to the Fred Winter hurdle than the Triumph at Cheltenham, though the winning trainer is concerned his charge may not get a run to be handicapped for that. Charlie Longsdon notched a quick double as WEST BRIT led two out and ran on well for victory. The winner has had a wind operation since pulling up at Plumpton and also had a tongue strap applied. He’s entered in the Triumph but it would be a big step up from this to have an impact in that event, though he might be worth a try at the Aintree equivalent which sometimes doesn’t take as much winning.
KIE shrugged off a poor run at Kempton to perform nearer to his best here. He’ll find his level in handicaps I would imagine and is a live sort if able to get a relatively uncontested lead.
ORTHODOX LAD, making the trip from Ledbury for Ed De Giles and looking nicely fit, built on a promising Ludlow debut. He tried to get on terms three out, not quite got near enough to threaten the winner but kept on under encouragement for third place. He will find easier opportunities.
RED INCA stayed on from the rear for fourth but was never in the race.
Catterick winner CREEKSIDE looked a fair bit more substantial than the rest in the paddock. He was found wanting from the home turn and struggled into fifth place. He may have found this track a bit sharp in the company.
In my opinion LAUGHING JACK was the pick of the paddock, but he was very geed-up, pulled hard going down and in the race, and predictably faded in the straight. He was a free-going sort on the flat and this needs to be kept in check if he’s to score over hurdles.

Sadly UNCLE BRYN took a horrid fall at the last when held in fourth, struggled to get up then collapsed and had to be put down.

2.35 3m ½f John Smith’s Stayers’ (103-133) Handicap Hurdle

A cracking finish here with two necks separating the first three. The in-form course specialist EVERAARD stuck his neck out in determined fashion to hold on here, raised significantly in class from his last hurdles race. Three close here won’t have harmed his handicap mark unduly, but opportunities have now run out for this season at Musselburgh.
DEVOTION TO DUTY battled hard but was held close home. He’s capable of winning a similar race but isn’t guaranteed to reproduce the form.
Potentially the best prospect here might be MOONLIGHT DRIVE, lightly raced under Rules. He made up a heck of a lot of ground in the straight, but just lacked a little extra from the last. A fine effort though and he seems better suited by the decent ground encountered here. It’s surely only a matter of time before he wins a race.
DIZZY RIVER was not disgraced in fourth, keeping on but held form the last. ALDERLEY ROVER couldn’t get to grips with the first three from two out and doesn’t look especially well handicapped over hurdles or fences right now.
ARCTIC COURT led until three out and could only muster a steady pace afterwards. He needs a stiffer test than this course presents.
Charlie Longsdon’s OSTLAND was made favourite to provide a stable treble, but he was outpaced from two out and weakened in the closing stages.
MORE EQUITY found the company here a bit too tough and is better over fences.

3.10 2m John Smith’s Scottish Champion Chase (Handicap) for the Bowes-Lyons Cup (117-138)

A decent competitive turn out for an apparently grandly named race, though there is a significant reason for the race title. The Queen Mother’s family name was Bowes-Lyon, and the event is intended to be the Scottish equivalent of Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase. A perpetual trophy has been donated by the Bowes-Lyon family and the aim is to attract even stronger fields in future.

A whole host of contestants jumped the last two at close quarters, but sadly for them the winner TARA ROYAL had kicked on before two out and didn’t look likely to be caught. He’s been a bit below par since showing as a promising novice last season, but given that he cracked his pelvis just before Cheltenham last year that’s no surprise. He could well go on to trouble better company.
WOODY WALLER set the pace and kept on to the line, despite jumping left markedly so up the straight. He had not exhibited this trait before and may want a left-handed track, given that his finishing position suggests he was not otherwise troubled.
DE BOITRON came back to something near his best, staying on for third. Ferdy Murphy’s stable are normally at their best in the spring, and it’s significant that the trainer appears to still have a little bit of condition to work off this one. It would be no surprise to see De Boitron step up on this.
QUITO DU TRESOR probably found the two miles around here a bit sharp in the company. His target is likely to be the Grand Annual, and the chances are he might renew rivalry with De Boitron.
KOSTA BRAVA put up a decent effort from the bottom of the weights and will find easier opportunities. He has proved best around the minimum trip and is back on his latest winning mark.
ULTIMATE was well backed but couldn’t make an impact from three out having raced prominently.
GRACCHUS found this race a bit competitive and was held from three out.
LIGHTENING ROD won at Hexham but looks on a tough mark at 134. He was outpointed in the straight.
SANTA’S SON is an odd looking creature with a long neck and short legs. It doesn’t seem to have stopped him achieving things though, and he has 8 career wins. He was well held here but is aimed at the Topham Trophy.
SAFARI ADVENTURES, often an exuberant front runner, looks down in the dumps at the moment and took precious little interest.

3.45 2m John Smith’s Scottish County Hurdle (Handicap) (118-139)

A strong renewal of this contest, quite possibly the strongest contested of any hurdle this season in Scotland, and I suspect only the Scottish Champion at Ayr might match it. Twelve of the thirteen had won this season and the other one was a winner at Cheltenham last March.

There was a furious pace from the start set by Dontpaytheferryman pressed by Ubi ace. The latter seemed best placed to take the race approaching the last, but STORMY WEATHER came through off a hold up ride and prevailed close home. Not totally disgraced in Grade 1 contests earlier this term, the winner showed he is well up to the class of decent handicap company. Assuming he gets into the race there seems no reason why he shouldn’t acquit himself well enough in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, where there should be no shortage of pace. Whatever route he takes he will be competitive in upcoming handicaps.
UBI ACE ran a cracker off top weight, looking the winner at the last only to be denied close home. He’s having a rattling good season and goes to Cheltenham with every chance of a prominent finish.
All credit to DONTPAYTHEFERRYMAN, a course specialist and stable companion of the winner. Tanking along at the head of the field in typical style, he looked held once passed but knuckled down and was coming back at the finish. He’s in fine heart and might be worth an interest should his trainer find a flat contest at Southwell, or perhaps back here for a suitable handicap in spring or summer. He’s entered in a handicap hurdle at Musselburgh this Thursday (16th) where he takes on the progressive Simply Ned.
Decent novice INGLEBY SPIRIT performed with credit in this company, coming with an effort two out but just unable to keep the momentum going. He’ll find easier tasks than this and should win again before long.
SHADOWS LENGTHEN couldn’t make a significant impression approaching the last and was held in fifth. He’s a big strong individual who should make up into a chaser before long.
Novice CRY FOR FREEDOM wasn’t disgraced in sixth on only his fourth hurdles outing. He’ll have opportunities in a lower class handicap or a novice contest under a penalty.
ZAFRANAGAR got on to the heels of the leaders three out but couldn’t make any further impression after that. He may need a little more cut in the ground to be seen at his best.
The form of the handicap hurdle on New Year’s Day was put firmly in its place here. That race was a muddling affair and the three principals, PALAWI, NINE STORIES and ALSAHIL couldn’t make a mark on this occasion. However, the latter is lightly raced and can do better.
A novice handicap chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival last year, DIVERS was bandaged in front and always struggled here. This was no sort of prep for March and I’d be wary of him at present.

4.20 2m 4f John Smith’s future Champions Novices’ Chase (Class 3)

This race has yielded some decent winners since its inception, and this renewal appears no different with Lucinda Russell’s progressive gelding BOLD SIR BRIAN taking the honours. He had a scare when having to avoid fallen Chester Lad at the twelfth, but was never in any trouble after that to see off Stopped Out who is a fair marker. Bold Sir Brian has strengthened up in recent months and now has a number of options, the Jewson at Cheltenham, or maybe going to Aintree or Ayr in April. He is potentially very decent.
STOPPED OUT is a consistent sort who keeps running into one too good over fences. He didn’t do too much wrong, if clearly outpaced from four out, and there must surely be chase for him before long.
DOUBLE EXPRESSO has had problems, bleeding when competing in a claiming hurdle at Taunton, and never competitive here. He completed in his own time, inheriting third by virtue of two rivals falling. His prospects look bleak at anything other than base level.
CHESTER LAD made this a decent test, bowling along nicely in front until getting too low at the twelfth and taking a spectacular tumble. He seemed to be alright afterwards.
BOGSIDE tried valiantly to match the front two but was making no impression when crashing to the ground four out. He needs his sights lowered a little.

4.50 John Smith’s (113-130) Handicap Hurdle

The closing contest was dominated by two progressive novices. Newmarket challenger CAPE DUTCH had enough in hand to comfortably hold off Worcestershire based COTILLION on the run-in, the pair clear of the remainder. The winner will presumably be aimed at Cheltenham, perhaps for one of the handicaps. The second might just be shunted out of this class now, but probably has ability to be competitive in a slightly higher grade.
The more exposed THE STARBOARD BOW could never match the first two but stayed on for third. This is his trip and he has now dropped to manageable mark.
HIGGY’S BOY kept from the rear for fourth, but he hasn’t won for three years and is struggling off his current mark. He’s dropped to 123 after this run, but 120 might be the magic figure class wise.
SIMONSIDE set the pace until passed before two out. He was tapped for pace from that point.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Escaping the freeze, some of the time!

Musselburgh's Trials Day meeting was frozen out last Sunday, but in typical style the executive were quick to put themselves forward to run the meeting this coming Saturday February 11th. As things stand the weather seems likely to allow the meeting to go ahead and, with Uttoxeter and Warwick both in the freezer, Musselburgh should stand prominently as one of two Saturday jump meetings. It's dreich in the east of Scotland at the moment, and that's no bad thing at this time of year if you want to avoid frost!

Four meetings have taken place in the north in the last couple of weeks, Ayr being the last to survive the freeze.

NEWCASTLE - 26th January

Lucinda Russell's stable have hit form with a vengeance, topping and tailing the meeting with wins from two progressive sorts, BRINDISI BREEZE and LUCIA BAY. The former won very comfortably in the three mile novice hurdle and might be worth a tilt at Graded races. LUCIA BAY followed up this win at Ayr, both races seeing off her own sex and is as good a female novice as there is in the North.
Nick Alexander's PAPAMOA struggled against tough opposition in Brindisi Breeze's race and would welcome a return to a handicap.

CHESTER LAD jumped boldly if tending to go right in winning the beginners' chase, with VOSGES once again finding one too good. The winner wasn't completely straightforward over the smaller obstacles but could prove useful on his day over fences. DEGAS ART ran a fair race in third without threatening to win, but is essentially exposed and can be a bit moody. Given that second, third and fourth are all rated in the 120s, it does suggest Chester Lad might be decent in this sphere.

Having been left clear when Allanard departed two out, MORGAN BE stayed on and just had enough to hold fast finishing CATEGORICAL in a competitive three mile Class 3 handicap chase. Both are well exposed, but the latter normally picks up a race at this time of the year and seems in good heart. ROLECARR ran a sound race if just lacking a little extra from two out, while EYRE SQUARE was a bit disappointing in fourth place.
ALLANARD led from five out until taking a crunching fall two out. He's been moved up 6lbs for this performance, which seems a bit harsh as plenty can happen from two out.

Nick Alexander managed to tap into previously unadvertised ability with TIPSY DARA. The 2m 4f Class 5 chase was between two in the closing stages, and the winner probably did well to see off apaprently progressive SHADOW BOXER. The winner's owners have been very patient according to the trainer, having owned Tipsy Dara since the age of three.

AYR - January 30th

The opening novices' hurdle was close fought contest between DIOCLES and a back to form JET MASTER, the pair well clear of the remainder. The winner's dam Ardrina was a fair staying chaser and here son might prove interesting once going over fences.

Sandy Thomson has acquired some fair performers of late and the Greenlaw trainer's NETMINDER scored a comfortable and deserved success when pulling clear of TALKIN SENCE in the 2m 4f novice hurdle. Not the strongest of events but the winner is going the right way, and it's nice to see his enthusiastic trainer being rewarded.

RAILWAY DILLON comfortably saw off a disapponiting YES TOM in a novice chase match. I don't think the winner is the easiest character to catch right and I'd be wary of this form.

OVERLADY returned to from with a win in the 3m 1f handicap chase. Previously and inmate of James Ewart, she now resides with Stuart Coltherd. She relishes a staying test in the mud as she had here and could notch up another win at this level given similar conditions. ROSSINI'S DANCER ran his best race for a while in second, though he was held from two out.
ROYAL MACKINTOSH couldn't build on a decent Kelso effort and faded tamely in the straight.

SOMETHING SILVER led until after teh last in a battle of the course specialists against SAMMY SPIDERMAN. The latter is now hitting form and his stamina took over as Something Silver's fuel guage flickered. The winner is 5 from 11 runs at Ayr and, though he has seen out 3m 1f in the mud here, he's probably best around 2m 4f to 2m 5f. The runner-up was nicely ridden from the front by Lucy Alexander (she rode four seconds on the card!) and may pick up a small contest.

LADY BLUESKY looked all over the winner of the two mile handicap hurdle, a class 3 event, before walking through the last and unshipping Ewan Whillans. She has been bumped up 7lbs for this, but she is in good heart and might defy the rise. Calum Whillans benefitted as NELSON DU RONCERAY was left to lead home a number of exposed performers splitting their time between hurdles and chases.

LORD WISHES galloped on relentlessly to win the five runner bumper. Difficult to judge the form in a small field, but this one is related to a number of hurdle and chase winners.

NEWCASTLE - February 1st

Not a strong card and signiifcant pointers were few and far between.

DANCING ART won the novices' handciap chase and is progressing steadily at his own level, doing enough here to comfortably hold Catterick winner BEST LEGEND. It wouldn't surprise if the winner can pick up another handicap before long.

TAP NIGHT is one amongst a host of decent novice hurdlers in Lucinda Russell's yard, and was not troubled to see off a moderate field here. Worth a try in much better company. FALCUN ran on well enough in second though having no chance with the winner, while Donald Whillans's SNAPPING TURTLE kept on determinedly from the second last and will have a chance once gaining a handicap mark.

KING OF THE WOLDS saw off WOLF SHIELD in a duel up the striahgt in the lcosing bumper. However, it was a loose horse that caught the eye in the closing stages. Squeezed for room, jinking out and unseating as the runners passed through a 'hurdle gap', David Thompson's LOGICAL APPROACH raced enthusiastically with the field and led them up the straight. He clearly doesn't mind a gallop and might just be worth an interest in a similar contest.

AYR - February 6th

We lost Musselburgh the day before, but warmer weather on the west coast allowed Ayr to stage what has been the only jump meeting in the cocuntry so far this week.

LUCIA BAY saw off Gordon Elliott's previous winner MAE'S CHOICE in the mares' novices' hurdle. I spotted the winenr looknig a bit down in the dumps on a visit to Lucinda Russell's yard last summer, but she has certainly perked up in recent months and proved she has a decent engine.

SYDNEY PAGET was a very easy winner of the 2m 4f novices' hurdle and merits a step up in class. Eyecatcher here was HIGGS BOSON, running another excellent race in second against a talented opponent and he will win a race soon if he avoids hotpots!

The staying novices' chase was a fascinating tactical contest between three decent horses. Providing part two of a three-timer fro Lucinda Russell, BLENHEIM BROOK had too much speed up the striaght for more of an out and out stayer in LIE FORRIT. The winner holds an entry in the National Hunt Chase and, assuming he stays, he has the ability to be in the mix.
LIE FORRIT has disappointed at Cheltenham and it's likely Willie Amos will look elsewhere to test his stable star.
EIGHT IS MY NUMBER tried hard to run the finish out of the other two but was a spent force two out. He's entered in the Natinoal Hunt Chase and the RSA Chase, but would be outclassed in the latter.

QUACITY beat a field of maidens, 56 runs between them without a win before this, in winning the novices' handicap chase. WHAT A DREAM stayed on for second but is nothing special. SADDLE PACK faded to fourth and is becoming frustrating.

MISTER MARKER was thereabouts all the way in the 3m 1f handicap chase and held on after leading at the last. He stays well and revels in the mud. POSH BIRD pushed the winner all the way to the line and would be suited by a step back up in trip.
Bandaged in front, Bonchester Bridge trained ABBEYBRANEY led three out but, soon passed, was held on the urn to the last. He holds a Grand National entry, which may be ambitious, but if his legs hold up, he may pick up a race where the accent is on stamina

The Kamikaze Squad were once again on course to make DICKIE HENDERHOOP favourite for a Class 5 handicap hurdle over two and a half miles. Someone must see something in him, but he clings resolutely to maidenhood and unseated at the second to put supporters out of their misery early on. SEE THE LEGEND just held ANCIENT TIMES ni a battle royal to the line. Neither are greatly gifted, but they showed the irght attitude given a chance. SYDNEY COVE stayed on late and might be worth another try over a longer trip.

BIG WATER galloped clear in the closing bumper to make it two wins from two runs. There's a mix of blood in the family, but the sire blesses progeny with stamina and the dam was a fair two mile hurdler.


CATEGORICAL - Just touched off at Newcastle and his wins have generally been at this time of year.
SNAPPING TURTLE - not disgraced in hurdles to date and wiorth an interest once handicapped.
LOGICAL APPROACH - jinked out and unseated on bumper debut, but raced to the front at the finish and showed some enthusiasm!