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.

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