MUSSELBURGH – Saturday April 7th
Going – Good to Soft (Soft in places)
Musselburgh kicked off the Scottish flat season with a cracking meeting which should prove full of decent pointers to upcoming contests. The recent rain softened the going which was reported as tacky by the jockeys.
The final bend has been much better aligned than in previous years, giving a smoother passage into the straight. It’s often had a kink which has thrown the horses wide, and it’s worth taking a look at the alignment as rails are moved over the season.
2.10 5f Betfred ‘ When Both Teams Score’ EBF Maiden Stakes (2yo) (Class 5)
This may well have been a decent event for its class and the first four are well worth carrying forward for future contests.
Mark Johnston appears to have his two-year-olds nicely prepared though it could be argued that the race may have brought STORM MOON on a bit. Green and coltish in the paddock, he seemed a good deal more settled once out on the track. Breaking fast, he was soon in the lead and had enough in hand to pull clear in the last furlong. The time was respectable and it would be a surprise if Storm Moon didn’t move on to win better contests.
JUST PAST ANDOVER ran respectably in the Brocklesby and performed soundly on his second racecourse effort. He was never on terms with the winner but kept on to hold second.
POLSKI MAX looked the biggest of these in the paddock and ready to do his job. He was found out a bit for pace at halfway but kept on stoutly and will benefit from the experience. A stiffer track might not do any harm.
A fairly ordinary looking sort, and rather skittish in the paddock, the filly SOMETHING’S DARLING stayed on nicely from two furlongs out and was just held in a tight battle for second. She was well clear of the remainder and would be a strong order in a similar level fillies’ maiden.
MAJESTIC JESS was another who was coltish in the paddock, but he showed decent early speed before fading from two out. He looked as if the race would bring him on and there should be much better to come in time. JORDANSTOWN was well held and looks to have a bit of strengthening to do before he can make a mark.
2.45 5f Betfred The Bonus King Whistlejacket Conditions Stakes (Class 2)
A decent contest for twilight horses between handicap and Group class.
BEAR BEHIND contested some decent contests last year though his only win came in a Nottingham maiden. I didn’t see him in the flesh as a two-year-old but he looks a well grown sort and I suspect he’s strengthened over the winter. He was quick away, rattling along in the lead and responding well when Hayley Turner urged him for an effort inside the final two furlongs. Unfortunately he drifted right in the final furlong, taking the second with him, and the short head margin meant that it came as no surprise to see him demoted. He should be up to Listed or Group 3 class this year.
HAMISH MCGONAGALL had never won first time out but came with a good burst to harry the first over the line in the closing stages. He would have had his head in front anyway in a few more strides and will be competitive in Pattern races this season.
EXCEL BOLT was running for the first time after gelding. He had a curtailed season last year having been decent as a two-year-old, but might prove to be attractively handicapped on a mark of 95.
SHOSHONI WIND ran a sound race in fourth keeping on to the line having been a little outpaced early on. She would be competitive in as Listed Fillies’ race if her trainer can find a suitable event.
BORDERLESCOTT never got into the race and has something to prove after two disappointing efforts this spring. It remains to be seen if he retains all his ability.
CAPATAIN DUNNE needed this and was well beaten while MISTER MANANNAN, slow away and always behind, was eased in the latter stages.
3.20 7f 30yds Betfred ‘Goals Galore’ Handicap (79-95)
A decent level handicap with a fair prize pot, but contested by a bunch of well exposed handicappers.
JUSTONEFORTHEROAD was not notably well handicapped but possibly readied as well as any. Hit the front at the furlong pole and ran on well. He may find life hard against improvers off a revised mark.
CAPTAIN DIMITRIOS, in fine form on the all-weather of late, raced prominently and hit the front before the furlong pole. He couldn’t contain the winner when headed but kept on with his effort. He came out the next day here and dead-heated over five furlongs, suggesting versatility which gives his trainer a few options. A tough sort who hasn’t finished winning yet.
PRIME EXHIBIT and PARISIAN PYRAMID ran pretty much to their level and the handicapper has them taped at the moment.
LAYLA’S HERO was never seriously in the race but picked up well late on, similar to his previous effort at Doncaster.
3.50 1m Betfred Royal Mile (3yo Handicap) (82-95)
Musselburgh are not frightened to push the boat out as far as prize money is concerned and this contest is likely to provide good pointers for the coming weeks. There aren’t that many courses which are willing put on this sort of £30,000 handicap, so full marks for Bill Farnsworth and his team. Last year’s winner went on to win a Group 3 race.
The race was won by a maiden in CHAPTER SEVEN, but the chances are that this one is well on the right side of the handicapper. Held up towards the rear, he made good progress two furlongs out and nipped through to lead close home.
Another maiden filled second place in EVERVESCENT, second in an Epsom listed contest last year. He held every chance from the furlong marker and was just run out of pole position close home. This one is more exposed than some, but on balance of form he seems on a decent mark.
KINLOCH CASTLE is a really nice looking sort, the best of Mark Johnston’s three here in my opinion, and put up a sound effort. Racing prominently he briefly hit the front two out but didn’t quite have enough in hand to hold the first two. A winner of a 7f Southwell maiden he looks sure to be suited by farther and should win a race in time. He made a quick reappearance at Kempton a few days after this and stayed on after being outpaced three out in a muddling race, but I suspect he’s better than that bare form suggests.
KICKINGTHELILLY, fresh from the all-weather, kept on into a never nearer fourth position. This was a good effort in this company and this filly will find easier opportunities off a mark of 82.
SWITZERLAND, fit from the all-weather and backed down favourite here, couldn’t make an impact from the furlong pole after having every chance. There is a chance he’ll be better back at seven furlongs.
BRONZE ANGEL never quite got to grips with the leaders though keeping on in the closing stages.
GABRIAL suffered a troubled passage through the field and is better than seventh place suggests.
ZAKREET looked fit on seasonal debut but faded after making the early pace.
SHABORA was out the back but more than likely wasn’t suited by the cut in the ground.
4.25 1m 1f Betfred Still Treble Odds On Lucky 15’s Handicap (45-63)
SHAMARLANE had been off the track sine winning in November 2010 but won nicely, steadily asserting in the final two furlongs. He ran off a mark of 59 here and is probably a bit better than that. He’s worth keeping on the right side.
CABAL ran a sound race in second and proved that his all-weather form translates to the turf. SELDOM and PROHIBITION were close up in the race for second and are competitive in this class if exposed.
NAAFETHA probably didn’t see out the nine furlongs having had every chance two out after setting the pace.
LA BACOUETTEUSE needs farther than this and never got into the race. After this effort there may be a bit of value in his price when upped in trip.
MYRAID looked fit but was very geed up, a bit too keen, and had nothing extra to give from two out. He has a modicum of ability of looks a bit too headstrong.
5.00 1m 4f 100yds Betfred ‘Double Delight’ EBF Maiden (Class 4)
A weakly contested maiden. The winner KEY GOLD led all the way and stayed on well enough that she was never in danger of being caught. She saw out the trip well enough and should stay further.
TORERO stayed on honestly after the winner without making a serious impression. He’s a strongly built likeable individual who will find his level handicapping. He struck me as the sort who will have one or two tracking him as a future hurdler, so it might be worth keeping an eye out for him over jumps in the autumn.
GREYHOPE was slow away and tapped for pace in the straight. He stayed on when pretty much left to do his own thing from two out and will presumably be aimed at handicaps now, though I would imagine his jumps orientated stable would be looking toward a hurdling career.
SWEET VERA, well held in lowly hurdle company, was left behind by the first two in the straight.
LADY GARGOYLE was left behind from three out. She hasn’t much yet but is bred to stay and could progress a little in time.
5.35 7f 30yds Betfred Bonus King Bingo Handicap (51-64)
A well exposed bunch contested this, though it should be said that they have managed 49 wins between them.
NADEEN was slow away, but the pace was strong and he picked his through to take charge in the final furlong. The race did fall his way and he wouldn’t be one to go overboard on in the near future.
RESPLENDENT ALPHA stayed on late, but his 7lb claiming rider got a little bit ‘out of synch’ with his stride. A decent effort from one who is at his best on Polytrack.
MONEL kept on to take third showing promise on seasonal debut. His wins have been at six furlongs and he would have chances dropped back in trip.
MARK ANTHONY set a strong pace and reached the end of his tether inside the final furlong. He’s another who has done his winning at six furlongs.
FAULT took on the leader and possibly paid for it. He’s since gained compensation at Catterick but wouldn’t go down as the most reliable performer.
MUSSELBURGH – Sunday April 8th
A lesser card than the first day and other commitments meant I wasn’t able to attend.
The Musselburgh Gold Cup was won in good style by the lightly raced SHUBAAT , a first runner at the course for Roger Varian. He should go on to better things, is likely to stay two miles and is one for the notebook. He’s a well-built animal who should improve for a galloping track. LEXINGTON BAY had a nightmare passage, so third place was creditable and he’s worth noting for a similar contest in the near future.
PRESIDENT LINCOLN won the maiden but weaved about and has proved in the past he’s not straightforward. He pulled clear with Jim Goldie trained newcomer JACK DEXTER who showed enough to suggest he may land a minor maiden race.
BOUCHER GARCON, gelded over the winter won the closing 46-06 Class sprint handicap. A sharp five furlongs suits and he quickly followed up at Catterick. He looks ahead of the handicapper and may well win a race or two more in the coming weeks. His trainer notes that he is suited by cut in the ground.