The Scottish racing calendar is a little lop-sided this month, with three meetings in three days then a wait until the last day of November. That being said, there are meetings at Sedgefield, Newcastle, Carlisle and Hexham in the meantime, so there are opportunities for Scottish trainers.
MUSSELBURGH – Thursday November 8th
Going – Good (Good to Soft in places)
A delightful sunny day greeted the opening meeting of Musselburgh’s winter season. The stands bend now has a 170 yard section of Fibresand on the jumps course, relieving the problem of cutting up the turf over the winter. On the evidence of this meeting the solution worked and is more cost effective than relaying the whole bend with turf.
1:00 2m 4f JRF Chimney Specialist (69-95) Handicap Hurdle (Div 1)
A poor contest to start the meeting, full of horses for which there were plenty of reasons to oppose. No surprise then that the race was won by one of less exposed types in GOLDTREK. Given a perfect front running ride by Lucy Alexander, the mare held enough in reserve to hold off two challengers ni the latter stages. Goldtrek had shown ability in the past, winning four middle distance contests no the flat including three on the trot back in 2010. When asked to explain the improvement, Nick Alexander said that the better going helped and that Goldtrek had been put on a new feeding regime. He could justifiably have added that the opposition was dire, but by dint of the rules the case was referred to BHA. Surely someone in the stewards room can read a form book?
Kit Alexander was spotted arriving at wallyford station on the same train as your correspondent. He was presumably en route from his studies at Durham University. The break from the classroom was rewarded with an excellent ride into second place on KING BREX, the rider making sister Lucy pull out the stops. King Brex hinted at a return to form at Kelso and this was much better.
WORD OF WARNING, held up early, got into contention from three out but couldn’t quite get to grips with Goldtrek. The run has be seen in context of the opposition, but this was better than recent jumping efforts.
MOMKINZAIN continues to disappoint, fading into fourth. ROLL OVER ROSE threatened briefly, but reportedly finished lame so had an excuse. AUBERGE needs further, but only has one win to his name in 34 goes, while FRONT RANK threw the towel in quite early on.
1:30 Glow-Worm Renewable Technology Juvenile Hurdle (Class 4)
Tim Vaughan brought DOVILS DATE all the way from South Wales for his debut. He’s a nice enough sort and did the business on the track, pulling comfortably clear from two out. The second has won a race and has run respectably on other occasions, giving the form an air of solidity. Winning jockey Richard Johnson was of the opinion that there is a good deal better to come.
ASTEROID BELT kept on for second without remotely threatening the winner. He was fourth in a Wetherby Listed contest, though that’s never the greatest pattern race, but he has won a race and should be capable of picking up another under his penalty.
FORSTER SQUARE couldn’t reverse the form with the second on 7lbs better terms for a 1½ length beating. He may find a moderate race, and will be better off once going handicapping.
GREYHOPE led briefly three out but was held from two out. Although considered ready enough to race as two-year-old last year, he needs to strengthen.
CAPTAIN BALDWIN dumped Lucy Alexander in the paddock, looks headstrong and has no immediate prospects of being competitive.
2:00 2m Buy Your 2013 Badge Mares’ Only Maiden Hurdle
Excessively wordy race title abbreviated. Sorry Bill!
This was a very weak race, but won by a filly who will almost certainly see off much better animals. Donald McCain’s DOYLY CARTE sprinted clear from two out to win with the minimum of fuss. She created a favourable impression in bumpers last year and is a fine stamp of a mare. She can win in open company.
GOLDEN SPARKLE is ordinary, if at least honest enough. Placed in this event last season, she kept on for second but will need to find a weak event to score and doesn’t look especially well treated for handicaps on a mark of 100.
GOODLUKIN LUCY led until three out but was put in her place after. She was bandaged on her hind legs.
LADY OF VERONA will have found this way too sharp and will come into her own with time and a stamina test. Of the beaten mares she is the one to keep an eye on.
The rest will struggle to win anything, and I overheard the trainer telling the owners in as delicate a way as possible that their charge should be doing other things than racing.
2:30 2m 4f Edinburgh Evening News Beginners’ Chase (0-110, Class 4)
I wasn’t entirely convinced by the new novice chasing restrictions, but have to admit that these ratings limited beginners’ events seem to be working. Fields sizes are up and races are proving competitive.
I’d been eagerly awaiting the chase debut of CIVIL UNREST and ‘Cyril’, as his stablegirl called him, obliged in excellent style. He jumped really well all the way and stuck on well to see off two 110 rated performers, both with sound chase efforts behind them. Civil Unrest had a wind op during his time off, from which he would appear to have benefitted from, and appears to have strengthend a bit as well. The winner will presumably go on to novice handicaps now and his accurate jumping will help at novice level.
WILLIAM MONEY fell at the first when I saw him at Kelso, but he jumped in the main here to fill a close second place. His one blunder two out didn’t help at a crucial time, but he should find a similar contest.
MENTALIST was well touted after an encouraging debut at Bangor. He was put into the race approaching three out but just couldn’t match the first two. He lost nothing in defeat, looks a chaser in build and will improve with time.
CALL IT ON went well for the first two miles but was held after.
A winner of the mares’ hurdle here at last year’s meeting, the mare D’GIGI is built to be a chaser. She was held in the straight, but not given a hard time and will do better. She would be of interest if a mares’ only contest could be found, but otherwise she will be waiting for the handicapper to ease her mark from the current 106.
ANGEL SUN showed promise at Kelso, but was disappointing here and never in the race.
SEAOFEMOTION is a half-brother to decent chaser Seebald, put the wheels come off after that as he is very slow. He was second in an Irish point, but even the winner of that has been beaten miles under Rules!
3:00 3m ½f Racing UK November (98-122) Handicap Hurdle
A close finish to this race, but complications caused as the last hurdle had to be missed out having been damaged. I stood near the final hurdle for this one and the organisation there left much to be decided. It took an age to get the direction signs up and the man with the chequered flag seemed unclear what he was meant to be doing. Ryton Runner in particular was inconvenienced as he had to make a sharp manoeuvre to round the rail approach to the hurdle.
MONETARY FUND moved smoothly into contention approaching two out and led rounding the omitted last. He may have been headed briefly on the run-in, but stuck his head out determinedly to hold on. He won’t be penalised too much for this and may win again. He wouldn’t want the ground too soft.
JEU DE ROSEAU closed on the flat but couldn’t quite sustain the effort close home. He has been lightly raced over jumps but has a fair record and remains competitive in this class.
RYTON RUNNER had to make a major corrective move to avoid the last. Given that he was beaten less than a length then that may well have cost him the race. He was better suited by the decent ground here than the heavy at Kelso.
MERRYDOWN led to three out but was outpaced on the run from the last flight jumped. A fair effort but he hasn’t won since 2009.
PURCELL’S BRIDGE won at Wetherby recently, but this was a much tougher race and he was found wanting. Life will hard from now on as he is up 17lbs from the mark he was on here.
EVERAARD has a good course record but is well off his game at present.
SAGA DE TERCEY had every chance when stumbling badly at the first in the straight. He couldn’t get back into the race after that.
3:30 3m Turf TV (76-104) Handicap Chase
OR DE GRUGY rated 125 early last year, though he’s probably quite up to that now, but Nick Alexander has him in sparkling form at the moment. He’s not as well suited by this course as Kelso, but Lucy Alexander timed her run spot on to lead at the last from the long time leader. Even with another irse in the weights there’s every chance Ort De Grugy can win again soon.
THE BIG FREEZE set the pace and had seen off all bar the winner with two to go. He stuck at his task if held by a better opponent. Unfortunately he may cop it a bit from the handicapper after this run, but he’s lightly raced and on the up.
DUKEOFCHESTERWOOD weakened in the straight and ended up a well beaten. He doesn’t look one to get too excited about at the moment. Well beaten in fourth, OUEST ÉCLAIR was never in the contest.
VIA ARCHIMEDE couldn’t mix it in this company and will now go pointing.
ARCHIE’s WISH threatened to get involved approaching three out, but dropped away very quickly.
BALLYMACDUFF matched the second up front until falling at thirteenth. If his trainer can find a basement level contest he wouldn’t be without a hope.
4:00 2m 4f JRF Chimney Specialist (73-94) Handicap Hurdle (Div 2)
This was the better of the two heats of this contest and won by BENMADIGAN, who does best when picking off opponents of a fast pace. He stayed on willingly and his strike rate of 8 from 46 is better than most at this level.
SOLWAY DORNAL closed on the leaders over the last three flights and kept on under pressure from the last. Best on decent ground but has only won once.
LAYBACH has yet to win, but made a solid fist of things leading here until the last. She kept on well enough and may find a small contest to break his duck.
MOUNTSKIP was well backed to make a winning return after two year break. He ran out of steam from two out, but at least this hints that he retains ability.
MUSSELBURGH- Friday November 9th
Arguably a slightly stronger card for the second day of the meeting.
PARSON’S PUNCH won an incident packed conditionals’ handicap hurdle, in which only 4 of the 10 finished. The winner looked to have OVERPRICED held when the latter jinked at the rail and unseated half a furlong form the line.
SWITCHED OFF looked to have every chance until tripping over two out. He doesn’t run too many bad races and may find consolation in a similar contest.
The beginners chase was won in impressive style by the front running KIE. He walked through the first, and you wouldn’t get away that at a few courses, but was impressive afterwards and came home a comfortable winner. He wasn’t a bad juvenile hurdler and looks to have decent prospects in chases.
SMADNYIUM held MAYBE I WONT in the novices’ hurdle. The latter has run up a sequence of seconds, but doesn’t seem to be doing too much wrong. The pair were clear and the second is rated 115, so it’s safe to assume that this was at least a 110 effort from Donald McCain’s winner and he should be capable of better in time.
IMPERIAL VIC was bought to go three mile chasing in the long term. I had a chat recently with one of his owners who was well pleased with the Kelso effort, and this one stepped up on that in easier company in a three mile maiden hurdle. Anything he does over hurdles is a bonus and I look forward to this one going chasing. DANNANCEYS HILL wasn’t disgraced in second and may well find an easier contest at this distance.
NINE STORIES won a competitive Class 3 handicap hurdle over two miles. He had been a bit off his game, but this was a much better effort.
SMART RULER led three out and stayed on once passed. He hasn’t won over hurdles but put up a fair performance here and should take a race if eased in class.
HI GEORGE put up a good effort in third place. He was well held in a competitive contest at Cheltenham last time but proved good enough to trouble contestants at this level. It’s worth noting that his hurdles wins have come over longer trips.
LOCKED INTHEPOCKET was a clear winner of the 2m 4f handicap chase having been left clear when DICA fell two out. The winner has been moved up to 120 for future races and will find life harder.
BALDING BANKER stayed on for second having been outpaced turning for home. He looks likely to need a stiffer test.
RED TANBER was never happy, presumably needing the race, and was pulled up some way from home.
HEXHAM – Friday November 9th
Going – Heavy
Small fields at Hexham possibly reflecting the heavy ground and poor prize money on offer at this meeting. There was a clash with Musselburgh, though race conditions didn’t really cross.
Nick Alexander’s good form continued courtesy of a double. MAKHZOON, ridden by Kit Alexander recording a first win against professionals, won the four runner seller and has a fair record, having won a couple of handicap hurdles earlier in the year. Meanwhile PAPAMOA won a beginners’ chase running over a more suitable distance than his recent run. This one can be hard work, often having to be driven to keep up, but he stays very well and can win again in a staying novices’ event. I presume he will now be aimed at handicaps.
Other than Papamoa this didn’t look a meeting to carry much forward from.