I’ve not kept up with racing as much as I should have in the last two weeks. However, I’ve done a summary of significant performances the mid-December action in Scotland which included a couple of very decent cards at Kelso and Musselburgh
KELSO – Sunday December 9th
National day at Kelso saw testing going once again and a strong cold
wind chilling spectators to the bone. Ironically the roof of the old
stand was one of the better places to be with the viewing place a little
more sheltered due to the wind direction.
Alan Swinbank was
hauled in front of the stewards for the running of PHOENIX RETURNS in
the opening two mile novices' hurdle, but the latter stayed on for third
having been outpaced down the far side. He should be seen to better
effect with a stiffer test.
EVERYLASTING looks a chasing type and kept on for fourth without ever threatening. He’s one to keep in mind long term.
D’ESTRUVAL was impressive in seeing off a small field in the Paris Pike
Novices’ Chase. He jumped superbly and was in no danger in the last
half mile. He will now have a rest before taking on the National Hunt
Chase at Cheltenham, a race for which he would be no forlorn hope.
stayed on well enough for second. He stays and stays and will be one to
keep in mind long for long distance handicap chases at his own level.
RIVER disappointed once again. He chased Rival D’Estruval from four
out but never got near him and was tried from two out. He will now be
dropped back in distance.
Poor CASSIUS was labouring as he passed
the stands in the handicap hurdle, faltered as he was pulled up and
collapsed not to rise again having suffered a heart attack. A blow to
the small Mactaggart stable and a sad loss of a familiar performer at
DOUGLAS JULIAN is an unreliable performer, but he
jumped superbly to win the Persimmon Homes Champion Chase in which the
two fences in the straight were omitted (low sun). Always up the pace,
he asserted from two out but cannot be relied upon to repeat the form.
LIE FORRIT stayed on well for second, an encouraging sign after a couple of below par runs.
the Borders National, won by Midlands raider Mortimers Cross, QUACITY
stepped up significantly in trip and stayed on in the latter stages. He
was running from out of the handicap here and he will have other
opportunities against lesser opposition.
COTSWOLD CHARMER was
dismounted after the last and transported back to the stables in the
horse ambulance. One of the backmarkers had really belted the fence
going away from the stands and we did wonder if it had been Cotswold
Charmer, he certainly wasn’t going well after that. The good news was
that Sam Twiston-Davies ‘tweeted’ that the gelding got home to Naunton
MUSSELBURGH – Monday December 10th
on an excellent Monday card with £55,000 prize money up for grabs. The
race were well subscribed, aided by the decent going which was better
here than at any course in recent days.
The opening conditional
jockeys’ handicap chase was won by BHALTAIR , who doesn’t look a typical
Donald McCain and isn’t the easiest to catch right. Racing in touch, he
Bhaltair forged clear down the straight, but wouldn’t be one to trust
for a repeat.
EXOTIC MAN has been lightly raced of late, but hinted
at a possible win to come with a fair performance in second place. He
looks capable of winning a lowly middle distance handicap chase.
title of ‘Most Northerly Trainer’ was taken over by Jackie Stephen,
based way north of any other trainer at Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The
permit holder ran SAFARI ADVENTURES in the first race, but couldn’t
arrest this one’s slide. He raced near the front until the ninth but
quickly dropped to the rear.
Mrs Stephen ran RELAND in the three
mile hurdle, but this one struggled to see out three miles in points
last year, and dropped away in the last mile. He's capable of making
more of a mark in middle distance low grade handicap hurdles.
DARLING won nicely in the two mile maiden hurdle, jumping tidily and
staying on well. He's got the build of one who can make a chaser and he
should go on to better things.
Progressive SWIFT ARROW won a
competitive two mile chase. He came to challenge at the last and
asserted on the flat. He is now 3 from 4 over fences and I don't think
we have seen the best of him yet. He could be back here on New Year's
Day for the Honest Toun Handicap Chase over another half mile.
DES PRINCES was given an excellent hold up ride by Dougie Costello in
the 2m 4f handicap hurdle, being produced after the last to snatch the
race on the line. He's best suited by decent ground and needs holding
up, a big field suiting the latter requirement.
UBALTIQUE looked the winner at the last but was caught on the urn-in and might be best dropped back in trip.
BRIDGE was not disgraced in fourth and looks a chasing type long term.
He could win a less competitive hurdle in the mean time.
Alexander was seen at her absolute best on ISLA PEARL FISHER,
galvanising her father's improving stayer to overhaul Blenheim Brook
ridden by Tony McCoy. The Alexander family's gelding looked to have work
to do coming out of the back straight, but he does stay and joined the
winner jumping the last. His target will be the Scottish National.
BROOK lost nothing in defeat, looking the winner two out only to be
caught on the run-in. He is in good form and should win a similar event
BALDING BANKER was not disgraced in third and appeared to see
out the trip. He was lightest raced of these and can step up before
SPITZ was impressive in winning the closing bumper, pulling
clear from two furlongs out. He looks a bit of a keen type and should
have improvement with time.
YES DADDY is a nice jumping sort, worth noting once going hurdling. He was found out for pace here but not disgraced in third.
FLICKA is well regarded in the Russell stable but looks to need a bit
of time, as have a few bumper animals from the yard. He will put his
fifth place here behind him in time.
SHARIVARRY is a big jumping
sort, found out for pace here. He won two points in 2012 and will
improve for going over obstacles under Rules.
MUSSELBURGH - Sunday December 16th
were awarded an extra meeting after their November abandonment. Prize
money was a bit down on the usual, but given the short notice for this
Levy board financed fixture then that's understandable.
LORD WISHES was a comfortable winner of the maiden hurdle and could be aimed at a handicap next time. He is a nice prospect.
LAD was second to Totalize in the juvenile hurdle. Flattening two out
didn't help, but he looked the winner until close home and done on the
line. He should win a similar event.
IMPERIAL VIC was bought to
go chasing but has proved a fair performer over hurdles, winning for the
second time in the staying novice hurdle. Connections are well chuffed
at his hurdling efforts and he remains a potentially exciting animal
once going chasing.
PRESENT LODGER disappointed in the bumper.
This well regarded import from Ireland was expected to produce much
better than eighth place. That being said, the stable's bumper horses
are not hurried, subsequent Cheltenham winner Brindisi Breeze having
suffered his only Rules defeat here last season to an ordinary sort, so
expect Present Lodger to step up significantly in time. The race winner
AMISFIELD LAD showed some speed, and he's only a three-year-old, so
maybe capable of a follow up and can make a mark over hurdles.
Fro those of you looking to shake off the effects of Hogmanay celebrations, Musselburgh hold their New Year Meeting, featuring a couple of competitive handicap horse races, plus the New Year Sprint handicap race for human sprinters. There should be a great atmosphere and some cracking contests. For those unable to make it, the meeting may well get top billing for the new Channel 4 Racing set up as Cheltenham is not certain to go ahead. The forecast suggests Musselburgh will go ahead, with half decent ground to boot.