Thursday, 31 January 2013

Additional Meeting at Ayr

AYR – Wednesday January 23rd

Going – Soft

Ayr survived the cold weather that had hit the rest of the country and were able to stage a decent replacement meeting with good prize money up for offer. The Ayrshire coast micro-climate ensured that the temperature had kept above freezing for the previous few days. However, an overnight frost caused problems and it wasn’t until around 12:30 that the meeting finally got the go ahead.
The ground was soft, but not as testing as it has been previously this season at Ayr.

1.10 2m Talk To Victor Novices’ Hurdle Division 1 (Class 4)

Three were clear of the remainder and it looks as if this form will hold up well. VELOCE was well suited by the drop back to two miles and held off two challengers down the straight. Donald McCain’s charge could prove quite decent over this trip on good ground.
HALLMARK STAR stepped up significantly on his hurdling debut, making the running until two out and still chipping away at the leader after that. His jumping can improve, he was not fluent at a few flights, but he looks more than capable of winning a northern novice contest.
ROCKAWANGO looked fitter here and was nearer to his French form in finishing third under a penalty. The French form has really worked out, but Rockawango has come on for his initial UK effort and may have benefitted from the application of a tongue-tie. He can win a modest novice contest, but his future looks to be as a chaser.
LISBON kept on into fourth and will be better suited when going handicapping.
ONE FOR HOCKY was well beaten and has yet to show an aptitude for hurdling.

1.40 2m Talk To Victor Novices’ Hurdle Division 2 (Class 4)

A contest run in about the same time as the previous division so it’s not unreasonable to suppose the form will prove as strong.
BALLYBOGEY made the pace until the final bend, but was then well outpaced for a while. Stamina came into play and he picked up well from two out, taking charge after the last. He’s a chasing sort and will no doubt benefit from a stiffer test of stamina. James Lambe will no doubt aim to place him in Scotland again before long.
RED ADMIRABLE kept on well enough if held on the flat. Placed in a Down Royal bumper recently, his turn in the winner’s position looks delayed for only a short while. Stuart Crawford is another who frequently raids these events in Scotland and Northern England.
TITUS BOLT raced in touch and chased the leaders three out. He had a chance approaching the last, but a blunder put paid to his chances. This was a fair first effort and he may be suited by slightly less testing conditions.
KING’S PALACE was a bit keen, but led three out and still disputed when falling two out. He ran a decent race in a Listed event at Ascot and will have other opportunities.
CLONDAW FLICKA never got involved seriously and, as Lucinda Russell intimated in early season, may need some time to develop. He was last of six finishers, but not one to write off just yet.

2.10 2m 4f BetVictor Beginners’ Chase (Class 4)

Ridiculously long race title much abbreviated!

NUTS N’ BOLTS was a decent staying novice hurdler last season, but an injury curtailed what had promised to be a very successful season. He’s taken time to warm up over fences but has potential long term and won what was probably a fair little contest. He improved for the fitting of a tongue-tie, has stacks of ability, stays well and should go on form this.
BALDING BANKER ran at least up to the form of his decent Musselburgh handicap second. He led to four out and kept on once passed by a better opponent.
DIOCLES didn’t jump well enough to match the winner. He was under pressure from three out and couldn’t make any significant impact. His jumping needs to improve.
UN GUET APENS, without the hood that appeared to improve things last time, was cast aside easily from four out. He’s well thought of at home, but is struggling to consistently produce the goods.
Stable mate of the winner BOBBLE HAT BOB ran a cracker here coming off a break since April 2011. He has been hunting and jumped well until crashing through three out. He came down tow out but, assuming he’s none the worse, should be more than capable of winning chases.

2.40 2m 4f Twitter @Betvictorracing (107-127) Handicap Hurdle
A strong field cut up with on-runners, presumably because trainers were worried that frost was still in the ground.
HOLLO LADIES has some decent Irish form if you look back far enough. He challenged before the last and was driven out. He’s fallen significantly in the weights and, assuming Ferdy Murphy has his charges readied as he normally does at this time of year, should win again.
TOP WOOD made the pace and didn’t do an awful lot wrong but was held by a better animal on the day.
 SPIRIT OF A NATION had every chance but was held in the closing stages. This was his first run since September and he should come on for the outing.
COOL BARANCA has not recovered last summer’s form and struggled here.
ONE FOR HARRY jumped poorly and was never going. He bled from the nose, so may be one to treat with care in similar conditions in the near future.

3.10 2m 4f Betvictor Handicap Chase (114-139)

A decent event won in convincing style by CONSIGLIERE, coming off the back of a decent effort at Wincanton. He’s probably best around this distance these days, and goes well over fences or hurdles. All his wins have come with cut in the ground.
RICH LORD couldn’t handle the bottomless ground at Haydock but performed well enough in a clear second. He was tapped for pace a mile out but battled on to the line. His stable is now hitting form and there should be easier opportunities in the coming weeks.
PROSECCO, on a track where he races best, raced up with the pace but was held from three out.
GOING WRONG jumped poorly in rear and in the end fifth place of 8 wasn’t too bad. He does need to pick his feet up to have a chance of a win.
STORMIN EXIT showed his customary enthusiasm and disputed early but was beaten by the home turn.
LOS NADIS once again appeared ill at ease over fences and needs a return to hurdling.

3.40 3m 1/2f Betvictor Handicap Hurdle (94-120)

A well exposed bunch here that the handicapper pretty much has tabs on, though the winner has had an interrupted career and could conceivably go on again from here. TOO COOL TO FOOL was returning to hurdles after a couple of moderate efforts over fences. He asserted from two out and was galloping on strongly at the end. He’s only had 10 races over jumps and there may be a bit more in the locker.
MERRYDOWN ran an honest enough race in second and is a reasonable marker at this level, but hasn’t won since March 2009.
FRONTIER BOY was third and might be best giving weight in extreme distance hurdles or chases.
SOLIS stayed on late, but that’s pretty typical and he’s not reliable punting material.
FORESTSIDE stayed on late to win here last time but was well held in the latter stages. He raced very keenly which won’t have helped and his overall record in uninspiring.
HARRY THE LEMMON was close up when falling four out. He seemed to be going well enough, is lightly raced and has win prospects when he stands up.

4.10 2m Betvictor Open NH Flat (Class 6)

SWATOW TYPHOON made the pace and his rider was hard at work from fully five furlongs out. This Irish pointing winner kept pulling out more and was in charge in the final two furlongs. His Irish maiden point win in heavy ground is working out well as all four who finished that event have since won. He clearly has stamina in abundance and is a nice sort to take forward to staying hurdles and chases.LATIN REBEL kept on for second, stepping up on previous form. A late maturing sort, he should go on from here.
FRANKIE’S PROMISE pleased his trainer in stepping up on his debut effort. He couldn’t match the first two from three furlongs out but is going the right way. May not win a bumper but will be of interest once he goes hurdling.
BEN AKRAM was ridden to close entering the straight, but weakened two furlongs out. He was a winner of a maiden Irish point and is likely to show up prominently with more experience behind him.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

January Catch-up

Plenty of northern action early in the New Year, plenty of it taking place in a mild Scotland.

AYR – January 2nd and 3rd

Lucinda Russell notched up a hat-trick in the first three races of the meeting, led by GREEN FLAG who is coming along nicely. He won comfortably under a double penalty and will now be stepped up to three miles with the River Don Hurdle at Doncaster a possibility.
Point-to-point graduate ROMANY RYME made a satisfactory Rules start for John Wade, should win a small race over hurdles and looks a chasing prospect.

IMJOEKING won the two mile maiden hurdle for the Russell stable, leading three out and winning with a bit to spare despite idling on the flat. There should be a novice for him under a penalty.
OUR JOEY, who has plenty of ability but isn’t straight forward, ran out through the wing two out. He made amends at Kelso and has ability iof he can be pointed in the right direction!

TAP NIGHT, now in the ownership of J P McManus, completed the Russell treble in convincing style by taking the two mile novice chase. He looks good enough to be a Cheltenham or Aintree horse and can win another novice chase. He’s entered in the upcoming Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster, where he could come up against Overturn. Bear in mind that Tap Night beat well regarded captain Conan in a Grade 2 novice hurdle last year, so it would be no surprise if he can mix it in Graded company over fences.
UN GUET APENS met one too good here, but he jumped round and this should be a confidence booster. Well regarded by James Ewart, he will find an easier race.

SHADOW BOXER won the closing Class 5 handicap chase on the first day of the meeting.  He’s not been over-raced for an eight-year-old and is steadily progressive at his level, seeing out the trip well in the testing conditions. He should win another race or two in the coming months.
BEAU DANDY wasn’t disgraced in third given that he had to be chased along mid-race. He can win at this level and will be better served by less testing ground.

NETMINDER took the race to his opponents from the front in the 3m 1f novices’ chase on the Thursday. His stable has taken time to click this season, but recent results suggest things are starting to click.

Determined mare TIPSY DARA outstayed her opponents to win the conditional jockeys’ handicap chase for Nick and Lucy Alexander. She will never fail for lack of effort and is capable of adding to her tally even after a rise in the weights. In seeing off The Magic Bishop and Dannanceys Hill she off higher class opposition then ever before.

PAS TROP TARD was difficult to win with last season, but has been a revelation since winning at 25/1 at Perth in the summer. He was an easy winner off a mark of 124 and now moves up to 137. So well has he improved that he deserves his chance against the decent opposition this mark merits.  Barely tried in testing ground earlier in his career, he’s been at his best in soft and heavy ground.
LADY BLUESKY ran her usual honest race and has every chance of picking up another contest off a mark of 124. A fair performer on the flat, she has a career record of 10 wins from 35 races and can add to that over hurdles or on the level. Her record at Ayr reads 4102U21142, and the ‘unseated’ has looked like another win.

KING KALIUM won a moderate Class 5 handicap hurdle. I marked him down as a possible winner when first seeing him, but he’s taken time to get the idea. He could make a chaser at a lowly level, but he has been apt to clout the odd hurdle and I would want to watch him over fences first. ROWAN ROAD had won his last two over extended distances and the step back to 2m 4f would not have been in his favour, even given the heavy ground. He now has to race off 90, but that might not stop him given an extreme test.
Kit Alexander did well to coax the enigmatic veteran COMMERCIAL EXPRESS into fourth place, persisting after being well behind swinging for home. Kit is mixing studying at Durham University with the odd ride as an amateur, but worth keeping an eye on should he ride anything with a chance in amateur races.

MUSSELBURGH – Friday January 4th

This card didn’t have the quality of the New Year’s Day card, but there may have been a few future winners on show.

BUFFALO BALLET caught the weakening Veloce in the 2m 4f maiden hurdle under a well judged ride from Lucy Alexander. This distance round here on softish ground would be an absolute minimum test for a gelding who is well regarded by his trainer.
The form of Buffalo Ballet’s previous race at Kelso, won by decent novice Maggio, has worked out well. News of one of the more promising from that race, BOP ALONG, is not quite as good as he sustained a tendon injury which sees him sidelined for the season. Bop along is worth noting on return though.
Back to the day’s contest and VELOCE is a free going sort who will be suited by slightly better ground.

ABBEY STORM was a comfortable winner of the maiden hurdle and looks a chaser in the making. It wouldn’t surprise me if this winning point-to-pointer in Ireland is quickly sent over the bigger obstacles. He strolled up here though and could win a novice hurdle with a penalty.
SOMERSET ISLAND didn’t do much wrong in second, particularly coming off a break, while SHARIVARRY made a sound enough hurdling debut and is another who will make a chaser. The latter is well regarded by his trainer James Ewart.

I have RUDEMEISTER on my list of horses to follow. He jumped well on his chasing debut until crashing out four from home. If he had stayed on his feet he would have been thereabouts and, like most Andrew Parker charges, should come on for the run.
VIVA COLONIA is rated 139 and made a good impression on his second run over fences, coming clear before the last. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s back here for the Future Champions’ race here on Trials Day in early February.
SYDNEY PAGET ran a sound race but was found wanting by the winner. He’s lightly raced and will benefit from the experience. There should be a run of the mill contest for him at minimum.
LOS NADIS does not look in love with chasing and was well held in fourth.

Lucy Alexander is now on the sidelines following the heavy fall of ISLA PEARL FISHER in the staying handicap chase. I still think he is well handicapped, but he needs a stiffer test to bring out his best and looked held when coming down. His pilot suffered a broken collarbone and will be out for a few weeks.
The race was won by PENTIFFIC who was too good for these, but found out later on in the West Yorkshire National. He looks a three miler to me , but the big question is will I need a passport when next visiting the nation of West Yorkshire?

The form of the bumper should stand up well. ALPHABETICAL ORDER did well to hold off a decent mare in BRIJOMI QUEEN, whose win over decent mare Doyly Carte underpins this form. Add in the staying on third REV UP RUBY and we would have three to keep in mind once going hurdling.

NEWCASTLE – Saturday January 5th

Small fields and moderate horses were the order of the day at Newcastle.  The ground came up heavy and many struggle to get home when the Tyneside course comes up testing.

ZARU comfortably saw off two in the three mile beginners’ chase, jumping soundly and having the race won from the home turn. He’s a big gelding who has always looked a chaser in the making. And only now at the age of seven has he strengthened into his frame. The handicapper  has him on 115 which is workable over fences.

MADAM LILIBET comfortably held off LOVE OF VERONA in the mares’ novices hurdle. The former can win a handicap while the latter may well progress if going chasing.

KELSO – Sunday January 13th

Kelso survived the cold weather, the snow not hitting until just before racing. The first race took place in a snow storm, but the white stuff never settled even if the going was a testing as it has been all season, 5.5 being a seasonal low going meter reading.
The hurdles run-in was back to two furlongs using the flexibility provided by the new chase course layout.

DU&KE OF NAVAN found the novice hurdle company easier than that in a  Grade 2 at Cheltenham. He wasn’t far away in that better company and had this race in safe keeping form the furlong pole. He has plenty of ability and will presumably have sights set back up again before long.
BIG WATER made a big impact on hurdling debut, staying on to take second from previous decent winner WOODPOLE ACADEMY.  Both of these can take races in the near future.
RHYMERS STONE didn’t jump fluently here but is better than eighth place suggests. He will step up significantly on this in time.
BERNADELLI was given gentle run to finish a keeping on fifth. He will now preuambly be aimed at handicaps.

FENTARA jumped well to run out a comfortable winner of the mares’ novices’ chase. She stays well and will presumably be back in staying handicaps before long.

OUR JOEY made up for his Ayr aberration to win the staying novices’ hurdle. Even then he had a good look at his admiring audience up the run in, but he was well clear.
CORRIN WOOD was well backed but floundered in the mud, as did KRIS CROSS, who was beaten very early but is much better than this form which can be ignored.
RINNAGREE ROSIE was another who struggled. She has ability but will be better off in mares’ races.

SADDLE PACK drew the attention of the stewards when never in the race here last time. Benefitting from two of the main contenders dropping early in the 2m 1f chase here, he came clear from two out to beat three other finishers. He went up to a career high of 105 after this and doesn’t look straight forward, though I get the impression better ground may suit more than the slog here.
PRINCE TAM bowled along in front, but was held once passed.
SERGEANT PINK didn’t go a yard while GLEANN NA NDOCHAIS, more than capable at this level, made a right mess of the fence away from the stands and unseated. The latter should win a chase, but has unseated twice in his last three chases.

NOTONEBUTTWO benefitted from the step up in trip to 2m 6½f and this form suggests that even a new mark of 87 might prove generous. He’s only six and there should be more to come, after he pulled clear form a revitalised POLITICAL PADDY.  The latter showed up better than he has for ages and might still have a small race in him.
CIGALAS came there going well to two out, but just as quickly capitulated and wasn’t able to add to sole win which came over 7 furlongs in 2008.

MANSONIEN L’AS won the Class 5 2m 7½f handicap chase, staying on to catch SOUL ANGEL close home.  The winner is younger than most and does at least seem to be progressing. His UK record in soft or heavy ground now reads 4P31231, which makes him a prime contender in the right conditions at this level.

A decent hunters’ chase closed the meeting, won in decent style by COTTAGE OAK. He’s rated 129 and should score again in what is generally a weak division in the North. He decided he had done enough when his rider eased off on the run-in, but he was a good deal better than the others.
SACRED MOUNTAIN, 8 from 14 in points, put up a career best to finish a staying on second. He’s a 12-year-old maiden under Rules but did nothing wrong here and will probably land a weaker event here.
Another veteran BENEFIT NIGHT led until three out and kept on once passed. He clearly retains some ability and may win a similar race, perhaps in less taxing conditions.
Will Kinsey was satisfied with SPECIAL PORTRAIT’s effort  and the grey gelding will come on for the race. He should find a race or two on the northern circuit this term.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Post Christmas action then New Year at Musselburgh

There was plenty of action over the Christmas and New Year period, so reports are necessarily brief and concentrate on key performances. The weather relented a good deal with mild dry weather in evidence, particularly over the New Year Holiday period.

SEDGEFIELD – Wednesday December 26th

Going – Heavy  (The third last fence was omitted along with the 2nd down the far side)

SMADYNIUM battled hard to hold off Karinga Dandy in the opening novices’ hurdle. The pair were clear but the winner’s starting handicap mark of 126 could prove stiff, given that the other beaten animals haven’t done a huge amount to date. It might be worth noting though that Smadynium’s Musselburgh win came on good ground and the form has been franked, so he could win under a double penalty on decent ground.
FOURJACKS won what appeared to be a decent 2m 4f novices’ hurdle. He was well held by Gevrey Chambertin at Haydock, but that animal looks pretty decent and Fourjacks  should stay further than this.

BILLY CUCKOO has performed well since graduating from pointing and kept on to hold off Riskier in a 2m 4f 0-110 event.  He idled in front here and may still be a bit better than the 103 mark from which he competed here.
The second RISKIER is a consistent performer whose record at Sedgefield now reads FPU2212. He took his time to get his act together, but is all together more reliable these days and is worth noting when conceding weight to inferiors.

KELSO – Saturday December 29th

Going – Heavy

12.20 2m 6½f Class Maiden Hurdle

MILANO MAGIC looked all over the winner of this contest when taking over two out and was still clear at the last. He was just outstayed by Forty Crown but did nothing wrong and will surely win a staying hurdle before long.
John Wade’s FORTY CROWN looks a fine prospect for staying chases in the long term. He ground down Milano Magic relentlessly and caught him in the shadow of the post. Clearly relishing this test he should go on from this, his chasing debut being eagerly awaited.
Pointing winner SORCIER looks another promising type from the pointing conveyor belt that is the Shirley-Beavon yard. He tried to match the leader Milano Magic but could only muster one pace from two out. A half-brother to prolific winner Natal, he’s a small gelding whose future might well be handicapping carrying low weights. In the meantime there may be a small novice hurdle to be won with him.
Lucinda Russell’s BLUESIDE BOY will need time, but he was not disgraced in fourth and there should be races in him given time to develop.
Back in the field JOB FOR ERIC was never put into the race and outpaced down the far side for the last time before being pulled up. I would keep him in mind, as this home bred might be long term project.
12.50 2m 7½f Class 4 Novices’ Chase

An interesting contest with three animals that should each go on to win at their own levels.
RED ROCCO jumped nicely, surviving a scary moment when slipping on landing at the fourth, and asserted from two out to win with a bit in hand. He has an excellent record since being upped in distance and Donald McCain should be able to place him to further success. He jumps well enough to suggest that a Cheltenham Festival visit wouldn’t be out of the question.
THE FRIARY  ran a cracker on his chasing debut. He was outpaced to two out but stayed on well up the run-in. This was a significant step up on hurdles efforts and I know that his trainer has a decent opinion of this one. He looks a readymade winner of a staying chase.
YUROK was held from the last. He looked a little tired over the last two and might be suited by less taxing conditions, though this was decent effort and he probably ran to his 134 rating.

1.25 2m 6½f 85-110 Handicap Hurdle

TALKIIN SENCE revelled in the testing conditions. Challenging three out, he led two out and then came clear comfortably.  He has since been shunted up to 115 following a close second at Ayr and life now looks tougher.
SOLIS ran to his form in second but is not a prolific winner.
RAGGIO’S BOY  produced a fair effort in third, leading for much of the way but swiftly left behind from two out. Others behind found the conditions beyond them, notably BENE LAD and CHARLIE BUCKET, while CAUGHT IN THE ACT’s commitment to the job seems in question.

1.55 2m ½f Class 4 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

A walk in the park for LITTLE GLENSHEE, coming off the back of a creditable second in much better company at Haydock. Leading all the way she saw off poor opposition with a the minimum of fuss, beating the runner-up by 15 seconds.
PAINTED TAIL made an effort before two out and has chances of finding a small hurdle race once handicapped, but the rest look very poor.

2.30 2m 7 ½ f 98-120 Handicap Chase

ROLECARR goes well around here and found an event where all of the runners seemed handicapped to their mark or beyond. This was the first time he has run in this class for a while and he will now have to take on tougher opposition after a twelve length victory. I would oppose a repeat win.
OR DE GRUGY looks now on a level reflecting his abilities, had every chance and was held from two out. He continues in sound enough form and could still have a chance in a slightly lesser contest.
SUPER ALLY’s last winning mark was 102 and he has struggled off higher since. He wasn’t disgraced in third here but may need to be eased a little more, or certainly pitted against inferior opponents.
CLASSIC CUT led until two out and then faded. Like a few of James Ewart’s inmates of late, he didn’t see out his race.
The other three runners were pulled up. Neither OIL BURNER nor HAWAII KLASS handled the conditions, while there must be a question as to whether AND THE MAN retains his ability after a period off the course.

3.00 2m 1f 91-117 Handicap Chase

Bearing in mind the above remark then Sod’s Law dictated that James Ewart’s SACRE TOI should stay on strongly to win this contest. Previously trained by Anna Bramall, and still in her ownership, Sacre Toi took charge on the run-in. Recent evidence suggests he’s best at or near the minimum trip over fences, indeed his record at 2m 1f or shorter now reads 1121. He could follow up.
ROS CASTLE was not disgraced in second and may have run into a well handicapped sort. He can step up on this before long.
SNAPPING TURTLE ran a fair race, but is being let down by a sketchy fencing technique. I’d like to see him running in less testing ground which would require less effort for jumping. He kept on from three out without ever  threatening, but I believe there is a handicap chase in him.
SADDLE PACK was held up and never got into the race. He passed two late on to finish fourth.

3.30 2m 2f 107-120 Handicap Hurdle

STOPPED OUT has been eased in the ratings of late and that allowed him to run in a lower class than he has since 2010. He made all and quickened two out to win unchallenged. He’s gone up 13lbs for the win, rather harsh as it puts him on a career high mark and this race was not over-competitive. I can’t see him winning off 133.
SHANEN kept on for second but was well held. This was a sound enough effort on his handicap debut and it is not unreasonable to suggest there is better to come.
GYMDOLI, a long priced winner at Hexham, RHYMERS HA’ and SAVEIRO were put in their place comprehensively. CIRCUS CLOWN was very disappointing and in trouble before four out.

MUSSELBURGH – Tuesday January 1st 2013

Going – Soft (Good to Soft in places)

Musselburgh welcomed in the New Year with a decent crowd, the mild weather conditions proving very helpful on that front. A decent quality race meeting is mixed with the New Year Sprint, a professional sprint handicap event of which this was the 144th renewal.

Sixteen-year-old BEN ROBBINS, signalled up by your correspondent when winning the Youths event here a year ago, won the Sprint with just a bit to spare. He was impressive in the semi-finals, or cross-ties as they are known, Robbins wore down those with bigger starts to win by a couple of metres. Gemma Nicol made a brave effort to hold on from her advanced mark, in an attempt to become the first female winner, leading until a few metres from the line.
Robbins is a member of the Scottish Youth Rugby squad and suggests he would prefer to pursue his rugby career in the long term. In the short term he needs to reduce a 400m best time of 49.11 down to 48 seconds if he is to qualify for the European Youth Athletics Championships. Given that he is clearly improving, then I reckon it will be worth him holding his rugby ambitions for a while yet.

12.35 2m totepool First Footer Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

Auteuil Listed hurdle winner ROCKAWANGO was made favourite early for this contest then easing in the market. He needed the race to my eye and faded quickly after leading to just before two out. The Auteuil contest isn’t working out well, but Rockawango jumped well enough in front and looks a chasing type for the future.
JONNY DELTA was another who looked a bit short of top fitness. He chased the leaders but couldn’t match the principles from three out and was one paced in fourth. He will come on for this and should produce better.
CAYMAN ISLANDS looked in decent nick in the paddock and stayed on well to win the contest. He hurdled neatly and there should be further opportunities under a penalty.
DOC’S LEGACY stepped up on his recent second, staying on from two out if not matching the winner. He is improving for hurdling experience and should win a race soon. He reversed course and distance form with BLADES LAD who was two keen early on and held from two out.
On his toes in the paddock, but a little awkward coming on to the course, LONE FOOT LADDIE kept on to fill fifth place and will be easier to place once he gains a handicap mark.

1.05 2m 4f Honest Toun Handicap Chase (119-136)

A slightly disappointing turn out of seven runners for a £20,000 pot, but this was an interesting contest nevertheless with a handful of types moving forward.
In the event the race was won by BOCCIANI who wouldn’t go down as the most reliable performer, but is plenty capable on his day. Always going well, he took charge from two out to win with a bit in hand. He’s not guaranteed to repeat this form.
NICEONEFRANKIE led until four out and kept on to just hold second. He won over 2m 1f in March and might just be better at a shorter trip.
Stepped up in trip, SWIFT ARROW was held from two out and was left to battle out for second spot. He wasn’t stopping, so he appeared to get the trip and may just have found the slightly tougher class a bit beyond him.
The novice LETS GET SERIOUS faded from four out and 136b might be a tough mark for him at the moment.
BLENHEIM BROOK couldn’t muster the pace to challenge and looks in need of a step back up to three miles.
RED TANBER was beaten four out, though Bruce Mactaggart might now be able to ease him into a lower class if the handicapper gives some leeway.
EUROHUNTER was beaten a long way out and has been disappointing in two chases. Willie Amos’s stable isn’t firing on all cylinders at this time.

1.40 totepool Handicap Hurdle (103-138)

There were questions marks against a number of the field here and only a handful were in the mix three out.
Course winner MONETARY FUND put behind a mistake riddled performance at Cheltenham to forge clear on the run-in.  He looked nicely set up for this race and it wouldn’t surprise me if Venetia Williams looks for another opportunity at Mussleburgh.
POWERFUL AMBITION ran a cracker from 9lbs wrong in the weights, staying on to take second. He benefitted from the step up in trip and an ease in class at this distance will give him a fine opportunity.
IMPERIAL VIC ran a decent race on his handicap bow, making the pace until before the last then held on the run-in. He’s basically been bought as a chaser, but chatting to one of his joint owners I got the impression third was a shade disappointing. He should progress though and will be a nexciting prospect when going chasing.
SOLWAY SAM plugged on for fourth but is well exposed, LOS NADIS dropped away three out and is off his game, while RYTON RUNNER was disappointing and might need slightly faster ground to be seen at his best.

2.15 totepool Happy New Year Handicap Chase (85-115)

This was a contest where not many could be counted out, but on the other hand making a strong case for a winner was not easy!
Course specialist EVERAARD , equipped with first time tongue-tie, led and then found plenty under pressure to record a fifth course win. He goes much better here than anywhere else and connections will be searching the race pro0gramme for staying chase or hurdling opportunities at the remaining meetings here this winter.
Pointing winner FOOT THE BILL put in a decent effort off a six-month break. He raced prominently, stayed on well up the straight and should be capable of winning a similar contest.
ANGEL SUN, bandaged on his hind legs, came to have every chance three out but couldn’t match the first two on the run-in. He’s shown enough on his early chasing efforts to suggests there’s a small race for him before long.
EXOTIC MAN may well have been unlucky. Travelling well to the home turn, he stumbled badly as the runners straightened up for home, losing a few lengths. The winner then jumped across him and he couldn’t make an impact from three out. He jumps soundly and should see out this trip given a trouble free run.
PENA DORADA faded in the straight and may not see out this trip, his two wins to date having been at or near the minimum trip.
LOCAL PRESENT led early but was left behind in the final straight. His wins have come on good ground or faster so he may be worth bearing in mind if we have a dry spell.

2.45 2m totepool Hogmaneigh Handicp Hurdle (114-131)

Swing Bowler is perfectly bred to win this sort of event, the David Pipe trained mare being by Galileo out of prolific hurdles winner Lady Cricket. Presented looking very fit for her seasonal debut, she drew clear from the last to beat a decent field of handicappers. She looks one who could make her mark in better handicap company, possibly the ‘whatever the Schweppes is called these days ‘ hurdle or maybe the Imperial Cup. A visit back here for the Scottish County Hurdle could conceivably be a possibility.
INGLEBY SPIRIT came out best of the rest, chasing the well-handicapped winner without making an impression in the latter stages. This was only his ninth hurdle race and he may well have some improvement in him. Worth noting for a similar event in the coming weeks.
DONTPAYTHEFERRYMAN  ran his usual honest race, keeping on determinedly once passed in the straight. He goes well here, winning three times over course and distance in early 2012, and I wouldn’t count out another course win if his trainer can get him in against slightly lesser company. He didn’t look madly keen when sent over fences and I’m sure he’s better off in handicap hurdles.
ULTIMATE stayed on from well back for fourth and is at least hinting at a return to decent form. His trainer ran four here and will presumably continue to take multiple shots at such events.
JET MASTER was presented with is toughest task to date and could never dominate as he likes. He did however battle on under pressure for fifth place and was not disgraced. There might be handicap hurdle opportunities on the Scottish circuit in less competitive company.
Make a note of RUMBLE OF THUNDER who ran an encouraging sixth here.  Steadily sliding down the handicap, he needs slightly better ground and in the right circumstances looks poised to run a big race.
The McCain runners looked very fit but were well beaten, AGENT ARCHIE making no impact from three out while CALL BACK ran no sort of race. He’s probably harshly handicapped, but he was beaten so far that there may have been something amiss.

3.20 2m totepool Handicap Hurdle (91-114)

This was a contest full of exposed sorts and under-achievers, but won in convincing style by the improving HOME RUN. Shaken up to lead three out, he wandered about a bit when in front but produced extra to see off a persistent runner-up. His trainer needs to exploit a latest mark of 111 if he can because he must surely go up a fair bit more in time.
TAKAATUF produced a good deal better than before to push the winner to extra effort. He doesn’t seem particularly reliable having both pleased and disappointed for this yard since arriving. He’s not sure to replicate this effort next time.
ACADEMY is hinting at fulfilling early promise over hurdles. Racing prominently, he kept on from two out for third place and may pick up a minor handicap.
PHASE SHIFT was a fair fourth on only his fourth hurdling effort.
KING BREX was reported as having sulked. He has ability but is quite adept at disguising it, as are a few of the others out with the washing such as PETE, WEETFROMTHECHAFF and the capable but enigmatic BOB’S DREAM. Just keep the latter in mind if the Amos finds some form as he is still plenty good enough to win at this level if he cares to put it in.