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.