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 totepool.com 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.