MUSSELBURGH – Sunday February 3rd
Going – Good to Soft
Musselburgh Cheltenham Trials Day served up what was in all probability its best days racing since jumping started at the course in the late 80s. I suspect the average rating of runner on this card was the highest it has been at the course. The free draining ground resulted in going that most courses can only have dreamed of for the past few months. The crowd were treated to some excellent racing and a number of the runners here should figure at the Cheltenham or Aintree Festivals
1.00 Scottish Arkle Novices’ Chase (Class 3)
This race was added to the card due to the number of races lost in the previous days and weeks. It could be argued that the hors d’ouevres turned out the tastiest dish on offer as OVERTURN put on an exhibition of jumping untroubled by his opponents. In customary style he set up in determined fashion, jumping economically and accurately, went tanking past the stands first time and had the race won by the home turn. He is a ‘what you see is what you get’ performer, and 4/1 for the Arkle is giving nothing away, but anything that gets past him at Prestbury Park will know they have been in a race.
Donald McCain’s charge goes straight to Cheltenham as his trainer “couldn’t stand going through that again!” Overturn is an exhilarating performer and we have privileged to see him in Scotland on a half a dozen occasions.
TETLAMI chased in vain from the start and a serious blunder at the sixth fence left him too far adrift. He probably ran below his capabilities but his previous victory over Kie was decent form and he can get back to winning ways against less taxing opposition.
Irish pointing winner NEXT SENSATION was given a huge task on his chasing debut. Even trying keep within a furlong of the winner by the straight turned out to be too tough and he was a tired horse when coming down two out. He took an age to get up, but was walked back to the stables and seemed in fair shape. His sights need to be lowered significantly in the short term.
ASAID has ability to rate 136, but he’s quirky and dug his heels in at the start. He was walked back up the course and looks one to be wary of at present.
1.30 3m ½f Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial Novices’ Hurdle (Class 3)
This was a decent contest where all six runners could be given some sort of chance on their best form. A winner on his hurdling debut at Warwick, SUPERIOR QUALITY stepped up on that effort with an increase in trip. He challenged two out, led before the last and stayed on to hold the renewed effort of the second in the closing stages. He’s entered in the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and this run suggests he’s worth his place.
LORD WISHES is highly regard by James Ewart. He chased the leaders from two out, but could never get quite near enough to get in a blow. He hung a bit on the run-in, but a renewed challenge saw him get to within half a length of the winner at the line, having no trouble seeing out the trip. His rider Brian Hughes felt that he needs slightly quicker ground. He’s entered in a Class 2 hurdle here on February 13th, with the same options as the winner for Cheltenham. It depends on the ground, but I wonder whether he trainer might hold on for Aintree.
WITNESS IN COURT led until the last where a blunder put paid to his chance. He jumped well in the main. He’s not entered in the novice races at Cheltenham, but could be interesting if aimed at handicaps.
ACCORDING TO TREV was held from two out but if he ran anywhere near his best is a sound marker.
KRIS CROSS ran better than in his two previous runs. Although he won his bumper in heavy ground, I suspect the better surface here was a help to recover form. He was outpointed from two out, but this was a decent effort from one who will make up into a chaser next term.
AERIAL weakened from three out having raced prominently and was reported as having bled from the nose.
2.00 2m 4f Scottish Future Champions Novices’ Chase (Class 3)
Four decent chasers who may all be aimed at Cheltenham handicaps. This may prove a difficult race to make any judgements from, as it was run at a slow pace and indeed the runners stood still fro 10 -15 seconds before Harry Haynes kicked on aboard Attaglance.
The race was a sprint from the home turn and VIVA COLONIA was spot on at the last after all four had been in a line two out. He confirmed the good impression of his previous win here and the Grand Annual Chase is a possible target.
DESERT CRY was just held in the run to the line, but lost nothing in defeat. He saw out this trip well enough but may well be at his best allowed to bowl along at two miles.
ATTAGLANCE got a run on the others at the start and will have learned much from the chance to get his jumping in order. Significantly he matched the others when the chips were down, only to be run out of it after the last. A good effort and there should be a novice chase to be own with him before long.
TAP NIGHT was a shade disappointing, his jumping not as sharp as the others when the chips were down. The slow pace won’t have helped and he is better than the bare form here would suggest.
2.30 2m John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle (4yo) (Class 2)
This race lost some of it’s when KASHMIR PEAK stumbled and unseated at the sixth. The race hadn’t begun in earnest at this point. He’s 14/1 for the Triumph at Cheltenham which seems plenty short enough even given his two wins.
A strong eye catching sort, SAMETEGAL came clear from two out to win a shade cosily. He’s a best priced 33/1 for the Triumph which seems fair at this point.
DOCS LEGACY, a busy looking sort in the paddock, kept on from two out and performed at least to his mark in second. He’s run four solid races over hurdles and should find a race soon.
LONE FOOT LADDIE is going the right way and belied a starting price of 150/1 to finish third. He was doing some solid work down the straight and can win in less exalted company.
TIDAL WAY could make no impact down the straight. He was third in handicap last time and that would appear to be his sphere.
TITUS BOLT took them along to the sixth but gave way in the straight. On only his second run this wasn’t bad against decent opposition.
WAYNE MANOR was soon struggling and looked out of his depth on hurdling introduction.
3.00 2m John Smith’s Scottish Champion Chase Handicap (116-136) (For the Bowes-Lyon Trophy)
The field was a largely exposed bunch but the winner may turn out to be progressive.
A rangy sort, PRINCE OF DREAMS was a maiden in all disciplines going into this event but sprinted away from the opposition to win in decent style. Encouraged by the decent prize money Ed De Giles made the trip from Ledbury and it proved well worthwhile. Campaigned previously off higher weights in lower class, the lower weight seemed to be advantage and Prince Of Dreams may well go on to further victories in the coming weeks.
ANQUETTA, fourth in the Grand Annual last year, kept on after the winner if held. He will presumably go to Cheltenham once again and this effort was an encouraging seasonal debut.
CICERON had every chance two out but couldn’t raise his game any further. Looking in excellent fettle here, he’s a fine looking gelding in a distinctive ‘Venetia Williams mould’ and will continue to be competitive off his current mark.
DE BOITRON ran his best race for some time, confirming the current good health of the Ferdy Murphy yard. He led until weakening tow out, but fourth was sound enough and he’s another likely to be appearing at Cheltenham. That being said, he’s still 6lbs above his last winning mark and is on a long losing run.
QUITO DU TRESOR kept on up the straight but still looks below his best.
LUCKY LANDING looked a fizzy sort pre-race and took a keen hold once the action got underway. He had run himself out after the first in the straight. He got whacked up 32lbs in the handicap when beating Kings Grey in a novice chase last spring and is struggling off his current mark, with the handicapper seemingly not keen to relent.
SWIFT ARROW was never really going with any fluency and may have reached a ceiling on a mark of 130.
RED TANBER remains out of sorts and now needs a drop in class to regain his enthusiasm. Off 116 here, he’ll be dropped again which would bring 0-115 handicaps back on the agenda.
STORMY WEATHER dropped away quickly from five out and it was just not his day.
3.30 2m John Smith’s Scottish County Handicap Hurdle (113-137)
BRICK RED looked very well here, and from his coat you can see how this chestnut was named. He continues in fine form, seeing off a field of decent handicappers. There was plenty of pace on here and, despite whacking the last hurdle, was driven out to win with a bit to spare. Aidan Coleman commented that he’s best on a sharp right handed track and needs decent ground, though Aintree may be a possibility. If it dried out in the coming weeks I’d say the Imperial Cup wouldn’t be out of the equation.
CONSTANT CONTACT made an effort from three out but, despite staying on well enough, couldn’t challenge the winner. He was well held in softer ground on his last two runs and this better ground is the key. A current mark of 130 looks exploitable in the right circumstances.
One to take from this is the lightly raced CALAF who put in good work in the closing stages to take third place. It takes time to adjust to this tougher company, but he performed creditably and a mark of 113 might look way too generous before long. He did win a flat seller on heavy, but his best form has been on much better round that that.
INGLEBY SPIRIT stayed on from two out and ran near to his form in fourth. He now goes for Betfair Hurdle and, though high enough in the handicap, will give it his best.
DONTPAYTHEFERRYMAN goes very well and gave it his best shot in this company. He was not able to dominate as he would like but stuck at his task from three out.
MWALESHI has zoomed up the handicap in recent months. He led until headed before the last and faded from that point. Sixth place might not look so special but if he’s able to dictate in a race then his current mark may not stop him.
4.00 2m 4f CGS Scottish Foxhunters’ Chase (Class 3)
CREEVYTENNANT Irish pointing career was nothing to shout about, but he’s done nicely since crossing the Irish Sea and made it 2 out of 3 under rules with a comfortable win. Jumping well under an assured front-running ride from Connor Shoemark, he wasn’t in any danger down the straight. There were conflicting post-race signals from connections. Creevytennant has won over 3m 2f at Cheltenham, so a return for the Foxhunters would be possible. However, he does need decent ground and could just as well be held back for the better hunter chases later in the season.
MOON OVER MIAMI stills retains enthusiasm and just held on for second place, having looked a real picture pre-race. He may find a 2m 4f hunter chase in the north.
This trip on the ground would have been too sharp for CLOUDY LANE though he pushed hard for second place. He is entered in the National, but anno domini might be catching a bit at that level and a bid to follow up last season’s Aintree Foxhunters’ win would seem more realistic.
PISTOLET NOIR is not showing the form he did for Paul Nicholls. He was beaten four out here and signs are not encouraging, though he did win a soft event at Towcester last season over the minimum trip and seeking out short trip hunter chases may be the way to go.
ISLAND LIFE has done well hunter chasing but found three too good here. Steve Flook should be able to find easier opportunities nearer to his Leominster base.
OAKLANDS BOBBY is a fair pointer but needs sights lowered under rules, while diminutive mare THE WIFES PET tried hard but wasn’t good enough to keep up. Her win was on good to firm ground and it may be best to seek out opportunities in moderate company when the ground dries.
4.30 2m 4f John O’Malley 80th Birthday Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (108-133)
SALUBRIOUS brought forward some decent form from more competitive races. He asserted with something to spare from two out and this lightly race gelding could be one with a chance in one of the handicaps at Cheltenham.
LOS NADIS was much better back over hurdles and ran a cracker of a race in second place. He raced prominently and then went on turning for home. He had all bar the winner off the bridle but couldn’t hold the progressive salubrious. If Jim Goldie keeps Los Nadis to hurdles he will win a handicap as he is on a workable mark.
DINERS ran his best race for a good while, staying on nicely for third. His target will likely be a handicap chase at Cheltenham and he seems in good heart.
AGGLESTONE ROCK led until giving way approaching three out. He plugged on for fourth and was not disgraced. He’s run on the flat and over hurdles since April 2010 when he won his last chase. He’s 3 from 5 over fences, jumped well when I saw him and it would be nice to see Philip Kirby give him another chance over the bigger obstacles, assuming there’s no ailment restricting his jumping.
Nicky Henderson’s BARENGER had every chance here and wasn’t good enough on the day. His previous decent run was in heavy ground and a bit more cut may suit.
Winner of two novices’ hurdles, SMADYNIUM couldn’t cope with this opposition. He pulled tow hard and was beaten three out. He’s better than this though and will be competitive at this level in time.