KELSO – Saturday March 2nd
Going – Soft, Good to Soft in places
The ground had dried out somewhat for Kelso’s feature races of the year. However, it was still quite tacky and the course looked rather tired and will benefit from a good summer.
1.55 2m ½f Terry Frame Joiners Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)
There were a right bunch of allsorts for this contest and a few are unlikely to trouble the judge in the near future. In the event the race was fought about between the two form horses.
SUPREME ASSET, possibly benefitting from a drop back in trip, wore down the favourite Ubaldo Des Menhies on the flat after the latter made a hash of the last hurdle. Turned out looking typically well by the McCain stable he put in a prolonged challenge from two out and got on top when the second was flat footed.
UBALDO DES MENHIES disputed or made the running but was headed when battering the last. A winner at Fakenham there should be another hurdle in him round a sharp track.
BALLYBROE was the only one of the remainder to seriously attempt to match the first two. He was held from two out but kept on and looks as if he will make up into a chaser.
TRUST THOMAS looked a bit headstrong in the paddock. A decent pace probably suited him but having the first three to two out he could offer no more.
HOT SPICE stayed on from well back to take fifth place and should be well set up for handicapping.
OSCAR LATEEN made a little progress into sixth on his debut when taking at fall three out. He looks likely to make a staying chaser given time.
DE BEE KEEPER was never in the race but he will need further and is likely to get into handicaps on a reasonable mark.
2.30 2m 1f Cyril Alexander Memorial Novices’ Chase (Class 4)
NO PLANNING disputed the lead and then kicked on form the eighth. Shadows lengthen had moved to challenge at the last but it looked to me as if No Planning would have held his measure. He’s run well enough in handicaps and should remain competitive in that company.
SHADOWS LEGTHEN moved to challenge at the last but hit it and unseated. I felt he had got as near as he was going to. This was a fair effort though and he can win a similar contest in the coming weeks.
GRIS LORD was held up off a strong pace and patience told as one came down and another weakened to hand him second place.
HOUSTON DYNIMO helped set a strong pace but was out on his feet approaching the last and could barely raise a canter by the line. He was reported distressed after the race.
CRAICNEASY is a poor performer who completed in his own time for fourth.
KING KALIUM was well outclassed here and reported as having bled from the nose for the second race in a row. A watching brief is advised.
3.05 2m 1f Rutherford Handicap Chase (88-113)
Plenty of flaws in the character of many of the runners here and the improving SACRE TOI took advantage to win by a long way. He jumped well and was not in any trouble once turned for home. The handicapper will punish him for this win, but he is better than this class on this evidence.
ENDEAVOR is useful if he cares to exert himself but unreliable. He kept on from well back for second place, overtaking LORD OF DRUMS who is capable of winning a race but needs further than this.
BOB’S DREAM looked as well as I’ve seen him for some while, but he faded after chasing the winner to two out.
PRINCE TAM couldn’t get to the front and made no impact.
KING BREX was always struggling and Kit Alexander reported a slipped saddle. Hiss mount showed he has ability when second to stablemate over hurdles at Musselburgh, but doesn’t appear inclined to show it too often.
WELL OILED was struggling by the eighth and pulled up.
ORMUS belted the third and lost his action. The screens went up but he broke free and proved difficult to catch. Led back to the stables he appeared to have recovered from the knock.
3.40 2m 2f totepool Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)
The feature event of Kelso’s season, and one that has thrown up some decent performers in recent seasons.
MWALESHI had found himself held in competitive handicaps of late. However, he got to the front here, jumping economically, and kept finding more when challenged by a talented runner-up. He’s improved no end this season and is as game as they come. I would presume Sue Smith will look for handicaps as he’s tough enough to take a decent contest in that sphere.
EDUARD, Nicky Richards’s choice over Duke Of Navan for this race, raced handily and came to challenge from two out but couldn’t get past the winner. He couldn’t be faulted for effort and there should be a decent novices’ contest for him this spring.
Bearing in mind his rider commented after BRICK RED’s second at Musselburgh that he needed a sharp two miles, right-hand track and decent ground, it seemed a strange choice of race to go over 2m 2f on soft, left-handed. It could be that choices are limited with Cheltenham coming up but he didn’t have conditions in his favour and was beaten two out.
BALLYBEN was held from three out but wasn’t disgraced on his second hurdles run. He can win in less taxing company.
ONLY ORSENFOOLSIES might have been expected to have got in the mix here, but he faded tamely in the straight. His two wins have been in testing conditions and softer than this may be the key, though I’d have expected him to get closer.
GUMDOLI was outclassed in sixth but earned over £300 for finishing.
4.15 2m 7½f totepool Premier Chase (Listed)
A cracking contest that justified the decision to upgrade this race from Class 2 to Listed level. I watched the race from the in-field down by the last fence.
The two shortest in the market dipped out here. HARRY TOPPER unseated at the ninth, possibly distracted by a huge leap from the leader Garleton, Timmy Murphy taking a knock that saw him miss his remaining ride. Second favourite BOLD SIR BRIAN looked to have had his confidence dented by his heavy fall at Cheltenham, making mistakes in rear and pulled up at the thirteenth when Peter Buchanan realised it wasn’t it wasn’t his day. Harry Topper may head to Aintree for consolation, but it wouldn’t surprise me if bold Sir Brian is given a break until the autumn.
ALWAYS RIGHT returned to form at the right time with the Scottish Grand National the most obvious option. Held up in rear he moved steadily into contention from four out, challenged at the last and just pegged back the long-time leader on the run-in. This was encouraging after a spell in the doldrums.
I had heard a story that GARLETON had had some leg trouble, but there was little evidence of it here as he led and put in some fine leaps. He stood off a mile at ninth but cleared the fence spectacularly. He kept producing from the home turn and put in another fine leap at the last, battling all the way if just outpointed. He should pick up another race before long in this sort of form and is as good as ever at the age of 12.
BALLABRIGGS, once again aimed at the Grand National, was bang there at the last but one paced on the run-in. He’s going the right way in National preparations, but I feel that he’ll find a few too good in the Aintree contest.
YES TOM ran a decent race. He was given a clout when Harry Topper swerved no unseating but remained in contention, giving way before the last and finishing fourth. He’s probably better at 2m 4f and that’s worth bearing in mind in the near future.
AURORA ENCORE lost touch from four out and was well beaten. He’s aimed at the Grand National, but his form has regressed significantly since last April and it’s hard to see him making a mark at that level.
GOING WRONG, bandaged in front as he has been previously, raced prominently early but was beaten in the final mile. He won a couple of times at Sedgefield last spring but can’t get into races there off a current mark of 135.
4.50 2m 6½f Kingdom Taverns Handicap Hurdle (85-105)
An ordinary event with most runners well exposed.
GREY AREA appears to have thrived in Tristan Davidson’s yard and picked up a second win on a second stable appearance. He didn’t win in Ireland, but the Cumbrian air seems to have benefitted him. He made all the running and asserted from two out here. A four length win will mean he can still race in this class and in this form he should win again.
ROYAL DEAL, five times a pointing winner in 2012, closed to two out but could make no further impact on the winner. He should be capable of winning a similar event and, though there’s not much of him, is surely worth a try over fences given his unbeaten record between the flags.
SOLIS stormed up the run-in in not untypical fashion, without ever looking like winning. He has plenty of ability but it’s a devilish job to get him to produce it in the right place at the right time.
CAPITAL VENTURE looked well on his return following a curtailed 2011/12 season. Held up off the pace he made steady headway under riding from the eighth but never got a blow in at the leaders. He’s a chasing type but is more than capable of winning a staying hurdle in the meantime.
UNEX CANALETTO ran a fair race no handicapping debut. Making headway after the seventh he could not make an impact after the turn for home. He’s shown enough in four hurdles to suggest there is a race in him in time.
SCIMON TEMPLAR couldn’t follow up a promising effort behind Coverholder and faded inside the final half mile having raced prominently.
POLITICAL PADDY acquired blinkers for the first time at the age of 11 and they brought about no improvement. I don’t particularly like seeing blinkers on jumpers as they need to see as much as possible, but what on earth are they are expected to achieve on an 11-year-old with plenty of mileage on the clock?
5.25 2m 7½f CGA Foxhunters’ Chase (Class 6)
Veteran TARTAN SNOW had these covered on official ratings, has been in fair heart of late, and obliged, by challenging two out and taking control from the last. He has tendencies to jumping errors but there are events in this class where he can continue to make his mark.
SUPREME BUILDER ran a good better than his last run here, outpointed in the latter stages but keeping on for second.
OCARINA is a fair performer on his day and he can jump fields into submission, but he’s always been hit or miss. A recent winner between the flags, he was held from two out here but ran a sound race.
RED KINGDOM was struggling in rear for much of the race but stayed on past beaten opponents for fourth.
WATERSKI had stones to find with the others no official figures, so fifth place was no disgrace having raced near the pace for much of the way. It’s difficult to expect any more as he’s basically slow.
BACK ON THE ROAD won a chase at Roscommon in August, but has generally gone backwards in the last two years. He was never in the hunt here on rules debut for the Alexanders.
HIGHLAND CATHEDRAL would likely have contested second but for unseating two out when making progress. He demolished part of the final fence when loose!
TOMMYSTEEL, a winner here last season, was disappointing and well beaten by three out, pulling up in the straight.