PERTH – Saturday August 17th
Going – Good
Hurdles run-in 170 yards, shorter than usual.
The rain which swept across Scotland in the morning cleared as I drove over the hill toward Perth and the sun was out by the time I arrived at Scone Palace Park. There followed a breezy but bright afternoon, favourable enough for a crowd of around 8,000 to a popular fixture now in its fourth year.
Field sizes were not perhaps what the course would have liked, but with Market Rasen also racing there’s a limit to the number of horse to go round. In conversation with Clerk of the Course Harriet Graham midway through the meeting, local trainer Nick Alexander suggested that the problem was that there simply aren’t enough trainers up and running at this time of year with the resources to travel to two meetings. He suggested there were maybe no more than 10 trainers who might be in a position to visit both meetings. I noted that Perth regular Gordon Elliott spent the afternoon in the company of fellow Irish trainer Paul Nolan, suggesting that the two may have pooled resources for the Scottish raid.
3.00 2m 4½f totepool Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (65-110)
JIMMY THE HAT was disappointing here when Gordon Elliott’s only runner at the Perth festival, and fared no better at Killarney three months ago. Elliott couldn’t offer any explanation to the stewards for his charge’s improvement, though those who backed this one form 5/1 into 2/1 may have had an inkling of what was to come. Always travelling well, Jimmy The Hat challenged two out and asserted from the approach to the last. The form looks solid enough as the second is a good marker and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the winner return here in September.
FAIRWOOD MASSINI, a strong sort who won over fences recently, set a decent pace and stuck to his task to finish well clear of the third. He looks capable of a handicap hurdle win before long.
TANTAMOUNT was on his toes in the paddock, generally a negative sign in my experience. He was outpaced from three out and plugged on for third. He won a maiden here recently and has time on his side.
DICK DUNDEE has the look of chaser. He made a winning debut in that sphere at Wexford and should be suited by a return to fences. He jumped neatly and travelled up to the leader going well before two out, but dropped away rather tamely after that.
On a disappointing afternoon for the stable, Donald McCain’s J T’AIME raced rather too freely and his chance was gone by three out.
3.35 2m 4 ½ f Special Piping Materials (Scotland) Novices’ Handicap Chase (84-110)
This wasn’t a strong contest, with one of the main fancies running no race. DIDDLEY DEE has been an iffy jumper at times but did the job well enough here, held up early on before joining issue four out, leading two out and staying on well enough. I suspect he would be one to oppose in a bigger field which might put his jumping under pressure.
MERRY MINSTER was held up and stayed on steadily down the straight without ever getting to the winner. This was her best effort for a while.
LORD OF DRUMS led but was stopped in his tracks when dropping his hind legs in the water (eighth fence). He did get back to the head of affairs, but had nothing left when headed at the last.(Lucinda Russell reports that Lord of Drums received a tendon injury and was subsequently operated on by the vet. He apparently seems on the mend now but clearly had an excuse for the poor run and will presumably have an enforced rest)
GEORGE WOOLF was equipped with a cross noseband, Australian noseband, tongue-tie, visor and a ‘bar bit’, not at all a good sign. Although disputing, he jumped poorly and was beaten before three out.
D J MILAN, who has had chances previously and fluffed them, raced wide on the stands’ bend and struggled thereafter before being pulled up before three out. He has won races but looks easy to beat at this time.
4.10 2m ½ f Fonab Castle Hotel Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)
A weak novices’ hurdle, just the sort of race that Gordon Elliott is so good at hoovering up here. His runner BAYAN led before the last and was ridden out to see off his only serious rival, despite carrying a double penalty. He ran well at Galway on the flat and there should be other opportunities along the way.
BUTNEY ROCK led to the last, but was in front on sufferance and readily held. He should win a hurdle or two though and will be suited by a step back up in trip.
ZAMBEZI TIGER plugged on into a remote third, clear of HIGH ON A HILL, neither offering a huge amount of encouragement. The other runner, JACK KANE, struggled from halfway and was pulled up.
4.45 2m 4½f CPS Handicap Hurdle (107-122)
TOYE NATIVE has progressed nicely since going hurdling and won this with a little more in hand than the half-length margin might suggest. She was challenged at the last but was getting on top by the line and is a progressive sort who can be followed.
BRIGHT ABBEY looks a decent acquisition for Dianne Sayer and is well capable of winning in similar company. Ridden to challenge at the last, he was held close home but is a consistent sort who lost nothing in defeat.
THE TRACEY SHUFFLE, an angular sloped backed gelding, wouldn’t win any prizes in a beauty contest. However, on his day he is competitive and set a decent pace as he does on his going days. He’s dropping to a workable mark now and might take an opportunity if allowed an uncontested lead.
LOS NADIS wasn’t far away in fourth. He came with a chance two out but couldn’t make an impact on the flat. WALTZ DARLING was held in fifth, not far away but never threatening the leaders.
Sadly we lost Lucy Normile’s PARSON’S PUNCH who suffered a broken leg on the bend into the back straight. BESCOT SPRINGS slipped up at the same time, but returned sound, and the two incidents occurred independently. The bends were sanded after as a precaution, but there was no evidence otherwise to suggest a problem.
5.15 2m ½f STV Appeal Summer Champion Hurdle (Limited Handicap 119-146) for the Governor’s Cup
A disappointing turn out of six for a decent prize, though I note it has dropped from £24,000 to the winner to £15,000 since Overturn won the first running. The race was won by arguably the best hurdler of the summer, SEA LORD notching up a fifth consecutive win.
Leading two out, he gave the last hurdle a rattle, which stopped him a bit, but he found more than enough on the run to the line. If the ground doesn’t get two soft I would imagine that John Ferguson will have his eye on a decent prize or two in the autumn.
NOW THIS IS IT was third in the contest two years ago and clearly retains that ability. He was given a chance at the last but found the winner too strong. His record at Perth is now 111232U2 and his is saved for summer campaigns.
SHADOW CATCHER chased the leaders to the last but made no impact on the run-in. This was a creditable effort from a gelding that was fourth in the Vincent O’Brien hurdle last March and is decent ammunition in competitive handicap hurdles.
OUTRAGEOUS REQUEST was dropped in at the deep end after his previous win. Outpaced from two out, he wasn’t totally disgraced, remains on a workable mark and will find easier opportunities.
AAZIF, in great from for the McCain yard of late, was held form two out and was rather disappointing.
HAWKHILL, coming back after a 246-day layoff, showed up well early but faded from three out. He should presumably come on for the outing.
5.50 2m 4½f Pipe and Piling Supplies Handicap Chase (104-123)
A competitive handicap chase with most of the runners in decent form of late.
SERGEANT PINK has a reputation as not being the most reliable of animals, though he seems to have turned over a new leaf in recent times. He looked spot on for this contest, travelled well throughout and took charge once leading three out. Photographer John Grossick, a man who has forgotten more about this sport than most of us have ever known, commented after the race that he couldn’t how well Sergeant Pink travelled. There’s always the chance he might sulk again, but surely there are more races to be won with this improving seven-year-old?
SCOTCH WARRIOR would have been helped by the rain that fell as he ideally needs a bit of cut. Under the circumstances this course specialist ran a cracking race in second place and I’d presume his trainer will eye up races at the course in September. He chased the leader from three out but could make no impression.
QUITO DU TRESOR had every chance in the straight but was held from before the last fence. He hasn’t won since November 2011 but has run some decent races of late.
ACAPULCO GOLD was outpaced four out and couldn’t get back to the leaders after that. He has been running well in Ireland and has time on his side, so we may not have seen the best of him yet.
BE MY DEPUTY struggled from three out and wasn’t at his best.
STROBE set the pace but had lost his place before four out. He was severely tightened up on the bend and virtually put out of the race and pulled up. He had a hard task in this company but wouldn’t be without a chance if dropped in class.
VALLEYOFMILAN seemed to drop himself out approaching the stands on the first circuit and didn’t get into the race afterwards. This was final disappointment on the day for the McCain stable.
6.20 2m ½f STV Appeal Standard Open NH Flat Race (Class 5)
Not a race to get over excited about at first glance. The previous form on show didn’t amount to an awful lot and any prospects are likely to long term.
Ian Semple doesn’t have many National Hunt runners and scored his first ‘jumps’ winner since 2005-06 in the shape of BELLGROVE. Rather green when appearing in a couple of bumpers last term, the experience seemed to be the key as he raced prominently and stuck on sufficiently well to hold a single challenger. This was his dam’s first winner from seven foals.
The mare THIS THYNE JUDE looked as if she was auditioning for dressage in the paddock. She’s a ‘showy’ sort and very stoutly bred from the family of stable star Silver By Nature. Held up off the pace, she picked up pleasingly in the final three furlongs to make the winner pull out the stops. She will come into her own with a distance of ground and fences in the way, but this was a promising start for a mare with a bit of developing to do.
DONNA’S PRIDE was well backed here, but outpaced in the straight. She is well enough bred for jumping and the experience will do her good, but she may need some time.
EUROURMRLUCKY won a point in Ireland in March but that form hasn’t worked out to be anything special. He was a cheap buy subsequently. Having set the pace for a mile he was totally outpaced five furlongs out only to keep on again in the latter stages. He’ll need much more of a test than this to be seen at his best.
Irish-trained mare TILLERNOORA has proved clumsy in Irish points and was too slow to keep up here. Immediate prospects are bleak.