Sunday, 23 March 2014

Kelso - March 22nd

KELSO – Saturday March 22nd
Going – Good, Good to soft in places

A bit of a nip in the air, but plenty of sunshine and a pleasant enough day.

I had a brisk walk around the chase course and found the turf in pretty decent nick for this time of the season, the rails having been moved out on the bends to provide better ground. Down the far side of the chase track the better ground was middle to outside, and there was the usual patch of softer ground in the dip before the last. Hurdles run in was about as short as it is likely to be at around 170 yards.

1.30 2m ½f Abbey Tool and Gauge Handicap Hurdle (103-115)
A moderate contest to open the card with a number of exposed performers taking those with only a few middling runs on their record.

CAPTAIN BROWN set a decent pace here and Brian Hughes kicked on round the final bend. His mount was coming to the end of his tether by the last and took a tired fall, although he may still have held on if standing up. The screens went up and there was a ten minute wait before the winded Captain Brown recovered and appeared to a big cheer from the crowd. He was taken back in the horse ambulance but I suspect that was no more than a precaution.
KEENELAND had steadily made ground on the leader, though wasn’t assured of victory when left in the lead. This was a step up on his Sedgefield run which would have been needed after a 21-month lay-off and there’s a fair chance of a bit better to come. 12/1 price was a surprise in this company as he was turned out looking a picture and had proven in the past that he had ability to take this sort of contest.
OVERPRICED pushed the winner all the way, performing well off a break which she has done in the past. Previous pattern suggests a mare who is at her best in spring and summer.
SPITZ kept on but never looked any better than fourth best until the leader came down. The 2m 2f around here might suit as he kept on to the line.
DAMASCUS STEEL could make no impression from two out, but got nearer than in recent outings. He ran well in the spring last season and was a winner at Hexham.
RHYMERS Ha’ seems an awkward cuss and stayed on having been off the bridle for much of the race.
Ex-American flat race PULPITARIAN disappointed once again. Provided there’s nothing physically wrong it could be just time required to adjust to jumping.

2.00 3m 2f Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase (118-142) Handicap Chase

A decent contest with Channel 4 finally acknowledging that Kelso was worth an airing on terrestrial television.

SCOTSWELL has run some decent races this season against testing opposition and rewarded connections in determined style. Leading for much of the race and jumping well, he was hard pressed from two out but found more and was going clear again on the run-in. The Scottish National is a possible target, though the well endowed novices’ handicap chase on the same card.
FENTARA raced rear division for much of the race but stayed on from the final bend without ever quite getting to the game winner. She only has a single chase win to her name but she is game and generally gives her running.
GULLINBURSTI came with every chance two out and wasn’t far down at the last, but could offer no more on the flat. He has a good record coming off a break.
IMPERIAL VIC raced up with the pace, but was tapped for speed from four out. He showed his honesty in keeping on from that point but never threatened the first three. Feedback from connections is that he may just be best when settled in an uncontested lead. The target had been the Scottish National but that’s likely to be missed for this season, the novices’ handicap on the same card now a possible.
THE PANAMA KID chased the leaders and then weakened from two out. He won off 135 here in 2011, but a mark of 124 now seems a bit stiff.
NO PLANNING was well held from four out and is another that may well be held after a recent win.
SYDNEY PAGET was disappointing, dropping away from the fifteenth and soon pulled up. He jumps wins have all come on soft and heavy and it’s likely this ground was too quick.
ISLA PEARL FISHER was bumped up three pounds for trundling around in the wake of Long Run and Knockara Beau, but since the same handicapper saw fit to drop Green Flag a single pound for a decent fourth at the Cheltenham, then one does seriously wonder if the man is on the same planet as the rest of us. Nick alexander’s charge was never travelling on this occasion, but 129 looks more than high enough for an eleven-year-old.
SERGEANT PINK is decent on his day but quirky and decided enough was enough early on the final circuit. He refused at the thirteenth fence and deposited Tony Kelly on the turf.

2.30 3m 3f Bentley Homes Handicap Hurdle (118-142)

There aren’t many hurdle races over this sort of distance and this would be one of the better ones.

This was just up the street of a rejuvenated LIE FORRIT. He jumped superbly up front and kept on determined as the cavalry closed up the straight. A popular winner for local owners McNeill and Gillies, the latter mother of much missed Campbell Gillies. I would presume Aintree will be targeted, though a soft surface would be required.
NEPTUNE EQUESTER stays all day and did finish in Neptune Collonges’s National, though he has been better over hurdles of late. Having been held up he stayed on relentlessly up the straight and would not have need much further to prevail. A stiff test is essential.
LACKAMON is better handicapped over hurdles than fences and was another closing to the line. He needs this sort of test of which there are few at his level over hurdles.
QUEL ELITE runs some fair races without winning often. I assume he has not looked comfortable schooling over fences as he has not been tried in staying chases.
ARCTIC COURT was never in position to threaten. He has won here before but has two ways of running.
DROP OUT JOE attempted to match the winner but distress signals were evident with a mile to go and he lived up to his name. He’s better than this while another southern challenger WHO OWNS ME ran no sort of race. James Reveley was hard at work early on and gave up the struggle before three out.

3.05 2m 1f Ashleybank Investments Reg and Bettie Tweedie (118-134)

KIE barely took off at the third, demolishing a section of the fence and putting Wilson Renwick in hospital with back injuries. Kie gets away with the odd howler, but he walked through the fence on this occasion. The fence was omitted on the final circuit.
JET MASTER was given some hope as he was not hammered by the handicapper for his facile win here last time. Ridden with restraint once again he was brought through to challenge two out. He led before the last but seemingly idled a bit once in front and had to be rousted to maintain the advantage. Picking off the field from a strong pace seems best for him. The first pair were well clear and future prospects depend on his subsequent treatment in the ratings.
UN GUET APENS ran a decent race, leading briefly two out and making Jet Master pull out all the stops.
STORMIN EXIT made progress to lead three out but then weakened from two out.
IMJOEKING was outpaced to the eighth and an effort to two out was in vain.
STAGECOACH PEARL set off at a merry pace in front but was spent by three out and is regressing.
ROCKAWANGO, well below form of late, was never going.

3.40 2m 2f DG Pryde Limited Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

KILGEFIN STAR needs further than this, and will make up into a chaser in time, but Danny Cook made this a real test on the day of his comeback from a broken leg. His main pursuer looked up against it when coming down three out and the Michael Smith trained ex-Irish pointer saw the race out well.
ONE FOR ARTHUR kept on into second but never got to the winner. A decent effort on his hurdling and he looks a likely scorer in the near future as Lucinda Russell’s stable homes in on the Scottish record for the season.
JUST CHILLY plugged on into third place. She looks the time to benefit from another summer behind here do this place is a welcome bonus.
NEVILLE WOODS ran another fair race in fourth and once again it’s worth noting he is likely to be better over fences.
COUSIN GUILLAUME was sold out of Karen McLintock’s stable for £40,000 and that looks a good deal from McLintock’s point of view. Word has it that he’s a bit of a softie and race performances would tend to support that. He was hampered by the faller three out but wouldn’t have been any better than third.
DOUBLEDISDOUBLEDAT is a chasing type who was on and off the bridle here. He showed a modicum of promise and is likely to do better in time.
PLAN AGAIN ran a disappointing race and looked held when hampered three out.
TOUGH TRADE seemed just to be getting the worst of the argument when taking a tumbling fall three out. He looks like a chaser and that will be his game in time.

*** Other news from connections of the winner here concern two horses. The first is MASTERLEADERMAN who was given a ‘disappointing ride’ when fourth at Newcastle last weekend. He’s capable of a good deal better than this run apparently showed.
TIMOTHY T was bought out of a claimer at Kempton recently for £2,000.  This one was third in the Acomb Stakes at York as a two-year-old, then spent three years in Hong Kong without visiting the track. Discussions centred on the fact that it was surprising he hadn’t ended up ‘in a tin’ but, dreadfully poor taste humour aside, he clearly retains some ability and will now be billeted with Nottinghamshire based Mick Appleby.

4.15 2m 4½f Jedforest Deer Park Handicap Hurdle (88-110)

I believe this is the first time this start has been used since the course layout was re-hashed in 2012.

Essentially the field consisted of a host of well exposed and some elderly performers. Judgement suggested it was worth looking at the younger horses with less ‘previous’ to their name. All very well but even the five-year-olds here were difficult to recommend though it was one of them, BELLOROPHON, that did the business in comfortable fashion. He eased clear of the field from two out to win by 23 lengths. I can’t imagine he will find it very easy next time off what is sure to be a significantly higher mark.
FUNKY MUNKY kept on for second and runs some fair races but doesn’t win very often.
Elizabeth Butterworth did quite well to coax a third place out of KNIGHT VALLIANT. He has ability but isn’t the easiest of rides and was patiently ridden to challenge for second at the last.
OUR BOY BEN plugged on for fourth place, a reasonable effort on handicapping debut, while NEWDANE DANCER, in decent heart of late, led to three out but faded into fifth place in the latter stages. A less stiff finish sees him to better advantage.
EVERDON BROOK pulled up and was removed from the course by horse ambulance and I understand was subsequently examined by the course vet, but further information has been difficult to obtain.

4.50 2m Kelso Races A Great Day Out Standard Open NH Flat Race (Class 6)

Half the crowd had disappeared before this contest but for those of use looking for future winners these contests are eagerly awaited.

Make note of any lightly raced horses or newcomers that Nicky Richards brings to Kelso. If you are at the track it’s worth checking out the fitness just ensure factors are in your favour, but Richards has a decent record in novice, maiden and bumper events around here. SIR VINSKI looked one of the more likely here and was forward enough in condition to suggest every chance if good enough. He came clear in the last two furlongs and has the mark of Simply Ned and Eduard, two decent performers that started in Kelso bumpers. Not sure that he will appear again this season but a definite for next season’s horses to follow.
MAJOR IVAN caught the eye as a nice sort. He was outpaced five furlongs out but stayed on well up the home straight to wrest second close home. He will benefit from the run and is a nice jumping type to remember for the future.
SHADES OF MIDNIGHT looked a mare that still has some developing to do, but she has the engine and raced prominently throughout to take third place.
WOLF SWORD, a nice deep chested chasing type, ran creditably under a penalty for a Sedgefield win on Boxing Day.  He was presented looking nicely fit, had every chance but couldn’t up his game once the winner got away.
A few more will need a bit of time. FIGHT AWAY BOYS raced prominently to four out and then faded. He won an Irish point in five attempts and will likely show up better when presented with a set of obstacles in front of him.
TOUCH OF STEEL, a half-brother to a winning chaser, looked very green and will need time.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Kelso - Premier Hurdle Day

KELSO – Saturday March 1st

Going – Good to Soft (Soft in places)

A bright day at Kelso for their premier meeting of the season with Pattern races on the card over hurdles and fences. A pity then that Channel4 Racing couldn’t spare a few minutes to cover a pretty decent Grade 2 novices’ hurdle.

1.55 2m ½f Terry Frame Joiners Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

Not an easy race for me to analyse since the Milnathort Racing Club had THE VILLAGE making his second appearance for us. The run was a bit disappointing as having made some progress to get up to sixth place before three out the tank soon emptied after a clumsy jump at that flight. The ground appeared more favourable here, but the gelding needs to learn to settle more. He pulled going down and in the early part of the race. In the long term he’ll be a handicapper at a moderate level and is up against it in non-handicaps. Credit to the Russell stable staff for picking up the best turned out award.

DESOTO COUNTRY built on promising hurdles debut at Haydock, breaking form the pack on the run to the last and asserting nicely on the run-in. He should progress again and will have chances under a penalty.
MOHAWK RIDGE, rated 120, sets the standard and ran creditably giving the winner 7lbs, keeping on to the finish.
THE CHIEF VILLAIN made significant strides up from his previous hurdling effort, made headway from the rear from three out to hold every chance approaching the last. The better ground here must have helped compared to the heavy surface encountered at Navan.
UTOPIAN was run out of it from before the last but progressed from Wetherby hurdling debut.
ROCKABILLY RIOT appeared not to progress from a Musselburgh maiden win but was eased into the race and not given a hard time once held after the last.
SPITZ had every chance and doesn’t look straight forward.
An interesting one here is NEVILLE WOODS, a big chasing sort that ran prominently for much of this hurdling debut. He was keen early, but beaten about 12 lengths here is no disgrace and he’s one to note long term.

2.30 2m 1f Cyril Alexander Memorial Limited Novices’ Handicap Chase (104-125)

A popular result here as Lucy Alexander rode a perfect waiting race on headstrong JET MASTER to retain the spoils for the sponsoring family. Switched right off at the back, Jet Master was brought steadily into the race from the eighth fence, took it up going to the last and won on the bridle. He’ll go up well into the 130s for this win, but that would be no more than an accurate reflection of his ability when his energies are concentrated.
Amateur rider Jamie Alexander carried out presentation duties handing the Alexander Perpetual Trophy to trainer brother Nick.
Lucy Alexander showed her versatility last week by riding a second place on the snow at St Moritz.
SMADYNIUM doesn’t look like the usual example of a McCain, since he’s a rather angular sort. He stayed on from the rear to take second place in similar fashion to his chasing debut at Catterick. He was beaten by a better horse in cracking form and will have further chances off this mark.
INOOGOO pushed the pace and tried his best once headed going to the last, but the petrol gauge was well in the red and he just had enough to hold third. Graham Watters was suspended for weighing in 2lbs heavy, though no clue was forthcoming as to why.
DESGREY and MAKBULLET were held from two out, the latter jumping soundly enough on chasing bow.
BALLYCOOL plugged on past a couple for sixth but was never in the race and reflected what was largely a disappointing day for the Russell stable. 
DARTFORD WARBLER had run his race before two out.
SURPRISE VENDOR went up 3lbs for a win in a finish of bobbing heads here last time, but was beaten three out this time. On a handicapping note, surely if three finish more or less in line then they are on their marks. Phil Smith’s propensity for tinkering with things for the sake of it irritates, though he recent use of the Grand National weights unveiling to massage his own ego perhaps makes it no surprise.

*** Some of our group chatted to Stuart Crawford, former trainer of The village, before this contest. Paul Brierley queried why he had entered staying chaser Mister Philson in a two mile event at Carlisle. Turned out he had hit the wrong button when making the entries!

3.05 2m 2f £1.25 Million Scoop6 Premier Kelso Hurdle  (Novices’) (Grade 2)

A decent bunch of novices, with a Cheltenham/Aintree contender winner and a fair few interesting sorts in behind. A good few of these will make up into chasers in time.

CLEVER COOKIE looked very impressive in winning a competitive handicap at Musselburgh last time, and made short work of his opponents from the last here. He’s 64th in the list for the County Hurdle, so might not get a run, but this upwardly mobile gelding is worth a glance wherever he is aimed.
FERGALL set a merry gallop and had everything bar the winner off the bridle by two out. He kept on well enough once passed and is a decent novice. I noted he is trained at Wilsford-cum-Lake, which was a new one on me, and it turns out Seamus Mullins is based at that hamlet near Devizes in Wiltshire.
HIT THE TOP stepped up creditably from Catterick handicaps to bag third place sticking at his job to the line.
SECRETE STREAM is a big strong sort that should make up into a nice steeplechaser. He made headway from the seventh but couldn’t get to grips with the leaders. There remains a hurdle to be won under a penalty before the season is out.
TOUGH TRADE is another chasing sort and ran creditably to finish sixth on infavourable terms. He stayed on in the latter stages having been outpaced and is one to take forward for next season.
LANDECKER made a serious error at the first and was soon detached. He gave the same flight a good rap the second time round and was well behind, but he kept on to some purpose from two out. He’s not up to this level over hurdles, but he can improve if getting the chance to perform over longer trips.

3.40 2m 5½f Premier Traffic Management Handicap Chase (85-110) (A Betfair Series Qualifier)

A true trial for the series final which will be held over course and distance in early May.

ROCKING BLUES won here in a bumper and recorded his first chase win on this occasion. He made his effort after two out and stayed on under driving from the last. He did this honestly enough, but isn’t necessarily one to trust and it’s debatable whether he can win off a higher mark.
FIDDLERS REEL led for much of the way and kept on well enough once headed. His falling mark allowed him to take on this lesser company which must have made a difference.
LADY OF VERONA stayed on for third without really looking likely to finish any nearer. However, this was encouraging on her first completion over fences and she looks more of a chaser than a hurdler.
SHARNEY SIKE was held up but raced too keenly early on and was held from before the last.
The remainder were well held, MILANO MAGIC in particular taking little interest.

4.15 2m 7½f Premier Chase (Listed)

A slightly disappointing turn out for a £27,500 pot in a contest that has thrown up the Grand National winner form two of the last three renewals. I wrote off both as National winners after their Kelso efforts, so I am saying nothing other than that Kruzhlinin and Mr Moonshine are entered in the big race.

The two National entries were trumped by course specialist MAGGIO who took the contest in decent style, winning with authority after taking up the running at three out. I stood by the last fence for this one and Maggio was fairly tanking along when taking the last. Despite being Irish trained this decent performer does most of his racing in the UK and recorded a career best in winning for a fourth time at Kelso. He probably goes to Aintree now with the Topham Trophy a possible target.
MR MOONSHINE, in the same ownership as Aurora’s Encore, led or disputed for most of the way, though he could not get close enough to the winner from two out. He goes well at Aintree, having finished a close third in the Becher Chase, though is unproven over an extended distance having pulled up in last year’s National. He is however in good heart and gets into the big race if that is indeed his target.
KRUZHLININ hit four out and couldn’t get to the first two from that point. He struggled on testing ground last time but was not disgraced here.
SCOTSWELL has had some tough tasks this year, but has picked up plenty of decent prizes in chasing home better animals. On the right terms he can win a handicap and is at his best on slightly quicker ground.
OPENING BATSMAN has sadly not been able to make much of a stand this season. He was held from four out and tailed off by two out

4.50 2m 6½f  Anderson Award Winning Butcher – North Berwick Handicap Hurdle (82-108)

A race choc full of moderate and exposed sorts came down to duel between two who have shown at least reasonable form of late.
TOTAL ASSETS is a stoutly bred mare who would be even more at home over further. She moved steadily to the fore before two out, led at the last and asserted nicely on the run-in. She could well improve again for another furlong or two.
GOREY LANE looked the likely winner when cruising up to lead two out only to be caught by one going even better. He has only won a single race, but he’s not been over-raced for an eight-year-old and seems in good heart.
Lightly raced REDPENDER was best of the rest and not disgraced in third, if well held. There should be a similar contest for him.
AUBERGE is well exposed and filled fourth, while the fifth NOTONEBUTTWO, while not disgraced in fifth place, needs to be in the lowest grade.

5.25 2m 7½f CGA Foxhunter Hunters’ Chase (Class 6)

A couple of seasons back this grade was struggling for runners, but double figure fields have been the norm and fifteen turned up for this contest.

As is the way there was wide spread of abilities, but it was a decent contest with four clear in the closing stages. PENA DORADA, well ridden by the very capable Rachael MacDonald, stepped up on promising effort last time staying on well from two out to take the contest with a bit to spare.
MOSCOW MENACE is a multiple point winner and has put in two decent efforts to date this season in Kelso hunter chases. He stuck to his guns well enough here and a step up in trip would do him no harm.
TARTAN SNOW found this more competitive than his last race and couldn’t get to the front.  He saw out his race honestly enough though and will presumably now move on to Aintree, though he won’t be 100/1 this time around.
BUCKSTRUTHER isn’t as good as the first three but gives of his best and was not disgraced in fourth place.
BALLYCOLIN threatened to get into the race four out but was well held from the home turn.
BACK ON THE ROAD kept on form the rear as he has down before, but will need a softer contest to win a hunter chase.
MOON OVER MIAMI pulled the jockey’s arms out in the early stages and was allowed to go into a clear lead. Though passed five out his tearaway efforts only told from three out. If he races so keenly he needs to be aimed at the shorter hunter events.
SPECIAL PORTRAIT who needs an extreme trip these days, ran no sort of race and was pulled up in the latter stages.

I’ll not embarrass connections, but one animal on this card struck me as looking like a ‘cut and shut’ car as if the front end didn’t belong with the backend! It was no surprise that he struggled.