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 totepool.com 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.