Friday, 2 January 2015

Musselburgh - New Year's Day 2015

MUSSELBURGH – 1st January 2015

Going – Good to soft, turning Soft (rain throughout)

Musselburgh rang in 2015 at their ever popular New Year’s Day meeting, a crowd of 4,250 attending to watch a competitive card supported by the New Year Sprint for the human athletes. This despite a windy and rainy day which caused the ground to soften during the afternoon.

12:25 2m toteplacepot First Foot Juvenile hurdle (Class 3)

The current crop of northern juvenile hurdlers hasn’t set the world alight, a fact spotted by Charlie Mann who sent an interesting newcomer up from Lambourn to bag a decent prize.
Having recorded a fair record in middling staying events in France for Jonathan Pease, SUPERB STORY was bought for €80,000. Looking plenty fit enough on hurdling debut, he travelled comfortably throughout here, leading three out and clear by the time he reached the last flight. Given that second and fourth have handicaps marks which they seemed to run to, then the winner would be worth at least mid-120s and probably a fair bit more to come given the experience.
EL BEAU ran a sound enough race under a double penalty, sticking to his job once passed by the winner, and just seemed to run into a very capable newcomer.
SILVER DUKE never got to the leaders, but put in encouraging work in the closing stages and snatched third place close home.
COOKING FAT is a robust sort who will probably develop with time and, even at this stage, has the look of a chaser.
The others were well beaten off, ADRAKHAN never seriously getting into the race. He looks the part but his form to date is no more than moderate and handicapping is likely to present best opportunities.

1:00 2m 4f Happy New Year From totepool Handicap Hurdle(94-119)

A competitive event contested mainly by relatively lightly raced animals, with the least raced coming out victorious. Top Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell wasted little time in notching her first winner of the year, UISGE BEATHA leading two out and going clear in impressive fashion. He will be up a grade after a handicap rise.
ALWAYS TIPSY continues to please in defeat, keeping on without threatening the winner. There’s a similar race to be found if he avoids anything seriously progressive.
GOLD CHAIN has been on the go for a while now and is well exposed but ran her in just being pipped by the second. She was held up and never near the winner, doing her best running in the latter stages.
CENTRAL FLAME was a keen sort in his early days and is generally held up. Cathy Walton kept this one a fair way off the pace before allowing him to pick up down the far side. He kept on for a never nearer fourth place, a stiffer track or another step up in trip would seem likely to help.
ALL THE ACES raced prominently but had nothing left once challenged two out. This was his best effort over hurdles for some time.
MWANGAZA got into a decent position three out, but belted that hurdle and his effort petered out soon after.
WYFIELD ROSE doesn’t strike me as totally committed to the game and proved to be a right madam on this occasion. She dug her hoofs in and refused to take any part, though considerate enough to signal this early enough to allow her backers a refund.

1:35 2m 4f totequadpot Scottish Premier Handicap Chase (115-135)

Lucinda Russell grabbed a one-two with REAPING THE REWARD swooping to mug his stablemate Quito Du Tresor right on the line. His jumping has been a bit hit or miss of late, but he was given a cracking quiet ride by talented conditional Craig Nichol, making a sustained run from three out. For all that he is now 11 years old, Reaping the Reward has few miles on the clock and might be capable of going forward from here.
QUITO DU TRESOR is more battle hardened than his stablemate, but proved that he has returned to form with an excellent effort in ground that would be softer than ideal for him. Going on three out, he looked the likely winner until right on the line. He can pick up a 0-120 or 0-125 event in the coming weeks if the ground doesn’t go against him.
Completing an 11 year olds 1-2-3, SHADRACK set the pace until three out, seeing out his race once passed. He is consistent and in good heart.
TIPTOEAWAY has had a few problems which have limited his racetrack appearances in recent times. While never far away he always seemed just held from three out. This was his best effort since a couple of two mile wins in the spring of 2012.
WORKBENCH had his chance but was held from two out. His wins have come on good ground so the rain won’t have helped.
VIVA COLONIA was well touted here, had every chance turning for home but faded from that point. Twice a winner over this course and distance for connections who would presumably be disappointed that this race didn’t signal a revival in fortunes.
WHY BUT WHY moved up to chase the leaders on the home bend but that was as close as he got. This ground was too soft and a drop down a grade would do no harm.
SWING HARD seemed to race a tad freely in behind the leaders and weakened quickly from the twelfth fence.
WITNESS IN COURT fell at the second.

2:10 2m totepool Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle

We should have seen the New Year Sprint Final run before this but the starter for that event went AWOL. I chatted to Sprint commentator Lee McKenzie after the event and he said that the quick decision to run the handicap hurdle first caused some complications in the commentary box, one pair of headphones being shared between Lee and horse racing commentator Gareth Topham. A quick swap, more or less seamless to those of use listening, and Gareth was able to take over.

The feature event, one of Musselburgh best of the season, saw a competitive field take part. A Grade 1 Finale Hurdle winner as a four-year-old, RUACANA is a decent enough performer in top level handicap hurdles without previously landing one. Never far off the pace, he came to lead two out and showed plenty of determination to hold off a persistent challenge from the runner-up. A decent effort and the obvious next target would be the Scottish County Hurdle here in early February.
STRONGPOINT generally performs well here, having boasted a 3 out of 6 record at Musselburgh with wins from 3m 110yds down to this 2 mile contest last year. He settles nicely in front and made this a searching test, showing typical tenacity when passed in the straight and making the winner pull out the stops. I presume his trainer would like to have a go at the Cheltenham County Hurdle, but don’t count him out in the Scottish equivalent come February.
HAWK HIGH was well spoken of in the preliminaries and was the class act here, coming off the back of not being discredited when last of five behind The New One at Haydock in conditions that would not have been ideal. He’s at his best on a sound surface and was held from the last here, but he’s certainly worth bearing in mind why the ground dries a bit.
MEADOWCROFT BOY was running for only the sixth time and was not disgraced in fourth, though giving way from before the last. He’s on a workable mark and Alistair Whillans should find an opportunity.
THORPE found this much tougher than the novice contest he won at Haydock, a race which does not rated as the strongest Listed event. He had his chance but was good enough from three out, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he can get competitive at this level with experience.
LIGHTENING ROD and FISHER, essentially progressive going into this, were both out the back all the way and never got into the contest. I would expect them to produce better in future.
I backed the winner here amongst my three against the field, but it could have been so much better as I secured 23 the evening before the race on Betfair about the 15/2 SP second. So near yet so far!

2:09 (and a few minutes) New Year Sprint Final (Handicap) 110yds

Starter traced and ready, the sprint final took place some time after the feature race. The handicapper once an excellent job with very little to choose between the first four.
CAMERON TINDLE was impressive in his Cross-tie (Semi-Final), winning with a fair bit to spare having been well touted pre-event along with last year’s winner Dylan Ali, though the latter didn’t make the final this time. However, the Edinburgh AC youngster was pushed to the limit in the final, hitting the front a stride from the line to win the £4,000 prize. He recorded a time of 11.21 for 100m last year and has time to develop given that he is only sixteen years old. With the right encouragement he may go some way to making up for the lack of Scottish sprinters in the Commonwealth Games, a state that Sandy Sutherland lamented in the raceday programme.
Ryan Houten lunged for the line to get closest to the winner. He’s another 16-year-old, though favoured by the handicap here and a bit behind Tindle in terms of official performances.
The girls are still awaiting their first win though they filled third and fourth places with Jazmine Tomlinson, the third, another youngster who is showing promise. The more experienced Stacey Downie, impressive in her cross-tie, ran creditably in fourth place.

Although it was a tight contest Lee McKenzie used his commentator’s eye to make a confident call that Cameron Tindle had won, and to my eye Lee was spot on. The call called caused some commotion amongst the officials who wanted to look at the photo, but Lee was spot on as Tindle prevailed by 0.03 seconds (short head maybe?).
This event was a good chance for an annual catch up with Lee who has been the commentator for the event in recent times. Having given up regular racecourse commentating to work on the 2012 Olympic Games and more recently the Sochi Winter Games, he now does a fair bit of raceday presenting at various venues, principally Windsor, Goodwood and Fontwell, appearing at various other locations including locally Hamilton Park. I understand from Lee that among his commitments he has dates lined up at Musselburgh and Hamilton in 2015.

2:45 3m totepool Supporting Scottish Racing Handicap Chase (87-110)

PURCELL’S BRIDGE is a consistent sort and won this with a good deal to spare.  He was always going well in touch with the leaders and led three out, easing clear and winning with little fuss.
BERTIE MILAN performed better than of late. Raced up with the pace, he was headed three out but plugged on to take second. He is suited by a real stamina test and this was a creditable effort.
WAKHAN has flattered on a number of occasions, hinting that this sort of trip would suit, but he made no impression from before four out.
JUST AWAKE disputed the lead until giving way early in the straight, while DRUMLISTER was out the back most of the way and could do no more than make a little progress before four out without ever threatening.
OR DE GRUGY needed the urn and was beaten five out.
RYTON RUNNER disappointed once again and pulled up.
BLAZIN WHITE FACE broke a blood vessel and the pattern of her form hints that this isn’t first time it has happened.

3:20 3m 110yds Collect totepool Winnings at Betfred Shops Handicap Hurdle

FLY VINNIE looked a decent proposition against exposed opponents on the basis of a promising handicap debut last time and being upped in trip. He travels nicely in front, dictated the pace and then motored clear from three out to record a performance which seemed to border on 140 class. Sandy Thomson will be looking to set his sights higher with this one and don’t be surprised if a visit to Cheltenham or Aintree appears on the schedule.
The others had a private race for second, HARTFORTH keeping on well enough having looked to be in trouble before three out.
SOLWAY SAM is an out and out stayer and plugged on into third.
RATTLIN for whom the conditions would be no excuse gave way from three out, while CAPELLANUS and ARCTIC COURT were beaten before the turn for home.

 * My wife sat in the Links Pavilion for much of the afternoon to keep out of the worst of the weather. There are three video screens in that area but there was no sound for much of the afternoon. An email of complaint to Bill Farnsworth did elicit a swift reply, which doesn't surprise me as the Course Manager is very much hands on. Hopefully things will be better in future.

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