Saturday, 19 September 2015

Kelso begin their autumn programme

KELSO – Wednesday September 16th

Going – Good To Firm

Kelso commenced their autumn campaign in very pleasant weather, Scotland having missed the heavy rain that had affected much of the south. The turf looked in magnificent condition when I walked the course beforehand, plenty of good grass cover and no jar in the watered ground. The distances are given very precisely, having been re-measured following ‘Wetherby Distance-gate’. They will of course vary with movement of the rails over the season, and it’s worth noting that the distances were at their shortest for this meeting.

I dropped into the House Of Soutra coffee shop on the A68 between Pathhead and Lauder on my way down to the course. Well worth a visit if you are looking for a lunch on the way from Edinburgh. 

For those travelling by public transport Kelso Racecourse laid on transport from Tweedbank station, the southern terminus of the newly opened Borders Railway. While the course is still a bit of a trek by public transport this new route is to be welcomed by non-drivers and makes the course a degree more accessible.

The equine action began in early afternoon with a jockeys show jumping competition held opposite the stands, featuring a mix of jump jockeys and pointing riders. The competition resulted in a tie between a team featuring female amateurs Rachael MacDonald, Rhona Pinder and Louise Clark, and a team of amateur jockeys, Will Easterby, Tom Hamilton and Jamie Hamilton.

4.40 2m 4f 189yd Barbara MacLeod Maiden Hurdle (Class 4)

The card opened with a maiden hurdle in memory of Kelso regular Babs MacLeod who died recently at the fine age of 104.

Certainly not the strongest maiden hurdle we will see in Scotland this year. Two came well clear of the remainder who were toiling from the original two out, actually the last as a stricken jockey was being treated.

WATERCLOCK has knocked on the door a few times and stayed on relentless in the closing stages to get on top towards the line. A rating of 115 looks pretty much his mark and on this evidence a step up in trip wouldn’t be a hindrance.
FINGERONTHESWITCH, winner of an Irish point and then a bumper, looked just in need of this race after a lay-off. He set the pace and was just run out of it close home, but will come on for the run and I would expect better next time.
PROFESSOR PLUM was outpaced from what became the last but kept on to the line for a clear third. He looks a stayer and further step up in trip will be likely to help.
ST QUINTIN led early on but was outpaced in the straight. His future will lie in handicap company as he’s likely to run into a few too good in non-handicaps.
THEATRICAL STYLE did not look nearly as fit as many runners from the McCain yard. He was outpaced from two out though the race will have done him good after a long break. He won a couple of bumpers but has presumably had his problems.
BEECHWOOD ALLY looked very fit, as she had done on hurdling debut back in May, but was well beaten.
LOULOUMILLS blundered badly at the sixth, depositing Tom Dowson who was then trodden on by another runner. The screens went up and Dowson was removed by ambulance, missing his subsequent ride.
CASH IS KING and THE HOODLUM appear very slow.

5.10 2m 5f 133yds Farne Salmon and Trout Handicap Chase (87-109)

Surprisingly Gordon Elliott had never recorded a Kelso winner before this, but put that right as former George Bewley charge ROMANY RYME stayed on from two out to take what looked a moderate contest. Never the most consistent, Romany Ryme didn’t jump all that well, but was produced looking very fit and that told from two out. Probably opposable under a rise in ratings, but Elliott does know how to place his animals.
SOLWAY BAY ran his usual honest race and stayed on for second without threatening the winner. A fair effort at a trip short of his best. The horse was immaculately turned out as was trainer Lisa Harrison on lead up duty, much work went into hair platting for both horse and groom.
ISTHEREADIFFERENCE got into contention down the far side for the last time. He saw out his race but was denied second on the line. Making the trip from near Bath, his trainer was clearly after the ground as this one’s wins have come on good or faster surfaces.
EVERYLASTING, not the most attractive animal but effective nevertheless on his day, led until two out but had nothing extra to offer from that point. He looked well enough off a break, so fitness not an excuse.
SENDIYM never got in a serious blow and was outpaced form the home turn.
JEWELLERY struggled from halfway and was well adrift when pulled up before the last. He’s been struggling of late and Katie Scott has work to do to get him back to his best.

5.40 2m 4f 189yds Principal & Prosper Handicap Hurdle (70-100)
A moderate handicap hurdle with a very open reflecting the lack of solid form to rely on.

TOUCH OF STEEL had been well beaten previously, but a step up in trip and blinkers seems to have wrought some improvement. Racing prominently, he challenged from two out, led at the last and stayed on for victory. It depends whether the blinkers continue to work on this one, who seemed a revved up sort in the preliminaries, but it’s not unknown for James Ewart horses to run up a sequence.
ROLL OF THUNDER bowled along nicely in front, led until the last but couldn’t find extra to respond when passed. He saw out his race well enough , seems a relatively uncomplicated sort and worth consideration in similar events on good ground.
SNOWED IN stayed on from well back for third. He has a couple of hurdle wins to his credit on softer ground but is not a prolific winner.
NABURN closed to two out but found no extra from there. Not totally disgraced, he has less mileage than most of these over hurdles and there may be a small contest for him.
ATTENTION PLEASE race prominently but couldn’t raise his game from two out.
SAINT BREUIC made his effort before two out but couldn’t see his race out. His trainer was discussing fairly precise requirements after the race which seemed to centre on races at Sedgefield.

6.10 2m 1f Straightline Construction Handicap Chase (108-132)

This is ROBIN’S COMMAND’s ground and time of year. He followed up a decent Perth win an equally impressive effort under a penalty here. He went down early and one spectator commented that he had ‘torn down to the start’, but that isn’t a bad thing with this one, more a sign of well-being. He led at the sixth, made the rest of the running and pulled clear from two out. In this from don’t count out another win soon.
MUWALLA chased the leader from two out but made no impression. He only wins in his turn but has run two decent races off a long break.
David Pipe doesn’t have a great record with handicappers here and PURPLE ‘N GOLD didn’t threaten to improve things, though not totally disgraced in third in his second chase.
JACK THE GENT lost touch from three out and would have been disadvantaged by not being able to dominate.
TOLEDO GOLD hurtled off in front, but Robin’s Command cruised past down the far side and Maurice Barnes’ charge was spent force after the eighth fence.
FANTASY KING never got into the race and was well held when falling two out.
SWIFT ARROW has two ways of running and this was off day, pulling up before two out.
SWALEDALE LAD hit the fifth hard and was pulled up and dismounted soon after.

6.40 2m 51yds Bruce Farms Supporting World Horse Welfare (107-130)

Two non-runners reduced the field, a disappointing turn out for fair prize money. It was advertised as a 0-150, but presumably there aren’t that many 130+ rated hurdlers on the go right now in the North.
MAKETHEDIFFERENCE is progressing and stayed on from the last to win this nicely. His trainer will want to strike again while this one is in such good form.
CAPTAIN BROWN ran a decent race in second, gave himself every chance and was beaten by a better handicapped horse. He goes well around here and has responded well since hold up tactics were adopted.
CHANGING THE GUARD led until before the last, at which the winner jumped across him, and kept on for third. He’s rated 140 now over fences, he ran in the Grand Annual Chase last year, and his trainer seems to be trying to take advantage of this lower hurdles mark of 115. He certainly looked very fit here.
LISBON doesn’t seem particularly well handicapped, but had every chance approaching the last before being run out of it. He’s potentially better as a chaser.
OLIVER’S GOLD had his chance but was outpaced on the urn to the last.
FRANCISCAN has clearly had problems and was well beaten from two out.

7.10 2m 51yds Racing UK Maiden Open NH Flat (Class 6)

Not quite the cornucopia of potential talent that some Kelso bumpers yield, but the winner looks useful and the second can progress.
SILVA SAMOURAI provided pre-race entertainment, tearing off around the track out of control before being withdrawn. No shortage of speed on the distaff side, her dam has bred three flat winners, but this gelding looks out of control right now.

MEET THE LEGEND looked the one ‘most likely to win a flat race’ in the paddock and duly obliged in decent style. Looking keen, he led after three furlongs and pulled clear down the straight. Although clearly set up for this one, he has the build to make a jumper and is a nice prospect for a Dalgleish stable that is setting the racing world alight right now.
DUBAI ANGEL didn’t look quite as ready as perhaps he could be, but he’s a nice sort and race a sound enough race to hold the rest, including an experienced third. A prospect for jumping in the long term.
MARDALE had placed three times previously, but didn’t look as ‘on the money’ as some of Nicky Richards’s bumper runners do here. She was held from two out, but even though she lacks the scope of some, she would be worth an interest in mares maiden/novice hurdles as such events seldom take much winning up here.
JETHRO showed some speed and might show up over fences in time having jumped round in an Irish maiden juveniles point.
BARNEY DWAN lacks the look of many McCain runners. Small and angular, he doesn’t cut a handsome figure. He did run with credit in an Irish point though and may make a jumper given time.
THROCKLEY showed up well in a moderate contest at Southwell but was well beaten here.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Musselburgh - Early September Evening meeting

MUSSELBURGH – Friday September 4th

My time has been limited of late, but a few highlights from the evening meeting at Musselburgh.

DALEELAK won the juvenile 7 furlong maiden. The best on form of those that had run, he led but then looked pressed when hanging across to the stands’ rail a furlong out. Once he got there though he saw out his race very well. SENSES OF DUBAI ran a satisfactory second and should win a race but isn’t likely to be much of a price in upcoming outings.
SHE’S ELECTRIC ran a decent third and can make a mark once handicapped.

Apprentice Rachael Grant rode a double, taking her career tally to three winners. The first was a hold up ride on GO GO GREEN in a race which favoured the hold up horses. Green waited and then pounced to get her mount ahead near the finish. COSMIC CHATTER was similarly favoured by hold up tactics.
IRISH GIRL’S SPIRIT had her conditions and raced up with the pace, but was run out of it in the final half furlong. She is still quick when the ground is quick, but probably needs a few pounds easing in the weights.

The filly PHYLLIS MAUD continues on an upward curve and just held off an improving SISYPHUS in the 12 furlong three-year-old handicap. The latter lost nothing in defeat and ought to win a similar contest.

Keith Dalgleish’s INVOKE continues on an upward curve and won the feature three-year-old fillies’ seven furlong handicap. She had a bit in hand on second placed PRETTY BUBBLES and can win again soon.
AZAGAL looks well weighted but blew her chance at the start. She did well to raise a challenge over a furlong but burst herself getting there.

Rachael Grant rode the veteran DHAULAR DHAR to his fourth win of the year. He looked an absolute picture and stormed ahead from two out to win impressively. This was his first win over distance and this thirteen-year-old is having a marvellous year.

FINE ‘N DANDY has dropped 26lbs in the handicap and won the closing five furlong handicap in decent style. Two came clear here and I suspect the winner may have enough in hand to run up a sequence as he’s much better than this level at his best.
LORIMER’S LOT ran a sound race in second place.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A visit to Les Landes in Jersey

LES LANDES (Jersey) – Monday August 31st

Going – Good To Soft, changed to Soft after Race 3, but there was no rain during the meeting so assume Soft throughout

A course that has been ‘on the list’ has finally been ticked off, my wife treating me to the full Members’ Marquee package as a birthday treat.

The Jersey Race club run a programme of nine meetings from Easter through to the August Bank Holiday, with an additional meeting run by the Guernsey Race Club at their L’Ancresse circuit on May Bank Holiday. Although the pool of horses on the island is not huge the sport is well supported and the racing competitive, with a number of mainland trainers supporting the Les Landes events. Six bookmakers were present and, though the SP margin is large, there is enough competition to make a competitive market. The JRC runs their own Tote including a Jackpot on races 2 to 5 of the five race card. Each Les Landes meeting opens with a hurdle race then followed by four flat races. Results are covered on the Racing Post website and comprehensive stats are available on the Jersey Race Club website . For those wanting a taste of the action race replays are posted on Jersey Race Club’s Youtube channel.

The course is a mile round and sharp, but with a stiff uphill run-in of two furlongs, the turf being very well cared for. There is a specially constructed area of grass banking which allows a good view of the course, with officials and jockeys facilities plus public toilets located underneath. Admission is £10 for the public enclosure and £20 for the Members’ enclosure, the latter giving access to the Members’ Marquee. Tickets can be booked in advance on line at and I received two days members’ tickets within a couple of days of order. Race programmes are available on course for £1.50, giving a fair guide to the event though lacking some of the detail provided in the UK, notably headgear details.

The course is located in the north west corner of the island, about 25 minutes drive from St Helier. A bus service is laid on from Liberation Bus Station for racing and tickets are £9 bookable on the JRC website.

The weather was rather grey and dreary, which probably kept the attendance down a bit. However, it didn’t rain and was certainly a bit brighter by the end of the afternoon when we had a clear view across to Guernsey, Sark and Herm.

2.30 2m Hennessy Hurdle (Handicap) 77-103

The pool of hurdlers is small, only around 15 including mainland challengers, but the one hurdle race per card continues despite a threat to go all flat some years back. The hurdles are brush hurdles similar to those used at the likes of Southwell and Worcester. The highlight of the Jersey hurdling season is the Champion Hurdle won this year by the Aly Malzard trained novice hurdler Rossetti.

Three pitched up for the final hurdle. FOURNI, ridden by Les Landes regular and clear winner of the Channel Islands jockeys’ title Mattie Batchelor, turned round a 5 length defeat by Dalmo on revised terms. In truth the weights made little difference as the mare had this race won from the home turn and was considerably eased after the last. She was recording a first win since a maiden hurdle at Punchestown in May 2014 and looks to be going the right way now. I would presume connections will be looking to the Champion Hurdle here next year.
DALMO beat Fourni over half a mile further here last time, but was niggled along before the end of the first circuit and then outpaced before staying on late for second. He looks to need a longer distance but only has a couple of opportunities during the season.
GRANIT MAN is a nine-year-old maiden and very moderate, but if you have a jumper here it’s worth keeping it in training since there was £315 available for third place. He was outpaced down the far side for the second time and out on his feet turned for home as the gluey ground took its toll.

3.05 5f 110yds Liberation Brewery Handicap (39-65)

A closely contested sprint event.

There are no stalls used at Les Landes and being alert and ready at the start can make a big difference. Mattie Batchelor had COUNTRY BLUE away well and always near the pace. Taking it up two out and grabbing the ‘golden highway’ firmer ground up the near rail, he was stretched to hold on but saw his race out to the line for a fourth win this season.
PURLEY QUEEN was rather tardy from the start and had to be rousted along early. She picked up well under driving in the closing stages but the line came a bit too soon. A four time winner here, she looks set to continue close battles with the winner.
MOVEMENTNEVERLIES raced with the pace but was held from the furlong pole. She’s probably better over the seven furlong trip she won at last time, but was by no means disgraced on this occasion.
PAS D’ACTION has done almost all his winning over seven furlongs and has never won at the minimum Les Landes distance. He took the inside route after the final turn, which probably didn’t help and though not beaten too far was held from over a furlong out.
I remember CHESTER’SLITTLEGEM from her days with Lisa Williamson and saw her at Hamilton on one occasion. She needs quicker ground and could never get on terms.

3.40 1m 4f Ross-Gower Associates Clarendon Trophy Handicap (22-80)

One of the sought after prizes of the Channel Islands racing season and this renewal billed as one of the most competitive contests of recent times by course commentator Mark Johnson.

In the event we were treated to an impressive performance by AUSSIE LYRICS who pulled clear in impressive style up the straight, being given the office over one by Phil Collington and sprinting clear. He has gone from strength to strength since moving from France and will rate high 80s after this. There will likely be some lop-sided handicaps over this trip next term, so it will be interesting to see if trainer Christa Gilbert contemplates a tilt at a prize or two in the south of England.
WICKED TARA raced from 23lbs out of the handicap but at this time of the season, with runners having appeared regularly, condition can make all the difference and she looked a picture in the paddock. While never getting near the winner Wicked Tara stayed on honestly to take second spot. While lowly rated, she is 3 from 8 in the Channel Islands and there are plenty more forlorn hopes contesting these races. Bookies here are stingy on outsiders and 11/1 looked very short, but maybe someone knew something?
HERBALIST, taken down early as is normal, kept on up the home straight for a creditable third. He is probably best at ten furlongs.
Veteran KING KENNY, who looked a bit dull in his coat, made his move to have a chance entering the straight. He saw his race out to the line and keeps his enthusiasm.
STEELY is a big animal and looks and out and out stayer, though he did win a four runner ten furlong race last time. He set a decent pace but could not match the principals once turned for home.
MAJOR MAXIMUS, a multiple winner in previous seasons, has made only intermittent appearances of late and looked as if he probably wasn’t at peak fitness. That said he was by no means disgraced in this company though not able to make an impression in the straight.
ROSSETTI is at his best when able to dictate and Steely got away from him early on. He faded badly from the home turn and is much better than this form suggests.
RIVER DU NORD has won over this trip but found this way too competitive.

4.15 1m 2f Jersey’s Finest Establishments ‘Glory Bee’ Handicap (12-53)

A contest for Channel Islands trained horses that haven’t won in the current year.

LADY PETRUS came into this race rated only 12 and 6lbs wrong, but won with just a little spare and presumably will now find herself on a lofty mark near on 20! No fluke though as she did this nicely, putting daylight between herself and the rest from over a furlong out. She doesn’t win all that often but goes close regularly enough to keep connections interested.
CARRERA never looked like winning but stayed on for second place. He often starts at a short price but has a high tally of second places to his name and only one win.
The nine-year-olds BECK’S BOLERO and REBEL WOMAN*, looking as fit as any, had their chances but were held from the furlong pole. (*Racing Post results for the race confused Rebel Woman (9 b m)  with a similarly named USA bred three-year-old)
ALBECQ was generally well beaten in the UK and cut no ice on Channel Islands debut, beaten two out.
RAINBOW CHARLIE was soon detached and looks slow even in this company. The fact that he was mounted on the track wasn’t a good sign either.

4.50 1m 100yds HSBC Handicap (11-56)

Not highly rated animals in the main, but they provided a cracking contest to close out the Les Landes 2015 programme.

Any number were in with a chance two furlongs out and it was the filly LARCH, racing for the Jersey branch of Highclere Thoroughbreds, who prevailed in a tight finish. Previously trained by Richard Hannon, Larch has adjusted nicely to this circuit and stayed on well up the near rail to lead close to the post. She is going the right way and may well pay her way in future at Les Landes.
Consistent LUCIFERS SHADOW did nothing wrong and was just denied a fourth win of the season. He’s a consistent sort at this trip.
One eyed FIRST CAT wandered about a bit under pressure and couldn’t summon an extra effort in the closing stages having had every chance.
Veteran FAST FREDDIE, notching up a century of appearances, disputed the lead and stuck to his task to finish a close fourth.
CAPTAIN JAMES was held from two out as was ROLY TRICKS who has yet to make an impact in Jersey.
FRANKKIE M flies the flag for Jersey breds but was dismissed as ‘useless’ in the race programme. He was outpaced early but closed to two furlongs then finding no extra under pressure.
SPEEDY WRITER and OCEAN CRYSTAL disputed the lead but weakened once headed turning for home.

And so ended the 2015 programme in the Channel Islands. Mattie Batchelor took the Champion Jockey prize, Jemma Marshall was leading female jockey, Aly Malzard took the trainer’s prize, Sheikh A’Leg Racing the leading owner title and Country Blue nabbed enough points to overtake Rossetti as Champion Horse. I think Aussie Lyrics won the competition for Jersey Trained Champion Horse, as the point system is different from Champion Horse, but I can’t confirm as the programme kept the points scoring system a secret!

A thoroughly enjoyable trip and I’d recommend Les Landes to anyone who gets the chance.