A trip south to visit various relatives in the south of England should have included a trip to Newbury racecourse. However, a wet spell put the meeting in jeopardy, with a Thursday downpour administering the coup de grace. As it was we sat out a rainy Friday afternoon with my mum who lives a few miles from Newbury.
We headed north to Wetherby to take in their Sunday jumps meeting. I've been past the place any amount of times, but this was a first ever visit to the track.
WETHERBY – Sunday April 17th
Going – Soft (Heavy in places)
We had another scare before this meeting went ahead as the course had to survive an early morning inspection. The go ahead was given, although three fences and one hurdle were omitted per circuit in order to avoid the soggiest parts of the track. The fields were reduced in size as 21 of the 54 declared runners were no shows, though the small fields still provided some decent racing.
For the record a cancellation at Stratford meant that all races were re-timed to start 5 minutes later.
2.05 2m National Festival Circus Is Here Today Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (95-112)
CACTUS VALLEY built on a decent effort at Kelso when a blunder at the last cost him his chance. On this occasion he tracked the leader, but was driven from two out and looked to struggling. After the last Tom Cheesman aimed him between the first two and he took off in the last 100 yards to win going away. He seemed to relish running between horses suggesting running in big fields might help. (He has subsequently run creditably in a better event at Perth)
CELTIC AGENT, a tall keen going sort, was produced fit enough after a long lay-off. Challenging tow out he led at the last but was run out of close home. This was a decent effort on handicap debut and he should find a similar event.
POLARBROOK made the pace and stuck to his task well against two challengers, just giving way on the run-in. This was a good effort dropped back in distance. He’s not a prolific winner, only 2 from 33, but looked honest enough here.
BOLDBOB has not progressed from a Cartmel win last August and was beaten from three out.
SUPER COLLIDER didn’t look comfortable and was the first beaten.
2.20 Mascot Gold Cup (Handicap over 1 furlongs with 6 jumps)
53 entries for the mascot race. It’s easy enough to spot the likely contenders in the parade as they are ones sporting training shoes!
ONGO BEAR (representing Ongo Homes) came with a run to take it up approaching the last only to fall and left the at the mercy of SILENTNIGHT HIPPO (representing Rooms Furniture of Keighley).
2.40 1m 7f racinguk.com Handicap Chase (92-115)
These events are listed as ‘about two miles’ but lack of decent tape measure at Wetherby before ‘Wetherby Distance-gate’ means they now race at a shade over fifteen furlongs.
Only three turned up but this was a decent contest, all three in with a chance passing the omitted two out.
I’ve seen TRUST THOMAS a few times of late and he looked as well as I have seen him here. He jumped better than the second and a fine leap at the last clinched the race. He handles this testing ground well enough.
ROXYFET did not jump well and that cost him the race, a clumsy jump at the last conceding the contest. He’s been raised in the weights and will need to sharpen his fencing if he is to add to his tally of wins.
FREE WORLD bowled along in front jumping impressively. He still held a chance on the run to the last but was outpaced. He kept on to challenge for second and his mid-Wales based trainer must hold out some hope that she can find a race for this veteran.
3.10 2m 3½f D M Keith Mares’ Maiden Hurdle (Class 5)
I’ve often said that these contests don’t take an awful lot of winning in the north. However, we were treated to a cracking battle between the two serious contenders.
TWO SMOKIN BARRELS is an attractive jumping sort who will likely go on to make a mark over fences. She had to battle hard but after a prolonged head-to-head she got on top in the last 50 yards. Promising behind a long odds-on chance at Chepstow on Rules debut, she’s a point winner and will have no trouble staying further than this.
ANGEL FACE lost nothing in defeat on her debut for South Wales trainer Paul Morgan. She’s not a big mare, but clearly has a heart as she made the winner pull out the stops. Morgan should place her to win a similar contest.
BYGONES FOR COINS is a headstrong flat maiden who has yet to encourage over hurdles. She led until being quickly left behind from the top bend and was left to come home in her own time. It’s difficult to see much prospect of success for this one.
3.45 3m wetherbyracing.co.uk Handicap Chase (115-130)
Not a bad contest for the main race on the card and won by a progressive young chaser.
The mare STREETS OF PROMISE has made steady progress in recent times and followed up her Newcastle victory with an impressive all the way win. She pulled clear from two out and this seven-year-old mare looks to have prospects of making a mark in a higher grade next term.
BARAFUNDLE put in a number of slow jumps and couldn’t match the winner, though given how much ground he gave away at the obstacles this was a reasonable effort. He’s a twelve-year-old now though and will struggle win again without a significant improvement in his jumping.
SWING HARD briefly threatened after four out but never got to the first two. He kept on at one pace and is probably better on a stiffer track.
BEFOREALL was in rear for much of the way and not travelling. He kept on past tired rivals for a never nearer fourth place.
OSCAR O’SCAR was disappointing here, but he’s gone up in the weights and this could have been one race too many for now. Although a winner over similar trip at Kelso he may just be better at a shorter trip.
RUSSBOROUGH was not seriously competitive in the final mile. He was pulled up and dismounted as Liam Treadwell felt he had gone lame, but the vet found nothing wrong during a post-race examination.
TOP OF THE RANGE ran no sort of race and was pulled up on stable debut after a near two year lay-off.
4.20 2m Bulloughs Cleaning Services Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)
This looked a shoo-in for the long odds-on favourite Flashjack. However Simon West’s OVERTHEEDGE improved on previous Rules efforts and won quite nicely. I get the impression that his trainer has a fair impression of this one, with staying chases being the ultimate aim, but evidence here is that he has some speed. Leading two out he saw his race out well and the pair were well clear, so even allowing for a below form second, this is at least respectable form.
FALCON’S REIGN has won over nine furlongs on the flat, but doesn’t look an obvious sort for two mile hurdles in testing ground. Having chased the leaders he weakened in the straight.
CAPTAIN MOWBRAY is a headstrong type who was held up in rear and picked off a couple in the straight.
The other two competitors were FIRST OF NEVER is a 66-rated hurdler who had no chance here and DESERT NOVA is a fourteen-year-old maiden.
4.50 2m 5½f Sunday Car Boot Fair Every Week Handicap Chase (92-112)
A weakly contested chase won by the only contestant who ran up to form.
THE DRINKYMEISTER can be hard work, but sticks to his task and ground out a victory from the front. He has dropped significantly in the weights and could win again given his own way in front.
PAY THE KING wasn’t totally disgraced, but he invariably drops a clanger or two over the fences and wasn’t fluent here. Unless his fencing improves he would need to find a very soft contest.
CROWN AND GLORY was up in trip and reported as unsuited by the going.
BONNET’S VINO jumped significantly right most of the way and was beaten with three quarters of a mile to travel.
5.20 2m Royal Pigeon Racing Association Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race (Class 5)
This looked an interesting contest at first glance. In the end it cut up a bit, but the first two look reasonable mares and the third might do better in time.
Point winner CHAMPAGNE TO GO came clear nicely from a previous winner and looks one capable of taking on better company.
Catterick winner KELKA was comfortably held once passed two out. However, she’s out of a 4-times winning staying mare in Scarvagh Diamond and will be interesting once going jumping over a longer distance.
BANJO GIRL was outpaced in the straight. She’s a half-sister to 3 winners and should produce better given time.
PALM VALLEY was beaten a long way, has shown nothing in points and prospects are not good on this evidence.
REINE DES CHAMPS caught my eye as a strongly built jumping type. However, she started to labour down the far side, was pulled up and had suffered a fatal injury.