Saturday, 23 December 2017

Horses to Follow Update

My apologies for not updating the blog in recent weeks. My mother fell ill in mid-November and subsequently passed away so I have been pre-occupied with family matters. 

I hope to be at Kelso on December 29th and get back into the swing of things nito the New Year.

The Horses To Follow list has done quite well to date and below is a summary of performances and prospects:

BAL DE RIO – L – Ran into a decent one in Slanelough at Carlisle. The only prominent finisher yet to win from ‘that race’ at Kelso and is entered at Sedgefield on Boxing Day on a pretty reasonable mark of 115.
BEYOND THE CLOUDS – w4/6, w2/5 – Won at Kelso in a race which has thrown up multiple winners and then sluiced up from a 132 rated animal at Musselburgh. Looks all over a Graded class novice hurdler that I suspect will be kept to better ground.
BIGIRONONHISHIP – L – Faded to a stand still on the run in over 3m 2f at Carlisle with no report of an ailment, so presumably his stamina gave out in testing going.
BIG RIVER – w11/5, L – Put in a sound performance on Kelso debut, but suffered a fibrillating heart on his next outing at Haydock. Presumably recovered after treatment by the vets at the excellent Easter Bush facility as he is entered at Kelso on the 29th December.
CELTIC FLAMES – L, L,  w5/2, L – Made a very promising chasing debut when winning at Hexham, but was well below that form at Newcastle. The latter course can throw up some odd results and I’d give this one another chance.
CLOUDY DREAM – L, L ,L – Three very creditable second places on the face of it, but carried his head at an odd angle when running at Cheltenham. Quoted in the betting for races at various distances at Cheltenham.
COCKLE BAY – Not yet run
FAGAN – L – Put in his place by Black Corton at Cheltenham which was disappointing.
FLY RORY FLY – Yet to appear for his new stable
JONNIESOFA – w 11/4 – Picked up where he left of two seasons ago when jumping like a veteran to win at Carlisle on chasing debut. Entered at Wetherby and Kelso in Christmas week. A very promising novice chaser.
JUST MINDED – L, L – Ran as if there was a problem on last outing and a watching brief is advised at the moment.
LADY SAMBACK – Entered once but withdrawn due to the state of the ground.
PLANET NINE – L, L – A bit one paced over 2m 4f to date but has ability and should step up on this form in time, maybe over three miles.
SIMONE – L – Unlucky to run into a decent mare at Musselburgh, bearing in mind this department is generally weakly contested up here. That said, the effort was step up on Perth form and this one should win soon. Entered at Doncaster and Kelso on December 29th.
SOME REIGN – L, w1/2, L – Another graduate of ‘that contest’ at Kelso. Won well next time before blotting his copybook when refusing to race at Musselburgh recently.
TESTIFY – w11/4, w5/2 – Two decent efforts over fences to date, particularly given that it could be argued he’s run over a distance short of his best. Has beaten decent opponents on both occasions and the McCain stable look to have a very decent novice chaser on their hands.
THOMOND – Yet to appear for his new stable.
TOTAL ASSETS – L – Decent enough effort in a competitive Class 3 chase at Catterick last time and capable of winning a race or two in the coming months against less stiff opposition. Entered at Kelso on December 29th.
WAITING PATIENTLY – w4/5 – Very impressive at Carlisle on seasonal debut and arguably the best northerner chaser ahead of stablemate Cloudy Dream.
WEYMSS POINT – L, w7/1, L – Won well at Wetherby and not disgraced under a penalty when third there next time.

Record to date
WINS 10 (33%)

A good win percentage though prices maybe a little disappointing. Still we are in profit and 33% wins is better than I might have expected.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Kelso: Winning Chase Debut for Big River

KELSO – Saturday October 28th
Going - Good

Turf in superb condition once again for the first autumn Saturday meeting.

The form of the maiden hurdle from the previous meeting first by TEMPLE MAN (5th prev.) who won the first division and then by SOME REIGN ,winner of the second division, who was 3 lengths down to Beyond The Clouds last time. The latter is entered at Wetherby on Saturday in a novice event under a penalty but it will take a very good one to beat him. Looking back to the previous meeting KELPIE'S MYTH (sixth having made much of the running) now comes into the equation as a future winner.
The opening heat including a number of animals that look like long term projects and performed encouragingly at this stage. SILVER BULLION is a big boat of an animal sure to come into his own over fences, but possessed sufficient speed to win a bumper and get involved in a five way battle here.
ECHO EXPRESS is more of a hurdling type and looked the most likely winner until headed virtually on the line and should gain consolation in a run of the mill maiden or novice.
ROCKALZARO was bang there all the way to the line as was the free-going POOKIE PEKAN, a definite chasing type, who was headed two out but battled tenaciously to finish a close fourth.
MOORES NOVELTY looked as if the race might do him some good, but loomed up behind the leaders approaching the last before weakening on the run-in

SOME REIGN had to be ridden out to win his maiden, but was doing very little in front and the distances to the others don’t tell of his superiority. Better to come methinks!
TRESHNISH stayed on nicely for second here and looks one to improve over further with experience.
Lucinda Russell's BIG RIVER impressed on chasing debut, potentially the stable star this season with the enforced absence of Grand National winner One For Arthur. He jumps big and bold and could well contest top level staying novice contests this season. Big River's task was made somewhat easier when Paul Nicholls charge GIVE ME A COPPER jinked sharply at the 'chicane' going away from the second fence and unshipped Sam Bowen. The latter seems a keen going sort.
The other three contestants weren't remotely of the class of the winner by well done to Chris Grant, whose ACDC showed promise on chasing bow, and Kenny Johnson who fielded two to hunt round for 3rd and 4th prize money.

The feature handicap chase was won in comfortable style by Nicholls trained AS DE MEE, but he was probably favoured by the small field and doesn't look totally straight forward. WAKANDA ran a sound race on seasonal debut and will strip fitter for this run, while ASH PARK ran well from out of the weights and will be interesting back in a lower class race. FIRTH OF THE CLYDE had stamina to prove here and wasn’t a factor from the home turn, while THE CLOCK LEARY may be a bit high in the handicap now and struggled in this company.

It was good to see Alistair Whillans's MEADOWCROFT BOY win the two handicap hurdle. He was a 137 performer at best but clearly had problems and raced here off 105. He won well enough to suggest he might have a bit in hand at this level and may be able to follow up.
CIVIL UNREST ran creditably in the second, this 0-117 is his level, and he will have his chances in the coming months. ALIZEE DE JANEIRO stayed on for third place and is another capable at this level on her day and a previous course winner.

The Class 4 2m 7f handicap chase had a selection of contestants with plenty of previous offences to be taken into consideration. I’ve been dismissive of HAVANA JACK in the past, but he has worked his way through the hunter ranks and improved enough to win this race. He rallied well when challenged from the last and Leonard Kerr should take credit for the improvement he has coaxed with this animal.
ACHILL HILL BOY raced prominently and harried the winner from two out. He ploughed through the last and couldn’t get back up to the winner but this was decent effort.
NOTONEBUTTWO isn’t the most consistent animal but does get competitive in this class when things fall right. Good thing is that he often starts at a fancy price (33/1 here) and can be worth a little interest where there’s nothing progressive to latch on to.
DOKTOR GLAZ got no nearer than chasing the leaders from two out.
FRENCH SEVENTYFIVE led or disputed to four out and, though held, didn’t completely throw in the towel from four out. He was 10lbs wrong here and if he could perform like this would have a chance in a Class 5 event.
MO ROUGE was out the back most of the way and is not enamoured with steeplechasing.

The card finished with two divisions of a 2m 6f 0-105 handicap hurdle not strong in depth and the results favoured those at the top end of the weights. BUCKLED held off TOO MANY CHIEFS in the first heat, both having won in similar company last term, with the veteran BESCOT SPRINGS showing he retains some ability in third place. The second heat was dominated by less exposed animals at the top of the weights, consistent REIVERS LODGE coming clear from CHAPEL STILE, with CEEGEM staying on for third having been outpaced. If I was taking one from the two heats it would be the latter, though the form looks no better than average for the class.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

An Exciting Novice Hurdler at Sedgefield

SEDGEFIELD - Wednesday October 25th

A fairly standard autumn card at Sedgefield but one or two interesting pointers and one potential star.

The star act is clearly the Brian Ellison trained RAVENHILL ROAD who dotted up on the bridle on hurdling debut. This one was an easy winner of two bumpers and a point and recorded a very decent time to win this contest. He may well be destined for the very top of the novice hurdling ranks.

It might be worth noting INNISCASTLE LAD, 23 lengths back in second, who was clear of the remainder. He built on the hint of promise shown at Bangor and is capable of making his mark against standard opposition in the north.

INDIAN VOYAGE has dropped significantly in the handicap and took advantage in a Class 4 handicap chase. His previous wins have come in bursts so he is worth keeping an eye on for the next few weeks.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Northern Horses to Follow 2017/18

I didn’t have a particular number in mind, but I’ve come up with a round 20 horses trained in the North and which may be seen in Scotland and the North in the coming months. There’s a spread of known names, up and coming and few left field ones.

BAL DE RIO (Brian Ellison)
Twice a winner on the flat this one has run into some decent sorts in three hurdles runs, particularly when running into two potential Graded level novices at Kelso. He did nothing wrong in keeping on for third on that occasion and then ran into Slanelough, who had run into a number of decent animals last season. Bal De Rio has earned a workable mark of 115 for handicaps, but is well capable of winning a non-handicap novice hurdle or two. He coped well in heavy ground in France so won’t have any problems in winter conditions.
Impressed in bumpers and then looked distinctly decent when beating a promising opponent at Kelso (Some Reign) with two others fair animals over 20 lengths back. He looked a bit green when hitting the front up the Kelso hill but galloped on very well in the style of a potential Graded class novice. I suspect he will be kept to better ground so may have a light winter campaign but is an exciting novice for a predominantly flat based stable.
Prospects look bright for the Dobbin stable and I expect this nice chasing type to make up for lost time after failing to score in his first season over fences. He had the look of a chaser when first appearing over hurdles, and ran three decent second places plus losing the plot at Newcastle when refusing to race. We can forgive him that aberration I believe.
He held on well in a fair looking Class 4 event and should show himself better than that level in the coming months.
BIG RIVER (Lucinda Russell)
I’ve had this one marked down for chasing for a while. He performed well in staying handicap hurdles last term, completing his campaign with an impressive 10 length win from a decent field at Kelso over the extended 3m 2f trip.
I understand he will go chasing this season and this likely raced progressive type should make his mark in decent staying novice events.
CELTIC FLAMES (Lucinda Russell)
A lightly raced animal that returned this autumn after an extended period off the track. Beaten but not totally disgraced in novice and handicap hurdle company, I believe he will go chasing before long which should prove his forte. Expect a mark to be made in novice handicap chases assuming he takes forward his hurdles mark of 108.
CLOUDY DREAM (Malcolm Jefferson)
One that flew the flag for my Ten To Follow last season was just a smidgen off the top level in two mile novice events, managing to get Altior off the bridle at Cheltenham in a feat achieved by few animals to date. Recording a well deserved win over 2m 4f at Ayr shows he can handle the longer trip and he can make a mark at the very top level at middle distances.
COCKLE BAY (Lucinda Russell)
Had a record of three pulled up and a brought down before winning his Irish maiden point, but that doesn’t tell the whole story and the third from his win dotted up at Fakenham recently. He got competitive in the two races before his win and has now moved to Arlary.
He will be aimed at staying novice hurdles this season, with a staying chasing career likely sooner rather than later.
FAGAN (Gordon Elliott)
A very useful staying novice hurdler in 2o16, this one had a spell off the track before being left clear by the fall of his one serious rival at Perth on his second chasing outing. He then ran a decent second to top class Ballyandy over 2m 4f on heavy ground, neither trip nor ground particularly favouring him. He will be better when stepped back up in trip and from previous evidence needs ground no worse than good to soft (or Musselburgh soft!) to show his best.
FLY RORY FLY (Nick Alexander)
His new trainer didn’t expect to secure this promising animal and reading between the lines I believes Kinneston have high hopes going forward. After winning his maiden hurdle last spring for Noel Meade, he showed promise in a couple of chases without winning. It is possible he will prove best on decent ground and I would expect Nick Alexander to get a chase win or two out of this one in the coming months.
JONNIESOFA (Rose Dobbin)
A decent novice hurdler two seasons ago, good enough to run at Cheltenham, this one got a niggle and was off the track last season. He was right come the spring but didn’t get the soft ground he needs so his trainer didn’t hurry him. Rose Dobbin is currently waiting for the rain and expect this one to prove a useful novice chase with cut in the ground.
A fair novice hurdler last season in a fairly light campaign and now expected to go chasing. He should be capable of picking up novice chase wins in the North and will be interesting in handicaps off a hurdles earned mark of 122.
LADY SAMBACK (Maurice Barnes)
A mare from left field that might take advantage of the weakly contested mares’ novice division in the North. She showed pace in a couple of bumpers, particularly when leading for a fair way in a contest won by the decent Scottsdale at Perth. Built to jump a fence I suspect she will come more into her own once obstacles are placed in front of her. A speculative inclusion in this list that might just pay dividends.
PLANET NINE (Rose Dobbin)
Winner of a bumper at the Perth Festival in pleasing style, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one turns out to be an above average novice hurdler. The dam’s four other runners have all won and generally been suited by a distance of ground, with two reaching ratings over 140.
SIMONE (Luicinda Russell)
This one didn’t pull up any trees on debut for Arlary, but her bumper profile is sound enough and she should win in mares’ company this winter and hopefully prove able enough to make a mark in mixed company. If you want a strong pointer she’s a half-sister to Simonsig!
SOME REIGN (Rose Dobbin)
Unfortunately ran into one in Beyond The Clouds at Kelso on hurdles debut, but wasn’t disgraced in finishing a couple of lengths down and his trainer has left something to work on. Considered worthy of contesting a Grade 1 bumper at Aintree, there will be plenty of opportunities in the coming months for what could prove to be a very useful novice hurdler.
TESTIFY (Donald McCain)
A decent novice hurdler for the McCain stable last season, there is an expectation from connections that this one will turn out to be an above average staying novice chasing in the coming campaign. He’s run well on soft and heavy ground to date, but found himself well outpaced at the Cheltenham Festival on quicker ground.
THOMOND (Nick Alexander)
A newcomer to the Alexander stable with a few miles on the clock. He was a fair handicap chaser for Noel Meade, if not the most consistent, but ran a stormer when sixth in the Topham Chase from 14lbs wrong in the handicap. He was raced mostly on good ground, so presumably doesn’t handle cut, and may be one for the decent ground at Musselburgh if raced in the winter. Might pop up at a decent price.
TOTAL ASSETS (Simon Waugh)
Effectively over fences and hurdles, this one kept improving last season and a cracking first run of the autumn at Hexham suggests she may continue on an upward curve. Stays 3m 2f well and is a four time winner at my regular haunt of Kelso.
WAITING PATIENTLY (Malcolm Jefferson)
The whisper I got regarding this previously unexposed animal last autumn proved to be right on the mark. He turned into one of the best middle distance novice chasers seen in 2016/17 and his win over Politologue at Haydock was a cracking performance. Denied a chance to take a tilt at Cheltenham following an injury he should be right up there in middle distance chases along with his stablemate Cloudy Dream. All of a sudden the North has some decent animals to take into battle.
WEMYSS POINT (Philip Kirby)
I spotted this one rattling home for second in a mid-season Musselburgh bumper behind Senatus. He bagged a couple more seconds before an unsuccessful tilt at flat maidens. I presume the stable will now return their sights to hurdles, probably over the minimum distance and kept to good ground. Musselburgh meetings are likely to be highlighted in the Kirby stable diary.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Kelso - First October meeting

KELSO – Sunday October 8th
Going – Good (Good To Soft in places) – Seemed Good all round to me. A Going Stick reading was given as 7.0, but since that was taken at 16:00 on Saturday must be of questionable value.
Kelso gets back into the swing of things after the ‘Kelso-lite’ introduction via the September twilight which I missed due to other commitments.
A pleasant enough day and a decent crowd looking to be well in excess of 3,000 in attendance. The sun was out for the first few races and then conveniently disappeared before proving a problem as it got lower. The ground seemed more for less perfect and my impression was of good ground throughout. Drainage work hasn’t taken place after the turn for home, an area that has turned a bit gooey on occasion in recent times.

1.35 2m (96-117)Handicap Hurdle (Division 1)
The most competitive of the handicap hurdles on the afternoon, with a number of horses at or near their best. Brian Ellison’s NEWSTART just prevailed in a blanket finish, staying on from two out and having a little more in reserve.
MARTILA was second on seasonal debut, will come on for this run and can make a mark in a grade higher class in time.
DESERT ISLAND DUSKL is decent at this level when on his game. He was thereabouts from three out and saw his race out to the line.
SUPERIOR COMMAND made significant progress to the last and kept on to the line. This run will have helped his fitness.
PRINCE KHURRAM is a sound marker and more or less ran to his form, fading to a close fifth on the run-in.
Jean MacGregor has struggled to find competitive horses in recent times, but in SIERRA OSCAR she may have one that can win a race. He got to the heels of the leaders going to the last but could find no more.

2.05 2m (96-117) Handicap Hurdle (Division 2)
A weaker division than the first race, but won by a lightly raced sort that can progress from here. PICTURE PAINTER just got the better of a prolonged battle with a determined front runner. He weaved about a bit under pressure, but has the right attitude and is going the right way.
DANCEINTOTELIGHT set off a decent pace and saw off all but the winner by the run-in, and even then didn’t go down without a serious battle. A good front running ride from Abbie McCain who is a useful jockey to have on your side with an allowance and against fellow amateurs.
ALPHABETICAL ORDER finished a respectable third on return to hurdling after 3 year break.
DARK AND DANGEROUS was up there to two out, but seems in the grip of the handicapper.
ASUM ran well for a way but was reported as bleeding from the nose.

2.40 2m Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

A very interesting contest, the leading pair duelling to come well clear of their rivals.
BEYOND THE CLOUDS, a decent winner of two bumpers, proved stronger of the leading pair in the closing stages. He came away encouragingly on the flat and Kevin Ryan has a decent novice on his hands, one that can go on with this run behind him. He first caught my eye when sluicing up in a bumper at Musselburgh in January. Bred to win a sprint, but he showed no signs of stopping at the end of two miles here though I suspect he will be kept to decent ground.
SOME REIGN will have benefitted from the outing and put it to the winner up the straight. Marginally outpointed he will doddle a similar event with this run behind him.
BAL DE RIO ran a perfectly respectable race to take third and will find an easier opportunity.
Although looking over-rated at an official 134, BULKOV does at least set the standard and ran a fair race in fourth, if left behind from two out. His true level looks somewhere in the 110-115 area, so needs a serious drop to be competitive in handicaps.
KELPIES MYTH tried to match the first four but dropped away before two out. He will come on for the outing.
The rest were running in a different race, but TEMPLE MAN stayed on in the closing stages without ever getting into the contest. He showed promise in bumpers and can step up significantly on this in time.

3.15 2m 7.5f Class 4 Novices’ Chase.

A weakly contested novices’ chase, and on the face of it a likely doddle for POINT THE WAY. It turned  out far from the case though. The winner doesn’t impress as a looker, and a note of caution was raised by admittedly light bandages on his forelegs. The second put it to him going to the last and he hit the fence, but held enough in reserve to prevail. One to be a little wary of under a penalty.
AN LAOCH made a most encouraging chasing debut. Travelling well three out he put it to the winner from two out and only gave way on the run-in. He lost a front shoe which won’t have helped and seems to have found his game over fences.
ROBINTHEAULAD had every chance but gave the impression he was getting the worst of the argument when falling four out. The jury is out though he has ability.
WSTEND THEATRE is an ordinary performer but completed in his own time.
HERE COMES LOVE is a poor maiden but pootled round for fourth prize, left behind from the tenth fence.

3.50 2m 5f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle

COOLE HALL confirmed the promise of his Perth debut just holding off MAYO STAR, the pair a few lengths clear.  They both look fair novices at this stage and will stay competitive in similar class in the north.
BESTARIUS wasn’t as far forward as some Nicky Richards runners can be. He ran a respectable race in third, outpaced from before the last but keeping on to the line.
WIDE AWAKE has been difficult to train but showed a degree of promise on this occasion. Held up at the rear, then tapped for pace three out, he made significant progress from the home bend before flattening out approaching the last. There’s just a hint that patience may be rewarded for enthusiastic owners Midnight Racing Club.

4.20 2m 1f (127-154) Handicap Chase

Probably one of the best if not the best short distance handicap chase to be run in the North this autumn.
FOREST BIHAN was a decent novice last year, second in a Grade 1 at Aintree, and continued on an upward curve. Taking up the running after two out he saw his race out well to the line. He’s on the fringe of the top class and may need to be cannily placed this year but will likely take his place in Grade 1 chases over two miles.
SIMPLY NED is handicapped to his mark now, but he’s a trier and stuck to his task on the flat, as last year closing to the line in second. Presumably Nicky Richards will be looking out for the better two mile handicap chases but tyhey are few and far between.
THEFLYINGPORTRAIT won this last year and performed admirably ‘defending his title’. Disputing or leading from the start, he was headed two out but didn’t give way easily. 
ROCK ON ROCKY had a tough task but kept on to take fourth place some way behind the first three. This was a decent enough effort and he will have his chances dropped in class.
DOUBLE W’s weakened from two out and could be a bit high in the handicap after a successful spring campaign.
JUST CAMERON never got into a challenging position in the last mile, WISTY didn’t look comfortable being taken on for the lead and ALAMEIN struggled in this decent class.

4.50 2m 5f (79-107) Handicap Hurdle (Division 1)

A race lacking horses in form horses and not a great contest for Class 4.
CRAIG STAR boasted the best recent form here, twice a winner in Ireland last year and there or thereabouts in most race recently. He came clear from two out with only a loose horse for company, getting a bump from that animal on the run-in. Note sure that the winner achieved an awful lot here and if he goes up a fair chunk he may struggle.
REIVERS LODGE kept on to finish a clear second best and is competitive at this level, though remains a novice.
CASTLEOWEN showed moderate form last season after moving from France. He led two out before weakening approaching the last. The race will have brought him on and it’s encouraging that he got competitive here.
IT’S PANDORAMA was there two out but held afterwards and is plenty high enough in the handicap.
JUSTATENNER came down at the third, but was the loose horse pestering the winner and does at least seem to have a competitive streak. That is encouraging from a horse that hadn’t shown a lot since moving to Barry Murtagh from Colin Tizzard.

5.20 2m 5f (78-107) Handicap Hurdle (Division 2)

This division looked even weaker than the first. The winner has been difficult to make progress with but the two lightly raced horses in behind offered some encouragement.

Nick Alexander’s patience with BENNY’S SECRET as rewarded. This one was on my list to follow as a novice but has been adept at avoiding winning for the most part. Given a peach of a waiting ride by Lucy Alexander, Benny’s Secret showed sufficient resolution on the run-in to hold on close home.  Not an obvious one for a follow up.
JUST CHILLY is a lightly raced sort that had shown some glimmers of form. He coped well with the step up in trip, holding every chance from two out and just held on the run to the post. Her trainer can squeeze a similar contest out of her off a mark which is unlikely to move much from the 78 here.
CHAPEL STILE ran acceptably well on fourth hurdles run. He has found his level and will be competitive in similar contests around this trip.
ROMULUS DU DONJON had a chance but was held before the last and doesn’t look particularly well treated currently.

BETANCOURT could follow up handicap debut win under a penalty, fading from two out having been in touch up to that point.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Perth - Mid-July Meeting

Perth – July 16th

A period without racing for me, concentrating on other things. However, I paid a visit to Perth for their Family Day Sunday meeting. Quite busy but most of the ‘non racing people’ in the centre of the course which made the main rings bearable.

Run of the mill stuff in the main but there are some long term projects to note:

Lisa Harrison introduced a typical big old boat of a store horse in the opener in the form of the grey SOLWAY PALM. He was very green, less than foot perfect over the jumps, but encouraged in the way he stuck to his task. His trainer knows how to deal with this sort of animal and I suspect she will get a win or two out this one when he finds his level.

In the maiden hurdle the two class horses were clear, but there was a good scrap for third place between two locally trained animals. DEVITO’SGOLDENGIRL won a mares point in Ireland should make up into a fair animal in time. Mares only races are not that competitive and she may well pick one up, and may meet up again with SENSE OF URGENCY who had shown promise in bumpers. A prolonged battle for third place from two out will have helped these two get the idea.

In the closing bumper SCOTTSDALE was impressive in winning with any amount in hand. He should now go on to make a mark over hurdles. The one to note here is LADY SAMBACK who raced prominently then led from a mile out until the two furlong mark. She was put in her place by two quicker animals, but she’s a sturdily built who should cope with hurdles and can be competitive in mares’ only novice/maiden company.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Kelso - Buccleuch Cup Day

KELSO – Monday April 10th

Going – Good (Good to Soft in places) – the description was amended to add a couple of soft patches but my pre-race walk suggested the original description was about right.

The attendance was boosted by the appearance of Grand National winner One for Arthur before racing. Figure given was officially 2,410 but looked well in excess of 3,000 to my eye. Lucinda Russell’s gelding has given Scottish racing a timely boost and tales I heard suggest that a few bookmakers were struggling to find enough pay out money on Sunday and Monday. Did I back it? Did I heck! The ground was clearly too quick!

We missed the Grand National live as we were at the Melrose Sevens, an event which is well worth placing on any sports fan’s bucket list. Excellent entertainment at a packed Greenyards with sevens rugby matches coming thick and fast between 11.30am and 6.30pm. The homesters of Melrose put up a fine effort before going down 31-19 in the final to an impressive Harlequins septet. At 19-24 down Melrose guest Tythan Adams was heading for the Quins line and it would have raised the stand roof if he had gone in. He was halted however and Quins soon broke away to administer the coup de grace.

A largely exposed bunch contested the opening 2m 6f handicap hurdle and the result suggested the change in surface from previous meetings made a difference. TOO MANY CHIEFS stayed on strongly up the urn in to take charge in the final 50 yards and win by a slightly cosy length. Not an obvious one to follow up, but in these quicker conditions he may still be well handicapped.
LOUGH DERG JEWEL had every chance and saw out his race well enough. He’s got less mileage on the clock than some here and there may be  a little more to come.
LANDECKER is not the easiest of rides but a decent performer at this level on his day. Kit Alexander knows how to get an effort out of this enigmatic character and brought him to have his chance at the last and he wasn’t beaten far. He’s not guaranteed to repeat the form however, though he does go well at Kelso.
The other involved in a four way battle on the run-in was MAGGIE BLUE who raced prominently but was run out of it in the final half furlong. This was a nice tune up for what will presumably be a summer campaign taking in Cartmel.
BUCKLED had every chance two out but weakened in the closing stages.
FORTY CROWN looked outspeeded from two out on this quicker ground.

WHITSUNDAYS looked the in form horse coming into the 2m 5½f Class 4 handicap chase in which it was possible to pick holes in most contestants records. He challenged at the last and stayed on under pressure.
JOHN WILLIAMS ran a decent race, given every chance under an enterprising ride by Danny Cook, but is not a strong finisher and was outstayed from the last.
I had MOSCOW MENACE down as a nutcase in the past, and Twitter exchanges with Katie Scott suggests the stable thought the same. He sweated up here, but wasn’t quite as fiery as he has been in the preliminaries and only one paddock handler was unusual. With some spare energy he was able to stay in contention until run out of it in the last 150 yards. He has ability, but it remains to be seen if his trainer can keep his energies routed toward racing properly.
DUTCH CANYON got round for the first time in a chase but never got to the leaders
I suspected MOON INDIGO might need the better ground, but he was outpaced three out and never got in a blow from there. Bandaged in front, the feeling is that he’s struggling these days even off a mark of 104.
ROSQUERO has been running well but was held when unseating at the last. I suspect he needs softer ground to slow the others.

The 3m 2f handicap chase was a fair contest for a quiet Monday. SCOTSWELL, who ran a decent race behind One For Arthur here back in October, got a comfortable lead and found way too much for the opposition after being pressed on the home turn. When he gets a soft lead he takes some passing.
NAKADAM was the most likely challenger from three out but his efforts were seen off by the last. A fair urn and might be of interest in a lower class on this sort of ground.
GREEN FLAG looked in trouble four out, but stayed on well from two out suggesting he isn’t a back number just yet.
HARRY THE VIKING was outpaced from three out. He really needs an out and out slog to bring the best out of him.
DOUBAL WHAMMY jumping was less than perfect and he was beaten quite a way out.

The novices hurdle wasn’t a strong contest but there are pointers going forward. Previous winner BLUE HUSSAR stayed on well enough to hold off a couple of challengers. He escaped a penalty from his previous run as it was a conditionals event and his trainer may find a weakfish event under a penalty.
SLANELOUGH looks to be crying out for a longer trip and once again stayed on to fill second place. If he’s moved up to 2m 4f-2m 6f he should find a similar contest.
MAYO STAR made a pleasing hurdling debut. He didn’t look as far forward as some Jefferson novices and will come on for the race.
BERKSHIRE DOWNS was once again well backed but is eminently beatable and was beaten before the last having led or disputed to two out.
TOLETHORPE raced too keenly on hurdles debut and faded from two out.
DANCE OF FIRE was in with a chance to two out but then outpaced.

WELCOME BEN hadn’t particularly threatened a win in recent outings, but was produced looking well by Inverurie handler Jackie Stephen. He stayed on to lead in the last 50 yards and is seen to his best on decent ground.
Newcastle winner CHAIN OF BEACONS looked the winner approaching the last but was outspeeded on the run-in. He’s running well but remains beatable.
VODKA WELLS led at a decent pace and was still in contention before the last, but just tapped for resources from that point. He’s best on decent ground, but has generally been campaigned on similar so going is not an excuse for moderate form before this.
SKY FULL OF STARS was struggling by the home turn. The trainer’s representative reported the race came too soon after his Newcastle unseat.

The Buccleuch Cup Maiden Hunters’ Chase did not look to have much strength in depth. The winner HAVANA JACK had previously won a very weak Balcormo Maiden and an equally duff looking Overton Members. He does jump soundly though, and seems to stay well, which proved enough in this company to win a very decent prize for the hunter class. Hard to see him following up under Rules though.
BAFANA CHOICE led until three out and kept on once headed. He has been cannily placed to win 5 points at Alnwick against a maximum of 5 opponents. It’s questionable whether he is up to Open standard between the flags.
SENOR ALCO has been placed well to win 7 generally ropey looking pointing contests but is beatable under Rules. And third here is about as good as he is.
NELLY LA RUE looked vaguely promising when I saw her winning at Balcormo two years ago. She lost that race on a technicality and fourth place was arguably her best effort since, though she was well held from the home turn.
TIME FOR VINO won a weak two finisher maiden at Overton. More was required here and he doesn’t look competitive under Rules.
FIVE PIERS came into this with better form than most but was found wanting have worked his way into the race three out.
HEY LISTEN, from the Grand National winning yard, has time on his side. The impression was he was getting the worst of the argument when coming down at the fourteenth. He will presumably be aimed at the Fife point-to-point at Balcormo at the end of April.

Reapplication of blinkers seemed to work the oracle on SUDSKI STAR. He came clear to win the closing 2m 2f handicap hurdle in decent style but is by no means likely to repeat this, though it’s perhaps worth noting that Harriet Graham’s string tends to start firing in the spring.
URBAN KODE put up a decent effort off a break to finish second in a tight battle for the places. A campaign around Perth this summer presumably awaits.
ALIZEE DE JANEIRO is capable on her day at this level and ran a fair race in third. Try as might I can’t find any particular pattern in her form!
DESERT ISLAND DUSK ran a fair race in fourth place but was held from the last. He has a 2 out of 2 record at Hexham and his trainer will presumably seek out a race at the Northumberland course in the coming weeks.
LYVIUS was last home of the ten finishers and it is sad to see a formerly 145 rated horse trailing in this moderate company.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Kelso - First April Meeting

KELSO – Monday April 3rd

Going – Soft

We were part of a group sponsoring the Kelso Annual Members Novice Handicap chase, so for once I spent very little time paddock side. The food that we were served was excellent and the Kelso management do an excellent job in their hospitality areas.

A quick walk of the straight found the ground a bit better than at the last meeting though there were still some rather soggy patches. There was high percentage pulled up during the meeting, suggesting the ground was hard work.

The opening maiden hurdle was moderate contest. MIDNITE GRACE travelled well and gradually asserted from two out. She can improve and in the short term her best chance of defying a penalty is likely to be in a mares’ only race.
Eye catcher here was THE DELRAY MUNKY, a stoutly bred mare who will benefit from an extra circuit in time. She was outpaced from three out but kept on relentlessly up the hill to take second place. Her two runs today have been encouraging and she is worth noting stepped up in trip from this 18 furlongs, particularly  against her own sex.
JARDIN DES PLANTES raced prominently but couldn’t raise his game from two out. He’d be one of the lesser lights in the McCain stable but might conceivably prove better over fences.
CHRISTMAS IN USA showed up rather better than on previous efforts. That said fourth place here wasn’t achieving too much, but he saw his race out and will probably benefit from better ground.

The staying novice chase sponsored by Kelso Members was an interesting contest won in decent style by a chase debutante. There had been money during the day for PURPLE HARRY who jumped proficiently and stayed on well to hold off a more experienced opponent. Assuming he can stay fit he can progress over fences.
MARLEE MASSIE came to have every chance at the last but was held no the run-in by a winner who was probably well treated. He’s normally thereabouts and remains on a workable mark when taking on exposed opposition.
SEVENBALLS OF FIRE jumped moderately and was well behind from four out. He doesn’t look a natural chaser.
FINAGHY AYR jumped as if remembering his Hexham fall. He was beaten before two out and tired when pulled up before the last and reported as having bled.
ASCOT DU BRUYERE led to the tenth, but seemed to resent being taken on at that point and was pulled up after walking through the second down the far side. His trainer reported that the race came too soon after his last outing.
BROAD SPECTRUM was pulled up and dismounted after a circuit. He may well have knocked himself at the fence before the stands.

The staying handicap hurdle was run at a moderate pace and TOTAL ASSETS found the best acceleration up the straight. This wasn’t a strong event and I’d advise caution if he gets a siginificant rating rise.
LOCHNELL had his chance but was found out from before the last and maybe found 3m 2f stretching his stamina.
In race conversation between the rooftop cognoscenti suggested BESCOT SPRINGS wasn’t suited by the slow pace and so it proved. He does keep galloping and having been outpaced stayed on to take third. He isn’t suited by a four furlong ‘burn up’.
TEDDY TEE offered some encouragement in leading to two out, but he clattered too many flights.
The Alexander pair of ANDHAAR and BERTALUS are not tearing up any tress at this time.

The feature Edinburgh Gin Handicap Chase was a fair event for a quiet Monday won by the Jimmy Moffatt trained MORNING ROYALTY. This one has been thereabouts recently and finally came good here. However it’s worth noting that the front three went a bit quick and the first two came from those held up off the pace.
VENGEUR DE GUYE came to have a chance at the last but was then held. A fair effort but he was suited by the way the race was run.
CHIDSWELL was one of the front three and had nothing left in the tank from two out.
NEXT SENSATION was another to pay for disputing the pace and was pulled up having weakened from three out.
MR FITZROY had a big ask against experienced opponents on only his second chase run. He made blunders and, combined with racing freely, struggled from halfway.
UBALTIQUE and UNO VALOROSO never got in a serious blow. The former seems high in the weights and the latter is unpredictable.

The mares novices division is weak in the north and even more so at longer distances, so the female staying contest was lacking depth. GRACE TARA stayed on too well for her only serious rival from two out.
FLORAMOSS had every chance but was outpointed in the latter stages. She looks about a 90s level performer who may pick up a handicap hurdle in time. She’s on 107 currently though and needs to be lower.
CLOVELLY inherited third place at the last when well behind and a flail of the whip on the run-in by Adam Nicol was totally unnecessary.
TOPHAM BAY had given best when taking a tired fall at the last.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH raced keenly early on but quickly dropped away on the final circuit. She was second in a maiden point in Ireland but the winner has done nothing to advertise the form since.

TRUSTAN TIMES finished third in the Scottish National in 2014, but recorded his first win since 2012 in the closing 2m 5f hurdle. He struggled in his latter runs for Tim Easterby but Mark Walford seems to have rekindled some enthusiasm and he stayed on strongly to win with a bit in hand.
RHYMERS STONE performed creditably after a rise in the weights and kept on for second place.
TANTAMOUNT was not disgraced in third, keeping on in his own time, and this will presumably act as a nice pipe opener for a spring/summer campaign in staying hurdles.

BENNY’S KING disputed the pace but weakened from two out and remainder were well held.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Kelso - late March meeting

KELSO – Saturday March 25th

 Going – Heavy (soft in places)

The going wasn’t as testing as the previous meeting and the car park was a bit drier! So much on now that this report is a more brief summary than I would like.
Three valuable races to open the card but 20 runners really isn't good enough, and whining from trainers about lack of prize money must stick in their throats on occasions like this.

RUNSWICK ROYAL was impressive in winning the opening two mile hurdle and remains well handicapped on his best form, which this suggests he is near to.
SLEEPY HAVEN ran a creditable second place, setting a decent pace judged by final time and seeing his race out to the line. He’s in good form and ‘ran into one’ here.
Teo Vivo couldn’t match the first two. Conditions suited and it could be that the handicapper has his marked. Cup Final never got into the race, but needs further, while Meadowcroft Boy seems on the down grade.

BIG RIVER has given the impression of being a potentially very decent stayer and was impressive here. He came home well clear in impressive style. He’s a very interesting prospect if chasing next eyar and in the mean time I wonder if Punchestown might suit better than Aintree. He was rather overheating afterwards and it took plenty of water buckets to cool him down, but seemed none the worse when led to the stables.
SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT made a most encouraging return following a lay-off. The winner had too much speedy but Sandy Thomson’s star saw out his race well and goes into the Scottish National in good fettle.
Eminent Poet ran a creditable race in third, but Isaacstown Lad was well held in fourth.

Sadly multiple Grade 1 winner Reve De Sivola suffered a heart attack in the closing stages, collapsing and dying by the last hurdle. I commented to fellow watchers how well he had looked, and he raced with enthusiasm up with the pace until headed two out.

KNOCKARA BEAU bowed out in happier circumstances, though not relishing the conditions here. I was at Kelso when he created a great impression on debut in 2008 and have followed his career closely since, the Cleeve Hurdle win being a real thriller.  Here’s to a long and happy retirement for the old boy.

YALA ENKI made the pace in typical style in the feature 3m 2f handicap chase and kept finding extra up the straight, eventually having a bit to spare over some decent handicappers. He relishes cut in the ground but will be on a career high mark after this.
SELDOM INN was not disgraced in second, challenging at the last, but when it came to a battle of wills the odds were always on the winner. Nevertheless a 10lb rise after his fine effort here last time hasn’t kept him from a winning chance. I presume he will be the Thomson second string at Ayr, with maybe Harry The Viking making up a Thomson trio?
Silver Tassie kept on for third without threatening the winner. Baywing kept on late after getting outpaced from three out and he seems suited by a slog. Could be one for a ‘National’ of some description.

ASCOT DU BRUYERE outjumped his rivals in the novices handicap chase. He went long when asked and was able to shorten up on occasion, a handy quality for a novice. Stood by the final fence, I could see he was tired approaching it but, asked to go long, he responded once again when an opponent was unable to.
Hawkhurst has closed to a length and a half at the last, but couldn’t summon up a fluent leap, hit the fence and Richie McClernon came out the side as the horse veered right. He has ability and was perhaps unfortunate here, but jumping is the name of the game. Minella Suite had moved into contention two out and held a chance but blundered and dislodged his pilot.
Christmas Twenty and Buffalo Ballet blundered and unseated toward the end of the first circuit. The former doesn’t look a natural chaser and the latter has time against him after an interrupted career.

FOREST DES AIGLES confirmed the promise of his previous effort here and had no trouble seeing off four opponents in the 2m 1f 0-120 handicap chase. He looks potentially a bit better than this class and owner Ray Anderson Green intimated that a race may be found at Ayr’s forthcoming National meeting.
Nine Altars wasn’t totally disgraced in second but Casual Cavalier gave way in the straight and Craiganboy never looked to be travelling with fluency. Las Tunas is a weak finisher and having been given his chance up with the pace gave way tamely from three out before being pulled up.

The in-form runner RHYMERS STONE saw off an exposed bunch in the middle distance handicap hurdle. Nothing else particularly gave signs of imminent success.

The best ride of the afternoon was reserved for the closing hunter chase, reduced to a field of three when Green Flag got a kick at the start and was withdrawn.

The winner was MISS BISCOTTI given a front running ride by Emma Todd that got the absolute maximum out of the lowest rated runner in the race. She held on by only half a length, but stays well, relishes the conditions and is clearly willing.
The in form Carlton Ryan was closing at the line but it was always going to be Miss Biscotti who got to the line in front. Mister Marker is not the horse he was and gave way with half a mile to go.  The pointing scene looks more his level now.

We are joining a party of Kelso Members sponsoring a race on April 3rd so I can’t guarantee to give a particularly in depth report, though I will do what I can. We are then spending the following weekend in the Borders, taking in the Melrose Sevens on April 8th before Kelso’s racing on April 10th. Where else would you take your wife on your anniversary weekend?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Kelso Premier Hurdle Meeting

KELSO – Saturday March 4th
Going – Heavy

Overnight rain led to testing ground. Walking the course pre-racing it was as heavy as I can remember it, with a little surface water evident in places.

The car park was a mess. I was directed to a particularly boggy area, but could see the potential problems and parked in a firmer spot down the bottom end. The middle of the parking area was a complete mess by the end of the afternoon and a decent parking surface, hard core or mesh, must surely be a priority for the racecourse.

2.15 2m Terry Frame Joiners Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

A weakly contested novice hurdle to open the card but some encouragement going forward.

REIVERS LAD travelled smoothly in front and had this comfortably won from two out. He’s donenicely over hurdles but he has the stamp of a chaser and I’d expect him to go over fences sooner rather than later.
SLANELOUGH’s trainer Rose Dobbin was called in over the running of this one. However, I think Tony Kelly got it sport on, achieving a decent place by holding his mount up and let him stay on from three out. Third was likely best and by conservative running he was able to take an encouraging second place. His second in an Athlacca point last year looks solid form and he will benefit from a step up in trip.
LASTIN MEMORIES is a nice sort who provided encouragement on hurdling debut, raced at the head of the main group for much of the race and plugging on for third. Sandy Forster isn’t one to hurry her charges and in time could have a chaser on her hands here.
MULTIPEDE is presumably passing time in these races awaiting a handicap mark. He was never in with a chance though fourth here looked a little better than previous efforts.
HENPECKED made her effort three out but didn’t get close and stamina gave out.
ASKGARMOR is a point winner but looks a long term project under Rules and was never in this contest.
VISERION, contesting favouritism with the winner, chased that one until the home straight but had nothing in the tank from two out. On the face of it this really test ground found the bottom of him.

2.50 2m 1f Cyril Alexander Memorial (Novices’ Handicap) Chase (109-130)

A great day for Nick Alexander as he landed his father’s memorial race with a gelding out of his own mare Harrietfield. Only piece missing from the family jigsaw was Lucy Alexander, still sidelined, but Brian Hughes is a pretty decent substitute.
CLAN LEGEND travelled nicely in front and responded gamely up the straight to repel two determined challengers. First time tongue tie appeared to do no harm.
MASTER JAKE is possibly not straight forward, but kept responding for pressure from the home bend if never quite getting to the winner.
The one to take from this may be FOREST DES AIGLES who stepped on his previous form for the Russell yard. Mixing it with Clan Legend, he held every chance approaching the last but was outpointed on the run-in. A decent effort and there’s scope for a drop in class off his mark of 109. He should pick up a chase.
ASH PARK didn’t jump well enough to get competitive on this occasion.
UN PROPHETE made mistakes and a bad blunder at the sixth saw his jockey call it a day.

2.50 2m 2f totescoop6 Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)

This event normally throws up a decent winner and MOUNT MEWS looks no different, though the race fell apart for him. That said, he was galloping on strongly and there looks more to come. He travelled well throughout and left the second behind from two out. I believe he is now aimed at Aintree which might be the better target with everyone so obsessed with Cheltenham. If you can pick up 21 grand for winning this Grade 2 surely you have one jump on the Cheltenham mob?
CHALONNIAL looks work in progress but came into this off a respectable run last. He held every chance on the home bend but weakened from two out and was tired on the run-in. This one looks work in progress and is a tall gelding who will likely prove best over fences.
FAIRLEE GREY sent off in front at a fair rattle but came under pressure on the home bend and gave way. He may have passed Chalonnial but flopped over the last in tired fashion and took a while to get up, though he seemed none the worse on walking back.
CAPITAINE, a gelding who has been mixing it at the top level, weakened quickly coming to the seventh hurdle and was soon pulled up. The vet found nothing untoward so we can only assume that the going was just too testing.

3.25 2m 7½f Premier Chase (Listed)

SELDOM INN has always threatened to be a performer that could make a mark at this level. The front two in the market under performed by Sandy Thomson’s charge galloped clear from two out. His jumping is not as crisp as it might be and I fancy the intended target of Scottish National make put his fencing skills under pressure. A small field suits him well.
TENOR NIVERNAIS couldn’t dominate here as he had done at Ascot and struggled from two out.  He needs things to fall his way and doesn’t strike me as a Grand National type.
LE MERCUREY is another entered for Aintree but was found out from two out here. He may be better at shorter distances and, to put it bluntly, I don’t get the Grand National entry.
Well done to Sandy Forster picking up around £1500 for LOWANBEHOLD pootling round in his own time for fourth place. He’s sure footed and was sensibly ridden by Jamie Hamilton.
BERNADELLI was outpaced going on to the final circuit and a bad blunder at the first down the first side saw him quickly pulled up.

4.35 2m 5½f Premier Traffic Management Handicap Chase (94-112)

Brian Hughes made it a four-timer with a well judged front running ride on THE ORANGE ROGUE. That’s two wins in a row and this one fell just right so I suspect The Orange Rogue may be opposable off a higher mark in future.
ROSQUERO is one of the more under rated performers at this level. He often starts at a fancy price but gets involved regularly and gave each-way followers a nice return at 25/1. He was under pressure quite a way out, but kept in the picture until held from the last. He has won over a range of distances and has no problem with testing conditions.
ACHILL ROAD BOY kept on from two out without threatening the winner. His one win was in a Class 5 event.
SPOILS OF WAR was tried in blinkers here with no obvious improvement. He could make no serious impression from two out.
VERKO briefly threatened three out but didn’t get any closer. He won four times in small fields last season but hasn’t gone close this time around.
DANEHILLS WELL raced prominently until weakening three out and was pulled up before the last. His two wins have come in points.
DREAM FLYER won at Musselburgh in January on good ground and balance of form suggests he needs decent ground. He has won on soft but that was a weak 4-runner event. He weakened four out and was pulled up before the next.
MOON INDIGO is another whose form patterns suggests he needs much better ground than this. Pulled up here having been well beaten twice on heavy recently one wonders what his trainer’s thinking is. He may retain ability but I’d want ‘good’ in the ground description before it can be judged one way or another.

5.10 2m 6½f Carnacrack Handicap Hurdle (88-112)

Most of these had negatives against them and SAMMY B is at least one that seems to be going in the right direction. Always up with the pace he asserted from two out and pulled readily clear. He will go up significantly for this, but is going the right way and should jump a fence in time.
LATE DATE has hinted at being capable of winning a race but found one way too good. There should be a moderate staying event for him. He’s another that should make into a chaser at his own level.
COURT BALOO never got into the race and was well held in third.
ZARU led until two out and then weakened. He did at least get round but the form of this run is hardly more inspiring than recent efforts.
McGINTY’S DREAM was well backed, presumably off the back of the success of Messrs Hughes and Alexander during the day, but never got to the leaders. Class 5 events are his level.
The Sayer pair of GOLD CHAIN and RONALDINHO were pulled and not threatening success at this time.


FOREST DES AIGLES should win a chase.


MOON INDIGO might be worth a punt at fancy odds if given a chance on good to soft or good ground.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Kelso - First Meeting of 2017

KELSO – Sunday January 15th 2017
Going – Heavy (Soft in places)

After a cold week we were blessed with a mild day to kick off Kelso’s 2017 programme. Overnight rain meant a slight easing in the ground and my estimation was somewhere between Soft and Heavy, a couple of swampy bits in the dips!

12.40 Kelso EBF 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (Qualifier) 2m 6f 151y Class 4

A decent little contest to start us off, though the finish was a slow motion job as the testing conditions told. Form looks sound with not an awful lot to split the principals.

PROGRESS DRIVE took it up going to two out and had to be driven to keep the lead from the last, but he gave willingly and saw his race out.  He’s got the look of a chaser about him and is going the right way.  One of the roof top sages commented that he made hard work of his Ayr win, so there may remain a bit of juice in his price in forthcoming events.
PERFECT PIRATE gamely pressed the winner from two out but couldn’t get past on the uphill slog. He’s a winner at Towcester and should take a similar event at a stiffer track, the likes of Towcester and Exeter being slightly more handy venues.
RYEDALE RACER doesn’t have the most robust build of the first two but put up a decent effort under a double penalty. He looked done for when passed before two out, but stuck doggedly to his task until running out of petrol in the final half furlong.
DR WEST looked as if the race would help him along. He’s a nice enough sort that will win a race or two in time and not asked too much once beaten turning for home.
QUIETLY looked nicely fit, but unseated at the first, while ROCKU is a big boat of an animal who was readily outpaced from a mile out.

1.10 D.G. Pryde Ltd Novices' Hurdle 2m 51y Class 4

Generally an unimpressive lot in the paddock,  and the better lookers were the ones to make a mark. A few out the back don’t look good enough to get competitive.

SEEMORELIGHTS wasn’t in the front rank in bumpers, but looked a different animal with jumps in front of him, generally hurdling well and staying on up the hill to good effect. This was impressive and I suspect there will be more to come over hurdles for a trainer whose reputation remains on the rise.
RED INDIAN had every chance and was held from the last. A decent enough effort under a penalty in conditions which suit him well. Time might prove that he ‘ran into one’ here.
HELMSLEY LAD won a moderate Sedgefield bumper last night time, but made an encouraging  hurdles debut. He raced in touch, led two out and didn’t give in easily once headed.
DEAR SIRE had his chance if good enough but was cast aside from two out.  A fair enough effort nevertheless and there may be a softer contest for him.
CHARMANT led early but was beaten two out and will probably need to be handicapped before being seriously competitive.
UNCLE PERCY, a stable companion of the second, looked plenty fit enough but was readily put in his place from before two out.
SLANELOUGH has ability, but pulled hard and burnt up vital reserves required in these conditions.  Don’t forget this one though as there may be better to come if he learns to settle.

1.40 EBF/TBA Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase 2m 7f 96y – Class 3

Progressive mare TWO SMOKIN BARRELS took this contest with a bit more in hand than the four and a half length margin suggests. She raced handy, took it up going to the last and had plenty in the tank to see off a determined second. Where she goes from here will depend on how the handicapper views this performance. She’s a winner on better ground and stays very well, possibly one of the lesser ‘Nationals’ might be on the radar.
CONQUER GOLD, a well-made mare, notched a most encouraging debut over fences and only had to give best from the last. This was only her fifth jumps race and there is surely a staying chase to be won with her soon. She’s only raced on soft or heavy to date and clearly has good reserves of stamina.
BILLY BILLY tried hard but couldn’t match the first two from three out and was heavily eased on the run-in.
MILLY BALOO has run well on heavy but to my mind seemed ill at ease jumping out of the mud here. She was never travelling with ease and a bad mistake four out put paid to her faint glimmer of a chance.
LA DAMA DI HIERRO was beaten and looked very tired when flopping over the open ditch two out. She was up straight away and OK bar streaks of mud down one side, but I suspect Brian Hughes may have pulled her up if he had another go.

2.10 Ferneyhill Handicap Hurdle 2m 51y – Class 2

Decent prize money for this contest but a rather disappointing turn out.  Nothing particularly progressive here and the best suited by the conditions prevailed comfortably.
TEO VIVO travelled well and came clear in impressive fashion.  His  three previous wins have been on soft and, though competitive on faster,  he’s clearly best in the mud. Bound to go up significantly for a comfortable win, he’s worth opposing off a new mark.
SLEEPY HAVEN has had plenty of racing and doesn’t look entirely straight forward.  This was an honest enough performance though, beaten by one relishing the conditions. He’s not quite at the 132 level he won off in 2015.
NUTS WELL was in with a chance until outpaced from two out. Conditions were no problem and he simply wasn’t good enough on this occasion.
ARISTO DU PLESSIS has been disappointing this season, but the way he’s been campaigned can’t have helped. He struggled when dropped in at the seriously deep end on chase debut at Cheltenham, and has failed to recover  over hurdles since. He was beaten before two out here, despite a sympathetic ride from Lucy Alexander.
One to take from this race might be MEADOWCROFT BOY who ran with some promise off a break. He can be made fitter and was still bang there after two out before weakening.
MARCUS ANTONIUS failed to cope with a two grade step up in class, though picked up pocket money for sixth.

2.40 Royal Caledonian Hunt Handicap Chase 2m 5f 133y – Class 2

A decent little contest won in fine style by Nicky Richards trained BERNADELLI.  He was raised in class here, but the subsequently lower weight appeared to more than balance that he came clear from two out. The down side is that he will be on a career high of around 140 after the handicapper has his say. He’s best at middle distances in the mud.
SPANISH FLEET was outpaced two out but kept on to pass weakening rivals in the closing stages. He shouldn’t go up for this and remains on a workable mark in lesser company.
DE VOUS A MOI led for much of the way but was outpaced from four out. He weakened slightly less quickly than a couple of others and gained third on the line.
FINE RIGHTLY was aimed at the stars in the Lexus and failed to get out of the atmosphere here.  He won a Cork Grade 3 chase last spring, but it was a soft event and he looks opposable at the moment.
FINAL ASSAULT threatened before two out but could make no further impression. He seems plenty high enough in the weights right now.

3.10        P & G Allan Catering Handicap Hurdle 3m 1f 170y – Class 5

A right old slog in the conditions for these moderate performers.

BESCOT SPRINGS  wins in his turn and was the only one raising a gallop at the end, coming clear on the run-in under capable claimer Alexander Thorne, whose 10lbs here was worth any amount.  A good old slog seems to suit this veteran performer these days.
SNAPPING TURTLE is often thereabouts at this level and had his chance before being easily outpaced on the flat.
KINGS ECLIPSE ran a brave race in third place, leading before three out going well and looking the likely winner before weakening approaching the last. He was in distress after the race and had to be sluiced with water by veterinary staff for some time. However, he recovered and will surely win a staying hurdle if suffering no long term effects.
BRAE ON plodded on but never got in a blow and gets home in his own time.
NOTONEBUTTWO is suited by these conditions but was beaten before two out having travelled well enough.
HURRICANE RITA is another suited by the conditions but, having raced prominently, she was cast aside from four out.

3.40 Eildon Hill Stables Open Hunters' Chase 2m 7f 96y – Class 5

Some decent animals turned up to kick off the Scottish hunters’ season.

BLACK THUNDER Cost the Waley-Cohen’s good money before disappointing in last year’s Grand National. He had to make a decent showing and stayed on from two out to see off two rivals who are round about the same level.  He will be aimed at the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ Chase for which he needs one more qualifying run.
DOLATULO should arguably have won this. Having been outpaced going to two out, he was staying on well after the last but rider Dougie Gittins tried to go up the rail and couldn’t get past grand vision and couldn’t get close enough after that. He was still closing when his rider sat up in the last 20 yards, I suspect out of frustration though some suggest he mistook the winning post. Gittins got a 10 day ban, maybe harsh given that he wouldn’t have won, Dolatulo ought to win a hunter chase or two this season, and I presume Cheltenham would be his target.
GRAND VISION matched the winner until just before the last and comes out of the race with credit. He was fourth in the Kim Muir last season and is another who could conceivably line up at Cheltenham if qualifying.
MISTER MARKER came home in his own time as the only other finisher, Siobhan Doolan was not hard on him. There will be easier opportunities in the coming months.
NOWURHURLIN is decent at his level but found trying to match better hunters beyond him and was tired when pulled up in the latter stages.
BARRICK’s HILL will presumably be pointing which is nearer his level while CHICAGO OUTFIT found the principals much too classy and couldn’t keep up.

GREEN FLAG, a decent chaser off the track for two years, was not given a hard time once held and his trainer was apparently satisfied with his return. He will be sharper next time.