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.