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.