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.