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.