Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wetherby - Jonjo lays Foundations

Now I'm no big fan of the JJ O'Neill stable (nothing personal), so on days when he bags a four-timer you can usually bet I'm not on great terms with myself by the close of play.

Most of his yard seem to look (and many ARE) moody while the drifters often win and too many gambles seem to go astray. I can never weigh it up, and today was no exception.

We had a little bit of everything (at least I didn't lay the walkover) - one that drifted and two that were backed each delivering and frankly doing so with little fuss.

In fairness, I had nothing in particular against Goodwood Mirage, Foundation Man or Fort Worth on this day. I just thought there was some value in opposing them.

Goodwood Mirage set the ball rolling for Jonjo with a smooth victory in a fairly competitive 2m handicap hurdle. The youngster looked fit enough on his return but didn't seem particularly wound up for it and the late outward move in the market looked a little ominous, although that was in part due to the masses of cash for Secrete Stream and Tidal Way.

The pair were backed almost exclusively for this 15-runner affair but I struck a deeply negative mark through the former, who became increasingly warm as the preliminaries wore on and he seemed agitated into the bargain.

Now this is a lovely horse I have seen twice before and he hadn't done this in the past...it wasn't his running and should be forgiven this. I also felt he was just in need of it too, so getting beat seven lengths was no disgrace.

Tidal Way had to be of interest but missed the last three flights after hurdling fluently, so it was slightly disappointing but he should remain well-treated and can win soon.

The eventual fourth Earls Quarter interested me before the race and even more so after it. A fine stamp of a horse, he was in fact having just his fifth outing over timber and found himself back in the field as the pace slowed turning out of the back.

As a consequence he was never in a position to strike but the experience will not be lost on him and he's very much one to note.

O'Neill quickly doubled up with Foundation Man with Jason Maguire doing the steering - and that's pretty much all it was. He had looked a tricky ride before and it's not surprising that he's taken time to getting his jumping sorted being a large, rather ungainly sort.

But this panned out perfectly and while it was hard to knock, I have in the back of my mind he's not certain to back it up.

Alderbrook Lad had to cede front running to Tahiti Pearl but M Hammond's consistent sort rallied gamely and is in great heart at present - his chase mark now some way short of his hurdles rating. It wouldn't be a great surprise to see him win over the bigger obstacles before Christmas.

Presence Felt; You'll not see an easier winner all season
The night before I liked the shape of the race and felt the in-form and consistent veteran Scotch Warrior was a knocking each-way bet, but things went from bad to worse - starting with the withdrawal of Shadrack.

That left seven...and then I had to suffer the old git scratching his way round the parade ring following a long journey from Scotland, which he clearly didn't care for.

The beast had never run well on his few trips south of the border and I should have seen the red flag, but there it is. The news swiftly hit the ring and I was left holding the baby. As they say these days - my bad!

Tahiti Pearl, as with most if not all Sue Smith horses, needed the run while Deciding Moment looked well as ever but may just be in the handicapper's grip now. Fredo was backed but made little appeal on looks or at this short trip.

Jonjo made it three with the very useful-looking Fort Worth in a novices hurdle that will throw up some winners. My first thought was that the youngster would need the run but the more I looked, the happier I was with him. He's a real eye-catcher and will surely go on to big things.

He was well punted as was the equally attractive Gaelic Myth, who I felt stripped just the fitter, but he had no answer up the straight after going quite freely early on. Arthurs Secret ran a blinder and although more of a flat type will win his share.

I didn't take to the market leaders Cut The Corner and Comeback Colin - at least not for today. Neither's form so far is that special so it was surprising they were so short in the betting, particularly the latter who is a gorgeous chasing type who would surely come on for the run. I'll be surprised if the Smiths don't go straight over fences now, and I expect him to do really well. Cut The Corner was really fit but not carrying much condition and is not really the kind of horse I want on my side. Orby's Man was fit enough and will do better in modest handicaps.

Presence Felt walked over in the handicap chase which was a great shame but it gave O'Neill win No 4 and it will have galled McCoy to miss the last three having been stood down.

There was plenty of interest in the rest of the action though, and a change of tactics on Relentless Pursuit set up a first/last race double for the Greatrex/Sheehan combo. The favourite in the juvenile was Final Countdown but he's not straight forward, got warm early and required two handlers. He's clearly talented and if they harness it will prove much better than this. However, the overall standard of the race was pretty moderate, with the McCain horse Dry Your Eyes not giving out the right signals beforehand.

Kaysersberg completed the brace having left N King and his path was cleared by the scratching of Nexius, taking full advantage to win as he liked from the front. It was hard to find one against him frankly, and while I'd say Mr Moonshine was pretty straight - stablemate Lackamon very much wasn't.

The other race on the card saw five face the starter for a 2m handicap chase where my initial thought was that Oyster Shell ought to be good enough. I didn't like his cramped odds though and you could give a chance to each of the others, who all appeared on good terms with themselves, while Daly's chaser was just better for it I thought.

Layers probably got a tad fortunate as Nikos Extra swooped by but Oyster Shell didn't quite see it out the way it looked as though he might four out and he'll could make amends next time.

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