The opener was not a betting proposition however as we tried to assess the conditions out on the course, with the headstrong Tradewinds setting up the market and, in fact, the race.
He tore off in front on his first start for J Ewart last time but was much more tractable here. He's a neat sort to look at, not over-big, but clearly not straight-forward. You'd have to think he's better than he's yet shown and possibly the booking of B Hughes may help sort him out.
With the allowance, he got a stone from the eventual winner Seldom Inn, who backed up his Kelso win on good ground in sound style. He's a lovely old-fashioned chasing sort who was really fit for this, and he basically outstayed them here on ground that wasn't ideal for him. He may not get away with 2m again.
The third, Doktor Glaz, is a giant of a beast and showed up well before his physical weakness showed late on. At four, he may not back this up immediately, but he has a future in the game.
The eye was drawn to the gambled Shades Of Midnight beforehand, a nice tall sort and fit enough, but he hurdled poorly on his first start over timber.
By now the weather was intolerable but the eight-runner novice handicap chase was a fascinating affair and we needed to assess the fitness of three of them.
The market had Bernardelli and Things Change at the head but I was keen to get against both. The former would certainly be better for it while the latter should also come on for the run. Neither is particularly big but have enough size to win over the bigger obstacles.
|Only just noticed the irony of Ballymoat pictured here|
Ballybogey is a bigger, chasing type but I wasn't keen on his rather regressive form for the new yard, so we already had quite a chunk out of the market.
I'd backed Clan William each-way in the morning as I'd priced him up around half the odds of those available, even though I wasn't sure about his chances here. He looked better for his run at Sedgefield last time and although he guessed at a few of the fences he was unlucky to come down at the last.
That said, he wouldn't have beaten Trust Thomas, who needed every yard of this to get on top. He ran as though badly in need of the run five weeks ago on ground too fast, but he was interesting in this bog and he really stood out in the paddock. I'd seen him a couple of times last year and he didn't have 'chaser' written all over him, but he's strengthened up and was certainly fit enough on this day.
So a few quid went his way as well as I didn't want any part of Lord Brendy after THAT fall and while I didn't get the chance to assess Vinny Gambini, the market told me what I needed to know.
I've sworn not to get involved in mares' races as they can throw up some silly results and I didn't see any point in opposing a Pipe hotpot in the next. Again, owing to the conditions it was very difficult to make too many assessments until they were leaving the parade ring. Donna's Pride caught the eye having really done well over the summer - I know she was well thought of last term but was really backward so it was good to see her take a step in the right direction.
Just For Pleasure looks like a real staying type with plenty of size, something that cannot be said for Tara Mac, who wasn't carrying a great deal of condition at all and was one of the least likely candidates. Several others were on the weak side, the best of whom was Syddan Rose, who was arguably the best looker.
I'd been licking my lips before the next which had a good shape to it, a six-runner handicap chase over 2m4f. Alas, Montoya's Son was withdrawn presumably on account of the ground, leaving a tricky looking affair where each of the runners suddenly looked unbackably short!
Ros Castle topped the new market and I was happy that he was ready to go first time up, although concerned that both his wins had come over the minimum trip. However, he was up against two race-fit sorts in Ballymoat and Categorical - is it any wonder on a day such as this that the trio were all there at the last.
You've got to feel for the Smith yard, who have not had a single first-time-out winner this autumn while others have been disappointing. However Ballymoat would surely have gone one better than Clan William had he stood up at the final fence. It left Ros Castle with the race at his mercy but Categorical stays all day and had been given a positive ride by the Reveley boy who got him back up close home.
Ballymoat's stablemate Swing Hard is a good size but predictably he needed this so it was a surprise to see him solid in the ring. He'll improve a bundle for this.
Another short-priced jolly came out in the next which we would have taken on, in the shape of Maggie Blue. It left Itstimeforapint looking vulnerable at the head of the market, while Bollin Julie looked (and shaped) as if in need of the spin, more so Grey Area who was very tubby although he stopped as though something else was amiss.
|Thought the in-form Jimmy Reveley gave Categorical a peach|
There weren't too many others to get interested in - but the eventual winner Notonebuttwo was fit and well for this seasonal outing. One wonders what's been going on behind the scenes with this strong, chasing type who still languishes on a mark of 77. If the trainer can keep him right he could win three or four before the handicapper catches up.
Don't lose heart with Itstimeforapint. The way he goes suggests temperament issues but he's just a gangly, weak horse who needs a lot of time to strengthen up. Giving two stone to the winner in this ground was a fair enough effort. Runner-up Ballyreesode returned to the form of his Hexham with exaggerated waiting tactics re-employed. He will jump a fence but at nine they must crack on.
I'd been of a mind to back Allanard all the way up the A1. The horse had won in very similar conditions at Wetherby a couple of years ago and I wanted a horse with plenty of experience on my side against two younger animals, while I noted in the blog that he needed his pipe-opener at Hexham last time. And they always win when you take under the odds.
They made Sharney Sike favourite in the end but he was reported to hate the soft ground when he won at Wetherby last term, while he can be keen and he also throws in some sketchy leaps, so I wasn't that fussed about his chances here, while Boric caught the eye last time and was fitter here, although I felt this test was a tough one at such an early stage of his career.
And although Allanard won as he liked, it is the second and third who are of interest. On better ground and in a bigger field Sharney Sike will be a good bet, where he will be able to get some cover and just pop away. He looked fit enough today even though the way he ran made him look like he needed it - I suspect it was the ground that was the issue.
The bumper saw some interesting horses on show, none more so than the eventual winner Western Rules, who was backed off the boards. He's a nice, forward sort although still unfurnished - that said he must have some engine as those in the know had had their cards marked.
McCain's Billy Buff was second in but once again you have to wonder where the money for one from this yard is coming from, as this one did not please the eye being a very big, weak thing and carrying plenty of condition too. There are a lot of young horses from the stable not living up to their price tag. Not even close.
There were plenty here for the future - Pipe's Border Breaker was fit and lean; Diamond Fizz a big strong sort, G Charlton's Vaulkie a nice stamp of a horse but not fit, while Mossies Well was reportedly fancied and looked the part, flattering briefly at the top of the straight. Unfortunately I hadn't noted the second, Innis Shannon, who ran a mighty race.