Sunday, 29 November 2015

Doncaster round-up - Nov 27/28

Heaven only knows how they get good ground on Town Moor even during a wet spell, but there you go. It looked to be riding genuinely good and the fields had stood up accordingly.

There was a rush of early money for old Night In Milan in the opening stayers hurdle with the blinkers on for the first time over timber. I've long believed he simply is a better horse over fences but his mark fully reflects that and with great form at the course he was probably a worthy jolly in what looked a weak race.

I was more keen on Echo Springs at a price first time in a handicap and this good looking horse, who went for £100k after landing a bumper, should be up to winning off his mark. But he's a bit keen and could prosper from a hold-up ride over shorter, as he may not have got home here after a prominent sit.

Billy Biscuit was on his toes, looking fit and well after a long absence, he's a bit lean and leggy and probably wants a fence. I keep telling myself 'don't back those coming back off an injury' and sure enough the well-supported Billy ran no sort of race.

I was confident Lowcarr Motion was the one to be with in a dismal looking 0-100. With M Hammond in form and this horse looking much fitter than he was last time, he was a cracking bet. Time may tell there was something amiss as after travelling like a dream he found nothing in the straight. For one that has finished notably strongly on occasions, this wasn't right. He's worth one more pop.

Voix D'Eau was all the rage in the handicap chase for the cute H Fry yard and this light-framed ex-French horse looked the part. He was low at a few of his fences and may not take much more racing at this stage of his career, and I might want to take him on if he runs on soft ground this winter. Other than that he's one to keep on side longer term.

Backers of runner-up Off The Ground can feel rather aggrieved for running into one. With the pair well clear, his chance may now haw have slipped by. Waltz Darling stayed on well for third as JR nursed him round to good effect. This multiple hurdle winner, who has plenty of size for the winter game, remains on an attractive mark and can surely land one of these after this confidence booster.

Kings Bandit ought to be ready to go in next time. A very sturdy individual, he still wasn't fit for this and hunted round at the back for fourth prize. He won his hurdles from the front and given soft ground and a stamina test he'll be worth a very close look.

The 2m novice hurdle was an interesting affair with Innocent Touch looking vulnerable under a penalty. Holly Bush Henry from the in-form G McPherson kennel had arguably achieved more first time up yet was almost double the price at one time. In a lively betting heat, they came for Holly Bush and Mr Kit Cat, a strong laid-back horse, while they were dead against Pipey's Iniciar and with good reason - this lean, buzzy, sweaty individual made little appeal.

It was a queer affair as total rag Deadly Approach poached a long lead yet remained in front going to the last. The rest were well beaten off bar the well-backed winner who really caught the eye in the prelims with his well-being. The form must be treated with caution but the winner is undoubtedly alright.

I really fell for Go Long before the second division of this novice hurdle even though the odds-on Charbel looked the part and was a worthy short-priced jolly.

Go Long is a lovely big strong horse but looked pretty forward first time up and was clear second best on looks, ahead of Emperor Commodos who has always carried an awful lot of condition. The latter set a good pace but jumped markedly right, which undoubtedly put the favourite off his game.

However, it's interesting to hear that jockey Moloney thought it rode like a decent race and the way Go Long went away on the run-in suggests he'll be a half-decent tool. It's a shame I only backed him in the 'betting without' market.

Boston De La Roche was quite short in the betting didn't much appeal, being quite small and not a great mover at the walk.

I had already decided to row in with Maloney again in the handicap chase after watching a re-run of Wild Bill's first outing over fences, when he seemed to take a soft fall in terrible conditions after jumping with aplomb..

I'd seen him at Haydock in March after which I wrote; "The absence of A Vos Gardes meant Three Faces West faced a fairly simple task in the fixed brush race although the Williams runner Wild Bill is a very likeable animal and they came for it strongly in the market. The way the pair scuttled clear suggests they will be alright with the latter certainly one to keep an eye on."

From a mark of 116 this good looking 90k purchase looked nicely in at the weights and I liked the shape of the race with the heavily backed Silver Eagle worth taking on after a lengthy absence, while Present Flight didn't look anywhere near as good in his coat as he had at Hexham earlier in the campaign.

Doktor Glaz is an interesting cheval but they don't seem to know what to do with him, running this big strapping horse over all manner of trips and ground. He's not necessarily bred to get 3m, certainly at the age of five, and I was happy to pass him over.

I kid you not the main danger looked to be 20/1 shot Ueueteotl with the maestro JR in the plate for the first time. This nice grey was in last season's five to follow but didn't really deliver with the yard under a cloud for much of the campaign. His jumping has been an issue but with Reveley in the saddle and completely overlooked in the market off a good mark, he was worth some sort of interest.

Sure enough JR gave him a peach but Maloney had much more horse under him in the straight and the race played out perfectly for once. It doesn't often fall into place and when it does all you want to say is 'should have had more on'.

The bumper was tough to call, Chase End Charlie and Grow Nasa Grow nice big types for fences later on, while The Missus has done really well over the summer and although she's still small is likely to improve for timber and a trip. Lynda's Boy and Walk Waterford were from big stables but both lean and leggy and predictably weak in the market, running accordingly.
Saturday was colder and wetter and hence the ground somewhat slower as the day went on. The card had far less appeal than the previous afternoon with a dreadful staying chase to open proceedings.

Sgt Bull Berry was a very solid option back on better terrain but this sound jumping horse went in snatches and will surely benefit from some headgear. When he returns in the spring I might be interested, but he was put in his place here by the minute Xenophon, who did look really well beforehand. His record moves to 1/26 but this was weak in the extreme.

It was hard to split the four at the front of the market in the 2m 3f novice with Cloudy Dream and Waiting Patiently resuming Hexham rivalry. This test was likely to suit the former better this time but once more the Reveley youngster showed plenty as the pair sprinted clear off a slowish pace. Stage One was a nice compact sort, albeit a little backward, and he'll surely benefit from a stronger pace, while the jolly Ascotdeux Nellerie is a bit light-framed and didn't show a great deal.

The aforementioned trainer H Fry can get his horses very fit first time, notably those that won at Wetherby a few weeks back. However, two came here looking as if they could tighten up and Zulu Oscar was opposable on those grounds despite being very firm in the market.

Double W's is yet to get off the mark and looks very one-paced over the minimum trip, but they haven't been able to move up in distance as he looks to take a keen hold. He's very likeable, a proper chaser, and we haven't seen anywhere near the best of him. I'dliketheoption looked fine to me but was so weak in the market you couldn't have got involved, while Adrakhan looks the part but remains out of form.

The handicap chase was a teaser but I couldn't find an angle here, with Coologue a really likeable, active horse but backed into half the odds he was in the morning. Special Catch was punted and looked really fit and well, while there was little wrong with market drifter Jack Steel. Fry's Billy Merriott was the subject of a morning gamble but drifted late, possibly because he too looked rather burly. Rising 10, he's very lightly raced and may still have issues.

The winner Wings Attract was overlooked, even though he initially made a small impression. After a few laps of the paddock I filed him under 'also-rans'.

I was dead against Red Devils Boys in the next as he looked a devilishly difficult ride over fences, and that was with McCoy on board. But after wandering about he put his head down on the run-in and won like a well-handicapped horse. He was fit enough and may just prefer the small obstacles.

Hannah's Princess looked fit enough, while the ever-disappointing Harvey's Hope looked in far better health than at any time last term. Boruma ran another eye-catching race in third despite once again not being right in his coat. When the trainer returns to some sort of form we can back this with confidence, probably over a bit further.

Briery Queen had some super bumper form but was overlooked in the market against Hendo's Robins Reef, even though the former had beaten the latter in a good race at Sandown last term. Punters latched on eventually and they were rewarded when James Banks made virtually all on the bonny mare. She jumped brilliantly first time up and is not one to oppose lightly. It wasn't a strong race with Skelton's The Last Bar looking quite backward, while Ethelwyn was in great health but all at sea on the rain-softened ground.

The bumper was tricky but Skelton's Kafella looked by far the strongest of the bunch and there was a sense that he might be very decent. He was very well supported but hung all the way up the straight in the style of a green horse. He just didn't have basic speed of Jam Session, a really well made horse who was very forward for his debut, while the runner-up Captain Sam is a typical Jefferson big, backward animal but looked very immature before the race and it proved his undoing in it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sedgefield/Wetherby round-up - Nov 24/25

We're into a very busy period just now but we've got to keep on top of things. The blog may not be in quite the same format as before but hopefully there's a few nuggets for the non-racegoers amongst you.

Sedgefield - soft

Race 1

Cumbrian Farmer (fit, well) and The Ice Factor were well supported in a weak race but neither had any form on the soft ground and both ran as though they didn't go on it. Unidexter looked a cripple in front before this race and ran accordingly. Not one of R Ford's better purchases. I backed Snowed In each-way with the flat-eight but was surprised he was asked to force the pace. On a winning mark, the grey can win again soon up in trip and waited with.

Race 2

The winner Libby Mae is lovely strong mare and has done little wrong in four runs to date. Her bumper form entitled her to go close and she was fit for this reappearance. The market did not reflect her chance. By contrast Ryedale Racer appears to have been over-rated by punters. He won a bumper on heavy and looks a stayer, but I take the view at present that he may prefer better ground. Physically he's quite unfurnished.  Please make a note of Fire Rock, from the N Richards yard. A lovely big horse, he's very backward at present but bears all the hallmarks of a handicap project.

Race 3

Poor stuff, but interesting beforehand. The 'nominal' FAV was Cerca Trova but I was against the Irish mare who looked small, keen and a bit sweaty. 0/3 over fences she did not deserve to head the market even in a poor race. Runner-up Duhallowcountry has looked awful in appearance this year but on this occasion took the eye in a good way. It was a remarkable transformation and while I didn't consider a bet, someone did as he was nibbled at at massive odds and they were nearly rewarded. This may not have been a fluke and this point winner could take one of these with stronger handling. Star Presenter ran a big race for the in-form R Drake despite not having any soft ground form, so should be placed to win soon (Leicester, maybe?) while Jokers And Rogues still appears to have problems.

Race 4

Not much interest beforehand. Runswick Relax is a very strong sturdy sort who must surely have a chase in him over further, and there's every chance he could improve for the switch to K Slack. Landmeafortune again showed plenty of promise and when he goes over further, we must step in. There was a big whisper for Wot A Shot but he moved to 0/23 with a shocking effort and although he looked well, clearly has problems.

Race 5

This was supposed to be the day Tomorrow's Legend became a man but he didn't really jump with much panache and that weakness came home to roost at the last when he handed it on a plate to the hitherto disappointing Retrieve The Stick. The runner-up went like a horse a head of his mark but was disappointingly one-paced for a horse who I thought would stay well. Time is running out for Lord Usher but he ran on well after some early mistakes, while Clan Chief was a massive eye-catcher beforehand, and was jumping for fun until Lucy Alexander took a soft unseat. The secret's out but he should be backed next time. If you follow me on Twitter I made my long-held views known regarding Wakhan and Newspage and they didn't let me down, both out of the frame. Wakhan was very fit, but no doubt the punting public will give him another chance when he's likely upped in trip next time.

Race 6

Not A Bother Boy was fancied here last time but looked really babyish/soft/difficult/slow (delete as appropriate) and I couldn't figure the jockey booking of T Ryan (10) as I thought a strong ride was called for. I was wrong and the well-handicapped cheval stayed on too strongly for his modest opposition. This one got away although at 3/1 there are no hard feelings. Veroce was surprisingly well-backed but ran very well - the only trouble is he's about a stone too high in the handicap. Native Que may do better yet, possibly down in trip. He's quite a nice animal with plenty of size and travelled great throughout.

Race 7

The bumper was difficult but I took a close interest in Storm Forecast at Hexham where he was a bit of a playboy before finishing behind a couple of decent types. However, he looked to have gained a great deal from that experience, both mentally and physically, but the market wasn't aware of this transformation and it enabled us to grab a bit of value. The McCain beast What Happens Now was ok but nothing special, while Dobbin's Benjamin Tree is alright but backward. After the mishaps with Wot A Shot and Tomorrow's Legend, it was pleasing to get out on level terms.

Wetherby - very soft

Race 1

Draytonian was a banker and this lovely big chase type made short work of this lot. Runner-up Tara The Tiger looked in need of the outing so takes plenty of credit out of this run and is probably quite decent. The same goes for Captain Redbeard, and nice chasing type who was much fitter than at Hexham. He hung a bit on the run-in but this was a solid run for a horse who clearly wants 3m and a fence.

Race 2

No business done here as Milansbar is a lovely big chaser who thrives in the mud, but just looked a tad under-cooked. He'll tighten up for this and could be one for a marathon chase later this term. Kaki De La Pree was 100 percent fit and has no excuses. I'd be looking to get against him next time. Run Ructions Run is the most admirable mare and jumped super at this modest tempo. She had more basic speed than the other pair and it showed after the last where Hughes produced her to win. The slow pace played into her hands and it could be that the assessor takes a dim view of this.

Race 3

Not much of a view here on this bunch of maiden hurdlers, most of whom were coming off the flat. It was a question of who would act best on the ground and I couldn't really put one up to take from it.

Race 4

I had been rather keen on Yorkist as I thought he'd get a good tow into the race but he was ridden very handily and things didn't pan out for him. The one who did get a good lead was Indian Voyage who is pleasingly back on an upward curve after that terrible mid-air collision at this track last season appeared to hit his confidence. He's a lovely strong horse and did this with little fuss. Grey Life was fitter than I thought he would be and may remain competitive off a career high mark, but Forward Flight physically looked inferior to the rest and rising 10 is unlikely to be progressing. That said, he is one of a number of horses from the Smith yard to have 'bounced' after running too soon after their reappearances (Special Wells, Friendly Royal and Not A Bother Boy spring to mind) and Forward Flight can be expected to do better next time granted a few weeks off.

Race 5

Mac N Cheese was first mentioned favourably on this blog here and then again here. The ground had come in his favour, he was fitter here than on both of those previous outings, and most importantly of all he was very solid in the betting, returning almost half of the early morning 16/1. Connections had done a very professional job in getting it handicapped on a mark of 89 without ruffling any feathers. A brother of the Eider winner Milborough, soft ground and a trip will always see this horse in a favourable light. However, the one to take from the race is undoubtedly Peterpanopirateman. He was most definitely a pre-race danger as he's a nice stamp of a horse who was fit for his reappearance. But he lost a good 10 lengths at the start when hampered by the recalcitrant Pistol, so to see him in the mix turning for home is to his great credit. Not one to be missed next time.

Race 6

I had messages for two in the bumper and they fought out the finish. A King apparently holds Cajun Fiddle in high regard and she's a good looking mare with plenty of size and nice way about her. But she ran into one here in the heavily backed year-older Savingforvegas, who easily won a soft ground Irish point before being sold for £33k. She is barely medium sized but well made and looked in very good order for this first outing under rules. The pair pulled nicely clear of the stoutly bred Miss Yeats, who looked a bit unfurnished, and the previous winner Lamanver Alchemy, who is bit on the leggy side. But she sets the standard for an early mares' race it's a decent one.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Haydock, November 20/21

Friday of the Betfair Chase weekend produced what you might call a typical Haydock card, with generally small but quality fields.

The opening staying hurdle was of huge interest, not least because it comprised the biggest field of 11. There were at least four to be considered and although he didn't carry my money in the end Island Heights ran out a worthy winner from the front.

This horse struggled over fences last season and it's easy to see why - he just lacks that extra bit of size and scope. It was therefore unsurprising that connections were aiming him at the big race over the brush hurdles on Saturday before re-routing here.

The tip should have been taken but instead I preferred the chances of Oscar Blue, who on reflection was asked too much after a couple of wins in the lower leagues. He plugged on and initially it was disappointed he couldn't offer more, but as I said this probably came too soon.

Major Ivan had finished behind him at Kelso and turned the tables in first time blinkers. He's a really lovely chaser in the making and you would say typical of the trainer's. I'm not entirely sure that's he's as quirky as the jockey has made him look. Perhaps if Hughes had pressed the button after jumping two out there may have been a different result - as it was I felt the horse was given every chance to duck it and he did.

Shades of Midnight stayed on dourly for third and he is not straightforward. Still a five-year-old, he has some growing up to do mentally but physically he's strong as an ox and was much fitter here than for his reappearance. A big run was expected judging by the market and each-way backers were rewarded.

I really wanted to be against the well-backed Optimistic Bias at the odds, not that there was anything wrong with him physically. Just that the Aintree form may not be as strong as is generally believed, while the deep ground was an unknown. Also, the lad seemed to find all the trouble in the world in the race, and the horse is undoubtedly better than this.

Charlie Cook is worthy of a mention after running a big race at huge odds. He has enough about him to suggest he can win a run-of-the-mill 0-110 and will jump a fence in time.

Doctor Phoenix dwarfed his two rivals in the graduation chase and again jumped like an old hand. This win won't do his mark any favours and he may find things a bit harder from now on. But he's a gorgeous chaser.

Welsh Shadow looked really well before hacking up in the novice hurdle despite weakness in the market in the face of a plunge on Viens Chercher. The Ellison horse is a real chase type who wants further, and in coming clear of the rest showed improved form. He's a very decent four-year-old.

All eyes were on Minella Rocco in the novice chase and what a looker he is. However, he clearly doesn't do much in a hurry and he spends a lot of time in the air at the canter. The way he stayed on suggested he already wants three miles, while I would be looking to oppose him on anything other than soft/heavy.

He needed to come up with the goods on this chase debut with Silsol in opposition, a nailing good handicapper at 150+ who arrived bang in form. In fact, the run almost certainly came too soon after Carlisle and he was very brave to win under a sensational ride from STD.

Private Malone was just denied and he clearly stepped up hugely on his hurdles form, jumping soundly in the main, and may even improve on this fitness-wise.

Vintage Clouds was all the rage in the brush hurdle and this strong sort had his trip and ground after coming up short on his reappearance when he didn't look fully wound up. His task was made easier by the fall of Wade Harper, who is only workmanlike in appearance. That said, his sibling Cole Harden isn't much to look at either.

Baratineur ran a mighty race in second and once he matures mentally can leave this form way behind. He's very fizzy but is moving in the right direction. Celldomfed was in need of the run and filled third place some way back. I Just Know had tightened up since Wetherby but was undone by a dreadful error down the back where he may have hurt himself.

The junior bumper was easily narrowed down to the front two in the market - Ellison's Crackdeloust looking the strongest while Venetia's Du Soleil was the nicest - a well made sort who will come on for the run. Renaissance Red was carrying plenty of condition, while Sir Albie was one of the smallest horses I've seen in some time.


Betfair Chase day didn't appeal much at all from a betting point of view although I did back Baby King with some degree of confidence in the opener, purely on the basis that he was the only one in the race with scope for improvement under prevailing conditions.

The horse cost six figures after winning a hurdle race in Ireland and didn't really progress last year, but this quite small horse looked on great terms with himself for this reappearance and won I thought with something in hand.

Zaidiyn is a lovely big chase type who chased him all the way to the line, but looks very quirky and it's been well documented by various people that he only has one run and needs to be held up. With that in mind it was perhaps surprising that his jockey sat with a double handful going to the last rather than kicking on.

They decided to run New Street in this despite it being withdrawn on several occasions because of the soft ground. He's a nice rangy grey who will undoubtedly do well in the spring.

In previous years I might have been drawn into backing No Deal in the staying handicap chase, apparently having plenty of potential despite advancing years. However, any horse that has had as many problems as he has MUST be treated with caution, and sure enough this 7/2 favourite was pulled up having reportedly suffered a breathing problem.

They all finished in a heap after King Of The Wolds jumped them to sleep down the far side. He has a great cruising speed but has never found anything off the bridle, and will continue to be a great source of income to in-running layers.

Emperor's Choice didn't look straight for this race last year, when he finished second, but was much fitter on this occasion and duly obliged after being ridden from some way out. He has bottomless reserves of stamina.

I wanted to get against another horse that has clearly had problems in Gunner Fifteen, who went off an extremely well-backed jolly in the handicap hurdle despite what looked to me like a strong contest.

Loads of them looked great, Stilleto a big chaser for the future and Oscarteea who also looks like a chaser standing out. The latter ran a similar race to the one he ran at this meeting last year and may be crying out for three miles.

There's a race in Vendor if they stop riding it so aggressively, while the eventual winner Rock The Kasbah is a very dependable sort who looks tougher than granite. Soft ground is a must.

The two big races will be covered in great detail elsewhere and largely all the horses looked in great nick for their early season assignments. I wasn't that taken by Top Notch, who looked quite dull in his coat, so I'll be interested in his progress this season. He looks like he needs a step up in trip at some stage.

In the big fixed brush race Tea For Two stood out a mile but the way he jumped you'd have thought they would have gone over fences with him by now. He's huge and there seems little point now in persevering over timber.

Definitely Red is as solid a performer as they come and once again ran his race in second. I can't wait to see him over fences, while Alcala will continue to be of interest although's he's rather leggy at present and we won't see the best of him until this time next year.

There was no play in the closing handicap chase with most of the 10 in with some sort of chance. Indian Castle looked big and should come on for it, while Firebird Flyer didn't look great in his coat. Sun Cloud was was finally fit after a couple of runs this term, but he couldn't quite get to the lean looking Vieux Lion Rouge, who overcame an early blunder to win with a little in hand.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Let's focus on a couple of races that are likely to throw up some future winners. The going was changed to soft after the first race but that shouldn't detract from the winners who came home by wide margins.

There was a 0-135 novices handicap chase that lit up the card and it saw Capard King fend off the late challenge of Scottish raider Seldom Inn close home, with King's Odyssey back in third.

The last named cost £170k and is certainly an eye-catching animal, the way he jumped and travelled suggested there is plenty to come. He had been immature last term and there were signs of greenness again when push came to shove.

It transpired he had bled, which is disappointing. He was very weak in the on-course market and the layers were proven to be correct. He's one to be a little wary of until he delivers under pressure.

The same could be said for runner-up Seldom Inn, who made several mistakes but at times moved as though he is ahead of his mark. This is not the first time he has looked a very capable horse but although he has a naturally high head carriage he doesn't look straightforward.

This is the second time he has acted on soft, yet he's very long in the back suggesting he may be better on good. I didn't think he looked particularly great beforehand and yet he's only gone down by a diminishing neck.

I'd like to see him on a more galloping track like Newcastle and he could be an out-and-out stayer. You know where I'm going with this. On good to soft, the Eider could be of interest.

The winner was quite impressive and looks a most progressive animal. A handy sort, this kind of track will always suit, but he jumped really well and deserved the prize. Generous under pressure, he's the type to just keep improving.

The fourth horse home Streets Of Promise was in deep here but he should come on again for this and although he was low on occasion he should do well over fences. With the yard still quiet, he's one who will pop up further down the line.

Did you see Coozan George loom up at the end of the back straight in the 3m novice hurdle before fading into a well-beaten fifth? He's still learning to settle and connections will be happy enough with this. A soft ground, chasing type, he could be well-handicapped after showing plenty of ability in bumpers.

Pithivier won like a good thing
Pithivier looked the day's good thing and he duly delivered under a pleasing ride from the outstanding De Boinville. I was concerned he may get a little outpaced as this good looking horse wants a trip, but Nico ensured he was kept up to his work. It's a good job I looked away as he jumped the last. We don't need scares like that when the money is down.

He beat them pointless and although it looked a routine 0-110 there are winners lurking. Runner-up Periquest travelled really well and ran on after getting outpaced. Time will show he had no chance in receipt of just 8lb here, but I think he'll back the form up next time, possibly over further.

C Pogson isn't noted for first-time-out winners and Mondo Cane is a sturdy horse who usually takes a run or two to be fully primed. If the handicapper relents a tad this horse may continue his upward curve back over fences.

The mares race was weak but Yes I Did won in taking style and the only other filly in the race with any scope was the Greatrex horse Via Volupta, who may just have needed this.

Willoughby Court looked quirky before landing the bumper and the trainer stated he is very difficult to train. However he looks to have a bit of quality about him and if Pauling can channel the horse's talents he could be pretty useful.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Plenty of rain in the area of late and the ground looked as soft as it did at the Charlie Hall meeting two weeks ago.

Bedale Lane was the nominal favourite of a typically weak-looking mares race to open proceedings but she didn't look much more than moderate and the word on the street was that she wasn't all that.

Well-backed near the off, there simply had to be something to take it on with and the only one you could have had was the lovely grey mare Actinpieces from the super P Sly yard.

This big scopey filly is from a nice family, with the dam already having thrown a winner in the shape of stayer Bonnet's Vino.

She looked in great heart for this seasonal debut on ground she hadn't encountered before but could have been named the winner some way out under the excellent Gina Andrews. Very green once in front, she will surely improve and can win another small race.

The novice chase saw the return of Vodka Wells, who I felt was a little flattered by his proximity to the principals a fortnight ago. He finished weakly that day and had a question to answer.

Boru's Brook was interesting with good form over timber on heavy ground, but after some to-ing and fro-ing the market could make up its mind and the pair went off joint favourites.

However, backers of the latter really had few worries as it jumped really well under a positive ride from T Cannon on his only outing of the day. Not over-big, trainer J Best told me afterwards that the horse had done a lot of work with Yogi Breisner so they had few worries on that score.

The way Mr Best was shouting the winner home suggests they had a few quid on, too. Vodka Wells was ridden as if it has a hole in it and once again faded to lose second on the run-in to the big chaser Dig Deeper, who looked slow but ran on to pretty good effect. Take note, as he will have needed this.

The staying hurdle was tres dificile although it's easy to say now that the triple flat winner Call It On was sent off a surprising 7/1 for this after an early show of around 3s. With acres of soft ground form at staying trips you had to think he'd go close.

There were few clues from the prelims although Harry Hunt and Gilzean looked big, strong and healthy for this race and you wouldn't expect them to improve on their efforts. Who You For didn't impress in condition and ran a queer race, staying on well late. He'll likely improve for experience.

The big handicap chase of the day saw a dramatic conclusion when Elenika came down when tired at the last having traded very short at the top of the straight.

Hassled early for the lead, he just did too much too soon but although he looked fit enough to run his race after a long break he always found a way to get beaten and I wouldn't treat this as an unlucky loser. He'll be one to take on next time.

De Vous A Moi picked up the pieces but he's a lovely honest horse who just keeps jumping and galloping. The handicapper clearly can't get a hold of him and you wouldn't bet against further success this term.

Voyage A New York was a bitter disappointment as I thought he was the one to be on. He has run terribly on very soft ground before and although he looks a big strong animal it could be that he's best served on good to soft. He probably wants a trip already, too,

Indian Temple, the eventual runner-up, isn't a bad sort and could do alright for the new yard, although he's got quirks and was swerving all over the shop on the run-in. I didn't like Supreme Asset beforehand - he moves as though something is amiss.

The novices hurdle looked a weak affair and an each-way chance was taken on Agentleman, the Easterby second string. On the small side, but quite nice, there's a race or two in him as he was very keen early on here but jumped super.

Bollin Ace was a big market drifter after his run here two weeks ago but that surely flattered him and Bowdler's Magic is as consistent as you like. The former had improved in condition but found the veteran hard to pass.

I have mentioned Kayf Blanco at length three times on this blog and after much deliberation I decided he would take the beating in the 2m handicap hurdle. Here's what I said after he ran here the other day:

I thought Kayf Blanco ran a huge race in the handicap hurdle over what may now prove to be an inadequate test. Too free at times last term, this stoutly bred horse settled well off a sedate pace and was left with too much to do when a couple of Flat types sprinted clear after the last. 
He looked to have done really well physically over the summer and was pretty straight here, and I suspect he is one that can ‘grow’ into a higher handicap mark.

Personally I have a poor record in such races but I know this horse really well and he was out his ground over C&D last time with K Woods in the plate for the first time. I was confident this nice strong horse would get a better ride on this occasion and as it happened things panned out to perfection. The trip was the worry but he travels so well that in this ground he was fine.

It looked a fair race for the grade and the next two are worth following. Vendor had winning form over further for A King and was rallying to good effect at the finish. He was less fizzy than at Carlisle and looks a winner in waiting as does the third Sir Safir, a lovely big chasing type who has done really well over the summer.

He appeared to make a great shape and I'd have no hesitation in supporting him if they decided to go straight over fences. He looked in great heart and was perhaps too keen in the race, but he'll be winning before too long.

Another of note was Hollywoodien, who looks a very nice prospect indeed. He was badly in need of this and probably needs to come down in the weights, but this four-year-old could be alright.

The handicap chases are my bread and butter but the finale was a tricky puzzle and not surprisingly we handed some back.

All I did know was that I had to take on the well-backed Itstimeforapint, who I punted last time out but was disappointed with its jumping and stated there and then it had not progressed for the summer break.

He ran a dismal race here, dropping out before rallying to look like the winner until backing out of it again. He needs to be treated with a fair measure of caution.

If you fancied Itstimeforapint on form then surely you would have had a bet on the winner Longueville Flyer as well, a horse I had lost faith in of late for no firm reason. He's a slow old boat but looks honest enough and got there in the end for trainer M Hammond, who bought it back at the sales the other day I noticed.

Oil Burner and Silver Dragon showed up well for horses that arguably needed the outing, particularly the former, while Brave Buck looked in good order and appeared to have few excuses in conditions that should have suited.

Sgt Bull Berry may yet have another race in it but he's a good moving animal and this ground was never going to play to his strengths.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Weekly round-up - W/C Nov 9


There was a super card up at Carlisle but the forecast looked dreadful there so the decision was made to head south for a shorter journey and change of scenery.

The ground was pretty soft from the get-go and when it's like that at the Midlands venue it tends to sort them out. You can often get exaggerated winning distances but there was no fluke about Aqua Dude's spreadeagling of his field in the NH novices hurdle over 2m.

Evan Williams' charge cost £150k out of a point field before clocking a decent rating when finishing down the list in a very decent Ascot bumper.

That run on its own surely put him only just behind the triple bumper winner Brave Richard, whose form figures naturally resulted in a very short starting price.

However, Aqua Dude is quite the specimen and caught the eye like no other so far this term. Big and rangy, he had that something about him you can't quite describe. He covered an enormous abount of ground going to post and was the bet of the day at 7/2.

He really seemed to relish jumping the brush hurdles and he simply jumped and galloped his way to the front at the end of the back straight, never looking like stopping.

Kerisper put a poor effort at Perth behind to give vain chase but this was all about Aqua Dude, and he must be followed.

Brave Richard is a nice horse who is sure to do better returned to decent ground, while the Skeltons' At The Top looked very big and backward and will be one for handicaps later on.

We were already on good terms with ourselves after Fresh By Nature had rallied to land the stayers hurdle. I'm a tad disappointed I didn't flag it up here after seeing it looking in good nick before running a decent race at 50/1 behind the promising Five In A Row at Hexham last month.

The Bethell horses are looking a lot fitter this season for whatever reason and that form looked smart in the context of this claimer. I'll admit though it was probably the last bet struck on the track as I launched in when it was apparent that Lamps wasn't on a going day. With a bit more prep I might have struck a big wager, as it was I was just happy to collect on a race I originally had no designs on.

This runner/non-runner rule has to change and it doesn't reflect well on the sport when punters literally don't get a run for their money. It shouldn't be left to opportune bookmaking firms to offer money back on an unofficial 'non-starter'.

It wasn't all one-way traffic though as Benefit Cut was a costly loser, this perennial front runner taken on for the lead first by Ladfromhighworth and then eventual winner Simply Wings.

I'm sure Benefit Cut - a really superb jumper - can win again off this mark, probably back at his favoured Market Rasen when the ground is not quite so soft. That said he does need things to fall into place.

They were all fit for this race, with only the ground seemingly an excuse for those well beaten in behind.

Miss Oscarose wasn't ready for her return in the mares chase. She didn't jump great but may able to pick up a small race somewhere.

There was another decent novices hurdle that went the way of the in-form K Bailey-trained Abbreviate. This smallish, yet athletic gelding jumped much better than previously and bolted up from Young Dillon, another compact sort who may yet do better on good ground.

The latter didn't find any sort of rhythm and put in many hesitant jumps, yet stayed on stoutly for minor honours. Perhaps conventional hurdles will also suit.

The 'disappointing' favourite was Braavos, but he's a very big unfurnished horse who is going to need plenty of time to fill out. My advice; steer clear for now.

The finale was all about Hurricane Vic, a lovely horse if still very much on the leggy side. He travelled down the churned up part of the track and looked to be climbing through it. He could probably do with fences and some better terrain.

Fair play to trainer Derek Shaw, who produced Polarbrook looking fit and well again after showing signs of a revival at Sedgefield. He was worth a few quid here at big odds against a largely poor bunch.

In hindsight.


Surprisingly decent ground considering the rain in the area, with good to soft looking pretty close to the mark.

The two novice hurdles were weak affairs where the absence of a D McCain-trained horse was notably absent since the split with his chief owner.

Smart Talk was smashed into a very short price in the opener and this most likeable mare did it very well, beating what could be a fairly useful yardstick in Sunny West, who gave Oscar Blue a fright first time up.

Smart Talk goes about her business in a no-nonsense style and jumps particularly well. With plenty of size, she shouldn't be opposed lightly this season.

Sunny West is a rather small compact sort whose jumping was better here without being able to match his chief rival through the air. This thorough staying type should relish 3m in a handicap later on this term.

Summer Storm was the 'paper' favourite for the next but most punters cottoned on to the fact that the Henderson reject is no good, and it drifted all day long.

The market favoured the unfurnished grey Good Vibration but the Smith horse is but a baby and will surely need a trip once he grows up. He did settle better here and stayed on well, so they may up him next time.

The winner Poulanassy had plenty of friends in the ring and this strong sort was the paddock pick. Without much form in the book it was hard to be bullish, but he went about things well out front, jumping well and then sticking on nicely when push came to shove. This was moderate stuff, however.

Another Smith-trained horse was flavour of the day in the novices handicap chase in the shape of five to follow entrant Friendly Royal. I was happy take some 3/1 about the Hexham winner but was deeply concerned that both track and trip were against it and an SP of 15/8 was not a true reflection of his chance.

With Rear Admiral and Nautical Twilight readily opposable however there was only one plausible danger in the shape of the unexposed Hughsie, trained by Evan Williams.

Having shaped with promise over timber last term the six-year-old might have been thrown in off 119 and paddock inspection confirmed fears that this could be a decent tool. Lengthy looking, he nevertheless lacked for size and that prevented a saver as it was anyone's guess how he would jump.

Backers of Hughsie needn't have worried; I thought he jumped really well under a confident ride from A Wedge and won rather cosily, and can see him following up without any fuss at somewhere like Ludlow.

I try to price up the handicap chases if I can and often by doing this it helps to find some value even if there is no angle into the race.

My odds for the handicap chase over 2m4f differed greatly to those of the bookmakers and gave me a real chance to get involved in the race. I was keen to back Grate Fella in any case as everything looked in place for a big run.

But in pricing up Ever So Much at 10/1 and Saints And Sinners at 7s I was literally at odds with the professionals, who were something like 7/2 & 5. Instead, I had course winners Master Rajeem and Distime shorter at 5s and 8/1 respectively.

Yet while the former's improved form last season came when stepped up to long distances, I thought Distime was primed for another big run having won on the card last year on similarly soft terrain.

He's clearly had his problems and good ground does him no favours. He was spotted looking in good order at Wetherby on his return and trainer R Drake won a race here with fellow outsider Teochew last week.

At 20/1 the layers had made a ricket and while I was by no means confident he would land the spoils, at those odds he was well worth adding to the ledger alongside the big Smith horse. You could have played it another way, laying two or three in the race. Tomkevi was the subject of early support but this small horse has little scope for English fences and the yard is ice cold.

As you will know by now the selections came home first and second, so it would be easy to crow. But I wanted to make the point that this sort of discrepancy doesn't happen often, and when it does you simply must act. So have a go at pricing up some races - it may be worth your while!

The cash came for Aniknam in the next but he's a horse I always look to oppose. Very much on the small side, Aniknam looks tripless and paceless at present, and has not progressed since this time last year.

I could have backed three against him here particularly with both Turtle Cask and Pure Science looking fit and in great order.

I thought they missed a trick by not reapplying the headgear on Turtle Cask here and the result may well have been different had they been on. Leading two out, he was doing nothing in front and when bungling the last his race was gone.

I'm sure they'll stick the cheekies back on next time and with this run putting him spot on he will be a good bet.

That said, the winner Almost Gemini did it very well and has been revitalised since going the wrong way under the care of C Mann. The handicapper had been very kind to the big grey, who was opposed by some judges on appearance, but I quite liked him as something for the future. Not that I anticipated such a big run today.

The ground probably wasn't soft enough for Pure Science, who wants in bottomless, and it could be the case that Aniknam is also a mud rat with arguably his two best runs coming in the Hexham slop. He's stoutly bred so he's worth a go at 3m.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Weekly round-up - W/C Nov 2

It was great to be back at Musselburgh this week for the first time in many years, the scene of some memorable days with the likes of Saif Sareea and Jo Joe Star back in the day.

The place still appears to be thriving with some decent facilities to boot - a far cry from Friday's trip to Hexham where you will do well to survive a day's racing on a cup of char.

That said, at 20 sovs at the gate you are paying more for a day's racing than anywhere in the land on a midweek card. So now you know how their prize money is so much better!

Rain threatened throughout the day but never really materialised and the going was only just on the slow side, if that.

After a four-hour schlep the action fairly whizzed by after taking the only sensible option by sitting out the opener, in which short-priced juvenile Dominada was turned over after a host of slow leaps.

The novices chase was interesting but the market sorted them out good and proper - Irish raider My Betty very much on the small side while Super Collider was in need of the run.

You can take it pretty much as read that the Russell/Scudamore axis get most of their horses from the Irish point field and that they all improve for a fence.

A perfect case in point is The Cobbler Swayne, a rather leggy unfurnished horse who showed snippets of form in a quiet first year over timber.

This week he looked a lot stronger generally while still being a little gawky, but I was very impressed with the way he jumped here bar an awkward leap at the last, first time round.

By contrast the second and third home, Court Dismissed and Amilliontimes, seem destined to struggle over larger obstacles as they lack size. The former still has time to fill out but the latter lacks substance and although he was the subject of much support he once again made numerous errors.

I like The Cobbler Swayne although soft ground would be of concern at this stage, and of course the assessor will have his say.

The juvenile hurdle was a straight match and although they just favoured newcomer Innocent Touch in a tight market I was happy to row in with Irish raider Winter Lion, despite conceding a penalty.

The latter is a lovely strong horse who jumped superbly and I have no hesitation in putting him up as a horse to follow over further, with a caveat that he looks to be a good ground performer.

Fair play to the winner though, who was a little more novicey at times but jumped slickly in the main. He also put his head down in the finish which he needed to do. I thought the pair looked half-decent.

I hadn't seen Cobajayisland for a while but had backed him in defeat a couple of times, and felt this could finally be the day he delivered despite concerns over track and ground.

Derek Fox did the right thing in allowing the horse his head early on after he proved very free on his first start back over three miles at Worcester last time. Having made that move it was a bit surprising he didn't win a shade more comfortably in the end against some exposed looking stayers.

However, I'm sure the seven-year-old will prove better on soft ground on a more galloping track where Fox can ride one of his favourite waiting races. There didn't seem to be much left at the end but he's a horse who has looked short of confidence and he can move forward from here.

I had an each-way go on a rather nice individual called St Quintin in the stayers hurdle although got lucky in snatching a place when C Bewley eased up on Solway Prince and lost a couple of spots late on.

St Quintin has the appearance of a half-decent animal although he looks immature physically and mentally at present, jumping really novicey at times and not really put his head down in the straight. I think he's a good ground horse so they will pick their way with him, but I'll be watching his progress closely.

The finale looked wide open according to the betting but I was dead against Court Of Law (dog), Shady Sadie (useless) and Alta Rock (slow, getting old). There was also Solway Bay, who rarely wins, plus the question of Simarthur, who was much fitter than on his return but who had not taken to fences previously.

It left Derryfadda, a horse I backed on debut at Sedgefield, and Benefit In Kind, a big horse who had improved from Hexham. I plumped for the latter, based on course form and a strong jockey, over Derryfadda who had looked weak in the finish on all three starts.

They couldn't get him off the bridle though, and this relative speed test suited perfectly. Whether he'll be up to defying a steep rise in the weights is questionable.


A funny old card with a couple of interesting novice hurdles followed by four impossible-looking handicaps.

Nuts Well should have been a strong selection in the first in the face of strong support for hurdles debutant Cloudy Dream. I had backed the half brother to Runswick Royal last time out despite him looking to need the run and he had tightened up markedly since.

He's a rather fractious sort though and once again was on his toes and sweating. In the race he was novicey in front and although he settled better this time, I'm sure there'll be lots of improvement to come when he grows up. He's only four.

I was surprised at the scale of the punt of Cloudy Dream, with the soft ground a real red flag following two bumper wins on good terrain.

It wasn't the ground that beat him here though, rather that jockey Hughes was caught out his ground spotting the winner half a dozen lengths off a slow pace. The Irishman got two days into the bargain for barging the one-paced staying type Marquis of Carabas out the way on the run in.

It was surprising to see the Reveley youngster Waiting Perfectly looking so forward for such a young horse. It was a big run to chase home the winner and although the slow pace may flatter him connections could have a decent prospect in time.

Jefferson followers were badly burnt again in the next when Ryedale Racer (3s into Evs) was outbattled by rugged chase type Delusionofgrandeur in a tight finish.

Ryedale Racer's bumper form wasn't all that and this quite unfurnished youngster appeared to win here last spring in spite of the heavy ground. As such, this tacky terrain may not have suited either and some better ground could see him take a step forward from this.

The winner is a very plain, strong individual who you could sense would just gallop all day long for you. He had visibly come on from his season's opener as all the Smith horses do.

Presenting Junior went the other way in the market despite looking pretty straight, but he's assentially a good ground horse and this sticky stuff may not have suited. He could just be a better chaser, too.

I was quite taken by S Coltherd's Captain Redbeard, whose finishing position belied what was a decent effort. Moderate in bumpers, this big chase type landed a couple of points in the spring but wasn't fully tuned up for this,

After a move into contention down the back straight, that lack of condition told up the hill as he faded right out of it. Don't be put off by this - he's one to watch.

On a day of remarkable betting patterns the big strong staying hunter Kalastar was punted into 6/4 despite all form coming on good ground. He looked unbelievably slow here and finished well beaten.

Thatildee had not shown a great deal but was a wild card entry having not tackled a staying trip before and was given cheekpieces into the bargain. This was a fair effort in a poor race. Would Kilmainham (now 1/35) have won had he jumped the last? Not sure. His finishing effort has been very poor in the past.

The 2m4f handicap chase was taken by Verko, who I had lost faith in a long time ago, and he picked up the pieces here when everything fell into place. He's essentially a soft ground stayer and he came home in front after the rest cried enough, including perennial dodgepot Trouble In Paris, who looked in great nick beforehand.

Two more short-priced favourites were turned over on a day to forget for the money buyers - Gunner Lindley and Bruce Almighty edged out in close finishes. In the two miler, chase prospect Dutch Canyon is simply crying out for an extra mile, while the unfurnished Landmeafortune will also be of interest when stepped up markedly in trip.

Darsi Dancer was simply not in the same form as when winning at Sedgefield, for whatever reason, while Lilly's Legend is a horse who looks capable of far better than she has achieved thus far. I suspect good ground could be key to her.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Weekly round-up - W/C Oct 26

Four meetings to review from last week so let’s get straight to it.


The Durham National was the feature race and it produced an identical result to last year with Royale Knight beating Lackamon despite much worse terms.

Lackamon was well backed and had come on for his spin over timber a fortnight earlier, given an aggressive ride from the outset. He looked to have seen them all off before faltering going to the final fence where Royal Knight stayed on from the pack to get on top close home.

Trainer Newland knows the time of day and this horse clearly has abundant stamina. I suppose the only surprise was that he drifted from a morning price of 9/2 to an SP of 10/1. If you fancy one, stick to your guns!

I thought Sun Cloud would improve again for this while Woodford County was P Hobbs’ first runner at the track for many years and this horse may not have enjoyed the long journey from Minehead, as he got very warm beforehand and looked on edge. I’d be inclined to forgive this effort.

On a difficult punting card Jac The Legend was well-backed and this most progressive animal landed the bets despite looking in need of the run beforehand. Brian Ellison’s horses have appeared a tad burly in the main and for me that just means that this horse, like his Hexham winner Five In A Row, has plenty in hand of the assessor.

Jac The Legend is a proper stayer and softer ground and a return to fences will hold no fears. Keep him on your side. Snapping Turtle also looked to need it and put in another improved effort in second – his jumping is far better than it used to be. Back in third Iora Glas looks a strong stayer and he too can improve further especially if ridden more prominently.

Not A Bother Boy was running in a more suitable race in the staying chase after he was surprisingly hammered in the betting prior to a pipe-opener over the minimum trip at Carlisle. I thought he was very laboured here and although he’s a bit of a baby and possibly a bit soft, this may have come too soon.

That said it was a pretty weak affair and Teochew was a surprise winner down in class – well done if you found that.

Fly Home Harry was a springer in the novice handicap chase after the assessor dropped him almost a stone after a couple of poor efforts over timber.

This horse is not straightforward, as he pulls hard and doesn’t look a natural over any sort of obstacle. Since winning two bumpers he’s looked reluctant off the bridle and despite that attractive mark is one to have reservations about. It has to be said that the trainer’s horses have not gone well over the sticks in the past few days.

Love The Leader won the race to make it four in a row and credit to trainer J Farrelly for placing this horse so astutely. He has plenty of size for fences so should continue to pay his way.

One I have taken from the finale is Dark And Dangerous, who has joined Simon Waugh. Too small for fences, he’s on a career low mark over timber and he showed up well for a long way here before lack of condition told.


It was raining for much of the morning and the official going was swiftly changed to soft after they came home at long intervals in the opener.

For one that carries so much condition it was a remarkable race that Bollin Ace ran, and I’ll be watching his progress with great interest. The fact he got so close to the winner may suggest Royal Vacation is not quite the horse his mark suggests he is, but we’ll see.

The Smith’s I Just Know paid for chasing the pace but this nice sort looks one for the future when he strengthens up. Beer Goggles once again caught the eye staying on from some way back and this soft ground stayer can pick up a handicap before too long, although it would be nice to see the yard going better.

I thought Kayf Blanco ran a huge race in the handicap hurdle over what may now prove to be an inadequate test. Too free at times last term, this stoutly bred horse settled well off a sedate pace and was left with too much to do when a couple of Flat types sprinted clear after the last.

He looked to have done really well physically over the summer and was pretty straight here, and I suspect he is one that can ‘grow’ into a higher handicap mark.

Fago looked extremely fit and well prior to the decent handicap chase and he was a huge price if back to near his best. He was, but just didn’t see it out after looming upsides the gritty Wakanda two out.

Theatre Guide was a disappointment as everything looked perfect for him, but he looks to have his share of temperament, while Off The Ground went as though his turn will come if they can find some decent ground for him. His Warwick fall has clearly not left its mark.

I lumped on Itstimeforapint in the staying chase but he hasn’t really filled out as I had hoped and his jumping was still very hit and miss. Lean and leggy, he doesn’t look to have moved on from last term.

Blue Kascade is difficult to weigh up and it was no surprise that he should pop up when you least expected it. He was fit for this return and got a good ride from the front, but will find much tougher assignments ahead.

Longueville Flyer was mentioned after his comeback run that a track like Wetherby would suit and he came back to form here on this softer ground, although there were a few shoddy leaps thrown in again. Nalim was fit and ran his race before quitting halfway up the run-in, but the rest found it all very hard work.


Ennistown was put in very short early doors for the opening novice hurdle and I wasn’t keen on the Ferguson horse at all beforehand, sweating up and just looking like a horse with an attitude. Both Charmix and Draytonian were nice chasing types who looked pretty straight and it came as little surprise that the market spoke loud and clear before the off.

Despite there being no further rain since Friday’s card the ground looked really testing and they came home at long intervals in a quality novices chase won by Southfield Royale.

As his trainer commented this horse is just a baby but he had tightened up from his earlier run here and jumped with more fluency at this slower pace, proving too strong for his two principal rivals in the straight.

Zeroshadesofgrey was a big disappointment as he looked pretty straight. A lovely big horse, he made a host of minor errors and doesn’t use himself too well. I wouldn’t call him the most athletic animal and while he should be up to winning over fences I have reservations about him reaching a high level. There seemed few excuses.

Beg To Differ was carrying some baggage on his chase debut
I am greatly enamoured by Beg To Differ who I thought ran a fine race in third. He’s a super looking horse who seems to have a lovely way about him, travelling sweetly and jumping like an old hand after a couple of novicey leaps early on.

This horse was some way off peak fitness. You could see he blew up going to the fourth last where RJ sensibly allowed him to come home in his own time. Yet it was pleasing to see him measure the last three really well despite being very tired, when mistakes often creep in.

He is one of my five to follow and although I expected him to remain over hurdles this season he looks a natural over fences and I’m still very excited about him. Bear in mind that he relishes very soft ground and he’ll stay all day.

Blue Buttons looked fantastic ahead of the good mares race and the money for her was significant. She never looked like getting beat although Intense Tango ran another super race and has been rather unfortunate of late, things not quite panning out for her once more. She can win again soon – she’s a lovely filly. Ma Filleule didn’t look anywhere near fit for this race and the run should be ignored.

They all looked in good form ahead of the Charlie Hall, while I really fancied Relic Rock in the novices chase and it was sad to see him go wrong down the far side. Hopefully he’ll be back next year.

I’m not afraid to take on these hyped French imports and Mon Successeur was well touted only to run quite freely before getting turned over by Katachenko. The Nicholls horse is not very big but jumped nicely, although looked very stiff afterwards. There were some long faces amongst connections post-race.

It was a welcome winner for McCain, whose horse should improve a good deal for this run. However, the finish only endorsed my view that Relic Rock would have won with something in hand after he had come on a bundle for his Carlisle spin.

There were some really nice horses in the finale with the good looking trio Sir Ivan, Champagne At Tara and Medicine Hat all shaping like future winners.


Briefly on to the Cumbrian venue where the ground looked very much on the slow side after the first, which wasn’t a great heat. At The Doubble and Vintage Clouds should both improve quite a bit on their efforts with the latter looking like a real soft ground horse.

The novices handicap chase was a wonderful affair in which you could have backed a handful. The first two home Shimla Dawn and Cultram Abbey are both lovely chasers to follow who were fit and jumped superbly, the latter surely to improve on softer ground.

Souriyan held every chance and may have a little temperament while Special Wells made a mistake at a crucial time and didn’t have the basic speed to get back into it. He needs softer ground and is worth a try over further, while this may have come a little soon.

For Two also caught the eye as he jumped and travelled like a winner until lack of condition told. He certainly looked in need of it beforehand.

Celestino is worth a small mention after an eye-catching run in a poor handicap hurdle in which they went no pace. The ex-Nicholls horse looked burly and should improve no end after changing hands for £32k in the spring.

Out Sam was all the rage in the big handicap hurdle and while he looked pretty fit he could only labour on at one pace. This was a tough task for an inexperienced horse. I like Shades Of Midnight as one for the future as he looks to have done very well over the summer. He needed this quite badly.

Country’N’Western was backed all day long in the finale and D Elsworth’s bumper horse looked a real professional beforehand. There were some nice types in here although the well-backed Busy Street was another disappointment for trainer A Swinbank.