Friday, 29 April 2016


What turned out to be another fruitless journey up the A19 for some pretty tepid action, made all the more miserable by the Arctic conditions that rendered the going good to soft, rather than the good, good to firm in places that was the official description prior to the first.

With the vast majority of horses entered in expectation of such quick terrain it required a bit of guesswork as to what would go on it and what wouldn't.

Two that certainly had form on soft in the opener happened to fight out the finish in Astrum and Air Glider. I use the term 'fight' very loosely in this instance, as neither has much of it in them.

The latter, who has stopped as if shot over a variety of trips since joining Skelton, was down to the minimum here and Bridget was clearly under orders to make it a test.

I'm quite a fan of young Bridge (who wouldn't be) but she's not got the fractions right a couple of times I've seen her this term. She was very aggressive from the third last here although backers would have been in clover with the beast touching shorter than 1.1 in the run.

To be fair to the lass they were still nicely in front at the last but the writing was on the wall and the previously reluctant Astrum had little opportunity to shirk the issue this time with the front runner once again tying up dramatically.

Flat stayer and two-time winner Dark Diamond came through for second and may have been entitled to outrun his 125/1 odds despite having recently joined M Chapman, so the form may not be entirely desperate.

Layers of hot favourite Carthage would have been on great terms with themselves from the get-go as this shocking rogue dropped it from the gun. With three dodgepots in the line-up Furiously Fast came into the equation, and he looked fit and strong, but perhaps the ground turned against him. He was 0-9 on the level though.

The second was a decent handicap chase and the rain certainly helped Edmund, who was well-handicapped on his old form if the blinkers revitalised him...and they did. It was too much of along shot for me but it's easy to see why there was solid support for him.

The market held up as Runswick Relax had his ground again and looked fantastic despite a very busy campaign. It was a funny sort of race with the pair jostling for the lead alongside King Of The Dark, who also came in for support.

The latter has shown enough on a few occasions to suggest he can win a race but was badly outpaced here before staying on again to pip RR for second. After not staying at Hexham over 3m, it looks obvious that somewhere in between should suit.

The ground would not have suited Claragh Native but he showed enough to suggest he can win again this spring and he should come down a pound or two - a return to Cartmel looks ideal. The rest were very disappointing.

I didn't have many views on the handicap hurdle after three were scratched because of the ground, but Sendiym coped with it well enough back on a very low mark at a course he loves to run out a good winner, confirming the return to form of Dianne Sayer. This is the furthest he's won over as well and was going away at the line.

Sibling Mr K Slack esq. registered yet another winner with Discoverie, who has now won races off 80, 90 and 96. Once again the quirky beast was in the best of moods as he was unable to get onto the lead early on, but travelled well before sweeping through to take the initiative four out.

Money came once more for Stilo Blue Native, who once again proved himself to be useless, while Discay looked a short price as he just isn't a natural jumper of fences.

Gin Cobbler and Teenage Dream would have loved the faster ground, and both appeal as well handicapped horses going into the next couple of months.

Teenage Dream is primarily a flat horse but has loads of size and can win again when the emphasis is not on jumping. He too will enjoy a return to Cartmel on fast ground - he made countless errors here but ran on well.

I'll bypass another handicap hurdle as I had no view; just another collection of rogues and dodgers. The novice hunter looked between three - the eventual winner Play The Ace, Oaklands Bobby and Forge Valley.

The former finally got on top after a sympathetic ride from his jockey, who took the outside line in search of better ground. He was a bit short in the market for me but he's a nice sort who should improve again for another summer. The runner-up looked magnificent and was a tad unlucky.

The bumper was a match as the well-related Bah Lamb looked like a speedy type for the flat. Royal Supremo and Helmsley Lad had shown fair form in their bumpers and both would probably want better ground.

Kim Bailey's horse looked more forward beforehand and defied late support with ease. The Jefferson horse is a nice stamp of animal but is big and gawky and got unbalanced again here. Next year he can win his novice without much fuss I would have thought.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Perth - Day 3

The final day of the meeting was quickly upon us and although yesterday was an improvement on day one, we needed to get things right this time to get back in front.

It wasn't an easy punting card especially when a handful of non-runners reduced field sizes, probably on account of the ground which was apparently a bit patchy but generally still good.

The opening mares novice event featured four 'fancied' runners and four rags, with the market headed by Irish raider Mystique. She had been pulled up in better company last time but the Elliott horses had not fired here this week and I was quite happy to oppose another short one.

Fellow raider Danielle's Journey had won a weak affair on very soft ground at Ayr and with this a likely to be different proposition was also worth getting against.

It left the two 'locals' Mardale and Ethelwyn as likely candidates - they had clashed at Haydock last time but with B Hughes seeming to give the latter a kind reintroduction I really fancied the Jefferson mare to come out on top.

A quite big drift on the machine was ominous but we've learned to stomach such things this season and frankly I thought 6/1 was about the right price considering she did have to improve on her bare form.

It's hard to know what would have happened had she not stumbled two out, causing her jockey to lose an iron, but I doubt if she would have won. I think she wants a faster pace over this minimum trip and they probably would have got away from her anyway. But I do like her and a handicap should be a gimme this spring.

Two came out of the 2m handicap chase and it left a really hard puzzle that I opted to sit out. Owen Na View hasn't looked at all straight forward of late but was well backed, as was Monbeg River who I fancied the least of them. I like the horse but not the yard and this stoutly bred sort will want an extra half mile next season.

Raven's Tower was strongly considered but he's just a little lacking in size and scope and this is likely to hold him back over fences. He wasn't beaten far in the end but nothing has come from behind all week and he may need a little further if he's to be kept on the go this spring.

We stepped it up a gear in the next, a weak looking handicap hurdle, and Gold Chain delivered the goods under a fine ride from a very solid citizen in H Challoner (3).

The mare caught the eye on Tuesday - before the race she looked bigger than I remembered her to be - and in the event she came home really well in a better grade of race than this.

With D Sayer's horses coming back to life she looked a cracking bet even though her odds shrank throughout the day and it wasn't easy to get on. Prior to the race the beast was being a right madam, proving very awkward in the parade ring and kept separate for much of the time by the trainer.

They were worrying moments for punters as she's looked recalcitrant in the past but Challoner coaxed her along and after getting outpaced on the turn in, came home best of all under canny handling. Bravo everyone!

We nearly copped in the next when the rag Uhlan Bute threatened to jump them silly on the front end. It was one of the easier races of the week to predict with the only issue being whether Mullins raider Rolly Baby would go on the ground and be good enough at the age of 11.

All things considered it was worth taking on even though Pair Of Jacks looked in need of the run (which the market foresaw) and The Cobbler Swayne was massively overbet probably on account of punters thinking the race would be set up for the outgoing jock P Buchanan to wrap his underwhelming career on a winner.

Predictably it wasn't to be - I've thought for some time this attractive animal could do with 3m, and he's one to watch next season. So the coin flip landed on the outsider and thankfully we were able to trade in the run as it looked increasingly likely that the struggle would become an unequal one.

Nine lined up for the Highland National and although few could be strongly fancied it felt like one slipped through the fingers as Double Whammy gagged up for the Jardine/Shortall combo, the latter surely one of the finds of the season.

The horse sluiced up in the Wetherby mud three weeks ago but having won on better ground and over 3m in the past connections had every right to take shot at this marathon test, a view proffered by 'roomie' for the week A Sheret of Ruk/RP/Timeform 'fame'.

Even with a juicy trade-out likely I didn't take up the bet, instead getting against slowcoach Itstimeforapint in the place market - the Russell stayer unlikely to appreciate the ground, albeit in the event running far better than imagined.

Mo Rouge was well-touted in this and although not quite as small as I imagined, the horse doesn't have masses of scope and the anticipated mistakes came to fruition quite early on and as previously mentioned a run from off the pace this week was not likely to come off. He came home with a rattle, but won't be easy to win with.

The staying hurdle looked fiendishly hard with chances given to most, and although we managed to get some green on the board it was a blow to see Iora Glas go in so convincingly after following the small grey for some time.

He doesn't have the size for fences but back over timber showed a bit more behind Gully's Edge last time and this perfect blend of speed and stamina looked sure to suit. A punt from 8s into 5s seemed to pass me by - again down to focusing on a decision to lay both Seldom Inn and Landecker in the win market.

The former has looked for some time to have serious issues, be them mental or physical, and is very much one to avoid, while Landecker looked a short price based on his general overall profile. Maraweh and Johnny Go looked fit enough on their returns but perhaps they will come on for the run as both looked ring-rusty in the race.

Unfortunately there didn't look to be much of a 'getting out' angle in the bumper after the good-looking Mr Monochrome was very well bet and not surprisingly so. However he tanked to post and you can't afford to do that in the race.

As it happenes he settled fairly well behind solid fractions set by recent point runner-up Tyrrell's Succes (sic), who is a well-made type and was very tight in the market considering the support for the Jefferson youngster.

One of the truest of racing maxims is that it's very hard to defy a penalty in bumpers - especially for a four year old. Imperial Eloquence did his best, and should make up into a decent hurdler, but the impost was too great. As for Mr Monochrome, he was plenty green enough and I rather think he'll prove to be quite decent.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Perth - Day 2

More sunny weather for the second day's play and at least it was nice to know for sure how the ground is going to ride for a change.

Townshend took on Buyer Beware in essentially a match in the opener and I couldn't have backed the former with anyone's cash after a dreadful effort at Kempton last time. I wasn't keen on him physically either, much preferring the Elliot horse who has a nice frame in which to fill.

However, Johnson couldn't settle the beast as Townend (jockey) set sensible fractions and it was over before the straight. R Mike Smith's two rags ran well and his yard seems to be on fire at present...

The next was a bad handicap and I was fully focused on the front two, with V Dartnall having his first runner of the meet in Abyaat, who went close to winning last year and had cheekies on for the first time.

But I did like the look of Twister's Bring Back Charlie who will surely prove better than this lowly mark. I had a bit on them both but more on Twister's, who shaped like he's in need of further now. At least we were in green numbers.

The next race was a biggie as I strongly believed Sharpasaknife would get beat. I can't wait to see him jump a fence but he's come a long way in a short space of time and the form of his last win didn't warrant odds of 7/4.

In addition he ran up a little light in the paddock for my eye, whereas Braavos had gone the other way. Big and light framed when spotted at Southwell some months back, he looked a good bit stronger here and the ground was apparently the key to him.

I had a bit on him but more on Florrie Boy who looked a real progressive sort albeit rather dwarfed in size by the other pair. It was a good result but not great. I gave Shear Rock a good mention at Carlisle in the autumn and this first run back was most encouraging. He's a lovely strong horse who will come on for this, and I wouldn't be surprised if they go chasing now where I expect him to do well from this higher mark.

Things turned sour when Ink Master, an astounding 13/8 chance, went in to give Hobbs/Johnson a brace. I couldn't have it at the price as he needs further than this ideally, but woe is me they gifted him a soft lead (Quick Decission, anyone???) and it was game over from flagfall despite some rather hairy leaps.

Tomorrow's Legend appears to have run to his new mark, merely finding this on the sharp side, but I wasn't struck on the T George horse Valseur Du Granval, who was bit leggy and lean and has it to prove now. I liked Rear Admiral each-way but he was rushed off his feet on this drop back in trip.

We had to dust ourselves off though because Sharp Rise was another skinny favourite as this horse is no natural over fences and the absence of Reveley in the plate was a vital one. Even if he got round this was no gimme and he looked one of the lays of the meeting.

Mullins' Tennis Cap made little appeal on this ground but unfortunately I wasn't quite on the money as I thought Just Cameron had a right chance up in trip for the first time in a while, and I opted for Shadows Lengthen (fit after a break) each-way instead of last year's winner Witness In Court, arguably the paddock pick.

He should definitely have been included in betting plans but I was probably too focused on getting the jolly beaten in the lay market. I'm not sure this conclusively proved Just Cameron doesn't stay, he looked a bit flat to me. Saints And Sinners was backed but he didn't look ready and he's a rotund horse who will come on, and he'll be ready to strike soon as the assessor should drop him another 2lb for this.

The hunter was a no play race with little value to be found, so we were left with finding one to beat the short priced Impulsive American in the finale. I tried to get it beat at Musselburgh before now, and didn't, and it was the same here.

Western Miller looks a horse ahead of his mark in a physical sense but he's a queer one as I remember vividly him walking round at Carlisle in October as laid-back as you like, but he had two handlers here and not for the first time ran far too free in the race.

For the second time on the day RJ was unable to get to grips with one carrying my dough and the beast was done for by the home turn. If they can harness his ability this horse is very much one to follow and I'll be keeping a close eye on him when he returns next season as I assume he'll be roughed off after this.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Perth - Day 1

It wasn't just to tick the box that we travelled up to the Perth for the first time - there was fun to be had but more importantly winners to be got as the season continues its swift descent.

Unfortunately we'll have to wait another day for those.

Runners were greeted by extremely warm temperatures and genuine, natural good ground for the first time since the Fall. However there was plenty of juice in it and it seemed to me as if some soft ground types went on it, some didn't fare so well.

After a busy few days and five hours on the road preparation wasn't great so expectations were pretty low and the opening maiden hurdle wasn't up to much.

Several caught the eye for the wrong reasons, the mares Berkshire Downs (not progressing and quite misshapen) and Buttercup worth opposing - the latter running up very light but a young horse worth keeping an eye on with a summer out to grass behind her.

I hadn't been that struck by Petapenko previously and I wasn't sure he was that straight for this return from a 179 day absence. They've gone for blinkers at an early stage and it's not a good sign - the horse made mistakes and looked moody.

Wicked Willy was a fair jolly on the back of a good run last time, albeit on very soft ground. An unfurnished youngster, it could be that the ground wasn't soft enough but he didn't take a cut at the obstacles for whatever reason and went too freely up front. A work in progress.

Ballinvega had finished ahead of both the market leaders in a bumper here behind Fagan and had shown just enough on his return from a winter break to suggest he could be competitive. He's a fair stamp of a horse and won with a bit of authority in the end.

They bunched up in behind but again Misfits ran on to good effect. With a pedigree loaded with stamina he will come into his own over further in time. I could have backed him each-way but I didn't like the cut of his jib beforehand, strutting around with his ears pinned back. Maybe that's just him.

I'm not a huge fan of mares races but the next looked quite winnable. But I was against the eventual winner Princess Tara who I was convinced would need soft ground of the basis of her form with Peter Bowen. But she was backed and won well.

Presenting Rose is a big unit and looks a three mile chaser, while Dubh Eile and Song Saa were similar sturdy compact types. Out of the two the latter looked really well and most likely to progress from a couple of minor wins. Sadly that wasn't to be - she was far too keen and this was disappointing.

Whatdoesthefoxsay attracted support back on a winning mark but needed an attacking ride and didn't get one. She hasn't grown an inch since the early days and continues bang out of form, while Carinena appeared to have her chance and is now looking a bit exposed.

The 'Future Champions' novices hurdle was up next and all four looked genuine chasers. I'd been a layer of Up For Review at Doncaster and at the Fest on account of a very 'shouldery' action at the walk suggesting that very soft ground would be required. Nothing in those two runs suggested that theory was wrong and it looked like another good lay in the place market. Ouch.

He didn't look out of third gear to collect this but without wanting to denigrate the form too much the fact that Nambour and Barney Dwan could never get involved suggested perhaps the trip stretched them both, while Fagan clearly bounced out of Cheltenham as he was laboured from an early stage. All looked well beforehand but as the trainers always say you can't tell until you run them.

I read somewhere that Lucinda Russell had a terrible record at this meeting, possibly a result of the yard never seemingly laying their horses out for targets and as a result ending up here on the back of a busy campaign.

So it is very strange to record that I found myself supporting both Voyage A New York and Present Flight in the two chases. The former proved himself very well handicapped, as I had suspected, off 109 at Kelso but had been hiked 11lb for that win and struggled on soft last time.

I had hoped the better ground would help to eke out more improvement but it was a stab in the dark and this was more competitive especially with No Duffer looking in good form again after dotting up at Haydock.

He was very short though for one that hadn't won off a mark this high, so perhaps the race should have been swerved. I felt Silver Tassie would go well but I'm not entirely convinced about its resolution and for one of Micky's, whose usually look fantastic, he wasn't great in his coat.

I bypassed the bad looking amateur riders event to try to gather some thoughts with the day slipping away from us. The five-runner novices handicap was a decent puzzle and I knew them all pretty well.

Present Flight has had a fair season and there was every chance going right handed would see him in better light, however his jumping was the worst I've seen it and a hard season has probably taken its toll. Ok, so NEXT year I'll be against Lucinda's.

Lowanbehold had won twice at Kelso over shorter and physically looked the lesser of this bunch and readily opposable up in trip and grade, despite being strong in the market. Lay was the bet, although I was in no mood for that business after the earlier setback.

I'd thrown cash at Florida Calling last time but he was rushed into novicey errors on that chase debut and this nice looking horse was likely to be seen in better light here. He certainly was, but ran into a good one in Ballyboker Breeze.

With McCain he had looked slow and jumped poorly over timber, but had reportedly had a wind op and was straight enough after an absence starting out with N Richards, although I did feel he would come on for it.

The pair jumped really well at the head of affairs and for me they were going to have it between them with a circuit to go. Mossies Well is a nice big horse who is likely to prefer softer terrain, and one suspects this comeback effort would have pleased connections after something went amiss before Christmas.

It was hard to figure out the finale as you could give chances to outsiders Jet Master and Silver Duke if they were in the mood, and I didn't want to be with Baby King (exposed at this mark) King Muro or Top Of The Glas (doggy). Banyu was therefore a solid looking option at the top of the market and after positive tactics seemed to work on this free going sort last time they allowed him to bowl along in front again and the race never looked in doubt.

Top Of The Glas made mistakes in second but stayed on well to offer hope to many that his turn is around the corner. I would suggest the opposite, that this is the way he always runs, and will likely find at least one too many again in future.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Weekly round-up - W/C April 4

Aintree - Thursday 7th

Race One

No hard luck stories here and they all looked well beforehand. The state of the ground was important and it looked somewhere between good to soft and soft as the description suggested.

Arzal had to go close if he stayed the extra 2m 4f and it helped that he wasn't hassled on the lead and Sheehan got him in a lovely rhythm. And didn't he jump well. L'Ami Serge briefly threatened to land a blow but ran a similar race to Cheltenham, not entirely convincing with his finishing effort. Sizing John ran a bit flat for me and he should stay easily enough in time. Volnay De Thaix is starting to look disappointing for such a lovely stamp of a horse but perhaps a step up to 3m with see him in better light once handicapping.

Race Two

The anticipation of softer ground meant Ivanovich Gorbatov was well worth opposing at early odds of around 11/8 and in that regard it was even more pleasing to see that the horse didn't look great in the prelims, a little on edge and getting increasingly sweaty. A flat type, the ground wouldn't have suited but he probably wasn't in the same form as at Cheltenham all the same. I've no idea how to rate this form with the winner Apple's Jade mightily impressive, but the way the rest finished suggested all these youngsters were feeling the effects of the Festival on this very different ground. Footpad was the most likeable sort physically by some margin and is a likely improver in time.

Race Three

A race that pretty much panned out as expected with Cue Card, once again strong in the market, leaving a great sense of 'what might have been' at Cheltenham. He would surely have pushed Don Cossack all the way. Don Poli was given a very different ride here than at Cheltenham and that helped him put in a much better effort. You'd have to think Grand National for him in the future but top weight would be assured.

Race Four

Annie Power followed up in grand style over a trip that was likely to suit better than three weeks ago. The one view I took from the paddock was that Nichols Canyon looked quite lean and dry in his coat, suggesting he might have had enough for the season. He didn't run much of a race and says quite a lot that My Tent Or Yours, who didn't find much off the bridle over this trip as was likely to be the case, still had enough in reserve to hold on well for second.

Race Five

The Foxhunters, other than the odd long shot, usually goes to one near the front of the market and there was a school of thought that Pacha Du Polder, under a stronger ride, ought to go closer to On The Fringe with the shorter trip likely to suit. However, the Nicholls horse was very flat after showing up early and the result was never in doubt from quite early in the race - On The Fringe obviously a very good horse in this sphere after achieving the 'double double'. Current Event again ran well on ground that went against him and they should find a nice race for him, probably at Stratford, if we ever get a break in the weather,

Race Six

Personally speaking the Red Rum was the most interesting race of the day and it took me most of the day to figure out that Katachenko was one of the few who hadn't fully shown what he is capable of. The race has a history of throwing up some shock results and I was happy to put a line through several of the fancied runners on account of the soft ground, while I was also happy to cross out Fayette County even before he started playing up on the way to the start. He's a very big lump of a horse who would prefer a big galloping track.

Minella Present looked trained to the minute but finished lame, while Viconte Du Noyer also looked very well, if a bit keen, and I thought he ran a blinder considering they must have been hoping for better ground. A mention has to go to the winning jockey as Hutch gave Katachenko a terrific front running ride, getting him on a good stride at the fences before firmly making his mind up for him before the last. The horse had every chance to shirk the issue on the run-in, but his effort was hard to crab.

Race Seven

The mares bumper gathered the best of the fairer sex and there were plenty of nice looking horses for the future. Bells On Sunday was one of the nicer ones as was Little Miss Poet, who showed up well and looks to have a great future, Copper Kay is also well made and already shapes like a strong stayer.Shattered Love was apparently not particularly fancied by shrewd connections so they must be thrilled with her effort in third place, this tall, lean chasing type staying on most pleasingly. La Bague Au Roi was all the rage but the ground was a major issue beforehand and she didn't travel anywhere near as comfortably as she has in the past and this light-framed mare clearly has to have good ground. I saw Kayf Grace at Donny and she took an age to get going, but once stoked up here she really stayed on well. A good strong boned mare, she's a bit flighty and got very warm, but is a lovely sort for the future. Augusta Kate is on the small side and it remains to be seen if she goes on over timber.

Newcastle - Friday 8th

The decision was made to head up the A19 to Gosforth Park...and what a mistake it was. If anything could go wrong, it surely did. I had little intention of getting too involved yet ended up leaving plenty behind. There wasn't much to glean from the paddock and I haven't seen too many horses looking over the top yet this spring.

I didn't play the first two races  - the 2m handicap chase appeared to be Mumgos Debut's to lose but I couldn't possibly entertain a bet at shorter than 2/1 even though the betting was spot on.

They had put Asuncion in as the jolly early doors but the horse achieved very little in winning here last time and was a fairly solid lay in hindsight, she would probably have finished third had Harry Reed not fallen off Rosquero in bizarre fashion four out after the horse appeared to have popped the fence quite nicely.

It pretty much opened things up for Mumgos, who had come off the bridle on the home turn, and with Asuncion already having cried enough Mumgos was free to finally get off the mark after six runner-up finishes.

Race Three

This handicap hurdle summed things up as I couldn't see past the first two in the betting, and it proved to be the most wrong I've been all season as neither Molly Milan nor Diamond Damour completed the course.

Molly Milan's form behind Imperial Prince looked quite strong in this context and she looked in terrific form, yet the market suggested all was not right and when one of Goldie's doubles in price you pretty much know your fate. Diamond Damour's form over this trip behind Mac N Cheese at Wetherby was arguably the best in the race and he hadn't been seen to best effect back down in trip. But he stopped as if shot on this very soft ground and the big grey now looks firmly on the downgrade. Simmply Sam was devilishly hard to find and I haven't got Turtle Cask right all year. Like most of the races on the card, the form will not be worth a dime.

Race Four

Tomahawk Wood was all the rage for division two and after showing precious little in handicaps this strong looking chestnut looked fit and well following a break during which he may have had a wind op as they left the tongue tie off this time (pure speculation). When the Whillans money is down they don't get it wrong too often and in another weak affair he did what he had to do and is one you can take forward from this meeting, as he is starting from a very workable mark.

Final Fling was unexposed but looked agitated beforehand, getting sweaty, and ran no sort of race, while Titian Boy has the look of a decent staying chaser and that he may be in time. However, for the second time he ran no race and fences will need to transform him.

Race Five

King Of The Wolds has been an ATM for in-running players, never finding much off the bridle, and from the moment he was shoved along in a bid to get on the lead he was going to get beat. These were surprising tactics from a new jockey and while the horse is not one to follow he's better than this and may become well handicapped as a result.

With Alderbrook Lad and Presenting Junior having sighters ahead of their spring targets on better ground, it was left to Un Noble and Silver Tassie to fight out the finish. Un Noble has plenty of raw talent and physically can do a great deal between now and the autumn. If he does, he'll certainly improve plenty on this already solid season. Silver Tassie was further out his ground than his punters would have liked, a trait which jockey O'Toole is overly keen on. As a result this strong staying sort never looked likely to reel in the winner.

Race Six

I had been expecting to reinvest the returns Nuts Well gave us last time out in the next but the withdrawal of Spiculas scuppered any chance of a bet. Reveley's horse was returning from a lengthy absence and surely wanted better ground, but was taking a large chunk out of the market. The stable sensibly took him out on account of the ground, leaving Nuts Well with a penalty kick. That said, he looked a bit stirred up in the paddock, sweating quite freely, and with Ifandbutwhynot and Swaledale Lad looking very fit off breaks I ended up taking on the good thing. Never mind. The winner is still very novicey but this has been a very likeable first season over timber and I'm sure they'll target a decent prize over hurdles next term before embarking on a chasing career.

Race Seven

There were still two more races in which to hand over some cash and it wasn't difficult. The Orange Rogue went in to this 0/10 over fences although he'd run most of his best races at this track, he always finds one better on the run-in. However, they hacked round for most of this 3m trip and that helped his suspect jumping and stamina, and was against the favourite Veroce who has proved himself a dour stayer. The jolly was outpaced when the tempo finally lifted and young Hamilton was a little slow to react. That said, I always felt he'd reel in The Orange Rogue up the straight. However, N Alexander's charge winged the last three and that ultimately proved the key. Veroce looks the type to improve a good deal with another summer behind him and I can see him becoming a Haydock type of horse as he'd love a slog round there.

Race Eight

A staying hurdle that like the earlier race looked a two-horse affair with Smuggler's Stash expected to relish this slog with the addition of headgear, and he looked fantastic beforehand. When In Roam arrived in terrific form and looked a danger, with none of the others suggesting victory was forthcoming, Tickanrun arguably having a chance on his Musselburgh run. As it was, Triumph Davis put her best hoof forward to land the spoils on ground I didn't think would suit. Smuggler's Stash never picked up the bridle and served merely to show that the Dobbin yard is back in the doldrums after a golden run that saw Rocking Blues land a memorable hat-trick.

With Saturday's Sedgefield card cutting up I'll be taking a breather before a busy week starting next Sunday at Wetherby followed by a first trip to the Perth spring festival.

Friday, 1 April 2016


A trappy little card on ground softened by rain since the last meeting here on going that looked good to soft at worst. It was one of those days when you look back and think you could have found all the winners with a bit of hard work and luck. Sadly the reality was and usually is quite different.

The opener pitted Bonne Question against Iniciar. Neither made tremendous appeal physically - especially the latter who while not looking as bad as at Donny earlier this season, is a still a light framed type.

Sioux Chieftain was the only feasible alternative to the market leaders and he is a stronger looking animal than a lot of Newland's. He looked fit enough though and showed a decent turn of foot to upset the odds on the front pair.

They went no sort of gallop here and that may have played into the winner's hands, who was decent on the flat. While the winner may be ok, I'm a tad cautious on the form.

I had to take on Wolf Sword after the shenanigans here 10 days ago. Again he was well backed but the issues that troubled me then were just as relevant today and although I couldn't find the winner a decent lay at around 6/4 was rewarding enough.

You could have laid the front two after Tsar Aexandre was heavily backed despite having shown very little over fences to date. Big and lengthy - a bit of boat if you ask me - I couldn't see him winning and at the age of nine time is not on his side.

I smashed into Lowcarr Motion 10 days ago as though defeat was out of the question (it was!) but to my great dismay he was scratched at the start of racing. On this slower ground I was concerned and I felt he was the sort that needed everything in his favour.

The short story is the beast never went a yard but latched on to the leading trio turning in and always looked like winning in the end. He was handicapped to do just that but I was left to kick myself very hard indeed - especially after telling myself to stop worrying so much about going and its many variations.

The fact was that the race wasn't up to much - the drift on Pennywell unsurprising given the horse looked small and didn't move great - it's clear he's not well handicapped. Mr Snoozy attracted loads of support but is hardly the type to be wading into having gone almost three years without a win.

Karisma King showed a bit more under strong handling and they will find the key to this decent type in due course. Theatrical Style is what he is, ie moderate.

The handicap chase over about 2m4f was a poor affair in which you would struggle to back one of the quintet. Punters latched onto Ballyvaughn who had won on his chase debut at Stratford, but he was a very short price indeed to follow up that fortunate success.

He's a nice horse but very free going and he had nothing left in the straight. Crown And Glory had shown a bit of form at Doncaster last term but he'd been off a year and shown nothing on his return at the weekend.

I couldn't have it on my mind but won very easily indeed, which probably says more about the opposition than him. He didn't even look that great beforehand. A baffling result, to be honest. Brother Scott looked fit and well and probably ran his race in second.

Another favourite worth taking on was Three Colours Red and at least we got that one right. The juvenile did not look straight forward at Haydock last week and the cheekies applied here didn't seem to make much difference.

Again it was a day for the layers and not the players. El Massivo wasn't easy to find but fairly scooted away after returning from a short break. Summer Storm was fit from a longer absence but has yet to show he retains much ability.

I quite like backing new recruits to the hunter chase game from the Point field and Thetalkinghorse was quite a nice individual to look at, and frankly it would have been disappointing if he hadn't disposed of decent yardstick Railway Dillon.

The bumper looked a toss up between decent previous winners Keeper Hill and Betameche. Except they didn't bet like that - the hype machine favouring the former trained by W Greatrex.

He certainly looks the part and if memory serves correctly appears to have grown since winning at Market Rasen for Ronald O'Leary, when he showed a fair amount of stamina.

He travelled like the winner here but was woefully one-paced in the straight and ended a very disappointing day for the trainer, whose record at the track (does that really have a bearing on a horse's chance?) is now worse by three.

Betameche was impressive after looking immature throughout the race. It may be argued that Richards>Skelton is a trainer upgrade - I wouldn't want to comment on that! But judging by this he has moved on significantly from his Newcastle debut and appeals as the sort to go on improving for his excellent yard.

As mentioned here previously Captain Moirette is a lovely big chaser in the making but is very young for one so big and will need plenty of time before he starts to fulfil his undoubted potential.


A mixture of sunshine and showers at the Northumberland venue but a nice card and great fun had by all. After a quiet sort of month it was good to get a couple of winners on the board at decent prices.

From a handicapping perspective it looked as though Whats Up Woody and Gibbstown only had to turn up to win their respective races - if only it were that easy.

'Woody' was having his first outing in a Class 5 event and was down in trip but the suspicion was that all was not lost off a perch of 95. With the ground changing almost daily one can worry oneself to death with thoughts of 'ground too soft, ground not soft enough' at this time of year.

Soft going might have been a concern for Woody but this looked mostly good to soft and under a positive ride he won pretty much as he liked, and it was good to see him really stick his head down coming out of the dip.

Having priced him up at no bigger than 4/1 it was satisfying to pocket a win at bigger odds. In a race where few could seriously have been fancied I thought Westend Theatre might be worth a small saver as I've been watching his progress for some time.

He's a proper chaser and the way he came home suggests he could do with further, although he'll need to fence more cleanly if he's to pick up a race this spring.

Under The Red Sky made the market but he really is moderate. That said this turned into a bit of a speed test which wouldn't have suited. Harleys Max and Proud Gamble have shown their form at Musselburgh this term and you couldn't get a more different track to this.

The meeting kicked off with a novice hurdle in which Veinard looked a short price based on his recent efforts in handicaps where he has looked a reluctant hero.

The favourite Kid Valentine was arguably on the short side given his absence, but one senses trainer M Smith rather likes his charge and he'll like him even more now that's he's snapped the handler's losing streak.

Storm Forecast represented some value here but D Cook is not easy to pass on a strong staying, sound jumping type. I thought Jefferson's horse hurdled very nicely though and may do better back on a more conventional track.

I've been rather disparaging towards Gully's Edge here in the past but fully expected him to blossom with another summer behind him.

He was more grown up here than in the past and is clearly going the right way, for all that his novice hurdle fell apart. Network Rouge had to give up a double penalty that proved well beyond him despite looking fit from a break, while Billy Billy is only small and probably 'bounced' after a hard race at Ayr previously.

I had no views on a difficult handicap hurdle won by See Double You and kept my powder dry for the next in which Gibbstown was bidding to win for a second time in three years. He also won a race at the track in March last year and was a remarkable 24lb better off with Flaming Thistle, whom she beat that day.

Hexham clearly suits the mare down to the ground and she won as she pleased despite blundering badly at one of the fences going away from the 'stands'. Like Woody's race the rest had to play second fiddle if she turned up in any sort of form and Flaming Thistle ran his race in second place at an each-way price.

Again, the market was made by an overbet favourite in The Bishop, who had won a poor race here last time and was a bit flat here.

Imperial Eloquence was pretty forward for his debut in the bumper but it wasn't easy to make a confident call. I liked the second, Isle Of Ewe, a nice strong mare who was probably shipped up north to take in this stamina test. Even this proved too short for her but she should be up to winning one of these.

The Jefferson horse was a surprise favourite. Tiger Mountain looked a backward sort and didn't move great to post. He was quite easy to take on, while money for Dr West went in that very direction. I'm not mad keen on it physically yet it was probably quite disappointing the way he faded out of it.

Baracalu is a nice horse to watch, quite strong already but with with plenty of filling out to do, and I believe it was a tack problem as much as wayward tendencies for him to exit the race at halfway.