Sunday, 19 November 2017

Round-up - Newcastle/Wetherby Nov 17/18

Newcastle - Friday November 17

There were rumours the ground was on the quick side of good for the first meeting of the season but it looked like nice terrain and they came home well.

Race 1
A novice hurdle that revolved around three of them, but really the interesting one was French import Jassas who was having his first start for the in-form J Ewart.

Paddock inspection was more than enough to confirm he was the business - a big strong horse horse fully wound up for the debut - and with Johnson booked it was very surprising he wasn't a short priced favourite.

Inniscastle Lad had showed enough last time behind a good one but he's pretty moderate looking and not certain to go on this season, while Hello Fellas came in for support but he's crying out for softer and a distance of ground.

Joke Dancer is a lovely stamp of a horse and he reminds me of the same stable's Emral Silk, a big raw horse at this stage with plenty to learn.

But he could be quite talented and after once again looking slightly fractious beforehand and keen in the race, he knuckled down late on to give the Ewart horse a fright. He's one to watch and he's only four.

Race 2
A staying handicap hurdle where the market was lop-sided due to last week's Warwick winner Triopas running off the same mark with Johnson looking for a quick double.

This very sturdy beast tanked along before getting outpaced when it mattered, and the each-way money was spot on for Chu Chu Percy, who looks much improved this term and could be the sort to keep building.

Kings Eclipse once again suggested he has a race in him while The Conn wasn't best positioned turning in and he can certainly do better with some soft ground and ideally a change of jockey.

Race 3
Cracking Find looked a shoo-in for the novices handicap chase over 2m but it may not have been straight forward had Gris De Pron not crashed out at the second last when apparently tanking.

I'm a big fan of the winner though, as he'll keep jumping and galloping, and he shouldn't go up much for this so remains one to have on side when stepped back up in trip.

Gris De Pron is a nice strong youngster who had jumped brilliantly until his exit; he just got a bit low when travelling at speed and should bounce back from this.

An Laoch doesn't have a great deal of substance physically and was never likely to have the basic speed to go with the the other pair, but his jumping kept him in it and there should be races around for him, although he'd be of more interest in the coming years.

Race 4
Not much of a mares novice hurdle, Tokaramore looked a bit on edge and not especially fit but still went off favourite ahead of the nicely bred Mary Eleanor, who didn't have to achieve that much to win.

The less said of the ride on the runner-up the better; it was a lamentable effort and Katy Royal is surely better than she has shown in three runs to date.

Both Clovelly and Cheenys Venture were well held but have enough about them to suggest a small handicap is not out of reach for them.

Race 5
The handicap chase wasn't a race to get too involved with for all that Dica looked to have finally been nailed by the handicapper and forced into a better race as a result. He ran his usual admirable race but finished held.

With No Planning unable to front run and then losing his action, it fell apart a little and it was left to a smattering of weak finishers to fight it out, the roguish Rear Admiral responding to pressure after trying to take the last with him, he's a big lad but looked pretty straight.

Jet Master was set an impossible task and may yet have a race in him from this mark, but Baileys Concerto was very tame once more and his better days look to be behind him.

Race 6
Ballinslea Bridge was a worthy favourite on form and looks in the closing bumper but in the end he was just out-fought by Chanceanotherfive, who isn't much to look at but was tenacious and did well to defy a penalty.

Glinger Flame is a nice sort to go to war with and Sultans Pride looks more of a stayer, but Sweet As Candy was backward and will need time.

Wetherby - Saturday November 18

The ground was good to soft after a dry week for a competitive looking card.

Race 1
Talk about hindsight being a fine thing. The opening novice hurdle looked quite deep with four of them having shown fair form and a Longsdon raider that was making its debut.

The disparity in the market was very wide, however, especially in the morning where solid bumper performer Wemyss Point was 25/1 and bigger despite having shown comparable form first time over timber as the Skelton hotpot Cabaret Queen.

Now the latter clearly had bundles in hand when winning at Market Rasen, but the penalty for that made things interesting while Nicely Indeed, a stablemate of Wemyss Point, had the best form in the book but appears to find winning very hard following an injury absence.

With Just Don't Ask looking a nice big chasing type (looked fit enough) the market didn't know what to make of it all, other than Wemyss Point being over-priced and eventually backed down to 7s at the off.

The well-bred five-year-old has his quirks and looked lazy at various times during the race, but the useful T Dowson kept him up to his work and there looked to be plenty in the tank at the end.

Cabaret Queen didn't travel as well as expected and only plugged on to grab second, ahead of Just Don't Ask who should find a novice race in due course. Nicely Indeed backed out of things worryingly and he is expected to go backwards from here.

Race 2
A novice chase that looked a two-horse race with useful staying hurdler Ami Desbois taking on a speedier type in Whatduhavtoget, the market just favouring the former in the end despite the trip being on the short side.

There's nothing not to like about Ami Desbois, who jumped like an old hand I thought and this 143 -rated hurdler only has to improve a stone and a bit to go well in the RSA Chase at the Festival; if it came up soft there'd be few tougher in the field.

Can someone please tell me how the 104-rated Mortens Leam hasn't been able to pick up a handicap hurdle prior to giving Ami Desbois a big fright here.

My 'cliff' horse and horse to follow looked the type to go through the ratings this term but his mark has been shattered now with an extraordinary first effort over fences.

He's not over-big at this stage and he got quite low a few times, but was nimble enough and I suppose it was vindication of sorts that he should be able finally to show his true ability. Where he goes now I know not.

Whatduhavtoget looked a bit lairy beforehand and she may not be one to rely on; very fresh early on she somehow found a leg at the third but crashed out at the same fence next time around when held. She needs to calm down.

Race 3
Early Retirement is a horse worth following as mentioned here before but he had his work cut out in this deeper race from a 7lb higher perch than when beating a modest bunch at Southwell.

All eyes were on Skipthescales who had stayed on eye-catchingly well here a fortnight ago and with the extra yardage to suit he was strongly backed to get off the mark.

Things looked dicey on the turn in as Dowson was scrubbing away, but it was another endorsement of the youngster's talent that he got him home after the last, Early Retirement not for the first time looking a little immature as he veered left under pressure.

Both will remain of interest, as does Little Bruce, who was well-backed to bounce back from last week's flop in the slop. He seems to love this track and needed all of this trip, so with some headgear applied he can win again in a bigger field where they'll go quicker.

Western Rules was very fit for his return from a lengthy break, but he's a bit slow and heavy ground is what he needs.

Race 4
A run of the mill staying chase featuring many of the usual suspects. Golden Investment was taking a slight drop in class and this sound jumping strong traveller had to go well for all that his attitude has looked poor in the past.

He did little wrong here though, battling past Doktor Glaz after the last although you wouldn't say he hit the line running. But the pair came miles clear after travelling much the best, however what they achieved may be over-rated by the assessor.

The runner-up isn't bred to stay and it wasn't a total surprise to see him reeled in. The way he went a shorter trip should suit, but he's enormous and this type of track will always see him in better light than, say, Kelso.

Red Danaher plugged on into third but he lacks size and scope and it wouldn't surprise me if he reverted to hurdles, his sliding mark not really helping here and he's essentially very ordinary.

Can't Pay Won't Pay is moderate looking to say the least and after countless blunders prior to his exit it could be that he too is seen in better light over timber. Sharney Sike flopped again and isn't one to trust.

Race 5
There were plenty who thought that William Of Orange was ready to deliver over hurdles for the first time and they were spot as as Hughes was able to dictate steady fractions at the head of the field.

He saved plenty for late in the piece and nothing got a blow in, Irish Roe battling on for second after numerous errors and she should enjoy going over further, while Keep In Line found disappointingly little and he too could now be poised for a step up in trip.

Race 6
The handicap chase took some figuring out as nothing made great appeal. Get On The Yager is a useful looking sort but his form doesn't match up and he was downright poor here, suggesting he's not quite right.

Poker School had become disappointing while Wolf Sword was starting to look high in the weights. However, the pair had the finish to themselves, both finding more than is often the case, and it's now becoming harder to crab the winner for his consistency.

Indian Temple looked fit enough but is probably being held back by the assessor at this time, while Cusheen Bridge looked all over the winner until fitness probably told late on.

Twenty Eight Guns is a nice big sort who should relish softer and further and this should tee her up nicely.

Race 7
Schiaparannie has long since shaped as though she might be quite useful over obstacles and she was a warm order to land a mares contest in the finale.

Overcoming some novicey errors, she basically outstayed them here and a step up in trip looks sure to see her pull out more improvement. She has loads of size and scope and could be decent.

Our Belle Amie is quite sturdy and will come on for this run, but there's something that tells me she might not be straight forward. Autumn Surprise looked quite fit and she's a nice daughter of Yeats that should continue to progress, while Northern Girl has shown enough to pick up a little handicap somewhere.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Hexham - Friday November 10

It was soft ground but they weren't finishing exhausted; the second last hurdle was omitted again which meant one hurdle jumped in the last six furlongs.

Race 1
Bulkov had the highest rating of 129 by some way and although nobody believes he's up to that standard he should have been favourite; even if you took a stone off it the 2/1 jolly Tetraites Style still had a stone to find himself on previous form to be competitive. The latter pulled pretty hard early on which didn't help his chance and they'll probably drop him in next time. He's not that big and may need some time as stamina should eventually be his forte.

Bulkov came to win the race but was picked off after the last by Go Go Lucas, who was making his hurdles debut. He's quite small but looked fit and well; there was each-way support at big odds and this looked a weak race. The runner-up was fit and there's a question mark over his resolution.

Grand Morning is a big chaser of the future so to run into a place here does him some credit, although Ouro Branco has lost the plot and is a keen sort and also backward physically. No doubt he can gallop and once his exuberance is harnessed he'll be back on the up.

Race 2
Another weak looking favourite here in Handy Hollow, who is very much on the small side and had a question mark over whether he'd handle the ground. He was really well supported but this looked a better race than the opener with nice nicer sorts on show.

Black Art is a strong son of Black Sam Bellamy and he looked forward enough to be backed against the jolly, and there was quite a bit of late support. He appeared to have done enough taking over going to the last but Crixus's Escape, a really nice looking horse albeit just an unfurnished youngster, showed a decent turn of foot to come from some way back to win. This was quite a taking performance and both the front two are worth keeping an eye on.

Silk Or Scarlet looked strong and quite fit so better was expected, although he was a bit too keen.

Race 3
It looked a match but Baracalu looked really burly and that was reflected in the market as he was pretty friendless. He's a nice strong chasing type and has a decent future, while the winner Niceandeasy is a very different type; not much to look at and really weak. He must have some engine because he messed about for most of the race before being coaxed to the front by the excellent C Nichol. They'll have to mind him, both mentally and physically, but he could be very useful in time.
It's worth mentioning Millrose Bell in third. V Thompson's horse didn't look anywhere near fit but the Flemensfirth mare ran on well. She may hold down the level of form, but I take the view that she may have some ability, while the young jockey didn't look a hopeless case either.

Race 4
The feature race was the staying handicap chase and the early money for Iskabeg Lane had gone up in smoke by the off; he'd doubled in price probably owing to the fact that he didn't look fit and his jumping turned out to be pretty useless. I had a feeling this might be too much too soon and it's back to the drawing board for the time being. He'll come good at some stage and he's loads of size and scope.

Western Jo was ridden with confidence from the front by J England and this formerly useful tool has really got his act together again. He stayed this trip earlier in his career and stayed on well enough to hang on by a neck in the end from debutante Ronn The Conn.

The runner-up has shown loads of ability in his short career and this debut for the Menzies yard bodes well for the future. Like all of hers he looked like the race would do him good so to go so close is to his credit, and while his jumping was novicey he'll relish the stamina tests to come this winter.

Teddy Tee looked fit and well and this lightly raced horse shaped with some promise, although quite how much ability he retains is open to question. Jump For Dough wasn't put into the race at any stage and this chasing debutante can do better than this for all that he's not very big.

Race 6
On A Promise was back in action off the same mark as when winning comfortably at Wetherby last week, and he looked the proverbial good thing to double up being 11lb well-in. He's a lovely well-made grey with a good nature, and does everything easily enough, jumping fluently and staying on to assert under pressure. Rivabodiva came here in form and clearly stays well, but was never likely top get past the winner even if she wanted to. Poetic Presence ran another sound race in third and she can surely pick up a mares handicap in due course.

Race 7
A typical handicap chase for the track in which both picks Corner Creek and Flying Jack hit the deck. The latter looked really well again and it was good of the handicapper to leave him on a mark of 90 after running above himself in a Sedgefield novice. Whether the assessor will give him another chance is unlikely after his spill two out when he appeared to be the one to beat. However his stamina is not fully tested at 3m and it's not certain whether he'd have won, however with Frank The Slink taking the honours you'd like to think he would! They all just seemed to chase the winner up the straight at their own pace, and none of them are worth even mentioning in dispatches.

Market Rasen - Thursday Nov 9

Race 2
They didn't go much of a pace in the mares novices hurdle but the classy grey Redemption Song got the job done on her first outing over timber. She's a big mare and looked to be carrying condition, but showed loads of ability in bumpers and was simply too good for the opposition. She looks quirky when hitting the front, but I suspect that's just greenness at this stage and she'll be better as she goes up in class. I can see her mixing it with the best of the Southern-based mares and will make a lovely chaser in time.

I thought the runner-up Lucca Lady stepped up on her solid debut effort and she's a likeable mare. She's now bumped into a couple of decent sorts and one of these will come her way; she shapes like a stayer and I'm certain she'll go on soft ground.

They were clear of Raised On Grazeon, who was quite well backed despite lacking resolution in a finish and also that she was very unlikely to stay this extra half mile. She pulled too hard off the slow gallop and is one that should be opposed in all but the very weakest of races.

Race 3
The feature was a Listed mares chase and it produced a most impressive performance from the vastly improved Mia's Storm. By no means the biggest of these, she looked well though and is clearly thriving. She jumped supremely and unlike many of these can call on deep reserves of stamina. Physically she can keep improving and while soft ground may be a concern, she's in very good hands.

While Desert Queen won this last year she is usually campaigned over shorter and this buzzy type was brought into the paddock very late. She was on her toes and the money for her in the market was overdone as her form didn't entitle her to be so short.

Arguably most eye-catching was runner-up Antartica De Thaix. The Nicholls horse was never at the races and made a  number of errors in the first part of the race. She looked burly beforehand and the weakness in the market rather backed this up. She was rusty but stamina looks to be her forte and as this was her first venture over 3m, I think she's capable of much better and appears to go on soft.

Race 4
Shady Glen got his head in front after travelling well throughout the handicap chase, but this was very uncompetitive and I don't think he's had to improve to win here. Kap Jazz is a really sluggish looking horse and made numerous minor errors before plugging on, perhaps much softer ground would suit. Ultimatum Du Roy is very sturdy and surely needed this seasonal debut, while Themanfrom Minella posted another shocker.

Race 5
Another extremely weak race and it looked like another good opportunity for Pretty Reckless, who pulled it out of the fire at Warwick last time. Tenacity is half the battle in these sorts of races and the race was run perfectly for the four-year-old, as the strong-travelling Elkstone provided the perfect target to aim at. The latter has proven intractable at times but seemed to settle better here, and actually looked to find a bit extra off the bridle, although the winner was dossing. He remains one to oppose, but this did offer a bit of hope. Tower Of Allen didn't look great and needs to fall in the weights.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Musselburgh preview

No great insights unfortunately and the three handicap chases are very ordinary to say the least, but a couple of them are worth having a closer look at.

John Williams is undoubtedly the nicest horse in this 2m contest but it's going to be a real test of speed and he required every yard of the trip on heavy ground at Hexham last time. This ground is more to his liking and they'll probably try to have him up there all the way, but at less than 2/1 he doesn't appeal.
Cooper's Friend has stopped to nothing on his last couple of outings suggesting he has some sort of problem, be it physical or mental. It could be that he no longer stays 2m4f+, hence this drop to the minimum. However, this is in fact the shortest trip he has faced under rules and his victory at Sedgefield came over 2m3f. I think he checks out at the business end at any trip.
Muwalla is getting some respite from the handicapper but hasn't shown much at all on his last three outings. Ground and trip suit and he could bounce back and go well, but even so he doesn't find much off the bridle when in the best of form, so he's not a bet from a win perspective.
My Idea is another that finds nothing when let down, he's had injuries and isn't the force of old, winning only a very weak race in the summer.
The pace angle is interesting as Stormbay Bomber loves to front run and simply must have good ground or quicker. I think he'll love it round here and if he's on form, which to be fair is probably a worse than 50/50 bet, then he could take some pegging back. I made him no more than a 12/1 chance so it's worth paying to find out if he's on a going day.
Duhallowcountry is unlikely to be ready first time but does go freely and is likely to ensure they go a real good clip, which of course means he could be a spoiler for backers of Stormbay Bomber.
Endeavour has been a grand servant and still pops up now and then, but his chase mark does look high and he's not certainty to perform to that level.
The other runner is Chestnut Ben, who has dropped to a good mark and he is certainly a player, although 2m on fast ground is sharp enough for him and they'll need to fall in a heap for him to collect. That is entirely plausible of course, and 12/1 was a crazy price. 8/1 still represents value, so I'll take he and Stormbay Bomber to small stakes.

Just five go in the finale over just shy of 3m and this is the sharpest staying trip in the UK. It looks right up the street of Bright Prospect, who loves good ground and jumps really well on the whole. He looks well handicapped and is the most likely winner, however I couldn't make him any shorter than 7/4 so I'm not surprised he's drifted all day. If he continues to drift to anything silly like 9/4 on the show, he's worth a bet.
As it stands though, there's value around as No Such Number still looks high in the weights after last season's winning spree, and while he's every chance of staying this 3m, his stamina will be ebbing away late on and he didn't appeal at the odds.
Blue Kascade is back in his grade but he is a giant of a horse that likes big tracks, and I'm not sure this tight circuit suits even though he won round here last term. The money for him isn't surprising, with his yard going well, but his overall profile doesn't encourage me to back him at 7/2 or less.
Swantykay has shown practically nothing for his new yard, so I don't know where to start with the market move for him, which leaves Chicago Outfit.
The veteran was revitalised by G Bewley and he made Hexham his own for a while, until age and the handicapper caught up.
However, he won a point in the spring for his permit holder, who had a first-time-out winner under rules the other day through Havana Blue. With C Nichol in the plate, the inference is that he's fit to go first time and now that the assessor has taken an axe to his rating, like Stormbay Bomber at big odds I'll pay to find out if he's still got what it takes.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Southwell - Monday Nov 6

Good ground prevailed once again although it seemed to cut up a bit later on as you would expect at this time of year.

The opening staying handicap was one of those where you'd get a different result on any given day, that said it fell to the best horse in Dotties Dilema who put a couple of moody efforts behind him.

It helped that he was being chased by Shaizar, who showed once again why he remains a maiden over fences after belting the last when appearing to claim the winner, who wasn't doing a great deal himself.

Clearly this is forgettable form and most of these will continue to be worth opposing, although Tommy The Rascal didn't look fit for his return. Galros Lady appears to have gone completely although might want really quick ground, while French Seventyfive looks the type to benefit from much stronger handling.

The next wasn't much better being a 0-105 and featured a very opposable favourite in Gorran Haven, who had shown precious little in his last three outings other than plenty of attitude.

With the readily opposable and disappointing Powerful Symbol also in the field, it looked a fairly straight forward task on paper for Brown Trix, who might have won last time out but for walking through the third last.

With cheekpieces added he looked a great bet from a derisory perch of 76, and things were going to plan until disaster struck a mile out, appearing to go wrong after a minor error. Quickly pulled up, he was then cantered back and I overheard connections bemoaning their ill fortunes as the horse appeared to be fine.

Watching the ghastly Powerful Symbol potter up to the line in front with the comedy head carriage would have been funny it wasn't so tragic.

Log On was desperate again here and appears to have problems.

Chirico Vallis was 1/10 to land the following novices chase and this big, sturdy animal put in a tidy round of jumping ahead of Manwell, whose own fencing improved as he went and could prove well handicapped back on soft ground after this pipe-opener.

The seller was a match on paper but Octagon, who had lots of potential at one time in the north, looked a mile better than Cliffside Park and I thought he'd win with more panache than he did. He was bought in, so perhaps there is more to come, but his mark of 125 looks high.

A cheeky little handicap hurdle followed and it had a nice shape to it as the piglet that is Master Of Finance headed the market for a good time, which was bananas considering he hasn't won in an age.

With huge stamina concerns over the ex-miler Hidden Oasis it looked a match between the well-backed Stepover and Generous Day.

The former has been a model of consistency and may have prevailed had she not been given so much to do in the first half of the race. By contrast, Generous Day was kept close to the pace and found plenty after the last under an excellent ride from J Davies.

The winner is a nice sort and is probably one to keep the right side of as he is stepped up in trip this season, while it's notable that the H Oliver inmates have been needing their first outing of the campaign.

I'd taken a liking to Marten on his debut in bumpers last term so was intrigued to see him again, up against the pricey Sky Pirate in what was effectively another match in the novices hurdle.

B Pauling really does have some fantastic looking animals under his care and Marten is no different, looking well-balanced and certain to jump a fence in time. He was a more complete article than the odds-on favourite, who is gigantic behind the saddle but still to grow into the rest of the frame.

Giving the penalty away wouldn't be easy and so it proved, the favourite's effort off the bridle proving disappointing bearing in mind his impressive debut win.

The bumper featured some really nice looking horses and was a well-run affair, so I'm expecting the form to stand the test of time.

Strong Glance proved weak in the market but the O'Brien yard is firing in the winners and this nicely-bred sort has the looks to suggest he has a very big future. The fact he was a bit of a handful in the prelims suggests he has a little bit of attitude you often associate with a quality animal.

It was no surprise to the see the market favour Doctor Rex though, a lovely athletic horse who looked more forward and speedy than most. He travelled like a good horse for a long way, and although he had no answer to the winner's burst I'm sure he's one to follow.

Commanche Red filled the places which was a sterling effort considering he looked seriously unfurnished, while the fourth home Dancing Doug was quite small and exceeded expectations.

Barley Hill is an extremely strongly made gelding from the Pauling kennel but he looked to be carrying plenty of condition and he can step up on this effort, while Mind Your Back is a nice strong son of Getaway but doesn't do anything in a hurry and will want a trip over timber sooner rather than later. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Weekly round-up - Sedge/Wetherby

Sedgefield - Thursday Nov 2
Good ground still prevailed in the first week of the new month which meant for competitive fields, while times suggested it may have been a bit slower than the official description.

The opening novices handicap looked deeper than the market suggested and Robbing The Prey looked to have strengthened from last year, I thought he jumped accurately and was just run out of it by one with greater stamina.

Beggar's Wishes was largely overlooked in the market, but he travelled and jumped well and this chasing type should be picking up two or three more of these when considering he has already won on soft and shapes as though further will suit.

Crackdeloust was well supported but not for the first time let his supporters down...he's a nice big chasing type though so no doubt will get another chance.

Gris De Pron ran a pleasing race on debut for H Hogarth and this robust four-year-old should have races in him, but new recruits to the yard don't always progress and as his allowance diminishes he could find life hard from similar marks.

The novice hurdle didn't look much of a contest and it looked a straight forward opportunity for the likeable Court Liability, who can do nothing but improve for this. He's backward physically and mentally but has something about him.

I didn't rate very highly the race in which Judge Earle came second last time and he showed little here. There may have been something amiss as it as to bad to be true and he should be better in time though.

The same owner's Blunder Buss and Cloth Cap should progress from here - the latter still in need of the outing after travelling cosily - while Jack Devine looked very immature and could be costly at 50k.

Sue Smith's Quietly looked considerably fitter for his Carlisle spin a fortnight ago and I took him to defy market weakness in the staying novice chase, but he was green last year and spooked at the fence away from the stands, dumping Cook into the birch. He'll probably be given a more patient ride after this.

The Happy Chappy looks like he'll turn into a solid staying chaser. Robust and sound jumping, he relishes this decent terrain and he looks a reliable sort. An Laoch was run out of it again in second and just as at Kelso made late errors, while his finishing effort once again wasn't all it might have been. He's backward physically and my mind is open on him.

Beneficial Joe looked in terrific form for the staying hurdle but he's not straight forward and his blunder at the last was hardly out of character. Sun Cloud has been fantastic for connections but this race was nothing special.

There was only one horse being backed for the Durham National and that was Audacious Plan, who went off an astounding 6/4 for what looked a wide open contest.

Boric looked a horse still on the up last time out, and he was completely overlooked in the market so I had to dabble at 16s, and he came up a neck short without ever looking like winning.

Delusionofgrandeur got on the front end and a return to Catterick in the New Year with some cut in the ground will see him back in the winners' circle. He threw in an error or two, as is his wont, but he'll look well handicapped in the right conditions.

Stablemate Smooth Stepper wants a big track and soft ground, while Washed Ashore lobbed round like one ahead of his mark but the petrol gauge emptied after a blunder two out.

S Thomson's Wide Awake was noted by more than one paddock judge ahead of the mares handicap hurdle and this lightly-raced eight-year-old out-ran her odds by some way, and there's surely a race to be won with her this season, particularly if sent over fences.

Flemerina looked fit and well but this race merely served to prove that she must have soft ground and/or further at this stage.

The taxi was called prior to the 0-100 handicap hurdle, where Boytonrath looked a tiny, hard-trained little creature that is probably of little account. 

Wetherby - Friday Nov 3

The going was good to soft but looked softer on the chase track.

There was a strong market move for On A Promise in the opening boys' race who started at 7/2 after being available at double figure odds. Shrewd connections knew the time of day here and the grey looks a well-made sort who should build on this; he can go in again.

Alfie's Choice did little wrong and simply bumped into one, while Skipthescales showed much more in the headgear and this strong sort can go two better next time given a greater stamina test.

I've had a watchful eye on Very First Time since his bumper days as he always showed plenty of ability for a horse so physically backward. I had surprised to see him sent over fences but he looked a good deal stronger this time around, albeit likely to come on for the run.

He was serving it up to the hot favourite Some Invitation, a strong staying type, when they both clobbered two out, the jolly being the one to find another leg.

Hughes was convinced he was on the winner and the Easterby youngster had jumped soundly to that point. That second last is not the easiest to navigate and I'm not going to hold this blip against him - indeed he looks a good bet to atone for it before long.

Malaya looked the part prior to the Wensleydale Hurdle and produced a polished performance from the front, although the tactics aboard City Dreamer left something to be desired and King's juvenile emerges with great credit.

Guitar Pete has used up more excuses than an errant teenager but faithful followers piled in and he duly picked up the big prize of the day in a fast time. His jumping is largely accurate for a smallish horse and he's not my type, but that doesn't mean he can't win races. Softish ground is probably important, and the handicapper will make life quite hard now.

Sametegal looked really fit and well for his return from an absence and just ran into one, with the pair a mile clear.

Zamdy Man failed to stay again, while Marquis Of Carabas' jumping went to pot and he has possibly had enough after running consistently well through the summer; I'm sure he can win races back in his grade.

Aristo Du Plessis was 20lb below his winning handicap mark of two seasons ago after a dismal campaign and if he retained anything like that form he had to win the following handicap hurdle.

I couldn't figure out why he wasn't a short-priced favourite as he was guaranteed a solo up front, and he just did what he had to do under Hughes, for whom this was mere bagatelle.

The rest were a real ordinary looking bunch bar Minella Fiveo, who simply isn't that good and has had injuries, and Mahlerdramatic, who struggled again in a tongue-tie but who I'm convinced is running over an entirely inadequate trip.

Carlos Du Fruitier was well-backed for the closing novice hurdle but he hasn't improved much physically and I suspect he may struggle in handicap company. This wasn't a great race, as Jammin Masters looked in need of the run and Planet Nine was surprisingly backward physically. The latter was very novicey and may need some time.

Florrie Knox was noted in dispatches pre-race and very much caught the eye, running on into third, while it was good to see Just Georgie back on a racetrack. He wasn't fit by any means but if he'll stay sound this season and pick up a race or two.

Wetherby - Saturday Nov 4

Overnight rain had turned the going pretty claggy for 'Charlie Hall' day - it was soft all over and tiring stuff.

The novices handicap for staying chasers looked a deep contest and there'll be winners coming from it. Daklondike took the honours and was vastly improved in a new headgear combination. The Pipe horses are running well and he looked typically light framed and hard fit, and went like the winner from a mile out.

The others looked pretty slow by comparison, led home by the plodding oaf that is Krackatoa King, who looks like he wants four miles and should be suited by Haydock and Ffos Las.

Delgany Demon is a big strong horse but looked unbelievably slow, and those who backed him from 10s into 7/2 soon knew their fate.

Bells Of Ailsworth may not have enjoyed the ground but showed more than enough to suggest he can win races with this race under his belt; a sturdy animal, he's bound to improve.

Nortonthorpelegend didn't look anywhere near being fully wound up and if given a good month off after a couple of quick runs will be ready to regain the winning thread. He jumped and travelled well again and back in a run-of-the-mill northern handicap will be one to follow.

The market for the novices hurdle was skewed towards the Skelton youngster Al Shahir, who I thought had looked a bit paceless in previous sorties. A laid-back animal, he surely wants further and in the well-touted Kalashnikov he faced a horse that has a bit of an x-factor.

Full sister Kalane showed a fondness for good ground so this soft stuff was a concern for the four-year-old, but he looked fit and well and really turned the screw once let down in the straight. He's a really nice sort and for once the market got this completely wrong.

Ballymoy is only moderate looking but that doesn't stop the Twiston-Davies yard churning out winners; however this ex-pointer was surprisingly green and novicey and needs a bit more practice. There wasn't much depth here.

Born Survivor was an absolute good thing in the novices chase and this strong looking King's Theatre gelding is going to be dynamite in this sort of ground up to three miles. He has loads of scope and I thought his jumping was outstanding. I'd want him on my side anywhere bar the Cheltenham Festival.

Many of the Greatrex horses I've seen have been 10 percent short of peak fitness and The Nipper was no different; time will show she didn't stand a chance here anyway. Kings Walk showed there will be races to be won this season, although Eamon An Cnoic may be better returned to timber for now.

Greatrex's La Bague Au Roi did look in good order though and has long been one of the best looking mares in training, and this tall scopey type had her sights lowered here after mixing it at the spring festivals, although she hadn't faced ground this soft and that wasn't reflected in her tight odds.

Lady Buttons was capable of form only just inferior on soft and she survived a big drift near the off to give the jolly a fright, trading long odds on between the last two before the winner's class took over. She's a good mare and they came clear of a rather moderate looking bunch, many of whom didn't have the pace to go with a useful pair.

Wholestone was all rage ahead of the West Yorkshire Hurdle and although he looked in great order I didn't quite get the fascination. The disparity in the market was mind-blowing really considering the bare form and Colin's Sister wouldn't have surprised many by landing the spoils here at 10/1.

She didn't do much wrong last term and this rangy, likeable mare relished the extra distance in ground she loves. She could go very far and if they're brave enough she'll have no problem jumping fences. Lil Rockerfeller isn't easy to win with and he's such a robust horse, and lazy too, you'd have to think he'll be fitter for this outing.

Greys are notoriously difficult to assess in the paddock and most of them look as though they need the run, Bristol De Mai was no different ahead of the big race although he was in good order. Still only six, this could be a big year as he's given weight and a beating to a good field.

Blaklion keeps running into one or two but he's hard to crab and his turn will surely come, but I didn't think Definitly Red quite came up to scratch on the looks front and as good as he is, and as much as I've always liked him, he's not up to this standard and his jumping always seems to fall a little short when it matters.

Diamond Fort put the closing handicap hurdle to bed between the last two flight in the style of one ahead of his mark, and he'll improve fitness wise as well. Ice Cool Champs stood out a mile in the paddock and it was no surprise when the money arrived.

He was quite keen early but with this out of the way he can surely prove himself to be better than this, especially over further as he was staying on after hitting a flat spot.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Aintree Sunday Oct 29

A bright sunny day and racing on officially goodish ground, although they weren't exactly rattling home and looked a bit dead, with times confirming it was more like good to soft.

The opener was an okay sort of novice although they weren't a fantastic looking bunch all told, especially considering the cost of some of them. As expected On The Blind Side looked best, as Henderson's often does, but he's just an embryo of a horse with strengthening to do.

Global Citizen has some quality about him without looking anything special, while Aye Aye Charlie, Almost Gold and Perfect Harmony look good chasing types for the future. Another Stowaway is tall and will relish a fence.

They went no pace for a over a circuit and so we didn't learn much about them, Global Citizen showing just one pace after pulling quite hard. The least appealing were Enniscoffey Oscar, a really unfurnished son of Oscar, and Skelton's New Quay, a plain looking Mahler that was carrying loads of condition.

There was a staying handicap next and while eventual winner Bon Chic was overlooked by all, runner-up Black Ivory looked really well and is a nice big horse who looks certain to keep improving this term up at 3m, and will relish a fence.

Red Infantry was cherry ripe but has proved disappointing and again his effort flattened out here, while Almost Gemini was likely to improve for the trip but he was on and off the bridle and is becoming difficult to win with.

Another Frontier looked by far the better of the Twiston-Davies pair, the well backed favourite Verygoodverygood looking a pretty moderate type that appeared to be carrying condition after six weeks off.

The veterans chase was fiendishly difficult as nothing brought solid claims, the well-supported winner The Romford Pele providing T George with a much needed winner on his first outing for the yard.

A lot of these looked marginally in need of the run, including the two Smith runners that had already had a spin over hurdles, while Theatrical Star looked well but again was let down by jumping.

The handicap hurdle saw Bags Groove go off a very well-backed favourite and he travelled like a dream throughout, delivering after the last in the style of a well-handicapped horse.

Stamp Your Feet continues to suggest he has a decent pot in him and ran into one here, but he's a lovely scopey sort that will improve further over fences in time. Inner Drive looked in tremendous form and very fit, but there were one or two not straight here including Return Flight and, more interestingly, Bobo Mac.

Ballyalton wasn't fully tuned up and will have landed in a few notebooks, while Three Musketeers ran on from the back under tender handling and there'll be a good race in him back over fences this winter.

The Old Roan was a cracking heat and I was of the opinion that the younger legs would come to the fore; but I was wrong.

Smad Place was undoubtedly well handicapped but the drop to 2m4f didn't look the move he wanted and he didn't look especially tight around the belly either. But he was nibbled at in the market and ridden with confidence, and you always got the impression he was going to outstay Cloudy Dream from the last.

Jefferson's grey has grown and strengthened and was another grey that looked as though he'd improve for the outing. I didn't think he was especially well treated on this first sortie out of novice company but he beat Oldgrangewood by further than at Ayr in the Spring on worse terms, suggesting this was a very big effort indeed.

I had the Skelton horse down as one to have onside here but he wasn't that strong in the betting and just ran okay to take third, and possibly softer ground would serve him better. This was his stiffest test to date and I do think he'll have a good winter.

Bouvreuil came in for support but he was by no means the best of these on looks and continues to frustrate; he's not one for any notebook and looks a difficult conveyence.

You could say the same of Traffic Fluide, who is running out of excuses after a more prominent sit here, staying on again when it was all over. He may want it softer but isn't one to be chasing over a cliff.

God's Own looked well but ran as though he needed it quite badly, but Aso ran on well and he could be interesting this year as stamina looks to be his forte and he loves the soft. He'll improve fitness-wise.

Vintage Clouds was well backed for the staying chase and the world and his wife knows he's a very well handicapped horse. However, soft ground and a trip are pre-requisites and with all the fences omitted up the straight this could have turned into a sprint.

But they went a fair pace, and the absence of the fences probably suited him more than most as jumping isn't really his forte. He's always needed his first run of the season and again looked a bit tubby. It's hard to know where he goes from here, and an 18 length win means he'll go up plenty for winning a race that has fallen apart.

Ballyarthur is a tank of a horse but he not the most mobile and was clumsy on the second circuit, that being said he'd have preferred if all the fences had been jumped. He'd finished weakly on many occasions over timber and he may be one that never finds much off the bridle. He looked fit.

Nobuttaboy is a good looking sort who will improve for the run. He might not be particularly well treated, but should pick up a race or two this winter. Some Kinda Lama hasn't taken to fences yet, but it's early days, he didn't look great in his coat, and the Scottish National could be a target as he likes good ground and has bottomless stamina.

Not many took the eye in a big field of mares for the closing bumper where Posh Trish stood out as an imposing physical specimen, who looked well forward for this debut.

She looked beaten when Grageelagh Girl cruised upsides but pulled out plenty and has a bright future. Schiaparannie has plenty of size and should excel over timber, while others for the future include Forget Me Knot and Jet Set.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Southwell Thursday Oct 26

They'd been watering at the Rolleston venue but they were coming home really well and it was genuine good ground.

The opener was a delightful little 0-105 handicap chase in which it was hard to envisage victory for the short priced favourite Firmount Gent, for whom things fell into place last time out.

Back up 9lb, the 11-year-old had his work cut out against a bunch of unexposed animals and he looked joint worst of the sextet, without looking at the market you'd have made him a 20/1 poke.

It was hard to choose between four of them, who each brought some form of interest. Midnight Walk doesn't have a huge amount of size and was noted jumped hurdles sloppily last time; again she was sticky here and certainly wants further.

Bubsy Burbidge is from a decent family and has the size for fences, but she wasn't that strong in the betting and proved too free in the race, fading away quite badly.

Bajardo had got lucky in the spring and was bit higher in the weights - I think he is what he is but I thought he was fit enough, although he ran as though it was needed.

Fair Frank had no form over hurdles but he's a huge beast that dominated the paddock, so the smaller obstacles would just be an inconvenience. He's still a bit disjointed and will be better in another year, but it's always good to see these big chasers allowed to do what they're bred to do and he loved it out in front.

I wasn't mad keen on the favourite in the next handicap chase for novices either, namely Thomas Shelby. A good stamp of a chaser, he's been a disappointing favourite several times over timber and the handicapper has been slow to relent.

The way he hit the ground on the way to the start suggested he'd be more of a soft ground horse and although pretty fit, is probably better for the run.

With Twist On Ginge making little appeal having looked very slow in prior races and a little on the short side for fences, this looked teed up for Miami Present to bounce back on a course he knows well.

His latest effort came in better grade and on unfavourably softer ground, but this exuberant sort rattled off this terrain and his free-going style was ideally suited to the track, and in he went.

The next wasn't so straight forward although I'd marked down The Hollow Ginge as vulnerable under a penalty for winning a weak affair on heavy ground last time.

However, he was quite imposing in the paddock, and in the end he was entitled to be favourite although he still made zero appeal having gone odds on.

Eventual winner Ballyknock Cloud was interesting after landing a trio of points for Jack Barber, but this huge, sturdy horse looked to be pretty heavy round the girth and looked sure to come on for the run.

The fact that he held on to win after jumping and travelling well on the front end marks him down as a decent prospect, especially when he tackles fences. He fought of the staying chaser No Buts, who was in great order and raced with loads of enthusiasm.

Mortens Leam was the focal point on the day as the horses to follow entrant looked to have been found a decent opportunity, not withstanding the fact that Undefined Beauty was a very well backed favourite to make amends for losing out three weeks earlier.

Pam Sly's horse looked the best of these physically and has done well for the summer break, and I was convinced we'd see a different horse. I didn't think he was given a great ride, and that's putting it mildly.

Having been ridden prominently in most of his races last term, he was seeing out his races, but dropping him right out made no sense on this tight track and he used up a lot of effort to get involved.

I'm now convinced he wants an extra half mile, where most of his siblings have thrived, and a race at Fakenham can surely be found. He's running out of excuses, mind, but he's worth another chance.

The rest looked really moderate, as befits a 0-105, but the admirable Stepover improved again to finish second and I wouldn't put it past her winning again before long.

The next handicap hurdle was a dirty little race with each of the eight arriving with questions to answer. I didn't really like any of them bar Early Retirement, a horse I've seen develop and backed at the course last season.

I was quite surprised to see this chasing type so straight on his return, but all his form had been on much softer ground and that was a major concern. He needed reminders early on but warmed to the task and had it won on the home turn. He'll continue to progress and is a 130+ horse in the making. Awesome Rosie was really fit and again had no excuses.

The bumper was all about the heavily-backed favourite Hidden Glen, who clearly had a tall reputation and looked the part, being a well-made athletic son of Stowaway. And while he was short enough at post time, he was actually a bit of value as the rest looked far more backward.

In the end he had to be good to repel Ravensdale, a really well built Flemensfirth that looked in need of the run. He's a stayer in the making and a useful one at that, and the way the pair came clear suggests they are both decent.

You're So Right showed up for a long way and has a nice long stride, he's a good sort but will need time to strengthen, while Ourville's Mission was another to take the eye, and he ran well considering he needed it quite badly. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Market Rasen - Saturday Oct 21

I'm not much of a clock-watcher, at least not since I left gainful employment, but the slow times on offer here correlate to the moving of the rails, and not the state of the ground.

An extra furlong was added to the opening race but it was clear that the strong wind was drying the ground out by the hour, and the way they were finishing all day suggested this was was good ground that was riding quicker.

D Skelton's Cabaret Queen has the build of a good ground specialist being quite long in the back, and she had filled out nicely since I saw her at Southwell in the spring. That looked like a decent bumper and I was surprised she was usurped as favourite to win this opening mares hurdle.

Lucca Lady had been as big as 5/1 in the morning on the back of a Stratford bumper win but they were getting their toe in that day and her physique was more indicative of a softer-ground horse. She didn't have the pace to cope with Cabaret Queen in any case, and the pair may be above average.

Ebonys Encore wasn't given a hard time and she will be better later on, while Lostnfound didn't look straight and could be one for a handicap as she looks a willing galloper, albeit going the other way round.

The first division of a maiden hurdle was a dire contest and Skelton again held the key player in Not That Fuisse, an immature looking horse whose bumper win marked her out as a solid favourite.

However, she was pulled up at halfway presumably with an injury, although she was ridden back to the stables. It left the door open to the few with any form in the race, not that they had appealed beforehand.

Zen Master was leggy and very weak behind, I didn't like him at all and don't expect him to be going forward from this, while Raised On Grazeon looked a bit burly after a lengthy break and that could be attributed to her weak finish...however neither of them were finishing with any zeal and her temperament remains her biggest problem. Bit Of A Quirke relished the return to better ground but again, the handicapper must give him a chance.

The second division saw a nicer type in Demon D'Aunou, who was given plenty of time to find his feet before powering clear of another average field. He cost130k and has plenty of size, so could be alright.

Quest For Life ran as well as could be expected on his return, and he'll improve for it, while there was a fair gap to the staying on Royal Mandate and Wotabreeze (quite small, workmanlike).

The first handicap of the day wasn't the most enticing with the betting revolving around Shrubland and the well-handicapped Paddys Runner.

Neither appealed much at the odds and it was a farcical contest as they dawdled for a circuit. That probably didn't suit Bowie, who looked well and likes to come off a fast pace. His mark will drop again and he shouldn't be discounted just yet.

A staying handicap hurdle came up next and it looked a really good opportunity for the strong looking Blue Comet, who looked in great order for a weak five-runner affair.

It's Your Move was second in but he's a real soft ground slugger and he couldn't get to grips with this sharp test round here - he may need time but he'll be alright in different conditions.

Hey Bill is only a compact sort but it was disappointing to see him go wrong on the far side, leaving only Waltz Darling to chase home the favourite, who won as he liked.

A cracking novice chase came up next and I made a poor call in wanting to take on the short-priced Capitaine, who is a big, tall, leery sort of horse whose attitude under pressure is questionable.

This was not the day to go against him though as, for a third outing in succession, nothing could get this keen going animal off the bridle. He was very impressive but I still don't want to get carried away by this as it's probably that the very fast conditions played into his hands and against the others, who all probably want another half mile and softer ground.

Bordeaux Bill was again supported as if he shows plenty at home, but his fall at Sedgefield is hard to get away from and he became very novicey again today. Western Miller probably ran his race and he's more exposed than most, while Lithic looked pretty fit but just couldn't get involved and he wants at least 2m4f.

Atomix ran a tidy little race and this highly rated horse still has room to strengthen, and chasing is his game.

A weak 0-120 handicap chase followed and I couldn't see beyond the top three on the card, whose form had a stronger look to it than the rest.

I had Ready Token and Sporting Boy clear favourites and they both looked well - it seemed a case of which would settle into the better rhythm on the front end, as I couldn't see anything coming from behind on this terrain.

Having plumped for the former it was the latter who fairly bounded off the ground to win by a value of around 15 lengths, with Mister Don running his usual race in second when it was all over. Kelvingrove had the form to win but he's not very big and hasn't taken to fences - maybe some blinkers will help as he is low on confidence.

The junior bumper was interesting, as there was a strong word for M Channon's Rippling Waters despite the fact she looked quite light framed, albeit clearly nicely bred.

There was money also for Wishmaker, although I felt he would come on for the run, and the clear paddock pick was Normal Norman, a good strong sort who looked in really good heart.

His opening effort was surely going to put him thereabouts and with the benefit of experience over most of his rivals he had to be the bet. P Brennan rode him with confidence - almost too much - and he got badly boxed turning for home, and I strongly suspect he's a good bit better than this.

Skelton's Lady Maleficent was absolutely tiny while Grand Sancy was just a baby really and will do better once he's strengthened up. Forewarning looked really backward physically but he wouldn't be the first horse trained by Mrs Corbett to outrun his appearance.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Wetherby/Carlisle Oct 18/19

This time of year it's interesting to try and figure out which trainers are getting their horses ready first time out and which are leaving something to work on...after all there's six months of quality National Hunt racing ahead.

It's not an exact science of course. Some horses can be 95% ready and still win a weak looking race - you might call it 'getting away with it'. But broadly speaking if you're not fit, something else will beat you even if it looks over-rated or even too short in the betting. Just go with it.

These first few meetings it's good to get a look at the Sue Smith-trained horses, with the question being 'how forward are they this year'?

At Wetherby, we got our answer.

Wetherby - Wednesday

Race 2

An interesting novice chase with horses rated between 139 and 116, some working off a hurdles mark. The money came for top rated Minella Aris, indeed it was backed as though defeat was out of the question.

But as good as this horse looks, and he does look worth his 200k price tag, I had reservations about him especially at the dwindling odds, as he had checked out very tamely over hurdles.

Again here he was very keen early on, jumping markedly left, and he was clearly beaten when crashing out at the second last after walking through the previous fence. He'll be better over 3m but he's on a high mark and is one to be wary of for now.

Smith's Cracking Find was backed from 14s into 11/2 but a line quickly went through him when he looked to be carrying condition. Needing improvement on the ratings anyway, it was a tough introduction and Cook gave him an easy time in the straight; this bonny horse will do well this season.

The finish was fought out by Cooking Fat and Popelys Gull. The latter had strengthened up over the summer but still lacks a bit of size, and he looked up against it on the numbers, while also looking like a stayer over hurdles.

An error at the last nearly let in the runner-up but that stamina kicked in and he won a bit cosily for the Sly yard going great guns under both codes.

I've always liked Cooking Fat, and he jumped tidily I thought on this chase debut. He wasn't great in his coat but doesn't always impress in that regard, and he too should find races this term.

Work De Breteau looked well and might have had a say had he not clouted the final ditch, although he too looks a bit in the weights, while it wasn't a lack of fitness that accounted for Cyrius Moriviere.

Race 3

A novices hurdle that didn't look like it would take much winning and that proved to be the case, it was a slow motion finish and by some way the slowest relative time on the card.

Barton Knoll won it with a move at the top of the straight, and as he looked as though he may improve fitness wise he may have been getting tired or idling late on. He's okay in looks but this doesn't really want me to back him next time under a penalty.

The chasers all looked pretty backward, Judge Earle certainly better for the outing while Atlantic Grey and Royal Escape are unfurnished types that may do better in handicaps providing the handicapper takes a similar as this one about the level of the form.

Race 4

The 'Bobby Renton' trophy had Monbeg River's name all over it as the ultra consistent and good looking chaser ticked every box on this seasonal return, and what's more he was almost twice the price as he was in my tissue.

Delusionofgrandeur looked quite straight but simply doesn't have the basic speed for a test like this and his position at the head of the market was little short of astounding, while After Hours was well backed but he bears the hallmarks of a soft ground slugger who surely wants further now.

There was one wildcard in the race and that was French exile Ballotin, and six-year-old winner of no fewer than 11 races already with proven stamina over further.

With those credentials he should have been quite a warm order but having been purchased by Mr D Maxwell for him to ride in the UK, his odds drifted accordingly.

It's great to see the Corinthian spirit alive and well, although it would have been even greater had Mr Maxwell slipped out the side door on landing over the final fence.

In truth, Ballotin was the better horse on the day and should have won by five, so I've no complaints about the result. Monbeg River had his chances, and I'm not quite sure if he deserves another chance - he's become costly after some unfortunate reversals at times last season.

Race 5

Just Milly got quite warm before this staying hurdle but she's still learning and after travelling sweetly I'm thinking she's capable of better than she showed here, chasing home the winner Lough Salt. She made a couple of mistakes at the wrong time and wants watching.

Lough Salt hadn't quite delivered on early promise last season but a switch to R Guest augered well, as did the eye-catching booking of L Aspell, and the six-year-old looked in good order after a warm-up on the flat.

I though he put it to bed pretty well, the form is solid with Nautical Nitwit running his race again despite getting there too soon. Smooth Stepper and No Planning, in particular, will be better for it, both looking weighted to win again this season.

Race 6

A competitive chase over 2m but there were question marks over pretty much all of them which made it a sticky punting heat.

Nomoreblackjack had filled out over the summer as you would like and he should grow into his higher mark, although he surely wants 2m4f now and softer ground will suit. Today Please, like stablemate After Hours, is a nice prospect and will improve markedly for this, while Deadly Approach is a thick-set type to need a run or two.

It didn't take much winning, and the good pace on what looked slightly dead ground suited the quirky Nicolas Chauvin, who isn't the sort to repeat this in a hurry.

Race 7

Flat exile Seamour was all the rage for the finale but he's not been easy to win with and the 2m trip looked sharp enough for a horse that can't be in front too long.

There were some nice types in opposition and they included Keep In Line, who is a good looking horse that was fit enough, but wasn't seen to best effect and may want further.

Master Of Irony has always caught the eye physically but his resolution has come into question. However, he travelled like a horse well ahead of his mark and found enough off the bridle to hold on.

Cornborough got a stinker of a ride and is better than this after seeing way too much daylight he rallied to virtually lead over two out. I'm sure his turn is coming again. Sakhee's City looked really unfit and this would have been a promising effort if you didn't know his back-catalogue. 

Carlisle - Thursday

It's a long old haul but always worth the trip when you get there.

Race 1

Barrys Jack had threatened to win several times over timber last season and duly struck over fences at the first time of asking last month. Just 1lb higher back over hurdles he looked an absolute shoo-in against a really poor bunch and the market agreed. 1-0.

Race 2

A four-runner novice hurdle in essence and I was shocked to see the money come for the Smiths' Quietly (4s into 9/4), who was up against it on the bare form and certainly wants further than this 2m3f trip. Added to the fact that he wasn't anywhere near wound up, he was easy to put a line through.

Apollo Creed looks backward and slow and E Williams rarely rushes his young chasing types. It was down to two and the form horse Count Meribel won as he liked in the end, galloping resolutely to the line as the fittest and possibly best horse in the line-up should.

I did like the runner-up Absolute Power, a nice big well made Flemensfirth, and although his head carriage was rather alarming in the first part of the race, he knuckled down well in the manner of a horse that wants further and softer.

I quite liked Valzan but this French import needs to drop at least a stone before he's competitive on this evidence.

Race 3

An interesting staying chase in which you could rule out more than half the nine runner field. It didn't turn out to be that straight forward though as my fancies Federici (very fit and once again disappointing) and Carrigdhoun never showed up with a serious chance.

Vic De Touzaine looked a typical grey that is hard to weigh-up fitness-wise, my view being that he had done enough to run his race, not that I felt he'd necessarily win.

Similarly Boric was fitter than I expected as he's usually slow to come to the boil, and like stablemate Total Assets at Hexham, he ran another personal best despite being on a career high mark.

I have to mention I Just Know, one of my favourite horses in training. Again he looked fantastic, but he will improve in fitness and I think also in general condition over the next 18 months. He's one of the best jumpers around but I don't think Aintree is in the picture.

Race 4

I got it badly wrong in the novice hurdle but the well-backed Destined To Shine let us down by running too freely and jumped big and left, using up way too much energy. He went down very early and clearly isn't straight forward, but has loads of ability if and when it clicks. He was very fit for this and it was one of those things.

The decent pace of course set it up perfectly for the previously hard-pulling Slanelough, who is a miserable looking horse but clearly has ability and his reserves of stamina and quite possibly resolution were more than enough for these.

Bal De Rio chased him home and I have had reservations about him that weren't confounded here, and he may be worth taking on again in all but the weakest of novices. Some of these were backward if not moderate looking, and it wasn't much of a race.

Race 6

A trappy novices chase over the minimum trip where race fitness proved to be key here - recent Bangor winner Derintogher Yank out-running them from the front in a really good time from the busy Beau Bay, whose hold-up tactics don't work very well round this quirky track.

It saw the return of Dubai Angel, and the Jefferson prospect jumped and travelled well in the main bar one jolting error, and he'll be ready to go next time over an extra half mile.

Report To Base looked a good stronger than last term and I expected a lot more from him, not withstanding the fact that he wants much further than this. Crievehill looks very quirky but has the ability to pop up once his mark comes down, while Joueur Bresilien looks costly but is an athletic sort whose yard has not clicked yet.

Race 7

There was an avalanche of support in the bumper for Mary Eleanor, out of the tremendous racemare Lady Rebecca. She looked strong and fit bit this was no cakewalk on looks as both Peters Cousin and Kapga De Lily were likely types.

Peters Cousin became very immature in the prelims but she settled ok and travelled ominously well before staying on pleasingly on the run to the line. She could be okay and the front three came well clear.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Hexham - Saturday Oct 14

The official going description at the previous two meetings had been misleading but after overnight rain this was heavy ground and it looked hard work for most.

The opening novice hurdle over 20f wasn't the greatest in the world and they struggled to find a favourite, eventually landing on Niceandeasy, who looked well prepared for this seasonal debut despite looking lean and light framed.

He won his bumper on heavy ground and he didn't mind this one bit, reeling in the runaway leader Saint Freule to win as he liked.

The latter went down very early and was kept away from the rest at the start. Taking a very keen hold, he probably did well to keep going as long as he did. He's got ability, and will grow into his frame in time, but is clearly a handful at present.

There was a move for the compact Jeu De Mots, but I thought he travelled too well in the first part of the contest and it could be that a drop back in trip may suit at this time. He cost 32k so bigger things can be expected.

Only Orvieto looked fairly straight after a long absence but didn't show much at all, while Allmyown was a late drifter and backed out of things a long way from home. He's a nice staying chaser for the future though.

It was hard to find anything for the first handicap chase of the day with the Pauling/De Boinville axis responsible for favourite Alpine Secret, who hadn't shown a great deal over timber.

The fact they sent him up here could mean that he's not very good, and although he looked fit and a proper chasing type, I didn't think he jumped that well and he stopped pretty quickly up the hill.

He was taken for the lead by Western Jo and while he had stopped pretty quickly over hurdles last time out, he had the class to gallop them stupid without coming off the bridle.

He'll be walloped for this and I'd be inclined to oppose him in better company as he isn't very reliable under pressure.

Haul Us In, like Alpine Secret, hadn't shown much over hurdles and was quickly sent over fences by the Russell yard. She looked well, but ran an astounding race as she was soon tailed off and looking none too keen.

What she achieved in staying on into second is debatable, as very few managed to get round. Perseid ran his race again in third despite not really enjoying the going, while Red Danaher gave place layers kittens prior to fading late on.

The 10-year-old has never taken the eye and is moderate, and looked to be heavy enough round the girth. The handicapper has given him a chance though, and he may pick one of these up although he had started to look moody when last seen.

Log On was another to make his chase debut and I quite liked him at big odds, you could say a typical looking Scorpion with loads of scope, and I thought he was pretty straight.

But like many others from the Dobbin yard on the day, ran very much as though needing it after showing a bit of promise with a mid-race move. He's one to keep an eye on over fences.

A novice race over the minimum gave useful bumper filly Dame Rose the chance to open her account which she did in the simplest of terms.

She's done her winning on good ground but I find most Network's go through the mud and she didn't seem too inconvenienced by it, while she looked to have strengthened up over the summer.

The runner-up Tetraites Style will be alright, not over-big but a handy animal that looks every inch a Court Cave. He'll improve as his stamina is drawn out, a comment well worth re-iterating for Caventara, who plodded on for third.

Out of the super staying mare L'aventura, this gelding has loads of size and scope and is a proper horse. He'll stay four miles and connections will have been delighted by what they saw here. It wasn't too much of a stretch to think he could hit the frame, as Getaway Bay looked really backward and The Linksman was a big drifter after being snapped up for a pittance by the Englands.

The big race saw eight go to post for a staying handicap where the late money came for Kilcullen Flem, and when it comes from the Kirby kennel it usually has 'shrewd' written down the side.

On his debut for the yard, this strapping horse looked just about fit enough and had clearly done plenty of work. The excellent A Nicol certainly rode like he had a fit horse under him, and one that stayed well too as he pushed the pace that eventually did for Allez Cool.

The winner was tired at the last and was all out in the end, but he had the race won and was value for 20 lengths. More Madness ran badly in snatches again and even turned it in late on when supporters sensed a final chance. He's one to avoid.

Allez Cool hasn't grown or filled out which is disappointing, but he'll improve for this sound effort, but Green Flag looked burly despite being co-favourite and it remains to be seen if he can reclaim his old form.

Smuggler's Stash came in for support and although he looked well enough he carried some condition and he looked much better when winning here last year. Another Dobbin inmate Purcell's Bridge took a walk in the market and clearly wasn't straight.

For a stable that had such a good weekend last week, none of their five runners got round here.

Quite a nice staying handicap hurdle had cut up to eight because of the ground, and it looked wide open but I'll confess to missing an open goal here.

I've documented a few times that Native Optimist would benefit from stronger handling and I remember too well going for tilt at Carlisle when A Nicol was in the plate and he was caught on the line at 16/1.

Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since then and this bonny horse loves it round here where he can be assured to gallop all day. I'm no fan of O'Toole though and with any other pilot on board I'd have had no cause to step back at big odds.

That said, the market had spoken for Bellaney Knight and he is a well-handicapped horse on some old form, and this big scopey sort looked ready to roll.

He'd been kept away from this type of ground in the past though, and once again he jumped poorly and showed precious little, so now has questions to answer.

Classical Milano carried loads of condition, but Gamain looked really well and I thought he'd run better than he did in the end.

Total Assets was a big drifter during the day as she looks very high in the weights and all her best form has come after a run or two.

She looked well, albeit carrying condition, and she's returned better than ever. I thought this was a decent effort and she loves nothing more than a gruelling stamina test.

A third handicap chase saw Minella Suite go off quite a weak jolly, and once again the big chasing type is left with questions to answer and getting outpaced and out-jumped prior to coming down four out.

I was very keen on Oak Vintage, who had dropped to a derisory mark for a yard that was wrong for much of last winter. Much as I like R Chapman he was bold enough on the seven-year-old, who finally looks the finished article.

This feels like one that got away (14>9/2) but I think the runner-up can be seen to even better effect this season granted at least a four-week break for this tough opener.

John Williams looked straight enough and he was well-handicapped on some largely consistent efforts last term, but the ground was a huge concern and as a result was a very weak 9/1 chance on the softest ground he'd faced.

Yet he battled on bravely and his form over further saw him just outstay Oak Vintage and Roman Numeral, who looked dreadful beforehand but arguably ran his best race. He doesn't always find much though and may have bottled it late on.

There was little else you could fancy in the race although Achill Road Boy was not wound up and got going far too late over a trip on the sharp side. He can add to his tally as he looks well handicapped.

The bumper was a decent one and Senor Lombardy looks the part, as he should having cost a six figure sum. Klare Castle was the second nicest looking and it really came as no surprise that they finished in that order.

Money came for Tayzar but he's a big gangly horse I didn't much care for, while Teescomponents Lad will be just better for it and ran really well. Schiehallion Munro, Rocket Man Rodney and Miss Amelia will all win races once they find their level.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Horses to follow

Here we go again, trying to play Mystic Meg. It's just a bit of fun but will hopefully provide a few winners along the way.

Last year's six chasers to follow found Double W's, who won three times (9/4, Evs and 8/1), I Just Know, also three wins (2/1, 7/4 & 13/8) and Kilbree Chief (won 4/1).

I've only come up with five this time around, but then Creme Eggs aren't as big as they used to be...

Redemption Song (K Frost) 4
I had the pleasure of seeing this five-year-old mare on all three occasions she made the track last season and she didn’t do much wrong for a big, strong horse that will improve greatly over time.

After a pleasing debut where she stayed on from a long way back, she showed signs of greenness on her next outing before galloping on strongly to win by a wide margin.

She was done for a bit of toe in the mares final at Aintree, but that looked a particularly strong race this year and, once more, the way she stayed on suggests a stamina test will suit her.

Bought for £65k after landing an Irish PTP, I can see this half-sister to Starchitect quickly turn into a 130+ hurdler, and with her big frame I’d like to see her take on the men and take advantage of her mares’ allowance. A nice prospect.

Aliandy (K Bailey)
A Presenting gelding that hasn’t been easy to win with so far, but his refusal to settle in his races means his true ability has yet to be revealed.

A good looking sort, yet still backward last winter, he came through late to win at Southwell before going down by the narrowest of margins at Doncaster to a horse now rated 20lb higher over fences.

It could be that larger obstacles make a man of him while the application of a hood is also likely to help, but just the passing of summer and greater maturity could be all that’s needed for this horse to win races this season.

Soft ground and three miles shouldn’t be a problem but, like last season, I expect him to be competitive on better ground and over a shorter trip in the early part of the season.

Mortens Leam (P Sly) 4
From a wonderful homebred family, I expect the weak and backward Mortens Leam to take a step forward this season in the hope that another summer has done him the power of good.

He looked on the cusp of victory more than once last season, only to finish tamely, but I put this down to physical immaturity rather than a mental issue.

All his siblings have won races, including Actinpieces and Bonnet’s Vino, the dam and granddam were both honest mares, so there’s no reason why this one can’t win from his current perch of 104.

There is plenty of stamina in those bloodlines and while he wasn’t getting home over 2m last term, I think a hold-up ride over 2m4f could suit this horse, and while he has yet to race at Fakenham I can see that track suiting ideally for a trainer that does very well there.

Tanarpino (J Candlish) 55
This big, rangy six-year-old didn’t look quite right last season and as a consequence begins from an eye-catching mark of 123 this autumn.

Bought for and expensive-looking £80k after landing an Irish PTP, he took a while to find his feet before picking up a couple of handicap hurdles in soft ground in January 2016.

He ran okay in the EBF Final at Sandown that year, before winning another race off 120 at Ludlow on fairly decent ground.

He looked very likely to win on his chasing debut at Carlisle only to subside after the last, where it was assumed that lack of fitness cost him the race.

But subsequent efforts followed a similar vein leaving me to believe he was still on the weak side or that they found an underlying problem. If that’s the case, and they’ve sorted it out, I expect him to do very well this term on soft ground at up to and possibly beyond 3m.

He made a pleasing return over hurdles at Warwick last week, which should set him up for a return to the larger obstacles.

Just Minded (Mrs S Smith) F
Gambled on from around 10s into 4s on his bumper debut at Carlisle, where victory proved he has a really good engine.

He seemed to struggle in the very worst winter ground in four starts over hurdles, but showed plenty of speed for a son of Kayf Tara to win at Market Rasen over the minimum trip.

Well built, he'll clearly make his mark as a chaser but I suspect he may have another couple of spins over timber first, where he shouldn't be too over-burdened by a mark of 122. A decent prospect.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Sedgefield - Tuesday Oct 3

One of the more competitive meetings for the track and quite a few points of interest for future purposes. The going was more or less good.

The first division of a split handicap hurdle held little appeal from a betting point of view, the Sue Smith-trained Mathayus being well-backed to back up his last run here despite not pleasing greatly in the paddock. It's probably fair to say this son of Scorpion has his fair share of temperament.

Windy Writer is a good size but was probably in the need of the run, although he faded away very tamely indeed. The Skelton's Daring Knight didn't look much and his odds doubled late on, while the cash for Mileva Roller on her first start for Lisa Harrison was surprising as she looks pretty moderate.

Division II was even weaker if that's possible and again there was surprising support for one low down called Gentleman James, but I didn't think it was fit after a break and he faded out of things. The big move however came for Betancourt, who entered the paddock late in the piece and looked in particularly good order, especially for one of Ewart's. Lightly raced, you'd think he might be able to win again as Greensworldsolution seemed to run his race in second. I thought Rock N'Stones looked a fair type but he disappointed and may have needed it.

An intriguing novice hurdle saw the market finally find a favourite in Or De Vassy, who had been placed on all five starts and didn't look much beforehand. The paddock pick was Nicely Indeed, and by some margin, and this Kim Bailey import was as fit as a butcher's dog on his debut for P Kirby.

I don't see him improving on this and his finishing effort was a little disturbing, hanging and not going through with it either when in front or after being headed. He may need a hold-up ride but it's not the first time he's disappointed with his finishing effort and I'd be wary of him bearing in mind he spent a good while on the injury list.

Or De Vassy did nothing wrong under a perfectly timed challenge, while It's Your Move ran well in third for more of a soft ground, staying type. Katy Royal, a 200/1 shot, looked weak beforehand so her staying on fourth leaves me perplexed as to the worth of the form.

There followed a hugely meritorious victory for Skelton's Cobra De Mai, who was badly hampered by the fall of favourite Western Miller, to a lesser extent by the fall of the well-backed Bordeaux Bill, and then forced to switch on the run to last before delivering a late thrust to beat a solid hurdler in Jacks Last Hope.

Despite the steadier of a double penalty, the form of the winner entitled him to be second favourite so it was alarming and deeply off-putting to see him drift to 9s at the off, especially as somehow he didn't appear (at least before these eyes) in the paddock beforehand. I rate this effort highly, and while the runner-up hasn't run anywhere close to his hurdles rating, I'd be very surprised if the winner isn't hiked up from his current mark.

To be fair to the third horse, Eyes Of A Tiger, he too carried the double penalty and appeared to run his race despite a few errors, and he can win again soon. Bordeaux Bill really caught the eye beforehand so it was disappointing to see him take such a novicey fall at halfway. He'd jumped great before that and he's worth another chance.

There was a suspicion of 'palpable error' about the way Frederic had been priced up at 5/1 and bigger overnight for the handicap hurdle yet even I didn't expect the avalanche of support that sent him off a 7/4 jolly.

A big tall unit, the ex-Hammond inmate had improved a chunk under the guidance of K Dalgleish on the flat this summer but his wins had come at big galloping tracks and this stayer was not certain to be suited by a speed test. One could argue why Hughes sat motionless all the way to the second last on a horse he knew would stay and stay, but these things are futile and instead we must tip our hat to the tour de force that is Our Kylie, who improved yet again to win for a remarkable ninth time. The pair came 12 lengths clear and for connections of the runner-up it was one that got away.

The handicap chase brought together a host of horses that know how to lose, thus it was surprising that recent winner Dica was allowed to drift in the market bearing in mind his stella Indian summer. Whether the veteran would have won had Captain Mowbray stood up at the last is a moot point; the Menzies chestnut took his ledger to 0/19 with this spill and is untrustworthy.

That said he was fit for this reappearance which may be interesting in terms of his trainer, whose horses were slow to come to hand 12 months ago. Brown Trix came in for plenty of support on his first for the England outfit, but this was 'fake news' as this robust animal did not look wound up here and I suspect wants a far stiffer test than this. Aregra looked well but showed next to nothing.

The bumper was a very good one for the track with several Southern-based yards represented, and Newmarket trainer John Berry plundered the loot with his Delatite, who was a zippy Flat-type up against some nice NH bred horses. He fairly marmalised some nice sorts and must have done some improving over the summer.

Micky Hammond has done well with his bumper horses in recent seasons and Just Bobby is a good sort, if a little on the weak side, while Mutawaasel hadn't shown an awful lot for Sue Smith two seasons ago but this Flat bred rocked up looking very fit and ran a race of promise. Knight In Dubai and Djarkevi backed out of things rather disappointingly but it could just be that this was a decent race of its type, with a few more 'forward' types than is often the case.