Sunday, 29 January 2017

Doncaster weekend


The forecast hadn't looked great but the meeting beat the frost and the ground looked pretty good all round, as is often the case here a little looser on the chase track.

We headed to Town Moor with a few bullets to fire, non bigger than in the opener where Midnight Cowboy was returning to the scene of his victory over Aliandi, form that I felt was pretty strong.

With improvement from this strong horse likely he looked a really good bet, with a minor caveat being the 5f longer trip which was just a slight worry.

However, as I suspected we were able to lay off the bet nice and short at the top of the straight with W Hutch swinging away, seemingly having only the nine-year-old Bodega to beat.

No worries, you probably felt, but there had been money around for the outsider and he duly returned to something like his best form returned to timber, establishing an advantage going to two out and never really looking like relinquishing it.

The third and fourth stayed on well and Queens Present looks a nice strong mare with a future, from the family of Kicking King.

I had a strong feeling Behind The Wire would be able to go back to back following his victory at Taunton providing this big strong chaser had calmed down since I last saw him here, when he got pretty worked up.

Time has seen him mature but he still got very warm, although it looked superficial and I didn't expect it to harm his chances. Whether other paddock watchers thought this was the case and forced his price out I don't know, but a return of 11/4 was remarkable considering he was a solid 7/4 shot on paper.

Perhaps punters were pricing in a potentially dismal effort from the saddle from A Heskin, because unfortunately that's precisely what he got.

I've talked about this plenty here before and it remains a bugbear that jockeys don't seem to have the gumption, for the want of a better word, to kick on when they have the chance to put a race to bed, particularly when riding one that stays all day and has already proved he is fine out in front on his own.

What, then, was Heskin thinking of by taking a pull heading into the straight, allowing perennial chaser Fort Worth to stay within shouting distance. Getting his mount on the back foot meant losing momentum into four out, and he didn't meet the last three right either, especially the last when the race was handed to the winner.

The way they rattled past the post suggested both are much better than their mark - of Fort Worth we knew this but at least they have a win in the bag, whereas Behind The Wire will go up half a stone for getting beat. Frustrating.

The next was so desperate it was hardly worth taking a look at them in the paddock, the winner and favourite Stepover not looking up to much which probably says a lot for the event.

Another one got away somewhat in the next when the PTP fraternity were all over Ypsilanti, who had won a couple between the flags and is so often the case had been let it under rules on a fair mark.

One look at him turned me right off though, he wasn't moving great and looked about how a 90-rated horse should. It wasn't a great race by any means however - warm favourite Baraza having the best chase form on show, and although you could expect him do build on his Leicester win he would probably have to.

In the end he may not have stayed, but even so Ypsilanti would have won by a wide margin even if he hadn't walked through the last fence as though it wasn't there.

Runner-up Glengra looks pretty small for fences but seemed to pop round without too much trouble, and should be able to find something similar on good ground at a small track.

Mount Mews was made a short priced favourite again after getting turned over at Wetherby, but he was down in trip here and got a lovely tow into the race from Man Look, who went off too fast.

Chief market rival was Wealth Des Mottes, two years his junior who had blown out completely on his debut for P Nicholls...and he blew out again. Another to blow was Theodorico, a flat bred horse who isn't going to stay 2m in a horse box.

The novice chase was a high-class four runner affair headed by former Festival winner Aux Ptits Soins, who hasn't been entirely convincing in two starts over fences, albeit looking better at Kelso last time.

That form wasn't brilliant though, and he was up against some strong staying sorts in Premier Bond and Kerrow, while the poorly handicapped Viens Chercher wasn't a forlorn hope if suited by a step up in trip.

The Nicholls horse did not look entirely happy early on and his jumping got progressively worse, leaving the other three to fight out the finish, the two stayers wearing down Viens Chercher after the last with Premier Bond knuckling down best close home. And I'm starting to wonder if Kerrow might be the one for the handicap on the opening day of the Fest.

The Henderson beast is really likeable, the sort you want on your side in a ruck, and he's definitely worth keeping on the right side of in decent handicaps this spring, with good ground clearly no bother.

The finale looked a three horse race according to the betting and the paddock, with Brio Conti, Wenyerreadyfreddie and well touted newcomer Dara's Present all standing out. The former still looks quite green mentally, but was very professional in the race, while Henderson's runner-up didn't really build on his Newbury effort, jumping clumsily at times and looking a bit raw.

Dara's Present went quite freely and he looks a backward baby, while Pomme was the other eye-catcher - a strong mare with decent bumper form staying on nicely after looking pretty fit despite a lengthy absence.


Not a great punting card in truth, with some very competitive looking stuff upsides some not so. There'd been rain overnight and it looked more good to soft this time.

I liked a few in a competitive handicap hurdle to start things off, winner Mia's Storm being one of them albeit not carrying any cash. She was down two grades here and it showed, travelling well before outbattling The Tailgater, who has a few questions to answer about his temperament.

Asum failed to settle upped in trip, so put a line through this as he's a lovely big horse, Political Quiz looked well but never landed a blow while Saint Cajetan got the worst of some scrimmaging before finishing well enough to suggest there's a race to be won with him.

The short priced Give Me A Copper didn't exactly jump out at me before a competitive looking  Grade 2 River Don, and plenty opted for improving Henderson hurdler Constantine Bay, who rallied very bravely to get the better of the much smaller, compact No Hassle Hoff.

Happy Diva was probably a bit outclassed and didn't quite see it out, while Minella Aris didn't run much of a race but is basically a big backward chaser of some promise and will no doubt be looked after this season.

There followed a fiendish handicap chase over the minimum trip in which they went 4/1 the field, spuriously headed by Cyrius Moriviere who hadn't completed in three chase outings. Yes he looked unlucky last time but he was one I wanted to be against - with what I couldn't decide.

The good looking Gardeforte needs softer ground to be seen at his best but I'm convinced he remains in very good form, while Yorkist looked as fit as I've ever seen him.

But Upsilon Bleu looked in cracking form and with a good course record he looked trained to the minute. I wasn't with Romain De Senam...another Nicholls horse to be shorter in the betting than his form warranted in this company, but Double W's had his supporters and one of my favourite horses ran a cracker to chase home the winner after going freely throughout.

He jumped better here than at Newbury last time and this should now put him spot on for Cheltenham where I still feel a fast run 2m on decent ground will see him in even better light.

Another four runner novice chase was one to look forward to and it took a similar shape to that run the day before, albeit with flip-flopping favourites as the hype machine A Hare Breath was backed as though defeat was out of the question.

This didn't ring true in these quarters - both Cloudy Dream and Forest Bihan boasting novice form of the highest order. They were both worth backing at the prices offered at various stages and although I was confident the Jefferson grey would win, it came as no surprise to see the terrific looking Forest Bihan land the spoils, putting to bed slight reservations over his attitude off the bridle.

I suspect both principles are heading for the Arkle at the Festival and neither will look out of place.

I didn't see the mares but it didn't surprise me that Midnight Jazz gave Vroom Vroom Mag a fright - she's as tough and consistent as you'll see. The reservation going forward is that she's had three very hard races of late.

I didn't take any view on the SkyBet Chase and sadly didn't get a good look at them as a torrential shower had everyone diving for dry land.

The bumper for mares was only fairly informative - the winner Dame Rose looking very forward and fit after a three month absence and landing some good early bets in the process.

Redemption Song stood out in terms of size and scope and the Irish Point winner finished the race in the manner of a horse that will be winning before too long.

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