Tuesday, 28 February 2017


Most trips to the Bridge are filled with optimism but there was a certain foreboding ahead of this one with six short-priced jollys, and not being much of a FAV backer it was never going to end well.

In fact, the only one not to win was Cafe Au Lait in the opener, who failed to land some big bets as he was grabbed on the run-in by the moderate looking Cougar Kid. Hugh's Secret failed by some way to build on his run behind the second last week.

The second race was a shoo-in for Chti Balko and so it proved. The opposition was virtually non-existent but to be fair the winner galloped willingly to the line in the manner of a horse who could defy a penalty if he gets his jumping together.

The third was the only real betting race but really it was about one horse, the heavily backed Nomoreblackjack, who long-term followers really needed to win to get some cash back.

The market suggested today was his day and to be fair he looked really well beforehand. It was never in any doubt once Cook hit the front early on and as he popped away at the head of affairs the rest fell away.

It was truly a weak race but you couldn't knock the winner, who unfortunately faces a rise of at least a stone if you believe the consistent Halcyon Days ran to his mark in third (he looked a bit flat to be fair).

The uncompetitive nature of the action continued in the next as the quite useful looking Red Rising won as he liked. He's clearly a strong stayer but he's big and rangy and should develop into a decent chaser.

Ronn The Conn once again showed stamina was his forte as he filled the runner-up spot, but he'll need a real test once sent over fences. Nonetheless he's one for the longer term and he's a nice strong individual.

Delusionofgrandeur looked more professional physically than The Bay Oak and I fancied the Smith horse to give the yard a double. The Bay Oak is clearly going to make a better chaser but he has shown lazy/awkward tendencies before and he tied up on the run-in after Skelton tried to put it to bed some way out.

It was a bold effort but he ran into a really gutsy performer who was already 2/2 round here. Foolishly I'd put the phone away when the Skelton horse went clear so wasn't in position to capitalise on what could have been a good trade, as I always felt Cooky was going to get him there.

Aengus was another well-backed horse looking to follow up his Wetherby but unlike Cafe Au Lait he did so in some style, proving he stays the longer trip to beat Turtle Cask, who didn't show much improvement for the application of blinkers.

I was against Monsieur Arkadin, who still looks very light framed and lean after a break and isn't one to be interested in for a while. Bruce Almighty looked really well but clearly has mental or physical issues.

Sunday, 26 February 2017


Plenty of midweek rain had left the ground very soft, although a drying wind over the preceeding 24 hours had turned it holding.

The opener was a tight four-runner affair but Testify seemed a rightful market leader on form, particularly after The Worlds End won so well last weekend. He looked the nicest in the paddock, but ran a strange race.

The McCain inmate started to hang going away from the stands and fell in a hole with half a mile left, running on again to not be beaten all that far. Something may be wrong physically, or indeed mentally, but this was not a step forward.

De Vous A Moi had every right to go well if making the transition back to hurdles, receiving 10lb from the runner-up. He looked vulnerable against progressive youngsters, but none of them ran their race and he did.

Imperial Bay is a nice horse in the making but the five-year-old looked on the weak physically and I didn't think he would be winning on this ground. I also didn't want to be with Seemorelights, who is quite a keen going sort with little stamina in the pedigree.

He's alright though - but he doesn't want a test like this and a drop back will see him back in the winners circle.

A handicap hurdle followed and I managed to maintain a dreadful strikerate in such events, not believing Teo Vivo could win again off a career high mark. He's clearly getting better at the age of 10 though and went away from Nuts Well again, despite being on worse terms for that Kelso win.

Nuts Well continues to look like a horse with more to offer, but the yard is winless this campaign and this six-year-old didn't look quite right here today. The fact he's put a couple of decent efforts together with the kennel out of form tells me he'll be worth following when he goes over fences next season, as he's just marking time at the moment.

Vinciaettis was made favourite and rates the worst bet of the season. He looked very fit after a lay-off but doesn't look straight forward at all and he turned it in after going a mile.

I couldn't be interested in the others though, a lack of support for Meadowcroft Boy suggesting his turn may come another day. He used to front-run before taking an injury lay-off and didn't look busy here out the back.

The Eider looked ultra competitive and my stab at Alto Des Mottes lasted less than 10 seconds, while cover bets on the outstanding-looking Knockanrawley and the consistent if disappointing Shotgun Paddy hit the woodwork. I never really took to Mysteree when it was with the Russell yard and seem to have missed the boat with him. R Dunne is a solid second-tier jock and I'm pleased he's won a big one.

Speaking of the Russell yard, with a stable full of staying chasers you'd think they'd have a representative in the Eider.

I made Zamdy Man the bet of the day and devout followers of The Dutchman must be racking up some serious losses this season.

The tactics would be interesting in this effective match but whatever happened I expected Zamdy Man, who wasn't a million miles from the top rung over timber, to be too strong in the finish.

However, it was very surprising that The Dutchman didn't get a typical Cook ride from the front in an attempt to draw the sting from his opponent. Perhaps they don't have the confidence in his jumping to adopt such tactics. He's just not that big or scopey and until his technique improves he may continue to struggle.

Zamdy Man is unlikely to go up much if at all for this win, in which he jumped as well as he ever has. He looks well handicapped on 140 and if they can find another two-miler on heavy ground he'll be one to have on your side. He's a warrior...with class.

The Nipper looked the proverbial 'stick-on' in another match this time for mares, against Irish raider Elusive Theatre. They were poles apart in the prelims and the only concern was whether the jolly would thrown it away once hitting the front.

Sensibly Sheehan got a tow for as long as possible and the 4/9 shot won as she liked. She may be quirky, but is better than her current mark suggests.

I thought I had the handicap chase by the short and curlies but it shows how wrong you can be. Well, I got it 90% right, which is probably more than can be said for most punters who seemed to think Ballybolley could win, despite never having found anything off the bridle on ground like this.

As sure as night follows day, he was going to travel like the winner before backing out of it. Maybe this market was driven by traders, who knew this scenario would play out and got all they could on at pre-race odds.

I'm too naive about these things but with Ballybolley and the increasingly disappointing Mr Spingsprong taking lumps out of the market there had to have been value somewhere. You couldn't back Special Wells who was on a career high mark for beating nothing in two lesser races, or The Ramblin Kid who was the size of a bus after more than a year off.

That only left two. Regrettably I'd spent the morning backing Caraline and by the off I had her winning almost five figures at an average of around 7/1, yet here she was trading at 13 on the machine which suggested somebody knew something I didn't.

Some things are unexplainable in this game and it simply won't do to ponder too long on these things over which we have little control. There were ultimately a dozen ways to have played this race to finish well in the green, yet I was still staring at a largely red screen after a number of in-play clicks.

If you take the market side of things out of it the race pretty much panned out as expected, with the stronger jockey up the straight coming home in front. Gold Opera did look well, but he's so hard to predict and he's just as likely to throw in a shocker next time.

Never mind. It's important to stay in the moment and the bumper provided a great opportunity as for the third or fourth time on the afternoon the market got it wrong.

It was essentially a match because Oscar Mor is so big and slow that he won't come into himself until he gets three miles and fences. Until that time he's not worth considering, while the two rags weren't players although Ghafaan is not without hope in the medium term.

B Pauling's Carlos Du Fruitier had a penalty for winning at Warwick but he's only just turned five and he looked pretty weak and leggy to me.

Far better proportioned was McGowan's Pass, who was run out of it in a driving finish by the bumper sensation Sam's Adventure, whose form is watertight.

Without the penalty plus the additional claim of the useful Miss McDonald, this nicely bred six-year-old was a cracking bet, particularly as all the money came for the southern raider.

The race panned out perfectly so at least we rounded off one of the most frustrating weeks of the season with a nice winner.

Thursday, 23 February 2017


After a dry week the ground was genuinely good but with a strong blustery wind things looked quite tough up the long straight.

I do love Donny as the result is usually a fair one and there can be few excuses, other than the occasional shemozzle as they turn out of the far bend.

The Skeltons unveiled a lovely big grey horse in Charming Zen for the opening novice hurdle and this expensive French import looked the part, moving fluently and covering plenty of ground at the walk.

He probably doesn't do anything too quickly and certainly took his time to get on top of the fellow penalised Apasionado, but the result looked inevitable some way out and the winner could be a fair tool.

Silent Encore is quite a nicely made horse of good staying stock, and is gradually coming to hand after this his third hurdles outing. He'd be capable of landing a handicap somewhere this spring over further.

Soldier In Action was useful on the Flat last summer and was highly tried at Musselburgh on a switch to hurdles last time. That track wouldn't have suited though and he had plenty of use made of him this time.

The outcome wasn't in doubt really after Nico poached a clear early lead, and the horse looks a relentless galloper. He doesn't move great but seems to relish the ground.

The keen-going Timoteo wasn't likely to threaten, while the penalised Diable De Sivola was right up against it giving weight away, and he may not be straight forward either. Apache Song is quite a strong filly and made a good impression.

There was deep disappointment when the heavily backed Skipthecuddles was scratched from the staying handicap hurdle. It left a wide open heat although The Tailgater attracted support again despite looking quirky under pressure and having stamina doubts, both of which again came to the fore.

The winner, Rocky's Treasure looked a nice type from the bang in-form K Bailey and despite having a high head carriage he looks a real stayer of substance, and did this quite well.

Some Kinda Lama was ridden with restraint this time and that backfired as he wasn't best placed when the tempo quickened, so he will rate better than this when the emphasis is on stamina. I didn't think the consistent Muthabir quite saw it out.

I didn't take any angle in the veterans race other than opposing Blue Kascade, who nevertheless went as though in good form, however he's not going to be competitive off a mark of 120 and was totally out of his depth in this C2 event.

Saint Are looked fitter than when he won last year and almost repeated the feat.

The hunters chase wasn't competitive. Paint The Clouds looked pretty fit and enthusiastic in the prelims, while Ardea looked the part and could still be improving. This was certainly much better than his latest effort at Wetherby, where I suspect he laboured on terrible ground. He looks a dour stayer.

The bumper was a strong one with Claimantakinforgan looking the one to beat despite having to shoulder a penalty. In any normal race I think he could have given the weight away but in Black Op he came up against an expensive purchase that could be very useful.

Black Op has been given plenty of time, and you can understand why as he's a fairly big unit. He was straight enough, but will certainly improve a bundle for this and can only improve physically over the next couple of years.

The form of Monty's Award's bumper win last year has stacked up but he didn't look great ahead of this return, getting warm and probably needing the run. M Pitman's Sea Sovereign is small and close coupled and makes little appeal going forward, but Tayzar should come on for this and he's got some filling out to do, and may land a weaker race in the north this spring.


Genuine good to soft ground greeted runners on a competitive looking card, where a weak conditional jockeys race opened proceedings.

Not many could be fancied on paddock inspection where Minella Suite towered over his 12 rivals. The Dobbin horse looked well handicapped on a mark of 100 and although he is a stayer in the making, he was sure to be involved at fair odds.

However, solid support came for the S Leech trained Cafe Au Lait and when the market speaks in favour of one of hers it's worth taking note. The horse won well after letting supporters down in the past and those who kept the faith got their reward.

Xhale from the in-form C Bailey yard looks a fair sort at this level and can improve again on his placed effort, while Hugh's Secret looked a real handful beforehand but showed his first piece of form here and this small horse has strengthened up of late.

A mares novices chase was easily narrowed down to a pair of the seven starters, unfortunately they were at the head of the market but there's nothing we could do about that.

Money Maid had been well backed despite concerns over the return to shorter and better ground, but her chase form was superior to the rest if you could forgive her flop in bad ground last time.

Top And Drop is from a good staying family and she looks a similar type of horse. She looked a bit novicey on this chase debut though, making a couple of lunges early on, and she did the same thing two out eventually unshipping the rider.

She may well have won and I'd be happy to give her another chance especially on deeper ground. Chasma ran her usual honest race but is simply moderate, while Shy again showed something to work on.

Jerrysback was a warm order to beat two main market rivals and the Hobbs-trained novice looked the part beforehand. The athletic sort clearly has an engine and was not given a hard ride by Geraghty to land the spoils.

Eaton Hill again ran well but I'm not a huge fan of this rather small individual, although Plus One may be a better horse to follow as he's quite a big chase type who looked likely to come on for the run - as such he's run a belter on debut under rules.

Strike West and Suggestion are types for handicaps and both offered encouragement for the future in their own way.

Plaisir D'Amour looked really well ahead of a truly vexing handicap chase just three weeks on from a major flop on her debut in heavy ground for Venetia, so market weakness came as a surprise.

It looked a race that wouldn't take much winning with infrequent winner Lightening Rod and the Pogson horse Unzing dominating the betting.

One of the baffling sides of this game is when horses that really ought to be much shorter in the betting than they are, go and do what you think they're capable of doing, but you can't back them because someone 'must know' and market adjust accordingly.

This thing went from 6 > 13 > 10 on the machine which was hardly encouraging. Somebody must have known she was alright! If she'd have gone 6 > 9/2 I'd have happily jumped on board.

It was really hard to back anything else, so I didn't. Unzing had gone backwards and checked out tamely again back in trip, and the rest are simply out of form, with Lightening Rod looking very dodgy off the bridle.

I'll confess I didn't put much work into the 17-runner handicap hurdle and thus missed the gamble on the Candlish trained Aengus, who had shown very little since joining the yard but clearly had plenty in hand after tumbling in the weights.

The shrewd stable is adept at playing the system, as it were, and this strong looking animal is clearly better than 107.

Milan Express stood little chance in second, shaping very much like further would suit, while the rest were strung out with Derrick D'Anjou also running on well from behind to grab third. Mortens Leam jumped and travelled with fluency but this well-related youngster didn't stay, and should be monitored.

I was of the opinion that Sharney Sike merely had to repeat his form of last month to bag the staying handicap chase, but I was clearly barking up the wrong tree as the early support turned into a gigantic drift that meant I knew my fate before the flag went up. 'They' definitely knew about this one!

Thedrinkymeister looked recalcitrant the last twice but with a visor on went with loads of enthusiasm to return to winning ways, however considering he had things his own way up front he didn't win by far as a couple of potential non-stayers closed him down from the last.

The one to take from the race was Allez Cool, who still looks badly handicapped on his hurdles form with John Wade. He's not that big so a return to timber wouldn't go amiss, although he popped round well enough at the back. He's a dour stayer who needs it deep, and is one to consider from a lower mark.

The bumper was straight forward enough as Point winner Redemption Song ran to a good mark on debut and this really imposing mare looked sure to improve for that experience. She became a backable price so we stepped in, and that was that.

McCain's Birch Vale didn't look very forward, while Cockley Beck was a nice big sort apparently in need of the run. Irish raider Questionation was alright looking, fit enough, but was no match for the winner who could be one to defy a penalty, and wouldn't be out of place at Aintree.

Sunday, 19 February 2017


This was always meant to be a blog about my trips to the track and hopefully I can translate some of what I learn there to these pages.

Clearly though, punting is a large of what I do and most likely what you, the reader does, so although I never go into too much detail about my own betting some of the updates will have more of a betting slant.

This will be one of them. For some reason I never quite get to grips with the Haydock meetings, often vowing to take it easy, yet having travelled across the Pennines I seem to get drawn into playing all sorts of races I shouldn't be getting involved in.

The opener was a prime example and put us on the back foot in no uncertain terms.

I'm not into juvenile hurdlers but I didn't take a liking to the Godolphin's Most Celebrated at Wetherby as he's not put together very well (technical term), yet he marmelised a weak field in the style of a useful horse.

Of course, that 'form' wasn't worth much but the manner of the performance was very taking. Today, he looked similar but he does cover the ground well at the canter. I thought he would win, especially as Don Bersy looked very buzzy and took a marked drift in the betting.

There was cash around for Admiral Barratry, I nice strong French import who looked straight enough. We'll have to wait another day to see how good he is, while Don Bersy continued his improvement with a fairly authoritative win.

Most Celebrated went very keenly but did so at Wetherby and came home well, whereas T Scu had nothing under him fully 3f out this time. Perhaps something will come to light.

The second was a quiet punting race as Agrapart - a lovely chaser for next season, he's a bit unfurnished at present - was the one I fancied but too short a price although Zarkander looked really fit and well. He was able to reverse his decline to win easily, albeit at cramped odds.

Aux Ptits Soins jumped very poorly on his return to timber but plugged on well and he must have some engine. If they stick to hurdles next season he may well turn out to be a World Hurdle contender as I'm sure they'll take his jumping back to scratch.

The handicap hurdle for stayers looked tricky and the well-backed favourite Call To Order looked a nice horse once more, however he was very fresh and on his toes in the prelims.

I didn't see it but it sounds like he got a bit stirred up at the start and he is surely much better than this. Perhaps the race will put him straight.

He was too short in the market for a race of this nature so was taken on with the very useful looking Big River, who is as much a 128 horse as I am a good looking young man.

Things looked good as they turned in but his jumping wasn't that slick throughout and it cost him late on. Scu was in the right place and did nothing wrong, and I'm sure this was a good learning race for the youngster, who remains one of the better prospects in the North.

I missed out on Dadsintrouble here last time out but he didn't stand out amongst these decent sorts and all his winning had come on much softer ground. He was very much on the shortlist though and again slipped through the net, taking a big weight hike in his stride.

It looked a tough race on paper but breaking it down I couldn't fancy much else, particularly Eminent Poet against whom I was happy to rack up a big liability in the place market as he was surprisingly well-backed considering he's a small horse who seems to need heavy ground.

Theo's Charm ran better in the blinds but it was a day to be up with the pace on decent ground at a track that is sharper than most.

The National trial was a real conundrum and I didn't have any strong view, sticking winner Vieux Lion Rouge on a lengthy shortlist at what looked generous double-figure odds on the machine, without actually stepping in.

He's a lovely compact, athletic horse, just the sort you need for Aintree these days, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he went very close in April.

The mistake I made was to oppose Blaklion in the win and place market. He lacks in size and scope but he does travel well and relishes this better ground, which I'm sure helps his jumping. As such he may well be a spring horse and I was lucky to have a stronger stayer on my side, otherwise it would have been a bloodbath.

Blaklion is a horse I'd go back hurdling with as he seems to have a big engine. He's another who could go down the world hurdle route and I'm sure if you put him next to The New One there wouldn't be much in it size-wise (could be wrong there - eek).

I was dead against Vintage Clouds as well and thankfully I've not wasted a single bean on this horse over the past 12 months. Conditions simply haven't been right for this out and out mudlark but his time will come when everything falls into place - he was always going to struggle on this ground.

This wasn't a day for the plodders who couldn't get into it - Vicente, Goodtoknow, Tour Des Champs and Cresswell Breeze all wanting further or softer or a combination of both.

The Grade 2 novice chase threw together some lovely young animals and the winner The Worlds End has something special about him. He's just a very nice horse, he looks straight forward both physically and mentally, and will jump a fence in time.

He did it extremely well I thought and won't look out of place at Cheltenham. My view was that No Hassle Hoff was short enough in the betting considering he had only won a C5 hurdle, which was why he was getting weight from the others.

He was very hard fit, but he's not very big and you could say he's a typical Craigsteel. They often don't look much but have plenty under the bonnet. I didn't think the drop in trip would suit and to be fair things didn't pan out for him.

The rest were all nice in their own way, Report To Base surely better than he showed here while the Richards' pair are very strong individuals merely marking time before going over fences next season.

After nap of the day Gardeforte finally produced the performance I knew he was capable of over at Wincanton (atoning for the ghastly exit of Catterick scorer Black Narcissus earlier in the day) things were starting to turn and then I clapped eyes on Captain Redbeard.

There had been plenty of umming and erring in the lead-up to this novices handicap but in my mind it came down to whether 'The Beard' had improved enough to deal with Aqua Dude, who had been well backed and looked poised to strike from a perch of 130.

I took a big shine to 'The Dude' at Southwell well over a year ago but he hadn't taken the eye this term, and I must say he hasn't progressed physically the way I had anticipated.

He looks no more than rugged now but the form still told you he had to go close especially with STD taking over the reins.

However, I must have seen the Captain six or seven times in his career and he never looked this good, with his coat gleaming and seemingly very well in himself. He can get a bit stoked up but he was kept under wraps and as he came good this time last year all the signs were there for a massive run.

I wasn't the only one to cotton on late as he was backed in from 6s to 4s and followers have S Coltherd to thank for another fine effort in the saddle.

Young Sam had the presence of mind to kick early at Wetherby last time and once again he was very positive, making this a stamina test at the trip.

The kid still looks quite amateurish over a fence and seems to make the horse look a lesser jumper than he actually is. To be fair they measured the four up the straight really well and I liked the fact that he didn't fully go for him until after the last.

With Twiston-Davies crawling all over you that can't be easy so credit has to be given where it's due, and plenty of it. Having jumped off Aqua Dude in favour of 'The Beard', this was one photo finish I was very relieved to be on the right side of.

As for the others in the race, Wuff backers were once again out in force for no apparent reason and he must be some work horse to attract such a regular following. His backers' patience must be Rizla-thin.

Palm Grey was back after a short break and I just thought he might need it, although he's never been one to take the eye. This surely wouldn't be enough of a stamina test for Tanit River and so it proved.

It was nice to be back on an even keel so there wasn't much need to play a decent looking hunter chase in which Wonderful Charm was a surprisingly weak favourite.

He got a lovely tow into it from his main market rivals and won as he liked, although what he's capable of under rigorous pressure remains a moot point.

Friday, 17 February 2017


It was good to be back on the road to Kelso for the annual pilgrimage, although it was a desperate looking card for punting with loads of short priced favourites.

But as we know they can't all win, and couple fell by the wayside.

Not so the opening well-backed jolly named Reivers Lad, a really nice solid looking chaser of the future with plenty of substance.

The feature of the race was that they went no gallop - not that they could go much faster if they wanted to as the ground looking pretty holding.

The favourite jumped really well on this occasion, and stepped up markedly on a poor debut effort. He had some sound bumper form and looks sure to serve the stable well in the coming years.

I don't think Lycidas did much wrong but the ground was surely too soft for him and it wouldn't be the greatest surprise to see him win again on a better surface.

It was a pretty weak race though, with the third home Paper Roses being very small. She does hame some ability though, and can pick up a small handicap in due course. The Skelton horse Al Reesha flopped for a second time and looks one to avoid.

The school of thought was that Takingrisks looked thrown in off 130 for a four-runner novice handicap over fences and he duly rewarded supporters, although he went big in running as the Nicholls raider Vicenzo Mio looked home and hosed two out.

The beast had jumped very neatly on this chase debut and his raw speed had the rest off the bridle some way out, but the petrol gauge began to flicker approaching the last and suddenly it was game over.

Stamina won the day for Takingrisks and he had looked very slow over timber last term. But granted some stiffer tests he will remain of interest and something like the Scottish National could interesting.

Spanish Fleet put up another doggish display and although he's worth a try over even further, one gets the impression he'll run the same sort of race. Blinkers may be worth a go - he's not badly handicapped.

The Morebattle also attracted just four and the Skelton's big chase type Born Survivor was all the rage down in trip.

He's found less than expected off the bridle on more than one occasion and things were in the balance as he and Cyrus Darius went on two out, where the favourite crashed out.

Opinion was divided as to who would have won - Harry Skelton's brilliant reaction suggested he thought he was on the winner - but Cyrus Darius did very little wrong and galloped all the way to the line.

Pleasingly, he had come on a bundle for his Haydock and run and looked more his old self beforehand. He has strengthened up and a return to chasing wouldn't faze him.

Saphir De Rheu did all that he had to do to land an uncompetitive conditions chase. Maggio and Firth Of The Clyde both looked fit enough and the latter ran well to pick up the pieces after Bernardelli had tried to serve it up to the winner.

I was against the Richards horse as his stamina isn't assured over this trip, and it has to be remembered he never runs the same race twice. He looks a right moody old bugger.

The stayers hurdle saw the infuriating Forty Crown win again. I thought he was a certainty off 100 in November but here he was triumphing for the second time at Kelso, this time off 113. 

I don't think this was a strong race but take nothing from the winner, who did look as well as I've seen him beforehand. I liked Maxie T a lot but he never jumped a hurdle and I suspect it was these new obstacles that did for him.

He's not very big, and the hurdles used here for the first time were the new, more upright type being implemented at various courses this season. There seems to be less give in them and Maxie T definitely seemed to struggle, losing lengths at most of them. It's worth noting next time he runs.

Black Thunder was backed from 2/7 into 1/8 in the hunter chase and got turned over. Premier Portrait has won something like 11 Points since departing the Rules scene so clearly is no slouch, although on ratings the jolly appears to have underperformed.

It probably wasn't the best ride by Waley-Cohen, who seems to get plenty wrong for all that he's been so successful. If you're on clearly the best horse there's no point just dawdling around and then give them all a chance in a two furlong sprint.

The fact he dropped his reins and got his whip in a brief tangle didn't help matters but probably wasn't the deciding factor. He should have put it to bed when he had the chance.

The bumper saw another remarkable punt when Better Getalong was sent off at 1/4 having traded 4/7 for much of the day. You'd have to hope some of the brave Black Thunder backers were trying to claw some back, although it was squeeky bum time again as another sprint finish ensued.

This time they got the right result, Ryan Day excelling once again as the Richards horse got on top of market rival Some Reign close home. They are nice horses and should be decent hurdlers.

Monday, 13 February 2017


The sun came out again for another trip to Catterick where after weekend rain the going was soft, although they were getting through it.

Same Circus in the opener set a very decent standard for a mares novice and the market told all you needed to know regarding the chief market rival Big Penny, who drifted markedly with the jolly being the only one backed.

One heavily backed favourite followed another when Kauto Riko made light work of the well-handicapped Tomkevi as the pair came away from the returning Almost Gemini.

The winner was very fit, and quite light framed, so probably did well to handle ground this bad and certainly looks on the upgrade all things considered.

The cheekpieces didn't make a great difference to Tomkevi, who didn't travel or jump with much authority and remains below his decent form of last term. Perhaps a step up in trip may suit.

Almost Gemini has surprised us all by winning when looking in need of the race before, but he certainly ran as though it would do him good this time around.

The novices handicap chase was a dire affair featuring three horses that have shown difficult tendencies, two with no chance and another - the eventual winner in Milly Baloo - who had half a dozen placed efforts at Market Rasen but had yet to repeat the form elsewhere.

Powerful Symbol had essentially been the only one able to raise a decent gallop but he was only a few lengths clear when over-jumping three out and shoving A Coleman over the top.

He probably would have won but he's one I'd rather oppose than back next time out, a similar sentiment afforded to the others including the winner, who was pretty tired at the line.

Beeno had run into Lady Buttons at Newcastle but was rightfully a warm order to gain compensation at this tighter venue in the next.

However, he looks the sort to need everything to fall right and they didn't do so here, the early pace not a generous one meaning he was too keen over the first three flights.

And with H Brooke saving every inch on the chewed-up inside, an enlightened W Kennedy swung his mount Raise A Spark around the outer turning for home to grab the favoured near side rail.

It's the only place to be here during the winter months and it was a race-winning move. Us Beeno backers were left to mull what might have been - although he's probably not one to be making too many more excuses for. From a handicapping perspective he should have been able to close the deal.

Quill Art was the only other one to be worried about and sure enough he ran a race of promise, albeit getting outpaced at a crucial time. A bigger track and faster pace at this trip should suit best. Our Thomas continues to be tremendously disappointing.

I Just Know has to be one of the horses of the season and he bolted up again from a mark in excess of 20lb higher than where he began the campaign.

He simply does not make mistakes and like ol' man river just keeps rolling along. When you saw him next to Nortonthorpelegend in the paddock you knew it was no contest with only 4lb between them.

Hedley Lamarr was well-backed and has threatened to produce a bigger effort before now, but didn't take much interest and is frankly one to avoid. Expect some form of headgear to be applied sooner rather than later.

Katachenko proved here that 3m is a trip he's been crying out for and he'll find much easier assignments than trying to match strides with a horse like I Just Know.

That just left the bumper and a competitive one it looked with a handful I liked against the field, against a couple I was against, namely the Jefferson horse Mountain Hawk, who is a big strong type but backward mentally, and the eventual third Golden Jeffrey, who was by some way the smallest on show.

Indian Harbour, the second of the Swinbank horses, was too big and lairy, but stablemate Brecon Hill looked the part and showed a good attitude on the run to the line.

Teescomponents Lad is clearly a fair sort and looks one to keep the right side of, while Red Ochre and Rownak both look capable of winning one of these.

Friday, 10 February 2017


Anyone else suffering mid-winter/mid-season blues? I hit the wall on Sunday, came down with yet another cold, and basically felt sorry for myself ever since. Maybe there's something to be said for SAD. Bit strange as it's been the best season since shaking off the shackles of 'normal' working life.

Anyway, after a few days break we headed down to Town Moor for what looked a frankly weak betting card that failed to get the juices flowing. Which was a shame as I came away thinking we might have had a few winners but brothers coulda, shoulda and woulda never paid any bills.

Pithivier and Twojayslad took a fair chunk out of the market in the opening handicap chase but in fairness there wasn't a great deal of depth to the race unless you were prepared to delve a bit deeper, which sadly I didn't.

The Bailey yard has got over whatever was ailing them in the first half of the season and Carli King was well enough handicapped to take a hand, especially if you believed first time blinkers would be beneficial. Turns out they were.

The other well-handicapped one was undoubtedly Beggars Cross, who showed us what he was capable of when winning over timber last term.

He simply hadn't come to himself yet in four starts over the larger obstacles but the handicapper had taken note and a perch of 112 seriously under-estimated his ability should the tide turn.

Beggars Cross is a nice sort but hasn't fired yet this term. When the market speaks in his favour he'll look a very nicely handicapped horse. - Jan 9

Some certainly thought so as he was nibbled at all day, going off 4/1 from double figures. He still didn't look like he was cherry ripe beforehand but the end-to-end gallop and dig in the ground helped make this a stern test which he relished.

Granted a greater test I'm sure he could run up a sequence from this mark, and he's a quite rare son of Presenting that prefers softish conditions.

Cabragh returned to form in headgear which made Pithivier's effort all the more baffling, as with a turnaround in the weights with the England horse he should have been thereabouts.

It's a while since he has delivered the goods and the jury is now out regarding the Pauling inmate, who was reported never to be travelling.

Creep Desbois had shown plenty to work on at Wetherby last time out when an unfortunate mistake put paid to any chance he had in a slow run affair.

I suspect the fourth, Creep Desbois, may have won if he hadn't pitched badly on landing having jumped the third last well. He's a nice athletic type and is capable of much better than this. - Jan 14
As such he was very interesting in the novices hurdle with main opponents being the penalised mares Mariah's Legend and Snow Leopardess.

The latter had made right meal of winning a tin pot affair here last time and had since had 10 weeks off, although she looked nice and straight here. She may need better ground, but looks quite one-paced and those who punted her in to a remarkable 11/8 never really looked like they were going to collect.

Mariah's Legend came into the paddock very late and was very fizzy. she went down ok and seemed to settle in the race, but made mistakes and was never going.

I was a little disappointed looking at Creep Desbois physically as he looked small against these mares, but as mentioned previously he's well put together and does jump very well. He's the type to do very well with another summer on his back and is one to keep onside with stamina in abundance.

I opposed Rockportian in the place market after his fairly dismal effort at Wetherby and again he looked awkward beforehand, and soon lost his pitch before staying on late. He's not one I like.

Might Bite landed the odds as expected but he doesn't look a Cheltenham horse at all as he doesn't seem to know what to do when he gets in close. His prominence in the RSA betting means there could be some value to be had elsewhere.

I don't know what happened to Ma Du Fou, nor indeed what HAS happened to Ma Du Fou. It's back to the drawing board.

The staying hurdle looked like one to avoid as they bet 4s the field. Henderson's Swoop To Conquer doesn't look a 112 animal but turned in a shocker, possibly not handling the ground as he was never going.

Expensive purchase Three Ways is a stocky, sturdy sort but he's full of enthusiasm and he produced a telling effort off another end to end gallop, up there all the way before staying on well to beat Abbreviate.

This form looks ok as they were well strung out behind and although he looked weighted to the hilt and the excellent jockey's claim helped, he could be the sort to keep improving granted a stamina test.

Souriyan was fit for his belated return, ironically having left the winner's yard, but didn't get home and again looked a bit quirky off the bridle.

Another novices hurdle came next and it looked like a match with the favourites flip-flopping, the market getting it spot on as Chelsea Flyer finally got it all together to win for the first time.

It took an age for the penny to drop, and although he was well on top at the line you have to question the form, as the second Ramses De Teillee looked quite small and the third Mister Whitaker looks more one for the future.

Disappointment was Charlemar, who couldn't cope with a 10lb penalty and this compact sort may just be flattered by his earlier form anyway.

We didn't hang around for a depressing 0-100 handicap hurdle which was hasty with hindsight as Episode came on again for his Catterick third, which had been boosted by the winner since.

The Kirby youngster has been a slow burner and he's so big and sturdy that he might revel in a busy campaign. As such, it would come as no surprise to see him go in again at back at Catterick on Monday off the same mark.

You can read my views on betting website the Gambling Times where I'll be previewing and reviewing the weekend action as well as providing a daily selection.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Weekly round-up - W/C Jan 30

A busy week with four meetings to catch up on - I'll try to keep it as brief as possible but there's plenty to get through.

Southwell - Tuesday 31

The ground didn't look that soft but the jockeys reported it was riding very soft.

Race 1
Pearl Swan looked in terrific heart and the market spoke in his favour before romping away from a very flat Its'Afreebee, who didn't even make the frame. The second home Jack In A Box is a big, long unit but showed enough here to win something.

Race 3
Not a bad little bumper with the two nicest on show dead-heating. Aye Aye Charlie looked to have it sewn up after circling the field but was joined on the line by The Last Day, a nice looker albeit unfurnished. He didn't deserve to be a long shot and he was quite tenderly handled. Second Time Around looked really raw - a chaser for much further down the line. I didn't care much for the gambled on Bite The Biscuit, who lacked plenty for size and scope.

Race 4
McManus's Champ made quite a taking debut and he stood out a mile in the paddock - the only surprise being his price, before the late surge moved it from 4/5 to 8/15. I really liked Grey Warbler - from a lovely family - she's quite tall and unfurnished but was turned out well, and it's kind of a shame she went so close as she won't go under the radar next time. Midnight Moss had to make his own running and this nice chase type - another with a super little pedigree - should continue to improve. Parwich Lees didn't look straight and this big unit should come on loads.

Race 5
Listen To The Man was turned over at 1/9 last time out and I wasn't in a mood to forgive this rather light framed mare, who may or may not yet fulfill her bumper promise. You could only fancy two against her though and I was pleasantly surprised to see the superbly named Louis' Vac Pouch take a walk in the market as I was quite taken by his effort last time under a quiet ride. He's a good jumper who could do alright, while Somewhere To Be once again looked very slow indeed. Wynford got all worked up and ran like he's got problems between the ears.

Race 6
Lady Buttons followed up under a penalty over an extra half mile. She's quite plain but it's great that she's come back to form for patient connections. Dragon De La Tour is a big strong horse who will jump a fence but didn't get home over this extra yardage and with Skelton seeking out the best ground we could be waiting until the spring to see him at his best. That said he's probably just ordinary. Malapie ran a huge race off an absence - the trainer is back in form and this strong horse clearly still has ability.

Leicester - Wednesday Feb 1

The going was heavy and the jocks reported it barely raceable - although it looked better on the chase track as always.

Race 1
I couldn't seen how Sonny The One could be out the first three and he looked really on his game until losing his posi turning for home. He has quite a bit to prove now, although I suppose any horse can be excused on this ground. There were plenty of well-handicapped ones in here and one of them, Ballinvarrig, duly bounced back to form.

Race 2
Paddocks Lounge dwarfed his rivals in the claimer and the late cash told the story. Market rival Dusty Raven was weak, got all het up beforehand and didn't run much of a race.

Race 4
A good staying chase over 2m 7f, Some Are Lucky traded low in running but I'm not convinced by him physically, he's a bit short in front and he doesn't always see his races out. That was the case here although again I'm convinced he wants much better ground. Bells N Banjos was weak in the market all day but he improved again here, staying on in fine style to deny the very sturdy Duelling Banjos. Tanarpino was deeply disappointing here and he's one to have reservations about as he's won in heavy before. He never seemed to be travelling with any vigour and then he sort of stayed on when it was all over. I still like Crosspark going forward and he may have gone close if he hadn't departed, he was unsighted at the fence and he's essentially a sound jumper. Carningli had a nice pop round, he's a lovely big horse who still has time on his side.

Race 5
There was a right old turn up in this novice hurdle but the market was all wrong from the start and it wouldn't be the first time in the week that hype ruled over hard fact. The winner Full Irish didn't deserve to be the price he was as he had bounced back to form last time and had some really good bumper lines. Not only that but Laser Light is not one to be making excuses for - many folk will forgive him this again on account of the ground but he's one to avoid. But the feature of the race was the well backed favourite Reigning Supreme, who is a great big baby chaser, just the type to struggle in bad ground, and he's by Presenting as well. But backers evidently ploughed in on rumours alone and he was the first of the four principles beat. Head To The Stars improved again and this strong sort from a good family is not flattered by this.

Catterick - Friday Feb 3

A really fun little card, the ground was officially soft but was really no worse than good to soft.

Race 1
Another pretty weak juvenile and it says plenty for the others that Walsingham Grange could win after being off the bridle along way out. He looks all stamina and it was a good ride. Moon Arrow had the most substance and it wasn't surprising he outran his price, looking wayward and green in jumping right but staying on to good effect.

Race 2
Sam Spinner was rightly strong in the betting in a virtual match with Mr Monochrome. He's a really bonny horse that gallops with great relish, and like many Black Sam Bellamys he is endowed with stamina. Mr M looked pretty straight after a break but ran as though it was needed, although I'm not sure he's worthy of his current mark. Reverant Cust has come on a good deal physically in the past 12 months and he produced massive improvement to finish second...it can only be hoped the assessor goes easy on him as he's still not that big.

Race 3
I love these handicap chases at the Bridge and somehow I've developed a good feel for what you need to win round here. Step up Halcyon Days, who has done me no end of favours this term. He looked held by the handicapper last time but he's a a lazy type who only just does enough - a dream to own or train.

Thus, in a field where most couldn't be fancied, this solid yardstick was no more than a 3/1 poke on my book. But he drifted all day and we basked in some double helpings. What else could have won. I couldn't have Nomoreblackjack after his last outing and this promised to be far too tight for him. Given a nice ride by Cooky, he was given time to find his stride but (thankfully) he didn't have the pace. He may have been flattered by HD tying up again in front but this was more like it and he is finally one to be interested in.

Caprice D'Anglais looks really moderate, Las Tunas is a very funny shape, and Fieldsofsilk is a young horse that needs time. Alchimix may have issues but he wants further, possibly even another mile, while Frankie Ballou rocked up big and strong and looking race fit. He came in for lots of support and wasn't far away. He'll be best at 2m for now.

Race 4
I thought I had this staying hurdle by the fluff of the scroat, strongly fancying Cadoudoff to get his head back in front essentially down in grade and up in trip. He probably wanted it softer as he looks slow, and things may not have panned out best for him as the pace collapsed mid race and half a dozen were pitching in turning for home.

I only had two dangers down in the shape of Lough Salt and Cooking Fat, a stamina doubt and that 10lb rise for winning a race that fell apart putting me off the latter. Lough Salt didn't travel as he usually does and took an awful fall, leaving Cooking Fat to stay on well enough to deny a good pay out. I couldn't have Cracking Find, who had plenty to do on the book and looked a bit light just nine days from a pretty hard race here, while Brian Boranha is one to avoid and Forty Crown is now very badly handicapped.

Race 5
A very good staying chase for mares and I made the mistake of sticking with Two Smokin Barrels even though I'm convinced she needs deeper ground. She looked just a bit flat maybe as well beforehand and an uncharacteristic error at the second really was a race ender - even that early on. I think she did well to get into it all things considered but I don't think this was her form at all. She may need a break now.

I watched the videos of Treaty Girl and couldn't understand why she was backed into short odds, for all that this looked an easier assignment. She looks a bit paceless to me and even at this trip you need the ability to hold your position at this track. Conquer Gold has looked slow in the past to be fair, but made a bold bid after getting a bit outpaced on the bend. She would do better on soft as well, but how can you take anything from Actinpieces. I highlighted her credentials many moons back and she keeps delivering, not that I give her enough credit to back her these days. Total Assets ran a funny race, slowing into quite a few fences and winging others. It's remarkable how good she is for one so small and this was probably another PB.

Race 6
I didn't want to get involved in what looked a very tricky contest but I had to take on the shifty-looking Inchcolm at odds of around 9/4. Sure enough he had every chance to win but looked recalcitrant to me and is one to be very wary of. I thought Tommy The Rascal would be just about good enough as he's still on a basement mark, with Black Narcissus doing her winning on stiff tracks. The fact that they were doing nothing in front helped exaggerate her winning effort, and she looks quirky. Lakefield Rebel was well supported but that track was never going to suit and I might be interested in him if we get soft ground at Hexham this spring.

Wetherby - Saturday Feb 4

Towton Chase day, a solid card with soft ground. It looked hard work and the soft ground stayers came to the fore.

Race 1
Anyone with a pair of fully functional eyeballs should have been able to separate the eventual winner Golden Vision from the rest of the field in the prelims. On paper we didn't know how good the French exile might be, but she had an indignant air about her in the paddock as if to say 'what am I doing racing with this lot'.

The race began a remarkable trend on the day of well-backed favourites getting caned, on this occasion the moderate looking Tearsofclewbay failing by some way to live up to market expectations, just four days on from getting turned over at 30-100. Will they ever learn? That said, All My Love might have shaken up the winner had she not toppled over two out, but she's rather small so we'll have to see how she comes out of it, while Vive Ma Fille got really warm and is clearly not right at present.

Race 2
A cracking Class 2 handicap chase over 2m3f where it was hard to overlook the attentions of Oldgrangewood, who turned out in fantastic condition. Unlike so many from the Skelton yard he seems to have been underestimated and as I write this I'm still chiding myself for not backing up the truck. That's all very well after the event (I'm telling myself) but there was oodles of cash around for West Wizard, not a horse I know much about but I believe has been the subject of much hype down the years.

He's very rugged, thick set, and has the look of a four miler. He didn't get into it at all, as the big lengthy chestnut waltzed into the race before putting it to bed going to the last under a cool ride. Doctor Phoenix is starting to look one to be wary of, rallying after looking as though he would drop out, while Hainan ran really well from a much higher mark and a return to 3m could see him win again - he's a proper stayer.

Race 3
The move for Catamaran Du Seuil in a weak looking novice hurdle was incredibly strong, especially when you consider what a ghastly looking creature it is. Quite typical of the sort that ends up with Dr Newland, he was light framed and lean, not my sort of thing at all. Now I've laid these types before and got stung, as clearly the engine is there as he recorded a very decent figure last time out. But it didn't warrant an SP of 4/9 which is very much into 'certainty' territory.

Up against him was a nice strong staying type called Skipthecuddles, who I had down as one to watch in a Newcastle bumper and had stepped up considerably next time behind a useful prospect. He was a real runner here upped in trip again and I thought he ran away from them in the end in the style of one to keep on side, including when going chasing. Talk of Cheltenham is fanciful, however.

Race 4
The Towton Chase and I'm not one for touting my own business but I was quite happy to let everyone know that Calett Mad was one to take on here. We can all look cool and sexy in a Taunton handicap but this was different gravy, and I wanted a street fighter on my side in what looked sure to be stamina test. I thought I had four on my team...but thankfully it was five!

With Missed Approach running badly again and Delusionofgrandeur failing to find any rhythm there wasn't much meat left on the bone, particularly as the progressive looking Captain Chaos had crashed out mid race. I honestly don't know how The Dutchman would have fared had he not come down four out, stamina has still to be proven and the odds are he would have come second. Baywing simply loves a slog and although he looked out of his depth, I was surprised he returned 33s.

It was a breakthrough win for jockey Ryan Day, who has come on bundles having joined the Richards yard, and you have to doff your cap to the Greystoke handler for sticking by the lad in a big race where he wasn't able to claim. As for Calett Mad, he did exactly what I expected him to do, travel like a superstar before falling in a giant hole. He may be a very good horse in time, but let's see them do it off the bridle first.

Race 5
Point The Way was expected to push on this term but he flopped at Haydock three months ago and he hasn't been seen since. He still hasn't really filled out or grown, but loads of money came for him against the rock solid favourite Ami Desbois. Of all the jollys on the day this one deserved his place as clear market leader and he won as he should have done, looking really well beforehand too. He must have it soft, but it's hard to crab him. I thought Milborough was short of peak fitness and I expect him to be leaner on Eider day. I didn't think much to Sam Red physically but he showed great promise, although I wonder if he's quirky.

Race 6
Ardea was all the rage for the hunter chase but his form did not warrant odds of 5/4 against some old handicappers of fair ability. As mentioned earlier, the yard of Mrs C Bailey has hit some form and Galway Jack looked cherry ripe for his return to the track. And he needed to be, as I had stamina reservations in this ground, and although it was ebbing away from the second last he'd already put the race to bed, with Ardea looking sluggish as he tried to make up a lot of ground. Open Hearted looked fit and well but didn't get home again.

Race 7
The bumper looked a good one, with the four-year-old Eskendash setting an ok benchmark. He's very good looking as you'd expect from his flat breeding, but he's just struggling to get home. I'd keep an eye on him as he looks an ideal type for a flat campaign before going hurdling in the autumn. He was worth opposing on the ground, but not with Oscar Mor, who is so big he could be a police horse. He's going to be really slow and while he might win some, I'd say he's just too big to make it. The winner Mon Palois was a handy, athletic looking sort, and the way he stayed on at the end suggested much more was in the locker.