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.

2.25
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.

3.30
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.