Market Rasen - Thursday Nov 23
Good to soft ground and a card with quite a bit of interest.
Dans Le Vent had the form in the book and didn't have to improve to land a weak novice, although he'll need to smarten up his jumping if he is to take higher rank. He's not over-big but has still to turn five, and he looked well. Second favourite Musical Slave ran well in a Punchestown bumper on his only previous start but looked quite green and edgy in the paddock, and showed practically nothing on the course, dropped out and never taking a hand. Haafapiece is only small and will probably only end up being something like a 115 horse at best, while New Quay stripped much fitter for his Aintree spin and should do better over further, but he's only likely to be moderate as well. Tayzar is a lovely, lengthy staying chaser for teh future and this return to better ground saw him in much better light.
The nap of the day ran in the shape of Molly Childers, who I'd seen a couple of times previously and was a mare that had been crying out for a bit more real estate. She was unsurprisingly strong in the market and delivered the goods despite the odd jumping blemish, but she'll continue to improve physically and should remain competitive from a much higher mark.Undisputed got warm and probably ran to form here, she's possibly not entirely straight forward.
Arthur's Gift stood out in the paddock as a horse likely to rate better than his current 121, quite angular but tall and with a touch of good looks. He took his time to wear down Psychedelic Rock but stamina won the day here and the winner looks sure to do better with a gradual step up in trip. Just Milly was very fizzy beforehand but again ran well from a mark that looks high enough. Cake De L'Isle is a big chase type that needs some time.
An intriguing little novice handicap chase with just four runners but we were treated to the sight of a lovely big strong son of King's Theatre in Acting Lass, who posted a very professional display of jumping to win from a mark of 135 on chase debut. The fourth well-backed favourite to oblige, H Fry's inmate may just be a Festival horse although with a lack of racecourse experience they may be best waiting another season, but he could be that good. Bordeaux Bill is slowly getting his act together and did well to get so close to the winner, which augers well.
The staying handicap wasn't that strong and there was wise money for Vinegar Hill, who has been very progressive and with a sighter behind him was worth siding with against some very exposed sorts. The cut in the ground suited him and he'll stay further, plus he loves the mud. Copperfacejack couldn't land the hat-trick from a higher mark while Ultimatum Du Roy also looks high in the handicap, although ran one of his shockers. Amiral Collonges did his usual thing of tanking for a couple of miles before hitting a flat spot and then running on again. He should be better than his mark if only they could channel that energy, and he's young enough to progress.
A desperate handicap hurdle in which the favourite Druid's Diamond was pulled up after taking some false steps. Tell The Tale was left the de facto jolly but he's only very small and doesn't tend to see his races out, leaving Morning With Ivan to come through and beat Teescomponents Max after the last. The winner looked sprightly and fit enough beforehand, on this her first start since leaving M Todhunter.
The bumper looked a a decent one on paper and in the paddock, although the favourite was not among those considered most likely to lead them home. Shall We Go Now arrived late in the paddock and looks quite moderate at the current, and he'd already disappointed first time out. There at least a couple of likely types, Benny's Bridge from the F O'Brien bumper factory looking one of the most forward, and Inheritance Thief. Venetia's had shown decent form in the spring and was straight enough, but he was outpaced late on and he looks more of a soft ground stayer. Norman Stanley showed plenty in third and this big, tall horse can win one of these and should relish obstacles. Northern Soul is from a family the Jefferson's know very well and he's a nice big horse that will do better in time
Catterick - Friday November 24
Good to soft ground again generally and looking at the times it may have been a touch quicker.
Oak Vintage was a short priced favourite after winning at Kelso 13 days previously. Clearly a horse fulfilling earlier potential, the concern was whether this would come too soon after a couple of quickish races, and I thought he ran a bit flat. They also seem very keen to rush him to the front, which doesn't seem necessary, He won over 2m4f as a hurdler having been held up and easier tactics may suit this horse, especially at this trip,m which looks his limit on breeding. He was hassled up front by King Golan, who looked fit and well and was well punted each-way, but eventually beaten miles. The winner Middlebrow was enjoying a drop in the weights and hence, grade, and duly picked up the pieces as so many of McCain's do. His jumping was okay for a horse I've never liked, as he doesn't move great and seems to lack scope. This race fell apart and I'd want to take him on back up in class. Minella Suite was awful here, weak in the market, and is a horse with a load of issues.
A weak novice hurdle won in taking fashion by southern raider Espoir De Teillee, a big baby of a chaser who looked to be carrying condition. His jumping was notably fluent and this expensive purchase is worth keeping an eye on. Blairs Cove was anchored by the double penalty, while Jack Devine put up a much better effort than last time, although his mark si going to suffer on the back of this. Black Art is a big, strong and hard fit, but he backed out of it. I think he just went too fast early on and he's possibly a soft ground slugger over a trip.
Delusionofgrandeur had everything in his favour for the feature handicap chase but everyone knew it and he was a solid 6/4 shot. He was short enough at that considering he can make mistakes, but he got them out of the way early on and dominated the second circuit. I felt Thumb Stone Blues would be a worthy opponent at the prevailing odds but the Bailey horse didn't serve it up to the winner like I thought he would in first time cheekpieces, and was a disappointment. It's fair to say he's not a straight forward ride, although you could make the excuse that he wants softer ground. Total Assets definitely does, and she shaped as if in peak form. Like stablemate Boric, there could be further races to be won from this higher mark granted a thorough stamina test.
A poor novice hurdle made weaker by the fact that warm favourite Parthenius was such a poor mover in the paddock, it's rarely you get to see a horse with such stiff front legs. He clearly doesn't have a great future in this sphere, and found little when push came to shove. He snuck in a race a Plumpton last time but I'd be wary of following him either under a penalty or if tried in handicaps. As ever, McCain picked up the pieces with Rockalzaro, who form was anyway not far behind the favourite. Hello Bertie was the only other to have shown ability over timber before the race but again was very disappointing. The Steward looked pretty fit, and this useful Flat horse should be able to build on his runner-up placing,
The early market had Alzammaar in as favourite over Divine Spear, a lovely big chasing type who was merely marking time last season. That looked wrong and the betting got it right eventually, as the Henderson raider did what he had to do despite not looking fully wound up. Alzammaar wasn't seen to best effect as he was held onto by the jockey, where positive tactics on a thorough stayer may have forced a different result. Ramonex was close up in third after a better round of jumping, while Valgor Du Ronceray should be able to pick up a handicap or two providing his jumping stays together.
Another decent bumper and these races are proving very good betting mediums. There was a good word for the Dalgleish trained I'm To Blame and he looked a decent animal, albeit a tad edgy and keen. He took quite a pull in the race and messed about in front, but the manner in which he won suggests he could be very decent. Going Gold had previous form and this staying type lends the form a solid look, while Jefferson's Return Ticket is a big unfurnished chaser that looked well and he too should pick up races this season. I'm not sure what went wrong with the jolly, Lough Ryn, who backed out of it very quickly. Bambys Boy probably had a difficult task here under a penalty and this strong sort should find a novice hurdle come his way if they can keep the wheels on.