Saturday, 13 January 2018

Wetherby - Saturday January 13

Predictably boggy ground for the time of year but I wouldn't call it desperate, and a decent enough card.

The opening novice hurdle looked very deep for the track and there are half a dozen worth keeping an eye out for in the coming weeks.

The betting was tight between four of them, the top two looking up against it being penalised for previous wins, but they are decent sorts and they came home in front.

Noble Robin is a bit of a brute and wasn't walking that fluently beforehand and you wonder if he's difficult enough to keep sound. One suspects this ground is imperative and he could be one to be wary of even on good to soft.

There was nothing to crab about the victory though as he powered away up the straight despite looking a tad awkward under the cosh. Silva Eclipse did little wrong in second and he's a much more nippy, flat looking type who will learn greatly from this; he can defy a penalty in the north.

I was taken by Leskinfere in the paddock and he warranted an each-way play at 20s, having shown improved form last time out. He's a strong animal with scope and while it was disappointing he came under pressure early enough, he stayed on pleasingly and now gets a mark, while an easier novice over a bit further should be child's play.

Quest For Life was all the rage but I didn't buy into that last effort here when tenderly handled, while the extra half mile wasn't sure to suit. He looked well, but patently failed to stay and could be of interest on better ground.

Trucker's Lodge was sent of favourite on the back of a very impressive bumper win, but that was gained on very different ground and he looked more of a work in progress here, fit enough but a little unfurnished, and he'll surely be kept to better ground than this now, as he struggled.

I quite liked Toosey and he's one to look out for when the ground turns. A full brother to the likeable Political Quiz, this one is similar in being quite tall and light framed, and shapes like a stayer. This was his third run for a mark and he shouldn't be missed when hopefully his trainer hits better form in the coming weeks.

De Dollar Man was a shade of odds-on for the confined novices chase, where all except the winner have their marks left alone under the new BHA initiative.

The Welsh raider had more than a stone in hand of some decent rivals and should really have put this to bed, but he may not have run up to previous form and looked a bit paceless at this intermediate trip.

Take nothing away from Hogan's Height, who out-jumped and out-fought him to gain a deserved success; however the assessor will take a dim view of the performance and will be getting a steep rise in the weights.

The eye-catcher was undoubtedly Quietly, who I've mentioned before is a very nice prospect who hasn't been seen to best effect for some time.

His turn isn't far away and with this confidence booster behind him he'll remain well treated when returned to further, and he's a typical Smith horse that will do the yard proud in years to come.

Mortens Leam was disappointing but I didn't think he'd handle this boggy ground and that looks a viable excuse.

The next was a poor handicap hurdle in which Gran Maestro put his best hoof forward for a change despite looking recalcitrant in the prelims; he's not one to rely on, unlike runner-up Walsingham Grange, who is pretty consistent at this level.

Skywards Reward, a big unit that looked really well, was the subject of a gamble but it came unstuck, the horse weakening out of it after sharing the early work. He looks to require much further but has quite a bit to prove at present.

Bun Doran has been disappointing since landing a Haydock novice hurdle in a bog two years ago and he had a big chance to finally deliver from a competitive mark in a winnable looking C2 affair.

But I haven't trusted his finishing effort for some time and again he looked vulnerable at the back end of the race, having no answer to the stamina of Positively Dylan, who picked the others' pockets with quite an authoritative display.

Just Cameron and Bun Doran probably made this quite a test on the ground, but while they were watching each other the Williams horse swooped. Kayf Blanco took second but he doesn't look like a chaser and has never found anything off the bridle anyway; as such the gamble on him was hard to fathom, for all that he jumped better here in general.

I had Craggaknock down as the bet of the day on his first start for local handler R Guest at big odds early doors, but the theory was based around likely warm order Westend Story not delivering on his early promise once more.

However, the Hobbs raider chose this day to put all his short-priced defeats behind him by sluicing up, with Craggaknock doing best of the remainder.

The runner-up and Slanelough ran their races and probably ahead of their marks too, such was the ease of the victory. Both look capable of making amends, while Catchamat still wasn't fit here and he's not one to give up on.

A tight knit handicap chase came up next where the market had four close together headed by Newberry New, bred to sprint but a lover of heavy ground and a decent jumper of fences for all that he lacks size.

He'll probably stay all day and didn't even hit his usual flat spot here under RJ, eventually running out a ready winner from the one-eyed Crown Hill.

The runner-up has been curiously campaigned but has done little wrong over fences and this decent looking sort could progress again once back on a right-handed track, and he too has stamina reserves.

Special Wells looked fit but he's 5lb above his last winning mark and that's as good as he is, while Granville Island had his chance but has clearly regressed and it's hard to see him get his head back in front.

The fillies' bumper wasn't a bad race and it saw Maebh reverse Newbury placings with So Lonely, who failed to give Johnson a five-timer. Fforbidden Love was given a bold ride in front and she should be able to pick up one of these. Tara Force is a decent looking youngster but may prefer better ground, while Dares To Dream has plenty about her and shouldn't be dismissed in the future.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Catterick - Thursday Jan 11

The ground was officially soft but it's still one of the best draining tracks in the land and it wasn't that bad - those at the front end were finishing well enough, with the hurdles course looking the worst of the two.

The opening juvenile looked a decent affair with Turning Gold and Cornerstone Lad representing what I consider to be the best juvenile form in the north for a good while at Wetherby behind Albert's Back.

I'm no expert in these baby races but there was no doubt that Alan King's Crushed would need to be useful to best the pair - and despite market strength he was nowhere near up to the task.

Keen and very novicey, the Southern raider showed little promise as the aforementioned duo dominated the race, with the penalised Cornerstone Lad reversing Wetherby placings with a gritty performance.

Both have plenty of size and strength which augurs well for careers in this sphere, with the winner's inherent stamina coming to the fore from the second last as the free going Turning Gold came to the end of his tether.

Perhaps he had been out in front too long, as he rallied when passed at the last, but it's likely he only just gets the trip and a more patient ride on better ground could see him in different light.

Shine Baby Shine took third some way back, but she too has enough size and scope to have a future over timber, while Take The High Road looks more like a filly and I suspect they'll turn his attentions back to the flat for the time being.

I quite liked the victory a while back by Chu Chu Percy, and the form had worked out nicely since. The 56-day absence withstanding, he looked the one to beat in a weak looking stayers handicap with Bangor winner Tailor Tom the only real danger.

The pair came miles clear, and the form is probably solid with both horses likely to progress further, although their short term prospects are in the hands of the assessor.

There was a right old punt on Aramist, but I couldn't see it myself and he doesn't look much of a jumper, coming down when making a horlicks of one down the far side.

Gogo Baloo is of interest further down the line; a half sister to Milly Baloo she has just as much size if not more and may not be seen to best effect until going over fences.

The first of two good chases on the card fell to the classy Dresden, who looked a different league to the others in the paddock and having dropped in grade and in trip after numerous efforts over further, he hacked up really under a positive ride.

From a punting point of the only issue was the price and those wise owls who snaffled the early value would have been on good terms with themselves from an early stage.

Un Prophete looked fast asleep in the prelims, loping around the ring in a most unappealing manner. I don't know if this is his usual behaviour but it may explain his deplorable effort, although it must be said he's not one to set your clock by and now has to prove he can go on again from this higher mark.

Discoverie looked in good nick and the Slackmeister has worked wonders with the former rogue, who ought to be able to pick up a weaker race than this having established himself as capable from this sort of mark.

Cracking Find ran his usual honest race despite an uncharacteristic blunder in mid-race, and this solid effort on unsuitably moist terrain sets him up nicely for a race or two over a longer trip this spring.

The novice hurdle was at the mercy of French Furze third Hear No Evil, who is a decent looking animal and he justified favouritism although it was hard work, and better ground could suit him.

Planet Nine looked threatening at the last but his jumping remains a sore point, and this backward sort could do with another summer on his back for all that this was a better effort.

Sam's Gunner looked a decent type beforehand and it's a shame from a punting point of view that he's shown his hand here, staying on powerfully from the last to claim second spot, running to at least 115 in the process. Even from that mark he'll remain of interest and he'll stay further - he's a fair prospect.

The North Yorkshire National beckoned and last year's winning connections were represented by I Just Know, who I've mentioned on these pages several times as one of the most likeable horses in training.

His jumping is incredibly accurate and anything trying to match him in the front rank is going to end up disappointed. He's not exuberant by any means but gets from A to B as quickly as any horse..

He looks better each time I lay eyes on him and it was clear he wasn't a 131 horse looking at him beforehand, Straidnahanna won from a similar mark last season but he's not as good as this fella.

It looked momentarily as if he could be swamped on the turn for home but his stamina kicked in and he proved himself to be well handicapped in kicking away from them from the third last, hitting the line hard in the manner of one that will gallop all day long.

This 15-length romp will put him on a mark in the low to mid 140s, which puts him on the cusp of a Grand National spot. Frankly, I could hardly think of a more likely type for the Aintree race and he's won on all sorts of ground from good to very soft.

Without wishing to go overboard (too late - Ed), he covered the ground from the third last to the line in just a second slower than Dresden did earlier on the card.

The placed horses probably lost no caste in defeat, Billy Bronco simply wanting softer ground, while Point The Way, who is finally starting to strengthen up, stayed on well despite the usual mistakes.

Eye-catching in fourth was Milborough, who had little chance from the back of the field on his first start for nearly a year. He fell at the first in this three years ago before landing the Eider and he'll go back there again with decent claims from a much lower mark.

The next handicap hurdle was a tight betting heat and taken by Crackdeloust, who I had backed numerous times previously on account of his impressive frame and early promise.

However, in several runs he's failed to deliver and the introduction of blinkers needed to work the oracle in the face what I felt were not optimum conditions, being softer underfoot and having question marks over the trip, as he looked not to stay it last season.

But all those doubts were put to bed with a straight forward display, travelling and jumping well before staying on nicely ahead of the promising Niceandeasy, who simply bumped into one and looks likely to be winning again soon.

The winner is a proper chase type though and if the blinkers continue to work he'll surely rate much higher in time.

The finale saw a couple of decent physical specimens in Nendrum and Steel City, who were both very well handicapped and strong in the market; the latter going off at 5/1 after being well into double figures early doors.

The M/D Easterby yard has been going great guns this season and they had it off here with a recent recruit that had gone sour down south. Nendrum was disappointing on this softer terrain, while a mention must be made of Hit And Run in third, who faced in impossible task and wouldn't have been favoured by the drop in trip. He remains of interest over further.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Doncaster - Tuesday Jan 9

Good to be back racing and some interesting action on Town Moor, where the ground was soft enough although times suggested it was nearer good to soft as they didn't go much of a pace in a few races.

Mount Mews got things off to a perfect start for favourite backers with a fluent jumping display on his chasing debut.

Quickly having his attentions turned to the larger obstacles after failing to fire in two runs over timber this term, the talented youngster belied my fears that he might not quite have the scope to reach a higher level at this new game, and looks a smart recruit.

I felt his jumping was safe rather than spectacular and will clearly come under closer scrutiny this spring, but he was hard to fault and the return to this sort of trip looks sure to suit.

Black Op is a smashing looker and had the form to justify a short price in division one of the maiden hurdle, in the event coming right away from a stretched out field despite looking a bit green at times.

Henderson's Colonial Dreams was slightly disappointing on paddock inspection, lacking a little in quality, and he never really threatened to land a blow, admittedly behind what could be a smart animal.

The tiny Aaron Lad, and chasing type First Drift (fit, but fresh) both threatened to take a hand and showed enough that a handicap can come their way.

Division Two was run nearly three seconds slower despite a driving finish that saw Tommy Rapper return to the winners' circle under a hold up ride, following his last gasp defeat at Towcester last time.

He travelled all over the always-prominent staying type Book Of Gold up the straight before asserting on the short run-in, although he wasn't going away at the line and this sort of ride looks important to him.

The runner-up improved again as expected from Newbury and even further would see him in better light, while Frozen Flame caught the eye back in fourth under a quiet ride.

Not that well bred, he nevertheless cost 145k a year ago and clearly went amiss on debut. He has some size about him and his progress should be monitored.

When And The New was bounced into an early lead in the following novice over the minimum trip I turned to a colleague and said I'll cry a river if this thing stays in front to the line.

With very good form in the spring bumpers, he was firmly on the radar here but while he looked a decent sort in the paddock, I was expecting something of greater stature.

Strong and sturdy, he looked the type that would improve for a spin and as he was long in the market and hooded for the first time, an educational outing was expected.

But positive tactics are usually a good sign and he battled gamely when joined by warm order Ravenhill Road three out, jumped really well when it mattered and probably ran out quite a comfortable winner. A quite moment was required.

The jolly was disappointing, and connections looked shocked as the unbeaten record was snatched from him. One of the hopes of the north, it's possible he found the ground a bit on the soft side but I expected this big strong horse to overcome that, with fitness not an issue.

Perhaps he does want better ground, but I suspect something further may come to light in due course.

Django Django took the eye beforehand, albeit on the light-framed side, and he stayed on to split the aforementioned pair which won't do his mark any good at all.

Henderson's French Crusader was quite backward both mentally and physically, Niblawi looked quite small against some of these while Not That Fuisse once again showed ability but probably needs another summer before he flourishes.

The mares Listed chase looked at the mercy of Rene's Girl, who had jumped well on her two previous goes over fences and wouldn't have been suited by a drop in trip last time.

Casting aside minor doubts over the ground, she jumped and galloped her inferior rivals ragged to collect in style from Song Saa, who ran her usual honest race.

The mystery of the race was the support for Same Circus, an out and out stayer who jumped poorly when finishing third in a weak race over 3m at Wetherby last time.

She looks a well-handicapped horse if returned to timber and while she got round again here, jumping was quite a big issue again. She needs a trip, and in staying on she showed there's races to be won over fences if kept to smaller tracks.

Another mares race, a very hotly contested handicap, followed and a whole host would be given chances.

Oscar Rose once again ran as though she's better than her mark, out of position when the pace quickened and merely looking one-paced, she could be ready for further or a more positive ride.

All My Love is very likeable despite her diminutive frame, and she travelled up best before her stamina gave way. The winner Woolstone One came from a similar position to Oscar Rose so should be marked up a bit as either one with a bit more toe or simply better handicapped. The form should stand up.

I expected Crystal Lad and General Mahler to step up on their previous efforts over fences as both looked well handicapped ahead of the handicap chase, particularly the former.

But neither really looked that happy and again the ground may have been an issue, as both jumped stickily at times, and perhaps are worth another chance.

I had given up on Red Infantry after he found nothing again on his seasonal debut at Aintree and he did the same here last time out. The visor needed to work and it certainly did, the beast travelling sweetly as ever, and stayed on strongly when asked for extra. Whether he'll build on this is anyone's guess.

The finale was of little betting interest, and it duly fell to the robust Cheque En Blanc, who outstayed the lot of them. Log On seemed to settle better here and perhaps the penny is starting to drop; he may be worth keeping an eye on back over fences.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Catterick - Monday Jan 1

Softer ground than last week after recent rain; a typically weak card for the time of year and racing that wasn't very competitive on the whole.

Dieg Man cost £200k last summer and doesn't have an awful amount of size and scope, but he's athletic enough and his Sedgefield form entitled him to be a warm order in the opening novice hurdle.

He had enough ability to see off Blottos, who is a nice chasing type who supplemented his recent success with a better run up in trip; his jumping remains novicey and he'll be much better for a fence.

The interesting one here going forward may be Take Em Out, a well made sort who isn't especially well bred, but showed enough before crashing out at the second last to suggest a handicap is within his grasp. Thankfully he returned unscathed after the screens went up for some time.

The handicap hurdle saw a well-backed Snowed In win again after being freshened up by a short break, beating Nautical Twilight who looked well handicapped and one of the more likely to run her race.

Today Please was disappointing again and something seems to be amiss with this one time progressive horse. Inniscastle Lad drifted markedly and hasn't shown enough to suggest he can pick up a race, while Life Knowledge has very little scope.

The novice chase was a 'pickem' between Impulsive Star, a faller here before Christmas, and Three Ways, who had done little wrong in two starts over fences this season.

Neither horse looked straight forward and the lead changed hands several times, the smaller Three Ways appeared to find things hard work at times.

But Sheehan didn't go for him until after the last and the pair quickly put the race to bed, only a late rally and an idling winner bringing the two closer together at the line. It's debatable what they are capable of over fences and staying is very much their game.

Just Minded was held together by D Cook back in third and connections will be pleased with this better effort for all that he was still novicey on occasions. He's a lovely looking horse and when the penny drops he'll look a very well handicapped horse, perhaps on better ground.

The maiden Paper Roses looked very short in the betting for the mares novice hurdle for all that she was getting weight from the Lingfield winner Kalahari Queen; the Scottish-trained runner back in trip which was far from certain to suit.

I felt Kalahari Queen would have the ability to defy the penalty but this tighter circuit did not see her in best light and she couldn't slip them, Raised On Grazeon finally getting her head in front under a confident Cook.

The winner had previously looked reluctant when push came to shove but was straight forward on this occasion to finally confirm her decent bumper form.

A very tricky five-runner handicap chase fell to Ramonex, with Cook as so often round here getting the fractions spot on from the front, gradually winding things up on this one-paced galloper.

Not far behind a couple of much better sorts in a novice here last time, this turned out to be far weaker and as he looked the nicest on show should really have been near the top of the list.

As it was, the frustrating Witness was given another chance with a tongue-tie and H Brooke as new additions, but they mattered little as he put in a typically moderate display and he clearly just isn't very good.

Banny's Lad is big but looked straight enough, stopping very quickly after three out, while Weyburn lacks size and may struggle to back up that Southwell success, and Nefyn Bay was runner-up in the race for a second time but isn't the most straight forward, although hold-up tactics were probably not ideal.

Red Danaher was predictably returned to timber after failing once again to deal with larger obstacles last time and had virtually nothing to beat in a poor finale. Whether he can repeat this in better company is a moot point, however.