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.

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