Thursday, 22 March 2018

Haydock - Wednesday March 21

Drying ground at last but still officially soft and times suggested as much.

The opener saw the heavily backed Midnight Shadow go off at 1/4 but one of Sue Smith's best novices didn't read the script and he followed wayward leader Keyboard Gangster in heading for the stable exit on the first turn.

The way Keyboard Gangster, who looks flattered by his official mark,  got back into the race suggested the jolly may still have gone close had Cook managed to retain the partnership.

As it was, Think Ahead was left with the race at his mercy but this most sturdy of animals didn't look race fit, by contrast the complete rag Kapga De Lily is a decent looking mare that was ludicrously priced at the off from the Venetia stable, and despite some novicey leaps sped past on the run-in.

The mares novice wasn't a great affair and provided Skewiff with a simple task for all that she's probably not got a great deal of scope for improvement. The other four were unable to go with her in the straight, Drill Baby Drill getting the hang of things late on.

She's a good looker but so was her sibling On The Case, and he didn't amount to much. Bitumen Belle showed up well for the first time and this big mare has ability, while Touch Of Velvett's finishing effort was disappointing although she's not bred to stay this far.

A cracking novices handicap came next, with all five being really sound jumpers. They were headed by Hogan's Height, who has been favourably treated by the assessor all season and won with plenty in hand under a bold ride.

His jumping was phenomenal and he may climb much higher than this, with the Ladbroke (Hennessy) being mooted. He'll need another win at least to get in that, and he'll need to prove he stays further. He also gets a bit het up and was warm beforehand, but he's very inexperienced and didn't have much of a hurdles career.

Hills Of Dubai looks a real heavy ground sort on looks, while Bako De La Saulaie looks to me like he wants a step up from 3m, not down to 2m4f. He doesn't have the size of some either, and was a bit sticky at a couple.

A handicap hurdle came up next that didn't appeal from betting purposes, Mighty Thunder looked lean and leggy while Snougar is a big lump that needs time and fences. Secret Legacy was the paddock pick as you might expect from the I Williams kennel, but not for the first time from that yard looks were deceiving.

The veterans chase featured some real out-of-form characters who were well handicapped if able to revive, but the winner Shockingtimes had shown decent form in parts this term, not having luck on his side.

With T O'Brien back in the plate the 11yro travelled like a dream and managed to avoid mishap, proving himself well handicapped and landing a double for the much-improved Snowden team.

Solid Strike was disappointing, but the ex-winning pointer found this decent standard too deep and he was unable to build on the promise of his last run. Odds are his mark is stiff, although he may turn out to need a real test of stamina.

Katenko looked perfectly fit and well, but Spookydooky didn't really take the eye and hasn't really come to himself at all, not going with much promise.

The finale wasn't a great affair, Calipso Collonges typical of one of his young trainer's, being a handy athletic type, and he skipped away from a modest bunch like the good thing he was. Pookie Pekan ran no sort of race but I do like him for the longer term.

Champagne George is quite heavy set and lethargic looking, and you can see why he's not been easy to keep right. Tailor Tom looks a right handful and is one to avoid.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Wetherby - Tuesday March 20

Officially heavy ground after recent rain and snow but it's a sign of the time of year and the strength of the wind that the ground is drying out fast and although it was soft, it looked pretty dead and they finished well all afternoon, probably helped by the absence of three fences down the back and also a hurdle.

Little Bruce landed something of a punt in the opening seller, a weak affair in which he had little to beat in the end, Saucysioux not really running up to previous form. The winner had looked like needing blinkers for a while and he seems to run all his best races here.

Sainte Ladylime was backed into narrow favouritism in the novice chase to beat sole rival Progress Drive and the absence of fences was a definite bonus for her, although she was much more on the ball in this tiny field.

It worked in the opposite way for the hitherto improving Progress Drive, who pretty much messed about the entire time and was reported by Hughes to behaving like a 'playboy'. He's better than this, but may require cheekpieces or a bigger field to prove it.

A trappy handicap hurdle went to Final Choice, who was on a going day and looked in good heart beforehand. In fact they all did, although Bonne Question was still woolly in her coat and she'll come on again.

Quest For Life got outpaced at the wrong time again and he's frustrating, but looks the type to keep progressing and better ground may suit.

Dedigout was a surprise favourite for the next after failing to see out his races the last twice, and those hard races were bound to take their toll. Asked to make all, he couldn't get away from this better field and it looks like he'll miss the boat now aged 12.

Eminent Poet and Isaacstown Lad had decent, solid form in better races and the former showed the most tactical speed to win this, suddenly finding himself two lengths clear going to two out as the race unfolded.

Warthog, a tall lengthy grey who can only get better in time, cruised through and for once saw the race out, but the winner got first run. He's one to keep an eye on though.

Roycano was weak in the on-course market after appearing to be carrying condition pre-race, but under tender handling came right through for third and will have gone into countless notebooks with this effort. He likes better ground, and will jump a fence.

The handicap chase was down to four and saw another poor favourite in Bandon Roc, a moody type who chased home Just Georgie here last time in what amounted to just weak form in my book.

With the small Square Viviani unbackable after last time, it looked a two-horse race and the likeable Allmyown finally came good after slowly maturing all winter. He looked better in his coat and jumped super - as I've noted before he's not a hurdler and his form was bound to take off at some time.

He'd looked a plodder though, and Newberry New had form in the book, but the winner showed more speed than before to win unchallenged, and it would be no surprise to see him out again soon.

D Sayer ended a barren spell with Main Fact in a weak novices handicap hurdle, the horse didn't look great in his coat and this came as a surprise, although I wasn't keen on any of the market leaders - Log On having shown precious little while Instingtive and Christmas In Usa had to improve on previous form.

Gogo Baloo wasn't given a hard time and she is sure to do better with this behind her, having recently undergone a wind op. Lastin Memories was only small looking, but clearly has one of these in him. Honeychile Ryder didn't show enough.

Good Boy Bobby was long odds on to defy a double penalty in the bumper, and this really well made son of Flemensfirth went a good gallop to split the field apart. He's quite heavy in front, and soft ground could be imperative to him.

Up To No Good disappointed again, but this lengthy youngster could want better ground. The rest looked pretty backward, none more so than Tiger Time, but the Smith horse Lough Legend is nicely put together and should make his mark at a fair level in time.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Cheltenham - eyecatchers (2)

Day three


Shattered Love; I first saw this beautiful mare in the Aintree bumper and have followed her progress closely. She's developed into a lovely strong chaser and when they're built this way the mare's allowance is simply a gift. Her odds halved throughout the day and I thought she was thoroughly impressive. Wouldn't it be great to see her back here in the Gold Cup next year.

Benatar; A very good looking horse, strong, stoutly built. A little keen beforehand and as always tanked throughout the race. Clearly not straight forward, the way he stayed on up the hill suggests he has loads of stamina and if they find the key to getting him settled, he could go a long way because at six, he can only improve.

Bigmartre; A likeable sort, big and strong but not necessarily the biggest or best in this field. He was on edge and shaped like a non stayer, although the odds are he's only going to be a G2/G3 type and was essentially outclassed in a very good field.


Louis' Vac Pouch; Unraced since winning in November and the plan didn't come off, he got quite stirred up beforehand and was never in it. He may yet have a decent spring if the yard returns to form, although he has to prove worthy of a lofty rating.

Champion Chase

Un De Sceaux; A unique looking horse, short front to back and very strong, rotund. As we know he's very enthusiastic in a race but he was on his toes a good deal and got quite warm; whether he wasn't quite himself on the day, I'm not sure.

Balko Des Flos; Quite athletic looking, a little plain, and possibly room to strengthen further. Has been a very good horse from the get-go and came in here under-estimated on account of the going, but he surely goes on most types of ground and there must be a chance of him tilting at the Gold Cup on a better surface. Fears about his jumping were also unfounded.

Stayers Hurdle

Supasundae; His sweaty appearance put me off him last year and again he got rather warm, although he's quite an imposing individual.

Sam Spinner; One of the smallest in the field, he looked fit and well. He jumps hurdles well but I'd be looking to oppose him if he ever went chasing. The fractions he set wouldn't have suited him and if it comes up soft at Aintree he's worth considering.

The Worlds End; A bit of a 'nothing' season for this good looking chase type, whose effort here may go under the radar. Undoubtedly better on a sounder surface, and if it ever dries out he'll be of interest this spring.

Brown Advisory

The Storyteller; Not over-big, but quite classy looking, and likely to prove better than a handicapper in time, although his jumping may always be a slight issue.

Ballyalton; A lovely looking horse with loads of size and scope, performed with credit for a third time at the festival. He can win again, and granted better ground you could see him going well in this next year.

Kings Socks; The subject of a market move, he looks rather one-paced but may be better over shorter. He's a decent looking animal.

Pougne Bobbi; Good size and scope, it's a shame he's so inconsistent because he has the stamp of a very useful recruit.

Kim Muir

Mall Dini; A good strong sort, he travelled like the winner but not for the first time found one more determined on the run-in. Nevertheless, this was a third cracking effort at the Festival and better ground is sure to see him go well again next year.

Squouateur; Lacking in size and scope, he's always likely to struggle in the hurly-burly of big-fields, which he usually faces. 0/10 over fences, he looks well-handicapped and perhaps a return to timber could see him back in the winner's circle.

Actinpieces; Ever-enthusiastic, and very much on her toes in the prelims, although she calmed down eventually and was fine. Thoroughly genuine and consistent, she's good enough to contest listed mares races.

Tintern Theatre; Lacks size and scope and his jumping has been a cause for concern all season. Expertly handled by Sam Twiston-Davies to win at Kempton, he'd be of interest next term if reverting to timber, as he stays very well and remains on a decent mark.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Cheltenham - eyecatchers

Day One


Rather like last year's Neptune (Ballymore) Novices Hurdle, this year's Supreme looked chock full of quality animals likely to uphold this excellent form at the highest level over hurdles and fences next season.

Summerville Boy; A nice sort, somewhat unfurnished compared to some of these. Clearly a massive engine considering that mistake two out and looks sure to thrive over longer trips.

Mengli Khan; Loads of size and scope, looked a straightforward conveyance on this occasion and stayed on strongly after being slightly keen, one to note at Punchestown and Fairyhouse.

Paloma Blue; Strong, nicely made but far too keen in the first mile. It's therefore to his credit that he stayed on well to take fourth place. Bred to stay well so if/when settling better he could be a massive improver.

Claimantakinforgan; Less size and scope than some but very athletic, he was quite badly outpaced coming down the hill but stayed on as good as any (bar the winner) from two out. Appears to go on any ground but 2m4f on better terrain could see him take a decent handicap early next season prior to a chase campaign.

Lostintranslation; A fantastic stamp of a chaser, but weak on the front end and sure to be better with another summer behind him. Travelled nicely for a long way before lacking the acceleration to go with the first four.

Slate House; A strapping chase type who looked well, running well for a long way before finding it all too much and capsizing at the final flight. Hurdles would be nothing more than an inconvenience and he should make into a lovely chaser.

Simply The Betts; Simply gorgeous animal, well made and strong. He's been highly tried since winning a decent bumper early in the season and found this happening too quickly throughout. He'll be one to look out for in decent handicaps next term.


Footpad; Compact, strong, not over-big. Got a little warm but looked fully revved up beforehand.

Petit Mouchoir; Very much on his toes in the prelims, a portend of what was to come. Clearly, a sharper test will suit.

Saint Calvados; A strong, scopey sort, and although not upset beforehand, this all seemed a bit much in the end, not helped by the aggressive ride. He was exhausted afterwards and is one to oppose if turning out again.


Gold Present; Very big, lengthy and easy to see why he's probably a stone better on good ground. Ignore this run.

Singlefarmpayment; Not a horse to enthuse over, and looked a short price on what he's delivered this season. Looked a bit stirred up in the prelims and got warm, failing once more to live up to last year's form in this race.

Coo Star Sivola; Very strong and robust for a six-year-old. Looked really well and ready to roll.

Vintage Clouds; Has gained in weight and strength over the years, and once again ran his usual honest race, typically undone by a mid-race flat spot. Headgear would surely help eke out the necessary improvement to land one of these.

Casse Tete; A fine looking horse, travelled and jumped his way onto the back of the leading pack before stamina ebbed away turning for home. From the family of Azertiyop, none of his siblings won over this far and he's of interest back in trip.

Champion Hurdle

Melon; Made little appeal in the Supreme last year on paddock inspection and again got warm and generally didn't take the eye, but nearly landed the pot. Clearly, his appearance does not affect his chance and he's very talented indeed.

Mares Hurdle

Benie Des Dieux; Quite a workmanlike, chasing type.

Apple's Jade; Two handlers, and a little bit on edge for comfort. Not a huge negative, but enough to put you off if you were considering a hefty investment at 4/9.

La Bague Au Roi; Big, lengthy, rangy mare. Possibly not seen to best advantage having been sent on over a mile and a half out, but unlikely to have won anyway. Things didn't work out here last year either, and perhaps just shy of top class. She's ready to go chasing now.

National Hunt Chase

Ms Parfois; A renowned sweater, she came into the paddock as late as possible and looked very well indeed, with no sign of her getting wound up.

Jury Duty; Not as big as some of these but plenty of scope, travelled well for a long way before the petrol gauge started flickering three out. His form has a very strong look to it.

Close Brothers

Mister Whitaker; Good frame, still with some strengthening to do, and likely to continue to improve after a summer at grass. Should stay three miles and a very accurate jumper.

Testify; Nice horse physically but was a bit fizzy in the prelims and this was not his form.

Tycoon Prince; A very strong individual, lightly raced over fences and well capable of winning races around this trip if tidying up his jumping.

Day Two


Samcro; A fantastic looking horse, a good mover and very well in his coat. Certainly not one to oppose on paddock inspection.

Black Op; Tall, strong individual. Loads of scope for fences and should stay 3m.

Next Destination; Lengthy, sure to improve for fences, and shaped as though 3m will suit nicely.

Duc Des Genievres; Quite unfurnished compared with many of these, strong in the betting but looks sure to do better in time.

Vision Des Flos; On edge in the paddock and too free in the race, he's bred to stay really well and very likely to improve in time, providing he learns to relax.

Gowiththeflow; Likeable type but lacking the quality of stablemate Willoughby Court. Better ground could suit and he'll make a solid 140+ chaser.

Coolanly; One of the better looking ones, loads of size about him and one to keep an eye when sent chasing - this was all too much after a mid-race blunder.


Al Boum Photo; Quite a likeable sort, athletic, travelled well into the race but suspect stamina appeared to be ebbing away when capsizing two out. Likely to prove useful back in trip.

Allysson Monterg; A very big, strong individual, likely to do better on a more orthodox track.

Coral Cup

Springtown Lake; Looked keen in the preliminaries and was given little chance of getting home under a forward ride. Likely to prove much better than this in time, and over fences.

Champion Chase

Altior; Has the air of a real professional and there's every chance he would be just as good over three miles, so relaxed is he.

Douvan; Was a little on his toes and fresh in the paddock, and didn't look as pristine as 12 months ago. Odds are he wouldn't have troubled the front two.

Min; Loads of size, quite tall. Travelled supremely well and did very little wrong, just beaten by a very good one. Likely to win any race he runs in so long as Altior doesn't turn up.

Politologue; Prone to getting worked up and sweating, he was as bad as I've seen him. It doesn't always affect his performance, but it can't help and this just isn't his meeting.

Fred Winter

Look My Way; By this time it was clear that anything running freely wouldn't get up the hill and J Quinn's juvenile was a little on edge and warm in the prelims, too keen in the race. This wasn't his true form.

Lisp; Another keen sort, he was on edge early in the prelims but settled down and dropped the bridle in the race, but exited early on.


Relegate; By some way the least appealing of the entire field, like many from the yard not great in her coat; moreover she doesn't move very well and lacked the size of all the others.

Felix Desjy; Hooded for the first time but a little on edge and far too keen in the race.

Mercy Mercy Me; Looked keen beforehand and likely to prove more than capable.

The Big Bite; One of the biggest in the field and one to look out for in time, probably when sent chasing.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Catterick - Wednesday March 7

Good to be back at the crease for what looked a rather unappetising card, however there were some highly irregular market moves to keep us on our toes and fortunately we stayed out of trouble, which is all we can hope for prior to The Big Week.

Ground conditions were soft but there was no sign of heavy and it looked soft at the very worst.

Drama in the opener as the Skelton-trained Hurricane Hollow drifted as though victory was out of the question on this drop in selling company, with the Slack-handled Discoverie all the rage.

Quite what officials will make of it is anyone's guess, but it can't be of much surprise to many that the southern raider failed to land a blow prior to pulling up, while 'Disco' sauntered home having been handed a lead at flagfall.

Young Tom again didn't show a great deal and he looks well held by the handicapper, although a spin on top of the ground may see him in better light; he's not that big.

Stablemate Cracking Find has few bigger fans than this columnist but being a stone wrong at the weights, having little form on soft ground, and looking a bit short of peak fitness, ran out a ready winner of the novices chase.

The assessor will have a job rating this, with 10-year-old pointer Solid Strike splitting the ex-Festival pairing, but it has to be assumed the market leaders were well below par.

Verni does not look one to trust, taking a keen tug throughout and meeting several fences wrong, before calling it quits on the run-in. You can't get away with that sort of behaviour against a horse of Cracking Find's honesty.

De Dollar Man had taken a step backwards at Wetherby last time and was beaten on the home turn. He looks a stayer, and it must be said the trainer has been very quiet this winter. I'm sure he's better than this, and may prove as much next term.

A decent looking mares novice followed where the tiny Kaloci headed the market despite shouldering a penalty.

I thought she was well worth taking on with three you could have given a chance to, and they were headed by juvenile Shine Baby Shine who looks a real improver for a set of hurdles.

She has plenty of size and scope for a youngster and her allowance meant she got plenty of weight from the jolly. She drifted late on but was a big price on her previous form here and delivered for in-form handler P Kirby.

Kaloci didn't lose a great deal in defeat, but her diminutive frame will hold her back in handicaps and it'll be interesting if she's tried on the level. Alohamora was disappointing on the face of it, while Quick Wave is a fair type who will surely do better after a summer in the field. I didn't like Stylish Dancer, who could be a wrong'un.

I put the reliable Dica in a short priced favourite for the handicap chase but for some reason not many agreed and he went off an attractive 5/2 chance. It promised to be a duel up front but Uno Valoroso couldn't lie up and his jumping is knowhere near as reliable as the winner's, who must be a delight to own and train.

The mystery of the race was a plunge on Square Viviani, a horse of only medium size and a shuffly gait. I didn't like him, and he made numerous errors, while the Irish raider Leap Dearg looked over-trained/under-fed and he has to prove he retains any ability.

The staying handicap hurdle wasn't much of a race and the Irish plunge horse The Jam Man bolted up - he looked well enough albeit lacking a bit of size. Floramoss seemed to have every chance but she's a bit keen and doesn't stretch out in front, as such she may always struggle in a finish and may not be one to trust.

The hunter chase for novices looked a decent affair if you went on paddock alone, and there were a few to take from it, not least Duhallow Tornado who was making a winning debut under rules.

He was slow at a few fences but staying is clearly his game and once stoked up he seemed to jump better. They went no pace and perhaps he had too much time to think about it. He's got loads of physical potential and can only improve.

The race wasn't run to suit Battle Dust and he stayed on well to suggest he can win hunter chases, while Just Cause was another decent looking animal who got a bit warm, and having tugged his way around suggested a shorter trip would be suitable.

I wanted to be with Indian Opera in the mares bumper after her solid start at Musselburgh, but was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Sea Story, a well made daughter of Black Sam Bellamy who was just about capable of defying a penalty with a claimer aboard.

The pair came well clear and did nothing but enhance their reputations, the second faultless in defeat again and she can surely bag one of these. Lancaster Rose looked unfurnished but stayed on into third and should do better in time.