Friday, 19 October 2018

Carlisle - October 18

A bright sunny day for a trip to Cumbria with the ground essentially good to soft - good jumping ground and they got some decent fields as a result.

There wasn't a great deal to see in a modest opening handicap hurdle for conditionals, so it was on to a very competitive novices handicap chase which should throw up a few winners.

Chief among them is Du Soleil, a robust chasing type who looked pretty straight for this and was very well backed to make a winning debut.

Ridden with restraint, he made successive errors at a crucial part of the race and you can't afford to be too far back at this venue, whatever the conditions.

Having easily made up the ground those ahead of him got away again and he only picked up third place on the line. With a more forward ride he looks one to be with next time, possibly going left handed.

Some Reign just missed out on a place and like many other Dobbin horses to run so far he went as though in need of it, making many minor mistakes in the process. He looks sure to do better, particularly as they step him up in trip.

Luckofthedraw was among the fittest although isn't the sort to take the eye, being rather narrow, but he showed he had an engine over hurdles last season and he warmed to the task and got on top of Mister Kit after the last.

This was a huge return from the second who is now rising 11, and he should make up for lost time on this evidence.

The money for Cave Top was surprising, he looked the least fit and these conditions did not look to be his optimum, but I like this horse and he can win races especially with some weight of his back.

Bulkov stayed on late and will improve for the run, as will the big Blottos, a slow learner over timber and seemingly will prove the same in this sphere.

Fin And Game stripped fit and looked well but the market spoke out against him and he too made mistakes, and does lack a little such it's a bit surprising they haven't gone down the handicap hurdle route for now.

To prove what a deep race this was, outsiders Tayzar and The Phanton shaped with promise, both being good chasing sorts at the right end of the handicap.

Their proximity to the leaders two out can be read two ways but I prefer to look favourably on the race, Tayzar in particular was shaping as though leaving his previous form behind, the way he finished his races last season suggesting some sort of problem.

Two divisions of the novice hurdle came next and both were taken by N Twiston-Davies runners, both of whom have big futures in the game.

Good Boy Bobby once again ran very keen during the race despite looking laid back beforehand, but saw it out nicely to defeat one fit from the Flat in Weather Front, the pair coming nicely clear.

The time was a good deal quicker than the second division and it's hard not to think highly of the winner, particularly with improvement to come in the jumping department.

Return Ticket was disappointing but he looked burly beforehand and was ridden as though it was needed, while Hitman Fred has loads of size about him and he needs plenty of time and softer ground.

The Some Dance Kid ran okay to be third and he'll find at least one of these as the season progresses, and he should keep improving physically.

Al Dancer has real presence and is every inch a chaser, but he looked pretty fit for Div II and his finished really strongly after 'climbing' several of the obstacles, losing valuable ground in the process.

Having outbattled another fine prospect in Windsor Avenue this robust horse has all the attributes to go a long way and it wouldn't surprise me if he ranked very highly in the Naunton pecking order.

The runner-up didn't do a great deal wrong and will improve for the experience, while First Account ran okay considering he was pretty weak and unfurnished.

Lough Legend stepped up on his bumper form and pleased connections in behind, although being a bit on the weak side he has plenty about him for a four-year-old.

The staying handicap chase is always competitive and with the market giving off all sorts of signals it made for plenty of value.

Tintern Theatre is a stocky little thing and was warm in the market with liabilities on Twister's horses piling up. He looks sort to improve for racing but has a patchy profile.

Sky Pirate was popular but he is still a bit weak for a big horse, he's only young and perhaps needs more time, he finished a bit weakly again but I wouldn't hold it against him and he's proven very consistent.

The big drifter was Looksnowtlikebrian despite the fact that he wouldn't be lacking for fitness and had the champion up. There wasn't a shekel to be seen for him and he jumped sketchily at times; he does lack a bit of size but they came to the right place and despite getting the last all wrong powered home to cause a bit of a shock.

Cooking Fat isn't easy to win with as he doesn't find as much as you'd like, but he was primed for a big run and travelled all over them. He has a bit of class and should win again as he goes well on much softer ground.

Shanroe Santos is a nice big horse who looked fairly straight, and wasn't beaten far, but yet again the money for a Smith horse was baffling as Blakemount has never gone well off a break and as usual looked rotund. He wants a really stiff test as well and whoever is backing these Smith horses is getting duff info.

There was quite a large gamble on Leskinfere, one of my horses to follow, in the handicap hurdle but I didn't consider these condition to be optimum and he was off the bridle from the off.

Those who backed him from 12s into 3/1 soon knew their fate but this run won't be lost on the youngster, who like most from the Greenall yard have been running with plenty of condition. He needs a stiff test, it's that simple.

The 0-115 chase over 2m wasn't much of a contest and Ryalex found himself a warm order on sufferance; he hadn't shown me enough to suggest a wager at odds of 2/1 and less. He's not much to look at and has looked wayward his whole career.

Halcyon Days drew a blank last season but apparently wasn't right for much of it. He's not very big, but he looked pretty straight beforehand. He took an almighty wander in the betting but like the earlier T Vaughan-trained winner, he didn't know that and it didn't stop him. And they say drifters never win.

The mares bumper was one of the best of its type, certainly in these parts, with a handful of southern raiders chancing their arm, however honours went to the North and Point winner Mega Yeats, a big rangy mare that did it the hard way from the front.

She did a similar thing when winning between the flags and she looks very straight forward, and I'd expect they'd want to send her over obstacles sooner rather than later.

Redbridge Gold found market support and was another to be prominent throughout, she looked as though the race would do her good physically and she appears to have stamina on her side.

Cedar Valley was a warm order but was by no means the biggest, and along with the compact but fit Kalifornia proved once again how hard it is to defy a penalty in such contests.

The two previous winners stayed on nicely when the race was over, but arguably the most eye-catching run came from Regarding Ruth, backed at big prices and looking pretty fit beforehand.

She was hampered when Liz's Dream planted at the start, losing 10 lengths, and although easily made up it was far from ideal. She produced a really nice move from the bottom of the hill though to look dangerous two furlongs out, before the effort took its toll. She must not be missed next time.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Wetherby - October 17

The opening day of the jumps season in the north but ground on the quick side greeted small but select fields and we still need to see much more rain.

The juvenile hurdle was essentially a three-horse affair according to the market and so it proved, with the Skelton-trained King D'Argent defying favouritism.

He had much more scope than the other newcomer in Seaborough, and looks the type to go on from this, while the King horse ran a funny sort of race, coming off the bridle after being keen early, then running on. He's not very big.

Breakfast folded quite tamely and was beaten by more than just the penalty - no doubt McCain will be able to find another race but it will be a weak one.

Four went in the novice chase headed by the well made Lough Derg Spirit, and unsurprisingly he was heavily backed to beat the two main pair. However, he was disconcertingly novicey on occasions and he'll need to jump better in more competitive races.

El Terremoto was hard fit and he looks to be regressing, formerly a sound looking fencer he's now come down the last twice when under pressure. Cool Mix is a really big, rangy individual and he was given a kind introduction on ground livelier than ideal, and he'll come on a good deal.

One of the best Northern handicappers I Just Know had Kapgarry to beat in a novice hurdle and the market couldn't split them, and after a good battle the younger horse just showed more speed from two out to land the prize.

The Smith chaser looked pretty straight for this pipe-opener and Kapgarry, who ran to a decent bumper mark, has probably had to run to around 125 here, a marked step up on Perth where he looked in need of the experience.

A handful went to post for the Bobby Renton where Ballyandy astonishingly went to post an 11/10 favourite despite showing little aptitude for jumping in a trio of starts in his novice season.

He looked fit and well but again lost many lengths at the obstacles, yet still came home in a close third and almost certainly retains ability. They will likely persevere over fences but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he popped up in something like the Coral Cup over hurdles come the spring. He has the size for fences though and time is on his side.

Willie Boy was next in and he looked fit and well, a nice robust individual that I wouldn't be risking on such lively terrain. I thought he was tip-toeing around and after whacking five out his jumping went to pot.

Market weakness belied a fit looking Acdc but I like many felt he was a soft ground stayer, and while this prize fell into his lap it's hard to knock this consistent type.

To the credit of Willie Boy he rallied from the second last when asked for an effort but Acdc had the answers. They'll go their separate ways now but both should be up to winning on softer ground.

There were some fantastic market gyrations in the staying handicap hurdle, with last year's winner Lough Salt and Lough Derg Farmer (both 14 > 7/2) backed off the boards but neither was sighted as Monbeg Theatre made it a hat-trick under Page Fuller.

You can guarantee the Snowden horses to be straighter than most first time up and with Fuller setting exacting fractions nothing landed a blow except Nautical Nitwit, who despite being poorly handicapped was able to push the jolly all the way.

Notnow Seamus almost certainly doesn't stay and he has the look of a chaser, while the aforementioned Lough Derg Farmer didn't look straight and his new yard will need more time straightening him out after going the wrong way with Henderson.

It was always considered that Theflyingportrait needed his own way in front, but with at least three keen goers in the line-up for the 2m handicap chase it was a race that was hard to predict.

The handicapper had a big say here though, as the grey was surprisingly dropped another 2lb for his gallant effort at Kelso in better grade last time. With his opponents looking anchored by the assessor, the race fell apart somewhat although he wasn't winning out of turn.

Cracking Find never runs a bad race and it didn't look like fitness stopped him winning this, for all that I would be very hesitant in backing one of Smith's horses first time out. I still think he's well handicapped but he wants at least 2m4f now and I'd love to see him go even further.

Oak Vintage looked in terrific order but he was crushed for what was essentially a solo trial on his reappearance and I suspect he's no better than that last winning mark.

It was great to see such a nice a horse as Midnight Shadow running so early in the season and again the Smith horse looked fit and well for the finale, and he came to win his race before being run out of it.

With the obstacles down the back being omitted that would have suited the ex-Flat horse Innocent Touch and that may have made all the difference, with the Daly horse landing a bit of a touch from early knockings. Aristo Du Plessis needs it softer and will be straighter next time, while Beach Break got quite warm and may have done enough for now.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Hexham - October 13

Conditions were truly abysmal as strong winds carried showers through with them during the day, with the going softening although it was never that desperate.

That the opening maiden hurdle was won by a 10 year old probably tells you all you need to know about the race, and although the booking G Sheehan didn't appear significant beforehand it did afterwards.

Glen Roe looked to be carrying condition pre-race but that didn't stop those connected with the horse backing him from 66s into 25s; some of these Irish handlers clearly know their onions.

The betting was dominated by southern raiders, and Hobbs's Arthur Mac had the best bumper form plus looked most forward, but he was simply too novicey on his first start over timber and lost momentum at most obstacles. He's not one to give up on just yet.

The Bowens' Fortunes Hiding had plenty of size about him and clearly looked as though the run would bring him on. The way he travelled through the race suggested he has his share of ability and it came as little surprise that he faded late on. He'll come on plenty and find a race.

Ain't My Fault is a gigantic chaser in the making and showed a bit of speed to lead them to the final climb, where his lack of condition told. He's probably too unfurnished to make an impact over hurdles and he may need a lot of time.

The novices handicap chase was a difficult race to assess and threw up a second nibbled-at outsider in the shape of previous course winner Sophie Olivia, who is on the small side but wasn't fazed by this first outing over fences.

After nearly 12 months off it was a fair training performance from a yard not easy to predict. There did appear to be value in the race as Creadan Grae was short enough after landing what I felt was a weak race last time, when decent ground and an easy lead probably saw him to good advantage.

Granard came in for support despite not really impressing as a chase type beforehand and he was never sighted, even for those with strong binoculars.

The Paddy Pie is a typical plain, chaser that the Smith yard does well with and he'll surely come on for the run, while Heart Of Kernow looked pretty straight for such a big horse and is an out and out chaser.

He met the final ditch wrong and came down before Hughes had asked him for an effort. He's keen going and this looks his trip, and he can make amends if all is well.

Bako De La Saulaie looked fairly straight but was disappointing last season and although he has time on his side he ran his usual race, which is basically just showing the one pace when the chips are down.

His future surely lies over 3m or even further but his mark leaves him exposed to more progressive types for now, while he just lacks for a little bit of size.

Le Frank was given a typical 'first time out' ride over fences, allowed to do his own thing essentially being passed by most of the field and then re-passing all bar the front three.

This is his trip for now but he'll want further before long, and he was keen in his earlier races. With no mileage on the clock, he's a tall, angular individual likely to improve as the season goes on.

Simply The Betts was the class horse on show and he travelled like a good thing in the novice hurdle, and after looking pretty straight beforehand I was surprised he didn't put the race to bed, eventually having to battle to beat the Smiths' Informateur.

The conditions were so poor though it was basically job done and connections view the second season novice as well-handicapped, knowing full well that a win here was unlikely to change that.

The runner-up looked quite backward physically but this chase type was the second Smith horse to run well on the day, and they came well clear.

Torrid, a miler on the flat, came through for third and although he's robust enough it remains to be seen what he can do in this sphere. Sweet Vinetta also made some useful late gains and this staying type could make her mark in handicaps later on.

The 3m chase was attritional in the conditions and not many fancied it, particularly Spinning Scooter who had his ears pinned back throughout proceedings, but it found the inconsistent Misfits on a going day and he was the only one that really travelled.

Born For War was tight at the head of the market and he looks a strong staying type, he'll probably improve a bit even though he was pretty straight but isn't one to go overboard about.

A staying hurdle was up next and it saw the initially frustrating Rivabodiva record another big PB, running right away from them in conditions she clearly relishes. She looked very fit and that was another advantage she had over her rivals.

I was a little disappointed in The Hollow Ginge, who shapes as though extreme distances will suit, but he didn't look entirely at ease on the track and may not be wholly straight forward, but this hurdling type should pay his way.

Sharp Response is more of a flat track horse and looked likely to improve for the outing, and this looked a sighter for a return to fences next time out. Tikkenwolf was well-backed at his favourite track but the ground had turned against him.

The 0-100 handicap chase was typically weak, and it gave Take A Break the opportunity to win first time up for M Walford, well ridden by J Hamilton who kept nudging away on this confirmed stayer. He's only small though and he wasn't gaining at his fences.

Seven Devils has long since looked unreliable and again didn't really find much off the bridle after having every chance clearing the last. John Williams is a big unit, but looked straight enough on this bid to win for a second successive year.

The bumper featured another Hobbs hotpot in Little Rory Mac, but he faced one with similar form in Mr Scrumpy and the latter looked a nicer type beforehand, pretty straight while the booking of R Day caught the eye.

He travelled well and paid a handsome compliment to the pair that beat him at Market Rasen, a bumper that looked decent at the time, coming right away on the bridle.

Little Rory Mac is a light framed, lengthy individual who didn't seem to act on the undulations and will need more time, runner-up Creadan Belle is only tiny while third home Largy Mountain has some substance and looked pretty wound up for this.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Southern handicappers to follow

Following on from the recent list of Northern-trained horses to follow, I've delved into the notes of southern-based animals that caught the eye at the track last season. The following list contains some of those, in fact only the first-named I haven't seen in the flesh.

The usual caveat here is that the following five horses may all be deceased. Let's hope not.

Ar Mest G Moore

Gary Moore has been plundering winners down south for years but several real chasing types in his care are seriously worth following, including this French bred.

The 5yro ran on all types of surfaces in his first season in bumpers and hurdles races but looked very much at ease on the soft, particularly when getting off the mark at Lingfield in February. However the key race may have been at Sandown next time where he came down three out – too far from home to make a conclusive judgement.

However, he settled better than ever behind the heavy odds-on favourite suggesting the penny was really starting to dropping. He looks a decent jumper in the main (albeit with a tendency to go right-handed) and has substance to jump a fence in time.

The breeding raises a slight question mark but the dam is by Cadoudal so once he learns to settle he is likely to have stamina to burn. Over the top by April, his current mark of 117 looks a good one.

Back To The Thatch H Daly

Henry Daly had one of his better seasons with a super strike rate, and he seems to have plenty of ammunition to enjoy further success this time around.

I do like an old-fashioned looking chaser and who better to bring on such a type than a protege of Capt T Forster, and I expect this Westerner gelding to be one of his leading lights.

A very slow learner, he put a couple of poor rounds of jumping behind him to rout a Chepstow field in January before taking a heavy fall when going well in the Eider.

He jumped well in Midlands National before that gruelling test eventually proved too much, but he's still only six and looks a thorough stayer that can only keep on strengthening. With a rating of 129, he's likely to prove very well handicapped on soft ground this winter and he can land a decent Saturday prize.

Cajun Fiddle A King

Alan King had a ghastly season, registering by far his lowest winning tally in many years, but as a result has several very well handicapped horses in his care.

This mare's first term over fences a complete washout (one of many to be sidelined from January to March) but she had plenty of experience in bumpers and hurdles, when she ran well in the Grade 2 Final race at Newbury in the spring, so there's no worries on that score.

Starting from a very low mark of 112, she has the size for fences and enjoys decent ground, and should be effective 2m4f to 3m. I'm hoping to see a different horse this time around.

Leskinfere O Greenall

A likeable 5yro with plenty of scope, this son of Darsi was noted staying on nicely in all three novice hurdles over 2m4f before being thrown into the deep end somewhat in a C3 handicap at Market Rasen in March.

Even over 2m7f it all seemed to be happening a bit quick but it looks strong form and although disappointing on the face of it, I thought he ran with credit. Big tracks will suit this horse, who looks a dour stayer, while all four runs came on soft ground and it appears to suit.

Given typical strengthening at this stage of his career, he ought be able to pick up a race or two at 3m+ beginning on 113, before embarking on a chasing career for a small stable very much on the up.

Perfect Harmony A King

A £65k purchase as a 4yro, this is a strong, well made chaser in the making that has done little wrong in defeat in three outings over timber following his bumper win at Newbury the previous campaign.

Behind good horses in all three starts, he caught my eye at Doncaster and he looks a staying chaser for this season, although as a novice, it wouldn’t be surprising if his trainer looked to pick up a small race over hurdles first.

An exciting prospect, starting out on a workable mark of 124, he's yet to race on very bad ground. He was a little keen on occasions and a more relaxed attitude can bring about serious improvement.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Southwell - October 10

With the mercury rising to 23C at this time of year it was any wonder we had racing at all but as the saying goes 'they had done a great job' with the ground and it was safe enough.

Five jumpers went to post in the novice chase, the most interesting by far being quadruple winning hurdler The Dubai Way on his seasonal debut.

I was taken by the size of the beast but he's well put together and should make an even better chaser; the surprise being that having been campaigned so astutely last term he was set an implausible task on chase debut.

But with soft ground and probably an extra half mile, in time, he'll leave this sort of mark behind. The other newcomer Otter Moon looked even more in need of the run, but is a rangy chasing sort.

Essentially it was between the pair that have been in action already, and when the well-backed jolly McGroarty was handed a soft lead from flagfall, the writing was on the wall.

A decent enough sort himself, he probably didn't need to better last week's effort to win again, for all that he's a solid jumper things will surely be much tougher from now on. Flashing Glance was outpaced having ranged up two out, having gone keenly once again. 

I thought his jumping was slicker this time and he'd be interesting returned to positive tactics at this trip, because ultimately he'll want further once he learns to settle.

The other race over the 'black ones' was a dismal 0-100 affair, with few worth a second look. Corner Creek has always looked like he is capable of a great deal better, and this son of Presenting looked fit and well on this comeback.

He made mighty hard work of it though, and he's not the type to trust in the consistency stakes.

The mares novice had a decent shape to it with Market Rasen bumper winner Dissavril taking out a large percentage. She was deeply impressive on heavy back in January but may have been flattered by racing on the better strip of ground that day.

She's a plain mare but clearly talented, and looked fit enough, but ultimately couldn't deliver on this lively terrain, returning with a sore-looking cut on the near fore.

She will improve, but the one with the experience was Chequered View and I thought she jumped with aplomb last time, staying on after getting outpaced. I didn't mind her, she has a bit of scope and moved well at the walk.

It was a sensible move to make the most of her experience, Aspell setting steady fractions, and ultimately it was probably fitness that won the day.

Kimberley Point (a distance behind at Market Rasen) still looked green beforehand, and had shaped like more of a stayer, so her introduction is all the more meritorious especially as she took an age to drop the bridle. She's probably no star but should win one of these.

Her stablemate Fidux looked fit and well for his seasonal bow in the next and he looked a very worthy favourite on the back of a string of decent efforts in stronger company, and he delivered in style.

This was all about handicapping, with the small Haafapiece unable to defy such a steep rise, while flat-bred Forecast benefited from a drop in the ratings and a wind op to return to form, and he has the size to jump a fence should they choose that route.

The ones at the top of the novice handicap looked mostly of interest in the next, with the The Captain and Asking Questions standing out as good looking chase sorts.

The former stopped quickly again after jumping and travelling well, and may have a physical issue which will hopefully get sorted, while the latter picked up where he left off and can improve further returned to fences.

It was surprising to see The Groovy Hoovy looking pretty straight for his return as most of Mr Sherwood's tend to need a run, but he was strong in the market and probably landed a bit of a touch. The booking of STD for Black Anthem looked a red herring, and so it proved.

The bumper saw the day-long gamble on the J Bethell-trained Adjourned landed with something in hand, the reliable B Hughes always in the right place on the athletic looking grey.

Megan's Choice was by some way the biggest of them and although he curled up a bit late on he was bang up against it giving lumps of weight to the three-year-old.

Three Bullet Gate looks a typical robust chasing type from the Dickin yard and he looked pretty forward, coming home quite strong to fill minor honours ahead of the filly Especially So, who didn't look entirely straight forward but has the physical attributes to make a splash in this sphere. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Sedgefield - October 2

Not a great deal to write home about on what was a typical early season/end of summer card.

Everything looked well in the first although Getonsam is a big rangy animal carrying condition on his first start for Sue Smith; it was surprising he was so tight in the market.

The novice hurdle was interesting as the Irish raider Thosedaysaregone looked a good thing to these eyes, and nice well-made animal who showed a fair level of form on his latest start at Listowel.

The lively ground was the only question mark but he's a decent mover and it's entirely possible he was brought over in search of such terrain. His mid-race exit owing to tack malfunction will have left billy bunters spitting feathers, however one suspects the cash is only lent.

Sonic was handed the race and the little fella probably didn't need to improve a great deal, while life will prove more difficult now after this second success. Icefall proved himself tripless and disappointing and was passed on the run-in by Ballyfarsoon, who only looks moderate.

I preferred Caid Du Lin to Dear Sire in the novice chase, not only physically but on their previous exchange, but this was a masterstroke from Hughes, who reversed the roles from their Worcester run by allowing his rival to do the donkey work.

Caid Du Lin looked in need of company throughout and didn't have an answer as Dear Sire swept past. I must say I'd go against the winner if they met again as the jolly will almost certainly be better in a fast run race.

In the next Mixboy was of interest back over timber off a much lower mark than his chase rating. He's an amazing tool as he's not very big, but they went over larger obstacle early in his career and he keeps on delivering.

They went a good clip from the outset and he knuckled down really well to see off Beach Break and then Lucky Robin, who remains on an upward curve. This looks solid form for the grade and time of year.

Oak Vintage took a walk in the market ahead of a puzzling handicap chase but it wasn't on account of a lack of fitness; always an active sort he probably keeps himself fit at home and really the question was whether he could win off a new perch of 119 after starting out 12 months ago on 79! (Yes, I was on when it got beat a short head that day)

The answer was a resounding yes although the opposition melted away pretty early on, and the handicapper is not going to make life easy now - and well he mightn't as this was win No 6 inside a year.

Nicolas Chauvin went better than is often the case but patently failed to get home on this rare foray beyond 2m, while Brave Spartacus should have gone better off his lowest mark for some while and Father Time is catching up fast.

There was only a bumper left and as so often the case the market sorted them out with only the front three coming in for support. C'Est Le Bonheur is a late starter for Dr Newland but he was forward and knew enough on debut to get it done.

The runner-up Emma Lamb is from a sound family and she looks a decent animal with size and scope; a mare's race should be routine for her. Goldencard was disappointing again off the bridle, he's an okay sort but looks paceless and should now have his sight set towards a hurdles campaign.

Rafferty again looked very leggy and although I'm not a trainer it's a surprise he hasn't been given more time to fill his frame.