Southwell - Nov 20
The morning drizzle had turned the ground nearer good to soft.
A 0-105 handicap chase and a modest lot, mostly on the small side. Manwell looked straight enough despite a lengthy absence but ran as though he needed it; whether the wind op has helped is a moot point, hopefully he will start to settle better as there's plenty of stamina in his pedigree. The winner Boughtbeforelunch was arguably the paddock pick having more scope than most, and with a little decent bumper form has started out on a decent mark. The well-backed Ben Arthur isn't very big and isn't one to have much faith in.
A novice hurdle for stayers and the Skelton-trained Supremely Lucky looked a good thing, having some nice form and appearing a strong sort. He won as he liked ridden with confidence, while the second Reve ran a big race considering he is the type to require more time. Johnny Ocean was punted and has the looks, but again went as though he has a problem.
A decent mares novice hurdle and the form should be taken seriously, the winner Kimberley Point improving again to defy a penalty and she could really go on now as she settles better, and can move up in trip. Sea Story was heavily backed and tried to poach it on the home turn, but was just run down. She's a stayer and is the type to build on this.
Ceara Be shaped with promise and has a touch of quality, she just needs the penny to drop, while Ena Baie was a drifter and is a nervy sort, but can improve with experience. Princess Roxy is a strong chasing type and is another worth noting further down the line, having cost a small fortune.
A conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle that featured unlucky Chepstow loser Stop Talking off a 3lb higher mark, she's an athletic mare and with shrewd connections having done well to get her handicapped she is now flourishing. Expect her to be hard to beat when turned out again this week, although bad ground might be a red flag. I think she still has loads in hand.
Not a great mares bumper in truth although the winner Emmas Joy is a rangy, staying type and she used her stride to knuckle down well, the softening ground looking to her liking. Runner-up Northern Princess is tall and should be better in time, she was a little on edge and so this was a very pleasing effort. Rose To Fame is well bred but was a little disappointing again and may still be on the weak side.
Hexham - Nov 21
The official going was soft and as so often a lot of them couldn't handle the final climb.
Sue Smith's Hill Sixteen was heavily supported on the back of a decent first effort in a Carlisle race that has worked out well, and he had more size and quality about him than most of these novice hurdlers. However, the clear second best was Stoney River and he built on a fair effort himself last time to essentially outstay the hot favourite.
The pair came miles clear and there was no fluke about the result. Chief market rival Miss Batten must have been bought on account of her breeding alone because she looks ordinary to say the least. She nearly unshipped her jockey at the first and didn't make it up the hill, and it doesn't look £115k well spent.
An interesting novice chase that presented a good betting opportunity in Top Ville Ben, who looked in good order for his seasonal reappearance for the in-form P Kirby. He found a good early rhythm and anyone who had seen him pick up a decent Haydock handicap last term knew he was up to winning this.
Donna's Diamond is rising 10 and is surely too late to the chasing game, jumping okay here to a point but he does lack height and he may struggle faced with stiffer tests. Everyone wanted to be with Senor Lombardy, who will surely take higher order this winter, but he looked a shade burly and the Dalgleish runners have been hit and miss, so I wouldn't read much into this. Blottos is a proper staying chaser and just like over hurdles he is a slow learner, but he wasn't far off his best form and will be one to be interested in next time.
Saint Freule was well-backed from a morning price of 16/1 and rightly so, his form was of a decent standard if everything fell into place. Clearly not an easy animal to deal with, he was last into the paddock and last out, yet still played up and was reluctant to start. But once he was off with the pack he was easily restrained, and finished his race off well, coming clear with the well-handicapped Sleepy Haven, suggesting further improvement is on the cards. Former Ballydoyle inmate Felix Mendelssohn showed a bit more in behind and may be of interest for a yard that's quiet at present. Wishing Well didn't look fit again but is being brought along with one race in mind.
Next was the four-miler and finally Total Assets had the chance to show her abundant stamina, having come home nicely behind an improver at Carlisle last time. Ridden with confidence by Amie Waugh, she was long odds-on a mile out and came home a fresh horse - she looked particularly well in her skin and this was a deserved success for connections.
Kilcullen Flem was beautifully turned out but this game isn't just about who looks best and at the odds made little appeal despite appearing to have plenty in his favour. Tickenwolf was well-backed but can't handle the soft, while Battle Dust was disappointing and finished lame.
Four non-runners and a well-backed favourite in Le Frank, who was a big eye-catcher here last time, and conditions cancelled out the drop in trip so that he could coast home, looking well ahead of his mark. Echo Express made numerous minor errors and isn't certain to thrive in this sphere, but Trooblue should do better in time although she's quite big and backward at present.
Market Rasen - Thursday Nov 22
The rails were out again, adding almost a furlong, and with a bit of drizzle around the ground was opening up, those coming wide in the straight having the best of it.
An interesting novice hurdle where the well-touted Seemingly So went for a stroll in the market before collecting for Olly Murphy. Of medium build and workmanlike in appearance, he looks more of a soft ground galloper and the extra yardage played to his advantage here; he's bound to improve from this bare form.
Earlofthecotswolds made numerous errors and wasn't beaten far, but he's a nervy immature type so I wouldn't expect him to improve until next term, and he's only four. Dandolo Du Gite was the nicest in the paddock, big and lengthy, and might have been able to defy a penalty had he not gone so freely again.
A race run at a crawl and there was money around for the attractive Martiloo, trying the new trip, but she was poorly placed when they finally began to race and she can do better than this.
A Pertemps qualifier and a decent contest with Newbury winner Jersey Bean heading the market, but the one I was interested in was Florrie Knox who looks a good deal stronger now than when last seen at Wetherby. From a yard having a quiet time, he got tired after the last but this was full of promise and this chasing type can pick up a decent staying pot over timber this time around. Clondaw Native stayed on to frustrate each-way punters but he looks a difficult ride and lacks a bit of scope.
Drovers Lane returned to the form of his impressive Hereford win dropped in trip and grade, proving himself a useful prospect. The best looking was Lisdoonvarna Lad and he's a lovely chasing prospect, but appears to be backward mentally and was noted reaching for the ditches.
He shaped like a non-stayer at present but should be able to win this term; however he may need more time to flourish. Earlshill, like stablemate Clondaw Native, didn't look great in his coat and his excellent stable isn't firing on all cylinders.
I see 105 rated horses every day of the week and Hard Station certainly isn't one of them on looks. A big, strapping chaser, I thought he was just about ready and this ex-pointer is very enthusiastic once the tapes go up. It was a great trading opportunity if nothing else but it was great to see the way he fought back when joined two out, and he just seems to gallop all day.
Ryalex did the chasing on his first go at 3m and probably stayed, having belted a few on the way round, and likely ran to his new mark.
Quite a lively bumper concluded proceedings and I was quite taken with the drifting favourite Winningiseverything, a lengthy, scopey son of Flemensfirth. With H Fry having such a good record in these events it wasn't hard to see him going really well, and after racing green in the first mile really motored home once sent about his business, while his experienced rider had him on the virgin ground out wide.
JohnBB is an ok sort and came out of the pack to make a race of it, while Little Jack gives the race a solid look having already won a race, and he was very fit for this seasonal return. Lemon T wasn't, and related to a couple of big staying chase types will do better with something to jump.
Catterick - Friday Nov 23
Good ground for the first meeting of the season although it was a bit loose on top and the third last was omitted in all chases.
A weak-looking novice hurdle and a great chance taken by Je Suis Charlie, who was down in class and defied a penalty with ease, jumping notably well and shaping like one who can defy a rise in the weights at the likes of Musselburgh this winter.
Goldencard looks one-paced and didn't find much, but Lester Kris looked fit and rewarded some each-way support, while Legalized wasn't given a hard time in fourth and has the substance to pick up a small handicap in due course.
Tim Easterby's Travel Lightly was the worst of these juveniles on the flat and yet she was thrown into the Wensleydale Hurdle on debut, acquitting herself well without being knocked about, and came through strongly to win this cosily to defy market weakness. Well built, she's a really sound jumper and that is the key to these races; she should be able to follow up as she improves physically.
Liva is a decent looking gelding and just bumped into one here, while For Pleasure was allowed to bowl along this time and should be of interest if this knocks some freshness out of him. Canadian George may well do better as time goes on and could look well handicapped when the time comes.
Progressive chasers are exciting at this time of year and Cloth Cap really stamped himself as one to keep on the right side as he won the staying handicap with something in hand. Travelling and jumping with fluency, he wasn't asked for everything in seeing off the staying on Red Giant, himself proving to be a stayer of merit.
This is good form with The Paddy Pie left behind in third - once again he looked green when sent to the front and he could benefit from a more patient ride. Same Circus caught the eye staying on back in fourth and she will be winning again when the ground finally turns.
Barton Knoll has been a chaser-in-waiting for some time and looked fit enough to go in first time for the small Mackie yard in the handicap chase for novices, but he didn't get a very positive ride and not for the first time didn't really find a great deal when let down. The jury is out for the time being, whereas Reverant Cust continues to do his two-horse trainer proud, looking a good deal stronger for the summer break and surprisingly straight into the bargain.
Still on the small side, he seemed to jump with accuracy and remains one to keep the right side of on the smaller northern tracks. Braavos shaped okay without really looking like one that's able to strike off his current mark, but Tetraites Style has developed into a decent looking youngster and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand in future.
A weak bumper that saw Soviet Castle improve past a rather unfurnished Nickelsonthedime to win with something in hand. Note should be made of Gold Fields, a well-related sort with plenty of size and scope, he wasn't suited by this slow run affair being a keen going horse, and is one that could pop up at a big price at some stage this term.