Sunday, 17 February 2019

Haydock - February 16

Looking at the times it was 'safe jumping ground' on the soft side of good, certainly nothing like what we come to expect of 'Haydock in mid-winter', but some decent action to enjoy.

The opening Victor Ludorum was a match on paper but there was no contest in the paddock beforehand and that proved an ideal pointer to the race as the good looking Quel Destin laughed at his rivals.

Allowed to take over with a circuit to run, the outstanding S Bowen dictated as he wished and powered home after the last; the Cheltenham hill should prove no problem next month.

Torpilo has a similar physical profile but is much weaker at this stage of development, lacking a little in front, and the die was cast for him with a mid-race blunder. Capone got quite a bit worked up but this tall, unfurnished youngster came through well for second.

An intriguing Listed mares hurdle followed and I wanted to get against novicey juvenile Laskadine, a fair type but weak on the front end, and the market drift called it.

If You Say Run is a decent mover and looked in great health, but hasn't proven straight forward and didn't appeal at an ever-shortening the end he didn't need any excuses.

Jester Jet has been an admirable mare for connections and she deserved a big one, getting on top after the last and she has just enough size to be as successful back over fences.

The interesting one was Mega Yeats and she probably ran as well as could be expected in the circumstances, probably lacking the pace on this ground, track and trip. Still very novicey, she has loads of size and scope and there's plenty more to come from her.

I've never got a handle on Yanworth and he was sent off 11/8 for the Rendlesham following a late drift. He looked fit and well, but was never really tanking as he often did and tended to balloon the hurdles. I thought he'd duff up a load of soft ground stayers but he clearly wasn't right.

Shades Of Midnight came in for support despite much of his form coming on deep terrain, but his form behind Paisley Park doesn't look too shabby and a really positive ride from H Brooke meant nothing else could keep with him up the straight.

Kilcooley had clearly done plenty of work while still carrying some condition, while Clyne and Petticoat Tails couldn't go with the pace on this quicker ground, the latter looking well in her coat.

Heavy ground lover Scorpion Sid was a warm order for a decent novices handicap and was worth taking on with the ground far too lively, he's a sturdy horse and possibly not entirely straight forward, needing two handlers and then blowing the start.

Luckofthedraw has never appealed, he too is far from all the ticket and lacks scope for fences, his two decent runs coming at Carlisle one of the fairest jumping tests in the land.

Sunset Showdown came in for support but hadn't really done anything to warrant it, a decent looking Flemensfirth surely wanting softer ground in any case.

It's not often I'm keen on Sedgefield form but the race The Paddy Pie won there last time looked solid and with the step up in trip sure to suit the progressive Smith-trained youngster ticked all the right boxes.

You can set your clock by the yard at this time of year and the winner will be hard for the assessor to get hold of, once again he idled in front and remains one to keep on side.

Wilde Blue Yonder barely has the size for fences but rallied well without fully getting to grip with the winner, while Slanelough had gone into the race over-priced after looking set to finish not far behind Scorpion Sid last time.

Different tactics saw him in better light and although he was probably beaten when crashing out at the last, this admirably consistent sort will hopefully bounce back in due course.

Silva Eclipse is firmly in the 'frustrating' category after going down narrowly for a third successive time over C&D, again the Smith-trained youngster appeared to do little wrong, coming up against a renowned battler in Sykes, who rallied after the last to land the Pertemps qualifier.

It looked competitive numbers-wise but couldn't fancy many, Down The Highway a big strapping chase type that surely wants softer, Shoal Bay a market springer but he still looks unfurnished and needs another summer behind him.

Similar sentiments apply to Darlac, while Champers On Ice looks a chaser and this was probably sharp enough in the conditions.

I wrote here that Robinsfirth would be suited by a stronger stamina test such as the Grand National Trial and so it was pleasing to see the wonderful, big rangy 10-year-old turn up for the big race in good order.

With 15 going to post it wasn't an easy puzzle to unravel but plenty of soft ground types wouldn't be able to live with the pace and so it proved, Bishops Road leading them a merry dance into the straight.

The Two Amigos is a bonny horse, full of enthusiasm and he was still tanking along when capsizing at the first down the far side, it's hard to believe he wouldn't have been involved in the finish and he's worth another chance from his revised mark.

Ramses De Teillee is another consistent stayer who proved that heavy ground isn't essential by going close, he did nothing wrong and neither did another that loves the heavy in Chef D'Oeuvre, who possibly just paid for being a couple of pounds wrong at the weights.

It was a majestic winning ride from the Bowen kid though and for me he's right at the top of the tree. He was brilliant in holding the big horse together and only went for the stick after jumping upsides at the last. I thought it was pure magic.

There weren't too many negatives beforehand, Red Infantry expended plenty of energy beforehand in the new blinkers though and he can be forgiven this effort.

The Prestige novices hurdle for stayers was a very strong contest both on form and paddock, not reflected by the market with Kateson going off surprisingly short.

Loads of these have potential to be very good, winner Lisnagar Oscar not over-big but starting to look like living up to his six-figure price tag, and he must be one to beat if heading to Cheltenham.

He came right away from the good looking chase type Ask Ben who lost little after setting the pace, while Stoney Mountain stayed on for third after getting outpaced and he will relish a return to a stiffer test on soft ground.

I liked Rockpoint, Truckin Away is a lovely big chase type, while Highland Hunter didn't look out of place and he'll be one to look out for again if we ever get some rain.

Kateson is quite rangy and has some quality but may just be struggling to retain condition and he might be more interesting next season, he's obviously better than this.

Road To Rome has taken the hunter chase season by storm and he made it 4/4 under rules in addition to the three points he won before Christmas. You'd have to wonder how long he can keep this up - while looking fine he didn't have a great deal of condition about him.

Ballotin didn't look straight when he was jocked up, Pacha De Polder looked in good heart and fitter than expected, as such his effort was particularly poor, while the rest didn't have any excuses and were simply put in their place by a very progressive animal.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Kelso - February 14

Well, the annual pilgrimage was always going to be on the damp squib side of things what with that there flu, the need for extra jabs and so forth, in addition to the fact that we still don't have much proper jumping ground.

Weak fields and unbackable jollys were the order of the day starting with a novice hurdler from Seven Barrows in Dream Du Grand Val, not the most fetching creature to hail from the Hendo academy but good enough in this context beforehand.

It didn't come as much of a surprise that he needed to come off the bridle to defy odds of 1/3, and although probably dossing in front doesn't look likely to make it to the higher grades.

Skiddaw Valleys came through to nab second from the weakening Point Blank, who threatened the favourite briefly two out but once again found little when push came to shove. He's just a baby, a nice horse for next season, while Skiddaw isn't straight forward, hooded in the prelims and only plugging on after getting badly outpaced.

The 'Timeform' novices handicap saw Wetherby winner My Old Gold sent off a warm order to confirm placings with Blue Flight, particularly with the latter expected (at least in these quarters) to struggle round these sharp turns, such a big unit is he.

However, the Southern raider went round like he was on tracks and, jumping proficiently, was never really under stress to win again after he 'fell-in' at Ascot following a pace collapse. Clearly, Blue Flight is improving at quite a rate and is surely the type to win again on a bigger track when he can really stretch out.

Tanarpino and Petiville were fit enough but may want more cut in the ground, while on reflection the favourite was the first of five from the N Richards camp to get beaten here and, looking to carry condition, I wonder if they were all short of a gallop.

We Have A Dream landed the Morebattle without getting out of second gear, a classy sort without having the size for fences. Cornerstone Lad has loads of size and definitely could take a larger obstacle, but he does need deep ground and he lacked the toe for this.

Outsider Get Out Of The Gate is a light framed sort that should do much better with another summer behind him, there looked to be no fluke about his effort and pays a fair compliment to Musselburgh conqueror Normal Norman.

The third 'unbackable' favourite of the day let the side down for acca backers when Definitly Red got turned over by the admirable Captain Redbeard in a match.

The simple math says that if the Redbeard ran to his best (RPR151) then Red performed to RPR159, 10lb below his best on lively enough ground at a sharp track. Only you will know if that was predictable enough to back the winner at 9/2 - I suspect some did.

For the record, I didn't think the favourite was short of fitness, both looked well beforehand and I personally wouldn't hold fitness up as an excuse.

Hopefully it was 'shrewd' money and not the acca bettors chasing their money down the windy street as Aye Right was battered into 4/6 for what was after all a handicap hurdle, and the assessor can take a bow as Bordeaux Bill edged out the gamble after the last.

The jolly is likeable and will surely prove better than this in time, but I marked him down as rather unfurnished beforehand and with a few novicey errors thrown in, I expect him to step up at some stage and his consistency is to his credit.

Mistermoonboy was fit but on the weak side and is another for whom time will serve well, the market being a pointer to his chance, while Something Brewing didn't look very fit even for a grey and could yet find a race this term.

A fascinating hunters chase came up next with 'Dave' riding Shantou Flyer - fit and strong - who had drifted all day before being smashed into an SP of 8/15.

That meant nothing in the run though as the old plodder appeared to lose his pitch three out, trading in triple digits as Mr Mercurial and Sir Jack Yeats swept past.

The former, looking on the burly side beforehand, was all over the winner going to the last but either fitness or fortitude proved his undoing as the jolly battled back to win under the Corinthian.

Sir Jack Yeats doesn't have the substance of the other two and as such looked most likely to be straight on this return, but went as though it was needed from the second last.

The concluding bumper interested me because of this Wetherby race last month in which Big Bad Bear finished second with Enlighten seven lengths behind. Now the former ran his race that day, with no excuses needed, however the latter had been well backed but was very free before and during the race, promising much better to come.

With that in mind the price disparity here was something that we try to highlight in these pages; Big Bad Bear a well backed Even money chance while his old foe was sent off at 7/1 having been even bigger all day.

So in effect the market gave us a point per length beaten; what's more, as was commented on at Wetherby, the Richards horse doesn't have much physical scope whereas Enlighten is a much bigger, sturdier animal, and was much calmer in the prelims.

The evidence was stacking up, and when B Hughes sent our hero of the tale on from the drop of the flag there was only likely to be one outcome.

It wasn't a bad looking field of horses for all that they came home in a bunch, Elf De Re, Claret Dabbler and Ferloch all noted as types to enjoy decent careers at the winter game having much size and scope.

I took a negative view of Ferry All on the day, a big weak four-year-old that drifted in the market and ran accordingly. He'll need time.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Market Rasen - February 5

Gloomy conditions and ground on the softer side after the recent snow, a tricky little juvenile hurdle opened proceedings headed by short priced favourite Lisheen Castle.

N Henderson's inmate defied market weakness to land a weak looking contest on his debut with the promise of more to come, but this looked tougher and so it proved.

Quite modest looking for one coming from the Seven Barrows academy, he was seen under the cosh a long way from home and although staying on this was thoroughly disappointing and a rating based on the Wetherby win may look harsh.

A couple caught the eye beforehand, one being eventual winner Praeceps, a stout stayer on the level with enough size to make a go of things in this sphere, his Newbury effort was a sound one and he was a well-found second favourite in the end.

The other one to note physically was Ace Ventura, a nice big laid back youngster who was sent off at huge odds considering his Flat ability and he came home in third behind the much smaller Honorable.

Bachelor was disappointing after showing decent form in Ireland the last two times but he was very small and light framed and was well below his previous form, not one to be enthusiastic about going forward with pre-race chat about the Fred Winter pie in the sky.

An awful mares handicap chase featured next, two looking useless and the others having question marks about them, largely mentally.

Parlour Maid had never put two runs together before but claimed back-to-back wins by showing greater tenacity than favourite Quantum Of Solace, who chose the easy way out and looks one to avoid.

Mrs Vonn traipsed around the prelims like one that lacks any kind of toe and she will need time and a trip.

A cracking looking novice hurdle was the highlight of the afternoon but the promised fireworks failed to materialise with well-backed outsider Boldmere allowed to set the simplest of fractions with the entire field over-racing in behind.

Although the winner showed more than enough to suggest he could be competitive at Warwick last time, there was a distinct lack of initiative from opposing jockeys to force a stronger pace and it developed into a sprint, with the front runner best placed to strike.

The most surprising tactics came from the Murphy/Johnson combination responsible for Garrettstown, a gritty all-the-way winner here last time but held up today with Johnson continually taking a pull as his partner cruised forward mid-race.

Senior Citizen was again left outpaced in similar circumstances to last time, while hot favourite Clarendon Street was never in a good position considering his undoubted stamina, and this good looking pair, along with Garrettstown, should prove a good deal better than this.

Muratello was another to over-race but he looked to have fewer excuses than most, having every chance in the straight but not picking up as well as the others and I'd have reservations about him, as for the second time he looked weak and backward.

Sixth home was Bally Conor and he carried his freshness through to the race, pulling harder than most and unable to pick up when the spring began, but he's another very nice chase type for the future.

The following handicap hurdle had the toxic whiff of a 'jockeys' race' (with the full support of the starter) with well-handicapped Crystal Lad (14>7) leading out the heavily supported Earlofthecotswolds (11/2>9/4) with Transpennine Star (8>11/2) and hat-trick seeking Minella Fiveo just behind, the rest happy to give them upwards of 10 lengths from the get-go.

This sort of thing is part and parcel of the game and you just have to accept it, no 'wrong-doing' it's just the way it is. Just press click and step away from the machine.

Earlofthecotswolds had previously shaped with much promise despite some desperately novicey jumping, but he is starting to get his act together and with plenty of daylight to aid his cause he looked more the finished article as he put it to bed in the straight in the manner of a well-handicapped horse.

Crystal Lad may prefer further and/or softer and this was more like it from him, while Transpennine Star looked fit and well and appears to have bumped into a couple better at the weights.

With all that said, those that showed promise in behind can be marked up...the workmanlike Seemingly So once again shaping as though more of a test would suit, while Twotwothree and Megalodon both types worthy of closer inspection when better positioned.

A winning time four seconds slower than the earlier novice probably said more about the slow run nature of that race than anything else - that bunch surely better than this 117-rated winner.

Not much to get excited about thereafter, a 0-110 handicap chase with money for several including Conas Taoi, not the horse of old after a two year lay-off but looking well, Dartford Warbler re-united with D Cook in search of back-to-back wins. The Smith horses are flying and this veteran is no exception, winging the last three fences to win as he liked.

Johnny Yuma came in for support but he's right old unit that probably needs plenty of time...he hasn't shown nearly enough yet over fences to warrant support. Square Viviani is interesting, as he showed his first real piece of form since coming from France and while errors persist he's on a dangerous mark and a shorter trip could see him going two better than today's third.

Thomas Todd looks a nutcase and didn't show this time, neither did Newberry New for whom everything needs to fall right and he's just not in much form.

The sturdy looking Corinto proved his previous form down in trip all wrong and he came home much the strongest under the 'champ' over a near-3m trip in the finale, but it was modest stuff with the other unexposed sorts like Treasure Dillon and Wadell plus Oscar Ceremony not making much appeal on looks.