Monday 23 December 2013

Catterick - Low key affair

Not a great deal of action to be had either today or in the future on today's runners, bar one or two.

Perhaps the most interesting race was a five runner handicap chase for novices over 2m 3f, where the market was headed by J Ferguson's Rick. The 9yro was last seen running a fair race when punted at Wetherby but he isn't the most straight forward and he looked a bit doggy beforehand and probably one to take on. J Ewart ran Mandarin Sunset who had won a weak affair at Musselburgh last time but despite getting weight all round I didn't fancy this leggy sort either up against much better opposition. That left A Swinbank's Big Water, who looked as fit as anything as he finally faced fences for the first time, and McCain's Diocles, who was embarking on his second season over the larger obstacles after failing to deliver last season when sent of favourite a couple of times. Clearly they think something of him and he looked well muscled and ready on his first outing for 232 days, and he had the race run to suit as Rick and the rather chancey Big Water took them along. Maguire only had to sit and wait for moment and it came rounding the home turn when Rick gave way without a fight and Diocles quickly had the measure of Big Water. McCain's beast went as though further may suit and can go in again having fenced with confidence. Mandarin Sunset went left from the outset and was never in it while Big Water requires plenty of practice and this was clearly a guess from Swinbank.

The next was a ghastly 0-105 2m chase won by rag Coax, who bolted up against and bunch you would find it hard to make a case for, either on looks or form. Favourite Lord Of Drums went without any zest just eight days on from his latest win leaving the door open for the unexposed Coax, who had shown a small amount of form last time and in fairness looked a fit, compact sort who might run better than his 22/1 odds implied.

The 2m3f novice hurdle was potentially decent and although they went no gallop the winner Forthefunofit did well to win and he finished full of running, heading off the more experienced Downtown Boy and Cool Sky, was looked on the weak side compared to some. In behind, Save The Bees is a relaxed type who could do okay in this sphere, just better for this debut run. It was a surprise that connections started out over this trip with a horse that never went beyond 10f on the flat and he pulled too hard here, beaten a fair way in the end after going with the front three to the turn in. Another ex-flat horse Nexius could be quite decent on looks but is currently unfurnished and drifted in the betting and showed little. However, this time next year with a decent mark could be one to follow. A final one to note was Mister Jones, Sue Smith's typically unflashy sort will win his races over the coming years, you can be sure of that.

J Wade's Pudsey House should have won the staying hurdle but young Dawson was weak in the finish and was done in a three-way by Gulf Punch and the gambled-on Harris, who dead-heated. I didn't take to the mare Gulf Punch and she ran a funny sort of race, staying on late after being ridden with a circuit left. She's not straight forward. Pudsey House, however, is one of the better-looking of Wade's horses and he will be seen in better light under stronger handling. He'll continue to pay his way and will jump a fence.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Catterick - Holy smoked

How wonderful to be back at the Bridge! Typically good ground greeted the first card of the season as well as glorious winter sunshine - what a day to be alive!

I'd laid Holywell in the morning on account of Jonjo's beast requiring softer, further and a stiffer track, yet there was still cash for McCoy's mount and apparently little by way of likely opposition. Not so. A trip to the paddock told me this was a decent contest of it's type and while Holywell may have a lofty hurdles rating, the fact that he was most unlikely to run to that mark and the fact there were some obvious improvers in the field meant I was happy with my initial position.

Main market rival Barrakilla was backed - as on each of his previous starts - and went off joint favourite, but I wasn't entirely convinced this was the one to beat Holywell. He's a lovely, big rangy type who will undoubtedly win races over fences but I wasn't sure today was the day over this trip and ground. Of the others Star In Flight was on good terms with himself and they bet 12-bar the three, bringing in M Jefferson's Hi George, who had won his bumper and novice hurdles before failing to progress. However, he would clearly be better over fences on looks and with the trainer in form was surely capable of a big run. And so it proved - jumping well and taking over midway down the back, held enough in reserve to beat off the staying-on Holywell by a head. Sure enough, McCoy had been hard at work exiting the back straight and just couldn't quite get there...the effort should not be denigrated however and, having jumped better than at Carlisle on his debut, he'll be back winning before too long in the right conditions. Barrakilla, too, was outpaced after blundering at just the wrong time (4 out) and was just 4L back in third. He'll be one to keep an eye on as well back on softer ground. Son of Flicka ran fourth without being given a hard time and there'll be a race over fences to be won with him even though he wouldn't have the size of some. Star In Flight blundered his chance away and it's back to the drawing board for him, while Croco Bay looks a decent sort and went well for half the race and his turn will also come, given time and a handicap mark.

A poor 0-100 handicap chase saw the top weight rated only 88 and it appeared on the face of it that Sambelucky had a simple task, but he drifted like a barge in the face of support from Discoverie and Milan Royale. Once again they were the two that stood out in the paddock - the former on toes and warm in first time cheekpieces while Milan Royale looked fit and well on his third start for the erstwhile K Hunter esq. The favourite never got competitive while the winner set sail entering the straight with Discoverie in hot pursuit, and it was the former's better jumping that gained the day as he held on by a short head, surviving an enquiry into the bargain. 'Racing Ray', who informed me he was on the second at double figures in the morning, was inconsolable even a couple of races later. It can be a cruel game sometimes and I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd nibbled at the winner at 5s.

All was well as I sat out the juvenile hurdle as hot favourite Forced Family Fun was clearly the one to beat, although the discrepancy in price with Most Honourable was surprising as they were market leaders in the Hexham race won by the former last time, where the latter had lost his rider five out. Evens played 5/1 this time and you can imagine my chagrin as the jolly dumped the unfortunate D Pratt at the first leaving the event wide open. Like A Diamond had been very active beforehand and bolted early on, doing well to stay in it until the last, where Morning With Ivan took over. However, Most Honourable had been running on in behind and collared the leader close home, rewarding those who took the generous odds. Sadly I wasn't one of them.

I've seen a worse bunch of mares in my time than the nine that came together for a 2m3f novice, which eventually saw P Sly's Bonnet's Vino edge out the consistent Run Ructions Run and deny favourite backers again. The winner is a compact sort and was nicely backed against the jolly, so a big run was clearly expected. The pair will be alright, as will the third, Gold Show, who looked well and on her toes beforehand. At 20/1, she was value and they came 8L clear of the rest, headed by Maison De Ville, who to these eyes still looked a bit weak after nearly a year off and will require even more time if she is to fulfill her undoubted potential.

The last two races were of little interest, Nodform Richard was clearly ready for an ultimately successful repeat of his win in the staying chase 12 months ago, although 2/1 was not particularly enticing, while in the bumper K Reveley's Donna's Pride is reported to be highly regarded but looked weak and immature to me and wasn't put in the race by the trainer's son behind the winner On Tour, who rewarded E Williams' long trip from Wales at short odds.

Friday 29 November 2013

Doncaster - Lavelle lands touch

A spell of dry weather in the north meant the ground was officially on the fast side of good although there was a strong headwind in the straight. That didn't stop those racing prominently winning all afternoon, with nothing able to come from off the pace.

Emma Lavelle sent two up the A1 and they got stuck into them both in the market - the double duly being landed. The 2m 3f handicap chase looked competive but Off The Ground, back in trip, and N Henderson's Woodbank both looked ahead of their marks and so it proved in the race. The former was smashed into 13/8 and the money was always safe, Aspell travelling well in behind before cruising to the front three out and winning as he liked. A nice compact sort who looked ready to do the business, he'll be whacked at least 10lb for this but I'm sure Team Lavelle have a few pounds up their sleeve. Woodbank chased him home and fenced better than ever here, although being quite sparely made he didn't particularly take the eye. The one to take away is Bellenos, a good-topped French exile who is better than he showed here. Keen, he made a lot of ground mid-race before emptying in the straight, and he obviously needed it after a year off even though he looked straight enough. He could take more time to acclimatise - but I'll be keeping an eye on him possibly over shorter and on softer ground.

The second leg of the Lavelle double saw Fix It Right appear on the scene three out before plugging on dourly for the win. He seemed a lot bigger behind the saddle than in front and that could explain why he hasn't handled soft ground thus far. Only five, he could yet be alright given more time. Any Given Moment was the paddock pick and chased him all the way up the straight, while Cleve Cottage dropped out for a second race in succession as if something is amiss.

The classy Mijhaar was a drifter in the novice hurdle on his debut in this sphere but hacked up having gone from the front. He wore a hood and was blanketed beforehand so it was hard to be bullish about him but J Ferguson's rarely need the race, although he didn't beat much. Runner-up Lemony Bay is well-related but will need time to come into himself, while P Webber's Devon Drum looked good in the paddock and travelled ok but didn't find anything at all when let down, being eased late on.

The 3m handicap chase took little winning on the departure of Highbury High, who attempting a quick double after making mistakes when landing the spoils at Wincanton. He was low over a few here and paid the price when belting the second down the side, and he who backs him to make amends would do so with nerves of steel. Clondaw Flicka is a tall, leggy sort who was bound to improve markedly on anything he'd achieved over timber. Still a baby and guessing at a few, including the last, he showed strong staying qualities to out-battle Tickatack and Lukey Luke, who are high enough in the weights or not that genuine - or both.

The 2m3f hurdle saw Portway Flyer, Wintered Well and Reyes Magos make their handicap debuts against a load of exposed sorts, they dominated the betting and race...but there was only one winner in Portway Flyer, who took up it four out and frankly shat up. The handicapper will take a dim view and while a compact, nimble sort he may not be ready to win off a stone higher. Wintered Well was on his toes and had two handlers but is a fair sort and should continue to give a good account, while it was disappointing that Reyes Magos could not stay on past him and you wouldn't be sure he will improve as much, rising eight as he is.

Haydock - Star follows up

The first day of the Betfair Chase meeting drew some small fields but there was plenty of interest nevertheless - the chases were restored to the outside track and the going was changed to soft after the opening contest.

That race was won in smashing style by Cyrien Star, just three weeks on from his successful return at Wetherby. The penny seemed to drop that day and, just seven pounds higher, was ready to go in again and ridden positively by Jake Greenall duly followed up. Market rivals Scots Gaelic and Our Joey didn't please particularly in the paddock, the latter getting warm. The other to take out of the race is Revocation, a tall chasing type who did not appear to respect the small obstacles. It may take a year before we see him in better light over the bigger ones - make no mistake there will be races to be won with him.

I liked Shangani in the four-runner novice chase but in hindsight he was rather too robust for this reappearance and will surely be better with the run under his belt, and back over further. Fago bled last time but won well from the front from Simply Ned, who is still unfurnished and will be better with another year behind him.

The Listed hurdle saw five nice types clash and they will all win races, the gritty Zamdy Man proving too strong for the fluent moving and classy-looking Oscar Hoof who was making his debut over timber. The three-mile novice chase with just four to post was a conundrum but I did think that Nicholls' Black Thunder was the pick beforehand, a fluid mover who covers plenty of ground. Both Many Clouds and Shotgun Paddy are lovely, chasing types though and will continue to be of interest, while Up And Go did not have their size and now has something to prove after fading tamely.

The fixed brush hurdle was unsurprisingly noteworthy and a popular win round these parts for Spirit of Shankly, who looked quite plain but clearly in good nick. He cut down Urban Hymn on the run-in but the latter is a gorgeous, well made sort who was firm in the betting and did little wrong, boxing on well on his hurdles bow. Classic Move was on his toes and free in the race, but stayed on well suggesting that when he calms down a little he'll be winning his share. Nicholls' grey Varom looked strong and required two handlers but was surprisingly punted into 11/4 and was beaten two out. It wouldn't surprise me if Fergal O'Brien's Up The Ante, the winner of a point, has a breathing problem. He wore and crossed noseband and a ring bit and was free before bombing out completely.

The bumper was notable for the introduction of Wuff, who cost £120,000 after winning a point. A real chasing type, he was worth a punt and went from the front, and, despite running green, beat them all off bar the much speedier-looking Desoto County of D McCain, who out-ran him below the distance. Favourite Battle Born didn't move especially well beforehand and was thus overlooked while Nimbus Gale looked immature and duly deposited Aspell on the way to post. It was a decent event though.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Sunny Sedgefield - Menzies off the mark

Recent rain had turned the ground softer than at the last meeting a fortnight ago - although it was clearly on the dead side and some horses may not have run to their best. The three, competitive-looking chases proved anything but and the going may have had something to do with it.

The Smiths' Coverholder had been widely touted ahead of its chasing debut and as such it was surprising his odds held up as a result. The six-year-old remains a little weak behind the saddle but certainly has enough size for the game and he jumped more than adequately to take the co-feature stylishly. Once again hats off to the yard for picking the perfect race to start last season's multi-winner over fences. There will be more improvement to come over time. Atlanta Falcon ran to its mark to chase him home but makes little appeal as a winter horse, while the third, Sun Cloud, once again made errors before staying on over an inadequate trip. There could be a race in him as he's a likely sort on looks. C Egerton's Seedsman went off fav but although he looked fit to go in first time, I'm always a tad wary when no connections at all show up! He's a lovely type but faded to nothing and with the tongue-tie that was worn last back-end left off today, it's assumed he has wind problems. That's a shame, as it is sure dent his progress. The other of more interest for the future is the Dobbins' Rocking Blues, who now has three Fs in his form figures but that belies his bold jumping until he crumbled wearily at the last when vying for second. As in the past he pulled a shade hard and couldn't go with the winner once asked, but there is very much a race in him from a mark of 112.

The handicap chase over 2m 4f was turned into a procession by Silver Roque, who stayed well under a typical T Murphy ride, held up off a strong pace. However, this will do nothing for his mark - and perhaps today was the day as he looked perfectly well without standing out. In fact, all eight looked fine bar Sublime Talent, who didn't have as much size about him and an early blunder proved costly as he stayed on well in the end. Tahiti Pearl looked really well on his return and this course specialist probably ran a personal best in second, some 16L back. Granville Island ran on at one pace for third but he too looked great and travelled well until flattening out but was short enough in the betting and was opposable on those grounds. Divers was punted but ran no sort of race on a poor day for D McCain. He looked Ok as most greys tend to do.

The other race over the larger obstacles was a poor, 0-100 affair but a visit to the paddock should have pointed you in the direction of the winner, Pistol Basc. He looked absolutely bursting with good health for impressive young trainer Ms R Menzies, and it showed in the race, jumping and travelling almost too well before bounding clear. On a personal level, this race was probably the first this season that just fell into place, with the surprisingly well-backed Chicago Outfit and Oh Right not particularly pleasing to the eye - the same could also be said of their odds. Bocamix was a big drifter and proved again he doesn't stay 2m 4f, while Sambelucky looked okay after a long absence and ran on after hitting a flat spot. Given a break and the blinkers reapplied, K Reveley should find a race for it. Fozy Moss was worth a saver off a very low mark but didn't really jump fluently enough to warrant further interest.

I got the competitive 2m 4f handicap hurdle down to four but picked wrong as Reveley's Waltz Darling did just that under a tender ride. He's a tall angular type that will do well over fences in time, but should have been part of any portfolio at 10/1 today. I bumped into and old friend in Robert Cooper of ATR fame and he was quite hot on Embsay Crag, who had won on the flat recently and looked well ahead of a switch back to timber. A stayer on the flat, this trip should have been within his range but didn't do a great deal after travelling really well and R McGrath wasn't hard on him, so he may have simply run out of gas. An intermediate trip like 2m 2f at Kelso could be spot on and you can trust P Kirby to find the right race this side of Christmas. M Jefferson's Mary Milan - a chasing type - looked full of beans and was backed, but ran no sort of race, while N Richards' One For Harry ran okay but made mistakes again and physically has some growing up to do.

The finale saw Amir Pasha land the spoils, denying Reveley a hat-trick with Broctune Papa Gio. The winner had been active on the level and looked as fit as could be to deny the front four that were clear in the market. Dynamic Drive was up 7lb for winning here last time but pulled too hard in this more slowly run affair, allowing Lysino the chance to reverse placings. C Grant's horse caught the eye in fourth last time and on 8lb better terms improved again, this time running on after being outpaced when the pace did finally quicken turning in. He travelled really well and I'll be keeping a really close eye out for him next time when he'll improve once more in a better race, on a galloping track like Newcastle or Doncaster where they'll surely go a better clip. The win money here was only lent.

Friday 1 November 2013

Wetherby - Oscar performance

The opening day of the Charlie Hall meeting brought a couple of Listed races - a far cry from the usual fodder at the A1 track. The card also opened with a couple of NH novice races that contained numerous future winners. Oh and it rained, a lot.

M Jefferson's Oscar Rock, as expected, took the opener and he is a really smart looking horse. Bar a mistake at the last he did little wrong and he moves really well, although the trainer reported that softish ground is a must. The second, Run Ructions Run, was noted in the paddock as a really nice sort and T Easterby could have something to work with here, especially the way she shaped throughout the race. The third, Zermatt, is a typical J Quinn inmate in that he is very much a hurdler on looks, in contrast to much of this field. Straidnahanna tried to go with the winner and was the only one to do so, costing each-way punters dear as he faded into fourth. However, the son of Medaaly is one of the Smiths' better lookers and he will surely be useful in time. Both P Nicholls Vide Cave and D McCain's Sealous Scout looked like they would improve for the run - the former looking a 3m+ chaser already.

Div II was also interesting although D Pipe's Famousandfearless and Twister's Master Rajeem failed to give their running - the former given plenty to do and the latter jumping far from fluently. Trainer Nicholls parked himself and connections on my shoulder for this one and they were clearly thrilled with the run of Vivaldi Collonges, who was apparently unfancied and upon earlier inspection should come on a ton for it. The winner was Rally, one of N Henderson's, a likely sort although clearly quirky as he was pulling up on the run-in and connections will be pleased they re-applied the headgear this time. Of much interest further back was H Hogarth's Lakefield Rebel, a huge chaser in the making who became detached down the back but ran on with gusto to finish just behind the Pipe horse in fifth. Already seven, they need to press on with him and I can see him landing a small novice chase the other side of Christmas. You heard it here first!

I've said it many times but horses that don't look the part don't win very often, and in the 2m handicap hurdle three likely sorts were involved in the finish despite long odds. I don't know much about trainer Peter Winks but Hartside has improved on each run this autumn and looked in good heart prior to winning narrowly from M Hammond's Pertuis. The grey looked as fit as possible but had been busy on the flat all year, where he hadn't really progressed. However, he was produced to win here and was quite heavily bet into 15/2 but connections surely missed a trick by not applying the blinds on a horse with a few quirks, and after leading on the run-in chucked it close home. B Ellison's Lifetime has been running as if something is bothering him and he was coaxed round before running through the pack to take third on the run-in - maybe there is a race in him. The fourth, Mojolika, looked really fit and well and like all the best each-way punts, came fourth. He won twice at Carlisle in the spring but has a much higher mark to contend with now, however he's a stayer on the flat and after being outpaced on the run for home here can possibly find a race or two over and extra half mile. Pippa Green has had his problems and didn't particularly take the eye beforehand, running no sort of race, while they came for I Williams's Zafranagar and while he looked fit to go in first time, he was outpaced from two out without appearing to have any excuses. The last worthy of mention is Travis County, who was last as the tapes went up but had pulled his way to the front by the third, where he seemed to settle better. He still led two out but had no more to give, but the run was of interest and I've heard he has been schooling over fences - he would take some catching if asked to make all round a sharp track, while a mark of 107 is favourable.

The 2m 4f chase was a Listed handicap won by B Ellison's 25/1 shot Ultimate, a winner on the flat two weeks previously but seemingly exposed over obstacles. I was told he was expected to run his race and he certainly did, jumping well in front bar a mistake down the back. It wasn't a field to get too excited about though. The second, Humbie, was well tuned up and has now won or been placed on seven of 10 starts over fences. Mac Aeda was third after hitting three out and although the money came for him I felt he wasn't ready at all. Ordinarily he would be of interest next time over farther but he's a bit in and out and not one to go shouting about. Mrs Bailey's Noble Legend looked cherry ripe on his return but couldn't maintain his progression with a rare poor effort. The rest were, frankly of little interest.

The Wensleydale Hurdle saw Royal Irish Hussar trounce his rivals and it was surprising to your correspondent that he wasn't more strongly favoured in the market. He took the eye beforehand, looking a really speedy type, and was simply too quick for his six rivals. D Pipe's Ainsi Fideles is a tall, rangy horse but dropped away tamely in the straight, P Nicholls' Keltus was fit enough but another with more scope than anything and time will surely see him in better light. C Longsdon's Cadoudoff ran on well for second, had two handlers in the ring but came home best after being one of the first off the bridle. S Gollings' Zamoyski ran full of promise on his debut and is a likeable sort on looks.

The 3m+ chase was a weak affair with an opposable favourite in Orange Nassau - but who with? Ellison's well-backed Palos Conti was his main market rival but didn't take the eye particularly while most of the others were either coming off a break or generally unbackable. They came for J Wade's Beau Dandy who looked fit enough and indeed he did chase home the solid favourite - however they both would have gone down to Polarbrook had that one not put down at the second last when coming to take the race having travelled really well in the reapplied visor. McCain's beast had been on the go all summer and would surely have collected, although to the winner's credit he plugged on well as he had looked a weak finisher in the past. He shouldn't go up much for this but will surely find it difficult to land the hat-trick.

A field of 10 lined up for the 2m6f finale but it could have been narrowed down to a small handful, the solid favourite Silver Dragon by far the pick of the paddock. However, he clouted a number of hurdles and was done for two out as treble chasing My Oh Mount Brown made the best of his way home. However, H Daly's Cyrien Star (who looked fit enough beforehand) had travelled ominously well into in and the penny finally dropped when asked to win his race between the last two. The handicapper had given him a chance after not showing a great deal in the spring but the summer had clearly done him the world of good and someone knew it as they came for it quite strongly late on, going off at 4/1 having been double those odds. Lookout Mountain failed to deliver after going with the front three to the turn but the previously progressive Cleve Cottage was a bitter disappointment despite looking well beforehand.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Sedgefield - King for a day

The opening juvenile was dominated by previous winner Dispour of D McCain's and Innsbruck, making his debut over timber for J Quinn. The latter was a rag when winning his belated debut on the flat not long ago and so it was surprising that connections moved so quickly to the winter game, the gelding not having a great deal of size about him. In addition to that, he looked as though he was seeing an obstacle for the very first time today and blundered his way round in finishing out the places. The favourite looked best in the paddock but was taken on for the lead by War Lord from some way out - the pair hard at it and essentially having the race between them. That the clearly modest third and fourth closed so strongly on the long run-in bears this out, Dispour essentially proving the better horse under penalty despite a narrow defeat. Nonetheless, this was moderate fare and the big Euros shelled out now look to be long gone.

The next was a 0-100 handicap hurdle and an honourable mention must go to top weight Lysino. C Grant's beast was by no means knocked around in fourth place but on looks may prove to have ability some way in advance of his rating, while he will surely improve for the run.

The staying hurdle was won by J O'Neill's Abnaki, rejuvenated by a return to hurdles and the application of blinkers. He looked very alert in the blinds beforehand which foretold a strong showing in a keen little heat, with the market headed by Night In Milan. He'd gone well fresh before and he looked fully wound up on this return, but found little off an easy lead and on looks he will surely be better suited to a return to chasing. The same could be said of One In A Milan, who has plenty of size about him but stepped at the second and crashed out.

The big race of the day saw talking horse Knight Pass backed in to 2/1 but it's some time since he showed his best form and the whisper beforehand was that he had bled in the past. He showed little inclination to take a cut at these fences and was done for after a circuit, and is very much one to avoid, even back over timber. The winner King Of The Wolds stood out in terms of size and well-being - M Jefferson clearly having him fully tuned up on his chase debut. Jumping beautifully and going with zest, he was always in control and although he was tired and/or idling at the last, he was always holding the strong finishing Deise Dynamo at the line. He will surely continue to give a good account and shouldn't go up a huge amount for this. Of the others, only See What Happens makes any appeal in future - M Todhunter's horse has plenty of chase experience now and once again showed promise, and will come on for the outing.

Carlton Jack had to concede weight all round in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle but he has the size to do it and looked in good order 24 days on from winning at Uttoxeter. He was always going well and looked like winning easily but for jinking left for the stables halfway up the run-in and all out in the end. That quirk is easily forgiven and he can win again. Runner-up Mr Utah looked a decent type beforehand and ran full of promise on his first start for Ms Menzies. The pair pulled away from hat-trick seeking Ballyglashen, who is small and compact and benefited here from the weight-for-age allowance. Mr Bolt was on his toes and was asked to make all, but having gone with zest was a spent force entering the straight. He may still be interesting when held up once more.

Think It's All Over was favourite for the novices handicap chase on account of being well in following a good run six days ago, but it may have come too soon as he flattened out before the last after travelling well and was run out of it by a rag named Cavite Eta. The one I was interested in was N Richards' Talkin Thomas, who was making his debut over the big ones and nibbled at in the market. He ought to leave his hurdles form behind in time given his looks and size and owed defeat here to a blunder down the back straight that lost him a good five lengths. B Harding gave him time to recover but he was unable to pick up, going down by a length in the end. A real chasing type as one would expect, they'll find a race for him I'm sure and an extra half mile wouldn't go amiss.

I was interested in Serenity Now in the bumper but word was that McCain's Classic Move was the bees knees and so it proved, the winner ridden aggressively from the front and driven right out to score. D Cook held the runner-up together until over a furlong out and the response was pleasing as he closed on the highly-thought-of winner. It was by no means the worst bumper around either, with the third Bellorophon and Jefferson's Our Boy Ben others of note before the off.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Wetherby - Three of the best

The foulest of weather greeted the first day of Wetherby's season with the rain gradually turning the officially 'good' ground softer as the day progressed.

The feature was the Bobby Renton, a handicap chase over 2m 4f, and it's a race that should throw up a few to follow. The eventual winner, Grandads Horse, a decent, tall type from the bang in form C Longsdon yard, was down in grade and sneaked into it on 135. In the end he did just enough to beat N Twiston-Davies' Tara Rose, who blundered her chance away at the last when challenging. The runner-up, a poor mover at the walk and a drifter in the market, went throughout as though she would go close but this daughter of Kayf Tara will undoubtedly benefit from further over time. The third, No Planning, is a proper chasing type from the Sue Smith yard and although well-backed in the e/w market, will come on for the outing. Another Kayf Tara, I'll be surprised if this progressive 6yro doesn't have a productive campaign. Golden Call had been off for ages and went very freely from the front, only submitting going to the last. Following a break, T George ought to be able to find an opportunity for him.

The co-feature was a competitive 2m handicap hurdle that saw Stormy Weather see off Knight In Purple - who looked well and on toes in the preliminaries - in a head-bobber, The winner was just about down to a handy mark with N Moscrop taking seven off, but it was a difficult race to sort out. The warm favourite, Blackwater King, looked best but went far too freely in the early part of the race, while multi-winner Coverholder was backed but looked as though he would come on for it. Easily the most eye-catching run came from A Swinbank's Big Water, who is a staying chaser in looks but travelled best for a long way and loomed up like the winner two out. As one would expect he was just outpaced by a few speedier types in the closing stages, and, as he'll surely come on for it too, should not be missed in the coming weeks over further and/or on a more testing track.

The meeting opened with a win for Mixed Message, who belied her name by landing a small touch for the shrewd B Ellison. The well-backed favourite missed out several flights but had enough toe to see off two more experienced types in a weak juvenile, but with more experience should progress. The 2m hcap chase was notable mainly for AP McCoy getting it wrong on Temple Lord, finding himself in front far too soon on his reluctant partner, who folded after a hesitant leap at the last. It may have been an eye-catching effort but he's one to avoid for me.

The 2m 4f novice hurdle was won in easy fashion by Three Kingdoms, who still looks quirky but was the fittest of an average bunch. Wild Card is a sparely made sort and the market told us that he would find it hard to go in under a penalty, and he got tired after trying to make all. It remains to be seen if the winner can go on from this, where he had the headgear left off. The only other to show promise was the runner-up Kilbree Chief, a nice chasing type of L Russell's who could have been backed ew beforehand on account of looking fit enough to do himself justice.

The staying chase for novices was arguably the most interesting of the day until the withdrawal of C Longsdon's Long Wave, presumably on account of the ground. Dark Glacier has clearly had problems and now with P Bowen was sent off favourite in what had become a weak affair. However, he didn't particularly take the eye beforehand and once again went as though amiss from an early stage. Clearly he is one to avoid. Susquehanna River looked fit enough to go in on his chase debut following a summer break and so it proved, Sam T-D dictating terms on his father's horse who in fairness barely put a foot wrong before finding enough on the run-in to hold on. Starting from a mark of 109, this is one to keep on the right side of with his sound fencing a plus, although bear in mind this was not a very good race.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Brushing off the cobwebs

In the fear of sounding old my season officially gets underway with Wetherby's first meeting of what used to be the 'new' National Hunt season, featuring the Bobby Renton Handicap Chase, which this year falls on Wednesday October 16.