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.