Monday 29 December 2014

Catterick - King-ton for a day

Catterick managed to escape the worst of the weather and although it was bitterly cold there was some good action, once again on decent ground for the time of year.

The opener was a tricky one for conditional jockeys and really only The Boogeyman was worthy of a positive mention beforehand as he looked fit and healthy following a lay-off. The money came for him too and he was right there at the last when he ducked out - it's hard to know if he'd have won.

The winner Macgillicuddy also attracted support in the morning and although a poor mover clearly has some ability as he relished the step up in trip. This was moderate fare though with the top two in the market Abbeygrey and Ballyreesode never involved.

Delighted connections lead in Air Chief
The seller had 'no bet' written all over until we ventured over the paddock where A Crook's Air Chief looked in rude health following a five month lay-off. He was fit and full of himself and did not have the look of a typical plater and thus warranted a wager in a race that would take little winning.

Kathlatino was heavily supported but she's never delivered at the business end so I was pretty confident in the race that Air Chief would go past on the run-in, sparking a rare double for jockey J Kington. It's always great to see connections cheering on a rare winner and they were jumping for joy nearby as the nine-year-old passed the stick in front.

A seven-runner staying handicap came next and Benefit In Kind looked a worthy if a little short priced favourite. At cramped odds I was looking to take him on but having missed Romany Ryme's wedding at Carlisle I wasn't about to go to the funeral and once again he didn't really appeal on looks.

With Baltic Pathfinder and Acrai Rua well worth opposing it left the perennial bridesmaid Foot The Bill and M Hammond's Auldthunder. It's hard to part with the hard-earned where any of the latter's horses are concerned but I was very tempted here as Auldthunder has really come on since I saw him at Hexham a couple of runs back and he's built to do well over fences.

With Benefit In Kind and Romany Ryme crashing out it was Auldthunder's to lose at the last where J Colliver was unable to keep the partnership intact despite what looked only a minor error. Thankfully I'd sat the race out and saved myself a lot of grief, but congratulations must go to connections of Foot The Bill who was gaining a deserved win after a number of near-misses.

I sat the next out as well with Scoppio Del Carro looking a very worthy favourite beforehand, very fit and a handy type who should have been suited to the track. However, he was never travelling with gusto and looked beaten when unshipping Costello at the final flight.

Frederic is a big, leggy three-year-old who will need time to come into his own but he went with plenty of enthusiasm on his debut here and despite market weakness dotted up for the McCain/Maguire combo.

W Kennedy looks bemused as they haven't called Gioia the winner
The second, Sir Safir, is a nice big horse who has done well during the summer and proved here there are races to be won once the trainer finds some form, while the third Future Security has plenty of size, moves well and will come on for this likeable effort.

B Hughes didn't look that busy on the fourth Ardmay and this is another ex-flat horse who needs to be watched over the coming weeks, as is Danehill Flyer, a likeable half-brother to Joe Jo Star (a horse I had an interest in) who wasn't wound up for this debut and is one for handicaps further down the line.

The second division of the maiden hurdle was of more interest as I was very keen to oppose the disappointing Tradewinds. Apart from the Ewart stable being bang out of form, this horse had let his supporters down three times and there were three useful types in opposition here in Mantou, Gioia Di Vita and Weapon Of Choice.

Mantou looks a big, laid-back staying type and I marginally preferred Dr Newland's Gioia Di Vita, who had a good sighter at Leicester last time and he was very fit for this. Weapon Of Choice was another speedier type on the flat and he showed his hand over timber at Carlisle last time. With J Reveley in the plate I thought he'd be off for his life.

It was the wrong call. JR wasn't busy in the slightest as Gioia Di Vita and Mantou went on with the huge Endless Credit (M Hammond) and it looked like the former would just get home after getting away from the last the quickest.

However, B Hughes conjured a late lunge from Mantou and with the near-side always favoured at the Bridge they got up deny my second bet by the narrowest of margins. The way the winner was blowing afterwards it's fair to say he's capable of better and this form may be ok as it stands.

Weapon Of Choice is now eligible for handicaps and the assessor will presumably take his second run as a guide where he got an RPR of 107. He'll be worth a very close look.

Two chases closed the card but both were tricky and we didn't manage to find the winner of either. Oorayvic was a great bet here earlier in the month but the drop in trip was quite a negative despite the fact that he is clearly progressing as a chaser.

Cody Wyoming is a bigger sort but I'm always looking to oppose a short-priced Charlie Mann trained poke and I opted to give the hitherto unreliable Vasco D'Ycy a chance, with the race likely to be set up for him to pounce late.

However, he was never really jumping for B Harding and he confirmed earlier views that he's one to oppose as Oorayvic was handed a solo out in front and was never likely to be pegged back. It was a strange ride from G Sheehan on the second who never went for his horse until the bird had flown after the last. You wonder if it was one the jocks sorted out for themselves.

The finale is usually my bread and butter 2m3f handicap chase but it had a messy look about it and with no pace to the race it ended messy with rag Brunello fighting back to do the maiden Moonlight Maggie close home.

Pistol Basc was the pick, turned out very fit and well once more by Ms Menzies, but he needs things to fall right off a quick pace and he was found out here. If the handicapper relents this ageing rogue can add to his tally before the season is out.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Wetherby - Staying out of trouble

Not a great deal of financial interest on another quiet day personally, and a trappy looking card at the local track where overnight rain had made it very taxing ground.

Only three made it round in the opening novices handicap chase led by Royal Macnab, who had been seen running well the last twice.

He hadn't been shaping like a winner waiting to happen thought and the market chose Be A Dreamer ahead of Markem. I've mentioned here before that the former is on the weak side and I was very concerned about his ability to get through the ground, while Markem has shaped on more than one occasion as though he is not straight forward.

The Backup Plan was quite weak in the betting and rightly so, there's not much of him and it's doubtful whether he'll be of any note, even at this early stage. Dr Beaujolais was the rag but looked best beforehand, however he too may well be lacking essential ability. Venitzia is poorly put together - short in front, big behind - while the Russell yard remains untrustworthy.

Favourite A Doll In Milan took the eye ahead of the mares race and duly won as she pleased, ahead of market rivals Two Swallows (bit green looking, will improve again) and Streets of Promise (not a looker, can be fitter), the latter of whom apparently was hating the ground.

I was looking to take on Ballybolley at a short price on this claggy stuff in the next and an error down the back did for his effort and he came back in looking a bit sorry for himself. He's calmed down since he wasn't sweating at all this time but may not go on from from here.

The two that battled out the finish are likeable sorts in A Boy Named Suzi and The Grey Taylor, who put up a fine effort giving the winner a stone less his rider's claim. They both have good bone and will continue to do well in the winter game, both taking great credit here.

The massive eye-catcher though was Dan Emmett, a 70-rated stayer on the flat who is a real nice jumping type. He looked really well but wasn't put into the race until going on at the finish to take will be interesting the route they take from here but a novice event will be his for the taking, especially over further.

Saints And Sinners looks a different horse physically from last season and is clearly thriving as he racked up a hat-trick in a weak handicap chase. However, his path was cleared  by the early exit of Sealous Scout, who looked well and fit to do himself justice. He's a nice sort for chasing but looked novicey before departing - however he can win races this term.

Golden Hoof is a leggy sort who must surely be better on good ground and it was a surprise to see him so well supported - it wasn't hard to predict that he would back out of it up the straight. This was another solid effort from Mojolika in second and he should pick up a race for new connections.

The juvenile featured several likeable types for the future, none more so than the winning favourite Seamour, who really stayed on well after making a couple of notable errors to defy a penalty. This was a grand effort from a strong sort.

Scrafton travelled like the winner and would surely have won at Catterick when the money was down last time - he won't always bump into one as good as this and good ground will see him even better light. The fourth, Chivers, is another surefire winner when he gets a trip and he was clear of the rest.

Fighting Back, Golden Spear, Green Light and Honeychile Ryder also went down as good sorts for the more distant future, however Roskilly did not look fit and Classical Art lacked the size and scope of much of the opposition.

The Castleford Chase was won impressively by Upsilon Bleu and they seemed to know about it beforehand, backed off the boards late. J Reveley had it won at the last under a well-judged ride and although perennial bridesmaid French Opera rattled home well, he was never getting there under a lesser effort.

Old friend Back To Bracka looked fabulous again but his jumping was novicey from the get-go and lost his confidence - he's one to swerve for now and was another Russell horse to run below par. J Ewart is another handler out of form and his two were well beaten, while first impressions of Kie suggest he'll struggle over fences.

I was surprised that Notonebuttwo had not been hit harder for his two wins this season and felt he was a good thing to take the last - he's a lovely strong horse who clearly has put some problems behind him.

He's obviously limited but the handicapper did him a favour here and the runner-up Allez Cool ran another sound race to be beaten half a length on his first outing over three miles. He's an honest sort who is really starting to strengthen up and he will hopefully turn out to be one of Mr Wade's better sorts.

Jac The legend didn't particularly take the eye while Deportation again looked on good terms but is clearly not very good.

On to Catterick tomorrow and hopefully one or two more clear cut opportunities.

Monday 22 December 2014

Haydock - Nothing doing

I was still two minds in the morning whether to head north to Newcastle or west to Haydock on Saturday, somewhat against my better judgement I opted for the latter for a very difficult looking card.

The ground was reported as heavy but the time of the opener suggested nearer good to soft, soft in places and the way they finished throughout the day seemed to suggest it was knowhere near heavy.

The return to form of the Candlish yard was noted here last Sunday when all her horses ran well at Carlisle and Sleepy Haven once again highlighted the health of the stable when taking the opener under Jason Maguire.

Frustratingly he came into the ring very late and I was only able to take a brief look, he's a handy type with lots of improvement to come as he approaches only his fifth birthday.

Goohar attracted support just seven days on from a good run at Cheltenham but that seemed to take its toll here and he never looked to be travelling well. He's a real heavy ground rat on looks and possibly not the most straight forward.

Bitofapuzzle is a grand stamp of a horse
Runner-up Attwaal is a lovely big chase type who ran a big race here on his return, where he looked fit enough but with more to come. The likeable Emral Silk returned to form in third which was pleasing to see - he's highly thought of but for me he needs another summer on his back to mature.

Just Cameroon has been switched to the Hammond yard by his owners, a retrograde step in anyone's book, and he looked lighter here than when he made an unfortunate return for the Kirby stable a couple of months back.

It surely won't be long before Circus Star goes over fences as he's a nice strong sort, in contrast to Fairy Alisha who looks very moderate.

I must confess the main reason for the trip over was to see Back To Bracka again and he looked magnificent prior to the competitive 2m handicap chase. The Russell yard remains in the doldrums but they had a winner in the opener at Newcastle and I was happy to play up some Wetherby gains despite the predictable drift.

The race hadn't unfolded when he collided in mid-air with Supreme Asset (looked fit) at the last down the back, giving C Nichol little chance of staying in the saddle. It was a cruel blow, but one we had to take on the chin. It'll be very interesting if he lines up in the Castleford on the 27th, for which he is now eligible.

I saved on the useful looking Greywell Boy but I was disappointed with his effort after a blunder three out effectively cooked his goose. Otherwise he had every chance here behind the winner Whispering Harry, who looked really well but is a little on the small side for fences. I'd worry about him at some of the bigger tracks.

Grate Fella was also of interest in the novices chase but the drop to two miles wasn't in his favour and he had no chance with the heavily support winner Boondooma, who is big, rugged chaser. I'd backed the winner to beat Melodic Rendezvous at Bangor so a performance like this came as no surprise. He'll hold his own at Cheltenham in March I'm sure.

The second, Ifandbutwhynot, really doesn't have the scope to jump fences out of soft ground and although he has won on the surface he'll be better served by spring ground. Vivaccio is quite small and his mark may flatter him after two wins at Ludlow.

Visually Grate Fella was disappointing but he probably ran up to his Catterick form here and can get back to winning ways returned to 2m 4f.

The mares' race held little interest financially - Bitofapuzzle is a fabulous looking an animal who can only improve with time but she came up against a really solid yardstick in The Pirate's Queen here and was out-done in a thrilling finish.

Balmusette was well behind the winner at Donny and had little chance here - in fact she looked rather backward and immature compared to these.

The Tommy Whittle was a conundrum and although I kept coming back to Broadway Buffalo the cash stayed in my pocket. You could have made a case for most of the eight and assessing them beforehand didn't help much - the two I weren't keen on were eventual runner-up Toby Lerone (medium build, lacks scope) and Firebird Flyer (rarely do E Williams' take the eye - On Tour a notable exception).

Safran De Cotte looked great but seems to have completely gone
Bold Sir Brian looked really healthy in his coat and fit but clearly has issues, while Howard's Legacy and Safran De Cotte were on their toes and looking ready to rock but neither showed much at all and the latter appears to have gone completely.

Fill The Power looked quite lean on his fourth start in eight weeks and I'd like to see him given a break before bidding to win a Wetherby chase for the second successive season in February.

Kilcooley turned the 2m 4f handicap into a procession but nothing got into it and it was a shame to see Run Ructions Run fighting it out for minors again after being held up last. Abracadabra Sivola is a big unfurnished four-year-old with obvious potential who can win something decent over fences in years to come, while Muckle Roe looked really fit and well but looked a shade out of his depth. Taj Badalandabad is an active sort who will benefit from another summer behind him.

The stayers handicap to end the card saw Closing Ceremony well-backed to follow up his gutsy win here last time in a better race. He was able to dictate a leisurely pace here but jumps well and can continue to pay his way. He has looked wayward in the past but was very settled here.

The mare Millicent Silver looks like she'll be a decent sort over staying distances but she's on the weak side at present and found this a bit tough, as did Red Danaher, who wasn't suited by the steady pace but doesn't look to have been given a workable mark anyhow.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Catterick - Happy days

It's always pleasant to nip up the road to Catterick where once again the sun was out and the horses were able to race on some decent jumping ground.

I'd had a couple of bets pre-racing, one of which was a bit of a punt on Cango in the 2m handicap chase. Connections had picked up a nice sort in Mister Spingsprong and with this one coming via a similar route I thought he could be alright against a very poor lot.

Looking at them beforehand only confirmed my view that he was the one to be one and judging by the market I wasn't alone. Cango is a big, tall youngster still on the weak side, and you could see why he wasn't getting home in Irish points.

But he's got a bit about him, more than can be said for market rival Dark And Dangerous, who simply looks like a flat horse and it must have been a very weak race he won here last season. With Cavite Eta and Pinder looking in need of the run after breaks, the only plausible danger was Safari Journey who hasn't won for four years.

Cango looked different grade to a poor lot
The winner was given a conspicuously easy time of it up front and if you'd backed the second you might have been left wondering about the ride he got from young Greenall.

We'd already banked some cash after cheering home Notnowsam in the juvenile hurdle. N Quinlan's youngster left a good impression at Wetherby, a race after which I wrote that he was 'by far the most likely to improve with racing.'

With the better ground sure to suit I thought he was a cracking each-way bet and frankly I was disappointed when the morning line favourite New Street was taken out. I was very surprised you could still get 5 on the machine near the off and it proved a great wager, knuckling down late on as if the penny had finally dropped. He'll continue to be worth following and he jumps particularly well.

They made Grand Meister a well-backed favourite but he's a big gangly thing with plenty of filling out to do, and most of his form had been on the all-weather. He too should improve for the experience. The remainder weren't much to speak of, with Tashbeeh once again catching the eye staying on late and is one with handicaps in mind.

Chieftain's Choice was a very short price to defy a penalty in the novice hurdle and he did so with ease...he must have a decent engine as he's not a looker, medium build at most. But J Quinn does great with this type and no doubt he'll be campaigned sympathetically.

Runner-up Argent Knight gave valiant chase and he looked a nice sort beforehand, compact and fit for his debut, while Jacks Last Hope was the paddock pick but proved very disappointing and this surely wasn't his running.  Neither May's Boy nor Rough King looked fit but the latter is a likeable sort with good size and this run underlined the return to form of the Candlish yard.

The stayers handicap hurdle looked very tricky but I wouldn't have put anyone off the winner Iconic Rose, who is a nice strong mare who looked fit enough for this return from a year off. She looks tough and will continue to pay her way.

Foot The Bill ran his race yet again in second despite getting warm while Another Dimension is quite a nice sort who should be able to jump a fence. Palm Grey was the potential improver but I'd seen him on both his runs at Hexham and he's got a lot of filling out to do before he'll be seen to best effect. One more for the long term. The rest looked a real average bunch.

Notnowsam confirmed Wetherby promise in style
If In Doubt provided the talent on the afternoon and he overcame a hell of a blunder to win the beginners chase. He's a real nice sort who will be much better off in a better standard of race when they go quicker, as he seemed to jump better the further they went. Cheltenham may be a bit too much for him but he may yet win a decent prize this term.

Askamore Darsi gave him a good tow before coming down at the last. He was probably running to his hurdle mark of around 120 and I wouldn't go overboard about him, however I do like the other two Volo Mio and Lord Brendy.

I mopped up plenty of big prices in the morning about the former but he was never put in the race today which accounted for the late drift. He's a nice big sort as I mentioned at Wetherby last time and if the handicapper is kind he could be one to follow as he gains experience...he finished full of running suggesting there's plenty under the bonnet.

Lord Brendy is a horse I like and has a nice handicap in him if he is well placed in the near future. He jumps like an old hand and a trip of around 2m5f looks perfect at this time with some cut in the ground. If they put a different jockey up he could be maximum bet material.

The bumper was one of the more interesting ones as the Irish duo of Junius Brutus and Chitu looked the most forward of the seven, the latter a particularly good mover while the former remains on the weak side.

Bear Island Flint did not take the eye at all while My Teescomponents is a big backward horse that surprisingly garnered market support. Along Came Theo has plenty of size about him and once again showed some promise, in different hands he may have a future.

Monday 15 December 2014

Carlisle washout

Once again racegoers were treated to absolutely foul conditions in the north with the rain carried sideways by a ferocious wind heading down the track. The ground was heavy but they were seemingly getting through it okay - at least some of them were.

Now, this blog is about betting based upon how the horses look before the race. I don't get too mathematical about things, although I do as much form study as I possibly can before heading to the track.

The two facets have to strike the right balance and sometimes this becomes out of kilter. For example, I'm not sure just backing the best looking horse blind is going to bring a fabulous strike rate.

I like to bring an open mind to each race although as the season wears on it's almost impossible not to form an opinion before going racing.

Now, taking a view on a horse purely based on visuals is a subjective point. There are many professionals at the course who see the same things as I do, but will go away from the paddock with a different opinion.

Most of the time, if I want to back a particular horse I'm looking for a sense of well-being at the very least. It may be a shine to the coat, good conformation, looking active, nicely on its toes, or most importantly, fit.

Sometimes I find myself wanting more, and if I don't see what I expect it can be off-putting. Today there were excellent examples of where seeing a superior looking horse can encourage a bet, and where mere well-being should have been enough to confirm a wager.

Don't give up on the lovely Lewis

The first example was a 2m 4f novice hurdle that I didn't have any prior interest in, yet was compelled to play. The early betting suggested a match between Lewis and Mixboy, the latter whom I had seen chase home the decent Jacks Last Hope at Sedgefield last time.

It was quickly obvious to anyone who the nicer/better horse was - it was Lewis. A lovely tall, well-made five-year-old he was bought for a decent amount after running well in a northern bumper last season. He'll make a grand chaser in time.

Mixboy by contrast looked flattered to me by his proximity to Jacks Last Hope on dreadful ground at Sedge, and physically is on the small side and lacking scope. Carlisle is a million miles away from Sedge and with 3 still available to lay it looked a great bet.

The reason I didn't have a straight bet on Lewis was 1, he was too short a price and 2, there was a potential wild card in the McCain-trained Subtle Grey. What a gorgeous stamp of a horse this is, big but not backward, strong and a fluent mover in his slower paces.

It was anyone's guess what kind of engine he had on debut but he was one to have on your side. And by the way he won his owning syndicate could have a lot of fun with this one over the coming years. As for Lewis, he will come good once he learns to settle better.

In the second example I was very interested in the 2m4f handicap chase later on the card, specifically the favourite Verko and the maiden Romany Ryme.

I have mentioned the former on numerous occasions before and he ran by far his best race under optimum conditions at Newcastle last time, and I felt the handicapper had under-rated the race - the third home had already won at Musselburgh.

He's a buzzy sort who always looks great and it was the case again here. He was hard to get away from and yet the odds were not generous and the race was run in a monsoon - on reflection not ideal for a fairly inexperienced five-year-old yet to taste success.

I believed Oscar Lateen and Apache Pilot were great market-makers, having been well-bet on their last two runs they were sure to come in for support again, yet I didn't think either was ready to deliver.

It really only left Romany Ryme, who might just have been one of the unluckiest horses in training having been backed on several occasions but running into one or two often under circumstances that weren't ideal.

I wasn't that impressed when I saw him for the first time, but what can you expect of a 104-rated chaser? Medium-sized and not a great mover behind, he otherwise looked fine and the first-time visor looked to be a good move. I'm surprised he went off at such a big price although the front three were all well-supported. It was a great opportunity that went begging. Note to self - not all horses you want to back are going to be great lookers.

We didn't get much else right on a thoroughly miserable afternoon. Big Water was a horse a wanted to take on at Doncaster last time and although back at his favourite track I felt he was very short in a race that had a few runners.

Water Garden looked better than I had seen him before and surely would have benefited from a more positive ride - he's one I'm interested in next time. Beauboreen was well-backed and he really should make up into a better chaser as he's a lovely tall sort, another to keep an eye on next time especially with the Candlish stable back to form today.

Hard to believe that won a Grand National

Midnight Belle could also be counted on to run a big race but the favourite came through and battled on well to land the spoils. I'm still not entirely convinced though and away from here he may still be one to take on.

The other big opinion I held was that Wicked Spice would take all the beating in the Pertemps qualifier. The Richards youngster took a massive step forward at Donny and the way he won there suggested the handicapper may not have quite caught up with him. With N Fehily having his only ride of the day it looked a good bet despite a decent field.

In fairness he was probably another five-old-year who got lost in the mud, and is worth another chance. Phoenix Returns has been round here before and showed surprising stamina reserves to over-power Barafundle, another Candlish runner who looked very fit after a lengthy absence.

An Poc Ar Buile is a decent looking horse who can rate higher, although surely he'll need headgear to allow him to lie up with the pace a bit better. This was hard work. You wouldn't have picked out the Grand National winner here but there he was - Pineau De Re looked fine but was another who didn't act in the bog.

Briefly, Hester Flemen won the bumper as she liked and is a lovely, big mare. She dwarfed her rivals in the paddock and is really well made - along with Subtle Grey two of the nicest McCain horses I've seen in quite some time.

Friday 12 December 2014

Doncaster - Going to Town

Another difficult card to assess and more small-field contests that continue to blight the National Hunt game. Punting was made even harder by the overnight rain that had turned the going pretty testing on both courses, prompting a slew of non-runners declared on the prospect of decent ground.

The opener looked a match on paper between two different types in Clondaw Kaempfer and Red Devil Boys. The former is an active, handy, athletic type while the latter is a big, laid-back chaser who would have come on for this run after a two-year absence.

In fact, it's surely to the credit of Red Devil Boys that he was able to win over hurdles such is his size, as he will most certainly rate more highly over the larger obstacles.

However, it was McCain's Clondaw Kaempfer who rated most highly entering the race and had gone to claim it at the last when B Harding slipped out the side door after the horse had barely stumbled...the prone jockey taking down Red Devil Boys in the process.

It left Smart Freddy clear to win the race and in fairness he was only a length or two down at the last. It was a fair effort from trainer B Pauling who had the eight-year-old in good order. He's not the biggest though and he missed out in the jumping stakes up the straight, and his lack of size may hold him back.

The second was a maiden hurdle and the Henderson duo Cardinal Walter and Hassle looked well worth taking on. The former looked well but was carrying plenty of condition while the latter is quite small and weak behind the saddle - I didn't hold much hope he would get home in this ground.

The market saw Cardinal Walter drift violently while the Ferguson horse Father Edward was a solid favourite, and rightly so as he looked well and quite a nice young horse. However, the market got this very wrong and the Cardinal won very well in the end, seeing it out best of all.

What a run from the second, Emperor Commodos, again trained by B Pauling. He looked as fat as anything I've seen for sometime yet was asked to make all and plugged on really well to still be there at the final flight after a two-year absence.

Shwaiman was the other to take out of the race. Evidently decent on the flat, this would have been by far the worst ground it would have faced in its career, and plugged on at one pace. Quite a narrow, handy sort, J Fanshawe could get this one fairly handicapped before landing a decent race in the spring.

Sixty Something: Round in one piece to prove well-handicapped

The seemingly obligatory mares' race came next and I was very keen on J Goldie's Lochnell after her decisive win at Ayr and was happy with the bet despite a market drift. I was clearly barking up the wrong tree as although she travelled well, I fear the sticky ground was too much at this stage of her career. There was little to take out of the race from a visual perspective.

I was looking forward to having a decent bet on Swing Hard in the stayers handicap but he was wisely pulled out on account of the ground. Sixty Something won well in the end and the grey looked the part beforehand, jumping well under a front-running ride. He was handicapped to do something like this but the odds were skinny.

He may have been pushed by No Duffer who came down four out when upsides. We're still in the dark about what Tom George's horse is really capable of after this - he's a horse with good size and it's my bet he'll rate nearer 140 at his peak.

Mister Marker didn't look on good terms with himself pre-race, agitated and sweating, and ran other very poor race. There's clearly something bothering him.

I couldn't have One For Hocky in the staying hurdle and he's easily the most expensive horse of the season from this perspective after I tried to get him out the three. I felt this staying test on bad ground would be a far cry from whizzing round Musselburgh, but substitute McCoy nursed him into the frame and we did our dough.

It looked a deep race with plenty of them on good terms with themself. Madam Lilibet was bouncing (but reverted to type with a moody race), Green Wizard looked fit enough to do himself justice after a break, Carolina Wren looked in good condition, while Enter Paradise was really fit and well after a lengthy absence.

Most of them disappeared without trace though as Truckers Darling, who looked fine, out-stayed them all including the big, chasing-type Henri Parry Morgan. Everaard looked fat on his first start for M Hammond while Pudsey House needs the handicapper to relent and will do better over fences.

The next saw the good thing of the day as I was very keen on the chances of Bernardelli in the handicap chase over 2m 3f. The form figures were uninspiring but rather like Sixty Something earlier in the day he is not a bad jumper and I thought it was remiss of the RP spotlight to dismiss his chances saying 'his confidence must have taken a knock'.

Quite what that meant I've no idea as a quick reminder of the most recent unseat saw the horse staying on well before stumbling on jumping two out, with the hapless B Harding once more exiting stage left.

Bernardelli: Looked a good thing even before McCoy was booked

With McCoy in the saddle it was deeply surprising the money didn't come for the Richards horse, who looked on an upward curve. They came for Arctic Ben but the front running grey has flattered in the past and I was sure it wouldn't get an easy lead with Quicuyo in the field.

Indeed, I quite liked the chance of Ewart's veteran who looked to have come on very nicely for his Wetherby outing while the track and trip would suit much better - he was worth a saver at big odds.

Rarely does a race pan out so neatly but suffice it to say either of the first two would have been a great result from some way out. Of the others I couldn't have the flat horse Kuda Huraa on this ground while it doesn't have the scope to jump fences, not at a track such as this anyhow, a similar assessment that could be attributed to Kodicil, whose trainer has slipped markedly out of form.

With Bernardelli sauntering home there was little point in playing the last where the jockeys appear to have been discussing how much start they would give the well-backed favourite Centasia, who had plenty about her on a return from an absence.

It was a one-horse book for many layers and they never had a sniff, although those whose chased out the rather small, insignificant Kelvingrove to double figure odds must have been having palpitations between the last two.

Taruma was of interest but he reportedly has bleeding issues, while the addition of the tongue-tie was another sign of problems. He's not one to following over a cliff despite all the promise earlier in his career.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Newcastle - Chaos in Siberia

Ever get the feeling you would have better off staying in bed? Today was one of those days...

Firstly the missus gets a flat tyre on the school run, meaning our hero must abandon thoughts of prep for today's meeting and in favour of some roadside assistance (keeping her company while we wait for the AA, in other words).

With half the morning wasted we make to the track in the nick of time, only to be greeted by winds that would make an eskimo shiver. Just after the first what notes I did have took flight, to be lodged in some fencing 100 yards down the track. What a lark.

It was in this state of discombobulation that we attempted to get to grips with a trappy card, raced on soft ground with the aforementioned wind fiercely in their faces up the straight. Short runners and dodgepots need not apply.

The horses in the opening 2m 6f novice were a poor lot, the market headed by McCain's Jonny Eager, who galloped them into the ground. Toola Boola is a scopey type who should do better with time although the move from Kirby to Moore is not one that catches the eye. Born To Succeed was among the favourites but looked backward and not very fit.

Three Kingdoms has thrived over the past 12 months

Three Kingdoms has come a long way physically since I first saw him just over a year ago and looked a quality animal ahead of his second novice chase, really well in his coat and very fit. In this race Dark Dune once again caught the eye and his turn will come in handicaps, and probably on better ground that will help his jumping - he's not over-big.

There wasn't much to be made of the 2m handicap hurdle with the recalcitrant pair Mad For Road and Dilstontosiloth not the types to go forward under these conditions. De Chissler, Ceilidh and Some Lad were fine and although I wasn't keen on the latter's demeanour he may just be of a laid-back nature. The eventual winner Captain Sharpe has plenty of experience and he put it  to good use to get up close home. He looked as though he just needed the run although that is typical of the R Johnson yard.

I'd yet to get involved by this time but Trust Thomas made plenty of appeal to back up his win at the last meeting. I couldn't have Categorical back at the minimum trip which essentially left Pamak D'Airy as the only danger (Kai Broon by no means fit).

Pamak D'Airy is a thick set sort who would come on for the run even though I was told he had done plenty of work prior to this. Hogarth's horses have looked pretty healthy thus far though and he looked in fair form although I couldn't get away from the more progressive youngster. It was therefore disheartening that the favourite seemed to be out-fought on the run-in after Hughes took a pull on jumping two out. It was a rare foray into short odds for this column and it won't be happening again for some time.

The next was a 2m 4f handicap hurdle that was turned into a procession by our old friend Jukebox Melody, who hacked up at Sedgefield a while back. With conditions bordering on brutal the horses were barely doing a lap of the paddock and it was regretful that I didn't get to see Jukebox Melody, who is clearly thriving now wearing a hood. He wasn't in my head as I pondered a bet but one horse I couldn't get away from was Deportation, who looked really fit and well after a lay-off.

At around 30 I had to have a dabble in the win and place markets on this confirmed stayer, who duly did all his best work up the unforgiving straight to fill second spot ahead of Whichwaytobougie, who had clearly been let down by his trainer and was a springer in the market.

A young horse with plenty still to offer, 'bougie' should continue to improve and is another for whom better ground would suit. Grey Area is slowly working his way into form and fitness and this was still needed judging by his under-carriage. Lilly's Legend looked fit and well but this proved to much for the four-year-old.

The handicap chase featured something of a gamble on Sue Smith's Wakhan, of whom I wrote following his latest outing at Hexham; "Contrary to the write-up in the Post, I believe neither the second nor the third Wakhan will find a race anytime soon. They are dreadful rogues."

Clearly not enough people are reading the blog (calm down - Ed) as there was clearly plenty of cash around for Wakhan, who headed the market along with stablemate Be A Dreamer. Now I know the yard is in better form but they can't win everything. Be A Dreamer had previously been noted as unfurnished and weak behind and although he's starting to fill out there's still not a great deal of him and I was happy to oppose him this time.

There wasn't much left in the race after four came out and the form of Aye Well's second last time was the best on show, while he was given an unneccesarily aggressive ride that day. I felt he he may be given an easier time of it here in light of that, but I was once told that hope is a very dangerous emotion when it comes to affairs of the wallet.

So it was disappointing that Aye Well was asked to take on Be A Dreamer from an early stage, with the frail nine-year-old stopping to nothing on the home turn after the latter had crashed out at the first down the back.

Thus it turned into a duel between Wakhan and Scimon Templar, backers of whom must truly have the patience of a Saint. Both maidens heading into this, it was very much a case of 'after you sir' as old Wakhan ushered his foe past at the final fence. After getting stuck into the Smith pig at the top of the straight they were anxious times to see whether old Scimon had anything left in the locker. I needn't have worried.

Marlee Mourinho looked fit and well for this by the way but the Alexander team are not in the best of form for whatever reason and this big scopey sort should be able to make his mark when things turn.

The bumper held little interest as ever with the Richards youngster Western Rules a worthy favourite. He had to dig deep however in order to defy the penalty as Showboater made a bold bid for glory. B Pauling's five-year-old looked in need of the run and he can strip much fitter than this. Third-placed Starplex looked fit on his first start for M Smith and he should be good for a novice hurdle or two. The Reveley horse Midnight Monty is a lovely big chasing type but was green and backward and ultimately needs plenty of time before fulfilling his great potential.

Looks like Donny has cut up tomorrow but it looks interesting and hopefully the 'weather bomb' will have buggered off by then.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Wetherby - Marking time

Dry weather for the past week and overnight frost meant the ground was a pretty tacky soft, good to soft in places, although they seemed to be finishing okay.

It turned  out to be a fiddly little card with just one race over obstacles attracting eight or more runners.

The opener was a stayers novice hurdle featuring the Greatrex runner Missed Approach, who was put in a very short price after winning at Ffos Las. He's a lengthy, well made sort but he disappointed here behind the very likeable Three Musketeers.

Making his debut under rules, the Skelton-trained four-year-old had been bought for 57,000 euros and he looked the part, a chasing type but forward enough to do himself justice.

The market spoke in his favour and this was a fine piece of placing by Skelton, who could have opted for an easier route starting over shorter trips. He's a nice sort.

Eventual runner-up Red Danaher like all Smith horses has thrived physically in the past two weeks and he looked better than at Sedgefield, although he's no oil painting and frankly his form has already exceeded what you would judge him by on looks.

Once again he stayed on really well and is crying out for 3m, while his hurdling became a lot more fluent as the race went on. He's now qualified for handicaps although his mark won't be so favourable after this and a novice race his his for the taking.

Gold Opera is a big baby and needs a lot more time, while Mr Snoozy is not the greatest of movers and this flat horse possibly didn't see it out.

The novices handicap chase was a right bag of tricks and you could have made a good case for five of the seven.

I wanted to be on the very likeable Smith horse Comeback Colin but so did everyone else and I was happy to unwind my position in running under a very aggressive ride from Costello. He's a big, backward horse who has been asked to so a lot over the past month...he needs another summer on his back before really hitting his straps.

It would have been a sin to lay M Easterby's improver
As a consequence Saints And Sinners was easy to back in a bid to repeat his Doncaster win. That was a fluent success and he looked to be thriving beforehand. He's a rotund sort but stripped the fittest I'd seen him here and was given an excellent waiting ride by Greenall, who knew what he had under him. I wouldn't bet against the hat-trick.

Like Minded surprised me by taking second but still doesn't appeal as one to follow as he turns 11, while Redpender could not repeat his Ayr form here. Ueueteotl is a horse with a future but the market vibes were ghastly and he ran badly. He barely lifted a leg and just may be a genuine good ground horse. Expect his trainer to aim at a race at Musselburgh next, maybe back over timber.

I'll be honest with you it's very rare I back 14/1 winners but Quel Elite did the business in the staying hurdle - but these are qualified remarks. I'd seen him look in very good order at Aintree last time where he was caught up in a shemozzle that saw him lose his pitch quite badly.

It was a run that went straight into the notebook and this looked a really winnable race. However, while he looked well again I was put off by him getting very warm beforehand, which is not always a very bad sign, but it gave me reservations. It was another position I was happy to unwind at the halfway point and it took plenty of gloss off the win.

Favourite Guiding George looked to have stolen it off the bend and the Skelton runner remains on an upward curve. He was very fit at Donny last time over fences and being a medium-sized animal the switch back to timber was never going to be a bother.

Ballythomas and Sheilas Lady needed their comebacks while the rest looked in pretty good order, the rather leggy Feast Of Fire coming home well and he'll be better still in the spring on decent ground.

I was confident of finding the winner of the 2m handicap chase but I was way behind the market and had to go with Le Bacardy against Stagecoach Pearl who went off a thin-enough 7/4 chance to notch a first win for more than three years.

Quite fancied Quel Elite but kind of bottled it
Smith's grey looked well and was clearly well treated but with loads of pace on it wasn't clear how the race would pan out. The very likeable Le Bacardy would surely get a great tow into it, I thought... however they didn't really go quick enough to come back to him and it always looked like the grey would outstay him up the straight, and this result was purely the work of the handicapper. Sa Suffit looked well but needed the run.

I was dead against Lightening Rod in the next and his price drifted to a very backable 11/4 at the off. Not that I was at all interested - he seemed to have more than his fair share of weight - but he looked great and is clearly in the form of his life. He out-sprinted the likeable Fisher (who looked a shade flat beforehand) and Raven's Tower (nice sort, looked really well) and it wouldn't surprise me if this trio didn't continue to run well.

Kumbeshwar looked fine but seems to have completely gone, Vivacissimo is a tall chase type who should be up to winning one of these but may have needed this run a tad more than I thought, while Ubaltique didn't look great and is clearly a moody individual.

I really wanted to get against Many Stars in the four-runner stayers handicap for novices but ballsed things up by rowing in with Jimmy Shan, who was a lot calmer in a hood than when ditched his rider before a proposed outing at Donny a week ago.

In fact, that was the race in which Many Stars had finished third and I felt this was coming more than soon enough. He's also a rather sketchy jumper but I bottled a big lay at around even money. I wasn't particularly taken by the winner Dream Flyer for no particular reason, he's a fair sort if a little leggy.

However the tongue-tie was in place for the first time (a fact I had overlooked pre-race) and a run behind Saints And Sinners now doesn't look as bad as it did at first. This was very gettable, and regrettable (although more frantic unwinding mid-race limited the damage.)

The fourth runner should not go unmentioned - Brokethegate clearly has some ability and looked in pretty decent form for this despite fluffing his lines a week ago. He'll find far easier assignments than this and he doesn't appear to be the crock I thought he might be.

The closing bumper for babies contained a right smorgasbord and remarkably the one I heard was fancied went by the name of Crockett and duly went in at 33/1. Noel Wilson's horse was one of the handier types here but my crystal ball was not within reach by this point.

The favourite Avenue Of Honour was a typically attractive if leggy horse of J Ferguson, while others to note were in no particular order; One More Go, Tara's Rocket, Give Him A Glance and Colour Of The Wind.

In need of the run were Bruce Almighty, Zandino and Farm Sale, while More Play is the biggest three-year-old you will ever see.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Catterick - Grate Scott!

It was delightful to be back at the Bridge after a lengthy absence and we were greeted with good ground, some decent fields and a day of warm sunshine.

But a day that started brightly ended in frustration and we'll come on to that shortly.

The opener looked super-competitive with quite a few likely to appreciate this drier ground, and it duly went to Funky Munky who has been floundering of late in the quag.

He wasn't very gettable though and it was a big chance that Danceintothelight let slip, with his young jockey taking his weight to the bare minimum, not finding a great deal on the run-in.

Pre-parade offers a great spot to see the horses
The third, Blake Dean, didn't appear to have his excuses either and rather ducked in behind before running on late. He looked to have come on a bundle for his skirmish over fences last time and perhaps he could have done with more of a test.

Grand March is a nice type who disappointed again, Birthday Guest is a bit weak but looked well and gave a good show before tipping up two out, while Madrasa and Gurkha Brave are decent enough sorts for whom today was not their day.

All the judges wanted to be with Oorayvic in the next and it's surprising his price held up for as long as it did. Sue Smith's horse looked fabulous in the sunshine - a far cry from the sweaty creature at Sedgefield last time - and he rated a good bet with few live ones against it.

Yesterday's Irish winner Harangue was the wild card and he gave supporters a fright before exiting at the last, although Cook had not fully gone for the winner at that stage.

If you read the Wetherby blog last week you'll know I wasn't taken by Top Of The Glas and once again he was a short price to get off the mark over timber, only to fluff his lines again.

It's a bit late to be saying he's one to take on next time but really today was the day - he looked on great terms with himself - but didn't jump well and doesn't have the scope to progress.

We had a few quid on Scrafton who is a rather taking individual who will certainly have a future in this game once he gets over  his inexperience.

A stayer on the flat, he looked green in front in the early stages and disappointingly he put the breaks on going down the far side. We'll need to monitor his progress but he could look a decent recruit come the spring.

All the right people were on Oorayvic
Cooking Fat and Medicine Hat battled out the finish at massive odds but they went missed by this column, the winner in spite of running not far behind Top Of The Glas last time. I actually noted Diane Sayer's other novice Tashbeeh as a likeable type who may do okay later on.

The beginners chase was the biggie and it would decide our fate for the day. There were umpteen ways of getting in the money from my perspective but we somehow ended on the wrong side of the ledger.

Anyone who read this will know that Grate Fella was one of my five to follow over the coming weeks and sure enough he went in odds of 10/1.

To spare you the bother leaving this page here's what I said about the horse: "He came down on his chase debut but that was a good race and he jumped really well before exiting five out. He would come on for that and has a big athletic build - don't be put off by the fall; he'll win races and prove way better than his hurdles rating."

Herein lies the problem; bearing in mind a mark of 113 over hurdles, I reckoned Grate Fella would have to run to around 130 to take this. Fine, I believed he would be that good, but would the Smiths want to blow the rating in a beginners chase? The answer is probably 'no', although as Harvey would say opportunities for these horses are few and far between and they had to take their chance. In the old days this horse would probably have run up a sequence.

We also had the very modern-day issue of disparity between the Betfair odds and the on-course market. While the winner was sent off a 10/1 shot he was available at 16 in the win market on the machine, while trading below 3 for a place.

It made for a proper conundrum that I couldn't get my noggin round - you'd have thought I could throw a few quid at it, right? It was a race in which there were many runners of interest, not least Doyly Carte, another who appeared over-priced. A well-made chasing type, McCain's mare was about the best of these on the ratings and had a handy allowance too. I thought she was a cracking each-way bet with everything in her favour.

The odds-on favourite Cocktails At Dawn was there to be shot at, and who knows where he would have finished had he stood up. He was quite lean beforehand and keen to get on with things, so for me he was good to take on at the odds.

Pair Of Jacks was backed against the jolly but didn't really come up to scratch beforehand, lacking the size and scope of many. He'll be a fair type in the right grade but I got against him in the place market and was lucky when the each-way bet took him out at the second-last.

This is the race in which Hi George overturned Holywell 12 months ago but I do feel Grate Fella can go on to much better things - indeed on looks I would say he could turn out to be Smiths' best for many years and may even be a Hennessy horse <gasp> this time next year.

I'm not a huge fan of mares' races and resolved not to play this one especially as the one to be on, Balmusette, went too short for me to back. After her last run at Doncaster I said; "She's a grand sort who had very decent bumper form, and can leave the bare form of this behind." However, having missed the early 3s I sat it out, even opting against laying the favourite Taylor, who is quite narrow and sparely made and may not take her racing too well.

One of the things I love about the Bridge - it's a bit old school
The handicap chase looked at the mercy of Gallery Exhibition and was another race we had to sit out after money for Kim Bailey's horse all day saw him backed from 5/2 into 6/4. The cash was spot on as the rest looked pretty moderate, not least Blackwell Synergy who looked somewhat lethergic beforehand and ran pretty much accordingly.

The bumper was decent but Stuart Crawford is having a bit of a dry spell and his short-priced Danielle's Journey got run out of it by After Toniight, who had improved fitness-wise from his debut and relished the drier ground. Vintage Clouds looked very big and backward and ran really well to fill the minors, ahead of Emperor Sakhee, a fair sort who ran green and McCain's Five For Fifteen, who also looked green beforehand.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Sedgefield - Too Generous

For some reason I was in 'lay' mode today and frankly I'm a bit naffed off after watched two I fancied go and win.

A lay of Zermatt in the opener set the tone for the day as he was a short price considering his diabolical effort at Hexham three weeks ago.

He doesn't seem to be moving very freely at the moment and generally looked flat beforehand. In a race where there were a few runners I couldn't see him lifting the prize.

Master Dee was a worthy favourite and he looked on better terms with himself than he did at Carlisle two runs ago. Although it's early days McCain's horses are looking brighter in themselves.

I thought Quest Magic might have a say but he looked burly on his second run back and should come on again, although whether he's up to much is a moot point. Always Tipsy did not impress as the type to progress at Hexham and it was a similar story here.

The maiden hurdle saw Mount Haven put in a short price on the back of a run at Stratford that has has seen the winner come out and win well on Saturday. However, he did not take the eye before this, not particularly big and quite unfurnished and plain.

Serenity Now looked in great heart but found one too good
However, I didn't really take to anything else - McCain's Greensalt looked well in himself but is not one to go in heavily on, while Attention Seeker looked well she had plenty to find and Waterclock is a small Flat-bred type that didn't particularly appeal.

The winner Dibdabs looks a proper jump horse though and has been crying out for a trip. He was unbackable on form to be fair although I was always confident he'd outstay the runner-up, who was legless on the run-in.

The four-runner handicap chase didn't raise much interest with Ballydague Lady looking a good thing. As regular sufferers will know I can't get enough Wadey's horses right now but Roseville Cottage is not great to look at, and is so lazy they probably can't get it fit at home. I also think he's better on good ground, so I was a shade disappointed they didn't wait for Catterick tomorrow.

Prince Blackthorn was the other with a chance and although he again looked well he's one to oppose with jumping and attitude concerns.

Serenity Now was a very well-backed favourite in the competitive handicap hurdle and he looked really well ahead of his handicap debut. Todd was also in good spirits although it was the progressive Nautical Twilight who ran them ragged on this terrible ground.

I didn't think she would amount to much but the headgear has worked wonders and she was very game in front. Serenity Now kept on well for second but didn't appear too keen and may need some headgear himself, while Silver Shuffle again made the frame without improving.

McCain's Benzanno looked really fit and well and he ran a fine race on his comeback before getting tired - I wouldn't give up on him.

I had big opinions on the four-runner novice handicap chase but didn't really carry them through. Silver Dragon is a horse I know really well by now and although he looked as fresh as paint beforehand, I felt a four-mile slog round Hexham 12 days ago would take the edge off him. He also jumped badly right there, almost putting Dougie over the fence.

With no rail to save him this time I couldn't have him at any price while we seem to have reached 'peak' Apache Pilot. He looked massively over-bet after last week's void race, where he was just touched off, and was running off the same mark here.

However, that was the second time he had been touched off and he may turn out to be a bit of a rogue, plus the fact that he's not the greatest looking thing in the world. I thought he may go low in running so I held off playing but alas he unshipped the hapless McAllister early doors so we had to change tack.

The one I really should have played straight was Generous Chief, who had shown bits and bobs in the past and was equipped, not before time, with a visor. With the excellent Hughes on board it should have been a good play and we only picked up some scraps in running.
Baraboy should have been the subject of a decent bet
I had been intending - against my better judgement - on backing Baraboy in a poor 0-100 handicap hurdle. The horse was barely a miler on the flat but I thought he took a big step in the right direction last time out behind De Chissler.

He seemed to get home better that day and with a tongue tie added for the first time here it might be his day - he looked in good heart, however my enthusiasm was tempered by the cloying ground.

The race panned out as expected with plenty of pace early on playing right into his hands. Beyondtemptation kept going the longest but his early battle for the lead may have cost him dear as Harding threw everything at Baraboy on the climb to the post, just lasting out.

Few of the others had made much appeal although Zero Visibility looked fine a fortnight on from his fortunate win, however he was well beaten halfway down the back and must have gone amiss.

The bumper was difficult to call with each of the principals opposable in one way or another. McCain's Plum Tree looked a real 3m slowcoach beforehand and will need plenty of time, while the favourite Skylander has plenty of filling out to do although he has clearly benefitted from a wind op.

Cloudy Dream was fancied by the stable and is a typical Cloudings in being quite neat, and he looked really well if a little green. I thought he could be too sharp for these but his inexperience showed and he found little on the ground.

Captain Redbeard and Dark Caviar are nice sorts and should win races in the future.

By the way, my pre-race text message service is up and running and there are still opportunities for traders/pro punters to sign up. Contact me at for more details or DM me on Twitter.

Friday 28 November 2014

Doncaster - Alexander The Grand

I won't lie to you it looked a fairly trappy card at ole' Donny today and I was very wary as I wasn't as well prepared as I would have liked. However, it was competitive enough and for that we should be thankful.

The opening novice handicap chase looked a proper conundrum although I wanted to get against nominal favourite Fergal Mael Duin, who looks an old dodger to me.

However, finding that special one is harder than you might think, the least attractive being Tales Of Milan, who doesn't have much size or scope about him. However, the Middleton yard know their eggs and he bounced out and jumped them silly. At least I only place-laid it!

Second-placed Dundee is a strong, bullish horse who isn't that tall and I wonder if he needs genuine good ground as he seemed to find it a bit of a struggle here. For a well-handicapped horse it was disappointing he couldn't pick the winner up.

The second race saw top bumper horse Relic Rock take on a couple of Flat horses in Novirak and Silvery Moon. I heard from a number of sources that they fancied the latter and he's a nice, strong sort with plenty of size and it's surprising they haven't gone over timber with him before now.

Novirak didn't quite have the same presence and he was more novicey in the first half of the race but the way he came home suggests he may have a future in this game. Relic Rock is a stayer first and foremost and they had to ride him aggressively round here. However, I thought he might just need the run and he was duly caught after the last by Glingerburn.

The Richards horse was highly thought-of before getting a 'leg' and he's a nice looking animal although he looked in need of the run here. Therefore it's to his credit that he could pick up the hot favourite and hopefully he can go on from here now. The second will be alright though, and he'll be better over further when they can ride a race on it.
Un Ace: Won like the good thing it was
Un Ace looked in terrific fettle ahead of his four-runner novice chase and he was unnopposable despite cramped odds. Free Thinking looked fit enough on her return but she doesn't look straight forward and it looks unlikely that she'll be emulating her talented mum Liberthine. Flementine looked in need of it but a better run was still expected.

The stayers handicap hurdle looked very trappy and I couldn't split a whole host of them beforehand. The winner, Wicked Spice, looked really fit and strong although I couldn't have backed it on what it had achieved and it wasn't exactly a standout. Taruma is a very nice stamp of a horse and looked really well but pulled too hard early on. He will relish the bigger obstacles.

The one I picked out to lay was Orby's Man, who I've seen a few times now and he doesn't really take the eye, a bit on the small side and still unfurnished. I wasn't especially taken by his latest run at Towcester and he was plenty short enough here against a competitive lot.

The biggie for me came in the next where they piled into the old monkey that is Big Water. That was fine by me. I know the horse well and on many occasions he has failed to live up to his billing. He looked to have turned the corner last time but that wasn't much of a race and I was much keener on the prospects of market rival Premier Grand Cru.

I was quite taken by the latter's reappearance at Carlisle after a very long absence in a good race that has already seen Back To Bracka come out and win. He had duly tightened up nicely for that and he's a super looking horse who I was hungry to back - my only concern being that he may need further, but I do like a 'closer' round Town Moor.

It was a good job the masses went for Big Water as my fellow drifted like the proverbial. In the old days that would have put me off but sometimes you've got to grab your balls in one hand and part from the readies with the other.
Lucy Alexander deservedly took the plaudits today
It was closer than I thought it would be in fairness and it was only thanks to a fine ride from Lucy Alexander that we got paid. I'm not sure what the horse has achieved here as he looks a darn sight more than a 117 horse and I'm aware he was much better than that before his injury. He may need another half mile now to be seen at his best. I didn't think Shadrack was well handicapped (that said he looked in great order) while I had Tregaro down as an out and out fast ground horse.

I'm still waiting for the right day to back Jokers And Rogues. He's a nice horse but the penny is slow to drop - that said he was ridden too aggressively in the handicap hurdle. He's still a baby and may need another 12 months and a fence before we get stuck in.

Ergo Sum was a horse you didn't want to be against and he looked ready to do the job - sadly the price had gone for us on-course players and we had to sit it out. There were mentions for maidens First Of Never and Tennessee Bird, who both looked extremely fit after absences and probably produced personal bests. The Kvilleken ran another solid race but he looks like a monkey, carrying his head high beforehand, and may be one to avoid.

I need to see the race again but Whichwaytobougie is probably the one to take out of it. He's a decent looking sort who will be better for this and they've done a good job with regards to his mark. When the money arrives, don't hesitate to go in.

If anyone is interested in learning more about me, I had the honour of being interviewed by the guys at You can read the article here.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Wetherby - Back to business

Regular readers of the blog may be aware of the odyssey I've endured with one Back To Bracka, a horse I've come to know well over the past six weeks.

In a nutshell, the story is thus - October 10; Horse looks great, join in the gamble, jockey gives horse an astonishing ride in atrocious ground, beaten 50 lengths. October 23; Dropped in trip, drifts like a barge, nearly wins @9/1. Promising. November 10; Chase debut over 2m 4f, jumps great, held up, never put in the race.

Which brings us to today. It looked the perfect opening for Lucinda Russell's charge, and I liked the booking of the promising C Nichol. Plenty of pace in the race meant the horse could be settled and brought steadily into the race.

The market was wild and woolly, and set the race up perfectly. Dunowen Point and Vasco D'Ycy have had holes in them for as long as I can remember, yet there was plenty of money around for both (admittedly and expectedly the cash dried up for the former.) Tiptoeaway didn't look anywhere near fit for his return and yet was backed into 5/1 - just a point more than the winner!!
Back To Bracka finally does the business - and we were on.
Quicuyo is a burly type who didn't fit the bill either while Tresor De Bontee rated the danger - a real solid jumper who was overpriced, probably based on the assumption he would fail to back up the Lingfield win.

That was the race as I saw it and I was happy to march in for some of the 4s on our hero, saving on Tresor Du Bontee. It's a race I'll be watching again as it looked like the second and third did little wrong behind the well-treated winner, with the relative time by far the best on the day. It was at least a step in the right direction for the well-backed Vasco D'Ycy.

By the time that fourth race came around we'd just managed to poke our heads in front after a hideous early setback.

The bunch for the opening claimer were miserable looking lot, with the odds-on Too Generous hardly standing out. But it's a mug's game trying to second guess these horses from the Pipe yard and I preferred to get against Leath Acra Mor, who minced around the paddock as if having a problem. Surely the ground would be an issue as well but it was through gritted teeth for all involved that he stuck his neck out for the place money behind the moody Harris.

The second was a competitive six-runner novice chase where favourite backers can feel aggrieved at the ride given by R Johnson aboard If In Doubt. A good-looking sort, if just a little on the weak side, he was ridden as if defeat was out of the question but an untimely mistake three out meant he wouldn't get to the winner Sego Success (fine, nothing special.)

Walk On Al didn't particularly appeal as one to pile into, ditto Billy Twyford who lacked the size and scope of the rest on his chase debut. Of much interest though was Volo Mio, who was interestingly ridden by B Hughes. A lovely tall, sizeable seven-year-old he looked really fit and well and should be found a much easier assignment in the coming weeks. Thom Thumb also looked great although he may lack ability.

The next saw the highly touted Ma Du Fou sent off at prohibitive odds against a big field that should throw up a good few winners. You wouldn't have picked the odds-on favourite out beforehand, being of medium build and rather workmanlike. The winner The Grey Taylor looked unchanged from his debut win and this was a decent performance under a penalty and in different ground.

Runner-up Rossmore's Pride was noted as a nice strong sort who was keen beforehand, others worth a mention were Acertain Circus (strong), Halcyon Days (fair sort, bit backward) while Mr Grey looked as though he would improve again for this second outing. A King's L'Amiral David doesn't look much at this stage.
Wasn't especially taken by Top Of The Glas
A third odds-on shot got turned over when Top Of The Glas was left with too much ground to make up on all-the-way winner Officer Drivel. Readers will know these baby races are not my forte and I had the first two down as weaker/speedier types, while Notnowsam (a lovely chestnut with good scope) is by far the most likely to progress with racing. Final Countdown did not sweat up as has been the case but has not progressed, although connections may now keep him for the better ground in the spring.

Sadly the handicap chase was a bit of a non-event as Smiles For Miles looked a good thing to follow up his impressive Chepstow win where he improved for the switch to fences. His main market rival Greenlaw is a good size and looked fit enough to give it some sort of race, while Chicklemix and What A Dream both looked as if their second outings of the season would bring them on again.

The market suggested the mares bumper was a bit of a match between the Crawford-trained Now Let Go and N Richards' Carinena. The latter looked very green beforehand though and quite fizzy, while the former was far more relaxed and she would know her job better. Midnight Silver is still weak and unfurnished and ran above my expectations, as did the winner Isla Fernandos who didn't particularly take the eye.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Sedgefield - Out of jail

It didn't look like it was going to be much of a punting card and we were in pretty laid back form as we arrived at the track just in time to take in the runners for the opener.

Jacks Last Hope doesn't look all that but had to be a very short price judged on his latest effort, although he was made to work by Mixboy, who settled much better on his first hurdles start.

However the form doesn't amount to much as the rest looked pretty poor.

The juvenile was interesting in that the money came for newcomer Chivers, who was the nicest looking jumper on show but who would surely need more of a test than this.

Another short-priced jolly went in here in the shape of El Beau, who kept pulling out more and has done well to win two on the spin. Shimba Hills stayed on well to take the minors and although neither have much scope they may do okay if kept to the right level. Chivers ran fine considering and he can do better given a test.

El Beau looked good in defying a penalty
The next four races were more my cup of tea and it was decision time as there were four short-priced favourites to either side with or get against.

I didn't want to be on the wrong side of Apache Pilot after his gallant debut effort over fences last time and he was a worthy if unbackable jolly. In fairness the rest looked in pretty decent shape and it looked quite a competitive event of its type.

The one I didn't like was Debt To Society, who isn't a great looker, got a bit warm and doesn't jump fences very well. Imagine my horror as three live opponents came down leaving a match down the home straight, with the favourite failing to get us out of jail thanks in good part to the failings of his jockey.

However, the 'get out of jail' card was played in the nick of time in what amounts to a total fiasco, which yet again paints the sport in a dark light. We dodged a shell there but by the time the 'void race' news came through our thoughts were already turned to the day's banker.

Runswick Days had been cajoled to victory by the excellent B Hughes here last time and he appealed as very much the type to repeat the feat in a similar contest.

It was surprising yet pleasing that the market held up as money came for Silver Vogue and Midnight Streaker. The former is a great big baby who effectively handed the race to Trafficker at Wetherby last time, when he was the paddock pick.

Whether he's got an attitude or just immature only time will tell but it was an ideal scenario that saw the grey hit front between the last two to give Runswick Days a great tow into the last. From there I was always confident J Wade's youngster would find enough to land the spoils again and no doubt in-running players got better than the 7/4 I was happy enough to take.

I had put Amir Pasha in at 5/2 on my tissue and he rated a superb lay at much shorter odds prior to the handicap hurdle over two miles. And the old rogue looked as though he'd got out of the straw the wrong side as he mooched around the paddock with a face like a smacked arse.

I had been determined to find the winner and ploughed into course specialist Stanley Bridge in the morning only to see his price virtually double on the machine at show time. Sure enough he looked in poor shape on this second run after a short absence but his time is coming round again and at least he fulfilled each-way duties.

The dough came for Sea Rocket but although the thing looked fit and well I couldn't have it on my mind having shown zilch in three outings, while Captain Sharpe and Ardesia weren't ready.

I'd thrown a few quid at Wade's Casual Cavalier with blinkers on for the first time on his handicap debut and he showed his first piece of form. He's a big athletic sort who needs more time, distance and a fence, but this was a better effort.
The punt on Orchard Road came out of the blue
Orchard Road was the one to be one and the money seemed to arrive pretty late, probably because he was the standout in the prelims. Very fit after his first outing for T Davidson the former bumper winner looked ready to deliver and was given a good positive ride from the front. He's got some size and can progress.

Sadly I had to sit out the 2m handicap chase as it looked such a tricky puzzle to solve. I didn't particularly like the front two in the market but Brother Scott looked better than he's done so far this term and this was his big chance.

Fair-minded sorts were willing to give him another go as to be fair he had run into a couple of good ones in Montoyas Son and Uno Valoroso, even though there was a suspicion he hadn't put it all in.

Unfortunately for backers those fears were confirmed as he was unable to get past 67-rated Zazamix after a protracted battle, leaving the luckless Sue Smith without a winner since Bennys Well on the 10th of this month.

Carters Rest was fit again but was unable to settle on this occasion, while Pistol Basc looked well although the run will do him plenty of good, as will a couple of pounds off the rating. I was interested in Odds On Dan at double figures in the morning but didn't get involved and I refrained from taking much shorter odds after seeing the big oaf in ring, not looking better than he did first time up.

This is the third time they've punted it and on each occasion it's dropped the lot.

Main business was concluded prior to the bumper where the well-backed Legacy Phoenix looked good enough to deliver for punters, only to find disappointingly little behind fellow raider Perseid, who wasn't very gettable.

Hillier and John Williams are lovely big types who will come into their own given plenty of time.