Friday 24 January 2014

Doncaster - The Kayser chief

The opener was a desperate affair with few clues garnered from the paddock. J Wade's Spanish Fleet is coming on nicely in a quiet way, and will surely do well over a greater distance of ground. Another third place here should leave him on a mark of 100, which is do-able. He's a very laid back sort and some form of headgear wouldn't go amiss at some stage. Another to mention was Echo Foxtrot, who looked one of the nicer ones but was totally unfancied in the ring. He ran okay, and the handicapper should allow some leniency for this. As he gains experience, he'll be one to look out for.

We got the novice hurdle wrong when the canny John Quinn asked his juvenile Pearl Castle to take on his elders, despite looking as though further improvement would be forthcoming beforehand. The fact that he dotted up bodes well, and talk was of Cheltenham in the aftermath. Unfortunately, I Got Power was being brought along nicely until running into second here at 33/1. As a result his mark will suffer greatly - disappointing for the Reveleys and for punters. Nonetheless we continue to watch his progress with interest. Dubai Prince ran third but was again below Leicester form, but he's a nice strong sort who appeared well in himself. Varom is a big, leggy grey who again saw his run peter out and he may just require more time. Area Fifty One backed out of things but he didn't want for fitness beforehand.

Victor Hewgo was rightly sent off short for the 3m novice chase and he won as he liked in the end, chased home by the very likeable ex-pointer Dreamy George - another whose handicap mark is now shot as a result of this run. An angular, chasing type the winner is already nine and I can see connections tilt at a decent northern handicap this spring, possibly even the Scottish National. The second's future depends on the handicapper now, while of those in behind Perfect Candidate ran on well after making numerous mistakes, despite looking every inch a chaser. After a couple more tries, he'll be ready to go in. Up To Something clearly didn't get home, while Beeves ran a similar race in blinkers as without - in snatches and with mistakes. Danners will also win races and although he faded badly he kept up with the lead for a long way and it could be he'll be suited by a drop in trip. All-in-all, an informative little race.

The 3m handicap chase saw Honest John a tight 2/1 favourite after his good run here last time, and although there seemed little opposition, he was too short for me. They came for Minella Definitely, but he was once again let down by errors and I have to say he didn't particularly take the - eye wasn't in the least bit tempted to join the run on him. I didn't particularly like the look of Badger Foot, a poor mover who may be seen in better light in proper soft/heavy ground. It was left to the in-form The Panama Kid to take the spoils - it's good to see him finally deliver for connections. There was a bit of each-way support for Mr Supreme and he delivered on that without really looking like a winner to come.

A four-runner handicap hurdle could have been sorted out in the paddock - drifter Tornado Bob making no appeal on looks, not appearing particularly pleased to be back on a racecourse after some time off. Atlantic Roller looked well and was probably a worthy favourite, but the eye was drawn to Kaysersberg, a strapping sort who must surely go chasing next term. Winning here off 123, he'll be better over the birch. The Smiths' Irish import Wakanda did really well to plug into second I thought, and at five could have a decent future over some of the big staying races over fences.

I was dying to sort out the 2m 3f novices handicap chase but got it wrong as I didn't believe Oh Right would run two races alike having won at Musselburgh last week. But he's clearly in great heart and ran on really well against a bunch that actually didn't promise a great deal, nor in reality deliver. Well-backed favourite Take The Mick looks capable but made errors at the wrong time here which cost him. There's a race in him though while the disappointments were Sole Survivor and On The Case. The latter was backed off the boards all day despite having no form over timber and although he was really fit sure to improve for fences didn't show a great deal and was pulled up. He got very warm and he may be better than this, while Sole Survivor is a really big grey who was expected to step up on his hurdles achievements, but clearly hasn't gone on for P Webber and after travelling okay slowly went backwards after errors crept in.

The finale was a really interesting novices hurdle and market told us a lot, with the winner being the nice Rainbow Peak for J Ferguson. He was a big price based on his Flat form but didn't show a great deal on his hurdling debut. He looked the horse of old here, passing the good-looking Call Me Vic with ease. The favourite surely needs further already, while the third Uppingham arguably stepped up a little on his run here last time despite the odd error. Once again it's worth saying he'll be winning over fences for M Jefferson next season. I thought they were playing with Save The Bees over this longer trip, and once again he pulled too hard and was never in the race. I'm not sure if the saddle slipped or he just ran appallingly but they'll need to get another run into him to get a mark, I suspect. I'm looking forward to seeing him over 2m on better ground this spring if he's none the worse for this.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Catterick - Summit in the air

It looked a tricky card with not a great deal of value on offer, and so it proved with most of the favourites winning on ground that was softened by overnight rain.

Seven Summits landed a touch in the handicap hurdle although it was interesting that Heurtevent was pulled out an hour beforehand after being hammered in the morning betting - perhaps connections were running scared? The winner looked cherry ripe on his seasonal debut but didn't find a great deal off the bridle to beat front running Copt Hill and may be one to oppose next time. Copt Hill was of interest just a week on from a disappointing return when punted, in a hood for the first time on that occasion. He was really fit and keen beforehand and kept on well, clearly at home on heavy ground, and it will be interesting again next time although he may not be one to trust implicitly.

Holywell ran out a comfortable winner in a virtual match with debutant Shotavodka. The latter has little size or scope for fences, particularly on this ground, and the punters came for Holywell despite worries over the trip. He was nudged along down the back but jumped well today before idling. on the run-in. He will be of massive interest when he goes in a handicap over three miles, undoubtedly when the blinds are re-applied. I'll be wading in.

The 2m3f handicap hurdle could throw up some winners, Shanen though not one of them as he once again flattened out quickly - this after looking fit and really well beforehand. He's clearly got a bad wind problem. Ubaltique is weak behind and this as much as the blinkers could be the reason why he was not seeing his races out but that's two from two in blinds now and more could be to come. Recent winner Hit The Top tried to make all and is clearly going in the right direction, typically tough of Sue Smith's. They'll both go up again but are likeable sorts.

The 2m chase featured free-going/weak-finishing sorts Arkaim and Prince of Dreams, and the race set up perfectly for McCain's Cloudy Joker to complete the hat-trick down in trip. J Maguire rides this course so well and went wide all the way for the better ground. The horse is not over-big but jumps really well and should not be under-estimated despite another hike. Arkaim could not be given the positive ride he has had in winning the last two times on account of the ground but there's surely another small race in him on god ground as he does jump well despite unseating two out when tiring. Prince of Dreams once again found one too good and despite looking a decent sort it really ought to pay to be against him where possible.

The staying chase was a ghastly affair and although it was impossible to come up with a viable alternative I felt Bennys Well was very opposable at shortish odds. As it happened Over And Above did the business on the run-in from half a stone out the handicap. Who'd have known?

The closing bumper saw some decent and fancied types involved, none more so than the very impressive looking Zeroshadesofgrey. He really caught the eye of more than one paddock watcher and with form already in the book it was stunning that he was allowed to go off at 9/4, in the face of strong support for McCain's debutant Take The Cash, who was reportedly fancied but you really wouldn't have backed it if you're comparing looks. A surprisingly good end to the day, as these bumpers normally only serve as future reference. For the notebook, D O'Meara's Philosofy is flat bred and is a decent looking horse, not over-big but surely up to winning one of these on better ground.

Wetherby - Rose smells sweet

The track passed an inspection but it remained bitterly cold and only just above freezing, but they went through it okay and it was more soft than heavy.

Certification took on Rayak in the opener in a repeat of their Newbury run, but this time the former finished in front in a sprint up the straight after they went a dawdle. The winner is quirky...he wore two bits and even in the paddock was looking all around, but he's a big scopey sort that should do alright in this sphere. Rayak is just okay looking and may not prove a great deal better than a 125 horse. Of the others, Investment Expert is not very big and on his toes for the debut, will surely be seen in better light when handicapping on better ground.

A decent 2m4f chase saw Sharney Sike follow up his Newcastle win on much softer ground that the jockey said he was hating. He should stay further and is a rangy type whose jumping will hopefully continue to improve. He was a late drifter in the market which was little baffling as I got it down to he and Little Glenshee, with the latter coming down three out when in command. It was a shame - he'd jumped well to that point and can gain compensation  as he rarely runs a bad race. Kykate has something about him and and sure enough he was running a good race when brought down in the melee - he might be worth keeping an eye over the coming weeks. Harris Hawk's trainer J Wade is not known for getting them ready first time and this one will be interesting next time over further.

The staying hurdle was a poor one and once more the best looking horse in the race took the honours, this time D McCain's Rocky Stone, who stepped up markedly up in trip and it was surprising he went off a week 6/1 chance in such a poor affair. Runner-up Big Sound is only small it's to his credit that he ran such a grand race off top weight, less his rider's claim. The only other of interest was Native Optimist, sent off at 50/1. He's a decent stamp of a horse and despite clattering several hurdles ran okay - giving more experience he can poor another of these.

In the feature race Rose Of The Moon drew the eye with McCoy riding for D O'Meara. The grey was down in class after being dropped in the weights and it was my view his form was far ahead of the others - he'd been in with some big names including Bobs Worth as a hurdler. The yard is shrewd and this race was perfect - after some scratchy leaps he warmed up and outstayed the rest who were well strung out. They came for McCain's Real Milan and he lost nothing in defeat as he was up against it here. He can go in next time granted a break as they finished very tired.

The novice hurdle saw Tiqris get off the mark as he saw off the very likeable Secrete Stream, who was penalised. The latter has fences all over him and as he didn't hurdle particularly fluently M Jefferson will surely send him over the big ones next winter. Already rated 125, he'll be better than that over the big ones.
I wasn't keen on the third, Stonebrook, who lacks any size but was surprisingly well-backed, particularly given the kind ride he was given by McCoy.

The 0-110 staying chase was weak with Towcester second Mighty Mobb a warm order - mainly in the absence of credible opposition. The only one I could make a case for was Ayr winner Arc Warrior, a big rangy chaser who for some reason was ignored in the betting. I didn't really understand that as he'd clearly turned the corner and cruised through the race before winning easily. The favourite still looks a little unfurnished at seven, but is a good mover and it wouldn't surprise me to see him jump and stay better on a sounder surface this spring. He looks good enough in the flesh to win off a mark of 109. 

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Doncaster - Fun day out

I headed to Town  Moor with a slightly heavy heart after one that I was excited about was scratched in the morning, leaving me with the possibility of not having a bet. None of it - everything fell into place and some interesting animals were on show, once again the value of being trackside was driven home to me.

The opener was the first division of the 2m3f maiden hurdle and Minella Friend was favourite on the back of two decent displays at Exeter over different trips. This looked about right but although he looked well he's not the most prepossessing type and I'm not sure I'd have gone to £90k to secure him, but that's irrelevant of course. Having seen his last two outings and now in the flesh I wasn't at all keen to go in at 2/1, yet there didn't seem a great deal against it. N Henderson's Nordic Quest ran okay on debut but had regressed on the flat and on a mild day for the time of year he was one of a few that got very warm beforehand. I didn't know enough about the third best in the market Softsong, or his trainer James Evans, but the horse was noted as a nippy, athletic sort and although no interest was taken it wasn't too surprising when he hosed up. J Ferguson's Namibian is a beast of a horse but never went a yard and has clearly not recovered from his problems, while D Pipe's Thomas Junior was a big slider in the betting and looked rather unfurnished prior to this hurdles debut. Of the others, C Mann's Attivo is a big brute of a horse who got warm early and showed little before staying on late from miles back, while Save The Bees is noted for a second time after his Catterick debut. Racing again over a too-far 2m3f, D Carroll's horse went freely from the front and was exhausted going to the last, where he toppled over. None the worse, and with another spin under his belt, a small 2m-handicap should be his.

The 2m handicap was one of only two races you could really get your teeth into and the one of interest as soon as I saw the race was J Quinn's 4yro Forced Family Fun. There's very little of him but he just loves jumping hurdles and he went with great zeal, as ever. It was nice to see Brian Hughes take a prominent position from the outset and he was still swinging away before asserting at the last. Mojolika has been running in slightly better races and was nibbled at before staying on well, and was only just denied. But that's as good as he is. Bohemian Rhapsody was also of interest and was back to form after bombing out at Kempton. He's not overly big either, and I suspect better ground may see him in better light this spring. I felt the favourite Nesterenko was one to take on after he won a weak race here last weak with the unknown Mr F Mitchell up. The lad didn't cover himself in glory either, although the horse was off the bridle early before travelling into the race well, only to flatten out. Mitchell dropped his whip after two out just when he was being outpaced and, wearing a hood, is clearly not straightforward. He was very solid in the betting but it was the right call to take him on.

I thought the market was wrong in the next too - the second division of the maiden - and so it proved as the drifter Act Alone bolted home from the well-backed Sir Pitt. The latter, extending P Bowen's record at Donny to 0-30, had gone well in the Triumph hurdle but that was three years ago now yet had raced only twice since. Was promising last time but is a strong, chunky looker and not my type at all - at least in a race of this nature. Act Alone, by contrast, was typical Henderson and looked to have a little extra quality about him. They've given him time to mature after two bumpers and they've been reward in spades. My only question is why the Henderson mob fancied Nesterenko and not Act Alone! There was also money for Mister Newby, an 8yro trained by R Phillips. Enough said. The third Benenden cost a small fortune and is still immature, but may be useful and he went okay running on well to follow home Sir Pitt. It goes without saying he'll do alright with more time and a longer trip.

The novice chase saw the odds-on Karinga Dancer take on Western Warhorse. The former looked like he had carried his hurdles form to fences here last time while Pipe's horse was making his debut. I had already decided not to play as the ratings gap was more than a stone, but it was clear on looks that Western Warhorse would leave his hurdles form behind, for all that he's very flighty and immature. He's clearly got an engine though and Scudamore rode an intelligent race having taken to post early, steadying the pace at least once and leaving something for the finish. He'll be glad he did too, as not Karinga Dancer but Victor Hewgo pressed him to the line, a run in advance of what was expected of the 3m-winning hurdler. He doesn't look like a chaser and at nine is late to the game, but will surely do well this spring as this was a decent race. The favourite ran okay but was awkward at one or two and this may be as good as he is.

Diamond King was fully expected to land the odds in the NH hurdle, which he did, with only market rivals Uppingham and Themanfrom Minella chasing him home. The former made a pleasing hurdling debut for one that will do better faced with a fence next year, and is still immature. K Reveley's I Got Power left a poor bumper run behind in fourth despite making numerous mistakes and make no mistake will be winning hurdles over the next few seasons.

The 3m handicap chase was always going to draw me in even though Deciding Moment had been scratched. Triangular was all the rage on his first start for H Fry having gone the wrong way with T George, but I wasn't entirely enamoured with his demeanour in the parade ring as he trooped round with his head down, and having reviewed some of his races I reckoned he was still worth taking on. But what with? The rest had holes in as far as I could see, although Ifyousayso had bounced back at Leicester last time and in fairness has won four from eight starts. He looks a 3m chaser through and through (in a nice way!) and I reckoned at 11/2 it was worth chancing that he would be able to go on again just seven pounds higher. So it proved, under a fine ride from Paddy Brennan who had him up there all the way and consistently saw a good stride. The horse's jumping will improve with confidence and this may just be one to follow over even further next time, as surely he won't go up more than another 5-6lb. Triangular ran okay without finding much when let down - at least until too late - on the run-in. He's clearly quirky and not one for my money. The rest made little appeal on form or looks beforehand, and were mostly beaten at the top of the straight barring the longtime leader Honest John, who was back to form. My Flora may do alright back in a small mares only race.

With three winners in the bag I gave myself the last two races off in a bid to beat the often-busy traffic round those parts.