Friday 28 February 2014

Catterick - Just Divine

Good to soft, very dead ground greeted the runners after an all-too-brief dry spell. It was a weakest card though with only a couple of races worthy of serious interest.

The opener was a two-horse affair and it was very much a case of 'after you sir'. Dursey Sound was made favourite to be beat the equally irresolute Bit of a Jig, who was allowed to lead and there he stayed. The winner is a nice-looking son of Alderbrook but is happy to save plenty for himself - at least connections have yet to call on any headgear, although that may not last long. Dursey Sound is only six but already looks a dog.

Summerlea, very fit and well, finally gained his reward for a consistent season in the lady riders hurdle where Blue Sea of Ibrox ran an encouraging race in third. A poor looking filly with hardly anything behind the saddle, she could improve vastly with a change of trainer and a good feed.

Benzanno was opposed by the regressive Rock A Doodle Doo in the maiden hurdle but Maguire bossed it from the front as he is apt to do at the Bridge and won as he liked. There's not much hope left for the eventual third, now seven, who was outstayed by the uncertain stayer Kolonel Kirkup.

As always for your correspondent, the 2m handicap chase was of great interest and the angle into the race was the short priced favourite Lucky Sunny, a faller two starts ago but a close second at Ludlow last time. I'd seen him earlier in the season at the same track and he's not the best of jumpers, not the most pre-possessing of types and at the age of 11 was one for the taking. The two-milers in the race weren't the most inspiring though, with the likes of Turf Trivia and Cloverhill Lad always ones to take on. Little Jimmy could be given a squeak in first time cheekpieces but he's only moderate and it had to be the Foxhunters runner-up Divine Intavention who was the one to be with. The trip was an obvious concern, but he's not the typical big hunter chaser being quite compact yet strong, and it was worth chancing that the gallop he could maintain would be enough for these. As it happened he had a solo run round, with Lucky Sunny capsizing early on and the rest unable to keep tabs on the nibbled-at winner. Happy days.

The staying hurdle saw a mixed bunch gathered and none impressed much beforehand. Mootabar and Quobilai look more like chasers so the former's run was worthy of note, while Madam Lilibet is becoming one to oppose as the cheekpieces didn't have any effect here. Brae On was at first glance one to take on after winning last time but I thought he looked capable of improvement and after two months off was produced in good shape by G Bewley to win again and was well-backed to do so, although didn't carry my money. Not necessarily one to follow, but maybe the trainer is.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Wetherby - Heavens above

A mild day for a weak card - the ground was heavy but those who went on it got through it ok.

A weak conditional jockeys handicap opened proceedings and the front four in the betting were the only ones of interest. Splitting them was not so easy, although at least Lean Burn came into it in good form and is a likeable type who keeps on giving - he ran on well to deny Baraboy at Donny last time. That run may have flattered the runner-up and the market preferred the winner, who looked on good terms even though he's not the most eye-catching sort. Of the others, Shan Valley surely had his best chance for a while and although he's a poor mover he went to post with plenty of gusto and was clearly in decent form. Tom Sang was backed for the third time in a row but he looks a weak sort and despite having a tongue tie this time he again ran a lifeless race. As it happened, Shan Valley went like the winner for a long way before curling up on the run-in, allowing Lean Burn to wear her down. An entirely predictable outcome. Lay of the race was Chapelle Du Roi, who made little appeal on looks or form and jumped poorly.

The next was a mares' novices chase - hardly a great betting medium - but I wanted to be against the rather touted Fair Bramble, who remains a maiden and had the cheekpieces on this time. She looks a weak sort, both physically and mentally, and likes to throw in some mistakes. The winner was not easy to find, Legendary Hop clearly a big chasing type who had two incompletions following her victory on debut. She plugged on to beat Mrs Eff, who did not like being in front at all and threw it away late on. The fact that Fair Bramble and Tea Caddy appeared to be staying on well means nothing - they were well beat off before the front pair stopped almost to a walk. Hidden Horizons may well have won had Mrs Eff not jumped across him two out, hapless P Buchanan contriving to fall off. I'd like to be against all four of the principles next time.
Of the others, Lady of Verona was well backed but is not overly big for fences, and she came a cropper early on. However, better ground will be a help.

A stayers hurdle was the most competitive on the card, at least on paper, and I liked Heavenstown who looked very fit and ready to follow up his recent Southwell win. Odds of 8/1 were hugely generous but we didn't account for 33/1 chance Captain Clayton, who stayed on well to win with the pair a mile clear. Forty Crown came next and he's not the most pleasing sort on the eye who should be opposed if tried over fences again. He had every chance here although J Wade's yard is not exactly firing in the winners just now. Markem crawled over the line and surely has a regressive wind issue, while Stickleback was giving another chance by many but who ran no sort of race in cheekpieces. He looked fit and well but has little ability allied to a poor temperament - continue to avoid. Delightfully is a scrawny little thing and will always be opposable, while You Know Yourself and Grey Area were not fit.

The 'feature' was the four runner stayers handicap chase, which the bookies made a tight affair with sps of 2, 5/2, 3 and 7/2. That was a nonsense. For me, the jolly Fill The Power was the one to beat and may have been the subject of a tipping service midway through the morning that saw him cut to 11/8. 2/1 was hardly giving him away as he has won once over fences, but class is everything and my first view of the horse in the flesh told me he was built to carry weight in this ground. The galloping nature of the track suited him and he got in a great rhythm and the big horse jumped them silly down the back - both Camden and Wood Yer making mistakes but still not good enough even if they hadn't. The latter was a big late drifter in the market and there was something uneasy about him in the paddock too, getting slightly het up as if he wasn't liking the tongue-tie. He ran no sort of race, while the final member of the quartet was Harris Hawk, who has a tendency to run in snatches, and while he ran on to take second he did not merit the punt into 7/2. He can win again, but at a lower level.

The weak novices hurdle provided little of interest although Fine Rightly is a nice enough sort and won well - jumping notably fluently unlike on his two previous outings over timber. He could be one to watch. Mistariva was green and got loose in the paddock beforehand, and then kicked every hurdle out the ground.

Massena, looking sprightly for his hat-trick bid, was another to be sent off at odds on but the 8/13 was almost tempting as I couldn't find anything to put up against it. Cloverhill Lad, an honest trier if ever there was one, won a weak affair last time and I simply couldn't have the other three at any time. Despite hitting the first down the far side, the jolly gagged up.