Tuesday 30 September 2014

Sedgefield - Times of Plenty

Back up the A1 under sunny skies once again for another largely uncompetitive afternoon's viewing - not that that made finding winners any easier.

In fact, it's fair to say I probably haven't backed two horses as short as they were today at a single meeting - yet the claims of Pair Of Jacks and Man Of Plenty were simply too obvious to ignore.

The former was surprisingly put in at 2/1 early morning with the layers initially favouring Sacred Square, but backers of M Jefferson's youngster got it right as he put his main rival in his place.

Pair Of Jacks has never looked better, clearly doing well over the summer and although fit enough should improve again. He enjoyed a solo out front and ought to be competitive when put back into handicaps as he can hardly go up much for this.

The runner-up does not have a great deal about him though and while he stayed on willingly there is some doubt as to whether he can go on from here.

Man Of Plenty faced three rivals as he looked to build on his shock victory over 1/4 chance My Direction here last time. Unpenalised for that and up against a pair with five penalties between them, I was surprised that he was odds against despite a slightly longer trip.

My veteran comrade Racing Ray was having palpitations as the beast came off the bridle at the top of the hill but just as I started to reach for the aspirin young Moore had the jolly back upsides and in the end all was well, with the extra weight clearly stopping both Mr Burgees and Alderbrook Lad in the final analysis.

Man Of Plenty - one to keep on the right side
The winner really is a likeable sort, quite keen again beforehand, and I expect him to continue to improve as he gains experience.

Proceedings began with a gritty win for Speed Check, who had little to beat in a hands and heels race.

Market rival Marlborough House - who looks far better than he clearly is - could have done with a good few slaps as he failed miserably to build on a promising run here last time.

Langley House did not take the eye at all, sparely made and sweating, and although she ran okay it's possibly a measure of the race that she was able to get so close to the winner, with the very moderate Beyondtemptation splitting the pair.

The handicap chase was arguably one for the in-running players as Peachey Moment was for the second time in three runs able to sit on an easy lead.

Everylasting was unable to lie up over a shorter trip than last time and was a disappointment although it has to be said it was overbet into 11/8 and although I'd nipped some 9/4 early doors I never really felt I was on the right one. There was little edge to be taken from the prelims here as they all looked okay - Mister Wall Street fit enough after an absence.

The same can be said about the handicap hurdle that saw Sendiym land a second touch in two weeks at the track for the red-hot Sayer yard.

Perennial was by far the pick, looking extremely fit and muscled up, so it was a surprise to see it take a huge walk in the market and run accordingly. He's regressive to say the least.

Front runner Jukebox Melody ran with some promise despite getting very warm beforehand, but the rest looked fine and it's a shame Amir Pasha didn't give me any signals of a form revival as I was looking for him to run a big race at the track in a couple of weeks' time.

The novices handicap chase over 2m was a farce with all fences down the far side dolled off due to the low sun.

That was never going to suit the strong staying, sound jumping Jewellery, who was run out of it close home. She's a bonny sort but has yet to win over the minimum trip.

Winner Keychain is on the weak side as you might expect for a four-year-old but took advantage of the situation - a remark that cannot be attributed to Brother Scott, who was awash with sweat before entering the paddock, a sure sign that he wouldn't be able to run his race. His day will come though I'm sure as will that of Verko, who ran in snatches once more on his chasing bow. He needs to settle down a bit, at which point he'll be ready to go.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Sedgefield - Muddling through

My self-labelled 'expertise' at solving handicap chases was put through the ringer at Sedgey's twilight meeting with three intriguing events starting with the four-runner opener in which each could be given a chance.

I toyed with taking on both Strumble Head and Dunowen Point, who were both well-backed, against the solid Sudski Star and in-form Tregaro.

It didn't quite work out that way, and it just goes to show that pre-race sprightliness doesn't always convert into a winning performance.

Sudski Star essentially carried the bulk of the cash after looking a picture of health beforehand but he was not travelling with any fluency from the get-go and ran no sort of race - perhaps a busy campaign has taken its toll, although that certainly wasn't evident in the prelims.

Quite why Dunowen Point has gone sour cannot be judged on his appearance as he looked perfectly okay, and although he ran his best race for a while he found little once challenged and also hung. He remains one to oppose, as does the one-paced Strumble Head, who was very late into the paddock, while it's not clear what Tregaro achieved in winning here and he will be racing from a career-high mark next time.

The big, robust chaser Everylasting was a very worthy favourite of the 2m6f novices handicap after jumping and travelling well in two races at Hexham of late. This drop in trip was ideal and he got a nice lead into the race before asserting. Unfortunately the handicapper will have his say now and this race took little winning, but a further drop in trip would hold no terrors.

Sparely made maiden Gwili Spar remains one to oppose
One In A Row ran on late to grab second but really isn't one for the notebook, while Wakhan took a step forward after a poor return over hurdles here last time. He's very much a chaser and connections will surely find the right race for him in due course, perhaps on softer ground.

P Bowen's Gwili Spar is rather sparely made and was very much one to take on on his chasing debut, and he predictably jumped rather stickily. The money for him was a little baffling but it made it that bit easier for the layers to get stuck in. Be prepared to oppose this one in similar races.

Johnnys Legacy made it 2/47 under rules last time but had little response once passed and gave in tamely on this occasion.

Pindar produced a 20/1 shock later on the card where the market was dominated by Travis County, Muwalla and Mac's Grey, who was punted for a third successive race.

The latter was crowded out and put on the floor turning in just as the race was unfolding, and surely compensation awaits as he jumped much better here up with the pace and appears to have filled out since last year.

Neither Travis County nor Muwalla delivered when it mattered in a race both were entitled to win on the book, and with racing about to become a lot more competitive their time may have passed for now. Both have the size for the job but appear to lack the heart. I must also add a brief RIP for Turf Trivia, who crashed out early. He wasn't fit for this but that's not the point.

Chaser-cum-hurdler Sleep In First is making the most of a lower mark over timber and defied favouritism ahead of the grey Snowed In, who was fit and well for a break, and the fancied Good Of Luck.

The latter does not have a great build to lug top weight around and may be better lower down the weights against better opposition, that said the assessor may have him about right now. The winner may not find an easier opportunity for a while, nice tall sort that he is, and as such may prove better still over fences.

Oscars Way is a nice mover but was never going today, while Dr Dalwhinny is a very robust type who could do with some help from the handicapper, while the leery, unfurnished Nautical Twilight should continue to be opposed for now.

Bowen had a great chance to head back to Pembrokeshire with a winner in the shape of Mister Bricolage, who looked on great terms with himself prior to the staying hurdle. Whether he was outstayed or outfought by Moon Melody is a moot point, but it surely saw B Hughes at his strongest on the veteran stayer, giving trainer M Sowersby a rare double.

High Kite is a really lengthy, rangy sort who would surely be better over fences but still gives his obstacles little respect, while Solway Dornal threw in a rare poor effort. Luctor Emergo did not look tuned up for this but he stopped very quickly all the same.

Big-field handicap hurdles are not really my bag and while I thought it may be D-Day for D Cantillon's This Is Me the money was for Sendiym, from double figures in the morning to 9/2. He looked in good heart after an eight week absence (had run on the flat) and Hughes had him in the right place all the way, up with the pace in a steadily run race.

Today was not the day for the imposing This Is Me
Weybridge Light ran to form again but unsurprisingly lacked the resolution to go past the punted winner, while Schelm ran another solid race for the place money under his inexperienced amateur.

The scopey This Is Me is surely better than this. He'll jump a fence in time, but connections are seemingly not yet happy with his handicap mark as the big money didn't arrive on the exchange. He'll come down for this apparently laboured effort, and there must be a race on the horizon for a horse that may still be on the immature side.

Brother Scott got warm but ran a better race this time while Verko ran no sort of race again but mark these words - his day will come.

Friday 5 September 2014

Sedgefield - Gamble goes west

Much has been written of the lamentable 'Ice Bucket Challenge' but on this occasion it was truly an honour to see Sedgefield 'host' Derek Thomson doused with water. Nothing could ever put out Thommo's fire though and I'm fully expecting him to be ready to go at the next meeting at the Teesside track.

It was a low-key meeting with only two races having more than five runners, but in both those I thought I'd found the right angle starting with Knight In Purple in the handicap hurdle.

He clearly hasn't been on his game since returning from a winter break in May, when I noted he would be better for the race. A non-stayer over further last time, I thought this competitive-looking heat would suit ideally and the 6/1 morning odds were over generous.

Having stepped in I was looking forward to see him in the prelims as I'd remembered he looked great when going very close at Wetherby's October meeting last year at long odds. Sure enough, he looked fine, occasionally jig-jogging around the ring. Whether he was was a 5/2 shot in a race of this nature was another thing...but he ran very poorly as though something was amiss, uncharacteristically off the bridle halfway down the back straight.

He's either firmly on the slide or there was an issue here. We'll see if he makes it to Wetherby next month where he's sure to be big odds again. This may not be money lent I'm afraid, but we'll see.

I vision we all happily paid to see
I must say I didn't fancy any of the first three home in the paddock, with the finish fought out between two in-form summer horses in Tamarillo Grove and Oliver's Gold. The latter was the least prepossessing of the lot but was back to his best here, run out of things by a very game top weight who is a very sturdy type and one that will stand plenty of racing. The third Next Hight was surprisingly well-backed considering his only form of consequence was a victory here against a very poor lot last winter.

For once he stayed on strongly as though the problems that have surely afflicted him in the past have been dealt with. Maybe he's had his wind looked at, but this was a step in the right direction, especially as he's a laid-back sort who I thought would come on quite a bit for this.

Morning With Ivan was a spectacular drifter in the morning and appears very harshly treated by the assessor. She's a keen sort, and was warm beforehand. With 10lb off her back, she'll be ready to go in.

The other eight-runner affair was a marathon handicap hurdle headed by Champion Versions, runner-up to a handy-looking type at Huntingdon where the third Top Billing had already franked the form.

Lawney Hill's stayer raced lazily there but this looked a weak affair - however the 3/1 on offer was disappointing as there was no telling if the beast would go forward from his first piece of form under rules. He looked okay in the ring but I wasn't swayed, with both Sue Smith's Wakhan and K Dalgleish's Marlborough House looking types who could prove better than their marks.

As it was A Coleman lifted the favourite across the line after coming off the bridle with a circuit to go, rallying past one-paced regulars Solway Dornal and Moon Melody. Wakhan was very disappointing but Marlborough House - not fancied in the betting here - travelled best before tiring two out and there is surely a race in this thick-set type in the months ahead.

There were lovely horses on show earlier on a warm afternoon, none more so than the big chaser Hinton Indiana, who will benefit from a more galloping track once reassessed for his second win on the bounce, while Full Day made it two from two over timber with a facile win in the opener - she's a lovely filly who can hold her own in better company.

Man Of Plenty overturned the odds bet on My Direction in fine style, benefiting from the hot favourite's poor hurdling, notably at the last which handed victory to the Leech's horse. He's a nice type and should not be under-estimated just because the favourite under-performed here.

We also had the return of Ever So Much, a winner here last week and also at Southwell a day before. I said last time he may struggle to follow up but he's beaten a total of five inferior rivals in these two races and again his fencing left something to be desired, most notably at the last. He has his own way of getting from A to B and it was interesting to here the trainer saying the novice hurdle route may be the way forward now. I'll be looking to oppose him in a proper race over fences.

The runner-up Travis County ran his best race for some time, finally sent over fences that this strapping five-year-old has been crying out for. There was no sign of moodiness bar jumping right constantly and while his best form is all at this track he may yet do well for connections.

The smallish El Toreros does not appeal as a sort to progress over larger obstacles while DeGooch has clearly been effected by a heavy fall last time and is best watched after a lifeless display.