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.

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