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.