Friday 12 December 2014

Doncaster - Going to Town

Another difficult card to assess and more small-field contests that continue to blight the National Hunt game. Punting was made even harder by the overnight rain that had turned the going pretty testing on both courses, prompting a slew of non-runners declared on the prospect of decent ground.

The opener looked a match on paper between two different types in Clondaw Kaempfer and Red Devil Boys. The former is an active, handy, athletic type while the latter is a big, laid-back chaser who would have come on for this run after a two-year absence.

In fact, it's surely to the credit of Red Devil Boys that he was able to win over hurdles such is his size, as he will most certainly rate more highly over the larger obstacles.

However, it was McCain's Clondaw Kaempfer who rated most highly entering the race and had gone to claim it at the last when B Harding slipped out the side door after the horse had barely stumbled...the prone jockey taking down Red Devil Boys in the process.

It left Smart Freddy clear to win the race and in fairness he was only a length or two down at the last. It was a fair effort from trainer B Pauling who had the eight-year-old in good order. He's not the biggest though and he missed out in the jumping stakes up the straight, and his lack of size may hold him back.

The second was a maiden hurdle and the Henderson duo Cardinal Walter and Hassle looked well worth taking on. The former looked well but was carrying plenty of condition while the latter is quite small and weak behind the saddle - I didn't hold much hope he would get home in this ground.

The market saw Cardinal Walter drift violently while the Ferguson horse Father Edward was a solid favourite, and rightly so as he looked well and quite a nice young horse. However, the market got this very wrong and the Cardinal won very well in the end, seeing it out best of all.

What a run from the second, Emperor Commodos, again trained by B Pauling. He looked as fat as anything I've seen for sometime yet was asked to make all and plugged on really well to still be there at the final flight after a two-year absence.

Shwaiman was the other to take out of the race. Evidently decent on the flat, this would have been by far the worst ground it would have faced in its career, and plugged on at one pace. Quite a narrow, handy sort, J Fanshawe could get this one fairly handicapped before landing a decent race in the spring.

Sixty Something: Round in one piece to prove well-handicapped

The seemingly obligatory mares' race came next and I was very keen on J Goldie's Lochnell after her decisive win at Ayr and was happy with the bet despite a market drift. I was clearly barking up the wrong tree as although she travelled well, I fear the sticky ground was too much at this stage of her career. There was little to take out of the race from a visual perspective.

I was looking forward to having a decent bet on Swing Hard in the stayers handicap but he was wisely pulled out on account of the ground. Sixty Something won well in the end and the grey looked the part beforehand, jumping well under a front-running ride. He was handicapped to do something like this but the odds were skinny.

He may have been pushed by No Duffer who came down four out when upsides. We're still in the dark about what Tom George's horse is really capable of after this - he's a horse with good size and it's my bet he'll rate nearer 140 at his peak.

Mister Marker didn't look on good terms with himself pre-race, agitated and sweating, and ran other very poor race. There's clearly something bothering him.

I couldn't have One For Hocky in the staying hurdle and he's easily the most expensive horse of the season from this perspective after I tried to get him out the three. I felt this staying test on bad ground would be a far cry from whizzing round Musselburgh, but substitute McCoy nursed him into the frame and we did our dough.

It looked a deep race with plenty of them on good terms with themself. Madam Lilibet was bouncing (but reverted to type with a moody race), Green Wizard looked fit enough to do himself justice after a break, Carolina Wren looked in good condition, while Enter Paradise was really fit and well after a lengthy absence.

Most of them disappeared without trace though as Truckers Darling, who looked fine, out-stayed them all including the big, chasing-type Henri Parry Morgan. Everaard looked fat on his first start for M Hammond while Pudsey House needs the handicapper to relent and will do better over fences.

The next saw the good thing of the day as I was very keen on the chances of Bernardelli in the handicap chase over 2m 3f. The form figures were uninspiring but rather like Sixty Something earlier in the day he is not a bad jumper and I thought it was remiss of the RP spotlight to dismiss his chances saying 'his confidence must have taken a knock'.

Quite what that meant I've no idea as a quick reminder of the most recent unseat saw the horse staying on well before stumbling on jumping two out, with the hapless B Harding once more exiting stage left.

Bernardelli: Looked a good thing even before McCoy was booked

With McCoy in the saddle it was deeply surprising the money didn't come for the Richards horse, who looked on an upward curve. They came for Arctic Ben but the front running grey has flattered in the past and I was sure it wouldn't get an easy lead with Quicuyo in the field.

Indeed, I quite liked the chance of Ewart's veteran who looked to have come on very nicely for his Wetherby outing while the track and trip would suit much better - he was worth a saver at big odds.

Rarely does a race pan out so neatly but suffice it to say either of the first two would have been a great result from some way out. Of the others I couldn't have the flat horse Kuda Huraa on this ground while it doesn't have the scope to jump fences, not at a track such as this anyhow, a similar assessment that could be attributed to Kodicil, whose trainer has slipped markedly out of form.

With Bernardelli sauntering home there was little point in playing the last where the jockeys appear to have been discussing how much start they would give the well-backed favourite Centasia, who had plenty about her on a return from an absence.

It was a one-horse book for many layers and they never had a sniff, although those whose chased out the rather small, insignificant Kelvingrove to double figure odds must have been having palpitations between the last two.

Taruma was of interest but he reportedly has bleeding issues, while the addition of the tongue-tie was another sign of problems. He's not one to following over a cliff despite all the promise earlier in his career.

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