Tuesday 29 December 2015


A quieter day and certainly not as successful as yesterday, aggravated by getting stuck in traffic and missing the first race for the first time EVER.

Doubly frustrating was that I'd already backed Donna's Pride without great confidence thinking the Hobbs horse Catherines Well may not be all that and was a false favourite.

If I'd known they had changed tactics and made all on the thing I might have been able to bail out. You never know what you might have done in different circumstances but I had been hoping that Reveley would have been able to dictate at his leisure.

So quickly we were 0-1 but at least i'd no intention of playing the novice hurdle and could settle down a little, expecting Go Long to defy a penalty after his impressive win last time. He's still a bit on the weak side and perhaps the tacky ground caught him out against the more experienced Wade Harper, who finally put it all together.

There were loads of nice horses for the future here, starting with the third Royal Milan who is a good stamp of a horse who is as yet unfurnished, while Set In My Ways is a very strong chasing type. Chap is a strong horse while Wild Ginger constantly caught the eye beforehand and this stayer has some quality about him. They all showed plenty of ability.

The Grey Taylor was all the rage in the novices chase but I thought he was 'too obvious' and little value. He's always going to be there to be shot at and doesn't have a great deal in hand of the assessor.

This was all about whether Baltimore Rock had the look of a chaser and the answer was yes. Not only that he looked pretty fit for this return. An Imperial Cup winner, he's a useful recruit and I can see him going close in one of the Festival handicaps in March.

Zeroeshadesofgrey is well known on the northern circuit and was on a decent mark for the staying handicap hurdle. Unfortunately the tipping lines were out in force early doors and punters had to wrestle with the decision of whether to play despite some rather cramped odds.

The big grey proved he was well in despite not seeming to travel all that well, and he was clumsy at a few hurdles. They will look to next season now before going back over fences but he'll be one to have reservations about in that sphere as he just doesn't seem to use himself that well.

This was a funny race and several appeared not to get home despite some lazy fractions - Red Devil Boys, Bold Conquest and Milord failing to stay while Top Billing and Kerisper rallied after being briefly outpaced as they quickened it up. Balmusette struggled on the dead ground but I wouldn't give up on her as this race didn't suit her come-from-behind style.

Not much of interest in two (more!) mares races - Kalane looks a nice prospect despite coming down here, while the amazing Run Ructions took yet another step forward.

It all came down to the last race and I simply couldn't look beyond the front two in the market - Wild Bill and Ziga Boy. It was just a matter of choosing which way to play it.

Wild Bill did the column a favour when winning here last time and despite this being a deeper race he looked a horse on the up, while Ziga has not gone on but was back on a mark 2lb below his last win. At six he can still turn things around and the money came good and strong in the morning.

However, the late move was for Wild Bill and I opted to stick with the West Country raider and save on the grey, who was quite easy to back in the end.

We ended the day on a 'green' note but not by a significant amount. It was a fine ride by young Bellamy who made up the horse's mind for him and no doubt this better terrain suited. There wasn't a great deal to report on the others...I've long admired Westward Point as a specimen but he has failed to show much since an injury absence and the burden of proof lies with him.


This blog is written by a punter, for punters. It is meant to be informative, and hopefully we can have some fun along the way. It was never set up for me to tell everyone how good I think I am, or crow about winning days.

Time is not on our side and doing both previews and reviews is not easy. I've only done a handful of previews and they have been on races where I think I have everything stacked on my side. Hopefully I'll be able to do more this winter and I appreciate the feedback on Twitter, which makes it so worthwhile.

Having said all that, it's worth revisiting some races that do work out and try to see if we can replicate those circumstances further down the line.

The Runswick Relax/Rosquero bet stood for a number of reasons, perhaps most pertinently was that the top weights were rated 94 in a 0-100 race, meaning those at the very bottom could race off their true marks.

Not only that, but the two at the bottom were effectively racing off marks of 66 which is virtually unheard of, particularly for horses that had won races and clearly had ability.

They also had changed circumstances - in Runswick's case a change of trainer, and in Rosquero's case a new combination of headgear. It also helps when the market makers over-estimate the chances of another in the race, namely Bollin Line on this occasion. He is a horse who looks paceless at any trip.

There was another race at the meeting that demanded closer attention than usual with southern raiders Rebel Benefit and Gonalston Cloud taking on the northern regulars. Most of the time the northern trained horses are taking each other on time and again, and it's often a case of 'whose turn is it today'.

We should know by now that horses like Swing Hard, Urban Gale and Apache Pilot are what they and are not going to do anything beyond what we expect them to do.

If that's the case, it's always worth considering one a bit from left field, giving punters a new angle into the race. In the case of Gonalston Cloud we had a horse who had done little under rules, but had gone 5/6 in points.

Now I don't know how much that form is worth any more than you probably do, but the odds were that a rating of 92 could under-estimate his chances. A nice handy looking horse out of a Roselier mare, he was sure to stay well and go on the ground. He looked fit enough to me and there was a bit of money around for him.

Whether you backed him or not, it's another example of how just a little lateral thinking can take you a long way.

It was a very informative afternoon at the Bridge where the ground was remarkably decent after all the rain in the area. On the times you wouldn't say it was much worse than good to soft although it seemed to take some getting.

The opener was tricky with the big, strong chasing type Tippmanboy a worthy favourite ahead of Champagne At Tara, another lovely rangy individual who is sure to continue to improve. The grey settled much better this time and I thought the oft-maligned McLernon was seen in good light.

Tippmanboy is very keen going and they will need to teach it to settle if he's to reach his potential, as he's bred to stay. This looked a good race with Blue Rambler unable to get to the front pair in third. It's hard to know what of flat ability remains though as he looked pretty fit for this.

The second division was another hot race for the track and this time the market got it spot on as the pair for money dominated throughout really, Always Resolute landing a decent plunge for B Ellison ahead of Caged Lightning. Both looked to have plenty of size for the winter game but the winner has clearly improved bundles for the switch from T Jarvis and the sight of timber, which he jumped notably well.

The runner-up did not look straight forward on the level and it won't be at all surprising if they reach for the headgear sooner rather than later, while a longer trip should help. They were miles clear of Keep Up in third who once again revealed plenty of ability.

There is nothing wrong with Jonjo's Will Take Charge here, who is a real nice specimen. Bred to stay, he could end up with a ludicrous mark if he continues to be 'slow to come to hand'. I also like Multi Grain, who should be a darn sight better on good ground in the spring.

As mentioned in the preview I had to take on Truckers Highway in the 2m chase and this time he didn't have things his own way up front and was well beaten. As suspected there was loads of early dash and the tactics on my selection Engrossing were ridiculous for a horse who is suspect off the bridle.

As soon as he was bounced out of the gate I knew I was on a loser, although this run should ensure he slips to a mark of 110 which will make him a well-handicapped horse. If they adopt patient tactics, he's a winner waiting to happen as he jumps well in the main.

Also of interest is Wolf Sword who didn't see which way they went. Regardless of the ground this is a rapid 2m and I have this horse down as a stayer in the making. His fencing was very novicey but he got round and stayed on pretty well. He wasn't right after Huntingdon and he is one to keep an eye on.

The runner-up Oficial Ben did well but he's running on his nerves at present. His run will have surprised paddock watchers as he got very sweaty in the prelims. He obviously has talent but he's a stayer and they will need to teach him to settle. Discay looks too small to achieve much over fences but he helped force a daft pace that made Nautical Twilight look better than she is.

For all that she is improving and was leniently treated after just a 4lb impost for her last win, she'll do well to defy a steeper rise next time.

Valleyofmilan was quite well touted prior to the finale and he brushed aside fears that the ground would be too soft by romping home off a very favourable hurdles mark. Make no mistake though, soft ground is not his friend.

Monday 28 December 2015

Relax, and row in with Runswick

Off to Catterick today and it looks a really interesting card with the course benefiting from the abandonment of Wetherby's two-day fixture in terms of numbers.

I wanted to put a message out for a couple that look good bets, firstly Runswick Relax in the 1.00. I'll be very surprised if this ex-Wade horse can't win a weak heat off a mark of 68 plus the jockey's claim.

He showed much improved form for the stable switch over timber where he was outpaced over a short trip. Even today's 2m 3f may be on the sharp side but getting all that weight from moderate rivals will make the difference.

The stable's horses ran well at Sedgefield on Boxing Day and anything at 3/1 or above is a fine bet - I expect him to win well. You can ignore the fall last time - he was wiped out by another horse.

I will however be having a small saver on Rosquero at 20/1. He is running off effectively 66 which is miles lower than his ability dictates. He's moody but the new headgear could make a real difference and if he clicks he'll go very close. The top weights are rated 94 in this 0-100 and the low weights will never have a better chance.

In the 2.45 I'm dying to take on Truckers Highway for all that he's done absolutely nothing wrong in completing a hat-trick. However, those exertions will catch up one day and raised another 13lb I have to look elsewhere.

There could be a lot of pace on and that will suit Engrossing if Hughes bides his time a little. I thought he was in the process of running a better race last time faced with an impossible task, until he failed to get home.

He may be a bit of a bridle horse but this race could fall into his lap if the likes of Discay and Oficial Ben force the issue with the jolly. I've no beef if you want to back Nautical Twilight as she looks leniently treated after that last win, but she's just a bit short in the betting.

At 7/2 I'd be tempted, but at double figure odds I'll chance Engrossing who is now down to a workable mark, with Hamilton taking off another 5lb. It's a great shame there's not eight runners.

The 2.10 is double tricky with Rebel Benefit and Gonalston Cloud dark horses. Jac The Legend was disappointing over timber last time but could hit back over fences, while What's Up Woody is well handicapped and must go close if in good form. At 8/1 he's very tempting with an in-running lay the play there.

I thought Tippmanboy was overpriced in the opener although Deauville Dancer is probably the right favourite, but the ground is a concern for that one.

The second division is interesting but with the great man aboard Park Place I'm confident the horse is the one to beat. How JR only has one ride at the track today is beyond me but the tip should be worth taking. Caged Lightning could be a very real danger and with both the novice hurdles I won't be getting involved until seeing them in the flesh.

Good luck today and the blog will be updated again after racing at Doncaster tomorrow.

Sunday 27 December 2015


Not exactly sure the trip up the A1 in treacherous conditions was worth the risk and after backing a bunch of placed horses and getting a thorough soaking I've certainly had better days at the track.

The ground was obviously very wet but raceable in the first half of the card - however with the rain falling increasingly heavily I'm not sure they would have passed an inspection had the meeting started later in the day.

Despite a load of nons the card stood up pretty well and Just Georgie looked a decent each-way pop in the opener with hotpot Barney Dwan not certain to like the ground.

I think it's fair to say the favourite was ill at ease on the ghastly terrain but make no mistake his class got him through and he looks a very decent prospect with plenty of speed. His mark of 130 in no way flatters him.

Just Georgie ran as well as could be expected down in trip and this sound jumper has now put in three solid shifts under rules and is very much one to be with in a handicap when handed a test of stamina.

The second race was the only one we got right as I very much liked the angle in with Good Vibration and Point The Way at decent prices. They scratched four rags which meant less value on offer but still with Nuts Well, Bollin Ace and Raise A Spark easily opposable I backed both my pair with confidence.

Point The Way is a lovely type of horse but still quite weak and backward physically. He stays very well though and has a serious engine, JR did the right thing dictating matters and I thought he was the most impressive winner on the day, with plenty of improvement to come in the jumping department.

Good Vibration was second again but his form is extremely solid and has simply had the misfortune to bump into some very progressive types. He's quite strong for his age and is a winner waiting to happen once sent into handicaps, where he ought to be fairly treated.

Nuts Well is a horse I like a lot and he has done well physically in the past few months. However, he is still only four and his weak finish at Kelso was a red flag and once again he was very tame at the end over a longer trip.

I feel there's a bit of hype around the horse being a half brother to Runswick Royal and although some may question his attitude, for the time being I'm happy to suggest he just needs time to strengthen up. He's been busy and could probably do with a break.

I had the next down to a couple as well in Roxyfet and Theflyingportrait, both trading at around the 4/1 mark overnight with the market surprisingly favouring Lensio and On The Case.

Sadly, two that I didn't fancy were scratched and the market soon righted itself to make Roxy favourite - indeed he was strongly supported in the end and won like an improving horse.

In the end I favoured the grey in second who once again spoiled his chance by pulling very hard. I'm convinced he is a 115 horse but he must learn to settle while the Candlish kennel remains ice cold. Molko Jack looked really well but I think I have fallen for his charms before and once again he showed zilch; he looks to have completely gone.

At this stage I was rolling along in the placepot with several lines and thought Divine Port was a solid runner in the handicap hurdle after winning on his return in the manner of a horse with plenty in the locker. Quite why I didn't back him to follow up just a fortnight on I'm not sure.

There were several that looked very well in the race however, which made me put the brakes on, and they included Card Game, who surely wants better ground, Wintered Well (Candlish) and Away For Slates, a decent prospect but unfurnished and tricky looking horse that holds his head high and appears to begun life on a harsh rating.

Jethro is a moderate looking sort while Karisma King has plenty of attitude and still hasn't learned to settle, while Azure Glamour is a horse that looks way better than a 90 animal but he has attitude problems too. That said, he surely wants a sound surface.

I didn't get the handicap chase right at all and a decent placepot divi went begging with My Friend George beating Red Danaher, both of whom I know well. For some reason I thought the former may struggle on the ground, while the latter has been very disappointing over fences thus far although the handicapper has been swift to lend a hand.

The Ellison pair have attitude issues although at least Down Time has recent form on good ground and ran as though he still has something to offer on that surface, while Tiny Dancer made mistakes and although the jockey reported he slipped into an early fence and lost confidence, the burden of proof lies with this horse to prove himself after an injury break.

I was really keen on a couple in the handicap hurdle - two well handicapped sorts in Discoverie and Copt Hill. Unfortunately all the juicy prices on the former had been taken early doors but he still looked a decent bet as I thought he'd grown and strengthened. I bumped into Kenneth afterwards and he confirmed he had done well over the summer, although that was scant consolation after Fiddler's Flight had swooped to shed his maiden tag at nearly 10.

Gunner Lindley proved once again he is one to take on while it has only taken 32 days for Snowed In to be 'Murtaghed'.

B Ellison's Ballycrystal had been all the rage for the bumper but the trainer pulled him out on account of the ground. He still had Tomngerry, a likeable point winner who was on his toes beforehand, to represent him and he was very strongly backed before beating a quite nice son of Cloudings called Rolling Thunder. They both could be alright.

Sunday 20 December 2015


It was a big decision to head north to Gosforth rather than west to Haydock, and not one taken lightly. I'd like to think there were winners to be found at both tracks, although with Baratineur going off a decent price in the opener at the Lancashire venue, what a galling start to the day that may have been when it was caught on the line.

However, when heading to the track I always try to focus on the meeting in hand as that seems to reap most reward. And with some quite tricky action in the North East we needed to get our heads down.

I wasn't the only one before, during or after the opener to think that Jonniesofa was a certainty to open proceedings and that odds of 1/2 were extremely generous. This very likeable galloper has done very little wrong since switching to rules and once again went all the way to the line.

The first handicap chase proved too difficult to play. I didn't like the claims of Askamore Darsi who would have been beaten miles last time and doesn't look straight forward, while The Orange Rogue always seems to find a way of getting beaten despite having the look of a horse who ought to be better than he is. Nick Alexander has his team in good health but this horse is running out of chances.

I had a big negative in this race in the shape of Imperial Leader, who looked like a backward bumper horse that hadn't been trained very long. Now I've no idea what problems this one has had but but he looked nothing like any of Twisters do and he seems to have completely gone.

Chanceofalifetime went well for a long way but he's a bit short on size and is likely to prove best on spring ground, while Alto Des Mottes looked quite lean for one of Hogarth's and he has been progressing quietly. For me, he had it to prove, particularly in terms of attitude, but he went clear of this lot easily enough and providing he maintains condition he could progress again as he's proven on most tracks.

I had the next by the fluff of the scroat with Clan Chief a 6/4 poke in my book, and that was with all eight running. Here's what I wrote about this horse last time;

Clan Chief was a massive eye-catcher beforehand, and was jumping for fun until Lucy Alexander took a soft unseat. The secret's out but he should be backed next time. 
Well, clearly the secret wasn't out as the layers went 11/4 and bigger behind the J Wade trained Casual Cavalier. Now this fella let the side down last year when chucking a couple of races away and is one to avoid. Add to this the form of Wade yard and the jockey booking, I had it 5/1 minimum along with stablemate New Academy.

River Bollin was the only conceivable danger but he hadn't been fit at any time last season and it was hard to tell whether he was ready for this after a long absence. He had jumping issues last year and he was not any better here.

The scratching of Casual Cavalier was frustrating as essentially we were now on a 2/1 chance but by my reckoning he should have been much shorter still, so probably should have just kept going in.

This lovely looking horse is way better than a 93-rated animal but still looks incredibly green. Fences may prove the making of him and you'd have to say this horrible ground suits very few horses, so he wasn't as impressive as I had expected. Still, he saw off the resurgent Mister Hendrie which is good enough for me.

There was surprising support for Triumph Davis here, who is really small and has been rejected by a couple of big yards. Perhaps she can do better on fast ground but has shown zilch for this stable so far.

I had to have a bet on the handicap chase over 2m 4f - I just didn't know which one. The Ramblin Kid was the rightful favourite but he was just 'too obvious' somehow and I wanted to look elsewhere.

I was concerned about a race for the lead and didn't really rate Boric on a career high mark, Carrigdhoun with his stable very quiet, and The Ramblin Kid all likely to go forward. I just put a line through Trust Thomas these days as he just doesn't do it off the bridle. No Deal looks like a horse past his best after so many problems, so I was left with Bernardelli.

I gave him a good write-up here after doing the column a big favour at Doncaster last term, and with that run in mind I fancied he could repeat the feat under similar conditions. He's not a great looker but he was very fit and well in himself and at 4/1 looked terrific value.

With those wins in the bank I wasn't going to play the mares race where Lochnell appears to have gone despite looking really well, and the Russell horse Near To Tears probably didn't go on the ground - she has some size and scope so is not one to dismiss on good ground when sent over fences.

I had priced up Island Confusion a short priced favourite for the final chase of the afternoon but he'd let the side down last year and he was very weak in the market throughout the day. Although money did eventually arrive I wasn't that taken by his appearance even though he'd strengthened up since last term.

He's had issues and may have needed this but I didn't want to back either of the ones at the front of the betting even though they looked most likely winners. Gold Opera surely wants further than the minimum and they got away with it big time here. This son of Gold Well started to stay on as they exited the back and you just sensed he was going to get there from some way out.

Never Up and Duhallowcountry led them into the straight but the fact they were still there suggests they weren't really going anywhere up front. As such the form may not be much as it stands but there is oodles of improvement to come from the winner up in trip, while there's plenty of room to strengthen up physically. Even if he falters in the new year, he'll be one to keep an eye on next season.

Officer Cadet is a very big chase type who couldn't have been fit for this even though he was tight in the betting, while Raise Hell is quite a handy sort but you'd have to be wary of a W Mullins reject.

There wasn't much to be interested in regarding the bumper and Applaus was a short price by default with good form in the bank. He's not the most eye-catching but he's strong for his age. However, two smaller types went past him here in Very First Time and the nicely bred Red Indian, who was touted by a couple of judges. The money came for the latter and it proved correct, although what the form is worth is very much open to question.

Tuesday 15 December 2015


A rather frustrating day of punting with some confusing performances from a couple of winners, while there were quite a few to take out of it for future reference.

The going looked soft on a pretty bleak winter's day but it probably didn't ride too badly on the chase course, and as is often the case the Bridge is one of the last venues to get really bottomless.

We ought to move briskly past the victory of Danceintothelight in the opener, who appears to have taken on a new lease of life on moving from Hammond to McCain. He was bang out of form in the autumn but this performance saw him laugh in the handicapper's face. I thought the horse was out of control under his inexperienced rider but he just didn't stop galloping.

I actually thought Running Wolf merely had to repeat his last run to land the spoils but he never looked like landing a blow in a most befuddling heat.

Berland of J Ferguson's yard was the next short priced jolly on the block he too bolted up despite looking far from straight forward. A nice looking horse who was on his toes in good order, finished with an awful lot of running in him and I'd be very wary of opposing him in the short term, especially if they can find some decent ground.

Miss Ranger was flattered to get anywhere near the winner but the switch from J Wainwright to B Ellison will undoubtedly do her good and she ought to win races, as should Cosmic Statesman granted a much stiffer test although he is 0/16 on the level.

I didn't mind Hubal beforehand and he belied his odds to threaten briefly, while Hey Bob also looks physically capable of doing something at some stage. His flat rating is truly remarkable.

Easily the highlight of the day was a quality beginners chase headed by P Nicholls raider Warriors Tale, who looked to be priced up at odds on purely on reputation. Initially I was going to let the race ride but I had my doubts and all bar Central Flame looked to have a chance.

In the paddock the eye was constantly drawn to the handsome mare Hester Flemen, whom I first saw a year ago to the day after which I made this remark;

Hester Flemen won the bumper as she liked and is a lovely, big mare. She dwarfed her rivals in the paddock and is really well made - along with Subtle Grey two of the nicest McCain horses I've seen in quite some time.
Of course she is now under the care of N Richards and she really filled the eye, not just in her physique but with the way she moved, the ground she covered, and just general well-being. For Nicky to throw her into such a race was a tip in itself (although I hear the vibes weren't great - I don't read the papers) and the 6/1 on offer was too good to resist.

Seldom Inn looked better in his coat than at Southwell, but he showed his quirky side again there and I'm just not sure about this horse's attitude. It may be that he wants better ground but he made several clumsy leaps again here. Perhaps he'll be better come the spring.

Racing Europe, a nice strong horse himself, was dwarfed by the others in the prelims but bounced back to form with a much better effort despite a couple of errors. Soft ground is key to him and hopefully he'll build on this.

Warriors Tale is a nice horse. He was too short in the betting against some likely types but this is obviously not his running. That said, he did look novicey early on and he's not one I'd be that keen on if you're thinking of chasing losses on him.

Things pretty much went downhill on a personal front thereafter. The novices hurdle was a weak affair featuring yet another hotpot in Captain Bocelli, who had shown plenty of promise in bumpers.

Now this is a nice horse who could be anything. He was purely undone by pulling too hard in the race, a trait he didn't betray beforehand as he seemed a very relaxed sort. This is one you should back next time as he didn't do much wrong here - in fact he'd probably be better off in the better race.

Take nothing away from the winner Poulanassy, who had won a weak affair last time in the style of a horse that would improve again. The step up in trip was sure to suit but it was hard to envisage giving the jolly weight and a beating. He was a solid each-way bet to nothing, if you can get them these days, but even his most ardent fans must admit they picked the favourite's pocket here.

I've written about Turtle Cask countless times here in the past but that last run was hard to forgive and even with the step back up in trip likely to suit I had to look elsewhere. The yard's horses don't look right and this one has looked better on numerous occasions. For him to record a PB is deeply upsetting.

That said the form could amount to very little. The second, Blake Dean, is a born loser who was never going to stay 3m. The fact he was still there two out was probably testament to the crawl they went throughout. That pace didn't suit the keen Freddies Portrait, who looked a better specimen than this lot. His finishing effort was very tame for a horse that has a lot of experience in points. He may not be up to much, although it's too early to throw him to the wolves.

The handicap chase over the minimum trip was another brutal race to watch as I easily got it down to two but opted to back the perennially disappointing Morning With Ivan rather than eventual winner Star Presenter, both around the 7/1 mark. This was poor punting.

The latter was noted last time out at Sedge running as though softer conditions may be okay for him despite all his form being on decent ground. However, looking through the form he hadn't look straight forward off the bridle and all things considered I talked myself away from him. I should have just counted on him tanking through the race and taking my chances from there.

I couldn't have Tomorrow's Legend whom punters clearly thought a repeat of his last run would suffice. I was deeply disappointed with his finishing effort that day as I thought he would hose up. The return to the minimum trip was completely against this paceless sort, and he had to be opposed. Equally unbackable was second favourite Bollin Line, who may go and prove me wrong and win one of these bad races, but he looks an ungenuine sort. These races are my bread and butter and it was a balls up.

I'd put it to a few people earlier in the day that the bumper looked a penalty kick for Ferguson's High Bridge after he recorded a very decent rating last time out.

Son of a Guineas winner, he was a nice looking sort and I couldn't figure out why he wasn't 4/7 at least. The Nicholls grey Be Daring looked a very backward type and not especially fit, while Hobbs' Shambougg is a nice looking horse and appeared to be the only danger. Atomix is alright but it's hard to know quite what he achieved staying on into second place, miles behind the impressive winner.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Weekly round-up W/C - Dec 7

Not much time to get three meetings in before we take a couple of days off, again the racing was difficult and not many tracker horses running so decent betting opportunities few and far between.

Leicester - Wednesday 9th

With racing at Hexham off we headed south to what used to the 'home' track, albeit one where I've never walked away with more than I went with - and today was no different. The ground was a lot softer than usual on the chase course and with most of those declared expecting better conditions the chases were won by wide margins.

Race 1

Pine Warbler is out of that lovely mare Cetti's Warbler and this big lengthy horse has clearly taken time to mature. Quite lengthy and still weak, he ran a very solid race before tipping up at the last, and is one to keep an eye out for in a year's time over fences.

Race 2

The race of the day for me as I wasn't at all keen on the favourite Chicoria, who took an age to pick up at Market Rasen last time out when making numerous errors. That seemed to have been missed by many and I got this competitive looking race down to four at decent prices, eventually landing on the second and third home.

As it was the Skelton-trained horse Bekkensfirth took a giant leap forward on his first try over fences and it's remarkable anyone connected with with stable allowed this thing to go off at 12/1. I'm glad it's not just me asleep at the wheel at times. He's a nice son of Flemensfirth who loved this ground and there's plenty of room to strengthen up.

Lovely Job served it up to him and this ex-McCain horse looked to have progressed extremely well physically since the spring. I actually thought he would run home better than he did as he looked race fit, but he jumped novicey at times and perhaps a more galloping track will suit.

Benenden has been on the radar for 18 months now and I couldn't allow this expensive purchase to go unbacked. He settled much better than previously to back up my suspicion that he had grown up over the summer. He was certainly not suited by the rain and he is another who I'm keen on following as long as they can find some decent ground, which won't be easy. The second and third might have run into one here and this was most certainly a decent race for the track. Paddy The Deejay was punted and he has the make of a nice chaser.

Race 5

There was nothing stopping Truckers Highway following up and he had oodles in hand. Thoonavolla looked in need of the race so did well to be second while Theflyingportait once again travelled really well to reward a little each-way support. When the yard starts winning again he may be one that can add to the tally. I needn't like the Longsdon horse Instinctual here and I wouldn't be surprised to see him moved on. Grand March once again flattered to deceive and is becoming expensive indeed.

Race 6 

I thought Hedley Lamarr was a good thing to win the finale but he looked a bit green the way he travelled and although he's a nice sort I wasn't that keen on his head carriage throughout. Goodbye Dancer's performance came from leftfield while Space Walker (too free?) was disappointing and Thatcher's Gold looks a thorough stayer who will make a fine chaser.

Doncaster - Friday 11th

Race 1

Waltz Darling stood out on his last run behind a couple of far superior animals but was put in a short price for one that jumps so poorly. I made him only evens to get round and I thought James gave the horse a lovely ride, giving the market drifter every chance and not rushing him at the obstacles. The fact that the ones in front weren't going anywhere helped but those brave enough to bet the Reveley horse should put JR top of their Christmas card list.

Race 2

Some decent sorts in div 1 of the novice hurdle with the winner Winter Escape landing some heavy support for the McManus gang. Not a great looker at this early stage of his career, he appears to have a great engine. Deauville Dancer was primed to run well and this strong sort will have no problem at all in going one better, while Call To Order did well to get so close after looking very green in the run, not jumping very fluently. He's a nice looking horse who will do better on good ground. Quite a few in behind took the eye, not least the fourth home Pomme who has grown since winning her bumper, and she came home with some zest. Shotofwine was given a quiet one and this former McCain inmate will have the look of a well-handicapped horse when the time comes. He'll need a trip.

Race 3

Didn't have the quality of the first division but initial views are that Park Place (sturdy) will win races on sharper tracks and better ground, while Dimple, Kauto Riko and Kara Tara were all decent looking sorts who shaped with a deal of promise. It's a pity Dimple finished with such verve as this was his third run for a mark.

Race 5

Beeves looked in great heart for his first outing for J Candlish and it will be interesting to see if this often moody type can back up his fine run in second place. Ikorodu Road has a great record on Town Moor and there was plenty of support around for the veteran, who looked fit for this return. Another feather in the cap of in-form trainer G Mcpherson. Desert Joe looked well but is a bit on the small side and after going in snatches finished tailed off. He looks to be regressing.

Race 6

I try not to get involved in mares races but Chantara Rose once again looked in great heart and was sure to improve for the step up in trip. If she proves more tractable early in her races she will have more for the finish. As it was Iron Butterfly, who also looked well, had more toe as she too moved up to 3m and claimed her second course success. Tambura was a pretty short price on what she had achieved but would have been a lot closer but for a bad mistake four out.

Race 7

Volnay De Thaix looks a proper horse but was very novicey. However, he met the last two on a good stride and that helped him seal the win. I wouldn't be that confident if they took him to a Grade 1 track next.

Doncaster - Saturday 12th

Persistent rain had turned the good to soft ground to very soft by the first race. There were a few scratchings as a result but as always at Donny it became very loose rather than deep, but definitely suited the soft ground merchants.

Race 1

I was really taken by Holly Bush Henry here last time but he was put in at prohibitively short odds, at least for this out of form Billy Bunter. He looked really well once again and his victory began a remarkable sequence of drifting favourites doing the business throughout the day. He should have been a real solid bet at 5/2 but I got waylaid trying to find each-way alternatives. I hope you were on.

Race 2

I liked the shape of the handicap chase over 2m 3f and took Saints And Sinners over the lightly raced Javert. I always want to take the side of something progressive but after morning support I wanted to find some value against the 3/1 shot. I was happy after 'Saints' looked much better for his reappearance and expected a bold bid although I wasn't keen on Hughes riding as I think he needs some stronger handling. It may be that the horse wants 3m now. Either way, Javert was a very worthy winner on his first go at 20f and jumped great from the front. Having drifted out to a very backable 9/2 he should have been worth at least a saver. Shimla Dawn again looked great and was ridden with restraint this time. He ran on a bit after being outpaced and similar tactics over 3m may see him in better light. Victor Hewgo was heavily backed but this was a very big ask on his return and surely he too wants a trip.

Race 3

Ephraim looked a horse full of quality ahead of the 3m novice hurdle and when he drifted to 9/4 we had to step in. They came for Atlantic Gold who had it all to prove on the ground, while Bugsie Malone is a nice horse but very much in the 'long term' category. He's leggy and immature and ran fine here - he wasn't expected to win on debut, at least by me. I really fell for High Hopper last season and the Jefferson horse is simply a joy. Thought to want better ground, he ran a super race and I can't wait for him to jump a fence next autumn. In the meantime I hope they'll go steadily with him because he could be very nice indeed.

Race 4

Sego Success had lost his way but is young enough to rectify that and cheekpieces and positive tactics saw him home in the staying chase. Surely they'll return here for the SkyBet Chase in the New Year as he jumped like a bunny today. He doesn't stand out on looks and I think this is the second time I've been put off him in the prelims. I favoured the fit again Indian Castle over Straidnahanna from the Haydock race last month but he ran like a drain here and that was his last chance. The Smith horse seemed to be remembering his heavy fall there before fading late on, while Night In Milan and Baileys Concerto would not have acted on the ground.

Race 5

They poured the cash on Robertstown in the juvenile but I wasn't that taken by the flat winner and he can look better in his coat. He was extremely novicey at most of the obstacles and put in his place by King's Who Dares Wins, who put up a very professional display. The Skelton's Fouberg was far too free but is a rather taking individual who will be worth remembering in a year's time when he's more grown up mentally.

Race 6

Southfield Royale was a very confident selection in the staying novices chase and he duly obliged. Only five, he will just keep improving physically and it's to his credit that he is able to perform to this high standard already. I hope they 'mind' him this season, and although by Presenting he seems to relish heavy ground and perhaps there's a handicap to be won with him before the season is out. Coologue was a worthy foe. He's another who has a great attitude and jumps for fun. It's A Close Call was a second P Nicholls horse worth opposing on the day. Again this one has a very big frame, but looked a bit leery beforehand and clearly has some growing up to do.

Race 7

Forest Bihan looked fantastic prior to the finale but he hasn't backed up his initially promising effort at Ayr and perhaps he requires a step up in trip, or it could be that the handicapper has him in a headlock.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Beg To Differ can cause a shock

The 12.50 at Uttoxeter is a fascinating contest that sees three fine chasing prospects clash over three miles in what promises to be a thorough stamina test.

Aubusson has been priced up at 4/6 which looks too short despite being the clear pick of the trio over timber.  I think there’s a bit of a ‘Tea For Three’ effect here – the impressive nature of the same connections’ horse’s win at Exeter last week meaning this horse is ‘assumed’ to be as good on his first start over the larger obstacles.

While that may be the case, and Aubusson was lovely looking horse when I saw him at Haydock last season, he’s up against a couple of gritty stayers that tick boxes that he doesn’t.

Milansbar is every inch a chaser and jumped like a natural at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance. He didn’t look fully wound up that day which may be a reason why his jockey set rather lazy fractions, meaning Run Ructions Run was able to do him for toe at the death.

He also made a tired blunder at the last which cost him any chance, but I expect him to step up on that effort with the run in the bag. I would be just slightly concerned that this race comes a bit quick, just 13 days on, although he did win twice last term with just a 10 day break.

Those two victories came at this track, which is so important, and as we know he can jump there’s two ticks to Aubasson’s none. With bottomless reserves of stamina he will take some beating.

However, of even greater interest is Beg To Differ. If you’ve read the five to follow you’ll know I’m very fond of this horse. The fact that connections have chosen to go over fences at this early stage in his career is viewed as a positive, and for the second time over fences they have been happy to take on horses of superior ability over timber.

To me, this implies they believe the horse is capable of running to a much higher mark over fences, and there was plenty to like about his debut at Wetherby when third behind Southfield Royale.

After a few novicey leaps Beg To Differ warmed to his task, looking a threat on the home turn before getting tired. Jonjo had left plenty to work on that day and I reckoned he was only 80 percent fit at best.

As such I’m expecting a giant leap forward this time, and he too has a win at the track under his belt when slugging it out over timber in March. He’s got around a stone to find if he wants to win this but I rate this horse so highly that today could be the day to make a name for himself.

I price this up more like 5/6, 9/4 & 6/1, with the rags 16 & 25. While I have great respect for the front two, Beg To Differ is over-priced at 8/1 across the board at 8.45 this morning and he is the bet.


Regulars may also want my views on another five to follow horse in Friendly Royal, who goes in a competitive looking 2.20.

Sue Smith's horse relished the step up to 2m 6f at the course last time out after finding the track and trip too sharp at Sedgefield previously. He was a good bet last time but made harder work of it than I thought he would. 

He's always shaped like a real stayer so this step back in trip is not in his favour, even in these testing conditions.

With this being a much deeper race, and raised a steep looking 11lb, I won't be reinvesting this time. Or as we used to say, if you didn't attend the wedding, don't go to the funeral.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Round-up - Sedgefield/Wetherby Dec 4/5

Thin gruel for Northern racing fans this week with a dismal card at Sedgefield followed by pretty poor stuff at Wetherby. Not much to go at but one or two notes of interest.

The meeting passed an inspection but they by-passed the final fence as they did for so many meetings last season. There wasn’t much punting appeal although I wanted to make the trip up the A19 to see a handful of horses for the first time this season.


Huehuecoytle looked a very difficult ride when winning a bumper at the track for D McCain last season but he’s a really well related and is a fine stamp of a chaser in the making.

Once again his greenness/attitude was very much in attendance as he wandered around at many of the obstacles. However he had poached a good lead at the second last with the rest apparently going knowhere. Under a very hard drive Huehuecoytle was not helping his jockey at all and they were nabbed close home by McCain’s Whitsundays, who looked quite a nice animal beforehand.

I can’t help but think that softer hands might have got the K Dalgleish horse home. I’m no jockey (obviously) but there didn’t seem any need to get stuck into him so soon in the straight – if anything the runner-up could have done with some company. And for a rider of Harding’s experience it’s surprising he left a gap up the favoured running rail for the eventual winner to come through.

Sue Smith’s Karisma King once again looked a difficult sort in the prelims but he settled a bit better over this longer trip and stayed on pretty well. He should now get a mark, as should Agentleman who didn’t seem to get home but is another who looks sure to do well in handicaps, and on better ground.

Not A Bother Boy delivered for a second time after I had given up on him prematurely, when the yard probably ran him back too quickly second time up. He’s just a big baby and is only doing what he has to do.

This wasn’t a strong race again and Heron’s Mill looks one to avoid after failing to get home once more. He’s every inch a chaser but the way he keeps stopping suggests he still has a problem. Silver Dragon is a proper monkey and ran on again after dropping the bridle, while Thatildee probably ran to his Hexham form.

Mixboy was not a horse I took to last year as he’s pretty small and didn’t take the eye at all. Although he didn’t carry my money you would have to say he looked a better animal here, stronger and better in his coat.

The money came for Blake Dean but he’s not a horse I could EVER back. Without wishing to be rude the horse is a complete shit, as advertised when coasting to the front two out at this track last year only to ‘turn it in’.

Now I may be preaching to the converted here but backing these perpetually disappointing animals is the short cut to skintsville. Sure enough the little horse spat it out a mile from home before consenting to run on again to nab third and frustrate layers in the place market.

Orchard Road won a weak race here last year but he remains on an 8lb higher mark and didn’t get home in the manner of a horse with a possible breathing issue. He looked fit enough, while Baraboy is surely nailed by the assessor now.

Whiskey Chaser was nominated as one of my five to follow and opened his campaign with a turgid display. The way he stopped suggests there may be a problem, although the track and trip certainly would not have been in his favour. But it was too bad to be true and fitness didn’t look to be an issue.

The penny appears to have dropped with Verko, who has always looked as though he could develop into a horse better than his basement mark. He appeared to pick up the pieces in a shocking race at Hexham but after getting outpaced again here, stayed on stoutly like an improving horse.

He looked very healthy, unlike stablemate Roxyfet who is normally a perky sort but was very flat in the prelims and ran as though this was one run too many in recent weeks. For a young horse he has a ton of mileage.

McGregor’s Cottage is a very well related filly and a nice stamp of a horse who took the bumper with ease. The form of Moonshine Ridge’s bumper win on good ground didn’t look up to much but this leggy sort appeared to go on this much deeper terrain alright, probably more that she ran into one. Final Fling ran on okay into third to back up his debut effort and although I’m not fond of the yard ought to be up to winning a staying event when sent over timber.


An uninspiring fixture back down the A1 with the long odds-on Bon Enfant duly landing the opener despite a minor scare from the Hammond-trained Dakota Grey, quite a nice looking horse who wasn’t at all flattered by this performance. He was very straight for this but it was a good start.

Leanna Ban is a strapping chaser who will come on plenty for his run in third and again he looks one to keep onside if they can find some decent ground this winter.

Mossies Well took on Mysteree in the novices handicap chase and the long-absent Russell-trained gelding was not short of fitness beforehand. The son of Gold Well stays all day and took advantage of a couple of mistakes from his rival. There’s a suspicion Mossies hadn’t fully recovered from his Hexham run three weeks ago, although he could have come up against a very well handicapped horse going places.

It was hard to fancy any in the staying hurdle but fair play to Native Optimist who has proved me wrong in no uncertain terms. Gifted a couple of weak races at Hexham, I thought the handicapper had been very harsh but he just loves this deep ground and as is often the case he looked in great heart before the race.

It was full of disappointing sorts although there was a chink of light for Forty Crown, who looked better than usual and the blinkers had appeared to put a spring in his step. He travelled like a dream before failing to get home (not for the first time proving he doesn’t stay). I’ve no doubt if this was run over 2m4f he would have won well, but now the cat’s out of the bag and it remains to be seen whether the blinds will work as well a second time.

The feature race was very trappy but the shrewdies got it right when the money came for Clan William, by far the least exposed of the field. I wasn’t sure he was up to Class 3 but under another fantastic Danny Cook ride he made all in a race full of prominent racers.

The one to take from this is Sleepy Haven, who shaped like a very well-handicapped horse. However, it is to be hoped they revert to timber with him as he really doesn’t have the scope for fences and made numerous minor errors. The Candlish yard is cold as ice but the horse looked in great nick and when the kennel returns to form he should be backed.

I’ve knocked the aggressive tactics employed on Vendor since he has returned to the track and it was pleasing to see Cook sit off the pace before putting the handicap hurdle to bed early in the straight.

Unfortunately the price was not one that interested me after sustained support although it was hard to put anything up against him. Cooper once again got rather wound up beforehand and this tiny horse had run his race by the time the race began in earnest. Sa Suffit and Stopped Out both looked and shaped as though the race would bring them on.

Another horse I have got wrong this term is Special Wells, who failed to stay on this first go at 3m in the handicap chase. In truth he made bad errors at the first down the back on both circuits but to be honest you can’t keep making excuses for horses. Things haven’t gone his way and although he looks far too good a horse not to succeed at this game, the jury is out – big time.

In reality this did look a penalty kick for Courtown Oscar who has always looked a gorgeous big horse and he jumped superbly out of this ground. These conditions serve him best and he’s just the type to keep improving. The partnership with JR is a match made in heaven. The Toft was an interesting recruit but he looks very slow and showed nothing.

I was very interested in the well bred Jack Lamb in the bumper and although he was backed off the boards I was a little disappointed in his appearance, as although a nice type was quite leggy and immature. He looked ill at ease on the ground and was well beaten by Applaus, a good strong horse who paid tribute to the horse it finished behind at Carlisle trained by D Elsworth.

And so ends a week to forget. We can only hope that the weather relents in the coming weeks otherwise it's going to be a long old winter.

On a more positive note I'm planning to put some selections up on the blog before racing. The bulk of my profit comes from handicap chases and I'm going to focus on these over the coming months. Hopefully readers will enjoy these previews and benefit from the advice given.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Southwell/Catterick round-up Dec 1/2

Bit of a lull so far this week, with some pretty mediocre stuff on offer and not much in the way of attractive punting opportunities.


Only two chases on the card and neither particularly enticing. The opener was tricky although we quickly put a line through the morning gamble High Aspirations, who is not very well made, didn't look especially fit and got rather warm late on. As is often the case the 'real' market advertised his chances with a late drift.

Instead those in the know favoured Global Domination, who is quite a nice strong chasing type and looked in good order following a decent prep. But with Nalim and Magical Man also looking well it was a difficult call.

The next was also very tricky although it looked to me as though the quietly backed Mondo Cane still needed the outing, he's a big gross horse who can take some getting fit. The way he fenced suggested he was still ring rusty and maybe next time would be the time to catch him, although he's not straight forward by any means.

Ballymoat was very fit for this seasonal return but he's starting to look very disappointing and doesn't find a great deal at the end of his races - in winning this last year the race fell apart. This poor effort was not down to any lack of fitness.

The awfully named Singlefarmpayment was down in class for the staying novice hurdle but I had reservations over his ability to stay on this bad ground bearing in mind his keen tendencies, and he got rather worked up beforehand.

I'll oppose these types of short priced favourites every day of the week but this one we got wrong as Dickie J guided the five-year-old to an easy win in an admittedly weak contest.

The only one you could put against it was C&D winner Crosspark but he didn't look much different to 14 days previously; ie rather plain, and with that form looking somewhat weak he never looked like defying a penalty.

Carlo Rocks was all the rage in the next even though he was up 6lb for getting beat here last time under A Thornton. With 'Helter' Skelton taking over the reins punters piled in and there was to be no mistake this time as the big chaser in the making powered home to good effect. He was green in front and this backward sort has a lot more to give. Who You For was very disappointing but I suspect this fifth run in a short space of time may have been too much for this young horse.

The turning point should have come in the next where the P Nicholls grey All Set To Go was a big drifter in the face of strong support for One More Go, who had been plying his trade with success on the flat.

Looking at the pair there could only be one winner - the Nicholls horse. Useful looking, strong and fit, I'd take the four-year-old against the small hard-fit jolly any day, especially as it had been on the go all year. BUT after losing out to Mr Market earlier in proceedings, I opted to sit this one out. Tut-tut. These things are easier in hindsight but every minute of this race hurt, especially when W Kennedy took the FAV all the way round the inner on the worst of the ground.

This was one race not without interest for the future, Jonjo's Walkami a fair looking sort with good size who looked a bit green on the bad surface, while the runner-up Boolavard King was the better looking of the Bailey pair and is another that looked as though better ground would suit.

There wasn't much to say about the handicap hurdle except that Money Maid looked fit enough after a long lay-off. She will tighten up naturally but this was a big step up on what she had achieved before her sabbatical so should still be of interest. Favourite Coozan George was disappointing on the face of it but didn't look at all comfortable on the heavy ground. This very big rangy chaser in waiting should thrive on better going and will surely now have his attentions turned to the larger obstacles.

Twister's Ballypoint is a nice bumper horse who is another who should do better on good ground, while M Walford's Lough Salt ran well in the finale after looking very immature beforehand. The winner of the bumper Lithic was well found in the market and is a nice looking horse who should have a decent future.


Always good to be back at the Bridge but it was a rather disappointing card I thought, although in retrospect a first winner at the track for P Nicholls in the shape of Stilletto might be something to look back on in future years.

The first thing to say is that the ground was more like good to soft, good in places, and not the soft in places as advertised. The steady drizzle that came in may have made it a tad softer for the last couple but they came home pretty well in general.

As such it was no surprise that Beer Goggles, mentioned here before, was rushed off his feet throughout the opener. This mud-loving stayer already needs three miles and this sharp test was never likely to play to his strengths. His initial mark looks a bit high and maybe the assessor will relent before they go for a punt.

The handicap chase saw a typical turnout with few you could really fancy, and that very much included the second and third home Bollin Line and Court Of Law. They both backed out of things after looking likely winners at various stages but in Aregra they bumped into a mildly progressive sort at the right end of the weights. The bonny grey jumps okay and is most definitely one to have on side in a close finish. His previous defeat came over an inadequate trip at Sedgefield. Runswick Relax took an unlucky fall early on and my guess is he would have gone close here.

Two strong juveniles in Romain De Senam and Jaleo took each other on and saw the 'impossible to oppose' former named done on the line. Of course the 'pro' bet was Jaleo each-way at 7/2 but they always come second when you actually do them, right?

The Beginners Chase saw Holywell beaten into second a couple of years back before winning at the FEST, and although it was Stilletto who took the honours we may have seen a quite decent horse for the future, if this lovely big chaser learns to settle in his races. This was only his fifth outing so it's early days and he certainly won't look out of place in one of the Cheltenham handicaps in March.

It was surprising to see Amore Alato held up at the back considering he had so much success blazing a trail over timber. He's an athletic horse who is still learning about the big boys' game but he will surely strike this season, perhaps on better ground with a return to positive tactics.

The one to take out of it was arguably Chase The Wind. A W Greatrex cast-off, this good looking animal will need to come down in the weights to strike but new handler J Foster does a decent job with similar types. Don't expect too much in the short-term, however.

Actinpieces really caught the eye at Wetherby and did this column a favour that day. She's a lovely big chasing type who is still as green as grass. She won with any amount in hand and should be worth considering in better company. Chief rival Shine Away is an out-and-out stayer who will jump a fence in time.

They all looked fit and well for the staying handicap chase, particularly Playing The Field, who nevertheless appears to have gone at the game. Cyrien Star looked to have all the right credentials bar price, which gradually shrunk throughout the day. They knew.

There was no bet in the bumper for the second successive day with four of them hard to split. They made the Irish mare River Dun favourite but as with all of Crawford's she was a bit small and hard fit. Much nicer where Dothraki Raider, Bon Genre (surely amiss?) and eventual winner The Tailgater, who had done well for a summer at grass despite still looking just an embryo of a stayer.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Doncaster round-up - Nov 27/28

Heaven only knows how they get good ground on Town Moor even during a wet spell, but there you go. It looked to be riding genuinely good and the fields had stood up accordingly.

There was a rush of early money for old Night In Milan in the opening stayers hurdle with the blinkers on for the first time over timber. I've long believed he simply is a better horse over fences but his mark fully reflects that and with great form at the course he was probably a worthy jolly in what looked a weak race.

I was more keen on Echo Springs at a price first time in a handicap and this good looking horse, who went for £100k after landing a bumper, should be up to winning off his mark. But he's a bit keen and could prosper from a hold-up ride over shorter, as he may not have got home here after a prominent sit.

Billy Biscuit was on his toes, looking fit and well after a long absence, he's a bit lean and leggy and probably wants a fence. I keep telling myself 'don't back those coming back off an injury' and sure enough the well-supported Billy ran no sort of race.

I was confident Lowcarr Motion was the one to be with in a dismal looking 0-100. With M Hammond in form and this horse looking much fitter than he was last time, he was a cracking bet. Time may tell there was something amiss as after travelling like a dream he found nothing in the straight. For one that has finished notably strongly on occasions, this wasn't right. He's worth one more pop.

Voix D'Eau was all the rage in the handicap chase for the cute H Fry yard and this light-framed ex-French horse looked the part. He was low at a few of his fences and may not take much more racing at this stage of his career, and I might want to take him on if he runs on soft ground this winter. Other than that he's one to keep on side longer term.

Backers of runner-up Off The Ground can feel rather aggrieved for running into one. With the pair well clear, his chance may now haw have slipped by. Waltz Darling stayed on well for third as JR nursed him round to good effect. This multiple hurdle winner, who has plenty of size for the winter game, remains on an attractive mark and can surely land one of these after this confidence booster.

Kings Bandit ought to be ready to go in next time. A very sturdy individual, he still wasn't fit for this and hunted round at the back for fourth prize. He won his hurdles from the front and given soft ground and a stamina test he'll be worth a very close look.

The 2m novice hurdle was an interesting affair with Innocent Touch looking vulnerable under a penalty. Holly Bush Henry from the in-form G McPherson kennel had arguably achieved more first time up yet was almost double the price at one time. In a lively betting heat, they came for Holly Bush and Mr Kit Cat, a strong laid-back horse, while they were dead against Pipey's Iniciar and with good reason - this lean, buzzy, sweaty individual made little appeal.

It was a queer affair as total rag Deadly Approach poached a long lead yet remained in front going to the last. The rest were well beaten off bar the well-backed winner who really caught the eye in the prelims with his well-being. The form must be treated with caution but the winner is undoubtedly alright.

I really fell for Go Long before the second division of this novice hurdle even though the odds-on Charbel looked the part and was a worthy short-priced jolly.

Go Long is a lovely big strong horse but looked pretty forward first time up and was clear second best on looks, ahead of Emperor Commodos who has always carried an awful lot of condition. The latter set a good pace but jumped markedly right, which undoubtedly put the favourite off his game.

However, it's interesting to hear that jockey Moloney thought it rode like a decent race and the way Go Long went away on the run-in suggests he'll be a half-decent tool. It's a shame I only backed him in the 'betting without' market.

Boston De La Roche was quite short in the betting didn't much appeal, being quite small and not a great mover at the walk.

I had already decided to row in with Maloney again in the handicap chase after watching a re-run of Wild Bill's first outing over fences, when he seemed to take a soft fall in terrible conditions after jumping with aplomb..

I'd seen him at Haydock in March after which I wrote; "The absence of A Vos Gardes meant Three Faces West faced a fairly simple task in the fixed brush race although the Williams runner Wild Bill is a very likeable animal and they came for it strongly in the market. The way the pair scuttled clear suggests they will be alright with the latter certainly one to keep an eye on."

From a mark of 116 this good looking 90k purchase looked nicely in at the weights and I liked the shape of the race with the heavily backed Silver Eagle worth taking on after a lengthy absence, while Present Flight didn't look anywhere near as good in his coat as he had at Hexham earlier in the campaign.

Doktor Glaz is an interesting cheval but they don't seem to know what to do with him, running this big strapping horse over all manner of trips and ground. He's not necessarily bred to get 3m, certainly at the age of five, and I was happy to pass him over.

I kid you not the main danger looked to be 20/1 shot Ueueteotl with the maestro JR in the plate for the first time. This nice grey was in last season's five to follow but didn't really deliver with the yard under a cloud for much of the campaign. His jumping has been an issue but with Reveley in the saddle and completely overlooked in the market off a good mark, he was worth some sort of interest.

Sure enough JR gave him a peach but Maloney had much more horse under him in the straight and the race played out perfectly for once. It doesn't often fall into place and when it does all you want to say is 'should have had more on'.

The bumper was tough to call, Chase End Charlie and Grow Nasa Grow nice big types for fences later on, while The Missus has done really well over the summer and although she's still small is likely to improve for timber and a trip. Lynda's Boy and Walk Waterford were from big stables but both lean and leggy and predictably weak in the market, running accordingly.
Saturday was colder and wetter and hence the ground somewhat slower as the day went on. The card had far less appeal than the previous afternoon with a dreadful staying chase to open proceedings.

Sgt Bull Berry was a very solid option back on better terrain but this sound jumping horse went in snatches and will surely benefit from some headgear. When he returns in the spring I might be interested, but he was put in his place here by the minute Xenophon, who did look really well beforehand. His record moves to 1/26 but this was weak in the extreme.

It was hard to split the four at the front of the market in the 2m 3f novice with Cloudy Dream and Waiting Patiently resuming Hexham rivalry. This test was likely to suit the former better this time but once more the Reveley youngster showed plenty as the pair sprinted clear off a slowish pace. Stage One was a nice compact sort, albeit a little backward, and he'll surely benefit from a stronger pace, while the jolly Ascotdeux Nellerie is a bit light-framed and didn't show a great deal.

The aforementioned trainer H Fry can get his horses very fit first time, notably those that won at Wetherby a few weeks back. However, two came here looking as if they could tighten up and Zulu Oscar was opposable on those grounds despite being very firm in the market.

Double W's is yet to get off the mark and looks very one-paced over the minimum trip, but they haven't been able to move up in distance as he looks to take a keen hold. He's very likeable, a proper chaser, and we haven't seen anywhere near the best of him. I'dliketheoption looked fine to me but was so weak in the market you couldn't have got involved, while Adrakhan looks the part but remains out of form.

The handicap chase was a teaser but I couldn't find an angle here, with Coologue a really likeable, active horse but backed into half the odds he was in the morning. Special Catch was punted and looked really fit and well, while there was little wrong with market drifter Jack Steel. Fry's Billy Merriott was the subject of a morning gamble but drifted late, possibly because he too looked rather burly. Rising 10, he's very lightly raced and may still have issues.

The winner Wings Attract was overlooked, even though he initially made a small impression. After a few laps of the paddock I filed him under 'also-rans'.

I was dead against Red Devils Boys in the next as he looked a devilishly difficult ride over fences, and that was with McCoy on board. But after wandering about he put his head down on the run-in and won like a well-handicapped horse. He was fit enough and may just prefer the small obstacles.

Hannah's Princess looked fit enough, while the ever-disappointing Harvey's Hope looked in far better health than at any time last term. Boruma ran another eye-catching race in third despite once again not being right in his coat. When the trainer returns to some sort of form we can back this with confidence, probably over a bit further.

Briery Queen had some super bumper form but was overlooked in the market against Hendo's Robins Reef, even though the former had beaten the latter in a good race at Sandown last term. Punters latched on eventually and they were rewarded when James Banks made virtually all on the bonny mare. She jumped brilliantly first time up and is not one to oppose lightly. It wasn't a strong race with Skelton's The Last Bar looking quite backward, while Ethelwyn was in great health but all at sea on the rain-softened ground.

The bumper was tricky but Skelton's Kafella looked by far the strongest of the bunch and there was a sense that he might be very decent. He was very well supported but hung all the way up the straight in the style of a green horse. He just didn't have basic speed of Jam Session, a really well made horse who was very forward for his debut, while the runner-up Captain Sam is a typical Jefferson big, backward animal but looked very immature before the race and it proved his undoing in it.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Sedgefield/Wetherby round-up - Nov 24/25

We're into a very busy period just now but we've got to keep on top of things. The blog may not be in quite the same format as before but hopefully there's a few nuggets for the non-racegoers amongst you.

Sedgefield - soft

Race 1

Cumbrian Farmer (fit, well) and The Ice Factor were well supported in a weak race but neither had any form on the soft ground and both ran as though they didn't go on it. Unidexter looked a cripple in front before this race and ran accordingly. Not one of R Ford's better purchases. I backed Snowed In each-way with the flat-eight but was surprised he was asked to force the pace. On a winning mark, the grey can win again soon up in trip and waited with.

Race 2

The winner Libby Mae is lovely strong mare and has done little wrong in four runs to date. Her bumper form entitled her to go close and she was fit for this reappearance. The market did not reflect her chance. By contrast Ryedale Racer appears to have been over-rated by punters. He won a bumper on heavy and looks a stayer, but I take the view at present that he may prefer better ground. Physically he's quite unfurnished.  Please make a note of Fire Rock, from the N Richards yard. A lovely big horse, he's very backward at present but bears all the hallmarks of a handicap project.

Race 3

Poor stuff, but interesting beforehand. The 'nominal' FAV was Cerca Trova but I was against the Irish mare who looked small, keen and a bit sweaty. 0/3 over fences she did not deserve to head the market even in a poor race. Runner-up Duhallowcountry has looked awful in appearance this year but on this occasion took the eye in a good way. It was a remarkable transformation and while I didn't consider a bet, someone did as he was nibbled at at massive odds and they were nearly rewarded. This may not have been a fluke and this point winner could take one of these with stronger handling. Star Presenter ran a big race for the in-form R Drake despite not having any soft ground form, so should be placed to win soon (Leicester, maybe?) while Jokers And Rogues still appears to have problems.

Race 4

Not much interest beforehand. Runswick Relax is a very strong sturdy sort who must surely have a chase in him over further, and there's every chance he could improve for the switch to K Slack. Landmeafortune again showed plenty of promise and when he goes over further, we must step in. There was a big whisper for Wot A Shot but he moved to 0/23 with a shocking effort and although he looked well, clearly has problems.

Race 5

This was supposed to be the day Tomorrow's Legend became a man but he didn't really jump with much panache and that weakness came home to roost at the last when he handed it on a plate to the hitherto disappointing Retrieve The Stick. The runner-up went like a horse a head of his mark but was disappointingly one-paced for a horse who I thought would stay well. Time is running out for Lord Usher but he ran on well after some early mistakes, while Clan Chief was a massive eye-catcher beforehand, and was jumping for fun until Lucy Alexander took a soft unseat. The secret's out but he should be backed next time. If you follow me on Twitter I made my long-held views known regarding Wakhan and Newspage and they didn't let me down, both out of the frame. Wakhan was very fit, but no doubt the punting public will give him another chance when he's likely upped in trip next time.

Race 6

Not A Bother Boy was fancied here last time but looked really babyish/soft/difficult/slow (delete as appropriate) and I couldn't figure the jockey booking of T Ryan (10) as I thought a strong ride was called for. I was wrong and the well-handicapped cheval stayed on too strongly for his modest opposition. This one got away although at 3/1 there are no hard feelings. Veroce was surprisingly well-backed but ran very well - the only trouble is he's about a stone too high in the handicap. Native Que may do better yet, possibly down in trip. He's quite a nice animal with plenty of size and travelled great throughout.

Race 7

The bumper was difficult but I took a close interest in Storm Forecast at Hexham where he was a bit of a playboy before finishing behind a couple of decent types. However, he looked to have gained a great deal from that experience, both mentally and physically, but the market wasn't aware of this transformation and it enabled us to grab a bit of value. The McCain beast What Happens Now was ok but nothing special, while Dobbin's Benjamin Tree is alright but backward. After the mishaps with Wot A Shot and Tomorrow's Legend, it was pleasing to get out on level terms.

Wetherby - very soft

Race 1

Draytonian was a banker and this lovely big chase type made short work of this lot. Runner-up Tara The Tiger looked in need of the outing so takes plenty of credit out of this run and is probably quite decent. The same goes for Captain Redbeard, and nice chasing type who was much fitter than at Hexham. He hung a bit on the run-in but this was a solid run for a horse who clearly wants 3m and a fence.

Race 2

No business done here as Milansbar is a lovely big chaser who thrives in the mud, but just looked a tad under-cooked. He'll tighten up for this and could be one for a marathon chase later this term. Kaki De La Pree was 100 percent fit and has no excuses. I'd be looking to get against him next time. Run Ructions Run is the most admirable mare and jumped super at this modest tempo. She had more basic speed than the other pair and it showed after the last where Hughes produced her to win. The slow pace played into her hands and it could be that the assessor takes a dim view of this.

Race 3

Not much of a view here on this bunch of maiden hurdlers, most of whom were coming off the flat. It was a question of who would act best on the ground and I couldn't really put one up to take from it.

Race 4

I had been rather keen on Yorkist as I thought he'd get a good tow into the race but he was ridden very handily and things didn't pan out for him. The one who did get a good lead was Indian Voyage who is pleasingly back on an upward curve after that terrible mid-air collision at this track last season appeared to hit his confidence. He's a lovely strong horse and did this with little fuss. Grey Life was fitter than I thought he would be and may remain competitive off a career high mark, but Forward Flight physically looked inferior to the rest and rising 10 is unlikely to be progressing. That said, he is one of a number of horses from the Smith yard to have 'bounced' after running too soon after their reappearances (Special Wells, Friendly Royal and Not A Bother Boy spring to mind) and Forward Flight can be expected to do better next time granted a few weeks off.

Race 5

Mac N Cheese was first mentioned favourably on this blog here and then again here. The ground had come in his favour, he was fitter here than on both of those previous outings, and most importantly of all he was very solid in the betting, returning almost half of the early morning 16/1. Connections had done a very professional job in getting it handicapped on a mark of 89 without ruffling any feathers. A brother of the Eider winner Milborough, soft ground and a trip will always see this horse in a favourable light. However, the one to take from the race is undoubtedly Peterpanopirateman. He was most definitely a pre-race danger as he's a nice stamp of a horse who was fit for his reappearance. But he lost a good 10 lengths at the start when hampered by the recalcitrant Pistol, so to see him in the mix turning for home is to his great credit. Not one to be missed next time.

Race 6

I had messages for two in the bumper and they fought out the finish. A King apparently holds Cajun Fiddle in high regard and she's a good looking mare with plenty of size and nice way about her. But she ran into one here in the heavily backed year-older Savingforvegas, who easily won a soft ground Irish point before being sold for £33k. She is barely medium sized but well made and looked in very good order for this first outing under rules. The pair pulled nicely clear of the stoutly bred Miss Yeats, who looked a bit unfurnished, and the previous winner Lamanver Alchemy, who is bit on the leggy side. But she sets the standard for an early mares' race it's a decent one.

Sunday 22 November 2015

Haydock, November 20/21

Friday of the Betfair Chase weekend produced what you might call a typical Haydock card, with generally small but quality fields.

The opening staying hurdle was of huge interest, not least because it comprised the biggest field of 11. There were at least four to be considered and although he didn't carry my money in the end Island Heights ran out a worthy winner from the front.

This horse struggled over fences last season and it's easy to see why - he just lacks that extra bit of size and scope. It was therefore unsurprising that connections were aiming him at the big race over the brush hurdles on Saturday before re-routing here.

The tip should have been taken but instead I preferred the chances of Oscar Blue, who on reflection was asked too much after a couple of wins in the lower leagues. He plugged on and initially it was disappointed he couldn't offer more, but as I said this probably came too soon.

Major Ivan had finished behind him at Kelso and turned the tables in first time blinkers. He's a really lovely chaser in the making and you would say typical of the trainer's. I'm not entirely sure that's he's as quirky as the jockey has made him look. Perhaps if Hughes had pressed the button after jumping two out there may have been a different result - as it was I felt the horse was given every chance to duck it and he did.

Shades of Midnight stayed on dourly for third and he is not straightforward. Still a five-year-old, he has some growing up to do mentally but physically he's strong as an ox and was much fitter here than for his reappearance. A big run was expected judging by the market and each-way backers were rewarded.

I really wanted to be against the well-backed Optimistic Bias at the odds, not that there was anything wrong with him physically. Just that the Aintree form may not be as strong as is generally believed, while the deep ground was an unknown. Also, the lad seemed to find all the trouble in the world in the race, and the horse is undoubtedly better than this.

Charlie Cook is worthy of a mention after running a big race at huge odds. He has enough about him to suggest he can win a run-of-the-mill 0-110 and will jump a fence in time.

Doctor Phoenix dwarfed his two rivals in the graduation chase and again jumped like an old hand. This win won't do his mark any favours and he may find things a bit harder from now on. But he's a gorgeous chaser.

Welsh Shadow looked really well before hacking up in the novice hurdle despite weakness in the market in the face of a plunge on Viens Chercher. The Ellison horse is a real chase type who wants further, and in coming clear of the rest showed improved form. He's a very decent four-year-old.

All eyes were on Minella Rocco in the novice chase and what a looker he is. However, he clearly doesn't do much in a hurry and he spends a lot of time in the air at the canter. The way he stayed on suggested he already wants three miles, while I would be looking to oppose him on anything other than soft/heavy.

He needed to come up with the goods on this chase debut with Silsol in opposition, a nailing good handicapper at 150+ who arrived bang in form. In fact, the run almost certainly came too soon after Carlisle and he was very brave to win under a sensational ride from STD.

Private Malone was just denied and he clearly stepped up hugely on his hurdles form, jumping soundly in the main, and may even improve on this fitness-wise.

Vintage Clouds was all the rage in the brush hurdle and this strong sort had his trip and ground after coming up short on his reappearance when he didn't look fully wound up. His task was made easier by the fall of Wade Harper, who is only workmanlike in appearance. That said, his sibling Cole Harden isn't much to look at either.

Baratineur ran a mighty race in second and once he matures mentally can leave this form way behind. He's very fizzy but is moving in the right direction. Celldomfed was in need of the run and filled third place some way back. I Just Know had tightened up since Wetherby but was undone by a dreadful error down the back where he may have hurt himself.

The junior bumper was easily narrowed down to the front two in the market - Ellison's Crackdeloust looking the strongest while Venetia's Du Soleil was the nicest - a well made sort who will come on for the run. Renaissance Red was carrying plenty of condition, while Sir Albie was one of the smallest horses I've seen in some time.


Betfair Chase day didn't appeal much at all from a betting point of view although I did back Baby King with some degree of confidence in the opener, purely on the basis that he was the only one in the race with scope for improvement under prevailing conditions.

The horse cost six figures after winning a hurdle race in Ireland and didn't really progress last year, but this quite small horse looked on great terms with himself for this reappearance and won I thought with something in hand.

Zaidiyn is a lovely big chase type who chased him all the way to the line, but looks very quirky and it's been well documented by various people that he only has one run and needs to be held up. With that in mind it was perhaps surprising that his jockey sat with a double handful going to the last rather than kicking on.

They decided to run New Street in this despite it being withdrawn on several occasions because of the soft ground. He's a nice rangy grey who will undoubtedly do well in the spring.

In previous years I might have been drawn into backing No Deal in the staying handicap chase, apparently having plenty of potential despite advancing years. However, any horse that has had as many problems as he has MUST be treated with caution, and sure enough this 7/2 favourite was pulled up having reportedly suffered a breathing problem.

They all finished in a heap after King Of The Wolds jumped them to sleep down the far side. He has a great cruising speed but has never found anything off the bridle, and will continue to be a great source of income to in-running layers.

Emperor's Choice didn't look straight for this race last year, when he finished second, but was much fitter on this occasion and duly obliged after being ridden from some way out. He has bottomless reserves of stamina.

I wanted to get against another horse that has clearly had problems in Gunner Fifteen, who went off an extremely well-backed jolly in the handicap hurdle despite what looked to me like a strong contest.

Loads of them looked great, Stilleto a big chaser for the future and Oscarteea who also looks like a chaser standing out. The latter ran a similar race to the one he ran at this meeting last year and may be crying out for three miles.

There's a race in Vendor if they stop riding it so aggressively, while the eventual winner Rock The Kasbah is a very dependable sort who looks tougher than granite. Soft ground is a must.

The two big races will be covered in great detail elsewhere and largely all the horses looked in great nick for their early season assignments. I wasn't that taken by Top Notch, who looked quite dull in his coat, so I'll be interested in his progress this season. He looks like he needs a step up in trip at some stage.

In the big fixed brush race Tea For Two stood out a mile but the way he jumped you'd have thought they would have gone over fences with him by now. He's huge and there seems little point now in persevering over timber.

Definitely Red is as solid a performer as they come and once again ran his race in second. I can't wait to see him over fences, while Alcala will continue to be of interest although's he's rather leggy at present and we won't see the best of him until this time next year.

There was no play in the closing handicap chase with most of the 10 in with some sort of chance. Indian Castle looked big and should come on for it, while Firebird Flyer didn't look great in his coat. Sun Cloud was was finally fit after a couple of runs this term, but he couldn't quite get to the lean looking Vieux Lion Rouge, who overcame an early blunder to win with a little in hand.

Wednesday 18 November 2015


Let's focus on a couple of races that are likely to throw up some future winners. The going was changed to soft after the first race but that shouldn't detract from the winners who came home by wide margins.

There was a 0-135 novices handicap chase that lit up the card and it saw Capard King fend off the late challenge of Scottish raider Seldom Inn close home, with King's Odyssey back in third.

The last named cost £170k and is certainly an eye-catching animal, the way he jumped and travelled suggested there is plenty to come. He had been immature last term and there were signs of greenness again when push came to shove.

It transpired he had bled, which is disappointing. He was very weak in the on-course market and the layers were proven to be correct. He's one to be a little wary of until he delivers under pressure.

The same could be said for runner-up Seldom Inn, who made several mistakes but at times moved as though he is ahead of his mark. This is not the first time he has looked a very capable horse but although he has a naturally high head carriage he doesn't look straightforward.

This is the second time he has acted on soft, yet he's very long in the back suggesting he may be better on good. I didn't think he looked particularly great beforehand and yet he's only gone down by a diminishing neck.

I'd like to see him on a more galloping track like Newcastle and he could be an out-and-out stayer. You know where I'm going with this. On good to soft, the Eider could be of interest.

The winner was quite impressive and looks a most progressive animal. A handy sort, this kind of track will always suit, but he jumped really well and deserved the prize. Generous under pressure, he's the type to just keep improving.

The fourth horse home Streets Of Promise was in deep here but he should come on again for this and although he was low on occasion he should do well over fences. With the yard still quiet, he's one who will pop up further down the line.

Did you see Coozan George loom up at the end of the back straight in the 3m novice hurdle before fading into a well-beaten fifth? He's still learning to settle and connections will be happy enough with this. A soft ground, chasing type, he could be well-handicapped after showing plenty of ability in bumpers.

Pithivier won like a good thing
Pithivier looked the day's good thing and he duly delivered under a pleasing ride from the outstanding De Boinville. I was concerned he may get a little outpaced as this good looking horse wants a trip, but Nico ensured he was kept up to his work. It's a good job I looked away as he jumped the last. We don't need scares like that when the money is down.

He beat them pointless and although it looked a routine 0-110 there are winners lurking. Runner-up Periquest travelled really well and ran on after getting outpaced. Time will show he had no chance in receipt of just 8lb here, but I think he'll back the form up next time, possibly over further.

C Pogson isn't noted for first-time-out winners and Mondo Cane is a sturdy horse who usually takes a run or two to be fully primed. If the handicapper relents a tad this horse may continue his upward curve back over fences.

The mares race was weak but Yes I Did won in taking style and the only other filly in the race with any scope was the Greatrex horse Via Volupta, who may just have needed this.

Willoughby Court looked quirky before landing the bumper and the trainer stated he is very difficult to train. However he looks to have a bit of quality about him and if Pauling can channel the horse's talents he could be pretty useful.