Saturday 17 January 2015

Haydock - Caught in between

Another trip to Lancashire that I wasn't particularly looking forward to with a typical mixture of seemingly uncompetitive racing and impossibly difficult stuff. As ever here in winter the weather was foul but troopers as we are we struggled on.

As it happened, I had taken a view in the opener in backing Barafundle from the red-hot Candlish stable at a rather tempting 4/1 with novice Kingswell Theatre heading the market early doors.

I had seen the latter in a bumper at Carlisle early in the campaign and he didn't particularly take the eye as one to keep in mind that day, especially as it had cost a six figure sum.

Should have stood the bet on Barafundle
The assessor had been happy to allot the beast a mark of 130 after just two runs over timber, and the Russell yard pitched him straight in the deep end. He looked one to take on, and as it happened most punters agreed as Barafundle was sent off the 2/1 jolly.

Now as you will know by now the appearance of the horses is of paramount importance to this punter and I was rather perturbed to see Barafundle getting very warm prior to this. Sadly it was enough to lay off most of the stake so it turned out to be a bitter-sweet success, especially as I had gone on to save on Milansbar, a tall, quite imposing horse who impressed with his well-being.

Araldur was the paddock pick, being really well in himself, but he doesn't seem to be the force of old and it was a bit of a stretch to see him challenge here against more unexposed sorts.

The four-runner novices chase had 'no-bet' all over it as the Queen's Close Touch looked a million dollars beforehand and it was surprising to see it so weak in the betting. They looked a good quartet to be fair but I did think he'd hose up.

Gorgeous looking Close Touch clearly has issues
Wakanda did me a favour at Hexham early in the campaign but he's come on a ton since then in typical fashion for the Smiths, more than I had bargained for. It's amazing how these young horses can get better in such a short space of time but this one has improved his fencing hugely with experience, although he dived markedly left here on occasions. He's a nice big horse.

Runner-up Cogry looks a quality stayer of the future - he's not over-big but good and strong and he is one I expect will continue to pay his way with more of a test.

The Grade 2 novice hurdle made no appeal with Aso a solid looking favourite against good looking horses Kiama Bay and Qewy. They finished in that order without much surprise - the latter is a really flashy looker who ought to be better on decent ground...the experience will do him no end of good.

The New One was a shoo-in but was made to work by Bertimont, who doesn't look amazing but can clearly go some. The favourite is a compact, strong horse who doesn't really have an air of quality about him, and I think he is just a very solid performer lacking that x-factor. I'm sure something will beat it at Cheltenham.

The graduation chase looked a good betting race the more I got into it, especially when Irish raider Maggio turned up looking fully revved and ready to go. He'd clearly been aimed at this race in which he was a solid second last year.

Thus it was particularly galling to see him fail to see the race out with the two market leaders out of the race. I wasn't especially keen on Carraig Mor, who is a bit of a shell of a chaser lacking strength behind the girth. If he builds up over the summer he will leave this form way behind but he may be best watched this term.

Mwaleshi made the pace as he does but I was baffled to see him keep going up the straight having failed to last out several times before. He's not the biggest but is all heart and he deserved this (said through gritted teeth).

Little Glenshee will have gone into everyone's notebook running on as she did - what lovely mare she is and as consistent as you could wish for. She's held several entries of late only to be scuppered by the weather and as a well built sort she may take some work to get fully fit.

As such, I thought she'd come on a touch for this and they simply went too quick for her for the first two miles. She ran to her mark but she's definitely capable of better and if the yard can find the right race I'll be in conkers deep. (The Alexander stable seems to be thriving right now so keep an eye out for their horses over the coming weeks.)

The Peter Marsh featured some really nice staying chasers who pretty much all looked in good order. Green Flag is a horse who had a great campaign last year and he looks as though he could be capable of a really big run. But he's not fired at all this year and although I liked him on this first sighting there was something not quite right, he may have run up a shade light and he wasn't really bouncing. This season may be a write-off but hopefully they'll get him back.
The likeable Samstown smiling for the cameras
I noted Samstown as a really enthusiastic type last season and was on when he dotted up at Ayr. He was hammered for that and I was concerned he wouldn't make the step up but once again how wrong you can be - another on the day to prove that sometimes you should stick by these improvers.

I don't know what ailed him last time out but he was looking really perky in the prelims and confirmed my view at a distance that he was a most likeable animal. He was well worth his place in this Grade 2 event but sadly I didn't have the foresight to play.

Corrin Wood was sent off favourite but I hadn't been that taken by his previous efforts and he was yet another McCain horse who didn't really take the eye without throwing off particularly negative signs. I've written here ad nauseum of how the stable's horses are not looking great and little has really changed over the course of the winter.

Their Subtle Grey is a lovely big animal who will make a fine staying chaser and was rightly heavily backed at odds-on to land a three-runner fixed brush affair, yet he too proved disappointing in failing to shake off the hitherto disappointing One For Arthur.

The latter is a nice big chasing type who has in truth improved physically since Hexham, but he has a backward outlook mentally and it was a surprise that he had the minerals to tough this out. But that he did.

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