There's something unique about going racing in January, only the hardcore fans turn up making some of these quant tracks a pleasure to frequent. It wasn't much of a card, at least from a punting point of view, and by and large kept things very low key.
The ground looked very tiring soft ground but the time of the opener was decent suggesting a very good performance from the N Henderson newcomer Kilcrea Vale. A good ground bumper winner, he looked a potentially useful sort beforehand and was a worthy favourite, albeit with the thought that there is plenty of room to strengthen and grow.
|Kilcrea Vale: Exciting prospect|
Novirak is coming to timber late at seven and doesn't really appeal as the type to improve with experience, and he was pretty tired in the end. He may not be straightforward either and is one to take on next time.
The third, Pyrshan, may however be okay and proved his previous effort at big odds to be no fluke. He has plenty of size and while a bad mistake stopped him in his tracks he battled on well and he'll be of interest in calmer waters next time, while he needs another outing to be qualified for handicaps.
I liked Ossie's Dancer and Favorites Girl in the next, a handicap hurdle, but had an open mind with no pace angle in the race and decided to opt out. The former looked in really good order so it was a surprise to see him put in a ragged round of jumping.
Of course Favorites Girl was sent out to dictate matters which suited her just fine, and with those in behind of dubious repute she was able to win as she liked. When she opened at 5/2 on course I decided not to go in so that was that. She's a very consistent mare but will be up against it now.
Disappointment of the race was King Of Strings who was sent off the jolly despite the appalling form of the Walford yard - the run merely emphasizing the problem. He's a lovely big horse with loads of scope and looked really well in his coat, but there's clearly a problem in the yard and this horse is likely to do much better than this when over whatever was ailing him.
It was hard to have a strong opinion in the 2m 5f handicap hurdle with four horses vying for favouritism - that said it was very surprising to see Chicoria so well bet despite the assistance of the champ.
His Aintree win was a huge surprise and he was unable to defy a penalty in a pretty poor affair at Ludlow. Nothing much to look at, he was certainly one to oppose.
Three came into it in form and No No Mac proved much the stronger to put two second-placed efforts behind him in a first-time tongue-tie. He's a nice sort to look at and will be even better in a year's time when he will be strong enough to get three miles well.
Just Cameron was disappointing under a penalty but he really could do with a fence and connections should waste no more time over timber at the age of eight. A big sort he'll take some stopping ridden aggressively over the minimum trip.
Make Me A Fortune didn't appeal much in his bid for a Rasen hat-trick and didn't really pick up although it was a funny little race with little pace on on. Rock Relief may hold the form down in coming second but the grey did look better than before - he has been sweating up but today he looked fine.
Royal Guardsman is a fair looking sort who will do better over the larger obstacles although he was pretty fit here so it was a tad disappointing that he faded away in the straight.
|McCoy returns on the improving Big Water|
Canuspotit looked the most likely winner of the stayers handicap - a lovely big horse who should leave his hurdles mark some way behind.
He did travel very strongly before being brought down at halfway here on his debut, when he looked to be a fine jumper. He proved as much here again and it was a slight concern that this may turn into a bit of a slog.
It made a bet on him a bit of a punt and with the price collapsing I was reluctant to get involved...my worst fears proved well founded as he didn't quite find as much as expected in the straight to go down by a battling length.
I wasn't at all disappointed by this effort from an inexperienced horse and he is very much one to keep on the right side over slightly shorter.
Kingcora was a worthy winner, but he's not that big and with an infrequent success rate is not certain to follow this up, while Ultimatum Du Roy's finishing effort was disappointing and this strong sort may not be wholly straight forward.
The finale went to Steel Summit, following up his Doncaster win last week. He's a nice big horse who will improve again back over fences but fair play to connections for keeping him on the go.
I thought he was worth opposing with a small bet at long odds on He's A Bully, who looks like he should be half decent but really hasn't produced much form of note. The hood seemed to help but a he made two shocking mistakes and laboured in third. He's not one to get excited about for now.