Monday 16 February 2015

Carlisle - Ever the Optimist

It wasn't part of the original plan to head up to the northern-most track in England on an already-busy week but the card looked so good it was hard to resist.

The opening novice hurdle centred around the three market leaders and in truth it was difficult to split them looking at them beforehand.

I quite liked the look of Gone Forever at Catterick but his jumping was awful there and so I was looking to take him on this time, and the other two were likely contenders.

Three Faces West looked okay at Ayr and I quite liked him physically, quite strong with some scope for improvement. The flat bred Rock N Rhythm was a definite runner, having plenty of size for the jumps game, and all three should go on to better things.

Present Flight has shown very little to date and it's somewhat alarming that they've already reached for the tongue-tie, while he hung left up the straight. Nonetheless he's a grand sort for fences and I wouldn't be surprised if he puts this form behind him in the autumn.

Native Optimist could have gone down in folklore. But didn't.
The three-mile hurdle had no standout contender on form and that meant the way was open for the outsider Native Optimist to make a name for himself.

I'd noted him this time last year showing a scintilla of promise under weak handling, with a propensity to kick every hurdle out the ground. I was waiting for the right race with a decent jockey in the saddle to go for a touch and that day was today.

The fact that he was the paddock pick made the bet all the more exciting and we looked set to collect a big pot until Madam Lilibet mugged us on the line. It was a blow to the solar plexus as at no stage did I think we would get beat. This is the second time the mare has done us out of a bundle after she took down Trafficker at Hexham earlier in the season. It's a good job I don't bear a grudge (much).

Vinny Gambini had gone into more notebooks than I thought at Wetherby last time and thus was well supported to win the handicap chase over two and a half. Some late weakness attested to the fact that the race wasn't quite as cut-and-dried as some may have thought and poor Vinny looked very one-paced after having every chance. It looks like a step up in trip will be his only salvation.

I couldn't have had the winner Bennys Well despite his obvious liking for the track. He always mopes round the ring like a misery and he didn't even look very good in his coat either. It was a shock to me but to be honest it was a race that would throw up a different winner if you ran it 10 times.

The word was that Gold Futures had been laid out for the next and he looked cherry ripe even though he's not one to get overly excited about on looks.

Upswing will always draw the eye but in his trainer's own words he's a bit soft and may not fulfill the promise of his earlier wins here at the track. That said he was a tad unfortunate to be collared late on by the Richards horse, who really picked up late on to win in rather random fashion.

Spanish Fleet really is a likeable horse and should make a smart chaser next term - the handicapper seems to have caught up with both he and the third Conquisto for now. None of the others made much appeal.

Knock A Hand lands quite a touch
The market was all about Knock A Hand in the stayers chase and, down in grade, he landed quite a touch from an early morning 10/1. Heavily bandaged on his off hind, he clearly had a nasty injury that accounted for a rare poor effort last time and even at rather cramped odds he was well worth supporting.

The race looked competitive enough but there were reasons to oppose the vast majority of them, particularly Indian Castle who looked to be carrying plenty of condition after 10 weeks off, although trainer I Williams's horses do tend to have that characteristic.

It was nearly all over bar the shouting and it was quite easy to whittle another big field down to a small handful in the closing handicap hurdle, headed by the very likeable Beg To Differ.

Not seen in best light in a slowly run affair at Wetherby, Jonjo's youngster really stood out as a quality sort amongst these and was a very worthy market leader.

Of the others, Frankie's Promise looked fantastic and seemed sure to go close, yet never went a yard. It was another very disappointing effort from a rather nice individual, and it may be that the Alexander yard is still under a cloud. His other two horses on the day also ran poorly and his season has not taken off at all.

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