Monday, 9 February 2015

Catterick - Lap of honour begins

There was a genuine tingle of excitement as I headed north to the Bridge on a gorgeous spring-like afternoon that made the chilling temperatures of last week feel a distant memory.

Not only was there an appearance by AP McCoy, whose lap of honour is truly underway, but some really competitive racing for once and really no excuse not to get stuck in.

I had a few big opinions which actually came to nothing and it took a 'hail mary' in the first of two bumpers on the card to get me even close to drawing level on the day.

After Lough Derg Walk duly defied long odds in the opener we were straight into action with a super little hurdle race at which I came at completely the wrong angle.

I had priced the front four up as thus; Ballyvoque 3/1 Brave Spartacus 7/2, Hartside & Benzanno both 11/2. The latter pair were massively overpriced early doors and with McCain's horses looking rather well handicapped I moved in for the latter.

However, trackside this looked a far more competitive race than it had first appeared and little Benzanno made little appeal on looks just as it started to drift like the proverbial. Brave Spartacus was reportedly unfit after his enforced absence last time and it clearly takes this stocky sort a run or two to reach proper fitness.

Clearly there would be a battle for the lead but Reveley was able to sit tight on his Dad's perennial front runner and having looked over-priced early on, the right money duly came on the show.

There was an avalanche for Hartside and it wasn't difficult to see why. He's a very hardy so-and-so and looked really fit and well here after showing a welcome return to form on Friday. He was sure to be finishing well and to be fair he was unfortunate to bump into such a strong two-miler as Brave Spartacus.

Mad For Road also came in for oodles of support on the back of very little form, especially considering he looks a very tricky customer and they left the headgear off this time.

He's tall and scopey and looked quite fizzy, carrying his head high at the walk. You couldn't back him at any price in this company but there you are. He ran perfectly well but remains one to oppose.

McCoy returns to prolonged applause
I had been all over Jac The Legend at Newcastle last time out but he ran no sort of race really and was a bitter disappointment. He clearly has ability I thought but looked a bit dodgy the last twice and was opposable on that basis on his first try over fences. Sure enough the cash arrived in spades and he jumped like an old hand.

Not only that, he showed great tenacity to hold off the challenge of the much improved Itstimeforapint. Ms Russell's horse has progressed at a rate of knots physically since I saw him in November, and now looks quite a specimen. There's no reason why he can't defy an even higher mark back on soft ground - he's a dour stayer.

Cyrien Star looked in good shape for this first attempt over fences and he jumped perfectly safely. He's back to a winning mark and with softer ground in his favour he should be able to win a couple before the winter is out.

Fourth home Herecomestrouble is a big chasing type but doesn't jump great and doesn't stay 3m. He'll pop up one day as will Gonow, who didn't jump with much zest before crashing out three from the end when well there - he looks on a decent enough mark, but the Hammond horses seem to have done their winning for the season.

I was all over Ivan Boru after his two sighters at Donny and he looks a very well handicapped tool over fences. However, his rather shocking exit at halfway is sure to set him back and he seems a fragile soul in any case - watching brief now advised.

Cape York did not look on good terms with himself and the trainer's horses are now firmly in the doldrums. He's a nice sort mind you and one to bear in mind when Jefferson turns the corner.

McCoy made his first appearance of the day on the warm favourite Dewala in the next and while I only bet under 5/2 in extreme circumstances this looked a very solid jolly around the 7/4 mark.

With the champ riding a horse almost guaranteed an easy lead I was surprised it wasn't heavily supported after winning a decent mares race at Donny.

It was a case of finding some each-way value and Bogside jumped out a mile, belying his years in the prelims looking fit and strong. He looked sure to run his race and it came as no surprise to see him chase home the easy winner, with McCoy applauded all the way from the last by a lachrymose crowd.

The race was on for the minors but I needed strong binoculars to find my big each-way punt Allbarnone who found it all happening far too fast round here. Hindsight is a wonderful thing etc etc but this stoutly bred sort needs three miles now and although he doesn't appear to be progressing I'll be giving him another chance, ideally in a 0-110 over 3m at Wetherby. He's a nice sort.

I didn't get involved in the stayers chase as I went into it thinking McCoy would double up on Red Devil Lads, but he stands very tall and looked like a quirky sort beforehand. I knew he'd come there cruising but was worried about the finishing effort and sure enough it didn't look good at all.

Saint Are looked a class above physically and although it wasn't pretty stuff out there he did what he had to do, and after pitching with the best deserved this easier assignment. Nothing much else appealed although Pinerolo looked well again but surely they must put the blinkers on him next time.

The legend that is Black Jack Rover
I was in the hole approaching the two bumpers and needed a minor miracle. Nothing really jumped out in a very weak division one but after lengthy deliberations came down on the side of McCain's Black Jack Rover, who looked the least-worst of the bunch.

Quite well-made if on the small side, he clearly got stuck in the mud a while back and I hoped the ground would be the key this time. They made Episode and Sand Blast joint favourites but the former had run to 74 on debut while the latter is enormous and very backward, with a pronounced knee action to boot.

I couldn't really have either of them so with nothing else worthy of a mention I stepped in rather gingerly, and was glad I did.

The second division was a different matter entirely with blue blood Southern Strife up against the form horse Shotofwine. Physically the latter was much preferred - a nice stamp of a national hunt horse - versus the obviously flat bred and rather small former.

It was the Ferguson horse who had much more toe in the end, with McCain's looking a dour stayer. Harry Hussar is a nice big type who should do better in time while Exclusive Tara was short in the betting considering it was not fit. Dibble Bridge is a fair sort who is unfurnished at present but will win races.

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