Friday 27 March 2015

Wetherby - Narrow miss for Vasco

Two jump meetings in the north on Friday and if I wasn't still feeling so feeble I might have been tempted by the card at Newcastle, which was much more enticing than Wetherby.

As it was we ambled down to the local track for what was essentially a four-race card, beginning with an opening novice hurdle that looked a good opportunity for Aristo Du Plessis to continue his upward curve.

I can't say I'm a huge fan of the horse but his market strength owed much to the paucity of opposition than anything else, with chief support Stylish Chap looking really lean and leggy beforehand.

Prince Khurram didn't look much on his return and he ran similarly poorly to before his absence, while eventual runner-up Big Indie is a nice strong sort who showed some form last time and backed it up here. Some better jumping may have seen him go close.

I had been very close to going in big on Allbarnone at a price despite doing my dough on him last time - the track and trip sure to suit better this time and with Fehily in the saddle looked ready to step up. But on seeing the horse he looked a funny shape this time, very lean under the saddle and not really taking the eye. He ran an okay sort of race but he just doesn't seem right this term.

They all looked okay to be fair - Big Sound notably fit on his return from a break, Prince of Pirates very well, Hail The brave healthy looking but a bit quirky, while the winner Cowslip is clearly thriving. Friendly Royal has not followed through his early form but he is very much one for fences and three miles next year.

Readers will know I've never been the biggest fan of Vasco D'Ycy but he's been settling much better of late and they've finally realised this stoutly bred sort wants a trip.

All well and good, but still he was left out his ground under a poor ride from Colliver and if they ride it like a three-miler it could win plenty of races. He does makes mistakes and he's not that big, but I'm sure he's well treated. His narrow defeat today sums up the betting year to date frankly.

Big Casino looked really well and Greenlaw was fit from a break although he's not very well made and you can see why he has so many problems. He's not one to follow implicitly. They were clear of the rest, of which Romany Ryme stood out in a negative way and he surely needs much softer ground anyway.

Vasco D'Ycy: It didn't have to end like this, lads
The only other race of great interest was a handicap hurdle over the minimum where Le Fin Bois looked certain to go well dropped in grade for the back in form Tim Vaughan. The fact he lost many lengths exiting the back didn't help his cause but the winner Mr Burbidge was a stayer on the flat and after getting an easy lead in the end was not for passing.

Sir Safir looked really well but his form is not the strongest, while Arthurs Secret is not that appealing on looks and continues to run poorly. Stormbay Bomber looked fit enough but the each-way move looked far fetched in a fairly competitive race.

The bumper essentially closed the show and the unraced Shantou Village was all the rage in what looked a pretty weak heat. The beast walked quite poorly but went down in fluid fashion and wasn't lay material.

Down The Line had stayed on well behind Jurby at Newcastle but that wasn't a deep contest while Tara's Rocket is a fair sort but will need soft ground and trip in time - holding him up last off a slow pace was never going to suit.

Wee Holio is a big lengthy horse who was very green, unshiping the jock on the way down, and nothing much else appealed - Return Flight looked best of the Hammond pair and duly chased home the winner, who will find it hard to defy a penalty in this sphere.

Whichever bright spark down at race planning decided to introduce a mares hunter chase ought to be having a written warning arriving in the post - a shocking way to end a pretty meagre card for those having to caught up the reddies.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Haydock - Slim pickings

A really drab day's action at the M6 track with very little business - only three of the six races providing any real betting opportunities.

The going was on the soft side of good but looked quite dead in parts, although they were mostly getting home okay.

The opening handicap hurdle looked really competitive and paddock watchers wouldn't have been at all surprised to see Handiwork go close on his return from a break at a big price - he looked really fit and well and almost took the honours.

The winner Purple 'n Gold wasn't much to look at but scored a deserved victory after numerous consistent efforts, while Minella Hero once again found the higher class beyond him  - although I remain convinced in this grade he would be best under a hold-up ride.

A Boy Named Suzi appeared sure to run his race as he looked very well indeed, but poor hurdling once again proved his downfall and this small horse may continue to struggle over timber.

War Singer looked fit and well - Satanic Beat and Street Entertainer were in need of the run.

The staying chase looked impossible and for once I didn't get involved. Itstimeforapint looked really well in itself but is very lean now and after nine visits to the track this season you wonder whether one more will be too many. He also needs softer ground.

Several of them looked as though they had had a hard season, and ran accordingly, although Josies Orders has not come to himself yet and will be very well handicapped when he does. Shinooki looked well but never went a yard.

Masterful Act was a shade of odds on to win under a penalty in the next but he'll struggle under a revised mark if he jumps like he did here, failing to take a cut at any of his hurdles.

Nexius has run well all season in good company and picked up the pieces in style. A non-runner robbed punters of each-way betting but at 8s you could still have given this nice looking horse a shot at the win. Note to self; never be afraid of one horse!

The handicap chase over 2m 4f provided a conundrum as Roberto Pegasus looked one to take on. He was a bit too obvious if you know what I mean and his one previous outing over fences at Plumpton hadn't convinced me, and on close inspection he's not all that big.

In fact, it was hard to back anything else although Galway Jack looked in great heart, and as this is his time of year was booked for a good run despite being handicapped to the hilt.

In the end he was turned over by the rag Carrigdhoun, a big unit who you would have thought would improve for the outing, plus he was running over a trip too short without the headgear he wore to success when last seen ages ago.

He was hard to find but then a bit of 'out-the-box' thinking may have got you there. Ambion Wood looked ok but has had loads of issues and really it was hard to like the others - Rowdy Rocher doesn't really take the eye and it was not surprising he failed to build on that Wetherby win.

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.

The bumper looked a penalty kick for the attractive looking Board Of Trade and the opening 4/6 looked real value against a backward looking bunch. It was surprising that he made such hard work of it in the end.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Wetherby - Cape crusader

I'll try to keep this update brief as I'm struggling to shake off the lurgy, not helped by standing around in this cold weather, and we need to get into tomorrow's Haydock card.

It wasn't a very 'puntable' card but there were plenty for notebook fans and some very definite markers for next time.

We can skip straight past the opener seller for obvious reasons, and into the novices handicap hurdle where the top one Routine Procedure very much took the eye.

R Dickin's youngster is clearly a chaser in waiting but looked in very good order indeed. However, someone obviously knew better as no sooner as I had nibbled at the 10s it whizzed out to double those odds on the machine. I might as well have set fire to a load of notes.

But stick it in the notebook for the longer term - nice horse. Westend Theatre is another one for the future and probably softer ground. He needs to grow into his rear end and fences will bring out the best in him.

Madrasa has been punted many times this term and again they came for it and this time things fell into place. Aren't the Reveley's having a good season? Lowcarr Motion ran a funny old race and again shaped as though further would suit, but he may be just a 'closer'. I'm slightly wary at this stage.

The next was a horrid affair from a punting perspective but fair play to Cowslip who is not a looker but was able to follow up that Carlisle win off a much higher perch. The Moore yard is in a rare hot patch and could have one or two more before the spring is out.

Back By Midnight did not look fit after a short absence but Abricot De L'Oasis looked great even though the market was negative towards his chances. Readers with a good memory will know I was singing the praises of Jokers And Rogues earlier in the campaign and he looked the winner turning in.

I was ruing not having something on at big odds but once again he fell in a hole off the bridle and it's a shame there appears to be an issue as this horse has a fine cruising speed. I don't know if it needs further, where it can keep going at the same pace for longer, or shorter if it struggles for stamina. It will jump a fence and maybe that could be the key - I don't think the attitude is a problem.

I swerved the three-horse novice as Carole's Destrier looked different gravy while Wolf Shield ran to his mark for the Moore yard. Creepy looked very lean and hasn't stood his racing.

Arthurs Secret was all the rage ahead of the handicap hurdle but this novice is not over big to carry top weight and I wanted to get against it with Watt Broderick, who is a fabulous looking animal that looked in great heart.

Quite what the jockey was thinking I don't know as I was expecting it to be under lock and key early doors, but he had to send it on turning in as it was going so well. The result may not have been any different but he should have kicked in rather than just wait for the others to come to him. Personally this was a proof of a horse in good order and with a conservative ride we can retrieve losses.

The ride on Weapon Of Choice was another to perplex as this miler on the flat surely needs riding for a bit of toe - not going from the front pulling for its head. For it to be jumping the last upsides is testament to its ability and he too should win this spring with a hold-up ride.

As you can gather I felt Rock A Doodle Doo rather picked up the pieces here as it looked weighted up to its best, but fair play to connections who have seen it hit the bar a few times.

Cape York: Good looking animal, attractive odds
The handicap chase was right up my street and I took a view that at the odds Lord Brendy was worth taking on. Readers will remember the disdain with which I viewed the ride it got last time and sure enough similar waiting tactics were employed.

On this occasion they should have suited as the pace was somewhat frenetic with Pinerolo and Cape York taking each other on, but the jolly was still spotting them a fair distance.

Having backed Cape York in the morning I wasn't disappointed that Hughes took up a prominent role as this is a horse who looked capable of winning from this mark having not looked right at all when the trainer was out of form.

Moody last time, he is the sort to benefit from blinds and the in-form M Jefferson duly obliged and the beast was worth a dabble at double figures in a race where I couldn't have the likes Pinerolo, Allanard or Special Bar at any price.

It looked for all the world as if Brendy was going to do us out of it but the effort in making up the ground was wasted after the last, as Cape York under a sound ride from Hughes hit back to land the spoils. It's worth repeating if connections of the grey happen to reading (doubtful I know) - pop him out in front and he'll win 10 lengths.

The bumper was interesting in that Tom Lacey's Younevercall was backed all day, probably after the trainer had a 20/1 bumper winner last month. I was expecting to see a superstar but to be honest I was disappointed and to my eyes the thing needed the run.

Maybe the algos and bandwagon-hoppers got the move going I don't know, but the smart cash surely came for the eventual winner Welsh Shadow, who looked a nice handy sort who was fit to do the job.

Dueling Banjos set a very decent benchmark and is a nice strong sort who is sure to do well over timber, so the victory of the Skelton runner was all the more meritorious.

Fact Of The Matter looked like a nice horse although a work in progress, while John Dory didn't really walk very well behind but stayed on well under a tender enough ride.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Newcastle - Something Lack-ing

A trip to Tyneside was to round off my very non-festival week where rain had turned the ground back to generally soft.

This resulted in a few disappointing withdrawals but the racing looked competitive enough and there were one or two very interesting ones lurking.

The opening novice was one such race where the exposed-as-slow favourite Gilnockie was taken on by two very much unexposed sorts in Midnight Monty and Jack Steel.

Neither had been able to show much in their previous outings having had some useful 'schooling' (I use the term loosely of course) runs out the back in better contests.

The market suggested the Reveley runner Midnight Monty would be making his mark this time around though and sure enough young JR set off upsides the front-running jolly, who simply had to be taken on despite the apparent lack of depth in the race.

Brave Spartacus: Three wins this term
However, the way he stopped could not have been predicted and sadly we won't be seeing any more of Gilnockie now. His demise left the way open for Midnight Monty to take the prize from the rag Bentons Lad, whose trainer George Moore is in decent form just now.

Jack Steel was once again seen to be doing all his best work at the end, but while a distance of ground will suit he is a most unfurnished sort who lacks a little in scope and has plenty of growing and strengthening to do yet.

The stayers handicap was a conundrum as Dystonia's Revenge returned to the scene of that famous win last time but had a huge burden to carry, while Present Lodger came here on a four-timer and was sure to be suited by a step up in trip.

I've never taken to the Russell horse, being quite wirey and leggy, and he could never get into any rhythm here with Dystonia's Revenge often out-jumped him early on.

The race kind of fell apart as perennial loser What A Dream once again travelled like a better horse than he is before finding nothing off the bridle, leaving it to Apache Pilot, who looked fit off a break and ignored by punters who had made him a short price to win a couple of events in the autumn.

The form of this is not to be taken seriously as the ones behind seemed to be catching up at the end even though tired. Beau Dandy reverted to the moody type that he always was while My Idea again jumped poorly but will surely bid to repeat last year's Wetherby win at the end of the month, when the ground may be drier.

Brave Spartacus was all the rage once again to make it three wins out of four and under another fine front running ride from JR delivered the goods. Amazingly I haven't been involved in any of the three wins, once again missing the early prices.

Avidity looked in really good order and ran accordingly, while Engrossing is a nice horse although his finished effort lacked something, while Pistol will benefit from a step up in trip and he continues to look well. Figaro looked really well but failed to fire.

I had lumped on Lackamon at an astonishing 10/1 in the morning for the handicap hurdle over three miles after his mark was slashed by 13lb, leaving him on an 8lb lower rating than when second in this race 12 months ago.

He hadn't been in bad form this winter and I thought the return to timber should spark a revival. I had priced him at half his available odds and thought he was one of the bets of the season in a race that didn't look as competitive as it might.

I wanted to oppose Waltz Darling, who while running well needed to pull out more, while Donna's Diamond has also been consistent but looked handicapped to the hilt and physically is one that will benefit hugely from another summer behind him.

Who knows what would have happened if Lackamon had winged the last - he may not have stayed on as strongly as the winner, but it was another close call at huge odds. It was good to see Wicked Spice back in form, although it's hard to know what has been ailing him. Tantamount didn't seem to see it out and 2m 4f off a quicker pace will see him in very good light.

The handicap chase over the minimum trip looked a ghastly affair but there was a potential blot in the Russell-trained Mumgos Debut, who was a very weak finisher when last seen but that was 13 months ago.

He looked fit for his belated return and a nice stamp of a horse that you would assume can rate far higher than his current lowly mark. If they can get him to settle he's the type to win a couple at least and while in-running players were seemingly expecting another late fade, I knedw he would go through with the effort this time.

However, the quirky Safari Journey had too much for him at the end so it was another case of what might have been. The winner, also fit after a break, has rated far higher in the past so this may not have been a bad effort from the runner-up. The third, Have You Had Yours, should also be up to winning this spring if sent over a bit further.

Un Noble: Had plenty in hand, by all accounts
Un Noble was all the rage prior to the handicap hurdle and the all the right names and faces knew about it. I'd missed the 6s early doors but wasn't going to stand by and watch this one win - he looked well up for it and is a fairly decent sort, quite handy and not over-big.

He had been given a quiet one at Hexham earlier in the campaign and the yard has been making hay with its first-time novices in handicaps this term. It helped that few others made much appeal - Harveys Hope hasn't looked great in its coat all year and didn't have much in the finish last time.

Grand Vintage was facing a far tougher field than last time while Clan Chief is a nice strong horse but loks quirky and the pair simply went far too fast. Blake Dean is very lean while stablemate Friendly Royal is very much a chaser for next year and is one for the notebook after getting back on track here.

Still feeling a bit crook, I was after a very keen on a quick getaway before the brawling kicked off but I had a good look at them before a dire finale, with Queen Of Epirus looking really fit and well after an absence.

I'm glad she didn't win as the 20/1 odds made a mockery of her chance, while the winner Kings Chorister is very hit and miss but looked in good order. Urban Kode is very small and looked moody - a favourite to oppose for sure.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Hexham - Hard work, no reward

It was quite nice to return to Hexham after their mid-winter break and a cold wind and overcast conditions greeted punters, with the ground just on the soft side.

Considering this they seemed to go a fair gallop in most races on a pretty uncompetitive card - the majority of them producing very poor form indeed.

The opener was one such race and although on the go for some time now Beyondtemptation looked really well in itself and with course form looked set to run a decent race - one that would not take much winning.

They were a rum lot for sure and it was hard to pick another out - Wyfield Rose looked dreadful and is quite possibly useless yet they backed it into favouritism, while Just Chilly is really small and lean and Shirocco Passion is also on the small side.
Beyondtemptation looked well before landing the opener
Morning With Ivan had winning form last term and may have taken a step back in the right direction on this better ground, although it's hard to say. She didn't look especially well beforehand.

The second was a shoo in for Endless Credit with the rest looking very poor again - Roskilly is nothing to look at and paid the price for trying to keep pace with the very hot favourite, while the third Dutch Canyon achieved little other than a clear round. He's very big and backward.

My Friend George was a warm order in the 2m4f handicap chase and although the form was there it was one to take on at the odds. Personal Shopper looked best in the prelims, really up for it, but got a very aggressive ride and eventually his run petered out.

Once more they seemed to go great guns up front which probably didn't help the jolly, who was still there turning in, but had nothing left as the veteran Oxalido came past.

Now I'm not saying this was gettable by any means but he's the first to come out of the good handicap at Carlisle last week which I said then was a decent event, and there'll be more winners to come from it.

Most of the others really didn't look up for it at all, Sharivarry, Milan Royale, The Flaming Matron all looking out of form beforehand while Top Cat DJ failed to back up his last run at Newcastle in which he looked flattered.

Auldthunder and Harry The Lemon dominated the market in the novices handicap chase and preference was for the latter who looked progressive after winning at Sedgefield recently.

However, the horse was never going and may not have enjoyed the track - he ran badly here earlier in the campaign, as Cross To Boston made all the running. He had looked a bit doggy last time and came into this 0/25 but jumped well out front and was never threatened. It may be a different story if he gets taken on.

Again the rest looked very poor, Resolute Performer may be okay in time but looks a bit backward for this sort of test, while West Ship Master looked big and well and this Irish raider was a pointer for the later races.

Purple Harry failed by a nose to land the punt
However, from this point of view the day was always going to hinge on the performance of Purple Harry and Ms S Drake in the stayers hurdle. It was the perfect race for the progressive grey and with two well-backed against it we got some tasty each-way odds and the cash was down.

How it got beat I do not know. With the lady on board I was already resigned to a predictable narrow loss but to be fair she did very little wrong, keeping the horse on the move at the head of affairs. For Willie Hall, of all horses, to come past and then stay on best was extremely galling and although a stronger jockey may have got Harry back up, as I say there a few complaints on that front. It was just one of those things.

With so few others worth backing (Transient Bay is huge and surely needs more to time to strengthen) I was also interested in Lakefield Rebel, who had gone into notebooks last season. I was surprised to see this lightly-raced nine-year-old looking so fit for one from the yard after such a long time off, and he was well worth a bet in the place market at rewarding odds. He ran very well, but may not come on as much as people will think. We'll see how he comes out of it.

Two to go and we had to take on Notonebuttwo after his disappointing effort last time, even though he looked the nicest horse and was the most likely. However, he certainly wasn't the biggest and so it wasn't a massive surprise when he lost the jockey just past halfway. It left the race wide open but the bet Samson Collonges again ran a moody race and let's face it is no good, and needs softer ground anyway.

I couldn't have backed anything else but Gibbstown had the course form, the trainer's horses are clearly going well and he dotted up from a terrible bunch. Again this was basement level and the winner will struggle after a rise.

Stafford also took the dreadful finale with Grange Hall, who beat the odds-on Spoils Of War who looked the only one remotely capable of maintaining a decent gallop. I thought he should have been 1/2 or shorter but it's not my kind of bet and sure enough the jolly got turned over. The Bishop was the sole opponent in the ring but N Alexander's point winner looked moderate and not very fit.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Slumming it at Seggie

Well things were looking pretty uncompetitive at Cheltenham in the first half of the afternoon and it was a similar story at Sedgefield with some very weak fields and poor form that shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Storm Of Swords was down in grade and trip in a very poor opener and there really didn't look much to oppose him with in the prelims, Scorpions Sting again playing up and he really does look a big baby. He's huge and chasing will be his game when he grows up mentally.

The mares race was also a gimme for Jennys Melody, who looked in great form once again as she easily followed up her facile Newcastle win. Again, this was dire stuff and the moderate looking Kilas Girl merely galloped round to collect second place prize money.

It was hard to find the winner of the novices handicap chase as Amethyst Rose looks an out and out soft ground performer, Light The City had never threatened to stay the trip before, Highlander Ted had yet to show much, Cross To Boston looked a dog here last time out and Forestside is useless.

You have to keep going over these races in your head but I still couldn't have Light The City getting home despite being in tremendous form, and yet he seemed to enjoy this belated chase debut and forget that he actually wants further than two miles.

It was a funny old race and pretty poor stuff, the two behind running in snatches, so once again the form is best treated with plenty of caution.

Not sure how Ivan Boru won but he did
The next was little different as Kayf Blanco, with whom I had some history earlier this term, was a short priced favourite but didn't really look like one who was likely to defy such odds, without quite putting a finger on why.

The Kempton form may not have been up to much but I thought at the odds A Little Bit Dusty might have a chance of reversing placings on this much better ground. He's quite a nice animal but he did look a shade quirky and he clearly didn't put it all in today.

I had backed Ivan Boru in a three mile chase last time when it turned upside down and thought strongly this 2m would not be anywhere near enough back over timber. The cash came quite strongly for him and under a fine ride from Reveley he turned up at the last staying on best.

Quick Brew's excellent effort could have been foretold as he looked in great order beforehand following a break, and looked unlucky to come unstuck at the last.

Why-oh-why they keep running Hartside over the minimum trip is beyond me. Every race he runs the same, staying on when it's all too late, and is surely worth a chance to prove he stays further. He looks very fit and in good nick right now.

There were a few scratchings as the day wore on and that meant some rearranging of markets. My original pricing up of the next would have put Crinkle Crags in at under 2/1 which made his SP of 5/2 look rather generous.

Sadly, I hadn't come to that conclusion beforehand even though the Richards horse is starting to gain a little strength on his fairly light frame.

This longer trip and better ground was sure to suit and it should have been a good bet against a diabolical field of horses who came into it in very poor form.

Crinkle Crags should have been a bet at 5/2
I thought Cara Court showed a little more last time and he looked okay today so was worth a small wager back over timber but they went too fast and Crinkle Crags was a worthy winner. Most Honourable looks woefully out of form right now.

I liked the shape of the handicap chase despite the market giving it a wide open look. I'd looked long and hard at the form of Gin Cobbler and felt his last run behind Degooch here was a fair effort and one that would put him in the mix here even over the shorter trip.

He was a jolly big price as was Hotgrove Boy who was bidding to win the race for the second time and frankly looked superb on this return to action from a long break. He looked fit enough to run his race and as I suspected the pair had the race to themselves from some way out.

Gin Cobbler was the big winner though and standing down by the last I was just starting to muse that Miss Todd was coming into it a tad hard and was muttering her to sit tight, when she made a right horlicks of it.

She would have got away with a mild blunder but this was a jolting error robbing her of all momentum. It was a bitter disappointment for nearby connections and Hotgrove Boy was left to pick up the pieces.

Reveley said he felt the winner would just come on a tad for the run, but I'd venture it's only a tad. Still, it was a career best effort from the pair who have come a distance clear of the rest and will now have to improve again.

I didn't like Devil's Dyke at all beforehand and along with fellow southern raider Home For Tea looks very doggy, while Pindar is who he is and not getting any younger while Rosquero looked worth opposing, as did the out of form Zazamix.

It was a race to get some confidence going though and that was handy going into the bumper where I was really keen on Libby Mae, whose Wetherby form is really hot. She is a really nice stamp of a horse who will go on to be a nice jumper, and had to be bet despite cramped odds owing to the defection of Now Let Go.

Just A feeling is a nice horse who looked pretty forward physically although she was very green on the way to post, while the only others worthy of any consideration where Soeur De Rois and Theatre Act. The rest were very poor.

Thursday 5 March 2015

Carlisle - Reach for a Whiskey

The last outing before Cheltenham week meant a trip across the mountains to an extremely windy Cumbria for a fiddly little card in which business was expected to be thin on the ground.

There was very little to get excited about in the opener with Miss Estela looking a pretty solid favourite against a very moderate looking bunch both physically and form-wise, but she ran no sort of race and has become very disappointing.

The second race was probably the race of the day, a deep-looking novices handicap chase from which there will be a few winners.

It looked competitive but we were soon able to whittle them down to a small handful, as I didn't particularly fancy Marlee Mourinho, a big rather ungainly animal who has had a fair few chances and wasn't certain to appreciate this right-handed track.

Having viewed some videos of Midnight Request I thought he looked very one-paced and although having enough size for fences he was a very short price to go in on debut over the larger obstacles.

Whiskey Chaser looks one to follow
Leney Cottage was one to have on your side as was Our Boy Ben from the in form Jefferson yard, although the six-year-old remains on the weak side for the time being.

There's no getting away from the fact that Whiskey Chaser was a big price as he was in effect a winner without a penalty after he unshipped young Cowley at Leicester when coming to win his race.

A big chasing sort, anything he did over hurdles was immaterial and he is starting out from a very low base. He was very backable if you ignored the big drift and he was given a good positive ride in the front rank off what was a pretty fast pace. He will continue to be of interest with his jumping looking a real asset.

The run of Midnight Request was fascinating, after he made a very bad mistake early he came there with every chance before being outpaced again. I'm of the firm impression that very soft ground is the key to him, where a slower pace will help get his jumping together. He does look one-paced though and maybe three miles will also be required.

Leney Cottage also made mistakes and this point winner will benefit from the experience - again they just seemed to be going half a stride too quick for him - while Vasco D'Ycy relished the extra yardage and could yet get off the mark over longer distances.

I was a big fan of Grove Silver before he won at Sedgefield earlier in the season when the Candlish yard had just hit form, but he didn't take the eye in anything like the same way today. It may be that once again it is a case of him filling out as the season has gone on and could be something that I need to address when appraising the horses.

I thought he was really opposable although I didn't especially fancy anything to beat it with the ratings giving him an obvious chance. Wolf Sword is a big sturdy animal who is only progressing at a moderate rate, while Westend Star came in third but is really plain looking, especially when you consider what he cost.

Becausehesaidso has gone backwards fast after his very hard race in a bumper here, and I liked Tambour Major, a point winner who looked quite a nice type, tall with a bit of substance. I backed him to be in the first four and hilariously he was done by a nose on the line. Well, you've got to laugh. D Costello, you owe me.

Grey Life was a warm order to land the handicap chase and although I've not warmed to the horse this term it was hard to build a case for anything else.

Jefferson's horse is not over-big and like so many greys looks to be carrying condition, but has a good pop in him and was more than good enough to see off the disappointing Ultra De Chatalet and Sergeant Pink, who is a big horse but was fit for this after a long break bar a spin on the flat.
Greybougg was the paddock pick ahead of Poker School
The next saw an effective match between Poker School, who ran into one when the cash was down last week, and Greybougg who was really well backed to win for the second time in 48 hours.

You could see why they wanted to run him so quickly again as he looked delighted to be back at the track and is a very enthusiastic looking horse, very active.

I had in mind Poker School's weak finishing effort at Donny and although he did little wrong here the money for the winner was well placed. The Hawke yard is flying at present and they had a similar type in the bumper that also hacked up.

Prior to that was an impossible looking handicap chase for the stayers, hosting many of the usual suspects. It was daft to even consider sorting them out on looks with Armedanddangerous the only real negative, looking quite moody and running in similar fashion, while Irish raider One Cool Clarkson was of interest as a potential wild card but his run came to nothing.

It's a fair reflection of the race that Basford Ben was able to win again. While he's a fair sort for the owners he's usually one to take on, although he does seem to love it here.

The bumper looked like it might be alright but Hawke's Speredek was the most forward of them all, and with form already in the book was another worthy favourite. There's nothing on Beer Goggles so he must have some engine to run to the mark he does and will be of interest in another 12 months.

McCain's Mahler And Me is really backward while Bollin Ace is quite big and strong and will be better over obstacles, but Rocklim was very small and lean and is another from the Ewart yard who has not progressed.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Catterick - Battling on

Still feeling a bit under the weather so a laid-back approach was the order of the day on a poor-looking card as Catterick brought the curtain down on their NH season.

It's hard to believe we're into the final weeks of the season and the time seems to have flown by. Still these are the nuts and bolts of it and it's time to get stuck in.

There were some short ones priced up, starting in the seller where Lord Navits was looking to secure a quick double. He's not a bad sort and looked the best of these but is clearly a bit moody and after some sketchy leaps didn't put it all in.

It was a no-bet race as It's A Man's World had all the best form in the book of late but hailed from the out of form Ellison yard. Nonetheless he was good enough to repel the fit-looking Glenconkeyne with the jolly back in third.

Classinaglass looks a bit of a crock 
The handicap chase looked tricky as the favourite Classinaglass had the best form but does walk very stiffly in front and looks a borderline cripple. He was worth taking on and the one to be on at a price was Pistol Basc, who looked more enthusiastic than of late with the hood no left off.

He came to join issue at the second last but is a bit of a rogue and got a touch outpaced before staying on again. In fairness he never looked like getting past the jolly so we were denied again. Again the money came for Silver Shuffle which is totally beyond me, but what can you say. The other two have gone the wrong way.

The mares race was essentially a three-runner affair and it was hard to split them in the paddock with eventual winner Debdebdeb looking really well, on her toes, while there was plenty to like about Allez Encore and Mollasses.

However the favourite threw it away at the start and it wasn't really a contest thanks to a very poor ride from the one on the second, who never put his horse in the race and only went down half a length. Debdebdeb had a solo and did enough but may be one to take on next time.

I wasn't going to play the very tricky handicap hurdle that saw Deny being well-backed, until I noticed Henry Brooke lining up in front on Grand Vintage.

This is a horse who has shown promise on several occasions but has clearly had problems, yet ran okay again last time out and looked on good terms with himelf. It was the first time he had been asked to make all and it struck as a great move on this gelding bred to stay much further.

I quickly reached for the android and got some on before the price collapsed, and frankly with only the doggy Deny to beat in the straight he never looked like being caught to these eyes. I do like it when new tactics are introduced and this was a good move from connections, who deserve the plaudits.

Smiles all round as Grand Vintage gets the job done
Binowagh Bay was well-backed but made least appeal being very lean, while Sendiym may have done his winning for now. Simmply Sam looked well but didn't show.

I was looking to take on Henri De Boistron in the novice chase as he looked as mad a badger at Sedgefield earlier this season but had clearly progressed to win at Leicester. I thought he could be caught out at this faster pace and liked the chances of Cousin Guillaume, who has really progressed physically of late.

I could see Renwick bouncing out and making all but he never got anywhere near the front after ploughing through the first, it was therefore galling to see the hot favourite run largely as predicted behind Narcissist, the only other plausible contender.

MW Easterby's debutant had first time blinkers after going the wrong way over timber but he looked quite strong beforehand and a likely runner if taking to it, which he did.

I need to give a big shout out to on-course comrade 'Racing Ray' a regular in these parts and point-to-point enthusiast who's been around since the Ark.

The old coffin dodger gave me a second huge priced winner in as many days when Soleil D'Avril landed an ordinary hunter chase which otherwise would have been hard to find. The beast, ordinary under rules previously, did look the fittest of the lot and quite a handy sort for this type of track, but it still took a leap of faith to go in.

Cave Hunter looked the best but clearly needs a real test as he was never going the gallop while Sportingfriendship looks quite average and didn't find a great deal late on.

With that in the bag we moved happily on to the bumper where Midnight Tour was all the rage, but looked quite small and backward beforehand. I much preferred Song Saa, a nicely made animal, especially with the experience, but the stamina-bred youngster didn't have the toe to see off the nimbler winner.

The pair were the best sorts on offer though as Sherry looked rather leggy and the form of her win had not worked out, while Superfection looked a bit ordinary and Ten Trees confirmed the impression given at Wetherby that she's very weak this stage.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Newcastle - Revenge served ice cold

Wasn't feeling a million dollars this morning but managed to strap the old punting boots on and make the hour and half trip up to Geordieland for a decent-looking card with a few interesting sorts on show.

To be honest I thought the old mind was going when I backed Farragon thinking I was onto a good thing only to watch the horse drift and drift some more prior a very uncompetitive looking opener.

The Ayr form looked far and away the best on offer and I couldn't have anything else on my mind. Therefore it was disappointing that he ran a queer sort of race, staying on at one pace behind old Knight Valliant, who chose this day of days to finally deliver on the promise of so many others.

I got it wrong but so did those who backed Seventeen Black (very tall, very lean) and Grey Area, who hasn't looked fit all season and has not been in any kind of form.

I couldn't figure out the second division at all although I managed to shed a few more 'greenbacks' as the woefully one-paced Whichwaytobougie picked up Mister Jones late on to reward short odds backers.

Reveley's beast would not have had to improve to collect here while Mister Jones was finally putting his best foot forward after being well supported for the umpteenth time. Make no mistake though, this is not form to be getting carried away with, with Northern Acres the yardstick.

A 'typical' Jefferson horse - but who knew??
However, the fog between the ears began to clear when I slapped the old mince pies on Cyrus Darius in the NH hurdle. Mr Jefferson has endured a diabolical term but the horses are flying now and this son of Overbury could be anything looking at him.

He'll improve for this physically but he was impressive. On his good bumper form I thought he could easily run to a mark of 120 and it looks like he has done just that, brushing aside decent yardstick Court Dismissed.

The market was skew-wiff and I still can't believe the cash didn't come for Jefferson's charge. The jolly was weak but still way too short for my liking. The third Bobs Lord Tara is an ok sort but still carries a bit of weight round the belly and he'll win races for sure.

As always the staying chase was of huge interest especially as I priced up Dystonia's Revenge in single figures after it made a pleasing reappearance at Seggie recently. Readers may remember Native Optimist nearly landing a big-priced touch for the Walton yard at Carlisle and with the lady rider again stepping aside here this looked like another job was lined up.

There were plenty of whispers for it at the track so it was surprising that 20s and more was available on the machine. Did I back it? No. Don't ask why. I was left scrambling around mid-race for the dregs and although it won a fair few quid it could have been a season-defining win.

Reveley shone again on Dystonia's Revenge
The shape of the race was perfect as Jac The Legend was an opposable jolly as he looks a real slugger, and possibly not the most reliable one at that, while the Ellison yard remains quiet. I thought Settledoutofcourt would get an easy lead but that soon went out the window - the horse simply hasn't fired this term.

Blue Kascade looked great but again was a short price on what he's actually achieved and the Thomson kennel has also gone dead, while Cape York looks quirky and Vinny Gambini looked a moderate animal against some decent lookers here and is another for whom time has run out. So simple, after the event.

I managed to carve up the next as well. Readers will remember my chagrin at the ride Light The City got at Sedgefield last time when the cash was down, but I only had myself to blame as the veteran jockey simply can't be trusted.

With that in mind only a fool would make the same mistake again, right? Of the two potential improvers I much preferred the claims of Weapon Of Choice over Ginger Jack, particularly at the odds, and nothing else could really be given much of a chance.

Thankfully a bit of in-running action once again got the books back in the black but really I'm just left to ponder what might have been 12 days ago, and how the jockey managed to get it beat.

On a day when there wasn't much of an edge for paddock watchers so far, I wasn't much keen on Montoya's Son or Trust Thomas in a tight looking two and a half miler, both of whom appeared to be carrying more condition than earlier in the season.

Montoya's Son: Credit to connections
Perhaps it's just the time of year and the fact the pair of them have thrived over the past few months, but they dominated the finish in which the latter again had the race snatched away from him.

I had been quite keen on Trust Thomas getting his head back in front again with the extra half mile bound to suit, and sure enough he jumped into the race before hitting the front going to the last. Honestly I can't say that he dogged it, but it's frustrating he didn't run through the line. This was only Montoya's Son's second victory in a Class 3 event from 12 starts and his fourth successive win is to the great credit of his trainer.

Mr Syntax was fit for his belated return and probably ran his race, while Supreme Asset travelled really well but to these eyes could do with and extra half mile, especially when he learns to settle better.

The bumper was all about the Jefferson-trained Jurby, whose breeding alone stood apart from the rest before you factored in the form of the kennel.

He's still quite weak but well put together and he looked a very solid option against a bunch of newcomers that looked very green beforehand.

Only Australasia and Freddy Coole looked as though they would know their business, while Sainte Ladylime and Wayward Sun looked very weak and backward. Palmello is a nice big sort who could be okay in time but today was all about Jurby and he duly landed a double for the in-form yard, who really need to be watched over the next couple of weeks.