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.

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