Wednesday 30 September 2015


There will be worse meetings at Seggie this winter but not by far. There were plenty of short priced favourites and it wouldn't pay to be too clever at this stage of the season.

One of horse of huge interest was K Ryan's Ardmay. Quite experienced on the flat, he was noted given an 'educational' spin at Catterick last winter before a hurdles campaign was put on hold in favour of a few runs back on the flat.

Running well in the spring while looking held by the handicapper, he returned to action at Ponte with another solid effort a fortnight ago.

Ardmay looks sure to follow up in a handicap
With three runs under his belt over timber a handicap looked his for the taking over hurdles but they opted for this maiden hurdle and it was surprising to say the least when he was priced up at 6/1 and up early doors.

Chief opposition was Bloomfields ace Golden Heritage - rather well named being from the family of Derby winner Golden Fleece.

He had been credited by many as a winner without a penalty after capsizing at Worcester first time out but I had taken the view that he was by no means certain to come home strong that day and was happy to oppose him - particularly as the unfortunate Aiden Coleman had opted to ride at Southwell.

Lady Clitico was a possible danger but she got quite warm and is a keen-going sort, while her lack of physique looks set to hold her back in the near term at least.

Ardmay looked in good heart as expected, especially as he was now trading at less than 4 on the machine. I wasn't especially taken by the jolly, and there was nothing else in the field to worry about.

Ryan's horse won as he pleased, and the good thing for connections is that he is unlikely to be raised much more than 7lb for this pleasing win, where his jumping stood out. He will remain well-treated as he enters handicaps.

Beer Goggles has not grown an inch since March, but may yet be okay granted a test of stamina, while Cosmic Tigress is also rather small but put in a decent shift.

68-rated So Bazaar an unlikely hero 
The opener fell to the short-priced Perseid who looked on very good terms with himself, while Pixiepot very much caught the eye staying on into second on her first attempt at 2m4f under tender handling. She looked an ok sort, while Craigdancer was given little chance held up so far back and will relish the return to 3m. He may still be improving.

The rest of the card was of little interest from a punting point of view. The Backup Plan once again looked the part prior to repeating his win here last time off a higher mark, out-running the reliable Sendiym.

The handicap hurdle was not my cup of tea but Drifter looked in great heart and was raring to go as he looked to repeat his Perth win in this better heat. He may have got warm late on but once again this did not affect his performance, which was pretty clear cut.

Ever So Much ran his race again but is probably one to oppose at cramped odds, while Howaboutnever reportedly went down very poorly which may have presaged this dismal effort.

Talkin Thomas is worth a minor mention as he looked pretty well and ran as though his turn may not be too far away. He has the size to jump fences but has proved rather sketchy thus far.

The second handicap chase was one of the poorest you will see with the winner So Bazaar going in from a basement mark of 68. Everybody wanted to be against grumpy top weight Short Takes and they weren't wrong.

Backers of Aregra - and there were many - can consider themselves unfortunate as the smallish grey did little wrong on his first start over fences, but this staying sort just couldn't get away from a rival with a little more pace.

The bumper featured another short-priced one in Pipey's Fishy Story, who has a bit of size about her. P Niven's Absolute Angel had been nibbled at and looked in good order beforehand, coming home best of all to nick the prize.

Runner-up Mount Mizooka dwarfed her rivals and may need a little time to strengthen up while Fishy Story did too much out front, including trying to duck out at the paddock entrance and jumping the path on the bend. Given some cover she can win before too long.

With the season almost in full swing I will be starting the unique and bespoke pre-race text service that was so successful last season at Hexham on Friday. Contact me at if you are interested.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Horses to follow

First, let me just preface this list by saying that I haven’t entered a ’10 to follow’ competition or such like since I grew up.

I did cough up three quid to do some sort of tipping thing at Cheltenham this year, but then forgot about it until a couple of weeks later. It's not my thing.

Compiling a list seemed like a bit of fun when I was too young to bet; I remember calling in my selections at break time from the public phone at school having entered the Leicester Mercury’s daily naps contest as a young teen.

I finished down the field then and subsequently felt that sort of lark wasn’t for me. I find horses you want to follow at the start of the season are usually injured or dead by Christmas.

So I apologise to connections of the following horses if your beloved stable pet doesn’t make it to see in the New Year. It is my fault.

I should also say that I haven’t been in touch with any stables concerned so I’ve no idea if these horses are being readied for a winter campaign as I publish this. Let’s hope so.

Finally, the horses in this list are not generally expected to run up sequences. They are well-handicapped and ready to go in when ideal conditions are met.


I would love to have seen the look on Sue’s face when Harvey returned from the sales having forked out a colossal £22k for this beast!

I make it that the Smiths have at least 10 horses going chasing this season all being well and with strong jockeys Danny Cook and Sean Quinlan currently in favour this could be an exciting campaign for followers of the yard.

This rangy Royal Anthem gelding hasn’t set the world alight over timber but guess what, he’ll really come into his own over fences. Add to the equation a combination of 3m+ and soft ground and we’ll have a serious betting proposition.

They managed to get six educational runs into him either side of a mid-winter break where his runs at Wetherby in November and Newcastle in March stood out.

He’s chucked in off a mark of 100 and I expect him to be rated at least 20lbs higher by the spring having picked up at least a couple of chase wins along the way.


Really looking forward to seeing this son of Flemensfirth returning to action this winter.

I saw him twice last term, at Wetherby and Carlisle, and was really taken by his quality. After racking up a hat-trick you’d think the handicapper might have his measure. Think on.

As winning margins of two lengths or under suggest, he only seems to do enough whether down to greenness or a tendency to idle, I don’t know. What it does mean is that after another summer at grass he’ll be capable of defying much higher marks.

If you watch his win at Uttoxeter you’ll have figured out that a stamina test is what he’ll be wanting this season; he has yet to race beyond 2m 4f – and very soft ground. Also expect him to stay over timber for now.

Probably the one downside is that he has been bought by ‘The Lads’, which means he’ll have a higher profile than you would like.

But he’s just lovely and is a must for any list.


If I could add some caveats to the list then they would mostly stack up next to this grand chasing type, who I first took a liking to in November 2013.

This horse had more than a year off prior to a couple of spins last winter, and I don’t like backing horses that have had a major problem.

I don’t particularly care for the Russell yard either, not least because of the stable jockey. Personally, I think they should do better than strike at between 12-15 percent with chasers considering their firepower.

All that said I simply can’t overlook this lovely son of Revoque, who was highly tried on his belated return against long odds-on shot Wakanda over three miles at Newcastle in February.

However, after going with zest and measuring his fences well was allowed to run into the bottom of the 14th and that was that.

The fact that his lesser fancied stablemate overturned the favourite was galling I can tell you!

Ten weeks later he was back for his only other try over fences, where again he went freely but was disorganised at several obstacles, largely due to the ineptitude of the rider.

But the two outings confirmed that if he is kept right, a potentially spectacular season is in store. Starting from a paltry 113, he has the potential to run up a sequence. Jockey permitting.


Fans of 007 will no doubt be aware of the name ‘Honey Ryder’, as depicted by Ursula Andress in Dr No way back in ’62. The name was shortened from the original in the novel. So there you go.

Coincidentally, this could be a plot of which the boy Fleming would be proud. In six outings ‘Honey’ has not managed to better an RPR of 56. And that’s over timber.

But if I’m right about this massive filly, she could go in at a colossal price somewhere down the line.

She’s a half-sister to six winners, all of whom stayed well, by Black Sam Bellamy. She’ll need 3m but at just four has never been faced with a stamina test. In truth she may need more time, but I suspect she is forward enough to land a gamble this term.

She’s very big, and very strong, and showed a scintilla (really? - Ed) of promise at Hexham in March that suggested to me she was worth keeping an eye on.

I was surprised the shrewd Sayer yard gave the filly an outing in the middle of summer when you’d have thought she would be on a break – perhaps it was just a spin to get the mark down.

If so, it worked as she is now rated 80, and with another couple of runs over too short a trip, that may come down further.

I could be completely wrong about Miss Ryder, but I wouldn’t be shaken or stirred if she delivered the goods at some point.


Donald McCain is not a trainer I’m a fan of right now – backed by a couple of very wealthy owners many of his horses look over-trained and are over-bet.

Not so the syndicate-owned Whiskey Chaser. It is hardly surprising that the son of Flemensfirth has been brought along steadily by his handler, being an extremely strong, thick set horse.

As such, again it is of no surprise that he showed very little over timber, meaning he started life over the larger obstacles on a workable mark.

Looking likely to win his third race over fences before unshipping his young rider, the seven-year-old was a winner without a penalty when turning up at Carlisle in March where I sighted him for the first time.

He was a good bet that day (in hindsight) and was duly raised 12lb for his pains – not that such a measure should stop his progress this season.

He was sent off a much shorter price on his return to Cumbria five weeks later but I was worried the drying ground would be against him and so it proved, looking very one-paced behind a much-improved winner.

So don’t be fooled into thinking he has finished improving. Yet to race over 3m, he is quite an interesting project and if we get a wet winter he is the type to improve out of all recognition.

Saturday 19 September 2015


Good ground for this twilight fixture but the times overall suggested plenty of water had gone down and it certainly wasn't on the quick side.

It was a tricky punting card with some well-backed, short-priced favourites - but there was plenty of interest with the future in mind.

Great Fighter came up from the Ferguson yard in the opener and although confidence didn't seem high in this nice big horse, he hacked up at a surprising odds-against under a cool ride from the kid.

It was hard to put up anything seriously in opposition. Long-time leader Hitman Hearns is an unfurnished sort who will need a lot further in time, while the ex-Henderson Summer Storm looks a rather quirky sort with whom I would tread carefully with.

Great Fighter won a very weak novice
McCain's Sacred Square has made no progress from 12 months ago either physically or ability-wise and in the end did well to scrape into third to appease the bet-to-nothing fans.

Of the others Lough Derg Cruise looked awful, still very unfurnished and sweating quite badly. She wasn't given a hard ride and at least she got home this time. She'll need time but may prove to be no good.

The handicap chase over 2m 4f was a six-runner conundrum with each backable on at least one piece of form. Except Forestside, who of course must never be backed.

The market forced our hand with the money coming for the Reveley horse French Seventyfive, a thick-set individual who had done okay pointing but had been very poor in two tries over regulation fences.

At around 9/4 it made no appeal, unlike veteran Local Present, who was big at 11/2 after an acceptable return to action while you knew he would go well from the front with stamina assured. Looking fit and well into the bargain he was a solid bet.

Watching the replay it's still hard to watch Brother Scott go past in the final 100 yards. The Smith horse has passed up numerous opportunities to get his head in front over the past 12 months but this time consented to go past our fella, who in fairness looked awkward under the gun.

It's worth noting that Areyouwitmenow was fit for his return from a long break but wasn't moving easily in the prelims and remains one to avoid.

Another novice hurdle saw Number One London drift in the face of a lively punt on the Reveley's Samedi Soir, who had been as big as 6/1 in the morning before going off at 9/4.

This is a project that got away. I'd marked the mare as one to follow closely after her bumper run at Donny last year, as this is a horse that wants a trip. Six weeks after backing her at Sedge in the spring she dotted up here unsupported.

Today they had chosen to take on a horse rated 19lb superior, in receipt of just the filly's allowance. And they punted it off the boards.

Samedi Soir landed a big touch for the Reveleys
But you could see why.

She looked fantastic in the paddock, really strengthened out, healthy and well in herself. All the ducks were lined up when Reveley poached a few lengths at the start and set off at a good clip.

Number One London briefly threatened down the back but this stayer on the Flat looks quirky to say the least and that hurdles rating flatters him greatly. It will be interesting to see what the assessor makes of this but the winner looks set for a major hike.

Cloudy Joker looked as though the run would do him good although he looked pretty fit. It was a shame he came down and it's hoped that all the old ability is still there.

The stayers chase was one to be careful with. Longueville Flier was back in action a fortnight after Sedgefield, but this was a much tougher race and although the galloping track would suit I wasn't sure he was ready for this type of test. They backed it but I didn't.

Instead I went for stablemate George Fernbeck, who looked in fabulous shape on his first start for M Hammond. He's a quirky sort but wasn't right last term and I was expecting a big run. It didn't materialise and I don't know where they go from here as he was in top form.

Chicago Outfit has done incredible things since leaving John Wade. This was a career best by far and another hike is assured, but who would bet against him here at Hex? The ground looks important so we'll see if he's kept on the go.

Settledoutofcourt looked as though he would come on for the run, while Moyode Wood is not a horse I would back on looks and he needs more cut in the ground.

Chicago Outfit transformed by the Bewley stable
The 2m handicap hurdle was tricky as Worldor hacked up at Uttoxeter last week but has never been reliable and finds little off the bridle. The market drift was ominous but I wasn't keen on the next in, Dynamic Drive, who was 0/4 at Hex and beaten a fair way on each occasion.

Honourable Gent was a tentative pick but it was the confounded Barnes yak who put his best foot forward under the improved Tommy Dowson, winning by 11 lengths. He's going to be hard to win with for a while after this.

Lord Usher wasn't fit, Burnt Sienna certainly was but is clearly moderate and not straightforward. The interesting one here was Mac N Cheese, a full brother to Eider winner Milborough and another decent stayer.

This backward sort was never going to win here, despite being backed into 7/1. Spotted going to post with a round action, he is almost certainly in need of soft ground and a trip to be seen in good light.

Outpaced at halfway, he was staying on quite nicely in the final quarter mile indicating a decent quota of the family ability.

This is a project worth following. His illustrious brothers were pretty forward and this quite likeable sort will surely be found a good opening this winter off what is going to be a workable mark.

The closing handicap was another difficult race to solve, save from the well-backed favourite Solway Trigger being one to take on. He has looked extremely one-paced thus far and surely didn't warrant his 2/1 SP.

The winner Bescot Springs did not look fully wound up but pops up occasionally and outbattled Koultas King, who came second for a ninth time in his career. The headgear clearly having little effect.

This was not form to get enthused about.

Friday 4 September 2015


Very much a winter feel to today's meeting with temperatures way down on recent weeks, while the ground rode genuinely good or a bit faster according to the times.

The first two races were not really of much interest, the juvenile hurdle falling to the diminutive Cooper on his debut before Lamool hacked up as expected in the novice hurdle.

Cooper's hurdling was slightly hesitant I thought but he had enough stamina at this level to get the job done for favourite backers. Nevertheless this miler on the flat will struggle to find another such poor event and may find it difficult to defy the penalty.

Welsh Bard was definitely interesting in the handicap chase, but I was knocked back by one of the smaller firms in the morning when I tried to take some of the 4/1 and ended up not playing in the race.

The sturdy looking beast had come on from Cartmel according to those who were at the Lake District track last time and being 4lb below his winning hurdle mark today was the day to be on with the blinds back on.

Having decided to wait until checking his well-being the price had gone and I was hoping he would trade higher in-running as he has his quirks. Hutch gave him an all-action ride but players didn't allow this clumsy-thumbed trader much leeway and sadly he went unbacked as he sauntered clear after the second last. Such is life.

Hutch is grilled by Luke Harvey after Welsh Bard's win
Big Sound did trade short and was the lay of the race as I just could not see him being involved. A bonny horse who has done connections proud, he's very small for a chaser and now the handicapper has clobbered him life if going to be tough for a while. Dropping back in trip was of no help and I should have laid him 'down the page'.

The rest couldn't be backed for various reasons (Faith Jicaro and Harrys Whim both lacking size/scope) although Groomed looked well and perhaps signalled that the Smith yard might have a winner on the card.

There was a boil over in the handicap hurdle as Mighty Whitey made all at 22/1. Downtown Boy was well-fancied by the stable but he's not the most trustworthy and is screaming out for at least an extra half mile as he stays 2m on the flat. He's not the most fluent hurdler either and is worth a try at 3m.

The time was the quickest of the day but they slowed it up down the back and this didn't suit Push Me, who has a decent turn of foot off a quick pace. The mare looked in good order and although is on a career high mark may be able to win again - remember she's a 75 rated flat horse.

Favourite backers rolling up their winnings were on Baby Jake, who has been fired on both front legs and may not have let himself down fully on this faster ground as he found less than expected under the gun. Perhaps one to be wary of.

Two more hotpots got turned over on the day although it looked for all the world as though The Yank would back up his recent win for D Bridgwater. Scu sensibly allowed the very fit Little Pop to bowl along under STD but it didn't seem to be a breakneck speed.

However, Little Pop surprisingly capitulated quickly at the top of the hill leaving The Yank in a long lead with the other three seemingly floundering.

But the jolly appeared to be running on empty at the last and a tired fall there suggested he may not have won even if he had stood up. The tumble meant the staying-on Oliver's Gold was hampered leaving Heist to take the spoils in unlikely fashion.

I quite liked Heist beforehand and the money for him was not insignificant. He has a bit of size about him and remember this was only his seventh run, his first over fences. He took a while to find his feet and made a number of minor errors. I had him down beforehand as a horse who may be better over further and it looked the case here as he finished with plenty of running.

Hughes bags a double on the fortunate Heist
Oliver's Gold may have been unlucky. He's a sound yardstick and usually runs to a similar mark. He's another who is just about strong enough to do alright over the larger obstacles at this time of year. Eventual third Mr Burgees is most certainly in need of a trip.

The handicap hurdle was of little interest punting wise as Cartmel winner Carnaross looked a good thing to follow up. He's a horse with plenty of size and scope and while it was disappointing to see him turned over on the run-in, he'll come into his own over fences and the sooner they step him up the better. He'll win again.

Vexillium took the honours but made no appeal on looks, a small tubby thing that got a bit warm. It was a vexing result and pleasing to have sat it out.

We were looking forward to the staying chase as M Hammond's Longueville Flier was of great interest and the whisper was that he was quietly fancied. A lovely big, rangy animal he looked well forward for this return from a 10-week break.

Young O'Toole gave him a patient ride and although he made a couple of errors I wouldn't be concerned about his fencing going forward. He made up a lot of ground with some sweet jumping on the final circuit and he'll make mincemeat of a course like Wetherby this autumn.

It was a little surprising that having got to the front he couldn't press home the advantage - maybe the effort of making up ground and a little greenness played their part. Of course he may also be very one-paced but he's worth another go.

It was a poor race but I wanted to be against the jolly Bayfirth who was another looking to follow up a Cartmel success. However, that was over 2m 5f and I was convinced the horse doesn't fully stay 3m let alone this extended trip. That seemed to play out as he trailed home.

Over And Above is far too high in the weights right now and the rest were pretty poor looking - the winner Alta Rock fit enough to run its race without encouraging any sort of betting interest.

What is of note is that the Smith horses seem well forward. The winter horses haven't come out yet of course but with the all the rain around in the north it will surprising if they are as backward as they were last autumn.

Wednesday 2 September 2015


I thought the action was sufficiently enticing to make a rare trip south to the land of the Bramley apple, where unsurprisingly many of the clientele were seedy and there was more than enough juice in the ground.

Laughter aside (who's laughing? - ed) the rain that lashed the course after the opener turned the ground softwards and plenty seemed to struggle on it. Therefore it could pay to forgive a few notable flops.

The first featured a handful of types you would rather bet against in most circumstances, with Tregaro running out a pretty easy winner in the end from the favourite Amuse Me who looked quite happy to allow the winner past on jumping the last.

Milgen Bay should have been fit after only five weeks off but he 's a gross sort who should thrive on racing, while Quito Du Tresor looked fit enough to run his race off a break and it remains to be seen if he can build on this fair effort.

I was quiet keen on Indian Stream in the four-runner novices chase and wasn't surprised that this big chasing sort attracted the cash.

She appeared to have hot favourite Lily Waugh to beat but the latter had already had seven outings over fences and just lacked the scope of the other horse, which showed in the latter stages as the hotpot tipped up when under pressure.

Indian Stream is bred to stay and I can see her winning again before being put away, and you can imagine the owners looking forward to breeding from her in time as she's a lovely individual.

The very likeable Indian Stream took the novice chase
The handicap hurdle was not my cup of tee but I was forced into laying the the well-backed favourite Significant Move, who promptly made it 0-13 over timber with a recalcitrant display. I'm not always right of course but he's a moderate mover at best and the money for this disappointing animal was baffling.

You could give a few some sort of chance and the two that fought out the finish ran as well as might have been expected, runner-up Stormbay Bomber slightly unfortunate to bump into and improving hurdler in Empty The Tank after the last.

Both are nice, tidy sorts who can be expected to go well again in similar grade.

The maiden hurdle was quite interesting but although you could have taken a number of angles I chose to sit it out. Epic Warrior drifted like a barge and is not straightforward, very fit if a little scrawny with ears back in the prelims.

However they couldn't get it off the bridle and the Pipe horse clearly relished the change in conditions. While you wouldn't want to knock the performance I'd be sceptical if rated at face value and he may be one to be wary of in higher grade.

Presenting Streak is a fine looking animal who should be capable of winning a stack of races. He had shown promise over shorter trips and although he will get three miles-plus in time he does run free in his races and today was no exception.

He was kept under wraps by two handlers beforehand but young Winks is not the most adept at settling a horse and one wonders how far this horse can go under such handling.

This son of Presenting may not have been favoured by the rain but he plugged on gamely and a race over something like 2m 6f round a Fontwell or Stratford could fall into his lap.

He was the clear paddock pick while at the opposite end of the spectrum Primo Capitano looked awful, sweating and generally ill at ease. Again the money came but he was never at the races and he should be left well alone for the time being.

Jimmy Shan was of interest over fences last year but he clearly had a hole in him and this was a better effort in third. This will have been merely a confidence-booster though as this big horse has a future over the larger obstacles.

Also of future interest to all who saw the race is Fearsome Fred, the only other one you could have given a chance to beforehand. He's a nice compact sort if a little on the small side and was pretty fit for this debut, and shaped with plenty of promise before fading up the straight.

He'll come on for it but may also benefit from a drop back to 2m 4f in the short term.

The big handicap hurdle was a tricky puzzle made all the harder by the effect of the rain, which almost certainly put paid to the chances of the fancied Brave Spartacus and Paolozzi.

Reveley was unable to attack from the front on the ground while the latter never got into the race, his hurdling lacking any fluency. The same could be said for Champagne Present who was deeply disappointing without the hood. He was certainly fit enough to land some decent bets - indeed they all looked in good order.

The brakes were firmly on heading into a bumper that saw B Ellison's Mahlerdramatic a well-backed jolly although a late drift looked ominous.

Certainly with the ground riding loose it was hard to predict the outcome and sure enough it was won by 14/1 shot Who You For, who got a bit warm but is a nice chasing type who clocked a decent figure in his Irish point.

Mahlerdramatic looked fit although he's a shell of a horse at present, while Junior Package doesn't appear to be blessed with much talent despite having Lady Cricket as her granddam.

The Bowen horse Miss Eyelash looked fat, while Christmas Twenty looked rather fractious and you'd have to think Golden Thread didn't handle the ground. He's worth another chance.