Monday 26 October 2015


Every punter goes through a sticky patch every now and then and the last fortnight has been a mishmash of bad bets, lame lays, poor discipline and just being plain wrong. It happens.

Any time you stray from the 'winning formula' is usually a bad sign, and this was no different. However, all it seems to take to turn things around is to cut stakes in half and get back to basics. All of a sudden the gods are on your side.

And so it was today, sort of. I had a brilliant day at this Aintree meeting last year and although this card was much changed I had a feeling of deja vu on arrival. And while my new found sense of austerity prevented a couple of 'obvious' good bets, it was just good to get a few things right.

A decent maiden hurdle kicked things off and it didn't take a Mississippi lawyer to figure out that Perform would run a massive race. A market drifter, this lovely scopey animal was primed to win first time out for the Hobbs/Johnson combo.

Dickie J gave the beast a most confident ride and you couldn't help be impressed by how he came clear with Knockgraffon, another decent type albeit in the compact/strong mode.

Going For Broke was well backed but I found him a quite disappointing specimen, somewhat mishapen and on edge. He clearly shows plenty at home but I have a suspicion he could want it bottomless.

I had a brilliant each-way bet on Carn Rock in the next - fourth beaten miles. He's a tricky horse because he needs good ground but is a dour stayer who always runs on after hitting a flat spot.

The early fractions did not suit him at all and he may be worth another chance at a stiff track if we get a dry autumn.

It turned into a sprint but the two unexposed horses Optimistic Bias and Sykes came clear. There was not much to say about either, other than they do not look chasing prospects.

I've been watching Tantamount for some time and thought he was a non-stayer over 3m at Newcastle. He came home really well here to suggest he does in fact stay, but I still feel 2m 6f on soft at Kelso would be perfect providing he doesn't get a daft waiting ride from the not-so-cunning D Fox.

I had the veterans chase by the fluff of the scroat the night before when narrowing it down to Ely Brown and Benbens. However, I thought the former looked on the small side in the paddock, a bit dry in the coat and generally sullen, so put a line through him. On paper the punt on him was understandable but he looks to have totally gone.

For a 'veteran' Benbens is remarkably unexposed, being just 2/13 over fences going into the race, with a host of placed efforts including a close third in the Scottish National in April. A repeat of that form would surely be good enough.

Against the names of Lie Forrit, Maggio, Danimix and Russian Regent I had written 'needs a PB', which aged 11/12 was unlikely. Any Currency looked really well and was the only danger for me, although he clearly is less effective away from the Cheltenham circus.

So hooray for me. A winner - although we didn't exactly shout it home.

I had no intention of playing the handicap hurdle as it just wasn't my bag but with three 'nons' it turned into an uncompetitive affair and a very short-priced FAV in recent winner Work In Progress.

As regulars should know I don't follow racing in the 'sarf' so didn't have a clue about the form - all I did know was that Hunters Hoof was a rather fetching sort with lots of scope and fit enough to run it's race.

It came as little surprise then that he gradually wore down the jolly, leaving me somewhat bewildered at the SPs having opted for the burger van rather than the line of bookmakers pre-race.

Next up the Old Roan, which again I had narrowed down to a couple namely Duke Of Navan and Sound Investment.

The former may have to carry the weight of the north over the minimum trip this year having palpably failed to get home here on his first attempt at further. This super jumper and traveller may yet be a potent force over 2m.

Sound Investment had the most progressive profile in the race and with a 4/10 record over fences he was one to have onside. The master trainer had given the beast a spin over timber a fortnight earlier and you just knew this strong, sturdy horse would come on greatly for that.

Sadly he was little more than a saver as the Duke was the main hope here. But baby steps. They all looked really fit and tuned up for this big early season targets - for many this is as good as they are and that includes the plain looking Buywise.

Would you Adam and Eve it I got the next down to two as well and you know their names - Abricot De L'Oasis and Tidestream. This was not as competitive as the numbers suggested but let me just say something you might not read anywhere else - this was a stitch up from the get-go.

Now I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, but when I see a heavily-backed favourite handed an easy six-length lead as the tapes rise I want to call a copper. This thing traded odds-on from the second hurdle, and even when it clouted a couple up the straight first time the other jocks seemed to back off.

What do I know, I'm just saying what I see. I don't think it looks good for the sport though. Play the tape and see what you think.

What wasn't good for the pocket however was the error by Tidestream at the last when about to mount a challenge. This tall, imposing animal was bred in the purple and at appears the penny is starting to drop. Would he have picked up the winner - that is a moot point. It would have been the better result for this column - and how.

The word on the street was that the Greatrex filly La Bague Au Roi was the 'bees knees' in the concluding bumper, and even the one-eyed man with myopia could see she had the tools beforehand.

Well made, a good mover and forward, she travelled like a good thing and never looked like getting beat. Oh it could have been a red letter day! Maybe next time.

For the record, Midnight Velvet was well forward and looked the main threat to the winner as neither Jessber's Dream nor Jessie Webster particularly took the eye - the former rather unfurnished while the latter was a bit on the small side.

I informed clients that Chris Grant's Kalaniti did not look at all out of place in this field and had been told the filly had been working the house down. Make of that what you will, but she could be smart.

Friday 23 October 2015


Once again a little bit light in the 'pointers' column, and a quiet punting day overall with a handful of warm favourites doing the business.

Longsdon and Johnson joined up to take the first and last races with a couple of promising types in Western Miller and Monbeg Charmer.

Both are quite athletic sorts, of just medium build, but clearly have engines. The former pulled hard and did not jump well but was confidently sent on by Johnson at halfway and it proved to be a winning move. However, he'll need to brush up that jumping if he is to defy a penalty.

In a poor opener, the second and third Tickenwolf and Jonniesofa should benefit from the outing, while Classic Palace is painfully slow and appears hideously treated at present.

The Grey Taylor let this column down at Wetherby but looked a good thing back over 2m, although I couldn't help snaffling some early 10s about the lovely chase prospect Special Wells even though ground and trip were against it.

The Smith horses are looking really well albeit short of a run but this looked fitter than most and was sent of 7/2. Value doesn't pay the bills as one wag once told me but he will really shine when the rain comes, and I expect him to stay 3m in due course. He was on the short list for my horses to follow.

The handicap hurdle over the minimum may well prove to be a very good race for the track with the juvenile Hadfield battling on well to deny Shear Rock a four-timer.

The latter is a lovely strong horse who may not have stopped winning yet. The pair were clear of Boruma in third, who was only out for a 'sighter' but ran on so well he was the most obvious eye-catcher on the card.

Back down to the mark off which he won at Donny last term, this buzzy sort can improve fitness-wise for this and looks sure to progress this term. He came down twice over fences last season with the race at his mercy and he's a hurdler on looks so I hope they keep him to timber for now.

Stable mate Turtle Cask took a run or two to gain full fitness last season and he was most out of shape for his return in the later handicap hurdle - running a remarkable race to finish fourth. He's another to keep a very close eye on as he revels in soft ground and will stay further.

In the same race a horse called Mac N Cheese ran another race full of promise. I wrote a good deal about him here and this run only enhanced the view that he will prove a well-handicapped horse when faced with soft ground and a stamina test.

I couldn't figure out either of the handicap chases and although likeable types both Settledoutofcourt and Gleann Na Dochais don't win anywhere near as often as their raw ability might suggest.

Both got fine rides from Russell inmates Fox and Nichol, certainly the latter winning that race with a bold move to strike for home three fences out. It wasn't a strong event but just desserts for a winner at the top of his game.

I had a strong view in the closing bumper and in seeing Gully's Edge in the flesh for the first time that view was confirmed that he is one to take on in the short to medium term.

I thought he gave both his bumper races away last term when twice defeated in close finishes, and he was recalcitrant upon leaving the paddock here. This big, rangy 3m chase prospect could be useful in time, but he looks very immature mentally at present.

Fitness-wise he should come on quite a lot for this, and I've no doubt that connections will now send this big horse over timber next where he will need at least 2m 4f.

However, until I see him go through with his effort off the bridle I'll be parked in the pink side of the book.

Friday 16 October 2015

Weekly round-up - W/C Oct 12

Three meetings this week - two distinctly average cards at Sedgefield and Carlisle with Wetherby's competitive opening fixture sandwiched in between.

As mentioned previously I'm just too busy to be writing regular daily reviews this season, but hopefully some of what follows will be of value.


Pretty dreary stuff even by the course's standards and not much punting value to be had. Race two was the most competitive heat by far and saw a rather perplexing gamble unfold on Tomorrow's Legend, from 6/1 on the show into 4s.

This is a horse I know very well having seen it in every race so far. Trainer G Moore is just bringing his winter string back and this strong chasing type had plenty of condition on him for this curtain raiser.

This defeat to the tune of 28 lengths will ensure he goes under the radar next time, but I bet he was trading around Evens at the top of the hill before blowing up, and this run strongly suggests better to come this term.

He should be able to slip into a 0-100 race after this, and giving weight to inferiors in soft ground should be right up this horse's street. He'll be going over fences sooner rather than later too, which is sure to bring about further improvement.

Solway Trigger looked very lean prior to the staying hurdle and he needs a break after this 11th outing since April. He's desperately slow and his form hasn't progressed but I can't wait to see this horse over fences when he returns to action in the spring from a basement mark.

Mias Anthem has done connections proud and a third win here in five starts will see his mark rise from 94 to just shy of 130. However, this probably took little winning with Highland Lodge completely gone at the game and Swing Hard looking increasingly reluctant.

On the back of a virtual walkover at Hexham the time before, this horse could be a candidate for the worse handicapped horse in training right now.

McCain's Court Of Law once again looked to finish very weakly off the bridle in a weak handicap chase and the effect of the cheekpieces look short-lived. If they don't upgrade to visor/blinkers next time this moderate animal will remain one to oppose.

Blades Lad and Pinotage continued the good form of the P Niven yard of late and if he runs anything in the north over the coming weeks they should not be passed over lightly.


A hearty crowd to welcome in the new season and there was plenty to take out of the card going forward. They raced on genuinely good ground.

Quite a few things to look at one way or another - here's some that stood out for me.

Final Assault
The moral winner of a competitive handicap chase, given a ghastly hold-up ride from D Fox. This is not the first time the claimer has given a horse way too much to do and it was asking an awful lot to give a fit useful horse like Village Vic a 20 length start on good ground.

This was a fantastic effort and while he was fit on this seasonal return, he’s a consistent sort who should have a good season returned to softer ground and a longer trip. Hopefully his talented rider will learn from this defeat – a race that got away.

Bonzo Bing
Some way back in fifth place was M Todhunter’s seven-year-old, who once again showed enough to warrant closer inspection next time. Gradually reaching fitness, BB was nibbled at in the betting but found things happening all too quick in a race where the form looks solid.

By Gold Well, and having won a novice hurdle on the heavy in Ireland, it could be that stamina in his forte. Inching down the weights, he could be ready to strike before too long.

L’Aigle Royal
Not much to look at but J Quinn’s four-year-old once again looked a horse to follow despite being out-pointed by a resurgent Lord Wishes. The trip under 2m 4f would be short of the optimum as this ex-French horse stays particularly well for one so young.

A little fresh early in the race, he came with a winning run but may have just bumped into a horse that is very well-treated on his form of two years ago. A return to softer ground should also be in his favour.

Racing Europe
B Ellison’s gorgeous chaser in the making is worth a mention from the same race despite looking rather laboured in fourth place. Just in need of the outing, this race was not run to his strengths at all as he enjoys soft ground and a thorough stamina test.

Gears he does not have. He also treats hurdles with disdain and he will not be seen at his best until sent over fences. But he is a horse with far more ability than his current mark would suggest.

Such A Legend
A fairly weak looking handicap chase over the bare minimum trip despite the numbers, and K Bailey’s horse made it 0/4 over fences in finishing fourth. However, they seemed to be going half a stride too fast for this quite imposing chaser, forcing him into a few minor errors.

Not thought to want soft ground, a little bit more dig may be ideal however and certainly a return to 2m 4f should see him in better light. Not much to come fitness-wise, so next time could be the time to catch him if optimal conditions are met.

Mad Jack Mytton
By contrast the closing handicap hurdle over 2m looked very competitive and winners are sure to come from this event. Jonjo’s horse is a lovely athletic horse who looks certain to progress this season. Although pretty fit for this return, there’s improvement in the locker providing continues to strengthen.

Basically outspeeded by a flat bred horse on the run-in, Jack travelled like a horse ahead of his mark albeit rather keenly in the early stages. He has done very little wrong in his career so far and once he settles better trips in excess of 2m4f will see him in even better light.

Uriah Heep
R Mike Smith’s six-year-old was hugely eye-catching back in third on only his second run for the yard since leaving A King.

He should remain on what is a winning mark over timber, and although he has won off a higher perch over fences I’d prefer this nice medium-sized horse to remain over smaller obstacles this autumn.

He has been on the go this summer so may only have one or two more runs this fall on the good ground that he needs. But this smart effort suggests another win will be coming sooner rather than later.

A mention must be made of the truly outstanding training performance by K Bailey to get Twelve Roses fit to win a decent looking novice chase following an 18 month absence.

This huge, imposing chaser has legs of glass and looked for all the world that he would come on a bundle for this run. That said he was in very good order healthwise and he was so tight in the market you could sense they were hoping for a big run.

If the wheels don't fall off this horse could rate very highly indeed.


The huge gamble on Not A Bother Boy in the opening 2m hurdle was a remarkable event considering the horse's form was clearly over further and on softer ground. There was nothing whatsoever to suggest these conditions would suit and he was predictably tailed off at halfway.

This is a nice staying chaser for the future and this run should in no way detract from the fact that he will be worth considering somewhere down the line. Like many of the Smith horses at the moment, he was pretty fit although will come on for the run.

The novice chase was the highlight of the card and Germany Calling was thoroughly expected to win as he liked, a nice, tall individual who seemed to jumped pretty well.

Of much more interest though for the future is Relic Rock, who chased him all the way to the line in second. No way was this horse entitled to win this race from a fitness standpoint, while not for the first time shaping as though softer and further will suit.

A three-time beaten favourite over timber last term after producing some solid bumper form, connections look justified in sending this horse over fences this season. We haven't seen the best of him by any means and his opening mark is workable, to put it mildly.

Enchanted Garden's victory at rewarding odds in the staying chase was one for the hindsight tipping line. I wasn't keen on Loose Chips, whose record fresh was none too hot while he would want the ground softer than this.

I thought the market got it wrong as By The Boardwalk really looked a horse on the up and capable of defying a steep rise, while Enchanted Garden has not convinced over fences and was by no means sure to stay the 3m on breeding.

However, it was a little predictable that By The Boardwalk would find nothing when off the bridle for the first time over fences, although the way his jumping went to pot on the second circuit suggests something may have been slightly amiss.

Some shrewd racecourse regulars had a pop at Maggie Blue at double figure odds in the staying hurdle and it wasn't hard to see why with market leaders Cooper's Friend and Horsted Valley very opposable.

The former is a nice stamp of a horse but rather weak and backward, while his handicap mark looks a little steep at this stage of his career. The latter is a well-built grey who was arguably in need of the run with the market backing up that view, although few could predict how badly it would run.

The bumper saw the likeable Cloudy Dream defy a penalty to hand B Hughes a treble on the card. An avalanche of cash for the Greatrex-trained Groundunderrepair saw Cloudy Dream drift to a very backable price before the market adjusted itself late on in favour of the Jefferson grey.

Groundunderrepair looked very backward in the paddock, very laid back and immature physically without showing signs of outright greenness.

While getting weight from the winner, who made his experience count to good effect, this was a sound effort in the circumstances and the four-year-old will know a lot more about the game next time.

Sunday 11 October 2015


October 10th had been marked in the diary for months as the true start of the National Hunt season for us Northern punters and the Hexham card didn't let us down.

The going description undoubtedly helped with the numbers but it didn't look to be riding anywhere near as soft as suggested, more like genuine good to soft with some good in places.

I was interested in three horses pre-racing but didn't have a single bet before setting off despite some very tempting odds. The horses were Friendly Royal, Attention Seaker and Five In A Row.

With owner Paul Martin and trainer Brian Ellison at the track you knew their runners were all primed to run big races, especially the heavily backed Oscar Blue in the opener and Point The Way in the bumper, who looked a good thing on his debut effort.

Oscar Blue is a very unfurnished little horse who can only continue to improve for racing. Out of a Roselier mare he will stay all day long and it is those attributes that got him home after a terrible mistake two out put him on the back foot.

The runner-up Fairy Theatre is quite poor looking, very small, and although she has shown good form she is not one I want to have on my side going forward although the family is decent.

Celtic Flames is ok looking but it was disappointing he didn't pull away on the run-in after going best for much of the race. Pedigree suggests he's not a certain stayer.

Wadey's Stilo Blue Native was very resilient in the market despite looking more like Bagpuss in the prelims. Call a copper when the veteran handler gets one ready first time out.

Quinlan takes the plaudits. Follow this horse!
Readers of the blog will hopefully have remembered I put up Friendly Royal in my five horses to follow for the campaign.

However there were a couple of quandaries today - was he fit and would the trip be far enough. I'll admit I had about half my usual stake on at show time despite it having been much bigger in the morning.

The horse looked about 90 percent fit to my eyes, which is a darn sight better than many horses from the yard were this time last year. It was a weak race and although Present Flight was a worthy favourite I knew the Smith horse would be in the mix, being so well handicapped.

We got lucky of course - Solway Legend would surely have put up another PB had he jumped the last - while the jolly for whatever reason failed to back up his Kelso effort.

Little has changed regarding my thoughts on the winner. Three miles and softer ground will see him in better light, and he shouldn't be penalised too harshly for this. What was most pleasing was that he fenced like an old pro..

Of the others Scorpions Sting has gone backwards physically and jumped very novicey here, while Amilliontimes lacks the scope for fences.

The mares race was one of the strongest you will see in the north and it was surprising that Attention Seaker was so well backed (from 8s in the morning) for all that she looked fantastic beforehand.

The mare Pay Attention stayed well and I was surprised they pitched this horse in at the minimum trip considering she's a two-miler on the flat. With quite a few in the race I reluctantly passed her over.

Mardale is a nice looking individual but had become disappointing in bumpers having had a wind problem. The big, strong staying type Smart Talk set strong fractions and this arguably suited Mardale nicely in the final analysis.

Others to take out of it were Lady Yeats - despite being a little on the narrow side - the staying on Rivabodiva, who is also on the small side, and La Dama De Hierro, who needs at least an extra half mile.

The handicap chase was competitive but as ever I was determined to find the winner. With Brother Scott taking around 20 percent out of the book we had a good chance.

For a horse that cost 200 'large' Present Lodger is far from a looker, but he's got ability and I couldn't believe he was still only rated 109 after running up a hat-trick last term. There was nothing wrong with his condition and with his regular pilot sidelined there was the likelihood of further improvement.

Others of interest here were Pekanheim, who now has questions to answer after a second dismal effort with no apparent excuses, No Through Road who looked pretty fit but like all M Scu's horses on the day drifted markedly and ran no sort of race, and Benefit In Kind.

The latter has developed into a very large animal and was punted from big odds on debut for Katie Scott, but he needs 3m+ and this all happened too quickly.

Five In A Row - needed the run (even the trainer said so!)
The staying handicap hurdle looked competitive but I kept going up and down the list struggling to find one that might be ahead of its mark. There were no fewer than seven last time out winners with Perseid and Native Optimist looking especially harshly treated for winning dire contests.

As I said here last week Native Optimist did NOT need to improve to win a ghastly race but the cruel assessor ratcheted up its mark some 13lb. I would contend he ran a similar race here to the one he ran last time - ie, to a rating of around 87 - and this bonny horse is now anchored.

As such, he shouldn't even have been in a same contest as the most likeable top weight Five In A Row, a lovely chasing type who I saw a couple of times last term and took a liking to.

Like his stablemate in the opener he looked like the race would bring him on a good deal, which was off-putting, but it is the genius of the trainer that gets his horses to perform when they are not cherry ripe. Given a real stamina test for the first time in his career Five In A Row saw it out best. There's more to come.

What A Steel ran a remarkable race on a course he loves but pint-sized Perseid didn't appear to relish the track or the hustle-and-bustle of a big field. It could be just a summer horse.

The 2m handicap chase was a dreadful contest headed by last year's winner Shine A Diamond, now off a 4lb lower mark. It says much about the small grey that he couldn't win this with no excuses whatsoever. 

The winner Roc De Prince pops up every now and then and clearly responded to first time blinkers. He was under the cane with a lap to go so don't expect him to follow this up. There was nothing to take from the race.

There were plenty of whispers around for the decent-looking Puddle Jumper for the bumper, while the Jefferson-trained Storm Forecast is a nice horse but a big baby at this stage. 

However there was little doubt that the quite athletic Point The Way would take a great deal of beating and he duly made all to send the Martin/Ellison axis home in treble form.

Monday 5 October 2015

Market Rasen

A quiet Monday at the Rasen to start the week but those who entered their horses expected good ground were disappointed with times backing up the view that morning drizzle had slowed conditions markedly.

The opener looked a two-horse race between two very different sorts in Closest Friend and Lincoln County.

The Skelton animal looked athletic, lean and fit while the latter is a bulkier horse who looks as though he will need time to mature.

That view was borne out in the race although Lincoln County's performance was as disappointing as the winner's effort was impressive.

They had been nibbling away at Closest Friend all day and They knew what they were doing. Jethro plugged away for second and is a keen going sort who will need to settle better, while Cloudy Joker looked really well but blotted his copybook.

The mares' hurdle was difficult to assess with each of the runners looking fit and well barring Haatefina and the rag.

Money came for Russian Royale and the five-year-old has certainly strengthened up since I last saw her last winter. She did not look well-handicapped but O'Toole again looked handy for his 10-bob.

I wouldn't have put anyone off backing Miss Sassypants and she ran her race. She has enough about her to jump a fence.

Oh Land Abloom looked a progressive sort prior to the third race and ran out an impressive winner.

I thought he was on the small side before a Doncaster bumper last winter but he's grown markedly since then, and although he looked well I thought they'd left quite a bit to work with condition-wise which put me off a bet.

Looking at the race again it's possible that jockey T Whelan (riding at the top of his game presently) gave the horse a breather at the end of the back straight when allowing the leader plenty of rope. But the way he picked up in the straight was striking.

The yard did well with a very similar type in Milansbar last term and there is every chance this horse will be campaigned in similar fashion. As previously mentioned I'm sure there is more to come.

Wily Fox ran a big race after being well supported but was a sitting duck for the favourite. The dual course winner did little wrong though and can surely win again over slightly shorter.

Three down and there hadn't been any business but that changed in the next when Ready Token bounded into the paddock looking in tremendous heart.

Bred to be a soft ground staying chaser and nothing more, the Longsdon horse had been threatening something better than his mark suggested for a while and surely this was the day to catch him right.

Thankfully a market drift made him a backable price in a race that few others could be fancied. Bouggietopieces goes like a real top of the ground horse and did well to get as close as he did after some indifferent leaps.

The winner came home unchallenged but I wouldn't rate the form much. His jumping lacked any zest and he was ponderous on numerous occasions. He looks a dour stayer but I'd be looking to oppose him in anything more competitive than this.

Jimmy Shan shaped once more like a horse with a problem, while Lock Towers took a big step backwards and may be best served over timber for now.

The second handicap chase of the day was a ghastly affair that deserves little of our time.

Butlergrove King was a well-backed favourite on the basis of not very much and although he looked fit and well and quite an athletic sort I was never going to back him at less than 2/1.

You couldn't fancy anything in the race - especially not the winner Chankillo, who took his career record to a sensational 2/42 with this first victory over jumps.

The bumper saw a big chasing type in Alf N Dor head the market but he was very green in front and passed in the straight by Mahlerdramatic, who stepped up on his disappointing Southwell effort.

Once again he looked quite lean and leggy although in good heart, but this form may not be up to much. Canton Prince is quite likeable and is the sort to pay his way in time, but the rest were pretty backward..

Saturday 3 October 2015


It may be a near two-hour schlep from Wetherby but on days like these there's no better place to go racing, with the course bathed in warm sunshine.

The track had once again produced safe jumping ground and there was plenty of intrigue despite the lack of numbers.

You can't beat Hexy on a warm, sunny day

Spirits were further lifted after we got things right in the opening handicap chase.

I wasn't quite as enamoured by the appearance of Heist as at Sedgefield, looking to only just have enough size for the big fences, and arguably lacking a little in scope. His fencing at Sedge was novicey and that run only served to enhance the view that an extra half mile is required.

The money came for him but again he was rushed off his feet and forced into numerous minor errors. Perhaps the slower pace of the longer trip will help as he looks to build on a solid enough start.

Kitchapoly made no appeal at all, being a moderate looking animal who is unlikely to progress physically and has an attitude problem as well. It's only a matter of time before they reach for some headgear.

With that pair taking a large chunk out of the market there was value around. Ballycool is a nice strong sort who looked fit enough for his return and with a good record fresh had to enter calculations.

The other of interest was Harrys Whim, who was markedly down in trip. I felt the race would be run to suit this free-going mare and her victory was a feather in the cap of Daragh Bourke, who rode his own race as the badly-handicapped Gin Cobbler went off in front.

Harrys Whim got us off to a grand start
The seller was not a betting race but the novice hurdle was very interesting as once again McCain had a horse that was taking a good chunk out of the market in Sacred Square, who was very disappointing here last time.

This horse has not progressed one iota physically or form-wise in the last 12 months and does not have a bright future. At 5/2 he was a great lay with the solid Quick Brew and upstart Nuts Well appearing to have the race between them.

The latter, a half-brother to Runswick Royal, was backward on his debut in a bumper but has thickened out nicely over the summer. He's a nice sort albeit not the finished article, and while fit enough they had left something to work with.

It was a shade disappointing the well-backed four-year-old could not live with Quick Brew in the latter stages, although time may tell a longer trip could be needed.

What a great day for the Maurice Barnes yard though with two winning mares and a belated victory for the previously unfortunate Quick Brew. Bourke again rode with confidence and has made great strides in the last year.

The handicap chase was interesting and you had to fancy Pipey's Skylander by process of elimination. I couldn't have Brother Scott at any price from 6lb wrong, while chase debutant Drop A Gear is very small and had no business jumping fences at this stage of his career. It came as no surprise then, when he buried the unfortunate P Buchanan after rapping the guard rail at the ditch.

I was interested in Bonzo Bing but he wasn't fit for this introduction from an absence, and although he didn't show much immediate encouragement he could be one to watch. Three miles may suit as well.

Mr Burgees continues to disappoint and there was little positive to say about this effort. He looks every inch a three miler but should have shown more.

Well-backed Skylander was the obvious choice
Skylander is only just big enough for fences but the yard does very well with similar types and there's no reason why he won't be paying his way.

The handicap hurdle was not a betting heat as it looked competitive and with no obvious pace in the race. That suited those that sat near front end, with Miss Macnamara running out a worthy winner.

For those sat back it was hardly worth turning up although the race won't be lost on Lucinda's Tantamount, on whom D Fox overdid the waiting tactics, as is his wont. Soft ground will see him in better light.

A poor turn out for the other handicap chase meant another no-bet race and while Mias Anthem lacks plenty in size he looked in great order and merely had to put in a clear round to see off three moderate foes. Life will be a lot harder after this, however.

I was particularly keen on Another Bygones in the closing stayers hurdle, which shaped up like a very weak event. The McLintock yard know the time of day and after three 'educational' spins yielded a stone's worth of slippage, it looked like today was the day.

Therefore it was of great disappointment that this big chasing type came down at the fourth, particularly as the race fell apart as expected. This was one that got away but he will remain of interest.

Old nemesis Native Optimist was the only solid option despite appearing in the clutches of the handicapper, but he duly ran his usual solid race and bagged the spoils without too much fuss. However, he would not have improved in winning here and his future now lies with the assessor.

Runner-up Distant Sound was well-backed but has a very poor action and his finishing effort suggests the problem that kept him off the track for two years has left its mark either mentally or physically. They will drop him in trip but he is one to be wary of.

The remainder are, I'm afraid, of very little account.

This blog was started for a whole host of reasons, primary among them being the desire to continue writing and an effort to add a little value for punters who are unable to get to the track on a regular basis.

I know there are dozens of you reading regularly and I appreciate the positive feedback on Twitter.

However, when the season gets busy it's going to be difficult to write daily blogs as well as keeping up with the form for my own benefit. Therefore it is likely that the blog may take the form of a weekly round-up, with lists of horses to follow and ones to steer clear of. 

Whichever form it takes I hope the blog continues to assist everyone with their punting and bring a few smiles along the way.

Good luck for the new jumps season - it's finally here!