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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.