We're into a very busy period just now but we've got to keep on top of things. The blog may not be in quite the same format as before but hopefully there's a few nuggets for the non-racegoers amongst you.
Sedgefield - soft
Cumbrian Farmer (fit, well) and The Ice Factor were well supported in a weak race but neither had any form on the soft ground and both ran as though they didn't go on it. Unidexter looked a cripple in front before this race and ran accordingly. Not one of R Ford's better purchases. I backed Snowed In each-way with the flat-eight but was surprised he was asked to force the pace. On a winning mark, the grey can win again soon up in trip and waited with.
The winner Libby Mae is lovely strong mare and has done little wrong in four runs to date. Her bumper form entitled her to go close and she was fit for this reappearance. The market did not reflect her chance. By contrast Ryedale Racer appears to have been over-rated by punters. He won a bumper on heavy and looks a stayer, but I take the view at present that he may prefer better ground. Physically he's quite unfurnished. Please make a note of Fire Rock, from the N Richards yard. A lovely big horse, he's very backward at present but bears all the hallmarks of a handicap project.
Poor stuff, but interesting beforehand. The 'nominal' FAV was Cerca Trova but I was against the Irish mare who looked small, keen and a bit sweaty. 0/3 over fences she did not deserve to head the market even in a poor race. Runner-up Duhallowcountry has looked awful in appearance this year but on this occasion took the eye in a good way. It was a remarkable transformation and while I didn't consider a bet, someone did as he was nibbled at at massive odds and they were nearly rewarded. This may not have been a fluke and this point winner could take one of these with stronger handling. Star Presenter ran a big race for the in-form R Drake despite not having any soft ground form, so should be placed to win soon (Leicester, maybe?) while Jokers And Rogues still appears to have problems.
Not much interest beforehand. Runswick Relax is a very strong sturdy sort who must surely have a chase in him over further, and there's every chance he could improve for the switch to K Slack. Landmeafortune again showed plenty of promise and when he goes over further, we must step in. There was a big whisper for Wot A Shot but he moved to 0/23 with a shocking effort and although he looked well, clearly has problems.
This was supposed to be the day Tomorrow's Legend became a man but he didn't really jump with much panache and that weakness came home to roost at the last when he handed it on a plate to the hitherto disappointing Retrieve The Stick. The runner-up went like a horse a head of his mark but was disappointingly one-paced for a horse who I thought would stay well. Time is running out for Lord Usher but he ran on well after some early mistakes, while Clan Chief was a massive eye-catcher beforehand, and was jumping for fun until Lucy Alexander took a soft unseat. The secret's out but he should be backed next time. If you follow me on Twitter I made my long-held views known regarding Wakhan and Newspage and they didn't let me down, both out of the frame. Wakhan was very fit, but no doubt the punting public will give him another chance when he's likely upped in trip next time.
Not A Bother Boy was fancied here last time but looked really babyish/soft/difficult/slow (delete as appropriate) and I couldn't figure the jockey booking of T Ryan (10) as I thought a strong ride was called for. I was wrong and the well-handicapped cheval stayed on too strongly for his modest opposition. This one got away although at 3/1 there are no hard feelings. Veroce was surprisingly well-backed but ran very well - the only trouble is he's about a stone too high in the handicap. Native Que may do better yet, possibly down in trip. He's quite a nice animal with plenty of size and travelled great throughout.
The bumper was difficult but I took a close interest in Storm Forecast at Hexham where he was a bit of a playboy before finishing behind a couple of decent types. However, he looked to have gained a great deal from that experience, both mentally and physically, but the market wasn't aware of this transformation and it enabled us to grab a bit of value. The McCain beast What Happens Now was ok but nothing special, while Dobbin's Benjamin Tree is alright but backward. After the mishaps with Wot A Shot and Tomorrow's Legend, it was pleasing to get out on level terms.
Wetherby - very soft
Draytonian was a banker and this lovely big chase type made short work of this lot. Runner-up Tara The Tiger looked in need of the outing so takes plenty of credit out of this run and is probably quite decent. The same goes for Captain Redbeard, and nice chasing type who was much fitter than at Hexham. He hung a bit on the run-in but this was a solid run for a horse who clearly wants 3m and a fence.
No business done here as Milansbar is a lovely big chaser who thrives in the mud, but just looked a tad under-cooked. He'll tighten up for this and could be one for a marathon chase later this term. Kaki De La Pree was 100 percent fit and has no excuses. I'd be looking to get against him next time. Run Ructions Run is the most admirable mare and jumped super at this modest tempo. She had more basic speed than the other pair and it showed after the last where Hughes produced her to win. The slow pace played into her hands and it could be that the assessor takes a dim view of this.
Not much of a view here on this bunch of maiden hurdlers, most of whom were coming off the flat. It was a question of who would act best on the ground and I couldn't really put one up to take from it.
I had been rather keen on Yorkist as I thought he'd get a good tow into the race but he was ridden very handily and things didn't pan out for him. The one who did get a good lead was Indian Voyage who is pleasingly back on an upward curve after that terrible mid-air collision at this track last season appeared to hit his confidence. He's a lovely strong horse and did this with little fuss. Grey Life was fitter than I thought he would be and may remain competitive off a career high mark, but Forward Flight physically looked inferior to the rest and rising 10 is unlikely to be progressing. That said, he is one of a number of horses from the Smith yard to have 'bounced' after running too soon after their reappearances (Special Wells, Friendly Royal and Not A Bother Boy spring to mind) and Forward Flight can be expected to do better next time granted a few weeks off.
Mac N Cheese was first mentioned favourably on this blog here and then again here. The ground had come in his favour, he was fitter here than on both of those previous outings, and most importantly of all he was very solid in the betting, returning almost half of the early morning 16/1. Connections had done a very professional job in getting it handicapped on a mark of 89 without ruffling any feathers. A brother of the Eider winner Milborough, soft ground and a trip will always see this horse in a favourable light. However, the one to take from the race is undoubtedly Peterpanopirateman. He was most definitely a pre-race danger as he's a nice stamp of a horse who was fit for his reappearance. But he lost a good 10 lengths at the start when hampered by the recalcitrant Pistol, so to see him in the mix turning for home is to his great credit. Not one to be missed next time.
I had messages for two in the bumper and they fought out the finish. A King apparently holds Cajun Fiddle in high regard and she's a good looking mare with plenty of size and nice way about her. But she ran into one here in the heavily backed year-older Savingforvegas, who easily won a soft ground Irish point before being sold for £33k. She is barely medium sized but well made and looked in very good order for this first outing under rules. The pair pulled nicely clear of the stoutly bred Miss Yeats, who looked a bit unfurnished, and the previous winner Lamanver Alchemy, who is bit on the leggy side. But she sets the standard for an early mares' race it's a decent one.