Sunday 20 December 2015


It was a big decision to head north to Gosforth rather than west to Haydock, and not one taken lightly. I'd like to think there were winners to be found at both tracks, although with Baratineur going off a decent price in the opener at the Lancashire venue, what a galling start to the day that may have been when it was caught on the line.

However, when heading to the track I always try to focus on the meeting in hand as that seems to reap most reward. And with some quite tricky action in the North East we needed to get our heads down.

I wasn't the only one before, during or after the opener to think that Jonniesofa was a certainty to open proceedings and that odds of 1/2 were extremely generous. This very likeable galloper has done very little wrong since switching to rules and once again went all the way to the line.

The first handicap chase proved too difficult to play. I didn't like the claims of Askamore Darsi who would have been beaten miles last time and doesn't look straight forward, while The Orange Rogue always seems to find a way of getting beaten despite having the look of a horse who ought to be better than he is. Nick Alexander has his team in good health but this horse is running out of chances.

I had a big negative in this race in the shape of Imperial Leader, who looked like a backward bumper horse that hadn't been trained very long. Now I've no idea what problems this one has had but but he looked nothing like any of Twisters do and he seems to have completely gone.

Chanceofalifetime went well for a long way but he's a bit short on size and is likely to prove best on spring ground, while Alto Des Mottes looked quite lean for one of Hogarth's and he has been progressing quietly. For me, he had it to prove, particularly in terms of attitude, but he went clear of this lot easily enough and providing he maintains condition he could progress again as he's proven on most tracks.

I had the next by the fluff of the scroat with Clan Chief a 6/4 poke in my book, and that was with all eight running. Here's what I wrote about this horse last time;

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. 
Well, clearly the secret wasn't out as the layers went 11/4 and bigger behind the J Wade trained Casual Cavalier. Now this fella let the side down last year when chucking a couple of races away and is one to avoid. Add to this the form of Wade yard and the jockey booking, I had it 5/1 minimum along with stablemate New Academy.

River Bollin was the only conceivable danger but he hadn't been fit at any time last season and it was hard to tell whether he was ready for this after a long absence. He had jumping issues last year and he was not any better here.

The scratching of Casual Cavalier was frustrating as essentially we were now on a 2/1 chance but by my reckoning he should have been much shorter still, so probably should have just kept going in.

This lovely looking horse is way better than a 93-rated animal but still looks incredibly green. Fences may prove the making of him and you'd have to say this horrible ground suits very few horses, so he wasn't as impressive as I had expected. Still, he saw off the resurgent Mister Hendrie which is good enough for me.

There was surprising support for Triumph Davis here, who is really small and has been rejected by a couple of big yards. Perhaps she can do better on fast ground but has shown zilch for this stable so far.

I had to have a bet on the handicap chase over 2m 4f - I just didn't know which one. The Ramblin Kid was the rightful favourite but he was just 'too obvious' somehow and I wanted to look elsewhere.

I was concerned about a race for the lead and didn't really rate Boric on a career high mark, Carrigdhoun with his stable very quiet, and The Ramblin Kid all likely to go forward. I just put a line through Trust Thomas these days as he just doesn't do it off the bridle. No Deal looks like a horse past his best after so many problems, so I was left with Bernardelli.

I gave him a good write-up here after doing the column a big favour at Doncaster last term, and with that run in mind I fancied he could repeat the feat under similar conditions. He's not a great looker but he was very fit and well in himself and at 4/1 looked terrific value.

With those wins in the bank I wasn't going to play the mares race where Lochnell appears to have gone despite looking really well, and the Russell horse Near To Tears probably didn't go on the ground - she has some size and scope so is not one to dismiss on good ground when sent over fences.

I had priced up Island Confusion a short priced favourite for the final chase of the afternoon but he'd let the side down last year and he was very weak in the market throughout the day. Although money did eventually arrive I wasn't that taken by his appearance even though he'd strengthened up since last term.

He's had issues and may have needed this but I didn't want to back either of the ones at the front of the betting even though they looked most likely winners. Gold Opera surely wants further than the minimum and they got away with it big time here. This son of Gold Well started to stay on as they exited the back and you just sensed he was going to get there from some way out.

Never Up and Duhallowcountry led them into the straight but the fact they were still there suggests they weren't really going anywhere up front. As such the form may not be much as it stands but there is oodles of improvement to come from the winner up in trip, while there's plenty of room to strengthen up physically. Even if he falters in the new year, he'll be one to keep an eye on next season.

Officer Cadet is a very big chase type who couldn't have been fit for this even though he was tight in the betting, while Raise Hell is quite a handy sort but you'd have to be wary of a W Mullins reject.

There wasn't much to be interested in regarding the bumper and Applaus was a short price by default with good form in the bank. He's not the most eye-catching but he's strong for his age. However, two smaller types went past him here in Very First Time and the nicely bred Red Indian, who was touted by a couple of judges. The money came for the latter and it proved correct, although what the form is worth is very much open to question.

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