Friday 30 December 2016


Back in action after an illness-induced hiatus over the festive period, but a low-key return as the temperatures on Town Moor failed to lift throughout the day, leaving many trainers unhappy with the ground.

Us non-racing folk can't really understand this sort of thing - but surely the ground is either raceable or it ain't? The spate of non-runners made for rather tepid action.

The opening four-runner novice handicap chase saw Clic Work tower above his rivals in the paddock and the Nicholls youngster, who was plenty forward enough, looked sure to improve on his hurdles form.

His fencing was very impressive indeed, using all his scope to take yards out of his rivals at the obstacles. Softer ground should hold no fears and he's worth following.

Midtech Valentine was the smallest of the quartet and she struggled with these fences on debut.

Hestina stood out in the juvenile, a very strong filly who looked really well. She bombed big time on her hurdles debut and once again looked a very hard ride early on.

It's a testament to her ability that she came there with every chance two out before Giveaway Glance asserted to win with authority. The winner has enough about her to do alright, while Chandos Belle and Graceful Lady were the only others to note. Pipe's horse Work is an athletic sort but this was a step backwards.

Loads of nons in the NH novices left Gustave Mahler as the jolly but he looked slow last time out. That said these were largely embryonic chasers and the winner Just Milly was one of many that looked backward. I wouldn't be expected much from any of these until next term at the earliest.

I was looking forward to taking on Briery Belle at the odds with Kalane in the next, but the former was taken out leaving our heroine an odds on shot.

Kalane is a very smart mare but can throw in the odd howler and J Quinlan did well to sit tight at the final fence first time round. It's almost as if the quicker they go the better she jumps.

She looked beaten as Colla Pier swept past two out but Quinlan hadn't been doing much in front and she really dug in and stayed on very strongly to assert on the run-in. I realy like this mare and she'll stay further on soft ground.

French import Viky Du Reponet looked headstrong in the paddock and she blew out, apparently bleeding. She could prove an expensive mistake.

Ten Sixty interested me up in trip in the next but he's really a chaser in waiting and a dawdle round Town Moor wasn't going to suit with the field reduced to four.

Aspell rode them to sleep on Parish Business but woe if you were on Oh Land Abloom, Coleman allowing the winner to steal a march at the top of the straight. There's no excuse for that although he'd never ridden the horse before and was probably told to come late.

Eight stood their ground in the handicap chase and I very much thought that the outsider Wings Attract was the one to beat with question marks over the rest of the field.

Wings Attract won here at 33/1 last season in a similar race and with blinkers back on another shock looked possible. I didn't like any of the others and it was a cracking bet, which may have paid off had he not been hassled for most of the trip by the loose Valleyofmilan, who unshipped J Cowley at the second.

It still wasn't certain whether La Vaticane would deliver after the last having deceived on several occasions, but she's a strong mare that has plenty of class and that got her through in the end.

The finale was another mare's contest with Miss Mash a warm order considering her win last week came on very different terrain. They had to come here though but she looked a bit on her toes and ran no race. It was hard to split the other four however and wasn't a betting race.

Tuesday 13 December 2016


There didn't look to be much meat on the bone of rather a thin card at The Bridge but it turned into an afternoon full of intrigue on ground that was only just on the soft side of good.

Danceintothelight came home alone in the opening amateur riders' race under a well-judged ride from young Miss McCain, who seems to get on best with the free-running grey. The handicapper won't be impressed but it was clear from some way out that nothing was going to get onvolved.

Cape Hideaway lost touch going out on the second circuit under weak assistance before staying on just at the one pace to finish in the money. However, even he was passed by Chasma under what looked an ill-judged ride by W Easterby.

The mare look fit and in pretty good order, but punters never stood a chance. With softer terrain Chasma can make amends before long, although very little else is of interest as both Kisumu and Donna's Pride ran races that sat perfectly with their disappointing profiles.

The juvenile looked uncompetitive as Nietzsche had useful form going in, and to my eye was fair value at 1.5 on the machine. He was given a bit of a scare by newcomer Project Handbook, who was quite a nice sort in the prelims albeit not straightforward. He looks a likely improver.

The beginners' chase was fabulous affair with Vintage Clouds taking on One Track Mind at the head of the market. Neither was tempting at the odds despite the former looking pretty solid despite failing to win on his previous six outings.

One Track Mind had plenty to prove after his dismal first outing over fences, but that aside he didn't take the eye in the paddock, appearing disinterested and lacking a bit of condition.

He seemed to jump with more composure here, but looked sulky and only ran on at one pace. I'd be interested to take a look at him in the spring when I suspect he could be a different proposition.

Smith ran two and the second string Delusionofgrandeur looked a completely different animal to the one I saw first time out at Haydock less than a month ago. Here he was really tight, and this usually laid back sort just had a bit more about him than usual.

Landing a gamble here last term, the winner was well supported again and he duly made all, jumping much better than at Kelso last time.

Vintage Clouds was one-paced again but he wants truly deep ground to be seen at his best, while once again I did not like the head carriage or the finishing effort of Work In Progress, while Gully's Edge simply jumped round and he too wants it much deeper than this.

I was very keen to get a look at Master Of Irony ahead of a weak novices hurdle as this debutant really took my eye on the level back in the spring of 2015. He's very robust and has loads of scope for hurdling, costing 46k out of the Beckett yard.

He certainly looks to have his quirks as he did on the flat, but he has a touch of class and the somewhat questionable decision to start him over the intermediate trip was proven to be correct as he stayed on really well to mow down Skelton's Ckalco Des Loges.

The latter has a rather immature look about it but he's a national hunt bred 4yro and he deserves the benefit of the doubt at this early stage of his career.

This was half decent form so Good Tradition deserves credit for going with them under a penalty. Further back, Greensworldsolution and Knocknamona need to be kept onside when they go handicapping.

The staying handicap wasn't competitive and yet again Brian Boranha looked the part, particularly as he was giving weight to inferiors. Very few took the eye, although Snapping Turtle looked in good order and had dropped significantly down the weights. He was held up off quite a fast pace and that seemed to suit him, although he was well down when Brian Boranha kicked on in the straight.

The winner again didn't find much off the bridle and he remains one to have reservations about, while third placed Bankhall was up there all the way but he's very one-paced and slow. Hexham or Carlisle may suit better.

Punters these days don't lose out so much as they used to when the clerk of the scales objects to the winner's weight, and when the winner was thrown out after Hughes weighed in 2lb light most firms both on and off course paid out twice. Only Betfair punters lost out on the disqualification - and you know it's your day when your 12/1 poke gets handed the race.

Six went to post for a 2m handicap chase and Discoverie was initially put in a very warm order despite a career high mark to overcome. The in-form chaser was the clear form pick against a veritable rogues gallery that included seven-time runner-up Money For Nothing, now in the hands of T Davidson.

The booking H Skelton was eye-catching and when the beast rocked up ripped to pieces it was clear they meant business, with quite a heavy gamble ensuing in the ring.

But by and large horses run to a pattern and once again Money For Nothing found zilch for pressure after jumping upsides at the last, his attitude costing backers plenty.

Fair play to Discoverie, who has done his trainer proud over the last couple of years, and he appears to have grown up considerably, battling hard for the second time this season. Another rise will make life harder, but another weak race could be found.

Witness ran a similar race to before, the cheekpieces not having much effect, yet again looking for all the world as though he wants an extra half mile.

The bumper had a competitive look, although Boagrius from the Greatrex yard looked the part when the rug came off, really fit and nice mover. He set a pretty strong tempo from the outset and barely gave an inch, so we take this form on merit.

Blue Bullet is a strong sort who went with the winner for much of the way and should be able to find an opening, but the third and fourth home are on the weak side, particularly Temple Man, who was surprisingly unfurnished and requires a lot more time. Harry Hussar again looked like a horse with ability and the run won't be lost on him.

Monday 12 December 2016

Doncaster weekend

As with the last meeting here the ground was good on the hurdles track but looked quite dead for the chasers.


Future Gilded was backed from 4s into 9/4 for the opening handicap chase and he was quite keen in the paddock, fit enough for this first outing in a long time. He was still a bit gassy going into the first and he came down after clipping the top. That was the second first fence casualty in two days for your correspondent after Achill Road Boy departed yesterday.

The race was a bit of a non event thereafter, Foundation Man given an easy time of it in front but although he’s clearly in good heart, it was disappointing nothing was able or willing to test his resolution.

Royal MacNab got a queer ride waited with, he’s looked in need of further this season but was held up going keenly. He’s a one-paced galloper so this was hard fathom – that said he may not be in much form, even though the stable is going well and he looked quite a bit straighter than last time.

K Bailey’s Desaray was a warm order for the maiden hurdle on the back of a solid start under rules last time, but I wasn’t that taken by his quite weak appearance and in any case nothing could match up to the looks of Post War, who was quite possibly the most attractive horse I’ve seen all season.

He seemed to get stuck in the mud a bit last term but this lovely big, long striding animal was sure to appreciate this sounder terrain and with a bit of form in a bumper behind the smart Robin Roe he was well worth a bet despite not really being that strong in the market.

Henderson’s horse took a while to organise himself but the further they went the stronger he looked and the way he closed the deal between the last two was eye-catching. He may not have achieved a great deal but I’ll be following his progress closely.

All eyes were on Wind Place And Sho on his hurdles debut, but this decent flat stayer was too keen in this discipline and didn’t get home. He has enough size to do well, and should build on this, while Benny In Milan stayed on well after a hold-up ride and should be up to winning this term.

There wasn’t a great deal wrong with Might Bite, another off the Henderson conveyor belt, who looks a chaser of real quality. That said, he’s a typical Scorpion in that he may not be straight forward, and he may be one to take on in better company.

Stablemate Premier Bond was weak in the market and he wasn’t able to live with the winner, but he did stay on and although flattered by the margin, this son of Kayf Tara is a fair prospect and will improve markedly under a stamina test.

Winner Massagot appears to have a physical problem, while Cyrius Moriviere came down too early to judge how he would have fared, he still looks unfurnished and may lack a bit of size at this stage.

A decent class 3 handicap hurdle came next and it really looked a match the betting suggested with consistent duo Big Chief Benny and Midnight Jazz heading the market.

Jazz is only small but it’s hard to crab her progress and when Jacob went off in front her odds rightly contracted – and I really wish I’d hung about for some 5/2. I’ve had cause to question many riding tactics of late but they got this spot on.

Jacob’s moderate pace meant Big Chief Benny was just keen enough, and although I’m sure he’s essentially a stayer you can see why they are keeping him to intermediate trips for now. Minstrels Gallery ran to form and looks ready to win on soft ground, while Marquis Of Carabas was backed and he looked very well, again he could be ready to win as this form is rock solid. Even the Hammond inmate Maxie T suggested he is well enough handicapped to collect in the short term.

The handicap chase essentially gathered together a bunch of old dodgepots, owing to race conditions not allowing horses that had won in a while.

They went pretty quick for a staying chase and that suited Dancing Shadow, who was under the pump all the way but has stamina in abundance. Victory looked unlikely for much of the trip as Fort Worth kicked on up the straight.

But Jonjo’s horse has had more chances than you’d care to mention and didn’t find a great deal off the bridle, and the gallop found out the rest of them.

Jac The Legend has proven frustrating and appeared to lose confidence over these bigger fences, and after he was crowded out down the side of the course his jumping went to pot. He’s better than this but a return to timber might help.

Having considered Aliandy to have won first time up despite needing the run I was very keen on his chances in a decent handicap hurdle, but he was done a nose after being held up off a sedate gallop that wouldn’t have suited.

He’s bumped into a horse in Midnight Cowboy who got plenty of experience in novice hurdles last season, and was starting out on a good mark. The way the pair raced clear suggested they will remain ahead of their new marks.

I wasn’t keen on the Catterick form of Italian Riviera, a speedier, buzzy type who ruined his chance by pulling hard, and Thyne For Gold, who did not have to improve to win last week. A much more interesting one for the future is Movie Legend, essentially a stayer having his second outing for the Wadham team.

Again he wouldn’t have been suited by the gallop and he’s a winner waiting to happen granted more of a test.

The closing mares handicap looked wide open as the betting suggested but while there was a lot of recent form to catch the eye of punters, of more interest was the ex-Webber trainer Two Swallows, a well bred animal now in the care of B Pauling.

She had shown decent form two season back and the handicapper had thrown her a lifeline. The clincher was that she looked revved up and ready to go, and in truth she never looked like getting beat, travelling and jumping all over them. 'Props' as they say, to Mr P.


It's always nice to kick off the card with a good thing and Kalane fit the bill on her second start for Amy Murphy. This represented a steep drop in grade after she ran well in listed company at Market Rasen on her comeback.

The only minor concern was whether the drop in trip would force her into errors, especially with tearaway Wells De Lune in opposition, but there were no such fears in the event as she sluiced up, finally proving herself to be of a high calibre.

She's a laid back mare who will obviously stay further, but after a confidence boosting clear round I can see her doing just fine back up in grade. As is often the case it was just a shame we didn't back up the truck.

Always On The Run ran ok in second but he surely now wants to revert to front running tactics over a shorter trip. He looks a nice sort, if a little weak still, but his jumping wasn't great under restraint and he's better than this.

I'll pass on the next as there was little to glean from the paddock other than that Passmore hasn't grown and will need time to get herself together.

The staying chase was a biggie in that Blakemount was fully expected to finally fulfill all that promise from the past couple of years. He looks a great mark on several pieces of form, but he didn't perform once again and now has a big question to answer.

He's not the best looking horse in the world, lacking a bit of size and very robust, so jumping may always be a bit of an issue. All was going well until a couple of errors mid-race seemed to knock his confidence and that was that. To then see him stay on stronger than most was frustrating, suggesting he's either in need of further or is holding something back.

No Duffer and Long Lunch were separated by a nostril and they both looked particularly well beforehand, while I thought Sego Success ran an eye-catching race suggesting he's still on a good mark if set more of a stamina test in deeper ground.

Straidnahanna, weak in the market, still didn't look fit and simply had a spin round for the mark. I've one race and one race only in mind for the big grey and hopefully connections are thinking along the same lines - around a month from now I suspect he'll be ready to go.

The next was a class 2 handicap hurdle and although I thought unlucky loser Cornborough would go well again, this was a much tougher race and a 5lb impost for that last effort looked harsh. All Set To Go was disappointing last time and that prevented a bet on this imposing, sturdy grey. He's looked all quality since I first saw him at Southwell last term, and he just loves coming off a strong pace.

Eyes Of A Tiger stepped up again, staying on well in second, while Hawk High looked really well and I believe he could pop up in a decent race once his trainer hits some form again. He wasn't unduly punished in this race.

Hindsight's a wonderful thing but should there ever be a 1/16 chance in a two runner race over 3m with obstacles? Probably not is surely the correct answer, and hopefully plenty of pros out there played the numbers correctly.

I'm not sure the Saturday punters on Town Moor were necessarily 'doing the math' but even through the haze of alcohol they could see value in 9/1 shot Duel At Dawn, who got cheered home like a St Leger winner after jolly Blue Rambler failed to recover poise after a mid-race howler.

More cheers followed in the next when highly touted O O Seven got turned over in a nice little four-runner novice chase.

Eventual winner Present Man looked in terrific fettle, while I rather liked the chances of Potters Legend, a really progressive chaser who will keep chipping away. I'm not sure why Aspell was so keen to spot the leader many lengths, but that's something I'll never quite understand.

O O Seven is a nice big horse but he's a bit green and he got quite warm beforehand, and I just thought he wasn't at his best. I think he'll be better in time, but time is what he needs and I wouldn't cast too many aspersions at this early stage.

Cliffs Of Dover was one of the biggest certainties I ever saw in the finale. At morning prices we could have done well doubling up Kalane and the ace juvenile hurdler before an avalanche of cash forced his price in to prohibitive odds.

Of course before the meeting started we couldn't have known that the Irish pair Lord Justice and Zig Zag would look so agitated, or that French import Timoteo be so free going that his chance would be impaired.

The way Lord Justice stayed on suggested he could be much better than this considering he was so on edge beforehand. Zig Zag got really wound up, so he too can be marked up, while Bishop Of Bling has the size to do much better in time.

Sunday 11 December 2016



Quite a decent little card and seasonally heavy conditions greeted the runners, while an extremely gusty wind blew across the track making life as hard for punters as it was for participants.

A tidy novices handicap chase was the first port of call and I wasn't keen on Alizee De Janiero, who although has heavy ground form connections always said she's better on good. With no form on undulating tracks and being a bit lean and leggy she was plenty short enough in the betting.

My Little Cracker was also popular but hasn't achieved a great deal in winning twice over timber and she only strikes you as moderate looking at her.

I'd always given Eastview Boy a good write up here and when the money came for him on this first try over fences he became of interest, not withstanding the fact that N Moscrop was on board and that a flat track and better ground may suit best.

Clan Legend, who looked pretty straight, was backed into a short price, and despite a high mark after last season's success made light of conditions to win pretty convincingly, jumping notably well.

Virnon gave vain chase and he went off a massive price suggesting somebody thought he wouldn't be winning, but he's a nice big chaser who can win over fences in similar conditions. It may be that he bumped into one.

The staying chase had a really good shape to it with a few I couldn't have and a favourite in D'Nailor who was opposable on the back of a solitary chase outing, he isn't over-big and breeding suggested the trip may be too far.

I was hugely against Runswick Relax who doesn't seem to be holding condition, he looked quite lean and reportedly bled, and will remain one to oppose. Course specialist Gibbstown looked well but the majority of her form has come in the spring.

It looked like Landmeafortune would go well on this first try at 3m, he's been crying out for a trip as whenever you see Roselier on the distaff side you know there's stamina in abundance.

But he's a bit unfurnished (M Todhunter) and the one who really caught the eye was Smuggler's Stash, who looked well in his coat and perked up by the first time blinds in the prelims. This slow, lazy sort emanated from the in-form Dobbin yard and a repeat of his good run behind I Just Know here last time would be enough. It surely was - but he'll need these extreme tests to be seen to best advantage.

The conditions found out many of the mares in the novice hurdle although daughter of Flemensfirth Lastbutnotleast went through it alright and this strong six year old had too much in her armoury.

Bailey's Champagne To Go didn't look up to much and ran as though attitude is getting in her way, but there were eye-catching performances from Floramoss and Catchamat - the former extremely tenderly handled while the latter is a winner between the flags that wouldn't have had much assistance from the saddle.

I quite liked Sunset Marquis as a specimen, she cost a few quid from Ireland and has ability but her head carriage wasn't great so she has a question to answer. That said, these were tough conditions.

Just Georgie had to be supported in the next over 2m 6f just 11 days on from being brought down at Newcastle, with trip, track and ground all in his favour. Four days later I'm still baffled as to why he stopped at the top of the hill after trading very short. He might have just needed the run still, or maybe he didn't see it out. He's always shaped like a stayer and a bit paceless over shorter, so I'm not sure where this leaves us.

Swing Hard needed the run badly, and The Drinkymeister looked to need the run too, although he was well beaten before fitness became an issue. Verko still looked unfit, but Whiskey Chaser was straight. He was dismal on his return last term, so maybe he can turn it round again. I've always felt he was a nice horse.

The staying hurdle didn't throw up an easy option with course winner Innis Shannon arguably looking value on her return to timber. Master Rajeem has the size of chaser but he's had a new lease of life after moving to the A Hamilton yard and deserved to win it, holding on dourly to beat Flemerina who took an age to get going under a surprisingly laboured effort from her rider.

The finale looked a tricky little handicap chase but in the absence of anything taking the eye I was happy to give Halcyon Days another go after he disappointed at Musselburgh. I thought he was being rushed around that fast track and was hoping he would brush aside doubts about the ground.

He did it really well, just tying up at the end. Spoils Of War finally produced something akin to his much earlier form with a staying on second and he can surely build on this now with a longer trip sure to suit on breeding.

I got to know Clan Chief well enough last seaosn not to fall for his charms again, and he duly clattered a number of fences, while Miss Conway had form tied in with the winner but she's a robust mare who didn't look especially straight and she showed enough before getting weary before the final fence.


Following a pleasant stay in Hexham we headed off down the A69 to Gosforth Park amid torrential rain that ensured the ground rode a good bit softer than the official good to soft that opened proceedings.

Ballycrystal once again looked terrific as he defied a penalty in the opening novice. He's yet to fully strengthen but he's getting loads of experience and he jumped and stayed in the style of a decent operator.

I was disappointed with Our Dancing Paddy at Haydock and he was better here faced with a stamina test, although he wasn't quite right beforehand, getting very warm. He may need time but could make a nice chaser.

The novice chase saw the return of Waiting Patiently just 16 days on from his impressive debut over larger obstacles, and once again he was mustard as he swept aside a very solid benchmark on Forest Bihan.

You can guarantee the latter has run to 140 at least, and with both principles jumping fluently this is excellent northern form. Whether Waiting Patiently can compete with the big boys we can only guess, but Mr Jefferson has another tool to go to war with on this evidence. I haven't seen B Hughes quite so animated in the post race debrief.

A very weak handicap hurdle was taken by Loch Linnhe who had shown snippets of form in bumpers and indeed last time at Hexham. But the opening mark looked stiff and he wasn't easy to find, but he relished the step up in trip and he saw off Hi Bob, who looked quite a bit fitter than at Sedge and he too enjoyed the extra real estate, only bumping into one.

Brackenmoss Rory came in for early support but the cash dried up late on and he was essentially given a jog round at the back, staying on through beaten horses after appearing to semi-plant himself at the start. His mark needs to come down and he's still quite a weak four year old...but his time will come.

Sedgefield winners Maxed Out King and Cabragh took each other on under penalties at an intermediate trip in the next but the market got it right with the heavily backed Smith horse winning well despite an error three out.

Cabragh didn't look like he was over his race over a marathon trip last week, but still ran well enough to suggest he can be competitive off a higher rating. He'll want three miles though. It was a poor race with Money Maid taking second by default - she ran her race and was fit enough to do so, but she looks in the handicapper's grip.

Annie Alainn was a weak jolly in a poor handicap hurdle over 2m but it was hard to put much up against her and she was really up for it, getting a tad warm late on. She bolted up and will have to go under a penalty as she may struggle off a much higher mark - this was really weak stuff.

I liked the handicap chase over the minimum trip as Captain Hox was a warm order despite being a complete hound, a total wet blanket off the bridle. A line went through Zaru from the dreaded Ewart barn while Boss des Mottes showed regressive tendencies last time and he's been on the go for ages now.

With Caraline not ready fitness wise it really only left Groomed and Rosquero as quite decent prices although the big numbers for the former were long gone.

I've quite taken to old Rosquero of late, he's not done an awful lot wrong and has found consistency at a decent level. On this ground the minimum trip is doable and he looked sure to go well, while Groomed was back over fences after a couple of spins over timber when he looked decidedly burly.

The pair duly fought it out, Cook out-riding Bewley from the last to win going away after Rosquero looked to have things sewn up. But you've always got a chance with Cooky and he delivered for his legion of fans again.

The Smith yard has been pretty forward this term and another nice looking bumper horse emerged in the finale by the name of Blottos, with Cook again doing the steering.

This nice horse was backed to the exclusion of much else against the warm favourite in Mayo Star, who didn't have a great deal to beat on this fourth and final start on the flat. I like the horse, he's become big and strong, and he'll do better over obstacles now he's matured - he wasn't so green this time as in the past and he ran into a professional sort last time.

Offshore Oscar came in for support but didn't impress physically, being particularly weak in front, while Arctic Vodka looks a nice prospect but is too tall and weak to be producing the goods on this sort of ground.

Dobbins duo Ruby Who and Heather Burning are fair sorts for the future as is Skywards Reward, a big robust animal who might take a couple of runs to get straight.

Monday 5 December 2016


Just a short trip on Saturday for kind of an okay card if it was midweek, but on a busy day much of the action went under the radar, including the chase debut of a former World Hurdle winner.

The opening novice wasn't much of a contest as the Henderson-trained Baden had much the better form and couldn't seriously be opposed. The grey struggled for some reason though, and while Kafella and Quietly probably stepped up on previous outings, the jolly should have won easier than he did.

I took a very strong opinion in the four-runner novice chase and that was to take on the aforementioned top staying hurdler Cole Harden, who has never appealed as one to reach the same heights over fences.

He's not the biggest, and it's never set in stone that good jumpers of hurdles make good chasers. There was also the trip of just 2m 3f which is way short of his best, and the shorter in the betting he got the bigger the lay he was.

It was clear that in Its'Afreebee we had the best possible opponent to serve it up to the former champ - a strong chase type who had already proven to be a sound jumper, with stamina in the bank but enough basic speed to trouble the jolly.

Giving the favourite 7lb looked a tall order, but on these occasions weight can be irrelevant when you're losing lengths at every fence. Over 18 fences I reckon Cole Harden probably lost around 20 lengths on the winner, if not more.

Connections sounded like they are trying to to kid themselves into thinking he jumped okay. I think the horse could have been fitter, and clearly an extra half mile or so will help. But away from the smaller tracks he'll have to be worth taking on, especially if the ground is worse than it was here.

Minella Charmer was a live runner in this and looked on good terms with himself after being absent since January. Unfortunately he carried that freshness into the race and was probably going to flatten out when he came down three from home.

However, it was a softish fall and although he had been going a bit left he ought to do alright over fences.

Lough Salt was rightly all the rage to repeat his win here three weeks ago but having been reminded at Sedgefield yesterday of the old maxim that 'there's no profit in the obvious' I was happy to sit the race out, with the only other one under consideration Brian Boranha having been backed into a short price.

I've mentioned here a couple of times that BB is a nice looking horse, but has looked a bit iffy off the bridle. He had shown more last time, if ducking left at the business end, and his finishing effort remained a concern.

He had every chance at the last against a couple that have also got their own ideas about the game in Rocklim and Presence Felt. I've no idea why Rocklim didn't go through with his effort, while Brian Boranha seemed to curl up on the run-in.

Presence Felt has only been with J Dixon for a few weeks but the move from Jonjo's has clearly done him good - that said this is not form I'd be that keen on. Lough Salt didn't pick up for whatever reason, he'd looked value for a 10lb hike but maybe that was a tad harsh, or he might want a longer break between runs.

Speaking of breaks between runs, the Smiths can be hard on their horses and this was a third run the space of a month for I Just Know, who is a lovely chaser he really is. But he had a tough race at Market Rasen 16 days previously, and that came less than a fortnight after his chase debut at Hexham.

He loves his jumping but does have a touch of the slows and I thought the front-running market leader might be vulnerable to a potential improver and so it proved as Two Smokin Barrels didn't really have to hit top gear to make a winning debut over fences.

She's not over-big but has loads of scope and she duly made these quite big fences look small, jumping very neatly and efficiently. She was pretty straight and the Scudamore yard is in good form, but this was as good a performance as you would want to see first time up and I can see her doing really well this term - she's rising eight so they'll want to crack on...she might even be a Midlands National-type horse.

We make loads of mistakes and can't get everything right, but at one point the market had the winner only half a point shorter than Mister Don. The Dobbin horse could not possibly win this race - the form of his win last week was as dire as you could imagine, and he was 5lb higher here in a better race. If that didn't point us towards one of the market leaders we're doing something wrong.

The game is quick to bring us back down to earth and while the next looked a straight match between the consistent duo Boite and Sakhee's City (cheekpieces first time) an each-way play on the latter looked as safe as the Bank Of England.

I suppose the latter institution hasn't looked on quite such solid foundations of late but hopefully the early demise of the Kirby inmate isn't a portend for something more serious.

With the boy Dixon making an heroic bid for the double on Circus Star (why the tearaway tactics?) it became a messy affair but I was watching the exchange like a hawk for some value and despite spotting the leaders 10l on the turn Boite never traded above 3 at any stage. There may have been some quality racing on elsewhere but the pros never miss a beat. Sheehan knew what he was doing on the jolly and so did they.

I didn't think El Beau looked very good here and he may be feeling the effects of a long summer on the level - he'd be worth taking on again if they keep him going.

Indian Voyage is popular with northern punters but he's costing them a small fortune this term and I didn't think he deserved to be the same price as the likeable Apterix, who looked in really good order to back up his Sedgefield win.

He's not a natural chaser and these fences are as big as he'd manage, but he really impressed at Sedge and a 7lb hike was fair as he's lazy in front and was worth much more than the official 'won by'.

With Indian Voyage having to make his own gallop it was always going to be set up for the Ellison beast. A mistake at the last probably helped the winner as he loves having one to aim at - Cook knows him well and even the strongest jock in the north didn't resort to the whip to get him home by under a length.

With the Hammond yard on the turn I thought Rathlin might go well as he looked in great order, but he's a bit in and out and probably wants softer and further. Witness hasn't come to himself yet physically and they'll want to get his mark down, but he'll win races round the gaffs. Nautical Twilight looked fit enough to me, but she's really high in the weights.

The junior fillies bumper wasn't much of a betting race - the pair from Warwick looked the best and while Passing Call didn't back up her run, Shearling certainly did and took the penalty in her stride for the in-form Ellison.

Micky's Reine Des Miracles looked a nice type and ran accordingly, but Sweeping Beauty doesn't have a great deal of size and Potters Sapphire was carrying plenty of condition yet surprisingly came in for a bit of support.

Friday 2 December 2016


Well, we bit the bullet and travelled on up to Co Durham for another stab at the lotto that is the Sedgy dog track. The going was changed to good to soft after the first and the tacky ground made for uncompetitive stuff.

The first was a typically ghastly 0-100 handicap hurdle which is hard to say much about - Mr Slack's Hi Bob was all the rage on stable debut but he never really landed a blow on the winner Robben and he may want a bit further.

K Bailey's Thumb Stone Blues went off favourite in a weak novice where chief rival Shanroe In Milan had not gone on physically on his effort here last time, and he looked small and weak compared to these.

It meant the jolly didn't have much to beat, although I did think Dick Darsie might give him more of a fright. The Smith horse needs fences and three miles already.

I'd made a note of Cabragh ahead of the staying chase as the beast had been handicapped in 2m novice hurdles after coming over from Ireland and the shrewd England (nee Drake) yard know the time of day.

He looked a real chase type, if a bit of a handful, but his lack of any recent form and apparent loneliness in the betting was enough to let him run. There was some late money, which was about the time I was tucking into pie and chips.

The other interesting one was Major Ridge, a horse that was often touted around the track but hadn't shown a great deal, not withstanding the occasional snippet of ability. He's a big chase type and on a very attractive mark. I'm not sure he stays, and he looked like the run would do him good, but I'm sure he can do well for his new handler.

The race had a fair shape as What A Game and Darsi Dancer look too small for fences, particularly the former, while the jolly On The Road is only a moderate looking sort and had stamina and jumping to prove. He looked a bit sticky on this chase debut.

Spiculas was all the rage on his return from a couple of years out, and was returning for new trainer M Jefferson. It was good to see the horse looking so enthusiastic but he was overdoing it in the paddock and got a bit warm.

He then overshot the start on the way to post and was very keen in the race, but took it up going to the second last and appeared to have it in the bag.

But he had nothing left for the late climb and Perseid, who was produced fit and well after a break, had stamina in the tank and rallied late to win going away, scuppering a decent punt.

I think Spiculas has run a massive race here all things considered, and suspect after a decent break he can more than atone for this. He looked useful before his injury break and is a 130 horse for sure.

The Smiths were back in the winner's circle after Maxed Out King finally delivered on promise shown seemingly eons ago. This was frustrating as I'd struck him off my 'to follow' list after a lamentable display last time when it appeared to go wrong.

He's what you'd call an old fashioned chase type that you don't see any more, very strong and big boned. As Sue said after he's been crying out for fences and it was another big priced winner on the day that slipped under the wire.

To be honest I though Distant Rain was a good thing after he was ridden too boldly at Towcester last time. This keen going sort should do ok over fences as he jumps ok but he got a no-brains ride behind the winner, repeatedly jumping into the back of him under restraint After a short break, I'd be interested in him again. Frustratingly the rest were of no interest whatsoever.

The hands and heels novice hurdle was a non event as Irish import Justforjames won by a mile after setting off at a searching pace. Only Derrintogher Yank could go with him but he got the arse with it after a while and they came home at wide intervals.

Royal Supremo hadn't grown since last spring but this was lamentable, seemingly never going after early errors, while Priory Lad looked much fitter than previously but couldn't go this pace. I'd be inclined to ignore this and he'll look really well handicapped when his attentions are turned.

The bumper looked a one horse race as Bellamy had been hammered in the betting all day, but he couldn't go with them in the straight and the Ellison trained The Linksman belied an absence to land the spoils, despite looking as though the run would do him good. Top trainer, decent animal.

Wednesday 30 November 2016


The return of NH action at the Bridge usually heralds great feelings of joy, but this was not a card to enthuse over and what a ghastly sight it was for value seekers as six of the seven jollys went in unchallenged, with the other withdrawn at the start.

The conditionals' hurdle was split and they looked anything-but competitive affairs, the market leaders looking to be ones to concentrate on.

The conclusion drawn prior to the opener was that Thyne For Gold should be just about good enough given his consistent form, particularly in light of a remarkable doubling in the price of southern raider Normandy King, who proceeded to run deplorably.

Cloud Monkey and Leading Score filled the places but neither is one to go overboard about, and the winner did not need to improve to land this.

Division two had a similar shape to it with old rivals from the flat Italian Riviera and Cape Hideaway expected to be involved in the finish - which they surely would have been had the latter not slipped on landing over two out when challenging.

It was left to another huge market drifter All For The Best to chase the winner home, but again he's not one to be especially interested in being a close-coupled, compact animal.

There wasn't anything to recommend amongst the also-rans regarding future investment.

The juvenile hurdle wasn't a great one, Skelton's Does It In Style failing to live up his name my coming down on the bend after looking the one with most about him physically beforehand.

Eventual winner Fidux is quite small and light framed and didn't achieve a great deal here, although in fairness a better gallop would have suited, while the luckless Walford yard yet again missed out when their Aislabie unshipped J Greenall two out, when poised to deliver a challenge.

The form is held down by 54-rated flat horse Allfredandnobell, who did at least advertise the well-being of the Hammond yard.

Nortonthorpelegend was rightly made a warm order to supplement last week's Sedgefield win, with conditions in his favour, in the handicap chase. He wasn't opposed lightly, although there was plenty of each-way value to be had if you got it right.

I favoured Valleyofmilan but he ran very flat, making errors, and was yet another McCain chaser to run below par - the trainer is winless in three months over fences.

Bonzo Bing finally delivered on earlier promise having dropped miles in the weights, connections finally twigging that he wants a trip.

This was a bit of an odd race though with very little incident, Ueueteotl and the pint sized Iora Glas merely plodding on, and it's not really a race to take much from.

The withdrawal of Tara View down at the start made the next a non-event - the King mare would surely have beaten Miss Maiden Over, who looked ponderous at several obstacles.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the sight of King's French import Laissez Dire prior to the novices chase. Billed as a two horse race, it wasn't even that as money buyers stationed around the paddock would have been in clover having spied the gorgeous four-year-old, who would have won without the allowance.

Work In Progress doesn't look the easiest of conveyances and although he was up against it here he's one I'd prefer to take on in the medium term. As for the winner, it'll be exciting to see him progress this term as he's very forward and value for the allowance.

Jovial Joey and Miami Present skipped round in their own time, but both fenced with aplomb in the main and will be of interest, especially the latter who should come on for the run and wasn't knocked about.

I wanted to be onside with Jefferson's Helmsley Lad in the closing bumper, but he still looks like he has plenty of growing up to do. It looks like he'll want a trip, as he was readily brushed aside by Skelton's heavily backed Getaway Whiskey, a laid back sort who was altogether more professional and had too much speed in a weak affair.

Monday 28 November 2016

Doncaster weekend


There had been plenty of rain earlier in the week but it was drying out by the hour on Town Moor and the ground appeared to be no worse than good to soft, and arguably better on the hurdles track.

The Unit looked one of the bets of the day in the opening novice hurdle, belatedly up in trip after going down in a speed test at Kempton last time. With Our Reward and Ballycrystal likely to set the race up it was hard to envisage defeat, and that feeling continued throughout the race until King's horse ran about after hitting the front.

Tom Bellamy did well to get the youngster home in the end from the rallying Ballycrystal, who has stepped up markedly on his Sedgefield win. Both of them should go on to better things, while Our Reward looked to run his race in third but probably needs a drop in the ratings.

The handicap chase over 2m was an intriguing race and with the ground coming in his favour I strongly backed Oliver's Gold to be the latest to uphold the recent Kelso form.

I still don't know how he got beat by the often frustrating Festive Affair. Upsides two out and Jonjo's under the cosh, I didn't even check the in-running market as it looked a question of how far.

I did wonder why the cheekpieces had been dispensed with, and perhaps the lack of headgear made the difference. The Walford yard is absolutely flying but somehow this one got away.

I quite liked the chance of Starkie as well, despite his injury-plagued past, but he may have needed  this - it was quite hard to tell. I wasn't convinced by Vital Evidence's first go over fences at Sedgefield, considering a bit of a random event (and the form isn't worth much). The flat bred horse did not look at ease over these bigger fences and I'd be against him big time if they persevere over the larger obstacles.

It was a shame they pulled out Wetherby casualty Royal Plaza in the next as he made the market for my fancy, Boyhood. The T George inmate remains unfurnished physically but he looks a decent stayer in the making and he looked leniently treated on his latest effort at Aintree.

He was a very solid favourite in the end and despite showing greenness once more ran out an easy winner, and he'll continue to progress. Indian Brave was the paddock pick, a lovely chaser for next season. He's a bit big and ungainly at present, and I thought he'd come on for the run. It was a big run and he's one to look out for.

It was an interesting novice handicap chase with eight going to post. It wasn't easy choosing between them but there was value to be had as Misfits was surprisingly high in the betting on the back of a debut effort at Kelso, the form of which looked dubious.

She didn't look very big against some of these and the Russell yard has a poor record at Donny. Florida Calling lacks a bit of scope and again ran as though something isn't quite right. Duke Arcadio has been patiently handled but is a proper three mile chaser and he took a big step in the right direction with bold jumping performance.

I thought he must come on for the outing and he can certainly go one better soon. Deputy Commander looked straighter and the NTD inmate always looked like getting the better of the argument up the straight.

This might be okay form as the third, Pyrshan, has some decent efforts to his name in this grade and shaped much better over fences as he often had over timber. Carlo Rocks was well beaten but his time will come...he needs much softer terrain and the C Bailey stable is pretty cold just now.

Azert De Coeur was a shoo-in for money buyers but Venetia's horses often fail to back up reappearance wins and this six-year-old has never been able to run two races alike. Caveat Emptor as they say but even if you weren't interested in taking short odds, finding the winner wasn't easy.

Germany Calling is a summer horse and this ground was on the edge of his comfort zone, but he capitalised on what turned out to be a very weak race. Distant runner-up Drumlee Sunset simply looks high in the handicap, as does Special Catch, who may be best at 2m. Katachenko and his trainer remain in the doldrums.

The staying hurdle wasn't a great one but Lough Derg Leader had a bit of quality about him and the five-year-old did well to win as he liked after getting outpaced when the race finally got going. Winning here off 120, he's obviously got loads of ability. Handsome Sam wants soft ground and fences so his effort was promising - he didn't go on last season so he needs to go and back this up.

Ravenhill Road was an impressive winner on debut and he looked a good thing to go in again under the penalty, less his rider's claim. He's a good looker, strong, and looks a good galloper.

The opposition wasn't great. The Queen's horse Take To Heart is leggy at this time, while Midnight Moss is a lovely strong horse to bear in mind for the future, but he was green as grass before this. Marten is a well-made animal who is probably just backward mentally, but the runner-up Molly Childers looks a grinder of medium build and soft ground will likely see her in better light.


Not a great deal to report, not least owing to the fact of three other meetings going on and little of interest at Donny, particularly at the front end.

Mahlerdramatic had a very good bumper win to his name over a year ago and returned here looking fully revved up. He's a nice horse that has strengthened up a good deal since I saw him looking leggy and weak last Fall. However, Minella Rebellion came with a reputation and the market suggested he was very good.

He didn't looked much physically, just an unfurnished four-year-old, and Mahlerdramatic had two years on him and made it count. Ellison's horse jumped great despite looking very green in front, and was value for further. The presence of the previously ordinary looking Focaccia gives the form a queer look, so we'll see what the assessor makes of them in due course.

The second was as poor a race as you're ever likely to see on a Saturday card, but the 0-100 saw an exciting finish when the only two you could back - Mister Don and Lakefield Rebel - fought it out.

Mister Don let the side down with a tame finish at Wetherby before, but this was weaker still and to be fair he appeared to battle hard to get up on the line to beat Lakefield Rebel, who would have won with a better jumping display.

The latter is very lightly raced considering he's turning 11, but hopefully he'll be able to string a few races together now. He was always built for fences, so there should be more to come from him, but let's not get carried away...this was dreadful stuff.

Third home High Counsel again found nothing, but perhaps he doesn't stay. He's worth a try over shorter, and as he's not that big he should be fine over timber.

I missed the weak mares' race, but not the novices chase that followed which was a difficult affair in which several had chances. Gold Present took the honours despite market weakness - he's a very strong chasing type, he galloped all the way to the line and should hold his own down south.

Drumlee Lad seemed to run his race in second as did Viens Chercher, who looks a tad high in the weights, so the race has a sound look to it. I'dliketheoption isn't that big but he jumped and travelled well before not getting home - it looks like he just doesn't stay at the moment.

The punt on Crosspark was the most surprising element to this. 9s into 3s for his out of form trainer, and with winning form over 3m on very soft ground, things weren't likely to fall his way on this occasion. I liked Bigpipenotobacee, you can see why they've gone straight over fences with him, but this was a tough introduction and it looked like he needed the run.

Cornborough was the day's good thing for the M Walford barn where only a false run race would get him beat. Cue shenanigans at the start where nothing wanted to make it, until M Griffiths used his initiative to quickly build up a 10 length gap on the rest on the in-form Unison. A jockey with brains, eh. He'll be quite a catch, whoever he is.

Cornborough apparently has to come late so this was never going to suit, and he never looked like getting there. One of those things - or maybe I need one of those computer programs that tells me where the pace is going to come from.

Kalondra couldn't be opposed in the next but again things didn't fall his way - they didn't crawl but it wasn't fast enough and this good looking horse is the type to go well in a much better contest. There's no doubt in my mind he was the best horse in this race, and he'll remain well treated as a result of the way it panned out.

Staying on in fourth was Very First Time. Don't forget his name.

The junior bumper was actually really interesting and how lovely for us jump boys to see the great T Murphy back in the winners enclosure. Irish Prophecy was the nicest of the bunch, a strong individual and forward enough to do the business, with Murphy's renowned patience once again coming to the fore.

Motcomb Street is a nice horse but he went for home early and didn't stay, Arakhan is a bit leggy at this stage and Flashing Glance ran a fine race in third for one so green and backward beforehand.

Wednesday 23 November 2016


Having got just about everything upside down for the last fortnight I thought I'd tread a bit carefully back on 'home' soil. Any punter who's been through that scenario will be well aware of what happens next.

I managed to take a closer look at the two opening novice hurdles and by show time I was convinced Craggaknock was going to go very close with the market set up by, you guessed it, a J Ewart 7/4 shot!

Lycidas looked like most other Ewart runners - very fit, very lean, on his toes, a bit awkward. Robbing The Prey caught everyone's eye last time and down in trip was very popular with that Hughes bloke doing the steering.

However Craggaknock was the best horse in the race and was a very solid performer on the flat, with plenty of soft ground form. If he could jump, he would win. As it happened, he was sticky early doors but got better under a cool ride from J Greenall. I like this horse a hell of a lot. The Walford yard is in terrific form. He can defy a penalty.

A few of these had a quiet day out, checking out the A1 scenery. Beeno may have finished closer than ideal, but there's no doubting he's a fractious type. This wasn't the first time he caught the eye, though. Ulva Ferry will need some time - he's a big staying chaser.

Div II saw the progressive mare Kalaniti go off favourite and rightly so, albeit with doubts about the ground. This may have been the weaker of the two races, but I like this horse a lot and her greenness will hopefully mean the assessor will err towards lenient. Don't forget she carried a penalty here.

Smart Boy has plenty of filling out to do and isn't one to be interested in for now, but Pikarnia (Wade > Menzies) was being closely monitored and he did well to stay on after a near-race ending blunder at halfway. He'll improve for the outing.

Having decided to shut up shop having regained some poise in the betting ring, everything proceeded to pan out how I thought it might. Zeroshadesofgrey has not improved one bit in 18 months and has frankly been disappointing. He's very one-dimensional but I didn't oppose him as it looked like he'd have an easy time of it again on the front end.

That he did, but the weight concession to ace mare Actinpieces proved too much. I've waxed lyrical about the big grey before but she's looked clumsy over fences and was very flat last time out. At 3/1 I had to pass her over, despite Pithivier looking in need of the outing and Flashjack conspicuously weak in the market despite looking revved up for it. His jumping was mediocre.

Actinpieces was reported after the event to have been in season last time out. This is just the kind of information we could have done with BEFORE the race. Maybe it was hidden in the pages of the RP. I don't buy it.

The juvenile hurdlers don't do much for me but it was surprising to see American bred Forth Bridge go so close on this ground. He nearly did for the well-backed Coeur De Lion, who showed a likeable attitude to get up close home. I thought Indirocco had enough about him, and he may just have needed the run.

With three of the eight in the handicap chase saddled by the frigid Hammond kennel, we could hardly lose, it seemed. Somehow we did though, after passing up the opportunity to back Aye Well at 13/2 early doors despite the beast being dropped a massive 4lb for an ok reappearance run.

I actually backed the winner of that Kelso race, a useful performer named Imjoeking. I remember it well because I've not backed many winners of late. My point is, that was a very good race. The second, Aye Well's stable mate Quick Decission came out and won next time. The third, Domtaline, is a very solid yardstick, and Oliver's Gold is a winner waiting to happen.

I've backed Aye Well a couple of times before and he ran unaccountably badly. That sort of thing sticks with you - a punter's failing. By the time he was 3/1 the value had gone - in any case the deeply attractive Doctor Phoenix had caught my attention and he looked ready to go.

However, the good Doctor looked rusty early doors and this may have told at the business end. The concession of 23lb proved to much in the final analysis, but cash lost on the Doc is merely lent.

Micky's horses are starting to come to the boil and Witness ran on to very good effect back in fourth, while Roxyfet was outclassed here but his mark should start coming down and he looks a better physical specimen this term. Back To Bracka is a good animal and if I had more money than sense I'd make an offer to the owners.

The times I've taken on horses running under a penalty (or like Royal Plaza, without) are too numerous to recount. But the fact remains they win every time, as they should, so I stopped doing it. However, I thought the Warwick race fell apart last week, and Royal Plaza has often been a bridle horse. This was a stronger race, and King never likes to run them back too soon. That was the case for the prosecution. It made perfect sense.

A horse that has been in my tracker for over a year is Cooking Fat. He looked a real nice type in the making but appeared to have blown his mark last season before having some time off. He came back to run a mighty race a fortnight ago, and was jacked up 5lb for his pains. I thought he had a hard race, and that this could come too soon. This is what happens when you over-analyse things.

He's a nice f*$!ing horse alright. He absolutely shit up after the odds-on jolly got rid of his rider. Still, no damage done! Eastview Boy has a race in him, I think I've mentioned that before. Like Hammond, the Kirby hurdlers are not far off now.

The mares bumper looked a decent contest but Petticoat Tails could be better than that. The strong looking Goodgirl Teresa had the PTP experience and went off strong, and the jolly looked in trouble turning in.

But with the rest beaten off, the Greatrex filly kicked in the turbo and the race was over. She looked to have a bit of class about her beforehand and she can take high rank - I'm sure they'll be looking at Aintree in April with this daughter of Presenting, who could look even better on good ground.


I'm officially sick of the place. Too much crappy racing and not enough good horses. One or two races worth coming for, and frankly it's better to stay at home.

Having warned clients not to be drawn into backing Duhallowcountry in the opener, despite seemingly having optimum conditions and a 'pro' jock in the plate for once, I'm drawn into backing the beast in the total absence of a better solution.

Can we back a J Ewart 7/4 chance? Ever? No, we damn well can't. Sky Full Of Stars PU. However, after going off like stink, our hero is also, PU. Ghastly stuff. But what do you do when there's a black line through everything else. Stay at home, is the answer.

Mahlerdramatic is scratched from the novice hurdle leaving Skelton's chaser in the making The Bay Oak a warm order. And rightly so. He bumped into a goodun here last time and compensation looked assured.

Tiger Mountain has been very slow on the uptake, but he looked capable of landing the place money in a weak event as Easterby's Min Alemarat is regressing with each run. Tiger Mountain will need more real estate to win next time, but that's what I expect him to do.

I'm not sure about flat exile Aramist. He's got a bit about him but this wasn't a great start. Priory Lad ran a huge race for a huge horse and he should pick up a handicap in the New Year.

Viens Chercher was taken out of the 'decent' handicap chase for novices where Waiting Patiently had been touted for some time. A nice horse with a serious engine, his form with 'hope of the north' Cloudy Dream looked good in this context. At 'levels you devils' I wasn't tempted, but he did it very well and considering he looks just a baby, I think he could be very good indeed. You can trust his new handler to do the right thing.

Nansaroy is big and needed it, Sean Ban was very lean fit but ran a stinker. Burtons Well was fit after an absence, he's not massive but nicely put together and bumped into one here.

Back to the drudgerie of a 0-105 handicap hurdle and Discoverie landed some bets at his favourite venue. He stuck his head down and battled it out which he doesn't always do. He was well placed to win.

Mitcd looked in terrific order but was probably found out by the ground, which was a big worry beforehand. Back at Muss, she can win again. Fiddler's Flight wasn't quite ready but will probably remain competitive in these as the season goes on.

Greyed A had R Johnson in the plate for Div II and he stood out like a beacon in the paddock. He looked a 120 horse against cretins and 2/1 was like shooting fish in a barrel. It was that kind of day. Having slid down the ratings Stilo Blue Native decided today was the day to put it all in. In fairness it was another winner for the J Wade >> (name your trainer) system - a gift that is likely to keep on giving.

With that said I took a view in the handicap chase that the ex-Wade Nortonthorpelegend was one to be against at around 3.25 (that's digital for less than 9/4 BTW). Doubts over the ground (I'm later to learn they nearly took in out), stamina queries and Hughes surely can't ride another four-timer can he? In he goes without touching a twig.

Nakadam was terrible again despite having things in his favour, Jonny Eager probably needed the run and wants to be at the front in a real stamina test. Attimo was fit for a very big unit and I thought he showed up well and perhaps didn't get home. Master Rajeem looked in good heart but his finishing effort was dreadful, almost unrideable from two out.

The bumper was alright - Born For War (strong staying chase type), Codeshare (flat bred, surely wants better ground) and Dear Sire, who looked to have grown and strengthened from last season. However, Oxwich Bay had run in that good Newbury bumper, form which gave him a serious chance in this.

He's a backward looking animal but won with a bit to spare, and should do very well in time.

Sunday 20 November 2016

Haydock weekend

Plenty to get through so no messing around on this Sunday morning. The rain certainly arrived in Lancashire prior to racing on Friday, there were heavy showers during racing then loads more through the night into Saturday. However, it seemed to just ride very soft throughout, with loads of surface water.


Race 1
Capitaine didn't look straight forward in the paddock, carrying his head a bit high. he carried that trait through to the race and didn't appear to want a battle from two out. One to be wary of. The winner, Tahira, was very fit and expertly ridden by H Skelton. Arguably the best around at present.

Race 2
Cloudy Dream looked in great nick but would he go on the ground? Fortunately for him it was the first race of the season on the chase course and he made light of it, winning impressively. He was receiving 11lb, but it was a great performance. King's Odyssey and Hollywoodien looked as though the race would do them good.

Race 3
Island Heights I thought was bomb proof each way here but he checked out tamely for a rare poor effort - the market spoke. Ami Desbois is a real progressive sort and is nice and compact - he may not make a chaser. For now, he's one to follow as he's strengthened up and stays really well. Courtown Oscar looked pretty straight and the Kirby horses are poised to start winning. Iiked the way he ran. Sharp Response looked a bit lean and I've said from the outset this horse needs another summer on his back. Then we'll see a racehorse.

Race 4
Politologue is knowhere near the finished article physically and would definitely benefit from the outing, making his performance all the more remarkable. At a soft ground festival, he would take a world of beating, I was so impressed by this. Vintage Clouds ran his race and bumped into one. He's an unlucky horse and his time will come.Welsh Shadow was very keen beforehand and may have done too much, too soon. He was done after belting one down the back, but I fancy he'll bounce back. Aqua Dude and Delusionofgrandeur needed the run - the former looked knowhere near peak form.

Race 5
An informative fixed brush race. The winner Constantine Bay looked to be carrying some timber, but outbattled Brio Conti who may turn out quite decent whe he learns to settle better. Billy Bronco looked in need of the run, and not great in his coat, while I was disappointed in Our Dancing Paddy, who looked strong and fit but very one-paced. He stayed on as if he already needs three miles. Stick To The Plan is weak and leggy and was tenderly handled. Patience will be rewarded.

Race 6
A very good bumper I suspect. Claimantakinforgan was well touted but took a drift in the market, however he looked very well and this athletic sort is clearly useful. The one he beat, Global Stage, is a strong, sturdy powerhouse. I had a bit on Cadeyrn who is nicely made, but lost his pitch before staying on well. Ballynorth Benny is a nice big sort, Another Stowaway and Costly Dream (weak in front) are others worthy of a mention.


Race 1
A difficult race. I liked Sleepy Haven and he looked in good order, and he'd probably have come second but for stumbling after the last. He's a very clumsy animal. Clyne is a nice big horse who should keep improving and I thought he'd come on for it. Baratineur looked really well and it's not the first time I've got a Henderson horse wrong - he ran no race.

Race 2
French raider Fyrmyn looked a treat but his price had shrunk and couldn't be backed blind on form. Connetable should come on for the run while Great Fighter needs to find his level after leaving Godolphin. He's big enough to jump a fence.

Race 3
I was all over Askamore DArsi but he got a strop on after failing to live with the early gallop and he put in one of his moody efforts. Mysteree is a horse I haven't forgiven for running weakly at Donny last year. Let's put that behind us now. He's strengthened up a tad for his new handler and although he'll never look the most robust he clearly jumps great and stays forever. If I was an owner with the former trainer I'd be having words with myself. Gonalston Cloud wasn't fit, while Rigadin De Beauchene looked really well, but was very much on his toes and may have burned too much energy early on. I liked Chase The Spud, and he looks to be progressing. He stayed all the way to the mile.

Race 4
Melodic Rendezvous looked really well, but this was a non-event. Fair play to H Skelton, who again rode them to sleep by getting first run on them on Ch'Tibello.

Race 5
The fixed brush hurdle. They went a good clip but very few good into it. Point The Way couldn't live with the pace and could only plug on into sixth. I was disappointed with that. There were some lovely strong types in the race, Yala Enki looked great, albeit a bit fizzy again. But he ran his race. Theo's Charm is a lovely horse and clearly has a touch of class - he's one to follow. Affaire D'Honneur is a lovely chaser in the making but he was very fizzy and I think they need to go back to the drawing board with him - it's been a curious campaign. Two Taffs is a big chaser. He may be a bit soft, and his run came to nothing. But he should be sent chasing sooner rather than later.

Race 6
Seeyouatmidnight didn't measure up to the best physically and his odds looked ridiculous, even allowing for the fact he's run as if something was amiss. I think he's a second rung horse. Coneygree looked fit enough, but Cue Card had tightened up from Wetherby even though I thought he was fit there. He's best given a patient ride, and he keeps proving the doubters wrong. Vezelay has run a stormer for a horse lacking scope.

Race 7
I've had my doubts about Three Faces West even before his sulky effort last time out. He looked different here in cheepices, buzzy beforehand. He still messed about going to the start, but got his own way in front and it was a one horse race. The Smith pair needed the run, but Midnight Prayer looked fit. Saroque was another Venetia horse to get a bit wound up beforehand and he was overbet with everybody telling me it was the one to be on. The E Williams horses were rugged up right to the track so it was hard to decipher whether Firebird Flyer needed it. He was given a tender ride and is one to note as he looks to be improving still.

Tuesday 15 November 2016


Not much of a punting card but the 'long term' notebook was very much to the fore as is often the case at the Newark venue, where the going seemed to deteriorate throughout the afternoon after starting on officially 'good, good to soft in places' It was slo-mo by the end of proceedings.

The opening stayers handicap chase was a ghastly affair taken by Fly Home Harry, which felt like a bit of a miss. I've got know the beast over the past three years and after plunging down the weights went for a mighty plunge on him on chase debut last October.

He looked a right dodgepot that day so it was galling to see him get up from an uncompromising position at Rasen next time, from a mark a pound lower than he was off today.

He'd done little in the interim but was produced looking fit by the Swinbank team, however my trust issues are deep seated and he wasn't really considered as a betting proposition despite the nearly 3m trip expected to suit.

They went a fair old clip thanks to D Cook on Cross To Boston and that played into P Moloney's hands as the winner came from well back to beat the race-fit Annamult in a tight finish.

There were only negatives to take from the race - Brave Helios is not a well made horse and I suspect will continue to struggle over fences, while chief market rival High Counsel (on the small side) has had a few chances now, travelling cosily here before finding very little.

Houndscourt doesn't look the force of old, as things looked in place for a revival, while Cross To Boston doesn't find much at the business end and old Foot The Bill was lamentable.

The novice chase brought together some real nice types but Churchtown Champ made mincemeat of them despite a couple of notable errors. The one he beat, Pearl Swan, looked very fit after a lengthy absence, so the result must be taken at face value.

Templehills came down over on the far side after going left several times and although he's a lovely chase type he clearly needs some time. Ballyhenry looks ok but had an awkward way about him and I'm surprised he held up so strongly in the market considering his documented wind problem and propensity for very soft ground. The Jonjo yard remains cold and Beggars Cross showed very little once again.

I marked Aliandy down as a fair sort likely to improve in time when finishing third to the useful looking Hitman Hearns at Catterick on New Year's Day. I was hoping for a very different animal 11 months on but he still looked a bit backward to me.

The market drift from 4s to 6 made me more comfortable to sit the race out but this 'confirmation bias' syndrome once again made a fool of me. He's very keen going and he was held up out the bag in quite exaggerated fashion. My suspicion is that he's a good deal better than what he's shown here, and he can't go up much for beating one of the rags.

There was a novice hurdle with some interesting sorts lining up yet it was impossible to oppose the form horse Ballymalin, who had performed with credit at HQ last time.

The race was for the minor honours and the silver medal went to Nobuttaboy, who didn't show a great deal in northern points and was picked up on the cheap. However, now with B Pauling the five year old looked a proper horse beforehand and the big drift on the machine looked overdone.

It came as no surprise to see the big horse chase home the jolly, although the proximity to the winner now leaves connections in a quandary.

I wasn't a fan of Powerful Symbol after he was turned over at Carlisle last term and once again he looked moody off the bridle. Physically I'm not that impressed with him and he's one to oppose in all but the weakest company.

Russian Service took fourth and may be better in time as he has some substance, but the mare Goodnight Charlie looked an ignorant brute and Between The Waters is backward looking physically and could do with some time to grow.

Cajun Fiddle didn't have much to beat in a weak mares race but she's a nice sort who should keep improving, while the K Bailey inmate My Cousin Rachel is built for fences and can pick up a race in due course. I wasn't taken by the Sherwood horse Versifier, but even I was shocked at how poorly she ran. It's worth remembering that many connections would have been hoping for much better ground than these were racing on.

Jaunty Thor was very hard to oppose against a bad bunch in the handicap hurdle, but he gave backers anxious moments before staying on well enough to defy the penalty. It amazes me that we all worry about nicking prices in the morning, complaining about not getting on and having accounts closed, when in the 40 seconds it took me to walk from the ring to the stands the odds on this one went from 13/8 to 15/8 (I wasn't on) and you could have filled the tank if you fancied it.

My Renaissance showed up well for a long way and should be able to pick up a small race for connections I like - it was surprising there was no support for it here as it looks a well made animal.

The closing bumper was very interesting and they looked a fair bunch, even though the closing stages were played out in slow motion, probably because they went an honest pace for once.

I didn't quite know what to make of the winner Agamemmon - but I certainly didn't think he would beat this lot. Pauling's Linenhall took the eye and looks certain to improve from this run, while Cresswell Legend is a good strong animal who can certainly pick up a bumper before going over timber.

Searching For Gold was well found in the market and he looked uncomplicated in the prelims...however he was anything-but in the run and ought to learn a good deal. Diamond Fort was found out in this better race while Midnight Jitterbug and Midnight Chill looked types to do well in time, but this seemed to happen too quick.

The principals had a hard race but I'm sure it will throw up plenty of winners.

Sunday 13 November 2016


There was some overnight rain and it was a dank enough day but you’d hardly call it much worse than good to soft ground.

They went steady enough in the opening mares novice hurdle which was taken in good style by the talented and much touted La Bague Au Roi. She’s a classy mare with plenty of size and ought to keep getting better with time and, eventually, fences.

Skelton’s Uttoxeter winner Whatduhavtoget chased her willingly but didn’t have acceleration after they pretty steady early on, and she too has enough about her to do well. Groovejet wasn’t that far behind but was suited by the way the race was run, and may have been flattered, as she lacks the scope of the front pair.

Back in fourth Fille Des Champs finished with plenty of running and she could do well in time, certainly over further.

The novice chase was an interesting heat and looked a three runner affair, but I took a pop at the rag Vendor, who wasn’t too far behind on hurdles form against some inexperienced types.

He nearly pulled it off too, albeit only handed an opening thanks to The Dutchman blundering at the final two, having jumped well to that point. The Dutchman was pretty fit, and is quite athletic without perhaps having a great deal of scope.

Ma Du Fou looked a bit laboured. He’s a big strong gelding who probably needs further, but they need to work on her jumping technique. Blue Heron drifted all day and then came in for late support. 

But his finishing effort was tame last time and I’ve said many times on this blog that they rarely come back of serious tendon injuries. He may prove me wrong, but he looks  like he’s not letting himself down under pressure.

Barramundi was popular in the stayers hurdle on the back of a quiet outing at Sedgefield, but the handicapper had taken evasive action. He looks a big, plain staying chaser but didn’t appear to see this out, or maybe he’s a bit slow.

Lough Salt showed signs of ability last season but the Walford yard has had a quiet spell with the horses apparently under a cloud. They have been looking well of late though, and this one appeared straight enough on his seasonal return, winning with loads in hand after fluffing the last two flights.

Rocklim looked awful, very fit and lean, dry in his coat. The Ewart yard is not one I’m a fan of and this one hasn’t done much physically in the last 12 months. Benenden and Patsys Castle were opposable on the ground, so it probably wasn’t a great race.

The feature handicap chase would make or break the day as Indian Voyage was down to a great mark, albeit over a trip that stretches him. It was disappointing that he didn’t travel into the race better, as I was hoping he’d get to the front before two out.

But Aerlite Supreme, well backed beforehand and looking fit, travelled all over them and really should have won but for throwing it away on the run-in. He had looked hard to win with before and now we know why.

Wells De Lune was a shock winner, especially as this tearaway fought back after looking beaten when clouting the last two. He lives on his nerves and hasn’t much condition on him, but you can’t fault his tenacity. That said, they were going knowhere in front and if he runs again before Christmas I’ll looking to take him on.

They were strung out behind with Blandfords Gunner a disappointment. He’s quite nice albeit rather leggy and may want another year. His jumping was patchy and he hasn’t gone on from his Leicester win…but time is on his side.

Monbeg Charmer was on his toes before the novice hurdle and carried that freshness into the race, going very freely out in front. They were exacting fractions, and he didn’t have enough left in reserve to fend off the green Some Invitation, a nice strong youngster who will do well in time. It was surprising he was able to serve it up to the hot favourite, and will get further.

Robinauthelad was disappointing again. He’s a very nice chaser in the making but clearly wants more time, a sentiment that applies to Nomoreblackjack who is very unfurnished at present.

The handicap hurdle looked difficult but I was against the quite small Taper Tantrum, who may need better ground, and Applesandpierres, who is quite small and wasn’t walking great. Like Blue Heron, he may never get over his earlier problems.

Plenty looked fit – Lightening Rod, Isaac Bell, Our Thomas and Cornborough looked ready to go, while Eyes Of The Tiger appeared to be carrying condition. Ellison is a canny handler and I’ve put away several times before as quite a few of his are able to carry excess around their belly. I must say the horse has flown under my radar, but he was very well backed and this was one for the boy Moscrop, who is not normally associated with such plots.

The closing staying handicap chase was a torrid affair as I couldn’t have the hot favourite West Of The Edge, who lacks size and scope for fences and is only 4/34 under rules. However, the good Dr Newland has done ok with all sorts of animals in the past and he’s worked the oracle again.

You couldn’t confidently put anything up against it though. Doubledisdoubledat looked fit but the Coltherd horses have been needing a run, while Nortonthorpelegend was definitely straight even though the Menzies horses have all been short of fitness. 

Urban Gale and Benefit In Kind were fit but they couldn’t even get the jolly off the snaff. Runswick Days had been pummelled 16lb for winning a bad race and the weight anchored him.

Friday 11 November 2016


I'll keep this as brief as I can as time is pressing. A good card for Gosforth Park, plenty of interest particularly from a paddock perspective. The ground was generally good to soft, not much worse, despite the car parks being under water.

Bestiarius was the nicest in the paddock for the opener but is more one for the future and I thought he'd improve for the outing. Sam Spinner was raring to go, very fit and his bumper form was useful. He hasn't grown an inch, and if any day was going to be his day then this would be it. He duly obliged and jumped ok in the main for a small horse - I'd be wary as to how well he builds on this, especially under a penalty.

I didn't mind Atomix, but he needs another summer to furnish, while Think Ahead looked massive on his first start for J Moffatt. Handicaps will be the plan. ACDC and Applaus looked straight enough but again they'll be sized up for a mark and can win races.

The second was a cracker and Pistol Park was backed off the boards to land a novice chase full of intrigue. He showed bags of promise over further last time and was ridden as if defeat was out of the question.

Lake View Lad will obviously win races over fences, and ran very well considering this was needed, while Boss des Mottes ran a super race in third and appears to be holding form for his new handler. he may flourish in this smaller yard.

Chidswell had the form but he looks far from straight forward - in fact if he was human you'd call him an idiot. His jumping got worse and he's just messing about, like the kid at the back of the class. This was a huge backward step.

The staying handicap chase wasn't for the faint hearted, St Gregory unsurprisingly upholding recent form to land a hat-trick despite a market drift. He saw off the late thrust of Onwiththeparty, a chasing type who looks certain to build on this as his finishing effort was better than last time at Ayr. Charlie Wingnut faded out of things and looked a patent non-stayer at this stiff 3m.

The mares hurdle looked a three-runner affair and I had Berkshire Downs down as the one to beat on the form book, ahead of Book At Bedtime and Verona Opera. The market fell in line, but not before we got filled 5/1 and downwards on the Thomson mare.

However, she's very lengthy, leggy, and not straight forward - despite this I hadn't condemned her as a dodgepot as she seemed to keep bumping into one. But you'd have to crab her effort up the straight, a questionable head carriage making life difficult for the excellent Cook. He couldn't have done much more, but Book At Bedtime was far more honest from two out and ran right to the line to deny the gamble.

Verona Opera was flattered last time out and she's a small filly with little scope - she'll remain one to oppose - while Rivabodiva threatened to spoilt the party but she quickly backed out of it and her temperament is very much under suspicion.

The handicap chase was a very tricky puzzle and I'm not sure the form is up to much. Jet Master ran Roquero out of it close home and the next two Rear Admiral and Zaru were both fit enough to run their races. I must note here that the K Johnson horses are all looking exceptionally fit and well at present. Something's gone on in that yard and if they have any decent horses in the kennel they could be worth following in the coming weeks. The Menzies horses, by contrast, are way behind everyone else and Water Garden badly needed it.

The bumper was trappy as nothing really stood out on looks, and there were many negatives including the favourite Nando, an unraced 50k animal. He looked very backward, immature physically, and was no price.

The next pair in the betting were May Star and and the unfortunately named Solighoster. The former had ok form for K Ryan last term, when he looked very green, and he still appears on the leggy side and needs time to strengthen.

Solighoster looked a more relaxed, professional sort who reportedly showed a good attitude to win his maiden point. None of the others looked forward enough to get involved and the pair duly fought it out, the Mulholland youngster sticking his head down to win well in the end. Irish raider Well Joey took third, but like so many from the Crawford kennel lacked any substance whatsoever.

Tuesday 8 November 2016


Quite a nicely balanced card with plenty of southern yards represented as they come in search of decent jumping ground, which looked like it was genuine good to soft.

The opener was an interesting novice hurdle as it featured a rather narrow, angular animal in Middlebrow which was a warm order after showing up well at Kelso last time out.

I wasn't that impressed by the horse that day, so was easily taken on with Prime Venture from the E Williams yard, whose bumper form suggested he would be hard to beat if translating that to timber.

The money for it came late, probably after paddock viewers saw it looking very well indeed, quite a compact, strong individual. He jumped very well in the main, and ran away from front runner Ca Le Ferra from the last. He's one to keep an eye on.

They came clear of the others, Free Stone Hill looking more a chase prospect while Bollin Ace once again proved himself a tricky customer, who surely wants a trip.

I was convinced last month's run by Ascot De Bruyere earmarked him as a likely winner of race two, but the Ewart animal proved me very wrong with a lamentable effort that marks him down as one to be wary of.

J Greenall appeared to want to lead them but couldn't get to the front and let the others do the hard yards, yet the French bred never picked up until the race was over.

Three Southern yards had some nice horses on show with B Pauling running Paddy's Field, a strong sort I saw at Market Rasen last term. He looked like the run would do him good but despite market support I was of the feeling he already wants more of a test.

Drumlee Lad scored on his first start for J Farrelly last term and he was ridden very confidently by the beleaguered B Powell to land the spoils again here. He looked very fit for this curtain raiser, but couldn't have done it more easily.

Bishops Court was the only one to go with him but his finishing effort has been laboured throughout his hurdles career and he wasn't finding anything again before cartwheeling at the last. He's not one to take forward, and neither is Wolf Sword who has no excuses left in the locker.

It was a real treat to see a horse like Le Breuil at lowly Sedgefield and he dismissed his opponents disdainfully in the novices hurdle, hurdling like a natural. He's a lovely sort, and was pretty fit for this. The late drift was startling but drew me in and this was a gift. The rest were moderate - The Bay Oak a staying chase type.

The second and final chase of the day was a proper betting heat as I couldn't have the over-bet Blakemount on my mind and half the field could easily be ruled out.

With Sue Smith hitting form it was clearly assumed Blakemount would be ready to go, but I had massive reservations about the trip at this track, while most of the yard's horses do need a run to put them straight.

Apterix looked a runner following a pleasing sighter behind the mighty Double W's at Wetherby, even though the horse doesn't look a natural chaser.

But he's always done things his own way and still wins more than his share, victory here making him 7/26 under all codes. His mark will suffer because of this though and he may struggle at the bigger tracks.

Blakemount ran a race full of promise and under more suitable conditions could make a mockery of his current rating. He'll definitely improve for this outing.

I placed a lot of faith in Raktiman, the only other I could give a chance to, but after failing to get to the front may have sulked as his jockey accepted a mid-div role. There's another race in him, this just wasn't his day.

I had no intention of playing the mares handicap hurdle but the short priced Fool To Cry looked one to take on, physically making little appeal and clearly she's just a summer jumper.

With The Last Bar also looking backward, the one that stood out was Ten Trees, who looked well and has thickened out quite notably after being very weak early in her career.

She looked so different that I half thought today wasn't the day, but she was very tight in the betting and was worth a dart with Beyondtemptation sure to make it a test at the trip. Things worked out well, with the favourite showing very little.

The last race saw Theatrebar return to action for D Skelton after a two-year absence and it was difficult to crab his appearance beforehand.

Easily the pick though were Karisma King from the aforementioned Smith kennel and J Candlish's Brydon Boy, both looking very fit and well for their introductions.

They ran very nicely but were powerless to prevent the well-handicapped Theatrebar sweeping past at the last, sending jolly backers and guessers alike home happy.

Saturday 5 November 2016


Back across the border we headed in readiness for a six race card, which attracted some decent fields on account of the soft, good to soft in places conditions.

Once again the big hill on the run to the last caught out plenty and at this time of year if you're not fit you aint going to be winning.

Kelka was produced in magnificent fettle by the Jeffersons and the well-backed filly hacked up in the opener in a weak, but interesting field.

I had her down as a very decent mare in the making after winning her debut bumper - she has plenty of size and scope and is bred to stay very well. This was a taking start and she is one to follow.

Quietly was up there all the way and the Sue Smith inmate, very backward last term, showed plenty here after looking pretty straight I must say beforehand. The other Smith horse, Priory Lad, wasn't anywhere near as fit.

Air De Rock was the first horse to figure from the V Williams camp in two months and although well turned out, was quite small and compact. He got very warm late on and may need time, while in behind Brackenmoss Rory (not fit) caught the eye, not for the first time, while Loch Linnhe and Motion To Strike (very warm, buzzy) can also win races.

Ryedale Racer made it 2/2 for Jefferson/Hughes with a simple victory under a penalty, without having to improve on his win at Carlisle. I'm surprised he hasn't grown or filled out, this horse, but he's a bonny sort. He's getting plenty of experience considering he ought to be a lot better in a year's time. Willie Boy is a big strong chaser who needs time, while Chu Chu Percy wasn't at all fit.

I like to put up a handful of horses to follow for a laugh at the start of the season and I gave I Just Know a good write up here last month, as I'm sure regular readers will know.

So imagine my delight when he rocked up looking head and shoulders above some mediocre opposition in the 0-105 handicap chase for novices. I've noted here before that the Smith horses are much straighter this term than is often the case and I Just Know looked tremendous, having strengthened up he really does look the part.

It was just so disappointing there was little in the field to give us much of a price. We had to avail ourselves of some 2/1 but the pleasure was in watching him jump the early fences without breaking stride.

Danny asked him up a couple of times but he was cute in going short, particularly at the last, and he looks an absolute natural. He's a 125 horse and we'll reassess his progress once he gets there - in the meantime keep backing him.

The next two races were of little interest from a punting perspective. A 0-100 2m handicap hurdle was won in good style by maiden Catchthemoonlight, under a polished ride from H Reed, who may be a conditional to follow. They went too fast up front but he got the fractions right. Pretty Miss Mahler was weak in the market but has rather telegraphed that she is ready to win soon, staying on well in second place. She's a half sister to the stables Monbeg River. Quest Magic looked big and should come on for this.

The 2m 4f handicap chase was a shocker. Most of them have lacked a finishing effort in the past, including the eventual winner Mumgos Debut, who benefited from a the step up in trip. This was dire, and he'll struggle in anything but poor company I suggest.

An interesting feature of this NH campaign is that John Wade has packed up training and now has more than 30 horses dotted around several northern yards. Forty Crown is one such animal, who runs in the colours of partner Maria Myco. I've never been a fan of the horse physically, but he turned up in pretty good order on his first start for G Bewley.

The 10-year-old was down in class on a career low mark and with improvement expected he looked a very strong bet to land the closing stayers hurdle.

But he proved disappointing, dropping the bridle after travelling well in the first half of the race. After staying on again after the last, I can only suggest either he blew up or he showed a bit of attitude. Blinkers had been applied last term, and perhaps he's worth one more chance if they reach for some headgear next time.

Roman Numeral didn't look straight and doesn't stay 3m in a horsebox, while Toarmandowithlove is capable of winning a poor contest of this type and may benefit for the outing.