Wednesday 27 January 2016


One of the more low-key meetings at the Bridge for some time, not many tasty betting opportunities or ones to take out of the card going forward.

I wrote about Point The Way here when he made a successful hurdles debut and I thought there was every chance he could double up under the in-form Danny Cook.

Just like in the finale at Wetherby yesterday, Cook was keen to put his mount's experience to good use against a hurdles newcomer, and it reaped dividends again.

Vinciaettes was a dashing winner of a bumper but was novicey on several occasions on this day and was never able to land a blow. He didn't exactly knock me out beforehand so I'm not that bothered what he does in the near term.

The staying handicap chase came up second on the card, a race previewed here. I took a punt on Admiral Blake's jumping but it let him down even though he managed to get into the race exiting the back straight. Disappointingly, he lacked a bit of size beforehand and I wasn't that confident about his chance, plus he was weak in the market.

I also liked Veroce, despite writing that here that I thought he was a stone too high in the weights, and was just 5lb lower. He's a good strong sort that will do better in time, with his rating down in the mid-80s.

I had a flagged Auldthunder as one to keep an eye on in the market as he had dropped to below his last winning mark, and sure enough the Hammond boys stepped in at big odds to send the horse off at half its morning price. I hope some readers took what was a pretty small hint!

I didn't fancy anything else in the event with Treliver Manor showing form for the first time having dropped to a lowly mark. He should be able to build on this as he was up there for much of the way.

I was very keen on Forest Bihan in the handicap hurdle which saw a very disappointing turn-out for a 0-140 contest. I like this horse a lot and although he looks quirky I'm certain he can lift a decent prize, probably after he's had a summer break.

Cook was seen to good effect again, taking up the running over on the far side, although that was soon enough for me. Unfortunately the jockey then dropped his whip trying to switch hands after clearing two out, and that cost him the race.

Some will want to crab the runner-up, who is certainly no saint, but for now I think he's just a bit of a baby and a couple of good cracks after the last would have settled it. I didn't fancy Tomkevi but let's not taking anything away from the winner, another ex-French horse who will improve for a well-earned break.

Poulanassy looked a very short price on what he'd actually achieved but he ran as though something was awry, and sadly we lost him to a crashing fall at the last.

Star Presenter took the 2m chase and what a purchase he has been. I had been worried about the ground but when a horse is in the form of its life they seem to float over it. Soft at Catterick is not as soft as anywhere else and this horse can win again elsewhere on much better terrain.

That said, runner-up Nautical Twilight once again revealed a questionable attitude and it was noticable that Hughes never went for his stick. Her last win fell into her lap and something with a bit more vim might have gone past the winner on the run-in. However, the pair came clear which counts for something.

Uno Valoroso had been given every chance by the handicapper but thankfully I wasn't fooled having missed out the last twice. I still think the beast wants a stiffer test but his formally sound jumping has become rather messy of late.

I did get drawn in by Aye Well, a thoroughly consistent sort that only seems to run badly when carrying the Norman cash. This was ghastly effort on his first visit to Catterick, which probably didn't suit.

The finale was a typically dismal affair for the track, and while you couldn't fault the effort of the winner Notebook, there was nothing in behind for future reference.

Take Blake to shine

The focus will be on Catterick today with the abandonment of Bangor and the staying chase at 1.50 comes under the spotlight here.

Debt to Society is back from a break. Capable from this mark, goes on any ground. Can be moody and has won some very weak races. Latest wins have been in headgear, which is absent today.

Urban Gale has surprised me by winning twice as I thought he wasn't the force of old. Out of his depth though last time and still possibly a bit high in the weights just now.

Thatildee backed up his Hexham win although didn’t seem to quite get home over the longer trip. May not be out of this but does need to improve again.

Veroce didn’t appear to get home under a positive ride at this trip and then found shorter too sharp. This is his level but still unexposed and a more patient ride may see him in better light here.

Auldthunder would have won here off a 4lb lower mark but for falling at the last and then won at Sedge off 2lb higher than today. Definitely stays and weighted to win if they’ve got him back to form. That’s a big guess though.

Over And Above suddenly found consistency last term but his mark has suffered as a result. Has won this race the last two years but is 15lb higher than 12 months ago and 2lb above his last winning mark.

Treliver Manor is being given a chance by the handicapper but he really hasn’t shown enough to warrant support, never really in it on his chase debut last time.

Admiral Blake is by far the most interesting one. Somerset raider was progressive at a very low level before getting injured at the start of last season, taking a year off before running okay in November. Hopefully he’s not had any more issues and they’ve just given him more time. Always considered a chase type, his form is on very soft ground and the beating of Gonalston Cloud catches the eye bearing in mind what that horse has gone on to do. He’s just 2lb above that mark and if he jumps on essentially his first start over fences he could be the one.

Cara Court can be given a chance on his Wetherby form but went backwards again in two runs since and can’t be given a serious chance.

Samson Collonges is just a poor animal and hasn’t really shown much in a very long time.

Tissue; 4 Veroce, 9/2 Thatildee, 13/2 Over And Above, Admiral Blake, 10 Debt To Soc, Urban G, 14 T Manor, Auldthunder, 25 Cara C, Samson.

Conclusion;  Thatildee has been put in very short and is one to take on at that price. Over And Above will have been trained for this but the mark is worrying and last year's race was dire. Admiral Blake is very tempting at 8/1. He's the unknown in the race but shaped very encouragingly last time, and looks a clean jumper of hurdles. Treliver Manor has shown very little ability indeed and yet is the same price. Auldthunder could pop up at a huge price, support would be interesting. Veroce is the solid one, seems to jump and travel well. A patient ride should see him thereabouts and he's worth a saver.

Tuesday 26 January 2016


Really attritional stuff and they went a decent pace in most of the races, so some of the form could be quite decent for the time of year.

Race 1 
Pinkie Brown is very strong and robust for a juvenile and while not the prettiest was the most forward of these. Baraymi is a really nice type and almost warranted a bet at big odds. They had backed it strongly on its debut in a hot race where it was never sighted. For Goodness Sake lacked a bit of size while Kisumu really is one to avoid, again finding little.

Race 2
This was all about Transient Bay, who is such a huge animal you’d expect it to have some mileage in a mark of 85. He’s obviously just a slow galloper but this was a very weak affair and it looked his for the taking. Oscar O’Scar simply doesn’t find off the bridle for whatever reason but in-running layers are wise to him. Naburn ran on well and should find one of these, perhaps up in trip. Wayward Sun showed little again but is rather unfurnished still and will need more time. He'll look well-handicapped one day.

Race 3
The staying chase looked difficult with Tutchec a seemingly reluctant market leader. He didn’t look great at all last season but appeared really well in himself. As ever with these greys it was hard to know if he was cherry ripe, but I took that chance. Sadly he seemed to lose confidence after belting the first down the back. He has it all to prove now. I couldn’t have the winner Armedanddangerous  up in the weights, but the other two I was interested in ran okay.

Leanna Ban bounced back well from a heavy fall and looks sure to go in again on better ground – there were times here when he appeared to not be travelling, but he came home well. I like him. I had a saver on Pay The King even though he will also be much better on a sound surface. He jumped great here but didn’t get home at all. Back in trip and on better ground he’s one to have on side – he’s very well handicapped now. Take The Mick lacks size for me and remains one to take on.

Race 4
The staying hurdle was poor and not one to dwell on. They all looked okay but are what they are. Prairie Lad was the least exposed and looked really fit, but looked reluctant off the bridle and didn’t respond. Rocky Stone is another who doesn’t do anything off the bridle.

Race 5
The feature handicap chase over 2m 4f was frustrating as I wanted to have the hold-up horses on my side, Azert De Coeur and Cultram Abbey. I backed Cultram last time and thought he got a poor ride. With loads of potential pace on I thought this could fall into his lap. But he’s a funny horse and has looked brilliant in the paddock on a few occasions. However, that was not the case here, he was very warm and not moving great. Having been solid in the morning he drifted on the show and I went right off him.

The race couldn’t really have worked out better for the Greystoke horse. Ballyadeen went a bit freely for the conditions and set the race up before Dartford Warbler was sent on early by the ever positive D Cook. As a result they all seemed to fall in a bit of hole and Cultram, after going knowhere on the turn, suddenly looked the winner from two out. To be fair Harding hadn’t panicked and the whip didn’t come up until late on. He knew the horse would stay best.

Throthethatch is a nice strong horse and I’ve no doubt he is up to winning off this mark, but although he’s a stayer he’s just a tad keen at the moment, and the trainer is bang out of form for now. Ballybolley was another to catch the eye travelling far too keenly on this ground. He fell in a heap as well but with his form on better ground he is a sure fire winner this spring, well handicapped. I liked Ballyadeen as a horse and he went with loads of enthusiasm. I think they could bring him back to 2m, even though he’s a point winner. The extra weight may have stopped him in this company, but I wouldn’t give up on him yet.

Race 6
The finale looked a three runner affair as the betting suggested. The Hobbs youngster No Comment looked a nice horse but this was no penalty kick with both Fionn Mac Cul and The Dutchman having recorded pretty decent figures on their previous outings.

Although the former is the nicer looking horse worthy of his lofty price tag, he’s very much an embryonic chaser and defying a penalty in this company looked a big task. The Dutchman by contrast looked a really strong, forward type with the air of a street fighter about him. And with Cook in the saddle, and down in trip, he was sure to get a positive ride. You just didn’t know how good the favourite would be but it was worth taking the chance at the odds. 

Cook’s race-riding skills are just phenomenal and his awareness of what’s happening around him second to none. He was seen at his best here lifting the Scottish raider home, although the stewards are likely to have had a quiet word in his ‘shell-like’.

Saturday 23 January 2016


Got to make this as brief as possible as it is a Saturday evening after all...however some very interesting horses to follow for the future. The ground was obviously heavy but I've seen worse at the course and they weren't stopping in front.

Race 1

Baywing looked in good order and is a nice well-made sort. This is the first time I've seen him since debut and you have to tip your hat to connections for getting him a rating of 89 first up. Shades Of Midnight is a nice big stamp of a horse and looked well but just isn't straight forward and I won't be backing him until they thrown on the cheekies. Horizontal Speed looked great but he checked out quickly and was clearly amiss.

Race 2

There was nothing in the paddock to suggest Otago Trail would run so flat, but clearly his exertions thus far this season have taken their toll. He completed in his own time but you would have to say he would have been hard pressed to beat Bristol De Mai anyway - the young grey jumping for fun and staying well. The rest didn't stand a chance.

Race 3

This was interesting. I didn't get involved but I nearly got against the favourite Le Prezien as I thought at 6/4 he was short enough on what he'd actually achieved. By the time I'd made up my mind he was too big to lay but it proved to be the right play. I quite liked Its'afreebee beforehand - a lovely strong chaser - and with stamina in his form and pedigree he looked one to have on side. I thought Skelton gave it a great ride, poaching a couple of lengths turning in, and it proved the difference. Vieux Lille strikes me as a staying chaser in waiting and as such ran a big race over the minimum trip. I'd be surprised if he ran over it again, and might want to oppose it if it did.

Race 4

No comment. The New One has never appealed as top draw on looks and scrapped it out as is his wont. Nothing else appealed.

Race 5

Game on. Ante-post bets on Reve De Sivola and Cloudy Too left me feeling in good fettle before, during and after. In truth in these feature races it's most unusual to find anything looking other than cherry ripe in the prelims. They all looked well - Gas Line Boy is a nice strong horse and was fit from an absence and would surely have gone close. He seems to loves the track. I must say that Splash Of Ginge looked out of his depth physically. You wouldn't say he was dwarfed by the opposition but frankly he looks pissed off with the sport and it's not hard to see why. I'd be very interested in him if they freshened him up and found the right race back over timber. We know how good he can be. I've seen Third Intention looking better, too, namely that time he won here.

Race 6

I couldn't figure this race out and then it came to me - UBALTIQUE. What a grotty little horse he is, but every dog has his day the handicapper had given him a proper chance. Not only that they had put a tongue-tie on him for the first time (belatedly we found out they had performed some sort of wind procedure - Matt of Geegeez are you listening??) and with the excellent A Coleman on board for the first time he was surely the answer at very backable odds. I have the feeling Goohar is a bit of a pig, but they can't put blinkers on him because he's too highly strung, while Island Confusion simply isn't progressing and Gold Opera let the latest form down badly. A word on Morning Royalty - why oh why the hold up tactics? Just look through the form guys - 'made all' and 'made all' and oh 'made all' again. Seriously, I understand holding him up over 3m, but at 2m? Just let him do what he wants to do and he'll win a half-decent race such as this. The money came again for Crafty Roberto and I'm still trying to figure out why. He had his own way in front and still couldn't deliver.

Race 7

By the finale we were in clover and the filthy business of Friday at the Rasen all-but forgotten. Vintage Clouds set a very decent level and you knew exactly what you would get with him. He was a worthy but vulnerable favourite as he really could do with going over further, and sure enough there was a live one against him in Bun Doran. T George's horse is as nice an animal as you could wish to see, and for once you could almost say £76k well spent. He went easily to post and with that very useful bumper form in the book he was well worth taking on the jolly with, despite the juicy prices long gone. Sometimes you just have to jump aboard. And boy could he jump. He gained lengths on the grey at every obstacle and is surely one of the nicest prospects I've seen since the start of last year. He does have a high knee action so beware - he could be a proper soft ground horse.

Friday 22 January 2016

Market Rasen

A quickish roundup of the day's events - not a great one for this column although if you follow the markets rigidly you probably came out on top. Pre-meeting rain made the ground very testing.

The cash came for Paddy's Field (7s into 3s) and he's a strong, deep-girthed sort who appears to have plenty of scope. At that price I wasn't interested but I could say that about them all.

Abbreviate set the mark and was also strong in the market but he's gone the wrong way since Southwell and you'd have to mark that run down a chunk on the basis of his two subsequent efforts.

Travertine doesn't appear to have taken to the winter game at all, a comment that also applies to Two Jabs, who virtually refused to jump the first three and tailed himself off.

That's not to take anything from the front three. Frightened Rabbit is little more than a pony and shrewd connections will be shaking their heads after this obviously sound first effort, while the third Sakhee's City is enormous and always looked sure to sure to progress with time.

However, while he travelled great I'd have to put a question mark against his resolution at the finish. He's worth another look of course, but I'm a bit wary just now.

Herons Heir was a very short price with questions to answer in a weak looking handicap hurdle and although he's clearly a nice horse, I didn't particularly like the way he's put together and didn't go great to post either.

So much for all that. He cruised through the race which was quite predictable but I was thinking/hoping he'd fall in a hole after blundering at the last. To his credit he boxed on to win but punters were possibly fortunate he was up against serial loser Ourmanmassini.

The novice chase was fascinating and hard to call. The winner Aso wouldn't have the physical presence of many in the chase division but this slower gallop helped in the jumping department and I was quite impressed, and he saw out the trip well.

Ballyalton chased him home and it was a decent showing over a trip that looks on the sharp side and on ground that would have been too soft. I'd strongly fancy him to reverse the form on better ground.

What a lovely big horse he is and wouldn't look out of place at Cheltenham. While I'm more wary then ever of horses returning from a long break, he may just be one to keep an eye on if they go for one of the staying handicaps at the Festival.

Kalane was disappointing again, and she never really jumped with much fluency. The burden of proof now lies with her, while fellow mare Buche De Noel looked a nervy sort and will benefit from a summer at grass.

I previewed the handicap chase here and had a strong view that Kassis would go close and that Silver Eagle would not. One right, one wrong, but it was a costly exercise. There's probably nothing worse in this game than ploughing into one at what you think are good odds and then watch helplessly as it drifts to double the price.

There was never any hope of getting out and it wasn't pleasant to watch the inevitable. I don't know if I have over-rated the form of Kassis or whether darker forces were at work. The mare looked a little light behind the saddle in truth, but she was full of beans. However, plenty seemed to know she would fade in the straight as she never traded short.

You can take nothing away from the winner Sunny Ledgend, who was a big price based on his recent form but lacked the profile of a back-to-back winner.

I don't know who supported Silver Eagle but to me the horse had no form on soft, no form over fences and a lengthy lay-off behind him. He'd also been a beaten favourite on fve of his last six starts. He wasn't for me, and at 6/4 in the place market at least his dismal effort softened the blow.

The card trailed off a little after all those shenanigans. Away For Slates drew me in but this was very different ground to the conditions on which he excelled last time out and although he went through the slop on his penultimate start he looked all at sea today.

The winner Salmanazar is extremely strong and just ploughed through it, while another of the younger brigade Crosspark also struggled in what was a real war of attrition thanks to the strong tempo set by chase-type Great Link.

In the finale, Tanarpino looked a grade above her much smaller rivals and it was just a question of whether he was over his recent Catterick win. He too struggled on the surface but eventually got the job done.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Kassis a tasty proposition

I got stuck into the 2.55 at Market Rasen on Friday early and had my tissue pretty much sorted before prices came up so here's a quick run through of what looks an interesting heat.

Gold Ingot
Back down to a winning mark and not disgraced over too short a trip at Leicester last time when nicely backed. Likely to go well, Lensio an obvious minus.

Hindon Road
Off for two years and hasn't really gone on since returning. Late to chasing and didn't show a great deal on debut in an admittedly warm race at Leicester. Don't like absences and there's a big chance this horse is not what it once was. Needs a PB.

Silver Eagle
Looked fit enough for return from long absence last time and was well supported, but never at the races. Ground was probably soft enough but this will be no better. Quickly dropped 8lb but another that has to prove he can still perform.

Sunny Ledgend
Versatile in terms of trip and ground but can throw in the odd stinker. Won what was probably a weak affair last time and although in form, will need to better that to go in again. Not a likely sort to follow up aged 11.

Father Probus
Looked a nice chase type last time where he was pretty fit after a very long absence. On his winning mark but can he still run to that level? An awful lot to prove.

The one real progressive sort in the race. Done precious little wrong and clearly improving as her stamina is drawn out. Appears to jump well with physical scope to improve and not harshly treated by any means.

Sizing Sahara
Two lengthy absences prior to showing little at Fakenham last time - very hard to give any chance to.

Thinger Licht
Much improved for stable and does have form with cut in the ground. Handicapper looks to have his measure now after being reassessed. Absence to overcome but that unlikely to be an issue, however a PB may by required..

Tiny Dancer
Progressive a couple of years back and well handicapped on that form, but 18 months out a huge drawback. Inclined to forgive latest on shocking ground and first time headgear always worth noting.

Tissue; 11/4 Kassis 5 Gold Ingot 6 Sunny Ledgend 6 Thinger Licht 8 Tiny Dancer 12 Hindon Road 14 Silver Eagle 14 Father Probus 33 Sizing Sahara

Conclusion; Kassis is the only one I could be interested in at the right price and at 11/4 or bigger she rates a sound bet. Gold Ingot and Sunny Ledgend look fairly solid without appealing from a win perspective, while amongst those with lengthy absences in their past, Tiny Dancer has perhaps shown the most and could be interesting each-way with a visor added. But they need to bounce back quickly to compete here while Thinger Licht could be under-priced considering his powerful connections.

Saturday 16 January 2016


Writing a betting blog can be cathartic at times - let's hope so after a frustrating afternoon! I allowed the market to dictate my positions and that doesn't always end well.

With temperatures around freezing the going was pretty tacky and it's a possible excuse for some of those that didn't run up to their previous form.

I had priced up Petethepear in the opener as the 7/4 jolly so odds of 3/1 the night before looked ridiculous in the extreme. It came as no surprise, therefore, that it was heavily backed, but an SP of 6/5? Should have laid off but didn't. Boom.

Defeats happen and I had no problem with it. What was deeply annoying was that the eventual winner Sharpasaknife looked a fantastic horse, a typical Jefferson chasing type. But he was fit and well forward. Under normal circumstances he would be no bigger than 5/1, but there wasn't a bean for it all day and it returned 16s. Go Figure.

Return Flight took a step back in the right direction here and this somewhat light framed horse should now be well-handicapped when better ground finally arrives, while Rolling Thunder ought to be okay in time but didn't settle at all.

Another one to watch for future reference is Tara The Tiger, who wasn't put in the race but got round in one piece and stayed on towards the end. She looks half-decent physically and they should find a race for her in due course.

Seamus Mor was all the rage in a weak handicap hurdle and astute trainer H Oliver is a dab hand at improving cast-offs. I managed to grab a small piece of the action when it was being backed in the morning but it opened up far too short on track to go in again. The yard won this last year with the gambled-on Beatabout The Bush.

The second, Veinard, is a rather nice strong horse but has been mentally backward apparently and that showed in the finish, looking rather irresolute in the run to the line. There was precious little to take from the race.

I previewed the 2.05 here and did indeed follow through with a half-sized bet on Upsilon Bleu, who looked in really good heart. This however was a trappy contest and while the bet was my second to run well below par on the day, the winner Gardefort was getable if you could forgive his Newbury return.

The money spoke volumes but the prevailing odds were far too short for me, even though he was the one in the race possibly ahead of his mark. And so it proved, as he never looked like getting beat. Congratulations if you took that leap of faith.

Yorkist looked in fantastic form but yet again failed to fire, while Sir Valentino has developed into a very nice animal - his run here another PB - and he was unfortunate to bump into one.

I didn't like the shape of the handicap hurdle over 2m4f at all especially with the impressive last time out winners Maxie T and Master Jake being surprisingly weak in the market.

I liked the claims of Divine Port from an each-way perspective but he never looked to be travelling very well on the tacky terrain, while Vendor is probably better at a bit shorter and looks weighted up to the hilt anyway.

With nothing much going right it was starting to feel like 'one of those days' before the handicap chase over 2m 4f where I had made Caraline a solid 6/4 poke to make it a four-timer.

The step up in trip looked a timely move and she jumps and travels with so much zest that my only concern was that she might over-race and not get home.

But like the first winner she didn't attract an iota of support - not unlike her last win at Kelso when she had to be backed at 11/4 - however on this occasion I used all sorts of reasons not to go in despite extraordinary odds of 4/1.

Considering she had the same SP as Red Danaher, who really hasn't looked like winning in four races over fences to date, she will go down as one of the missed opportunities of the season.

The main reason for wimping out was the unknown quantity Azert De Coeur, another V Williams inmate who had been dropped 6lb after a moderate effort last time. However, in the cool light of day he really did look the only plausible danger with Trust Thomas unbackable and Voyage A New York in need of a trip.

Considering she has only just turned five she's got real size about her, and let's not forget she still gets a weight-for-age allowance. If you kept the faith well done to you. I've got to stop worrying about the market and stick to my guns. Sounds simple, but when things are not going your way....aah what a game it is.

Wetherby preview

Off to the local track today for a decent card, with a couple of races featuring on Channel 4.

The 2.05 looks a tricky contest but here's how I view the race.

Upsilon Bleu; Won cosily here just over a year ago off a pound lower. Was due for a repeat bid in the Castleford, and they kept him ticking over in a hurdle race a fortnight ago. A class act, and if in the same form as last year will go close.

Sir Valentino; Finally found the consistent form he looked capable of a while back. Needs to find another PB and this ground may be deeper than he has encountered before. Should go well though.

Yorkist; Simply not in the same form as last season and some of those novice efforts may have been over rated. The stable switch from Ellison to Hammond has undoubtedly played a part in his regression. The handicapper has taken note however and if he does return to form for whatever reason he could go close.

Gardefort; The dark horse. I thought he would be better at further than 2m as I thought he looked a bit short of toe here last season. However, he didn’t run again so may have had a small issue. Ran desperately on his return and while he looks a potential class act on the best of his form, backing him requires a leap of faith.

Mwaleshi; Given a chance by the assessor but could be regressing at the age of 11. Bad fall at Aintree last time and 2m almost certainly on the short side these days. Hard to pass when on song, but some strong finishers to contend with here.

Whispering Harry; Surprisingly tipped up last time as he’s normally a safe jumper. Very progressive horse who nevertheless requires another PB off this mark. That’s not out of the question as he never wins by far so the handicapper can’t know his true worth. Contender.

Tissue; 11/4 Upsilon Bleu 4 Whispering Harry 9/2 Sir Valentine 7 Gardefort 8 Yorkist 8 Mwaleshi

Conclusion; Trappy. Each could be given some sort of chance and betting here is not for the faint-hearted. However, at this time I do make Upsilon Bleu the one the beat with a 7/25 record. Anything above 7/2 will probably rate a bet. 

In truth I couldn’t really advise a bet on Mwaleshi, Yorkist or Gardefort, who all have questions to answer. Of the other two I would probably favour Whispering Harry for the forecast.

Thursday 14 January 2016


Quite a bitter afternoon at the Bridge but thankfully it was dry for much of the time and there was some decent action to get stuck into. The ground was very soft as you would expect.

The North Yorkshire National was the feature and it saw the H Hogarth-trained Alto Des Mottes robbed of a victory that was surely deserved.

Raised 13lb after winning at Newcastle (the second, Askamore Darsi franked the form at Donny) this improving chaser did nothing wrong and looked all over the winner until landing with legs of jelly over the last.

Jockey Hughes had yet to go for the light-framed six-year-old but an anxious look round on the run-in meant that the staying-on Lackamon was a real threat and after being hard at it for much of the trip, D Cook actually dropped his hands and nudged the latter home for a cheeky win.

It was daylight robbery and massive symathy if you backed the second, although in fairness you had the length of the straight to bail out. He'll get whacked again by the assessor but surely there's more to come as fences appear to have been the making of him.

You'd have to say the winner deserved to pick up another decent pot after a similar thing happened to him at Sedgefield earlier in the season, when Royale Knight nabbed him close him.

They all looked well enough for the big race. Delgany Demon is a big strong horse who is clearly out of sorts, but his time will come again. Barton Gift and Gorgehous Lliege looked well but this was not one for paddock judges.

Gully's Edge had been all the rage for the earlier staying hurdle but I had warned before that he was one to be wary of at this stage of his career, and once again he looked extremely immature against some moderate opposition.

Much fitter than at Carlisle, he clearly needs a trip but until he goes over fences I'd be looking to oppose him. Quinto doesn't have a great deal of size but the market picked him out as the main danger ahead of Bryden Boy, who should be up to winning something providing the handicapper relents.

The 2m handicap chase looked tricky but I took a strong view that not only should southern sharks Mr Burbidge and Crafty Roberto be taken on, but that the Cloudy Joker form from the last meeting here was worthy of following.

Readers will remember that Uno Valoroso should probably have won that race with more inspired tactics, and I was happy to have a second dig knowing that connections would be more positive this time.

I don't mind J Hamilton with a 5lb claim but I do wonder if the stronger T Kelly would have been a better fit for this race. I don't want to take anything away from the winner, who was a huge price to follow up and didn't have things his own way this time.

But the runner-up once again signalled a return to further should suit after getting outpaced by the fluent winner. Catterick probably doesn't suit Hexham winner Uno Valoroso but you can keep making excuses for some horses. He was second on merit this time but it was frustrating nonetheless, especially with the market leaders blundering their chances away, when looking beaten.

To make matters just a little worse I thought Always Resolute was the proverbial good thing to back up his impressive win last time out and he would have won by a street but for crumpling on landing at the last.

D Cook doesn't do much wrong but there seemed little point in being so aggressive at the final obstacle with the rest well beaten off. I'm all for keeping the revs up but this was a bit extreme. Serves me right for not bailing as I'm sure he was done at less than 1.05.

I couldn't have the market rival Satellite. Having seen him in the summer he wasn't one I was very fond of and the switch to the out of form T Vaughan from W Haggas is hardly the move of the century.

He looked a proper flat horse against these national hunt types and it is likely that the winter game is not for him, Time will tell.

William Of Orange will need a trip to be seen at his best over timber and he was one-paced and tired after chasing the winner from the middle of the far side.

More interestingly Venetia's French import Un Prophete took a step back in the right direction, travelling like a decent horse until tiring in the straight. He's a tall, strong horse who will pay his way in time.

One to keep an eye on here is the N Richards-trained Ping. He's grown up a great deal since his debut and is likely to be on a tasty-looking perch after another run or two. He's not that well related but is better looking than his multiple winning sibling.

I was quite keen on Sandford Castle in the handicap hurdle at 7/2 or better and there were some juicy prices about this Southern raider early doors. I wasn't mad, mad keen but he looks the part and was happy with the bet, although some dark ones lurked lower down.

Jenny Candlish's Tanarpino was among a handful worth a second look but the trainer had been without a winner since the summer. That hadn't stopped them backing this expensive purchase on a couple of earlier occasions and there was another nibble at decent odds here.

Up in trip, the horse travelled really well and won as he liked. The yard's horses have looked really well all season and it must be a source of great frustration to the yard for the horses to have been so out of form. This may see them turn the corner.

I didn't think the jolly acted too well on the track, while Lord Ballim and Fair To Middling both look like they can rate much higher in time but have shown hardly anything so far, while Attention Seaker's day will come although I'm convinced she will be better over 3m on some decent ground.

Tomngerry looked a good thing in the bumper after impressing at Sedgefield and he was a standout in the paddock beforehand. They weren't a bad bunch all told but none was anywhere near forward enough to trouble the jolly.

Monday 11 January 2016

Five To Follow - update

Potentially a quiet week in the north although hopefully we'll get some action at Catterick on Thursday and maybe even Friday at Sedgefield. If they've managed to put the course back after the Somme-like conditions of Boxing Day then fair play to them.

We had a bit of fun back in September putting together a list of five horses that might be worth following this season. The huge caveat that went with it was that by Christmas at least one was sure to have disappeared without trace. At least I got that bit right!

Anyway, with nothing much happening let's have brief look at how the famous five have performed so far.


The star performer. Two wins (4/1 & a well-backed 9/4) and two close seconds from five starts means we have made a decent profit on the Sue Smith novice chaser. Here's what I wrote;

He’s chucked in off a mark of 100 and I expect him to be rated at least 20lbs higher by the spring having picked up at least a couple of chase wins along the way.
The seven-year-old has excelled expectations, having already improved 23lbs to a perch of 123. He's had some hard races but there could be another win from him yet. I expected him to revel in a stamina test and yet he's yet to be tried beyond 2m 6f.

Despite his rise in the rankings, he ought to be worth a second look if they opt to send him over 3m next time out.


A frustrating start to the season but all may not be lost. He wasn't straight when running with promise behind Feltham runner-up Southfield Royale but I expected much more when he finished only third next behind Aubusson at Uttoxeter.

His finishing effort was again disappointing but perhaps he still needed the run. I did my dough that day but didn't back him next time when he recorded a much better effort in line with his useful hurdles form.

Despite making several minor errors he got round Cheltenham and proved that staying is his game, getting the 3m 2f trip as good as anything behind the progressive winner Perfect Candidate.

I must say I thought they would remain over hurdles with him this season as he has just turned six after all. However, he's a strong horse who seems to jump well in the main.

I'd love to see them reach for cheekpieces. He showed rather lazy tendencies over timber which meant that I felt he hadn't shown his hand to the handicapper. I still think he's potentially much better than his current rating of 133 implies, which is just 5lb above his last winning mark over hurdles.

This horse relishes heavy going and he may yet deliver in a decent handicap over the coming months.


This horse was off for 18 months prior to couple of spins over fences last season. It therefore reflects poorly on this author that the beast ended up in the list. I must have said it a dozen times since starting the blog - don't back horses that have been seriously crocked!

I don't know if there's a more reputable site out there that has run the numbers on horses coming back off a lengthy injury absence, but I suggest that, while some do recapture former glories, fewer than 10 percent return to the winners circle.

There was a horse from the same Lucinda Russell yard that ran the other day called Mysteree. He too is young enough to put an injury behind him, and he looked as good as ever when winning a two-runner affair at Wetherby.

However, from a betting perspective, I'm very wary of horses like this, and while I gave Mysteree every chance of winning the other day, his somewhat tame finish could mean that he is still feeling or remembering something.

I'm no expert in the field of equine injuries. But purely from a punting angle, it's a costly exercise to assume a horse retains all his former ability post-injury. They may travel like they used to, but under the gun, are they willing or able to let themselves down?

As for Revocation, I hope he still has the chance to prove me wrong, although his absence from the track since May suggests he has another problem.


Another yet to be sited this season but I'm hoping upon hope that the shrewd Dianne Sayer outfit have a plan for this big mare in the coming months.

She's shown virtually nothing on the track and has a mark of 80 to reflect that. I just think she's hiding her light under a large bushel. We'll see.


Donald McCain will be hoping 2016 will be as good as 2015 was bad. I was hoping that this staying chase prospect might fly the flag at a low level for the beleaguered trainer but perhaps not.

A solitary outing over an inadequate trip at an unsuitable track was never likely to play to the horse's strengths but the way he stopped just as the race began in earnest suggested something had gone amiss.

That was over a month ago, and I haven't seen an entry for him since. I hope they found something that was ailing him at Sedgefield and that it is only a minor setback. He still has time to regain his upward curve.

Saturday 9 January 2016


As is so often the case in the depths of winter there was no issue with Donny putting some racing on and it was a fairly interesting card in one way or another. Soft ground was the theme but by current standards it really wasn't that bad.

The first race was sharply in focus as I'd been waiting more than a year for Redkalani to be running in the right race - and this looked to be the one. Here's what I wrote about the horse in February;

Redkalani was delicately handled once more by Reveley and this effort should not go unnoticed - the seven-year-old can improve fitness-wise and he'll stay three miles without doubt.
The key was the trip - he hadn't been able to go with them at the end of his races after being held up every time he ran over shorter. With JR keen to lead the line at the tapes we could finally be confident that today would be a going day. And the way he jumped and stayed strongly suggests he will be able to defy a much higher mark over fences. At eight, they have little time to lose.

Vyta Du Roc was taken on by Bouvreuil in the novice chase and although there wasn't a great deal between them on hurdles ratings the market suggested the former would be taking this with ease. They got that wrong, and 9/2 about the latter in effectively a two-horse race looks big now. I didn't play.

Iron Butterfly didn't turn a hair in backing up her win here last time out and she looks in great form - a hat-trick is not out of the question by any means. I felt Donna's Pride may have run into one last time but this surely confirms she wants better ground. She has the size for fences and although she's been backward they may turn her attentions to larger obstacles this spring.

The staying handicap chase was of interest but really it looked like the market leader Lovely Job was well found after running in THAT Leicester novice but he was not going to carry my money at cramped odds.

I thought Mysteree was a touch of value but he's really not that strongly built and you do wonder if he can progress from here. He also had that 18 months off and I'll repeat here once again - I do not like to bet horses that have been crocked.

Lovely Job was robbed on the line here but I thought PB went for home too soon. It happens, but Askamore Darsi looks to have turned the corner mentally and he jumped really well. He's the sort to go well over marathon trips and with form on better ground the Scottish National off a low weight must be a target.

Leanna Ban is a nice big sort who ran a decent race here, jumping well until crashing out three from home. This was unfortunate, but hopefully all will be well with him. Good ground is sure to suit better.

Divine Spear is a gorgeous big chasing type with a lovely long stride - the type you would expect to see thrive on better ground. They obviously came here for some half-decent terrain but after pulling hard he had no answer to the diminutive Baoulet Delaroque, who was completing a treble for P Nicholls.

The Henderson horse is one to watch - he will be a totally different animal in the spring and autumn when I expect him to do really well, possibly down in trip, on good ground. The Nicholls horse looks a proper hurdler.

Dalkadam came home third for the each-way thieves but this grey is a very moderate looking chase type who has been pin-fired in both back legs. Bred to stay forever, he's of no interest whatsoever from a betting perspective in the short-medium term.

Ami Desbois looked a worthy favourite in the finale and as I mentioned after his run at Catterick, Caged Lightning will need headgear if he is to thrive over timber. However, they were a fair looking bunch, none more so than the eventual winner Chase End Charlie.

I mentioned him as a nice chase type for the future after his decent bumper effort here but this was a big step up to defeat Ami Desbois after that one posted a good figure in a warm race last time out. He's not a typical Scorpion on looks and could be half-decent. Moidore, back in third, looks a headcase and regressive.

Friday 1 January 2016


Always good to start a new year at the Bridge and a healthy but managable crowd plus some decent action made for an enjoyable day. The ground was much harder work than earlier in the week after further rain in the area.

As is so often the case here in novices races you can sort the wheat from the chaff pretty easily in the paddock and it was very hard to look beyond the first three in the betting for the purposes of the opening race.

Fort Smith is a really nice looking horse and was well backed to get off the mark over timber, but they could have done with going a bit faster for him as he pulled a fair bit throughout. On decent ground over fences I'll be taking a second look.

There wasn't much to choose between Lady Yeats and Nam Hai physically but you've got to hand it to the winner whose form was a fair bit better than her odds might have suggested. An each-way bet was never likely to do any harm.

Of the others, Lough Salt is a nice big horse who should have a future while Pretty Miss Mahler is a half sister to Monbeg River and shaped as if she has a fair measure of ability before tipping up at the last. I wouldn't give up on Ten Trees, who isn't very big but had some decent bumper form and could prove well handicapped by the time we get some spring ground.

Hitman Hearns was the second winner on the day to be handed an uncontested lead in race two and this rather fetching Irish point winner was well found in the market during the morning. He's a horse I like.

The seven-year-old had been noted earlier in the season being given a suspiciously aggressive ride at Hexham and after setting more sensible fractions in much different conditions was never looking like being caught. It completed a quick-fire double for trainer K Dalgleish (the well-backed Away For Slates had just won at Musselburgh) and one suspects they were all on.

His jumping was outstanding and they could clearly switch to larger obstacles at any time. I'd expect him to more than pay his way this winter now the cat's out the bag.

Discoverie chased him home and Ken Slack's horse once again suggested he is well ahead of his mark. He'll go up for this but I really do think he's an improved horse and they have loads of options, including stepping up in trip and reverting to fences.

Hear The Chimes looked really well and probably continues in good form - he'll certainly relish a stiffer test, while Captain Redbeard proved himself poorly handicapped at present and in need of a break before being stepped up in trip. The Coltherd stable is in no form.

Definitely Red looked pretty slow in apparently ideal conditions when winning the novices chase at long odds, and if he jumps like that again he'll be on the deck before too long. It's hard to know what Looking Well achieved in chasing him home.

Delusionofgrandeur has proved a hard horse to pass already this season and this workmanlike horse ground out an impressive victory in a decent staying novice hurdle to land quite a gamble, reversing form with Jonniesofa from Newcastle.

Handsome is as handsome does as they say and he's another that looks sure to pay his way for the Smiths over the coming years. Wild West Wind is a really nice looking horse who will probably want fences before too long, while I got the impression this tacky ground was not to this classy horse's liking.

It was another for the front runners though and Cloudy Joker made it four on the day when making every yard over 2m3f in the handicap chase. Given a helping hand by the assessor, he looked sure to go close if anywhere near his old form and I liked he and Uno Valoroso against the other pair in the betting - Roxyfet, who still jumps low at times and wasn't sure to stay, and Rear Admiral who doesn't always put it in.

I was very disappointed with the tactics employed aboard the runner-up. I have discussed with several people that this horse has needed a trip for some time and with his accurate jumping should have had plenty of use made of him.

Therefore it was gutting to see them hand the grey an easy lead and allow themselves to get outpaced before running on and getting beat by under two lengths. This was a winner that got away and the Walford yard only have themselves to blame. At least they now know he stays so there's always next time!

As we know the Slack yard is in very decent form and another recent addition to the kennel Cumbrian Farmer landed the finale at rewarding odds. The horse had shown snippets of form on good ground and I had been waiting for this one to run in the right race on decent terrain.

Sadly for this column he's gone and done the business in first time blinkers and it's another feather in the cap for 'young' Slack. Like his winner here earlier in the week Runswick Relax this horse had reached a basement mark and it goes to show that every horse has one he can win off.

Triumph Davis is tiny but ran much better up markedly in trip and deserves credit as one of very few horses on the day to be involved after coming from off the pace. She's another who I thought would want much better going and she may yet recapture some of her better form.