Sunday 21 February 2016


Well it was lashing down for a change <heavy sarc> on arriving at the M6 venue and the ground was downright heavy - by the end of the day it would be real hard work.

I didn't take much interest in the juvenile race that opened proceedings although I did note that Frodon had plenty of size and was a very forward young horse.

He proved best on the day as the 1/4 jolly Fixe Le Kap got turned over with its jockey D Bass going far too slow on a horse that already looks like a stayer. If you're on the best horse you've got to make the rest go faster than they want, even in this type of ground.

It was hard to work out the stayers hurdle as Reve De Sivola set the benchmark but as likely favourite I thought he was worth opposing. One Track Mind stood out on this return to 3m, with At Fishers Cross readily opposed and Deputy Dan essentially exposed at this level over timber.

Silsol had possibilities but he wasn't certain to stay. So One Track Mind was the one but he was too short in the betting for my liking. I suppose it should have made me work back around to the eventual winner Reve. Unlike Bass, champion-elect Johnson made it a true test.

I didn't have a strong feel for the National trial either. I was against Cloudy Too this time, up 10lb but more importantly at the top of the weights rather than the bottom, while Mountainous now has his share of weight and he looked a bit sullen beforehand, although that could be just him - don't think I've seen him before.

By contrast Bishops Road looked incredibly fit and well and maybe I should have taken the hint. Someone asked the other day why the Kerry Lee horses have improved so much and taking this victory as a guide my guess is that she is simply getting them much fitter than her father did.

Broadway Buffalo simply bumped into one here. Clearly laid out for this, Ms Walsh did little wrong and they were just second best on the day.

The handicap hurdle over 3m was hardly a piece of cake either. The cash came for the Elliott-trained Woodford Island but I thought he was short enough and in the end he pulled way too hard.

Another that pulled its chance away was my selection Box Office. He's still a bit of a fizzy sort but he's a good looker. There's a big performance in him but this test at this stage of his development was too much. I wouldn't like to see him at Cheltenham although if he turned up there with a hood he might of interest. Better ground and a bit shorter is ideal.

Kylemore Lough was in really good form ahead of what looked to me like a straight forward assignment. Chief opponent Capard King didn't thrill at all last time and I much preferred Kayfleur for the forecast.

The Daly animal has plenty of size for the game but was given a curiously lame ride, held up off the pace and never really given much encouragement, even when Kylemore made a right horlicks of two out.

I think it takes a decent horse to overcome and error of that magnitude and he clearly had loads left despite going freely enough. He's another who should bypass the Festival unless it's very soft ground.

Kayfleur wants further but appeared not to stay 3m when she tried it. Perhaps Daly gave instructions not to knock her about on this ground, but I don't think they've got to the bottom of her yet and 2m5f or 2m6f on soft should be perfect.

I'd had in my mind to lay or oppose Duke Des Champs all day in a very good novice hurdle. As I said to a guy at the track I'd make a terrible pundit because I couldn't necessarily explain why, I just felt it. Maybe reputation was built into the price. He was short enough in a race with some very sound staying types. I also thought he was a little unfurnished in the paddock, although he'll be a nice horse next season.

Vintage Clouds was a big price considering all his Haydock form and the fact we've been waiting all season to see him over this sort of trip. With Cooky in the plate we knew we'd get a run for a our money.

However, we didn't account for Jonniesofa, who has done nothing wrong all year and whose form ties in with the very best stayers. He clearly was up against it giving weight to Delusionofgrandeur, while Newcastle victor Ballydine went on to give Barters Hill a race at Donny.

Another who relished the heavy ground, Jonnies ground out the win to prove himself as solid as they come, while confirming the form of Rose Dobbin whose Rocking Blues and Proud Gamble have won of late.

That left the hunter chase and last year's winner Pearlysteps looked sprightly and was a worthy favourite, mainly on account of the fact that chief rival Richmond doesn't stay 3m in a horse box.

Ace High and Connies Cross had recent form against each other between the flags but I much preferred the former on this day, being a very big strong animal, compared to Connies who is on the small side and likely to prefer better ground as a result.

All in all, things worked out ok.

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