Wednesday 17 February 2016


The first of a two-dayer in the far north was initially greeted with downpours that eventually subsided, unfortunately leaving the ground a good deal softer than was advertised at declaration time.

That rain definitely brought my old friend Whiskey Chaser into the mix in an ordinary opener over just short of three miles.

His opening run of the season was mystifying as he stopped very quickly, and a subsequent absence suggested he had picked up a minor problem there.

Much had to be taken on trust but he looked in good order and the rain suited - if anything there wasn't enough of it.

In the event (and I didn't back him after a worrying late drift in the market - note to self; grow some balls) I was a tad surprised he didn't get home under a positive ride. However, despite being upped in trip the track wouldn't have suited and he was just done for a bit of toe in the end.

I see him as a one-paced slugger, and with this better effort under his belt I'm sure he will reward us providing he gets some deep ground.

Proud Gamble had taken a step in the right direction last time and although I backed him then I didn't really see him coming on from that. Wrong. He looked well and could be the type to keep improving from his lowly mark...physically he has some strengthening to do.

The others in the race ran predictably although Vision De La Vie clearly has two ways of going and is not one to trust, while Oil Burner has not delivered on earlier promise and looks to have regressed.

I had been very keen to take on Impulsive American in the novice hurdle but with two possible challengers scratched on account of the ground we weren't left with much on our side.

I had gone with Some Are Lucky to live up to his Cheltenham bumper promise but I saw him as a good ground horse and I wasn't that keen on the way he moved in the paddock - very much one that should relish sounder terrain.

Despite that the money came in for Tom George's horse and it looked for one minute as though we would collect, but the Pipe dodger was delivered at the right time to win his race. What the form is worth, we don't know.

The rest looked a bunch of backward chase types although Rolling Thunder showed more this time having settled better in front. He'll want time.

The handicap chase over 2m 3.5f was a conundrum. I wasn't overly keen on anything and although Oscar Lateen looked the obvious choice he had not come up with the goods on several occasions before and he looked short enough on balance.

Finea was none the worse for his efforts the previous day at Ayr, where he had blundered away his chance, and was the wildcard here as the rest looked pretty exposed. I didn't like Bollin Line on the ground but it was too far out to tell what would have happened had he not fallen, bringing down Lawless Island.

Perhaps Bollin Line has turned a corner as he was cruising when knuckling on landing three out. It's just as hard to know what to make of the race afterwards as it was before!

I took the view, as I've mentioned here before, that the one running under a penalty in the handicap hurdle - No Ceiling - was to be taken on.

Without a penalty perhaps, but the Donny race he won was poor and this often strong puller had an extra half mile to travel. I should have laid it and closed the book but opted to take it on with Definitely Better, who looked in great order, and Imperial Prince.

I know the latter is held in decent regard and he's a good staying prospect, but didn't think he would have the pace round here. However, there was money around at big odds and I would have been gutted had he gone in without being supported.

In the end it was a strange race with it changing complexion dramatically after the last. I must say I put down the glasses when the selection winged the last, only to pretty much drop the lot on the run, to be passed by three and thus doing the each-way dough.

Sure enough No Ceiling didn't get home, while the original second in Crinkle Crags is simply no good and fully justified that tag again. So a potentially huge race yielded very little in terms of profit. But keep an eye on the third - he'll win races.

Teo Vivo was rewarded for his consistency when winning the next under an uncomplicated ride, able to track the bunny Jonny Delta before pouncing at the last. This was by no means competitive though and the grey is sure to struggle off another career high mark next time.

El Beau looked likely to come on for the run and was unsettled by an early blunder. Good ground is key and with the cobwebs blown away ought to be followed next time.

No views on the hunter chase other than the well-backed Wind Of Hope looked a little small for the job. The fact he fell here at one of the easier jumps tracks doesn't bode well.

Nothing stood out in the bumper. Boyhood is a nice, well made sort if on the backward side, and he did little wrong in winning. I suspect they came here for better ground with the scopey Up North and although well-backed he probably resented the terrain. Lucinda Russell remains quiet and her Selkirk's Island never looked like giving her a farewell winner at the track's final jumps meeting of the season.

And so the bandwagon rolls into Kelso tomorrow.