Saturday 26 March 2016


Some good quality action throughout the card although we were all waiting on weather conditions with a band of rain forecast to strike before and during racing.

As it happened it didn't arrive until before the sixth race, which meant it favoured those hoping for good ground and caused the withdrawal of a few soft ground merchants.

The opener was a deep mares race and they were not easy to separate beforehand. The winner Lady Of Longstone was one of the stronger ones and it was surprising she went off so big - I hadn't even considered betting in the race.

The three chases were of considerable interest however and I had quite easily got the middle distance series final down to three including the winner Ballybolley.

Twister's seven-year-old had looked capable of producing something like this when travelling all over them at Wetherby only to have his speed blunted by the heavy ground.

Things didn't quite fall right at Kempton last week but they went a more sensible tempo here and he wasn't off the bridle to despatch a predominantly northern field.

I quite liked Raktiman but this C2 event was probably a step too far and he never really got into it, while The Cobbler Swayne is a horse to keep on side next term when they will surely try him over further. Not for the first time he shaped as though 3m would suit and he looks the part.

I backed Five In A Row at the festival when he failed to get involved on the better ground. This was similar terrain but he got a much more positive ride and was the only one to give the winner anything to think about.

He's a horse I really like and I'm convinced he wants 3m and indeed further. His jumping looks really safe now and is another who i'm looking forward to seeing next season - softer ground will also help.

Emerging Force really fills the eye and I can't wait to follow his progress next season when they'll surely go over fences. He's got bundles of stamina and was well on top when unshipping Nico at the final flight here.

It was a double whammy as I'd backed him and then laid Petethepear at the top of the straight when the pack started to close. To make matters worse I had lumped on Pete when he flopped at Wetherby but has gone well twice in succession now, this time in some headgear. He stayed on better than I'd thought but was a clear second best.

Alzammar was a major disappointment with things evidently in his favour, but Fingeronthswitch looked in terrific order and just seems to have been stung by the assessor. Hainan is only five and rates as a big improver of late - this ground would be lively enough for him and he stayed on nicely.

The staying chase series final was a cracker and the good ground was important as it meant that I couldn't back my old friend Gonalston Cloud, whose stamina is his forte and this test would be too sharp.

I thought No Duffer looked magnificent beforehand and is everything a paddock watcher is looking for. He's been very in-and-out during his career but when he's on song he's pretty good. I had to back Jac The Legend as well as he's been so consistent and along with Baku Bay had a massive weight swing with Gonalston Cloud.

Baku Bay proved a bit disappointing as he had every chance in first time cheekpieces. They were the four I was interested in and they came clear of the rest. Gonalston Cloud's effort was tremendous on a day when it paid to lay up with the pace. As such he remains on a good mark and he's crying out for 3m4f.

I liked Apterix in the 2m handicap hurdle but the race wasn't really run to suit as he loves to come late off a fast pace. He seemed to have bumped into one in the well-backed Thunder Sheik, but the Swinton back here may suit better.

El Beau had to go close and he ran a weird race, travelling and jumping well early on. I looked down for a bit and when I looked back up he was gone! He trailed home and this couldn't be his running.

The marathon chase was very difficult especially after a short monsoon hit the track and turned the course quite a bit softer. Nothing stood out in the murk or from a value perspective. I had been mulling a go on the well-handicapped Kilbree Kid but the going had turned against him and he backed out of it under pressure.

The bumper was a disappointment after Asum was pulled out and there looked to be no reason why jolly River Wylde shouldn't win - he looked well and forward enough. However, the experience of Elgin told on the run to the line and A King's horse backed up the form of Happy Hollow's bumper at Southwell where the winner has gone and won again.  

Wednesday 23 March 2016


Nice to see some decent ground at the A1 track for a change, taking into account the added yardage times suggested the ground was indeed good to soft.

Two divisions of the novice handicap hurdle run half an hour apart clocked exactly the same time and both looked moderate affairs.

Bertie Lugg and Chasma dominated the market in the opener but I wasn't keen on either - the former a very big chase type wasn't sure to relish the sounder surface and the form wasn't great, while Chasma had also won on soft ground and had another hike to contend with, while she got pretty sweaty beforehand.

One of the brighter pixies in the forest of paddock watchers pointed me in the direction of Temple Tiger, who had shown up well in a good ground bumper a year earlier that contained useful sorts Cloudy Dream and Nuts Well.

Handicapped over the winter on heavy ground, the six-year-old came in for support off an opening rating of 89 and he landed the good each-way support despite looking green having hit the front for the first time its life.

Chasma gave vain chase and is an honest trier but Nicki's Nipper backed out of things suggesting as I suspected that the form of her previous effort was pretty poor.

The second division appeared to be at the mercy of Return Flight but the well-backed jolly proved bitterly disappointing, unable to pick up in the straight and eventually missing out on the places.

It's hard to fathom such a laboured effort from a horse who chased home Shantou Village here in a bumper last season. The better ground was sure to suit and he settled well enough in mid-div. He's bred to stay well so maybe he already needs a trip, and now that he has learned to settle that could be the secret. But as things stand he's only showed very moderate form over timber.

I wasn't interested in the three-runner novice chase until I saw Lessons In Milan in the paddock - the Henderson horse looked like his head has gone. A lovely stamp of a horse, he showed nothing on his chase debut and looks like something is troubling him. It came as little surprise that he didn't perform again, never travelling into the bridle and holding his head to one side.

I nearly backed the outsider of the three, Chase The Wind. Trainer Jo Foster has had a torrid season but there's a flicker of light for the handler and he went with bags of zest, jumping great, only to be collared by the strong staying Ballyculla.

I quite liked Lord Golan in the next even though the handicapper had hiked him up for a decent effort in a novice hurdle last time. An extra half mile would have suited but I quite liked the way the horse went in the race and he can definitely pick up a small event on good ground.

Weapon Of Choice looked in good order and could be poised to strike on proper fast ground even though he barely stays 2m and looks quite high in the weights. Absolute should also win a race in due course, I thought he might improve for the run and he didn't look right in his coat. He's surely better than this.

The race of the day was the handicap chase over 2m5f and it resulted in one of the biggest punts I've seen this year in the ex-G Moore trained Wolf Sword. Everybody wanted to be on now he's joined Sue Smith but I had huge reservations knowing he'd had his wind done, had bled in the past, wasn't certain to stay and had been quite novicey in the past.

That didn't stop THEM from piling in all the way to the off and beyond. The horse certainly went through the race like the winner but W Kennedy hadn't read the memo and he crept into the race under Top Cat Henry, putting down a serious challenge going to the last.

It's hard to say who wold have won had Wolf Sword stood up, but after meeting it wrong he went down along with a good deal of cash. Nothing else landed a blow, with Pay The King exiting early doors. He's becoming expensive to follow but remains on a very tempting mark.

The bumper was one of the best of its type in the north this season without having a standout performer on paper.

Happy Hollow had the form with victory at Southwell and reports suggested he would improve greatly for the experience. As the cliche goes defying a penalty is not easy in bumpers and although a slow early pace was against many, the Swinbank youngster impressed once again as he motored clear.

Runner-up Competition had come in for each-way support and this flat type was fit on debut, while Captain Moirette backed up the Catterick run that earned many a notebook entry without necessarily improving upon it. Personally, he's one to take on before he embarks on a chase career.

Others to note for the future were Monthyne, a strong staying type who lacked the pace for this, Mayo Star, a well-related 4yro who looks like a flat horse but stayed on very late after running green, and Disturb, who is a decent looker and shaped with some promise.

Yewlands looked backward so his effort in fourth was pleasing, but Jack Lamb remains very lean and leggy and may not have the ability of his siblings.


Quite an interesting card on a rare trip south of the 'border' and thankfully Thoonavolla came home strongly in the second race to more than pay for the trip.

This quite nice, neat looking horse caught the eye at Leicester before Christmas, chasing home an in-form Truckers Highway over an inadequate 2m. 

Connections of the multiple point winner have been patient waiting for the better ground, having withdrawn the horse on a few occasions.

He turned up looking plenty fit enough but we had to wait and wait some more for the odds to droft to a backable price, hitting a juicy 4 on the machine just before the off.

Denali Highway was all the rage and you could see why, the Thornton>Skelton switch being more than a minor jockey upgrade. Santa's Secret wasn't much of a threat if his win in a poor race last time was anything to go by.

As it happened it was the aforementioned Thornton who would put it up to our hero on Somchine, who in fairness looked primed to run well pre-race and nearly stole it between the last two.

Thoonavolla, novicey on occasions, took a while to hit top gear but he thankfully met the last on a good stride, unlike Somchine, and the momentum carried him to the line and he won going away under the stylish A Wedge.

Lightly raced, you can see the winner going in again at the likes of Stratford over a shade further. He travels well and obviously has stamina too.

Midnight Chorister had won the opener cosily after fencing neatly, beating Owen Na View who was backed off the boards but could never really shake off his rivals.

That was the chasing action done with but there was plenty of interest over the baby obstacles and Some Are Lucky improved markedly on his Musselburgh second to beat Monkhouse by a wide margin.

T George's charge shaped well in a Cheltenham bumper earlier this season and clearly needs this better ground. He didn't hurdle very well the last day but was much better over these small fences.

I think he'll benefit greatly from another summer at grass, he's very unfurnished at present but clearly has an engine and stays very well. As for Monkhouse, this was disappointing as I favoured him beforehand.

A nice strong sort, he jumped poorly and was soon done for down the back straight when the taps were turned on. He's another son of Scorpion and there's a lot of them about at the moment. Like the sire, I'm concerned many of them have their own ideas about the game.

There wasn't much depth here although Ted's Lad will leave his hurdles form behind when sent over fences, such is his size, but Sandygate is a moderate sort and will surely be dispersed at one of the spring sales. 

We lost Lewis in this race. I really took a shine to him at Carlisle last season but he never really fulfilled his early potential and it was really sad to see him perish at the final obstacle with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Division II of the maiden hurdle threw up a shock with Weyburn landing a few bets at big odds for M Keighley. He wasn't one I was with but was happy to have him running for me against Behind The Wire.

T George's youngster sweated badly at Donny last time and was again very warm here. He's a strong sort who could be alright when he grows up, but he's keen in his races at the moment. However, the way he stayed on up the straight suggests stamina in abundance and he's one for teh long term.

Dante's Way was a short price on the balance of things, having been a bit disappointing in his second bumper at Carlisle. He was quite fractious in the prelims and immature in the race, with layers likely on good terms with themselves from an early stage.

It meant the third-in Minella Experience was worth a go on this better ground having floundered in a Warwick bog. This was better but he looked a bit slow having had his own way up front.

The bumper was a decent one but I was against the favourite Raised On Grazeon, who was well forward on his debut and didn't improve second time at Catterick, on both occasions I felt he wasn't putting it all in.

Harry Fry's Water Willow was fancied but I wasn't that taken by her, quite small and sturdy and she was looking recalcitrant before rearing up right in front of me and squashing her jockey. This was a disconcerting experience and she might be one to overlook if out again soon.

Scorpion Princess was quite leggy and light framed but is nice and had the form in the book, thought good enough to run in a very good mares race at Huntingdon. 

I thought she'd be stronger in the market though and I was ambivalent towards her chances in the end, but this daughter of Scorpion did it well in the end and will hopefully go on from here.

McGregor's Cottage is bred to stay but did too much in front in this slowly run affair and she'll be better than this when sent over timber next term, but runner-up Book At Bedtime was a real looker, if a bit backward, and a decent run by her wasn't unexpected. Reveley has unveiled a few good youngsters this term and this was right up there.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Weekly round-up, W/C March 14

With drying conditions and no rainfall all week the ground was generally soft at all three meetings but considered dead and holding.

Sedgefield - Tuesday 15th

Some extremely uncompetitive stuff and small fields making for really unappetizing fare. Trainer Ken Slack continued his fantastic season with three winners from four runners, Azure Glamour getting off the mark in first time blinkers when outbattling a dreadful rogue in Home For Tea. Both horses had their chances on the run-in after the market leaders had wiped each other out at the second last, but for me Home For Tea had no excuses for not going past the front runner here and is one to oppose every time. Normandy King was heavily supported but seemed to flounder on the soft ground and he'll surely be better than this on good. The fact that Nicki's Nipper was so close in third sums up the form.

Home for Tea's connections did not leave empty handed though when Away For Slates turned up looking full of beans ahead of the three-runner handicap hurdle, and he made light of a drop in trip to win as he liked from Roxyfet, who was done for toe back over timber. The winner can improve again for another summer on his back. Third placed Lexi's Boy continues his regression.

Runswick Relax jumped a moderate field silly having got his own way up front before Generous Pet completed the Slack treble by easily supplementing his Newcastle win. With Bladoun failing miserably to run to form this wasn't strenuous for the hot favourite.

Discoverie was attempting to give Slack a foursome and was odds-on to do so but unlike at Catterick this cussed animal didn't get his own way in the lead and soon dropped the bridle. In another weak affair where few ran to their best it was Duhallowcountry who finally got off the mark under Amy Waugh, who gets on really well with the horse. Better ground should suit the winner and he may yet defy a slightly higher mark this spring.

The bumper was interesting as the favourites Tara Time and Mount Mizooka didn't act on the chewed up terrain and were big flops. Newcomer It's All About Me went to post with a very scratchy action and Paper Roses didn't appeal, looking a moderate sort. M Jefferson has his team of youngsters in terrific shape and Only Orvieto gave the yard another bumper winner as she stayed on well to beat Paper Roses, who clearly has ability and proved her debut to be no fluke. Of Tara Time, she looked really well but is still on the small side and it looks as though the ground is key to her.

Hexham - Thursday 17th

Brilliant sunshine masked the fact that conditions were pretty testing, and the old Hexham hill soon did for Roja Dove in the opener who, having cruised to the front before the last, promptly found the effort to much allowing Beyondtempation to fight back and land a hat-trick. Fair play to the winner who was defying a 10lb higher mark.

Flemensfirthleader had flopped at 2/11 at Catterick after going far too keenly but despite being more tractable this time still found nothing under pressure and the previously disappointing My Little Cracker enjoyed a cakewalk under B Harding. What to make of these kind of races is anyone's guess, although looking at the winner you'd think she could go on from here.

Irish raider Maz Majecc sweated up badly prior to the staying chase for novices where The Bishop put his best foot forward to beat the reluctant Trouble In Paris, whom it seems is destined never to win another race. Spring Over ran well over fences for a small horse but again I wouldn't get excited about this form with Moscow Presents running no sort of race on chase debut and Cheat The Cheater unable to land a serious blow.

Beer Goggles has long been followed by this column and after winning at Sedgefield having been off the bridle for much of the journey, in-running layers were less keen to get involved with the Hammond horse, who barely traded above his SP before finishing with a rattle to win cosily. I was taken by the way the youngster has strengthened up since the autumn and with bottomless reserves of stamina can land the hat-trick providing they find some soft ground this spring.

The four-miler fell to Itstimeforapint for the Russell yard that has finally turned the corner. This was another horse who I looked at twice because he's often looked light framed but to these eyes had gained some strength this winter. I suspected the extreme trip may suit and put less strain on his suspect jumping, while his mark remained fair. He was a big price owing to the support for Son Of Suzie, who I was really keen to be against as his profile is not a progressive one. He's not taken to fences and for me doesn't really have enough scope, while his odds were absurdly short. Jonny Eager was a viable proposition having been the recipient of an overly aggressive ride last time out. He may not have jumped quite so well here, but these staying events will be his bread and butter over the coming years and he has room to strengthen yet. Longueville Flyer will become well handicapped in time, when flatter tracks than this will suit.

Leney Cottage was hard to oppose over 2m 4f but I hadn't been entirely convinced by his victory at Carlisle in a race that fell apart somewhat. He didn't pull hard so much here but still couldn't muster a challenge at the business end after Flaming Thistle pushed on again after an enterprising ride from G Cockburn. A double course winner over 3m, it made plenty of sense to make good use of the stayer who won well in the end with Suprise Vendor not looking likely to threaten. He's not very big for chasing and I'm surprised he racked up so many wins in this sphere back in the day.

The finale was headed by market leader Huehuecoytle but those who forced his price into 6/4 were banking on first time visors working the oracle. Sadly for them, this lovely strapping horse again showed little appetite for the fight, going down tamely under pressure. The Pierre Lark doesn't look much size-wise and once again a morning move for a horse proved a complete red herring. Too Many Chiefs hadn't taken the eye at Carlisle but somehow he looked a bit better just a week later - that said it was hard to predict victory, runner-up Milan Dancer being a more likely type on looks.

Newcastle - Saturday 19th

Quite a fair card all told, with one or two weak spots! The opener wasn't great but Always Resolute seemed to under perform and he's not gone on since that fall at the last at Catterick when well clear. That said Eastview Boy has caught the eye a couple of times and did this well, easily recording a PB. I always felt better ground would suit him so although his initial mark will be higher than the trainer might like, he is likely to be competitive off it. Frightened Rabbit is a pony and didn't build on Market Rasen. The slow early pace didn't help though so maybe she should be given another chance to prove that debut was no fluke.

Notonebuttwo looked in good nick ahead of the stayers handicap but was run out of things by Veroce, who has revealed himself to be a dour stayer. He jumped stickily on occasions and if he can brush up that side of his game maybe with another summer behind him he could be useful.Big Sound looked fit enough, albeit not great in his coat, and top weight for this little horse is always going to be a struggle.

I've discussed Nuts Well here before and I like him a lot. A break of 12 weeks would have done him a world of good and he looked a bit stronger than at Christmas time. Still only five, he could be anything and confidence was high that he could defy at perch of 122, with only the exposed Heath Hunter a perceived threat. He was very green having hit the front but found well enough for pressure to suggest he has plenty in hand of his mark, even after a 7lb rise.

The staying hurdle was very hard although I didn't want to be with either of the front two - Pinnacle Panda, who looked a tricky sort at Doncaster - and Seldom Inn, who has for some time looked to have a very questionable attitude. Neither showed up towards the business end but I couldn't have the eventual winner either, Touch Back. He 'found' for pressure for the first time in ages to deny those happy to support Another Mattie at what looked to be generous odds. 'Mattie' doesn't necessarily stay three miles and it was as if the eventual winner could sense he was stopping in front.

Clan Chief was supported into favouritism in the 2m chase and I thought a clear round would suffice. That wasn't a foregone conclusion however, as the trainer had enlisted the dubious talents of A Thornton. His calamitous demise in the first third of the race means that patient backers of the chestnut must wait a little longer before finally getting a return on the horse, who looks exceptionally well handicapped if only he can put it all together. The form is of little note and Stilo Blue Native should be hanging his head in shame after failing to get past Ascuncion from two out.

Burnt fingers were soothed by the performance of Imperial Prince, the day's good thing in the next. The only disappointment was the price as they had found a weak race for a decent looking horse who was very well in on the promise he had shown on numerous occasions. Only pushed out to win handily, this horse still has time to fill out and he'll move through the handicap given some luck. Karisma King and Frankie's Promise are both fractious sorts and not worth following currently, although Redkalani showed a bit more back over timber but this trip was too short and time will show they all had no chance against the winner.

The closing handicap hurdle was a ghastly affair with the vast majority of runners exposed as rogues or villains. The notable exception was the Ken Slack-trained Columbanus, but I suspect we've reached 'peak Slack' as it were and that punters are backing his horses blind. Odds of 7/4 certainly didn't reflect the horse's form chance and alot was taken on trust that the trainer has improved the beast. However, I wasn't taken by the small, somewhat mis-shapen animal, and one suspects this one may simply be no good. Time will tell, and every horse has it's mark after all, as Ascuncion proved earlier in the day.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Weekly round-up - W/C March 7

Newcastle - March 8

Race 1
Generous Pet looked fit and well on his first start for Ken Slack, although it took a leap of faith to back it with very little form to go on. Warksburn Boy didn’t look ready after a break but was pulled up as if something was amiss late on. Solway Prince looked well and his turn should be around the corner given better ground and a trip.

Race 2
Caius Marcius was all the rage but I wasn’t taken by it in the paddock despite all the talk. He looks like he needs more time and perhaps good ground. Very First Time looked better than I had originally given him credit for, more size for one, although he may have grown in the last three months. He had heavy ground form at the track and shouldn’t have gone off at 7/1 even though this was his debut over timber. Nendrum is a fair looking horse but clearly isn’t one to trust, although the second home Eastview is one to keep an eye out for as he will be better than this on good ground and he wasn’t given a hard time.

Race 3
Having missed the price on handicap good thing Streets Of Promise in the morning I was drawn towards Irish raider Celtic Thunder, about whom there was plenty of confidence. He looks ok physically but didn’t appear to have the bottle for this and a couple of mistakes down the back finished him. ‘Streets’ won like the good thing she was, especially as her jumping was far better than previously.

Race 4
I wrote Bertie Moon off after Sedgefield so her victory here was a big surprise. It was galling because I was dead against Nichiolascopernicus who has had some work done on his front and back leg joints judging by what I saw in the paddock, and had plenty to prove after a lengthy absence. Many will forgive his tame finish in the name of fitness but my take is that he was fitter than a butcher’s dog here and whatever is ailing him means he is not the horse he once was. Having thrown darts at Cadore and Morning With Ivan we failed to take advantage.

Race 5
I hadn’t been convinced by Special Catch since his return from injury and still can’t believe he won here two starts back. This is the fourth time in five starts he’s finished tamely and he’s one to be against. With Edmund due to go down 4lb from Friday it was pointless running here so it was a two-horse race. Caraline looked in good fettle but for some reason ran no sort of race and was beaten by halfway. De Vous A Moi did his usual thing of getting outpaced before plugging on dourly to win again. He’s a bonny horse who may yet keep improving over 3m.

Race 6

A decent looking bumper with some nice sorts. Bestarius took the honours, a nice big chase prospect, despite looking very green. Blakerigg was the subject of early support but the N Richards horse had to give second best. He’s a strong sort who should make into a decent horse. Black Ivory ran home third and this horse of Jefferson’s is well related and looks sure to stay well and go on better ground. Dr West is bred to stay forever so his run was promising until swerving away from the whip and unshipping the rider. What Kept You is a nice athletic sort but I think was too keen and free throughout  proceedings, while Eaton Hill is a small Yeats horse and he too was very keen. Mutawaasel is a cheap buy off the flat and he will find his level in time.

Catterick - March 9

Morning rain had turned the ground pretty soft and the racing was generally uncompetitive.

Race 2
I made My Friend George favourite for this four runner handicap over 2m3f but the books favoured Roxyfet. The Hammond horse had yet to prove himself as effective over the longer trip while 'George' is proven over further, and although neither looked well handicapped it looked between the pair as Lily Little Legs hadn't achieved much at Wetherby previously. However, after getting the market right we didn't get the result. Roxy probably won fair and square but this wasn't a test at the trip and it was disappointing that Brooke didn't make a bid for home much earlier in the race. The fact that the rag was still upsides at the last suggests that this was another race that fell just right for the winner, for all that he has done little wrong of late.

Race 3
Flemensfirthleader was made 2/11 to follow up her Seggie win and was hard to oppose on that, but she's very headstrong and the money buyers who forced her price in had their arses bitten badly. Mo Chailin jumped much better on this occasion and got a good ride from STD. The form may actually be ok for its type as the third, Regal Ways, could have a future over timber.

Race 4
Sadly Bollin Line was taken out on account of the ground (I assume) as I wanted to be against it. It left Discoverie looking vulnerable at around 6/4 at the head of the market but the race completely fell apart and he hacked up. There wasn't an awful lot you could have backed against it however, with proven dog Casual Cavalier arguably best of the rest. Nefyn Bay is one to keep an eye on. Not fit and outpaced for much of the way, he stayed on strongly off camera and will come into his own this spring on better ground and at least 2m 4f.

Race 5
Shinooki looked a good thing at even money against a fairly motley bunch. Cumbrian Farmer is pretty exposed and I still think he will do better on good ground. Brae On was interesting after a two year absence and he looked really well, and fit enough. The Bewley yard is in fine nick at present and it's only a matter of time before they fire in a few winners

Race 6
I knew the market leaders in the novice hunter from the PTP field and the progressive Carlton Ryan was a worthy favourite. However, Comedinewithme has also done well between the flags despite some novicey jumping and I thought at 4/1 she was worth a poke getting plenty of weight. The jockey R Smith is successful in the points but he was a bit quiet for me here, although the errors reared their ugly head on the final circuit and a clumsy leap two out left the mare with too much to do. Easterby likes to look good and he was too easy on the jolly, nearly getting it beat as the mare rallied, but the right one won you'd have to say. Both can keep improving this spring with the emphasis on stamina.

Race 7
The bumper really interested me because the two market leaders Undisputed and Lady Of Llanarmon had been slammed last time out. I was keen on Tara Time before she was scratched but there was another one lurking in the shape of Kelka, a lovely big striding horse related to a couple of good stayers. The Jefferson inmate didn't let me down, showing a decent turn of foot to get the better of Undisputed, who got back on track with forcing tactics. The pair are definitely decent mares.

Carlisle - March 10

Barmy conditions in the north west with not a breath of wind and the ground seemingly drying out by the hour. There were some very strange market moves and those who got sucked in got their fingers burnt.

Race 1
The first mystery plunge of the day came for Divine Port despite a couple of seriously moderate efforts since the turn of the year. I thought he might be the one to be on at an early 3/1 but at 6/4 he had to be taken on. I'd already taken a view by laying Baraka De Thaix, another in the field that had been regressive, and really the only one that could be seriously entertained was indeed the eventual winner Captain Redbeard. He's one I've liked from day one but he's had a busy campaign and wasn't easy to weigh up. His last run came a bit too soon after his breakthrough victory at Sedgefield and unlike the other two it looked a legitimate excuse.

Race 2
We backed up that good start by supporting Baby Bach in what was effectively a two-horse novice hurdle. His only serious opponent Dakota Grey is a nice horse in his own right but much more an embryonic chaser, while Baby Bach is a year older and closer to the finished article. Actually I like him a lot and he should be worth following. Ten Trees showed a bit more here and a small handicap can come her way.

Race 3
I had taken a position in the staying handicap hurdle by backing Knock A Hand in the morning purely in the hope that a return to a course at which he has previously run very well would inspire a revival. However, I seemed to be amongst the majority in thinking that way and I never like it when that happens, 3/1 being pretty poor value at the off. As is often the case when the whole world is on your horse, it's runs like a drain. It was frustrating as I had the view that the jolly Isaacstown Lad was poorly handicapped and that Cloudy Copper (who is a really moderate looking animal by the way) had plenty to prove in a first time tongue tie. I'm not great at getting Pipey's horses right and although I did the right thing in laying the one in the opener I didn't consider the enigmatic grey Gevrey Chambertin. Pistol was a 7/1 shot here I believe. Extraordinary.

Race 4
Technical problems meant I wasn't fully focused on the handicap chase for novices but in truth I couldn't get to the bottom of it anyway. I couldn't find the winner to save my life but of course it was the one who had threatened something like this for 18 months, a horse I'd backed at least three times, one that I'd given up on, that promptly hosed up. Leney Cottage had pulled far too hard on two outings over timber and was again very keen here, but this less demanding ground and shorter trip meant he galloped all over some paceless rivals. The fact that it looked a difficult race beforehand doesn't mean it was competitive though, with the second and third both moderate animals. I crossed out most of them and couldn't find anything to back other than have a tiny amount on Attimo at big odds in case the Drakes had improved it from C Mann. Entirely plausible, of course, but the giant beast looks useless.

Race 5
No views on a weak handicap hurdle for novices, other than thinking that Solway Prince was a short price at around 4/1 for a race he surely couldn't win. He's as one-paced as they come but I can see him plodding to victory in a staying race at Perth where they go too fast early on. Ash Park had shown a glimmer of hope last time out and he duly backed it up, although this form is very moderate and he'll struggle next time out. Sean Ban looks one-paced too but will benefit from a step up in trip.

Race 6  
This is where fortunes took a turn for the worse. A very tight four-runner affair but I'd been waiting for Pay The King to revert to 20f after patently failing to stay the last twice. He looks terrifically handicapped and although Swing Hard would be tough to crack if at the top of his game, I felt the Hammond horse would have something in hand. It's easy to point the finger at Colliver the claimer, as I will forever call him, and I just did. However, let's try to be fair and say the horse - with its rather queer front leg action - may not have handled the ups and, especially, the downs of this course too well. In my mind's eye I always saw Pay The King landing a decent race at Wetherby in April, so hopefully there's a race for him there on better ground than this. In the hope of getting some sleep tonight, let's tell ourselves the money is only lent.

Race 7
The bumper was a match and for some reason I just wanted to be against Reivers Lad, who performed above market expectations on debut at Ayr. He's a strapping chaser, laid back as well, but was up against what looked a ready-made horse in Powerful Symbol. The market tended to agree with me but I didn't like the way the O'Neill horse faltered towards the line and he could be one to take on in future, while the Richards horse is clearly one to follow as he hopefully builds on this over the sticks. Our Morris was a shoo-in for third place as Paddling had got very worked up, and he was another horse to advertise the well-being of the G Bewley outfit.

Sunday 6 March 2016


After passing up the 'opportunity' to visit Town Moor on a grizzly Friday we were raring to go ahead of a Saturday card that, like the previous day, had cut up owing to the rain-softened ground.

You know it's been a wet winter when even the Donny turf rides slow and it's hard to believe the next meeting here will usher in the start of the ghastly FLAT SEASON.

With plenty of form out there - if you know what I mean - and a lot of false looking favourites going down, now is the time to BET MORE if that's possible. So I was pacing up and down waiting for battle to commence round the country and promptly got stuck in by laying a short-priced Greatrex hurdler at Stratford that had already got beat three times.

For the opener on Town Moor you could essentially have bet 4/1 each of five which didn't make it a great betting medium, although the first thing to do was get against the wretched Astigos in the place market after received a 'gift' at Wetherby last time.

With the bet on it was good to see the creature get worked up down at the start and we were soon totting up the takings. What I wasn't counting on was a return to form for Upsilon Bleu after backing it as if defeat was out of the question at the local track last time.

I had basically pouted 'Eff-you that's your last chance' although perhaps someone of a kinder nature might have opined that the run was just too bad to be true and that the ex-French horse was worth another pop.

With the race run to suit, Jimmy Reve had an armchair sit and some late support was justified. Pearls Legend ran his race but looks to be in the assessor's grip, while Yorkist has become disappointing. Ulis De Vassy looked really well for this return and it's possible that fast ground and perhaps a little further is his thing.

The second was tricky. The juvenile Fingertips looked just a baby and had a big task on at the marathon trip, while Waterclock is one to oppose on balance. Zeroshadesofgrey looked a bit obvious to me and was backed to win here for a fourth time, but is another that is weighted to his best.

Henderson's Sugar Baron is an ok sort but does go freely and that was a concern as you need to stay round here. To his credit he dug in well after the last, but I don't think the form is out of the ordinary.

I was dead against D Skelton's Yes I Did in the mares hurdle. She's skipped round a couple of northern venues well enough but this was a different ball game and she looked a bit flat beforehand to these eyes. She's an enthusiastic mare, this didn't look the right race and she didn't have the run of it.

The Organist and Briery Belle looked tough foes. The former has a touch of class while the latter is a slugger and already needs a real test. The pair came clear and they look set to do well in such races over timber and fences over the coming years.

Revo went bonkers early doors on the fractious Samedi Soir, who must have good ground. She's a nice sort and will win again this spring.

The Grimthorpe wasn't much of a contest and The Last Samuri was fully revved up for his national prep. I don't think you would see a nicer sort for the 'Nash' and it wouldn't surprise me if he went off as short as 5 or 6/1 at Aintree. He has everything - and I can see Mr Rooney rounding of this momentous season with a signature success at one of the festivals.

I didn't get drawn in to playing the short odds in the last three races, which had cut up real bad. Cracked Rear View cost a small fortune but looks very limited at present. A big chase type, he's very backward and leery and should be opposed in a deeper race this spring. He had nothing to beat although P Kirby's Improved can win a small race granted good ground.

Wintered Well easily backed up his Catterick win (what a miss that was) when chief rival Rocklim dumped Lucy Alexander with a circuit to go to leave the female jock a long drive home after re-routing from Kelso.

I couldn't work the bumper out. King's Midnight Maestro is well related and a nice type but backward and green, while Ferguson's Wenyerreadyfreddie could easily have gone through the point field being a stronger sort. The market could hardly split them and I wasn't about to make an educated guess.

Ballycash is on the small side but at least took a step forward from Warwick, while Spring Hill looks ok and can undoubtedly win a small race in a couple of years' time at somewhere like Mkt Rasen or Fakenham for Mr Bealby.

Tuesday 1 March 2016


You can't beat the Bridge when the sun is beating down on a winter's afternoon and it looked like it was going to be a good day when we bagged the first two winners with the promise of more to come.

The more you looked at the opening ladies' race it just had to be a case of whether Cumbrian Farmer could keep tabs on habitual front runner Beyondtemptation, who was on the same mark as when dotting up at Wetherby.

But while the former found himself going a stride quicker than he would probably like, it looked to my eye as though Miss Stirling was judging the fractions to perfection on the latter.

Often a tearaway leader, I thought Stirling had the eventual winner on a nice even keel heading down the back where he was still a backable price, with only a load of old rogues giving chase.

Nobody can know for sure if Astrum would have gone on to win the race after crashing out at the last, but personally I suspect not. The grey has been second seven times and the burden of proof still lies with him.

Sakhee's City has been on the radar of many for some time and today was the day the big horse had to deliver, and he did. He doesn't look straight forward but is a big baby and was given an uncomplicated ride by A Nicol.

One to take from the race is General Mahler, who was given a sympathetic ride by D Cook after the horse bled on the way to the start at Sedgefield last week. This minimum trip wouldn't suit the horse and with this experience behind him he should be found a race and he now has a mark.

I wasn't taken by Archipeligo and like many here today he probably came for some good ground, but the overnight rain scuppered that. On genuine decent ground he might find a race.

The second division of the maiden hurdle looked far weaker and with odds on favourite Carthage putting in a typically moody effort it was left to Nine Alters to land some each-way support.

They bet a million bar the four and this form is not up to much at all. However, the winner is a nice sort of horse but pretty backward for a seven-year-old. Sinakar ran on into second but this small horse struggled with the hurdles and it remains to be seen if this game is for him. Myrtle Drive looks very ordinary.

It was very hard to get a handle on the handicap chase over two miles. Bollin Line was a worthy favourite after appearing to be an unlucky loser at Musselburgh but wasn't one to trust implicitly at pretty short odds.

The Wexfordian had been the subject of hefty support but I didn't like him at all in the paddock. He's a great big lump of a horse, who had a noticeable scar on one of his hind legs - probably the reason for one of his recent absences.

Horses of that size don't often do well round here and with a very patchy profile over a variety of trips he was one to take on. Sure enough he cornered badly turning in and was soon done with.

My Friend George looked sure to run his usual honest race but this trip was always going to be on the short side unless they went a crazy up front. My old friend from Haydock Ubaltique was hard to fancy as well as all his wins had come on very soft ground.

It turned out the early rain suited him well as, after getting outpaced early on, he took up the running in the straight and soon had the race in safe keeping. A wind op and tongue tie does seem to have helped him, while Bollin Line was allowed to get outpaced and it looks as though a fast pace on proper good ground is the key to him.

I was hoping to get against Minella Daddy in the staying hurdle but his withdrawal meant Royal Milan went off a well-backed favourite instead. I had backed him like many others had at Donny last time but he could never go the pace over 2m3f there.

This more leisurely gallop must have felt like a stroll in the park by contrast and he won as he liked in the end. He's probably a decent prospect who wants better ground than this, and time may tell that Banny's Lad and High Hopper had a hopeless task.

Banny's Lad is a proper top of the ground stayer, while High Hopper is an embryo chaser that is still on the weak side, and we won't be seeing the best of him for at least six months. He looked laboured but fences will be the making of him.

Leanna Ban, like Bollin Line, looked a solid favourite in the staying chase but again he wasn't really a backable price and his front running style is always likely to leave him vulnerable on winter ground, when his form suggests proper spring ground suits best.

It looked a weak enough contest and very few could be fancied - Special Wells and Vinny Gambini I've long since given up on. Another to add to the black list is Bonzo Bing, who was well-handicapped on bits of form and was a fair price, but never took an interest and that's enough of that.

Court Dismissed was up with the favourite all the way and this difficult sort seemed to enjoy it more at this slower pace, having been campaigned over shorter so far in his career.

You still wouldn't fancy it to go past on the run in but go past he did, with Leanna Ban unable to find extra close home. Bodega, a half brother to Leanna Ban, rallied well after getting tapped for toe and there's probably a small race in him with this experience under his belt.

The finale wasn't much of a punting race with Wintered Well being well found in the betting. I was concerned that the ground would trouble him as he looks a proper spring ground horse and there was a stamina doubt.

But this was a poor race and he proved a steering job for Dickie J. He's entered at Donny on Saturday and provided the ground remains good there he'll have a great chance of following up under a penalty.

The opposition melted away as Flemerina was a big market drifter and looks moderate - I still can't see how she won at Sedge - and Leney Cottage pulled far too hard again. This was a pretty poor piece of placing and riding considering he's such a strong goer. If he's still not learned to settle at the age of nine I don't want anything more to do with him. The rest were exposed as moderate and it proved a penalty kick for jolly backers.