Sunday 8 May 2016


Far from being bathed in sunshine, like the rest of the country, the track was consumed by cold, overcast conditions that had several racegoers heading back to the car for extra layers.

In addition, as is often the case at the Northumberland course on a spring weekend, the gaff was overrun with shouty yobs, who at least had the decency not to populate the area of the parade ring, obviously having no interest in the racing. Yes I sound like an old fart. But welcome to the modern racing experience.

To make matters thrice woeful, there was no wifi to be had rendering the smartphone anything but. This meant we had to punt with real, actual CASH. Gulp.

The first looked a good opening for the Jefferson filly Kelka, who had shown plenty of promise in a couple of bumpers. French exile Martila was well-backed against her but she made very little appeal, being a nervous looking sort who was very much on her toes beforehand and on the lean side.

The only other plausible challenger was the McCain trained Move To The Groove, who had been stopping quickly in bumpers and hurdles on soft ground this winter. Lo, the switch to a sound surface appears to have worked the oracle, and he stayed on much too well for Kelka, who was unable to reel him in.

Only four, Kelka settled much better here and shaped like the stayer she is bred to be - as such she'll be seen to much better effect over further next term.

Once again there were only three viable options in the next over just short of 3m and Ami Desbois was short enough even though he had the best form on offer by some way.

With the excellent McPherson kennel quiet in recent weeks, I felt the horse didn't look all that happy in a first time tongue tie. This time of year can throw up some funny results but this wasn't one of them sadly as neither Dimple nor Dante's Way showed much.

The latter hails from the Jefferson yard and he had been opposable at short odds on debut last time, when looking fractious and backward at Southwell. He was in better order here but is clearly an immature sort and after going better in cheekpieces didn't get home. Dimple was a shade disappointing as well but handicapping will be his game.

The first proper bet of the day went in on Vodka Wells and I had taken a pop at decent early odds in the hope that Hammond had got the horse back after he had looked amiss over the winter.

Therefore it was good to see the money come for him and he was a warm order at 3s on the off. I could only put Chestnut Ben up against him with the boy Winks required elsewhere.

The result was obviously grievous; while taking the loss on the chin I found myself chiding 'top' claimer Colliver for a disastrous ride after he decided to mix it with a couple of die-hard front runners Civil Unrest and Quick Decission.

Vodka Wells was clearly in rude health but there was surely no need to be so aggressive on a horse that is quite happy to sit off the pace. Colliver, riding the horse for the first time, was disorganised at three obstacles, most notably the last, and so it was galling to go down by just a head to Trust Thomas of all beasts.

The perennial bridesmaid has now won three from his last four and is another tribute to the skills of the Hamiltons, who do exceptionally well with the horses they have.

I think now they don't 'disappoint' the horse and instead let him go on when he wants to clearly suits him. Even so, he was stopping in front and in a stride or to we would have collected a good wedge.

Of the others, I've said before that Heist does not look a natural chaser but is crying out for an extra half mile anyway, while Captain Hox never finds off the bridle and is one to take on.

The remarkable Beyondtemptation made a bold bid to win again, this time over 3m, in the next, but was thwarted by another Hexham lover in the sturdy Bop Along. This was a race to leave well alone as you could make a case for eight of the 14 at least. I didn't think Colliver covered himself in glory here either, giving Taylor far too much to do. The diminutive mare should be able to win off this mark.

Like Ami Desbois, I felt Ash Park was a 'shorty' to take on in the next. A little keen in the prelims with two handlers, it wasn't certain to run up to his winning Kelso form. In the end he may well have done, but, having been out in front for a bit too long, was nabbed by Desert Island Dusk who could be one to follow at this level.

A strong traveller, he probably won with a bit in hand here and the form looks ok as Miss Joeking looked well beforehand and probably ran her race, staying on well into third over a trip that looks a bit short now. She could be winning shortly.

The next bet came in the staying chase where Big Sound was the one to be on back on a winning mark with everything in his favour. I'd never consider backing such a small horse over fences ordinarily but he's as brave as they come and we knew what we were buying into.

Sadly, that lack of size was quite stark in the final mile as eventual winner Maz Majecc stole half a length at each obstacle. That proved crucial in the final analysis as the pair came away with Irish stayer Suzy's Music late on.

Take nothing from the winner, who looked a strong stayer in the mud two runs back on his first start for the in form J Haynes. The horse appeared a mess the time before that but it transpired the beast is a poor traveller and his Irish handler apparently gave him to Haynes rather than take him back over the Irish Sea.

Hence the improved form; apparently the nervy animal got in a state early in the piece last time and never went a yard. There was no such issue here and even from 6lb wrong minus the claim he had enough in hand to hold off a well-handicapped horse.

Thus, a day to forget was nearly at an end. A quick look at the mares in the closing bumper revealed that June Carter wasn't all that, while McPherson's Ruby Wilde looked a nice sort on good terms with herself. That she gave the Reveley jolly a fright therefore came as little surprise, although it was disappointing that the favourite barely met the form of her debut in taking this by a whisker.

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