Sunday 19 June 2016

No doubting Damien

I'll keep this brief as the price, as I expected, has long since disappeared.

The 4.30 at Hexham is not as competitive as the size of the field suggests and I found it fairly easy to whittle it down to two, maybe three runners.

The one that stood out a mile was Damiens Dilemma, making his debut in handicaps for Stuart Coltherd having won five times between the flags.

Wins at Friars Haugh, Mosshouses and Hexham's point course show that the eight-year-old is fully effective on stiff tracks, while he seems to act on any going.

All his runs in hunter chases this season have garnered Racing Post ratings in excess of 100, and while it is never easy to translate hunter chase form into handicaps, he was after all second in the 'Heart' at Hexham while his last run was another solid effort behind some decent animals.

He stays very well and with the ground very much on the soft side he looks all set for a huge run. His jumping is a slight cause for concern but he always finds a way of getting round and Hexham doesn't take an awful lot of jumping.

At 6/1 he was a cracking bet as I put him in at 4/1 at best. He is still the bet at that price.

Of the others, only Sharivarry would be considered a danger on recent form, this strong stayer will be much more at home over 3m after finding it all happening too quickly last time. He'll give the selection most to do I'm sure, but whether he's as well handicapped is doubtful.

The only other one of interest is More Madness, who went sharply downhill for Nick Alexander in the last year and is now in the care of Julia Brooke. The switch could revitalise him but he looks slow and moody and while he could be a fly in the ointment he is not a betting proposition.

Saturday 18 June 2016

Market Rasen

From a National Hunt perspective we're in the 'off' season as far as I'm concerned so it was more of a scouting mission to the Lincolnshire venue, where the ground appeared to be just on the soft side of good.

The paddock separated the top two in the betting for the juvenile contest with Milrow a warm order on his debut for Dr Newland having left M Meade with some decent form on the flat.

He was extremely fit and appeared well schooled in a race in which the majority of them were very leery at the obstacles.

Johnson sought to obtain cover on Itsamysterytome who looked well forward for his racecourse debut, and he was knowhere near as streetwise as his market rival and the writing was on the wall from some way out.

While it's far too early to get carried away, Milrow ought to be able to win a couple more of these races this summer. Stone Quercus improved on his Hexham run but may want some cover as he was very green in front at the hurdles, while Skylark Lady - who had won at Hexham - probably had a very hard race there and she looked a bit warm and fizzy here. She could bounce back off a break.

I had no interest whatsoever in the handicap hurdle but again the favourite Il Presidente looked a worthy market leader. They've persevered with this nine-year-old and hopefully connections will be rewarded with more victories - he looks far better than a 100-rated animal and he can surely build on this over further if he comes out of it in one piece.

Overtheedge looked a vulnerable jolly in the next. A bit edgy and leery, it looked a quite competitive affair however Mr Snoozy turned it into a procession. M Walford's horse had not won for an age but nothing could go with him returned to timber. They didn't look a great lot and Down Time turned it in again.

The novice chase was a decent race with Golden Doyen a warm order. He hasn't won since early in his juvenile days and he was sent over fences early in his career.

He looked fantastic off a break and you knew before the race there could be no excuses this time. He jumped well for a circuit but when put under pressure his fencing didn't come up to scratch, and it's a sure sign of a horse that's going to continue to struggle unless they can build his confidence against inferiors in novice races.

Party Rock has just about enough size for a fence but is late to the chasing game. You wouldn't expect him to improve at this stage and this is probably as good as he is, but you never know.

Box Office was well backed as he has some decent hurdles form on the CV, but there's no doubt he's regressed in the last six months. A big chasing sort, he looks very immature mentally and never had a cut at his fences.

It will be interesting to see if connections persist with him, as he looks the type to thrive in a smaller yard. Some of Jonjos do improve elsewhere so I'll be keeping an eye on him, and he's still only five.

Of the others, Boss Des Mottes is quite plain and lean, Cusheen Bridge looked burly even by the yard's standards, and Manhattan Swing doesn't have the size for fences.

I gave Indian Stream a good write-up here after she won at Southwell in September and she's gone in again from an 11lb higher mark in great style.

You could have made a case for some of the others but although she wasn't screaming value at around 5/2 she was a solid bet for anyone who fancied her to win. I backed her last time when she ran into a sound jumping sort who just outstayed her.

Here she looked a bit on edge beforehand and you could see in the race she has her quirks. But she's got loads of ability and Hutch had to take a pull turning in as he was all over the long time leader Art Of Logistics.

The Hobbs horse has some real quality about him but the yard hasn't managed to turn his fortunes around and I thought his finishing effort was pretty weak even allowing for the fact that the winner is very strong at the trip.

Minella Forfitness always gets stirred up but he was awash with sweat today. They win occasionally but when they're like that it's not a good sign, and it's a shame as the beast has talent.

A weak four-runner staying chase was next up and it was surprising to see She's Late being backed into 5/2 as she's essentially shown nothing for over a year. A slipping mark isn't helping and this flat bred horse doesn't look in love with the game.

Grand Gigolo was popular and was in great order but again the price wasn't shouting value considering he'd been pulled up in a Hereford point not long ago. His jumping was novicey and he was beaten when coming down two out as the lengthy For N Against won well enough.

Four out the six favourites had gone in and Mr Monochrome was hot favourite for the bumper despite shouldering a penalty. As you will have read many times, it takes a good one to defy a penalty in NH flat races.

Mr Monochrome may well turn out to be good, as this tall, good looking and well related animal has a frame to fill. But he's just a bit immature and this run probably came soon enough just a fortnight on from Hexham.

I fancied him to get turned over as there were a few likely sorts, none more so than Seniergues, a 50k buy last year who is a strong looking four year old. He posted a tame effort though, never really travelling and perhaps this was too sharp a test. His granddam is none other than wonder mare Lady Rebecca, while the dam was largely useless although did win over 3m on heavy.

C Mann's Pickamix went down as a fair sort with some size although a little unfurnished. He's clearly a decent animal as he motored clear in the straight leaving the jolly in his wake. High Wheeler ran another solid race and this unfurnished sort can build on his two runs when switched to timber.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Out of the Shadows

The 2.40 at Perth looks a competitive affair but that should mean there’s some value around and there are some I’m happy to oppose that take a chunk out of the market.

Mister First is one such animal. Formerly a frustrating type with a 3/40 record over fences, he’s since won two weak races at the course and now finds himself on a career high perch in a much deeper race. He's clearly in the form of his life but I can see him being friendless in the market throughout the day and is readily opposed.

Vesperal Dream won this race last year and is just 1lb higher now after only two lesser efforts in the interim. He loves quick ground and this has clearly been the plan so will have his supporters. But this looks a deeper renewal and he’s none too consistent.

Katgary used to be trained by Paul Nicholls but was off-loaded after dismal efforts this spring at Cheltenham and Newbury. He made a decent fist of it on his first outing for the new yard but connections immediately go back for some headgear, and although it’s too early to write him off, he has questions to answer.

Imjoeking ought to go well if fully wound up, which you can expect him to be. He’s gone well fresh before but you have to be concerned that he’s only run twice in almost two years. There’s not much leeway in his mark and he might need a PB to take this...that’s a tall order even though trip and ground are in his favour.

Shadows Lengthen is my idea of the winner. The 10-year-old had an enviable 5/13 record over fences but has since gone seven without a win. However, he’s down to 1lb below his last winning mark and proved here two runs ago that he retains all his ability – a mistake two out costing each-way punters dear.

I fancied him at Stratford last time out but the ground had gone after pre-meeting rain and despite wins on soft early in his career he just doesn’t seem to go on it anymore.

In this grade he just has a touch of class and for the record his stats in Class 3 chases over about 2m4f on good ground are 211, while his last win at Wetherby 20 months ago came in a weak Class 1 event. In a nutshell, everything is in place for a very big run.

Of the others; Kilgefin Star is a likable type but has something to prove jumping-wise and didn’t show enough on his return from a break to warrant consideration off this mark. 

Jet Master is 2/11 over fences but very hard to win with – everything has to fall right. The handicapper has been very kind in dropping him 7lb since his last run and there’s no reason why he can’t have a say off this mark if things go his way. Gleann Na Dochais is 0/12 in Class 3 and the other pair are easily opposed.

Conclusion: Vesperal Dream, Imjoeking and Jet Master will have their supporters and rightly so, but having backed Shadows Lengthen the last twice I’m not deserting him now with everything in his favour. I’m slightly worried about the pace angle but Kilgefin Star and Cowards Close like to press so hopefully there’ll be no dawdling, that wouldn’t suit my selection.