Friday 30 September 2016


It was good to be back at the Northumberland track after a sabbatical although with the wind piercing the clear blue sky a feel of autumn was about the place.

Declarations were made on good ground but rain on Thursday meant they ran on good to soft, and although the official call had soft places they were getting home well enough.

However the rain meant quite a few were scratched which robbed the day of some interest, although there was still some meat on the bone.

After by-passing the opening seller we came to a maiden hurdle where the market foretold the story with Spirit Of Kayf heavily punted on his debut over timber.

His form made him hugely interesting but just how forward would he would be? Paddock inspection confirmed the market's view that he was very fit indeed and he wasn't one to take on with the vastly improved T Dowson taking off 7lb.

Master Of Finance came there with what looked a winning run at the last but was essentially outstayed by a fitter horse who was stronger at the trip. But this was a decent effort and he will clearly get the trip well at an easier venue. He looked pretty forward but should come on for it.

Min Alemarat is one to note for the future. With plenty of bone and scope, he was formerly decent before going the wrong way on the level. He could just be coming back to himself and will be interesting in handicaps later on.

There was a mystifying move for Shotofwine, who had little chance on the book, and unsurprisingly couldn't go with them when the quickened up.

The novices handicap over 2m4f was whittled down to four runners and it looked a decent opportunity for paper favourite Tickenwolf to enhance his course record on chase debut.

He has the size for fences and looked plenty forward enough, and looked the most likely winner. However, the market preferred Nefyn Bay, and it looked like the money was right as McCain's horse led everywhere bar the line.

That said, it always looked as though Tickenwolf had the momentum to go past, but he took an age to hit full stride and despite his pedigree you'd think he'd relish and some extra yardage.

More mystifying money came in for Bertalus (6/1 into 3s) but the yard rarely gets them ready first time and this robust type looked very much to need the outing beforehand. A soft ground stayer, this was not his day.

Lowanbehold was a bit disappointing again and this moderate looker has seemingly peaked at the age of nine.

Double W's went off favourite for a 2m4f handicap hurdle but regular punters should have figured out by now that the Jefferson horses have been needing their first run of the season and this fellow was no exception.

I marked him down as 80-85% fit beforehand, lacking definition behind the saddle and needing to tighten up round the belly. He's a keen going sort and it was predictable to see him empty out having taken the hill.

P Brennan gave Australasia a no-nonsense ride and such tactics paid off for a second time in two weeks as the big unit landed a bit of a punt.

With Mountainside running no sort of race (possibly in need of better ground) and few of the rags getting into it, the form may not be much. But Celtic Monarch in third sets the mark and Australasia proved his opening perch a fair one. You couldn't be sure he'll go on from this though away from Hexham.

The handicap chase, again over 2m4f, was wide open and the more you looked at it the harder it got.

The going clearly wasn't that bad as connections of Formidableopponent have been saying he needed proper good ground, and yet he completed a hat-trick here, cruelly denying Whats Up Woody just as he had Dun Faw Good a fortnight ago.

The latter named was backed into 7/2 but this was madness as this was a harder contest than the last day and with C Walton back on board regression was guaranteed.

Ever So Much is never one to take the eye but his effort suggested he liked neither ground nor track, while Blue Kascade threw in one of his poor efforts just when the stats suggested first time out was the time to catch him. Several of us gave him one more chance but patience has now run out.

There didn't seem any reason why Mad Money couldn't win a staying hurdle off the same mark as when winning over fences recently, but he backed away sharply up the hill in a finale I had little interest in with the top weight rated just 94.

Friday 16 September 2016

It's a Dun deal

There is quite a bit of interest in the Hexham twilight card today, not least in the 5.05 where Dun Faw Good stands out like the proverbial boil.

I was quite intrigued by his latest start just 11 days ago at Perth where he travelled strongly in a slowly run affair before basically being done for tactical toe.

However if you delve a little deeper into his form you'll see why he's primed for a PB effort over this stiff 2m 4f.

He was third in the 'Heart of All England' nearly 18 months ago, not far behind Cave Hunter who is a nailing good hunter chaser worthy of a 115 rating. A repeat of that form alone would be enough to land this.

Having not seen the track before the age of seven, he's now put together a decent string of point runs, winning twice this year between the flags.

They weren't strong events, but a mark of 91 is more than fair, especially when you consider he has won at Hexham's inner point course and made a pleasing return to rules at the track in June when running ok over an inadequate 2m. Add that to his run here in the 'Heart' - he clearly likes the place.

Good ground suits well and good to soft will be fine - any softer and confidence would be dented.

That aside, he ticks a lot of boxes. There is no front runner in the race so he should be able to dictate from the front, while the icing on the cake is the booking of Jamie Hamilton.

The last time the young claimer replaced Cath Walton on one of the stable's horses was when Central Flame dotted up at Haydock in 2015, improving a stone in the process. I'd be surprised if the promising rider can't extract similar improvement here.

If that's the icing, then the price is the cherry on top. I made him a 5/1 chance tops, but he is trading much bigger this morning.

There are five opponents headed by Blake Dean. I've never liked the horse but he's perked up for Gordon Elliott this summer, winning twice. He got round Sedgefield ok last time over fences but he's not that big and these obstacles can pose more of a problem.

I really didn't make him as short as he is. He's one to take on in this company.

Pekanheim has become disappointing and is now 2/23. He did show a bit more last time but despite winning twice here as a promising young chaser plenty of water has passed under the bridge since then.

Formidableopponent won last time out but went into that race with a 1/25 slate over fences and the horse he beat was 2/39 under rules. There was a distance back to the third and three high up in the betting failed to complete. In short, it was a poor race and he's a moody cuss unlikely to back that up.

Poetic Lord is arguably well treated but this flat bred hasn't shown anywhere near enough since joining R Menzies to warrant consideration, while Trillerin Minella is wildly inconsistent and ran deplorably on his first start for his new owner/trainer last time.

Tissue; 5/2 Blake Dean, 7/2 Pekanheim, 4 Formidableopponent, 5 Dun Faw Good, 12 Poetic Lord, 14 Trillerin Minella. 100% book

Conclusion: Dun Faw Good should have too much in hand for these granted decent ground and a positive ride, having made virtually all in three of his four wins between the flags. At 5/1 or bigger he rates a strong selection and I can see him going off shorter.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Save your Money

Monday's Worcester winner Mad Money was put in at around Evens for a quick repeat in the 4.50 at Kelso this afternoon.

The beast may of course win again off the 7lb higher mark, after all he is up against some largely disappointing sorts.

He is one of four horses being sent in what I presume to be a large lorry from down 'sarf' and of course has the assistance of the champion (still sounds strange) Dickie Johnson.

However, they are just about the only positives - if you can call them that.

The Worcester race was a dreadful contest which Mad Money was able to dominate from the front, in a change of tactics from his run before at the same venue when he looked pretty laboured.

He jumped poorly that day and dumped his rider three times in points in the spring. He's been on the go since March and I'm not convinced Monday's victory suggested he's just improved a ton out of knowhere.

And while the drop in trip should be 'OK', I doubt if it's in his favour. They'll go a good bit quicker round Kelso and he'll get hassled up front by Up And Go which is likely to put his jumping under pressure.

All in all he looked a truly shocking price last night - I made him 5/2 on my tissue.

The question is, can we find the winner. Not sure. First stop was Amilliontimes, who was a terrible jumper of fences early in his chasing career but has really improved in that department this year and that has been borne out by results.

His hurdles form always suggested he ought to be competitive from a mark of around 110 so I'm not that bothered by an 11lb rise for his last win - the runner-up subsequently proving much better than her mark that day.

Softened ground would be a worry but it looks like they missed much of yesterdays rain, so it shouldn't be an excuse. If they go quick up front that would only aid his hold-up style. He remains the most likely winner for me, but at 3/1 that's about right, certainly no shorter.

There are bigger prices about the others but they all have questions to answer.

Seven Devils has been disappointing and looks plenty quirky enough for now, but the others are of interest. The often moody-looking Up And Go is extremely well handicapped on latent ability and he showed a bit more last time.

That's maybe clutching at straws, but he's been in the doldrums for a while and yet is young enough to bounce back. D McCain continues to bang in the winners and it wouldn't surprise me if he pops up with cheekpieces on for the first time.

I thought Rough Justice did really well behind the well-handicapped Degooch at Sedgefield where he stayed on most doggedly. His overall profile is a worry but this Mullins cast-off has tumbled in the weights and if you can have faith in him backing up that last run he ought to go close.

I don't know much about Is Love Alive but he's pretty unexposed. He clearly has ability but there needs to be a good excuse for his last effort.

If you believe that a three-month break is significant he's another who could go close.

Conclusion; There are too many imponderables to have a bet in the race with much confidence. Indeed I could back four of the six and build a decent case for each at morning odds. The 'public' often puts a lot more emphasis on recent form than they should and this looks a classic example to me. In short, if you like using Betfair then a lay of Mad Money 3 or under is a sound play. If you fancy one of the others, you are getting decent value.

Tissue; 5/2 Mad Money, 3 Amilliontimes, 11/2 Up And Go, 11/2 Rough Justice, 9 Seven Devils, 10 Is Love Alive.

Thursday 1 September 2016


One of the best races I've seen at the track opened the card where good ground prevailed, although they changed the description to a shade faster late in the day.

To look at the TV pictures the ground appeared a bit rough on the bends, but down by the rails it sounded like there was plenty of cushion as they thundered past.

You could have given some sort of chance to six of the seven that went to post in the C3 staying hurdle, a difficult looking contest.

Here the betting really helped form the thoughts, with Luccombe Down and Omid short enough, particularly the latter. Luccombe Down was seeking a four-timer but that's very hard to do and I had stamina doubts over this extra trip, where he travelled better than the rest.

Omid looked fantastic and has grown and filled out in the past 12 months, but these were the deepest waters in which he'd swam. I really don't know what would have happened if he hadn't come down three out and taken the other with him.

I thought the in-form Skylander a genuine 7/2 shot and Optimistic Bias no bigger than 9/2. The latter had been made jolly in a couple of very competitive contests last term but I suspect he needs genuine good ground. This thorough stayer simply had to be in the mix, while Skylander just went off too big a price although I'm not a huge fan.

McLernon was in the right place on the winner and although the handicapper appears to be in charge he did appear to be idling at the end.

I bypassed a poor mares novice hurdle, although winner Lucy MC appears to have some scope but has yet to fill out. She shouldn't have won this though as the jolly dogged it.

Anti Cool's form after completing a hat-trick in the next doesn't look great, but he'll surely be better served by going right handed. He shortened into the last but fortunately had a couple of professional chasers in behind. At least the handicapper can't be too harsh.

A class 3 handicap hurdle over the minimum followed and Jacks Last Hope was a well backed FAV. They were always going to go off like stink so B Hughes won't take any plaudits for an exaggerated hold-up ride that came up short of expectations. The horse looked well and can win again.

Jokers And Rogues again caught the eye in the prelims and was 95 percent ready. He's a big sort who will surely be jumping a fence the other side of Christmas. He jumped fluently but did what he so often does and tied up badly on the run to the last. The fractions have to be precise with him and it looked like he went a tad too fast.

Gabrial The Great looked seriously crocked with D McCain a while back and his finishing effort once again suggested that an old injury may still be afflicting him. Venue picked up the pieces but this fell into his lap somewhat. He's not one to have great faith in.

The Backup Plan was a ghastly favourite in a four runner chase and a well-backed one too. He's had plenty of chances with excuses coming thick and fast. He must have decent ground but his jumping remains far too scratchy.

With Dursey Sound so doggy as to be unbackable and Rough Justice having no form it left Degooch as an obvious choice. Fit and well, he ran perfectly well up and grade and trip last time and with course form a big run was assured.

He probably wasn't doing a lot in front and his mark should remain a fair one. Rough Justice finally showed some form and this big strong sort looks a durable type who may be able to back this up in similar or slightly lesser grade.

Last week's winner Vic Last Stand looked in tremendous fettle and it came as no surprise to see her strongly supported. 'Sticks' Dawson was always in the right place for this drop in trip and he even got a cheeky breather in on the home turn. When mares like this suddenly find their form it's folly to take them on.

Pixiepot lost little in defeat but sadly this was her fifth runner-up finish and she came back sore, Roll Of Thunder was notably held up way out the back and this normal front runner finished quite well. A return to Hexham in the coming weeks may see him in better light.

Our Reward looked a shoo-in for the finale and was fully revved up after a three month hiatus. He looks well worth his 115 rating and the jockey W Featherstone is as good a claimer as you could wish to see. Crakehall Lad looked really well but his 114 perch is a false one based on victory in a wretched Cartmel novice.