Wednesday 30 November 2016


The return of NH action at the Bridge usually heralds great feelings of joy, but this was not a card to enthuse over and what a ghastly sight it was for value seekers as six of the seven jollys went in unchallenged, with the other withdrawn at the start.

The conditionals' hurdle was split and they looked anything-but competitive affairs, the market leaders looking to be ones to concentrate on.

The conclusion drawn prior to the opener was that Thyne For Gold should be just about good enough given his consistent form, particularly in light of a remarkable doubling in the price of southern raider Normandy King, who proceeded to run deplorably.

Cloud Monkey and Leading Score filled the places but neither is one to go overboard about, and the winner did not need to improve to land this.

Division two had a similar shape to it with old rivals from the flat Italian Riviera and Cape Hideaway expected to be involved in the finish - which they surely would have been had the latter not slipped on landing over two out when challenging.

It was left to another huge market drifter All For The Best to chase the winner home, but again he's not one to be especially interested in being a close-coupled, compact animal.

There wasn't anything to recommend amongst the also-rans regarding future investment.

The juvenile hurdle wasn't a great one, Skelton's Does It In Style failing to live up his name my coming down on the bend after looking the one with most about him physically beforehand.

Eventual winner Fidux is quite small and light framed and didn't achieve a great deal here, although in fairness a better gallop would have suited, while the luckless Walford yard yet again missed out when their Aislabie unshipped J Greenall two out, when poised to deliver a challenge.

The form is held down by 54-rated flat horse Allfredandnobell, who did at least advertise the well-being of the Hammond yard.

Nortonthorpelegend was rightly made a warm order to supplement last week's Sedgefield win, with conditions in his favour, in the handicap chase. He wasn't opposed lightly, although there was plenty of each-way value to be had if you got it right.

I favoured Valleyofmilan but he ran very flat, making errors, and was yet another McCain chaser to run below par - the trainer is winless in three months over fences.

Bonzo Bing finally delivered on earlier promise having dropped miles in the weights, connections finally twigging that he wants a trip.

This was a bit of an odd race though with very little incident, Ueueteotl and the pint sized Iora Glas merely plodding on, and it's not really a race to take much from.

The withdrawal of Tara View down at the start made the next a non-event - the King mare would surely have beaten Miss Maiden Over, who looked ponderous at several obstacles.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the sight of King's French import Laissez Dire prior to the novices chase. Billed as a two horse race, it wasn't even that as money buyers stationed around the paddock would have been in clover having spied the gorgeous four-year-old, who would have won without the allowance.

Work In Progress doesn't look the easiest of conveyances and although he was up against it here he's one I'd prefer to take on in the medium term. As for the winner, it'll be exciting to see him progress this term as he's very forward and value for the allowance.

Jovial Joey and Miami Present skipped round in their own time, but both fenced with aplomb in the main and will be of interest, especially the latter who should come on for the run and wasn't knocked about.

I wanted to be onside with Jefferson's Helmsley Lad in the closing bumper, but he still looks like he has plenty of growing up to do. It looks like he'll want a trip, as he was readily brushed aside by Skelton's heavily backed Getaway Whiskey, a laid back sort who was altogether more professional and had too much speed in a weak affair.

Monday 28 November 2016

Doncaster weekend


There had been plenty of rain earlier in the week but it was drying out by the hour on Town Moor and the ground appeared to be no worse than good to soft, and arguably better on the hurdles track.

The Unit looked one of the bets of the day in the opening novice hurdle, belatedly up in trip after going down in a speed test at Kempton last time. With Our Reward and Ballycrystal likely to set the race up it was hard to envisage defeat, and that feeling continued throughout the race until King's horse ran about after hitting the front.

Tom Bellamy did well to get the youngster home in the end from the rallying Ballycrystal, who has stepped up markedly on his Sedgefield win. Both of them should go on to better things, while Our Reward looked to run his race in third but probably needs a drop in the ratings.

The handicap chase over 2m was an intriguing race and with the ground coming in his favour I strongly backed Oliver's Gold to be the latest to uphold the recent Kelso form.

I still don't know how he got beat by the often frustrating Festive Affair. Upsides two out and Jonjo's under the cosh, I didn't even check the in-running market as it looked a question of how far.

I did wonder why the cheekpieces had been dispensed with, and perhaps the lack of headgear made the difference. The Walford yard is absolutely flying but somehow this one got away.

I quite liked the chance of Starkie as well, despite his injury-plagued past, but he may have needed  this - it was quite hard to tell. I wasn't convinced by Vital Evidence's first go over fences at Sedgefield, considering a bit of a random event (and the form isn't worth much). The flat bred horse did not look at ease over these bigger fences and I'd be against him big time if they persevere over the larger obstacles.

It was a shame they pulled out Wetherby casualty Royal Plaza in the next as he made the market for my fancy, Boyhood. The T George inmate remains unfurnished physically but he looks a decent stayer in the making and he looked leniently treated on his latest effort at Aintree.

He was a very solid favourite in the end and despite showing greenness once more ran out an easy winner, and he'll continue to progress. Indian Brave was the paddock pick, a lovely chaser for next season. He's a bit big and ungainly at present, and I thought he'd come on for the run. It was a big run and he's one to look out for.

It was an interesting novice handicap chase with eight going to post. It wasn't easy choosing between them but there was value to be had as Misfits was surprisingly high in the betting on the back of a debut effort at Kelso, the form of which looked dubious.

She didn't look very big against some of these and the Russell yard has a poor record at Donny. Florida Calling lacks a bit of scope and again ran as though something isn't quite right. Duke Arcadio has been patiently handled but is a proper three mile chaser and he took a big step in the right direction with bold jumping performance.

I thought he must come on for the outing and he can certainly go one better soon. Deputy Commander looked straighter and the NTD inmate always looked like getting the better of the argument up the straight.

This might be okay form as the third, Pyrshan, has some decent efforts to his name in this grade and shaped much better over fences as he often had over timber. Carlo Rocks was well beaten but his time will come...he needs much softer terrain and the C Bailey stable is pretty cold just now.

Azert De Coeur was a shoo-in for money buyers but Venetia's horses often fail to back up reappearance wins and this six-year-old has never been able to run two races alike. Caveat Emptor as they say but even if you weren't interested in taking short odds, finding the winner wasn't easy.

Germany Calling is a summer horse and this ground was on the edge of his comfort zone, but he capitalised on what turned out to be a very weak race. Distant runner-up Drumlee Sunset simply looks high in the handicap, as does Special Catch, who may be best at 2m. Katachenko and his trainer remain in the doldrums.

The staying hurdle wasn't a great one but Lough Derg Leader had a bit of quality about him and the five-year-old did well to win as he liked after getting outpaced when the race finally got going. Winning here off 120, he's obviously got loads of ability. Handsome Sam wants soft ground and fences so his effort was promising - he didn't go on last season so he needs to go and back this up.

Ravenhill Road was an impressive winner on debut and he looked a good thing to go in again under the penalty, less his rider's claim. He's a good looker, strong, and looks a good galloper.

The opposition wasn't great. The Queen's horse Take To Heart is leggy at this time, while Midnight Moss is a lovely strong horse to bear in mind for the future, but he was green as grass before this. Marten is a well-made animal who is probably just backward mentally, but the runner-up Molly Childers looks a grinder of medium build and soft ground will likely see her in better light.


Not a great deal to report, not least owing to the fact of three other meetings going on and little of interest at Donny, particularly at the front end.

Mahlerdramatic had a very good bumper win to his name over a year ago and returned here looking fully revved up. He's a nice horse that has strengthened up a good deal since I saw him looking leggy and weak last Fall. However, Minella Rebellion came with a reputation and the market suggested he was very good.

He didn't looked much physically, just an unfurnished four-year-old, and Mahlerdramatic had two years on him and made it count. Ellison's horse jumped great despite looking very green in front, and was value for further. The presence of the previously ordinary looking Focaccia gives the form a queer look, so we'll see what the assessor makes of them in due course.

The second was as poor a race as you're ever likely to see on a Saturday card, but the 0-100 saw an exciting finish when the only two you could back - Mister Don and Lakefield Rebel - fought it out.

Mister Don let the side down with a tame finish at Wetherby before, but this was weaker still and to be fair he appeared to battle hard to get up on the line to beat Lakefield Rebel, who would have won with a better jumping display.

The latter is very lightly raced considering he's turning 11, but hopefully he'll be able to string a few races together now. He was always built for fences, so there should be more to come from him, but let's not get carried away...this was dreadful stuff.

Third home High Counsel again found nothing, but perhaps he doesn't stay. He's worth a try over shorter, and as he's not that big he should be fine over timber.

I missed the weak mares' race, but not the novices chase that followed which was a difficult affair in which several had chances. Gold Present took the honours despite market weakness - he's a very strong chasing type, he galloped all the way to the line and should hold his own down south.

Drumlee Lad seemed to run his race in second as did Viens Chercher, who looks a tad high in the weights, so the race has a sound look to it. I'dliketheoption isn't that big but he jumped and travelled well before not getting home - it looks like he just doesn't stay at the moment.

The punt on Crosspark was the most surprising element to this. 9s into 3s for his out of form trainer, and with winning form over 3m on very soft ground, things weren't likely to fall his way on this occasion. I liked Bigpipenotobacee, you can see why they've gone straight over fences with him, but this was a tough introduction and it looked like he needed the run.

Cornborough was the day's good thing for the M Walford barn where only a false run race would get him beat. Cue shenanigans at the start where nothing wanted to make it, until M Griffiths used his initiative to quickly build up a 10 length gap on the rest on the in-form Unison. A jockey with brains, eh. He'll be quite a catch, whoever he is.

Cornborough apparently has to come late so this was never going to suit, and he never looked like getting there. One of those things - or maybe I need one of those computer programs that tells me where the pace is going to come from.

Kalondra couldn't be opposed in the next but again things didn't fall his way - they didn't crawl but it wasn't fast enough and this good looking horse is the type to go well in a much better contest. There's no doubt in my mind he was the best horse in this race, and he'll remain well treated as a result of the way it panned out.

Staying on in fourth was Very First Time. Don't forget his name.

The junior bumper was actually really interesting and how lovely for us jump boys to see the great T Murphy back in the winners enclosure. Irish Prophecy was the nicest of the bunch, a strong individual and forward enough to do the business, with Murphy's renowned patience once again coming to the fore.

Motcomb Street is a nice horse but he went for home early and didn't stay, Arakhan is a bit leggy at this stage and Flashing Glance ran a fine race in third for one so green and backward beforehand.

Wednesday 23 November 2016


Having got just about everything upside down for the last fortnight I thought I'd tread a bit carefully back on 'home' soil. Any punter who's been through that scenario will be well aware of what happens next.

I managed to take a closer look at the two opening novice hurdles and by show time I was convinced Craggaknock was going to go very close with the market set up by, you guessed it, a J Ewart 7/4 shot!

Lycidas looked like most other Ewart runners - very fit, very lean, on his toes, a bit awkward. Robbing The Prey caught everyone's eye last time and down in trip was very popular with that Hughes bloke doing the steering.

However Craggaknock was the best horse in the race and was a very solid performer on the flat, with plenty of soft ground form. If he could jump, he would win. As it happened, he was sticky early doors but got better under a cool ride from J Greenall. I like this horse a hell of a lot. The Walford yard is in terrific form. He can defy a penalty.

A few of these had a quiet day out, checking out the A1 scenery. Beeno may have finished closer than ideal, but there's no doubting he's a fractious type. This wasn't the first time he caught the eye, though. Ulva Ferry will need some time - he's a big staying chaser.

Div II saw the progressive mare Kalaniti go off favourite and rightly so, albeit with doubts about the ground. This may have been the weaker of the two races, but I like this horse a lot and her greenness will hopefully mean the assessor will err towards lenient. Don't forget she carried a penalty here.

Smart Boy has plenty of filling out to do and isn't one to be interested in for now, but Pikarnia (Wade > Menzies) was being closely monitored and he did well to stay on after a near-race ending blunder at halfway. He'll improve for the outing.

Having decided to shut up shop having regained some poise in the betting ring, everything proceeded to pan out how I thought it might. Zeroshadesofgrey has not improved one bit in 18 months and has frankly been disappointing. He's very one-dimensional but I didn't oppose him as it looked like he'd have an easy time of it again on the front end.

That he did, but the weight concession to ace mare Actinpieces proved too much. I've waxed lyrical about the big grey before but she's looked clumsy over fences and was very flat last time out. At 3/1 I had to pass her over, despite Pithivier looking in need of the outing and Flashjack conspicuously weak in the market despite looking revved up for it. His jumping was mediocre.

Actinpieces was reported after the event to have been in season last time out. This is just the kind of information we could have done with BEFORE the race. Maybe it was hidden in the pages of the RP. I don't buy it.

The juvenile hurdlers don't do much for me but it was surprising to see American bred Forth Bridge go so close on this ground. He nearly did for the well-backed Coeur De Lion, who showed a likeable attitude to get up close home. I thought Indirocco had enough about him, and he may just have needed the run.

With three of the eight in the handicap chase saddled by the frigid Hammond kennel, we could hardly lose, it seemed. Somehow we did though, after passing up the opportunity to back Aye Well at 13/2 early doors despite the beast being dropped a massive 4lb for an ok reappearance run.

I actually backed the winner of that Kelso race, a useful performer named Imjoeking. I remember it well because I've not backed many winners of late. My point is, that was a very good race. The second, Aye Well's stable mate Quick Decission came out and won next time. The third, Domtaline, is a very solid yardstick, and Oliver's Gold is a winner waiting to happen.

I've backed Aye Well a couple of times before and he ran unaccountably badly. That sort of thing sticks with you - a punter's failing. By the time he was 3/1 the value had gone - in any case the deeply attractive Doctor Phoenix had caught my attention and he looked ready to go.

However, the good Doctor looked rusty early doors and this may have told at the business end. The concession of 23lb proved to much in the final analysis, but cash lost on the Doc is merely lent.

Micky's horses are starting to come to the boil and Witness ran on to very good effect back in fourth, while Roxyfet was outclassed here but his mark should start coming down and he looks a better physical specimen this term. Back To Bracka is a good animal and if I had more money than sense I'd make an offer to the owners.

The times I've taken on horses running under a penalty (or like Royal Plaza, without) are too numerous to recount. But the fact remains they win every time, as they should, so I stopped doing it. However, I thought the Warwick race fell apart last week, and Royal Plaza has often been a bridle horse. This was a stronger race, and King never likes to run them back too soon. That was the case for the prosecution. It made perfect sense.

A horse that has been in my tracker for over a year is Cooking Fat. He looked a real nice type in the making but appeared to have blown his mark last season before having some time off. He came back to run a mighty race a fortnight ago, and was jacked up 5lb for his pains. I thought he had a hard race, and that this could come too soon. This is what happens when you over-analyse things.

He's a nice f*$!ing horse alright. He absolutely shit up after the odds-on jolly got rid of his rider. Still, no damage done! Eastview Boy has a race in him, I think I've mentioned that before. Like Hammond, the Kirby hurdlers are not far off now.

The mares bumper looked a decent contest but Petticoat Tails could be better than that. The strong looking Goodgirl Teresa had the PTP experience and went off strong, and the jolly looked in trouble turning in.

But with the rest beaten off, the Greatrex filly kicked in the turbo and the race was over. She looked to have a bit of class about her beforehand and she can take high rank - I'm sure they'll be looking at Aintree in April with this daughter of Presenting, who could look even better on good ground.


I'm officially sick of the place. Too much crappy racing and not enough good horses. One or two races worth coming for, and frankly it's better to stay at home.

Having warned clients not to be drawn into backing Duhallowcountry in the opener, despite seemingly having optimum conditions and a 'pro' jock in the plate for once, I'm drawn into backing the beast in the total absence of a better solution.

Can we back a J Ewart 7/4 chance? Ever? No, we damn well can't. Sky Full Of Stars PU. However, after going off like stink, our hero is also, PU. Ghastly stuff. But what do you do when there's a black line through everything else. Stay at home, is the answer.

Mahlerdramatic is scratched from the novice hurdle leaving Skelton's chaser in the making The Bay Oak a warm order. And rightly so. He bumped into a goodun here last time and compensation looked assured.

Tiger Mountain has been very slow on the uptake, but he looked capable of landing the place money in a weak event as Easterby's Min Alemarat is regressing with each run. Tiger Mountain will need more real estate to win next time, but that's what I expect him to do.

I'm not sure about flat exile Aramist. He's got a bit about him but this wasn't a great start. Priory Lad ran a huge race for a huge horse and he should pick up a handicap in the New Year.

Viens Chercher was taken out of the 'decent' handicap chase for novices where Waiting Patiently had been touted for some time. A nice horse with a serious engine, his form with 'hope of the north' Cloudy Dream looked good in this context. At 'levels you devils' I wasn't tempted, but he did it very well and considering he looks just a baby, I think he could be very good indeed. You can trust his new handler to do the right thing.

Nansaroy is big and needed it, Sean Ban was very lean fit but ran a stinker. Burtons Well was fit after an absence, he's not massive but nicely put together and bumped into one here.

Back to the drudgerie of a 0-105 handicap hurdle and Discoverie landed some bets at his favourite venue. He stuck his head down and battled it out which he doesn't always do. He was well placed to win.

Mitcd looked in terrific order but was probably found out by the ground, which was a big worry beforehand. Back at Muss, she can win again. Fiddler's Flight wasn't quite ready but will probably remain competitive in these as the season goes on.

Greyed A had R Johnson in the plate for Div II and he stood out like a beacon in the paddock. He looked a 120 horse against cretins and 2/1 was like shooting fish in a barrel. It was that kind of day. Having slid down the ratings Stilo Blue Native decided today was the day to put it all in. In fairness it was another winner for the J Wade >> (name your trainer) system - a gift that is likely to keep on giving.

With that said I took a view in the handicap chase that the ex-Wade Nortonthorpelegend was one to be against at around 3.25 (that's digital for less than 9/4 BTW). Doubts over the ground (I'm later to learn they nearly took in out), stamina queries and Hughes surely can't ride another four-timer can he? In he goes without touching a twig.

Nakadam was terrible again despite having things in his favour, Jonny Eager probably needed the run and wants to be at the front in a real stamina test. Attimo was fit for a very big unit and I thought he showed up well and perhaps didn't get home. Master Rajeem looked in good heart but his finishing effort was dreadful, almost unrideable from two out.

The bumper was alright - Born For War (strong staying chase type), Codeshare (flat bred, surely wants better ground) and Dear Sire, who looked to have grown and strengthened from last season. However, Oxwich Bay had run in that good Newbury bumper, form which gave him a serious chance in this.

He's a backward looking animal but won with a bit to spare, and should do very well in time.

Sunday 20 November 2016

Haydock weekend

Plenty to get through so no messing around on this Sunday morning. The rain certainly arrived in Lancashire prior to racing on Friday, there were heavy showers during racing then loads more through the night into Saturday. However, it seemed to just ride very soft throughout, with loads of surface water.


Race 1
Capitaine didn't look straight forward in the paddock, carrying his head a bit high. he carried that trait through to the race and didn't appear to want a battle from two out. One to be wary of. The winner, Tahira, was very fit and expertly ridden by H Skelton. Arguably the best around at present.

Race 2
Cloudy Dream looked in great nick but would he go on the ground? Fortunately for him it was the first race of the season on the chase course and he made light of it, winning impressively. He was receiving 11lb, but it was a great performance. King's Odyssey and Hollywoodien looked as though the race would do them good.

Race 3
Island Heights I thought was bomb proof each way here but he checked out tamely for a rare poor effort - the market spoke. Ami Desbois is a real progressive sort and is nice and compact - he may not make a chaser. For now, he's one to follow as he's strengthened up and stays really well. Courtown Oscar looked pretty straight and the Kirby horses are poised to start winning. Iiked the way he ran. Sharp Response looked a bit lean and I've said from the outset this horse needs another summer on his back. Then we'll see a racehorse.

Race 4
Politologue is knowhere near the finished article physically and would definitely benefit from the outing, making his performance all the more remarkable. At a soft ground festival, he would take a world of beating, I was so impressed by this. Vintage Clouds ran his race and bumped into one. He's an unlucky horse and his time will come.Welsh Shadow was very keen beforehand and may have done too much, too soon. He was done after belting one down the back, but I fancy he'll bounce back. Aqua Dude and Delusionofgrandeur needed the run - the former looked knowhere near peak form.

Race 5
An informative fixed brush race. The winner Constantine Bay looked to be carrying some timber, but outbattled Brio Conti who may turn out quite decent whe he learns to settle better. Billy Bronco looked in need of the run, and not great in his coat, while I was disappointed in Our Dancing Paddy, who looked strong and fit but very one-paced. He stayed on as if he already needs three miles. Stick To The Plan is weak and leggy and was tenderly handled. Patience will be rewarded.

Race 6
A very good bumper I suspect. Claimantakinforgan was well touted but took a drift in the market, however he looked very well and this athletic sort is clearly useful. The one he beat, Global Stage, is a strong, sturdy powerhouse. I had a bit on Cadeyrn who is nicely made, but lost his pitch before staying on well. Ballynorth Benny is a nice big sort, Another Stowaway and Costly Dream (weak in front) are others worthy of a mention.


Race 1
A difficult race. I liked Sleepy Haven and he looked in good order, and he'd probably have come second but for stumbling after the last. He's a very clumsy animal. Clyne is a nice big horse who should keep improving and I thought he'd come on for it. Baratineur looked really well and it's not the first time I've got a Henderson horse wrong - he ran no race.

Race 2
French raider Fyrmyn looked a treat but his price had shrunk and couldn't be backed blind on form. Connetable should come on for the run while Great Fighter needs to find his level after leaving Godolphin. He's big enough to jump a fence.

Race 3
I was all over Askamore DArsi but he got a strop on after failing to live with the early gallop and he put in one of his moody efforts. Mysteree is a horse I haven't forgiven for running weakly at Donny last year. Let's put that behind us now. He's strengthened up a tad for his new handler and although he'll never look the most robust he clearly jumps great and stays forever. If I was an owner with the former trainer I'd be having words with myself. Gonalston Cloud wasn't fit, while Rigadin De Beauchene looked really well, but was very much on his toes and may have burned too much energy early on. I liked Chase The Spud, and he looks to be progressing. He stayed all the way to the mile.

Race 4
Melodic Rendezvous looked really well, but this was a non-event. Fair play to H Skelton, who again rode them to sleep by getting first run on them on Ch'Tibello.

Race 5
The fixed brush hurdle. They went a good clip but very few good into it. Point The Way couldn't live with the pace and could only plug on into sixth. I was disappointed with that. There were some lovely strong types in the race, Yala Enki looked great, albeit a bit fizzy again. But he ran his race. Theo's Charm is a lovely horse and clearly has a touch of class - he's one to follow. Affaire D'Honneur is a lovely chaser in the making but he was very fizzy and I think they need to go back to the drawing board with him - it's been a curious campaign. Two Taffs is a big chaser. He may be a bit soft, and his run came to nothing. But he should be sent chasing sooner rather than later.

Race 6
Seeyouatmidnight didn't measure up to the best physically and his odds looked ridiculous, even allowing for the fact he's run as if something was amiss. I think he's a second rung horse. Coneygree looked fit enough, but Cue Card had tightened up from Wetherby even though I thought he was fit there. He's best given a patient ride, and he keeps proving the doubters wrong. Vezelay has run a stormer for a horse lacking scope.

Race 7
I've had my doubts about Three Faces West even before his sulky effort last time out. He looked different here in cheepices, buzzy beforehand. He still messed about going to the start, but got his own way in front and it was a one horse race. The Smith pair needed the run, but Midnight Prayer looked fit. Saroque was another Venetia horse to get a bit wound up beforehand and he was overbet with everybody telling me it was the one to be on. The E Williams horses were rugged up right to the track so it was hard to decipher whether Firebird Flyer needed it. He was given a tender ride and is one to note as he looks to be improving still.

Tuesday 15 November 2016


Not much of a punting card but the 'long term' notebook was very much to the fore as is often the case at the Newark venue, where the going seemed to deteriorate throughout the afternoon after starting on officially 'good, good to soft in places' It was slo-mo by the end of proceedings.

The opening stayers handicap chase was a ghastly affair taken by Fly Home Harry, which felt like a bit of a miss. I've got know the beast over the past three years and after plunging down the weights went for a mighty plunge on him on chase debut last October.

He looked a right dodgepot that day so it was galling to see him get up from an uncompromising position at Rasen next time, from a mark a pound lower than he was off today.

He'd done little in the interim but was produced looking fit by the Swinbank team, however my trust issues are deep seated and he wasn't really considered as a betting proposition despite the nearly 3m trip expected to suit.

They went a fair old clip thanks to D Cook on Cross To Boston and that played into P Moloney's hands as the winner came from well back to beat the race-fit Annamult in a tight finish.

There were only negatives to take from the race - Brave Helios is not a well made horse and I suspect will continue to struggle over fences, while chief market rival High Counsel (on the small side) has had a few chances now, travelling cosily here before finding very little.

Houndscourt doesn't look the force of old, as things looked in place for a revival, while Cross To Boston doesn't find much at the business end and old Foot The Bill was lamentable.

The novice chase brought together some real nice types but Churchtown Champ made mincemeat of them despite a couple of notable errors. The one he beat, Pearl Swan, looked very fit after a lengthy absence, so the result must be taken at face value.

Templehills came down over on the far side after going left several times and although he's a lovely chase type he clearly needs some time. Ballyhenry looks ok but had an awkward way about him and I'm surprised he held up so strongly in the market considering his documented wind problem and propensity for very soft ground. The Jonjo yard remains cold and Beggars Cross showed very little once again.

I marked Aliandy down as a fair sort likely to improve in time when finishing third to the useful looking Hitman Hearns at Catterick on New Year's Day. I was hoping for a very different animal 11 months on but he still looked a bit backward to me.

The market drift from 4s to 6 made me more comfortable to sit the race out but this 'confirmation bias' syndrome once again made a fool of me. He's very keen going and he was held up out the bag in quite exaggerated fashion. My suspicion is that he's a good deal better than what he's shown here, and he can't go up much for beating one of the rags.

There was a novice hurdle with some interesting sorts lining up yet it was impossible to oppose the form horse Ballymalin, who had performed with credit at HQ last time.

The race was for the minor honours and the silver medal went to Nobuttaboy, who didn't show a great deal in northern points and was picked up on the cheap. However, now with B Pauling the five year old looked a proper horse beforehand and the big drift on the machine looked overdone.

It came as no surprise to see the big horse chase home the jolly, although the proximity to the winner now leaves connections in a quandary.

I wasn't a fan of Powerful Symbol after he was turned over at Carlisle last term and once again he looked moody off the bridle. Physically I'm not that impressed with him and he's one to oppose in all but the weakest company.

Russian Service took fourth and may be better in time as he has some substance, but the mare Goodnight Charlie looked an ignorant brute and Between The Waters is backward looking physically and could do with some time to grow.

Cajun Fiddle didn't have much to beat in a weak mares race but she's a nice sort who should keep improving, while the K Bailey inmate My Cousin Rachel is built for fences and can pick up a race in due course. I wasn't taken by the Sherwood horse Versifier, but even I was shocked at how poorly she ran. It's worth remembering that many connections would have been hoping for much better ground than these were racing on.

Jaunty Thor was very hard to oppose against a bad bunch in the handicap hurdle, but he gave backers anxious moments before staying on well enough to defy the penalty. It amazes me that we all worry about nicking prices in the morning, complaining about not getting on and having accounts closed, when in the 40 seconds it took me to walk from the ring to the stands the odds on this one went from 13/8 to 15/8 (I wasn't on) and you could have filled the tank if you fancied it.

My Renaissance showed up well for a long way and should be able to pick up a small race for connections I like - it was surprising there was no support for it here as it looks a well made animal.

The closing bumper was very interesting and they looked a fair bunch, even though the closing stages were played out in slow motion, probably because they went an honest pace for once.

I didn't quite know what to make of the winner Agamemmon - but I certainly didn't think he would beat this lot. Pauling's Linenhall took the eye and looks certain to improve from this run, while Cresswell Legend is a good strong animal who can certainly pick up a bumper before going over timber.

Searching For Gold was well found in the market and he looked uncomplicated in the prelims...however he was anything-but in the run and ought to learn a good deal. Diamond Fort was found out in this better race while Midnight Jitterbug and Midnight Chill looked types to do well in time, but this seemed to happen too quick.

The principals had a hard race but I'm sure it will throw up plenty of winners.

Sunday 13 November 2016


There was some overnight rain and it was a dank enough day but you’d hardly call it much worse than good to soft ground.

They went steady enough in the opening mares novice hurdle which was taken in good style by the talented and much touted La Bague Au Roi. She’s a classy mare with plenty of size and ought to keep getting better with time and, eventually, fences.

Skelton’s Uttoxeter winner Whatduhavtoget chased her willingly but didn’t have acceleration after they pretty steady early on, and she too has enough about her to do well. Groovejet wasn’t that far behind but was suited by the way the race was run, and may have been flattered, as she lacks the scope of the front pair.

Back in fourth Fille Des Champs finished with plenty of running and she could do well in time, certainly over further.

The novice chase was an interesting heat and looked a three runner affair, but I took a pop at the rag Vendor, who wasn’t too far behind on hurdles form against some inexperienced types.

He nearly pulled it off too, albeit only handed an opening thanks to The Dutchman blundering at the final two, having jumped well to that point. The Dutchman was pretty fit, and is quite athletic without perhaps having a great deal of scope.

Ma Du Fou looked a bit laboured. He’s a big strong gelding who probably needs further, but they need to work on her jumping technique. Blue Heron drifted all day and then came in for late support. 

But his finishing effort was tame last time and I’ve said many times on this blog that they rarely come back of serious tendon injuries. He may prove me wrong, but he looks  like he’s not letting himself down under pressure.

Barramundi was popular in the stayers hurdle on the back of a quiet outing at Sedgefield, but the handicapper had taken evasive action. He looks a big, plain staying chaser but didn’t appear to see this out, or maybe he’s a bit slow.

Lough Salt showed signs of ability last season but the Walford yard has had a quiet spell with the horses apparently under a cloud. They have been looking well of late though, and this one appeared straight enough on his seasonal return, winning with loads in hand after fluffing the last two flights.

Rocklim looked awful, very fit and lean, dry in his coat. The Ewart yard is not one I’m a fan of and this one hasn’t done much physically in the last 12 months. Benenden and Patsys Castle were opposable on the ground, so it probably wasn’t a great race.

The feature handicap chase would make or break the day as Indian Voyage was down to a great mark, albeit over a trip that stretches him. It was disappointing that he didn’t travel into the race better, as I was hoping he’d get to the front before two out.

But Aerlite Supreme, well backed beforehand and looking fit, travelled all over them and really should have won but for throwing it away on the run-in. He had looked hard to win with before and now we know why.

Wells De Lune was a shock winner, especially as this tearaway fought back after looking beaten when clouting the last two. He lives on his nerves and hasn’t much condition on him, but you can’t fault his tenacity. That said, they were going knowhere in front and if he runs again before Christmas I’ll looking to take him on.

They were strung out behind with Blandfords Gunner a disappointment. He’s quite nice albeit rather leggy and may want another year. His jumping was patchy and he hasn’t gone on from his Leicester win…but time is on his side.

Monbeg Charmer was on his toes before the novice hurdle and carried that freshness into the race, going very freely out in front. They were exacting fractions, and he didn’t have enough left in reserve to fend off the green Some Invitation, a nice strong youngster who will do well in time. It was surprising he was able to serve it up to the hot favourite, and will get further.

Robinauthelad was disappointing again. He’s a very nice chaser in the making but clearly wants more time, a sentiment that applies to Nomoreblackjack who is very unfurnished at present.

The handicap hurdle looked difficult but I was against the quite small Taper Tantrum, who may need better ground, and Applesandpierres, who is quite small and wasn’t walking great. Like Blue Heron, he may never get over his earlier problems.

Plenty looked fit – Lightening Rod, Isaac Bell, Our Thomas and Cornborough looked ready to go, while Eyes Of The Tiger appeared to be carrying condition. Ellison is a canny handler and I’ve put away several times before as quite a few of his are able to carry excess around their belly. I must say the horse has flown under my radar, but he was very well backed and this was one for the boy Moscrop, who is not normally associated with such plots.

The closing staying handicap chase was a torrid affair as I couldn’t have the hot favourite West Of The Edge, who lacks size and scope for fences and is only 4/34 under rules. However, the good Dr Newland has done ok with all sorts of animals in the past and he’s worked the oracle again.

You couldn’t confidently put anything up against it though. Doubledisdoubledat looked fit but the Coltherd horses have been needing a run, while Nortonthorpelegend was definitely straight even though the Menzies horses have all been short of fitness. 

Urban Gale and Benefit In Kind were fit but they couldn’t even get the jolly off the snaff. Runswick Days had been pummelled 16lb for winning a bad race and the weight anchored him.

Friday 11 November 2016


I'll keep this as brief as I can as time is pressing. A good card for Gosforth Park, plenty of interest particularly from a paddock perspective. The ground was generally good to soft, not much worse, despite the car parks being under water.

Bestiarius was the nicest in the paddock for the opener but is more one for the future and I thought he'd improve for the outing. Sam Spinner was raring to go, very fit and his bumper form was useful. He hasn't grown an inch, and if any day was going to be his day then this would be it. He duly obliged and jumped ok in the main for a small horse - I'd be wary as to how well he builds on this, especially under a penalty.

I didn't mind Atomix, but he needs another summer to furnish, while Think Ahead looked massive on his first start for J Moffatt. Handicaps will be the plan. ACDC and Applaus looked straight enough but again they'll be sized up for a mark and can win races.

The second was a cracker and Pistol Park was backed off the boards to land a novice chase full of intrigue. He showed bags of promise over further last time and was ridden as if defeat was out of the question.

Lake View Lad will obviously win races over fences, and ran very well considering this was needed, while Boss des Mottes ran a super race in third and appears to be holding form for his new handler. he may flourish in this smaller yard.

Chidswell had the form but he looks far from straight forward - in fact if he was human you'd call him an idiot. His jumping got worse and he's just messing about, like the kid at the back of the class. This was a huge backward step.

The staying handicap chase wasn't for the faint hearted, St Gregory unsurprisingly upholding recent form to land a hat-trick despite a market drift. He saw off the late thrust of Onwiththeparty, a chasing type who looks certain to build on this as his finishing effort was better than last time at Ayr. Charlie Wingnut faded out of things and looked a patent non-stayer at this stiff 3m.

The mares hurdle looked a three-runner affair and I had Berkshire Downs down as the one to beat on the form book, ahead of Book At Bedtime and Verona Opera. The market fell in line, but not before we got filled 5/1 and downwards on the Thomson mare.

However, she's very lengthy, leggy, and not straight forward - despite this I hadn't condemned her as a dodgepot as she seemed to keep bumping into one. But you'd have to crab her effort up the straight, a questionable head carriage making life difficult for the excellent Cook. He couldn't have done much more, but Book At Bedtime was far more honest from two out and ran right to the line to deny the gamble.

Verona Opera was flattered last time out and she's a small filly with little scope - she'll remain one to oppose - while Rivabodiva threatened to spoilt the party but she quickly backed out of it and her temperament is very much under suspicion.

The handicap chase was a very tricky puzzle and I'm not sure the form is up to much. Jet Master ran Roquero out of it close home and the next two Rear Admiral and Zaru were both fit enough to run their races. I must note here that the K Johnson horses are all looking exceptionally fit and well at present. Something's gone on in that yard and if they have any decent horses in the kennel they could be worth following in the coming weeks. The Menzies horses, by contrast, are way behind everyone else and Water Garden badly needed it.

The bumper was trappy as nothing really stood out on looks, and there were many negatives including the favourite Nando, an unraced 50k animal. He looked very backward, immature physically, and was no price.

The next pair in the betting were May Star and and the unfortunately named Solighoster. The former had ok form for K Ryan last term, when he looked very green, and he still appears on the leggy side and needs time to strengthen.

Solighoster looked a more relaxed, professional sort who reportedly showed a good attitude to win his maiden point. None of the others looked forward enough to get involved and the pair duly fought it out, the Mulholland youngster sticking his head down to win well in the end. Irish raider Well Joey took third, but like so many from the Crawford kennel lacked any substance whatsoever.

Tuesday 8 November 2016


Quite a nicely balanced card with plenty of southern yards represented as they come in search of decent jumping ground, which looked like it was genuine good to soft.

The opener was an interesting novice hurdle as it featured a rather narrow, angular animal in Middlebrow which was a warm order after showing up well at Kelso last time out.

I wasn't that impressed by the horse that day, so was easily taken on with Prime Venture from the E Williams yard, whose bumper form suggested he would be hard to beat if translating that to timber.

The money for it came late, probably after paddock viewers saw it looking very well indeed, quite a compact, strong individual. He jumped very well in the main, and ran away from front runner Ca Le Ferra from the last. He's one to keep an eye on.

They came clear of the others, Free Stone Hill looking more a chase prospect while Bollin Ace once again proved himself a tricky customer, who surely wants a trip.

I was convinced last month's run by Ascot De Bruyere earmarked him as a likely winner of race two, but the Ewart animal proved me very wrong with a lamentable effort that marks him down as one to be wary of.

J Greenall appeared to want to lead them but couldn't get to the front and let the others do the hard yards, yet the French bred never picked up until the race was over.

Three Southern yards had some nice horses on show with B Pauling running Paddy's Field, a strong sort I saw at Market Rasen last term. He looked like the run would do him good but despite market support I was of the feeling he already wants more of a test.

Drumlee Lad scored on his first start for J Farrelly last term and he was ridden very confidently by the beleaguered B Powell to land the spoils again here. He looked very fit for this curtain raiser, but couldn't have done it more easily.

Bishops Court was the only one to go with him but his finishing effort has been laboured throughout his hurdles career and he wasn't finding anything again before cartwheeling at the last. He's not one to take forward, and neither is Wolf Sword who has no excuses left in the locker.

It was a real treat to see a horse like Le Breuil at lowly Sedgefield and he dismissed his opponents disdainfully in the novices hurdle, hurdling like a natural. He's a lovely sort, and was pretty fit for this. The late drift was startling but drew me in and this was a gift. The rest were moderate - The Bay Oak a staying chase type.

The second and final chase of the day was a proper betting heat as I couldn't have the over-bet Blakemount on my mind and half the field could easily be ruled out.

With Sue Smith hitting form it was clearly assumed Blakemount would be ready to go, but I had massive reservations about the trip at this track, while most of the yard's horses do need a run to put them straight.

Apterix looked a runner following a pleasing sighter behind the mighty Double W's at Wetherby, even though the horse doesn't look a natural chaser.

But he's always done things his own way and still wins more than his share, victory here making him 7/26 under all codes. His mark will suffer because of this though and he may struggle at the bigger tracks.

Blakemount ran a race full of promise and under more suitable conditions could make a mockery of his current rating. He'll definitely improve for this outing.

I placed a lot of faith in Raktiman, the only other I could give a chance to, but after failing to get to the front may have sulked as his jockey accepted a mid-div role. There's another race in him, this just wasn't his day.

I had no intention of playing the mares handicap hurdle but the short priced Fool To Cry looked one to take on, physically making little appeal and clearly she's just a summer jumper.

With The Last Bar also looking backward, the one that stood out was Ten Trees, who looked well and has thickened out quite notably after being very weak early in her career.

She looked so different that I half thought today wasn't the day, but she was very tight in the betting and was worth a dart with Beyondtemptation sure to make it a test at the trip. Things worked out well, with the favourite showing very little.

The last race saw Theatrebar return to action for D Skelton after a two-year absence and it was difficult to crab his appearance beforehand.

Easily the pick though were Karisma King from the aforementioned Smith kennel and J Candlish's Brydon Boy, both looking very fit and well for their introductions.

They ran very nicely but were powerless to prevent the well-handicapped Theatrebar sweeping past at the last, sending jolly backers and guessers alike home happy.

Saturday 5 November 2016


Back across the border we headed in readiness for a six race card, which attracted some decent fields on account of the soft, good to soft in places conditions.

Once again the big hill on the run to the last caught out plenty and at this time of year if you're not fit you aint going to be winning.

Kelka was produced in magnificent fettle by the Jeffersons and the well-backed filly hacked up in the opener in a weak, but interesting field.

I had her down as a very decent mare in the making after winning her debut bumper - she has plenty of size and scope and is bred to stay very well. This was a taking start and she is one to follow.

Quietly was up there all the way and the Sue Smith inmate, very backward last term, showed plenty here after looking pretty straight I must say beforehand. The other Smith horse, Priory Lad, wasn't anywhere near as fit.

Air De Rock was the first horse to figure from the V Williams camp in two months and although well turned out, was quite small and compact. He got very warm late on and may need time, while in behind Brackenmoss Rory (not fit) caught the eye, not for the first time, while Loch Linnhe and Motion To Strike (very warm, buzzy) can also win races.

Ryedale Racer made it 2/2 for Jefferson/Hughes with a simple victory under a penalty, without having to improve on his win at Carlisle. I'm surprised he hasn't grown or filled out, this horse, but he's a bonny sort. He's getting plenty of experience considering he ought to be a lot better in a year's time. Willie Boy is a big strong chaser who needs time, while Chu Chu Percy wasn't at all fit.

I like to put up a handful of horses to follow for a laugh at the start of the season and I gave I Just Know a good write up here last month, as I'm sure regular readers will know.

So imagine my delight when he rocked up looking head and shoulders above some mediocre opposition in the 0-105 handicap chase for novices. I've noted here before that the Smith horses are much straighter this term than is often the case and I Just Know looked tremendous, having strengthened up he really does look the part.

It was just so disappointing there was little in the field to give us much of a price. We had to avail ourselves of some 2/1 but the pleasure was in watching him jump the early fences without breaking stride.

Danny asked him up a couple of times but he was cute in going short, particularly at the last, and he looks an absolute natural. He's a 125 horse and we'll reassess his progress once he gets there - in the meantime keep backing him.

The next two races were of little interest from a punting perspective. A 0-100 2m handicap hurdle was won in good style by maiden Catchthemoonlight, under a polished ride from H Reed, who may be a conditional to follow. They went too fast up front but he got the fractions right. Pretty Miss Mahler was weak in the market but has rather telegraphed that she is ready to win soon, staying on well in second place. She's a half sister to the stables Monbeg River. Quest Magic looked big and should come on for this.

The 2m 4f handicap chase was a shocker. Most of them have lacked a finishing effort in the past, including the eventual winner Mumgos Debut, who benefited from a the step up in trip. This was dire, and he'll struggle in anything but poor company I suggest.

An interesting feature of this NH campaign is that John Wade has packed up training and now has more than 30 horses dotted around several northern yards. Forty Crown is one such animal, who runs in the colours of partner Maria Myco. I've never been a fan of the horse physically, but he turned up in pretty good order on his first start for G Bewley.

The 10-year-old was down in class on a career low mark and with improvement expected he looked a very strong bet to land the closing stayers hurdle.

But he proved disappointing, dropping the bridle after travelling well in the first half of the race. After staying on again after the last, I can only suggest either he blew up or he showed a bit of attitude. Blinkers had been applied last term, and perhaps he's worth one more chance if they reach for some headgear next time.

Roman Numeral didn't look straight and doesn't stay 3m in a horsebox, while Toarmandowithlove is capable of winning a poor contest of this type and may benefit for the outing.

Thursday 3 November 2016


Day two featured some classier action than the day before but it was pretty tepid stuff and very little business was done.

The first two events were quickly passed over. Favourites Cape Of Glory and Taurian both just looked better animals than their respective opponents, although neither was impressive in landing odds of Evens and 10-11 respectively. Chris Grant's Feeltherhythm didn't look fit in race two so may be one to take forward, but let's not get carried away with this form.

The third race on the card was a no-bet race on account of several horses appearing to have similar chances, and none of them were particularly enticing in the market.

I Williams' Faithful Mount looked a bit of value at 4s but this fair sort didn't go through with its effort very well...however the nice chasing type that is Clonalig House, who was first mentioned here when landing a bumper in 2014, certainly did. He floated on the good ground and was very light footed around the paddock, so softer terrain will likely be a no-no.

Stoneham looked well and was nicely backed, but was involved in a skirmish at the start before rallying well late on. She looks in form and could be one to be on next time. Arthurs Secret was in good shape and might do better under positive tactics, with some headgear back on.

A three-runner staying chase saw Grove Silver sent off a warm order in the face of weak opposition, but there was plenty not to like about the burly grey, whose trainer is cold at present. I've seen the horse looking really well in the past but he looked disinterested and not especially fit, while the ground was a concern.

He was taken on by Irish pair Our Sox, who by contrast was very alert, fit, almost too bouncy. His head carriage didn't really make him an enticing prospect either, which left the rag, an Irish point winner called Castletown Bridge.

Without prior knowledge of the beast you were guessing as to how he would cope with the stiffer fences, and he too appeared to be carrying a bit of timber. But he got round, and had the cajones to see off Our Sox with the jolly well stuffed.

Juvenile hurdler Milrow looked a worthy favourite getting a ton of weight from a nice sort in Canton Prince, but Venue took advantage of what turned out to be a fairly weak race by going in for a second time this autumn, without actually having to improve a great deal.

With Dr Newland's horse vanquished his short-priced jolly in the feature race Seefood looked one to take on, even though he was taking a sizeable drop in class.

Ms R Menzies saddled chief market rival Royal Macnab, who looked pretty straight despite the yard's horses all needing a run this term. Punters might have been hoping for an aggressive ride from the front, but T Kelly tried to sit on an easy lead and things didn't pan out.

Prince Khurram ran his race but isn't up to this grade, and thus it was left to the classier southern raiders to dominate the finish, Seefood travelling well down in trip to overcome a few sketchy jumps and win well from Wings Of Smoke, a big bull of a horse who could never land a telling blow.

Senatus was a good favourite in the closing bumper - which looked a weak affair - based on a solitary outing in May. The McLintock horse looked straight enough and had enough about him to suggest he would go on from this.

He put his experience to good use in the final furlong, with Drums Of War and Wemyss Point fighting out the minor honours despite looking like the race would bring them on plenty. T Vaughan's Sergio isn't very big but looked straight enough to get involved, but proved disappointing, while the Menzies youngster Strike Fear is a nice animal who nevertheless needs quite a bit of time.

Wednesday 2 November 2016


Up the A1 we went for a cheeky little card on the opening day of a two-day fixture where the going was on the quick side of good, forcing a couple of defections.

I liked the shape of the card and it turned out to be one of those days where everything fell into place. Well almost.

The opener was a poor handicap hurdle full of irregular winners, but I liked the chances of the rag Weapon Of Choice, who I've followed closely for the best part of 18 months. He doesn't really get the 2m but this would be the sharpest test he'd ever faced, down on his lowest ever rating of 102.

I've seen him looking better in the paddock mind you, and was almost talked out of a bet by the inner gremlins. But at something like 16 on the machine he was worth at least a throwaway bet against a bunch that I couldn't back on any given day, save Civil Unrest who happened to throw in a shocker. I only wish I'd filled the tank on the Sayer horse, who will never get a sweeter opportunity.

Ryalex had made the market for Hexham runner-up John Williams, who looked the bet in the novice chase, but the Russell horse was pulled out meaning there was nothing to prevent the favourite going off at prohibitive odds. Thankyou Very Much gave vain chase but I'd be wary of backing her over fences as she's so small. Ballinvegga may be of interest one day but didn't look in great order beforehand and ran poorly.

Stipulate had made it's name on the flat Down Under, but had run poorly for B Ellison of late and was sent hurdling at the age of seven. The trainer wasn't in evidence which may have been a tip in itself, but the beast lacked scope and seemed to be carrying plenty of condition. With stamina doubts thrown in he was opposed with the best looking horse in the race which was Kelso winner Spectator.

However, we picked wrong as the other one carrying a penalty, The Character, made all to win in gritty style, holding the late thrust of Golden Town. The Moffatt runner, easy in the market and looking pretty ropey beforehand, was out for a 'quiet one' but horror of horrors the front three were going knowhere fast and Hughes had to finally go for the stick on the run-in, only going down half a length. Oh dear.

The 2.40 was a ghastly affair, the like of which is usually saved for Sedgefield in mid January. You simply couldn't back Asuncion, Shine A Diamond or Dark And Dangerous on account of them being too small.

Endeavour never looks great but he was the most solid option, while the Vaughan raider Lake Chapala looked a very difficult animal beforehand, proving likewise in the race, and is not one to trust which is an understatement. Gin Cobbler was the best stamp of horse on show and he really ought to be better than he is...the ground was in his favour but could probably do with professional handling for once.

A look through my old notes told me that Shantou Tiger was not one to trust in the next, despite showing plenty of resolution last time out. At evens he had to be taken on, but not with chase winner Mad Money, who had big questions to answer after stopping dead at Hexham last time and just isn't that good.

With the rest mere rags the one to be with had to be Rev Up Ruby, hailing from the unsung yet in-form G Bewley kennel. She had returned from a year off with an eye-catching spin at Hexham and on the same mark as when winning before the enforced break simply had to go well. The fact she looked in great fettle sealed the deal and sure enough she landed the spoils with a bit to spare.

As if that wasn't enough, I thought Proud Gamble looked a cracking bet in the finale with Formidableopponent taking out a chunk of the market in his bid for a six timer. I had a doubt about his stamina more than anything else, while the Dobbin animal, who looked in good heart in the prelims, has shown several times what a gritty horse he is.

Sure enough he toughed it out again under C Nichol - who continues to catch the eye - although the luck may have been with us as the jolly got a bit messed about in the straight and could be considered a tad unlucky. The rest were very hard to fancy, with the cash for Arboretum hard to fathom. And so it goes...