Monday, 12 December 2016

Doncaster weekend

As with the last meeting here the ground was good on the hurdles track but looked quite dead for the chasers.

Friday

Future Gilded was backed from 4s into 9/4 for the opening handicap chase and he was quite keen in the paddock, fit enough for this first outing in a long time. He was still a bit gassy going into the first and he came down after clipping the top. That was the second first fence casualty in two days for your correspondent after Achill Road Boy departed yesterday.

The race was a bit of a non event thereafter, Foundation Man given an easy time of it in front but although he’s clearly in good heart, it was disappointing nothing was able or willing to test his resolution.

Royal MacNab got a queer ride waited with, he’s looked in need of further this season but was held up going keenly. He’s a one-paced galloper so this was hard fathom – that said he may not be in much form, even though the stable is going well and he looked quite a bit straighter than last time.

K Bailey’s Desaray was a warm order for the maiden hurdle on the back of a solid start under rules last time, but I wasn’t that taken by his quite weak appearance and in any case nothing could match up to the looks of Post War, who was quite possibly the most attractive horse I’ve seen all season.

He seemed to get stuck in the mud a bit last term but this lovely big, long striding animal was sure to appreciate this sounder terrain and with a bit of form in a bumper behind the smart Robin Roe he was well worth a bet despite not really being that strong in the market.

Henderson’s horse took a while to organise himself but the further they went the stronger he looked and the way he closed the deal between the last two was eye-catching. He may not have achieved a great deal but I’ll be following his progress closely.

All eyes were on Wind Place And Sho on his hurdles debut, but this decent flat stayer was too keen in this discipline and didn’t get home. He has enough size to do well, and should build on this, while Benny In Milan stayed on well after a hold-up ride and should be up to winning this term.

There wasn’t a great deal wrong with Might Bite, another off the Henderson conveyor belt, who looks a chaser of real quality. That said, he’s a typical Scorpion in that he may not be straight forward, and he may be one to take on in better company.

Stablemate Premier Bond was weak in the market and he wasn’t able to live with the winner, but he did stay on and although flattered by the margin, this son of Kayf Tara is a fair prospect and will improve markedly under a stamina test.

Winner Massagot appears to have a physical problem, while Cyrius Moriviere came down too early to judge how he would have fared, he still looks unfurnished and may lack a bit of size at this stage.

A decent class 3 handicap hurdle came next and it really looked a match the betting suggested with consistent duo Big Chief Benny and Midnight Jazz heading the market.

Jazz is only small but it’s hard to crab her progress and when Jacob went off in front her odds rightly contracted – and I really wish I’d hung about for some 5/2. I’ve had cause to question many riding tactics of late but they got this spot on.

Jacob’s moderate pace meant Big Chief Benny was just keen enough, and although I’m sure he’s essentially a stayer you can see why they are keeping him to intermediate trips for now. Minstrels Gallery ran to form and looks ready to win on soft ground, while Marquis Of Carabas was backed and he looked very well, again he could be ready to win as this form is rock solid. Even the Hammond inmate Maxie T suggested he is well enough handicapped to collect in the short term.

The handicap chase essentially gathered together a bunch of old dodgepots, owing to race conditions not allowing horses that had won in a while.

They went pretty quick for a staying chase and that suited Dancing Shadow, who was under the pump all the way but has stamina in abundance. Victory looked unlikely for much of the trip as Fort Worth kicked on up the straight.

But Jonjo’s horse has had more chances than you’d care to mention and didn’t find a great deal off the bridle, and the gallop found out the rest of them.

Jac The Legend has proven frustrating and appeared to lose confidence over these bigger fences, and after he was crowded out down the side of the course his jumping went to pot. He’s better than this but a return to timber might help.

Having considered Aliandy to have won first time up despite needing the run I was very keen on his chances in a decent handicap hurdle, but he was done a nose after being held up off a sedate gallop that wouldn’t have suited.

He’s bumped into a horse in Midnight Cowboy who got plenty of experience in novice hurdles last season, and was starting out on a good mark. The way the pair raced clear suggested they will remain ahead of their new marks.

I wasn’t keen on the Catterick form of Italian Riviera, a speedier, buzzy type who ruined his chance by pulling hard, and Thyne For Gold, who did not have to improve to win last week. A much more interesting one for the future is Movie Legend, essentially a stayer having his second outing for the Wadham team.

Again he wouldn’t have been suited by the gallop and he’s a winner waiting to happen granted more of a test.

The closing mares handicap looked wide open as the betting suggested but while there was a lot of recent form to catch the eye of punters, of more interest was the ex-Webber trainer Two Swallows, a well bred animal now in the care of B Pauling.

She had shown decent form two season back and the handicapper had thrown her a lifeline. The clincher was that she looked revved up and ready to go, and in truth she never looked like getting beat, travelling and jumping all over them. 'Props' as they say, to Mr P.

Saturday

It's always nice to kick off the card with a good thing and Kalane fit the bill on her second start for Amy Murphy. This represented a steep drop in grade after she ran well in listed company at Market Rasen on her comeback.

The only minor concern was whether the drop in trip would force her into errors, especially with tearaway Wells De Lune in opposition, but there were no such fears in the event as she sluiced up, finally proving herself to be of a high calibre.

She's a laid back mare who will obviously stay further, but after a confidence boosting clear round I can see her doing just fine back up in grade. As is often the case it was just a shame we didn't back up the truck.

Always On The Run ran ok in second but he surely now wants to revert to front running tactics over a shorter trip. He looks a nice sort, if a little weak still, but his jumping wasn't great under restraint and he's better than this.

I'll pass on the next as there was little to glean from the paddock other than that Passmore hasn't grown and will need time to get herself together.

The staying chase was a biggie in that Blakemount was fully expected to finally fulfill all that promise from the past couple of years. He looks a great mark on several pieces of form, but he didn't perform once again and now has a big question to answer.

He's not the best looking horse in the world, lacking a bit of size and very robust, so jumping may always be a bit of an issue. All was going well until a couple of errors mid-race seemed to knock his confidence and that was that. To then see him stay on stronger than most was frustrating, suggesting he's either in need of further or is holding something back.

No Duffer and Long Lunch were separated by a nostril and they both looked particularly well beforehand, while I thought Sego Success ran an eye-catching race suggesting he's still on a good mark if set more of a stamina test in deeper ground.

Straidnahanna, weak in the market, still didn't look fit and simply had a spin round for the mark. I've one race and one race only in mind for the big grey and hopefully connections are thinking along the same lines - around a month from now I suspect he'll be ready to go.

The next was a class 2 handicap hurdle and although I thought unlucky loser Cornborough would go well again, this was a much tougher race and a 5lb impost for that last effort looked harsh. All Set To Go was disappointing last time and that prevented a bet on this imposing, sturdy grey. He's looked all quality since I first saw him at Southwell last term, and he just loves coming off a strong pace.

Eyes Of A Tiger stepped up again, staying on well in second, while Hawk High looked really well and I believe he could pop up in a decent race once his trainer hits some form again. He wasn't unduly punished in this race.

Hindsight's a wonderful thing but should there ever be a 1/16 chance in a two runner race over 3m with obstacles? Probably not is surely the correct answer, and hopefully plenty of pros out there played the numbers correctly.

I'm not sure the Saturday punters on Town Moor were necessarily 'doing the math' but even through the haze of alcohol they could see value in 9/1 shot Duel At Dawn, who got cheered home like a St Leger winner after jolly Blue Rambler failed to recover poise after a mid-race howler.

More cheers followed in the next when highly touted O O Seven got turned over in a nice little four-runner novice chase.

Eventual winner Present Man looked in terrific fettle, while I rather liked the chances of Potters Legend, a really progressive chaser who will keep chipping away. I'm not sure why Aspell was so keen to spot the leader many lengths, but that's something I'll never quite understand.

O O Seven is a nice big horse but he's a bit green and he got quite warm beforehand, and I just thought he wasn't at his best. I think he'll be better in time, but time is what he needs and I wouldn't cast too many aspersions at this early stage.

Cliffs Of Dover was one of the biggest certainties I ever saw in the finale. At morning prices we could have done well doubling up Kalane and the ace juvenile hurdler before an avalanche of cash forced his price in to prohibitive odds.

Of course before the meeting started we couldn't have known that the Irish pair Lord Justice and Zig Zag would look so agitated, or that French import Timoteo be so free going that his chance would be impaired.

The way Lord Justice stayed on suggested he could be much better than this considering he was so on edge beforehand. Zig Zag got really wound up, so he too can be marked up, while Bishop Of Bling has the size to do much better in time.

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