Saturday 21 January 2017


It was soft ground at the Lancashire venue but pretty good for the time of year - it looked a cracking card and so it proved with some terrific finishes and a couple of impressive performances.

The opener didn't set the pulse racing and the result was a placepot buster with the Russell-trained Deepsand landing the prize at 25/1 under a 10lb claimer - it wasn't easy to find.

Plenty of them looked well including the runner-up Vocaliser, Chieftain's Choice and Get Rhythm, but none warranted attention in the ring.

We didn't have to wait long for the serious action to begin as Politologue was a warm order for a very good novice chase over 2m3f. The Nicholls horse was a worthy jolly after impressing with his jumping in two outings this season, but he entered the paddock very much on his toes and sweated up quite badly in the end.

He certainly didn't do this when looking in need of the run on his seasonal debut here and it's hard to believe this was his best form, as good as it is, and it wouldn't be surprising if he goes better over the minimum trip before the season is out.

But, on the day he had to give second best to Waiting Patiently, who had done nothing wrong in winning his two novice chases, showing improved form each time.

An athletic sort who ticked all the boxes, he proved his stamina by grabbing his market rival before the last and staying on well despite looking inexperienced in front.

The yard had been quiet in recent weeks, tempering enthusiasm, but he belied those doubts and this sound jumper is a really top prospect for a trainer by some way the best in the north.

Its'Afreebee looked big and well but his form didn't stack up anywhere near as well and he was put in his place, while Bun Doran once again stopped quite quickly and concerns about his wind remain. Solatentif was by the far the smallest of these and a return to timber wouldn't be a bad move.

The Rossington Main novice hurdle looked an open affair but it's rare you see such a one-sided market and Neon Wolf duly lived up to expectations with a thrilling display of jumping and galloping that mark him down as a potential star.

He's a staying chaser on pedigree and conformation and as the old saying goes, anything he does this year is a bonus. If by some miracle the ground is soft at Cheltenham, he might be a player.

There was little wrong with the others...they were simply put in their place.

There was no edge from the paddock ahead of the Champion Hurdle Trial, a race Henderson used to target with See You Then when I was a mere whipper-snapper.

All these years later he saddled L'Ami Serge, a former chaser dropping in trip. He's a horse I want to oppose as he's doesn't look great in a finish, carrying his head high, and he's one to avoid especially at this level.

By contrast, dual winner The New One simply loves a battle and as they went more or less 13/8 the pair, it really should have been a no-brainer to those of a level-head.

What one didn't account for was the threat of dual course winner Clyne, whose progression in three runs at the track has been remarkable. Of course we don't know how he performed in farcical circumstances last time but his effort here tells me he could be high class.

For a light-framed chase type this is solid form although I'm not sure he'll be able to build on this in the spring. But you'd imagine they'll turn attentions to fences next year when I expect him to take high rank.

Cyrus Darius was back from a lengthy absence but something wasn't quite right with him. He looked to need the run but he just didn't take my I as he has in the past. It's possible he's not the force of old but it's far too early to speculate. He looks a chaser and didn't belong in this field.

The Peter Marsh used to be a fair mid-season target but has lost some lustre in recent times. Not this year though, as a cracking field lined up for a 3m event that would require a blend of speed and stamina in these conditions.

Enter Bristol De Mai, a more likeable animal you couldn't wish to see. He lacked some fluency at Newcastle last time but I don't think he's made a mistake of note in his career, and he was absolutely foot perfect as he romped to victory here.

Jacob didn't get involved in the early dash for the lead and the pace left the majority of them in trouble turning for home. Only Newcastle conqueror Otago Trail could live with the grey but an error two out put an end to what would have been a one-sided fight.

Having backed him with confidence last time out it was disappointing not to have gone in again in what looked a deeper race as I didn't think it was stamina that beat him there. But it wasn't hard to enjoy the spectacle.

The only negative from the prelims came from Definitly Red, who looked a bit dull in his coat and appeared to run up light, his Wetherby victory possibly leaving its mark. He ran flat, albeit plugging on when departing three out, and he's better than this.

French exile Alary is a big unit who was very fit and on his toes, but I didn't think he was up to defying a mark of 162 on debut and he looks like he'll struggle on these shores.

Wuff was the subject of strong support throughout the day ahead of the 2m handicap chase - for what reason I cannot speculate. Essentially a disappointing animal despite showing plenty of promise over the years, he wouldn't have the pace for the minimum trip and I didn't give him a hope in hell in quite a competitive heat.

I did, however, like his market rival Pistol Park, who is a good jumper despite lacking in size with form that stacks up well. It looked like he would be the one to beat, but he may just have lacked the toe at this trip and possibly Hughes could have been more positive on him at the top of the straight with stamina in the tank.

That said, Ubaltique has turned over a new leaf this season and despite looking weighted up to his best he was the best horse on the day, winning the same race off a 10lb higher mark than he did last term.

Back By Midnight went well for a long way and he looks an improving chaser that can better this form back on his favoured good ground. They finished in a heap but the form is solid.

The finale was a difficult staying hurdle that I didn't participate in, but it was quite marked how low in the weights Dadsintrouble was, as he arguably looked the best of them and he was as fit as a fiddle despite a 12 week absence.

The way he won suggested he can follow up, while the fourth home Maxie T looked outpaced for much of the race before staying in the style of a horse that can win soon. He's handicapped to do so.

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