Friday 6 January 2017


Good to be back in the fray after a very quiet festive period, catching up with some associates old and new, it was chilly enough but the rain largely stayed away to leave good to soft ground that was getting a bit chewed up by the end.

The opening juvenile hurdle wasn't much to rave about with market leaders Bob's Boy and Dusty Raven not making much appeal at the odds - the former looking green beforehand while the latter is a very keen going sort.

However, the others weren't up to much either, Gregarious also playing up badly beforehand and flat out refusing to settle in the race, while Allfredandnobell looked awful in the prelims, dripping with sweat and very excitable.

It was one of those very rare occasions where the paddock put us away, as Allfredandnobell came through to win after the market leaders battled it out from the home turn. I wouldn't know what to make of the form - probably not much.

The mares hurdle for stayers looked very hard to call with four at the front of the market all having good chances, but Happy Diva followed up a facile win last time out with a similar display and she is clearly thriving.

Two Swallows again looked in good order and probably stepped up a bit on her reappearance win, only to bump into one. Midnight Silver similarly just found a couple better handicapped, and she would have appreciated much softer ground. Bells On Sunday is a nice strong animal but was clearly amiss this time.

The handicap chase lacked in numbers but looked ultra competitive with six of the seven having solid credentials.

They all looked well, but Hainan has been on the radar for some time and I was quite relieved to see it get beat by a good one last time after being hammered in the market (I wasn't on).

That was a significant step in the right direction by this strong stayer and if his jumping improved he was handicapped to go well. On closer inspection, the race did not have an obvious front runner in which case you can bank on D Cook to seize the initiative.

And he did just that, not only leading them out but stealing a march from the start, poaching a good 10 length lead. On a well-handicapped, strong stayer they simply were never going to catch him if his jumping held together, and he was much better in that department this time.

Crosspark probably lost little in defeat, neither losing nor gaining ground, and is one to bear in mind when the trainer starts having winners again. Mustmeetalady has done well over the summer and posted another solid effort, albeit not exactly finding a great deal once more. But they can find a race for him.

It was hard to tell if Baywing was fit as he remained rugged up, but the market suggested little was expected and he'll be interesting with more experience over fences behind him, on much softer ground than this.

The novice hurdle over 2m 5f was a match but I really liked the Skelton's Lakeside Castle, a substantial animal with loads of strength and scope, against the hot favourite Westend Story, who had outstanding bumper form but lacked the physical presence of the other one.

It wasn't a contest in the race, Skelton's beast jumping proficiently on the way to trouncing his market rival. I was very taken by this and he's one to watch out for over fences next season - I doubt if they'll hang around over timber too long.

I couldn't get involved in the 0-100 staying chase with Amber Gambler looking unopposable under a penalty - he's a nice size and looked in good order despite this being his third outing since Boxing Day.

Joseph Mercer chased him home and fair play to the horse for backing up his run on the 27th from a very low mark. I'm not giving up on the fourth placed Major Ridge, who was beaten miles but had little assistance from the saddle. He'll drop several pounds for this but has ability.

Two bumpers remained - reputations were on the line in the shape of Espoir De Teillee, a £220k purchase after falling in a PTP, and Bordeaux Bill, who was reported to be useful by all accounts.

Neither was involved in the finish however, despite looking the part, and it looked like honours would go to Flat bred Eskendash, who had shown solid form for P Niven prior to this debut for P Sly.

It would be harsh to suggest the 4yro didn't see it out, rather that the staying chase prospect Uncle Alastair simply ground it out in dour fashion with the post not coming in time for the younger horse.

Not sure what happened to the odds on jolly, he looked well and surely something was amiss. Hogan's Height is small in stature and is not likely to amount to great deal, looking very fit here.

The finale also looked to be between the front two in the betting in the shape of UK Pointer winner Cirano De Sivola and the unraced Hear No Evil, a nice looking animal if on the unfurnished side.

However, there was a steamer in the shape of Some Reign, who had been off for a while but the booking of G Lee for the Dobbins appeared significant.

He was probably priced up a bit big as he looked straight enough, albeit on the light framed side, but cash kept coming and those in the know were duly rewarded. Nevada had come in for earlier support but is really quite small and didn't appeal, while Glittering Love looked edgy and is the type to need time.

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