Sunday 19 February 2017


This was always meant to be a blog about my trips to the track and hopefully I can translate some of what I learn there to these pages.

Clearly though, punting is a large of what I do and most likely what you, the reader does, so although I never go into too much detail about my own betting some of the updates will have more of a betting slant.

This will be one of them. For some reason I never quite get to grips with the Haydock meetings, often vowing to take it easy, yet having travelled across the Pennines I seem to get drawn into playing all sorts of races I shouldn't be getting involved in.

The opener was a prime example and put us on the back foot in no uncertain terms.

I'm not into juvenile hurdlers but I didn't take a liking to the Godolphin's Most Celebrated at Wetherby as he's not put together very well (technical term), yet he marmelised a weak field in the style of a useful horse.

Of course, that 'form' wasn't worth much but the manner of the performance was very taking. Today, he looked similar but he does cover the ground well at the canter. I thought he would win, especially as Don Bersy looked very buzzy and took a marked drift in the betting.

There was cash around for Admiral Barratry, I nice strong French import who looked straight enough. We'll have to wait another day to see how good he is, while Don Bersy continued his improvement with a fairly authoritative win.

Most Celebrated went very keenly but did so at Wetherby and came home well, whereas T Scu had nothing under him fully 3f out this time. Perhaps something will come to light.

The second was a quiet punting race as Agrapart - a lovely chaser for next season, he's a bit unfurnished at present - was the one I fancied but too short a price although Zarkander looked really fit and well. He was able to reverse his decline to win easily, albeit at cramped odds.

Aux Ptits Soins jumped very poorly on his return to timber but plugged on well and he must have some engine. If they stick to hurdles next season he may well turn out to be a World Hurdle contender as I'm sure they'll take his jumping back to scratch.

The handicap hurdle for stayers looked tricky and the well-backed favourite Call To Order looked a nice horse once more, however he was very fresh and on his toes in the prelims.

I didn't see it but it sounds like he got a bit stirred up at the start and he is surely much better than this. Perhaps the race will put him straight.

He was too short in the market for a race of this nature so was taken on with the very useful looking Big River, who is as much a 128 horse as I am a good looking young man.

Things looked good as they turned in but his jumping wasn't that slick throughout and it cost him late on. Scu was in the right place and did nothing wrong, and I'm sure this was a good learning race for the youngster, who remains one of the better prospects in the North.

I missed out on Dadsintrouble here last time out but he didn't stand out amongst these decent sorts and all his winning had come on much softer ground. He was very much on the shortlist though and again slipped through the net, taking a big weight hike in his stride.

It looked a tough race on paper but breaking it down I couldn't fancy much else, particularly Eminent Poet against whom I was happy to rack up a big liability in the place market as he was surprisingly well-backed considering he's a small horse who seems to need heavy ground.

Theo's Charm ran better in the blinds but it was a day to be up with the pace on decent ground at a track that is sharper than most.

The National trial was a real conundrum and I didn't have any strong view, sticking winner Vieux Lion Rouge on a lengthy shortlist at what looked generous double-figure odds on the machine, without actually stepping in.

He's a lovely compact, athletic horse, just the sort you need for Aintree these days, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he went very close in April.

The mistake I made was to oppose Blaklion in the win and place market. He lacks in size and scope but he does travel well and relishes this better ground, which I'm sure helps his jumping. As such he may well be a spring horse and I was lucky to have a stronger stayer on my side, otherwise it would have been a bloodbath.

Blaklion is a horse I'd go back hurdling with as he seems to have a big engine. He's another who could go down the world hurdle route and I'm sure if you put him next to The New One there wouldn't be much in it size-wise (could be wrong there - eek).

I was dead against Vintage Clouds as well and thankfully I've not wasted a single bean on this horse over the past 12 months. Conditions simply haven't been right for this out and out mudlark but his time will come when everything falls into place - he was always going to struggle on this ground.

This wasn't a day for the plodders who couldn't get into it - Vicente, Goodtoknow, Tour Des Champs and Cresswell Breeze all wanting further or softer or a combination of both.

The Grade 2 novice chase threw together some lovely young animals and the winner The Worlds End has something special about him. He's just a very nice horse, he looks straight forward both physically and mentally, and will jump a fence in time.

He did it extremely well I thought and won't look out of place at Cheltenham. My view was that No Hassle Hoff was short enough in the betting considering he had only won a C5 hurdle, which was why he was getting weight from the others.

He was very hard fit, but he's not very big and you could say he's a typical Craigsteel. They often don't look much but have plenty under the bonnet. I didn't think the drop in trip would suit and to be fair things didn't pan out for him.

The rest were all nice in their own way, Report To Base surely better than he showed here while the Richards' pair are very strong individuals merely marking time before going over fences next season.

After nap of the day Gardeforte finally produced the performance I knew he was capable of over at Wincanton (atoning for the ghastly exit of Catterick scorer Black Narcissus earlier in the day) things were starting to turn and then I clapped eyes on Captain Redbeard.

There had been plenty of umming and erring in the lead-up to this novices handicap but in my mind it came down to whether 'The Beard' had improved enough to deal with Aqua Dude, who had been well backed and looked poised to strike from a perch of 130.

I took a big shine to 'The Dude' at Southwell well over a year ago but he hadn't taken the eye this term, and I must say he hasn't progressed physically the way I had anticipated.

He looks no more than rugged now but the form still told you he had to go close especially with STD taking over the reins.

However, I must have seen the Captain six or seven times in his career and he never looked this good, with his coat gleaming and seemingly very well in himself. He can get a bit stoked up but he was kept under wraps and as he came good this time last year all the signs were there for a massive run.

I wasn't the only one to cotton on late as he was backed in from 6s to 4s and followers have S Coltherd to thank for another fine effort in the saddle.

Young Sam had the presence of mind to kick early at Wetherby last time and once again he was very positive, making this a stamina test at the trip.

The kid still looks quite amateurish over a fence and seems to make the horse look a lesser jumper than he actually is. To be fair they measured the four up the straight really well and I liked the fact that he didn't fully go for him until after the last.

With Twiston-Davies crawling all over you that can't be easy so credit has to be given where it's due, and plenty of it. Having jumped off Aqua Dude in favour of 'The Beard', this was one photo finish I was very relieved to be on the right side of.

As for the others in the race, Wuff backers were once again out in force for no apparent reason and he must be some work horse to attract such a regular following. His backers' patience must be Rizla-thin.

Palm Grey was back after a short break and I just thought he might need it, although he's never been one to take the eye. This surely wouldn't be enough of a stamina test for Tanit River and so it proved.

It was nice to be back on an even keel so there wasn't much need to play a decent looking hunter chase in which Wonderful Charm was a surprisingly weak favourite.

He got a lovely tow into it from his main market rivals and won as he liked, although what he's capable of under rigorous pressure remains a moot point.

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