Sunday, 26 February 2017

Newcastle

Plenty of midweek rain had left the ground very soft, although a drying wind over the preceeding 24 hours had turned it holding.

The opener was a tight four-runner affair but Testify seemed a rightful market leader on form, particularly after The Worlds End won so well last weekend. He looked the nicest in the paddock, but ran a strange race.

The McCain inmate started to hang going away from the stands and fell in a hole with half a mile left, running on again to not be beaten all that far. Something may be wrong physically, or indeed mentally, but this was not a step forward.

De Vous A Moi had every right to go well if making the transition back to hurdles, receiving 10lb from the runner-up. He looked vulnerable against progressive youngsters, but none of them ran their race and he did.

Imperial Bay is a nice horse in the making but the five-year-old looked on the weak physically and I didn't think he would be winning on this ground. I also didn't want to be with Seemorelights, who is quite a keen going sort with little stamina in the pedigree.

He's alright though - but he doesn't want a test like this and a drop back will see him back in the winners circle.

A handicap hurdle followed and I managed to maintain a dreadful strikerate in such events, not believing Teo Vivo could win again off a career high mark. He's clearly getting better at the age of 10 though and went away from Nuts Well again, despite being on worse terms for that Kelso win.

Nuts Well continues to look like a horse with more to offer, but the yard is winless this campaign and this six-year-old didn't look quite right here today. The fact he's put a couple of decent efforts together with the kennel out of form tells me he'll be worth following when he goes over fences next season, as he's just marking time at the moment.

Vinciaettis was made favourite and rates the worst bet of the season. He looked very fit after a lay-off but doesn't look straight forward at all and he turned it in after going a mile.

I couldn't be interested in the others though, a lack of support for Meadowcroft Boy suggesting his turn may come another day. He used to front-run before taking an injury lay-off and didn't look busy here out the back.

The Eider looked ultra competitive and my stab at Alto Des Mottes lasted less than 10 seconds, while cover bets on the outstanding-looking Knockanrawley and the consistent if disappointing Shotgun Paddy hit the woodwork. I never really took to Mysteree when it was with the Russell yard and seem to have missed the boat with him. R Dunne is a solid second-tier jock and I'm pleased he's won a big one.

Speaking of the Russell yard, with a stable full of staying chasers you'd think they'd have a representative in the Eider.

I made Zamdy Man the bet of the day and devout followers of The Dutchman must be racking up some serious losses this season.

The tactics would be interesting in this effective match but whatever happened I expected Zamdy Man, who wasn't a million miles from the top rung over timber, to be too strong in the finish.

However, it was very surprising that The Dutchman didn't get a typical Cook ride from the front in an attempt to draw the sting from his opponent. Perhaps they don't have the confidence in his jumping to adopt such tactics. He's just not that big or scopey and until his technique improves he may continue to struggle.

Zamdy Man is unlikely to go up much if at all for this win, in which he jumped as well as he ever has. He looks well handicapped on 140 and if they can find another two-miler on heavy ground he'll be one to have on your side. He's a warrior...with class.

The Nipper looked the proverbial 'stick-on' in another match this time for mares, against Irish raider Elusive Theatre. They were poles apart in the prelims and the only concern was whether the jolly would thrown it away once hitting the front.

Sensibly Sheehan got a tow for as long as possible and the 4/9 shot won as she liked. She may be quirky, but is better than her current mark suggests.

I thought I had the handicap chase by the short and curlies but it shows how wrong you can be. Well, I got it 90% right, which is probably more than can be said for most punters who seemed to think Ballybolley could win, despite never having found anything off the bridle on ground like this.

As sure as night follows day, he was going to travel like the winner before backing out of it. Maybe this market was driven by traders, who knew this scenario would play out and got all they could on at pre-race odds.

I'm too naive about these things but with Ballybolley and the increasingly disappointing Mr Spingsprong taking lumps out of the market there had to have been value somewhere. You couldn't back Special Wells who was on a career high mark for beating nothing in two lesser races, or The Ramblin Kid who was the size of a bus after more than a year off.

That only left two. Regrettably I'd spent the morning backing Caraline and by the off I had her winning almost five figures at an average of around 7/1, yet here she was trading at 13 on the machine which suggested somebody knew something I didn't.

Some things are unexplainable in this game and it simply won't do to ponder too long on these things over which we have little control. There were ultimately a dozen ways to have played this race to finish well in the green, yet I was still staring at a largely red screen after a number of in-play clicks.

If you take the market side of things out of it the race pretty much panned out as expected, with the stronger jockey up the straight coming home in front. Gold Opera did look well, but he's so hard to predict and he's just as likely to throw in a shocker next time.

Never mind. It's important to stay in the moment and the bumper provided a great opportunity as for the third or fourth time on the afternoon the market got it wrong.

It was essentially a match because Oscar Mor is so big and slow that he won't come into himself until he gets three miles and fences. Until that time he's not worth considering, while the two rags weren't players although Ghafaan is not without hope in the medium term.

B Pauling's Carlos Du Fruitier had a penalty for winning at Warwick but he's only just turned five and he looked pretty weak and leggy to me.

Far better proportioned was McGowan's Pass, who was run out of it in a driving finish by the bumper sensation Sam's Adventure, whose form is watertight.

Without the penalty plus the additional claim of the useful Miss McDonald, this nicely bred six-year-old was a cracking bet, particularly as all the money came for the southern raider.

The race panned out perfectly so at least we rounded off one of the most frustrating weeks of the season with a nice winner.

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