Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Southwell

Morning rain had turned the ground soft in places and with declarations made on good ground there were a number of withdrawals.

Doncaster winner Ypsilanti and Double Treasure don't go on soft and with Starkie failing to repeat his winning effort last week under a penalty the opening handicap chase fell apart.

Unzing may have run to near his mark but a change in tactics ultimately settled things with Ifandbutwhynot seemingly enjoying a return to fences having dropped a ton in the weights, making all to win as he liked.

You wouldn't bet on him backing this up although he'll still be well-in on old form, but whether he is as good as he was is a moot point.

Ypsilanti ran as well as could be expected given the conditions and he shaped as though he will be competitive off this much higher rating.

The second chase on the card fell to Agincourt Reef on his return to fences, having shown a decent level of form to win at Wetherby over timber on Boxing Day.

He just lacks for a bit of size and clobbered one on the first circuit but jumped well enough thereafter. However, stiffer fences could catch him out, and again the ground wouldn't have suited some of these.

Johns Luck again travelled well before appearing to be held by one better handicapped, but he's a nice horse who is likely to continue improving.

Fair play to trainer T Weston for running Thoonavolla as well as Ypsilanti - the former also needs good ground and he looked really burly beforehand after a winter break.

The money came for him which was hugely surprising and I thought he ran really well in the circumstances, being left behind from two out.

He looks like he'll stay 3m well but does tank though his races. I can see him doing well at Stratford this spring which would really suit his style of running and they have races short of 3m there too.

The absence of Gibbes Bay in the maiden hurdle took some of the gloss off the race and it left a short priced favourite in Bobo Mac, a nice type for next season who looked a good thing to get off the mark.

Physically there was nothing to trouble the jolly and although he seemed to make hard work of it in the end, he took it cosily from Banjo Girl, quite a nice mare who was sent on some way out and paid for it from the last. She's ok if a bit small but was fit for this and will prefer better ground.

The paddock sorted them out ahead of the handicap hurdle over 2m, Hear The Chimes wrong in his coat and getting warm, while Hill Fort looked ready to run his race down in grade.

But none of them could deal with the revitalised Beggar's Wishes, who was sent off a very decent 9/2 chance as money came for the moderate Dragon De La Tour, who has yet to deliver and almost certainly wants better ground. He'll come into his own over fences, too.

The Bowen-trained winner looks to be going places at this level and is the type to land a hat-trick this spring; he jumps and will stay further.

Another handicap hurdle, this time over 2m4f, followed and again it was blighted by withdrawals, although it wasn't that competitive to start with and in the end provided a great betting opportunity in the shape of Early Retirement, a nice chasing type that I first saw here a year ago.

He looked more grown up beforehand and was head and shoulders above the rest physically, although Dothraki Raider looked really well after a five month break and should have been fit enough despite a market drift.

The money came late for the Bailey horse, and despite showing greenness in the early part of the race galloped away to win as he liked. This is not form to get carried away with - runner-up Sauvignon hadn't shown much previously but has the size to win races - but the pair came clear and the winner has a future over fences for a really likeable yard.

I believe experience counts for plenty in bumpers, particularly on uneven ground such as this, and it wasn't too surprising that Rosemary Russet (ok sort) showed the benefit of a fair opening effort to outbattle the debutante Grania O'Malley.

The latter was tickled in the betting and is quite a nice looking filly, but was green in the straight and that cost her. Two others with experience came in next; Potters Angelique another likely to come on physically, and Witham, who was disappointing.

However, the Sly inmate is from a staying family that take time to come to themselves and this well-made filly will certainly be up to winning races in the coming years.

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