Friday 12 May 2017

One to watch at Rasen

I wanted to comment on a subject today that can sometimes give the on-course player an edge over stay-at-home viewers of the great game, relevant to a horse running today.

The way horses 'hit the line', or rather their strength at the finish, is often easily picked up on the TV when a particular horse is involved in the death, but not so much when one has fallen out the back, assumed to have weakened away.

Last jumps season there were three instances I can recall of horses running through the tape in such a manner as to suggest they were capable of vastly better form in the future.

Often during the winter months I'll stand near the rails for the opening novice hurdle to try to get a sense of pace and also to judge the ground conditions.

Back in November at Wetherby I was in position when La Bague A Loi landed a five runner mares novice as an odds on chance should.

A distance behind, and fairly tanking at the finish, was a 100/1 shot called Fille Des Champs, whose effort I suspected had gone completely unnoticed by every race watcher in the land.

Although only clocking an RPR of 86, I knew she was capable of much better granted a stiffer test of stamina. I didn't even see that she had another spin over the minimum trip next time, but I was aware of her next run in a decent little race over an extra half mile at FFos Las on bottomless ground, where she had squeeked in on 10st.

Backed from 14s into 10, she absolutely hosed up although I can barely remember the race as I watched it through the haze of a heavy bout of flu.

She hasn't gone on from that win but things haven't really fallen right for her and she'll improve again for another summer off.

Behind The Wire was a horse that had been on my radar for 12 months after seeing him in a novice hurdle at Doncaster, where he was very on edge but physically something to keep an eye on being a big raw chaser.

A year later he was back at Town Moor having recently taken a novice chase with aplomb at Taunton, a track that wouldn't play to his strengths.

He led a long way out that day, and yet at Doncaster A Heskin seemed reluctant to kick on up the long straight where the horse's big long stride and bold jumping would be seen to good effect.

As things happened, Heskin's stubborn and painful reluctance to go for home played into the hands of the great rogue Fort Worth, who took a nice lead before capitalising on Behind The Wire's small errors at the last two fences with Heskin trying to hold him together.

It was one of the worst rides of the season, but that aside, I was very struck by the way they charged through the line, Behind The Wire rallying all the way to such an extent that they had trouble negotiating the sharp left hand bend that comes up after the line.

The Racing Post close-up recorded 'no extra closing stages', but that couldn't have been further from the truth. They had come so far clear of the rest that, not only had I done my dough, but he was sure to go up a chunk for the effort.

Delightfully he was only raised 4lb and with P Brennan replacing the hapless Heskin in his next race at Newbury, it was time to back up the truck. Under a positive ride, he ground his rivals into submission in the straight where he was never going to get caught when you thought back to his finishing effort the time before.

And so to today and the race of interest which is the 4.15 at Market Rasen.

In February I marked Mustang On down as a horse to look out for in handicaps after this fair looking animal showed an aptitude for the game in a half-decent novice hurdle at Donny.

Back at Town Moor the following month I had a good little nibble at long odds in a weak race over the minimum trip but he just found it all happening a bit quickly on ground I suspect is softer than ideal, although he stayed on well for second behind a very well-backed winner that has since won over fences.

Later in March I saw him at Market Rasen where he looked a shoo-in to chase home the solid Louis Vac Pouch, and backed him accordingly.

However, he was given a soft ride that day by an inexperienced claimer who was clearly under orders to get the horse settled in behind. However, in a slowly run race on a sharp track over the minimum trip he was always likely to get outpaced again and although he rattled home, third was the best he could do.

But what I then saw was quite remarkable. Having made my way round to the winners enclosure to earwig on connections comments and jockeys reports, I saw Mustang On jig-jogging his way back as if he was just about to go OUT to race. This literally never happens. After a horse has fully exerted itself in a race it will only have the energy to walk back to the unsaddling areas as it catches its breath.

Mustang On clearly hadn't exerted itself at all! Not that there is a temperament issue here - he simply didn't get the chance to show what he is capable of.

From that race, Louis Vac Pouch went on to win cosily off 125, the second ran another solid race at the track next time and the fourth stepped up to be placed at long odds at Uttoxeter, so the form has a solid look.

The RPR suggests Mustang On didn't quite match his two earlier efforts, but I know for sure that a longer trip will see him in much better light, and that he's probably capable of out-running his official mark by 7-10lb.

Before we go steaming in there are a couple of caveats. On breeding, Mustang On could be a bit of a freak. The dam was of little account but has thrown Grey Life, who was by Terimon but doesn't stay much beyond 2m.

We also have Mustang On tackling fences for the first time. I'm quite pleased they aren't wasting too long over hurdles as he was clearly quite a backward sort, having raced only four times before turning seven, but I get the sense he's starting to come to himself.

He could be a bit sticky or dismissive of hurdles so I'm hoping he pays the bigger obstacles more respect. If they bring out further improvement, he will prove very well handicapped indeed. Grey Life was a proper chaser who had a 5/12 record with M Jefferson.

I would have preferred him running over the 2m3f trip they also have at this track, as 2m5f will probably be right on the limit of his stamina.

As such I'll probably be looking to lay back my stake at some stage in the home straight assuming he's in contention and travelling well.

It looks a competitive little race but there are many unknowns with Messrs Skelton, Longsdon and O'Neill represented by horses running over fences for the first time.

It would be churlish indeed to dismiss Skelton's Starlight Court, but he was slammed last time out and although he shapes as though he wants further was beaten a street the time before over a longer trip, so he has many questions to answer and is priced as you'd expect.

We all know Jonjo's are likely to improve for fences and a trip, and indeed headgear. Dance In The Dust gets all three here and he's definitely upped his game the last twice. The market may guide, but he's a son of Scorpion and as far as I'm concerned they are guilty until proven innocent at this current time.

You could say Midnight Gem is typical of the Longsdon yard, being not over-big and quite a handy type. But he's had many chances over timber, and doesn't strike me as one to find much improvement for a fence. He remains 8lb above his winning mark, and is 1/17 under rules.

Whitsundays has experience on his side and is slowly getting his act together, but his form is very suspect indeed although the handicapper hasn't over-reacted and he's a worthy favourite, but he's one I'm happy to take on for all that cheekpieces will bring out more improvement.

Running Wolf is 2/21 over jumps, and looks pretty exposed for a six-year-old.

So there you have it. Sometimes it's not what they do before the winning line, it's what they do after it that portends bigger things.

The price has collapsed somewhat since I started writing this at 7.30 this morning, but I would have been happy with 7 or 8/1 about Mustang On so bigger still represents value. Given all the above, he isn't a strong bet, but he's definitely worthy of support given at some stage he's going to prove a good deal better than his current mark.