Monday 30 October 2017

Aintree Sunday Oct 29

A bright sunny day and racing on officially goodish ground, although they weren't exactly rattling home and looked a bit dead, with times confirming it was more like good to soft.

The opener was an okay sort of novice although they weren't a fantastic looking bunch all told, especially considering the cost of some of them. As expected On The Blind Side looked best, as Henderson's often does, but he's just an embryo of a horse with strengthening to do.

Global Citizen has some quality about him without looking anything special, while Aye Aye Charlie, Almost Gold and Perfect Harmony look good chasing types for the future. Another Stowaway is tall and will relish a fence.

They went no pace for a over a circuit and so we didn't learn much about them, Global Citizen showing just one pace after pulling quite hard. The least appealing were Enniscoffey Oscar, a really unfurnished son of Oscar, and Skelton's New Quay, a plain looking Mahler that was carrying loads of condition.

There was a staying handicap next and while eventual winner Bon Chic was overlooked by all, runner-up Black Ivory looked really well and is a nice big horse who looks certain to keep improving this term up at 3m, and will relish a fence.

Red Infantry was cherry ripe but has proved disappointing and again his effort flattened out here, while Almost Gemini was likely to improve for the trip but he was on and off the bridle and is becoming difficult to win with.

Another Frontier looked by far the better of the Twiston-Davies pair, the well backed favourite Verygoodverygood looking a pretty moderate type that appeared to be carrying condition after six weeks off.

The veterans chase was fiendishly difficult as nothing brought solid claims, the well-supported winner The Romford Pele providing T George with a much needed winner on his first outing for the yard.

A lot of these looked marginally in need of the run, including the two Smith runners that had already had a spin over hurdles, while Theatrical Star looked well but again was let down by jumping.

The handicap hurdle saw Bags Groove go off a very well-backed favourite and he travelled like a dream throughout, delivering after the last in the style of a well-handicapped horse.

Stamp Your Feet continues to suggest he has a decent pot in him and ran into one here, but he's a lovely scopey sort that will improve further over fences in time. Inner Drive looked in tremendous form and very fit, but there were one or two not straight here including Return Flight and, more interestingly, Bobo Mac.

Ballyalton wasn't fully tuned up and will have landed in a few notebooks, while Three Musketeers ran on from the back under tender handling and there'll be a good race in him back over fences this winter.

The Old Roan was a cracking heat and I was of the opinion that the younger legs would come to the fore; but I was wrong.

Smad Place was undoubtedly well handicapped but the drop to 2m4f didn't look the move he wanted and he didn't look especially tight around the belly either. But he was nibbled at in the market and ridden with confidence, and you always got the impression he was going to outstay Cloudy Dream from the last.

Jefferson's grey has grown and strengthened and was another grey that looked as though he'd improve for the outing. I didn't think he was especially well treated on this first sortie out of novice company but he beat Oldgrangewood by further than at Ayr in the Spring on worse terms, suggesting this was a very big effort indeed.

I had the Skelton horse down as one to have onside here but he wasn't that strong in the betting and just ran okay to take third, and possibly softer ground would serve him better. This was his stiffest test to date and I do think he'll have a good winter.

Bouvreuil came in for support but he was by no means the best of these on looks and continues to frustrate; he's not one for any notebook and looks a difficult conveyence.

You could say the same of Traffic Fluide, who is running out of excuses after a more prominent sit here, staying on again when it was all over. He may want it softer but isn't one to be chasing over a cliff.

God's Own looked well but ran as though he needed it quite badly, but Aso ran on well and he could be interesting this year as stamina looks to be his forte and he loves the soft. He'll improve fitness-wise.

Vintage Clouds was well backed for the staying chase and the world and his wife knows he's a very well handicapped horse. However, soft ground and a trip are pre-requisites and with all the fences omitted up the straight this could have turned into a sprint.

But they went a fair pace, and the absence of the fences probably suited him more than most as jumping isn't really his forte. He's always needed his first run of the season and again looked a bit tubby. It's hard to know where he goes from here, and an 18 length win means he'll go up plenty for winning a race that has fallen apart.

Ballyarthur is a tank of a horse but he not the most mobile and was clumsy on the second circuit, that being said he'd have preferred if all the fences had been jumped. He'd finished weakly on many occasions over timber and he may be one that never finds much off the bridle. He looked fit.

Nobuttaboy is a good looking sort who will improve for the run. He might not be particularly well treated, but should pick up a race or two this winter. Some Kinda Lama hasn't taken to fences yet, but it's early days, he didn't look great in his coat, and the Scottish National could be a target as he likes good ground and has bottomless stamina.

Not many took the eye in a big field of mares for the closing bumper where Posh Trish stood out as an imposing physical specimen, who looked well forward for this debut.

She looked beaten when Grageelagh Girl cruised upsides but pulled out plenty and has a bright future. Schiaparannie has plenty of size and should excel over timber, while others for the future include Forget Me Knot and Jet Set.

Friday 27 October 2017

Southwell Thursday Oct 26

They'd been watering at the Rolleston venue but they were coming home really well and it was genuine good ground.

The opener was a delightful little 0-105 handicap chase in which it was hard to envisage victory for the short priced favourite Firmount Gent, for whom things fell into place last time out.

Back up 9lb, the 11-year-old had his work cut out against a bunch of unexposed animals and he looked joint worst of the sextet, without looking at the market you'd have made him a 20/1 poke.

It was hard to choose between four of them, who each brought some form of interest. Midnight Walk doesn't have a huge amount of size and was noted jumped hurdles sloppily last time; again she was sticky here and certainly wants further.

Bubsy Burbidge is from a decent family and has the size for fences, but she wasn't that strong in the betting and proved too free in the race, fading away quite badly.

Bajardo had got lucky in the spring and was bit higher in the weights - I think he is what he is but I thought he was fit enough, although he ran as though it was needed.

Fair Frank had no form over hurdles but he's a huge beast that dominated the paddock, so the smaller obstacles would just be an inconvenience. He's still a bit disjointed and will be better in another year, but it's always good to see these big chasers allowed to do what they're bred to do and he loved it out in front.

I wasn't mad keen on the favourite in the next handicap chase for novices either, namely Thomas Shelby. A good stamp of a chaser, he's been a disappointing favourite several times over timber and the handicapper has been slow to relent.

The way he hit the ground on the way to the start suggested he'd be more of a soft ground horse and although pretty fit, is probably better for the run.

With Twist On Ginge making little appeal having looked very slow in prior races and a little on the short side for fences, this looked teed up for Miami Present to bounce back on a course he knows well.

His latest effort came in better grade and on unfavourably softer ground, but this exuberant sort rattled off this terrain and his free-going style was ideally suited to the track, and in he went.

The next wasn't so straight forward although I'd marked down The Hollow Ginge as vulnerable under a penalty for winning a weak affair on heavy ground last time.

However, he was quite imposing in the paddock, and in the end he was entitled to be favourite although he still made zero appeal having gone odds on.

Eventual winner Ballyknock Cloud was interesting after landing a trio of points for Jack Barber, but this huge, sturdy horse looked to be pretty heavy round the girth and looked sure to come on for the run.

The fact that he held on to win after jumping and travelling well on the front end marks him down as a decent prospect, especially when he tackles fences. He fought of the staying chaser No Buts, who was in great order and raced with loads of enthusiasm.

Mortens Leam was the focal point on the day as the horses to follow entrant looked to have been found a decent opportunity, not withstanding the fact that Undefined Beauty was a very well backed favourite to make amends for losing out three weeks earlier.

Pam Sly's horse looked the best of these physically and has done well for the summer break, and I was convinced we'd see a different horse. I didn't think he was given a great ride, and that's putting it mildly.

Having been ridden prominently in most of his races last term, he was seeing out his races, but dropping him right out made no sense on this tight track and he used up a lot of effort to get involved.

I'm now convinced he wants an extra half mile, where most of his siblings have thrived, and a race at Fakenham can surely be found. He's running out of excuses, mind, but he's worth another chance.

The rest looked really moderate, as befits a 0-105, but the admirable Stepover improved again to finish second and I wouldn't put it past her winning again before long.

The next handicap hurdle was a dirty little race with each of the eight arriving with questions to answer. I didn't really like any of them bar Early Retirement, a horse I've seen develop and backed at the course last season.

I was quite surprised to see this chasing type so straight on his return, but all his form had been on much softer ground and that was a major concern. He needed reminders early on but warmed to the task and had it won on the home turn. He'll continue to progress and is a 130+ horse in the making. Awesome Rosie was really fit and again had no excuses.

The bumper was all about the heavily-backed favourite Hidden Glen, who clearly had a tall reputation and looked the part, being a well-made athletic son of Stowaway. And while he was short enough at post time, he was actually a bit of value as the rest looked far more backward.

In the end he had to be good to repel Ravensdale, a really well built Flemensfirth that looked in need of the run. He's a stayer in the making and a useful one at that, and the way the pair came clear suggests they are both decent.

You're So Right showed up for a long way and has a nice long stride, he's a good sort but will need time to strengthen, while Ourville's Mission was another to take the eye, and he ran well considering he needed it quite badly. 

Sunday 22 October 2017

Market Rasen - Saturday Oct 21

I'm not much of a clock-watcher, at least not since I left gainful employment, but the slow times on offer here correlate to the moving of the rails, and not the state of the ground.

An extra furlong was added to the opening race but it was clear that the strong wind was drying the ground out by the hour, and the way they were finishing all day suggested this was was good ground that was riding quicker.

D Skelton's Cabaret Queen has the build of a good ground specialist being quite long in the back, and she had filled out nicely since I saw her at Southwell in the spring. That looked like a decent bumper and I was surprised she was usurped as favourite to win this opening mares hurdle.

Lucca Lady had been as big as 5/1 in the morning on the back of a Stratford bumper win but they were getting their toe in that day and her physique was more indicative of a softer-ground horse. She didn't have the pace to cope with Cabaret Queen in any case, and the pair may be above average.

Ebonys Encore wasn't given a hard time and she will be better later on, while Lostnfound didn't look straight and could be one for a handicap as she looks a willing galloper, albeit going the other way round.

The first division of a maiden hurdle was a dire contest and Skelton again held the key player in Not That Fuisse, an immature looking horse whose bumper win marked her out as a solid favourite.

However, she was pulled up at halfway presumably with an injury, although she was ridden back to the stables. It left the door open to the few with any form in the race, not that they had appealed beforehand.

Zen Master was leggy and very weak behind, I didn't like him at all and don't expect him to be going forward from this, while Raised On Grazeon looked a bit burly after a lengthy break and that could be attributed to her weak finish...however neither of them were finishing with any zeal and her temperament remains her biggest problem. Bit Of A Quirke relished the return to better ground but again, the handicapper must give him a chance.

The second division saw a nicer type in Demon D'Aunou, who was given plenty of time to find his feet before powering clear of another average field. He cost130k and has plenty of size, so could be alright.

Quest For Life ran as well as could be expected on his return, and he'll improve for it, while there was a fair gap to the staying on Royal Mandate and Wotabreeze (quite small, workmanlike).

The first handicap of the day wasn't the most enticing with the betting revolving around Shrubland and the well-handicapped Paddys Runner.

Neither appealed much at the odds and it was a farcical contest as they dawdled for a circuit. That probably didn't suit Bowie, who looked well and likes to come off a fast pace. His mark will drop again and he shouldn't be discounted just yet.

A staying handicap hurdle came up next and it looked a really good opportunity for the strong looking Blue Comet, who looked in great order for a weak five-runner affair.

It's Your Move was second in but he's a real soft ground slugger and he couldn't get to grips with this sharp test round here - he may need time but he'll be alright in different conditions.

Hey Bill is only a compact sort but it was disappointing to see him go wrong on the far side, leaving only Waltz Darling to chase home the favourite, who won as he liked.

A cracking novice chase came up next and I made a poor call in wanting to take on the short-priced Capitaine, who is a big, tall, leery sort of horse whose attitude under pressure is questionable.

This was not the day to go against him though as, for a third outing in succession, nothing could get this keen going animal off the bridle. He was very impressive but I still don't want to get carried away by this as it's probably that the very fast conditions played into his hands and against the others, who all probably want another half mile and softer ground.

Bordeaux Bill was again supported as if he shows plenty at home, but his fall at Sedgefield is hard to get away from and he became very novicey again today. Western Miller probably ran his race and he's more exposed than most, while Lithic looked pretty fit but just couldn't get involved and he wants at least 2m4f.

Atomix ran a tidy little race and this highly rated horse still has room to strengthen, and chasing is his game.

A weak 0-120 handicap chase followed and I couldn't see beyond the top three on the card, whose form had a stronger look to it than the rest.

I had Ready Token and Sporting Boy clear favourites and they both looked well - it seemed a case of which would settle into the better rhythm on the front end, as I couldn't see anything coming from behind on this terrain.

Having plumped for the former it was the latter who fairly bounded off the ground to win by a value of around 15 lengths, with Mister Don running his usual race in second when it was all over. Kelvingrove had the form to win but he's not very big and hasn't taken to fences - maybe some blinkers will help as he is low on confidence.

The junior bumper was interesting, as there was a strong word for M Channon's Rippling Waters despite the fact she looked quite light framed, albeit clearly nicely bred.

There was money also for Wishmaker, although I felt he would come on for the run, and the clear paddock pick was Normal Norman, a good strong sort who looked in really good heart.

His opening effort was surely going to put him thereabouts and with the benefit of experience over most of his rivals he had to be the bet. P Brennan rode him with confidence - almost too much - and he got badly boxed turning for home, and I strongly suspect he's a good bit better than this.

Skelton's Lady Maleficent was absolutely tiny while Grand Sancy was just a baby really and will do better once he's strengthened up. Forewarning looked really backward physically but he wouldn't be the first horse trained by Mrs Corbett to outrun his appearance.

Friday 20 October 2017

Wetherby/Carlisle Oct 18/19

This time of year it's interesting to try and figure out which trainers are getting their horses ready first time out and which are leaving something to work on...after all there's six months of quality National Hunt racing ahead.

It's not an exact science of course. Some horses can be 95% ready and still win a weak looking race - you might call it 'getting away with it'. But broadly speaking if you're not fit, something else will beat you even if it looks over-rated or even too short in the betting. Just go with it.

These first few meetings it's good to get a look at the Sue Smith-trained horses, with the question being 'how forward are they this year'?

At Wetherby, we got our answer.

Wetherby - Wednesday

Race 2

An interesting novice chase with horses rated between 139 and 116, some working off a hurdles mark. The money came for top rated Minella Aris, indeed it was backed as though defeat was out of the question.

But as good as this horse looks, and he does look worth his 200k price tag, I had reservations about him especially at the dwindling odds, as he had checked out very tamely over hurdles.

Again here he was very keen early on, jumping markedly left, and he was clearly beaten when crashing out at the second last after walking through the previous fence. He'll be better over 3m but he's on a high mark and is one to be wary of for now.

Smith's Cracking Find was backed from 14s into 11/2 but a line quickly went through him when he looked to be carrying condition. Needing improvement on the ratings anyway, it was a tough introduction and Cook gave him an easy time in the straight; this bonny horse will do well this season.

The finish was fought out by Cooking Fat and Popelys Gull. The latter had strengthened up over the summer but still lacks a bit of size, and he looked up against it on the numbers, while also looking like a stayer over hurdles.

An error at the last nearly let in the runner-up but that stamina kicked in and he won a bit cosily for the Sly yard going great guns under both codes.

I've always liked Cooking Fat, and he jumped tidily I thought on this chase debut. He wasn't great in his coat but doesn't always impress in that regard, and he too should find races this term.

Work De Breteau looked well and might have had a say had he not clouted the final ditch, although he too looks a bit in the weights, while it wasn't a lack of fitness that accounted for Cyrius Moriviere.

Race 3

A novices hurdle that didn't look like it would take much winning and that proved to be the case, it was a slow motion finish and by some way the slowest relative time on the card.

Barton Knoll won it with a move at the top of the straight, and as he looked as though he may improve fitness wise he may have been getting tired or idling late on. He's okay in looks but this doesn't really want me to back him next time under a penalty.

The chasers all looked pretty backward, Judge Earle certainly better for the outing while Atlantic Grey and Royal Escape are unfurnished types that may do better in handicaps providing the handicapper takes a similar as this one about the level of the form.

Race 4

The 'Bobby Renton' trophy had Monbeg River's name all over it as the ultra consistent and good looking chaser ticked every box on this seasonal return, and what's more he was almost twice the price as he was in my tissue.

Delusionofgrandeur looked quite straight but simply doesn't have the basic speed for a test like this and his position at the head of the market was little short of astounding, while After Hours was well backed but he bears the hallmarks of a soft ground slugger who surely wants further now.

There was one wildcard in the race and that was French exile Ballotin, and six-year-old winner of no fewer than 11 races already with proven stamina over further.

With those credentials he should have been quite a warm order but having been purchased by Mr D Maxwell for him to ride in the UK, his odds drifted accordingly.

It's great to see the Corinthian spirit alive and well, although it would have been even greater had Mr Maxwell slipped out the side door on landing over the final fence.

In truth, Ballotin was the better horse on the day and should have won by five, so I've no complaints about the result. Monbeg River had his chances, and I'm not quite sure if he deserves another chance - he's become costly after some unfortunate reversals at times last season.

Race 5

Just Milly got quite warm before this staying hurdle but she's still learning and after travelling sweetly I'm thinking she's capable of better than she showed here, chasing home the winner Lough Salt. She made a couple of mistakes at the wrong time and wants watching.

Lough Salt hadn't quite delivered on early promise last season but a switch to R Guest augered well, as did the eye-catching booking of L Aspell, and the six-year-old looked in good order after a warm-up on the flat.

I though he put it to bed pretty well, the form is solid with Nautical Nitwit running his race again despite getting there too soon. Smooth Stepper and No Planning, in particular, will be better for it, both looking weighted to win again this season.

Race 6

A competitive chase over 2m but there were question marks over pretty much all of them which made it a sticky punting heat.

Nomoreblackjack had filled out over the summer as you would like and he should grow into his higher mark, although he surely wants 2m4f now and softer ground will suit. Today Please, like stablemate After Hours, is a nice prospect and will improve markedly for this, while Deadly Approach is a thick-set type to need a run or two.

It didn't take much winning, and the good pace on what looked slightly dead ground suited the quirky Nicolas Chauvin, who isn't the sort to repeat this in a hurry.

Race 7

Flat exile Seamour was all the rage for the finale but he's not been easy to win with and the 2m trip looked sharp enough for a horse that can't be in front too long.

There were some nice types in opposition and they included Keep In Line, who is a good looking horse that was fit enough, but wasn't seen to best effect and may want further.

Master Of Irony has always caught the eye physically but his resolution has come into question. However, he travelled like a horse well ahead of his mark and found enough off the bridle to hold on.

Cornborough got a stinker of a ride and is better than this after seeing way too much daylight he rallied to virtually lead over two out. I'm sure his turn is coming again. Sakhee's City looked really unfit and this would have been a promising effort if you didn't know his back-catalogue. 

Carlisle - Thursday

It's a long old haul but always worth the trip when you get there.

Race 1

Barrys Jack had threatened to win several times over timber last season and duly struck over fences at the first time of asking last month. Just 1lb higher back over hurdles he looked an absolute shoo-in against a really poor bunch and the market agreed. 1-0.

Race 2

A four-runner novice hurdle in essence and I was shocked to see the money come for the Smiths' Quietly (4s into 9/4), who was up against it on the bare form and certainly wants further than this 2m3f trip. Added to the fact that he wasn't anywhere near wound up, he was easy to put a line through.

Apollo Creed looks backward and slow and E Williams rarely rushes his young chasing types. It was down to two and the form horse Count Meribel won as he liked in the end, galloping resolutely to the line as the fittest and possibly best horse in the line-up should.

I did like the runner-up Absolute Power, a nice big well made Flemensfirth, and although his head carriage was rather alarming in the first part of the race, he knuckled down well in the manner of a horse that wants further and softer.

I quite liked Valzan but this French import needs to drop at least a stone before he's competitive on this evidence.

Race 3

An interesting staying chase in which you could rule out more than half the nine runner field. It didn't turn out to be that straight forward though as my fancies Federici (very fit and once again disappointing) and Carrigdhoun never showed up with a serious chance.

Vic De Touzaine looked a typical grey that is hard to weigh-up fitness-wise, my view being that he had done enough to run his race, not that I felt he'd necessarily win.

Similarly Boric was fitter than I expected as he's usually slow to come to the boil, and like stablemate Total Assets at Hexham, he ran another personal best despite being on a career high mark.

I have to mention I Just Know, one of my favourite horses in training. Again he looked fantastic, but he will improve in fitness and I think also in general condition over the next 18 months. He's one of the best jumpers around but I don't think Aintree is in the picture.

Race 4

I got it badly wrong in the novice hurdle but the well-backed Destined To Shine let us down by running too freely and jumped big and left, using up way too much energy. He went down very early and clearly isn't straight forward, but has loads of ability if and when it clicks. He was very fit for this and it was one of those things.

The decent pace of course set it up perfectly for the previously hard-pulling Slanelough, who is a miserable looking horse but clearly has ability and his reserves of stamina and quite possibly resolution were more than enough for these.

Bal De Rio chased him home and I have had reservations about him that weren't confounded here, and he may be worth taking on again in all but the weakest of novices. Some of these were backward if not moderate looking, and it wasn't much of a race.

Race 6

A trappy novices chase over the minimum trip where race fitness proved to be key here - recent Bangor winner Derintogher Yank out-running them from the front in a really good time from the busy Beau Bay, whose hold-up tactics don't work very well round this quirky track.

It saw the return of Dubai Angel, and the Jefferson prospect jumped and travelled well in the main bar one jolting error, and he'll be ready to go next time over an extra half mile.

Report To Base looked a good stronger than last term and I expected a lot more from him, not withstanding the fact that he wants much further than this. Crievehill looks very quirky but has the ability to pop up once his mark comes down, while Joueur Bresilien looks costly but is an athletic sort whose yard has not clicked yet.

Race 7

There was an avalanche of support in the bumper for Mary Eleanor, out of the tremendous racemare Lady Rebecca. She looked strong and fit bit this was no cakewalk on looks as both Peters Cousin and Kapga De Lily were likely types.

Peters Cousin became very immature in the prelims but she settled ok and travelled ominously well before staying on pleasingly on the run to the line. She could be okay and the front three came well clear.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Hexham - Saturday Oct 14

The official going description at the previous two meetings had been misleading but after overnight rain this was heavy ground and it looked hard work for most.

The opening novice hurdle over 20f wasn't the greatest in the world and they struggled to find a favourite, eventually landing on Niceandeasy, who looked well prepared for this seasonal debut despite looking lean and light framed.

He won his bumper on heavy ground and he didn't mind this one bit, reeling in the runaway leader Saint Freule to win as he liked.

The latter went down very early and was kept away from the rest at the start. Taking a very keen hold, he probably did well to keep going as long as he did. He's got ability, and will grow into his frame in time, but is clearly a handful at present.

There was a move for the compact Jeu De Mots, but I thought he travelled too well in the first part of the contest and it could be that a drop back in trip may suit at this time. He cost 32k so bigger things can be expected.

Only Orvieto looked fairly straight after a long absence but didn't show much at all, while Allmyown was a late drifter and backed out of things a long way from home. He's a nice staying chaser for the future though.

It was hard to find anything for the first handicap chase of the day with the Pauling/De Boinville axis responsible for favourite Alpine Secret, who hadn't shown a great deal over timber.

The fact they sent him up here could mean that he's not very good, and although he looked fit and a proper chasing type, I didn't think he jumped that well and he stopped pretty quickly up the hill.

He was taken for the lead by Western Jo and while he had stopped pretty quickly over hurdles last time out, he had the class to gallop them stupid without coming off the bridle.

He'll be walloped for this and I'd be inclined to oppose him in better company as he isn't very reliable under pressure.

Haul Us In, like Alpine Secret, hadn't shown much over hurdles and was quickly sent over fences by the Russell yard. She looked well, but ran an astounding race as she was soon tailed off and looking none too keen.

What she achieved in staying on into second is debatable, as very few managed to get round. Perseid ran his race again in third despite not really enjoying the going, while Red Danaher gave place layers kittens prior to fading late on.

The 10-year-old has never taken the eye and is moderate, and looked to be heavy enough round the girth. The handicapper has given him a chance though, and he may pick one of these up although he had started to look moody when last seen.

Log On was another to make his chase debut and I quite liked him at big odds, you could say a typical looking Scorpion with loads of scope, and I thought he was pretty straight.

But like many others from the Dobbin yard on the day, ran very much as though needing it after showing a bit of promise with a mid-race move. He's one to keep an eye on over fences.

A novice race over the minimum gave useful bumper filly Dame Rose the chance to open her account which she did in the simplest of terms.

She's done her winning on good ground but I find most Network's go through the mud and she didn't seem too inconvenienced by it, while she looked to have strengthened up over the summer.

The runner-up Tetraites Style will be alright, not over-big but a handy animal that looks every inch a Court Cave. He'll improve as his stamina is drawn out, a comment well worth re-iterating for Caventara, who plodded on for third.

Out of the super staying mare L'aventura, this gelding has loads of size and scope and is a proper horse. He'll stay four miles and connections will have been delighted by what they saw here. It wasn't too much of a stretch to think he could hit the frame, as Getaway Bay looked really backward and The Linksman was a big drifter after being snapped up for a pittance by the Englands.

The big race saw eight go to post for a staying handicap where the late money came for Kilcullen Flem, and when it comes from the Kirby kennel it usually has 'shrewd' written down the side.

On his debut for the yard, this strapping horse looked just about fit enough and had clearly done plenty of work. The excellent A Nicol certainly rode like he had a fit horse under him, and one that stayed well too as he pushed the pace that eventually did for Allez Cool.

The winner was tired at the last and was all out in the end, but he had the race won and was value for 20 lengths. More Madness ran badly in snatches again and even turned it in late on when supporters sensed a final chance. He's one to avoid.

Allez Cool hasn't grown or filled out which is disappointing, but he'll improve for this sound effort, but Green Flag looked burly despite being co-favourite and it remains to be seen if he can reclaim his old form.

Smuggler's Stash came in for support and although he looked well enough he carried some condition and he looked much better when winning here last year. Another Dobbin inmate Purcell's Bridge took a walk in the market and clearly wasn't straight.

For a stable that had such a good weekend last week, none of their five runners got round here.

Quite a nice staying handicap hurdle had cut up to eight because of the ground, and it looked wide open but I'll confess to missing an open goal here.

I've documented a few times that Native Optimist would benefit from stronger handling and I remember too well going for tilt at Carlisle when A Nicol was in the plate and he was caught on the line at 16/1.

Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since then and this bonny horse loves it round here where he can be assured to gallop all day. I'm no fan of O'Toole though and with any other pilot on board I'd have had no cause to step back at big odds.

That said, the market had spoken for Bellaney Knight and he is a well-handicapped horse on some old form, and this big scopey sort looked ready to roll.

He'd been kept away from this type of ground in the past though, and once again he jumped poorly and showed precious little, so now has questions to answer.

Classical Milano carried loads of condition, but Gamain looked really well and I thought he'd run better than he did in the end.

Total Assets was a big drifter during the day as she looks very high in the weights and all her best form has come after a run or two.

She looked well, albeit carrying condition, and she's returned better than ever. I thought this was a decent effort and she loves nothing more than a gruelling stamina test.

A third handicap chase saw Minella Suite go off quite a weak jolly, and once again the big chasing type is left with questions to answer and getting outpaced and out-jumped prior to coming down four out.

I was very keen on Oak Vintage, who had dropped to a derisory mark for a yard that was wrong for much of last winter. Much as I like R Chapman he was bold enough on the seven-year-old, who finally looks the finished article.

This feels like one that got away (14>9/2) but I think the runner-up can be seen to even better effect this season granted at least a four-week break for this tough opener.

John Williams looked straight enough and he was well-handicapped on some largely consistent efforts last term, but the ground was a huge concern and as a result was a very weak 9/1 chance on the softest ground he'd faced.

Yet he battled on bravely and his form over further saw him just outstay Oak Vintage and Roman Numeral, who looked dreadful beforehand but arguably ran his best race. He doesn't always find much though and may have bottled it late on.

There was little else you could fancy in the race although Achill Road Boy was not wound up and got going far too late over a trip on the sharp side. He can add to his tally as he looks well handicapped.

The bumper was a decent one and Senor Lombardy looks the part, as he should having cost a six figure sum. Klare Castle was the second nicest looking and it really came as no surprise that they finished in that order.

Money came for Tayzar but he's a big gangly horse I didn't much care for, while Teescomponents Lad will be just better for it and ran really well. Schiehallion Munro, Rocket Man Rodney and Miss Amelia will all win races once they find their level.

Sunday 8 October 2017

Horses to follow

Here we go again, trying to play Mystic Meg. It's just a bit of fun but will hopefully provide a few winners along the way.

Last year's six chasers to follow found Double W's, who won three times (9/4, Evs and 8/1), I Just Know, also three wins (2/1, 7/4 & 13/8) and Kilbree Chief (won 4/1).

I've only come up with five this time around, but then Creme Eggs aren't as big as they used to be...

Redemption Song (K Frost) 4
I had the pleasure of seeing this five-year-old mare on all three occasions she made the track last season and she didn’t do much wrong for a big, strong horse that will improve greatly over time.

After a pleasing debut where she stayed on from a long way back, she showed signs of greenness on her next outing before galloping on strongly to win by a wide margin.

She was done for a bit of toe in the mares final at Aintree, but that looked a particularly strong race this year and, once more, the way she stayed on suggests a stamina test will suit her.

Bought for £65k after landing an Irish PTP, I can see this half-sister to Starchitect quickly turn into a 130+ hurdler, and with her big frame I’d like to see her take on the men and take advantage of her mares’ allowance. A nice prospect.

Aliandy (K Bailey)
A Presenting gelding that hasn’t been easy to win with so far, but his refusal to settle in his races means his true ability has yet to be revealed.

A good looking sort, yet still backward last winter, he came through late to win at Southwell before going down by the narrowest of margins at Doncaster to a horse now rated 20lb higher over fences.

It could be that larger obstacles make a man of him while the application of a hood is also likely to help, but just the passing of summer and greater maturity could be all that’s needed for this horse to win races this season.

Soft ground and three miles shouldn’t be a problem but, like last season, I expect him to be competitive on better ground and over a shorter trip in the early part of the season.

Mortens Leam (P Sly) 4
From a wonderful homebred family, I expect the weak and backward Mortens Leam to take a step forward this season in the hope that another summer has done him the power of good.

He looked on the cusp of victory more than once last season, only to finish tamely, but I put this down to physical immaturity rather than a mental issue.

All his siblings have won races, including Actinpieces and Bonnet’s Vino, the dam and granddam were both honest mares, so there’s no reason why this one can’t win from his current perch of 104.

There is plenty of stamina in those bloodlines and while he wasn’t getting home over 2m last term, I think a hold-up ride over 2m4f could suit this horse, and while he has yet to race at Fakenham I can see that track suiting ideally for a trainer that does very well there.

Tanarpino (J Candlish) 55
This big, rangy six-year-old didn’t look quite right last season and as a consequence begins from an eye-catching mark of 123 this autumn.

Bought for and expensive-looking £80k after landing an Irish PTP, he took a while to find his feet before picking up a couple of handicap hurdles in soft ground in January 2016.

He ran okay in the EBF Final at Sandown that year, before winning another race off 120 at Ludlow on fairly decent ground.

He looked very likely to win on his chasing debut at Carlisle only to subside after the last, where it was assumed that lack of fitness cost him the race.

But subsequent efforts followed a similar vein leaving me to believe he was still on the weak side or that they found an underlying problem. If that’s the case, and they’ve sorted it out, I expect him to do very well this term on soft ground at up to and possibly beyond 3m.

He made a pleasing return over hurdles at Warwick last week, which should set him up for a return to the larger obstacles.

Just Minded (Mrs S Smith) F
Gambled on from around 10s into 4s on his bumper debut at Carlisle, where victory proved he has a really good engine.

He seemed to struggle in the very worst winter ground in four starts over hurdles, but showed plenty of speed for a son of Kayf Tara to win at Market Rasen over the minimum trip.

Well built, he'll clearly make his mark as a chaser but I suspect he may have another couple of spins over timber first, where he shouldn't be too over-burdened by a mark of 122. A decent prospect.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Sedgefield - Tuesday Oct 3

One of the more competitive meetings for the track and quite a few points of interest for future purposes. The going was more or less good.

The first division of a split handicap hurdle held little appeal from a betting point of view, the Sue Smith-trained Mathayus being well-backed to back up his last run here despite not pleasing greatly in the paddock. It's probably fair to say this son of Scorpion has his fair share of temperament.

Windy Writer is a good size but was probably in the need of the run, although he faded away very tamely indeed. The Skelton's Daring Knight didn't look much and his odds doubled late on, while the cash for Mileva Roller on her first start for Lisa Harrison was surprising as she looks pretty moderate.

Division II was even weaker if that's possible and again there was surprising support for one low down called Gentleman James, but I didn't think it was fit after a break and he faded out of things. The big move however came for Betancourt, who entered the paddock late in the piece and looked in particularly good order, especially for one of Ewart's. Lightly raced, you'd think he might be able to win again as Greensworldsolution seemed to run his race in second. I thought Rock N'Stones looked a fair type but he disappointed and may have needed it.

An intriguing novice hurdle saw the market finally find a favourite in Or De Vassy, who had been placed on all five starts and didn't look much beforehand. The paddock pick was Nicely Indeed, and by some margin, and this Kim Bailey import was as fit as a butcher's dog on his debut for P Kirby.

I don't see him improving on this and his finishing effort was a little disturbing, hanging and not going through with it either when in front or after being headed. He may need a hold-up ride but it's not the first time he's disappointed with his finishing effort and I'd be wary of him bearing in mind he spent a good while on the injury list.

Or De Vassy did nothing wrong under a perfectly timed challenge, while It's Your Move ran well in third for more of a soft ground, staying type. Katy Royal, a 200/1 shot, looked weak beforehand so her staying on fourth leaves me perplexed as to the worth of the form.

There followed a hugely meritorious victory for Skelton's Cobra De Mai, who was badly hampered by the fall of favourite Western Miller, to a lesser extent by the fall of the well-backed Bordeaux Bill, and then forced to switch on the run to last before delivering a late thrust to beat a solid hurdler in Jacks Last Hope.

Despite the steadier of a double penalty, the form of the winner entitled him to be second favourite so it was alarming and deeply off-putting to see him drift to 9s at the off, especially as somehow he didn't appear (at least before these eyes) in the paddock beforehand. I rate this effort highly, and while the runner-up hasn't run anywhere close to his hurdles rating, I'd be very surprised if the winner isn't hiked up from his current mark.

To be fair to the third horse, Eyes Of A Tiger, he too carried the double penalty and appeared to run his race despite a few errors, and he can win again soon. Bordeaux Bill really caught the eye beforehand so it was disappointing to see him take such a novicey fall at halfway. He'd jumped great before that and he's worth another chance.

There was a suspicion of 'palpable error' about the way Frederic had been priced up at 5/1 and bigger overnight for the handicap hurdle yet even I didn't expect the avalanche of support that sent him off a 7/4 jolly.

A big tall unit, the ex-Hammond inmate had improved a chunk under the guidance of K Dalgleish on the flat this summer but his wins had come at big galloping tracks and this stayer was not certain to be suited by a speed test. One could argue why Hughes sat motionless all the way to the second last on a horse he knew would stay and stay, but these things are futile and instead we must tip our hat to the tour de force that is Our Kylie, who improved yet again to win for a remarkable ninth time. The pair came 12 lengths clear and for connections of the runner-up it was one that got away.

The handicap chase brought together a host of horses that know how to lose, thus it was surprising that recent winner Dica was allowed to drift in the market bearing in mind his stella Indian summer. Whether the veteran would have won had Captain Mowbray stood up at the last is a moot point; the Menzies chestnut took his ledger to 0/19 with this spill and is untrustworthy.

That said he was fit for this reappearance which may be interesting in terms of his trainer, whose horses were slow to come to hand 12 months ago. Brown Trix came in for plenty of support on his first for the England outfit, but this was 'fake news' as this robust animal did not look wound up here and I suspect wants a far stiffer test than this. Aregra looked well but showed next to nothing.

The bumper was a very good one for the track with several Southern-based yards represented, and Newmarket trainer John Berry plundered the loot with his Delatite, who was a zippy Flat-type up against some nice NH bred horses. He fairly marmalised some nice sorts and must have done some improving over the summer.

Micky Hammond has done well with his bumper horses in recent seasons and Just Bobby is a good sort, if a little on the weak side, while Mutawaasel hadn't shown an awful lot for Sue Smith two seasons ago but this Flat bred rocked up looking very fit and ran a race of promise. Knight In Dubai and Djarkevi backed out of things rather disappointingly but it could just be that this was a decent race of its type, with a few more 'forward' types than is often the case.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Market Rasen - Saturday Sept 30

A competitive little card run on ground just on the soft side of good, the hurdles track officially the quicker of the two.

Race 2
I had a good angle into this mares novice as I'd seen Apache Song at Doncaster last season and thought she had plenty of substance on that pleasing debut behind Soldier In Action. That form alone was just about the best on offer here and it was great to see her return from a summer off looking very fit. She should have been favourite and so odds of 5/1 were snapped up. Her Flat speed would have been handy round this track even without the slow early pace, which played into her hands. The one horse it definitely did not suit was Molly Childers, a stoutly bred mare that I thought would improve for the outing. She lacked the pace to win a bumper but her form was decent and this was another pleasing effort. I like her, and she should build on this over longer trips. Runner-up David's Phoebe was the surprise package as she looked light-framed and immature, but she traveled nicely into the race and clearly has ability. Trainer Tom Lacey really is one to watch this term. Thelunarschooner looked a backward sort and that was borne out by the market drift, and she may need time. Mountain Path is an okay sort but her form had been let down and this slow gallop was of little help.

Race 3
I thought Better Days should have been a clear favourite in this handicap chase even though the trip was too short. I simply couldn't have Highbury High (too high in the weights) or The Doorman (winner of some weak races), while the money for Hepijeu was surprising as his form had tailed right off. The late cash for Irish raider I'm An Izz Wizz should have rung some bells and he looked the best physical specimen beforehand. His form has an in-and-out look but which Irish horse doesn't. Better Days is a very tall, light framed individual and you can see why he doesn't act on soft or perhaps take his races too well. I'm sure he'll win in turn but this is his grade.

Race 4
A competitive handicap hurdle over the minimum trip, and of the Skelton trio it was surprising the way they bet as the outsiders Listen To The Man and Late Night Lily were far more appealing than the favourite Red Tornado, who didn't look right in his coat and got quite warm. There's clearly an engine but there's not much about him. One that did look the part was I'm A Game Changer, who looked like he should be running in the next. A good looking chase type, they have to bide their time with this five-year-old but he's some prospect and not seen to any effect here off what wasn't a very strong pace for the type of race. Stable companions Cloonacool and Land League look more like chasers and the latter will find his feet over the bigger obstacles in time. The same comment applies to the fourth placed Limited Reserve, who was fit for this return but has plenty of scope for improvement.

Race 5
The big handicap chase with loads of potential front runners and, not always the case, they took each other on and every single one of them paid the price. It played into the hands of the hold-up horses and it was perfect for Ballybolley, who always travels with particular zest. He's improved again to win off a career high mark but he'll rarely get this sort of pace to come off and I strongly suspect that's him done winning until the spring now - he cannot produce his turn of foot on soft ground. Guitar Pete was all the rage and he came second yet again, but he has a problem in that he lacks size for fences, and loses ground at every fence. He was hard at it from the get-go and simply stayed on through beaten horses. He's not one for me and there are reasons why he keeps getting beat. The moral winner was surely Master Dee, a robust animal who once again ran his heart out. Unable to go the early dash, he lost his pitch before battling back into it, leaving him empty on the run-in. The handicapper knows all about him, but I'm sure connections can find a small-field affair over three miles which will suit him perfectly. Catamaran Du Seuil was another mover in the market but he's really light framed still and although they must feel he's on a good mark, he faded pretty rapidly in the straight. Poker School was bitterly disappointing as this should have suited ideally. Given a lot to do, he didn't really find much in the straight and it's plausible I suppose that just keeping up with this frenetic pace drained his reserves. By Gold Well, he should relish 3m and maybe a steadier rhythm is what he needs now. Of the rest, only Its'Afreebee came here looking as though he needed the run, and this soft ground horse will find easier opportunities in the coming weeks as he has some decent form in the book.

Race 6
This handicap hurdle was another tricky puzzle especially with tearaway Marju's Quest in the field. He paid for going far too fast again while Captain Felix and Mahlerdramatic were left flagging after trying to keep tabs, so Get Home Now earns rave reviews for being the only one of those on the front end to keep going in the straight, fending off Handsome Dan who got a stellar hold-up ride from B Hughes. Another feather in the cap though for J Bowen with winning horse and rider improving at a rate of knots. Mahlerdramatic had reportedly undergone knee surgery last winter but came here looking fresh and well, and pretty straight. The trip concerned me as he has the look of a staying chaser, and he was simply exhausted after going flat out for a circuit and a half. This probably wasn't what the vet ordered on his first run back, and providing the injury hasn't resurfaced I'd put a line through this and hopefully connections will send him straight over fences at 2m4f+.

Race 7
The market had spoken ahead of the bumper as H Whittington's Simply The Betts had been supported from an early 5/1 into 7/4 by the off, and paddock watchers could see why. He's a very nice prospect indeed, with loads of size and a professional demeanour. He's a snip at 18k and it is rare to see such a nice horse this early in the season. Twister's Ballymoy was typical of the yard, a handy athletic type and quite buzzy. Runner-up Theclockisticking has size but looked weak in front so this was a really pleasing debut in what was probably a fair bumper. Snapdragon Fire is a tall backward animal that will need time, but he's got talent. Siannes Star is well related but is very light framed at present and he didn't have the strength to go with the front rank late in the piece despite some market support. He'll need plenty of time.