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.

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