Thursday 28 December 2017

Catterick - Thursday Dec 28

Not a very enticing card after the meeting got the all-clear, the going good to soft and likely a bit tacky.

The opening novice hurdle looked a tricky three horse affair with each protagonist bringing something different to the table.

In the end, none made a particularly positive impression, coming home in a heap after a slow early pace, with the next two moderate looking types hot on their heels.

The well-backed Enola Gay ground out the win and it's possible he may want softer ground, while the wayward Teescomponents Lad nudged out debutant Swashbuckle for second.

The runner-up appeared to have the race at his mercy but wandered around when produced at both the penultimate flight and the last, and can surely win one of these as he builds experience, possibly over further.

Swashbuckle was moderately strong in the market but the betting belied wariness and his jumping was novicey; had it been better he would surely have won. It still seemed disappointing that he couldn't go on in the straight and perhaps better ground will suit this 85-rated flat winner.

Gang Warfare is only moderate looking but was close by in fourth, ahead of Young Tom, another that doesn't look up to winning a novice en route to handicaps.

The second race was arguably the one to get stuck into on the day, featuring as it did one of two well-backed horses on the day from the M Keighley yard in Cup Of Ambition.

He is a horse that appears to already have plenty of 'badass' attitude about him and, lacking in stature, he made no appeal and he duly blundered his chances away.

There wasn't a great deal of solid form around but Paddling from the red hot Hammond yard had put together three consistent runs and the extra yardage looked sure to bring on further improvement; thus it was surprising he went off as big as 4/1.

Nothing came forward in a weak affair and Paddling duly bolted up given a patient ride, the front running Frankie Ballou and Reverse The Charge filling minor honours suggesting this wasn't great form.

I had no interest in the seller, in which the winner Shalamzar looked to be carrying plenty of condition, although he's far from certain to build on this. Roman Numeral once again proved himself unreliable under pressure and he's undoubtedly a favourite of the in-running sharks.

Another no-bet race saw Lake Field predictably follow up in the novices chase with a solid round of jumping, and rising nine they are sensible in pressing on with him.

It's one of the worst feelings when a yard decide to adopt negative tactics and my bombproof each-way play on Golden Investment was doomed from flagfall when he was dropped right out for a second time successive time, after such tactics failed last time.

The McCain chaser has just the one pace, and mostly on the bridle, so asking him to make up 15 lengths off just a moderate gallop was plain ridiculous. Talking through my pocket, yes, but I like to think I'm as objective as can be on these pages. I noticed they dropped Whitsundays out at Sedgefield the other day and he made up eight lengths after the last to get done a nose. Stick to the tried and tested, Mr McCain!

Red Danaher is really quite small and his position at the head of the market was largely connections-based, but the plodder has not delivered on numerous occasions and he lacks resolution and bravery. A return to timber may see him in better light but I wouldn't bet on it.

Cottersrock was the other Keighley horse backed but he too bit the dust, an entirely predictable scenario based on his previous chase efforts. There weren't many you could fancy, and Attention Please proved most straight forward once again to defy a rise.

Hattons Hill can't act round these tight turns and looked to still need the run anyway.

I took the progressive Durbanville and American Life, who looked well, against the progressive and penalised Triopas in the staying hurdle. To be honest I rarely get these quick returning types right and my view that recent Towcester winners struggle to follow up never seems to materialise when the money's down.

Having handed all the earlier takings back and more besides, it was a gloomy drive home. We can only hope Donny passes tomorrow's early inspection.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Wetherby - Wednesday Dec 27

Soft ground but it wasn't too bad considering the recent weather, not a brilliant card but the opening novice hurdle looked very deep for the track and should produce a few winners.

Previous winners Bulkov and Some Reign headed the market but neither was very strong and they looked vulnerable, particularly Bulkov whose form on these shores hasn't looked that great.

Some Reign refused to start last time and that meant he went off at bigger odds than his form implied - he was quickly trimmed upon the tapes rising - but he's not always excited me physically, he's quite narrow and doesn't move especially well.

Trainer's husband A Dobbin esq rates the horse highly but he's got questions to answer at present, finding little behind an impressive winner, and it could be that he requires much better ground.

Lisdoonvarna Lad had shown very good bumper form which would have put him in with a shout here, but he flopped last time when pulling too hard. He settled nicely in the quiet hands of B Hughes here though and ran right away from them in the end.

The best looking of these, albeit with a slight quirk, he was deeply impressive and the further they went the better he looked. It's interesting that the trainer has been having winners after a very quiet time.

Quest For Life was one of the smallest but had shown solid form previously, and came through for second under the quietest of rides, and this run will have been missed by no-one.

Going Gold is a nice horse who disappointed considering his good bumper form last time out. Costing 80k, I'd expect much better from him but he does shape like a stayer and he'll need much further than this sooner rather than later.

Just Bobby looked really well and is a decent prospect, but he was given a very quiet ride in the worst of the ground and I suspect he'll be teed up for a handicap on better ground than this in the spring.

The novice chase cut up to three unfortunately and the market called it correctly as Bordeaux Bill finally delivered on his hurdles promise, relishing the trip as he scooted away from Sharp Response in the straight.

The winner has taken his time to get his act together over fences but the way Cook gunned him at the last four suggested his confidence is now on the up and he can land a decent handicap this season.

He only did what the figures said he should do though, Sharp Response being a reliable yardstick albeit at the lower level. He did little wrong barring a couple of minor errors and I expect the runner-up to boost this form in the weeks ahead.

The juvenile hurdle saw a nice sort in Albert's Back, who was all the rage after his win here on debut, and he is almost certainly an above average recruit for the bang in form MW/D Easterby team.

He was chased home by Turning Gold, a miler on the flat, but he stuck on well and looks of interest especially when the ground dries out in the spring, as he has loads of scope.

Cornerstone Lad looked well but had a bit to find on the book, that said I thought he'd do better than he did, while American Craftsman took a huge step backwards and this lightly-framed animal, who was regressive on the flat, now has questions to answer.

The feature race was the Castleford and it looked wide open with chances to be given to all six rivals, which to these eyes meant Cyrus Darius was a very short priced favourite considering the questions he had to answer over jumping, trip, and to some extent, resolution.

They all looked trained to the minute and I thought Duke Of Navan was ready to land a decent pot after too much time on the sidelines. Given a positive ride, he looked all over the winner in the straight and if the jockey had kicked turning in he may just have nicked it.

As it was, Just Cameron wore him down for the red-hot Hammond yard and connections can have the handicapper to thank for his kindness, allowed to run off a 4lb lower mark than when successful here in January. I didn't think he'd quite have the pace but, rising 11, he's clearly still on his game.

Cyrus Darius failed to answer any of the questions posed to him in finishing a tired third, and the odds are he simply isn't the force he looked prior to injury. There'll be more races in him, but at present his mark is flattering.

For the first time I can remember I managed to miss them in the paddock ahead of the mares staying chase, which was annoying as I didn't fancy the short priced favourite Same Circus as she doesn't look a natural over fences, and based on this evidence a return to timber will suit ideally.

Milly Baloo has loads of scope and was held together by Hughes, she looks green and lacking confidence and is probably weighted to her best, but can surely improve on this and win again if things fall into place...she stays well but may do better off a faster pace over shorter.

The winner Sheneededtherun was noted on these pages last season, going well at Southwell and then landing a penalty kick at this track. She's an out and out staying chaser and shouldn't have been the price she was in a weak race, and with a tongue tie added. Well-handicapped, she can't go up much and may well win again if kept to similar races, and she'll stay even further too.

The closing staying hurdle had some nice looking horses declared and of most interest was Tickanrun from the Hammond yard, who looked straight enough off a 600+ day absence upon leaving the Grant kennel. Most importantly it was strong in the market and it looked as though the punt would be landed up the straight.

But Final Fling, who I followed for a long time before letting him go some time back, is a dour stayer and wouldn't lie down, out-gunning the grey from the last. The winner lacks size and has been struggling over fences - he's a proper hurdler but may now struggle off higher marks.

Flemerina relished the softer ground but she's really only moderate and can pick up weaker races than this on her favoured terrain, while Honeychile Ryder - a former horse to follow - once again showed a glimpse of ability and she can win one of these types of races over shorter...she's a keen sort but much better than her rating suggests. It's to be hoped she can string a few runs together now and I haven't given up on her.

Saturday 9 December 2017

Wetherby - Saturday Dec 9

A card decimated by withdrawals owing to the ground, which was reported to be very hard work and still frozen in the more exposed parts of the track. The less said about this state of affairs, the better.

The opening novice hurdle was the most interesting on the afternoon with several to note for the future.

While Wemyss Point looked overpriced when winning at the last meeting, physically he didn't have anywhere near the presence of some of these chasers of the future, and well-backed again he represented any value other than in the place market.

Knight In Dubai was noted as a strong sort in need of softer ground when routed in a Sedgefield bumper nearly 10 weeks ago, but given time to strengthen by his astute trainer took a giant leap forward here.

Despite looking more unfurnished than most, he travelled incredibly well and won with his head in his chest. It looks he's run to around 120 here and he's a useful recruit that can defy a penalty.

Game On and Indian Hercules were closely matched on their Uttoxeter running and both have a future over fences. The former doesn't have much respect for timber but should be able to pick up one of these granted softer conditions, while the former is well made but didn't seem to appreciate this terrain.

Overworkdunderpaid was a surprising springer in the market as he looks a really big ugly tank of a horse, who won't come into his own until further down the line. But he shaped with promise and is another to take out of the race.

Finally, Trixter wasn't given a hard time back in the pack and this compact sort is one to look out for in something like a 0-110 where his trainer likes to have a bit of a touch.

Ami Desbois did what he had to do in the novice chase against A Vos Gardes, who has used his time on the sidelines to strengthen up quite nicely. The winner looked strangely quirky in front but I suspect he wanted a bit of company and if it comes up on the soft side at Cheltenham in March he'll be at the forefront of my plans.

On A Promise was the selection in the staying hurdle and he travelled like the winner on this hat-trick bit, but the stone rise did for him although in fairness he beat the rest pointless behind Pop Rockstar, who followed up his Haydock quite well in the end. Obviously very well in, it may be that the second didn't stand much of a chance.

Six went to post in the next and it fell to perennial rogue Captain Mowbray, who took the step up to 3m in his stride to finally get off the mark.

That doesn't tell the full story as he did his best to chuck it away two out with a dreadful blunder that shot T Kelly forward, and the Irishman did a remarkable job to stay in the plate in the save of the season.

If anything else could raise a gallop they were done for but Big Meadow and Mr Love, two big chasing types making their debut, were spent and Kelly was able to rally the Captain to an epic win, which also gave his trainer a well deserved winner.

Aristo Du Plessis made it two from two at the track this term despite not being able to take up his usual front running role, and it's to the credit of jockey C Nichol that he kept to his own even tempo, which was more than enough for two rivals. Sakhee's City looked more wayward than ever and he surely now wants blinkers.

Only three left in the handicap chase as well, Movie Legend winning again with Pistol Park again not jumping with much fluency and Ifandbutwhynot stopping to nothing. The winner may be getting better but I'd be wary if he gets a big rise for this.

Just a fillies bumper over 12 furlongs to finish and the market sorted out the best looking of them, the well-made Behranell coming in for support ahead of Perfect Myth, who was a bit on the weak side but had some quality about her.

The biggest of them by some way was the nicely bred Kuragina, but while she was expected to learn plenty for the outing she galloped all over them and won with something in hand in the end, landing a small touch for the shrewd Slack yard.

The amount of times the biggest, strongest filly wins in these races is remarkable and something for us all to remember.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Haydock - Wednesday Dec 6

Across the old 62 we went for a six race card with only a clutch of runners in each, but it was competitive enough and not without fun.

Most horses are rocking up fit at this stage of the season and paddock views are largely a case of what takes the eye in terms of structure and well-being.

Thomas Patrick was probably the nicest on show in the opening handicap hurdle but he went down in a head-bob to Pop Rockstar, whose form probably entitled him to win, for all that physically he is more a work in progress.

The following novices chase was a real headbanger and I ended up staying right out of it, although the couple I didn't really want to be with happened to bomb out.

Rolling Dylan was one as he didn't look very big against some of these and the 5lb penalty appeared to make things difficult, not that it mattered in the end as he was done for turning into the straight.

Buster Thomas is a nice strong sort physically but he's pretty backward and again he pulled too hard, exhausted when coming down at the last. Once he settles, he'll want a good distance of ground.

Eamon Na Cnoic was part of my betting plan on the last day at Wetherby but he jumped stickily prior to a heavy fall five out that day. Sent off an unconsidered rag here, he was smooth over his fences and this expensive purchase has the size and scope to be quite decent and this was his second course win.

Sainte Ladylime is strong but not that tall and clearly finds jumping difficult, not so Ballydine who looked as straight as he could be for his first run back off a 600+day absence.

He's a real stayer though, and just plugged on over this trip after getting outpaced on the turn in. He's a strong chaser who jumped cleanly, and given a decent break he's one Longsdon inmate to have on your side this winter, while he also goes on better ground so the Festivals may not be out of the question.

Niblawi and Shivermetimbers shared favouritism in a small field novice hurdle and you wouldn't find two more different animals, the former a small, stocky ex-Flat horse against a huge great chasing type who must go through the motions of a season or two over timber.

Neither made great appeal in the circumstances, although I foolishly didn't fully consider the third 'runner' Joke Dancer, who I've noted favourably here on his two previous starts.

A nicer horse you couldn't wish for but he'd been quite fractious and green before his races, and keen going in the race.

He's getting better each time though and was settled nicely off a slow pace before Cook rushed him through to lead two out before powering clear. I thought the flat horse's pace would do for him but Niblawi didn't really show a great deal to warrant following again.

The handicap chase was the key race of the day as Just Georgie was a well-backed jolly to break his maiden tag under rules, but it looked a bit 'too obvious' and essentially 2/1 was short enough in a race where some of them looked well handicapped.

One such was Morney Wing, who wants further but got an easy sit on the lead and backers would have found his finishing effort a shade disappointing.

Whiskey Chaser was promising two seasons back but was hit-and-miss last term and clearly isn't one that is easy to catch right. Despite dismal reappearance efforts for the past three years he looked pretty straight, but then there was nothing wrong with him when I piled in at Sedge two years ago when he was beaten a distance.

But he was on his game today and stayed on strongly to deny the willing Back To The Thatch, who is quite well made and should do better in time, once his scratchy fencing improves.

Just Georgie had just moved into contention but inexplicably put down on Cook at the last ditch and that was the end of that. He's proving costly to follow but surely would have gone close and may just be worth another chance if the odds allow.

Purple Harry is a big sturdy white horse who always looks on good terms with himself, but he's a dour stayer and looked in need of this outing. It only took him one run to hit top form in the spring and if they have a clear run this winter he should win again from this mark.

Ravensdale was all the rage ahead of another novices hurdle and he again filled the eye as he had at Southwell the last day, only stripping a good deal fitter this time.

He's a well made, professional looking animal who is just the type to continue progressing as the season goes on, and as he is stepped up in trip.

It was perhaps a little disappointing that his lead was being eroded close home by the staying on Duke Debarry, but the feeling was that the winner was only doing as much as he had to.

The runner-up may not be all that straight forward, but he'll enjoy a return to further and this at least proved he goes on soft ground.

Spider's Bite caught all the eyes at Aintree last time but that form may not be all that and he most certainly is not straight forward. Tall and light framed at this stage, he's a keen sort and typically for a Scorpion he has a lot going on upstairs. He's one to be a little wary of.

Graystown is only modest looking, at least amongst these more expensive types, but he put in another solid shift and connections will be hoping the handicapper cuts him some slack.

The finale looked wide open and Clan Legend looked vulnerable at the top of the market, up 9lb for beating a very weak field at Hexham, while the extra yardage wasn't necessarily going to suit.

You can't afford to be in the least bit keen on this ground and the way he went suggests he'll remain better over shorter, and this mark could stretch him in this grade.

One For Harry is a solid benchmark and once he got on the lead he was always going to be hard to beat. A touch of class at this level goes a long way and he ground out the W, as is his wont.

Its'Afreebee might have been an interesting poke at long odds but he was surprisingly well backed and looks to have completely gone at the game for the time being.

I quite liked Quids In and this well made youngster looked sure to run his race. This probably just stretched him but the form has a solid look and he can surely pick up something similar.

Sunday 3 December 2017

Round-up - Doncaster Dec 1/2

Some rain overnight meant the ground was good to soft, although slightly better on the hurdles track.

Friday December 1

Race 1
A good novice hurdle over 2m4f, Enniscoffey Oscar a well-backed favourite who was entitled to win, but not as well as he did and this goes down as a very decent effort, having come on a good deal physically since I saw him at Aintree. The placed horses lost little in defeat despite the margin - Dandy Dan making most and shouldering a 6lb penalty, he should be able to defy it in a weaker race. My Charity was slightly disappointing, but he's a good sort who was a bit keen over this trip and he should pick up one of these over shorter, while Talkischeap had a mountain to climb with the double penalty and he should come on for the run. Stormy Milan is only light framed currently but ran with promise and is one for the long-term.

Race 2
A toxic looking handicap headed by the strongly supported No Ceiling, who was back down to his favoured minimum trip and he duly landed the punt despite some dodgy jumping. He won it easily but it wasn't a great race, Blandfords Gunner returning to something like his old self for a new yard, while Nicolas Chauvin ran his race again but the weight rise did for him. Welcome Ben got very warm after his long trip south and the run could be excused; he couldn't get on the lead and the ground was damp enough. Valseur De Granval ran a desperate race and he's become disappointing.

Race 3
A handicap hurdle in which Manny Owens was the third well-backed winner on the card, sprinting clear to justify the quick run back after Catterick last week. This didn't take much winning either though, Peggies Venture running well again but the handicapper has her measure and she doesn't have the scope to progress much, while Rio Bravo was arguably the nicest of the bunch but didn't get home again and it may pay to give him a more patient ride. Barton Knoll would have gone close had he not crashed out at halfway and he's a big raw chaser to look out for next year.

Race 4
A queer handicap chase in which it was hard to make a serious case for many, not least the quirky Powerful Symbol who looked to have been handed victory at Southwell last time out, but now he's won again, the third came out and won and the second ran okay next time. He came up against a complicit opponent in Nightline, who is looking hard to win with and didn't appear to have many excuses, while Red Infantry surprisingly traded odds on for much of the trip but as he always does found nothing when push came to shove. Hey Bill may be slowly finding his feet and could be one for the spring, while Cracked Rear View looked fit and strong after a lengthy absence but ran as though he needed it, while he's probably not straight forward either. Gibbes Bay looks a big lethergic horse and remains one to be wary of.

Race 5
I've backed Monbeg River so many times in the past but have been scuppered by either too aggressive a ride, too patient a ride, or simply looking handicapped to his best. But this most consistent of horses and soundest of jumpers got everything right this time, or rather his jockey did; Brooke letting him go on after the early pace wasn't to his liking. A big track like this was always likely to suit him and I'm pleased for the horse as much as anything else. It didn't help the wallet though; I deserted in favour of Drumlee Sunset whose form with some big names made him look well handicapped on his first start for T George. However, you just don't improve horses from the P Hobbs barn and this medium-sized horse doesn't jump well enough, or certainly didn't on this day. It wouldn't surprise me to see him rate higher over timber, and by the way he stuck on a step up to 3m is going to help him. Master Burbidge is a keen sort and he looks best kept to the smaller tracks; he found little off the bridle.

Race 6
Chapel Stile was another jolly to go in when he landed the staying hurdle. This 105-rated Scorpion is quite a backward type mentally and physically but starts from the right end of the handicap and he can rate much higher in the years ahead. He was on and off the bridle from a mile out but stuck on to suggest he has plenty of stamina in the tank. Tanarpino was his main pursuer from two out but I'm convinced he'll be better over fences so it's surprising he's now had three goes over timber already this term. He just about stayed this 3m, but it has to be said he's looking disappointing.

Race 7
Quite an interesting bumper but it was clear that much was expected of Sangha River, who was well-backed and well-prepared by trainer O Murphy, he looks a quite stylish, athletic horse and he was given a very patient ride by JJ Codd. Having gone clear he was almost reeled in by Kingsplace, who looked quite backward and small by comparison so ran a massive race in the circumstances. Invisible Clouds is a strong sort but didn't look straight forward in the prelims and ran as though he's very green mentally - he was weak in the market and better can be expected in time.

Saturday December 2

Race 1
Kalashnikov is in many a notebook already and he proved once again that he's got a proper engine, seeing off Irish Prophecy from the second last in the style of a very useful recruit. They went slow enough for him once again and he'll be better coming off a sounder gallop and the advice is to keeping backing him until he's defeated. Don't forget his full sister Kalane was a 140+ horse and this one is going to be even better. Irish Prophecy couldn't deal with the turn of speed but this embryonic chaser also has a bright future and he'll come into his own with more time. Deyrann De Carjac looked quite a nice physical sort in the paddock and he finished with gusto from the last and he could also be one to follow. Ollie Vaar showed a glimpse of what he is capable of and he should be able to pick up a small handicap this winter.

Race 2
Redemption Song was all the rage for the mares novice hurdle and this could prove to be far better than the usual race of its type. The front four in the betting all looked quite useful types in the prelims but while the favourite got warm, she was disappointing having come off the bridle early and only able to plug on at one pace. I do think she's just mentally backward more than anything else, but she shapes like a stayer and may be one for the three mile mares race back here in the New Year. The Lavelle yard has hit form and Majestic Moll took a step forward to take it in decisive fashion, she's  quite light framed so expect her to continue to improve. Jet Set hailed from the cold Longsdon barn but gave chase to the winner, and she's a good size and will benefit from this first start over timber; the form of the Aintree bumper being strong. Blue Valentine looked fit enough without really taking the eye.

Race 3
There were good reasons to side with Irish Roe in the next, this bonny mare hailing from the small but shrewd P Atkinson having come on nicely from Wetherby, where she chased home a revitalised William Of Orange. It still looked like this experience would do her good as she was quite novicey at times, but she travelled like a horse a good deal ahead of her mark and even a 7lb hike shouldn't prevent her from winning again. William Of Orange stayed on again after looking likely to drop out so clearly is in good heart, while Chelsea Flyer couldn't give Lavelle a quick double and his form has questions marks about it. Dexcite looked really well after a long absence but raced as though it was more needed than I thought.

Race 4
Not much interest in this three runner chase, Deauville Dancer not having to improve to win again. As such any rise in the weights may see him struggle, with Derintoher Yank not really in much form four days on from a Sedgefield defeat, while Apple Of Our Eye didn't jump a fence and he lacks a bit of size, and essentially hasn't shown a great deal for a while.

Race 5
Little interest in a weak handicap hurdle won by C Mann's Fixed Rate, a tall leggy animal benefiting from first time blinds. Sumkindofking was favourite almost by default and he was disappointing once more, while Pot Committed is a big rangy animal who may have a future over fences.

Race 6
A 0-100 staying chase with may of the usual suspects. Brown Trix and Smiling Jessica represented that Powerful Symbol Southwell form and while I'm sure the former would have won that day, he made a bad mistake four out here and jumping is clearly an issue with him. The latter ran on from knowhere to take second behind Attention Please, who bolted in having dropped all the way down to 76 in the ratings with cheekpieces applied. A 17-length margin will make a follow-up tricky, while there wasn't much else to take from the race other than Lakefield Rebel being some way short of fitness for his seasonal return.

Race 7
The junior bumper looked an open contest on paddock inspection, although it was clear that the form already shown by Zoltan Varga probably wasn't going to be enough against a few likeable sorts, notably Skyline, who was well prepared as you'd expect by H Morrison, and Malinas Jack from the shrewd J Mackie yard. Lavelle's Shiroccan Roll is quite nice but looked big and backward, while the eventual winner Ettila De Sivola was quite typical of the trainer's, being a lengthy French import that was quite well forward without really suggesting it was going to be his day.