Sunday 30 December 2018

Doncaster - December 29

The circus rolled into Doncaster for a decent card on ground that was just on the soft side of good although probably riding a little dead, with a strong headwind in the straight.

There was plenty of deadwood in an opening handicap hurdle and it wasn't hard to see the trio that eventually fought out the finish doing just that before the race, as the market suggested.

Certainly, in a field of rather small individuals, winner Flash The Steel and progressive runner-up Ey Up Rocky had more about them than most, with the winner doing well to overcome a blunder two out.

Third home Speed Company lacks any size but he travelled up best before failing to go with the front two. Any form of speed test would suit him better but the front two are improving and capable of going on.

The novice hurdle drew a small but select field with the four at the head of the market really taking the eye in the paddock...however it wasn't going to play out that way in the race.

It turned into a sprint and that didn't suit some, which may have resulted in a false result, however nothing should be taken away from the winner Hold The Note, who emerged from one of the finest bumpers you're likely to see to win stylishly returned to better ground.

Seven De Baune headed the market and is a fine looking horse, but backed out of things pretty quickly and may not have been right for all that a stiffer test probably suits.

Senior Citizen was more compact than some and he did look up against it with a penalty, but Strong Glance took the eye once more and jumped much better this time...he too probably wants a sterner test.

The two 'rags' that filled the places hold the form down to an extent, runner-up Ivilnoble a particular surprise having looked unfurnished and not especially straight, however My Story is a decent looking chase type who could be half decent having had 18 months off.

T Lacey is renowned for producing his young horses looking ready for their job and Via Delle Volte was no different ahead of the juvenile hurdle, head and shoulders ahead of her opponents prior to the race and well supported in the market too.

It was something of a surprise to see her struggle to put the race to bed after the hitherto free-going Gemologist had led them up the straight, but was strong at the line and looks sure to do better.

Queen Adelaide is only modest so it was good to see her well beaten, meaning the form has some substance, the winner's stablemate Lady Cylla lacking Flat experience and showing plenty in the process of coming third.

I couldn't see Valadom being beaten in the big handicap of the day, looking well handicapped in new headgear for an in-form trainer/jockey combo, against a field with plenty to prove.

Having mulled this one over through the night (yes, that's what happens when you back one to win a large amount and it goes 20 clear for most of the race) I can only think that rousting him into the lead early on put the frighteners on the horse, and he got too lit up.

I expected him to lead but not by such a wide margin...even so he went odds on at the top of the stretch and it looked as though he'd stolen it. But a tired leap two out spelled the end and the likeable mare Treackle Tart stayed on best to pick up the pieces.

Militarian looked really big and well beforehand but appeared to make many mistakes at the head of the chasing pack, while the well-backed jolly Station Master didn't show, but this was probably one of those races that you can put a line through from a form perspective.

There was more than 70 grand on the table for a five runner Listed mares chase and with only three getting round connections of Drinks Interval picking up nearly 10k for a tailed-off last.

The big bunce went the way of the 'Queen of the North' Lady Buttons, who is starting to make a name for herself over fences with a fourth win in five starts over the black ones, her only defeat coming in Grade 1 company.

Settling better now in middle age, the Beneficial mare jumped and cruised her way to the front two out and was probably just idling on the run in against a decent mare in Rene's Girl who was there only on sufferance.

Who knows where they will take the winner now but with her size and scope she could take on the boys and only a fool would bet against her.

The finale was competitive but there was an avalanche of support for the novice Commodore Barry who looked in good order back on this better ground and he duly made all despite an all-out attack from Blue Rambler.

The runner-up's defeat at 1/16 here two years ago is still fresh in the memory but this was much better although I can't say I'm a huge fan of his, being light framed and hard fit.

Enniscoffey Oscar was an impressive novice hurdler but has gone the wrong way this term and may not be straight forward, a similar comment probably applying to market drifter Tara View.

Friday 28 December 2018

Catterick - December 28

Very mild conditions and what looked like good ground in the main, probably a bit softer on the hurdles course. Not a card to enthuse over but like the good old days at the Bridge a combination of the market and the paddock helped to sort them out.

The opening mares novice wasn't especially strong although an avalanche of money for H Oliver's Another Theatre saw her off at 5/4 and she had the excess stamina to get past the light-framed Foxtrot Juliet on the run-in.

A strong sort, the winner may do better although she doesn't move terrifically well in front. Graceland was a clear third best, I don't know much about her from the Flat but she didn't look too willing before or during the race.

Of interest going forward will be the J Candlish filly Splash The Cash, who was left a remote fourth after failing to go with the front rank via some shoddy jumping. From the Irish Point field, she's quite scopey and should do better over further.

Lady Kyria was about to challenge when crashing out at the last. She may be a short price next time but does lack any sort of scope and may continue to find the hurdles in her way.

The first of several weak handicap chases saw a really poor favourite in Chasing Headlights, a modest sort very much on the small side for fences, and she didn't take to it at all on this second attempt.

Also not very big, but quite nicely made and in good order was Djarkevi on his first start for a trainer making a name for herself in Laura Morgan. I don't know anything about her but she has a good strike rate with her chasers and this ex-Longsdon horse belied his size to jump with enthusiasm under a ballsy R Chapman. Whether he can do it again from a higher mark is somewhat debatable.

The Oliver brigade was out in force again this time for The Dawn Man, a terrifically disappointing animal that didn't look especially fit and once again made no show, while last year's winner Paddling looked in great order but early mistakes appeared to undermine his chance.

The third leg of the H Oliver treble came in the shape of Arthur Mac, punted in from 3s to 5/4 and duly ran out a good winner from solid yardstick The Steward, who once again had nothing to give once push came to shove.

The winner has taken his time to come to hand and is quite a big unfurnished sort, that should improve with experience and a stiffer test.

Speedy Cargo once again looked very one paced in third while Time For Another looks a staying chaser in the making and couldn't go with them in the straight; he is sure to do better than this in time.

National winner Ballabriggs didn't win a race until he was seven and that could be the case with half-brother Ballasalla, denied in the shadows of the post by chase debutant Lucarno Dancer.

The well-bred Hemmings horse is a very keen type and was on edge in the paddock, getting warm in the process, and will surely do better than this once able to relax and race over further.

However, Lucarno Dancer was of interest now in professional hands and having come for strong support late morning, travelled and jumped nicely before sticking her head down where it mattered most. With a bit of size and lightly raced, she could win another of these.

Not far behind in third was ex-Irish pointer Domestic Diva, and although modest looking she didn't do a great deal wrong and should benefit from an extra half mile. The trio came clear and although poor stuff, it's not bad for the grade.

The staying handicap chase saw Nortonthorpelegend finally return to the winner's enclosure having tumbled down the weights, enjoying more positive tactics and better ground in a race where very few could be fancied.

Iskabeg Lane was made favourite in the end but is the piggiest of all piglets and must be opposed at all times, giving best eventually to the moody Achill Road Boy for second, who is another that isn't making any progression.

The finale was weak, another bunch of unreliable sorts with the likes of Tickenwolf, Boruma and Waltz Darling never likely to stick their head down in the heat of battle.

With only one front runner in the race, it looked like Nemean Lion would have the opportunity to make all and so it proved, nothing able to land a telling blow on the in-form P Kirby inmate, who looked big and well beforehand.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Wetherby - December 27

The ground had opened up and it looked like hard work for some, very much on the dead side particularly on the chase course.

The feature of Boxing Day was the lack of success for the Skelton yard and it continued in the opening novice hurdle when Betameche was gambled-on but found the resurgent Northern Soul too good after the last.

I wasn't keen on the light framed grey in the prelims and he hasn't done much growing since his early days. Having had plenty of time off through injury, he may not amount to a great deal and may have hung fire in the closing stages.

That's to take nothing away from the winner, who looked most out of sorts on his seasonal debut at Carlisle and ran as poorly as expected, but with time to recover he was a different specimen here and being well related was likely to hit back at some point.

Enfin Phil had come on a bundle for his first outing for the Hammond yard at Hexham last time and is quite an athletic type, and he ran a mighty race under his French penalty and looks up to the rating achieved in winning across the pond.

The disappointment of the race was last-time-out winner Imperial Acolyte, a medium-built athletic sort who looked a likely improver, but never picked up in the straight and could want further already, looking really one paced.

In an interesting race, Captain Moirette showed he retains much of his ability after exactly 1000 days off. He's an enormous grey that looked quite fit considering the absence, but really won't come into his own until facing a fence. He's about to turn seven so there's still time.

Eclat De Star doesn't look much and flopped again after drifting in the market.

There were some nice 140-types on show in the staying novice chase despite the dismal prize money, but it turned into a procession with Wetherby expert P Kirby providing another winner in Top Ville Ben, who barely put a foot wrong and hacked up.

Again they came for Skelton's Red Rising and he's a lovely staying chase type, but didn't look happy from an early stage and made several minor errors. Uppertown Prince is a lovely rangy youngster but he too was outjumped by the winner and was held when capsizing three out. He should do better.

Coole Hall continued a poor campaign for R Dobbin, a nice big sort but failing to travel at any stage and carrying his head awkwardly, while Kilfilum Cross has the size to make a decent chaser but only got round in his own time.

The Skelton faithful finally got some back when the good looking Flegmatik dotted up in the juvenile, much the best in the paddock and much the best in the race, despite looking green in front.

Travel Lightly never looked like winning but looks the type to do well in handicaps, particularly over a little further.

The Castleford lost a little lustre with the absence of Lady Buttons (hopefully we'll see her at Doncaster on Saturday) but served up a fantastic finish with the doughty Cracking Find fending off another Skelton jolly in Marracudja.

I've always been a fan of the winner but considered this grade to be an issue, and have been dying to see him over further. However, the trainer clearly knows best with S Quinlan as good a sub for D Cook as you can find.

Forest Bihan is handicapped to win again but appeared to have every chance and this talented horse once again looked to shirk the issue when push came to shove.

Duke Of Navan didn't look on great terms with himself and ran a bit flat, while Saint Leo is a decent sort who will pick up races but may need more time to acclimatise.

The staying mares chase looked a minefield and you could have given all seven a chance, with bits of cash around for eventual winner Pretty Miss Mahler off a break.

She has done well physically as this half sister to the useful Monbeg River was a very lightly framed youngster, and under a cool ride from R Day got up close home to deny the dour stayer Socksy.

Longhousesignora looked well and could be ready to strike, appearing unfortunate to crumple on landing early on the second circuit, having jumped right throughout.

That just left a poor staying hurdle in which the ultra consistent Border Victor was just denied by a back to form Discay, who had shown little since winning after a lengthy break.

Chocolat Noir was backed at long odds to emulate stable companion Pretty Miss Mahler and continues to show improved form; she's not very big but quite well put together and ought to be able to pick up one of these.

Rocku was a weak market leader from the Skelton barn but looks to have his quirks and isn't one to get excited about. Wig Wam Wiggle is a decent looking sort but again made mistakes and was never sighted.

Sunday 23 December 2018

Haydock - December 22

A nice, competitive card for 'Tommy Whittle' day in Lancashire on what was officially heavy ground, soft in places. Now let's get one thing perfectly clear - it wasn't soft ground.

The big race had 42 yards added yet was run in a time just 13secs above standard, compared to 12 months ago which was 40secs above standard, 75 yards added. They pretty much rattled home in every race, and you'd call it perfect jumping ground. This was no day for the sloggers.

The opening handicap hurdle brought together three from a recent Wetherby handicap, and saw Cornerstone Lad turn the tables in no uncertain manner thanks mainly to the ride of 10lb claimer B Garritty, who looks some talent and full value for the claim.

With the return of cheekpieces and strong market support it all meant the Hammond-trained four-year-old had plenty to recommend him and he couldn't have won more easily.

Fin And Game looked really well and was on a good mark based on his solid novice form, and he was much more at ease back over timber and essentially was unfortunate to bump into one.

Arguably the disappointment of the race was McGowan's Pass, who continues to jump erratically and he doesn't possess a huge amount of scope. His bumper form was excellent and although turning eight he'd hold his own on the Flat.

Keyboard Gangster will jump a fence and they need to go that route in the New Year, he'll be much better for this after tanking through the race.

The turnout for the four-runner novice chase was disappointing but it was quite intriguing as warm order Whatswrongwithyou has never looked straight forward and not one to be taking short prices about.

The head carriage wasn't convincing on the run-in and it looked like he handed the race to Brelan D'as, himself hardly the most resolute looking creature. Maybe I'm being harsh, but having backed the rag Go Long who looked pretty straight after a long absence, it's a shame T Scu didn't make more use of him. He appeared to be closing at the line, but on reflection the other two weren't going anywhere fast, and this form may not be that strong.

The Listed mares hurdle looked at the mercy of the immensely likeable Queenohearts, a rangy filly who uses herself very well at the walk and covers plenty of ground. Her form from Chepstow was outstanding and she was rightly backed into favouritism.

Yes she has loads to learn about jumping, but her resolution was again to the fore as she outbattled ae scopey, useful sort in Danse Idol, herself the type to go on again from this. Back the Edmunds youngster until she's beaten.

Off The Hook looks a modest staying type and will go up about a stone after coming third, while Papagana predictably found this drop back in trip against her liking and she will remain of interest  over 2m4f+.

Shantung is a nice type but flattered by racing on the better ground last time out, while Poperinghe Ginger wasn't disgraced on a tough assignment and will win races over further.

The market for the 2m handicap chase looked about right but I was looking at the wrong end of it and completely ignored one of my favourite horses in training, Kauto Riko, who romped away with it after jumping and travelling with his usual zest and gusto.

By far the best horse in the T Gretton kennel, the progressive seven-year-old has always been light framed and there's still not a great deal of him, looking very fit and quite close coupled, making his brilliant fencing all the more remarkable.

It helped that chief rival Zalvados did not look especially resolute on the run-in, and he may be one to be wary of, but the winner proved himself off this higher mark and this was certainly no fluke.

The Kerry Lee yard has been very quiet and Shear Rock ran okay without having the necessary spark, making minor errors, but ran his usual honest race.

The interesting one was French import Elixir Du Gouet, who was backed late on presumably because word had spread that the beast is a fine looking creature beyond his four years.

He ran no sort of race, and may continue to struggle from a high mark, however these types can take a year to acclimatise and he may be worth revisiting 12 months from now. Believe me he will be a player at some point.

Ballymoy had the form to pick up a weak Class 2 handicap hurdle, especially as the extra 3f looked to be in his favour, and he made light work of the inexperienced Better Getalong - another who will appreciate further - and Chti Balko, who looks weighted to the hilt and wants proper heavy.

Seemorelights was far from disgraced in fourth, he looked very edgy on this first start for more than 18 months, and has clearly retain his ability.

The Tommy Whittle was a punting minefield which I didn't attempt to navigate. Daklondike was probably the least appealing on looks, you could call him a typical light-framed Pipe inmate, with an especially high head carriage. He rarely runs two races alike, but jumps and stays on his day.

Ballyarthur jumps,but doesn't stay. Forging on at the last, he looked set to collect but the petrol gauge started to flicker and was caught close home. 2m6f is literally his limit but he was down to a decent mark, and nearly pulled it off.

Whoshotwho travelled all over them but didn't see it out as well the front two, while the remainder were well held, Clan Legend not really picking up while I remain unconvinced by Kimberlite Candy, who spat the dummy out again and may like to get his own way.

Heavy ground or not this is no place to bring a horse short of fitness and Duel At Dawn looked to be carrying condition, while the form of the Hales yard remains of concern.

The finale was a staying hurdle and I had this down to a couple I'd been following for some time, namely The Hollow Ginge and Florrie Knox.

The former needs a proper test of stamina and after late support was given a good positive ride from STD, playing 'catch me if you can' and essentially they couldn't touch him.

Silva Eclipse hit the line well and disproved my theory that he wouldn't stay, he's still unfurnished but has always shown loads of ability and will be one to look forward to over fences next term.

Florrie Knox is a well made chasing sort who revels in heavy ground, so this may not have been deep enough for him as he was soon outpaced when the taps were turned.

But it was disappointing that he didn't pick up at all in the straight, adding to the suspicion that the Hales yard is out of form. If nothing untoward is found, this dour stayer looks ready for fences as he now has plenty of experience over timber.

The disappointing Theo's Charm made the market, and this was proof - as if any were needed - that he's not one to have on your side.

Please don't forget to read my Little Black Book fortnightly update, where I focus on horses like The Hollow Ginge and Newcastle winner Treshnish.

Thursday 20 December 2018

Hexham - December 20

A bonus meeting for the track with half price entry plus free tea and mince pie...what more could you ask for? Well, a winner would have been nice.

Well Above Par was an impressive winner here last week but was one of several coming back for more and it involved a bit of guesswork as to whether they'd 'bounce'.

The six-year-old looked ok although not quite as fresh as eight days ago and I thought he looked very laboured in the early stages of the race.

It's to his credit that he was able to lead over the last, but was eventually outstayed by multiple Point winner Glittering Love, who hadn't shown much under rules and just about had enough in hand.

Compact and lacking scope, I wouldn't bet the winner could jump round a stiffer track, and she made many small errors here. Well Above Par had a tough race and should be due a 5-6 week break.

Outnumbered again looked really weak while Emerald Chieftain is a moderate looker, and didn't show enough to follow in the short term.

The much-touted Highland Hunter was all the rage to shake off a penalty and this scopey, good moving sort duly obliged in taking style, with course winner Stoney Rover apparently running his race behind.

Toi Storey closed the gap on Stoney Rover and once again showed enough to overcome his diminutive stature and land a novice handicap somewhere in the north this winter.

Niven was a new name to conjure with having joined P Kirby from Ireland, and this sturdy individual looked in good order with the size and strength to deal with conditions.

It may not have been the strongest event, with Bulkov probably better around the likes of Sedgefield, but the winner did what he needed to for an in-form yard.

Disappointment of the race was Kelka, strongly touted by the owner on the day, but became the latest Jefferson exile to flop for her new handler. It must be said the horse looked in good order, not as excitable as previously, and frankly the only plausible excuse was the ground.

Catchamat is down to a rating of 112 and this thorough stayer, a multiple Point winner, should be poised to win races now having shown much better form over timber a couple of winters ago, shaping okay in third.

Misfits was a short priced favourite eight days on from going down in a driving finish and he didn't look especially happy to be back in the prelims, and was another to have run below last week's form in a poor staying handicap.

Achill Road Boy was surprisingly easy to back with plenty in his favour but he's not a very likeable individual and put in a bit of a surly effort, never consenting to land a blow. Again, he ran in atrocious ground a fortnight ago and at least two to have run on that day have flopped since.

Turtle Cask is a rotund animal and has never been easy to win with, and not for the first time chucked it away after leading at the final flight.

The surprise of the race was the Hammond-trained Dontdelay who looked fit from a lengthy absence and the feeling was backed up by some market support at long odds. Trying to second-guess the yard is a costly exercise but sure enough the ex-Irish beast showed plenty of enthusiasm to re-take the lead on the run-in. Towerburn bombed out and may have bounced.

The handicap chase saw three re-oppose from last week and despite being involved in a ding-dong battle that day McGinty's Dream was a warm order and ran a similar race, full of verve and jumping endeavour to run them ragged. A horse clearly on good terms with himself.

The two others from last week, Royal Salute and Hattons Hill, looked fine but had nothing left from a mile out. Late Date was another to flop following a recent win.

The finale saw Sporting Press, a big chasing type, made hot favourite in the face of an out-of-form field but he now has questions to answer with only one Musselburgh bumper win to his name. It's worth noting he was a four-time beaten favourite in Points and he clearly has issues after stopping at the top of the hill.

Mountain Hawk came clear with Manamite, the former leaving his recent Wetherby form a long way behind, finding the Haslam-trained winner too hard to handle after the last; he too raising his game significantly in the process. It probably didn't take much winning as the 11-length third is a modest looking sort that looked in need of the run.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Catterick - December 18

Windy and rainy for another trip up the A1 but mild enough and a decent enough card with plenty of angles to attack, and while it looked quite testing, particularly on the hurdles track, the times suggest it wasn't much worse than good to soft.

Little to talk about after the amateur riders race that opened proceedings, Haasab once again looking the type to do better from a physical point of view but only has modest form and a high head carriage doesn't help. PC Dixon wasn't fit and may take a few runs to reach last year's highs.

The juvenile looked to be at the mercy of Wetherby winner Fabianski and the only surprise about the easy win was the price, great value for those who thought she was a good thing. A well made sort, she can compete in a better grade.

Runner-up Dagian has plenty of size and ought to pick up a race, the same can be said for Fanzio who has a decent enough frame to grow into. Nothing much else held any appeal.

The novices handicap chase looked wide open and this was backed up by the market, and it was the heavily backed Eureu Du Boulay that landed the spoils in a race that didn't take much winning in the end.

Allowed a fairly soft lead, there aren't many better at dictating than Danny Cook and with an enthusiastic partner comfortably held the challenge of Manwell from the home turn.

The winner has just enough size and strength to win over fences as a four-year-old and should continue to progress physically, while Manwell could have been unfortunate to bump into one once more, although he's not easy to make excuses for, having received a very patient ride.

Tetraites Style is one for the long-term, a really good chasing type whose fencing got better as the race went on, but faded right out of things after taking quite a strong hold.

Bred to stay very well, it could be next winter before he's seen to best effect but I've no doubt he'll be winning his fair share in time.

Gettysburg Address is a nice scopey sort and looked fit enough, but was quite weak in the market before making several minor blunders before tailing off, and this has to go down as disappointing bearing in mind the trainer's ability to ready one from a lengthy absence..

Decent bumper winner Marley Firth was a major flop and faithful backers must be out of patience now, never really jumping or going with any fluency.

The staying handicap hurdle didn't look very strong for the grade with market leaders Our Reward, Colby and Djin Conti having plenty to prove for one reason or another.

Too Many Chiefs looked really well and was poised to go close with a couple of outings under his belt and the ground turning in his favour, and he was well ridden by R Chapman to outstay his rivals, Djin Conti appearing to stay the trip on his first try at it.

Colby is a raw, unfurnished young horse that needs time and he doesn't appear to have the tools to deal with this type of ground yet. Rainy City came there moving well but probably didn't quite get home.

Sweet Vinetta was first noted here and in more detail here and after taking quite a substantial step forward at Hexham last time out looked set to go very close in the novices hurdle with the step up in trip sure to suit.

Another positive ride from the excellent Chapman meant we never had an anxious moment as the petite grey bolted up in what turned out to be a very weak contest.

Hopefully the handicapper will take a sensible view of things, with favourite Morriman over-rated for his facile victory at Musselburgh last time, and the other promising type Skye Chief appearing to need the outing.

Calliope ran well although her opening mark will not now leave much room to manoevre, and Skye Chief should offer much more hope for the future as he's quite a nice staying chaser in the making.

But this was Sweet Vinetta's day and with plenty of room to strengthen and grow hopefully she'll become a standard bearer for patient connections.

Midnight Chill was a warm order in the next to follow up his Sedgefield triumph and despite running in snatches early doors, came home really well to deny Halcyon Days, who had optimum conditions and has basically bumped into one.

They came a distance clear and now face a hike in the weights, the winner finally starting to fulfill early potential while the latter could now struggle in all but the weakest 0-115s, for all that he's a most likeable sort.

I may have mentioned here before that Middlebrow looks mentally and physically frail, and he showed once again that he's not one to trust. Nicolas Chauvin looked as well as I've seen him but again checked out in the style of a horse that's gone at the game.

The bumper cut up with three scratchings on account of the ground, although their absence may also have had something to do with the punt on PTP winner The Second Coming, who probably isn't, but nonetheless was good enough to beat a very weak field; with only The Maestro appearing forward enough to take a hand.

The winner, a big unit for a Yeats youngster, had trouble navigating the bends but galloped on powerfully once sent for home and he'll require a trip over obstacles. The Maestro was disappointing but might just have bumped into one as it happens, while the rest were knowhere near ready.physically.

Don't forget to read my fortnightly Little Black Book column on the Racing To Profit website, where I cherry pick some horses to follow.

Saturday 15 December 2018

Doncaster - December 15

A bitterly cold afternoon on Town Moor but thankfully the rain stayed away until just prior to the last race and the ground remained on the good side, probably riding a little tacky.

The early start caught us on the hop for once but we were in plenty of time for the second race where Newtown Boy went off a very warm order after defeating subsequent Southwell winner Rouge Vif at Hereford.

He made really hard work of things, never able to get to the front with mistakes marring his chance at the last three flights, and the good looking son of Beneficial looks in need of further already.

Esprit De Baileys toughed it out from the front and showed great battling qualities to go one better than on debut, while he lacks a bit of size he's an athlete that should pay his way over time.

You could have given each of the four in the handicap chase a chance on bits of form but Amour De Nuit is on an upward curve over fences and made pretty light work of the opposition, with The Unit again emphasizing a lack of stature with jumping blemishes throughout.

Robbing The Prey continued the losing run of those horses to have left the Jefferson yard during the summer, there's a faint whiff of schadenfraude in the air and why bloody not.

A quality quartet lined up for the staying novices chase and it would have been well argued beforehand that eventual winner Rocky's Treasure should have been sent off a much shorter price on the back of his much improved effort behind Santini last time.

However he was challenged in the market by Ascot victor King Of Realms, a horse I've not been afraid to hide warm feelings for.

But it was something of a surprise to see him back on the track just three weeks on from a pretty hard-fought win, and I've a strong suspicion he bounced here, never going with much conviction from the off. He may just be a handicapper, but I suspect he will prove this effort all wrong.

Theclockisticking has improved physically but he'll still be much better in 12 months time, and this ground would have been sticky enough, while Coup De Pinceau is another that may have found this coming a bit quick.

Quel Destin is a keen looking type, quite strong for a young horse and he finally got on top of Elysees to land a weak Grade 2 juvenile, that said he should continue to improve. Cracker Factory made no show and he could just be a summer type.

The unfortunate Oi The Clubb Oi's is a nice sort and it came as little surprise to see him out-run big odds, athletic and scopey he didn't have the run of the race and there was no fluke about his effort.

O O Seven faced his easiest assignment for a good year in the closing staying handicap chase but made awful hard work of beating Go Conquer, getting on top close home after some laboured jumping. Not form to get excited about, and the front pair will remain opposable in better company.

Straidnahanna showed a bit more and is being steadily brought to the boil, no doubt with a tilt at the North Yorkshire National at his beloved Catterick in mind.

Thursday 13 December 2018

Newcastle - December 13

Some pretty uninspiring action on drying ground that didn't look anything worse than good to soft, and they were coming home pretty well.

They split the 0-100 handicap hurdle so 'not much to see here'. Kennedy's Field looked pretty straight but trainer G Bewley's always need it and he ran too free in any case, with a drop back in trip likely to help.

Le Gavroche isn't a bad sort and will have his day but his current mark of 97 appears to have been plucked from thin air; sympathies to those paying the bills.

Coisa Blanco looked the best of a modest bunch but stopped as if shot after Skelton had made a dash for it; the yard remains very quiet indeed but it's hard to figure out why he's never run over 2m on his Flat pedigree.

The Skelton machine got the better of Gold Chain at the second attempt and she fairly rattled home in what looked the weaker of the two divisions, that said Diggin Deep looks every inch an improver and got really unfortunate bumping into one - he was 11L clear of the third.

The novice hurdle lost some shine when Highland Hunter was pulled out, presumably on account of the drying ground, and it left three pretty similar types to fight out a gripping finale.

Court Master took the eye beforehand in size and well-being, but he lacked the tactical pace mid-race and may require proper soft ground. Diger Daudaie had shown plenty of promise in a deep Chepstow novice, but only looked workmanlike next to the other market leaders, however he was mentally more forward and got the job done landing some late cash.

Bubbles Of Gold wasn't beaten far but is almost too big for the time being, a leggy strong chasing type hopefully for next year. Manetti again showed ability and is another future chaser likely to pick up a hurdle race this winter.

The novice chase was a crackerjack of a race with five of the nine given chances, The Vocalist looking burly on her first outing for K Dalgleish despite morning support that dried up by post time.

Ravenhill Road and Hawk High reopposed from Wetherby, the former showing much more but again bleeding by the line and he is a horse with a few holes in him. Hawk High was reported by the jockey to be messing around at the start and was on his nose at that tricky fence in the back straight; he's not a straight forward animal.

Reivers Lad is a lovely chasing type that wasn't great in his coat and looked a shade on the big side. That didn't stop supporters piling in and the money proved correct as the soft ground lover stayed on best after travelling and jumping with fluency. With this behind him, he can really do some damage at a higher level this winter.

Cool Mix still has plenty to learn but clearly has ability, big and gangly he's sure to rate higher and softer ground will not be a problem. Stowaway Magic looked a vulnerable jolly in such a deep race as he lacks quite a bit of size, but was still very disappointing.

Choochoobugaloo looks as she can rate much higher than her current 76 and travelled all over her opposition in a poor handicap hurdle, but chucked the race away when hanging left on jumping the final flight. She clearly needs to come as late as possible in future but will continue to provide fun for the in-running players.

Blakerigg looks a real improver after a disappointing couple of seasons over timber and routed a field of staying chasers, held together throughout by B Hughes. Another 10lb rise awaits, but this track looks to suit and won't be easily opposable next time.

The consistent Orioinverness ran to form, while Fly Rory Fly still made mistakes but shaped with promise in fourth. Overworkdunderpaid went well for a long way and may need more time to strengthen into his frame.

The bumper looked quite deep on paddock inspection and the touted southern raider Bon Calvados appeared vulnerable, lacking the size of most albeit well prepared. With so many scopey individuals in opposition, and many with solid form, this took a bit of winning.

Corrieben Reiver took the honours and is a well-made animal, so his performance wasn't a huge surprise especially given the decent form shown in his debut at Ayr. Only four, he stayed on well after coming off the bridle early, and is a fair recruit for his small yard.

All Hail Caesar is from a stable in form and he was another to rally late on to back up a solid recent outing, while Bally Conor is a strong chase type who ran to form while once again proving how hard it is to defy a penalty in bumpers.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Hexham - December 12

The first day of four on the bounce, a nice little card with soft ground, it looked a bit dead and certainly not heavy.

The opening novice hurdle saw the appearance of £380k purchase Know The Score from the Pipe yard, let's just say he's no great looker and you'd have to wonder if the owners saw him before writing the cheque.

On and off the bridle throughout, he looks a dour stayer in the making and while you couldn't say he struggled to defy short odds, he may be worth opposing under a penalty in better company.

Al Destoor is a pretty exposed eight-year-old off the flat and only went down by eight lengths, with Cloghouge Boy overcoming a monster absence to fill the places.

Disappointment, and not for the first time, was Baraculu, a burly type but not necessarily unfit and although he's sure to come on for the run, he doesn't have a great way of going, often hanging and generally looking paceless.

Warendorf and Rowdy Robin didn't look anywhere near being fit and will be of much more interest once handicapping.

The handicap chase saw the return of Well Above Par following an absence of a year but this big rangy son of Gold Well looked race-fit and was did nothing wrong with a positive ride by a decent young claimer.

Likely to stay further, the six-year-old had often looked difficult off the bridle prior to his sabbatical, but wasn't put under any pressure here. He's almost certainly worth keeping on side even with a hefty weight rise on the cards.

Royal Salute may yet come good for new connections, looking to remember his fall at Sedgie last week before warming to his task, and we know he stays well. Hattons Hill again showed glimmers of form over a trip too short, and there will be plenty of opportunities for him here this winter now back to a winning mark.

Rossmore's Pride was very fit but didn't appear to have a great attitude either before or during the race, while the normally consistent Paddling ran deplorably and wasn't beaten by stamina on this occasion.

Derriana Spirit bossed the paddock prior to a mares novice hurdle and faced a simple task dominating a slow pace, she jumped noticeably better here and can go on from this.

She beat a fair yardstick in Paper Roses, who must surely pick up one of these probably up in trip. Drumochter has probably gone into every notebook in the land following a trio of quiet efforts, her jockey doing only just enough to avoid the attention of the stewards. She's a fair sort and can win races now handicapped.

The resurgence of Inchcolm since his transfer from M Hammond to T Davidson has been something to behold and the previously recalcitrant eight-year-old completed a hat-trick with a gritty display in the staying chase.

McGinty's Dream had jumped his way to the front with the headgear discarded but his strong travelling ways just did for him late on, as he didn't have enough in reserve to repel the heavily backed favourite.

This was much better from McGinty's, whose jumping was notably slick and he could have a rewarding winter ahead if the penny has indeed dropped.

Cranbrook Causeway looked one to swerve beforehand, bandaged heavily on one of his back legs and generally looking awkward, while Dick Darsie continues to have jumping and attitude issues for all that he still doesn't look fit.

The staying handicap hurdle was a punting minefield where the winner Kalaharry was one of the nicer ones with scope, although with all his size looked the type to improve again for the outing. If that's the case he could defy a rise with he and Misfits nicely clear.

I really thought Kavanaghs Corner was poised to atone for what looked an unfortunate defeat last time as he dropped back to 2m in the 0-100 handicap chase, and kept going in even as his price drifted wildly late on.

Like at Uttoxeter, he was dropped right out in the early strides which is always irritating and unnecessary, but it's unlikely to have been a factor in the half-length defeat as he seemed to have every chance to put it to bed after the last.

The late money came for Echo Express in the first time headgear and it probably made the difference for a quirky sort, bred for the Flat and essentially lacking the size and scope for this game.

With that second near-miss behind us we ploughed on to the last where only Ask The Tycoon and Sheriff Garrett appealed, the former appearing poised to step up in a second-time visor and was accordingly backed 'at all rates' from an early 7/2 to 13/8.

Never going, he now looks one to cast aside and I wasn't that thrilled with him in the prelims, lacking the size and scope he appears to have on screen.

Sheriff Garrett has never taken the eye but his solid bank of form was there for all to see, and with a tongue tie in place for the first time he finally came good for the master of Habton Grange....however the manner of the success now means further success will be hard to come by.

Nothing else appealed, and duly shaped without any sort of promise.

Saturday 8 December 2018

Wetherby - December 8

It was officially soft but the strong wind had dried it and it wasn't too bad at all.

The opener looked a two-horse race but they flip-flopped big time in the market before the heavily backed Two For Gold supplemented his recent solid effort at Cheltenham with a facile win.

This good frame of a horse could be very useful in time, as this performance came in spite of the fact he looked quite edgy, got very warm and looked very poor in his coat. I don't know if this is his usual appearance but it was a huge negative on the day.

Time To Move On is a good looking horse and he was much preferred but P Brennan's only ride at the meeting never came there with a chance and bombed out big style; the market seemed to know what was about to happen and surely better can be expected.

Thelongwayaround was clearly best of the rest in the paddock, looking fit and strong, and is gradually improving as he moves up in trip. He wasn't knocked about and although modest he is the type to continue on an upward curve for a yard starting to kick into gear.

The rest looked pretty backward in one way or another, the Easterby trained Iwasthefutureonce shaping as though he will be okay at some stage - he has a bit of size and scope.

The novices handicap for 0-105s was weak as half the eight had little or no form at all, but Lady Master stood out in the paddock as the type to improve markedly on anything she had previously achieved over timber, and duly took to fences well and won as she liked.

Merely a clear round sufficed here, and things will be tougher off 10lb higher, but she is the type the trainer does well with and can continue to do well if she keeps jumping like that.

The drifting favourite Overawed is not very big for fences and made several minor errors, while her trainer is in form she may be best served by a return to timber or a smaller track.

Younoso hadn't shown much over hurdles and is another that may do okay at a poor level, he has quite a bit of size and showed up well before a lack of fitness, which was evident beforehand, told.

Aliandy was quite a warm order for a staying hurdle but he is far from straight forward and hasn't proved easy to train or win with. Once again he was produced at the perfect time only to back out of things, and this quite small animal hasn't progressed physically in two years and isn't one to rave about.

Howth Summit is a strong, robust animal who looked in need of the run after another six week break, and shaped nicely before apparently finishing lame. Wig Wam Wiggle is a nice type on a good mark, but wasn't knocked about after a mid-race blunder, and he is one to keep on side.

The Menzies team is back in form which is great to see, and Tomkevi has been a bit of a star over the years and picked up the pieces in an open race. Quids In had every chance again and is another to have reservations about; he doesn't have the size for fences. Sevenballs Of Fire was typical of the yard in that he wasn't fit first time back.

The staying handicap chase was a really competitive race for the track and winners ought to come out of it, the winner Skipthescales being a most likeable type and defying inexperience of fences to show improved form.

He's a very strong stayer but does like to idle and is probably value for further, in fact I can see him being a bit of a star for the yard in seasons to come as he's a decent looking animal that will continue to pay his way as he goes up in class and trip.

Fawsley Spirit caught the eye in the run but he's rather light framed and that weakness showed as he weakened out of things, but he is sure to be a nice staying type given time. Frankly Speaking is a really strong animal, and looks like one that wants a really stiff test, as such he's one to watch this term for all that he's late to fences.

The form of Mon Palois's latest effort had been fully franked but he was on and off the bridle and shaped as though the ground was against him. Still in there pitching two out, he took a horror fall and ultimately he's been a bit of a disappointment so far. The same could be said for Blottos, who may have been amiss.

Another one that continues to cost punters dearly is McGowan's Pass, who looks really well handicapped having been dropped 6lb but unshipped his jockey at the first in the handicap hurdle won for a second time by Aristo Du Plessis.

Jumping had been a problem last term for the heavily supported favourite, who still looks unfurnished, and may yet be given another chance by his faithful army of fans.

Aristo will never be a chaser as long as it's got the proverbial hole in it's proverbial arse, but back to a winning mark over timber he once again got an easy time on the front end and battled back well for an in-form J Ewart.

Cornerstone Lad not for the first time took the eye and he's a big strong horse that will continue to pay his way, however his consistency means he's already perhaps a shade high in the weights and he certainly didn't look to have excuses.

The disappointment here was Nuts Well, but he looked very lean and has possibly been over-trained this autumn. He was ready to go when he recorded a PB first time out before blowing out last time. He may benefit from a break.

The 2m handicap chase didn't take much winning as Just Cameron looked as though he would tighten up for this run and connections clearly have one eye on another bid for the Castleford Chase over Christmas.

Some Reign has become disappointing, and that's when he consents to start, and he completed a frustrating day for the Dobbins by planting himself, I think for the third time in all.

It left Movie Legend as the form horse and a worthy jolly but having gone to win his race was swamped for speed by Bouvreuil, who found life difficult under the care of P Nicholls and looked a fractious, difficult sort prior to this.

From 5s out to 16/1, this clearly wasn't expected but took it cosily, however it remains to be seen if he can back it up and it's worth reiterating this did not take much winning, Movie Legend never one to find a great deal off the bridle.

The junior bumper for fillies was a minefield and a race to swerve, the front three coming clear being Conchita, Artichoke Heart (nice type, very green) and Sorbet (speedy, flat type, likely better on good ground). But it was not a great race in all likelihood.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Southwell - December 4

Well, that was a long weekend I'll never get back. More of which, later. Morning rain at the Rolleston venue had turned the ground to soft in places and it looked quite tiring for some.

The opening mares handicap chase looked to be at the mercy of Hoo Bally Diva on her first foray out of novice events but she was almost being lapped in the paddock, so poorly was she striding out, that something appeared to be amiss.

Never travelling from the outset, the bandaged Buckler inmate was reported lame on finishing fourth although I put it to you she was lame on departing, for all that she seemed okay to post.

All that opened the door for the hitherto difficult Silent Steps, a quirky looking horse in first-time blinkers who probably went favourably for the tender handling of Dame Bryony. With Dawnieriver failing to pick up on the grotty terrain, this was all over with three to jump.

There came a big 'miss' in the feature of the day when Destrier 'jumped from fence to fence' (don't they all?) to land the late money for team Skelton.

The French-bred has been waiting to jump the big ones as was first noted here and looked a class above his six rivals prior to the 2m novice handicap.

I should have made him a short price to boss inferiors on this occasion although he only scraped home in the end and, with everything going his way, may be one to take on next time.

Another Crick hasn't been easy to handle and was very keen in his early days, still going powerfully under a hold-up ride here. However, it doesn't pay to get behind at Southwell and he never looked like getting there, although it may have been different had the winner not winged the last two.

Bred to stay well, it would be nice if they now gave the runner-up the benefit of the doubt and rode him as if though he will get home, which surely he now does, and may be the one to take out of it.

Doc Carver looked well treated on previous form with the front two but he is essentially becoming disappointing and now has plenty to prove, for all that a step up in trip is surely going to see him in better light.

Just like the later maiden, only three had a chance in the novice hurdle over 3m; make that one as Commodore Barry looked much more the finished article than Nearly Perfect and Notachance and a print of around 1.68 on the machine looked serious value if you like that sort of thing.

A nice big sort in good health, the K Bailey-trained winner should take higher rank as he jumps and travels beautifully. Nearly Perfect is big and weak but will make a fine chaser, while Notachance is even weaker at present and both these 4yros need time.

Gatacre Street is given credit just for getting round for fifth place in what became a slog and looks a likely sort once handicapped.

The staying handicap hurdle looked competitive but Crosspark was a potential blot back over the smaller ones and he needed all that leniency to get on top of Wotzizname, who looked in much better heart than at Aintree on his reappearance.

Smooth Stepper looked really fit on his first start for Alex Hales, and was noted running on nicely at the end - he does stay very well - but is on a very high mark over fences at present.

The maiden hurdle brought together a trio of likeable types, none more so than Rouge Vif and on the evidence of this display it's hard to believe he's been beaten twice already this term.

With the next two home likely to have run to their marks in the high-teens, this was an extremely taking effort and clearly the application of the hood played some part in the apparent improvement. He's a really good looking individual.

Bold Plan shaped like a stayer after trying to go with the winner and is an embryo chaser, while Oakley was again untidy at his obstacles and has much to learn, but has the make and shape of a decent sort in time.

Several caught the eye in behind with a second S England inmate on the day worthy of a mention in Gold Runner, who probably finished a bit close for comfort but will now get a mark and all eyes will be on his next outing.

A filthy 0-100 handicap hurdle came next where a sturdy looking one of T Vaughan's by the ironic name of Concealed Ambition went down as one to follow, once dropped further in the weights and sent up in trip.

The winner Oregon Gold caught a bit of a tartar in Stop Talking here last time out and probably went off too big a price under fast-improving claimer C Hammond, for what it's worth.

The bumper wasn't easy to work out with the experienced runners setting a quite decent standard, while those visiting the track for the first time looked pretty backward (I'm Wiser Now) or in the case of the winner Whitehotchillifili, immature physically and mentally.

They ran about all over the place and it's hard to value the form, with Ascot runner-up Ben Buie running poorly, possibly unsuited by the ever-deepening ground, but the victor clearly has an engine.

Trips to Doncaster and Leicester proved virtually pointless owing to the dry ground, although peering outside today it feels like it's finally 'on the turn'.