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.

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