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'.

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