Sunday 22 December 2019

Haydock - December 21

One last trip across the Pennines before the pre-Christmas hiatus and the ground was officially heavy, although times suggested it wasn't nearly so bad and I'm sure we've all seen slower-motion finishes at the Lancashire track.

The opening handicap hurdle brought together just a handful of players and it seemed a golden opportunity for Fin And Game to get back into the winners' circle after a seriously promising effort here last time out over an extra half mile.

However, his novice season is now a distant memory and he's become rather disappointing, travelling predictably well only to stay on at one pace behind plucky winner Minella Charmer.

To be fair, the victor had some good form last term, notably when beating promising novice chase winner Dali Mail at the end of last season, and in hindsight that line of form was pretty decent in this context.

What's more, this lengthy chasing type stripped fit for a seasonal return, not always the case with J Moffatt runners. With Bang On running no sort of race on ground that may well have been too soft (he too has been a disappointment) the spoils went to the 'last of the great King's Theatres' - as Hannity would say.

The novice chase was effectively match, no, make that a walkover, as the leggy Moonlighter managed to unship Lizzie Kelly at the second fence leaving chief market rival Precious Cargo to come home in his own time after a slightly novicey start.

This is a serious tool, a great moving horse full of size and strength, with a decent cruising speed. Whether Cheltenham is his track you wouldn't know, but with Angels Breath out of the way he could turn into the stable's JLT horse, or even the Arkle, not that they will be short of options.

There was another in the race, Coole Well, but he lacks a bit in size and scope and could be the type to fall between hurdles and chases, although to be fair he probably needs further at this stage.

The Listed mares event was a cracker, at least on paddock view, with several appearing to have a good chance, but few got into in with the two pacesetters Desaray Girl and Rosie And Millie having it to themselves from some way out.

The latter broke the race apart under B Powell Jr, currently riding with renewed confidence, but they couldn't shake off last month's Newcastle scorer who, then and now, didn't go unbacked at long odds (trainer?)

A good strong sort who was on good terms with herself beforehand, she looks another potential money-spinning mare for the Lady Buttons team, who appear to be hitting form at the right time.

The runner-up stayed this longer trip well and lost little in defeat, but those in behind were a little disappointing with dual winner Flow Away soon finding just one pace.

She's a nice type, as is the fourth Glorious Lady, who remains unfurnished and will be better next season, while Early Morning Rain lacked the size of many here and went off a surprisingly short-priced favourite.

Northern Princess is worth a mention, she is a tall chasing type and another worth keeping an eye on next autumn, while It's Probably Me played up in the prelims and looked very immature. She needs time more mentally than physically.

Chambard was another desperate favourite in the following handicap chase, already proving on two occasions not to have the skill for fences, but this rather small, compact individual again found his way round and whizzed up the run-in. He showed little desire for the big obstacles but I'd consider him a good thing if attentions were turned back to timber, for he looks supremely well-in.

Joke Dancer was a rare winner for Sue Smith on just his second start over fences having fallen at Sedgefield, this fantastic looking chaser warming to the task in the style of one likely to improve again for the experience.

Sir Egbert found market support, possibly on account of his front running style, but he made a couple of horrendous errors in the first half of the race and was beaten three out...he's one to be wary of as he only has one way of going.

Rose Seas Has didn't make much appeal physically, being a little compact and rotund...his Sedgefield form wasn't that inticing and he faded quite tamely as well.

The staying handicap hurdle saw one of the best backed favourites of the day come unstuck in Big Shark. THEY seemed to know the Hobbs inmate was unbeatable on handicap bow but he never looked at ease on ground or track to me, nonetheless giving punters every hope until worried out of it by Flashjack.

The pair came clear of a rallying Silva Eclipse (who could be ready for fences now) so Big Shark backers may consider themselves a shade unfortunate, and no doubt they will look to recoup losses next time.

The Tommy Whittle was the feature race of the day and although wide open none really made pressing claims, and it was the in-form Lord Du Mesnil that went in again after a battling Newcastle triumph three weeks ago.

He doesn't have the size of many, but is an agile individual and seems to love his jumping, which they made good use of and the front is the best place to be round here.

Calipso Collonges came out of the pack to chase him home, but does give the form a shaky look, with perennial runner Vintage Clouds staying on far too late to grab third. If a horse ever needed some headgear, it's him.

Orchardstown Cross was a bitter disappointment for a second successive time, it could be that the handicapper has him high enough although he's a striking chase type and I wonder if he wants the ground much better than this. If we don't see him again until March/April take the hint.

The finale was another handicap hurdle that claimed a handful of runners, the keenly backed Chti Balko being the one to beat although he looked a tad vulnerable following a rise for a recent Bangor demolition and so it proved as Captain Moirette mowed him down late on.

The big grey had an unsuccessful time of things over fences and doesn't use himself so well over the larger obstacles, being so large he can't make the right shape.

I strongly suspect him to fail as a chaser when tried again in the New Year, although he might be able to put it all together once from a lower mark to give his many fans renewed hope. But I suggest his future lies over timber, where he'll continue to win his share.

Romeo Brown is a decent looking sort who may yet come good once they figure out his optimal conditions, while Off The Hook ran no sort of race at a track that has suited previously, and she looks to be one to have reservations about for now.

Poetic Rhythm looked fit and well for this belated return, but he surely needs 3m at this stage of his career.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Catterick - December 17

Bitterly cold but a decent day's action on ground that was largely good to soft, a bit softer on the hurdles track.

I've followed Just Call Me Al from the very early days and backed him several times, but the 12.25 came too soon for the brain to engage and we had to sit and watch as things finally panned out perfectly for the son of Presenting.

"When things fall right I’m sure he’s a well-handicapped horse," is what trainer Gillian Boanas told me when I visited the yard in the autumn, and with crack amateur James King taking over in the plate everything was in place for a big run providing the horse settled.

Under a fine waiting ride - not the only one on the day - Just Call Me Al came clear of an admittedly poor bunch to win in the style of a horse with a more ability than his mark suggests.

Condarcia was made favourite but lacks anything in the way of size and scope, Armattiekan doesn't look like he's in love with the game while Jessica Rabbit should continue to knock on the door in similar races.

The juvenile hurdle looked a modest race of its type with neither of the market leaders taking the eye beforehand...Artistic Language getting warm and looking recalcitrant on leaving the paddock, failing to build on his debut at Wetherby.

Sea Art was well backed but didn't land a blow, another not looking too keen in the visor, while Glorious Dane probably gives the form some foundation with a similar effort to last time.

The winner Extreme Force was a huge Jonjo drifter which probably says it all, the son of Exceed And Excel not having a great deal of size although he was at least in good order.

Of some interest in behind was Fasterkhani, a little backward beforehand and not knocked about - he should now get a mark his shrewd handler can work from.

The first chase of the day was a novices handicap and saw a marked improvement from the four-year-old Almazhar Garde, who had been given a six-week break following a disappointing debut over fences.

Having shown promise over timber in the autumn, he found this company to his liking to win hard held, looking for all the world like he could go round again. 

Despite lacking in stature, particularly against some of these, he jumped with aplomb and can surely follow up away from the softest of ground.

Mah Mate Bob was ruthlessly exposed by a couple ahead of their mark, the unfortunate Pogue filling second spot for a fourth successive time...there's no doubt he's one-paced but surely bumped into one here.

Empire De Maulde was ignored in the market and he'll be better for the run and on a more galloping track.

I quite fancied Reve to beat Bhutan in the staying handicap hurdle with the former looking an improver for the step up in trip, while the hot favourite had stamina doubts lingering over him.

To be fair they both saw it out well, Reve looking very straight forward and one to keep onside especially when going over fences.

The novices hurdle saw highly-rated chaser Mercian Prince favoured in the market receiving plenty of weight from Irish raider Decor Irlandais, but Amy Murphy's horse was put in his place proving that he's not on his game at present.

Decor Irlandais was ridden like a non-trier but the jockey obviously felt he had things covered and the former pointer came home very strongly without having to be extended.

Harvey Smith may be an octogenarian but he continues to unearth quality horses for little outlay and Frimeur De Lancray is a name to remember despite tipping up at the last after looking a little novicey throughout.

A well made sort though, and the four-year-old should pick up a race or two this term as he looked a shade backward here and yet may have run to a mark of around 120.

Whateva Next is worth a mention having plugged on from well back, he cost a good amount after winning an English Point despite looking a rather backward and unfurnished individual, and I can see him picking up a modest handicap in the spring.

The Class 4 handicap chase was a modest event but looked at the mercy of Catterick specialist Reverant Cust despite a market drift, and he got home under a power-packed B Hughes after taking a while to get going.

The winner seems to know where the winning line here is and enjoys these softer fences, while an extra three furlongs is well within his range. He's not worth backing elsewhere owing to his lack of scope and the handicapper has been very kind to him.

Fort De L'Ocean nearly stole it but is probably as good as the handicapper has him right now, however Cybalko can certainly do some damage from his rating if he learns to jump would be very interesting if he reverted to hurdles as he does lack a bit of size and scope.

The bumper looked a wide open affair with the warm favourite Blueskyandsunshine failing to take the eye in the paddock, lacking any sort of size and scope despite being well related.

He'll need time, like one or two others not least Last One To Show and the green Tumbling Dice, but Phil Kirby tends to have his younger horses fairly forward and he dominated the finish with Pennine Cross mowing down stablemate Show Promise late on.

The latter had shown stamina last season and was given a positive ride, while the eventual winner had looked keen and on his toes beforehand and was settled much further back.

They just edged ahead of two others with experience, the likeable Minella Beauty and Cockney Beau who didn't make quite so much appeal. No superstars here but some decent handicapping types for next term. 

Sunday 15 December 2019

This week's eye-catchers

Hexham, December 11
Officially heavy ground, very hard work for some with plenty failing to deal with the final climb to the last obstacle.
Miah Grace did well in the circumstances to hold the challenge of Stainsby Girl having duelled soon enough with market rival Legends Ryde. A really likeable filly, the winner has now won twice here but has a similar level of form at Wetherby and there's no reason to think she can't progress further away from these undulations.

Stainsby Girl was considered good enough to run in the Aintree bumper and will know more next time, again racing a little freely. She is bred to stay much further.

Sophie Fatale has loads of size and scope and built on her previous effort over course and distance. Hopefully she can start to make up for lost time with Sandy Thomson's horses in flying form.

Newcastle, December 12
Soft, heavy in places but I've seen it worse here and it seemed to be more holding than anything else.

Modest stuff, but third placed Geordielandgangster showed something to work, staying on in the shape of one likely to need a little further in time, although this was his first race since January and will come on for it.

Rose Dobbin's second runner Vintage Glen is another that needs further but the penny is starting to drop and he will drop further in the ratings after this mid-div effort.

Honourmission has misfired for new connections over fences but this was better having rallied when looking more likely to fade out of things. Clearly not straight forward, having gone keenly enough, but connections can be relied upon to find the key to him in due course.

Diamond Brig was a big market drifter and this robust staying chaser looked in need of the run before finishing a long way behind winner Capard King. Having gone a little keenly he is expected to build on this opening effort for trainer N Alexander.

Rath An Iuir landed quite a decent looking novices hurdle and with natural physical improvement Rose Dobbin's six-year-old should continue to progress having taken plenty of time to come to himself. The way he travelled and jumped suggested he can defy a penalty in the north at the very least.

Orrisdale was surprisingly sent off a warm favourite under a penalty but ran alright despite showing signs of immaturity and the way he battled on suggests 3m will be no problem.

Duc De Grissay looked the one to beat on form going into the race but failed to build on a solid effort here in The French Furze just 10 days previously, and perhaps this came soon enough. A good sort, he might be one for fences next season as he's starting to look exposed over timber.

A cracking novices chase won in the past by Waiting Patiently and Dali Mail was quite an impressive winner having jumped and travelled really well throughout the 2m contest. A big, imposing grey, he had looked a little green and quirky at times over timber but this represents a big leap forward and he looks one to keep the right side of.

I'm To Blame tried to make all with proven stamina but he is far from straight forward and made at least one bad error before being outpaced from the final fence. An ideal scenario for him would be a soundly run race over 2m4f as he still goes too keenly for his own good.

Protek Des Flos didn't look fit on his debut for B Haslam following an 18-month absence but ran a stormer and clearly retains the ability he showed over hurdles for N Henderson.

Glinger Flame wouldn't have the scope of the others but should still make a chaser where the emphasis isn't quite so much on jumping, while he hit a flat spot at the wrong time suggesting further is now required.

Ravenhill Road turned in a promising effort last time on his first start for Sue Smith but he didn't back that up over a trip that is almost certainly on the sharp side. For all that he is disappointing, there should be races for him.

A strongly contested bumper with Aire Valley Lad providing Sue Smith with a rare winner in this sphere, a typically good boned individual who looked pretty straight for his racing debut. He was forced up on the line to beat the diminutive Honda Valley, who proved once again he has an engine. Deluxe Range caught the eye beforehand but was a little keen in the race and is one to keep an eye on, as is Get With It who lacked a bit of tactical speed on his first outing, but will know more next time and looks a fair sort.

Doncaster, Friday December 13
Good to soft ground, drying on top but reportedly quite dead and tiring underneath and nothing like the going we tend to see here at this stage of the season.

Well Smitten, making his first start for Sam England, wouldn't have the most size or scope in the world but gets from A to B okay enough and stayed on really well to win with something in hand at the line.The way he picked up suggests 3m should be well within his compass and he's just the type the trainer excels with.
Some Reign looked fit and well but played up in the paddock and then bled quite badly during the race, having found little off the bridle. He has his excuses but has become expensive to follow and it remains to be seen if he can fulfill his early promise.

Mercian Knight is a lovely big chasing type and showed plenty of tenacity to gain revenge over Southwell scorer Terrierman. Fitter this time, the winner can be expected to gradually improve with time and probably fences this time next year.
Gonn Away was the only mare in the race and despite market weakness she ran a race full of promise before fading out of things from the second last. It'll interesting if this athletic daughter of Mahler will tackle soft ground this winter, as her decent bumper form came on good ground.

Knight In Dubai was an impressive winner of this novices chase, once again impressing with his jumping. Runner-up Schiehallion Munro did nothing wrong in defeat and is a thoroughly likeable individual who should remain well handicapped following this effort.

This handicap hurdle looked at the mercy of Mr Scrumpy but it's something of a mystery that he couldn't close the deal after cruising to the lead at the second last, staying on at just the one pace. He seems to love his jumping, and possibly just bumped into a more streetwise rival in Storm Rising. Saint Leo once again shaped as though he doesn't stay this far and I'm convinced there's a 2m chase in him on soft ground...this bit of placing something of a surprise.

Doncaster, Saturday December 14

A decent enough field for this novices hurdle.
Baron De Midleton had tightened up for his Newcastle return a fortnight earlier and rallied well between the final two flights, with a notably big jump at the last sealing it. A good sort, he'll jump a fence sooner rather than later.
Exploiteur has the make and shape of a fair chaser in time, and although not troubling the judge again revealed more than enough ability to pick up a minor handicap hurdle along the way.

Sky Pirate again failed to deliver when the chips were down and this talented individual has become very frustrating for his loyal followers. It's surprising he hasn't had his wind tinkered with or a tongue-tie reached for considering his weak finishing tendencies, either way you could see him popping up in a big field handicap on better ground in the spring. A drop to 2m might even suit even though he's won over 3m in the past.

Irish Roe looked very solid at a track where she thrives but has paid for her consistency and is simply held in the handicapper's grip.
Blu Cavalier had shown signs of regression since leaving P Nicholls but his new handler is no slouch and this strong individual returned to the winners enclosure having been overlooked in the market. Having run around going to the final flight, there are signs he could remain competitive in a higher grade, where he is likely to be under-bet once more.

There was a slight sense of inevitability as Sam Spinner took the novices chase, because he gets from A to B and just keeps on galloping. Who knows what may have happened though, if Aye Right had not ploughed through the final ditch where SS himself nearly ejected his rider. Whether Aye Right was put off I don't know, but he'd jumped and travelled like a pro to that point and he is probably a very useful animal who just seems to keep improving.
The disappointment of course was Windsor Avenue, who was a strong favourite on the back of a thrilling victory at Carlisle, but he didn't look the same horse here and reportedly scoped dirty after the race. Brian Hughes said he was never happy with his mount...I think we can put a line through it although it does leave him with an air of vulnerability that wasn't present before. There was certainly nothing in his demeanour beforehand to suggest he was about to under-perform.

Navajo Pass looked in better order than a fortnight ago when he was edgy and sweaty in the paddock. He was brought in much later this time and that seemed to help as he powered home showing great reserves of stamina for a young horse. Physically strong enough to deal with a race like the Boodles, but whether he is there mentally I'm not sure.
Lord Lamington was brought out again quite quickly after winning at Market Rasen and I always see that as a positive sign from the yard of Alan King. His natural speed didn't quite take him as deep as I would have hoped and a tighter track like Aintree may be more up his street in April. But I thought he battled well enough without really threatening to get to the winner.
Tombee Du Ciel really caught the eye beforehand and quite frankly I expected her to trounce this opposition with the help of her fillies' allowance. However, James Reveley didn't look happy a long way from home and it was a dismal showing. Something should come to light, because this didn't make any sense at all.

Cloth Cap was a warm order to land the closing handicap chase but pottering round here in a small field was never going to see him in his best light, and he was collared late on by a game mare in My Old Gold. The pair will have to go up in the region of 5lb having come well clear, however I wouldn't quit on the runner-up just yet and I can see him winning a good handicap in the New Year providing they can find some decent ground. He looks a proper National type but if he doesn't get in then a race like the Ultima at Cheltenham would be of interest prior to another tilt at the Scottish version.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Wetherby - December 7

Largely dry weather since the last meeting saw slightly better ground, to the eye it looked more like good to soft, possibly softer on the chase track.

The opening novice hurdle was a strong one for the track with the penalised Young Bull sent off a well-backed favourite, and justifiably so having shown a tremendous attitude on more than one occasion.

Some interesting, unexposed sorts were in opposition though and it was the multi-flat winner Maid In Manhattan who threw down the biggest challenge to the jolly from two out, neither horse giving way in a stirring finish.

Both come out of it having enhanced their reputations, as well as winning jockey Page Fuller who is looking increasingly polished and strong in a finish.

Western Aussie once again showed plenty of ability eight lengths back in third, a proper chasing type who looked pretty straight on his return from an 11-month absence.

Bumper winner Le Cheval Noir looked quite unfurnished and light-framed, weak in the market and in the race, but will do better in time, however the well-related Black Ebony was bitterly disappointing having looked the part beforehand.

The novices handicap chase saw some wild gyrations in the market, not least the unheralded Brandy Pad who was backed into 7/2 from 20s and above, but although he looked the part from a mark of 80 he was pulled up before the home turn.

Warendorf usurped Manofthemoment at the head of the betting and the stocky, sturdy individual avoided the errors that undermined previous efforts over fences under stand-in jock Ryan Day, holding the rallying Hard Knocks, who isn't anything to look at and was showing his first piece of form on soft.

What to make of Manofthemoment, just a medium-sized son of Jeremy who came out of a Chepstow race in which four of the first five won next time. T George's youngster was unable to add to the tally, although excuses could be made and he's not one to write off back at an easier track.

L'Attendue was representing a yard out of form in P Kirby, but he was quite weak in the betting and should benefit from this first start over fences, she has the size for the game and starts out on a very low mark.

A staying handicap hurdle was turned into a bit of a rout by Dubai Angel, who had promised so much more early in his career but hasn't looked straightforward in recent times.

A wind op seemed to have helped and this first go at three miles was no problem at all, although he was fiendishly well-handicapped if revitalised and looked just about ready in the prelims, being a big, strong chase type.

Electron Bleu traded low in running but has yet to transfer his decent French form to these shores, although time is on his side.

With Charmant out of the way and ground better than 10 days ago, Nuts Well had his best opportunity for some time having been given plenty of slack by the assessor plus the added assistance of ace claimer D McMenamin.

Always having the front runner Ain't My Fault in his sights, the little horse jumped much better than before and routed a weak field...stiffer tasks will once more await as the paceless leader weakened from two out.

There looked to be plenty of pace on in the 2m handicap hurdle with both Snookered and Fisher Green in opposition, and they appeared to cut each others throats early on as the field became fractured in behind.

However, while the effort took its toll on the latter, Snookered simply kept motoring and this wildly progressive five-year-old put up a frankly astonishing effort to land a fourth consecutive success.

Clemento didn't look fit, but Dear Sire did and he had a lot in his favour but didn't see his race out...I've a suspicion he's more of a summer horse and in need of better ground.

An interesting, albeit trappy, novices handicap chase came up next in which Cash To Ash was a nicely backed favourite, and he didn't do an awful lot wrong before knuckling on landing at the final fence.

The result wasn't cut and dried with three in hot pursuit, but it was Dino Boy who proved the step up to three miles on his chase debut was a right call despite reservations that such a test would come too soon in his education.

Definite Wisdom looked a potential improver over fences and although a bit on and off the bridle, he was left in front at the last only to tire and/or idle on the run-in - he's one to keep the right side of particularly when encountering better ground.

Shamilan looks a fair sort but doesn't appeal with the way he travels, already starting to look as though temperament could be an issue, while Shanty Alley is a big unit who ought to find a similar race, tiring late on after pressing the pace.

It was hard to enthuse about a junior bumper for fillies, the four market principles standing out in the paddock beforehand although Sazerak is rather small and not certain to have a future over timber.

Eventual winner Teasing Georgia had been a market drifter and came into the paddock very late, look rather green and on her toes, but she settled well enough in the race and this fair looking sort was far from a surprise winner, coming clear in the end to beat Red Dragoness who shapes like more of a stayer.

Friday 6 December 2019

Midweek eyecatchers Dec 4/5

Haydock, Wednesday December 4

Officially soft, good to soft in places but not typical 'Haydock soft' by any means after a dry week...indeed, it was decided not long before the first that four fences down the back straight would be omitted due to frost. This will have suited some more than others <obvs>.

A 2m7f boys race and a handicap debut for Teescomponentstrig, who is very much a chaser in the making. Jumping much better than previously, he could only plug on at one pace on ground that probably wasn't soft enough. Already due to go up 4lb on collateral form, he should be able to find a race over timber with the emphasis on stamina.

Keep Wondering made an eye-catching debut under rules at Aintree just over three weeks previously but this big chasing type didn't look 100% fit for this maiden hurdle and was arguably sent for home too soon. There's a chance he'll prove a good bit better than this run suggests.

The first race over fences, where Dashel Drasher got back to winning ways without having to step up on his defeat to Champ. A lengthy sort, he has an admirable attitude and should be JLT material although soft ground seems to be a pre-requisite.

I'm not sure what to make of Champagne Mystery, whose impressive Aintree win came a bit from left field. He was keen again and his jumping lacked fluency...physically I wasn't that impressed and while the rhythm of the race was probably against him, for me the jury is out for now.

A decent Class 2 hurdle with the filly Marie's Rock jumping really well on her debut and scooting away from a couple of staying types to win quite nicely. She lacked a bit of size against the boys but the performance was hard to crab.

Alan King's On To Victory may have given her a race if he hadn't dived at the final flight and dislodged T Cannon - not the first of his mistakes. Looking very fit after an absence, this decent former Flat stayer could turn out useful in this sphere.

The Con Man ran a solid race following a year looked like the run would do him plenty of good and he clearly has loads of ability, but will need further and probably fences to see him in a better light. Ebony Jewel did not take the eye beforehand, rather robust while looking a little narrow in front, and he looks to have plenty of growing up to do mentally.

Not a great staying handicap chase and it provided a brilliant chance for Cobolobo to finally deliver on some promising efforts down in grade. He wasn't missed in the market and travelled like a horse with plenty in the locker, Jonjo Jnr easing him clear on the run-in after gaining lengths in the air at the four fences in the straight.The Ogle Gogle Man probably bumped into one here and may look well handicapped next time.

A wide open handicap hurdle to close the show, Informateur was well supported to go in again under a penalty but this was a much sterner exam than at Uttoxeter and he couldn't quite pull it off on ground lively enough. The winner Newtown Boy frustratingly went unbacked as he's often looked like a horse with masses of natural ability, but has a tendency to over-race and not finish his races.

Upped in trip, he settled a little better than normal despite showing keenness, and dug in on the long run-in to win at an eye-watering 14/1. A chase type, he shouldn't go up much for this as they finished in a bit of a heap, with the likes of Better Getalong (needed the run) and Get Help rallying late on after getting outpaced.

Market Rasen, Thursday December 5

Lord Lamington wasn't spared by trainer Mark Johnston in a 12-race Flat campaign, but was fresh from a break on his debut for Alan King and it wasn't hard to be impressed by his performance in beating another timber virgin in Zoffee. T Bellamy looked to have all angles covered even before Zoffee's last flight blunder, and the pair look sound recruits for all that the race wasn't a deep one.

Winningiseverything looked an absolute certainty after putting up a serious effort first time out, but his jumping was much more novicey this time and he'll need to clean that up if he is to be competitive in higher grade, but he certainly has an engine. It may be that he'll be better with some company, rather than dominating weak races from the front.

Little Rory Mac was a short price to land a conditional jockeys handicap hurdle after being stopped last time out at Warwick, where jockey Liam Heard received a 10-day non-triers ban. It was one of the most blatant examples of cheating I've seen in many years, with the jockey failing to give the horse his head until long after the final flight. Undoubtedly, the five-year-old has a very headstrong nature and has been a work in progress, but when in sight of the line the rider must be seen to be 'trying', whatever the nature of the horse, and whatever the pre-race instructions.

Fast-forward four weeks, and rather than being held-up out the back by 10lb claimer Nathan Brennan he was given a positive sit - clearly no concerns today that the horse needed to be 'held together' to get home. The race was a match from a mile out, the unfortunate Eva's Diva being the one having to give best to a far better handicapped winner.

A final point on what has become an unpalatable issue, the BHA handicapper(s) need to take a long hard look at their procedures after Little Rory Mac was dropped 2lb for a run that saw the race-day stewards take a (fairly) strong stance on a horse that wasn't allowed to race on its merits.

Dallas Cowboy is this season's revival-in-chief with another bloodless victory under Emma Chaston-Smith in what is best described as a dreadful race.

Possibly an even more dreadful race taken by Zara Hope for emerging trainer DJ Jeffreys, a tongue-tie and blinkers combo working the oracle. Taking nothing away from the winner's performance, however those in behind are not winners-in-waiting.

Third Time Lucki showed bundles of promise in what is sure to be a strong Ascot bumper last time so it came as something of a surprise to see Dan Skelton's horse drift on the show having looked a nice sort in the prelims. Money came for another fair prospect in Jayaaah but he's more of a stayer by Yeats and simply didn't have the tools to deal with the turn of foot shown by the visually impressive winner. In the circumstances the third placed Rainyday Woman should be noted next time, a filly with plenty of size and a decent pedigree should be able to land one of these.

Friday 29 November 2019

Midweek eyecatchers

Southwell, November 26

A competitive looking mares handicap chase with three last time out winners, however it is the Katy Price trained Hollow Park who should be followed next time after a promising return from a lengthy absence.

Nibbled at in the betting despite looking in the need of the outing, the seven-year-old travelled nicely and even traded odds-on rounding the home turn before fading from two out. That is now three solid runs over fences and confirms she acts on soft ground, and when the trainer hits form I expect this mare to be amongst the winners.

A maiden hurdle over three miles in attritional conditions, two going clear with the sizeable Mercian Knight worth watching in the coming weeks and months. Likely to improve for this seasonal reappearance, Amy Murphy's five -year-old only lost out to a much fitter horse in Terrierman and appeals as one to prove fairly decent when eventually sent over fences.
Tension Time was well beaten off in third place but this quite likeable son of Dubai Destination is likely to be brought along with handicaps in mind and I'd like to think he'll pick up a small race in the fullness of time.

Trainer Sam Allwood enjoyed success earlier on the card with Sheneededtherun but he has a potentially smarter horse on his hands in the shape of Out On The Tear, who is currently 'running on one breath'.
A switch to hold-up tactics and a patient approach is needed to see this decent chasing type fulfill his undoubted potential, but he went far too fast on tacky ground having been taken on for the lead. The fact he stayed on again for third suggests a good attitude, if only it can be channeled in the right direction.

Quite a decent bumper featuring a couple of point winners towards the head of the market, and Ask A Honey Bee put his experience to good use as he wore down debutante Wilde About Oscar close home. The winner is not the biggest but looked the most forward as one would expect from a yard so adept at producing bumper winners, the only surprise being the generous SP. Second and third, Bourbon Beauty, showed more than enough to win one of these but while Java Point was the paddock pick, he may lack the pace in this sphere. Others to mention are Santon, a good looking Scorpion who moved well to post, suggesting better ground may suit, while When You're Ready is a strong chasing type that looked sure to benefit from the outing. Henderson's Arcadian Pearl didn't look the part, a big and backward sort who required a couple of handlers.

Wetherby, November 27

An open handicap chase but just a second run over the larger obstacles for Oscar Wilde and his inexperience showed as he got too close to one and came down just as the race was taking shape. A big, lengthy five-year-old, he has done very well over the summer and looks sure to win races over fences this winter providing this spill hasn't affected his confidence.

Held up by Danny Cook, he got in close to a couple before his mishap and went right at several fences, and I'd expect a more attacking ride to suit this horse's big stride with Carlisle looking an ideal venue. He'd have the pace to win over 2m on heavy ground but he'd be expected to stay well in due course.

A decent novices hurdle featuring three previous winners and a very taking performance from the highly rated Ribble Valley, the apple of trainer Nicky Richards' eye. A well-made, compact sort, he looks a laid-back and professional individual so it was surprising to see him taking a strong hold under B Hughes. However, that tendency to over-race didn't affect his performance and a fine leap at the last sealed an impressive success, and clearly there is much more to come. Disappointment of the race was Proschema, however jockey and trainer immediately put a line through the run as the useful Flat exile was never jumping or travelling after giving the first hurdle a good whack. It wouldn't be surprising to see this horse aimed at a decent spring handicap off what could prove a lenient mark.

Only two of the seven starters were considered in the betting and the eventual favourite Ecu De La Noverie finally rewarded patient backers with victory under Dave Maxwell, who reverted to positive tactics over this minimum trip. The five-year-old is admirably consistent but this didn't take a great deal of winning and tougher assignments await from a higher perch. Hawk High, Hollywoodien and Nuts Well all showed enough to suggest they will be paying their way this winter, the latter proving once and for all that he finds it too hard to jump out of this ground. Niven didn't look particularly fit, Duke Of Navan wasn't on great terms with himself beforehand, while Dustin Des Mottes is one to avoid.

A seriously competitive looking Class 4 handicap was turned into a procession by the lovely rangy chasing type Thomas MacDonagh, who proved to be thrown in following a couple of spins in novice hurdles. Take him out the race and there was plenty to be gleaned in behind, not least the runner-up Blaster Yeats who is quite strong for a four-year-old and looked really fit and well. The winner's superiority may in some part be due to the failings of others, however, Generation Gap proving a disappointment up in trip and he may not quite have seen it out, similar sentiments applying to each-way gamble Enfin Phil, who looked primed for a big run under an in-form claimer but found less than seemed likely when the taps were turned.

In keeping with all others from the yard of Ruth Jefferson, Clondaw Caitlin took a giant leap forward from her seasonal reappearance to spreadeagle a fair field of mares in the closing bumper. Runner-up Meep Meep Mag is decent looking and stays very well, so the winner had to show a good attitude in holding her at bay. Favourite Headscarf Lil was well beaten off but I thought she'd come on for the run and she still looked green under pressure, while stablemate Innisfree Spirit has a bit of quality about her and travelled noticably well before appearing to flounder in the ground.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Haydock - November 23

Officially good to soft ground for Betfair Chase day and against all odds that's pretty much how it looked, they were generally coming home well with the clock supporting the visual impression.

The opener was a listed novices hurdle that saw Thebannerkingrebel sent off a well-backed 5/4 favourite to make amends for his recent Wetherby mishap.

That looked like very decent form and a repeat of that effort looked like being sufficient against a handful of generally more backward types, and in the end he didn't appear to be out of second gear to record a third victory over timber.

A compact sort, he walks with a spring in his step and while this form is nothing to write home about, he may well prove to be ahead of his current mark.

Runner-up Calva D'Auge is a small Flat bred horse who I wouldn't necessarily expect to uphold the form, but there looks to be more depth in behind as the strong finishing Glory And Fortune is a really nice looking chasing prospect that would have finished closer but for being hampered in the straight.

Ballinsker pulled too hard and is a robust individual of whom better can be expected when sent over further, provided he learns to drop the bridle.

A handicap chase over 3m2f came up next and saw Crievehill post a personal best effort as he backed up his victory at Wetherby last month. He was the only one to jump and travel with purpose on ground livelier than some would have wanted.

One that relishes better ground is Sharp Response and his second place finish came as no surprise as he looked in terrific order beforehand, this looking the bare minimum trip nowadays and he should pay his way again.

Aintree scorer Burtons Well was made favourite but he was very fit for that reappearance from a long absence and he didn't look the same horse in the prelims, a bit edgy and getting warm.

Not much else appealed too much, Theligny has enough size and scope for fences but simply doesn't jump well enough and may yet prove better over hurdles, and he could still be well handicapped.

The market was heavily weighted towards the front end in a five runner graduation chase and I could smell a rat, however it was hard to pull the trigger regarding eventual winner Keeper Hill, for whom there wasn't a dime in the village.

A strapping chaser, it looked like the race would tighten him up for a return to staying handicaps but he managed to hold his position despite a couple of mistakes and stuck on dourly under an in-form A Heskin.

Faithful supporters of Midnight Shadow will be running low on funds after the six-year-old travelled like the best horse for the second successive time, jockey Danny Cook not wanting to get to the front too soon probably with that last fence fall at Carlisle in mind.

However, that merely served to play to the strengths of the eventual different circumstances I'm sure Cook would have put the race to bed much earlier in the piece.

They came nicely clear of The Hollow Ginge, who nonetheless shaped well again this time in conditions that didn't play to his strengths, while the well-backed Jarveys Plate didn't really look at ease at various stages of the race and he might want it softer or further already.

There was a big morning move for Bold Plan ahead of a Class 2 handicap hurdle over just shy of 2m3f, for connections that have been having a great time of things.

The son of Jeremy was very solid on the show and physically he looks a fair prospect, albeit not necessarily a chasing type at this stage. He did well to land the gamble in the end, coming home really strongly after getting caught in traffic on the home turn.

The paddock pick was Whoshotthesheriff, who certainly will jump a fence in time, and he nearly poached victory with a free-going display only to be run down late on. If he learns to settle better he could be a serious talent for his fast-emerging trainer.

The other one that interested me was Fin And Game, who looked a horse to keep on side a couple of season back, but lost his way last term after failing to cut it over fences.

He's one of those that size-wise falls a little short of being a chaser, although one suspects connections will give it another try. He looked in very good order however, and is one to look out for next time on softer ground, or perhaps over further. It may not have been the strongest race of its type but the front three are worth following.

The stayers handicap hurdle came up next, formerly the Fixed Brush, it was wide open but I wanted to have horses with a bit of zip on my side, chief among them distance movers Breaking Waves, Acey Milan and Tedham.

Acey Milan was given a tough task with aggressive tactics from the front, but they looked like paying off until Stoney Mountain came from way back to land the pot.

A horse that always keeps finding, Stoney Mountain was outpaced over course and distance last season and I thought he'd lack the pace on this better ground, but the strong gallop helped and he managed to just about keep in touch when the race developed.

Breaking Waves went amiss right from the off, a shame for the in-form trainer, while Tedham is becoming frustrating as he travelled with the choke out, hit a bad flat spot before staying on again for third.

Ask Ben ran a mighty race on his seasonal return and hopefully they'll go chasing with him now as he is born for that, a doughty stayer he'll be one to keep on your side.

Mega Yeats caught the eye in the prelims and although this was a thankless task first time out, she shaped with promise and is a sure-fire winner back in calmer waters and possibly back in trip.

Umbrigado and Highland Hunter will both come on plenty for the outing.

The big race saw Lostintranslation out-point Bristol De Mai on his home turf, the winner looking every inch the top class horse he has become, with remarkable range and scope.

I thought the runner-up looked really fit and won't be making any excuses on that score, and they were just better than the other two on the day.

The finale looked an open contest but that was not reflected by the betting with Know The Score being punted off the boards. I've never liked the horse since seeing him before he ran at Hexham last December, the sellers at £380,000 still probably unable to believe their luck.

This son of Flemensfirth lacks in size and scope and I thought he was really struggling to jump these fences. Excuses will undoubtedly be made but he's one I'll be continuing to oppose.

The other players had their chance, but it was heartening to see the veteran Perfect Candidate return to the winners' circle on ground that didn't look soft enough beforehand. Late Romantic had looked quite progressive but the market suggested he wouldn't be up to winning and 'they' weren't wrong.

Friday 22 November 2019

Catterick - November 22

A drizzly morning turned the ground a little softer than expected but it didn't look much worse than good to soft. Not the most inspiring punting card with several short priced favourites.

The opening staying handicap hurdle saw Maison D'Or land a bit of a gamble for trainer Micky Hammond, the five-year-old getting off the mark at the 26th attempt.

He looked pretty straight forward though and was certainly fit enough, while the new trip was clearly right up his street, as he outstayed and/or out-battled the other well-backed one Oathkeeper.

Takingitallin was an uneasy favourite and he still looks quite unfurnished, and not all that big, while Too Many Chiefs looked in really good order but ideally wants it much softer and was readily brushed aside by two well ahead of their marks.

Winning rider Emma Chaston-Smith has caught the eye of late and she quickly bagged a double when rousing the oft-reluctant Dallas Cowboy to victory in a really weak handicap chase.

This time she was thwarting her boss as Paddling either wouldn't or couldn't get past after a protracted battle from the third last...which doesn't say much for the standard of the race.

The pair came clear (!) and they were strung out all over the place...neither of the market leaders, Enforcement or Moores Novelty took the eye, and don't appear to have much a future. The former was particularly out of place in this sort of race.

The juvenile hurdle was of some interest with the well-found Scorched Earth doing enough to justify the faith after the vastly experienced Maria Magdalena ran out at the second last. Oh, the irony.

Mr Chua had more about him than most and should be able to pick up one of these or a small handicap, while the costly Hasankey went well for a long way and should strip a good deal fitter next time.

Popular grey Captain Moirette was predictably well-backed to give Sue Smith a first winner in months in the novice chase, but there looked to be plenty of reason to be against the gigantic seven-year-old not least his moderate fencing in two outings over fences to date.

This tight circuit was not sure to suit and he made a number of mistakes, bulldozing his way through a couple of early fences when meeting them on the wrong stride.

I have lingering doubts as to whether he is simply too big to make the necessary adjustments required to be a success over fences. I'm sure it will all fall right one day, and the way he stayed on was encouraging, but he's the sort to be worth taking on again next time.

The Some Dance Kid was his chief market rival but I was really disappointed with his paddock appearance, lacking any sort of size and substance, and I don't think it's just an age thing.

Successful between the flags, he doesn't have the scope to deal with regulation fences and he backed out of things quite readily in the straight.

Hammond was to provide another winner here in the shape of the promising Schiehallion Munro, who looked pretty straight for his seasonal reappearance and has the size to make a chaser.

It has to be said his jumping was pretty flawless and his hurdles form has a really solid look to it, particularly his Wetherby win that has seen several winners emerge.

Forecast is a sturdy individual without much scope for fences, and may not be easy to place, while Randy Pike shaped quite promisingly considering he was carrying plenty of condition.

The novice hurdle was a really poor affair with decent bumper winner Shanroe well-backed to defy very short odds. However, brave punters were left scratching heads as he was brought down midway through the race, leaving it wide open.

One of the few to really make any impression beforehand was McCain's Pull Green and he duly picked up the pieces under a positive ride. The winner has size and scope and should progress at a modest level.

He might have been fortunate as the Flat-bred Quoteline Direct didn't quite see it out after a couple of late errors, another fine run for the in-form M Hammond. There wasn't much to take from the race - the rest were a long way back.

Very First Time was a source of much frustration for this column as he slid down the weights without much sign of revival, however he's finally turned the corner for the Skeltons and looks a more complete horse, both physically and mentally.

A really low mark helps and he was simply too well in for Jack Devine, who ran perfectly well for the in-form Rose Dobbin without looking like getting to the ready winner. Knockrobin was another McCain chaser to back out of things, however Manwell finished with some zest and he can be more competitive next time.

The bumper looked a wide open affair with nothing catching the eye in the prelims. If Karl's Berg Did was very well found in the market but didn't have a great deal of presence physically, although he rallied well late on to get second.

Skelton's Misstree Song looked only modest but will have traded short after going clear turning into the straight, only to fold inside the final furlong. McCain's Kiriglote fairly rattled home to land the spoils but he was hard to find and I'm not sure if the form is worth a great deal.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Hexham - November 20

Frosty, drying conditions probably made for some very holding conditions although some of the times didn't seem awful, but they did miss out the usual second last flight of hurdles.

The opening handicap hurdle looked a closely contested race but it was won in striking fashion by the Irish raider Duchess Ravenwaves, who was fit beforehand as you would expect although isn't the most taking specimen.

But she won this with any amount in hand, although you could argue that her chief rivals didn't have things in their favour, while runner-up Sleepy Haven is building up quite a losing run.

Fourth-placed Monfass is possibly better on a flatter track and maybe better ground, he seems to have more speed than stamina, while the eye was drawn to Shetland Bus who looked big and burly on his debut for Justin Landy.

Never put in the race at any stage, a wind problem was given for the seeming lack of effort on the jockey's part, but the fact he was only 12 lengths off fourth at the finish suggests he is one to keep a very close eye on.

The market sorted a few out at the head of affairs in the novices handicap chase and it looked a straight match between recent winners Mah Mate Bob and Bering Upsun, the latter much preferred having caught the eye in the paddock looking in particularly good order.

J Ewart's inmate traded at odds-on for much of the back straight before making a howling error three from home, effectively ending his chances.

He'd been a little careful at times prior to that and victory was far from assured, especially with Mah Mate Bob already having proven himself a tough nut to crack when the chips are down.

Surprise of the race was the performance of Lastin' Memories, who looked far from fit in the prelims and was having his first start over the larger obstacles, but he didn't do a great deal wrong before going down narrowly. His strike rate is a poor one, but he should improve on this.

One of the more intriguing races for the track came up next with southern raider Kiltealy Briggs a surprising uneasy favourite despite coming up against a handful of horses in the process of getting themselves handicapped.

Money came for one of them in the shape of Theflickeringlight but she didn't look fully wound up on her second start of the season and was allowed to bowl along at the head of affairs with little chance of getting home in the conditions.

By contrast, another likeable project in All Hail Caesar was held up in rear but he was unable to make much of an impact and finished equally tired...this robust individual didn't look a great deal fitter than 12 days previously and I'd expect to see both horses entered in handicaps over the festive season.

Itsnotyouitsme again did well to finish second although is a bit on the small side and may just struggle a bit if taking the handicap route, but a small novice should fall his way.

It was all about the winner though and J Snowden has a smart prospect on his hands as Kiltealy Briggs galloped clear of the opposition, relishing the stamina test presented to him. A marked step up in grade surely awaits this striking chase type, who has loads of filling out to do.

The four miler made very little appeal as a betting medium, three race-fit horses filling the first four and they came home really strongly despite a healthy gallop being set by the winner Dontdelay, Lowanbehold claiming second despite an absence.

A wise sage assured me the prices were 'all wrong' in the two-runner novices chase and he proved spot on as the nicely backed outsider Just Your Type jumped and galloped his way to a facile victory over Supremely Lucky, whose goose was cooked after seeming to take a false step with about a mile to race.

The finale was a poor affair and punters couldn't resist the recent course form of Espoir Moriviere, who was backed into an insanely short price, but over this trip he had no answer to Casimir Du Clos, reverting to hurdles with a stylish success.

J Landy's second runner on the card McCrackens Gate came in for solid support at big odds and rewarded each-ways backers with a solid effort; he looked a good deal straighter than the one in the opening race but there was still a bit to work on and I'd expect him to build on this.

It's difficult to hold out much hope for the rest.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Wetherby - November 16

A wet morning ensured the ground would be very soft again but it hasn't been opened up at this stage of the season and really it doesn't seem too bad.

The opening novices hurdle did not looks a strong affair with Fitzroy a very uneasy favourite and looking a big backward chasing type with plenty of maturing to do.

He was soon beaten but the other big stamp of a horse Oscar Robertson knuckled down well after coming off the bridle and this tall, green individual took quite a leap forward from his latest bumper outing.

Revelation of the race was Blossoming Forth, who had shown nothing at all on her seasonal return in a bumper but was knowhere close to fitness that day.

She turned up in vastly improved condition this time around, albeit still a raw, unfurnished future chaser, but was given an enterprising ride and this was much more like it from a filly that cost six figures...a mares race would be a formality.

That said, the form still isn't that great and the well-backed Rare Clouds was the latest from the Sue Smith yard to let punters down...they are all bouncing out of their seasonal debuts and will be different horses in a month's time.

Who's In The Box isn't a bad sort from a small yard and came home quite strongly in third, but he's more of a handicap project and looks unfurnished at present.

The novices chase featured four really talented animals but it was a case of 'after you sir' as the strongly backed Good Boy Bobby was allowed a solo on the front end, the other three riders happy to have a school round.

As promising as the winner is, he won't have things so easy in future and there was plenty to like about Ravenhill Road's effort, showing up looking pretty straight and in good order after a stable switch.

Albert's Back has always been highly regarded and he too shaped with a good deal of promise under tender handling, he has plenty of size and he'll stay further, while there will be other days for Garrettstown who is every inch a chaser.

The difficult looking handicap hurdle followed and it was a bit of a rogue's gallery, Sakhee's City chief among them but today was his day under a cool ride from A Nicol.

Former talking horse Mount Mews looked fit and well but has become increasingly idiosyncratic and he took no interest in jumping the hurdles, but travelled into the race and even threatened to win.

On the face of it a mark of 134 should be well within his compass but a pair of cheekpieces could be needed to bring out the best of his ability.

One For Harry looked straight enough but proved very disappointing, while Cool Mix really should be over fences. I didn't like Applaus who was well backed but looked badly in need of it.

Mr Antolini was a little weak at the head of the market prior to the handicap chase but with just one chasing experience behind him rising 10 he was one to take on all day and The Dubai Way was as good an alternative as any.

Progressive under these conditions a couple of winters back, he took a while to get the hang of fences and in common with many in the Whittington yard didn't seem himself last term, but a stable switch has sparked a revival and he looked fit enough on this return to action.

Storm Control gave him something to aim at in the straight and the tenacity he had previously shown was in evidence again as he powered clear on the run-in, looking like one to keep onside.

It may not have taken a great deal of winning, however, with the favourite predictably struggling for fluency over fences, while Catamaran Du Seuil threw in another stinker at a course he's previously gone well at.

Big Bad Bear was all the rage prior to a hurdle race for horses having run no more than once over timber and he belied a touch of greenness to win with something in hand against a decent enough rival in Miah Grace, the pair worth keeping the right side of this winter.

A good handicap hurdle came up next and the progressive top weight Cornerstone Lad defied another rise in the ratings under the excellent B Garritty to see off another super consistent horse in Theatre Legend.

Both looked well, but there were several looking in need of the run and the eye-catcher had to be Dali Mail, who wasn't knocked about once his chance had gone and he should prove well handicapped when the time comes.

The finale saw the return of Bigirononhiship and I thought he looked a million dollars for the in-form Dobbin yard. A big strong horse he looks much better than his current mark but he only got up on the line thanks to the idling of Fingerontheswitch.

It's to be hoped the winner can build on this now granted more of a test of stamina, while it's back to the drawing board for Ard Chros whose jumping went to pieces again once pressure was applied. He's not a bad sort.

Newcastle - November 15

Dry and bright in the main, lots of rain before racing made it on the heavy side but they took things very steadily throughout and that didn't suit some of the more doughty stayers.

The first was a case in point where they went no gallop at all in the 3m handicap hurdle, just modest fare with Mr Love able to rally after looking beaten at the top of the straight to defy good support.

He looked very well beforehand but is possibly not one to rely on entirely and this really was weak stuff, the runner-up Farlam King looking a very moderate specimen indeed but another to uphold the recent hot streak of trainer M Barnes.

Rose Dobbin ran two with Final Fling still looking burly and not the type to relish carrying a welter burden, while outsider Tailspin looks an okay type for the grade and neither runner would have appreciated the stop-start gallop, both doing their best work late on.

The next was another lowly staying handicap, this time over fences and only a couple took the eye, one of which came home in front being Gatacre Street, who I had mentioned in dispatches before and had also been given an optimistic assessment in a recent stable tour.

Tight in the market, the unexposed seven-year-old looked fit enough for this seasonable bow and was always well placed in a race where few took an interest.

The result might have been different had the front running Road Warrior remained with his jockey, a tall light-framed sort having only his second start for Becky Menzies who can gain compensation for his exit two from home.

Speak Of The Devil was the other to go clear in the straight but he looked woefully one-paced, he's a big strong chasing type who probably needs more time to strengthen up.

Cavalry Scout finished well beaten in the end and he only looks moderate, and possibly a little temperamental, although you wouldn't put it past his excellent trainer to find a little race for him.

Phil Kirby was quite keen on Desaray Girl when I visited Green Oaks but I wasn't expecting the filly to be hot to trot first time over timber...but having been nibbled at in the market made almost every yard of the running to win a mares hurdle that fell apart.

Well backed favourite Ellarna looked really fit and well but ran no sort of race and may not have acted on the ground, while another nice looking filly in Chanting Hill failed to back up her recent effort and she too may be worth another chance on sounder terrain.

Elk Bridge should win a race or two in time, plenty of size and scope but her jumping was very novicey and she should do better than this.

Charlie Snow Angel doesn't win very often but he goes well here and had a huge pull in the weights with Casual Cavalier in the next, and after a solid effort last week came good with the market calling it spot on.

Skipping On and Flaming Charmer looked straight enough to do themselves justice but after dictating a modest pace faded away in the straight and market weakness seemed to speak for their chances.

The market was really strong for Royal Claret in the mares staying handicap chase but I wasn't convinced, this track takes a bit of jumping and she came in very inexperienced with only one start over the black ones.

By contrast, Sheneededtherun has been round the block a few times and her sound jumping and stamina was sure to see her go close, with her jockey's claim meaning she was receiving an awful lot of weight.

Again they pottered round, with C Todd always in the right place on our heroine, moving away smartly going to the last to settle matters. Angels Antics is a big gawky mare but was really fit and did well to get second despite another shoddy round of jumping.

Royal Claret will have other chances, she seemed to jump okay in the main but this did not test her deep reserves of stamina one bit, while Kitty Fisher didn't look straight after an absence and may improve a little on this.

Simply The Betts is a horse I've had a minor obsession about and is as nice a horse as you'd wish to see, easily accounting for a couple of rivals in a novices handicap chase with chief opponent The King Of May running flat.

I can see the winner taking much higher rank down south this season - he didn't seem right at all last term - with the Close Brothers handicap at the Festival an obvious target.

The bumper was a fascinating affair as although the market was pretty well-formed it didn't look right to me as the Dobbin-trained Trooper Turnbull looked hugely over-priced in light of a really sound effort here last term when looking big and backward.

He was much fitter and stronger this time and frankly looked the one to beat, in the end finding Tom Lacey's Unohu just too good on the run to the line having looked green when coming under pressure.

It felt like one had slipped through the net with the two favourites beaten, Wetlands not really taking the eye being quite compact and carrying plenty of condition, while Jeremy Pass is a lovely big chasing type probably lacking the spark to win a bumper.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Carlisle November 11

First blog of the month after being consigned to the 'disabled list' however it looks like we're back in the game after a little trip to blustery Cumbria.

The opening maiden hurdle saw many punters give another chance to the lightly raced eight-year-old Baracalu who looked fit and raring to go after another lengthy break.

Things were looking good into the dip but he found nothing up the hill and I wouldn't put this defeat down to a lack of have to know when to fold 'em and he's just downright disappointing.

Second favourite Sunny Express was quite an unfurnished four-year-old on paddock inspection, the type to be better over time, which didn't leave many other options.

With the McCain yard still fairly quiet Gaelik Coast made little appeal as he looked to be carrying some condition and he didn't appear to have come to himself, while Curramore is no looker from a yard that has few winners.

However, the latter was the beneficiary of a patient ride and his stamina and experience was enough on the day, he looks a mudlark but may not have needed to improve to land this.

Of interest in behind were both Claret Dabbler, a decent looking sort that should come on for the run, and Wye Aye, who hasn't been the easiest to handle this autumn but showed the first sign of ability when running on very late. A meagre rating will soon come his way and there's every chance he'll find a race in the course of time.

One of the hopes of the north was back in action in the novices chase and Windsor Avenue did not let supporters down with a scintillating display of jumping and galloping to beat Ballymoy fair and square despite conceding a penalty.

A very attractive looking horse with size and scope, the sky really is the limit for B Ellison and the team. I clocked his lap time from winning post to winning post three seconds quicker than Hell's Kitchen later on the card, having already run half a mile further.

We can all make various different assumptions but this looks like a 155+ type effort and the fact he was still strong at the line augurs well for a potential trip to Cheltenham in the near future.

The mares handicap hurdle was a tight little race in the betting but Amberose was all the rage for a trainer with a phenomenal record in handicap hurdles and the gamble was landed by a narrow margin.

The winner looked fit from an absence but Irish raider Lily's Gem made plenty of appeal having built up a solid portfolio of form and having gone down by just a neck there's a chance the form is quite strong, both finishing with plenty in the tank.

Disappointment of the race was Methodtothemadness although her victory here came on the stiffer track in a race where everything went right for her. By Gold Well, there's every chance she will need much further than the minimum and probably better ground.

As mentioned earlier, the quirky looking Hell's Kitchen landed the Graduation Chase but only after the last fence departure of Midnight Shadow and Djingle, who fell independently.

The former lacks a little bit of scope but has loads of strength and seems to jump perfectly well, however he guessed at the last and paid the price when looking to have the race at his mercy.

Djingle had jumped well but was badly in at the weights and was simply giving best to a superior horse when capsizing. I wasn't that taken by him physically but he's still young and has time to fill out.

Chesterfield looked fit enough and had probably been targeted at the race, he ran to his mark and sets the level of form.

I've more notes about Pookie Pekan than almost any other horse but he's rarely missed by the market and he continued on an upward curve by taking the handicap chase with some ease.

Given a clearer sight at his fences than is sometimes the case, he proved himself a sound enough jumper in bounding clear of Never Up and staying on far too strongly for the rest, in the manner of a horse that should get further.

Last time out winner Le Frank was weak in the betting and was given no sort of ride, allowed to sit well off the pace in the manner of one not really at the races. He continues to frustrate on the whole, rarely putting two races together, with connections seemingly not sure what he ideal conditions are.

That just left a bumper and it was something of a surprise to see the warm favourite One Fine Man short of peak fitness, neither well muscled behind the saddle or tight around the middle.

Jeremy progeny have not yet proved themselves on ground this soft and the race was ripe for a turn up and the Irish raider Arcadian Sunrise provided the ammunition, running right away late on to win decisively.

Quite well made and endowed with stamina, the winner is the type to go well under a penalty and do okay over hurdles in time.

The Smith pair ran well despite looking like chase types for the future, both carrying plenty of condition, although I'd rather mark up their efforts than denigrate the overall form because of that.

Small Present was probably the nicer of the pair in the paddock but he faded late on after trying to mix it with the winner, while Jayaaah came home nicely and he clearly has ability.

Even the third placed Elusive Red looked a fairly decent specimen while Yorvik was a really nice chase type who should step up on this with a more positive ride, and overall I'd view the race quite positively.

Monday 28 October 2019

Aintree - October 27

Bright sunshine after 24 hours of heavy rain, the ground was soft after they had declared on good so there were a few nons throughout the card, but that didn't detract from an informative afternoon.

There was plenty to take from the opening novice hurdle won by the bang in-form Fergal O'Brien via Imperial Alcazar, who came with a bit of a reputation and was well-backed to get off the mark.

 A big scopey horse, he needed all of the 2m4f to get to the year-younger Coconut Splash but he nailed him on the line and the pair look useful prospects...the runner-up a far more compact individual with plenty of filling out to do.

Big Bad Bob was carrying condition but rallied well after some sketchy jumping to take third - this was a decent effort - while Lossiemouth was an eye-catcher having been held up well in rear off steady fractions, he's a big unit who will benefit from the experience.

Green Dolphin looked a nice horse but was keen and dropped right away as if amiss, but Copper Coin was one of the fitter ones and this nice handicap prospect led them quite deep into it and he's one to keep onside.

Corrany got a bit warm and looked burly once they took off the rug, while Grey Getaway is a nice sort and will build on this as the season progresses.

Mr Muldoon was all the rage again in the staying hurdle for conditionals but the dual winner may just be held by the handicapper at the current time, unable go with the rag Same Circus and Smackwater Jack after the last.

The winner has a good strike rate in both spheres and was on a fair mark, but she was well rugged up and it was hard to know whether she was straight.

The runner-up was interesting though as he looks to have strengthened markedly in the last 12 months and he could pick up a decent prize this term granted a softer winter, while his trainer is starting to knock on the door.

The veterans' chase looked wide open but it was very clear that Burtons Well was 'good to go' despite a lengthy absence and Venetia is a dab hand at bringing them back in fine order.

His form as a novice was solid and trying a new trip that should suit, it wasn't surprising that money came for him and despite a few untidy leaps he won with a bit in hand.

Killaro Boy ran a mighty race in second after going keenly early on, jumping notably soundly this big rangy animal is not flattered by his rating despite that near miss during the early part of summer.

On Tour was disappointing but the run may have come soon enough, while Captain Redbeard isn't at his best here but would be of interest if they go to Haydock next as this should sharpen him up.

Stoney Mountain is a very likeable individual and his good attitude and tenacity were once again to the fore as he won the next from a peg of 134 - there's more to come from his this season and he could be one for the Pertemps granted some soft ground.

Garrettstown is every inch a chaser and it's hoped they go down that route now, he settled nicely this time in behind before laying down the final challenge and I'm thinking Close Brothers for him although he may turn out better than that.

Howling Milan is still weak and leggy and probably needs another season of hurdling, while Hear No Evil looked burly as some of the Skeltons have done this week and the race will not be lost on this nice strong horse.

The big race was next up and naturally the low sun spoiled the race as a spectacle...but not if you'd backed Forest Bihan in midweek and in hindsight the set-up was perfect for a horse that has found winning difficult.

The move up to 2m4f appeared to suit and he settled surprisingly well, but with Kalashnikov not asked a question until too late his basic speed was always going to be too much for the stayers.

The runner-up lost nothing in defeat and he looked in similar form to when he won here in April. He's a proper horse and this is now the bare minimum for him, he looks a soft ground stayer and I'd like to see him move up to 3m.

Frodon looked fit enough but he faced an awesome task at the weights and the lack of fences was hardly a help, while Flying Angel looked sullen beforehand and despite being backed looks like he's gone.

The novice handicap chase threw up countless winners 12 months ago and another good field assembled in the next, Irish raider Plan Of Attack landing the spoils with a strong staying performance.

Only four of nine looked fit however, the first three among them, with the winner quite light framed and athletic, not your average staying chaser.

However, Court Cave's progeny come in all shapes and sizes but what they do seem to have is bundles of stamina and determination, borne out here as he repelled The Hollow Ginge on the run-in.

I didn't think the runner-up would make a chaser last year but I have to revise that view as he seems a bit bigger and stronger now, he loves the mud and staying test although it's worth bearing in mind I didn't think he handled the undulations at Hexham last term.

Shannon Bridge is a big strong individual but looked pretty straight although he's likely to prove a bit sharper next time, while the other fit one Django Django ran no sort of race and it's back to the drawing board for him.

Deise Aba ranged up three out despite a few dodgy jumps but I thought he looked really burly and he stopped quickly thereafter, the others that failed to finish also needed it pretty badly.

One of those was trained by Harry Fry and a lot of his have looked quite heavy in the last week or two, but that didn't stop Winningiseverything in midweek and it didn't stop White Hart Lady in the closing mares bumper.

A big imposing five-year-old with tons of scope, the daughter of Doyen is clearly very useful as she trounced a decent field headed by a couple with decent form from last season.

I backed both Roseisaroseisarose and Lugg River as they set a fair standard and looked among the fittest, but ran into something here given a very positive ride by one of the best around.

The placed horses should now go and win their novice hurdles while the fourth Notawordofalie gives the form further substance having already won one of these.

Cill Anna had a reputation from pointing and she's a nice horse, but like many trained by PFN she didn't looked fully wound up and will do much better, while Wheesht was surprisingly prominent in the market despite rocking up carrying loads of overweight.

There will be winners emanating from this race including many of those in the ruck.

Friday 25 October 2019

Southwell - October 24

Unfortunate that Carlisle and Southwell often clash as they're two of my favourite punting tracks, and the decision to head south looked a bad call when the rain set in half an hour before the first.

That turned the ground much softer than they declared on, leading to a spate of non-runners and rendering a couple of races far less competitive.

However, it was still interesting stuff by and large beginning with Battleofthesomme making a mockery of his opening mark on debut for Jamie Snowden.

He looked a chaser in the paddock, and a very fit one too, and he was solid at the head of the market after being put in at double figures overnight. They'll need to get him out again next week but on this evidence he should have loads in hand and he jumped great.

Mac Cennetig was a huge drifter probably on account of the ground but this horse with a high head carriage is certainly not one to rely on and he turned it in pretty early on.

Just Call Me Al continues to frustrate and he put in a pretty lame shift after jumping and travelling well early on, a mistake on the far side seeming to bottom him out and he just plugged on.

Clondaw Storm and the size and scope for fences and will come on for this, as will Pardon Me who has plenty of strengthening to do.

They stood their ground in the novices handicap chase and there was a turn-up when Fortescue got up on the nod for the in-form H Daly.

This great big unit has all the hallmarks of his crazy siblings and it could be that they've done a fantastic job getting a win out of it. For my money the the run-in wasn't long enough for him to shirk it but the other one would have got back up in a stride or two.

Now that sounds a tad harsh, he clearly has the ability of Go West Young Man, let's hope he is able to build on this effort. But he won't carry my cash.

The other one was Notachance who has strengthened up in the last 12 months but remains a young horse with some growing to do, yet once again he showed loads of stamina and tenacity after a few untidy leaps. I like him and he should remain nicely handicapped.

Tractor Fred, running in the same colours as the first winner, looked for a while like he was able to land the double jumping and travelling like one ahead of his mark. He's a big strong individual and another young horse to keep firmly on side.

I was disappointed with Stop The World who doesn't have the size up close that he does on TV and like so often last season he proved very one-paced, and he may just be ordinary.

To be fair the ground may have gone against him and he may come on for this, but the jury is out and he needs to start winning.

Eclair De Guye is a nice athletic horse that looked over-priced being one of the fittest, he clearly lives on his nerves a bit but seemed to settle okay in behind. I was quite taken by his effort and a drop in trip might make him of interest.

Thomas Shelby looks a modest sort but probably wasn't fit and was one of three from the Bailey yard on the day to pull up.

Her Coole Lion set lively fractions in the following maiden hurdle but couldn't keep up when Winningseverything took over at halfway. The Fry yard has made a quite start and this gelding did not look that straight, which makes his victory all the more impressive.

Ridden with great confidence from the front, Bowen kept pouring it on and was strong at the line; make no mistake this was a performance of great merit and while he lacks a bit of height he's a good rangy mover and is very likeable.

I made Blackfinch one of the each-way bets of the day and he caught a tartar as they say. A strong staying type from a good family, he looked pretty straight and the rain was in his favour but to give age and experience to a very good winner is quite something and I'll be keeping a close eye on his progress.

The only other to finish in the same parish was Aintree winner Garry Clermont, another four-year-old sure to keep improving with experience.

Jonjo was on target in the next though when March Is On took a leap forward despite modest looks to land a weakish staying hurdle, beating Fontley House and For Jim who sets the standard for the race.

From The Heart should do better in time and probably on nicer ground, while Lord Sparky was the best of them but he wasn't fully fit and pulled far too hard. He's not one to write off by any means.

The mares hurdle frankly looked Oscar Rose's to lose on quite a big class drop on her overall form, a mark of 118 and first time out probably a good time to catch her.

Things weren't looking especially rosy at one point but with Paddy doing what he does best and skirting the whole field the frustrating seven-year-old eventually came away to land a bit of a punt.

As it turns out this might not be the worst race form-wise, The Kings Baby probably the right one following home while the third Coded Message will be winning again this season with this run behind her.

Oriental Cross is a nice big sort, pretty fit and ready to jump a fence, and there's a race in Splash the Cash don't worry about that.

The less said about the boys' race the better, Dariya probably unfortunate not to see it out after travelling like a dream.

The bumper was one of the main reasons for snubbing Carlisle and fortunately the paddock sorted them out with the hot favourite Gunsight Ridge a nice sort but looking burly on his first start O Murphy.

With more than 30% to play with there was value to be had and it appeared to lie with Brief Ambition, who had experience on his side via three runs in points, hailing from the F O'Brien yard that has great success in these races.

A great big horse, Brennan held him together on the ground and despite hanging managed to get him up on the line from Supamous, a nice horse but far more of a flat type from another stable that does well with their few runners.

The pair came a fair way clear of the others headed by Fort Summer, who looked quite backward, while Kemble's Cascade needed the run and looks more of a jumper. Will Sting looked a typically big Scorpion with the temperament to match.