Sunday 6 January 2019

Newcastle - January 5

It was one of those meetings where I was 50-50 to attend, a Tuesday card on a Saturday, but after a steak and bacon breakfast (it is world carnivore month if you didn't know) I was in a proper good mood and with nobody on the roads I was ready for some action.

And action we got. Suggestion was one of seven winners for P Kirby over the festive season but this hitherto disappointing sort had been hiked 9lb and was a shocking even money favourite on the off in the opener.

That would never do, and backed a couple against it, one of which being Wishfull Thinking from the in-form S England kennel. The ex-Hobbs inmate came there cruising off sedate fractions but that may not have suited and he was done for toe after the last by Royal Reserve, a modest looking animal.

There isn't much substance to this form, and I'd be opposing the winner next time, while they were talking afterwards about going back over fences with the runner-up, who traded low and thankfully we got out at 1.35. No harm done.

The absence of Ravenhill Road robbed us of a decent novice contest in the next but the closer we got to the off the more it looked like they would potter round, giving the difficult Hawk High another chance to settle it after the last.

He did just that, following several ungainly leaps from the odds-on Cool Mix, who really should be progressing but simply isn't. I don't know if he wants it much softer, or further, or a more attacking ride, but he doesn't seem to find a way to get it done. And he's becoming costly.

Another in-and-out trade put us in front, but again this form isn't strong and I'd take on the winner in a more competitive contest. It looks increasingly like Reverant Cust fluked his first win over fences, the bottom line being he's probably not much more than a 120-horse, although he too likes it much deeper.

A wide-open novice hurdle followed and you could sense the front two in the market were there to be taken on; Lord Of The Rock having scooted round Sedgefield on debut had more on under a penalty, while a leggy-looking Capton didn't appeal much on his first start over timber.

Dunly looked the better of the Ewart duo, although very much a soft-ground sort, while Hawk High's sibling Mountain Hawk was virtually a winner without a penalty although that Hexham form isn't brilliant.

The dark one was Point Break, a nice looking youngster albeit a chaser in the making, a quite recent purchase by the Hamiltons presumably to replace Oak Vintage, who has been offloaded.

Point Break had a history of over-racing and blow-me-down if they didn't change tactics and let him bowl along, don't you love it when they do that. After spurning a decent pre-race each-way plunge we quickly jumped aboard on clearing the second flight many lengths clear, and a circuit later we were long-dds on.

I've had too many in-running shorties turned over to fall for that old chestnut and after trading out you sensed a touch of panic as push came to shove and they met the last all wrong, unable to regain momentum as Mountain hawk swept past ahead of the small For Three.

Again, no damage, but what have been.

Saturdays can be a frantic old business and although the racing wasn't great at the 'aways', there were a few I had been keeping an eye on and a steady enough day became rather messy.

The excellent R Chapman, unfortunate on Point Break, had an immediate chance to make amends on Younoso in the next, a modest animal that looked pretty rugged when placing at Wetherby over Christmas.

He looked much more forward in his coat this time though, and was the only horse coming into this dire 0-100 handicap chase in any sort of form. We had a cheeky 600-200 with the boards (when the odds were 3.9 on the machine - don't tell me there's no value these days) and a similar bet on the phone that we could trade away if necessary.

Outnumbered remains very weak and is one to look out for after another summer at grass, but there wasn't much else to be concerned about with the thick set Titian Boy surely better on very soft ground.

Younoso delivered with a solid display of jumping, a nice winner for a small yard and should continue to pay his way starting from such a low base.

I had little interest in a staying handicap hurdle save for Mah Mate bob, whose jumping is getting better and this future chaser showed much more from the front despite getting very warm beforehand. He's been slow to learn the job, but may come good next winter.

We could have laid Call The Cops all the way up the straight but didn't need the rise in blood pressure. I'd never heard of Petite Ganache but he didn't seem to do a thing wrong, jumping cleanly throughout as though he'd been well schooled.

Ascot De Bruyere has had a couple of enforced absences but this smallish, athletic horse looked in great nick prior to the staying chase and his French-style jumping was pin-point accurate as he scooted away from his rivals to defy favouritism.

Thedrinkymeister looked fit and didn't do much wrong, simply put in his place by an opponent that appeared to quicken away on jumping three out, while Donna's Delight looked to jump a bit better in first time headgear.

Catchamat wasn't up to the task and his novice hurdle wins here seem a long time ago now, but they were achieved in atrocious conditions and perhaps that is what he needs as he was never going the gallop.

I was hoping to get some evens about Zakharova in the last and this well-made, well-related filly duly drifted in the face of market support for Pairs Dixie, absent since showing more at Carlisle and in receipt of 23lb taking in the allowances.

That made it hard to weigh up, but Zakharova did it nicely for the noteworthy Ms Morgan and the horse's progress should be followed closely. The big negative was Kymata, a light-framed sort that sweated up and clearly lives on her nerves.

I know some that would have laid her all day long on this basis and it didn't go unnoticed that she drifted from 3.4 to more than 6 in the three-place market before coming home sixth of seven. There's more than one way to skin the cat, you know.

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