Thursday 25 April 2019

Southwell - April 24

A chilly, largely dry evening to end the season and although the going was good they had watered plenty and times suggested it was a bit dead, although it was modest fare in the main.

A 0-110 chase opened proceedings and the betting was as wild as the race itself, hefty support for the moody Silent Steps hard to fathom despite winning here earlier in the season when the race fell in her lap.

Loch Linnhe went in the opposite direction but had first time blinkers in a bid to reverse his slide in form, and they seemed to do the trick as he got up in the shadows of the post, seeing his race out well despite some hairy leaps.

Little Windmill came second again despite racing off an historically high mark and this small horse often finds himself outgunned late on, not necessarily due to an attitude problem.

The same cannot be said for the others, Cruising Bye coming from a mile back to pick up third place after not appearing in the rudest of health beforehand, in other circumstances he may well have finished tailed off.

Race two wasn't much stronger, the 0-100 event looking to be at the hands of Hexham scorer Johnny Yuma who looked none the worse for those recent exertions and he duly hacked up at quite rewarding odds; this strapping horse seems to have turned the corner.

Cervaro Mix looked an unfurnished sort ahead of an easy assignment but he had to be rousted along to collect and he looks likely to struggle from his allotted mark.

A good field of eight gathered for a staying hurdle and The Drone looked in rude health off a break for the somewhat beleaguered A Hales yard, which has endured a quiet campaign.

The PTP winner had been absent since failing to take to regulation fences but was fit and well in a pre-race hood, and went with plenty of enthusiasm in a race that saw a few under perform.

Point N Shoot came in for support on the back of a Sedgefield saunter but form from the Co Durham venue cannot be trusted and N Hawke's light-framed horse failed to reproduce his latest effort from a much higher mark, the jockey unable to claim the full 7lb as well.

Flying Verse looked sure to run his race back at a venue where he's won twice but simply looked to bump into a slightly better handicapped one, while Sackett ran a typically solid race without really looking as though he was going to win.

A three-runner mares hurdle was quite intriguing but we settled on the jolly being a bit of value at the off, O Sherwood's Millarville holding much the strongest form of the trio and looking to have more stamina than the other pair.

Those Court Cave genes held her in good stead up the straight and she toughed it out against a back-to-form Ceara Be, while Prophets Prayer once again suggested she'll be a force in handicaps, staying on nicely after appearing burly off an absence beforehand.

All eyes were on Just Call Me Al in the next after a soft unseat here at the last meeting when bearing down on the leaders, and he ran a similar sort of race coming from some way off the pace under his 10lb claiming rider.

The winner, Manofthemoment, had been given a much more positive ride by R Patrick with the step up in trip sure to suit, and this smallish compact horse was a worthy winner having plenty in the tank at the line.

The runner-up also hit the line running and Just Call Me Al will remain of interest now he is settling better, seeing out this trip well. He has plenty of size and scope and hopefully will now be put away before a novice chase campaign.

Midnight Aurora was weak in the betting and compromised by a hold-up ride considering her form over further, and although not very big she appears well capable of building on this return when sent back over 3m. Little else appealed with Shine Baby Shine's form all on very deep ground, while Timely Gift has no scope whatsoever.

The race of most interest as so often is the case for us paddock watchers was the bumper and I was keen on Old Jeroboam after this likeable son of Jeremy had got up close home to land what looked a fairly strong race at Wetherby.

With J Nailor reducing the burden he looked just about good enough to defy the penalty despite strong support for the debutante Celtic Tara, who had plenty of size about her.

Experience can often count for plenty in these races and the jolly was far too green to repeat what must have been some decent home work, instead the sizeable Skelton youngster Olly The Brave was the one sticking it to the other market leader.

Nailor had to get down and dirty after the slow early fractions but Old Jeroboam once again finished strongly to collect and looks a fair tool for next season, the pair pulling nicely away from Symphony Hall, who was typical of the Greatrex yard in looking compact and unfurnished on his opening start.

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Hexham - April 15

The ground had once again dried right out and it looked like good all over, although there were murmurs that it was quicker in parts.

Glinger Flame had hosed up in a handicap at the last meeting and looked in good order for a quick follow up back in trip, duly obliging after taking a lead from chief market rival Mr Scrumpy.

The runner-up won a bumper here on soft ground, looking half decent in the process, and this quite athletic youngster looks more of a stayer over timber with more juice in the ground likely to suit.

The only other backable one was J Ewart's Honourary Gift but he didn't especially take the eye and proved very one-paced, looking sure to want much further already.

Bobndave doesn't have the physicality of stablemate Alfiboy but seemed to run better than ever, both Smith horses wanting a trip and softer ground.

Likeamonkey is worth a namecheck, being from that progressive L Morgan yard, a fair animal still  looking backward on debut aged seven, more green and immature than anything, but was putting in a good shift until crashing through the wing at the somewhat precariously positioned final flight.

He might go under the radar in the coming weeks but showed more than enough ability to build on.

A two mile handicap chase brought together a trio from Sedgefield nearly four weeks ago but Miss Amelia was fancied of the group to come out on top at this very different venue, a track where sibling Miss Conway prospered some time ago.

Once again finding only the one pace here, Miss Amelia may well be better served by the forcing tactics that served big sis so well while the addition of cheekpieces could also help. She looked in good order and can yet improve on this.

Johnny Yuma finally put his best hoof forward to claim the W, this hugely robust animal travelling much the best and putting it to bed without showing any quirks that have undermined him in the past.

The mares novice hurdle was a match with the market correctly calling it the way of  Miss Delighted, who backed up her Haydock victory over 3m showing a fine attitude in the process.

Still quite backward physically, the Getaway filly will be one to keep onside when she's strengthened up next season and she clearly has plenty of stamina.

The form is nothing to get carried away with as it stands, second placed Would You Bypass putting in good late work with the fourth Jupiters Ways having not shown a great deal thus far either.

Disappointment was Etamine Du Cochet, but the Skelton mare has long since failed to impress with her weak finishing and she found nil after climbing the hill, her wind not being the best.

Solo Saxaphone was unopposable in the next after Wetherby's facile win but he made hard work of it after being allowed an easy passage between the final two flights, his lead being whittled down at the end.

There were one or two to take out of this, Becky The Thatcher showing better form and probably poised to strike now over further, while Saint Freule was outpaced before staying on again and this is probably his trip albeit on much softer ground.

The Vocalist has changed hands in the past but looks the type to prosper over hurdles in due course, lacking the size for a fence. She ran okay and will be placed to good effect.

On a great day for favourite backers it was very hard to oppose the progressive Prince Dundee in a dreadful handicap chase that featured many of the Usual Suspects.

Taken to the front at an early stage on the back of a breakthrough win here three weeks ago, defeat never looked a possibility particularly as he had looked much better in the paddock this time having come on bundles.

The other unexposed sort in the race was stablemate Exit To Where and he looked a fair sort beforehand albeit looking immature mentally.

He tanked round behind the winner jumping notably well, getting outpaced climbing the hill before staying on to good effect. The switch to fences at this early stage was clearly a good move and he may well go on from this.

The hunter chase saw Sausalito Sunrise return to winning ways despite not appearing to be happy on the ground and possibly the track at various stages, eventually getting on top before the last and holding the late challenge of market rival Ravished, who looked in good heart and stayed on again late.

The bumper was a fair race of its type with some decent looking sorts, Black Ebony among them but he looked to be carrying plenty of condition some eight or so weeks after debuting at Kelso and that possibly showed on the run to the line.

There was little wrong with the fitness of Shanroe and the mount of D Jacob was surprisingly overlooked in the market despite having run to a fair standard at Ludlow.

Miah Grace filled out the places and she was unable to make the most of her age and sex allowance, but she's a fair sort with size and scope and probably just lacks strength at this time.

Money came for State Vision but he looked big and backard, albeit clearly a decent type for the future, while Holme Abbey has already been exposed as a bit paceless and this big chasing type will require a trip when sent over timber.

Of the others, Fair Lady and Teescomponentstrig showed enough both before and during the race to suggest they have more than enough ability to be competitive in weaker races than this.   

Friday 12 April 2019

This week's eyecatchers

Three meetings on the spin...too much to catch up on really but some pretty mediocre and bookie-friendly racing all round.


Zolfo is a horse that has promised far more than he has delivered so far; and that wasn't about to change here with S Quinlan having a tight hold of the gelding's head throughout. He wouldn't prove the only horse to be given a dubious ride this week, the authorities seemingly powerless to act. A winner last spring off 92, has the size and scope to do much better when connections feel the time is right.

Hatcher was much preferred to the undesirable Style De Garde who has more attitude than a 'remoaner', however the style and manner of his victory suggests he could be very decent. A 7lb rise would probably be within his compass and if he continues to jump this way the world is his proverbial oyster.

Jonjo O'Neill picks his racecourse appearances carefully and was a notable visitor presumably to oversee Monbeg Gold's return to action, and after a mid-morning drift the well-backed favourite sauntered to an easy win despite a couple of early blunders. Not the most consistent type, it's not known whether he'll be in similar form next time, and in fairness this rather fell apart.

A modest bunch as you'd expect for a 0-105 but two stood out and they may have contested the finish had Just Call Me Al not ejected young J Williamson two from the finish. The horse, one that has been on the radar for some time, looked in great order and is now starting to settle better. He looks high in the weights but could make amends for this soft unseat. Oscar Nomination was the other one being a horse of a size and scope, and the only one coming into the race in form. Crazy odds, he was well backed at the death and stayed on in the manner of one that will go in again if sent over further.

A no-play race but with Nachi Falls being asked to perform a minor miracle and probably running flat anyway, it was there to be won and the most unexposed in Cardigan Bay came home in front again at longer odds than recent form might have suggested. Not a bad type, she's clearly better than the grade and should flourish over further.

Not a great field of mares for the closing bumper and they finished in a bunch, none of the front three appealing beforehand as forward enough to contest the finish. I'd rather give the market leaders another chance, Lunar Baby a lovely big mare who will surely benefit from softer ground and at least 2m4f over timber. Henrietta Bell came home via the car park under an inexperienced amateur and should probably be marked up significantly, for all that she too probably wants a much stiffer test.


It has to be said this is one of the most pleasant venues on the circuit, always a great atmosphere with loads of amenities and good viewing points.

Gamble almost landed here with the C Mann trained Top Up The Fashion unable to catch the winner Bbold after the last. Not many took the eye beforehand but the son of Court Cave looks a fair sort and should be able to win one of these. I'm A Starman had arguably the best form coming into it and although a bit unfurnished looks one with ability, probably needing it softer like so many at the moment. The winner was given a typically uncomplicated ride, of the others Hang Tough looked very big and burly, North Star Oscar rather ill at ease with himself.

Bubbles Of Gold was turned out again a fortnight after going too slowly at Market Rasen and deservedly got off the mark, making the most of his undoubted stamina. The drifting favourite Sojourn is a very nice sort but his finishing effort was tame and the market seemed to know. I liked the way he won his bumper and he's surely better than this. Money came for Cool Destination, another to catch the eye beforehand being a well-made sort, and unfortunately his mark will be affected by this solid effort.

Elusive Belle was a well-backed favourite and won decisively albeit without having to match her earlier efforts, with market rival Newtown Boy again pulling hard and finding little when let down. He's a big, fine chasing type and maybe fences will make a man of him...he's bred to stay well and if they give him his head he could make a fair chaser. The race was notable for the run in third of Notre Pari, a good looking son of Jeremy that looked to be carrying condition and drifted beforehand. Unfortunately for A Coleman the 130+rated market leaders were not moving away from the field turning in, with the Irishman still having a tight hold of the horse's head. Shaken up only after the last, beaten less than five lengths, this does nothing for the integrity of racing. There is a sense of 'collusion' between certain owners, trainers and the authorities, which of course isn't the case if only it could be proven either way. With stewards not even bothering to interview the jockey or trainer (on record at least), we are none the wiser as to what on earth they are actually doing. Sammy Bill is a chaser that needs soft ground.

Djin Conti has grown up a good deal this season having seen him on several occasions and that is borne out by his performances on the track, rallying well here to beat one ahead of her mark in Tick Tock Boom. The runner-up appeared to lug right throughout the last mile and clearly wants to go that way, but otherwise her jumping was impressive on her first start over regulation fences. Both of these should go on from this. Sadly we lost big Cuddles McGraw, who may have had a say after trading low mid-race. Minerfortyniner looks a modest sort.

An open looking handicap hurdle saw money come for Raising The Bar but the Seven Barrows inmate made little appeal having yet to really see out a race, and this longer trip wasn't the answer. He looked keen and edgy and his days on the top rung look numbered. By contrast, Comrade Conrad looked well after an absence and confirmed the Skelton yard in the rudest of health. Book Of Gold ran on well late and he can win from his current mark if only we got some rain.


Modest stuff with Fransham probably only needing to match his latest form here of around 115, having too much toe for the chase prospect Isaac Wonder, who is currently on the weak side. Money came for Archippos but he never lifted a leg, while For Three was ridden to come late but they had already flown. He's not going to be easy to win with. Magellan has the size to do better and his time will come once he learns to settle.

Apart from Inchcolm, Las Tunas is probably the most transformed chaser in training (at least in the north) after two years of running to type, he's now a bold jumping seven year old who prefers good ground to soft. He never looked like getting caught despite being on 8lb worse terms with Oliver's Gold, who could have got a more positive ride and is another who looks in good heart and is the type to pick up a race or two this spring. Fair Mix ran his race in third and is well enough handicapped to win soon, particularly if allowed to dictate.

Not a great 0-120, an early market move for Clondaw Storm came to nothing after drifting markedly on course, the tall and scopey grey looking like he needs more time. In a field of largely disappointing types, Morraman proved himself better suited to handicaps in providing a rare winner for the beleaguered D McCain, beating My Charity who belatedly took a step back in the right direction with the aid of a tongue strap.

Another handicap featuring several with plenty to prove, not least the well-backed jolly Solo Saxaphone, who nevertheless won hard held, in fact he's one of the easiest winners of a good ground handicap ever seen, and a 14lb rise won't stop him next time if in the same form...expect him to be turned out under a penalty. Ask Paddington checked out tamely in what was his worst effort this season, surely amiss, while Jack Lamb is lean and leggy like many in the family but has clearly returned in decent form.

Trio For Rio lacks size and scope and really wants much softer conditions than this, but he got away with it to land the odds, however he won't be one to have on side once in handicaps next season outside really testing conditions at places like Hereford. Let's Get At It was was beaten a mile out, but Big Nasty gave it a good go and this huge animal will merely be marking time over timber, and whether he can build on this probably only modest effort is open to debate, for all that the pair came away from the rest, headed by Go To Court who isn't a bad sort and will be paying his way.

Fingerontheswitch was a worthy favourite in the absence of anything really concrete against it, mainly disappointing types that want much softer ground. Quite why he only finds occasionally off the bridle only the horse knows, but he got tired trying to chase down modest sorts in Bafana Blue and Blue Kascade, who weren't exactly flying home.

A 0-100 to close the show but another feather in the cap of trainer Laura Morgan, whose Uisce Ur looked to be carrying plenty of condition but provided her with an eighth winner of the campaign. Sharp Getaway was the nicest specimen but got outpaced at halfway before staying on...he might do better now with a new trainer.

Friday 5 April 2019

Aintree - April 4

Wet and wild from about an hour before the first race and it was pretty clear that the ground would ride fairly soft from the outset.

There was not a single negative from the paddock the entire day - and believe me I was looking for one - all those that had run at Cheltenham looking in absolutely peak form.

La Bague Au Roi was favourite for the Manifesto but her form has never been great at this time of year and she didn't quite shape up against the geldings this time; she often looks magnificent but on balance was well worth taking on.

The other five looked really well, including Glen Forsa who ran unaccountably badly but has had a longer season than most, while Kalashnikov was on his toes throughout the prelims but two handlers were keeping a lid on him and it was a simple case of a horse raring to go.

The subject of much hype all season, he has been crying out for this trip for more than 12 months and a little turn of foot between the final two fences sealed it - it's clear now these are his prime conditions.

I didn't see anything between a bunch of juvenile hurdlers, Band Of Outlaws not quite as big as I was expecting but still the nicest of them, and it looks like the rain had blunted his speed.

The wet suited Christopher Robin and it came as little surprise to see him hit the places, while Henderson once again appears to have pulled a rabbit from the hat in Pentland Hills, who was very tenacious in victory.

Kemboy isn't much to look at, which is the feeling I got at Cheltenham last season, but he may yet have some strengthening to do and he took the Bowl with any amount in hand under a motionless R Walsh, having met virtually every fence on a perfect stride.

Bristol De Mai looked in terrific order but uncharacteristically lost half a length at many fences, lacking his customary zip, while Clan Des Obeaux doesn't have the substance of some and yet battled on well after being one of the first under pressure.

Buveur D'Air is a little bull of a horse and there was nothing wrong with his appearance, but Supasundae can often get worked up however he was like a coiled spring and looked superb in his coat.

Quite what happened in the Stayers Hurdle we shall never know but he returned to his best under optimum conditions to claim a deserved Grade 1, Ch'tibello running a huge race in third and once again being well placed by connections.

The others looked well bar Summerville Boy, who lacked a bit of condition and clearly had a rushed preparation; they can start again with him in the autumn.

Nothing jumped out at me in the Foxhunter bar Sir Jack Yates, who looked in terrific heart but once again shaped like a non-stayer despite having won twice over 3m in hunters.

There was money around for a few in the Red Rum, I rowed in with the classy Lady Buttons who looked well but she bumped into one here in Moon Over Germany, who bypassed Cheltenham and enjoyed a surprisingly easy time on the lead after Cracking Find crashed out at the first.

Adrrastos was up in grade here and acquitted himself well on ground that became too deep, he looked a little out of his depth in the paddock and not great in his coat so he could one to watch this spring back in calmer waters.

There were plenty of likeable fillies in the bumper and this is race that will throw up untold winners, led home on the day by The Glancing Queen, who has done precious little wrong in her first season.

She's a strong, well-made type who could be really good over obstacles, the pair she beat from Ireland Minella Melody and Daylight Katie both looking really well in their skin.

Whitehotchillifili, Eyes Right, Kissesforkatie and Who What When are among plenty to follow, while Shantewe made up plenty of ground from the rear and would probably appreciate much better ground. 

Market Rasen - April 3

Forecast overnight rain failed to materialise resulting a few scratchings that weakened an otherwise interesting little card, with the ground once again riding good.

The opener was a seller in all but name and held little interest either on the day or in future, eventual winner Haasab has always looked better than his mark and came good under an uncomplicated ride for trainer Laura Morgan, who has had a quiet couple of months.

The second was an interesting three-way go for a novice hurdle in which Harambe, whose run I crapped on about here but had since got back on track with a smooth win at Kempton.

I decent looking horse with more size and scope than I had expected, A King's inmate was in good order and appeared to have plenty in his favour with chief rival Garrettstown likely to have to set the pace.

As mentioned here previously, Garrettstown is very much a chaser in waiting and he looked a bit leaner here this time on the back of a blowout in the EBF final; it's all been a bit too much too soon for him and he finished very tamely as Harambe scooted clear after the last.

There was some support for New Quay but he doesn't appeal much physically and had loads to prove after a dismal latest effort, and he soon retreated after looking a threat on the home turn.

A -110 chase came up next featuring a few unpredicatable types, the only guarantee was that Dallas Cowboy would again let down his remarkably faithful supporters who plowed in once more, only to see their flawed hero find little when let down.

The form is what it is, Global Domination and Troubled Soul not much better than their marks, the latter jumping better this time despite lacking a little in size.

The interesting one was King Vince, who travelled much more kindly followed wind surgery and was still in there when meeting the third last all wrong. He looks well handicapped if putting it all together and has plenty of size and scope.

Embole was a well backed favourite for a weak looking 0-120 but he's a bit light-framed and angular and is a bit in limbo land at present, being only five, and the market was also very strong for Larch Hill first time over fences.

The latter had looked paceless over timber but he has plenty of size and you can pretty much forget anything he did over the smaller obstacles.

The fast pace suited him to a T and he jumped well enough throughout to see off Wishfull Dreaming, who returned to his previously consistent form without ever really looking like he would outstay or outbattled the winner,

The featured handicap hurdle saw Earlofthecotswolds nicely supported to win at the track once again and he got a nice sit on the front end, very much the right place to be round here.

He looked a credit to connections after a busy campaign and ran on well to the line, seeing off the likes of Collooney who was surprisingly weak in the market but appeared to run his race up in trip.

The Sweeney has a hole in him but seemed to see it out better than before and he could well build on this as he looked to be carrying a bit of condition after a short absence. Regarding Ruth disappointed in appearance and she needs another summer behind her.

The staying handicap hurdle saw the reappearance of the likeable Carrolls Milan and she was strongly fancied to supplement Ludlow gains on the back of a 4lb rise.

I do love a mare with deep reserves of stamina and after being headed on the home turn she went through the gears and battled back to win again; she's very much one to keep onside as she's a battler and again hasn't won by far. She looked in great order beforehand.

The bumper looked wide open with all ages, sizes, and a young filly in Marada making it very difficult to weigh up.

Henderson's Royal Reel is a nice big horse but the concern was whether he'd have enough speed round these sharp turns, and so it proved, while those with experience came to the fore in the finish.

It's not form to take much away from, but it's not as weak as it looks and the likes of Takeit Easy, whose family is well known, are sure to better with Ladronne and Stoner's Choice the types to pay their way over timber.