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.