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.