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.