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. 

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