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.

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