Thursday 5 November 2020

Aintree October 25

These are my paddock notes from the meeting at Aintree last month, one of several I was able to attend in October.

If you would like to get access to all my notes, plus my new daily tipping service, please visit Josh's website for a free trial.

A typically informative novice hurdle opened the card and all eyes were on expensive purchase Killer Kane, trained by Colin Tizzard who has had a quiet month thus far.

The son of Oscar is, as expected, a good looking horse and a really sweet mover at the walk, but he looked in need of the run and so it was very encouraging to see him perform so well, jumping cleanly and only running out of steam halfway up the run-in.

It’s not an easy race to weigh up though, the  experienced duo Torn And Frayed and Danny Kirwan are likely to have performed below their official marks, the latter looking harshly treated on 139 going into this.

A big sort that required two handlers, I thought Danny Kirwan looked pretty straight for this reappearance and he’s probably going to struggle to live up to hopes, backing out of things from the last. Surely he’s ready for a switch to fences, but based on this his rating is far too high.

Real Stone wasn’t expected to win this and the outsider is a tall, unfurnished individual who wouldn’t be a likely top-notcher on breeding. He did nothing wrong, but does hold down the level of the form at this stage.

Torn And Frayed is probably a three miler now but he looked pretty straight and he folded tamely, his trainer not banging in the winners as he can at this time of year.

Butte Montana  was made favourite for a Cheltenham bumper 12 months ago but was a big flop here after a market drift, his jumping novicey throughout after looking to need the run beforehand.

For Nuts Well to give weight all round in the Old Roan is a fantastic feat for such a small yard, however this career-best at the 38th time of asking under rules does put the quality of the race under a spotlight.

With so many in with a chance three from home, it was clear they didn’t go much of a pace on ground that was generally considered to be more good to soft than soft, and that may not have suited several in behind.

Certainly not Oldgrangewood, who revels in coming late off a fast pace and he got there far too soon this time, while Clondaw Castle looked to have been delivered with a perfectly timed challenge only to find the winner too strong.

The winner’s superior fitness may have been the difference in the final analysis, and it is the runner-up who makes most appeal going forward, this being only his third outing at the trip.

A nice tall horse with scope who generally jumps and travels well, he should have all the big handicaps in his sights now and may yet develop into a Ryanair type.

Itchy Feet was all the rage on the back of some hot novice form but he’s light on experience and I was disappointed with his lack of physical scope beforehand. A stronger pace would have suited, and maybe a step up in trip will help with his jumping, as I sense he’ll always struggle when it matters most. Perhaps the race didn’t pan out for him and he’ll prove me wrong.

This was Annie Mc’s first go in a handicap over fences and she could be a touch high in the weights for all that she shaped with promise over a trip that now looks on the sharp side. She is a very accurate jumper and a quality mare that should have another productive season.   

The staying handicap chase usually throws up a number of future winners and this year’s renewal is likely to be no different, although in truth there weren’t many beforehand that appealed from a betting viewpoint.

Eventual winner Acey Milan had had a disappointing second season over timber, looking pretty one-paced and using headgear, but after a second wind op this real chasing type came home strong enough to get back to winning ways.

They finished in a bit of a heap again, with Ofalltheginjoints threatening to go and win easily only to run out of puff between the final two fences. A big robust chaser, he was carrying more condition than most and I thought his effort was a fine one, jumping notably cleanly throughout.

Rapper is quite nice looking individual who looks capable of better, although he looked pretty straight beforehand and didn’t seem as well handicapped as some, he can improve in the jumping department and is expected to build on this opening effort.

Diomede Des Mottes was popular in the market and looked an absolute picture, but made numerous errors and never landed a blow. Perhaps something was amiss, but he has a chequered profile and is probably one to be wary of.

Jammy George looked as though he’d come on for the run, but he wasn’t as big as some of the others and his jumping remains a concern, plus he’s pretty one paced.

The 2m4f handicap hurdle was taking by Paisley Park a couple of years back but there was nothing of that calibre on show this time. However, the couple with least exposure came nicely to the fore and will remain of interest going forward.

Jacamar hasn’t had a great deal of fortune this season, shying away from the tapes and forfeiting ground on his latest start, but this big scopey individual looked on great terms with himself and it came as little surprise to see him in the mix after encountering solid support in the ‘ring’.

I thought he won with quite a bit in hand and getting the better of Strong Glance may be no mean feat in retrospect.

Another chasing type, Strong Glance hasn’t been straight forward from the very start of his career but has shown flashes of ability that suggest he’s going to be more of a 140+ type.

Travelling so well in behind runners, he could have done with a much truer gallop and although produced with a timely challenge he probably didn’t run his most efficient race.

If Olly Murphy can channel his ability I’m sure there’s a decent race in Strong Glance this season, maybe over fences which has been mooted, while he could probably deal with a drop in trip provided they go a good gallop.

Point Of Principle has twice run well from this sort of mark and is a pretty solid performer at this level, needing this badly if the paddock was anything to go by and is one to keep an eye on next time.

Those with previous form, either in bumpers or Points, didn’t look that strong ahead of the closing bumper and sure enough it was the unraced Elle Est Belle who came through to win as she pleased under a motionless H Skelton.

The Fame And Glory filly caught the eye with her size and frame, like the stable’s winner in the opener looking rather unfurnished and on the weak side physically.

Given the Listed prizes available to her sex it would be very surprising if she isn’t kept to bumpers this season, as she should make up into a lovely jumper in time.

Drumlee Getaway was very light framed and leggy, Feralkat by contrast big and slow. The bare form may not be anything special, but it was hard not to be impressed by the winner.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Tuesday November 3

It's Haldon Gold Cup day at Exeter, which looks to have missed much of the recent heavy rain as they are racing on ground that is officially good, good to soft in places.

Two races went under the microscope and selections have been sent out at 9am this morning, let's hope the ground is nearer good than soft come post time!

In the meantime, here's how you can access my tips this winter plus a whole bunch of other info...

This is your chance to join myself and Josh this winter over at Racing To Profit. 

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Josh's Members Club is the perfect place to be for jumps enthusiasts this winter. There's that mix of opinion/tips you can just follow, part 'magazine subscription', but also stats/trends/previews etc that with any luck help you solve the puzzle yourself. There's also the RTP community, and many a shrewd comment posted to ponder. 

Don't forget you get access to...

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Trainer stats / systems / starting points

Weekly Big Race trends/ stats /trainer pointers for 2+ big handicaps a week, and all out for The Cheltenham Festival. Hopefully a decent resource for the puzzle solvers out there

Videos - big race previews, weekend reviews and stats research from myself, and much more, inc 'betting better' type content.

Podcasts/Webinars - Josh and I will look to add some content along these lines, maybe racing reviews, how the punting is going, life of a pro etc. There will also be his exclusive 'Notes From The North', but lockdown allowing. In the next few days you'll get access to further pointers from his track visits in October.

The RTP community - which is probably one of the best bits - enjoying racing and the journey together. A friendly place in which to have some racing company, even if just online.

You can trial all of this for a full 30 days for free, with a monthly subscription option, a 'season ticket' and a full 30 day refund period. 


Sunday 1 November 2020

Sunday November 1

The start of a new month, although unfortunately it's still 2020. However we are grateful for small mercies and racing will continue to go ahead throughout the dark months ahead.

It is looking increasingly unlikely that I'll be able to physically go racing, however I still intend to continue with a twice-monthly newsletter in which I'll be revealing the horses I am tracking closely based on paddock notes from the past and their subsequent form. Use the paypal button on the right if you wish to subscribe.

October was an informative month in terms of how far in front or behind trainers' horses are than is normal at this time of year. I will be sending out a newsletter covering the entire month of October in the next few days once I've added some thoughts from the two-day meeting at Wetherby.

As previously mentioned, the link-up with Josh starts today with my first piece of betting advice which runs at Huntingdon later today. If you want to join up for a free trial here is the link.

With the prospect of less travel, I might have time to post more previews on these pages and maybe some other observations.

Bye for now.

Thursday 29 October 2020

Thursday October 29

Further to my previous post regarding future plans, I can now reveal that I have teamed up with Josh Wright who you may know runs a successful website called Racing To Profit.

From Sunday, November 1 I will be posting daily tips from 9am which will sit alongside Josh's vast array of opinions and data research regarding that particular day's racing and also future action. A preview of what Josh will be up to in his member's section from Sunday is here.  

The sign-up fee will be £149.99 which sees you through to the end of the National Hunt season in April, with a free 30-day trial and money-back offer. 

In with that package you will also get my bi-monthly newsletter which you will be more familiar with, where I will be running through my paddock notes and opinions in a more forthright manner than I have been doing at Norm's Notebook for the past six years.

Obviously these are strange times and it will remain uncertain how many meetings I'm able to attend, however I've managed to get to seven tracks this month and hopefully it will be a similar story over the winter.

I don't know of any other professional able to gain access to the course at this current time, therefore I believe the information I am gathering is truly unique and I want to share that with you.

If you are not interested in joining the members club over at Racing To Profit, you may access my newsletters by clicking on the Paypal button I've added to the blog. I will send the newsletters to the email attached to your Paypal account.

If you pay by November 16 for the two letters next month, I will send you my notes from the whole of October taking in meetings at Hexham, Wetherby, Carlisle, Market Rasen and Aintree.

If you're interested, the sooner you pay for November, the sooner I can mail you my notes from October.

I will be adding a link to Josh's unique membership web page when he opens the doors at 9am on Sunday. 

On to today's racing at Stratford where I had a good look at the 2.06 (really???) which is a handicap chase and I came to the conclusion that the winner would likely come from the front two in the market.

They have been backed almost to the exclusion of everything else, which has come as no surprise, however there doesn't seem much value left at present as I was trying to back them both at around 9/2 which is 7/4 coupled, and we are now looking at 3/1 and 7/2.

Looking at their overall profiles, of the pair I do prefer Templehills for win purposes, although the two furlong drop in trip and potential battle for the lead tempers enthusiasm a little.

But the form of his win here over 2m5f last time looks okay with he and another well-handicapped horse pulling clear of the rest, he remains on a good mark and is clearly revived by the return to Naunton. Softer ground should not be an issue.

I really like another Twiston-Davies trained chaser later on the card, Summit Like Herbie. He's a quirky young horse who seems to jump well in the main despite having his own way of doing things, he does go left at his fences but has loads of stamina.

The form of his fine return to action has been boosted with the second and fourth dominating a race at Chepstow on Tuesday, and I fully expect Summit Like Herbie to have a bit too much class for these rivals before going on to better things.

In the 3.06 (really!!) filthy each-way backers may put their accounts on the line if backing the JJ O'Neill-trained When You're Ready to beat buzz-horse Champagnesuperover.

However, if you don't fancy taking on the jolly it might just be worth having a closer look at this son of Malinas, who caught my eye at Southwell last year and then shaped nicely on his hurdles debut.

Today may not be the day as he looks like a 2m4f+ chaser in the making, but if fully wound up he might just ruffle a few feathers.

Friday 9 October 2020

Sedgefield October 7

Whilst I will continue to update the public blog from time to time, with race previews and eye-catchers, the meeting-by-meeting analysis will now take the form of a bi-monthly newsletter at the cost of £15/month via the Paypal button.

I aim to make these updates more punchy, direct and informative than ever and will focus on the meetings I'm able to attend, as well as some I cannot. This service will start from November.

There will be more on this plus information regarding a new tipping service in the coming days. For now here is a taste of what is to come this winter... 

McGarry, winner of a weak Point just 12 months ago, revealed the nature of his true ability with a close-up fifth of seven at Haydock on his final start for Henry Oliver in December, which earned him an opening mark of 107 despite not being asked too many questions.

I’ve noted him several times in six runs for Phil Kirby, every inch a chaser being a strong, lengthy individual, and despite this being his third outing since the resumption he still looked on the burly side.

It has to be said he has shown very little since Haydock, however that will not stop connections from having a good go when the time is right. Just modestly bred, the son of Mahler may only be a 105-type horse at best, yet he is already down to 94 and about to drop a good bit further. 

They may look for a weak race over hurdles for him, however it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the money was down first time over fences when they will have a readymade excuse for the sudden burst of improvement. Kirby has fine record with chasers especially at the likes of Catterick and Wetherby. 

In the opening contest, a horse that used to be owned by the Vacuum Pouch Company and was indeed the subject of strong support by connections last season returned to action by the name of Kangaroo Valley.

A son of Australia, he cost a whopping $200k as a yearling but I wasn’t taken by his backward appearance that day at Catterick, when he was off the bridle with a circuit to go before plugging on to be fourth in a modest juvenile hurdle.

On his first start since last winter, the four-year-old looked to be carrying condition but should do better given time to strengthen up, showing little in what turned out to be a rather weak event even by the track’s standards.

Interestingly, the horse found a jolt of improvement with the addition of cheekpieces when trained at Ballydoyle, earning a mark of 90, so we can look forward to a similar scenario for new connections possibly when stepped up to 2m4f.

The trainer will be keen to get his mark down from the current 110 into the 90s, which will take another couple of runs.

In the same race, the Sue Smith-trained Small Present is one to keep on the right side after finishing full of running in second place, repeatedly messed about in the final mile thanks to some novicey leaps and a basic lack of tactical speed over a tight 2m.

Still not looking fully fit despite having shown plenty behind a future winner at Hexham the previous month, the son Presenting is a typical ‘work in progress’ from the yard although he’d need to grow further before a career over fences is considered.

There is no doubt that both his bumper and hurdles outings thus far suggest a decent horse in the making, however I would still expect him to make his mark in the shorter term providing he is stepped up to 2m4f.

He may struggle in deep winter ground given that he is still immature but he is clearly some way ahead of the rest of the stable’s winter team, suggesting they are hoping to make the most of the better ground this side of Christmas.

Returning to the third race on the card in which McGarry was down the field, the Smiths ran Blaster Yeats who hadn’t been seen since chasing home the well-handicapped Thomas MacDonagh at Wetherby last November.

I felt that was a massive run at the time from a young horse that was on the small side and quite backward, and was looking forward to seeing him in the flesh again.

It was rather disappointing to see that he hadn’t grown much, although a lot of Yeats progeny can lack for size. Like the other Smith horses I’ve seen so far (small sample) he did not look great in his coat and was a bit on edge.

The money came for him however, I suspect a result of having had a couple of shock novice hurdle winners recently the assumption is that the yard is ahead of where they are usually at for the time of year. I’d treat that view with some caution at this time.

Blaster Yeats showed up well for a long way prior to fading out of contention, however this is a horse I will be keeping a very close eye on going forward, hopefully he will take training well and gain some condition. The 2m3f was on the sharp side and I see him as improving over further when the freshness is out of him.

Raecius Felix is one to put in the locker for the spring. Immature mentally, he looked in fantastic condition prior to winning at Kelso the time before and I fancied him strongly to back that up with another win here, however he needed to dig deep to get past the well-handicapped Oak Vintage.

This Stowaway gelding had had a kind introduction to racing under Ruth Jefferson, which is only now bearing fruit for new connections. A very athletic individual, he’s quite fizzy and arguably ran up a little light here and the trainer told me she will now ease off him for the time being.

A fine and natural jumper, he is every bit a ‘Saturday horse’ of the future (in the north at least) and I have him on a mark of 132 following this performance, so another rise of 7lb or so should still leave some leeway.

He is thought to need good ground so whether they’ll keep him in training this winter with a view to picking their way through the better ground meetings I’m not sure.

While he has plenty of natural speed, as he matures and settles he will get 3m no problem, so we can look forward to seeing him continue to improve further in the spring at the Aintree and Ayr festivals.   

Runner-up Oak Vintage will also have to go back up half a stone but he has loads of leeway from here to his best form as he’s able to operate around the 120 mark. Although he was quietly fancied they felt, as did I, that he would benefit from the outing and I’d expect him to be winning before long.

It was very surprising that connections of Eyeofthescorpion chose to take on the fiendishly well-handicapped The Navigator in the closing race and not take up an easier option at Exeter the following day.

When winning at Huntingdon, it was clear to all that the further he went, the better he looked, so this drop in trip was a huge negative and he predictably couldn’t handle his main market rival in the closing stages.

He lost nothing in defeat, but will now have to race from a 7lb higher mark. No matter - I had already elevated him to a mark of 120 and the manner of that previous victory suggests he has bundles in hand and this good-looking, rangy individual will be back winning again before long, provided of course he returns to a trip of 2m4f and beyond.

Thursday 1 October 2020

Warwick - October 1

There will be plenty of opportunities to make money this month so just because the National Hunt season is ramping up and the 'horses to follow' publications are out in force, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The racing today at Warwick and Ffos Las looks very competitive and most of it makes little appeal from a betting perspective at first glance this morning.

The ground appears to be on the quick side at Warwick despite yesterday's rain - hopefully it will ride genuinely good and no faster otherwise we may see some non-runners.

The handicap chase at 2.20 is worth closer inspection.

Morning favourite Court Master is popular after winning twice in three starts last term, and is likely to remain well-handicapped based on his PTP (beat Jarvey's Plate) and bumper form.

However, he does shape like an out-and-out stayer to me, grinding out victory over 3m on soft ground at Newbury last December.    

He was highly-tried in the Timeform race at Cheltenham that worked out so well, but wasn't seen since and has had further wind surgery (his third on record) in the interim.

I can't see him getting anything other than a positive ride at a track where tactical speed can be important, particularly on this type of ground. I just wonder whether this will all happen too fast for him.

A couple I put a line through quite easily were Denmead and Global Tour. The former was useful but exposed on the Flat, and has overcome what has been described as a nervy temperament by landing a couple of novice hurdles. 

He's one of those Flat breds that does have the size for fences, but I doubt whether he has the mental capabilities, and he bled on his chase debut last time out. He has plenty to prove.

Global Tour has progressed through the ranks winning five hurdles before picking up a weak race on his first chase start. That form is shallow in the context of today's race, and his jumping went to pot at Perth last time.

Nightfly was a consistent mare at this sort of level but has only seen the track once in 18 months. I would, however, expect C Longsdon to have her pretty straight and she has won off this sort of mark.

That said she'll need a virtual PB today which looks a tall order given her lack of recent activity. B Hughes is an interesting booking with J Burke presumably claimed to ride Minella For Me.

The Tom George-trained 10-year-old is easily overlooked, being a rather weak finisher and his triumphs coming in a lower grade.

We are therefore left with Bootlegger, who arrives with a huge fitness advantage over all bar Global Tour, having shaped nicely over timber last time out in a competitive race at Perth.

A nice chasing type, he was jumping very nicely until a mistake four out at Worcester this time last year, after which he came home in his own time. A two month absence suggests he may have picked up a niggle.

Thereafter he found his form returned to hurdles, winning at Doncaster before running a sound race at Kempton in a really competitive C2 event.

The sort to benefit from a run or two, I'm expecting him to produce a career best effort today with his sound jumping technique an asset, rather than a drawback.

If the going is as lively as predicted he'll need Court Master to set good fractions, as he appears to be a strong galloper that wouldn't be seen to best effect coming off a slow pace. 

On balance, and despite a patchy profile overall, it looks to me as though Bootlegger has been found a good opportunity off top weight having sneaked into this 0-125 contest, off a mark that is 4lb lower than when he went close over hurdles last time.

UNFORTUNATELY...the odds have moved since I started writing this piece half an hour ago and as of 10am Bootlegger is 3/1 best price which is at the lower end of expectations.

At nearer 4/1 (or 5 on the machine) I'll be looking to back the horse, who is ridden by H Cobden for the first time. Court Master is the obvious threat with Nightfly the possible value play against the two market principals should they fail to meet expectations.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Uttoxeter September 09

Starting with the 4.10, undoubtedly this will be a competitive 0-125 handicap chase over 3m2f on what will hopefully remain good ground.

I like to take on what I call weak favourites however it cannot be said that Sirobbie doesn't deserve his position as market leader following his debut effort over fences here seven weeks ago.

A four-time course winner over hurdles, the Arakan stayer rallied after becoming detached to chase home the progressive Young Wolf, who I have marked down as an ideal Scottish National type (via the Ultima at Cheltenham).

That novice form is sound yet the assessor has seen fit to give Sirobbie an opening perch of 124, just 4lb above his last winning hurdles mark. His chance is an obvious one but i'd need to see him jump a little better before backing him at 3/1 in this sort of field.

The interesting one for me is the Oliver Sherwood trained Jersey Bean. 

Still only seven, this dour stayer (son of the mighty Court Cave) progressed nicely at the start of the 2018-19 season when he found the 2m7f at Market Rasen too sharp in a bid for a hat-trick of wins from a mark of 136.

Raised another 6lb for that, he found higher grades beyond him before attentions were switched to fences, his debut coming in May '19 when I've marked him down as being over the top.

Three runs last winter saw him regress, not clicking over fences before a return to hurdles that saw him tailed off on ground far too soft.

This is a horse that relishes a sound surface - his Ascot bumper win also came on good ground - while he has won twice before when very fresh. 

From that peak rating of 142 he now goes off 120, while the addition of blinkers show intent and he looks certain to be ridden prominently throughout.

Jumping is a worry on the back of three modest efforts but new jockey Brendan Powell is riding with much confidence at present, and we can presume he has schooled in the blinds at home.

The yard is in fine form, with four individual winners in the last fortnight (one DQ'd) so Jersey Bean ticks plenty of boxes.

The main thing of course is price, and I expected him to be chalked up around the 7/1 mark, so anything above 8s is good value (has been 10s and 12s).

He may well be taken on for the lead by Kings Temptation, who has taken his form to another level this summer, although while looking impressive the bare form of his latest success leaves him with even more to find.

The early jousting and jumping may be important in the final analysis, although my assumptions around Jersey Bean's fitness and stamina give cause for comfort.

Of the others, Monty's Award and Flying Verse are not that easy to win with and are looking a little high in the weights on the back of consistent summers. 

Amateur is a potential dark horse but he failed to complete on his only start over fences to date so is passed over this time...there will be races to be won with him I suspect.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Uttoxeter July 23

After a quiet week there is a race of interest today, a 0-140 contest over 2m4f. It doesn't look an easy race to weigh up however, and my tissue prices are quite different from the current odds.

3.10 Uttoxeter

Western Miller; Front runner, winner of seven under rules but never from a mark this high.

Monsieur Gibralter; A winning machine between the flags and in hunter chases, but 0/5 in handicaps and winless in six novice chases three summers back. His form in the spring before last appeared to be on another level, winning four hunter chases on decent ground showing a very high cruising speed and swift jumping. The question is whether he can translate that form to this handicap, and even if he can, will it be good enough to defy a mark of 138.

Knockgraffon; Best form at Musselburgh in recent seasons and never going at Market Rasen recently. Will like the ground but plenty to prove here.

De Plotting Shed; Routinely shirked the issue when trained in Ireland but new lease of life for current yard in 2019, and clearly a useful sort when on song. Another that looks a shade high in the weights on balance, but not implausible that he could take a hand if fully tuned up.

Lovato; Useful on the flat in Germany, although regularly turned over at short odds and second seven times, winning once at long odds on. Turned the corner for Dr Newland, winning four times over timber and then won his second chase start here in September from an 8lb lower mark. I rated that as fairly weak form for the grade with those in behind looking poorly handicapped. Flopped either side of that win and has his own way of jumping, which comes with being bred for the Flat.

Mercian Prince; A fine servant to connections being 7/24 over fences before going missing last season in the face of a lofty rating and relentlessly soft ground. Probably didn't achieve a great deal in winning a novice hurdle over a week ago but that would have helped with his confidence, having had a third breathing operation. Undoubtedly the best handicapped horse in the race and a very sound jumper, for all that he may favour going right handed.

River Frost; Gained some consistency last season on soft ground when getting his jumping together but resumes on a tough mark and this ground is lively enough.

Ronava; Veteran looks on a stiff mark after two wins in lesser company last term.

Solar Impulse; An infrequent winner but talented enough and often travels very well, however has never fully seen out this trip. Likely to run his race from a competitive mark which could see him finish fourth or fifth.

Scoop The Pot; Becoming dangerously well handicapped on best form but wants much further and trainer's jumpers have been running round at the back since the resumption.

10/3 Mercian Prince
7/2 Monsieur Gibralter
7 Lovato
9 De Plotting Shed
10 Western Miller
12 Solar Impulse
14 Knockgraffon P
20 Ronava
40 River Frost
50 Scoop The Pot

Conclusion; I came into the race thinking Mercian Prince was the one I wanted to back at odds of around 4/1 but that has so far not materialised. This is the first time he's been on the go so early in the season and that may be due to a preference for a sound surface. Four handicap wins have come from a higher mark than he runs off today so his chance is obvious, the concern being whether he's become a bit shop-worn and the fact he's now had three breathing ops. If he drifts to 4.6 on the machine I may be tempted.

I did think M Gibralter would be put in shorter and at 5/1 it is quite tempting to pay to find out if he can translate that impressive hunter chase form to a more competitive format. The mark is undoubtedly at the top end of his range, but if he's improved again from eight to nine (possible) he can win. Lovato has been well backed but he's not the sort of horse I take to and although you could say he has most scope for improvement having had just three starts over fences, I've taken a dim view of his mark and question his jumping prowess. I could be wrong. Of the others, only De Plotting Shed has the ability to trouble the front two in the market from today's handicap mark, should he be 'fully fit'.

Pace-wise Western Miller could have things his own way in front and if so he might keep on for a place. If backing Mercian Prince you wouldn't want him to get involved in an early joust for the lead and the jockey should be happy to take a lead on this occasion.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Uttoxeter July 16

Today I want to look at the second of three chases on the card, the 1.45, which is a 0-110 over the minimum trip.

Eyesopenwideawake; A winner on chase debut in 2017 when going typically strongly from the off, but has endured two absences of almost a year and showed very little in between breaks. However, he's 10lb below that winning mark and would have more class than the opposition should things click back into place.

Tikkinthebox; Not easy to assess, as his best form came two years ago when racking up three wins over fences. Just 1/12 since that spree, landing a very weak race from a much reduced mark last September. Still well handicapped on old form, but has become very hit and miss, often travelling well only to find very little for pressure.

Fort De l'Ocean; An athletic, nimble youngster who went close a couple of times last term and remains on the same mark. Jumped and travelled well in a fast run race on reappearance, having been an unconsidered 33/1 shot. Still only five but a really sound jumper, appears to go on any ground and the trainer had a winner at Southwell this week.

Bagan; There was a hint of a fluke about his Stratford win last summer and he failed to back it up off a 7lb higher mark. Poor on softer ground but overall suspicion is that he wants a longer trip.

Inca Gold; Son of Galileo and not very big for fences, 0/9 in this sphere but interesting they are persevering. Still, his jumping on course has been very scratchy and he can't be supported yet despite a sliding mark. Clearly though, he is one with the potential to be a market steamer.

Little Stevie; Just 3/43 under rules but plenty of placings and reliable to a point, although lost his way in the winter on softer ground. Mark is just about winnable and Johnson back on board but is vulnerable to potential improvers.

No No Cardinal; Four wins on the bounce last year have left him too high in the weights and he doesn't have the assistance of a claimer either.

Hillview Lad; Success in a belated chase debut last summer but very little since and shouldn't really be good enough.

Dragon Khan; Winner last summer from a basement mark but lost his way since and 6lb wrong in the weights.

3 Fort De L'Ocean
7/2 Little Stevie
5 Tikkinthebox
8 Inca Gold
10 Bagan
12 Eyesopenwideawake
20 Hillview Lad
25 Dragon Khan
33 No No Cardinal
Around 103%

Plenty of pace on here, and presuming Eyesopenwideawake is allowed to bowl along he should lead them out, No No Cardinal and Tikkinthebox can also lie handy and expect Little Stevie to be prominent. This scenario should suit the strong travelling Fort De L'Ocean who is expected to see his race out better with a newly fitted tongue-tie and a solid run under his belt. He has already been backed but is quite a confident choice at 3/1. Little Stevie is a worthy adversary and it's not hard to see him being thereabouts, but I'll be throwing some of the petty cash at Eyesopenwideawake at a big price in case he gets away from them, and in the hope they have found the key to him. Nothing else appeals.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Southwell July 14

Four more handicap chases to mull over, but having mulled them over, there doesn't seem to be much to get excited about. The highest quality race on the card is a 0-130 over 3m+ and is worth a closer look.

As You Like; 4/13 over fences with four second places, the last victory coming off a mark of 120, that's 9lb lower than today. Thoroughly unexposed over 3m but his style of running (likes to be held up) suggests he should get home here, while a running-on third in a decent race at Newbury on his penultimate start is encouraging on several fronts. Does jump low at times, and will need to avoid serious errors (obvs). A big plus is that he seems to go very well fresh.

Viens Chercher; Hit a rich vein of form last spring before going right off the boil, in common with all from the Bowen yard. Not entirely convincing with attitude at the best of times but is now back on his last winning mark and stays well. Front runner. Passed over for now.

Forth Bridge; Well bred for the Flat but has developed into a fair chaser, albeit only 1/16 over larger obstacles with six second places. Essentially high in the weights and out of sorts last winter after dotting up in a weak C2 event the previous March. Is now below that last winning mark and formerly very consistent on goodish ground over intermediate trips. Seems to just about stay 3m but susceptible to a stronger finisher. Trainer has had a winner and gone close with another since lockdown.

Station Master; In decent form in good ground novice events last spring but essentially badly handicapped thereafter and softer ground no good to him in the winter. Possibly not straight forward, but stays very well and if putting in a clear round (can make mistakes) could go well from career low mark, tongue-tie added to cheekpieces. Trainer had a winner at Bangor on Sunday.

Mr Mafia; Bettered previous form in third of three wins last summer, including twice here, but generally competes at a slightly lower level and mark a bit high starting out this time, beaten miles on resumption here two weeks ago.

New Quay; Got it together first time out two seasons ago from an 8lb lower mark but never really built on that, including in first two chases on soft last term. Not the easiest to weigh up, as this is his first go at 3m which could suit although can run keenly.

Knockrobin; I had him marked down as one to be wary of but he then won a weakish event at Catterick looking pretty straight forward. Reverted to type at Doncaster next time though, pulling himself up when looking all over the winner between the last two fences. Often finished weakly in the past and not certain to see out this 3m trip anyway.

7/2 As You Like
4 Station Master
9/2 New Quay
11/2 Forth Bridge
9 Mr Mafia
9 Knockrobin
16 Viens Chercher

This is as close to 100% as I could get. As You Like looks a pretty solid proposition and deserves to head the market for all that there is a slight stamina doubt. There is a sense of unfinished business about Station Master who looked like he could be much better than this a couple of years ago. He may just see it out better than favourite, but having shortened in the market doesn't represent much value at tissue price. Knockrobin makes no appeal at current odds and a place lay might be worth looking at.

This is my 400th blog post since inception over six years ago. Hopefully it has provided some insight along the way. Be lucky

Friday 10 July 2020

Market Rasen July 10

Four chase races once again as racing returns to the Lincolnshire venue, rails are out so we are looking at almost a furlong extra for some races, at least half that for all.

The going is once again described as good, good to soft in places with 24mm of rain having fallen this week alone, this coming on top of 10mm of watering applied on Monday and Tuesday.

The recent meeting at Stratford became a farce for betting purposes with a small amount of overnight rain having a huge impact on over-watered turf. That track has suffered greatly from irrigation in the last few years although that begs the question, How many tracks have you looked after?

We all have our own view on watering and are entitled to them. And while the proper judges in the racing will tell you the going is the most over-used metric in the game, personally I like to know what type of ground we are going to be racing on before placing a bet.

As if there aren't enough variables already.

Southwell is another place that gets plenty of irrigation and with the chases at the front end of their cards, I'm always more tentative when I bet there in case the going has turned to sponge.

Thankfully we have a couple of novice hurdles early on today's card although the chase track can ride a good bit certainly did last season.

I've only taken an interest in the first race over larger obstacles (1.00), which I priced up because I suspected the front end of the market would be underpriced, and so it has proved.

Envoy Special has been chalked up as 3/1 favourite purely on the fact he's trained by P Nicholls, which, okay, is fair enough. I called it wrong with Captain Buck's at Stratford and Envoy Special is another that hasn't found winning under rules easy.

Placed three times and bombed on three other occasions, he's never looking like winning in any of them, albeit in decent handicap company. The hood/tongue tie combination remains and while the great trainer can of course turn it around, he's one to oppose in a tidy little novice chase.

What he does have is experience over much of the field, and those that have already had a go haven't looked that great, while others are coming to it a bit late in the day.

Notnow Seamus didn't get it together for D Skelton last season after going through the handicap over hurdles, he's a big horse although Flat bred, and needs good ground.

Ballyhome likes it at Market Rasen with two wins and second over timber, however his latest win came off a mark of 121 and the age of nine may have reached his peak. Not that big, he failed to cope with bad ground here over fences after sprawling on landing in a two horse race. Better is expected now but he's another I made a bigger price.

Forecast is 3/17 over hurdles and made an okay debut over fences last season behind the really promising Schiehallion Munro, but that was a way below his best over timber and he is a very sturdy individual that lacks scope for fences.

He makes his debut for Dr Newland, who isn't quite firing just yet. Likes to come from behind, which may not be easy here.

That essentially leaves three of the more interesting ones.

Henrietta Bell gets the mares allowance and had plenty of experience in the last calendar year, winning three times including off 120 in a handicap.

She's a game staying type that can front run, but she may lack the basic ability of some of these, so will need to jump very well to land this on her chase debut. Not implausable, of course.

The Sweeney will be popular with the Lavelle yard in flying form, with this one having won twice here last summer latterly off 128.

The nagging question in my mind is why they haven't sent him over fences before now, having had a total of 16 runs over timber and already going on nine years of age.

His form flattened out last autumn and while we can expect his best effort today, running to 130 may not be good enough.

One I expect is capable of a personal best in this race is No Hidden Charges, trained by Neil Mulholland who went close to winning at Stratford with a decent novice chaser in Scardura.

The seven-year-old took an age to get his act together in Irish Points two years ago prior to winning twice, before picking up a trio of novice hurdles last spring for current connections.

He then spent the serious part of the season in much higher grade, acquitting himself well at big odds in Class 2 events, looking every inch a chasing type.

With stamina proven and all that experience between the flags behind him, I'm expecting T Scu to play catch me if you can on the son of Scorpion, for whom the ground should be okay so long as it's not proper soft.

In a 101% book I made him the marginal favourite at 9/2 so at general price of 5/1 he rates a decent enough bet as there are too many question marks about all the others. Henrietta Ball and The Sweeney are the others that look a bit bigger odds than they should be.

The 1.30 is interesting in that there could be plenty of pace on with two or three that like to press from the front, and in a race where few appealed I thought old Dandridge might fall in on another drop in grade.

This is trainer Charlie Longsdon's time of year and Dandridge has yet to face C4 opposition. With that fast pace virtually assured, an each-way investment might be a bit of fun.

The other two chase races made little appeal.

Good luck.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Stratford July 8

Our cup truly runneth over today with four chase races to examine as racing returns to the home of The Bard.

They've had plenty of rain in recent weeks and although it's only good to soft in places you could envisage it being a little worse than that, but we'll have a much better idea after the first two races.

A very decent novices chase for the time of year with four horses rated in the 130s and another three in the 120s.

Seddon's form has by far the most depth to it and it is little surprise that he has been put in quite short despite this being his first start since the back-end of the 18-19 season.

He was fairly consistent in group company as a novice hurdler while looking rather paceless over the minimum trip and also over further, and he looks sure to benefit from 3m in due course.

I wasn't that taken by his physique or the shape he made over hurdles and while he may have the best engine he's not one to be taking short prices about here.

There are quite a few that are interesting, not just today but going forward, including the mare Diamond Gait, who looks sure to relish this better ground, and Scardura who was highly tried after making a good impression when winning his maiden hurdle.

Leapaway racked up a sequence two summers ago and justified his rating to a point in two defeats the following spring, and he looks like a chaser in the making with plenty of speed on his side.

Longhouse Sale looks speedy but has a problem when coming off the bridle, all his winning coming on a sound surface.

Beat The Judge has had a spin on the Flat but it remains to be seen if this son of Canford Cliffs will take to fences.

All told, it's probably a race to watch for all that I'm tempted to take on the favourite in some way.

Not much interest here as the market has narrowed it down to a couple, neither making much appeal at the odds.

This is a much weaker affair, a basement 0-100 handicap over the minimum trip, and a pretty poor one at that.

Wisecracker heads the market and will be popular after the trainer had a first-time-out winner at Uttoxeter in these colours, but this horse is no win machine having fallen in last time out in a race that took no winning.

Previously second five times over fences, he's more likely to chase one or two home after travelling well for much of the contest.

Peterborough has come in for support despite making little impression in four chase starts last term, his mark having tumbled as a result though and he languishes some 12lb below his winning hurdles number.

The selection here though is My Renaissance, who is generally kept busy throughout the summer months and had a pipe-opener on the level last month.

His four chase wins have come on tight left-handed tracks over the minimum trip, and he requires goodish ground to produce his best form.

He bolted up off a similar mark two years ago, and won from a much higher rating last August. Like most horses of his ability, he needs things to fall into place, but he can generally be relied upon to pay his way at this time of year and at 8/1 is a backable price.

An interesting race where Captain Buck's and Flying Verse head the market, but this looks wide open.
The former will be popular with trainer P Nicholls going strongly after the break, but his chase record reads 0/12 with seven placings albeit from higher marks.

Enthusiasts will point to a victory between the flags in March as the start of a revival and while he's young enough to turn things around I'm not sure beating up a couple of 12 year olds warrants favouritism in a deep race for the grade.

Flying Verse won over C&D in October from this mark, but that was a weaker contest and he's a bit in and out. David Dennis has teamed up with T Symonds so it will be interesting to see if that alliance brings more success than the pair did as individuals...the horse stays further than this but may lack the class of some.

Bold jumping front runner Monbeg River has slipped into a C4 race for the first time in years and he could get several of these off the bridle if he's ready to go, but that would be of concern.  He's been lacking his usual consistency of late hence the drop to a mark of 120.

Montys Award is a bit of a job horse, landing a touch a couple of seasons back before going down by a head 12 months ago having looked to have the race sewn up.

Both those races were at Worcester and he's clearly best suited by a left handed oval, so this should suit and he loves decent ground...if it does turn out to be softer than the official this would count against him.

His record is patchy, so I'm hoping he's best caught fresh and back down to a mark of 118 be should be thereabouts.

Cut The Corner might be competitive from a depleted mark but rather like Monbeg River he's essentially been regressing at the age of 12 and it's difficult to part with the hard-earned having taken a year out.

Monty's Award is the play here in the hope that a sound gallop will see him travel deep into the race.

Monday 6 July 2020

Uttoxeter July 6

There doesn't seem a great deal of point getting financially involved in the big race of the day, the Summer Cup at 3.30, with so many 'ifs' and 'buts'surrounding the entire field.

At this stage of the jumps season I'm not really looking too hard to find betting opportunities, there will be one or two along the way that jump out and that will do for the time being.

Very few of them look to be well handicapped at the current time, Brian Boranha possibly the best looking at the weights and one that could travel best through the race, however his finishing effort has never been much to shout about. A possible back-to-lay but nothing more.

Bandsman will be ridden cold as they step him up to beyond 3m for the first time, but there's not much evidence to suggest he wants a stamina test.

Padleyourowncanoe isn't bred for it either and with only two runs over fences to his name he doesn't make much appeal near the top of the market for all that his unexposed profile over obstacles suggests he could have more to offer at some stage.

I suppose if you look at it like that, the two market leaders are worth opposing and take out around 30% of the Betfair market, so there should be some value elsewhere but it's too much of a guess-up for me, on their day you could make a fair case for most of them.

The 4.30 was much more interesting as I quickly put a line through quite a few, what's more a quick look at the early tissue prices suggested there was an angle with King's Temptation put in at 11/4.

I wouldn't say I was B Case's biggest fan and he's only had two winners in handicaps coming off this sort of break in the last five years, one of which was Croco Bay's Cheltenham Festival victory which came in at 180 on the machine.

He ran no sort of race off a similar absence last April when 2/1fav so without going into further analysis that I feel is against him, he's one to oppose although looking at the odds this morning that seems to be the general consensus.

Wilberdragon doesn't win out of turn and although he's bred to stay this 3m2f trip, the evidence so far suggests that the flat 2m7f of Worcester is about his limit, although you can understand them having a try as he's pretty exposed over shorter trips.

Midnight Magic was quietly progressive at a lower level during the first half of last season, since when he's undergone wind surgery. Stamina is definitely his forte and of all the runners here you'd expect him to be the fittest coming from the Pipe kennel.

He's been very slow to get his act together but they've persevered and he could be one that keeps pulling out a bit more as he gets older. This 0-120 is a level up on what he's usually performed at though, and he will need to find that further progression to win this, but he's respected.

The most interesting is perhaps Lord Getaway, who was shaping up into a fair staying chaser a couple of seasons back but lost his way last winter.

Let's get the negatives out of the way; he's a bit of a one-paced plodder and a big unit prone to shoddy jumping, however he was fine at Cheltenham on good ground when fourth in a decent contest over a year ago and a return to that form would be more than enough to take this.

He ran okay on his first two starts last term on tight tracks that wouldn't have been to his liking, but was then out of sorts in an Exeter marathon before having a couple of spins over hurdles, which wouldn't be his bag.

Hopefully the five month absence has freshened him up and this looks a good race to start him back. He is actually 1/1 at the track after grinding out a hurdles victory in the quag so does tick a few boxes, the main point for me being that he's the class act of the race if fit enough to show it, and that he avoids any serious errors.

Of the others Pride of Parish might be interesting from a stable adept at bringing one back from an absence, but he might not get home if this does become a stiff test. Even his best Point form might not be good enough.

The Happy Chappy has been a desperate disappointment since winning twice in 2017, looking an increasingly hard ride and he's without headgear today. He's had two wind ops, and is hard to back even knowing that the talent is there to win off a much reduced mark.

Still Believing shows bits and pieces of form at the age of 12 and is handicapped to go close, but the headgear she's worn for her three most recent wins is left off, and is not one to have a great deal of faith in.

Let's look at the betting, as of 10.30am.

The firms are 10/3 the field although 4/1 on the machine for Midnight Magic. There's not much 5/1 about Lord Getaway and to be honest 9/2 is probably about right as there are question marks over his well-being. The one that looks over-priced if anything is Still Believing at 12/1, so if I do end up playing this race I'll be having a small bet on Lord Getaway, with a few shekels on the Evan Williams veteran who I reckon should be more like an 8 or 9/1 shot in this field.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Southwell July 1

Welcome back! Must admit I've never been much of a fan of summer jumps but after three blank months and more it'll be great to see the twig-hoppers back in action.

Should this burst of enthusiasm last I'll be putting down some thoughts on these pages in the coming weeks and months, focusing on the handicap chases.These are not 'tipping' pieces, although I'll make it clear whether or not I intend to bet.

The first two races at Southwell today are the subject of today's focus with all eyes on the P Nicholls-trained Nineohtwooneoh in the opening 12.00, a 0-105 novice handicap. After showing little in novice hurdles, he came good at the second time of asking off a mark of 94, dotting up at Musselburgh when well-backed.

He looked a big, staying chase type and a natural jumper, and I doubt if a 10lb higher mark would stop him today. The main problem with him is that he has been reported to have a breathing problem on at least three occasions, and presumably the lockdown has prevented the trainer from sending him for surgery.

He looks like he might have to do everything on the bridle, as he looked one paced on his next outing at Taunton, when he again showed a propensity to hang badly right under pressure. Today's better ground will surely suit in that regard, and he sneaks into a race that won't take much winning.

Here's a look at some of the opposition;

Glengar; Looked a safe conveyance when last seen on Boxing Day but faded very tamely after travelling well into the straight.

Short Flight; Trainer can ready one after a break but it's almost two years since he was last seen, and goes without the visor that seemed to bring about improvement.

Oxwich Bay; A thoroughly disappointing individual, runner-up six times over timber usually finding very little for pressure, whether held up or ridden prominently. Chase form is of a higher standard but has failed to complete 3/7 starts.

Zen Master; Another flawed individual who is 1/23 under rules, not usually finding a great deal and often goes freely.

Tazka; Decent juvenile filly but struggled in handicaps as a result, on a more realistic mark now starting out over fences.

The Last Bar; Winless mare for these connections in 10 hurdles starts, a 10lb drop for this first outing in two years at least gives her some leeway. More of a stayer.

Elle Est Grande; A big weak chasing type in the first half of last season, looking all over the winner two out only to lose three places from the last on penultimate start. That was over 3m, this trip and better ground, in addition to the switch to fences, means she is of interest.

Conclusion; With very little to make the market I thought the Nicholls horse would be around 11/8, 6/4 early doors as you're essentially betting he jumps a clear round and doesn't come off the bridle. Neither of those is guaranteed however, and while surprised by initial quotes of 5/2 and bigger, I won't be going in any shorter. Glengar and Oxwich Bay could travel furthest into the race but neither is expected to find enough off the bridle although the big weight concession may help the former. I made the note that Elle Est Grande would be 'much better in time' back in October and she is one I'll be watching keenly, it will be interesting if she is given a positive ride. The trainer has had a quiet month on the Flat which tempers enthusiasm somewhat and she has been very weak in the market so far, but a quote of 14/1 or bigger will tempt me to play very small each-way.

A Class 3 0-135 over 2m headed by the Skelton-trained Azzuri.

Azzuri; 5/16 over fences, however at around 2m on good ground his form is 1131141. Was being targeted at the spring festivals after getting re-handicapped on bad ground and is just 2lb higher than when hosing up at Ayr. Will face rivals for the lead but he's very quick and a fast, fluent jumper.

Tonto's Spirit; Paying for consistency on a stiff enough mark.

Tidal Watch; Set to win last summer when coming down at the last, 7lb higher now but that didn't look a particularly strong race. Flat bred.

Cracking Destiny; Improved for new yard and held off this mark when last seen over fences, travels strongly so should be suited by a strong run race.

Goldencard; With a new yard and likely to need the run and he looks high in the weights in this company.

Capital Force; Modest strike rate and not the type to find much off the bridle, although finally back to winning mark and would benefit from a pace burn-up.

Ballyvic Boru; Largely disappointing, popping up last autumn but unable to back that up off higher marks, and has now had two wind ops this year.

Ontopoftheworld; Front runner, well placed to win a handful of small field contests in 2018, off a year when below that form in February. Enough to prove from a yard that had just two winners in the September-March period.

Isaac Wonder; Not bred for fences but ok first season and does look the part, mark is a shade high on balance but likely to improve and had a very decent pipe opener on the Flat recently.

Atlantic Storm; Won over C&D for D Skelton two years ago but seems to save his best for Stratford, jockey doesn't have a great record on him and he might be one for smaller fields later in the year.

Conclusion; This looks tailor-made for Azzuri and providing he's away smartly from the gate should take the world of beating, especially if in the same form as when winning at Ayr over a year ago. Early quotes of 3/1 and bigger were too big, he was a well-backed 5/2 shot when landing that strong Ayr race and this Class 3 event is easier, so I see him going off shorter than that. Second favourite Cracking Destiny is capable of further improvement after progressing well last season, but does have a higher mark to overcome. The race should be run to suit his strong travelling style but wouldn't want to give Azzuri too much rope. If the likes of Tonto's Spirit and Ontopoftheworld help set a furious pace that could set things up for Cracking Destiny, or even Capital Force if he's on song, while Isaac Wonder is worth keeping an eye on but is a bit too inexperienced at this stage of his career.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Southwell, March 16

Pretty modest stuff all told, thankfully just the six races and still soft ground.

The 0-110 handicap chase featured a few of the usual suspects, the majority of whom are totally unreliable, headed by the well-backed Shanty Alley.

Only six, I thought he'd go well at Doncaster last time only to bomb out completely; this was much easier, and he gave a good account until crumbling on landing over the third last.

That left Inch Lala, a tall light-framed mare who looked well, in a clear lead but stamina wasn't entirely assured and she was paddling after jumping two out, where recent winner Silent Steps emerged from out of shot after tailing herself off with a lap to go.

Remarkable stuff, or maybe not so considering the standard, with The Ogle Gogle Man intent on taking as much birch home with him as possible.

A mention for Dee Star, who was quite strong in the market but almost certainly prefers better ground, and looked as though he would come on for the outing.

A four-runner handicap chase was taken in some style by Little Light, who looked to have been perked up by the new headgear and travelled extremely well throughout, not needing to come off the bridle.

The pair that chased her home are disappointing types, Twotwothree lacking somewhat in size and probably not that keen on front-running, while better ground may be more his bag.

Chozen was a favourite of this column for a time but this strapping chaser has a mind of his own, and is an absolute liability at the obstacles. Hold up tactics were deployed on this occasion and he settled as well as he ever has, but is bred to stay 3m+ and is essentially a slow horse that wants to go faster.

A weak 0-110 hurdle went to Haasab, who has hit a rich vein of form and was well handled by Jonjo jr, getting on top after the last ahead of the likeable Atomix, who looked a promising sort many years ago and may yet achieve something based on this solid effort.

Arizona Glory is a big lengthy gelding for a young horse, and should be able to build on this, but the rest weren't much to write home about.

Sheshoon Sonny had shown loads of promise in decent company despite looking novicey, and was strongly fancied to get off the mark in the novices hurdle, but although hurdling with greater fluency was woefully one-paced after taking up the running and has to go down as disappointing receiving weight.

Eventual winner Shantou View was hard to weigh up, and was on and off the bridle throughout, but was strong where it mattered having enough in hand to see off the rallying Exelerator Express after the last.

The winner, just medium sized at present, looks more of a hurdler for next season unlike the runner-up, who has plenty of size and is quite a nice sort in the making. Rintulla, back in fourth, is rather unfurnished and needs time.

Two to go...City Never Sleeps nearly got home under a much more positive ride than at Catterick but was picked off late by Shimba Hills, paddock pick First Assembly sticking on for third despite looking paceless...he has the size to go over fences and may do better as the ground dries out.

Two recent winners dominated the market in the closing 0-100, but Fizzlestix ran as though the race came too soon, while Hang Tough, a very big horse who will need a fence sooner rather than later, was asked to do plenty on the front end and was another to be run down in the straight, emerging amateur Liam Harrison again seen to good effect on the winner Oliver's Island.

Jour A La Plage is a big lengthy unfurnished grey and may be worth revisiting next season.

Sunday 15 March 2020

Newcastle, March 15

Still no let up in ground conditions, it wasn't bottomless after a couple of dry days but it was still soft and quite holding.

A deserved victory at short odds for Stainsby Girl in the opener, she's a likeable enthusiastic mare who didn't have to run up to her 120 rating here, although there's no reason to think she can't be competitive from that mark.

Irish import Golden Robin appeared to shape with plenty of promise on her debut for Sue Smith, not looking great in her coat but typically having a bit of size and scope, making late gains after the highly strung Maid O'Malley paid for chasing the winner.

Not content with mopping up at Cheltenham, G Elliott sent a couple up here and Robin Deuz Pois was a rare odds-on chance in a staying handicap chase, but the early money was in the right place (surprise) and she did the job, although looked all out in the end to repel Solid Strike.

It was a lowly contest all told, Definite Wisdom jumping poorly on ground unsuitably soft, and there was nothing else to take from it.

The standard was better from there on, followed by an open-looking handicap hurdle that wasn't reflected by the market, headed by Oscars Leader on the upgrade and awkward looking novice Thor De Cerisy, who doesn't please with his attitude.

On paddock inspection you could give plenty of them a chance, including eventual winner Altruism who looked well and fit off a break, while Keyboard Gangster is getting fitter all the time but looked beaten when crashing out.

Roar looks harshly treated while the juvenile Scorched Earth has very little size and scope and probably wants better ground.

A staying handicap for novices was another really competitive race for the grade, and a favourite that looked far too short in Ladronne, who may have been flattered when winning earlier in the week when the opposition melted away.

Another strong looking paddock where it was hard to make a choice, Sirwilliamwallace arguably the most likeable future type but there were others, including Baron De Midleton who has shaped nicely several times this season.

He may have made it three wins had he not done a somersault at the second last, having jumped notably soundly throughout, leaving Mr Scrumpy in an unassailable lead.

Disappointing on his last couple of outings, the winner had benefited from a nine-week break and having been quite a hot horse in the past was completely overlooked in the market this time.

Rath An Iuir stayed on dourly for second but once again he hit a flat spot at the wrong time and he looks a thorough stayer, and the sort to benefit from another summer before going over fences.

Minella Trump was a shade disappointing but on looks he may not be a great deal better than his current mark, however it's early to make too strong a call.

The Paddy Pie has been very costly to follow, including when coming down three out at Wetherby two runs back when running as though a good 10lb ahead of his mark.

That didn't quite play out next time when appearing to have remembered that spill, and there was a growing concern that claggy ground doesn't suit all that much.

However, positive tactics were applied for the first time against a pretty exposed bunch and he never saw another rival, jumping accurately if edging to his right at times.

He simply travelled too well for the one-paced Bollin Ace, who has probably become a bit of a thinker but continues to shape like he wants 3m, staying on stoutly after the last for the forecast.

Disappointment of the race was Stoney Rover after a trainer switch, but his jumping had been awful in several goes for his previous stable and it was the same again here. Maybe he's one for next season when Mr Thomson has had some time to iron things out.

The market was all about two horses in another handicap hurdle and this time it was spot on as the likeable Overcourt won for the second time, albeit rather fortunately as the way Kauto D'Amour rattled home he would surely have got there but for pitching badly on landing over the last.

The winner himself, a compact athletic hurdler, had blundered at the final two flights but they seemed to be motoring, and this son of the wonderful Court Cave can win again in this sort of form, especially when stepped up to 3m.

Kauto was dismal at Sedgefield last time but wouldn't be the first not to appreciate that gaff, and he travelled sweetly enough before Mania injected some pace into the race as they turned for home. Another stout looking stayer, he'll remain well-handicapped after this.

By definition, the third home Big Bad Dream should also be followed next time as he too stayed on nicely in first time blinkers, the yard has had a frustrating season but he looks a winner in the making off his current mark.

Fourth placed Do Not Disturb hasn't managed to build on on his season-opening success but this was a step in the right direction, and this tall son of Mahler should appreciate the return to better ground and will relish a fence in due course.

It was getting cold by the bumper but it was worth hanging around to see a clutch of interesting types in a race that was far more open than the betting suggested, skewed as it was by the second Elliott raider in Getabay.

A nice enough sort, he wasn't the most imposing in the paddock and hadn't managed to get his head in front in three starts prior to this.

A couple were preferred, particularly at the odds, and they came clear with previous all-weather winner Tupelo Mississippi showing the benefit of his experience to defy his penalty with a determined effort.

He looked a big staying chase type when first sighted at Wetherby and he's come on a good deal since then, but he remains firmly in need of a test such as this.

Onward Route comes from the family of Top Cloud and by Yeats is sure to stay well, and he was just run out of things after travelling like much the best horse...he should appreciate better ground and looks a decent recruit.

Murvagh Beach has loads of size about him but looked very big and backward and was really green throughout - he'll need a bit of time.

Friday 13 March 2020

Doncaster - March 12

A very strong wind up the home straight made life a little trickier than ideal, while the ground, although drying significantly, looked pretty rough after a long winter.

Not a bad little novice heat to start proceedings with the three penalised runners dominating the finish, and fair play to The Macon Lugnatic for repelling all raiders with a strong staying performance.

The form probably isn't that strong, but this chasing type should continue to pay his way in novice handicaps over larger obstacles next season, especially with his fine attitude.

No Getaway is another good, lengthy chase sort and the clear paddock pick, but after travelling like the winner fell in a bit of a hole after the last. He looked fit enough off a three month break, but should be able to defy a penalty this spring on better ground, although a weak finisher is always a concern.

Glenduff ran a race full of promise in third considering his very sturdy build, he looks the sort to benefit from racing for all that he was able to win first time out this season. He wasn't knocked about, and I'd bet on further improvement next time.

The eye-catcher for all to see was rank outsider Aquila Sky, a rather unfurnished youngster picked up by the emerging Sam Allwood for a song out of the H Fry yard.

Not knocked about after going keenly, he stayed on well when the race was over with a run that caught the eye even of the stewards. Unfortunately for connections the horse is likely to be hindered by a stiff mark, and he won't go unnoticed in the betting in his next novice start.

The handicap chase was a weak race for a 0-120 and the A King-trained Jaboticaba confirmed an earlier impression that he lacks the scope for fences, while Knockrobin has never been one to have much faith in.

Quite what happened going to the last when the latter faultered significantly with the race seemingly at his mercy who knows, but he remains one to be extremely wary of.

Eventual winner Top Decision is a tall, light-framed horse who probably isn't the easiest to train and wouldn't want the ground too soft, but he rocked up very fit after a 10-week break and the way he hit the line suggests a follow-up is in the pipeline, for all that he has a patchy profile.

Some decent looking juvenile fillies assembled for the next, the first four in the betting quite interesting from a paddock perspective, particularly the eventual winner Champagne Terri who was like a coiled spring following a six month absence.

Strongly supported in the market, she was ridden with intent on the front end and finished off strongly after being challenged on all sides early in the straight.

Operatic Export was one of the biggest and unlike the majority of the Newland runners she appears to be slow in coming to hand, perhaps there will be better days for her in due course, however Gilka was weak in the betting and doesn't have much about her.

The 0-105 handicap chase was really weak with just the two at the top of the weights having shown much ability of late, and sure enough they came right away from the rest in the straight.

Summit Like Herbie has plenty of size and scope and although he does things his own way he has a good leap in him, albeit very much with a left hand bias, while Coopers Square is a bit high in the weights still and is going to be vulnerable to one as unexposed as his market rival here.

The staying handicap hurdle wasn't a bad little race although far more open than the betting suggested, warm order Premier D'Troice dropping out at halfway as though amiss.

There was plenty to like about some of the others, eventual winner I'd Better Go Now one of several likely to thrive when sent over fences, and the way he travelled and then saw it out suggested he is way better than his current mark.

The one that went with him was Tango Boy and he's a real strong chase type who was nibbled at in the betting, he settled well enough under a cold ride and he will have his day again on decent ground that probably suits him.

They were clear of two strapping chasers, Mercian Knight who is gaining valuable experience prior to tackling larger obstacles, similar comments applying to Teescomponentstrig, who is still only five and has made good strides this season. Both will stay all day.

One of the reasons for making the trip to Town Moor was to check on the well-being of Storm Goddess, who had been ticking over in decent races since dotting up in a weak race at this track last season.

A likeable, handy mare she was very fit and fresh after three runs on ground she doesn't relish, and back on a sounder surface she proved herself to be well handicapped and positively ran away with it as if she had a stone in hand.

Runner-up Trapper Peak can usually be relied upon to run his race so the handicapper should be well positioned to act, and it will be interesting to see what connections will do next with the winner.

Another mare Feuille De Chene came in for support in the green and gold, but she looks an unfurnished individual in need of more time and she was tame in the finish, with a breathing problem reported.

More was expected of Stacey Sue but she checked out with a breathing issue as well, but she's not one to give up on and looks very much like a chase type who should stay further having won a Point and a staying bumper.

The finale looked the lesser of the two divisions but interestingly was run in a time that was five seconds faster than the previous race...this despite a visual pace collapse at the top of the straight.

That meant they came home quite strong, the modest jumper Western Rules getting up close home to deny Just Call Me Al, who was given a fine ride by A Nicol who clearly hasn't lost any nerve or indeed verve following another injury absence.

The runner-up has long been on the radar as a horse with potential and now they've found the way to ride him he could be one to keep onside when returning to larger obstacles, which he has the size and scope for.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Cheltenham, March 10

I'm not at the festival this week so these views are not paddock-related in any way.


The impression here is that the form is strong, with all the right horses finishing in the mix.

The Conditional; Could be called the winner a mile out, always beautifully positioned by Brendan Powell. My pre-race doubts about the horse, that he can get a bit low at a fence, was nearly borne out when he was picked off the floor two out, and also that he might be a little soft in a finish, which was not correct, as he was always holding the rallying runner-up. The form was there for all to see and he duly obliged for the many who supported him.

Kildisart; Allayed fears that the heavy ground was against him, although he looked a hard ride, running in snatches with Daryl Jacob keen from the outset for him to maintain a good position. He'll never be the best of jumpers, but showed he had deep reserves of stamina by rallying strongly up the hill despite apparently using up plenty of energy just to stay in the front rank at times. The fetching green  heekpieces may have helped the jockey, but where this leaves him going forwards I'm not sure. You could see him reaching the first six in the National without threatening to win.

Discorama; I messaged someone saying that he had to go close - providing he didn't get too far back. Therefore is was disconcerting to see him dropped out stone last in the early strides, and jockey Bryan Cooper rode a race that implies the instructions were to 'arrive as late as possible'. Quite why that would be in such a race, is hard to fathom - maybe he's hard to win with - but the horse did very little wrong and backers should rightly feel aggrieved.

Vinndication; My view before the race was that he faced his own Everest in attempting to give weight all round on the back of a lengthy absence. That he only gave best on the run-in is a testament to the veteran trainer, who has a serious horse on his hands. I completely poo-pooed the notion that he has to go the other way round, based on one piece of evidence in the JLT last year, and this proves he'll be just as good left-handed. He may fall below top class, although he is unexposed and the way he is campaigned will be important from now on. Trust Kim Bailey to get it right.

Big River; Such a likeable horse, placed in the race for a second year in succession. Yet again was allowed to steadily lose his position throughout the race, and if given a similar ride to that on Kildisart he may well have gone very close. The Scottish National will probably be on the agenda again, however the main aim must surely be the four miler at his beloved Kelso in December, in which he was brought down last year. There's not much point slagging off jockeys but a front-line pilot might make all the difference.

Cobra De Mai; Won here at last year's April meeting and will surely be a warm order if going down that route again, once more showing potential from this sort of mark despite racing on ground that is considered too soft.

Cepage; Appeared to get very warm pre-race, and was allowed to bowl along on this first attempt at 3m+. However, having led to the second last he clearly didn't stay and crawled up the hill. He's a really useful individual that should win his fair share back over 2m5f.

Brave Eagle; Hunted round at the back on ground that is far too soft. Henderson does not target these festival handicaps over fences and this will simply serve to shave a few pounds off his rating ahead of his particular spring/summer target. He's a useful sort, but his mark is based on summer form and he may need to find more improvement to pick up another competitive handicap from around 155.

Mister Malarkey; Sent of at 12/1 but made no appeal on heavy ground when all evidence suggests he is at his best on good to soft or better. He's already picked up a decent pot this season, but remains the sort to win again when things are in his favour and the end of season race at Sandown (formerly the Whitbread) could be made for him.

Northern Trust Company Novices Handicap Chase

Imperial Aura; The form of his most recent run in the Timeform sponsored race here in January looked the absolute nuts and he duly obliged in quite impressive fashion, like The Conditional always in the right place behind the lead and finding plenty for pressure. A step up to 3m should suit next season and he could easily turn into a Ladbrokes-type, particularly if he mixes it with the top staying chasers at Aintree next month. His win paid a massive compliment to Simply The Betts, who looks certain to be a warm order on Thursday, and also On The Slopes, who now looks likely to run at Kempton on Saturday.

Galvin; I didn't think his form coming into the race was quite good enough to win this but he comes out of it with plenty of credit, especially considering he was quite badly baulked early on and had to come from some way back, which as we've seen over many years is not easy to do on this turning Old Course. I don't think he did a great deal wrong to be fair.

Hold The Note; No hard luck story here, simply beaten by two horses better at the weights, although in mitigation he doesn't look like he needs ground this bad and he still makes plenty of appeal going forward, particularly on better ground and possibly over 3m.

Whatmore; A frustrating horse for betting purposes, always running his race without really looking like winning, the handicapper seemingly having the edge. He's still keen-going but I'm certain he wants three miles if they maintain hold-up tactics, however I'd love to see him given his head this spring on drier ground, a race at that May meeting at Haydock would suit as he'd string them out like yesterday's washing with his sound jumping.

Beakstown; Went into this race looking potentially well handicapped having learned his trade in Graded company, but the cheekpieces did not provide the necessary improvement and his finishing effort once again left something to be desired; I'd go as far as to say he's now one to be wary of in anything other than basic novice company. I'm not giving him the excuse that he might have needed the run after a three-month absence - chances are he was cherry ripe.

Champagne Court; Another representative of the Timeform handicap form but he failed by some way to keep his end up, weakening out of things from the third last after maintaining a prominent position throughout. While he has plenty of form on soft ground one suspects he doesn't want it this bad, and I'll be looking out for him when sent over 3m being a son of that stamina influence Court Cave, plus there is loads on the dam's side too.

Thursday 5 March 2020

Catterick, March 4

Dry and frosty overnight, yes the ground was soft but they weren't going too deep and the times suggest it wasn't too bad at all.

The opener was a seller won by 12-year-old Flanagans Field, not a great looking individual but he relished the end-to-end gallop and was well on top at the line.

Interesting that B Ellison claimed the strong Flat bred Tim Rocco, who helped set the rapid early fractions, he looked well but has been regressive of late, perhaps not enjoying the current terrain.

It probably wasn't the worst race of its type, Dahills Hill and Pepper Street not beaten far and looking as though there's a small race in them on better ground.

The race of main interest was the 3m novices chase in which Django Django was an extremely warm order on the back of a cosy victory at Newbury, but he's only just big enough for fences and his jumping didn't stand up around this tighter circuit.

While he plugged on into fourth, it has to go down as deeply disappointing and sights may have to be lowered this spring.

By contrast Stradivarius Davis took a massive step in the other direction despite a huge market drift, possibly on account of him looking a shade burly after an eight-week break.

That first effort over fences had been fully franked by the winner, however Sandy Thomson's inmate was going a further mile here and wasn't certain to get home despite winning his Point.

They didn't go a great gallop, but he appeared to jump and travel very nicely and finished the race well in the style of a decent recruit. He's a good looking horse with plenty of size, and equally adept on a sound surface, he'll be of huge interest at Aintree or Ayr provided the handicapper isn't too harsh.

Coole Hall had every chance, looking fit and well, but not for the first time looked to have plenty of temperament and he is now firmly in the 'quirky' category. Jammin Masters has never made much appeal and once again couldn't go with the principals.

The mares novices hurdle was a typically weak affair, two of them dominating the market and the finish, the decent looking Zoutoise needing the length of the run-in to deny the consistent Ilaya despite getting weight.

The winner probably wants better ground than this and is a speedy type, showing a good attitude in the finish.

Niven was given one more chance to prove himself a well handicapped horse in the handicap chase over 2m and was sensibly waited with on this occasion after being asked to do too much on the front end at Wetherby last month.

With a couple of lengths to find at the last, he picked up well to collar the disappointing Go Long in the closing stages, the runner-up at least giving his running down in grade.

Pull Together ran well considering his absence but he looked pretty straight, and is another with a little to prove when push comes to shove. Las Tunas, a sturdy character, thrives on racing and I'd expect him to improve fitness-wise off a nine-week break.

My Renaissance didn't go without promise and may yet have another race in him when the ground dries out.

Bet of the day was Skipthescales in the staying handicap hurdle, down in grade for his new yard and guaranteed to see his race out. It's amazing he won over fences because he's doesn't have much size about him, and he turned in a fine effort only to be pipped on the line.

Strike West doesn't win very often, but was coaxed into it and was in front when it mattered, whether he can repeat it is a moot point. Third home Scottish Accent is a decent prospect, noted travelling well before hitting a flat spot and running on again at the death...he'll know more next time and looks a thorough stayer.

Wishing And Hoping looked in a different league fitness-wise ahead of the hunter chase, 4/5 was freely available which was like printing money.

The bumper was very interesting because the two market leaders gave very different vibes beforehand, the enthusiastic and likeable mare Anythingforlove much the best of them and with winning form in the book.

By contrast Frascato Bello is very much on the forehand, with a shouldery walk and very strong behind, what's more he was very laboured and green to post.

And they performed as expected, Anythingforlove showing a really nice attitude to fend off Foster'sisland, who has a decent portfolio of efforts to his name, with the rest well beaten off.

Pennine Cross has been a keen sort but shaped like a stayer, running on into third, while Bring The Bacon and Teescomponentsyess will be alright in the fullness of time.

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Wetherby - March 2

An 8am inspection was passed with two fences and a hurdle down the far side omitted, it was heavy but not too bad according to one or two that had walked it.

Accordingtogino was a very warm order to pick up a weak novice hurdle for the Skeltons, and Harry got to dictate the race from the front, kicking on the home turn and putting enough daylight between himself and two rivals.

Le Cheval Noir may have been flattered to get so close at the line, but this rather weak horse may have just blown up when the pace quickened three out where he was untidy, essentially ending the race as a contest.

The winner may not be the most straight forward and on another day I could see the placings being reversed, as the second has plenty of physical improvement to come.

The Crazed Moon was the only one to bring recent form to the table in a novices handicap chase, and was priced accordingly, but even allowing for the fact she lacks a bit of scope for fences she turned in a shocker, her number was up before they turned for home.

That should not detract from the efforts of the first two home, Snougar and Going Mobile both having their first outings over fences on the back of breathing operations.

The former has always looked like a chaser in the making, and had been running into a bit of form over timber, and he jumped and travelled like a horse with plenty to give from a low mark.

On the subject of handicap marks, how the assessor came to number 92 for Going Mobile is a mystery, the gelding having shown precisely zero in three hurdle starts, for all that he had looked extremely burly on the first of them. Held together until after jumping the final fence, it looks like the Englands have another horse to go to war with this spring.

Carlingford Prince wasn't moving well in the paddock and shouldn't have been second fav, while Angel's Envy is an interesting mare, with all her form being on good ground over 3m at Perth.

She lacks the substance for fences, and she was awkward over the final three fences, going to her right, but will probably be persevered with over fences in the short term. However, shrewd trainer Laura Morgan can be trusted to get the best out of her in the coming months.

Another favourite that looked ripe for the taking was Young Lieutenant, who found himself at the head of the market for a novices hurdle despite coming into the race on the back of three disappointing efforts.

Thor De Cerisy is a nicer physical specimen who got off the mark in taking fashion at Newcastle before blowing out at Ffos Las, inclined to hang up the straight. Hopes of a revival were pinned on a 10-weak break and a breathing op, and he duly returned to his best, only to find Diodorus too good getting 10lbs.

The six-year-old had gone winless on the Flat for K McLintock, but trainer Tristan Davidson told me the horse's head was 'in a better place now' and, under a confident hold-up ride, came through to land the spoils in a the manner of a useful recruit.

Davidson has a fine strike rate, and does extremely well with other trainer's cast-offs.

The gamble of the day went west when the absurdly short Envol De La Cour ejected B Powell at the sixth having gone of at 6/4 from double figures prices the night before. The C Dyson > M Scudamore angle has been a profitable one of late but this was a bit far-fetched, the six-year-old having little form to speak of on these shores.

It was hard to find the winner though, Mortens Leam in the end travelling all over the rest before tying up late on, it emerged afterwards that the trainer felt he wasn't fully fit after picking up a knock last time out. This isn't strong form.

A really strong handicap hurdle followed next though, and the bang in-form Main Fact made it four on the trot for David Pipe, once again proving very strong in the final third of the race and winning with any amount in hand.

McGowan's Pass confirmed himself in top form by chasing home in second, but the third-placed Flegmatik troubled me with his finishing effort, finding little off the bridle and wandering all over the place in the straight. He's a good looking horse who may require quicker ground, but I have serious reservations after this.

The closing staying chase was desperate enough, with the well-backed The Dawn Man providing M Scu/B Powell Jr with some consolation for their earlier disappointments. The gelding had plenty to prove, not least stamina and jumping, but was simply too well handicapped to be troubled by these plodders.

Smuggler's Stash stayed on for second, supporting the view that the Dobbin horses are back in form after a quiet few weeks, and his turn may be next from a reduced mark. There was very little else to shout about, though.

Doncaster - February 29

Regular followers will know I'm not likely to shirk the issue when it comes to battling the elements; they'll also be aware that I am no longer young, and so it was that I opted for the comfort of Norm Towers on Friday in light of the fiendish conditions outside. One can only apologise.

However, the sun was out on Saturday and despite a fierce headwind that could stop a train, racing went ahead, well, so did I.

The opener was a decent staying handicap in which strong chasing type Geordie B provided a potential class edge, only to turn in the first shocker of his career, sliding backwards through the field a mile out. He'd been off since November, and maybe he's not in a good place.

Market leader Blackjack Kentucky still looks quite unfurnished but should make into a decent handicap chaser next season, jumping notably boldly in the home straight.

However, Paddy Brennan, well known for exploiting any potential track advantage going, played a blinder by taking Cobden's slipstream all the way up the home straight, on both first and second circuits.

You'll be your own judge as to whether this made the difference between victory and defeat for Liosduin Bhearna, either was it was further evidence of the veteran's prowess. The horse is very much a chasing type, a thorough stayer who benefited greatly from the step up in trip.

Remastered caught the eye beforehand, a good tall sort, and it was nice to see him back to the form of earlier efforts; the right three came away from a form perspective, and they will all be worth following over fences.

Plunge horse Jerrysback was taken out of the open-ended handicap chase but it still had a wide open feel, another well-backed animal being Gino Trail who I thought was significantly persevered with by the owners, who had sent him on to Fergal O'Brien.

Why the horse didn't enter the parade ring I don't know, but I did catch a glimpse of him in the chute and he looked on terrific terms with himself, and with the likelihood of a solo lead he was the one to beat.

Again, Brennan was outstanding, they don't come from too far back at this turning track especially with that headwind - it was impossible to make up lost ground and Gino, game as they come, jumped and galloped to the line.

Katpoli held on for second but was similarly well positioned, while Nuts Well ran yet another blinder from a career high mark on ground that puts pressure on his jumping as he's not very big.

Destrier was given a curious ride, Skelton's early bid for the lead stifled by Brennan, and the horse ran no race. Better ground might suit but he has plenty to prove now, as does Joke Dancer who hasn't been campaigned intelligently and his jumping once again was a mess.

Cill Anna had the form to win a Listed mares novice hurdle and she scraped home from the enterprisingly ridden Ziggy Rose (Brennan), while leaving the impression she's better than the bare result. 

Aimee De Sivola has quite a bit of size and scope, so should jump a fence, and plugged on gamely in the straight as this was very hard work for the four that came clear. Easter Gold will be a stronger horse next season and shouldn't be judged harshly on her tame effort.

The Grimthorpe lived up to its name, not easy viewing in a last-man standing exhibition, Captain Chaos finding a good rhythm and he just kept going to beat Worthy Farm, both of whom should now be roughed off for the season. This was brutal.

I didn't much care for Firak in the paddock before a three runner novince hurdle but his chief rival Kepagge had jumped appallingly when landing a minor event at Leicester and had to concede the penalty.

Clearly well schooled during an 80-day sabbatical, the Pipe horse travelled and jumped like a decent recruit in the making and better ground should be no barrier to success. As for Firak, he might prove difficult to win with and I'm starting have reservations about the sire Fuisse, many of which look quirky.

A weak handicap hurdle went to Stonific, who was the chief beneficiary of the low sun with the last three flights being omitted, you couldn't have written a better scirpt if you fancied the horse. 

For Pleasure came in for late support but he proved very keen as before without the hood, however, he travelled quite deep into the race and this will bring him on a fair bit. On decent terrain, you could see him defying a mark of 110, for sure.

A tidy little bumper closed the show, and a 'surprise' result from the judge with the penalised Kearney Hill getting up right on the line to frustrate backers of the immature colt Nells Son, who travelled like a horse with a bit of class.

The Smith's North Parade once again shaped with a degree of promise but he's a chaser in the making and similar in size to the progressive sibling Billingsley, however Whitechurch had pretty weak form in Irish points and looks a little modest, weakening tamely away in the straight.