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.