Monday 20 January 2020

Haydock - January 18

Drying ground meant it wasn't anywhere near as testing as it can be at this time of year...times suggesting it was no worse than soft on both tracks bearing in mind the changes to official distances.

Serious Ego's run attracted the attention of the stewards and although 'explanations were accepted' make no mistake this is a potential plot next time out.

Despite winning a Point, he's not very big and was only able to win from a mark of 100 under Gordon Elliott, and has essentially been handicapped out of things ever since.

It's unlikely he'll be dropped any further from his current mark of 109 after staying on politely behind the 'thrown in' winner, but it looks likely to be exploited before the ground dries out.

Four went to post for a tasty novices chase and while they all looked fantastic creatures, it was Joke Dancer who took the eye and really has developed into the perfect looking racehorse.

Running just a week after a personal best effort was never likely to pay off though, and Danny Cook wasn't hard on him after he blew his chance by going off too keenly.

Even though his wins have come left handed, his jumping is so biased to the right that he must surely have to go that way at some point, although that would probably mean heading south. In the longer term, you could see him running well in the graduation chase at Carlisle later in the year.

Thebannerkingrebel looked a short price on the bare form to win the Rossington Main but was arguably unfortunate not to back up his course and distance success here last time out.

A horse with a high cruising speed, it was therefore surprising that his rider didn't make full use of an easy lead by kicking for home sooner, a last flight error handing the initiative to Edwardstone, who then shoved him into the rails earning jockey Tom Cannon a three-day ban.

Jamie Snowden's inmate comes out best at the weights and leaves the impression there's a bigger run in him, possibly given an end-to-end gallop on a stiffer track.

The hindsight tipping line has been popular ever since King Charles was powering across Newmarket heath on his trusted Rowley, and on reflection the whole of the north should have been on Vintage Clouds to land the Peter Marsh at his favourite hunting ground.

As sure as night follows day, the Sue Smith horses are flying again with the start of a new calendar year and this was the grey's Gold Cup and Grand National rolled into one.

All the ducks were aligned but the problem now is that he'll be running from a career high mark for the rest of the campaign, which will make life extremely taxing away from his beloved bog. That said, you'd be foolish to overlook him if coming back here for the Grand National Trial next month.

Pentland Hills will be one of the big talking points in the lead up to Cheltenham but the bare form of his luckless defeat to Ballyandy leaves him with a fair bit to find.

That said, he was on a bit of a hiding to nothing here with conditions not exactly ideal, and this excitable sort may yet play a part in the Champion providing the ground is not as arduous as this.

On the flip side, the winning time was (suspiciously) the same as that recorded by Stolen Silver in the Rossington Main, so either the novices want upgrading a bit or Pentland Hills is going to have to improve a significant amount in the next eight weeks.

No hindsight required this time as Billingsley came into this handicap chase looking a seriously well handicapped horse now that connections have settled upon his optimum conditions.

Now 4/4 over the minimum trip, I firmly expect the imposing son of Millenary to continue to improve in testing conditions, with his bold jumping likely to stretch the majority of novices.

The only one able to keep tabs was Muratello, another horse clearly better suited to the minimum trip, and while those who backed him from double-figure prices may have been disappointed with his finishing effort, time may tell he simply bumped into one.

Danny Cook is quite rightly lauded for his positive riding but it took plenty of finesse to get Silva Eclipse home in the finale, a race in which the pair were done on the line 12 months ago.

Off the back of a stronger pace this time, Cook stalked the better travelling leaders before asking for everything after the last, and the grey picked up in good style.

Previously hard to win with, Silva Eclipse has been looking as though he's ready to jump fences but with this success he could find a third win of the season over timber an easier option.

Duc De Grissay proved a little disappointing for the in-form Sandy Thomson, but I maintain the stance that he'll be of greater interest once sent over fences next season.

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