Wednesday 26 February 2020

Midweek eye-catchers - February 26

Catterick, Tuesday 25th

Snow had melted overnight with the ground described as heavy, but it seemed knowhere as deep as expected, probably no worse than soft.

Plenty of horses seen out during this wet winter are expected to come to life once the ground starts to really dry out, among them is the modest mare Catchmeifyoucan who has been noted shaping well under tender handling in the past.

There's not a great deal of her but she did manage to win a good ground Irish Point last spring and she can certainly pick up a race back over 3m from her current mark, for connections known for landing the occasional touch.

She stayed on quite nicely once the winner had flown, and although this was little better than a seller she can be found similarly weak openings in the coming weeks.

Not much of a contest, Ashutor being the first of two short-priced Nicholls raiders, a compact grey who probably doesn't have the scope for fence. Runner-up Cuban Sun deserves to find a race as she seems genuine enough despite lacking size. Sepal was backed in the 'without' market but looked to be carrying condition on the back of an absence and it was probably expecting too much for her to beat Cuban Sun.

Saint Sonnet was heavily backed to give PFN a quick double in the novices chase but he too lacks some scope for all that he has a bit of quality. He seemed to jump soundly until put under pressure, when his lack of scope found him out and he was unable to go 'long'. It remains to be seen how far he can go in this sphere...I'm not so sure and will be taking him on against better opponents.

Crixus's Escape ran another sound race for a horse that is crying out for further, his jumping much more assured than on debut. He probably isn't straight forward, but remains on a plausible mark if they can find the right race.

Duc De Grissay has quickly had attentions turned to fences which will stand him in good stead for next season, when he'll come into his own physically.

Sam England was featured in the stable tours at the start of the campaign and Ask Paddy made it four on the bounce to take the trainer level with last season's best tally of 14. Wisely waited with behind a strong early pace, the eight-year-old is now 4/5 at this venue and was winning from a 21lb higher mark than when the run began, knuckling down really well on the run-in to beat a newcomer on the Northern scene in Grange Ranger.

They came well clear from disappointing duo Agamemmon, who once again found little off the bridle, and Absolutely Dylan, who looked well and for the first time in his career was paraded with the other horses.

Patience is wearing thin with the Smith inmate though, as he was given a typically ebullient ride from D Cook but his jumping wasn't fluent enough and he checked out very quickly once push came to shove. It's probably time to let this ship sail.

The finale was a real mind-bender with several given chances on their best form, although the likes of Bulls Head and Too Many Chiefs are now some way off those distant heights.

The Composeur arrived on a high but gave way as though something wasn't quite right, clearing the path for another England runner in Mamoo to pick up a second Catterick win of the year and take the handler into uncharted waters in terms of winners.

In keeping with their style, they decided to change the way this horse was ridden after forcing the pace for much of his career, and waiting tactics have now been deployed to good effect, with the added bonus that the handicapper may still not have caught up with him.

Market Rasen, Wednesday 26th

The ground was similar to the last meeting here with the chase course proving seriously testing while the tighter hurdles track rode much better.

A wide open looking maiden hurdle with no obvious winner beforehand, especially not the well-backed favourite Hazzaar who had been a bitter disappointment on his two previous outings over hurdles.

Held up out the back on this first try at 2m4f+, as we've said many times it's not the place to be at this venue regardless of ground and he never landed a blow. A strong chase type, he'll do better in time and just the sort to thrive in November when sent over fences from a modest mark.

Archie Brown took a walk in the market and he looked on his toes, just a medium sized individual the champion trainer does well with. Although keen, Bryony was always in the right place and to be fair the horse knuckled down well...he looks a staying type likely to build on this.

Unai had everything go his way up front but he's a weak individual that needs time and better ground, Riggs came through for second under a canny ride...he's a typical Mahler lacking a little substance but should be okay up to around 130.

Two others caught the eye and they were Santon, a good looking Scorpion who moves well and I'm convinced he wants better ground - unfancied he ran on nicely to take fifth from the fading Spirit Of Waterloo, a sizeable individual who shaped as though in need of the run following a break.

The form may only be modest but I should mention Lulu Baloo in fourth...I don't believe she holds the form down, she's a big strong girl and a mares novice should be a penalty kick for her.

Destinee Royale, in contrast to stable mate Hazzaar, was massively interesting over fences for the first time having kept decent company over timber last time, and barring a couple of errors she jumped and galloped them senseless. Every inch a chasing type, she'll go up a fair whack for this but is another that could make hay next winter in decent company.

Bbold looks like a good ground horse and his form backs up that view, yet he jumped and travelled nicely on this chase debut until the ground got to him after the second last. Essentially a stayer, he's one to keep the right side of this spring if/when the ground dries out.

French import Nanabelle was sent off a ridiculous 3/10 on her juvenile debut in this country and this rather small filly was very much on her toes beforehand. She had to lug a double penalty against half a dozen geldings and she was already beating a retreat on the home turn following a couple of blunders.

It was never going to be easy against the gritty Cawthorne Lad, while a couple of newcomers caught the eye in Flint Hill, who is quite strong and looked fit on his first start for Ruth Jefferson.

However, he had to give best to another Flat exile Yellow Tiger, who looked really well in his coat and has plenty of size for the game. What this form is actually worth is hard to gauge, although Cawthorne Lad appears to have run his usual race close up in third.

Low grade stuff, last-time-out winner Lady Master softened up by outsider Some Finish on the turn for home allowing the maiden Picknick Park to pick up the pieces. He's not the sort to follow up from a higher mark, while Event Of Sivola ran another race of promise without really being one to back next time, being somewhat keen and carrying his head high.

This looked a good opportunity for Smackwater Jack to regain the winning thread and he has strengthened up nicely in the past 12 months, but he was ko'd at the first. Come On Teddy was left with little to beat, I wasn't sure about him beforehand but he settled well enough and finished off his race well. As with so many from the yard, it's not certain whether he has the size to excel over larger obstacles.

The staying handicap chase promised to be a proper slog with the free-going Commodore setting the pace and so it proved, with Final Nudge the only one able to maintain the gallop with a vintage display that may well tee him up for the Scottish national. Not known for producing one fit off an absence, this was a good training performance from D Dennis. The rest looked fit enough but have simply lost the winning habit.

Just a fair bumper, six-figure purchase Across The Line almost a de facto favourite from the Skelton factory and a decent looking type with plenty of size. However, having been held up he could never land a glove on the eventual winner Animal, for whom there had been a morning tickle, and to be fair the son of Arcadio was one of the more likely ones amongst the other eight, quite nicely made and forward-looking.

The way he charged home was quite taking, while another to take out of it was Harry Joejoe, another R Fahey bumper runner, this one looking very green before and during the race before powering home. Maybe one for next time.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Doncaster - February 19

Good to be back racing again but not much of a punting card in all truth, the going looked pretty soft all round and they needed to stay well.

The opener was an EBF qualifier where the front two in the market looked pretty solid despite their penalties, neither making much appeal at the odds though in a race that looked quite deep on paddock inspection, being full of chasing types.

Both Sevarano and Igor should make chasers, the former being a nicer type, but he may just prefer better ground and it was pretty slow motion stuff as front running The Macon Lugnatic repelled all raiders.

Very much a chaser in the making, the winner was putting a poor hurdling debut behind him to return to his decent bumper form, and even better ground should suit him based on that.

Carlow Farmer was bandaged in front and looked quite light framed for a tall individual, however he was up there for a long way although he's one I'm a little wary of for now.

Igor surprisingly faded away despite a drop in trip, and Logan Rocks is going the wrong way. The rest were quite disappointing although we're at the time of year when a few of them might be wanting some better ground.

The next was a competitive handicap hurdle for stayers and it looked like the veteran Kansas City Chief was about to win again at the track before taking a hard left approaching the final hurdle.

Such was the camera angle that it wasn't clear as to why it happened, but it handed victory to Shah An Shah who looked really well beforehand and he's starting life from the right end of the handicap. It was also a consecutive winner for Shirocco, a sire of good National Hunt types.

They were strung out all over south Yorkshire behind, the only one able to go with the front two being Rath An Iuir, who seemingly took an age to get going before staying on to good effect.

Following a 10-week absence, it's possible the Rose Dobbin-trained youngster had a blow before catching a second wind and this decent looking horse is one to remain the right side of.

Allart had a penalty kick in another novices hurdle and duly obliged, a quite raw chase type in the making, followed home by Red Nika and Youracert, who look sure to prefer better ground.

Tumbling Dice was the only other to take the eye, being a decent type if backward looking, and he was very novicey at the obstacles before staying on with pluck. He should win handicaps in due course.

The veterans chase saw a number of not-so golden oldies come together without much recent form, but the lightly-raced Burtons Well appeared to be on good terms with himself in new headgear, snatching the race late on from the luckless Minellacelebration.

Two horses clearly not the force of old were Jonniesofa, who hasn't built on his delightful reappearance win, and I Just Know, one of the sadder sights to see this once-perfect jumper hesitate at a number of fences in the manner of one whose confidence is shot.

The market called the bumper spot on with the well backed Adrimel defying a penalty, all out to defeat chief rival The Edgar Wallace in a driving finish. The latter is probably the nicer type but the winner could be a little freakish.

Of the others, Slap Dash Harry looked okay but was very green beforehand, as was Regaby, while Roussimoff is enormous and is probably too backward to be of any interest in the short term.

Friday 7 February 2020

Doncaster - February 6

Drying ground bordering on good in parts, low sun making a mockery of the action later on the card, which was a very modest one to say the least.

Not much to take from the first, a 0-105 handicap chase with few potential improvers, as you would expect it was Twister's Imperial Nemesis that was the only one to take from the paddock, surely he has better in him and he came out of the pack to chase home Minella Examiner, who was long gone.

Classic D Cook, able to set his own pace on the lead jumping well, trading at odds on before jumping the fourth last and there was no hint of the fall that scuppered his last run at Wetherby.

He was impressive but won't have things as easy in the future, and a rise may scupper him next time as this really was low grade stuff.

Some decent types for the juvenile but they were well spaced out down the stretch, Zoffee making the most of his experience to clear right away from Isolate, who was fit on his first start and should be winning before too long.

Third placed Rikoboy does carry his head a little high and may be one to be wary of, while Kangaroo Valley came in for support but he ran a similar race to the one at Catterick last time, looking moody and never travelling.

Seven went to post for another handicap chase and the better ground seemed to suit Mr McGo, who was the one I couldn't have on my mind after several tame finishing efforts.

In another race that completely came apart, he was able to overcome a few dodgy leaps to beat an out of form Cave Top, with none of the potential 'closers' ever looking likely to get involved. This is dire form, the early favourite Well Smitten beaten a mile out.

The Class 3 handicap hurdle for stayers wasn't a bad sort of race and featured a few likely to do well in future, notably Manning Estate who had come in for a little support and has plenty of size and scope.

He'd been pretty consistent over timber at a fair level last season and was one of just a few with scope to improve quite considerably, and he did just that giving the impression there's even more to come on this better ground.

Vodka All The Way was being stoked along a fair way out but plugged on in the manner of one with abundant stamina, although stablemate Merry Milan only made late gains and is becoming disappointing.

Brillare Momento looked in need of the run but was still pretty poor, while Star Of Rory isn't very big and quite modest looking.

The last three hurdles races had all hurdles in the home straight omitted, effectively doing for the unfortunate Glory And Fortune in the next, who hasn't had the rub of the green now in his last three outings.

Stopped in his run at Haydock and then caught out by a very steady pace at Cheltenham, this looked a good opportunity despite the presence of a Henderson Flat exile, but while jockey S Sheppard surely did the right thing by setting out to make all, he fell asleep at the wheel in the second half of the race, seemingly unwilling to wind the pace up.

That simply played into the hands of Buzz, who looks far from straight forward, but with an easy target to aim at always looked like outpacing his more stoutly bred opponent.

A fine looking horse, there is a decent race in Glory Of Fortune this spring providing he gets a decent pace to shoot at.

South Seas was one of the smaller ones and didn't get home, beaten for third by a fair looking type in Kannapolis, an ex-Flat horse that would have been kept for this sort of surface. There were some fair handicapping sorts in behind and the race should be followed.

The mares handicap was a nightmare, winner Getaway Mag one of the smaller ones, beating Precious Leader who isn't a bad sort and benefited from this stiffer test after finding a slow-run 2m against her last time.

There were some dismal efforts in behind although Miss Gemstone looked one to bear in mind at some stage in the future, and she wouldn't have been favoured by the absence of things to jump.

The finale was an horrendous affair, with just Out On The Tear showing any sort of reliability and form heading into the race. The only question mark was whether a couple of tough races in the Uttoxeter mire had left its mark, and can be only reason behind the market weakness.

Well, he dispelled those doubts with another gutsy effort, yet another feather in the cap of trainer S Allwood, this horse continuing to progress after looking a bit of a tearaway earlier in his career. He was well named.

Saturday 1 February 2020

Wetherby - February 1

A very strong wind behind them down the home straight, drying the ground making it quite holding and the sort to provide excuses for some.

A decent looking fillies' novice opened proceedings and it saw Emmas Joy bolt up under a very positive ride with stamina assured, never seeing another rival. She's not that big but is handy enough although how far she goes I'm not sure.

Full Of Surprises was a bit disappointing considering the nature of her Catterick win, but that may not have been a great race and she looked a bit unfurnished beforehand.

Easter Gold did not get involved in the early pace burn-up and stayed on well for second..she's one to follow over longer distances and is quite rangy so should continue to pay her way.

The huge disappointment of the race was Who What When, a really likeable filly with plenty of size and scope, but she was beaten by the home turn and this was not her running. She has good form on soft but did win on good ground and maybe she's worth another chance on sounder terrain.

Set In Stone is now eligible for a mark and is a type to improve for some spring sunshine and drier ground, not quite seeing it out up the straight on this occasion.

Nuts Well was the proverbial good thing when he sluiced up here two starts back but arrived here 16lb higher after following up at Musselburgh.

A bonny sort, they lost him a little physically last winter and he never came right, but he's holding condition better this time around and proved better than ever to land the hat-trick in a tricky looking handicap chase.

He didn't look the best handicapped going into it - that honour fell to Niven, but he's becoming a bit of a cliff horse and failed to see it out after being hassled all the way on the front end by the returning Bollin Ace.

A sturdy old cork, Bollin was predictably burly in the prelims but to his credit plugged on for third and he looks to have retained his ability after a long time away, jumping notably fluently.

The Dubai Way looked dry in his coat and hasn't backed up his victory here before Christmas, while Kapgarry looked overbet and didn't make much appeal, lacking a little scope for fences.

Winter Escape attracted support and looked the part, but checked out very quickly as if amiss, although he could want much better ground.

Kalooki took the three-runner novice hurdle as he liked, a nice robust chasing type he'll do well for another summer to strengthen up and could be quite good.

The Towton Novices Chase looked a cracker without attracting any star names, and you could have made a decent case for the front four in the market, Chapel Stile not looking to have the size to compete at this level.

Ardlethen looked buzzed up by the application of blinkers but was still found wanting, with Boldmere and Newtide looking set to dominate the finish.

The former caught the eye in the paddock at Doncaster last time out and again he looked really well made and athletic, a little weak in front which another summer behind him will sort.

However, he took a nasty tumble at the last following mixed signals from 'Young' James Bowen, and it left the big, strong Newtide to defy idleness and pick up the prize.

A type to keep improving with age, Newtide is one for regional nationals in years to come, looking as though he'll gallop all day.

I rarely bet in mid-range handicap hurdles owing to a desperate strike-rate in such races but such a policy allowed one to get away when good old Secrete Stream rolled back the years to win the next on the nod.

A burly type, who has done us plenty of favours down the years, he looked on fantastic terms with himself and was ready to go in an open race in which few came in with solid credentials, well-backed jolly Antunes having pulled up last time out (in much higher grade tbf).

Bhutan looked super-fit but surely got to the front far too soon and was spent at the final flight. As I say this wasn't the strongest race for the grade and there wouldn't be many you'd want to be with next time.

Foxhunters champion Hazel Hill looked in good form prior to his 'match' with Minella Rocco, a really good looking individual in very good shape.

Opinions will differ on the reasons for the outcome but it could just be that 'Rocco' was simply the best horse on the day, taken wide in search of the unpoached ground before winging the last.

Having seen Ask The Honey Bee win twice now it looked a fine piece of placing from the bumper expert F O'Brien with the likeable jolly only carrying a 10lb 'double' penalty with the excellent Liam Harrison taking seven off.

A very forward, handy individual, he was well positioned on the front end and there was no sign of him getting outpaced like on his two previous starts, simply galloping them into the ground. Sadly, the predicted market drift never materialised.

N Mulholland, owner/trainer of runner-up Solwara One, should find it easier to find a buyer as the likeable relative of Turpin Green shaped with a good deal of promise, and he has the make and shape of a decent type.

Midnight River stayed on nicely for third after looking a keen sort in the prelims, and he'll most likely come on for the outing, as will the staying chase prospect Tupelo Mississippi, who wouldn't have been suited by the steady fractions. He should have a future over fences.

Disappointment of the race was the well-backed Rattle Owl, but he isn't very big and looks one for the level.