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.