Sunday 30 October 2022

Wetherby October 29

They weren’t kicking much up on day one of the Charlie Hall meeting and they went pretty steady in most of the races, so a lot of it may be untrustworthy form as we head into the most competitive period of the season.

I mentioned Pileup after his opening run at Hexham and he showed a bit more here having tightened up a fair amount in three weeks, this was a very different affair to that previous race. However, while the steady gallop allowed him to hold a position it wouldn’t have suited him entirely, as he was outpaced when the race began in earnest before staying on again at the death.

This sort of trip will suit for now and he’ll surely handle softer, so he’s one to stay with although please keep in mind this is modest stuff and he’s no world beater. Piaff Bubbles was again warm in the market but once more he failed to impress beforehand, he’s just leggy and unfurnished and needs more time. At some point, probably when his legion of fans have moved on, he’ll come into his own.

I was most impressed with the stature of Loughderg Rocco in the three runner-up novice chase and a glance my notes on him from some time ago tell me that he’s ‘the type to come alive over fences’. He trounced Tim Pat in an Irish Point and that one is now rated 127, so I'm pretty certain this effort was no fluke - what’s more he’ll come on plenty for it. It’ll be really interesting how high they aim with him as while he’ll be a gimme wherever he goes next, and I’d venture to suggest he’s graded class when the emphasis is on stamina.

One of the highlights of the autumn has been the terrific form of the Nicky Richards stable following a quiet enough couple of years by his standards. Parisencore was well backed despite looking a shade burly and looks the type to keep one step ahead of the assessor for now. 

Chief market rival Name In Lights is wasting time until sent over fences and it’s to be hoped that is now the route they will take with him. He was keen enough here and he takes too much time over the timbers -he has the make and shape of a horse much better than his current mark. Osprey Call isn’t a chaser on looks and he will come on for what looked like a sighter. He’s not been campaigned very well to date – hopefully his decent handler can put that right this winter.

There seems to be a fixation with Coconut Splash, who is proving one of the most expensive horses to follow in this sphere. Again he was made favourite to land a decent prize but simply does not pick up off the bridle and again had to settle for minors. There didn’t appear to be any fitness issue here and he’s not one to be making excuses for. 

It was great to see the burgeoning Mark Walford yard land a big pot with the hugely progressive Into Overdive, who has the size and scope to keep improving this winter. Walford’s horses have been shaping nicely despite looking burly in recent weeks but this one looked tuned to the minute for his biggest assignment yet and he passed with flying colours despite giving backers a huge scare at the last.

He won this with any amount in hand and while most of the opposition looked handicapped to the hilt it’s hard not to think he’ll be competitive in better races, especially over 3m.

The novices hurdle may not amount to a great deal form-wise as they looked green enough behind the front pair, Ukantango doing enough to defy a penalty with an assist from Royal Mogul, who looks a shirker. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I felt he put the brakes on after the final flight although he may have just got tired. Don Hollow, who wore him down here in a bumper, has plenty of ability but it might take another run or two to get him where he should be, looking very novicey throughout.

Saturday 29 October 2022

Aintree October 23

Plenty of rain around overnight and in the morning but it looks as though they kept the ground as good to soft, good in places. As is often the case here it took some getting and although there were plenty of close finishes they were well strung out in behind. Fitness was the order of the day and those looking in need of a run or two were largely found wanting.

My first thought after the first was that Hexham scorer Tiger Jet should be given another chance after being sent on an awful long way out, in contrast to a fortnight ago when H Brooke seemed at pains to hang on to him as long as possible. This steady gallop did the horse few favours but it still seemed an impertinent move and one that failed spectacularly. It was an odd race with countless beaten along way out.

I don’t really do veterans races but one to take from today’s may be Le Patriote, who looked to be carrying plenty of timber on his return from an enforced absence. He popped away and travelled nicely before fading from the second last – he was no certainty to stay and he failed to get home, so bear him in mind over shorter next time.

The big race saw some really nice horses come together – paddock honours going to Do Your Job with eventual winner Riders Onthe Storm not far behind. The latter looked on good terms with himself and great in his coat – odds of 16/1 were an insult to his ability and connections had been vocal enough about his chances provided the rain got into the ground.

Soldier Of Destiny was popular but looked a bit out of place in this grade, and he’ll need his sights lowering. I don’t think it suited this enthusiastic mover being held onto and more forceful tactics should see him return to form. Stablemate Ga Law did not look at all wound up for this – he’s not filled out greatly and like his sibling may always be a little fragile... if they get him to the Paddy Power at Cheltenham in three weeks’ he could go well.

The most interesting formline of the day may come from the handicap hurdle won by Peking Rose with the right horses pulling clear. The winner and second, McCain’s A Different Kind, looked ready to roll while appealing as types to continue to pay their way. The nicest of the bunch came home next, Petit Tonnerre and Onemorefortheroad quite imposing chase types – particularly the former. He looked quite burly and defied market weakness to prove himself an interesting project for connections. Many will say the latter didn’t stay but he got there soon enough and he’s worth another crack at the trip as he’ll surely come on for the run. Bridge North is another to bear in mind – he’ll rate higher than this and he’d be interesting if sent over fences next.

The maiden hurdle is worth mentioning for the fact that the market principals all looked big chasing types in need of the run, not least the favourite Ginny’s Destiny who looked novicey at times in what turned into a messy race. Eventual winner Mahons Glory was the fittest in the line-up and I’d expect a very different result if this was run in a few months’ time. In that sense you’d have to give credit to Heezer Geezer who went down fighting and will benefit enormously from it.

Kinondo Kweto continues to defy the handicapper in a ‘low sun’ effected novices handicap, the interesting one being Your Own Story who looks an instinctive jumper and one to bear in mind next season when he gains strength and fills out. I’d expect him to do well this term, but will really benefit from time and I’m sure he’ll be sensibly handled.

The mares bumper wasn’t a great renewal – Bombay Sapphire looking fantastic in her coat as you’d expect emanating from Seven Barrows, I thought she was fit enough but she ran as though it was badly needed and the market drift told all. Money came for Harry Fry’s Credrojava – a trainer who targets this race – and she looked well forward for her stable debut and got the job done. It was a remarkable run though from runner-up Ruby Island who is most definitely the one to take from the race, as with many of her yard’s horses at present she looked in need of the run and not great in her coat, which has yet to be clipped out. To run so well under a penalty bodes well for her career over jumps, which she has the size for.

Sunday 9 October 2022

Hexham October 8


A frustrating day on many fronts primarily IN MY OPINION because the jockeys saw 'soft' in the going description and decided to hack round in most of the races, which turned into 'sprints' (relatively speaking, obvs) and thus making for dubious results.

The notable exception was Tristan Durrell who, with owners present, had clearly been instructed to make sure his partner She's A Saint look the business, setting solid fractions from the start and seemingly maintaining them to the line, and beyond.

The compact five-year-old hadn't cost a great deal following her Irish Point success but may be quite a capable sort. Good luck putting a mark on this - my guess would be 125 and that's probably a bit high.

Pileup plugged on for third, a nice type for low grade handicaps and connections will be delighted with this as he can't be rated much more than 100 and he's a better horse than that having not looked fit here.

Graystown knows this place better anyone and was bidding for a hat-trick of wins in this particular race so it was surprising that regular partner S Coltherd wasn't more aggressive on a horse that stays much further. They pottered round and the well-backed Rocco Storm ponced to victory. An inauspicious start.

Lucinda Russell always starts a few off at this meeting and you can be certain they were 95 percent ready to roll. They were good enough if forward enough and that proved the case for Green Vault, who isn't the biggest and was far from foot perfect.

He'll pay his way but may reach his ceiling quite quickly over the larger obstacles. It proved a well judged ride from D Fox although Coltherd set a decent enough pace here on the keen going Velasco who isn't the most straightforward.

Robin Des Fox is a big unit and wants a proper track with decent fences but I have my reservations about him for all that he needed the run quite badly.

Charlie Longsdon sent up a couple of live ones but they ran stinkers despite being strong in the market. Both Lyrical Genius and Gaelic Park were 100 percent fit but couldn't get out their own way. You could make excuses for the former who was on the softest ground he'd faced, may not have taken to the track or relished the slow gallop, but with tongue-tie and cheekpieces already enlisted I'd be giving him a wide berth for the foreseeable.

Gaelic Park was easy to fancy on paper, registering decent figures in his Point and bumpers, yet physically he made no appeal whatsoever, being close coupled and chunky in the middle, narrow at either end. I can't see any reason to follow him either after seeing that.

Similar comments apply to Irish raider Finnthemagician, who came in very late and looked quirky to say the least - you can see why the BFG has already called for some headgear. 

Paddy The Horse typically ran to form and proved just good enough to fend off Skelton's Snipe, who probably surprised a few people with this promising effort despite looking rather light framed. 

Trainer watch

George Bewley can have long spells in the wilderness but when they're right they're worth following and Breaking The Ice followed up the success of Paddy The Horse to make it four wins in 10 days. There may be a couple more to come in the weeks ahead and both winners looked straight enough on their return, which is not always the case with this yard.

Sam England is a trainer of note in these parts but the winter horses tend to need a run or three at this time of year and punters were way off beam regarding Croagh Patrick, who will be back paying his way once he's worked off the summer excess.

Sam had a runner in the opener too, a Skelton cast-off starting out on a basement mark. He's every inch a staying chaser and while probably not straight forward, I'd bet short odds that he'll be operating from a higher mark later this season.

There was only one horse anywhere near full fitness in the closing bumper and thus Merrjig was a good bet for maverick Newmarket handler John Berry. Why on earth W Kennedy didn't take the race by the fluff of the scroat at some stage will undoubtedly remain one of life's great mysteries. I'd prefer to die knowing, William.

I'll tell anyone unfortunate enough to be in earshot that unfit horses don't win races. Well, I reckon maybe it happens one in every 500 and it happened today. Well done if you backed the 10/1 shot Rolling River.  

Thursday 6 October 2022

Sedgefield October 5

I wouldn't go as far as to say it was 'good to be back' at the Co Durham venue as it's a notorious graveyard for this particular railway shunter.

To be asked at the gate if I was a 'concession' punter - implying I look 66 despite not yet turning 50 - hardly improved the mood. 'It's hard to tell how old people are these days', apparently.

There were concessions all round in the first as Jimmy Moffatt's Yukon caused a turn-up, not that the owners standing right behind me minded too much. I've booked in to see the hearing consultant tomorrow.

Summer Moon ran poorly on his debut for Dr Newland and while I'm aware he had a winner the other day it certainly didn't cross my mind to take on the Ellison jolly with his ex-Flat stayer. Enthused was very fit but he lacks scope to be much good at this game.

Hajey ran a blinder despite looking burly, although the Waggott likes to keep plenty of condition on them. Heritier De Sivola might be one to keep an eye on at a lower level, needing this outing.

Atomic Angel made her debut over fences in the staying chase but she lacks the size and while jumping nimbly in the main I'd expect her to come up short in this discipline.

Ruth Jefferson went to £110k to secure Point winner Thermusa and this good walker probably has a fair future after making a winning debut despite looking green and novicey. She'll come on for the run fitness-wise but it's far too early to say how good she might be.

There was plenty of cash flying around for Reve De Niamh in this, despite her only costing £1200 quid. It was a 'no contest', but she too looked novicey and the cash might be recouped at some later date.

The mare's trainer Ian Jardine didn't go home empty hearted though, his well backed Half Shot landing the finale with plenty to spare. 

An okay looker, he wore a red hood to the start as he's had a history of being difficult and he could be the sort to win again if they can channel the ability.

Hidden Commander looked really well and wasn't notably unfit but probably wouldn't have won even without a mistake two out, while Creative Control went into some notebooks but not this one.

I got him wrong last year when he sweated profusely prior to winning at Doncaster, and he looks a fairly honest sort. The fact Hughes took him wide throughout (as he had in an earlier chase) suggested today wasn't the day and he'll probably pick up a race at somewhere like Musselburgh.

He's only medium sized and compact though, so to my mind he's not one to get too excited about over fences and I'd be a little surprised if he ever rated much higher than 120. He'll be a better hurdler.

Trainer notes

Sam Allwood is one of my favourite young trainers, probably because I was lucky enough to latch on to his multiple winners Sheneededtherun and Out On The Tear earlier than most.  

He seems to have a knack of keeping them sweet for long periods and he's now got Bempton Cliffs to win three of his last four races over fences.

I don't like backing Flat breds in this sphere but this one seems to love the game, he's not the most robust but has size and scope. He's uses that Flat speed to get on the lead early and he showed plenty of stamina and determination to beat the in-form Tico Times.

He's probably a bit of a one-trick pony as he clearly loves to have it his own way in front, but Allwood can be relied upon to keep him fresh and there should be more to come.