And I thought January was bad; February's turning out to be even worse. Mind you, the weather isn't helping with all the non-runners it's causing. So today, we're left with a couple of hurdle races largely filled with virtual novices, and with nary a chase in sight with enough runners I even had to turn to the AW to find another race!
Newbury 13.50 Cl 2 Hcap Hurdle 125 (145) 24f sf – 8 Run
Last year – 125 (139 sf – 8 ran
Tobefair 5/2 F 7-11-7 (134) by 1.5l from Morello Royale 14/1 7-11-8 (135)
Barters Hill 8-11-9 (142)
One of the leading staying novices in the ‘15/’16 season, finishing 4/19 in the Spa Novices at the Festival; was bowling along in front on chase debut at Cheltenham in the November when going amiss and hasn’t been seen since; this not the hardest of tests if he has retained any of his ability.
Plus: class (W); going (W); distance (W); course (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); down 8lbs; down in class;
Minus: 456-day break; 695 days since last form run;
Verdict: (50) fitness will be a key, as will how much ability he retains, but hard not to see him as a contender.
King Uther 8-10-4 (123)
25 Jun Cl 3 Hcap Hdl (97 u) 26f hv Warw (135) 15/2 2.75l 1/9 off 114
Pulled hard, led, mistakes, headed after mistake 8th, hard ridden and raced awkwardly between last two, blundered last and looked vulnerable, pulled out extra to forge clear flat
Visor has helped the last twice, although it has also led to jumping errors; nevertheless, forged clear in a career best for a comfortable win at Warwick last month, for which he’s been raised 9lbs; should be more to come though and while he drops back in trip should have no problem with the ground.
Plus: going (F); distance (F); trainer (14d); form run lto (16 days); career best lto;
Minus: class (?); course (?); up 9lbs; up in class; drop in trip;
Verdict: (43) improving if he can get his jumping sorted and a contender.
Bastien 7-11-4 (137)
Beaten but a staying-on 3rd when coming down at the last at Warwick on Boxing Day; previously had been a comfortable winner of a Cl 3 HHd at Towcester at the end of November; first attempt at beyond 22f today, so that’s a question, plus has to show he can do it at this level.
Plus: going (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); recent outing (46 days);
Minus: class; distance (?); course (?); up 2lbs;
Verdict: (30) obviously has talent, but definitely a contender with questions.
Lough Derg Farmer 6-10-13 (132)
Efforts last season suggested he may make a promising staying hurdler in time, but switched to chasing for his return in November and dropped further back with each fence until eventually PU; with that career on hold at present now returns to hurdles; however, this further than he’s tried before and has new cheek-pieces fitted for his HHd debut.
Plus: going (F); distance (F); trainer (14d); trainer (C);
Minus: class (?); course (?); 300 days since form run; up in trip; up 2 classes;
Verdict: (25) interesting returned to hurdles, but not the strongest contender perhaps.
The only question here is how much ability Barters Hill has retained, for if he’s anything like fit he should see this field off. Of the others, King Uther looks the most likely with possibly Bastien and Lough Derg Farmer chasing then home.
Newbury 15.35 Gr 3 Hcap Hurdle 883 (148) 16.5f sf – 24 Run
Last year – 883 (146) sf 16 ran
Ballyandy 3/1 F 6-11-1 (135) by 0.75l from Movewiththetimes 6/1 6-11-2 (136)
William H Bonney 15/2 6-11-3 (137) was 31.36l 11th
Jenkins 6-11-12 (148)
20 Jan Gr 3 Hcap Hdl (285 u) 19.5f sf Ascot (147) 5/1 2.25l 1/13 off 143
Took keen hold, with leaders, led 7th and going strongly, hard pressed from 2 out, ridden and stayed on well from last
Is 2/2 since blinkers were fitted at Kempton in mid-January, going on to take a HHd at this level under today’s rider over 19.5f at Ascot 3 weeks ago in a career best; carries a 5lbs penalty for that and while his rider claims 3lbs, the only winner to have carried more than 11-7 to victory was the great Persian War back in 1968 when I was still living in the UK!
Plus: class (W); going (W); distance (W); course (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (21 days); career best lto;
Minus: 5lbs penalty; drop back in trip; physical weight (11-9);
Verdict: (53) conditions should suit, but trying to defy 43/1 odds and probably not a contender for the win.
Kayf Grace 8-11-4 (140)
27 Dec Cl 3 Hcap Hdl (125 u) 16f sf Kemp (137) 11/4 F 1.5l 1/10 off 132
Took keen hold early, held up, progress 3 out, led before 2 out but soon joined, pushed along to assert last 100yds, readily
Useful mare who won a Gr 2 bumper at Aintree in April 2016 and was a comfortable winner of her hurdle debut at Bangor in December; not seen then until spoiling her chances by being initially over-keen at Ascot in November; however, bounced back by readily taking her HHd debut at the Kempton Christmas meeting with a career best performance; very lightly raced for her age, but then again only 3 of the 44 winners have been aged over 7yo, the last the Henderson Geos as the only 9yo winner in 204.
Plus: going (W); distance (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (45 days); career best lto;
Minus: class (?); course (?); up 8lbs; up 2 classes; age;
Verdict: (51) obviously going the right way, but another bucking the trends and thus a questionable contender.
Kalashnikov 5-11-5 (141)
06 Jan Gr 1 Nov Hdl (285 u) 16f hv Sand (146) 2/1 4l 2/5 off 139
Well in touch, urged along soon after 3 out, responded to pressure to chase winner before last, kept on flat but no impression
Won a bumper on his debut at Wetherby in March and won a pair of NHd at Wetherby and Doncaster in November/ December on his return this term; responded to the big jump in class by producing a career best when runner-up to Summerville Boy in the Gr 1 Tolworth at Sandown last month; has been raised 2lbs for that for a stiff opening hcap mark, but could well have more to come.
Plus: class (F+); going (W); distance (W); trainer (14d); form run lto (35 days); career best lto; drop in grade;
Minus: course (?); trainer (C?); up 2lbs;
Verdict: (45) stiff opening hcap mark, but not impossible and would likely be a shorter price if from one of the major stables, so a possible contender.
Irish Roe 7-10-12 (134)
27 Jan Gr 2 Hd (285 u) 16.5f sf Donc (152) 5/1 0.75l 2/6 off 134
In touch, chased clear leader after 4 out, pushed along and closer 2 out, ridden to challenge strongly just after last, kept on well but always just held
Useful bumper from last season, although her limitations in that field exposed at Cheltenham and Aintree last spring; put to hurdles in May and after a couple of NHd successes has tried her luck in HHd since November and after reversing an initial defeat to William Of Orange at Doncaster in early December, following up by taking a Cl 2 over C&D there a fortnight later; stepped well up in class at Doncaster last month and produced a career best to be beaten less than a 1l by the 18lbs higher rated Maria’s Benefit; gets in here off the same mark (11lbs below her future mark) and must have a chance if handling the hustle and bustle of a bigger field.
Plus: class (F+); going (W); distance (W); form run lto (14 days); career best lto; drop in grade;
Minus: course (?); trainer (C?);
Verdict: (42) little more exposed than some, but improving and a contender if transferring her latest form to a big field handicap.
Lalor 6-11-1 (137)
15 Dec Cl 3 Nov Hdl (78 s) 17f sf Chelt (142) 2/1 F 2l 2/8 off 133
held up, headway after 3 out, challenged going well after next, ridden to lead very briefly before last, kept on with every chance until no extra final 150yds
Won a Gr 3 bumper at Aintree in April and has made the frame in each of his initial 3 hurdle starts this term improving each time, notably having subsequent Tolworth winner Summerville Boy behind him when last seen at Cheltenham in mid-December; has since had a wind op, so improvement might well be expected on his first run back.
Plus: going (Wb); distance (F); form run lto (57 days); career best lto;
Minus: class (?); course (?); trainer (C?); up 4lbs; up 2 classes;
Verdict: (35) yet to win over hurdles, but breathing op could make him a contender.
The sort of race I love to hate with a host of unexposed improving horses vying for a big prize. At least there are 44 back editions to give us a clue or two, of which 32 have been won by a 5yo or 6yo, 9 by a 7yo and just 3 by older horses. Moreover, if we take out Persian War in 1966, nothing has carried more than 11-7 to victory. So while I do like the claims of Jenkins and Kayf Grace, I’m afraid they’ve got to disappear off my shortlist and join such well-fancied runners as Bleu Et Rouse, Verdana Blue and Knocknanuss on the discards pile. From the three remaining on my list, I’m going to take a chance on Kalashnikov carrying the weight and holding off Irish Roe with perhaps Lalor denying Jenkins a chance to make the frame.
Lingfield 14.55 Cl 2 Hcap 118 (89) 9f AW – 11 Run (9 at best)
Last year – 118 (100) 6 ran
My Target 11/8 F 6-9-4 (97) Dr 2 by 1.25 from Intransigent 5/1 8-8-11 (93) Dr 4
My Target 7-9-6 (98) Dr 8
12 Jan Cl 3 Stks (74 d) 7f AW Nwcs (105) 11/2 2 3/4 off 105
Tracked leader, every chance briefly over 2f out, soon chasing winner, one pace and lost second inside final furlong
Completed a 4-timer over C&D last winter, the latest in March off 102; hasn’t hit that form this time round, although has been struggling off higher marks; last time’s race at Newcastle was too short and a return to an 8f hcap at Lingfield suits, especially off only 1lb higher than when taking last year’s renewal.
Plus: class (W); distance (W); course (W); trainer (C); recent outing (29 days); down 7lbs;
Minus: no form run since last March; high draw;
Verdict: (38) race conditions suit and a contender if overcoming his high draw.
Poet’s Society 4-8-11 (89) Dr 2
25 Jan Cl 4 Hcap (57 d) 7f AW Chelm (85) 11/4 F 0.5l 1/6 off 85
With leader, ridden and every chance over 1f out, sustained challenge under pressure to lead towards finish, ridden out
Gelded at the end of the turf season and has shown improvement upped in trip since returning to the AW in January culminating in a win over 7f at Chelmsford towards month end; raised 4lbs for that and is up in both class and distance today, but not unlikely further improvement to come.
Plus: class (F); distance (W); course (F); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (16 days);
Minus: up 2 classes; up 4lbs; up in trip;
Verdict: (38) still could have more to show at around this trip and a contender.
Chevallier 6-8-13 (91) Dr 7
27 Jan Cl 3 Hcap (72 d) 8f AW Ling (95) 16/1 0.05l 1/12 off 88
Tracked leading pair, effort to challenge on inner over 1f out, driven to lead inside final furlong, kept on and just held on
Recorded back-to-back wins here last January/February and having repeated his January leg now looks to rise in class to gain a February win this year; however, has never won at this level before so improvement needed to record first win off a mark in the 90s,
Plus: class (F); distance (W); course (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (14 days);
Minus: up 3lbs; up in class;
Verdict: (35) back to form, but further improvement required if he’s to win again and not the strongest contender perhaps.
The Warrior 6-8-11 (89)
14 Oct Cl 2 Hcap (118 u) 8f AW Kemp (102) 7/1 0.1l 2/13 off 88
Dwelt, held up in 9th, coaxed along and good progress over 1f out, closed to take 2nd last 50yds and tried to challenge, fended off last strides
Not the greatest win record on turf or AW, and not run since career best effort at Kempton last October; however, has often run better there than at Lingfield and would require another career best to go close today off 1lb higher mark.
Plus: class (F); distance (W); course (F); trainer (C); form run lto; career best lto;
Minus: up 1lb; 119-day break;
Verdict: (35) can go well fresh, but an unlikely contender for the win today.
First look at the AW this year for me, and a reminder why I normally give it a miss. Two N/R already, but in case the remainder get away I’d go for last year’s winner My Target to edge Poet’s Society and Chevallier perhaps.
Any comments on today's racing. Please don't just put in selections ... please add some reason why you think a runner will win
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