Musselburgh Race Preview, 01/01/2021

New Year’s Day

Precautionary Inspection 8:00

Musselburgh 1.20
Betway Handicap Hurdle Class 3 0-140
2m3f171y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) – 9 runners

Navajo Pass
Yet to add to his two sucesses as a juvenile but posted useful form when 5th to Summerville Boy in a conditions hurdle over 2m4f at Aintree in November, led approaching 3 out (cross hurdle), travelled comfortably home turn, ridden into 2 out, led a length there, hard ridden, put under pressure and readily headed approaching last, went from 1st to 5th in 100 yards, weakened quickly run-in, beaten 13 lengths; was about 10 lbs shy of that in handicap hurdle over 2m4f at Aintree last time, blundered 7th, niggled along 8th, chased leader turning out of back straight, moved comfortably 3 out (cross hurdle), niggled along off home turn, soon more firmly pushed, faded before blundered 2 out, hard driven and no impression between last 2, beaten 19 lengths into 7th behind Kateson. They make a record over 2m4f so far of two double-digit defeats from two tries and, staying over the trip, not expected to better that, although this is theoretically a drop in grade – might not get the lead to himself against Elf De Re
Second win of last season when taking the Scottish County Hurdle here over 1m7f in February, pushed along for a few strides after 4th, towards rear when reminder after 5th, pushed along after 6th, struggling with 6 lengths to find turning out of back straight, closed on leading group approaching home turn, hard ridden and stayed on approaching 3 out, tracked leaders under a ride approaching 2 out, 1st 3 pulled clear, challenged leader between last 2, led last, driven out, stayed on well run-in, asserted final 100 yards, was closed on last strides, beat Ashington half a length having been taken off his feet throughout. Travelled better on reappearance but probably outclassed and/or needed the run at Newbury on reappearance in November, chased leader, mistake 5th, tracked leaders turning out of back straight, niggled along home turn, in close to 3 out, ridden along, stayed on and took 2nd 2 out, put under pressure, couldn’t go with Floressa when in close to last, faded into 5th under pressure run-in, weakened final 150 yards. His dam was placed over 2m4f and he ran as though it would suit him when he won at this track
I’m To Blame
Hurdles form to date lags his chase bests, last November at Carlisle over 2m4f staying on late and closing on Two For Gold in the last 100 yards, and on January 3rd at Musselburgh disputed lead 11th, jumped left 12th, niggled along and led before in close to 4 out, hard ridden from 3 out, stayed on in narrow lead, was challenged 2 out, hard driven between last 2, upsides when the better jump last, driven out, stayed on, didn’t assert, found enough last 150 yards. At the end just did the bare minimum: earlier in the race, hung badly left before and between the early fences, and jumped left occasionally, prior to beating Mahlervous half a length. Was 7 lengths 3rd to On The Blind Side in a jumpers’ bumper at Newcastle in February when last seen. Despite his jumping left in the chase here, his right-handed record is actually 121, both the wins at Musselburgh (the other on his second bumper start), and his chase form makes him well treated here over hurdles
Elf De Re
Only career win when taking a novice hurdle at Kelso in December 2019; best form over hurdles to date when stepped up to 2m6f151y and running Kiltealy Briggs to half a length at Kelso on January 12th, led, increased pace and ridden into 3 out, 1st 2 clear, niggled along approaching 2 out, was joined jumping, hard ridden, stayed on in narrow lead between last 2, lugged left a little approaching last but sustained effort, a head up last, hard driven, headed 150 yards out, no extra final strides. Not cracking it over fences on the evidence of two novice chase starts at Carlisle this season, in the latest on November 9th pressed on going to 9th, niggled along from 10th, mistake 11th, mistake and went left 12th, arguably moved best when ridden into 4 out, headed 3 out, put under pressure approaching 2 out, lost 2nd when mistake there, weakened and final mistake last, 5th to Remastered. Not that well treated but unexposed; might end up taking on Navajo Pass for the lead
Newtown Boy
Ran over the Summer and best effort when 5th to Native Fighter at Perth in August,  was 2 or 3 lengths down when mistake last, hard driven, no impression run-in, well held last 150 yards. Won last time out at Musselburgh on December 7th, tracked leaders turning out of back straight first circuit, mistake 8th and pushed along away from it, ridden into 9th, further ground turning out of back straight and chased leader 3 out, pushed along, effort and led 2 out, hard driven between last 2, pricked ears, a length up when went right last, driven out, stayed on well to pull clear last 200 yards, beat The Blame Game just over 4 lengths. Off a maximum mark now but should run well again; soft going in favour
Native Fighter
Following his hard-work-throughout win at Carlisle in October, was in a better race at Haydock in November and was ridden more prominently than expected behind War Lord, chased leader home turn, ridden along approaching 3 out, began to fade and put under pressure approaching 2 out, faded further under a drive between last 2, no more run-in. Was 7th on the all-weather at Newcastle over 2m when last seen on December 12th. Softening of the ground would be in his favour
Winner in France over 2m1f110y before joining Paul Nicholls, yet to win for current yard; best of two runs so far this season at Wincanton over 1m7f on December 3rd, held up and a little keen, raced wide, niggled along approaching 3 out, mistake there, pushed along after, stayed on approaching home turn, chased leader appraoching 2 out, mistake, 4 lengths to find approaching last, stayed on, 3 lengths down at most last, hung in behind winner early on run-in, hard driven, wandered, one pace, no extra last 150 yards – arguably didn’t put it in on the run-in when 2nd to River Bray. Both his other runs for Nicholls have been over 2m3f+ and he’s been beaten wide margins on both (2m3f is the maximum he should get on pedigree) and not for me over this trip
Skiddaw Valleys
Best so far when 2nd to Tight Call at Southwell in August, arguably could have won; midfield 8th, moved comfortably, shuffled back home turn (was widest of all), niggled along, more firmly pushed along approaching 2 out, some 7 lengths down jumping, put under pressure, strong effort to pass several approaching last, jumped it in 6 lengths 4th, continued to run on and took 2nd 150 yards out, nearest finish. Well below that form when tailed off behind Chapmanshype at Kelso in September next time, mistakes and hopeless turning out of the back straight, but a bit better over just 2m at Doncaster last time, hard ridden and going worst of the field some 6f out, dropped to rear and reminders, appeared to be tailing off when hampered 3 out, well back 2 out, ridden and stayed on from there, closed on those ahead and passed a couple of beaten ones after last, closing on 1st 3 at the line, 4th to Mick Maestro beaten just over 4 lengths. Tendency to hit a flat spot is worrying but he’s back over what seems to be his best trip nowadays – the soft ground might be a concern though
Miles on the clock on the Flat, best form last Summer arguably when winning at Ripon in August over 2m, slowly away; at the business end hung in behind rival 2f out, put under pressure, challenged wide 350 yards out, went right, led narrowly final furlong, asserted 150 yards out, ridden out from Dance To Paris. Nowhere near the mileage over hurdles, only four well-spaced runs (one win); best hurdles form when 3rd at Musselburgh on December 7th behind Newtown Boy, held up, went 3rd 3 out, niggled along, soon more firmly pushed, 2 lengths down 2 out, hard ridden, put under pressure between last 2, stayed on approaching last, mistake, driven, no more run-in, looked held 150 yards out, continued to lose ground, kept on last 100 yards. An okay run with his best work coming from approaching the end of the back straight to coming off the home turn and he could build on it

Shortlist: Sebastopol, Kaizer, Clearance

Musselburgh 1.55
Betway Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle Class 2
1m7f124y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) – 9 runners

Voix Du Reve
After blowing out in handicap hurdle at Aintree on first run for Iain Jardine – niggled along disputing lead home turn, soon more firmly pushed along, weakened under a ride approaching 2 out, mistake, dropped further away between last 2 and tailed off approaching last – posted an apparently up-to-scratch effort when 12 lengths 4th to Epatante in Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, chased leader after 2nd, seemed to travel comfortably home turn, mistake 3 out, shaken up, kept on, lost 2nd but still within 3 lengths approaching 2 out, not fluent there, hard ridden between last 2, outpaced approaching last. Was 6th to Manjaam on the all-weather at Newcastle on December 12th when last seen. Chance on what he appeared to do in the Fighting Fifth, but has found little in the past
Best hurdles form last season was over this c/d when 3rd to Sebastopol and Ashington in the Scottish County Hurdle, led 3 out, pushed along, stayed on, narrow advantage when not fluent 2 out, hard ridden, 1st 3 clear, was challenged approaching last, headed jumping, couldn’t find extra, stuck to task run-in till 1st 2 pulled clear last 100 yards. Returned to hurdles with a win at Ludlow on December 2nd, held up, a bit tight for room 1st and 2nd, good headway through field after, prominent 5th, tracked leaders 6th, chased leader approaching home turn, niggled along turning in, soon more firmly pushed, led 3 out, stayed on, mistake 2 out, hard driven between last 2, was 3 lengths up last, driven out, 1st 2 pulled clear, stayed on, was closed on last 150 yards but always holding on – it might have been a bit precarious if there’d been another furlong and a half, but beat Miss Heritage half a length. Proven on soft, good chance
Caius Marcius
As usual was at his best over the Summer, best effort good 2nd to Highly Prized at Southwell in July, pushed along turning out of back straight, hard driven home turn, outpaced under pressure from 2 out, lost ground and in 4th approaching last, kept on run-in, took well-held 2nd post, no chance with winner. Last time was at least a stone off his best behind Wild Max at Doncaster on December 12th, pushed along and outpaced after 5th, struggling approaching home turn, stayed on approaching 3 out where swerved faller, hard ridden approaching 2 out, little impression, left behind approaching last. Nothing’s changed though – all his wins have still been between March and October and not at this time of year, and also not on softer than good to soft
Swaffham Bulbeck
Best hurdles run when winning at Sedgefield on September 4th, made ground between horses and led turning out of back straight, travelled best of the field home turn, mistake 2 out, hard ridden, 1st 2 pulled clear, asserted and pulled clear approaching last, 4 lengths up last, pushed out, didn’t go any further clear and was closed on last 150 yards but always holding on from Golden Town (non-runner here). Tried fences last two starts with no success, last time at Musselburgh 3rd to Return Ticket, detached last when jumped left 8th, niggled along, pushed along and struggling turning out of back straight, well back 4 out, stayed on from 2 out, closed on the others approaching last, stayed on nicely and took 3rd after last, closed on 2nd last 150 yards but too much ground to make up. Could go well
Rosie And Millie*
Only the one win over hurdles so far but she’s improved this season, with best run 2nd at Ascot in November, was 4 lengths up 6th, moved largely comfortably approaching home turn, niggled along turning in, taken to stands’ side and firmly pushed along approaching 2 out, stayed on in front, not so far ahead and hard driven between last 2, had Buzz close on her approaching last, headed jumping, readily left behind, kept on, stuck to task run-in. Below form at Sandown last time, arguably moved best as led approaching 2 out, sent clear, 3 lengths up when in close to 2 out, hard ridden, readily headed between last 2, put under pressure, lost 2nd approaching last, dropped to 4th early on run-in, weakened under a ride, well back last 150 yards, 18 lengths 4th to Benson. Surely better than that result – sent for home much too early on that heavy going and weakening on the uphill finish – and good chance now round this easier track and slightly better ground
Golden Town
Blakeney Point
Useful Flat stayer posted his only win over hurdles to date at Bangor in July, hung left before mistake 6th, a length and a half up approaching home turn, niggled along turning in, pressed on in front approaching 2 out, in close, reminder and ridden along between last 2, hung left into far side rail, some 10 lengths ahead when in close to last, not hard ridden to beat Chestnut Pete. Best hurdles run since when 2nd at Catterick on November 20th, tracked leaders and briefly came under a push straightening, almost upsides and moved better when in close to 2 out, a little outpaced and put under pressure, lugged left but kept on approaching last, closed on leaders and every chance, disputed lead jumping, hard driven, changed legs, stayed on, driven and sustained effort till headed inside last 50 yards, faded very late and was closed on by the 3rd last stride, beaten just over a length by Against All Odds. Good record on soft on the Flat, but for me not well treated on his hurdles form to date
Races with a markedly high knee action. Won one from four in juvenile hurdles with Amanda Perrett last season with best form when chasing home Grand Roi (now with Gordon Elliott and won Grade 2 event at Limerick over Christmas) at Warwick last February, chased leader, a little keen, mistake 2nd, moved upsides leader 3rd, niggled away from 4th, flat-backed jump 5th (2 out), lugged right home turn, stayed on under a push from home turn till outpaced nearing last, well held extended run-in, ridden out and stayed on to take 2nd final 100 yards. Off till October and on what turned out to be his final run for Perrett won on the Flat at Chelmsford,  led after 5f, if anything steadied pace halfway, pressed on 4f out, pushed along 3f out, stayed on, led 2 lengths 2f out, hard driven and wandered right 300 yards out, jockey switched whip to right hand, driven out final furlong and ran straighter, stayed on well. A 37,000-guinea purchase at the Tattersalls Horses In Training Sale in October and now with Tim Vaughan, unexposed and has a chance here
Progressing and completed a hattrick over this c/d (second course win) last time on November 23rd, held up rear, headway and just about midfield 3rd, niggled along from 4th, headway 5th, mistake 6th, a bit to do under a push turning out of back straight, stayed on and was closing on leaders when mistake 3 out, put under pressure, hampered by faller 2 out, left chasing leader, ridden and made ground to lead approaching last, lugged right, led half a length jumping, ridden out, stayed on well to draw clear, decisive in the end. It could be that at least one of the fallers at the second last would have finished in front of this one, but more to the point as he leaps from Class 4 to Class 2 company (the first of his three wins was off a mark of only 96 in a Class 5 at Perth), the way I read his form he’s got over a stone to find – additionally all his runs to date on soft going have been double-digit defeats
Only win to date on his debut bumper at Ascot in November 2018. His two best runs to date over hurdles have been on his last two runs, firstly at Cheltenham in November, made ground going to 3 out, niggled along approaching 2 out, not fluent and hard ridden, a bit to do under a ride home turn, some 5 lengths down approaching last, kept on though made little impression before mistake last, looked held 200 yards out, hard driven, picked up last 150 yards, closed on those ahead, just failed to get 4th post, nearest finish, 5th to Lively Citizen. A bit below that at Doncaster last time, tracked leaders, a little keen, in close to 2nd, moved largely comfortably approaching home turn, a length down 3 out, pushed along and chased leader after, wandered going to 2 out, upsides jumping, hard driven, stayed on till no extra approaching last, no more run-in under a ride and dropped to 4th 150 yards out, faded late behind Nightboattoclyro. Now tried in cheekpieces, could do something

Shortlist: Miranda, Rosie And Millie, Hazzaar

Musselburgh 3.05
Betway ‘Auld Reekie’ Handicap Chase Class 2 0-145
2m4f68y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) – 11 runners

Red Risk
Best effort last season when winning at Ludlow in February, moved best approaching 3 out, the better jump and left clear, pushed along from 2 out, drew further clear approaching last, steadied into it, pushed out from Golden Whisky. Good reappearance though arguably didn’t see the race out when 3rd to Fidux in Prelude at Market Rasen in October, led and keen, niggled along approaching 3 out, came away from it a length down and quickly put under pressure, mistake 2 out, kept on and still half a chance till couldnt find more under a ride after last, hard driven and lost ground on 1st 2 last 150 yards. Nowhere near that at Ascot last time behind Espoir De Guye, prominent, tracked leaders going to 2nd, slow 3rd, slow again 8th, mistake 11th, niggled along before ridden into 13th, pushed along and couldn’t go with those ahead approaching 15th, hard ridden and weakened home turn, soon tailed off and trailed in. Didn’t turn up at Ascot, his jumping poor, but chance on the Market Rasen-run (made the running there, which he didn’t at Ascot; might take on Schiehallion Munro and Fanzio if going from the front)
Schiehallion Munro
Best performance last season when beating Return Ticket in a Catterick novice on January 22nd, made most, jumped soundly, pressed on final circuit, going best 3 out, stayed on from 2 out, clear last, stretched further clear run-in without needing to be hard ridden. On reappearance did too much up front when 6th to Cool Mix in Bobby Renton at Wetherby in October, but better last time out when 2nd to Johnbb at Wetherby in November, chased leader from 3rd,  ridden into 11th, shuffled back to 3rd and ridden along turning out of back straight, effort under a hand ride and led approaching 4 out, a length up and the better jump 3 out, sustained effort and went through 2 out, headed approaching last, steadied into it and mistake/stumbled on landing, driven, no extra, kept on run-in, no impression. Has only once raced right-handed in his career so anyone’s guess how he’ll act on this track but likely to go well if he takes to it, although might end up taking on Red Risk and Fanzio up front
Return Ticket
Has impressed in small-field novice chases this season (second-season novice) and won at Musselburgh last time over 2m, chased leader, mistake 5th, ridden into 6th, led 4 out, niggled along, the better jump 3 out, pushed along, clear 2 out, looked safe last, pushed out, idled a little run-in, unchallenged from Gaelik Coast. Two from two at Musselburgh (the other win a novices’ hurdle in November 2018), he’s unproven at this trip but only tried it twice to date
Garde La Victoire
Getting on for four years since he’s won a race but continues to run well, 3rd to Town Parks at Hereford on November 10th (outpaced with three to jump and stayed on late), and 3rd to Theo at Leicester last time, headed 3 out, pushed along, held place and still every chance 2 out, hard ridden and outpaced between last 2, faded approaching last, looked held when went left, hard driven, kept on, no impression till picked up last 150 yards and closed on last 2, no extra last few strides. Picked up again after he was tapped for pace approaching the last, perhaps down to the uphill finish: this is a better race on a sharper track, so on his 12th birthday, an unlikely winner
Romain De Senam
Best run since joining Dan Skelton when 4th to The Big Bite over 2m at Aintree on November 7th,  nudged along home turn, closed a little but effort delayed approaching 3 out, pushed along approaching 2 out, little impression, hard ridden and moved into 3rd between last 2, closed on 1st 2 approaching last along with several others, half a chance when mistake, hard ridden and just kept on run-in. Was brought down 5th in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last time. Beaten double digits all starts on soft or heavy ground, not sure what to expect here
Mainly progressive last season and this, second win of the season at Stratford in October,  led approaching 9th, mistake 10th, headed, niggled along approaching 2 out (normally 3 out), pushed along approaching last (normally 2 out), hard driven turning out of back straight, led home turn, hard driven, led a length passing omitted last, driven out, stayed on well last 150 yards, always holding on from Town Parks; better form when unluckily collared by Master Work at Taunton on December 10th,  led, went 2 lengths up before 3 out, put under pressure on landing, continued to stay on, a length up 2 out, hard driven, stayed on approaching last, half a length up and the better jump, driven and headed 100 yards out, no extra last 50 yards, stuck to task. Did well under a forcing ride but couldn’t find extra at the end, possibly as a result of being made that much use of; did jump soundly though, again possibly down to the forcing tactics, and could go well here
Deteriorated ever since winning at Perth in April 2019, beaten 24 lengths or more on all six runs since, last time at Aintree on second run of this season led briefly 7th, in close to 9th, lost a little ground and pushed along from 10th, held place to 12th, going worst of the leaders bend before 4 out, hard ridden home turn, lost place 3 out, put under pressure, weakened approaching 2 out, dropped further away between last 2, tailed off last behind Clan Legend. Dropping in the weights, but not running well enough to take advantage
Cool Mix
In this race last year ran 2nd to Nuts Well, drew upsides going to 3 out, faded going to 2 out where stumbled on landing, 3 lengths down and held last, driven run-in, no more last 150 yards. Proving consistent this season and on second start of the campaign won Bobby Renton at Wetherby in October, closer order when ridden into 12th, turned out of back straight in 6 lengths 6th, moved comfortably (back on outer) approaching 4 out, jumped it in 4th and pushed along, within 2 lengths 3 out, continued to stay on and challenged approaching 2 out, led there, found extra and drew 3 lengths clear when hit last, was closed on, picked up again last 150 yards under pressure, beat Sky Pirate and Storm Control (both good winners since); 3rd last two runs, just failing to last 3m in Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle last time, hampered and forced to swerve fallers 11th, good ground on inner to dispute 2nd approaching 4 out, mistake there, ridden and faded approaching 3 out, lost further ground and looked well held approaching 2 out, hard driven, rallied and closed on 1st 3 approaching last, took 3rd jumping, half a chance 175 yards out, no extra and faded again in last 150 yards, beaten just short of 5 lengths by Yorkhill. Doesn’t always find under pressure but likely to run well
Mount Mews
Get Out The Gate*
Was pulled up in this race last year when with Jim Goldie. No form on first two runs since joining Sandy Thomson but has come back to form on his last two, at Kelso on November 7th over fences – not all of them, due to low sun – chased leader (eventual winner Almazhar Garde) approaching 7th (normally 9th), in close to 9th (normally 11th) and 10th (normally 12th), closed on leader approaching 2 out (normally 4 out) and upsides jumping, ridden into last (normally 3 out), pushed along and couldn’t go with winner home turn, hard ridden and kept on passing omitted 2 out, put under pressure, stuck to task, took 2nd passing omitted last under driving, sustained effort, little impression till closed on winner last 150 yards but not quite getting there; then won over hurdles at Musselburgh over 2m7f180y on December 7th, made all, pursuers closed 3 out, hard ridden 2 out, a length up last, driven out, found extra run-in, little to spare, beat No Regrets a neck. Last three wins have been over around 3m, but last time he shaped as though that was as far as he wants to go and he might appreciate stepping down in trip here
Mint Gold*
Two wins from his last three runs including what looks a best to date at Musselburgh last time over 2m, disputed lead between horses when niggled along off home turn, in close and pecked 4 out, pushed along, led a neck 3 out, stayed on approaching 2 out, led a length there, stayed on and drew further clear approaching last, some 5 lengths up jumping, ridden out, pulled further clear run-in, kept up to work, workmanlike and decisive by 9 lengths from Pull Green. Yet to try this trip, but wasn’t stopping at the end last time
Voix D’Eau
Best run for a long time when 4th to Boy’s On Tour at Perth on August 11th, pushed along and outpaced 10th, headway into midfield home turn, no win chance but closing on the 3rd from 2 out, sustained effort under pressure and only half a length off the place when pecked on landing last, closed on 3rd last 100 yards, just failed to get the place. Not backed that up since, last time at Kelso well held behind Almazhar Garde and Get Out The Gate, towards rear, mistake 8th (normally 11th), pushed along and lost further ground approaching bend before 2 out (normally 4 out), ridden along and struggling approaching last (normally 3 out), well back when put under pressure home turn, hung left and made no ground approaching omitted last, kept on last 250 yards, made no contribution. Well treated on old form, but that’s been the case for his last four runs

Shortlist: Fanzio, Get Out The Gate, Mint Gold