WETHERBY, Saturday November 16th
Going: SOFT (Heavy in places)
Not quite the quality of Charlie Hall day at the A1 course, but this card had its points of interest.
One or two promising performances in the opening 2m3f154y novices’ hurdle, not least the winner. This was run at a fair pace.
My wife (that’s her photo above – not of her, by her) and I were joking that Oscar Robertson did enough to be included on next season’s Horses To Follow-list just by turning up in the paddock, as he was the best-looking horse on show all day, a tall, leggy sort who’s unfurnished at the moment and needs to fill his frame. He went and backed up his appearance with a win, well placed, niggled along and outpaced after the last flight on the back straight but then staying on well from the third last, bearing down on Blossoming Forth two out and asserting from the last to go clear. The further he goes the better he’ll be, and the five year-old will be some sight in three-mile novice chases next season.
Blossoming Forth was unfancied, but ran a smashing race and will surely take at least a mares’ novice, setting out to make all, still looking comfortable on the home turn but fading when the winner went on. She’s a medium-height, light-bodied mare who might need time between her races.
Who’s In The Box (rough in coat) took third but was flattered and doesn’t appeal as one to take forward, pushed along approaching the sixth, to be fair sticking to his task from the home turn, but taking the bronze medal on account of Rare Clouds’ mistake at the last – on this showing he’ll need three miles and dropping in grade.
At a time when Sue Smith’s horses are mostly needing their seasonal debuts, in Rare Clouds‘s case he needed this second run as well judged on paddock appearance – so he comes out of this with credit and might be ready to go close next time: a medium height, well-made gelding, he made a significant move turning out of the back straight looking strong, but couldn’t go on from the second last and was fading when blundering at the last, losing third as a result. It’s improvement on his run at Carlisle the previous month and, like the winner, this one has a future.
The favourite Fitzroy, tallish and looking well, was a disappointment, coming under a push early on the back straight, making a forward move after the eighth but all done from the home turn.
Good Boy Bobby was a strong favourite in the five-runner 1m7f36y novices’ chase and, although it looked as though the runner-up would give him a race at the second last, he was in no danger at the last.
Good Boy Bobby (medium height, looked well, 1/3 to 1/4) tended to jump right on this left-handed course but was sound, and made all, staying on well when challenged at the second last, and paying a compliment to Brewin’upastorm, who beat him on their chasing debuts at Carlisle and who won again at Taunton earlier in the week.
Ravenhill Road (tallish, leggy) looked fit enough on this seasonal and stable debut, having moved from Brian Ellison to Sue Smith, and having moved freely to post, gave the winner a race, upsides at the second last, but only finding the one pace from the last, while Albert’s Back (not a chasing type) also shaped well, jumping soundly enough but unable to go with the first two in the straight, both those two showing enough to suggest they can win over fences.
Second favourite Garrettstown (tallish, looked well) became the second horse from the Olly Murphy-yard to disappoint on this card after Fitzroy in the first, making a mistake at the fourth and finding nothing from the home turn. He showed at Aintree on his reappearance that he retained all his ability and is worth another chance over fences, probably when going back up to 2m4f as his best form is at that sort of trip.
The 2m3f154y Class 3 handicap hurdle looked competitive and it was shaping that way on the home turn, with seven of the eight-strong field grouped within four lengths, but it took shape from the third last, the first three home clear by the last and Sakhee’s City, who normally finds zero, having his day in the sun thanks to the ride of the season.
Sakhee’s City (tallish, close coupled, looked well) is the epitome of a ‘placepot’ horse, sure to make the frame without winning – last time out here on the Charlie Hall undercard it was the same old when he was runner-up to Mr Scrumpy, looking the winner then nothing much happening in the last hundred yards – and he got the perfect ride here. I thought it was brilliant by Adam Nicol, gradually creeping forward and still two lengths down at the last, then shaken up with only hands and heels – no whip used – and Sakhee’s City leading yards from the post, not knowing he’d had a race.
The days when Mount Mews was the next big thing, when trained by the late Malcolm Jefferson, are still fresh in many minds, but there’s been water under the bridge since then, with a failed chasing career and a refusal to race on his record. On this reappearance, looking as though the run would bring him on, he looked more like the Mount Mews of old, starting okay, travelling sweetly, often landing on all fours at the hurdles but finding for pressure from the second last, beaten only by the perfectly-produced winner. There’s no knowing what we’ll get from him next, but there’s still a horse in there. He doesn’t actually look like the most obvious chasing sort to my eyes, only about medium height.
Blue Hussar seemed likely to need the outing beforehand and it looked that way in the paddock, but he led from the home turn and stayed on from the second last until the winner and second went on – this’ll put him right for next time. He beat his stablemate Applaus who, as he’d done when going close at Southwell on his previous outing, looked as lazy as anything, needing a lot of persuasion and reminders after the fifth – in fairness he had a share of the lead on the home turn before fading, but given his run style he’s one to be wary of.
Cool Mix (tallish, close coupled, looked well) has had a disappointing start to the season and he weakened from the third last after looking quite comfortable on the home turn, while the now 11-year old One For Harry (fit enough, supported from 13/2 to 4/1) lost his unbeaten record at Wetherby (was two from two), surviving a bad mistake at the fourth and another error at the seventh prior to dropping away from the second last, and LTO Hexham winner Ryedale Racer (leggy, looked well), who dropped away on the home turn after making the running, reportedly bled from the nose.
The 2m3f85y Class 3 handicap chase turned on how Mr Antolini would do, pitched into a handicap on only his second start over fences, but it was obvious a circuit out that he wasn’t going to make an impact and two other unexposed horses pulled clear.
The Dubai Way (medium height, well made) looked dull in his coat, though was fit, and pulled clear with Storm Control from the fourth last, his suspect jumping in the straight – notably at the second last – cancelled out by the runner-up’s own error, and he found plenty under pressure on the run-in. He’ll take a hike for this, but he might improve again next time.
Storm Control (touched 7/1), medium to tallish in appearance, had probably come on for his reappearance at Ludlow in October and returned to form, making most and staying on when ridden with four to jump, pecking on landing at the second last but still leading narrowly at the last, only to be overhauled on the run-in. He needs to be ridden positively in his races, as he lacks a change of pace.
Last year’s winner Catamaran Du Seuil has twice been reluctant at the start in recent runs, but was more tractable this time and held a chance on the A1 bend, only to fade as the first two pressed on from the fourth last, while Ardera Cross (medium height, looked well) – who looked as though he’d benefit from the step up in trip after winning in workmanlike style over 2m at Ayr on November 2nd – failed to stay, chasing Storm Control closest up front until weakening from the fourth last.
Mr Antolini is only about medium height, not a chasing type in appearance, but was strong in the market on only his second run over fences; however his performance wasn’t down to lack of experience – he raced lazily, plain and simple, and put hardly anything into it, last and niggled along a circuit out and hard driven after the last fence on the back straight, well held from the fourth last – don’t be surprised if he’s wearing headgear when next seen, for which a watching brief is advised.
On to the main event on this card, the 2m Class 2 introductory hurdle for horses who haven’t run more than once over hurdles, and an informative race it was – four of the six runners looking of interest beforehand and, surprisingly, Miah Grace a well-fancied second favourite, market confidence which she justified despite not winning. It was steadily run, the aforementioned runner-up quickening a steady pace at the sixth.
Big Bad Bear, medium height, well made and looking well, couldn’t have run any more promisingly when a fast-finishing third over 2m4f at Aintree on his hurdling debut, on the strength of which he started evens, and on this evidence we’ll see more of him this season and next. In contrast to at Aintree, when he was given a lot to do, this time he tracked the leaders, and struck for home from the second last, finding plenty to hold Miah Grace on the run-in. He’ll be better suited by 2m4f than the minimum trip, and the future is very bright. Roy’s rating: 123
Miah Grace (medium height) looked to have something to find to get competitive judged on her winning hurdling debut at Hexham, but that’s not how the betting saw it, and she ran a stormer, going from the front, quickening at the sixth and sticking to her task when Big Bad Bear went on, the pair pulling clear – one advisory going forward is that she played up at the start, though, so keep an eye on that next time; otherwise another win will come her way, more than likely in a mares’ contest. Roy’s rating: 120
Milkwood (medium to tallish, looked well) quickened up in the manner of a good horse with a turn of foot when winning at Hereford, and this steadily-run race didn’t show him to best advantage; held up last and keen, he had a lot to do at the home turn, at which point Miah Grace cranked it up in front, and Milkwood was always fighting a losing battle thereafter, going third at the last but unable to reach the first two: he’s worth another chance in a more strongly-run race, possibly a handicap. Roy’s rating: 122
Faro De Kerser earned reasonably high style marks for his win in France before joining Tom George, but that was 537 days before this race and he’s probably worth another chance, ridden up with the pace and fading out of contention after successive mistakes three out and at the second last. Roy’s rating: 119
Everything For You was rated in the 90s on the Flat, effective at middle distances and not out of place in good handicaps on the level. He has the size for hurdling, medium to tallish in height, but was thrown in at the deep end for this hurdling debut and wasn’t a factor in the closing stages, having made a mistake at the fourth. Roy’s rating: 108
You can depend on Aristo Du Plessis to set a good gallop in whatever he runs in, and he put the pace to the 2m Class 3 handicap hurdle, which was taken by a tough sort, running off a tough-looking mark.
Cornerstone Lad, fit from the Flat and looking well, took this 0-140 off 142 with the promising Billy Garritty taking off 5 lbs. He did this in the manner of an improved horse as well, always going comfortably up with the pace, pressing on from two out and in no danger from the last. A rise for this win will force him into a good handicap, but he might be up to it.
Theatre Legend has run into one on his last two starts now, namely Antunes at the first Wetherby meeting this season and Cornerstone Lad here; yet this time he shaped as though a step up to 2m4f would serve him well. losing ground on the home turn as he was outpaced before staying on under a ride approaching the third last, beaten off from two out.
Dali Mail (medium to tallish, leggy) arguably would have won but for mistakes at Newcastle last season and retains his ability judged on this first run for 245 days, having his chance from the home turn before he couldn’t go on from two out, while Yccs Portocervo (leggy, angular) had a tough task on his Summer form and acquitted himself well, disputing the lead looking comfortable on the turn (mistake sixth) before fading from the third last.
Aristo Du Plessis went from the front as usual, but isn’t as good as he used to be and weakened coming off the home turn, finishing ahead of Dear Sire, who clearly wasn’t as fit as he looked in the paddock on his first start for over a year – he was too keen and after going well up front turning out of the back straight, he weakened readily from the third last.
Lucinda Russell’s ex-French Signifiant looked a good buy at the £36,000 that new connections paid for him at the Doncaster Sales in May, but offers of 16/1 the previous evening had morphed into 66/1 in places when betting opened on track, and nothing happened after he came under a push in the back straight.
Another drifter, the one-time useful Master Of Irony (looked well, fit from the Flat) – 11/1 when advised as The Throwaway Quid on this website on the Friday night and 20/1 on the course – didn’t get a chance to show what he’s got nowadays after coming down at the fourth, up with the pace at the time.
Proceedings drew to a close with a four-runner 3m45y 0-120 conditional jockeys’ handicap chase – only a Class 4 and a small field, but the finish of the day, three of them serving up a terrific scrap in the last 150 yards.
Bigirononhiship (tallish), on his reappearance, looked the pick of the paddock – a little on his toes – and prevailed having looked beat, setting out to make all at no more than a medium gallop, winding it up on the final circuit, looking held when the runner-up went on at the second last but rallying under pressure from the last, getting up on the post under the promising Lorcan Murtagh – him and Billy Garritty could easily boss the Northern jump racing scene over the coming years, if they get the opportunities.
Fingerontheswitch looked well and ran a stormer, chasing Bigirononhiship from the 11th, ridden in the straight and looking to have the race early on the run-in only to be collared by the rallying winner on the post.
Silver Tassie (medium to tallish, close coupled) is 11 going on 12, but shaped as though he might go close at some point this season – most probably when getting a chance over an extreme trip, as he lost his place at the 12th here and didn’t look like winning in the straight, only to stay on strongly on the run-in to be beaten only a short-head and a neck.
Horses to take out of the meeting:
Oscar Robertson (especially in the long term)
Big Bad Bear
Theatre Legend (over 2m4f)