Haydock Park, Saturday 15th January 2020, Unibet Grand National Trial Day

Stepper Smooth In Trial

Testing conditions on course and the little addition of Storm Dennis couldn’t stop the show as Smooth Stepper used his experience under Harry Bannister as he overhauled in form course specialist Lord Du Mesnil in a real slog up the Haydock straight to land the feature Grade 3 Grand National Trial

With silks getting increasingly mud splattered just like many local rugby league games have been around these parts it all looked over bar the shouting as Lord Du Mesnil came to the last but the 11yo Smooth Stepper who slowly picked his rivals off up the straight and went past the 7yo on the run in whose petrol gauge slowly went into the red zone to land the big race of the day.

Alex Hales has been having a really good season and while Smooth Stepper wont be at Aintree he should pop up at Uttoxeter next month for the Midlands version, one who most certainly will is Yala Enki who ran a solid enough race back in third but got a tired like many horses did this afternoon.

Smooth Stepper

Emiton Bounces Back

After a poor reappearance at Cheltenham back on New Years Day, Emitom regained the winning thread when hacking up in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle, held together nicely by Gavin Sheehan he stayed on in good style to hold Donna’s Diamond easily in the end, he could head off to the Festival to take on Paisley Park in the Stayers or wait for the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in the spring.

One horse who put in a poor show was favourite The World’s End who was pulled up, he made a couple of errrors but this was not his showing.

Double For Nicholls

Paul Nicholls seldom leaves Haydock empty handed and he looks to have a couple of nice types for Cheltenham and Aintree as the stable lorry made the journey back to Ditcheat with two nice winners on the afternoon.

First of all Sir Psycho proved to be ready for a crack at either the Triumph or the Fred Winter with a very impressive display in the Victor Ludorum Hurdle, travelling nicely under Bryony Frost he was very slick at his hurdles and is coming along nicely as a jumper.

Sir Psycho

The second winner for the yard came in the finale which was run in near darkness, the Walrus Hunter Chase in a race that only had four runners but Alcala was much the best here as the 10yo began his new career in style under jockey Mr Angus Cheleda who himself was riding his first winner for the master of Ditcheat, currently not qualified for Cheltenham he would be better off waiting for Aintree over the same trip as this and tackle those fearsome Grand National fences

Alcala

Ramses Has His Chips

Not many horses use a 3m Novice Hurdle and a Grade 2 one at that to get ready for a crack at the Grand National but Ramses De Teillee looks likely to head down the East Lancs in April to line up as he bolted up in attrional conditions to take the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novice, already a winner of two races over three miles this seson including the River Don before this he should have as good a chance as any.

Back in second was Kalooki from the Philip Hobbs yard, he was simply beaten by a much more experienced horse but is one to keep in the trackers and has a nice future ahead of him

Henderson At The Double

Nicky Henderson had a double on the day too, first up Caribean Boy took the opening novice handicap chase over 2m4f in conditions that were far from Carribean but he jumped nicely and has a fair future ahear of him over fences on what was his second run over fences since moving here from France.

In the second part of the double saw Welsh Saint set up a possible tilt at the Pertemps Final as he landed one of the final qualifying races here pretty nicely, although he would want a very soft surface come the final he is developing into a nice type

Haydock Park, Saturday 18th January 2020, Peter Marsh Chase Day

Sam Supreme and Champion in Trials

As the last meeting proved, funny things can happen on Haydock’s run in on the hurdles course and on a sunny and crisp winter afternoon in this part of Lancashire that very much proved to be the case as trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies along with jockey and son Sam went back down the M6 and M5 to their Cheltenham yard with two victories in the meetings two feature hurdle races which were both won with the very last stride.

First up came Stolen Silver in the Supreme Trial over 2m who looked booked for third place jumping the last flight but clearly Sam’s partner, flat jockey Nicola Currie had been playing him her wins on Raising Sand at Ascot as he kept Stolen Silver in full overdrive to go past market protagonists Edwardstone and Thebannerkingrebel to land the pot right on the line.

This was seriously impressive and now looks to head to Newbury for next months Betfair Hurdle where he has a serious chance especially with his turn of foot on that long run in, it’d be a surprise if he heads to Cheltenham as Aintree would suit him far better.

Stolen Silver

Next up came the Champion Hurdle Trial over 2m and while all talk was about Pentland Hills getting to put his credentials on the line he didnt expect to be mugged on the line but here he was as Ballyandy who amazingly began his season at Wetherby in the West Yorkshire Hurdle over three miles decided that two was plenty as he nicked the race right on the line by a few pixles to take the bragging rights back to Naunton.

Pentland Hills did look all over the winner jumping the last under Nico De Boinville but certainly didnt expect Ballyandy to be

joining him, he like Ballyandy will line up in the big Championship race in March although wether or not he goes to Wincanton beforehand for another race is probably in the air.

Ballyandy

Clouds Cooks Another For Smith

Sue and Harvey Smith were notable non runners this afternoon but fear not, they were simply having some warm weather training in Spain on a winter break but both would have had the telly tuned into either RTV or ITV 4 to see Vintage Clouds give them a third win in five years in the big staying chase of the day, the Peter Marsh Chase.

Right from the front under Danny Cook who himself is no stranger to landing this, Vintage Clouds put in an exemplary round of jumping, considering last month in the Becher at Aintree he looked pretty shaken the staff at the yard in Bingley have done a super effort getting him back to his best, Aintree will be a No No for him but a return visit for next month’s Grand National Trial looks on the cards before heading up to Ayr in the spring for the Scottish equivalent.

One horse who ran a very good trial in second was Definitly Red who was staying on all the time, he looks set for a Kelso visit to put the finishing touches on him before a crack in the big Aintree race.

Vintage Clouds

Brown Hits The Right Note

Saturday’s final Grade 2 of the afternoon came in the Patrick Coyne Altcar Novices’ Chase and last year this race provided the winner of the slightly reduced now Four Miler at the Festival and it’s just possible this could occur again as Sam Brown who looked very much like his namesake in that he wanted to Stop going round the far turn but found his second wind up the straight to end up breezing away fairly effortlessly to route Knight Of Dubai by 15 lengths.

Although the whole field did make jumping errors, most notably Windsor Avenue who took a bad fall at the second last but got up ok this was a tight race on paper but the winned made it look easy in the end, ideally suited by much further Sam Brown is proper stayer as he showed first time out over fences at Lingfield, despite not holding any Cheltenham entries he probably would go for the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree instead and go there a much fresher horse.

Round up

A decent enough afternoon of quality jump racing, the main star of the show being Sam Twiston-Davies who yet again showed his talent in the saddle.

That Haydock run in over hurdles can change the fortunes of a race many times over and today proved to be no exception.

Next up we return here all depending on things like the weather for the Grand National Trial, till then goodbye

Haydock Park, Monday 30th December 2019, The Last Fling Raceday

Lord Reigns Over Haydock

Nine days after his emphatic Tommy Whittle win here at Haydock, Lord Du Mensil once again became everyone’s Christmas cracker as he followed up with a very easy win in the Last Fling Chase over the marathon trip of 3m4f .

In conditions which werent as testing as in previous meetings here but still tough none the less, Lord Du Mesnil jumped out with the same intention as last time to make all which he duly did getting a few of them off the snaffle mid race and in a race which saw six start only three of them completed this long distance test.

Things are certainly clicking with Lord Du Mesnil at the moment and still looks a horse ahead of the handicapper, he looks likely to get a National entry but as he will be only a 7yo come 2020 that may be too soon so while a return visit here in February might be ideal he would probably be aimed at the Midlands or Scottish Nationals as his big end of season targets.

Last months course winner Perfect Candidate came second and debspite approaching 13, he still retains his love for the game.

Jewel Hits Bookies For Six

Nick Alexander is always a trainer to watch at Haydock and with his daughter Lucy in the saddle they set back off back up the M6 to Kinneston with some New Year dreams in both their heads after Ebony Jewel ran out a nice winner of the 2m novice hurdle, although he had a bit of a battle with First Lord Du Cuet up the straight he rallied under Lucy Alexander to land the spoils by three parts of a length.

This race was a qualifier for the EBF and while thats a decent prize in its own right it’s possible that his trainer may want to target a local prize so something like the Festival trials at Musselburgh or the Premier Hurdle at Kelso might be under consideration but Ebony Jewel certainly looks like sparkling plenty more times.

Photo courtesy of Steve Mullington

Buster Robs Again

It’s fair to say that Mattie Batchelor has already improved the security on the cupboard which as his ‘Jump Ride Of The Year Award’ it because there is every chance that Jack Tudor is currently planning a Todd Unctious style attempt to nick it after his amazing ride on the David Pipe trained Buster Edwards who came from another parrish in a ride which has to be seen to be believed when landing the opening 3mile Handicap Hurdle for Conditional Jockeys.

On what looked a competitive race on paper, Buster Edwards was already under the kosh from halfway but thanks for Jack Tudor’s persuasion and never say die atitiude he came thundering home on the long run it to finish like Hello Youmzain did in September’s Sprint Cup.

Without doubt one of the standout rides of the season so far, Jack Tudor is one jockey clearly going places.

Bee Gets The Honey

Finally Fergal O’Brien looks to have a very nice prospect on his hands in the name of Ask A Honey Bee who left all his owners and backers buzzing as he won his second bumper on the bounce in the finale.

On what looked a nice race on paper with some good sorts on show, last months Southwell scorer ran away in emphatic style here finishing 11 lenghts of the runner up Kiriglote, this was as strong a bumper performance as youre likely to seel all season and looks set to take his chances at either the Cheltenham or Aintree in the spring, he should make into a very nice novice hurdler next season for the Cheltenham based master of cakes and jumpers.

Final round up

Another racing year comes to an end, in what’s been a very enjoyable one going from as far north as Carlisle to as south as Epsom we have been treated to some of the finest that this sport can offer.

Personal highlights for me include seeing Pinatubo and Defoe wining at Epsom, Battaash at Haydock and York, Stradivarius at York and last but no means least Tiger Roll with his second Grand National victory and who knows maybe come April we may see history in the making.

Until next time, may i wish you all a very Happy New Year for 2020

Haydock Park, Saturday 21st December 2019, Betway Tommy Whittle Chase Day

Hobsons’s Choice For Lord Prooves Right

Owner Paul Porter will have enjoyed driving home for Christmas yesterday after his Lord Du Mesnil put in a top quality round of jumping under Paul O’Brien for Cheltenham based trainer Richard Hobson.

From the release of the tapes he set out in front and never saw another rival over the stamina sapping 3m1f trip on heavy ground coming home plenty clear from runner up Calipso Collonges.

Three weeks ago he broke his maiden tag at Newcastle and finally looks to be going the right way, his next port of call after a little rest according to his trainer will be the 4 mile marathon Eider Chase back at Gosforth Park in mid February and looks well ahead of his race winning mark here of 127, soon to turn 7 he could be a Grand National horse in time.

Desaray Strikes In Abram

Phil Kirkby has another useful mare by the looks of things as Desaray Girl fought tenaciously up the long Haydock run it to nick the Listed Abram Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle from Rosie And Millie right on the line in a fairly competitive looking event.

Rosie And Millie tried to make all and was still ahead on the run in but Desaray Girl fought like a tiger here and showed real grit, longer trips look to be her forte here so expect her to be kept to 2m4f and maybe further, only a 4yo she has plenty more still to come.

Bingley Bells All The Way

After a slow start to the season things have certainly cranked up a notch or two for the Sue Smith yard and Yorkshire’s finest and most famous couple headed back to the White Rose side of fhe Pennines with a couple of nice winners.

First up Joke Dancer certainly had plenty smiling faces rewarded for keeping the faith as he picked up the 2m Handicap Chase, although he went out to the right at a few fences and nearly did a copycat version of what Diego Du Charmil did at Ascot last month at the second last he readily routted a fair field by 11 lenghts ahead of Chambard, he looks another Haydock specialist.

The stables other win came in the last race of the afternoon when Captain Moirette took the salute from the crowd in the 2m3f Handicap Hurdle, back over smaller obstacles after a couple of fair runs over fences this did his confidence the world of good and should be back over the larger jumps next time, a big grey horse he has more to offer one would think.

Another year of racing slowly coming to an end, we race again here at Haydock on Monday 30th December on what is always an enjoyable family day of racing designed to blow the cobwebs away.

From myself may i wish you all a Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays

Aintree Races, Saturday 7th December 2019, Randox Health Becher Chase Day

Another Walk For Mill

Let there be no doubt that the Aintree Factor really does exsist as Walk In The Mill broke history by becoming the first dual winner of the Becher Chase as just like last year under James Best he romped to victory over these famous green spruce fences.

A quality field lined up for this Grade 3 staying test which was run at a good clip as you would expect for a race of this nature and Walk In The Mill sat in the pack of the early exchanges before picking up the lead at the second last from where James Best simply kept him up to his work, he relishes these fences and will be in the shake up come April.

Runner up Kimberlite Candy ran a very sweet race back in second place staying on all the time under Richie McLernon, expect him to be laid out for the National too as he would have a great chance and should get a fair weight when they get announced come February.

Johnson Sails Away On River

Native River began his campaign in what became nothing more than a glorified schooling session in the end as he had a a gentle Saturday afternoon potter around the Mildmay course to land the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase.

Over the first three fences with old adversary Might Bite it looked like we were due a proper repeat of the 2018 Gold Cup, sadly at the fourth fence he decided to shove Nico De Boinville out the side door which left Native River plenty clear from Black Corton and Outlander who had their own private battle as he sauntered home by 33 lenghts.

This was a nice confidence boost for Native River who could head to Chepstow now but also if the ground at Cheltenham came up very soft then we could have a new version of Kauto v Denman if he were to take on Lostintranslation in the Gold Cup then a return to Aintree for the National in which he would carry top weight no doubt is also the main reported target.

Might Bite does need a confidence race now, you couldn’t rule out a return to hurdles maybe with his hurdle mark of 148 quite exploitable if the correct race is found.

Hogan The Hero

Jamie Snowden’s horses continue in great form and Hogan’s Height certainly reached new heights by landing the other race over the big greens, the Grand Sefton Chase.

Fourteen went to post and he jumped away nicely staying in the pack before making headway across the Melling Road to swoop around the outside to over the second last from where he increased his lead and ran away a very impressive winner.

Fair to say that April’s Topham Trophy will be his main target from here as he seemed to enjoy this test and although that race can be slightly classier than this one, he does have that Aintree factor which is always worth a few pounds extra.

Best Of The Rest

Jockey Tom Cannon had a day to remember with three winners, most notably with Hogan’s Height but also with Midnights’ Gift who won the 3yo Fillies’ Listed Hurdle after taking full advantage from challenger Galice Macalo crashing out at the final flight of hurdles.

Already successful at Fakenham on her hurdling debut she looks a useful recruit to jumping and with a flat rating of 78 means she could be one to mix the codes when the bad weather comes, Galice Macalo showed good improvement and despite the fall has a good future too for the Jane Williams team.

Finally Carlisle’s loss was Aintree’s gain with the Listed Houghton Mares’ Chase being transferred from last Sunday’s abandoned meeting and Nicky Henderson will have been delighted with Casablanca Mix running out a ready winner here over the 2m4f trip to supplement her Summer Plate win back in July, despite being a bit unsettled in the early part she served up the good when needed, time between races in essential for her but another black type win will been very much welcome here

Haydock Park, Saturday 23rd November 2019, Betfair Chase Day

Tizzard Power Again

The new kid on the block showed he had the right stuff and managed to hang tough as Lostintranslation showed he firmly belongs on jump racing’s top tier by giving four time course and dual Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai a bruising in this years renewal of what looked a top quality renewal of the Betfair Chase for Colin Tizzard and Robbie Power.

Only four may have gone to post for what was the smallest field of this Grade One contest but it was a field of top chasers who had every right to be involved, from the tapes Bristol De Mai attempted to do his usual thing at Haydock of bouncing out and making all and coming to the second last it might had been the same again but Lostintranslation travelled powerfully throughout the race with contemptuous ease to land in front when asked at the final fence from which he simply powered away to win by over a length and a half with the pair around twenty five lengths ahead of Frodon.

Lostintranslation came here off the back of a very impressive seasonal debut in the Colin Parker at Carlisle where he jumped superbly and did exactly the same here, he heads to Kempton on Boxing Day and looks every inch the finished article where he could take on Ascot winner Cyrname and even Altior in a race even Santa will be tuning in for as part of his holiday from work.

Bristol De Mai has the Grand National as his target and is reported not to be heading to Kempton, although he could be back here in February for the National Trial over 3m4f to get him ready, Frodon will be far happier back down in trip with the Ryanair his target now at his beloved Cheltenham.

Mountain Continues To Climb

Ludlow based trainer Henry Daly clearly has a good one in his hands with Stoney Mountain who powered his way through the pack to land the Grade 3 Staying Handicap Hurdle over 3m, coming here off the back of an impressive reappearance at Aintree last month he has now won the same two races that Paisley Park did last session although he took this off 147 compared to Stoney Mountain landing this off 138 but he still looks ahead of his mark.

No doubt his trainer will be thinking about going down the staying division and take on Paisley Park at Ascot next month or maybe come back here in February for the Rendlesham Hurdle, fences will be calling for him next season and he is a serious prospect indeed.

Rebel Has A Cause

Thebannerkingrebel repaid the faith to all those who were on him at Wetherby last time when he fell and despite giving his owner and many punters a real scare when he made a real horlicks of the second last flight went on to win the Listed Newton Novices’ Hurdle very nicely.

Carrying the colours of Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick who was no doubt watching from the Emirates as he tucked into his lunch before the 2-2 with Southampton, Thebannerkingrebel looks a decent sort and could be back here for the Jamie Snowden team in January for the Rossington Main over course and distance.

Hill Graduates

Its fair to say its been a good few weeks for the McNeill family and the decission to come to Haydock as opposed to go to Ascot and pick some scraps up in the Cyrname/Altior race proved to be fruitful as in a tight looking Graduation Chase over 2m5f he dug deep to overpower Midnight Shadow in a very exciting finish.

Previously a winner in Grade 2 company over fences as a novice at Doncaster he had lost his way a bit but showed signs of a revival back at Aintree over timber and under Adrian Heskin he did make a couple of errors such as making a mistake at the eight fence and hid rider brefily lost an iron a few fences later but he stuck to the task to oblige and still has a fair future in this sphere.

A very enjoyable and exciting afternoon of jump racing with more questions than answers its fair to say off the back of it.

Will Lostintranslation win the Jockey Club Tripe Crown Million Pound Bonus?

Can Stoney Mountain be a Stayers’ Hurdle horse?

Thebannerkingrebel, potential Supreme horse?

At this moment in time we dont know but as the weeks go on the answers will slowly unfold and begin to unravel.

Haydock’s next meeting here is on Wednesday 4th December and while it won’t have the quality as this afternoon it does have some nice novice events to keep an eye on for the future.

Till next time, goodbye

Wetherby Races, Bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting, Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd November 2019

Another Bally Charlie Hall For Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies left Wetherby on a happy note as Ballyoptic became the Naunton based trainer’s sixth Charlie Hall Chase winner.

In a real war of attrition on very soft ground it was a race that brought the stayers to the fore and former Towton winner Ballyoptic who was second in last season’s Scottish National and came into the race off the back of a recent win at Chepstow, battled on under Sam Twiston-Davies to easily hold off last season’s Welsh National winner Elegant Escape by over three lenghts.

This was stamina sapping stuff and after this success in Yorkshire it could be a case of going a few miles across the M62 and A580 to Haydock in three weeks time for the Betfair Chase where he will join the stables star chaser Bristol De Mai who bids for his third victory, Ballyoptic’s main aim will be the Grand National in April as will Elegant Escape who loves those marathon chases too.

La Bague Au Roi was disappointing on her return eventually pulling up turning for home, she can be forgiven for this and something like the Peterborough Chase could be more up her street.

World Back At His Hooves

The Worlds End came back to hurdling and if Paisley Park had ITV 4 on in his box then he certainly would have taken note this afternoon as The Worlds End bounced out from the tapes to make all the running to win the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle over 3m putting the rest of the field to bed pretty readily.

A decent enough field he had some good yardsticks in behind most notably Unowhatimeanharry who ran a superb race in defeat at 11 years young only finishing five lenghts back in second spot

Hurdling clearly suits him more than chasing and from this a visit to Newbury in a few weeks where he could meet up against Paisley Park in the Long Distance Hurdle in what could be a race to savour.

Buttons The Lady Of Wetherby

Yorkshire’s racing crowd may have been loud when Enable came to York in August but they were positively delirious as the Phil Kirby trained mare Lady Buttons warmed the hearts of the crowd as she repeated last years win in the Listed Mares’ Hurdle over 2m.

Always going nicely and hurdling slickly she had the task made easier following Zambella unseating her rider at the second last from which it was all plain sailing for her and Adam Nicol and although she was idling on the run in she had plenty in hand.

There certainly isnt a more popular mare in training than Lady Buttons, she gives her all and has a huge fanbase in Yorkshire, Newbury and then Doncaster will be her next port of call from here.

Best Of Friday

Friday had a fair card to it with two listed contests as the main attraction amongst other races.

Pete Strikes The Right Chord

Nicky Richards has his string in good form at the moment and Guitar Pete repeated his 2017 win in the Listed 2m3f Handicap Chase.

In what looked a competitive race Guitar Pete had plenty enough in hand and readily brushed aside runner up Happy Diva, He could be Cheltenham bound in two weeks time for another crack at the BetVictor Gold Cup where he would have a fair squeak especially with the benefit of a race.

Dan Dan The Wensleydale Man

Langer Dan was all out under Harry Skelton as he made it two from two in the Listed Wensleysale Hurdle over 2m.

A good looking racing with plenty of winning horses in it, Langer Dan showed plenty of grit to overpower Maria Magdalena after the last flight, he was unraced on the flat but does have a knack for jumping and looks set for one of the big 3yo hurdles at either Cheltenham, Doncaster or Chepstow next month.

Two From Two For Sam

Sam Spinner’s chasing career continues on an upward curve as he won his second novice chase of the season, despite not being quite convincing at some of his jumps he is still learning the game and needs more experience, one possible target which would suit him might be the Grade 2 Novice Chase over three miles at Doncaster in December but you wouldn’t rule out a return to the smaller obstacles if the right races present themselves.

Two top days at this part of West Yorkshire and jumping is well and truly back.

Next up we head to Haydock for what could be an amazing renewal of the Betfair Chase and boy will that be some race!

Wetherby as usual did a fine job at this lovely course, quality horses and competitive racing with stables from all over the country sending runners and going back with some good prize money.

Till next time, Goodbye