Haydock Park,Betfair Chase Festival,Day Two,Saturday 23rd November 2013

The big day of the two day festival here and what a day it was,Seven races with cracking fields from distances of 2m to 3m5f over traditional hurdles,fixed brush hurdles and steeplechases with the big race of the whole day days being the Grade One Betfair Chase which this year had the look of a race that you can only dream will ever happen and today the dream very much became reality.

Crowd wise it was busy but certainly not as busy when Kauto Star got his fourth win in the race back in 2011,that was a very emotional day indeed,infact I very nearly broke down into tears,fortunately one of my female friends stepped up to the plate and hugged me,it was that sort of occasion!

12.10 Cash Out Your Saturday Multiples With Betfair Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m,9 flights,4yo+ (0-135)

After 619 days it was fine piece of training by Venetia Williams to get the 5yo Moujik Borget to win this opening hurdle,leading over two out after being buried in the midfield he held off the challenge from Ruler of All to win by half a length, the well fancied horses Golden Hoof,Quick Decisson and Honour System all ran flat races and finished towards the rear of the field.

Moujik Borget certainly seemed to benefitted from his time away from the track,he could be aimed at the better class 2m handicap hurdles although it’s worth taking him on next time should he suffer from the bounce factor.

12.45 The Read Nicholls and McCain Exclusively On Betfair Hurdle,Class 2,2m,9 flights,4yo+.

Just five went to post for this Intermediate Hurdle but you don’t need small fields for a good race and it was Rolling Star a 4yo trained by Nicky Henderson with Barry Geraghty in the plate who fought off a challenge from Doyly Carte up the straight.

Morning Royalty made the early pace until headed by the classier horses after the second last.

Third spot went to Runswick Royal,he stayed on and will be better at staying distances as he lacks the speed in these kind of races whilst Far West the runner up in the Triumph hurdle can so better than this,I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

1.20 The Betfair Commits £40 Million To British Racing Handicap Chase,Class 3,3m5f,22 fences,4yo+ (0-135).

A real test of stamina here with plenty of the eleven runners being niggled and cajoled along after the first few fences, a mixture of improving stayers and horses with high handicap ratings doing battle here.

It was a raid from Scotland for Lucinda Russell here as Nuts N Bolts made a winning seasonal reappearance,he won a couple of 2m4f chases at Ayr back at the turn of the year before a credible sixth in the 3m H’cap Chase at the festival before pulling up in the Scottish National,he stayed this long trip really well taking over from long time leader Ace High who got headed after the third last and he came third as Red Rocco on his first start for Nigel Twiston Davies put in a good run being the runner up.

As for Nuts N Bolts he is an improving stayer,possibly the Welsh National could be on the agenda for him next with maybe the Classic Chase at Warwick or even The Eider at Newcastle being in the pipeline,Red Rocco only six has more to offer also,he is one to follow.

1.50 The Best Odds Guaranteed With Betfair Sportsbook Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,2m4f,10 flights,4yo+

A race full of potential here that saw recent Wetherby winner More Of That follow up that victory,he got a nice mention here after that race and off this rating of 137 he still has more to offer ,recent Cheltenham winner Home Run who landed a 40-1 shock win last Sunday tried to follow up but Kieron Edgar was no match for the A.P. McCoy drive in the last furlong up the run in and came fourth as Blue Fashion stayed on but could not live with the winner to be second, Special Catch came third he has only won around Catterick so is best watched for now.

I do like More Of That,he is still improving with each race,wether he will develop into a credible type for the World Hurdle is one thing although he certainly will stay three miles.

2.25 The Betfair Cash Out “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle,Grade 3,3m,12 flights,4yo+

A huge field of seventeen in this but it was all about one horse,Gevery Chambertin from David Pipes stable who made all under an enterprising ride from Tom Scudamore to hang on by half a length at the end from the fast finishing Utopie Des Bordes who like the winner is a French bred so will have been used to these fixed brush hurdles,popular stayer Lie Forrit ran a very credible third.

This is a horse I’ve always liked when I saw him win twice as a novice last season before finishing sixth at Aintree when I said this race would be ideal for him,Wonder if David Pipe read it?

He follows the popular Pipe greys of Grand Crus and Dynaste in this race who both won and he could be set to follow a similar path and we may see him here in February for the Rendlesham Hurdle.

3.00 The Betfair Chase,Grade 1,3m1f,18 fences,4yo+

No need to beat around the bush this was quite simply best race ever to be staged at Haydock Park in my view,not even the Sprint Cup attracted a stellar line up than this over the year,just the eight went to post rated from 159 to 180,it was a race that on paper was the best pre Christmas present any racing fan no matter if you follow jumps or just the flat that you could wish to see.

The line up had last seasons Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth,top 2m4f chaser Cue Card,Top Novice from last season Dynaste,former King George and Gold Cup winner Long Run,Irish raider Roi Du Mee,last years winner Silviniaco Conti,former Gold Cup runner up The Giant Bolster and the enigmatic and popular Tidal Bay.

The early pace from the tape was set by Cue Card under Joe Tizzard along with Roi Du Mee but he made a mistake at the fourth which left Cue Card in front and the rest is history as promptly strode away with purpose to claim this contest and showed that he gets three miles,Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti were the main dangers up the straight,they gave Cue Card a real test here infact Silviniaco Conti got to within a length at the third last before Dynaste overtook him and he just felt the effects of his seasonal run as Dynaste stayed on for second spot, Long Run who was up with the pace was fourth,he jumped much better in this race than in previous years.

Cue Card seemed to get the trip really well today,when he had to fight he found extra and it was grand to see trainer Colin Tizzard and his jockey,son Joe get a big Saturday prize,he has always been a popular horse and now Kempton could be the next target even though it’s not a course he acts at so maybe a rest before the Argento at Cheltenham in January could be the next target.

Dynaste will be a lot better for this,he likes Kempton so Boxing Day is going to be next,Silviniaco Conti is another who will strip fitter,not sure Kempton will be next,maybe the Lexus at Leopardstown,Long Run could find that Aintree is his main target,he lacks the pace for the top Three Mile chases and is more of a stayer now,Tidal Bay could be sent back over hurdles and for many the big disappointment was Bobs Worth,he travelled and jumped ok but with a mile to go he could not pick up,his main target is his defence of the Gold Cup and their is a chance he may not be seen till then.

3.35 The Unbeatable In-Running Value With Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase,Class 2,3m1f,18 fences,4yo+ (0-145).

An impressive performance here by Sydney Paget,a 6yo who made almost all he was a bit tired towards the end as popular veteran and course specialist Silver By Nature kept on for second on his seasonal reappearance and Gas Line Boy could not follow his recent Exeter win so had to be content with third.

A lot to like about this victor,it’s possible he may come back for the Tommy Whittle next month and even the Peter Marsh in January,he jumped well for Jason Maguire who rode the last winner just like he did yesterday for Donald McCain,he’s a classy horse in the making here.

So two top notch days of national hunt racing at Haydock Park,the crowds for both days were different,Friday was more relaxed with stars of the future on show while today was the creme de la creme of the sport.

It’s days like these which really lift the soul on a cold November afternoon in Lancashire,the sight and sound of horses leaping over birch and timber,the steam coming off the brave equine athletes having given their all in the hot cauldron of this sport that rewards bravery and salutes the ones that are tough enough to go out and take part on the track.

Two amazing days then all done,next Saturday I’m off to the Rugby League World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Old Trafford, thanks for reading and goodbye.

Below,Kauto Star statue.



Below,Parading for the Betfair Chase


Below,Cue Card 2013 Betfair Chase winner.


Haydock Park,Betfair Chase Festival Day One,Friday 22nd November 2013

The sun was out for the first day of this highly established two day meeting,with the attention more on quality than quantity today was definitely a “Future Champions Day” albeit not in name.

A six race card with three useful looking novice events as the main attractions and the major jumps yards had all sent highly regarded horses to take part especially as the prize money was very good indeed.

For this meeting the steeplechases were being run on the inner flat track or for those of us with a memory they were using what was the old steeplechase course albeit without the drop fences whilst the hurdles were being run on the inside due to turf management on the inner hurdle course.

12.50 Polyflor At Homes Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,3m,12 flights,4yo+ (0-130).

The biggest field of the day here with thirteen going to post but it was all about one horse Cyrien Star who picked up the lead with just over a circuit to go and never saw another horse challenge him,Fighter Jet was 3.25 lengths back in second place,the handicapper has his measure of him now but he is still young and is worth keeping an eye on, As for the winner he looks a nice type to watch and was given a good ride by Jake Greenall with his useful three pound claim.

1.20 The Wingate Signs & Graphics Graduation Chase,Class 2,2m1f,13 fences.

Only four but it was a tight looking race on paper but in the end it was a polished performance by Fago who won very easily in what was a much easier contest than his last run in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter,making near enough all the running he easily held off Simply Ned by 3.25 lengths and that included giving he runner up 7lb at the weights, Fago is only five so has plenty left in him but with Sprinter Sacre at the top of the tree he will be campaigned at around 2m4f you would imagine and maybe a race like the Peterborough Chase would be ideal for him,Simply Ned ran a cracking race but was up against a far classier horse,he will probably end up in handicaps.

1.55 The Read Nicholls & McCain Exclusively On Betfair Novices Hurdle Race,Class 1,2m,9 flights,4yo+

Who can make the running,Lead right from the gate,Beat classy opposition and give away lots of weight, Zamdy Man can,yes the Zamdy Man can.

Yes I hear the groans too! A very impressive performance here beating the well regarded Oscar Hoof from Nicky Hendersons,Franciscan from the McCain yard and Purple Bay from John Ferguson this 4yo is improving nicely indeed for Venetia Williams who always does well with her horses at Haydock, Oscar Hoof will certainly improve for the run although maybe a step up in trip will bring about his best,Franciscan isn’t done with yet and could be the new Overturn for the yard while Purple Bay probably didn’t like the pace and struggled to pick up when needed.

2.30 The Betfair Cash Out Novices Steeplchase,Class 2,2m7f,18 fences,4yo+.

Like the other Chase it was a field of four for this race which finished in racecard order of 1-2-3-4 with a nice forecast that all meteorologists would have loved as Black Thunder beat Many Clouds by 2.25 lengths,always jumping well I’ve always thought this trip would suit him as was always running on over 2m4f when hurdling,probably not the main novice chaser for Paul Nicholls this season but he is a nice one in the making and could be moved up to 3m soon,Many Clouds the runner up was trying to follow his recent Carlisle win could prefer going right handed, last of the four was Up And Go for the McCains,he was tired at the last two fences and will be better for the run and dropped in easier company.

3.05 The Brown Shipley Wealth Well Managed “Fixed Brush” ‘National Hunt’ Novices Hurdle,Class 3,2m4f,10 flights,4,5 and 6yo only.

Like a bottle of pasteurised milk the cream came to the top here as on the eve of the Merseyside Derby it was the aptly named Spirit of Shankly who had a real battle up the run in to just get the edge over long time leader Urban Hymn (One for fans of a The Verve) to record a nice 5 length win,Classic Move was third on his second start over hurdles,Staidnahanna kept on for fourth while Varom who was a runner up at Wetherby recently didn’t seem to stay and will be happier back at two miles.

Spirit of Shankly is a very nice horse,he may be back here for another go over the fixed brush hurdles during the season,sadly my religion forbids me from backing him (I’m a Utd fan),he will make an even better chaser next season.

3.40 The Polyflor Expona Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 4,2m,4,5 and 6yo only.

A very classy performance here for debutant Desoto County,trained by Donald McCain he travelled well and picked up when asked to quicken away from Wuff,like the winner both are former winners of Irish points,Wiff tried to make all,he was shaken up by Paddy Brennan with 3f to go but got headed in the last furlong,he lost nothing in defeat, Desoto County has a lot to like about him,he could go for another bumper but will end up hurdling and I think he could be a little bit special as they won this in 2009 with Peddlers Cross.

The first day all done then and tomorrow moved to the big one, The 2013 running of the Betfair Chase, eight go to post and what a race it is with the creme de la creme of three mile steeplechasers doing battle around Haydock Park.

Hard to work out who will be the victor in it as it is one of the best ever renewals in this races’ short history,whatever happens I just hope it is a race to savour and one that will make the headlines for all the right reasons with the runners and riders all coming back safe and sound.

Wetherby Races,Saturday 16th November 2013.

Wetherby for a seven race card,it wasn’t as busy as it was two weeks ago on Charlie Hall day and the quality was a little bit down the scale but still competitive never the less.

A mixture of interesting looking handicaps and a few novice events made up the card,their was a couple of jockey changes with both Danny Cook and Peter Buchanan missing in action due to injuries.I wish them both a safe and speedy recovery.

12.25 Colin Baldwin 82nd Birthday Mares Novices Hurdle,Class 4,2m,9 flights,4yo+

Experience showed here as the favourite Run Ructions Run followed up her recent runner up spot here over 2m4f by duly obliging over the minimum trip with a comfortable and workmanlike performance from Born To Benefit.

The flat debutants Princess Caetani and Villa Royale ran ok and both will have learned from the experience but they were comfortably outclassed on the day.

12.55 racinguk.com/freetrial Novices Chase,Class 4,2m,13 fences,4yo+.

Only five went to post for what look a fairly useful and informative contest with four of the five all making debuts over the fences.

It was a hardworking win for favourite Mwaleshi a former Grade a Two winner over hurdles last season over 2m2f and off this performance will be even better when stepped up in trip,jumping well in the main he rounded off a better end to the week than the beginning of it for trainer Sue Smith,he could be a more than useful chaser this season.

Imjoeking and Supreme Asset both ran respectable races and should pick up a small race or two after learning what this steeplechasing lark is all about.

1.30 Dransfield CIU Charity Raceday Handicap Hurdle,Class 4,3m1f,13 flights,4yo+ (0-120)

It paid to be at the top of the handicap in this contest which brought up the hat trick for Flicka Williams who followed up his recent Uttoxeter win to land the spoils from the improving Lookout Mountain who was put up 15lb after a win at Huntingdon a fortnight ago.

Wayward Glance and Joseph Mercer ran nice races,Joseph Mercer was returning after 196 days off on his first start for Tina Jackson and needs a dropping a few pounds down but still retains enough ability to be more than useful.

Lookout Mountain ran a good race in defeat,it was odd seeing the Coolmore colours at Wetherby as opposed to York and a Doncaster but I could see him being entered in a Pertemps Qualifier as he looks the sort to do well in it while the winner Flicka Williams is tough and can find more improvement yet.

2.05 Bet totescoop6 At Totepool.com Handicap Chase,Class 3,3m1f,18 fences,4yo+ (0-130).

A very trappy looking staying steeplechase full of potential improvers from last season.

It was an impressive staying run by No Planning to keep the form of the Sue Smith yard going,runner up last time over 2m4f he seems to relish the staying trips and could turn out to be a very good stayer indeed,he only made one error at three out but he saw the trip out well enough and has plenty of ability,now his trip seems to have been found he could be back here on Boxing Day for the Rowland Meryck Chase over CD.

Second place went to Denal Highway who was trying this trip for the first time on his seasonal reappearance and he seemed to stay,he could be targeting the better class 3m handicap chases,ascot swell made most of the early pace and looks the type to always find a few better in his races while the biggest disappointment came from Grouse Lodge who was always up with the pace until turning for home when he began to weaken,he should benefit from the outing although he can do much better than this.

2.40 Rob Seldon Retirement Handicap Chase,Class 4,2m4f+,16 fences,4yo+ (0-105)

An average contest which gave the owners of Badger Foot some compensation after his previous run at Hexham when he sprawled at the second last,a much more polished performance here he jumped well and fought off a PB by runner up Goodtoknow while the hat trick seeking Midnight Charmer could not cope with his new rating of 89.

Badger Foot won here of 98 so will end up going over 100 unless he comes out again quickly and Goodtoknow should be suited by three miles in time but he’s only a 5yo and he can improve.

Tresor De L’isle could not do what he did last time at Ayr,he was always struggling before falling at the fourth last.

3.15 Your Favourite Pool Bets At totepool.com Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m,9 flights,4yo+ (0-129)

A competitive enough race on paper and real tight finish that just went the way of Zaplamation,fit from the flat the 8yo was facing a battle on the run in and just hung on by a short head from Zafrangar.

Both the first two struggled to settle in the race,indeed the winning time was just over eight seconds slower than standard.

Lifetime was the one who filled third sport,he is now 0-12 over hurdles but he does run to a consistent level as he has been placed in five of his races.

3.50 New Racing Uk Anywhere Available Now Novices Hurdle,Class 4,2m4f,11 flights.

A two horse race on paper and so it proved to be as 4/7 f Blakemount comfortably beat Sir Mangan by 7 lengths.

Both 5yo Irish point winners they are quite promising and will probably stay over timber this season between 2m4f and 3m before embarking on Chasing careers.

The eye-catcher for me was Light The City, trained by Ruth Carr he travelled well turning for home before weakening but this was his third start and will now be qualified for handicaps,I would keep an eye on him as their is a small race around the likes of Sedgefield or Catterick that should suit.

A nice enough afternoons racing,being one of the understudy meetings when Cheltenham is one does mean that you won’t really be getting the best of the best but the crowd were treated to some good racing with some very enjoyable finishes.

Next up for me is the two day Betfair Chase Festival at Haydock,the first day being more a case of a Future Champions Day with plenty novice events and a bumper then on Saturday the Grade One Betfair Chase over 3m with equine stars such as Bobs Worth,Silviniaco Conti and Tidal Bay hopefully all lining up to do battle.

Until then goodbye.

Carlisle Races,Monday 11th November 2013

The turf flat has now been fully put into its winter hibernation until March so what better way to celebrate that than with an afternoons racing over the sticks at Carlisle.

Quite unusual this was a very good card for a Monday,A seven race card which contained some decent prize money with the feature race being the 3m Graduation Chase,this race used to be run over 2m4f and back in 2006 Exotic Dancer took part,that day he was a 28 length runner up to Turpin Green on this day and then what happened was the most amazing of transformations ever seen as just five days later he turned up at Cheltenham and won the Paddy Power Gold Cup before following up in December then he became one of the most popular 3m Chasers around with his long running but sadly never success battles with a certain Kauto Star.

He did have his big days in the sun,notably when winning the 2007 Bowl at Aintree and the 2008 Lexus before being third behind Kauto Star and Denman in the 2009 Gold Cup then sadly losing his life at Aintree the following month after an honourable second behind Madison Du Berlais in the Bowl, he was possibly the most classiest chaser of all time never to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Today though was a mix of four steeplechases,two hurdles and a bumper so off we go.

12.45 Watch Racing UK on Sky432 Handicap Chase,Class 4,3m2f,17 fences,4yo+ (0-105)

Just the 17 to be jumped as the first in the back straight was omitted due to the very heavy ground.

A real long distance slog in the mud which went to the well supported favourite Snuker to continue the good form of trainer James Ewart who held Shoal Bay Dreamer in second by 4.5 lengths,Etxalar was a very tired and distant third here.

Snuker seams at home in these staying events and only a 6yo he will probably be aimed at a Satellite National,maybe the Borders at Kelso or North Yorkshire at Catterick will be the targets you would imagine.

1.15 Durdar Novices Handicap Hurdle,Class 4,2m3f+,10 hurdles,3yo+(0-125)

No real strength and depth in this contest which was 31st time lucky for Dickie Henderhoop to give Lucy Normile a nice smash and grab from her Glenfarg base.

Radio Nowhere was prominent to begin with then going out on the second circuit Jason Maguire began to give a few reminders until he dropped back,Top Billing the other well fancied horse ran flat and both came home last and second last.

The winner was always prominent and the first time blinkers seemed to help a lot,wether he can follow up is another thing.

1.50 Join Now At rewards4racing.com Novices Limited Handicap Chase,Class 3,2m,11 fences,4yo+ (0-125)

Only three went to post but only two mattered and so it proved as Little Glenshee and Lucy Alexander set out to make all and the mare jumped well going round but she was merely a sitting duck up the straight for Rockawango who took the prize by 6 lengths on the bridle while outsider Leroy Parker completed in his own time to pick up third money.

A useful performance by this horse with reasonable handicap hurdle form,following up could be tricky and as for Little Glenshee she jumped very well but will better for going up to 2m4f.

2.25 Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Graduation Chase,Class 2,3m,16 fences,4yo+

Only five but a very intriguing contest with last years Grand National runner up Cappa Bleu up against some young improving stayers in the making.

The two hot horses in this were Buddy Bolero,fourth in the 4m National Hunt Chase at last seasons festival and Imperial Vic an improving novice.

Both of them in the end played second and third fiddle to another improver in Vintage Star of Sue Smith who shared pace setting duties with Imperial Vic while Buddy Bolero sat just off them in the opening mile or so before Tom Scudamore wisely moved him up to avoid being caught for pace,Vintage Star led over the last as Buddy Bolero challenged while Imperial Vic was outpaced after the fourth last.

It was a proper bruiser style slog up the run in and Vintage Star just held on by a neck from Buddy Bolero but to be fair Vintage Star seemed to have the measure of him.

Cappa Bleu was a distant fourth but he will be better for the run and ultimately Aintree will be his aim.

Both the first two look quality horses,Vintage Star being owned by Trevor Hemmings will no doubt be targeting the big Haydock staying chases and maybe even a Welsh National but he looks an out and out stayer,Buddy Bolero is probably going to be kept down South and target prizes around their.

3.00 Christmas Parties At Carlisle Racecourse Novices Hurdle,Class 4,2m1f,8 flights,4yo+

A real hand ride here for Paul Moloney on Milo Man who won like he should do,only his third ever race but first start over hurdles he jumped well enough and although Greensalt was battling in second he could not live with his classier opponent.

Milo Man is an exciting prospect to follow,he will be an even better chaser while Greensalt will be better upped in trip on easier ground,Maybe I Wont continues to run an honest race without winning while Politeness back in 7th will be another one suited by further and races in handicaps.

3.30 Border City Handicap Chase,Class 4,2m4f,16 fences,4yo+ (0-120)

A wide open competitive event on paper and so it proved with Tutchec the 6yo following up his recent CD win by making all off his new rating of 106,this will not go unoticed by the handicapper so a move into something over 110 will happen but he is improving and could be turned out again quickly proving he has got over today’s exertions in time.

Ros Castle was second and is one of a few who seemed better for the run,a step up to 3m seems likely during the season.

It’s always good to see Nicky Richards with a quality horse and this one could be another one off the Greystoke production line.

4.00 Connolly’s Red Mills Bumper Challenge NHF,Class 6,2m1f,4-6yo.

An easy hack around Carlisle for Stonebroom for the McCain/Maguire combo,travelling sweetly he won on the bridle and this 5yo has lots going for him,he will be switched to hurdles sooner rather than later you would think.

Filling the minor spots were Leney Cottage already a winner in a Point on the northern circuit he will be useful in time given the right grade,Kilkenny Kim back in third is slowly getting the hang of things and she will better over further when sent hurdling.

A useful days racing then on a real mix of rain,cold and sun in Carlisle today,some good prize money on offer attracted reasonable sized fields in testing conditions.

The National Hunt season has now hit full speed with the big names now coming out ready to be counted.

Next up will be Wetherby on Saturday.

Below,The mist over Carlisle.


Below,Now it’s all gone.


Below,Tutchec on the left and Ros Castle on the right.


Rugby League World Cup Group C/D,Tuesday 5th November 2013

Tonight it was the Leigh Sports Village for the match between Tonga and Cook Islands,a game which a few reported referred to it as the South Pacific Derby.

The Rugby League World Cup may have escaped the radar in some of the media but this sport always known as a predominantly Northern based game has caused huge interest especially in Leigh my local town where the anticipation has been building for quite a while.

Tonga v Cook Islands was a huge coup for the Leigh Sports Village,Quite a few Tongans over the years have graces the turf at the old Hilton Park with Tau Liku and Lee Hansen being ones close to the hearts of the supporters,indeed it was Tau Liku who to my knowledge could be in the small minority of having played for both Leigh Centurions and Leigh RU, Leigh is a rugby town through and through and the town certainly showed how much this game meant as 10,544 people poured in through the turnstiles to enjoy this cold Tuesday nights entertainment.

Before kick off their was plenty of pre match entertainment,local children did various dance displays,a choir entertained and joined in with the singing of the two national anthems then the main highlight was both teams doing their respective Haka’s and both were impeccably respected by the crowd and opposing team when they lined up to accept the challenge.

Going into the game,Tonga needed the win to keep their hopes alive after losing to Scotland 26-24 in their opening match while Cook Islands lost 32-20 to the surprise package of the tournament the USA.

First half kicked off and a few minutes in Tonga went 6-0 up with a try from Glen Fisi’iahi who took a pass from Sika Manu who charged through the field which was converted by Samsoni Langi.

Cook Islands then came back a few minutes later when equalising through the first of Chris Taripo’s scored on 14 mins which he then popped between the sticks with the conversion before taking the “away” side into the lead just six minutes later as the winger went down into the left hand corner,after that try he passed the ball to Jordan Rapana but it wasn’t a good kick so it stayed at 6-10.

After this the match was well and truly open with plenty tough,hard tackles going in by both teams,this really was a Derby that had all the passion anyone would want to see.

It took a while but Tonga went back infront just over the half hour as Jason Taumololo held off the challenge of two Cook Islanders to make it into the corner which Langi managed to convert with a kick from a trappy angle.

After another two points were added from a penalty in front of goal then another try was added by Tonga from Konrad Hurrell as he went through the Cook Islands defence like a hot knife through butter,a quick check from the video ref gave it the Ok and the time half time hooter soon went.

HT Tonga 18 Cook Islands 10.

After the usual half time trip to the loo for some quiet time and pause for thought it was the second half ,this was still anyone’s game though,nothing was being taken for granted for either side as play resumed.

Indeed Cook Islands needed only three minutes as the pulled another one back as Taripo scored his hat trick by avoiding some tough Tongan tacking to pop the ball into the corner which he duly converted to make it 18-16.

After this it was a real battle with Tonga very much In the accendancy but as hard as they tried to get the ball over the line in a tough period the Cook Islands defence stayed strong and solid with a “Thou Shalt Not Pass” attitude which firmly fended off any chances of more points being added until just after 62 mins when Tonga scored what looked a dubious looking try from Jorge Taufua who went in the corner from a pass but it was hard see the actual grounded so the decision was handed over to the video ref who had a busy old time and after a good look from the various camera angles available the awarded Tonga the try although the conversion was missed it made it 22-16.

The match was not over yet and Cook Islands nearly made it level in an jaw dropping moment when a try looked 1000% certain from a cracking attack when Jordan Rapana had all time in the world to ground the ball,he could have nipped to the onsite catering to order a pint and pie but he went all butter fingers and dropped it like you would expect Frank a Spencer to do with a cuppa in his hand, The people of Leigh had never groaned as much in unison at anyone time in its history.

Cooks last chance came on the 78th minute when they scored a try which subsequently got the NO K from the video ref as the player had a leg out of touch.

Full Time Tonga 22-Cook Islands 16.

So a tough match and a real battle hardened performance from both teams here,playing their hearts out with a crowd that showed their appreciation for the two with plenty of love and respect.

This result now means the Cook Islands are out with a game against Wales to come to see who wins the wooden spoon for Group D and with the USA the group winners that one for many is the shock while in Group C Tonga still have a squeak if they beat Italy and USA beat Scotland,given what has happened so far anything can happen.

The Rugby League World Cup has been a very exciting tournament to follow,anybody who felt a bit of a lull in their lives after London 2012 should keep an eye on this,it’s one hell of an event and more than capable of holding its own in the sporting world.

My next match in this will be the Final at Old Trafford on Sat 30th November,before that four days of jumps racing lie ahead the main event being the two day Betfair Chase Festival at Haydock Park.

Below,myself just before heading in to the ground.


The Tongan Coach,not the human one!


Teams line up.


Cook Islands fan watches on.


Wetherby Races,Charlie Hall Chase Day,Saturday 2nd November 2013

The crowds flocked in their droves for the traditional curtain raiser at Wetherby,a seven race card of pure quality lay ahead with a real mix of potential stars and established favourites were on show as the jumps season really did move up a gear.

Weather wise today it was a case of four seasons in one day,the sun appeared for a cameo show then the heavens opened and decided to drown the hardy racegoers who didn’t let a bit of rain spoil the enjoyment of seeing the best that National Hunt racing has to offer.

12.45 Racing UK Your Racing Home From Home Novices Chase,Class 4,3m1f,19 fences,4yo+

A six runner event but only a two runner event in quality as former consistent pointer Mendip Express won very easily by twelve lengths from a very tired Bracken House who towed them along for most of the journey until being outpaced and outclassed as the business end approached.

Sixty Something the main player in the race almost capsized at the third fence but with A.P. on board he was not going to let gravity get the better of him,he got back into contention before finally falling at the seventh,he has ability to make a fair chaser but needs to brush up a lot on his jumping.

Mendip Express is an interesting type,I doubt he is RSA class as this stage but he would be on the shortlist for the Four Miler at the Festival at this stage as he looks more an out and out stayer over longer trips in time.

1.15 bet365 Novices Hurdle,Class 3,2m,9 flights,4yo+

Lots of potential quality on show here and it was the cream that came to the top with odds on favourite Gone Too Far putting in a professional performance to best Varom by 2.25 lengths and Gassin Golf again finding a few too good.

The winner looks decent and sets a reasonable standard at this stage,no doubt he will try to follow up under a penalty while Varom was staying on and could be suited a step up in trip at some stage in time and Gassin Golf is a trier but also a frustrating horse as he always runs his race but always gets found out by better horses.

1.50 OLBG.com Mares Hurdle,Listed,2m,9 flight,4yo+

National Hunt racings equivalent of the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf here,two former winners lined up plus a winner from the Aintree meeting mixed in with a few progressive types made this an high quality renewal and surely and upgrade from Listed status in needed in time.

Une Artiste made the early running and turning for home approaching the third last we had six in a line,she was headed and began to weaken as eventual winner Cockney Sparrow who was fit from the flat powered away to land the prize and some valuable Black Type for Dougie Costello and trainer John Quinn,Prima Porta was second and former winner Alasi was third.

Trainer John Quinn is without Countrywide Flame this season so Cockney Sparrow will be assuming top hurdle duties and get sent a bit further up the A1 to Newcastle on the 30th for the Fighting Fifth which will be tougher.

L’Unique was very disappointing but she is only 4 and should not be written off just yet and Une Artiste could be sent chasing now and stepped up in trip.

2.25 bet365.com Novices Limited Handicap Chase,Class 3,2m,13 fences,4yo+ (0-137)

Only three in this but all from top stables and a very impressive round of jumping from Valco de Touzaine under Sam Twiston Davies who rode his first winner for Paul Nicholls here ,making all the running he jumped well and handed chasing debutant It’s A Gimme a sound twelve length beating,they were the only two who got round as Fair Trade who was never travelling well and made a few errors eventually dumped Choc Thornton at the fourth last.

Valco de Touzaine seems best when able to dominate so the flatter front running tracks will be up his street but he can only improve from this run.

3.00 bet365 Hurdle (Registered As The West Yorkshire Hurdle) Grade 2,3m1f,13 flights,4yo+

Despite the absence of At Fishers Cross this was a fascinating contest on paper and so it proved to be with yet another victory for the popular and loveable Tidal Bay who won this race for the second year in a row,last year he won this and followed up with a second spot in the Hennessy then taking the Lexus in the ride of the season,he maybe a 12yo but this is an amazing piece of training by Paul Nicholls who turned him from perennial under achiever to the horse everyone always thought he could be,The Betfair Chase could be next as he seems to be in the form of his life.

Across The Bay made the early running,he faded turning for home but this was probably a prep for the Becher Chase,Medinas who was the 1l runner up drifted left on the run in which might have cost him the win but his next ideal target could be the Ascot Hurdle over 2m4f with the Aintree Hurdle being the main end of season target.

3.35 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase,Grade 2,3m 1f,19 fences,5yo+

A very good renewal of this top historic Northern Steeplechase,the main talking horse coming into this was Long Run,dual King George winner and a former Gold Cup champion,this race had the makings on paper as a formality for him but it’s on turf and not paprt that races are run and for the first time in his career he did not finish in the first three as he trailed home last of the five that finished,he was going quite well as they went down the back for the second time until he made an error at the eleventh fence which was the third of the open ditches which possibly dented his confidence then turning for home he never picked up and ended up a total of 41 lengths behind eventual victor Harry Topper.

Questions will be asked about Long Run,the top rated off 171 it’s highly likely he will miss Haydock and go straight to Kempton on Boxing Day where he has run his best races in the past

Harry Topper was nicely handled last season and missed the big festivals for a race at Kelso where he fell and four fences in he was at the back of the pack but Jason Maguire gave him a couple of taps to let him know whose boss and he responded well as he knuckled down to the job in hand,he led over the last and had a real fight on the run in with 50-1 outsider Wayward Prince and just hung on by a neck,both were 4 lengths ahead of Unioniste who might not be ready for 3m just yet and races like the Peterborough Chase could prove his making,2m4f will also be better for Irish raider Benefficient who didn’t seem to stay.

As for Harry Topper he is only 6yo and probably won’t end up in the Gold Cup,maybe Aintree at the end of the season could suit him as could the 3m a Chases at places like Leopardstown and Newbury.

4.05 Watch Racing UK on Freeview 231 Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+ (0-131)

A double for A.P. here on More Than That,only a 5yo he won on his only start to date at the now sadly shut Folkestone last year,held up in the gathering gloom to being with he made good headway before getting the better of Twelve Roses on the run in to hold on by a length,he is a very nice prospect and will go up in the ratings and can be Graded quality soon along with going up in trip as he looks every inch a stayer.

Only four got home in this,it was a very testing race in the conditions but I was most impressed with the winning horse.

A very enjoyable afternoons jump racing then,some real thrills and spills on the track which showed why jump racing is as popular as ever.

The season really is now in full swing and if this was the appetiser then god only knows how good the main courses are going to be over the upcoming months!

At time of writing A.P. McCoy is slowly creeping towards the 4000 winner mark,he is simply the toughest of all sportsmen given all the various injuries he has sustained in his career.

After five meetings in quick succession it’s a brief change of sport on Tuesday as I pop down the road to watch Tonga v Cook Islands in the Rugby League World Cup.

Below,Tidal Bay coming back in.


Below,Harry Topper and the other Charlie Hall Chase finishers.