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.