Haydock Park Races,Monday 30th December 2013

The last meeting of the year at Haydock,the last meeting in the north of 2013 and the last event to be blogged my myself as the countdown to 2014 slowly makes it’s way towards us.

A seven race card here today on typical wintery National Hunt racing conditions that began cold with rain but ended as the afternoon wore on with much more sunnier ones.

After the past few days of top class action the quality here was competitive if somewhat a little bit below par and a small crowd turned up,many no doubt probably put off by the mornings weather,It does take a lot to spend a few hours stood outside in awful weather but racing fans like myself are a mixture of brave,foolhardy and plain bloody daft but it’s because of the action out on the track that we do it,after all where else would you rather be? No doubt the Barmy Army England Cricket fans may be liking the weather over in Australia but at least going racing I’ve been having a few more winners than them.

So onto the review then, today the first fence in the back straight was omitted due to the ground which went Heavy all round after the third race,it was testing but they seemed to be getting through if ok,a mix of three steeplechases,two hurdles and two fixed brush hurdles gave a real mix for everyone today.

12.20 The Apollobet Online Games And Casino C/J Hurdle,Class 4,3m,12 flights,4yo+,(0-115)

A mixed bag in this race including the evergreen 15yo Sphinx making his belated seasonal return but it was top weight Moscow Presents who prevailed in the conditions to win only his second career win,taking over from four out her was four lengths in front over the last and hung on from the fast finishing American Life with Cloudingstar back in third.

This was not a strong race,the winner benefited from going up in distance,the conditions probably did not suit but he worked hard,American Life probably wants further so maybe hurdles around Sedgefield,Fontwell and Stratford would suit him all over 3m3f.

12.50 The Apollobet In Play Betting Veterans Handicap Chase,Class 2,2m5f,16 fences,10yo+,(0-145)

Some popular rogues in this event,the talking horse was Baby Run,13yo and lightly raced all his career today was only his 26th race,former winner of the Aintree and Cheltenham Foxhunters he also won the 2m novice hurdle on this card back in 2004!

Today though was his final race as he was retired,coming in fourth he set the early pace until getting headed down the far side,he weakened so Sam Twiston Davies nursed him around in his own time to finish.

At the business end it was a never say die ride from Killian Moore (5) on Kilcrea Asla who was in third over the last as Gansey and Charingworth fought out a battle in the rain,they were out on their feet on the run in as the winner went through the pair like a hot knife through butter in the final 110 yards to record a 1.5 length victory, this was deserved for him as he was a runner up in this back in 2011 when only 10!

Lucky Sunny on his first start for Venetia Williams was pulled up with four to jump,Gauvain made some errors early which he at his age he should know better but he did complete in his own time to pick up fifth place money and The Knoxs skidded on landing over the fourth and was promptly pulled up

1.25 The EBF Stallions Apollobet Free Download App “National Hunt” Novices Hurdle (Qualifier) Class 4,2m,9 flight,4-6yo.

Just eight in this but it was the cream that easily rose to the top at the business end, it was the two market protagonists Desoto County who won the 2m bumper here last month and Goohar who ran in a junior bumper here in 2012.

It was Goohar who just got the better of Desoto County on the run in,originally with Luca Cumani he never ran on the flat and was picked up cheaply for the Henry Daly team and has been brought along nicely,this was his third start over hurdles so now will be eligible for handicaps,the final of this series at Sandown could be considered as that is often run on testing ground but he is a lovely young horse for the Daly yard and is one to watch.

Desoto County created a good impression when winning last month before being beaten under a penalty at Bangor a few weeks ago,he will have learned from this and should win his next race.

Highpower ran a much better race under AP and will now probably go handicapping after this,probably up to 2m4f,he is a half brother to Alberta’s Run and can improve.

1.55 The Last Fling Chase,Class 2,3m4f,20 fences,4yo+,(0-145).

Named in memory of The Last Fling a former winner of the now defunct Edward Hanmer Chase,Peter Marsh and National Trial (all in the same season) this was a real stamina sapping contest with a fair prize,ideal for those who weren’t to keen on the endurance test of the Welsh National last Saturday.

Sadly in the race we had two fatalities in Beamazed who cut out the early running and Monsieur Cadou, they were pulled up at the second and fourth fences in the home straight which meant only two were jumped on the final circuit,my commiserations to all of those connected.

At the business end it was back to form for Across The Bay who was all out under Jason Maguire after the last to split up the battle between Pete The Feat and outsider Wellforth.

This was a much better performace from Across The Bay who won the Rendlesham here back in February, he will have the Grand National as his main target and winning here of 143 he was 7lb lower than his rating when he ran in the Aintree marathon,it is likely he will come back here for the Rendlesham again before April.

Wellforth could find if hard to win after this tough run,Pete The Feat is ideal for a Satelitte National somewhere,maybe the Midlands or the Scottish could be up his street.

2.30 The Apollobet Best Odds Guaranteed “Fixed Brush” Novices Hurdle,Class 4,2m4f,10 flights,4,5,6,7yo.

Just a field of five but it was a mere stroll in the park for Urban Hymn who went one better than his second here last time out over C/D, a former Point and Bumper winner he is progressing along nicely and won nicely making all the running to record a twenty length victory over Algernon Pazham who got second after Howaboutnow crashed out at the last flight.

It will be interesting to see where Urban Hymn ends up after this,The River Don over 3m at Doncaster may come under consideration or dropping down to 2m for the Rossington Main here in a few weeks time,also the Leamington at Warwick over 2m5f must all come under consideration but he is a more than useful horse to note down.

3.05 The Nick Carter 30th Birthday Novices Limited Handicap Chase,Class 3,2m4f,14 fences,4yo+,(0-125).

Just the six in this race in which they were stretched out quite early on, their was a bit of support for Saints And Sinners,with Mick Easterby close to handing the license over many thought this was the last chance of a typical gamble from the old rouge but he was getting outpaced down the back straight and had no chance from there.

It was a typical McCoy ride here to get the prize on favourite Bobcatbilly,a winner first time out this season at Ludlow before coming third back the same place in a much classier contest he was all out over the last to fight off the attentions of top weight Supreme Asset to win by 2.75 lengths.

He jumped well and winning here off 114 this lightly raced 7yo is in good heart and can expect to be in the 120s after this, Supreme Asset has kept good company this season,he found the step up in trip to his liking and can be found a small race somewhere before to long.

3.35 The Apollobet Free £50 Bets “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle,Class 4,2m4f,4yo+,(0-120)

This was a qualifier for the JC Grassroots Jumps Series final to be run here on Easter Saturday, they hacked along here in the early stages and turning for home all seven had a chance to be in the shake up.

In a battle to the line after the last hurdle it was No No Bingo who was 11th in the Chase final of this series back in April who landed the win on his seasonal reappearance to just hang on grimly from The Jugopolist by half a length with Basford Bob and Teochew only a neck and half a length back in third or fourth.

Sole Survivor ran an eye catching race back in fifth,he travelled well before struggling to pick up on the run in but he is a well built horse and will have a much better future when sent chasing over 3m or so.

Some tough races today,the heavy ground always makes it a war of attrition at Haydock, the retirement of Baby Run was good to see but sad to see was the two fatalities on the course,National Hunt racing can be exciting but it can also have it’s wretched moments that pull at the heartstrings and really get to you that nothing else can.

Racing wise my next meeting will be Warwick on the 11th for the Classic Chase and Leamington Hurdle before that this Saturday a couple of events are on the shortlist,just depends how the weather goes!

So the last blog review of 2013 then,it’s been very enjoyable to do and I shall be carrying on in 2014 covering not just horse racing but other sports too, I’m going to be sticking with the multi sports idea so to keep it interesting.

May I wish you all a Happy 2014 and thank you for taking the time to read this.

Lancaster City v Ossett Town,Evo Stik League First Division North,Saturday 28th December 2013

An intriguing battle between the two clubs ranked 6th and 9th respectively coming into today’s game at a slightly cold but thankfully not wet or windy Giant Axe Stadium in the county city of Lancaster.

I did wonder when checking the programme that Ossett Town had a kit that was all red,Was this some psychological attempt by wearing the Red Rose colour in the county city?

Thankfully the trains were running today,the recent weather left speed restrictions yesterday on the WCML with just 50mph from Preston.

A few facts about Lancaster is that three of its most famous people who hail from this beautiful city are the comedian Jon Richardson from 8 Out Of 10 Cats,Jim Bowen the former host of Bullseye which seemed forever to be giving people from Tamworth either a speedboat or caravan for getting the 101! and singer John Waite of “Missing You” fame.

This is a very hilly place to visit,You need plenty of stamina indeed the uphill walk back to the train station is that stiff it makes Carlisle and Towcester look like a mere stroll!

Both teams came in from indifferent results on Boxing Day,Lancaster drew 2-2 with Kendal Town and Ossett Town beat Ossett Albion 4-1.

Match Review.

This was a hard fought victory for Lancaster City who took the lead after four minutes when forward Jordan Connerton easily rolled in a cross from the right to put City 1-0 up and gave him his fourth goal this month.

After this their was a period of domination by Town and the midfield duo of Danny Paterson and Luke Sharry shots from outside the box going wide and over the sticks before later when Fernando Moke who went into the area before getting his attempt cleared quickly by the City defense.

Lancaster tried to double their lead and were unlucky on 34 minutes when Josh Donnelly hit the bar before defender Glenn Steel saw his free kick go over.

Just before half time Ossett Town equalised when a corner was met by the head of Ryan Qualter.

Half Time Lancaster City 1-Ossett Town 1

Second half commenced under the lights as darkness arrived,after getting a cuppa and the last Mars from Dolly’s Diner it was back to the main stands as act two began.

Both teams came charging out of the blocks ,Lancaster tried to go back in front from a couple of minutes in as a Simon Wills attempt but this was easily saved, Town quickly responded when a beautifully struck shot by James Eyles that curled in the air was safefully caught by Lancaster goalie Sam Dobbs.

Either of the two trying to get the upper hand as the second half continued was going to be very tricky but Lancaster eventually went two up as a fierce strike by Mark Jackson flew by Town keeper Sam Dobbs before hitting the post as it went over the line.

Lancaster continued to bombard the Town defence to finish the job off but they could not find a way past,as for Town they had an attempt in injury time but it was not to be.

Full Time Lancaster City 2 Ossett Town 1, Attendance 220.

An interesting contest it proved to be here with Lancaster working hard for the three points,Their manager Darren Peacock who was a more than useful defender in his prime with Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers is doing a quiet yet more than adequate job here as he earns his management spurs, I would not be shocked at all if in a few years he ends up at a football league club,no doubt the likes of local clubs Preston,Fleetwood and Morecamble will have designed on him in the future,his Lancaster team like to play and pass the ball which can be difficult on non league pitches.

I bet many of you reading have been passed the Giant Axe Stadium,if you sit on the left going to Scotland by train then you see it as soon as the train pulls out of Lancaster station along with Crewe its probably the best ground to get to by public transport.

Below,Lancaster Castle.

20131228-205237.jpg

Below,The main stand.

20131228-205316.jpg

Below,Bit of match action.

20131228-205402.jpg

Haydock Park,Tommy Whittle Chase Day,Saturday 21st December 2013.

A seven race card on what was a fairly quiet afternoon by Haydock’s standards for a Saturday afternoon,being the last shopping Saturday before Christmas may have something to so with it along with the face that the day before was some twaddle called “Mad Friday” which was in essence a day when office workers go out on the lash, Why anyone would want to go out on a works outing is beyond me still each to their own.

This meeting was the Tommy Whittle Chase,now a 0-145 handicap it used to be a conditions race but is now a handicap due to the addition of the Grade One Lancashire Chase last month,it is still a useful contest but does not carry the weight that it used to.

12.00 Terry Rugg Memorial Handicap Hurdle,2m,9 flights,4yo+ (0-125)

Seven went to post after two got pulled out no doubt to the annoyance of each way punters and it was the 2009 Grand National Trainer/Jockey combination of Venetia Williams and Liam Treadwell who took the spoils with Leviathan who won his second career win over hurdles on his eighth start,I saw this horse pull up at Cheltenham back in October but improved at Uttoxeter on the 10th of this month to be fourth and was at his best today to rally up the run in to hold off Hartside by a length with Irish raider Trucking Along 2.5 lengths back in third.

Leviathan may not be as big as his namesake but he does battle when needed,winning here off 119 he could be aimed for a bigger target and can improve from this,Smadynium was a bit disappointing,he likes to lead but sulked and dropped back when out in the country,he is a tricky customer.

12.30 The onestopenergy.co.uk Novices’ Chase,2m,13 fences,4yo+

It was back to winning ways here for the Sue Smith trained Mwaleshi,a winner at Wetherby two starts back before being a runner up at Carlisle he was given a well times ride by Jonathan England to comfortably beat Valco De Touzaine by 5 lengths.

The runner up took over the lead after fence three but after jumping the second last began to get urged along by Ryan Mahon and seemed a bit once paced,then Mwaleshi took over and always had the upper hand,he is getting the hand of this steeplechase malarkey with aplomb,expect him to be aimed at something a bit higher from this as the season goes on,Valco De Touzaine is only a 4yo compared to 8 of the winner,he probably want a bit further now and going up to 2m4f will do him no harm.

Favourite Ahyaknowyerself never seemed happy,a return to hurdles could be the case should he not go on from this.

1.00 The Call 08006118377 OSE Mares’ Novices Hurdle,2m4f,10 flights,4yo+

A hat trick of wins from Carole’s Sprit who had to work hard for this,the early pace was set by the ultra consistent As I Am from Don Cantillon’s Newmarket base until she was headed after the 7th flight but she found extra to regain the lead and was two lengths leading again as they jumped the final flight but Leighton Apsell rousted the favourite which helped her as she picked up in the last furlong on the flat to break the heart of As I Am by 2.5 lengths,these two were clear from Keishi Pearl in third and Irish raider Our Katie who didn’t seem at all happy but will have gained a bit of Black Type to enhance her value.

Carole’s Spirit got a nice mention here in the review from day two of Aintree,she is progressing all the time,maybe the Leamington at Warwick could be the next port of call in January with the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham another target although that will mean taking on Quevega!

Keishi Pearl was over twenty one lengths back in third and a full fifteen ahead from Our Katie.

1.30 The Shirley Leigh Memorial Handicap Chase,2m,13 fences,4yo+ (0-135)

Six went to post in what looked a poor race,the top weight had an official rating of 123 so it was below the ceiling of the race.

It was the third winner of the day to be trained by a female trainer and this one went to Granville Island who is trained by Jennie Candlish in Leek who had to work to earn his money,in the van guard for most of the race he had a fight up the straight with top weight Wings of Smoke but he was no match for the winning horse who benefitted from the 2lbs drop in the weights to regain winning ways,he will no doubt go up a few pounds for this and a possible target after this could be the Edward Courage Cup at Warwick in a few weeks,Wings of Smoke is a tricky customer and simply found one to good here.

The disappointment of the race was Tornado In Milan,today he was more like Macclesfield than Milan,held up to begin with he struggled to make any ground up and is worth watching before committing any money to backing him at this stage.

2.05 The One Stop Energy Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase,3m,18 fences,4yo+ (0-145)

Twelve went post in wide open contest,a mixture of improves and horses stuck on their current ratings,the highest rated in the contest was Solix on 133 who is woefully out of form.

Loch Ba and No Planning cut out the early pace with Wicklow Lad sharing the duties,going down the back the second time and No Planning put them to the sword after a few taps by Jonathan England,going into the far turn Night Alliance the eventual winner was stalking him and travelled smoothly until Leighton Aspell asked him to move which he duly did and took the prize by a comfortable 8 lengths with Loch Ba rallying on the run in to beat No Planning into second,they were a country mile clear of the stragglers.

Night Alliance is on an upward curve this season,already victorious at Ffos Las and Ascot he fell in his last race at Kelso,as for his next run the connections apparently are thinking of Cheltenham in January although they should consider the Peter Marsh back here,wether or not he gets a Grand National is up to the owners but it must be worth considering.

Safran de Cotte jumped poor while Ballytober still needs more experience over fences.

Loch Ba was an interesting contender,I mean how often do you see a horse under the name of Mick Channon in a Haydock staying chase? Their will be a race to win with him whilst No Planning is a possibility for something like an Eider or Midlands National type of race.

2.40 The nationwidevehiclecontracts.co.uk Handicap Hurdle,2m4f,10 flights,3yo+

Just the five in this race, Top weight Puffin Billy was a non runner due to colic but thankfully according to reports online he is making progress from it which is nice to read.

This was all about one horse Special Catch who was third at the least meeting behind the very impressive More Of That who won last weekends Relkeel hurdle at Cheltenham.

Special Catch did oblige here,travelling and jumping well he was leading after two out and put in a professional performance to land the spoils,a very useful 6yo he looks good at this trip and will probably he aimed at a big handicap, The Lanzarote over 2m5f at Kempton has been touted as an idea with maybe the Coral Cup or Martin Pipe CJ hurdle races at the festival being long term aims.

The return of Storm Brig was sad as he was pulled up turning into the straight and quickly dismounted by Ewan Whillans,thankfully their was no use of the green screens and he came back in the horse ambulance,this could possibly be his last run on a racecourse.

3.15 The One Stop Energy Race Day Handicap Hurdle,3m,12 flights,4yo+ (0-140)

A useful looking race on paper with some useful sorts but it was all about one horse in the end and that was 5yo Sausalito Sunrise,going well and jumping nicely he is full of potential,steeplechasing will be his future next season but until then he is worth aiming at something like the Pertemps series so I would not be surprised to see him turning out in one of the qualifying races soon,possibly Warwick next month or back here on National trial day.

Matthew Riley took the second spot,he may be more of a spring horse,third went to Aegean Dawn who tried 3m for the first time and will be better dropped down to 2m4f,Ballyculla seems to be in the grip of the handicapper now while Cross Kennon who boasts useful CD form is going to go more backwards than forwards but he owes connections nothing.

A fair days racing then,obviously with Christmas coming up the quality was not expected to be at the top end but it wasn’t a poor card either,some nice types for the future such as Sausalito Sunrise and Carole’s Spirit who are both ones to keep in the notebook.

As we slowly amble towards Christmas may I wish all my regular readers of this a very Merry Christmas and thank you all for reading my various reviews, from the big venues such as Cheltenham,Aintree,Old Trafford and the Olympic Stadium to the smaller ones such as Droylsden,Atherton LR and Eton Dorney Rowing Club.

Just because it’s Christmas certainly doesn’t mean I shall be resting fully,next weekend I hope to be at a non league football match,not sure which one but I have a shortlist of four,it’s a case of see what the weather gods decide on doing, Racing wise I’m back at Haydock on the 30th for the final meeting of 2013.

Looking to 2014 apart from the racing which is the main sport for me I shall be at other events,at the moment guaranteed are a Sunday of Indoor Athletics at Sheffield in February then into the summer I am off to the Commonwealth Games for a Saturday evening of Men’s Lawn Bowls (got to try something new!) then a Sunday hopefully seeing both the Men’s and Women’s Marathons in Glasgow followed by the finals of the Rugby Sevens at Ibrox.

Merry Christmas,Stay safe and may all your Christmas bets be winning ones!

Rugby League World Cup Final, New Zealand v Australia,Saturday 30th November

It was just over ten years ago that English hearts were full of pride,joy and emotion as that famous drop kick from Jonny Wilkinson flew like a dart aiming for the bullseye to give the England RU team that wonderful 20-17 over Australia in their own back yard, for the first time since 1966 England were World Cup winners.

A lot has happened since then,England’s football team has been to many good tournaments only to fall short on too many occasions without showing much fight it is sad to say while the RU side went to defend their World Cup crown before losing to South Africa 15-6 in the 2007 final then in 2011 being demolished 19-12 by France in the Quarters.

Today though it was a change of codes as the 2013 Rugby League World Cup came to its glorious conclusion at the Theatre of Dreams that is Old Trafford,home of the twenty times league champions Manchester United for a final that brought fans of rugby league and sports fans in general to this great stadium, the biggest stadium for a football league club in the UK to host a tournament that has excelled better than the organisers could have ever hoped for.

Unlike World Cups in football and rugby union the RLWC was taken to traditional rugby league outposts such as Leigh,Wigan,St Helens and Workington while other games took place in what could be deemed as not so RL locations like Bristol and Neath where they are predominantly RU but the crowds still flocked to appreciate this event.

Being the first worldwide event to be held in this country since London 2012 was always going to be tricky but the people in charge of RLWC2013 can hold their head held high as crowd records were broken and a new found respect for rugby league was born.

All tournaments must end and so it was at Old Trafford that New Zealand and Australia faced off to decide who would pick up the trophy after 80 minutes of brutal,hard work and at times torturous sport for the right to become champions.

Match Review.

On to the match then,after local lad Russell Watson (no relation) sang both of the respective anthems and the New Zealand team did their Haka it was down to what the previous five weeks had all come down to as 74,468 people roared on the battle of the Southern Hemisphere giants in this cauldron of rugby league.

The early stages were quite fraught with both teams sounding each other out, plenty of tough and heavy tackles as they lay down their markers until Australia went 2-0 from a Johnathan Thurston penalty on 5mins which soon got cancelled out by a New Zealand penalty on 16mins after Australia’s Cameron Smith did a high it on a NZ attack to make it 2-2.

Just three minutes later though Australia scored the first try from full back Billy Slater who is more the size of a flat jockey lept up in the air after a high kick on the fifth tackle to reach it like a man possessed to ground the ball which was duly converted by Thurston to make it 8-2 to the Aussies as the game approached the mid way point of the first half, just a few minutes later Australia had a disallowed try before going over on 31 mins from Cooper Cronk which again Thurston converted before adding a penalty moments later.

Half Time,New Zealand 2 Australia 16.

The final forty minutes began and to be fair only side was in it and that was Australia, straight from kick off Billy Slater added his second of the game after excellent running from Thurston and winger Darius Boyd to slip in Slater, again it was sent through the posts by with a brilliant conversion that slowly turned as it took dead aim towards the sticks.

Just ten minutes later Australia went over again but at the same time fell foul of the high pitch inside Old Trafford, a mixture of light kicking and tapping the ball resulted in Brett Morris grounding the ball before following through and disappearing off the pitch and sliding down hitting the advertising boards, a quick check from the video referee gave the Try and again Thurston converted the extra two.

More points came all for Australia as expected,New Zealand to their credit battled on but the Australian defence held tighter as if the they holding off Bailiffs trying to take their entire supply of many various Australian based beers!

The final points came on 72 minutes as Australia intercepted a pass from New Zealand’s ace Sonny Bill Williams, a winner in the Union World Cup back in 2011, was stolen by centre Jarryd Hayne who sprinted 50 metres quicker than Usain Bolt down the Old Trafford turf before off loading to Brett Morris and he grounded easily for that man again Johanthan Thurston to easily put the boot in.

Full Time, New Zealand 2 Australia 34.

In all fairness this was an easy win for Australia, it seemed as if New Zealand left their game behind at Wembley last weekend against England, they never seemed to get going but take it nothing from Australia they gave a master class in how to win a game, always in control it was only going one way and they are the winners of the RLWC 2013.

Normally World Cup finals can be dull and boring, take the USA 94 one in football between Brazil and Italy, my god that was an appalling affair but this was all you could ask for, proper attacking and tough tackles, no rolling over like a spoilt child just getting up and carrying on as if nothing happened, I think the people in suits at FIFA should look at this event and see how it should be done.

As for the occasion itself it may not have the worldwide appeal of that long drawn out affair the Superbowl which seems to last longer than a Lord of The Rings movie, this match infact both of the ones that I attended all ran seamlessly even with the referrals to the video referees, I think Fatboy Slim must have made a shedload of money from the royalties!

For me this was a grand event to see and the organisers of the. tournament should be proud of what has been achieved, Rugby League is often seen as a predominantly northern based sport but the public have taken this to their hearts and supported it with the respect it deserves.

Below, The Haka before the kick off.

20131201-134445.jpg

Below, Another Johnathan Thurston conversion goes over.

20131201-134526.jpg

Below, The greatest football team all lit up!

20131201-134608.jpg

Below, It’s all fireworks as the trophy is picked up.

20131201-134641.jpg

More fireworks!

20131201-134924.jpg

Below,Runners up New Zealand applaud the crowd.

20131201-134959.jpg