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!

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