Heavy ground awaited the forty one declared horses that took up their deceleration this afternoon at a cold,overcast albeit with the sun making a small cameo appearance for only a short while at Haydock Park for this seven race card which included four graded races.
Today had a good mix of novice events that featured potential stars of the future with the two feature races being the Champion Hurdle Trial which over the years hasn’t had much effect on the big race in March and the Peter Marsh Chase which has been won by some classy horses over the years such as Our Vic,Cloudy Lane,Jodami,Earth Summit and Twin Oaks.
Due to the ground the first fence in the back straight was omitted in all steeplechases.
12.20 The Tate Contracts Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,(0-135) 4yo+,3m,12 flights.
Despite the small field of eight this had a mix of improving sorts and exposed handicappers over this long trip and it was Extreme Impact who just hung on by a neck from Quel Elite in a tough punishing finish between the first two.
Early pace setter and favourite Ugly Bug was still leading turning for home until being headed but plugged on for third,Hada Men finished in fourth but he is finding it tough these days.
This was not a strong race but the finish was great to watch a real battle royale up the straight.
12.55 The G4S Events Graduation Chase,Class 2,5yo+,2m5f,14 fences.
A more than useful looking contest on paper despite only being five in it and it was a case of Daryl Jacob using his initiative and taking up the running after two fences on Benvolio and making the rest,coming up the straight he was challenged by Irish raider Maggio who was having a quick reappearance after finishing seventh at Musselburgh yesterday.
Benvolio had to work for this and he duly found when needed,this was a hard fought win and he will be even better when upped back to Three Miles, he could be aimed at one of the festival handicaps,maybe the Kim Muir but also I would consider the Topham at Aintree.
Of the rest Trustan Times didn’t jump with much fluidity at a few of them but did stay on towards the finish while the other two Fill The Power and Rival D’Estruval are both long distance chasers and this race was a nice way to dust off the cobwebs before being aimed at the big staying events,FTP could have a race like the Midlands National as a target and Rival in the colours of Raymond Anderson Green will without doubt be going up to Ayr in April as his main race.
1.30 The Racing Post Celebrates 200,000 Social Followers Novices Chase,Grade 2,5yo+,2m5f,14 fences.
The defection of Gevrey Chambertin cost this race a bit or real star quality so I hope David Pipe reroute him to Wetherby for the Towton as I shall be there that day!
This was an easy stroll in the park for odds on favourite Taquin Du Seuil who made it three from five this season, jumping well in the main he ran down the last two but had enough of a big lead not be inconvenienced by this,he could go to Sandown in a fortnight before Cheltenham
Coverholder and Knock A Hand the only other finishers were 17 and 23 lengths back,both are useful horses but comprehensively outclassed, O’Faolains Boy was pulled up going down the back but is much better than this.
2.05 The Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices Hurdle,Grade 2,4yo+,2m,9 flights.
A really good mix of horses in this which included two unbeaten,one second season hurdler on a hat trick bid and a horse costing £450,000 from France (you can’t even get a Premiership footballer for that!)
The costly horse was French import Un Temps Pour Tout who had plenty of Graded form in France and was sent off the red hot favourite.
However he was put in his place by Zamdy Man who made all under these new front running tactics that have revitalised him this winter to hold him by 1.75 lengths,Un Temps Pour Tout did challenge coming for home but made a hash of the second last which didn’t help him at all,he would be a lot better over further for me.
Zamdy Man is a much happier horse this season,he could go for the Supreme at Cheltenham but he would not be allowed to boss it,he is a lovely type though and Venetia Williams has done a fine job getting him onto winning ways.
Meadowcroft Boy in third ran a cracker but was outclassed on the day while Stand To Reason under Barry Geraghty was held up to far off the pace for me,he is more of a stayer to me and a step up to 2m4f will suit him.
2.40 The StanJames.Com Champion Hurdle Trial,Grade 2,4yo+,2m,9 flights.
A nice enough race but nothing that will get Hurricane Fly pacing his stable at night with sleepless nights and worry about what could happen come Festival time.
It was back to form for Melodic Rendezvous here who ran such a poor race in the Fighting Fifth last November,the early complex of the race changed as early leader Act Of Kalanisi under AP took a tunable at the last flight down the back straight, this left Ptit Zig in the lead when he probably would not have wanted to be, Daryl Jacob turned for home and his mount hit the third last but after being headed at the last it was all over as Melodic Rendezvous scored by 4.5 lengths.
Jumps Road collected third money and will no doubt be targeting these small field races to pick up more,expect him to turn up in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown to do the same.
As for the winner he loved Heavy but will not get that at Cheltenham,the big 2m hurdle at Punchestown could me a more realistic target but it will take a lot for any of the British hurdlers to swat the Fly come Festival time.
3.15 The Peter Marsh Chase,Grade 2,5yo+,3m,16 fences.
A wide open renewal of this stalwart of the Haydock national hunt season,while you may not get Gold Cup winners taking part in this as they did in days of old it is still one of the norths most prestigious steeplechases that holds a place in the hearts of racing fans in this neck of the woods.
Plenty were in with a chance coming to the last couple of fences,Sydney Paget made most of the running until getting headed at the third last, this left four to battle it out over the last couple of fences with a pulsating finish that showed steeplechasing at its finest and Wychwoods Brook gave Connor Ring (7) his biggest win to date as he rallied to get the better of Vintage Star by 1.5 lengths, Merry King ran another good race in third.Katenko in fourth is a little high in the handicap for my liking at the moment.
I like Wychwoods Brook,he was following up from a win last month at Lingfield over 2m4f and shapes like a stayer,he could be back here for the National trial should he get an entry for Aintree or more than likely the Racing Post Chase at Kempton,he made a few small errors over these fences which normally costs horses but he has a real fighting heart in him.
The two placed horses did that rare thing of running well after taking part in the Welsh National,normally that can finish a horse off,The Minack fell at the first but was ok.
Below,Wychwoods Brook goes back to the stables.
3.50 The NRC Cheltenham Preview Here March 5th Fixed Brush Novices’ Hurdle,Class 4,4,5,6&7 yo,2m4f,10 flights.
Another epic battle up the run in here as everything including the kitchen sink chucked in with Sundays washing was thrown by the two jockeys of Paddy Brennan (who came up from riding at Ascot!) and Ryan Mania on Wuff and Straidnahanna, both hit the line together and after a look at the picture which gave him “paws for thought” the Judge awarded that Wuff got the prize, a nice looking sort he certainly will “Winnalot” for trainer Tom George and will make a chaser in time but for now over hurdles he has plenty of scope.
Runner up Straidnahanna has been placed in all his starts but yet to win over hurdles,Greensalt in third is another one of those talented but “struggles to get his head in front” types he is another who will come into his own over fences,
A really good days racing here,the fields may have been small but quality is always better than quantity and the crowd were treated to some exciting finishes.
The festival is slowly creeping up on us,wether or not any festival winners will come on from this meeting I’m not sure but it’s anyone’s guess at this stage.
Connor Ring is a jockey on the up,his ride in the Peter Marsh was very good to watch,considering the horse made a few jumping errors he did very well to keep calm and see the job through to the bitter end resulting in a nice big race Saturday on the telly,He is a real talent and one to keep an eye on for the future.
Over the next few weeks especially February I shall be very busy with three jump meetings all being well at Wetherby,Haydock and Newcastle plus some indoor athletics at Sheffield to look forward to.
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