Commonwealth Games Weekend,Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July 2014

Glasgow for a weekend visit to the host city of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

After a rather interesting opening ceremony on the Wednesday in which the hosts basically wrote down all the things that non Scottish people think of when asked about Scotland then having done that they simply took the rise out of themselves,mixed in with a Gay kiss,people dressed as Tunnock’s Tea Cakes and bizarrely a slow and depressing version of 500 Miles the Games were finally declared open after a bit of help from Sir Chris Hoy in opening the Queens Baton.

When the tickets came out I avoided the most obvious sports which would no doubt have been oversubscribed like athletics,track cycling and swimming and went for two different sports instead, this mixed in with a free event meant that I was on for a three sport extravaganza.

After a ride up on Saturday morning on a packed train (wisely I had a reserved seat) and eventually finding my hotel which thankfully was only a short walk from my first event on the Saturday evening, Lawn Bowls.

The Lawn Bowls were held at the lovely Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre.

Upon arrival I noticed that there was a total of sixteen matches all on at the same time but after some checking I watched the Women’s Singles Quarter Final between Scotland’s Caroline Brown and England’s Natalie Melmore which resulted in a 21-20 win for Natalie Melmore on her last bowl in the 28th End.

Normally Bowls is a sport that can get knocked and perceived as boring but seeing it close up you see the tactical element and how the bowl turns to get it where it’s needed, Natalie ended up getting a silver medal in the final against New Zealand’s Jo Edwards but this Devonshire bowler is a lovely athlete and a real credit to her sport,I even managed a pic with her after the match.

20140728-215756-79076002.jpg

This was a nice way to begin the weekend,a gentle relaxing sport but competitive none the less and you can’t beat seeing England beat the Scots in their own back yard can you 😉

Below,Match Action.

20140728-215952-79192800.jpg

After a Pizza supper and a bit of R and R with some disturbed sleep due to the warm weather it was up early on the Sunday and first port of call after a near two mile walk in the rain was Glasgow Green for the Men’s and Women’s Marathon Events on a two lap Thirteen mile course through Glasgow’s streets and a couple of parks for good measure.

In the men’s event that went first at 9am everybody would no doubt have been expecting a Kenyan victory but it was not the case as Australia’s Michael Shelley took the Gold in a winning time of 2:11:15s ahead of Kenya’s Stephen Chelmany in 2:11:58.

Australia,Kenya and Uganda filled the first eight spots between them and the first European home in ninth place was Scotland’s Derek Hawkins in 2:14:15 and despite expelling some fluid on the run in right in front of the people I was with got a huge reception from the crowd as did the English runner in tenth spot Stephen Way, Of the 26 who set off 23 got round and an extra special cheer went to the last one to finish Tongia Vakaffi of Tonga who finally completed in 2:58:57.

Below,Michael Shelley Going For Gold.

20140728-221042-79842549.jpg

In the Women’s Race which had a field of twenty in it this had a fair bit of drama in it.

The business end as probably expected was a 1-2 for Kenya and the one who for the gold medal was Flomena Cheyech Daniel in a time of 2:26:45 and her lead was twenty five second ahead of Caroline Kilel who took silver and the bronze went to Australia’s Jess Trengrove.

Susan Partridge in sixth for Scotland as expected got a huge response from the early morning risers here as did the lady behind her England’s Louise Damen.

The first bit of drama came in the early stages,according the latest times given England’s Aly Dixon was leading but passing us at the end of the first lap she looked to be struggling and didn’t look at all well so it was no surprise that she ended up not finishing the race but the other big bit of drama was when the fifth placed athlete Namibia’s Helalia Luleiko Johannes collapsed after being close to exhaustion coming down the straight, clutching her vest it was painful to watch but the fight of not wanting to give in got the better of her as she staggered over the line before getting medical attention straightaway.

Below,Getting the Gold in the Women’s Marathon.

20140728-222315-80595698.jpg

So after the seeing the stayers in action I had a lovely stroll back through the city in company with one of the locals who I watched the race with and after saying our goodbyes i went back to my digs for a quick shower and change before jumping on the Clockwork Orange (Subway) and off to Ibrox for the finals of the Rugby Sevens.

Sevens is a tough sport but had plenty of tries in it so you don’t get matches that can end 9-6 and it purely be from penalty kicks, this sport needs a mixture of pace for the darting runs and stamina as it lasts for two days with the medal teams playing six matches.

A near full Ibrox witnessed sporting history as red hot favourites and no doubt many peoples Banker for the whole of the Games New Zealand got beat 17-12 by South Africa in a pulsating match on the hallowed turf here for the coveted Gold Medal.

This was not a shock though, in the semis South Africa looked more beefier and up for it and while New Zealand played in a way just to get the victories they made far to many basic errors with misplaced passes and knock ons that at this level you cannot afford to give away.

Australia who were beaten by New Zealand in the semis got some conciliation by beating Samoa 24-0 despite Samoa putting up a tough resistance against the Aussies.

Below,Main Stand,Ibrox.

20140728-223824-81504177.jpg

The medallists stand for the South African National Anthem.

20140728-223912-81552275.jpg

Ten matches in all took place that night,without doubt the two most feistiest games for the crowd involved the home nations.

In the Plate Semi Finals a plucky Kenyan side gave Wales a run for their money but the Welsh ran out 28-5 winners then the two “Auld Enemy’s” England and Scotland went to battle in what was a thrilling match, England raced into a 15-0 lead before half time but then at half time the host nation must have listened to the Braveheart speech as Scotland came out fighting and buoyed by their event came at it scoring two quick tries in succession in which one was converted to make it 15-12 but as much as Scotland battled the English said “Thou Shalt Not Pass” and just hung on for a Plate a Final against Wales who mysteriously had a few fans that sounded a bit Scottish!

The Plate Final was a real thrill which saw a comeback worthy of all comebacks wether it be football or both codes of rugby, Wales went in the 15-7 leaders at half time but a game of Sevens can change so quickly as England fought back and scored a try to make it 15-12 but England had possession has the whistle blew and retained it then a pass out to Philip Burgess was the winning one as he scored to make England the Plate winners which was for fifth place.

Below,England take the applause of the crowd.

20140728-230420-83060103.jpg

I can honestly say this was an amazing weekend of sport in Glasgow,three totally different events but each one was simply heavenly to visit, passionate and loyal crowds showing respect to all winners and losers and applauding them for all the hard work put in on the fields of play.

Special mention must of course go to the Clydesiders who are out all day assisting the fans and helping them reach their venues and transport with minimum fuss making each person feel important.

The hospitality from Glasgow has been A1, getting to venues and people begin chatting with you and after twenty minutes it is like you have been friends for years.

Still a long way to go for Glasgow 2014, no doubt many people will compare it to London 2012 but there is no need,both events have been different and unique in their own way, Best to just enjoy and appreciate both instead of comparing and contrasting.

I know I have left Glasgow with many memories and I feel so proud to have been a small part in a major sporting event.

Thank you Glasgow for having me.

20140728-231337-83617095.jpg

York Races,55th John Smith’s Cup,Saturday 12th July 2014

The Knavesmire for one of the courses most famous and longest sponsored race The John Smith’s Cup on a gorgeous and sunny afternoon.

Last Sunday saw the second stage of the Grande Departe as the second stage of the Tour De France went from the Historical City of York to the Steel City of Sheffield, this afternoon it was the return of the horses but York have given all those to attended a nice reminder with this huge picture down below of that famous Sunday morning.

20140713-144859-53339311.jpg

Racing wise it was a very busy Saturday with big meetings also taking place at Newmarket and Ascot plus a fair card at Chester, it was very much like Christmas Day for the purists of the turf,even as someone who has a preference for the winter game this was a fine day for horse racing to showcase what the flat has to offer.

Seven races from 5f to 2m and it produced some excellent finishes.

1.40 John Smith’s Racing Stakes,(Hcap) 1m,3yo+ (0-105)

A useful looking race on paper which went to recent Royal Ascot fourth Bronze Angel,trained by Marcus Tregoning and ridden by Martin Dwyer, a former Cambridgeshire winner he was 1lb below that rating here and back up a mile from 7f he had to weave through traffic down the straight and picked up in the last furlong to win readily.

Bartack was second and has already won this season,he isn’t finished with yet,Mujazif plugged on in third,he is yet to win over 1m and fourth went to Alfred Hutchinson who is much better on the sand than grass.

No doubt connections of Bronze Angel will be thinking of the Cambridgeshire again although that big 1m at Glorious Goodwood could be the next target.

Below,Bronze Angel.

20140713-150505-54305604.jpg

2.20 The John Smith’s Silver Cup Stakes,Listed Hcap,1m6f,3yo+ (0-110)

Eight went to post of which six of them hold entries for next months Ebor so this was a chance to get their eye in on the course and distance.

A few of these had questions to answer regarding their current form, the pace was steady as they left the stalls, Filly Debdebdeb took them along early until Andrea Atzeni had enough after 5f and took Statutory to the front and quickly upped the ante until getting headed by the pelaton in the last furlong.

Hitting the line we had a wave of four horses and it was Continuum for Joe Fanning and Peter Hedger who gave hot favourite Waila a 0.75 length defeat,a winner of two races over 1m4f last season he came here off the back of a recent 9th behind the highly regarded Arab Spring at Royal Ascot

Waila is proving to be quite costly to follow but she is slowly getting more black type which will be the main aim for her.

Great Hall was third,this was his first start after racing in Dubai,next months Ebor will be in the pipeline no doubt, Moment In Time was staying on in fourth,this was much better from her this season,could be worth trying her over 2m maybe?

2.55 55th John Smith’s Cup Stakes (Hcap) 1m2f 88yds,3yo+

A high quality renewal of this famous 10f handicap in which plenty had chances on form coming into it

In the end it was a fairly straight forward victory for second top weight Farraaj,he came into this race off the back of a win at Epsom running of a mark of 111 (good job he isn’t owned by cricketers!)

Bottom weight Zain Eagle set the early pace as was expected and was still in contention with 1f to go but then Farrajj hit full momentum and always had the better of Zain Eagle,nothing really came out of the pack to challenge, Bold Sniper in the Queens colours was third and a return back to 1m4f should be the most obvious thing to do.

Of the other places horses Educate in third is still in the grip of the handicapper,Chancery in fifth is due to up 4lbs and will find things even tougher,Queensbury Rules in seventh ran a lot better than the position suggests,only six lengths in all,he could be a Cambridgeshire horse and dual purpose horse Clever Cookie was staying on in ninth,only seven lengths away I think a step back up in trip will be ideal and he could be back for the Ebor.

As for Farrajj his trainer Roger Varian will feel very happy after coming here instead of Ascot for a Group Two race,this former Winter Derby winner may come back here for the Duke of York Stakes,a Group Two over CD in two weeks time or maybe the Rose Of Lancaster at Haydock.

Some sad news that came out of the race was Godolphin’s Tarikhi who collapsed after the line and was sadly fatally injured,Condolences to all at Godolphin

Below,York Parade Ring.

20140713-155138-57098738.jpg

3.30 The John Smith’s City Wall Stakes,Listed,5f,3yo+

Nine went post of which eight of them hold entries in next months Nunthorpe over CD.

A useful and interesting race here with a few of these keeping good company in some of the big sprint races this season, a couple of improving 3yo mixed in with some popular stalwarts of the speed game.

A simple win here for the 7yo Take Cover who made all and gave the 3yo G Force who has improved greatly this season a 1.25 length beating, Monsieur Joe came third and holds his form quite well then back in fourth we had the Group Class old warrior Kingsgate Native,his enthusiasm at the age of nine is still firing in his belly and as expected he will be back for next months Ebor.

This was only Take Cover’s second race of the season,first time out he was eighth in the Kings Stand at Royal Ascot so this was a much easier race for him, Goodwood looks the next logical race in the King George.

4.05 The John Smith’s Median Auction Maiden Stakes,6f,2yo.

A first time out win for Flaming Spear under Ryan Moore for Kevin Ryan who took this race last year with The Grey Gatsby, Costing £260,000 at the sales he was sent off the 11/10f, he travelled well and when asked made his move and took the lead in the last furlong to go on and win by 2.75 lengths from early pace setter and runner up Lady Gemini, Polarisation came third,he made his debut over 7f and a step back up looks likely and fourth went to Godolphin’s Best Example who was making his debut,he will have learnt from this.

A lot to like about Flaming Spear,I would not be surprised should he come back for the Gimcrack, he was making his debut here and will have learnt as the race went on.

Below,Flaming Spear and Ryan Moore.

20140713-162741-59261614.jpg

4.40 The John Smith’s Stayers Stakes,(Hcap) 2m 88yds,4yo+ (0-95)

A real ding dong battle down the Knavesmire here in this long distance event which eventually went the way of the Dr Marwan Koukash owned Gabrial’s King who would have been watching this from his favourite course Chester.

More of a Wolverhampton specialist he was held up in the early stages and slowly began to chase the leaders two furlongs out and Danny Tudhope before just getting the better of recent Newcastle victor Knightly Escapade,the winner wouldn’t be the classiest stayer but this 5yo was getting his eighth career win,maybe the 2m5f race at Glorious Goodwood will be the next stop for him?

Brockwell who was sent off favourite under jockey replacement Hayley Turner led over two furlongs out before headed in the last furlong,he runs much better at Haydock where he has three wins,maybe connections will be eyeing a 1m4f or 1m6f there later in the season.

One horse who was a bit disappointing was the Godolphin horse Great Fighter,trying 2m for the first time he faded tamely but being a 4yo gelding I fully expect him to end up in the black silks of Bloomfields for John Ferguson.

5.15 The John Smith’s Stakes (Nursery Hcap) 2yo

A thrilling finish to the day here as judge Nick Hargreave who no doubt would be hoping for a simple finish so he can get out of the car park quickly was pressed into action as a three way photo came with Kibaar,Denzille Lane and Bahamian Sunrise finished in that order with the official distance given as a nose and another nose.

Kibaar came into this race off the back of a recent win at Ffos Las over 5f,clearly the extra furlong helped,he may even get 7f in due course.

Denzille Lane last ran in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot,he was eleventh they day but was a lot better here,he is effective of sand and turf so plenty options will await him and Bahamian Sunrise continues to run well without winning,he is one of those costly to follow horses.

A very enjoyable afternoon on the Knavesmire then, A huge crowd packed in to have a good day out at one of Yorkshires big summer events.

Of the horses today Flaming Spear is one to keep an eye out for in the future,if he turns up at next months Gimcrack he should be in the shake up.

Next up for me will be a review from my trip to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, very much looking forward to that.

Till next time,keep reading and retweeting please.

Haydock Park,Lancashire Oaks and Old Newton Cup Day,Saturday 5th July 2014

Sunshine greeted the North West on what was a massive weekend for sports fans all over.

A real mix of footballs first pre season friendlies,The British Grand Prix,Wimbledon finals,World Cup matches and not forgetting Le Tour De Yorkshire as 198 people decided to cycle from Leeds to Paris in three weeks although you can do it by train in around five to six hours with a change in London!

For a purist of the turf though it was back to horse racing as Haydock’s oldest race The Old Newton Cup had it’s 217th running.

Seven races this afternoon on ground which was soft to begin with but then went good to soft after the first race, the change in conditions due to rain and watering during the week resulted in eighteen horses being taken out due to unsuitable ground.

1.45 Casino At bet365.com Handicap,Class 2,5f,3yo,(0-85)

A useful sprint handicap here and the result was the hat trick for War Spirit under Sean Levey who blog readers may remember won on him at Doncaster on Derby Day,after following up with a win at Newmarket he got the third on the bounce here fairly comfortably and has an entry at Newmarket on Thursday, he is still ahead of his mark of 77 and is thriving over this shorter trip.

Distant Pass was the runner up,this was his best run of the season and has ability,Captain Myles back in third is better over 6f.

2.20 bet365.com Conditions Stakes,Class 2,6f,3yo+

A confidence boost here for the David Elsworth trained Justice Day under Graham Lee who put in a professional performance to gain a deserved win after being given hard tasks in races such as the Temple Stakes and the Kings Stand at Royal Ascot, He holds an entry in next Saturdays July Cup at Newmarket but that would be a hard task, maybe an Ayr Gold Cup would be more tangible.

Of the placed horses one which was making his British debut was Complicate from Saeed Bin Surror, this 5yo was formerly trained by Peter Snowden in Australia and has wins at listed level, a huge stamp of a horse he looked more like a jumper than sprinter,placed in various races in Dubai I would not be shocked should he turn out be a bit better than this initial race in Britain.

2.55 bet365.com Lancashire Oaks,Group Two,1m4f,3yo+ Fillies and Mares.

An excellent renewal of this race first run at the old Manchester racecourse which is now part of Salford University and has been based at Haydock since 1965 apart from the 2007 race which took part at Newmarket and here’s another sad fact for you,Newmarket as also held the Yorkshire Oaks when the Ebor meeting got abandoned due to heavy rain.

A lot of top class middle distance fillies and mares here including the 2013 Oaks winner Talent pictured below.

20140706-134709-49629119.jpg

From the start the pace was set by Irish raider We’ll Go Walking under Shane Kelly and coming down the straight she was starting to be driven after three furlongs out until the pelaton took over in the last furlong for a thrilling finish and trainer John Gosden got a Lanky Oaks 1-2 as Pomology gave May’s Pinnacle Stakes winner Sultanina a 2.5 length beating with Talent back in third and We’ll Go Walking fourth.

Pomology was lightly raced last year but won all her three starts including a Group Three in Deauville,it’s definitely possible that the first three will all take each other on again in the Yorkshire Oaks next month,if that’s the case it will be race to savour, We’ll Go Walking will be better back down in trip to 1m2f.

Sultanina ran a wonderful race in defeat for what was only her third start while Talent in third has yet to follow up last years Oaks win,for me races like the Park Hill or Irish St Leger could be more viable targets for her.

Their was a few disappointments in the race, most notably Seal Of Approval who won the Fillies and Mares race last year on Champions Day,she was never travelling at all in the race.

3.30 bet365 Old Newton Cup,Class 2,1m4f,4yo+

An open handicap with the top weight being Fattsota off 103.

It was a case of horses for courses here as the Marco Botti trained and Andrea Atzeni ridden De Riguer who is 2/2 before the start and made it 3/3 as he proved that missing last weeks Northumberland Plate was the best thing to do, he likes a battle and certainly got that as he just clung on by a neck to fend off Pallasator who was third in last seasons Old Borough Cup.

The Ebor should be next for the top two, Pallasator certainly showed as if he will come on for the race,it was his seasonal debut here and this 5yo will no doubt be on many jumps trainers shortlist should he end up at the sales

Magic Hurricane who won over CD last month ran a cracker in third spot,he is still improving and like favourite Havana Cooler he will probably end up in the Ebor.

Buthelezi in his first start for Brian Ellison ran well in 8th spot,maybe a back end race like the November at Doncaster would be a realistic target before going back over jumps in the winter.

4.05 bet365.com Nursery Handicap Stakes,Class 3,7f,2yo.

Not a strong race probably here, short priced favourite Muqaawel and the top weight was never going and when asked to quicken could not find anything and was one paced.

As for the win that went to trainer Richard Hannon who got a double up after War Sprit in the first as Divine Law under Sean Levey who was up in trip by a furlong and having his first run in a handicap just got up in time to deny 20-1 outsider Dragline by a neck.

Muqaawel came third but should be better than this,maybe a novice event somewhere will be ideal.

4.40 bet365 Handicap Stakes,Class 2,7f,3yo+,(0-105)

An interesting race,only five went to post chasing a first prize of £12,660 here and it produced a quality finish.

Heavy Metal hit the all the right notes her,Joe Fanning had a bit of work to do in the last quarter mile after being denied a clear run,he switched in the last furlong and picked up well enough to get this third win of the season,this was much better after coming last over 1m at Newcastle last week.

Dark Emerald was half a length second,this 4yo has been in good form this season with win at Newmarket and Lingfield to his name,he is an out and out 7f specialist.

5.15 bet365.com Handicap Stakes,Class 2,3yo,1m2f 95yds,(0-100)

A simple task here for last months Doncaster winner Roseburg,always travelling he led 1f out and was two lengths ahead of Al Busayyir and gave Andrea Atzeni a double on the day.

Roseburg is slowly developing into a talented performer and going in here off 94 he will end up going into pattern company,Goodwood would be the next logical choice or next months Rose of Lancaster back at Haydock over CD.

Al Busayyir was a lot happier here than at Epsom last time out and is not finished with just yet,Master Of The World back in third has been tricky to place so far this season so small field races are his best option,Libran back in fourth is held off his current mark of 85 and last to finish Fire Fighting has really had a really disappointing 2014 so far.

A nice afternoon of racing then,the weather kept well on this huge weekend of sport.

The Lancashire Oaks was an excellent race and the form looks top class for it,surely it won’t be long before it gets moved up to Group One as the quality continues to improve over the years.

Next Saturday I shall be at York for the John Smiths Cup one of the big handicaps of the season.

Until then thank you for reading.