Haydock Park,Saturday 23rd April 2016

St Georges Day kicked off the new flat season in the North West at Haydock with a marathon eight race card, a couple of informative maidens and six tricky handicaps lay in store for punters on what began as a warm afternoon and although the sun opened the day it got a bit cooler with cloud towards the end but thankfully for all the heavens stayed shut and had the day off  

1.40 ApolloBet Home Of Cashback Offers Maiden Stakes,Class 5,1m4f,3yo+

A nice looking middle distance maiden with some fair progressive types and a couple of nice looking debutants it. 

The first three were covered by a length as Gunnery under Jamie Spencer just got the better of Superyacht by a neck with The Queen’s filly Daphne rallying on into third. 

It was a solid run race,Superyacht tried to wind the gallop up with 3f to go but was being driven with two to go,Gunnery got past in the last furlong and had enough in hand,he holds a Dante entry but the Lingfield trial may suit him better,Superyacht looks to be a much better 3yo and can go on as will Oaks entry Daphne who ran on well and looks more a staying type. 

2.10 ApolloBet Daily Racing Refunds Handicap,Class 2,7f,4yo+ (0-105)
A top quality race over this intermediate trip and a much better race from Predominace who flopped in last months Lincoln consolation race, he looked to appreciate the drop back to 7f and despite having the plum inside draw he had to be rousted early from the gate and got stuck in a wall of horses just over 1f out but Pat Cosgrave didn’t panic and he found daylight and ran on well to get the better of Withernsea by a length with Gregorian Bay behind 

Predominace has plenty of improvement still in him,he could go for the Victoria Cup at Ascot in two weeks or maybe even a crack at the Spring Trophy here on the same day,the runner up is also better over 7f and the same targets may apply too,Lord Of The Land back in fifth also ran a good race over a shorter trip but will hit top form back over further. 

2.45 Breeders Backing Racing EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes,Class 5,1m,3yo+

A bit of gloss was taken off this with the taking out of Colonial Classic but we might have seen a useful filly with the William Haggas trained Fadillah who cost 1.2m euros and paid a small amount back here on her debut as she put in a workmanlike performance to get the better of Malhama by 0.75 lengths with Golden Glimmer in third spot. 

The front two were clearly the best here,Fadillah holds an Oaks entry and judged off this run she will get further and could pop up to York for Musidora but she should get some black type somewhere, Malhama making her second start has clearly learnt a lot off her Lingfield debut in February. 


3.20 ApolloBet Bet Through Your Mobile Handicap,Class 2,1m,4yo+ (0-105)
This was a top notch handicap and half a length covered the first three home here which reversed a bit of the Lincoln form. 

One for the fans of The Apprentice here as You’re Fired ridden ironically by an apprentice in Jordan Vaughan (5) got the edge in a thrilling finish from Erik The Red and last years winner Wilde Inspiration. 

Despite being third last of the sixteen runners turning for home,Vaughan didn’t panic and weaved his way through sticking to the inside rail and mugging the placed horses bang on the line,this is his second win off 102 so may find it harder but he gives his all, Erik The Red looks to have picked up where he left off last season and Wilde Inspiration was also unlucky in defeat. 

3.55 ApolloBet Weekly Golf Refunds Handicap,Class 5,1m,3yo

Some nice improving sorts on display here and trainer Rod Millman got a nice winner here with Sir Roderic making it 2/2 as he followed up his recent Windosr win off 67 by going in here off 74. 

Run at a decent pace Sir Roderic took over with 75 yards left and had to shake off the attentions of handicap debutant Shafafya and the running on Midnight Macchiato, he should get rated upto 80 or so after this but he is clearly on the upgrade, Shafafya was game in defeat and should win soon maybe in a fillies race. 

4.30 ApolloBet Online Casino And Games Handicap (Div 1) Class 5,1m,4yo+

Two divisions of a typical Haydock Saturday handicap and it proved to be previous course form coming to the fore here as the 8yo Chosen Character regained the winning thread since 2014 and after tumbling down the weights from a last winning mark of 91 to 70, up in the vanguard he tracked leader Baltic Prince from the gate and took the lead with 3f left, in the last furlong he had to fight off Cornborough who made him work but Chosen Character found a bit more to hold on by a neck, Cymraeg Bounty and I’m Dapper Too dead heated for third. 

The winner loves it here and will find himself in the usual mix of northern handicaps over a mile,an outside chance could be the Carlisle Bell in June

Chosen Character

5.05 ApolloBet Online Casino And Games Handicap (Div 2) Class 5,1m,4yo+
Real head bobbing.stuff as three hit the line together with Farham just getting the nod from the judge under Sammy Jo Bell (3) as he finally lost his maiden tag on his ninth start,despite having traffic problems down the straight he bagged the rail and had to dig deep in the last furlong and just pipped Chepstow specialist Zaria by a short head with The Firm a nose back in third. 

The drop back in trip seemed to suit Farham and an extra furlong would be better for him and now this 4yo has broken his duck it will be interesting to see where he goes, Zaria loves Chepstow and should be better on a straight course. 


5.40 ApolloBet Bet On Lotteries Handicap,Class 4,1m2f,4yo+

Fifteen went to post in a wide open finale but it was all about one horse, Rock Song from John Mackie’s stable who hit the right note here under Joe Doyle (3) as he romped home following on from his recent win on the tapeta at Wolverhampton last weekend. 

Approaching two furlongs out the field was spread across the course but Rock Song was travelling notably well than most of the others and opened a few lengths up to score by 2.25 lengths from favourite Higher Power who missed the break and had to come wide down the straight, Rock Somg is in good heart now so may be out soon before the handicapper fully has a say, Higher Power was only having his fourth start at the age of four but looks to have some nice ability in him. 


Withhold,3yo Colt trained by Charlie Hills,ran a fair race in the 1m4f maiden,can learn from this

Angelic Guest,3yo Filly trained by Mick Channon,stayed on at the end in the 1m maiden,she can improve off this run

Mustaaqeem,4yo Gelding from Sir Michael Stoute,ran on towards the end in the fourth race and should be better when moved up to 1m2f 

Next weekend it’s the Saturday evening meeting at Doncaster,till next time Goodbye

Aintree Races,Friday 8th April 2016,Crabbie’s Grand National Festival,Ladies’ Day

Day two of the Grand National Festival and as usual the ladies of Liverpool got dressed up in their finery to descend upon this most iconic and famous sporting institution. 

Ladies days always have their differences,Royal Ascot may get viewed as the more classier affair but Aintree certainly does it for more of a real people’s feel as the girls come out to have fun rather than be paraded as bait for the more affluent in society to try and get an even wealthier son in law. 

Seven races with the main race being the Melling which had Vautour trying to follow up his Cheltenham win,also some nice novice events mixed in with tricky handicap as a nice way to test the punters metal just 24 hours before the big race on Saturday. 

1.40 Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle,Grade 3,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+

A competitive handicap hurdle with plenty of improving types but it was a case of experience prevailing here as bottom weight Party Rock finally landed this race after running in the previous two runnings of the event,always in the pack he drifted to the near side and despite clattering the last flight he forged ahead of Champagne At Tara and the well fancied Starchitecht, a real Spring type he loves this time of year and maybe the big staying hurdle at Haydock in May could be an idea. 

Some horses never showed,the well touted Tycoon Prince dropped back with 6f left but he looks a real chasing type,Ma Du Foi found this too tough but it’s a race to keep an eye on. 

2.15 Imagine Cruising First In The Frame Top Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 1,2m103yds,9 flights,4yo+

Potentially a strong looking renewal on paper with Supreme form and the innaugral Mares race at the festival both coming together. 

The Supreme form in the end turned out to be the best as the Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D’Air who was fourth in the bumper here last year got a lovely waiting ride off Noel Fehily but had to dig deep after the last hurdle to overpower Petit Mouchoir by half a length, Limini the Mares’ Novices winner at Cheltenham travelled well but couldn’t pick up when needed and came third looking a bit one paced. 

Buveur D’Air looks to prefer flatter tracks as his wins at Newbury and Huntingdon have proved, he will make a fine chaser should he go down that route, the runner up put in a PB but wouldn’t be the stables best horse, Limini will be better back in mares hurdles and possibly up in distance next season. 

2.50 Betfred Mildmay Novices’ Chase,Grade 1,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+

Good quality festival form came into this staying chase for the novice division. 

Native River went one better from his runner up spot in the Four Miler at the festival where he just went down by 1.25 lengths,adopting new front running tactics under champion elect Richard Johnson he used his stamina with authority as he jumped boldly and always found extra when asked and had RSA winner Blaklion struggling to go with him after two out and favourite Un Temps Pour Tout looking beaten, runner up Henri Parry Morgan missed Cheltenham and tried to bridge the gap but couldn’t reduce the distance and went down by three lengths or so. 

A good looking horse for the Colin Tizzard yard he will be interesting to see in the long distance chases next season with the Hennessy and Welsh National no doubt being potential ideas, Henri Parry Morgan bypassed Cheltenham and looks a reliable handicapper, Blaklion couldn’t do anymore here and is possibly feeling the effects of a busy few months, Un Temps Pour Tout prefers plenty of juice in the ground. 


Native River

3.25 JLT Melling Chase,Grade 1,2m4f,16 fences,5yo+

A race with a rich history of top quality winners such as Moscow Flyer,Native Upmanship,Viking Flagship,Monet’s Garden,Master Minded and Sprinter Sacre being on its roll of honour. 

The race was all focuses on one horse,Vatour,who missed the Gold Cup for the Ryanair at Cheltenham and looked to follow up as so many have done. 

The non residents of Merseyside finally felt how many countless Liverpool and Everton fans have felt this season when the 1-5f Vautour seemingly having the victory in the bag even at halfway had his first fall over fences when he met the ninth on the wrong stride and gravity did its usual thing and sent him crashing to the floor. 

This essentially left it wide open and turning for home we had three horses,Clarcam,Al Ferof and God’s Own set for the fight, Al Ferof and God’s Own began to open up coming to two out with God’s Own eventually running out a two length winner at 10-1

Wether he would have won had Vautour stood up is one thing but God’s Own could only do what was left on the track and recorded his first win since the 2014 Haldon,Al Ferof couldn’t bridge the gap while Clarcam ran well until fading. 

Vautour could be back in the North West in November for the Betfair should he have another go over three miles. 


God’s Own

4.05 Crabbie’s Topham Chase (Hcap) Grade3,2m5f,18 fences,5yo+

A traditional wide open running of this tough handicap and just like the opening race you had to find a horse that had run in this race previous. 

JP McManus followed up yesterday’s Foxhunters’ win as Eastlake,third in 2014, who was was jumping and travelling well tracked leader and eventual runner up Fairy Rath for the last mile or so and despite about seven holding good chances going to two out it was always going to concern these two. 

Coming to the Elbow Fairy Rath held the inside line but Barry Geraghty got a fine tune out of him to get past in the last furlong,the two were clear from top weight Third Intention and Distime. 

Eastlake came here after being 9th in the Grand Annual,the extra trip looked to suit him,Fairy Rath was runner up again off the same mark of 131 while Third Intention ran his usual game race. 

As always with their only being five races a year over these fences it’s hard to dissect the form but the best horse on the day won. 

Sadly we lost two horses as Gullinbursti and Minella Reception were involved in a nasty form at Bechers, Condolences to all involved. 

4.40 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 1,3m149yds,13 flights,4yo+

Lots of likeable types where stamina was at a premium and necessity  in a top quality staying novice race

Ballyoptic made it three from three for Nigel Twiston-Davies here under Ryan Hatch 

Turning for home plenty held a chance,Ballyoptic committed for home after jumping three out but out of the pack Bellshill came to put his name in contention and travelled oh so well until he pecked over the second last,this gave Ballyoptic a bit extra but Bellshill regained the lead over the last flight, on the run in Ballyoptic stuck to the task on the near side rail as Bellshill began to idle and got up by a head, the pair finished clear from Potters Legend in third. 

This winner missed Cheltenham instead taking an egg and spoon at Uttoxeter but he’s clearly on the upgrade and will make a chaser should connections go down that route,Bellshill looked to get three miles but a return to 2m4f won’t harm him and chasing could be his plan next season. 

5.15 Weatherbys Private Bank Champion Standard National Hunt Flat Race,Grade 2,2m1f,4-6yo

A top notch bumper which saw the festival form completely reversed here as Willie Mullins got the forecast up in a real pulsating finish with bumper third Bacardys under Philip Mullins just getting the better of runner up Battleford who had to settle for that spot again,Ballyandy who took the festival one could only come fourth behind race debutant The Minch. 

Both the front two should make into nice hurdles next season,no doubt going off at very short odds in big field maiden hurdles, Ballyandy struggled with giving the first two 4lbs but he can take a big hand in the novice hurdle division next season. 

The Minch in third ran a massive race on debut for Jim Goldie,off that run he should pick up a small bumper no problem but he could also race on the flat as a possibility 


Across the Melling Road

Two top class days of racing brining the end of the 2015-16 NH season here. 

Tomorrow sees the big one,The Grand National and like all real racing fans all we want is for all forty horses and riders to return safely home. 

At time of writing Ruby Walsh misses his rides due to fracturing his wrist in the Topham,Paul Townend rides Yorkhill and Douvan while Nina Carberry rides Sir Des Champs. 

Next racing here will be Haydock’s first flat meeting in two weeks time. 

National wise I’m keen on Silviniaco Conti,Holywell,Morning Assembly and Buywise. 

From myself Goodbye

Aintree Races,Thursday 7th April 2016,Crabbie’s Grand National Festival,Grand Opening Day

Day one of the 2016 Grand National meeting and the last to be run under the sponsorship of Crabbie’s   

Today saw a top class card of National Hunt racing with possibly the classiest ever opening day in the history of the festival, Four Grade One races all acting as the support act to the Fox Hunters over the big greens. 

After a torrid night of wind and rain the course looked in fine shape and despite a tiny bit of the wet stuff it was all systems go come 1.40. 

Saturday may be about the Grand National but for the purists of the turf today was a day to wet the appetite 


Water Jump

1.40 Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase,Grade 1,2m4f,16 fences,5yo+

Harry Whittington bypassed Cheltenham with Arzal and it proved to be the right call as he made all here under Gavin Sheehan to land the opener,not seen since being a runner up in a Grade Two at Doncaster in January he kept up his improvement and benefitted from the step up in trip to hold off L’Ami Serge by about six lengths who in turn was well clear from favourite Sizing John who could never land a blow. 

Arzal loves to bowl along in front which he was able to do when winning at Ludlow and Newbury,no doubt something like the Paddy Power or the Old Roan back here would be an early season target, L’Ami Serge ran a good rac in defeat and the flatter track suited him,Sizing John didn’t seem to stay and a return to 2m looks likely. 

2.15 Betfred Anniversary 4yo Hurdle,Grade 1,2m1f,9 flights,4yo+

Apple’s Jade simply demolished the field in the same way that Aston Villa fans have seen their team capitulate this season as the 4yo filly strolled home to a breathtaking 41 length victory with the rest all fighting each other for the scraps. 

Azzzuri had set out to make it a test and still led turning for home,however Bryan Cooper was travelling effortlessly well and lead over three out,from then on it was simply one way traffic, Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov looked simply one paced and could find anything when needed and had to battle for second spot ahead of pace setter Azzuri. 

More than enough to like about this filly who will give Gigginstown much to think about over the summer months,Champion Hurdle or the Mares’ Hurdle will be at the fore front no doubt, Ivanovich Gorbatov never looked himself and is better than this,it’s possible Cheltenham left his mark on him


Apple’s Jade having a drink

2.50 Betfred Bowl,Grade 1,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+

A quality line up with horses rated from 153 to 176

After his crashing fall three out which snatched the £1,000,000 triple crown bonus in the Gold Cup from his hooves it was a case of back to normal for Cue Card as the popular 10yo bounced back to doing what he has done in the other Grade 1 3m chases this term and slam dunked the opposition in a race which has often thrown the odd shocker over the years. 

Cue Card happily sat in the pack to begin as Djakadam and Don Poli took each other on from halfway and began eyeballing each other. 

Off the home turn Don Poli began to commit but in truth he was merely a sitting duck for Cue Card who went on after three out and began to pour it on eventually winning by around five lengths, We will never know what would have happened in the Gold Cup,if he misses Punchestown then expect Wetherby,Haydock and Kempton to figure again next season. 

Don Poli could be more of a National type now,he stays all day,Djakadam has yet to win a Graded race over this trip but with Vautour being the main Mullins horse over that trip he will struggle unless both have a job swap, Dynaste back in fourth ran with credit 


Cue Card

3.25 Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle,Grade 1,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+

The late and much missed Sir Henry Cecil was regarded as the best trainer of fillies,on the jumps front it’s Willie Mullins who has the Midas touch with mares over jumps as Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power became the first winner to follow up in this race since Istabraq in 1999 and the first mare since Dawn Run in 1984

This was a race with a bit of incident,Nichols Canyon went right at a few hurdles and at the fifth flight The New One didn’t pick his legs up and fell. 

Annie Power took over the lead with a lap to go and she was fluent over the hurdles, the only ones to try and battle with her were Mytentoryours and Nichols Canyon but up the straight both were struggling and they were outpaced and outclassed by this beautifully talented mare

Punchestown will probably be next up for her,wether we see her next season or if she goes to the paddock will be another thing, Mytentoryours was a country mile back and ran well all things considered,Nichols Canyon could be sent chasing now which could be ideal 


Annie Power

4.05 Crabbie’s Fox Hunters’ Chase,Class 2,2m5f,18 fences,(National Course) 6yo+

On The Fringe landed leg two in the defence of his Hunter Chase Triple Crown as replacement rider Jamie Codd battered the challenge of Dineur in a race where twenty three horses set off and only seven finished

As expected they went a good clip as outsider Doubledisdoubledat and Bound For Glory towed the field along,a few came to grief out in the county and the field was well over thirty lengths top to tale approaching Bechers. 

Bound For Glory went at the Canal Turn and along the canal side part of the course On The Fringe began to take more prominence and he and Dineur went on from Mendip Express after the last fence, from there both horses gave everything with On The Fringe letting his class do the talking as he scored by about eight lengths from Dineur and Mendip Express. 

This was much easier than his Cheltenham win,no doubt Punchestown will follow again,Dineur gave his all as did Mendip Express. 

Sadly Clonbanhan Lad and Marasonnien both had to be put down after the race,Condolences to all the connections. 


On The Fringe

4.40 Betfred Red Rum Chase,Grade 3,2m,12 fences,5yo+

An Aintree fairy tale here as Donald McCain saddled a winner with Katachenko for last years winning Grand National owner Trevor Hemmings as he enjoyed the run of the race with Pearls Legend and managed to fend off the challenges from Dandridge and Viconte Du Noyer. 

As usual they went a good gallop in what was only an average renewal with the top weight running off 146,Katachenko threw in some lovely leaps and clearly benefitted from the return to going left handed,he had to fight to keep the race as Dandridge ran him close but he couldn’t get the the extra half length needed to pass, Viconte Du Noyer got snatched up on the run in but looked held. 

After a tough season this was a much needed tonic for Donald McCain,Katachenko has plenty going for him and should go on from this as should Dandridge

5.15 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race,Grade 2,2m1f,4-6yo Filles and Mares
A top quality mares bumper which resulted in a thrilling finish as last weeks Fakenham winner Kayf Grace under Nico De Boinville just got the better of favourite Augusta Kate by half a length finishing five lengths ahead of Shattered Love and Copper Kay

It’s taken a while for the penny to drop for Kayf Grace,she knows how to battle and should make her mark over hurdles, Augusta Kate lost nothing in defeat and had she not run in the festival bumper then she could have probably taken this,she will make a nice hurdler next season. 

An excellent day of racing at Aintree. 

Apple’s Jade,Cue Card,Annie Power and On The Fringe were the stars on the turf this afternoon. 

Tomorrow is Ladies Day with the main star being Vautour,sadly plenty of the 45,000+ crowd might not appreciate this talented chaser. 

Until tomorrow Goodbye