Haydock Christmas Meetings,Sat 23rd & 30th December 2017

Two days of racing merged into a best of the action review. 

Haydock’s pre and post Christmas jump meetings paid host to some competitive racing but also a few races that for many were hard to watch in such gruelling conditions that it made for very uncomfortable viewing. 

Yesterday’s action on the 30th celebrated the very popular Haydock regular The Last Fling with a 3m3f Chase run in his honour and with stamina being at an absolute premium Emperor’s Choice finally came back into the number one spot after he put in a real battle hardened performance under Charlie Deutsch (3) to land the prize and pick up his first win since November 2015, always prominent from flag fall he shared duties with Streets Of Promise until he shook him off exiting the back straight and then the only danger was the well fancied West Of The Edge who travelled well but just couldn’t bridge the gap before the winner dug deep to find extra, No doubt races like the Eider at Newcastle and National Trial back here in February will be targets but this old warrior is still showing plenty of fight in him yet. 

Emperor’s Choice

Sadly Lessons In Milan took a crashing fall when just getting competitive which sadly proved to be fatal, Condolences to all involved with him. 

Boxing Day showed the continued rise of Bryony Frost in being only the second lady rider to bag a Grade 1 Chase following in the footsteps of Lizzie Kelly and the Haydock faithful were treated to the much underrated former conditional champion Lucy Alexander bagging a nice prize for her father Nick in the #Help4Matt Chase over 2m4f, given a quiet ride he took the lead at the final ditch and breezed away like the race hadn’t even begun, Heavy ground is this horses and forte and in here off a mark much lower than his hurdles rating he was 4lb better off and looks to be kept to races in these conditions.  

Clan Legend

A smiley Lucy Alexander

Donald McCain bagged a three timer last weekend and got two more here, first up Lastbutnotleast took the 2m3f Novice Chase in gruelling fashion as she used her weight allowances to good measure as she saw off favourite Jonniesofa by a huge 36 lengths, both like to bowl along and kept each other company until the race really began up the straight, from then on Lastbutnotleast began to get the better of the runner up and despite clambering over the final few races, so much that it turned into a virtual walking race at the end but the mare had plenty of grit and determination to get the job done. 


The other McCain winner came in the near 2m Novice Hurdle as Waterlord took a decent looking race in style as he made all under Will Kennedy to come home 15 lengths ahead from Mahlervous, formerly with John Ferguson he has found plenty of improvement now over hurdles and he now looks set to come back here in three weeks for the Grade 2 Rossington and could have a say depending who turns up on the day. 

On the Saturday before Christmas last weekend saw the 2017 renewal of the Tommy Whittle Chase which went back over the borders into Scotland as Captain Redbeard who was last spotted having a crack over the National fences in the Grand Sefton appreciate the return to the normal fences as he hacked up in tough conditions for the Coltherd’s. 

Captain Redbeard

Fergal O’Brien followed up last years win in the Listed Abram Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over 2m3f with Colin’s Sister this time with Cap Soleil, a three time bumper winner she showed plenty of heart here and is a useful mare with loads more to offer connections, A step up in grade is more than likely after this with one possible idea being the Grade 2 Leamington at Warwick in a couple of weeks time. 

Donald McCain picked up three winners, first up a very impressive chasing performance by Testify in the Trevor Hemmings colours as he made it 2/2 over fences after his winning debut at Bangor over 2m1f, he found this near 2m trip a bit on the sharp side but given the conditions his stamina came to the fore as a help to shake off the useful hurdler Clyne who was making his chasing debut, Next months Grade 2 Altcar Novice Chase over 2m4f is reportedly the next target for this smart looking type. 

Ubaltique was the second McCain winner in the 2m Handicap Chase, he is a previous course winner who has to wait for his turn during the season and another previous course winner also added to his tally as Chti Balko won the 2m Handicap Hurdle which was a qualifier for the Challenger series so expect him to return here on Easter Saturday. 


All in all two meetings with decent racing albeit some in testing conditions, The 2018 year hopefully will kick off at Warwick in a few weeks time with the Classic Chase meeting, always a good day out for what is the classiest meeting of the year at a very progressive jumping track. 

Till then may I wish you all a Happy New Year in your continued battle with the bookies. 

Aintree Races,Saturday 9th December 2017,Randox Health Becher Chase Day. 

A veritable feast of jumping action at the home of the Grand National on what looked the equivalent of a taster menu with seven high quality races as the 2017 calendar year at Aintree came to an end and while for many who woke up on Saturday morning to see a fluffy white blanket of snow covering the area,no doubt many would have looked outside and gone back to sleep thinking it would be abandoned but this neck of Merseyside got away with it although the conditions for the competitors would be pretty searching the more the day wore on. 

For many of the locals of Merseyside their Christmas expenses became much shorter after Blaklion romped home to land the afternoons feature Grade 3 Becher Chase over the big green Christmas tree looking Grand National fences to give Nigel Twiston-Davies a record sixth win in this race and a total of twelve winners over the famous fences, some fest considering the place only had five races a year over them. 

In a race run in attritional conditions which finally got the go ahead after no doubt a nervous nights sleep for the course officials, Blaklion romped home on an afternoon which gave two big boosts of form for the Charlie Hall last month, runner up to Bristol De Mai who demolished the field a fortnight ago in the Lancashire Chase he gave Gavin Sheehan a peach of a ride that every jump jockey would dream of experiencing, jumping all the 21 fences so well he never made a mistake and once he got passed former winner and pace setter Highland Lodge who ran an honourable third the race was easily in the bag, a bit of a rest up now will be the order before coming up to the north west in February for the National Trial at Haydock. 


Saturday’s other big race over the National course was the Grand Sefton over 2m5f and finally a much deserved pay day for course regular Gas Line Boy as he landed the pot but gave his backers kittens after getting hampered from Arcitc Gold taking a tumble at the fourth last but Robbie Dunne kept his composure and took the lead over the last fence from which point it was a real case of “Ref stop the contest” as he breezed away and had plenty in hand over Topham winner Ultragold and the third placed Sametegal, all being well the National in April will be the target once again where he should have his say should he arrive in one piece. 

Gas Line Boy comes to the line

Then upgraded and newly named Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase over 3m1f of the Mildmay course only had four turn out but it was a strong race and another boost to the Charlie Hall form plus a 1-2 for the north as the third placed Definitly Red from Brian Eliison under the steerage of Danny Cook readily brushed off Malcolm Jefferson’s Cloudy Dreams by 7 lengths, making all his own running he used his stamina expertly in the muddy conditions. 

Definitly Red

Pulled up after losing his jockeys irons in the National the plan now seems to be to aim for the Bowl back here in April as he likes these flatter courses, wether the Gold Cup will be taken in is another thing but it would be no shock to see Definitly Red have a pop at either the Cotswold or Denman Chases en route to the Spring, Cloudy Dreams was ridden to get the trip and he should do on a better surface than this afternoon, being a Trevor Hemmings owned horse a possible target might be Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase in January before being aimed at either the Bowl or Melling Chases at the National meeting. 

The other steeplechase on the Mildmay course was a qualifier for the Challenger Middle Distance Chase final over 2m4f and a real thrilling finish here that resulted in the bang in form Play The Ace getting his snout up on the line to deny former Red Rum Chase winner Katachenko by a nose to give Sean Bowen a winner for his father and for Sean the second of a double on the day, the winners mark originally began on 118 and landed this of 134, a very game type he never runs a bad race and could well turn out over Christmas at Chepstow for a nice 2m3f race on Welsh National day. 

Sean Bowen’s first leg of the double came in the first race a 2m1f Novice Hurdle as he partnered Mont Des Avaloirs to a hardworking win, making all he did get overtaken at the second from home by Midnight Shadow but he regained the lead after the last to hold on by three lengths, bowling along helped and will be even more suited by a step up in trip after this, hard to work out where he will stand in the list of the novice hurdles from the Paul Nicholls yard but it would no shock if Mont Des Avaloirs had a decent prize in him somewhere.  

Black Ivory easily disposed of top weight and Evens favourite Le Breuil to land the feature 2m4f Handicap Hurdle, carrying a feather weight of 10-7 compared to the favourites 11-12, a reasonably decent novice last season Black Ivory hacked up here off 120 and can expect a fair hike in the weights now but he is a horse going places, Le Breuil did himself no favours when trying to go the wrong side of the markers as they made the turn down the back but he is not one to write off at this stage. 

Lastly in the 3yo Fillies’ Hurdle which took a long time for the five finishers to complete due to the testing ground provided the only Irish winner of the day with Famous Milly making the first part of a Robbie Dunne double as she took this fairly effortlessly after moving past the odds on favourite Malaya, useful up to 1m on the flat Famous Milly is even better now under the winter code and can more than pay her way plus picking up some black type will be even handier for her owner Nigel Kirkwood. 

Well in fairness it was a good quality days jumping as the calendar year drew to a close at Aintree, the course now goes into its winter hibernation until April when the many various hospitality tents and stands will be up for the Grand National meeting in what will be far nicer and easier conditions no doubt. 

The conditions were very tough and in most of the races you could see small patches of water about and being kicked up but the horses and jockeys were very sensible and fully respected how hard it was in all of the races. 

Weather wise it’s hard to tell when the next review will be, hopefully the two Haydock meetings pre Christmas and New Year but at this stage with anything possible from snow to even more snow and even rain so I shall get in early and wish you all a Merry Christmas from me. 

Till the next meeting,Goodbye. 

Haydock Park,Wednesday 6th December 2017

Eamon An Cnoic last appeared at Haydock on the 17th December 2016 and those like your intrepid reporter who were here for that actually got the chance to see him jump clearly in view unlike that afternoon when the course was completely covered in thick fog as he got off the mark over fences at the second time of asking to land the feature 2m4 1/2f Novice Chase by a rapidly diminishing neck from the game Ballydine back in second. 

Eamon An Cnoic

The winner failed to complete on his chasing debut at Wetherby 32 days ago but clearly thought about what he had done on that long journey back to David Pipe’s Nicholshayne stables from North Yorkshire as he jumped well and held together nicely by Tom Scudamore to go in at 18-1, A winner of two over timber he looks suited by fences and could be aimed at something bigger now like the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Years Day or a return trip back here in mid January for the Grade 2 Altcar unless connections pop down the handicapping route with him. 

Two other races catered for the novice brigade during the afternoon on what was dubbed “Christmas Party Day” 

First up Joke Dancer landed the 2m Novice Hurdle for Sue Smith and Danny Cook very easily in the end as the pair drew six lengths clear from hurdling debutant Niblawi who himself showed some promise that he has a reasonable future in the game, Joke Dancer looks to be getting the hang of things over timber and should make into a good type, The big disappointment in the race from Shivermetimbers who got no further than the first before getting rid of Liam Treadwell.  

In the 2m3f Novice Hurdle racegoers saw a very impressive performance from what could be a decent sort in Ravensdale as he landed a tidy little looking race very nicely, this former Irish point winner made his British debut back in October in a Southwell bumper but was quickly put over hurdles and under Daryl Jacob he had enough in hand towards the finish from the fast finishing Duke Debarry. 

Three tricky looking handicaps towards the middle of the road jumping scale showed that you don’t need top class horses for top class finishes. 

First up at the top of the card saw Jonjo O’Neill Jr show that like his father he has The X Factor as Pop Rockstar hit the right note bang on the line to bag the opening 2m7f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, Always travelling well he was primed to challenge at the third last and he had a real scrap with Thomas Patrick, So much so that after just being given the verdict by judge Michael Roberts that a stewards was called for but the placings remained unaltered. 

Pop Rockstar

Donald McCain has his string in good form at the moment and Whiskey Chaser proved to be the ideal tonic when he began his first day of term on a winning note under Will Kennedy as he took the Northern Racing Club sponsored staying chase over 2m7f, A runner up in three of his five completed races last season he stayed on very stoutly here and finished over three lengths ahead of Back To The Thatch, In all fairness this is about his level but he might make into one for those Satellite Nationals at some point in this season. 

Whiskey Chaser

Finally the last race of the card which was almost run in near darkness (thank heavens four of the seven runners had yellow in their silks!) went up the M6 to the Nicky Richards yard in Penrith as One For Harry and Ryan Day had a real fight on their hands from the persistent tough nut Tawseef under Abbie McCain but on the run in One For Harry had enough in hand land the spoils in the concluding 2m3f hurdle. 

Not the classiest Haydock jumping card in all fairness although the finishes were pretty exciting, next up on Saturday the quality takes a huge step up in class as we head down the East Lancs Road to Aintree for the famous Becher Chase Day with two races amongst others over those big green spruce fences.