Haydock Park,Saturday 26th May 2018,Armstrong Temple Stakes Day. 

Anyone walking into Haydock this afternoon were probably thinking that the course manager had taken security to extremes given the behaviour and past times being indulged at courses down in the southern region as the Army,Navy and Air Force were out in the Be Friendly Enclosure as Haydock were supporting them as has been the case over the past few years. 

On the track though it was all about the speedsters and boy did they entertain the crowd in thunderous style producing some excellent racing and thrilling finishes. 

Saturday’s feature race was the Group 2 Temple Stakes over the flying 5 furlongs and what a finish we got, first up favourite and one of the worlds highest rated 5f sprinters Battaash came back from his winter break but boy did he have a fight on his hands to land the prize. 

From the stalls Kachy made a beeline straight for the far rail, Battaash missed the break but got a nice tow off Take Cover as he kept to the near side, approaching the furlong pole Kachy still led but Battaash was finding his feet and began to hit top flight eventually getting his head in front as the lollipop came in time from the fast finishing in behind pair of Washington DC and recent Palace House scorer Mab’s Cross. 

Make no mistake this was a tough race for Battaash as he as giving weight away to all and he had to show his true grit to land it, next step will be the Kings Stand at Royal Ascot with the Nunthorpe and Prix de L’Abbaye being the other major targets over this trip, he will also come on a ton seeing as this was his seasonal debut too. 

Washington DC is a real enigma of a horse, solid and consistent with the notable fact that this 5yo is still an entire and this will boost his fee for the mares by a few Euros, Kachy back in third ran a top race considering he prefers racing around turns. 

Battaash

3yo sprinters had their Commonwealth Cup Trial on the card with the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes over 6f and this years renewal looked a race full of promise with lots of potential on offer. 

In the end last years Gimcrack winner Sands Of Mali from Richard Fahey’s yard followed up from his recent Group win at Chantilly to put himself firmly in the picture for the Commonwealth Cup as well as sending the owners of The Cool Silk Partnership down to local Tailors to get measured up for the morning dress as he just got the nod in a photo from Invincible Army in a top notch finish, both horses brought top 2yo form to the race and they should face off against each other in a few weeks time at Royal Ascot. 

Invincible Army is an Ascot course winner and that will help him in good stead,it would be no shock to see the form get reversed but both are top sprinters, back in third was Emblazoned having his first foray into top level racing and he acquitted himself well. 

Sands Of Mali

The ladies had their turn in the Cecil Frail over 6f and this result brought about a deafening silence from the crowd as Classical Times hosed up at 20-1 no doubt to much delight of the bookies, most recently a runner up in the Kilvington at Nottingham this was only her second career win and a first win since landing her maiden at Redcar last season, Peter Chapple-Hyam will no doubt be glad to have got some black type with her and although she is useful at best it might be hard to see her following up, Raven’s Lady who was fifth in the Kilvington was runner up here so that form is stacking up nicely. 

Handicap wise the big race of the day came in the Silver Bowl over 1m for 3yo and Clive Cox has a very likeable type with Crack On Crack On who weaved his way through traffic to make it two wins on the bounce following on from his Lingfield win over 7f last time out, only upped 5lb for that he is clearly progressing in the right way and could prove to be a little ahead of the handicapper, back in second was Completion who ran honourable in defeat but could be better on a straight course as his two wins at Redcar and Newcastle have proved to be just so. 

It wasn’t just speedsters on the whole card as the stayers opened proceedings with a two mile handicap that went the way of the William Haggas trained The Grand Visir who appreciated the step up to this trip as he stayed on stoutly under James Doyle and if anything looked to be going on nicely at the end, he is reportedly going to have a crack at the Ascot Stakes over 2m4f and he looked like he could get that trip although expect a few from the NH world to be having a few nice sorts with exploitable marks for that contest. 

In glorious weather the crowd enjoyed some absolute top class flat racing and we shall be back here in two weeks time for John O’Gaunt and Pinnacle Stakes Day, hopefully the weather will still be here for it!

York Races,Wednesday 16th May 2018, Dante Festival Day One

York flung the doors open on its 2018 season and for many who follow all things flat this was a true sign that the flat was now fully into top gear. 

The season may be two classics old but York coming to the party always brings a welcome to everyone who see it like the return of an old friend that has been in hibernation and undergone the odd R&R session. 

Certain sporting venues have a charm about them and the Knavesmire never fails to disappoint and what a year it promises to be with its flagship handicap in August, The Ebor getting a prize fund of 500,000 before being doubled next year to £1,000,000 putting it on a par with that other northern stalwart race that goes by the name of the Grand National. 

Flat racing got a much loved star from the Class of 2017 return in winning style as Harry Angel landed the feature Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes over 6f in pretty decent fashion under Adam Kirby for Clive Cox in the Godolphin Blue jacket to get him nicely teed up for next months Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. 

Sadly only five went to post for this £55,700 first place money which was a shame but take nothing away from Harry Angel as he showed his class giving away weight to the others including recent Abernant winner Brando who had to settle for Best Supporting Sprinter this afternoon. 

One worry regarding Harry Angel is that Ascot isn’t his course so should he flop it would be no shock with the other big two 6f races, the July Cup and Haydock Sprint Cup are this horses main targets during the core of the season. 

Harry Angel

Classic Clues were also on offer in the Group 2 Musidora over 1m2f as seven went to post with five of the fillies holding an entry in the Oaks in just over two and a bit weeks time at Epsom. 

On a day where the weather had mixed ideas over what to do but thankfully the heavens decided to have the day off it was an Exiled Yorkshireman who took the prize down to Newmarket as the William Haggas trained Give And Take made an eye catching run to go one better than her recent Sandown race and win in decent style and should book her ticket for a crack at the main prize. 

In what looked a wide open race on paper the first six home were only covered by just shy of five lengths as Give And Take got the better of Dancing Brave Bear, she wasn’t stopping at the end and in all fairness she deserves a chance in the Oaks although wether or not she will win is another thing but Give And Take would be a lively outsider. 

Give And Take

Good to have York back and plenty of big days lie ahead, Hopefully your truly will be planning on making a return visit here in August for a day of the Ebor, probably International Day and see some top quality middle distance horses in action. 

Next up will be Haydock next Saturday with another top northern sprint race in the Group 2 Temple Stakes. 

Haydock Park,Saturday 12th May 2018,Pertemps Swinton Hurdle & Spring Trophy Day

Evan Williams continued his recent domination of the first big race of the 2018-19 National Hunt season as Silver Streak bounced back from his last run when unsuited by the Sandown swamp in the Imperial Cup to land the Grade 3 Swinton Hurdle on a far more greener and fresh surface at Haydock at the only mixed meeting in the British calendar. 

In an eventful race which had a sad postscript to it Silver Streak began last season taking the Free Hurdle at Chepstow and had ran consistently in better events, this was only his eleventh career race and has more to offer from this, connections could possibly eye up the other big two summer hurdles at Market Rasen and Galway added to this he has a flat rating of 69 which is very exploitable too. 

Sadly there was a sad end to the race as the four year old Act Of Valour under Bryony Frost took a crashing fall at the second last when coming through to lead and have a say in the race, he was supposed to run in the Chester Cup but missed the cut so the Paul Nicholls team decided to come up the road instead, he was travelling very well until this happened, Bryony looked very distraught and upset coming back in, Condolences to the McNeill Family on their loss. 

The rest of the other jumps races included Monbeg Theatre landing the Long Distance opener over 2m7f, making all under Miss Page Fuller (5) he followed up a last time out win at Cheltenham beating some very useful yardsticks including last months Grade 3 winner at Aintree in Jester Jet. 

Sean Bowen landed the last two races on the day which were both chases, first up Beggar’s Wish duly obliged from a last time out win at Market Rasen to breeze home in the 2m4 1/2f Intermediate Handicap Chase, taking over from the third last he was eased in the last half furlong and jumped nicely and in the last race a 2m3f Handicap Chase which had some real rogues in it saw Ruth Jefferson continue her good start to the season with Robbing The Prey picking up a nice prize and going in off 130 has more to offer with connections no doubt eyeing up a potential run at Aintree this Friday over 2m4f. 

On the flat the feature contest was the Listed 7f Spring Trophy which found its way going down to Marlborough and last weekends 1000 Guineas winning trainer Richard Hannon as Tabarrak got the better in a pulsating battle in the last furlong with favourite Mubtasim, the drop back to 7f after a poor show in the Doncaster Mile last time showed that 7f is his trip so races like the John O’Gaunt here next month and the big 7f races at Newbury and Goodwood in the summer will be potential options at a higher level. 

David O’Meara has his horses going nicely and his much well travelled Intisaab who has more air miles than the late Alan Whicker took the 6f Conditions Stakes with the assistance of the judges magnifying glass and a well timed ride by Martin Harley, only half a length covered the first three home and in what looked a tight race on paper,Intisaab who won a 6f Handicap in Doha,Qatar, back in February and was last sighted when fourth in the big AW Sprint race might be aimed at the Wokingham after this confidence boosting win 

Mont Kinabalu got the verdict in a four way tie in the 1m Handicap for 3yo under Tom Eaves for Kevin Ryan while the 1m6f Handicap looked like a match between three Newmarket flat trainers and two jumps trainers with the flat brigade showing them how it’s done with the first three home, Uber Cool being the one who came home first. 
A rather truncated review but on Wednesday the flat moves up a gear as we head to York. 
All being well  we will bring a live Watty & Mully Show from around 11.40 as we walk from York Station to the Knavesmire, Please do tune in on Periscope through the Twitter page

Wetherby Races, Saturday 5th May 2018, Totesport.Com Hunt Cup Day

Wetherby can normally be a cold place to be during the height of the jumps season but yesterday the West Yorkshire venue passed its first ever Saturday meeting test very easily with conditions that racegoers at York or Ripon are more used to seeing as the sun shone down on a beautiful afternoon. 

Traditionally the tricky titled Thirsk Hunt Cup is as you expect run at Thirsk but due to the Tour De Yorkshire cycling race being routed through the town centre in Herriot territory it was decided to swap the meeting with Wetherby and let them have what was for now the classiest flat race to be run at a course more known for seeing the likes of Cue Card,Bristol De Mai and this years Gold Cup winner Native River strut their stuff. 

In seasonably warm May weather a hearty crowd turned up for some flat action, it was so warm here that your intrepid reporter even had to have an ice cream, not something you normally associate with this place at all!

The feature contest, The totesport.com Hunt Cup over 1 mile went to Newmarket based Yorkshireman William Haggas as 4yo Original Choice bounced right back from a poor showing on heavy ground at Doncaster on the opening day of the season in the Spring Mile to land this £20256 first prize under Ben Curtis to just hold on from Hayadh of Rebecca Bastiman. 

This was a decent renewal of a well regarded northern handicap and Original Choice should be capable of improving a bit more this summer, landing this off 94 hopefully the handicapper won’t overreact with him, after landing this Hunt Cup then it’s just possible that the Royal Ascot one will be at the forefront of the owners and a chance to hire out some Morning Dress!

Original Choice

As for the supporting card the middle distant division provided some useful races.  

First up in the 1m2f handicap for 3yo (0-85) trainer Jamie Osborne landed a bit of an upset to punters with Mr Reckless who got the better of favourite Istanbul Sultan who ironically here at Wetherby was running in the Munir-Souede colours and already a gelding he might be back in November for the Wensleydale Hurdle, Mr Reckless had a win on the sand to his name and making his handicap debut he looks useful enough. 

Richard Hannon did a smash and grab job from the Yorkshire trainers in the 7f Fillies’ Handicap with Pepita under useful Apprentice Rossa Ryan (5), she came here already a winner on the turf last season and could be aimed at bigger targets at some point.  

Two divisions of the 1m2f Novice Stakes provided some informative performances, in division one Fujaira Prince from Roger Varian’s easily landed the odds when coasting home by six lengths from Helibou Bareliere, clearly connections think he has plenty to offer at 4 and he is one to keep an eye on when he gets a mark. 

Fujaira Prince

Division two probably looked the stronger division of the pair and the former Dermot Weld trained Titus on debut for Declan Carroll saw off the two market protagonists Saroog and Alwaysandforever by a couple of lengths, a previous winner in the past he used his experience to good knowledge proved his ability back up in distance this afternoon, he should be winning more and rated 85 is on a more than workable mark. 

In all fairness Wetherby has proved to be a good venue to hold flat racing and hosting this meeting today proved that the people charge made a right choice when they chose to have a go at doing it. 

Maybe in the future other courses might reciprocate this, Pontefract,Ripon and Redcar would be ideal for experimenting with an occasional hurdle race in the future?

It was good to be back on the flat, last seasons jumps was good but a high percentage of the race meetings done were cold,wet and more often than not rain affected. 

Next up we head to Haydock this coming Saturday for the first big race of the new National Hunt Season, The Swinton Hurdle then a few days later it’s back over the border and off to York for the opening day of the season. 

Till next time, Goodbye.