Hexham,Nova International Raceday,Saturday 1st June 2013

Sunshine in the wonderful setting of Hexham racecourse up in Northumberland on Derby Day and while all eyes in the racing world were gazed down on Epsom the other big race of the day for 3yo was also here, the first juvenile hurdle of the season.

Today’s card was a seven race affair with a one hour break after the fourth to enable the crowd to watch the Derby and no doubt to take stock as to how their betting had been going on.

Also it was Nova International Day here,they create and develop some of the UK’s biggest mass participation sporting events such as the Great North Run,Great Swim and Great City Games and I noticed that Brendan Foster was here, he is into his horse racing and also had a horse that he was a co-owner of in the sixth race.

They have a website which is http://www.novainspiringevents.org

Below, overview of Hexham racecourse

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Race One here was a 2m 110yards Selling Hurdle and five went to post with the well fancied Humbel Ben being taken out, It was an all the way win for Kaolak who made all under Henry Brooke to beat favourite Piment D'estruval by 3.25 lengths, the winner stayed on well and while the runner up made a real hash at the second last flight which cost him his chance of taking this race, Kaolak is a 7yo and still an entire and after the race there was no bid for him.

Second Race was a Novice Chase over 2m4f 110yards which was a really eventful contest, The two at the head of the market Bygones of Brid and Rudemeister decided that as they were the two best horses in the race it would be better to treat it like a match even though eight runners set off, Coming up to two out they were still nip and tuck and Rudemeister just began to lead before tipping up Wilson Renwick which effectively gifted the win to Bygones of Brid who recorded at 28 length win over the only other finisher Indian Voyage as the rest either pulled up,ran out,refused and unseated, all came back safe though. The winner is 10 and while having good quality hurdle form is a bit short of top class but is a safe jumper.

Race Three was our longest of the day a 3m1f Chase with twelve runners and this went to the 10yo mare Almond Court who made all the running and thrashed Chernik by 18 lengths with recent Cartmel scorer Solway Dornal back in third, this was a low grade affair but one to take out is Presenting Junior who is only a 6yo and was on his first handicap run who will be better with a bit of juice in the ground and could be a reasonable stayer the more he learns about long distance steeplechasing.

Race Four was the feature hurdle contrast over 2m 110yards and again another made all victory but this time for Baccalaureate on his second start for Sue Smith and seems to enjoying his new life in Yorkshire as he did a professional job here off his rating of 107 and know doubt he will be raised a few pounds after this, back in second was Foxcub who running after an 11lb raise but a mistake three out didn't help him while back in third was handicap debutant Montefeltro who is still a bit green and he will learn.

As for Baccalaureate he could possibly go for the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen or maybe the Scottish Summer Champion Hurdle at Perth.

The Fifth contest after the extended break was the first 3yo Hurdle of 2013 and as all of them were having their first run over hurdles it was a case of see which horse had the best flat rating and good middle distance form and that theory proved correct as the favourite Akdam set out to claim the prize by making all the running to hold off Irish challenger Lindenhurst by 3.5 lengths under quality conditional Trevor Whelan (5)

While the top 3yo colts were at Epsom the ones here at Hexham would be in solidarity with them for giving advice on how to handle a course with undulations and going uphill and downdale albeit with eight flights in front of them plus the extra 4f.

Akdam had a flat rating of 68 and he will learn from this but could be vulnerable under a penalty on his next start but for now he is the top 3yo hurdler at time of writing.

 Below,Akdam (noseband) sharing the pace setting out the final circuit. Image</

Race Six was a tight looking 2m 110yards Handicap Chase and it was back to winning ways for top weight Sleep In First who was recording his fifth win of the year, he had never won a race over hurdles but has taken to fences like a duck to water and won here off a rating of 120 which was part of a 39lb rise since his first steeplechase win back at Sedgefield in March.

Runner up was Exotic Man who may be better over 2m4f but he travelled well and can pick a race up during the summer.

The final race of the day was a 2m 110yards Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race with the biggest field of the day of fourteen starters, It looked wide open on paper but it was a case of the cream rising to the top here as the three horses at the top of the market were involved at the finish, It went to Mister Jones from the Grand National trainer-jockey combination of Sue Smith and Ryan Mania  to hold off Jimmy The Jetplane by 2 lengths with Cobajayisland back in third.

Oscar Jones was having his second start and looks useful enough,he will be interesting to watch when he goes hurdling next season and 2m4f would suit him while the third has come through the pointing ranks and again those early season novice events at Carlisle,Kelso or Perth will be of note for him.

Some interesting races then,not the classiest days jumps racing but this is June after all and while the big stars are having their summer break with the hooves up chillaxing in the fields it is the stables lesser lights who get a chance to earn some corn.

Summer jumping may always divide opinion but the crowd today enjoyed the action on course even though it wasn't the biggest what with Newcastle having an evening meeting just across the A69 which would have drawn more people from that delightful city.

Hexham is a charming racecourse to visit,it may not have the huge grandstands that you get at Aintree,Ascot or Newmarket but it has a lovely charm about it and one of the most breathtaking views in the sport,looking out at the hills and all the greenery,the trees,the farms and animals in the fields you really do know why this place was regarded as being The Heart of All England.

Doncaster Races,Grimthorpe Chase Day,Saturday 2nd March 2013

Quite unusually the sun was out today for a seven race card on Town Moor where it was the last jumps meeting of the season before the return of the turf flat in a few weeks time when races such as the Lincoln and Brockelsby will be a welcome return for non jumps and artificial surface racing fans. 

 
Today the emphasis with Cheltenham slowly on the horizon was Aintree and a good Grand National trial with some lovely supporting races on the undercard, Special praise must also go to the Doncaster management for starting the card at 1.15 due to problems over the past few years since the rebuild with the low sun that occasionally made obstacles being omitted in the later races so thankfully nothing like that occurred this afternoon. 
 
So on to the racing and we began with the first race which was a 3m Novices Chase for horses that had not won more than one chase with a field of only Three,All eyes were on Themilanhorse on his debut run over fences from the Paul Nicholls yard and went off at odds of 4/7 f and he was never travelling on this firmer surface plus he made a few errors and came home last but should not be written off just yet, The winner with this being a three runner race was the outsider Night Force who by making all the running and jumping fluently gained his second ever career win on what was only his 12th start so is very lightly raced but at the age of 10 would probably be one to keep an eye on if he goes in a satellite National somewhere but he loved the much faster surface, Back in second was Fill The Power who I have alluded to before in previous reports would be better aimed for a race like the Scottish National. 
 
The second race was the inaugural running of a Listed Mares Novices Hurdle over 3m and again only three runners due to the defection of Ma Filluele took the gloss off this race but the prize was still their to be had along with some useful black type for when a trip to the paddocks is called for, This race was won by the 6yo Tweedledrum who regular readers know was second on my previous visit to Wetherby, She had to battle to get the better of Wilde Ruby who made most of the running but it was evident that class would tell in the end and trainer Tom Symonds will be delighted with the continual improvement with this lovely mare who is very tough and genuine in the way she races.  
 
After a couple of long distance races it was the more speedier sorts with a fair looking 2m H’cap Chase and a wonderful display of front running from the grey Toubab who lumped top weight of 11-12 to fend off Ulysses Collonges by 1 length and giving the runner up 18lbs, Toubab has always had the potential but sometimes struggled to show just how good he can be and being allowed to bowl along helped today, I hope he misses Cheltenham and goes for the Red Rum Chase at Aintree as that course will suit his style a lot better, The runner up is no back number but will be better over 2m4f but on this run I think the handicapper may be putting him up a few pounds but he is only Five and can have a good career ahead of him as the years progress. 
 
The fourth was also the feature race the Grimthorpe Chase over 3m2f and a good few were using this as a preparation run before the Grand National next month at Aintree, all eyes were on Join Together from the Nicholls yard after his cracking run when finishing second in the Becher Chase over the big greens back in December behind old warrior and the now retired Hello Bud, That race was on very heavy ground and today’s much firmer surface would not have been to his liking, However course form does count at Doncaster and the crowd were treated to a fine front running display from Quentin Collonges who apart from hitting the last put up a wonderful display of jumping to give Henry Daly a nice big winner and just held off Mr Moss by half a length who was staying on really well up the Town Moor home straight,Both horses are expected to go to Ayr for the Scottish National where they would be in the mix after this run. 
 
As for Join Together he got hampered by the fall of Night in Milan at fence number three which relegated him to last place where he stayed before being pulled up turning for home,Aintree will be his target so I would not write him off yet as that as the National has always been the big race for him to be aimed for and expect their to be a little bit left to work on between now and the 6th of April. 
 
Next up was a Handicap Hurdle over 3m which was all about one horse in my eyes and that was Aaim To Prosper a former dual Cesarewitch winner and he won the 2012 renewal had Countrywide Flame and Tominator back in second and third so with ATP having his first run in a handicap off a rating of 124 he was thrown in as far as I could tell especially going up in trip to 3m, He did win as I’d expected however it was not all plain sailing as the wonder that is Tony McCoy got Cockney Trucker at the age of 11 to try and almost spoil the party after being held up in the first part of the race slowly shook the others off and was even in the lead after the last on the run in however Ruby Walsh who knows a thing or two about quality stayers would no be denied and to the roars of the South Yorkshire faithful got ATP into the winners circle by a neck in a rousing finish that showed National Hunt racing at its absolute best. The winner will probably end up at one of the festivals but I also wonder if his trainer Paul Nicholls may be tempted with him on the flat in the summer? 
 
Race six was a 2m3f Novices Hurdle and due to the faster ground this had four no runners but the five who began all came from top yards, The pace was slow hence why four of them all lead at some point in the contest but the only horse who didn’t share the early pace was Massini Lotto from John Quinn’s stable who have a live Champion Hurdle chance with Countrywide Flame in a few days time, These weren’t the best horses in this field so the form should be treated with caution although Thimaar back in fourth for the Donald McCain yard now qualifies for handicaps so will be worth keeping an eye on his rating in the future but maybe a race at the big Scottish festivals at Ayr and Perth could be more up his street. 
 
So the finale and last race of the 2012-13 NH season on Town Moor was a Standard NH Flat Race over 2m and punters went home happy as Avidity ran out a nice ready winner on his second start for trainer Pip Kirby, Only a 4yo he showed lots of heart to beat debutant Solo Jugadores by 1.25 lengths in a cracking finish, The winner looks pretty good and could well be sought after by the more prestigious trainers but the smaller stables need a good horse and he could be one to watch out for in early season novice hurdle events around the northern circuit after his summer holiday, One eye catcher was Beaujolais from John Ferguson’s base in Newmarket who finished fourth and needed the run, This ex pointer brought over from Ireland has quality about him and will show more when he gets asked to jump again. 
 
A nice end to the jumps season at Doncaster then with some good quality racing and a few Aintree clues spotted on the day itself, Weather wise it was lovely this afternoon the sun made a fair crowd turn out, Not the biggest by the courses standards but the jumps never really draw a huge amount compared to the flat which starts the week after Cheltenham it’s hard to even believe that Turf 2013 is slowly coming around. 
 
We were treated to some wonderful finishes and the Aaim To Prosper battle with Cockney Trucker was a real treat to see with two brilliant horsemen showing why we all love this sport which follows.