OUT IN STICKS
Jeremy Grayson again tours the smaller tracks with notebook out
TAUNTON, 8 April (Good to firm)
2m104yds (-3yds) 0-100 Handicap Hurdle (class 5)
By no means the only horse to run into one from the Nigel Hawke yard in the past few weeks, AN TAILLIUR fared the very best that he could considering the uncontainable all-the-way winner, Theocrat, staying on strongly to put the matter of second place emphatically beyond doubt. Beaten in the region of 40l on all previous starts this term, the first feel of something other than very slow ground demonstrably made a difference this time, more so than the admittedly fair-looking mark. A nephew of one Flat-bred C&D winner among others, Jonjo O’Neill’s grey son of Authorized ought to be eligible for 0-100 or 0-105 contests for a short while longer, and alighting on something similar on another fast surface ought to prove a formality in the very short term.
2m7f198yds (+12yds) 0-140 Handicap Hurdle (class 3)
A length second here took UMNDENI’s career record during the month of April to 1212, and was all the more meritworthy for his having run a hat-trick seeker (and completer) so close despite conceding that one a significant race-fitness advantage. Philip Hobbs’ thinnest season winners-wise since 1992-3 hasn’t been without its bright spots (most notably Thyme Hill and Sporting John’s respective Grade 1 successes), and this seven-year-old Balko gelding - actually a nephew of Grand National runner-up Balko Des Flos although just three years his junior - would be one of many in the string well handicapped enough on previous endeavours to help get the scoresheet ticking over a bit quicker in the near future. An introduction to novice chasing during the relatively calmer waters of the summer months could prove an equally bankable alternative, however. Either way, he presents as one with more to offer as a stayer, following just two starts so far beyond an extended 2m5f.
SEDGEFIELD, 9 April (Good)
2m77yds (-2yds) 0-105 Novices’ Handicap Chase (class 5)
Last of the four who finished clear, and in turn fewer than 4l behind the winner, FIRST REVOLUTION posted a very serviceable first effort over fences on the quickest surface he had encountered for two and a half years. The refitted hood had a mollifying effect on a Jeremy gelding sometimes inclined to fight his riders, and the debuted tonguestrap additionally inspired a more sustained effort than on other recent outings. A similarly amenable reaction to the equipment, allied to a slightly better round of jumping, ought to smooth his way towards success in a similar calibre of race, with events over either 2m at
Hexham or the extended 2m1f at Cartmel very much suggesting themselves, considering those courses each account for around a quarter of all of Martin Todhunter’s 43 winners in the past five seasons.
NEWCASTLE, 10 April (Good)
2m4f19yds (+50yds) 0-140 Handicap Chase (class 3)
FIRST ACCOUNT’s return to action this deep into the season piqued the interest, all the more so on ground quicker than any previously encountered. In the event, however, it was a series of jumping errors, rather than the surface or the thirteen-month absence, which ensured the Malinas gelding always had that bit much to do. A conciliatory view can nevertheless be taken, this being just a third start over fences, and with a current mark 7lb higher than when last seen in a handicap still not appearing prohibitive judged on the achievements of February 2020’s brace of soft-ground Musselburgh victories (one 3m hurdle, one 2m4f chase). It would be interesting to see whether the seven-year-old from the broader family of Morley Street is intended as a tool for
Summer Plates or Perth Gold Cups in the coming months for Keith Dalgleish, but in the meantime a 0-130 event over this distance or further can prove within compass granted greater fluency once more. Headgear remains an untried option.
WARWICK, 11 April (Good)
2m5f (+59yds) Maiden Hurdle (Class 4) Turned out twice inside three weeks for each of his two previous trainers, only then to disappear for a year or more both times, it’s fair to say FAT SAM’s career has yet to gain any sort of momentum. There’s a good chance he’ll get more opportunities to show his worth with Chris Down, however, and having been given time to get over an abortive chasing debut in the Ffos Las mud repaid the Cullompton handler’s patience here with a fine near-5l second at big odds (if not the 200-1 he opened at). Mastered for tactical speed rather than stamina over the final two flights, the very lowmileage Denham Red gelding bounced off by far the quickest surface encountered to date, opening up options markedly for the summer. Already seven, the temptation may be there to return him to fences soon, but it doesn’t take much to imagine him collecting a small early-season hurdle first – both of Down’s local Devon tracks stage such races over this trip.
2m (+46yds) Novices’ Hurdle (class 4) Most effective when played assertively on the Flat at 1m2f-1m6f, it’s not hard to conclude that ZUBA might have been better served racing closer to the speed on either of his two starts since returning to hurdling this spring. A near-8l fourth in this big-field event represents further progress in this sphere without suggesting it’s all he will prove capable of as a hurdler, and either a step up to 2m2f-2m4f or a greater utilisation of his likely stamina to spare at 2m can see him take his form up another few rungs once sent handicapping. Nick Gifford wouldn’t be among those trainers inclined to send many out during the warmer months, but the effectiveness on fast ground of this Dubawi five-year-old ought to ensure he’s among the very last the Findon handler draws stumps with until the autumn.
HUNTINGDON, 12 April (Good)
2m4f145yds (+130yds) 0-110 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
It’s still early days for GETTHEPOT over hurdles in general and in handicaps in particular, but the profile cultivated so far has nevertheless had a more consistent than progressive look about it. As with his handicap debut at Southwell the time before, a keeping-on close third was owed to plenty of persistence from the rider from some way out, and it’s possible an application of headgear could see him give more generously in future. At the same time, however, Graeme McPherson’s sibling to two 3m winners - one point, one hurdle - out of a halfsister to prolific summer jumper Lord Strickland may simply require being played more for stamina, having been held up in all starts under Rules up this point (of which today’s was over the longest trip). Expect better once set a more exacting test.
2m104yds (+89yds) 0-120 Novices’ Handicap Chase (class 4)
A strongly run affair on dry ground placed the emphasis firmly on quick, accurate jumping in this fair novice handicap, and ONLY MONEY’s sole significant mistake two from home was sufficient to snuff out his remaining chance. This hadn’t been a chasing debut at all devoid of promise up to that point, however, and the tendency to run wastefully occasionally evident in the previous autumn’s hurdling campaign was noticeably absent. A nephew to three 2m scorers over fences and with the physical scope to make up into the same, Chris Gordon’s seven-year-old gelding can afford to have his sights lowered if needs be considering a current mark of 104, and a predominately dry spring will be appreciated by this one-time good ground Fontwell bumper scorer.
SOUTHWELL, 13 April (Good)
2m4f88yds (+78yds) 0-105 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (class 5)
WHITE WALKER had rather let the side down when charged with completing a five-timer on the card for Dan Skelton at the same venue a month previously, albeit hindered by a breathing issue that the application of a tongue tie this time did plenty to counter. This son of the still largely unheralded Vauterhillbased stallion Dream Eater has some way to go before starting to emulate half-brother Bandsman, a winner of five for the Skeltons who ran Grand National
runner Minellacelebration to a neck in last year’s Summer Cup. A 5l second represents his closest finish to date by far, however, and opens up appreciable options with stamina having been proven beyond an extended 2m at the first attempt. At the right end of the weights to run up a sequence if the equipment continues to assist, a fruitful summer over hurdles, fences or both may yet await.