Out in the sticks
Jeremy Grayson gets out and about with his notebook
STRATFORD, 29 July (Good, good to firm in places)
2m6f125yds (+126yds) 0-100 Handicap Chase (class 5)
The leaders - not least the thriving Franz Klammer - never looked like they were all going to come back to HE IS A CRACKER in time, despite the searing gallop they cut out. A 4l third was therefore probably the best outcome on offer barring accidents, but that in itself represented a major step up on anything the gelded son of Califet had achieved previously.
A nephew of Summer Plate second Baby Mix and out of the prolific early2010s pointer She Is A Cracker, Gary Brown's five-year-old appears to have inherited mum's preference for a sound surface and might appreciate faster still; it's to be hoped her propensity for hanging away winning chances under Rules doesn't manifest itself as well, however. A current high-70s mark should keep him just about in the handicap proper for 0-100 contests for now, and at the same time enable him to stay in this grade in the short term should he be able to develop this good chasing debut effort into a sequence of wins, as hoped.
3m2f83yds (+150yds) 0-120 Handicap Hurdle (class 4)
The visual impression of NO FIXED CHARGES's Market Rasen maiden hurdle win the time before (3m38yds including rail adjustments) was that even that stayers' trip was at the very bottom end of his stamina range, and although effectively given 3f extra to travel on this handicap debut the lack of a decent gallop accorded him no greater a test. A keeping-on 9l third was a fair effort in the circumstances, and the son of Scorpion remains very much of interest off what had looked a kindly initial mark beforehand. From a family that Neil Mulholland has done so well with, including the no less stamina-imbued half-sister The Wicket Chicken (a hurdles winner over C&D on soft as well as a 3m4f chase scorer), the six-year-old would increase his options yet further if able to prove himself on something other than good ground going forward.
BANGOR-ON-DEE, 30 July (Good to soft)
2m7f7yds 0-105 Handicap Hurdle (class 5)
A 10l third on this handicap debut off no worse than a par mark, GEONICE continues to present as a horse capable of far better once the basics of jumping are got right, and it was likely the cumulative effect of at least four noteworthy errors on the way round (including one at the last) which caused his effort to flatline here, as opposed to the step up a stayers' trip which on paper ought to suit. The half-brother to John Quinn's grey scored twice in 2m6f French Grade 3 contents on very soft or heavy ground, and perhaps something similarly slow may help stop the flights coming at this son of Samum quite so quickly. Headgear, too, remains an untried option.
MARKET RASEN, 1 August (Good)
2m2f140yds (+87yds) 0-100 Handicap Hurdle (class 5)
Rebecca Menzies continues to eke out victories from this column's July selection Wynford across both codes, and it might be about time for CLOUCERNA's campaign to similarly catch fire judged on a near-2l third here which offers abundant fresh hope despite a hurdling record that now reads 0-17. Either or both of the debuted visor and first encounter of a sound surface since arrival in Britain were appreciated by the gelded son of Presenting, and the aggressive ride compensated well for the drop back down in trip from recent ventures over 2m4f-3m. Indeed, he might even be worth another go back at 2m if such tactics are to be persisted with.
2m2f140yds (+87yds) 0-100 Handicap Hurdle (class 5)
Metronomically consistent in bumpers and (barring one bafflingly anonymous effort back in May) largely the same so far over hurdles, MINI CREST's never-dangerous near-6l third on this handicap debut nevertheless looked owed more to the trip rather than
to an initial mark which made sense beforehand. The visual evidence certainly backed up rider Katie O’Farrell's post-race assertion that the mare ran green, and Olly Murphy's niece of Mildmay Chase/Pertemps Final winner Holywell appeals as one likely to improve with a combination of greater match practice and a step up to something closer to 3m. A return to mares-only company clearly remains an option, and rather softer ground than this didn't appear to inconvenience especially on one bumper outing.
PERTH, 14 August (Good, good to soft in places)
2m47yds (+8yds) Maiden Hurdle (class 4)
Justin Landy quickly acquired a reputation for scoring heavily with a very small string of horses in points and hunter chases around five years ago, and that knack endures if the recent exploits of Shetland Bus (who completed a hat-trick on this Perth card) are any guide. DO NO WRONG may be set fair to follow suit in handicap hurdles himself now, following a 9l fourth on this third hurdles outing that vindicated the drop back to 2m at least in part. Generally a non-stayer in Irish points despite a staying chaseroriented pedigree (Bobbyjo Chase winner Afistfullofdollars is an uncle), the Sageburg gelding has travelled well enough for long periods of both starts for Landy on goodish ground to suggest there are sub-3m races in him away from the mud, and headgear isn't hard to recommend given a little late straying off a true line on each occasion.
2m4f (+11yds) 0-140 Handicap Hurdle (class 3)
CONSTANTINE BAY coveted an official rating as high as 142 when making the frame in both the Albert Bartlett and Sefton Novices' Hurdles during Festival season in 2017, but it still had to be taken on trust that enough backclass remained to exploit an 18lb lower mark here on just his fifth outing since those career highlights (and first for 19 months). Match fitness ultimately proved more of an issue, the Kayf Tara gelding's effort tapering out between the final two flights, but this was not a discouraging effort and another small ease in the weights might even follow. Proven at up to 3m and also on slower ground than this, Brian Ellison ought not find himself short of options to place the now ten-year-old. His novice chaser status remains intact, but the veterans' handicap route could offer an intriguing alternative.
BANGOR-ON-DEE, 16 August (Good)
2m3f123yds Novices’ Hurdle (class 4) The lack of a run since December 2019 began to tell leaving the back straight, but connections ought to be delighted how encouragingly ZULU DAWN had shaped up to that point. He can now be campaigned with (most likely class 4) handicaps in mind, though whether that turns out to be over hurdles or fences for a Fame And Glory gelding already seven years of age remains to be seen. Hailing from an immediate family Graeme McPherson knows plenty about, having trained the halfbrother Holly Bush Henry to win four races (three hurdles) between 2015 and 2017, he's likely to appreciate a step back up in trip before much longer.
2m1f77yds 0-105 Novices’ Handicap Chase (class 5)
Little about THE SOME DANCE KID's three previous chase outings back in 2019-20, in all of which he had finished last, augured well ahead of this return to the larger obstacles.
This was altogether more encouraging, however, the Shantou giving a decent sight at or near the head of affairs until his only significant error of the piece knocked him back at the final fence. Currently 21lb lower than when third in a Catterick handicap hurdle only six months and five starts prior, and 28lb lower than for his sole previous handicap chase start, Donald McCain's eight-year-old suddenly looks like an extremely well handicapped prospect for class 4 and 5 chases.
Two wins apiece around Bangor and Catterick confirm him as one basically best around sharp left-handers, especially when able to make all; and whilst not bred for this discipline, it's worth noting that full brother Oliver's Hill has taken well enough to it to land seven chases for Lawney Hill in recent years.