OUT IN THE STICKS
Jeremy Grayson with his latest selection of horses to follow from off the beaten track
Jeremy Grayson with another selection of horses to follow
HUNTINGDON, 5 OCTOBER (GOOD) 1m7f171yds Novices’ Hurdle (class 4)
A few could have been nominated to follow next time from a reasonably useful novice hurdle for the time of year ,but one taken to follow in handicaps with immediate effect from here on is PIVOTAL FLAME, appreciably better than the bare form of her 19l fourth considering the waiting tactics weren’t got entirely right and a last-flight blunder made a hard task impossible. All set to hold on for a deserved place at gigantic odds when unseating at the last at Kempton in April, Pat Phelan’s filly clearly needs to develop a bit more alacrity at her flights to realise more of her hurdling potential ,but the good news in that regard is that she has previous from the Flat where responding to winning effect to the application of a concentration aid is concerned. Assuming her initial mark isn’t pitched too far into treble figures, she’d need a good looking at in a routine 2m handicap hurdle next time up if headgear of some description is enlisted. Good and good to soft ground both appear suitable.
HEXHAM, 6 OCTOBER (SOFT) 2m4f15yds 0-120 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (class 4)
There aren’t many racecourses at which the fences come at horses at such a gentle, obliging pace as they do at Hexham, so it could be taken as a bit of a worry that CHAMPAGNE CHASER made quite so many errors here as he did. The son of Tobougg never gave up, however, and it took until the run-in for the cumulative effect of those mistakes to condemn him at last to a near-4l reverse on his chasing debut. Headgear remains an untried option, and time may yet prove that Tim Vaughan’s seven-year-old, member of an immediate family rife with 2m-3m3f hurdles and chase-winning talent ,just needs his mind making up at his obstacles by such an aid in the short term. A return to slightly sounder going than experienced here wouldn’t inconvenience, judged on the hurdles success at the same course on good to soft which preceded this effort.
2m4f15yds 0-120 Handicap Chase (class 4)
Just 3lb higher than when running away with a 2m1f event at Kelso six months and two starts ago, FOREST DES AIGLES once more proved himself a gelding that the handicapper hasn’t got close to nailing with a powerful display here, his strong finishing effort all the more impressive considering a refusal to settle when denied the early lead. The six-year-old son of Balko, by no means the only Raymond Anderson Green horse in training at present to have started his career for that owner in France before being moved closer to home, looks to have got his jumping in better order the more familiar he has become with British obstacles, and this looked at least as accomplished a round as any he has posted to date. The step back up to 2m4f for the first time since last season’s reappearance was taken entirely in his stride ,too ,and so long as conditions remain suitably deep underfoot, finding a suitable follow-up opportunity at any trip up to today’s (if not further, considering his half-brother Orki Des Aigle’s exploits beyond even 3m) shouldn’t prove difficult.
KELSO, 8 OCTOBER (GOOD, GOOD TO SOFT IN PLACES) 2m51yds 0-120 Handicap Hurdle (division one) (class 4)
The feeling endures that there is a perfectly decent 2m4f-2m5f chaser in SUPERIOR COMMAND just waiting to get out, if only his jumping could somehow
gain sufficient fluency on a more regular basis; perhaps this will be the season he proves as much. Although reappearing over hurdles rather than fences on this first outing for six months ,the Lahib eightyear-old took his obstacles far more cleanly than is often the case, and a staying-on 1.25l fourth after considerate handling over this sub-par trip has to rate as an encouraging return. A 2m1f winner (despite errors) around this track in March 2016 on one of just four chase starts to date ,Lucinda Russell’s gelding remains less exposed over the longer trips which should, in theory at least, give him more time to organise his jumping, and proven effectiveness on both good and soft ground should help keep his options open in the coming weeks.
2m51yds 0-120 Handicap Hurdle (division two) (class 4)
It can’t be argued that ALPHABETICAL ORDER hadn’t been given a chance by the assessor on his first hurdles outing for over three years despite it constituting a belated handicap debut, as the perch of 115 he’s been dropped to is all of a stone lower than the BHA peak he’d been awarded (but never asked to race off) when rattling off three novice successes during summer 2014.
Successful back then at up to an extended 2m4f, it’s no surprise that the minimum trip proved too sharp regardless of his match-fitness from the Flat, but a tidy round of jumping and ultimate 6l third ought to give Mike Smith confidence that his recently-arrived nine-year-old son of Alflora still has plenty to offer in this discipline.
There is surely something similar for him, albeit back over further, for him in the North this autumn, irrespective of ground conditions (winner on good to firm and heavy).
2m4f189yds Novices’ Hurdle (class 4)
Sandy and Quona Thomson’s homebred WIDE AWAKE is arguably a surprising sight in hurdles races, considering their daughter of And Beyond is already rising nine, didn’t see a racecourse until July 2016 and has both a dam and granddam who raced exclusively (and sparingly) in points.
Ability definitely lurks,however, and a 14l fourth here behind a couple of potentially very useful Northern hurdling recruits represented another good step in the right direction, the slightly longer trip appearing to be appreciated.
Handicaps are now an option, and considering her mother Quonarose produced by far her best effort between the flags over the galloping Balcormo Mains circuit in Fife ,it would be interesting to see whether Wide Awake similarly proves able to raise her game if taking in a less sharp Rules track.
LUDLOW, 11 OCTOBER (GOOD TO FIRM, GOOD IN PLACES) 1m7f169yds 0-110 CJ Handicap Hurdle (class 4)
This big-field event was farmed by those to have come a long way down the handicap and. Although some retribution may follow from the handicapper after a 1.25l second, it’s highly likely that FROZEN OVER will still remain competitively enough treated to go one better next time up, especially if the predominately dry autumn prevailing at the time of writing this continues. Chris Down’s Iceman gelding entered the contest 7lb higher than for his Taunton success of the spring but still over a stone better off than when scoring over today’s C&D two years before that, and there was nothing about this game chasing home of a no less well-handicapped Skelton inmate to suggest that a flat, righthanded 2m track is any less his optimum than previously. Note also Down’s relatively strong start to the season; the Mutterton handler is already within one of his 2016-17 tally of eight successes, with six of his seven successes returning at prices of between 3-1 and 20-1.
1m7f212yds 0-135 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (class 3)
DAREBIN wouldn’t be an especially strong candidate for chasing on paper, being an It’s Gino gelding out of a dam placed in a 10.5f Group 3,but then not terribly many wholly German-bred animals are; and the evidence of this initial foray over fences suggests Gary Moore’s fiveyear-old already possesses sufficient aptitude and technique for chasing to find opportunities in this new vocation. A sharp 2m on fast ground wouldn’t have represented optimum conditions for one successful only on soft ground over hurdles (to say nothing of placing in last March’s Imperial Cup on equally deep ground), and a markup on even this fair second to a habitual first-time winner isn’t at all hard to envisage granted more give underfoot. A last-gasp success on Polytrack as recently as February served as a timely reminder than sufficient Flat-race speed remains, should it need to be deployed in tactical affairs back over jumps.
WORCESTER, 12 OCTOBER (GOOD, GOOD TO FIRM IN PLACES) 2m4f Mares’ Novices’ Chase (class 4)
Non-runners attributed to the quick (and, according to at least one trainer canvassed, rough) ground ultimately ruined this meeting on the Pitchcroft, but before that eventuality a superb line-up contested this mares’ event and a hatful of future chase winners should come from it.
Third home here, CASABLANCA MINX would have been one of several for whom the prevailing conditions were simply an increment or two too lively, but unlike a couple of her fellow beaten rivals the Shirocco mare’s jumping held intact, suggesting that fences coming at her quickly isn’t an issue – scope there, perhaps, for handling sharper tracks than this one.
A hurdles winner at up to 2m2f for Emmanuel Clayeux in France previously, the extra 2f of both starts since joining Nicky Henderson hasn’t appeared as comfortable a fit (possibly surprisingly ,considering the wealth of winning talent at up to 3m4f in the family) ,but for the time being she can surely be productively placed in this sphere back down in trip.
it’s highly likely that FROZEN OVER will remain competitively enough treated to go one better next time up
Frozen Over (near)