LOOKTOTHELIGHT CAN EXPLOIT HIS RATING ON FIBRESAND
4th - Molson Coors Handicap Chase, Tuesday 28th January
Fivecardstud wasn’t remotely competitive in three starts in beginners chases but showed far more on his handicap debut at Down Royal.
Wearing cheekpieces for the first time, he travelled smoothly in a handy position from the off and cruised into the lead shortly before turning into the home straight.
He continued to travel well going down the hill to 2 out where he was joined by Golden Sunset.
The pair remained upsides going to the last but Fivecardstud had little left on the run in and was barely galloping at the line, finishing 7¾ lengths behind the winner in fourth.
His best form in point to points came on good ground so quicker ground would likely see him in a better light and the manner in which he travelled through the race suggests he’s better than his rating of 90.
2nd - Bombardier Golden Beer Novice Stakes, Tuesday 28th January
Looktothelight proved no match forDune Of Pilat in the closing stages on his first try on the fibresand at Southwell but he shaped with enough promise to suggest he can get off the mark on this surface in the not too distant future.
Having raced enthusiastically through the first half of the race, he was pushed along to stay with Dune Of Pilat turning the final bend.
He managed to stay in touch with that rival until just over a furlong out from which point Dune Of Pilat pulled clear as the effort to stay with him took its toll on Looktothelight, who ended up finishing eight lengths behind the winner in second.
Looktothelight is bred to appreciate this surface, being by a multiple Grade 1 winner on dirt and out of a two-time winner on dirt whose only other progeny to have raced has two wins from three starts on dirt.
If kept to the fibresand at Southwell, I think Looktothelight can show himself to be better than his rating of 73.
3rd - Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap, Tuesday 28th January
Coolagh Magic also caught the eye on Tuesday’s card at Southwell having been dropped back to a more suitable distance.
A bit awkwardly into stride, he was soon at the back of the field and was manoeuvred to be very wide on the bend to avoid the kickback.
He was still travelling well in last place turning into the straight but started to make some headway under gentle encouragement. Given a couple of cracks just outside the last furlong, he continued to stay on but could never put in a meaningful challenge to the winner and just grabbed third on the line.
After the issue at the start and move to be very wide on the bend this was an encouraging ending to the race and he’s one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks having been dropped 2lb after this run.
ELAN DE BALME
7th - Unique Financial Planning Handicap Chase (For The Dick Hunt Trophy), Thursday 30th January
Elan De Balme showed a decent level of ability over hurdles and fences in France for François Nicolle and he shaped with some promise on his first start in Britain for David Pipe at Wincanton.
His jumping lacked fluency in the very early stages, something that had also been an issue at times in France, and he dropped into last place.
His jumping generally improved as the race progressed and he made headway to be just behind the leaders towards the end of the back straight of the final circuit.
He still appeared to be going well after jumping 4 out but after coming under strong pressure shortly after turning into the home straight, he found little and ended up finishing 38½ lengths behind the winner in seventh.
His performances in France suggested that this trip of 3m1f could stretch him and although he handled testing ground in France, I think he’s at his best on quicker ground so a drop back in trip on good ground will suit Elan De Balme.
He also wore a tongue tie in France so it may be that the reapplication of one will result in a stronger finishing effort too.
He’s been dropped 4lb after this run to 122 and based on the ability he showed in France, Elan De Balme can take advantage of that mark when finding a more suitable set of circumstances.
UR - Betway Contenders Hurdle (Listed Race), Saturday 1st February
Benson had shown a fairly good level of ability in bumpers this season but he was set to step up considerably on those performances on his hurdling debut at Sandown before unseating at 2 out.
Held up in last place, he dropped a few lengths off the back of the pack halfway down the back straight and a mistake at the last hurdle down the back didn’t help his cause.
He didn’t lose any more ground on the long run to 2 out and after being nudged along once entering the home straight, Benson started to close strongly on his four rivals approaching 2 out.
Had he attacked the hurdle then he may have jumped it in a share of the lead but Benson wandered going into it and then slammed the brakes on, unseating Sean Bowen over the hurdle before him.
He had been set a very tough task on his hurdling debut against three non-novices rated 150+ so despite disgracing himself at 2 out, this was a promising start over hurdles for Benson.
A strongly run two miles looks likely to suit Benson and at this stage of the season there seems little point in giving away a horse’s novice hurdle status on just their second start over hurdles in an average novice hurdle so there would be worse ideas than Benson taking up his entry in the Supreme considering the level he ran to at Sandown.
2nd - wetherbyracing.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, Saturday 1st February
Those with experience under rules set a good standard in the bumper at Wetherby, with Ask A Honey Bee having been impressive at Haydock and Midnight River finished third on debut in a Worcester bumper that has worked out very well.
Two newcomers caught the eye with their performances in the race, the first of which being runner up, Solwara One.
He travelled well in behind the leader, Ask A Honey Bee, from the off and was still there turning the final bend.
He appeared to be going best 2½ furlongs out as he moved upsides the leader but he looked a bit green when initially coming under pressure and that inexperience told against a strong-staying experienced rival in Ask A Honey Bee, with Solwara One being beaten 1¾ lengths into second.
Solwara One is a future chaser on looks and he appears to have a successful career ahead of him on the basis of this promising debut.
5th - wetherbyracing.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, Saturday 1st February
While Solwara One showed a bit of inexperience at the end of the race, North Parade showed far more and from the very start on his debut, having to be shaken up after only a few strides.
He had to be nudged along going away from the stands but generally travelled well after that until the end of the back straight.
He was squeezed up leaving the back straight when going for a gap towards the inside and was pushed along after.
In last place entering the home straight, he gradually found his stride and stayed on strongly in the closing stages to finish 9¾ lengths behind the winner in fifth.
North Parade looked very backward in this race and while he may still need a run or two to realise what’s required of him, significant improvement can be expected in the long term.
5th - Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle (Grade B), Sunday 2nd February
Strange Notions had shown a fair level of ability in maiden and novice hurdles prior to her handicap debut at Leopardstown.
Held up in last place in the very early stages, she started to make headway from halfway down the back straight, but she was slightly hampered by a faller at the last hurdle in the back straight and then got squeezed up and shuffled back on the inside as Duchess Ravenwaves moved across her.
Having found a gap outside of that rival going to 2 out, Strange Notions started to make smooth headway to track the leading group and moved into fifth going to the last.
However, she couldn’t close any further and finished seven lengths behind the winner in fifth. This was a good handicap debut from Strange Notions and she settled well in this big field which is encouraging for the future.
While she has run well wearing one, I think that when the hood is taken off in a big-field race, that could be the catalyst for significant improvement in her performance.