ZIZANEUR TO PUT UNFORTUNATE UNSEATS BEHIND HIM
3rd - EBM Handicap Hurdle (Div II), Wednesday 15th January
Josie Abbing hadn’t shown too much on her first two starts since joining Christian Williams but stepped forward from those with a good run at Newbury. Her jumping wasn’t as slick as her rivals through the early stages, which left her at the back of the field, but she made good headway to track the leaders on the inside towards the end of the back straight.
She got in a bit tight at 2 out but quickly regained her momentum and travelled smoothly on the very long run between the last two hurdles, moving into a share of the lead two furlongs out. Pushed along shortly after, she couldn’t go with the smooth-travelling Eddiemaurice after the last and was held together by Adam Wedge in the last furlong as she tired in testing conditions, coming home in third.
This was a far more promising run from Josie Abbing, particularly considering the ground was softer than ideal for her, and she can prosper on quicker ground in the future.
Fell - Ladbrokes “Where The Nation Plays” Novice Handicap Hurdle, Wednesday 15th January
Cousin Harry’s runs in maiden hurdles had been littered with mistakes and his jumping wasn’t completely fluent on his handicap debut at Punchestown but it was bad luck that ended up causing his downfall.
Held up at the back of the main group for much of the race, he started to move closer leaving the back straight and was still going easily in eighth jumping 2 out. Nudged along after, he started to make significant headway and had only been ridden hands and heels when he was untidy at the last. He landed on all fours but then slipped and came down.
He appeared to have plenty left to offer and was going at least as well at the time as the eventual winner, who went on to win by 11 lengths. Cousin Harry has been raised 2lb for this, which looks on the lenient side, and although his jumping will always be a small concern I think he can bounce back from this unfortunate fall in the coming weeks.
4th - Llewellyn Humphreys Handicap Chase, Friday 17th January
Jimmyjames was formerly in the care of Cousin Harry’s trainer, Philip Rothwell, and he showed promise on his second start for Tim Vaughan at Chepstow. He raced quite keenly in behind the leaders through the early stages before settling on the run up the hill away from the stands. He made a couple of minor errors in the back straight but was still travelling strongly in a share of second turning the final bend.
He eased into the lead shortly after jumping the first fence in the home straight and was the only one still on the bridle. Nudged along to maintain his advantage after 3 out, he went a couple of lengths clear after a good jump at 2 out and still hadn’t been asked for much effort but once coming under pressure after the last he didn’t find anywhere near as much as looked likely and faded back into fourth.
The manner in which he travelled suggests he could be better than his now 2lb lower rating of 80 and I think better ground would suit him too so he could have more to offer at a low level.
FIT FOR FUNCTION
4th - Crowne Plaza Race & Stay Handicap, Friday 17th January
Fit For Function shaped with some promise from a wide draw two starts ago and he caught the eye again from a wide draw on his latest outing under Amy Jo Hayes, who was having her first ride.
Kept wide of the field on the run to the first bend, he was caught three-wide on the bend and gradually dropped back to be third last turning into the straight. Pushed along, he started to make headway on the outside in the straight but although he stayed on well, he couldn’t put in a serious challenge to the leaders and come home in fourth.
With a better draw and a more experienced rider, he could be capable of winning off a mark of 68 in the near future.
BIT ON THE SIDE
5th - Matchbook British EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier), Saturday 18th January
Bit On The Side showed some ability in bumpers despite them looking an insufficient test of stamina and she shaped with promise on her hurdling debut at Ascot where her jumping badly let her down.
Having initially set off in a share of the lead, she backed off the first two hurdles. She was better over the next two hurdles but the slow jumping returned afterwards and a slow jump at 3 out caused her to drop back into second last.
Pushed along after, she couldn’t match the speed of the leaders turning into the straight and another slow jump at 2 out didn’t help her cause but she did keep responding to urging and come home in fifth.
As well as her jumping issues, the steadily run race was unsuitable for her and it was a repeat of her runs in bumpers where she was outpaced and then stayed on again late. Hopefully her jumping will sharpen up with experience and when she gets a suitable test of stamina, she can progress into a good staying mare over hurdles.
UR - Cheltenham Preview Here In March Handicap Chase, Saturday 18th January
Zizaneur has failed to complete on both starts over fences but on both occasions his performance has suggested that he’s better than his rating of 128, the latest of those coming at Haydock.
Held up towards the rear early on, his keen going nature soon resulted in him making ground to track the leaders. He put in some slick leaps down the back straight, making headway as a result, and was in second place leaving the back. Another good jump at 4 out left him tracking the leader, Billingsley, on the run to 3 out and Zizaneur was still travelling smoothly but he made a mistake and unseated rider.
As he unseated at 3 out at Taunton and Haydock, his rating can’t be adjusted so he remains on 128 even though he almost certainly would have won at Taunton and would have gone close to winning at worst at Haydock. Due to him failing to complete on both starts over fences he might be labelled as a poor jumper but I think it’s a case of his low jumping style meaning that he doesn’t have much margin for error, so when he’s good he’s very slick but meeting a fence slightly wrong can be more problematic for him than others.
Zizaneur shouldn’t be long in getting off the mark over fences and there could be quite a bit more to come from this five-year-old in the long term.
QUEEN OF THE COURT
8th - British EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier), Saturday 18th January
A winner of an Irish point to point for Colin Bowe, Queen Of The Court showed promise in both starts in bumpers but she had shown very little in her three runs over hurdles prior to her latest start at Taunton.
Held up at the back of a well strung out field in the early stages, she was about 20 lengths behind the leader with a circuit to go. Still in last at the start of the back straight, she gradually made headway on the very long run on the flat and had moved into a share of third place by the end of the back straight.
However, making such a move took its toll and she was held together in the home straight in the tiring conditions, finishing 29 lengths behind the winner. This was a far more encouraging display from Queen Of The Court and she’s now received a rating of 94.
Her point to point win came on good ground, while her four runs over hurdles so far have been on soft or heavy, so she’s one to watch in handicaps on much quicker going.
2nd - Ladbrokes Football Acca Boosty Handicap, Monday 20th January
Luscifer ran quite well behind a stablemate on his first start for Tony Carroll over five furlongs at Wolverhampton and he stepped up on that on his latest outing at the same track over two furlongs further.
Dropped in from a wide draw, he travelled well at the back of the main pack and started to make some headway three furlongs out. However, shortly before the two-furlong marker he was badly squeezed up when going for a gap and briefly dropped back to second last.
Once getting a clear run, he stayed on strongly in the straight and finished second without ever looking likely to challenge the winner. It was encouraging how well he finished having been hampered and this looked a more suitable distance for him than the five furlongs he ran over on his first start for Carroll.
There looks to be more to come from him on the all weather this winter at a low level.