Notebook

  • Aqua Dude

    This winning pointer is bred to make a better chaser than hurdler but that hasn't proved to be the case so far, resulting in a handicap mark that is 5lbs lower (due to be reassessed 17/01) than his hurdles rating. That certainly looks a rating that he can take advantage of having shaped encouragingly until falling at Newbury and then showing plenty of promise before becoming outpaced at Huntingdon. He can come into his own granted a stiffer test of stamina and remains one to keep onside.

    Trained by Evan Williams, Sired by Flemensfirth
    Brown gelding, 7yo

  • Ballyarthur

    Sent off as favourite for his handicap bow at Cheltenham (13/11) but weakened into fourth after travelling strongly for much of the race. It was a hot contest, full of similarly unexposed runners and time may well tell that his defeat was no disgrace with the form expected to work out well. He won his point over three miles and is bred to be a staying chaser but given how he raced here, a drop in trip may pay dividends in the interim and he has more than enough ability to win from his opening mark. Didn't appear suited by a change of tactics when falling at Ascot next time and remains capable of better.

    Trained by N A Twiston-Davies, Sired by Kayf Tara
    Bay gelding, 6yo

  • Bally Gilbert

    This imposing individual was set a stiff task on his hurdling debut (11/11) but shaped better than the bare form suggests. The pace may not have been the strongest and he was readily left behind when the tempo quickened but he hurdled well enough and travelled well enough to suggest that he has a future at this game. That is likely to come further down the line in handicap company following another encouraging run in fifth behind Keeper Hill at Hereford.

    Trained by B Pauling, Sired by Stowaway
    Chestnut gelding, 5yo

  • Baron Alco

    In time, we might look back and say his attempt to give Whisper 5lb and a beating was a commendable one (10/12). He's only run in small-field novice chases so far, but we know from his hurdling days he thrives in big-field handicaps. The assessor has bumped his mark up by an acceptable 2lbs and he's going to be of interest whenever (if!) Gary Moore aims him at an Ascot handicap chase.

    Trained by G L Moore  Sired by Baron Alco

    Chestnut gelding, 5yo

  • Chandos Belle

    The French made a pleasing debut over hurdles in the juvenile fillies' event at Doncaster (29/12). She took up a prominent position from an early stage under Brendan Powell and jumped very soundly in the main, whilst showing an enthusiastic attitude toward the job in hand. Her hurdling technique suffered somewhat over the last couple of flights and she looked to tire quite noticeably but did enough nonetheless to hang on for third place behind two reasonably useful-looking rivals who had already had some racecourse experience. She should be all the wiser for this given more time to acclimatise to her new surroundings and will be of plenty of interest if turning out for a contest against her own sex.

    Trained by Stuart Edmunds, Sired by Mamool
    Bay filly, 3yo

  • Cousin Khee

    There is still an engine inside Cousin Khee, as he showed when taking a heavy-ground handicap at Nottingham over a mile and three-quarters by seven lengths off 79 15 months ago - the question is whether his head can be straightened out. He seemed to lose interest coming off the home turn at Leicester (28/12), ballooned the third last and then hung so badly afterwards that Tom O'Brien appeared to have difficulty getting him to go forwards for most of the straight. However, he rattled home for fourth place and it's worth emphasising that this sub-two-mile trip was surely an insufficient test of his stamina - this is a horse who was a multiple bumper winner in his youth and who has surely got to be worth another try at further than two and a half miles, despite a laboured effort around Cartmel in midsummer. There's definitely a chance that Cousin Khee has decided he's had enough of racing, but a previous experiment with headgear yielded an immediate dividend and I just can't walk away from a horse who is rated 85 on the Flat and yet will soon be able to run in a 0-120 on the sort of testing ground he appreciates.

    Trained by H Morrison, Sired by Sakhee
    Bay gelding, 9yo

  • Drumcliff

    Reasonably well supported for his handicap debut (27/12) and nearly landed the money despite plenty of things going against him. He was short of room as the race developed and seemed to have an uncomfortable ride into the straight but he made up ground to only narrowly miss out. A 3lb rise is fair given that only a length and a half covered the first five home and the inexperience he displayed here suggests there should be plenty more to come from this half-brother to Simonsig.

    Trained by H Fry, Sired by Presenting
    Bay gelding, 5yo

  • Indirocco

    Well-related individual with useful hurdler Irving among his relatives. Displayed signs of inexperience on his hurdling and racecourse debut at Wetherby (23/11) and there's certainly room for improvement in his jumping. However, there was a lot to like about the way that he finished off his race and he has the size and scope to make an impact at this game and there should be a good deal more to come.

    Trained by D Skelton, Sired by Shirocco
    Chestnut gelding, 3yo

  • Isleofhopendreams

    Little over three years ago, Isleofhopendreams popped up at Thurles to make his debut for the yard, having formerly been with Henrietta Knight and shown next to nothing. Sent off 4/5, he won by 10 lengths, angering the assessor to the extent that when he next lined up, two years later, he did so off a mark some 23lb higher. Two miles and an over-confident ride did for him that day, before an early fall next time, but he's returned better than ever this season with a ready chase win before being sent off 5/1 favourite - an extremely well-supported one - for a valuable handicap hurdle at Leopardstown (28/12). Ridden by a 5lb claimer with the top boys unable to do the featherweight required, he ultimately bumped into a well-handicapped and brilliantly-ridden horse yet he'd still have won but for meeting trouble in running with the pair nicely clear. A small rise won't stop him winning a similar race over hurdles, but it's also worth keeping an eye out for an engagement over fences. If able to get in off even a revised hurdles mark of in the region of 118, it would look extremely generous given that he gave a stone and a comprehensive beating to a horse now rated 116 over fences in November, his sole start as a chaser.

    Trained by W P Mullins, Sired by Flemensfirth
    Bay gelding, 9yo

  • Ma Du Fou

    Ma Du Fou produced very ordinary efforts on his first two appearances over fences, but at a time when his stable was in and out, and he has shaped with a degree of promise on both occasions. Almost two miles in a small field at Wetherby first time out was clearly an insufficient test of his stamina, and even when stepped up in trip at Bangor, he appeared to be doing his best work at the finish. That again appeared to be the case at Doncaster where the fitting of cheekpieces had a galvanising affect. The best of his hurdling form, for example when beating North Hill Harvey in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon, is going to make him look very nicely treated (indeed, the handicapper has dropped him 5lb to a chasing mark of 132) when it all clicks over fences and I fancy that will happen when the stable are in better nick and perhaps also when he is ridden more aggressively from the front - just look at how he has got on when frontrunning in the past, compared to when ridden from off the pace

    Trained by W Greatrex, Sired by Le Fou
    Bay gelding, 6yo

  • Mick Jazz

    He was ridden with restraint by Jack Kennedy in the Bar One Racing Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse (Dec 4) and didn't get much luck after turning into the straight. He made a bad mistake himself two out and then was hampered by the fall of Campeador but was flying home at the finish on the stands' side rail and looks well capable of landing a big one. He was sent off joint-favourite for the Greatwood Hurdle when trained by Harry Fry last season only to suffer injury and miss the rest of the campaign. He landed a Clonmel maiden on his first outing for his new handler before chasing home classy and quirky stable companion Labaik in a Grade Three event at Navan. He's entered in the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle, which is a race Elliott has won twice before, and should go there with live claims.

    Trained by G Elliott, Sired by Blue Bresil
    Bay gelding, 5yo

  • Neon Wolf

    Impressive on his Rules debut in a Uttoxeter bumper, he ran out an equally comfortable winner on his hurdling bow at Exeter (01/01). The fact that he was backed form 4/6 into 2/5 is a fair indication of his ability and the depth of the race but he looks more than capable of making a mark in stronger company where he could be sent off a backable price. With Noel Fehily reporting that his mount was 'much too keen for his own good' trainer Harry Fry is considering whether to give Neon Wolf another run in novice company first but, writing on his website, Fry went on to describe the Vinnie Roe gelding as 'a hugely exciting prospect'. Both Fry and Fehily have already referred to Neon Wolf's future chasing career but he can land a decent prize over hurdles before being sent over the larger obstacles next season.

    Trained by H Fry, Sired by Vinnie Roe
    Bay gelding, 6yo

  • Minstrels Gallery

    His three jumps wins have been achieved on testing ground so conditions at Doncaster (9/12) were probably fast enough for the seven-year-old who found the main protagonists quickening away from him in the closing stages. He was in good form on the Flat earlier in the year and looks capable of going on to achieve further success over obstacles. Give him a trip around two and half miles and some soft going when conditions begin to properly ease and he will be well worth a second glance next time as he appears to be in very good heart.

    Trained by Mrs L Wadham, Sired by Refuse To Bend
    Chestnut gelding, 7yo

  • Old Harry Rocks

    Made his debut in what appeared to be - on paper at least - a decent bumper for the track at Worcester (19/10) and shaped very pleasingly, staying on strongly in the closing stages to claim third. With his yard only operating in their lower gears at this stage of the season, it was a taking run and the experience should not be lost on this well related individual who should get a trip once being sent over hurdles which may well happen sooner rather than later.

    Trained by H Fry, Sired by Milan
    Bay gelding, 4yo

  • Project Mars

    Nick Gifford has had a reasonable season with his bumper runners (two from seven with a further two seconds) and this second foal out of a hurdle winner looks capable of doing his bit following an encouraging debut at Warwick. Easy to back in what may turn out to be a fair heat, he stayed on encouragingly from the rear of the field to make late headway on the testing surface to finish clear of the 'also-rans' in fifth. Entitled to improve for the run and the experience, he should be a factor in a weaker race next time.

    Trained by N J Gifford, Sired by Presenting
    Bay gelding, 5yo

  • Romain de Senam

    Came up short by a head in the Fred Winter when beaten into second by stablemate Diego Du Charmil, and he definitely looks like he could be in line for a return to the Festival in a couple of months. Much like stablemate Bouvreuil, who was second in the 2015 Fred Winter before returning to fill the same spot in last year's Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, Romain De Seman looks to have been brought along steadily over fences in the early part of the season but he's performed really well in chasing home Top Notch at Plumpton and then again at Newbury (31/12) when not beaten far in third. A four-runner affair is never going to see this strong-travelling sort in his best light and so it proved on Saturday as he seemed pretty keen in the early stages before being caught out of his ground slightly then running on when it was just too late. He'll be of interest in the coming months, especially if his official rating remains below the 140 mark for him to contest the same event Bouvreuil almost landed for team Ditcheat last March.

    Trained by P F Nicholls  Sired by Saint Des Saints

    Bay gelding, 5yo

  • Solomn Grundy

    It would be easy to think that this novices' improvement has flattened out following his defeat at Wetherby (26/12) but I doubt that's the case. He was doing all of his best work at the closing stages as had been the case in a strong race at Cheltenham on his handicap debut. In between, he reversed Cheltenham form when stepped up to three miles at Newbury, running out an impressive winner from a horse who's gone in since. A 5lb rise is about what could have been expected and he can pick up the winning thread once stepped back up in distance.

    Trained by N P Mulholland, Sired by Westerner
    Bay gelding, 6yo

  • Starlight Court

    He's no superstar but the combination of a hood and a tongue tie helped bring about an improved showing at Warwick on his handicap debut where he stayed on from off the pace to finish third. Unlikely to go up by much - if at all - given the modest nature of the race, he should be capable of winning something similar, possibly over a longer trip given the way that he finished off his race. He's run well enough on quicker ground to think better conditions won't be a problem either and he looks capable of progressing from a modest starting point.

    Trained by D Skelton, Sired by Court Cave
    Bay gelding, 6yo

  • Thomas Crapper

    I fear we've been here before but his run at Cheltenham was eyecatching (01/01). The conditions were really demanding which didn't suit this top-of-the-ground performer but in finishing fifth, having been just about last off the bridle, Thomas Crapper fared better than could've been expected because he's plainly not suited by the slog in the mud which this became after the turn for home. Off the mark from which he was second to Irish Cavalier at the 2015 Festival and to Don Poli a year earlier, he cruised into things in pursuit of Village Vic, for whom conditions were ideal, only to tire up the hill as mudlarks like Top Gamble and Tenor Nivernais plugged on past him. There's another Grade Three handicap chase over course and distance in January and he should sneak in at the foot of the weights for what's sure to be the target. Let's all agree to stick to that dry January, shall we?

    Trained by R Dickin, Sired by Tamure
    Bay gelding, 10yo

  • Un Ace

    Has done most of his recent racing over staying trips without ever really looking as though he relishes a stiff test of stamina. As such, his handicap mark has declined by 12lbs over the course of the last year and that leaves him looking dangerously well treated. He again shaped as though all of his ability retains intact at Cheltenham (10/12) before weakening and it would be no surprise to see him gain an overdue success dropped back in trip. Underfoot conditions have been important to him in the past though and deep winter ground may not bring out the best in him.

    Trained by K C Bailey, Sired by Voix du Nord
    Bay gelding, 8yo