It was Scottish Cheltenham Trials day at Musselburgh on Saturday but will we see any of the winners or placed runners making a serious impact at the Festival in March?
To be honest I would be surprised if I witnessed any outstanding Cheltenham contenders on the day but that’s not to say there weren’t eye-catchers aplenty amongst the competitive fields.
Here are the three main horses that went in my notebook after the days racing –
SAMSTOWN (L Russell) – Saturday – 1.30 Musselburgh – 3rd in the 2m4f Class 4 Novices’ Hurdle
The 5yo was making his hurdling debut here and despite being on his toes in the paddock and taking a while to warm up in the early stages of the race he did finish with somewhat of a rattle once he and jockey Peter Buchanan straightened up for home. The Kingsalsa gelding wasn’t the most fluent over his obstacles but this was his first taste of jumping in public and we can take it he will have learned plenty from the experience. It’s also in my mind that the track was maybe a touch on the sharp side for him as was the 2m4f trip and it could be that he will be better suited to a more galloping track and/or a slightly further trip. It’s important to not be fooled by his close proximity to the winner as that one was heavily eased once the race was put to bed. It is, however, more prudent to look at the fact he got within a length of the decent Donald McCain runner-up EBANOUR, a horse that has some decent experience under his belt. All in all this was a decent debut performance and this interestingly bred 5yo should have races in him somewhere over the smaller obstacles. probably on a more suitable track.
MOONLIGHT DRIVE (J Quinn) – Saturday – 2.35 Musselburgh – 3rd in the 3m Class 3 Stayers Handicap Hurdle
The favourite put in an untidy round of jumping and looked to be struggling to make any sort of impact as the travelled down the back-straight for the last time. Credit must go to jockey Dougie Costello for keeping the 6yo interested enough to be able to produce him at the last flight still in with a chance and they even managed to get their heads in front for a brief moment on the run-in. It was a short lived moment, however, as the 2 horses alongside had more fight left in the tank and MOONLIGHT DRIVE quickly settled for third spot. I’m convinced the Oscar gelding lost his race in the first 2 miles of this contest and he simply had little left to battle to the line with. Again I have a feeling the track played against him and he will be seen to better effect on a track with a more galloping configuration. He definitely has races in him off his current hurdles mark but I would be equally as interested in him if he went back over fences (2nd on his chasing debut at Market Rasen in November). His point to point form looks solid and is very much a horse of interest for the immediate future, whether that is back over fences or staying over timber.
UBI ACE (T Walford) – Saturday – 3.45 Musselburgh – 2nd in the 2m Scottish County Hurdle
This was an outstanding performance from the 6yo for a number of reasons. Jockey Robert Walford had his mount in the firing line for most of the contest and the top weight held off numerous challengers in the home-straight before succumbing to the lesser weighted winner Stormy Weather in the final 100yds (Ubi Ace was giving 21lb to the winner). In the main the runner-up put in a solid round of jumping and was able to make ground at a number of his flights; a trait that should see him well when he makes the transition to the larger obstacles. He may just be coming to his limit in the hurdling sphere although his battling spirit means he will always be giving his all and I would not be surprised to see him grab, if not another hurdling victory, at least a place or 2 in some valuable handicaps. The real reason I have him as an eye-catcher, however, is to put him in the note-book as a chaser to follow for next season. He looks to have plenty of size and scope for the chasing game and trainer Tim Walford has never hidden the fact he is excited about this one jumping a fence. More hurdling glory is far from beyond him but chasing is the real area of excitement for this lad.
What are your thoughts on the weekends racing?
Were there any serious Cheltenham contenders on show at Musselburgh at the weekend?
Drop me a comment below and let me know who you will be keeping an eye on for future engagements.