The Inside Track – December 2023

 In Greystoke Galloper, Inside Track

This month’s edition of The Inside Track leaps into gear as the season picks up momentum. It’s been a great month for Nicky Richards Racing, with eight winners.  Here’s our racing industry expert’s December recap – and ‘star performer’.  Do let us know your thoughts in the comments!

The Inside Track – December 2023

Despite the best efforts of the weather, team Greystoke enjoyed another fruitful month with a couple of red-letter days to remember.

Court Dreaming was the sole runner on a very snowy Carlisle hurdles only card, blighted by non-runners due to traffic problems. In a tactical three runner affair he didn’t quite pick up the same as the winner and took a respectable second. He returned to the track a fortnight later in a highly competitive Pertemps Qualifier and despite finding the action a little hot from out the weights he battled on to take 4th, with all three who finished in front of him likely to be interesting horses to follow in the coming months.

The team headed up to Ayr en masse, a hat-trick of wins and places bringing up a few multiples for those following the yard’s hot streak.

Florida Dreams found the first division of the maiden hurdle run much more to his liking, the strong pace taking the bulk of the field out of their comfort zone from an early stage. The Grade Two bumper winner powered past long-time leader Phantomofthepoints in the last 50 yards and set himself up for a shot at the newly moved Grade One Formby Novice hurdle on Boxing Day (formerly the Tolworth). Not out of that place at all at that level, he found the pace a little hot before being badly hampered. Undeterred he stayed on eye-catchingly and is perhaps now ready for a step-up in trip.

Another who will perhaps be shown to better effect over further is President Scottie, who took in the second division of the Ayr maiden. Keeping on well, his third gives connections plenty of options in the coming weeks.

The placed prize money kept flowing in the following race as Marown made his seasonal reappearance in a decent handicap chase which has already thrown up a next time out winner. A solid second, hopefully he can kick on from that base and end a losing streak not befitting of his obvious talents.

Going one better on seasonal reappearance was big priced winner Bettergetalong, belying his years by putting up an effort on a par with his best ever. Turning 13 at the end of the month, he’s another great example of the modus operandi of the yard – concentrating on welfare and longevity.

From an old-timer to one running under rules for the first time, point bumper winner Milcree showed plenty of ability in the 2m5f novice hurdle, despite running very green. A typical Hemmings horse, he has a stamina laden pedigree and it’s hard not to be excited about his prospects as a staying chaser.

Aubis Walk made her chase debut in the next race, pulling miles clear with another promising type to comfortably take a competitive handicap. She took to the fences brilliantly and could be hard to stop compiling a sequence in the months ahead.

In the final race on a memorable day, Serious Ego attempted a hat-trick of his own but didn’t quite manage to fire in the same way he had at Hexham the previous twice. He has found marks in the 100s hard to overcome in the past but strongly run races around courses such as Hexham could still see him go on again this season.

Newcastle was the destination for the comeback appearance of Kian Calling, a horse that had shown promise in bumpers and now ready to get back into the swing of things after a lengthy 644-day absence. In a race is already working out well, he shaped like the run was very much needed and should be much more competitive when he is next seen.

Also on the card, Glittering Love took another step forward en route to a likely staying target later on in the season. Just short of three miles is probably at the sharp end of his optimum these days and he’s well handicapped for the right scenario.

Over at Doncaster, Glinger Flame ran another blinder in a deep race that didn’t unfold in his favour, a relatively slowly run affair not allowing him to unleash his stamina until late on. Granted his ideal scenario he could well land another good pot this winter. Caius Marcius didn’t appreciate the sprint for home either, especially down to his bare minimum trip and back to only 2lbs above his last winning mark he’ll have more chances to add to his winning total as a 13-year-old.

Findthetime was another on the day to run much better than the bare result, this time being badly hampered 5 out and rallying to finish only 7 lengths fourth. He’s versatile trip wise and will be highly competitive on flat tracks between 2 and 2½ miles.

The only disappointment came in the shape of Headscarf Lil in the Mares Handicap Hurdle, though after 3 months off she is entitled to come on for the run and will likely bounce back straight away being generally consistent.

In wild conditions at Carlisle, Universal Folly ran a remarkable race. Initially finding the pace too hot back down on trip, he flew up the hill to finish a fast finishing second. Despite showing speed at shorter, he sees out three miles thoroughly and could even run over further later in the season.

A couple of trips to Scotland started with newcomer Yakelo making a strong impression on debut at Musselburgh, travelling sweetly and likely would have gone very close were it not for having to switch in the closing stages. He has a bright future and is almost certainly an imminent winner in waiting.

After plundering Ayr earlier in the month, another four runners headed back there before Christmas with further success. After another highly encouraging run from Nab Wood, the Court Cave gelding starts life in handicaps in the New Year on a mark of 108 which could look on the lenient side as he steps up in trip. He is very much one to add to your tracker of choice.

In the same ownership, Am Still Here began his handicap career in a novices’ event but didn’t quite manage to fire thought it is still early days with him.
The day belonged to Soft Risk, a horse that many from the yard had been looking forward to getting back out after 21 months off having seen him take 3 of his first 5 starts prior to injury. He took to chasing brilliantly and has a very high ceiling – he should star in some big races in the coming months.

Young Getaway took in the concluding bumper, looking like he’d improve significantly for the racecourse experience.

Christmas came early for the yard with two successes on the 23rd, the first at Newcastle where The Kalooki Kid comprehensively took a novices’ hurdle under penalty back down in trip. He looks smart and is yet another to follow from the Greystoke yard.

The quick fire double came when Famous Bridge followed up his Betfair Chase Day Haydock win with another at the Merseyside venue in the Tommy Whittle. He had to be brave and dug deep in extremely testing ground but showed he has the guts to go with his class and now the Grand National is likely to be on the radar. It’d likely be foolish to suggest he has finished improving and given plenty of time to get over his efforts here he’ll be the flagbearer for the yard heading into the spring.

Millie of Mayo narrowly failed to bring up the hat-trick on the day, flying home after a relative crawl to finish a close second. Her third at Kelso last month is proving to be extremely strong form and the Overbury mare should be on the shortlist when she is next seen.

In addition to Florida Dreams’ effort at Aintree, Boxing Day also saw outings for One Step Up and Houston Texas at Wetherby though it wasn’t sadly to be their day.

The year nearly closed out in fine style, with Parisencore backing up his excellent chase debut second with another narrow defeat in a hot looking novices’ handicap at Doncaster. All 5 runners came into the race with at worst a 3rd place finish in their previous content as well as two last time out winners and it is hard not to think that it’ll be form that will work out well.

With a string of young promising horses finding their feet, maturing horses hitting their peak as well as the old-timers proving to be better than ever, 2024 is an exciting time to be following the Richards stable.

Star Performer: Famous Bridge – Another big race win in very different circumstances and all roads may be leading to Aintree in April.

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Famous Bridge wins the Tommy Whittle Chase at HaydockConor Rabbitt and FIndthetime in the winners enclosure at Newcastle