Well, we can safely say that the winter jumps season has cranked into top gear and is well and truly with us after events at Wetherby & Down Royal on Saturday. Coneygree and Cue Card were expected to fight out the finish in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby but neither managed to finish the race, as Coneygree was pulled up during the race and was later reported to have suffered an over-reach of his left fore. Meanwhile, Cue Card was upsides the leaders when falling five out, not for the first time, he can come to grief when seemingly sill travelling well in his race.
Over the Irish Sea, Our Duke was expected to make a winning return in the Champion Chase at Down Royal. The soft ground was very much in his favour but the bold jumping we had seen from the gelding when winning the Irish Grand National was not be seen as he made mistakes at the early fences and was never travelling from that point onwards. There was clearly something amiss with and he trailed in a well-beaten 7th of the 8 runners. He ran a similar race over hurdles at Thurles in February 2016 and bounced back from that and I am sure he will from this run. Unlike Coneygree & Cue Card, the 7-year-old has time firmly on his side.
The racing at Ascot on Saturday didn’t have a big Grade 1 feature race like Wetherby & Down Royal but there were plenty of competitive handicaps which unusually for the meeting attracted some notably big fields. The form of these races should work out well and there will be plenty of future winners to be found from this fixture. In this week’s Eyecatcher’s section, I have three that should be added to your trackers and can hopefully pay their way on the next three starts. As ever before looking at this week’s tracker horses here are a couple of interesting trainer quotes for you from last week’s action courtesy of the Racing Post.
Eyecatcher Trainer Comments
This week’s quotes from connections come not from Wetherby or Ascot fixtures, although I could have used a couple from those meetings, from Ayr on Saturday and Carlisle on Sunday which I think are the most interesting
Martila – Pauline Robson – “It was always the plan to try to win the race after she finished second in it last year. The ground conditions are not that important to her and she could go for the big handicap at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day”.
The mare had never run on ground as testing as this since moving from France but she showed a very willing attitude to hold off her rivals after the last. This was only her second run since finishing runner-up in this same race last year. Connections are very capable of laying out a horse for a race and it’s interesting to see the New Year’s Day handicap hurdle has been identified as a target for her.
Waiting Patiently – Malcolm Jefferson – “Is a good horse, a very good horse. He gallops and he can quicken and he loves this type of ground. He’s done nothing wrong at all and plenty of good horses have won this. I think the BetVictor Gold Cup might come too soon but there is one down there in December which we might wait for”
The 6-year-old came into the race 3 wins from 3 runs over fences and duly made 4 from 4 with a great round of jumping here. Soft ground will always see him at his best and he will do well when upped in class given how well he jumps. If he does go to Cheltenham for the December race and he gets his favoured underfoot conditions he will take plenty of beating. Granted he only beat four rivals but the race has produced some notable winners in previous renewals such as Many Clouds, Saphir Du Rheu and Seeyouatmidnight.
This Weeks EyeCatcher’s
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that like last winter I will be giving EyeCatcher Pro Subscribers my exclusive all-weather notebook horse. These will be horses that are handicapped to win races on the synthetics over the coming weeks. The first of those is a runner from Wolverhampton who got no sort of run in his race last week, coming home virtually still on the bridle and is handicapped to win on his next start.
I have four horses for your trackers this week, all from the Saturday’s jumps racing, three from Ascot and one from Ayr.
Saturday 4th November
Midnight Maestro – Alan King – The trainer won this handicap hurdle with Elgin but the one to take out of the race could be his other runner. The JP McManus owned gelding came into the race 3 wins from 6 runs under rules. The 5-year-old was making his seasonal reappearance here and the ground would have been plenty quick enough for him. He is 3 from 3 with soft in the going description and 0 from 3 on good. In the circumstances, his 6th placing, beaten about 7 lengths should be marked up. A handicap hurdle mark of 126 should very workable as he is open to more improvement when gets suitable underfoot conditions.
Fourth Act – Colin Tizzard – Made his seasonal reappearance in the same handicap chase as last year. He was 4th in 2016 but could only finish 7th on this occasion. He looked like the run would do him good and so it proved in the race. The 8-year-olds best two performances according to RPR’s have come at Cheltenham and this run should put him spot on for the 3m 3f handicap chase at the November meeting, a race he finished 4th in last year. He was beaten just over 5 lengths in the Cheltenham race but he will go into this year’s race off at least 8lb lower. Granted he can make mistakes in his races but when it clicks he is a well-handicapped horse.
Copain De Claisse – Paul Nicholls – I don’t think I saw a better-looking horse all day than this one. A winner of two of his hurdle races he was always going to be a better chaser and he looks like he has improved physically over the summer and he looks a very imposing horse. He travelled like the winner for most of the race and he was going so well he went into the lead quicker than his jockey would have liked and he was no match for the eventual winner Benatar after the second last. He probably wouldn’t the going to soft as his best performances have come on good or good to soft ground. There are races to be won with him this season and he may stay further than 2m 3f. I would think his trainer will be looking to aim him at the big spring festivals where the strongly run handicaps would really play to his strengths.
Isaacstown Lad – Nicky Richards – Has now reached the veteran’s stage of his career but even at the age of 10, he showed on his seasonal reappearance that there is still a race in him. Having his first start for 224 days he is was still very much in contention four out and although it looked like he would fade out of it two from home he seemed to get a second wind and was closing again on the front two all the way to the line. His optimum conditions seem to be heavy or soft ground, a distance of 2m 7f+ and Class 3 or 4 handicaps- 3 wins from 8 runs 6 placed. Interestingly two of his four career wins have come when racing within 7 days of his last run and two have come in November & December! Long time since he got into the winner’s enclosure but he starts the winter on a winnable mark.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s punting.