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Weekly Eye-Catchers – Horse Racing

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Hi all,

Wakanda’s Late Thrust Lands Sky Bet Chase

The “Insight on the Weekend” feature on the upcoming big horse races is doing rather well. Last week I identified the Sue Smith-trained Wakanda as a good each way bet in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. This is what I wrote last week.

“If you knew he was a guaranteed runner the 14/1 available with BetVictor would make plenty of appeal each way as the race could cut up before post time”.

Hopefully, some of you backed him at a nice double figure price but even the 8/1 SP was decent. In last weeks preview for the Sky Bet Chase, I gave a favourable mention to eight horses of which five actually ran:

Wakanda -1st
Warrior’s Tale – 2nd
L’Ami Serge – 3rd
Label Des Obeaux -6th
Vibrato Valtat -9th

A lot to get through this week. Besides the usual eyecatchers, which this week include a couple from Doncaster that needs noting for big handicaps in the spring, I have a 20/1 each- way ante-post bet for the Close Brothers Novice Chase at Cheltenham. I also take a look at the Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup in the “Insight on the Weekend” and have a selection for that race and another that has a gone a little bit under the radar.

Cheltenham Trial’s Day Reflections

It was Cheltenham Trial’s Day on Saturday and the meeting was run on heavy ground. Last year 5 horses went on to win at the festival from 33 runners and since 2014 12 horses from 98 runners have done so.

Winners at this fixture that have gone to win in March have produced the following results

5 winners from 21 runners 24% +2.25 A/E 1.21 11 placed 52%.

The figures for last year were:

2 winners from 6 runners 33% +0.25 4 placed 67%. (One of those winners was Un De Sceaux who ran in the rearranged Clarence House Chase, from the abandoned Ascot card).

If the stats follow recent results then we can expect one of Saturday’s winners to pop up in March and her are my three that could go onto Festival glory:

Apple’s Shakira – Only did what was expected in winning the Triumph Hurdle Trial. Has yet to race on a sound surface but if she is effective in it and her trainer Nicky Henderson thinks she will be then she remains the one they all have to beat in the Triumph Hurdle. She will probably be even better over further given time.

Mister Whitaker – Had never run on ground worse than good to soft but he showed he could be just as effective on soft ground here. Had more in hand than the official margin of victory 1 ¾ lengths suggest as he did idle on the run in.

The Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase on day one of the festival will be on his agenda now. The 20/1 available with William Hills (NRNB) for that race looks decent each-way value for this progressive 6-year-old.

Santini – Adds to trainer Nicky Henderson’s a strong hand in the novice hurdle division. He showed plenty of stamina to win the 2m 5f Grade 2 Ballymore Novice Hurdle. The 6-year-old is regarded as a 3m chaser in the making with next years RSA Novices Chase already being talked about as a target.

If he runs at the Festival it won’t be the in Ballymore but the 3m Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle for which he is a best-priced 12/1 with William Hill (NRNB). Those odds would look good if he was to run but I have a feeling that connections will avoid the race with the future in mind.

In summary: I really like Santini long term. Apple’s Shakira looks the most likely of Saturday’s winners to go on to win in March but at the prices, the only value is the 20/1 on Mister Whitaker for the novice handicap chase on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Insight on the Weekend

This weekend we have the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown to look forward to. Its two days of what looks like top class racing action and should be very informative in regard to upcoming spring festivals.

Musselburgh also hosts some good racing this weekend with its Scottish Cheltenham Trial’s Weekend. Unlike the Leopardstown meeting, this is less likely to have a bearing when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival races.

Since 2014 – 55 runners at this fixture that went on to win at the Cheltenham Festival and produced the following results:

0 winners from 55 runners 8 placed 15%.

So it will pay to avoid any bookies quotes for horses who run here however impressive or eye-catching they may be.

Before looking at this week’s horses for the tracker lets have a look ahead to whats happening later this week.

Normally I look at the upcoming big handicaps but in all truth, there are too many this weekend to look at today. So this week I am going to look at Sunday’s big race at Leopardstown.

Unibet Irish Gold Cup – Sunday 4th February

Jessica Harrington trained Our Duke heads the market at the time of writing. The 8-year-old is out to cement his place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Last years impressive Irish Grand National winner hasn’t been seen running well below par on his seasonal reappearance at Down Royal 92 days ago. He can be forgiven that run and he will have the soft going in his favour and C&D also suits. If he’s recovered from his back operation and can return to his best he will take all the beating.

Road To Respect and Balko De Flos were 1st & 2nd were first and second in the Christmas Chase over C&D. Both are young chasers on the way up and there shouldn’t be much the pair again. The latter looks the better value at present but his trainer Henry De Bromhead is enduring a long losing spell. So preference at this stage would have to be with Road To Respect, who could well end up being favourite on the day.

The J P McManus owned pair of Coney Island & Anibale Fly need respecting as they are another pair of horses very much on the upgrade and open to plenty of improvement. The latter was a good winner of the Paddy Power Handicap Chase over C&D but is stepping up in class today. Coney Island won well at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance over 2m 5f. The seven-year-old is open to further improvement over 3m and it’s worth remembering he was only beaten ½ length by Our Duke in a Grade 1 Novice Chase over C&D two starts back in December 2016. At the prices, he looks a bit better value than the favourite in the ante-post market, who might be better over a bit further than 3m. If the Edward Harty trained runner is to be considered a Gold Cup winner he would have to go close here. Willie Mullins runners have to be respected as he has had 9 winners from 24 runners 38% 13 placed 54% in this race in the past 21 years. He has several entries at this stage of which

Djakadam looks his main hope. The 9-year-old was pulled up in the race won by Road To Respect. He was still travelling well enough on the heels of the leaders when making a bad mistake three out which put an end to any chance he had. Normally a sound jumper he has to have each way claims.

The other Mullins horse to interest me is Bachasson. The 7-year-old is improving with each race over fences with form figures F2111. He has won both his starts this season both with heavy in the going description. Last time out he was an easy winner of four runners Listed Chase at Tramore. This is a much harder race but should he run don’t underestimate him as he’s unexposed over the larger obstacles and going the right way. Has yet to race this far over fences but there is a good chance he will stay the 3m. Gone a bit under the radar and could be a Gold Cup ‘Dark Horse’ if he was to go close here.

Verdict: I am going to take on the obvious ones at the head of the ante-post market and go with Coney Island and also watch out for Bachasson, should the trainer lets him take his chance.

This Weeks Eyecatchers

Stop Press: Ambitious Boy 25/1 wins at Wolverhampton on Monday! (exclusively for Eyecatcher Pro Subscribers)
Friday 26th January

Bako De La Saulaie – Rose Dobbin – The 7-year-old came into this handicap chase on the back of a promising first run over fences at Newcastle back in December. That was his first run for 12 months so was entitled to come on for the race and he duly did just that when just going down by just ½ length in a driving finish. There are 3m handicap chases in the gelding when there is juice in the ground (both hurdle wins came on good to soft).

Saturday 27th January

O O Seven – Nicky Henderson – The 8-year-old ran a really eye-catching race in the handicap chase won by Frodon. He was the only runner to go with the impressive winner and was still in contention two out. A mistake at the last probably cost him second as he weakened out of it on the run to the line and had to settle for a gallant 5th at the finish.

The ground had turned heavy before the race so underfoot conditions weren’t ideal for him as he is better on a sounder surface. 2m 5f or 2m 6f looks his trip and he will no doubt come back for a handicap here in March and/or go for the Topham Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences. A race he jumped well in last season, given his lack of chasing experience, when finishing 4th.

Dino Velvet – Alan King – Was another to run an eye-catching race, when staying on to finish 5th in the 2m 1f handicap hurdle that closed the card. The slow early gallop wouldn’t have suited him here. The 5-year-old has only won 1 of his 10 starts over hurdles. That sole win came in a juvenile hurdle at Sandown in December 2016 but arguably his best performance came when 8th in last years Fred Winter Novices Hurdle at last year’s festival.

Given his running style, a strongly run race suits him.  Not sure if he will get into the Coral Cup back here of his present rating of 121 but he hasn’t had too many goes over 2m 4f and could well improve for it when getting a good pace to chase. There is a handicap hurdle in him when gets the right pace set up and he’s just the sort of horse to run well at big odds in a big field handicap.


Now in a couple of horse for the trackers, from Doncaster, to keep in mind for the spring festivals

Double W’s – Malcolm Jefferson – 5th in the 2m handicap chase won by Duke Of Navan. The ground was too soft for the 8-year-old and although he has yet to find his form in three starts this season this was encouraging. He’s a good ground horse with four of his five career wins coming on good. He is also 3 wins from 10 runs 6 placed when returning from a 30+day break and 3 wins from 7 runs 5 placed on a flat track.

His best performance over fences came last April at Aintree when he won Grade 3 Red Rum Handicap Chase over 2m on good ground. He is racing off just a 1lb higher at present and no doubt he will be aimed at the Aintree race again and should be on a winning mark.

Long House Hall – Dan Skelton – Like Double W’s, Long House Hall was unproven on a soft surface and over 3m but the gelding ran a cracker in the Sky Bet Chase. The 10-year-old was still going well two out and was very much in contention after the last before being beaten just a length into 4th.

Now he hasn’t been the easiest horse to keep sound as this was his first run since winning the 2m 6f Summer Plate at Market Rasen in the summer of 2016, off 2lb lower. The handicapper will no doubt him up a few pounds for this effort and of course, there is the ‘dreaded bounce’ factor to take into account after this performance. But he is one to keep in mind for a big handicap chase in the spring and summer when he gets good ground.  He got the 3m well enough here to think on good ground he can win over this sort of trip.

All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.



John Burke

I have a MA in International Politics and having spent a number of years working in political campaigning but I eventually I realised that politics was not the world where I wanted to work I had been interested in horse racing since the late 1980s but in the early years I was merely just betting and watching racing like most people as a bit of fun and a hobby, then the hobby becomes a passion and that’s what happened to me with horse racing. I soon realised that to make money from my hobby I had to learn as much as I could about the sport and betting in general. The whole process took time but after a number of successful years of betting, I decided in 2011 to take the plunge, gave up my full time day job and decided to bet on horse racing as a part time business and I haven’t looked back since. I like to specialise in the better class of races and I love to solve the puzzles posed by big field handicaps the latter races often provide punters with great value betting opportunities. Whilst most of my time is spent reviewing previous races I like to keep things as simple as possible as even the biggest field handicaps can usually be pruned down to half a dozen strong contenders with the right sort of approach.

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