Well on Thursday it’s the start of Spring, well meteorologists spring anyway, but looking out of the window as I write this it seems more like mid-winter. The “Beast from The East” has arrived and plenty of snow is being forecast for the middle of the week.
There is a hint od some milder weather for the weekend in the South which is good news for Newbury on Saturday but how far north it extends will decide the fate of the Doncaster card. It’s hard to believe that we are less than four weeks away from the start of the Flat season at Doncaster.
Plenty of success for Eycecatcher Pro subscribers to enjoy last week, including winners at 25/1. 16/1 and 9/2.
N.B. For those of you on Twitter you can now follow me – search for Eyecatcher_ Pro. I will be giving out updates, a few tips and if you are a subscriber to Eyecatcher Pro I will let you know when I have updated any selections on the tracker.
This week I thought I would focus on the performance of just one horse from last weekend the return of the Willie Mullins trained Bellshill. The 8-year-old was having his first race since last season’s RSA Novices Chase when 3rd to Might Bite when winning the 3m, Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.
Sent off the 8/13 favourite for the race he was backed to make a winning seasonal reappearance and I was impressed by the way he travelled through the race. His jumping was in the main good and he effectively had the race won coming to the last. This was his third win over fences from just five starts and on the evidence of this run there looks like there is more to come from this classy horse. It’s worth noting was a Grade 1 Hurdle winner over 3m at the Punchestown Festival in 2016, he had also won the Grade 1 NHF at the same meeting the previous year.
When the Grand National weights were published he did look like a potentially well-handicapped horse given how unexposed he is over fences and that race could be ideal race for him if not this year, then next. Although he lacks the experience for an Aintree Grand National, horses with 9 or less races over fences are 0 wins from 72 runners 5 placed 7% in the past 10 years, he will be as well=handicapped as he is this year.
After the race trainer Willie Mullins seem to indicate that the BoyleSports Irish Grand National could be on the agenda for the gelding. He is a best priced 16/1 with Sky Bet, plenty of 14s around, for that race and I have to say those odds look good value considering how much pace he showed for a 3m chaser on Saturday. Conversely If you think he will go for the big Aintree race then the 40/1 still available with Coral will appeal as he’s as low as 20/1 with Ladbrokes.
In the same race the Gordon Elliott trained Lord Scoundrel came back to from. He looked like he would finish second but blundered and unseated his rider at the last. This was only his second start since pulling up in the Kerry National on heavy ground last September. The 9-year-old hasn’t won since taking the 2016 Galway Plate but he’s just 5lb higher now. Although, he didn’t run too well in last years Irish Grand National it looks like that race will be his target this season and on the evidence of this performance he should do better this time.
Insight on the Weekend
Given there must be doubts about the weekend racing over jumps taking place I won’t investigate Saturday’s two big handicaps, the William Hill Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster and the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury, in much detail at this stage.
Saturday 3rd March
3:35 – Doncaster – William Hill Grimthorpe Handicap Chase – 3m 2f
Looking at the 10-year trends for some clues:
10/10 winners were aged 8 to 11-year-old
10/10 winners had run 1 to 2 times in the Last 90 days
10/10 winners had won 0 to 3 handicap chases
Nicky Henderson won this race in 2010 and if Beware The Bear runs he must be respected. The 8-year-old was a taking winner of the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in December. He didn’t look the likely winner as he came off the bridle in the middle of the race and still had plenty to do when making a mistake three out. But his stamina came into play after the second last and he won with a bit in hand.
He was pulled up in the Welsh Grand National on his last start, but he can be forgiven that run and given he’s only up 5lb for his last win he should go well.
The other I like at this stage is the Paul Nicholls trained Warrior’s Tale. The 9-year-old has an entry at Newbury but looks more likely to run here. He will be having his first start since changing ownership to Trevor Hemmings. Looks like the Grand National will be on his agenda given the change of ownership. Just lost out to Wakanda in the Sky Bet Chase here 35 days ago and he should be fine over the extra two furlongs of today’s race.
2:40 – Newbury – Greatwood Gold Cup –
The race has been dominated by Paul Nicholls who has won seven of the last ten renewals of the race and his record with 6 to 8-year-olds is – 7 winners from 14 runners 50% +49.83 8 placed 57%. The trainer has four entered in the race at the five-day stage:
Adrien Du Pont
Sametegal (2016 winner)
The first two above are both in the right age group but of the pair I prefer Adrien Du Pont who was beaten just 6 ½ lengths by Willoughby Court in a C&D Grade 2 Novice Chase back in December. The 6-year-old if he does take his chance would be making his handicap chase debut and the trainer is 1 winner from 1`runner with horse making their handicap debut in the race.
Even at this early stage I have taken the 14/1 available with Bet365 (4 places ¼ odds) about Adrien Du Pont which looks good value to me. If he does run, he will be a lot shorter come post time.
Next week I will be having a look at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
This Week’s Eyecatchers
The eyecatchers I am looking for at this stage of the season are those who could run at the upcoming spring festivals either side of the Irish Sea.
Wednesday 21st February.
No Duffer – Tom George – The veteran was only having his 3rd start of the season and the second since October in the Veteran’s Chase. He ran well for a long way in the first time cheekpieces and this was step back in the right direction. He’s on handy mark being just 1lb higher than for his last win at Doncaster in December 2016 and 4lb lower than when beaten 2 ¾ lengths into second at Newbury last March.
Sort It Out – Edward Harty – The 9-year-old hasn’t looked a natural over fences on his previous four runs this season. This was a much better performance returning to the smaller obstacles and given this was his first start beyond 2m 4f it opens a few more options for the J P McManus owned horse. He was never in the race but was staying on well at the finish to dead heat for 3rd
He is now qualified to run in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham. He ran well, albeit on soft ground, when second in the County Hurdle at the 2015 Festival so has Cheltenham Festival form. He could get into the bottom of the weights for the Pertemps or he could well be aimed at the Punchestowm Festival, a track he has won twice at in the past.
Saturday 25th February
Kayf Blanco – Graeme McPherson – The 9-year-old was a neck, second in this 2m 4f handicap chase. This had looked a good chance to break his maiden tag, but he is now 0 wins from 7 runs 3 placed over fences. The drying ground might not have been his favour, both his wins have come on soft. He’s been consistent over fences like he was over hurdles, only 2 wins from 20 runs 10% 11 placed 55%. Both his hurdle wins came over 2m, but he will be worth trying over further than 2m 4f over fences.
Scarlet Dragon – Alan King – The 5-year-old was rated 107 on the flat when with Eve Johnstone Houghton and was having his first start for Alan King, as well as his first run since a wind operation. Making his hurdle debut in Grade 2 novice hurdle he will have gone into plenty of notebooks after his promising second to smart horse in Global Citizen.
This was a good start to hurdling career and he should win plenty of races on a sound surface. He has an entry for the Supreme at Cheltenham, but he could well end up going to Aintree where the flatter track would suit this classy recruit to jumps game.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.