Another good week for the eyecatchers column with 4 winners, at 7/1, 4/1 & 3/1 and the new week started in the same vain with a 5/1 winner on Monday at Lingfield, all adding up to more profit for our betting banks.
The closer we get to Cheltenham the more my eyes are drawn to the upcoming spring festivals and less on the day to day lower grade jumps and all weather racing so you will be seeing less of those type of horses in the column from next week.
I am at present putting together my list of Cheltenham eyecatchers, which will be ready at the end of the month. You know some of them already but there will be plenty more that I haven’t old you about.
A shorter than usual column today but as in previous weeks I will have a brief look at the weekend’s action before going on to look at this weeks eyecatcher.
Weekend Review: Conti Shows Class is Permanent!
It was great to see Silviniaco Conti return to his best at Ascot. An operation to help is breathing after his poor run in the King George over Christmas seemed to do the trick as did the addition of first time blinkers. He travelled well through the race and two out there was only going to be one winner. Back to something like his best, it looks like he will be aimed at the Grand National and given his class and solid jumping he is a must for any National shortlist and looks like he will now go into race a very nicely handicapped horse.
The Reynoldsttown Novices Chase was expected to provide some clues for the RSA Novice Chase at Cheltenham. The market liked recent impressive winner Drumacoo and Onenightinvienna in the first time cheekpieces. The market leaders took each other on early in the race which wasn’t a good idea on such testing going and not surprisingly they both faded out of it. The winner was the Nicky Henderson trained Vyta du Roc who showed plenty of stamina to hold off the strong finishing Minella Rocco, more on him in the eyecatchers later. The winner could go for the RSA or the four mile National Hunt Chase at the Festival and the latter looks the best option to me for the seven year old.
Arguably the most impressive performance at Ascot came from another Nicky Henderson horse in Different Gravey who was indeed different gravy to his rivals in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle. Off top weight and racing for the first time since April this was a really top class performance by the six year old. Clearly he was well suited by the frantic pace which could never be sustained in the testing ground. This win made it 4/5 over rules for the six year old and clearly he has scope for even more improvement in the sphere. After the race the talk was about supplementing him for the World Hurdle. That race might come too soon for him given his previous long absence and I think it’s more likely he will be aimed at Aintree!
Over at Haydock it was Grand National Trial Day and the winner Bishops Road once again showcased the skills of Kerry Lee with her chasers. The 8 year old made it two from two for his new trainer since coming over from Ireland. Up 14lb and up a mile in trip, any doubts about his stamina where brushed aside as he went clear of his rivals and was to strong for the well fancied Broadway Buffalo on the run in. Both his wins have come on heavy and if he is as effective on better going then Aintree or maybe the Irish or Scottish Grand National’s could be on the agenda for this improving staying handicap chaser.
It was also a good run by the second who was having his first start since November and looks nicely handicapped horse at present. Like the winner he will now probably be heading for the Grand National.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
I have got four eyecatchers this week for you but if you’re an Eyecatcher Pro subscriber I have also added two horses from last Thursday’s Meydan meeting.
Monday 15th February
Distime – Samantha Drake – A winner at Sedgefield back in November before running a big race to finish 3rd in the Grand Sefton handicap over the Grand National fences, from well out of the handicap, had then had run poorly on his next two starts at Musselburgh and Doncaster. This was a much better effort from the ten year old as he finished 3rd behind a couple of improving horses. He was just outstayed by the front two and 3m 1f on soft going is just o much for him. Despite being 6lb higher than for his Sedgefield win he looks capable of winning another handicap chase of his present mark particularly if dropping down in trip a bit. Given he jumped the Aintree fences so well connections must be thinking of a run in the Topham Chase at the Grand National if he can get into the race.
Wednesday 17th February
El Beau – John Quinn – The five year old was having his first start since running on the flat in November. When last seen over hurdles back in March he was a progressive juvenile hurdler and was 2/4 in the sphere. He returned to the flat for a good autumn campaign including a win at York and an excellent 3rd at Ayr. He looks set for a spring campaign over hurdles and on the flat after his 4th place here. He was probably in need of the run as his jumping was a bit rusty at times. All his four career wins on flat and over hurdles have come when running 16 to 30 days since his last run. One would think his present hurdle mark of 130 would be workable and could well be aimed at a handicap hurdle at Ayr’s April meeting?
Thursday 18th February
Landecker – Neil Alexander – The eight year old is a real horse for a course as he loves Kelso. The gelding is 3/8 and 0/10 elsewhere but just hated the heavy going he faced in this race and was a well beaten 5th at the finish. Had shaped with more promise on his previous start at Musselburgh and has slipped to winnable mark now 8lb lower than for his last win October 2014. An inconsistent horse if he is to get into the winners enclosure again this season its likely to be at Kelso, over 2m 6f and less testing ground. All his wins have come in class 4 company so drop down to that grade looks ideal for him. He was a close up 2nd in a class 4 handicap over 2m 6f last April and that race looks on his agenda again.
Saturday 20th February
Minella Rocco – Jonjo O’Neill – After a very quiet spell for the stable there seems to be on an upturn in fortune, hopefully just in time for Cheltenham. The six year old was 2/2 over hurdles last season and connections had always seen him as more of a chaser than a hurdler. Up until this race he had not lived up to his hurdle promise on his previous three starts over fences. This was a much improved performance. Given a patient ride by jockey Noel Fehily at the back of the field, he had looked like he might be one of the first beaten but the further they went the stronger he got. Was running on from two out but the line came just soon for him still he pegged winner Vyta Du Roc to just ½ length at the winning post. This performance was all about stamina. He can improve over further than three mile and he has a couple of options at Cheltenham and given his trainers record with 3 mile plus chasers at the Festival he is a horse to keep very much on side.
All that’s left is to wish you a profitable week and see you all next week.