By the time you read this the first day of the 2016 horse racing Cheltenham Festival will be with us. Like most punters I have been spending most of last week doing research on trends for the races at Cheltenham and putting together horses for the Eyecatcher Pro software subscribers. If you are a subscriber you will see my recent tracker horse alongside my trend horses and trainer micro system qualifiers. A quick apology to subscribers as I didn’t get a chance to update the notes for the tracker horses last week but I will endeavour to complete that outstanding task as soon as possible!
This week’s article contains just the two eyecatchers but I have added a couple of horses that caught my eye at last years Festival and can go well again. As ever I will begin this week’s column with a look back at the weekend’s action.
Weekend Review: Noseda Could Have the Key to the Lincoln
Given the close proximity to Cheltenham it wasn’t surprising that racing on offer on Saturday didn’t hit the heights that most of the weekends racing has reached this winter season. That said there was two big handicap hurdles at Sandown and Wolverhampton provided some top quality all weather action. Meanwhile on Sunday Many Clouds completed his Grand National preparation.
At Sandown we had the final of the European Breeders Fund Novices Handicap Hurdle Series and this is a race that is well worth looking at in more detail as there will be plenty of future winners that come out of this race although most of them will be for next season. Two of my previous eyecatchers were in the race Alcala and Two Taffs and they finished 3rd & 4th respectively. The latter went of a weakish favourite but after being given what looked a rather exaggerated waiting ride at the back of the field, he then managed to get trapped behind the weakening leader two furlongs from home and had had to wait for a clear run but by then his chance had gone. He looks on a workable mark and not one to give up on yet. Alcala was also held up but got a better passage than the other horse and was staying on well at the finish. He looks much improved since racing in a tongue tie and looks capable of winning a handicap off his present mark.
The Imperial Cup was won by the Nigel Twiston –Davies trained Flying Angel. The five year old followed up his excellent 3rd in the Betfair Handicap Hurdle last month by staying on to strongly for his rivals here. He could well attempt to double up at Cheltenham this week. The well fancied and previous eyecatcher Affaire D´honneur, once again disappointed his supporters, held up at the back he could never get into the race and just plugged into 4th at the finish. He has now run two respectable races in two of the best handicap hurdles of the season but remains a maiden. After the race his trainer indicated that he could be put away till the autumn to retain his novice status. There was plenty of money around for the Philip Hobbs trained For Good Measure but he didn’t seem to handle the sticky ground at all and was eased up by his jockey finishing a well beaten 12th. The five year old remains full of promise and given his pedigree he will want much further than two miles.
At Wolverhampton we had the Lincoln Trial and the race was won by the progressive Keystroke trained by Jeremy Noseda. The four year old was making his all weather debut and only making his 4th career start and showed that he is an improving colt. The son of Pivotal was having his first start since disappointing when a well backed favourite at Newmarket in mid September. His trainer has given the horse plenty of time to mature physically and mentally and that patience looks to be paying off. He still looked a bit green when asked to make his effort furlong out and only held on by a nose. He should continue to improve with racing and the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster looks like I will be his next race. A winner of a maiden over C&D last May on his first start on the racecourse he handles the track and that win came on soft going and his other win at Windsor was on good to soft so we know he handles a bit of give in the ground. He was cut to a best priced 16/1 with Ladbrokes for the Lincoln although the Skybet odds compilers were more impressed and have him at a more realistic 10/1. The 16/1 on offer with Ladbrokes looks worth a modest punt to me as this horse could be very useful indeed.
On Sunday Many Clouds jumped really well to beat Unioniste by 10 lengths and given connections felt he would come on well for the run its not surprising to see him cut to a best priced 10/1 for the Grand National. The nine year old looks as good as ever and must have a major chance of taking the big race for the second time. Trainer Paul Nicholls was out of luck with Unioniste but his novice hurdler Le Prezien made up for it when putting up a really nice performance to win the Grade 2 novices hurdle. His jumping was swift and accurate and he will now head into the spring with plenty of targets. His jockey said after the race that the gelding will be even better on drier ground and Aintree and the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr could be on the five year olds agenda.
Cheltenham 2015 Eyecatchers
I always like to keep a close eye on those horses that are coming back to the Festival having lost by 3 lengths or less in the previous years. What you can guarantee is that theses horse will arrive at Cheltenham prepared to the minute with just this one meeting in mind all season
Here are two horses that are coming back this year and should be on your betting shortlists for their respective races. I will add more to the Eyecatcher Pro software if any more run this week with accompanying notes:
Taglietelle – Gordon Elliott – Pertemps Handicap Hurdle – Day 3
Caught my eye when a strong finishing length 4th in last years Coral Cup before going on to win the valuable three mile handicap hurdle at Aintree. Carries top weight and is 5lb higher than when winning at Aintree. Will be a tough ask if there are any improvers in the field but the drying ground will be in his favour and hopefully Jack Kennedy will be booked to take off 3lb off the horses back. Has been trained for this race and 16/1 appeals from an each way perspective.
Bouvreuil – Paul Nicholls – Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase – Day 1
Trainer Paul Nicholls is only 1/15 in this race in the past 10 years but his 5 year old has a good chance in this handicap chase that closes the card on Day 1 of the Festival. Last year caught my eye when beaten 1 ½ lengths into 2nd in last years Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Has only had three starts over fences and beat the useful Vyta Du Roc at Doncaster before being well beaten in a Grade 2 back at that track. Off a mark of 139, which looks very workable, drying ground no problem, he likes the track and the extra distance of today’s race will suit him better than last time. A 12/1 shot at the time of writing he looks another decent each way bet.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
Potters’ Corner – Paul Morgan – Did best of those who raced prominently in the Novices Handicap Hurdle Series final. Looked to be travelling as well as anything before two out but eventually weakened coming to the last and had to settle for 6th at the finish. He was making his handicap debut in the race and in all likelihood the sticky ground wasn’t in his favour. Bothe his career wins have come on good ground so he looks worth a chance when he gets better ground. Can win a handicap hurdle and I think the form of this race will work out well over time and is worth following in the future.
Patrick – Richard Fahey – Had caught my eye when a strong finishing 4th at Goodwood last July we didn’t see the four year old again until the beginning of the month when he finished a head 3rd at Lingfield. He was well fancied for his Class 2 handicap sprint. He was always up with the pace but had no answer to the run of the well handicapped winner. This was only his 10th career start and although he has yet to race on ground worse than good over turf he looks likely to be aimed at one of the turf handicaps at Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting, if the going is suitable. I would be surprised if his shrewd trainer can’t get the son of Acclamation to win a decent sprint handicap this year.
All that’s left is to wish you a profitable Cheltenham and if your not an eyecatcher subscriber give it a try as there are few big priced dark horses and angles that should add to your profits this week.