Last week’s horse racing kind of passed me by as I was down with the winter ‘vomiting’ virus that has been in the news for last few weeks. I have to say it’s the first time I have suffered from a virus like that one and I hope it’s a long time before I do again. Well, at least I didn’t have it over Christmas!
That’s my ailments out of the way and now it’s the calm before the storm as this week’s racing ends prematurely, on Thursday, for a short Christmas break and doesn’t return until Boxing Day. From then on there are four great days of racing for us to enjoy both sides of the Irish Sea.
The highlight for me over the festive period is the Leopardstown Christmas Festival with four days of top racing offering plenty of betting opportunities for us punters although for others the highlight will be the King George VI Chase at Kempton, on the 26th or the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow a day later. Personally, I am looking forward to all those above-named races and more.
Due to my illness, this week’s column is shorter than normal in terms of horses for your trackers. As for next week, there will be a column when I will be casting my eye over the contenders for the Welsh Grand National and the Paddy Power Handicap Chase over at Leopardstown. Normal service will return in two weeks when I will be looking back at the big performances over the Festive period.
Onto this week and I will begin by looking at a couple of performances that caught my eye over the last week or so.
Haydock Didn’t Have the Foggiest!
On paper, both Saturday’s main cards at Ascot and Haydock promised some excellent pre-Christmas racing however both meetings were plagued by persistent fog. The viewing from Ascot for the armchair punter wasn’t great but from Haydock, it was even worse. Winning connections of the last two races will have been pleased that racing wasn’t abandoned but it must have been a close-run thing. Haydock’s feature race the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase was won by the Venetia Williams trained Yala Enki who was making his British debut over fences. I think he won fairly nicely in the end although it was impossible to see the jumping of the last three fences. As for the last race, it was impossible to see any of the race and punters have to take on trust that the winner Clyne was indeed the winner. This is not good for the betting public.
Mullins Power at Ascot
Meanwhile, over at Ascot jockey David Mullins made the trip over from Ireland worthwhile when he rode the Nicky Henderson trained Brain Power to victory the race formerly known as the “Ladbroke” Handicap Hurdle. The race was a triumph for the trainer who also saddled the second home in Consul De Thaix as the first two occupied the same positions as they had done two weeks earlier at Sandown. Talk of the Champion Hurdle for the winner looks a ‘wee’ bit premature at this stage but he is certainly a very progressive horse, going right handed and on a flat galloping track. In the previous race, Regal Encore finally got it together over fences when winning the listed handicap chase at 20/1 it will be interesting to see if this talented but very inconsistent horse has turned the corner over the large obstacles. I wouldn’t be taking a short price that he has.
Politologue Jumps To Top of the Class
At least the visibility was better at Ascot on Friday and we saw another great jumping performance form the Paul Nicholls trained Politologue. The five-year-old followed up his recent Haydock winning chase debut with an even better display in the Grade 2 Novice Chase over 2m 5f. Making all from the off he travelled superbly all the way and his jumping was a different class to his three rivals. Did he idle or was he running on empty after the last? I think it was more of the latter than the former and although he should be capable of staying further in time I think this sort of trip is about as far as he wants at the moment. After the race is trainer couldn’t hide his praise for the horse saying “I am really focusing on next season. He will be awesome then and we are just going to mind him for that”. For me this was the best jumping performance from a novice I have seen this season and if he stays sound and continues to improve he can reach the highest rank over fences.
This Week’s Eyecatchers
Onto this week’s eyecatchers and I have two for your trackers this week and I will be adding two more for Eyecatcher Pro Subscribers
Sunday December 11th
Outlander – Gordon Elliott – A faller when leading at the last at Clonmel on his previous start. The 8-year-old was no match for former stablemate Djakadam but he was staying on well enough at the finish to think that he can win a decent pot over 2m 6f or 3m. The gelding is still unexposed beyond 2m 5 ½ f being 0 from 2 1 place beyond that distance. The King George VI at Kempton could well be his next race and if the ground was to come up soft he would have decent each-way claims at around the 12/1 available at the time of writing. Need to find plenty of improvement to beat Cue Card but the only other rival to the odds on favourite Thistlecrack is still a novice and I could see Outlander getting into the places on the right sort of going. Worth bearing in mind he is 6 wins from 8 runs 7 places on soft or soft to heavy ground and 3 wins from 3 runs on a flat track.
Saturday December 17th
Chesterfield – Seamus Mullins – Trainer had two runners in the valuable handicap hurdle won by Brain Power. Fergall was an excellent 3rd but it was his other runner that caught my eye. Chesterfield was formerly trained by John Ferguson and was having his first run since falling at the last at Kempton back in December 2014. On his stable debut here he ran a very eyecatching race to finish 8th at the line. Given this was his first run for nearly two years this was a performance that bodes well for the future. The six-year-old has only had 6 starts over hurdles, winning twice and a mark of 134 looks workable if his trainer can keep him sound. A winner of a novice handicap hurdle at Cheltenham that track clearly holds no terrors for the son of Pivotal and I could see him running well at a big price in a race like the County Hurdle.
All that’s left is to wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas!!