A quiet week on the horse racing winner’s front but for those of you who subscribe to the Eyecatcher Pro software you would have been on Dolphin Village, one my eyecatcher extra’s, who won at 7/2 at Lingfield, 9/2 was available in the morning for those who take early prices. On Friday we had a really excellent 2nd place at Dundalk, when Carried just got caught on the line, at a generous 14/1. So near, yet so far. Let’s hope this week’s runners can have more luck!
I have added four horses to the software for Eycatcher Pro subscribers. Two from the all weather and a couple of jumpers on winnable handicap marks.
Like last week I thought I would have a quick review of the weekends racing.
Cheltenham’s Two day International Meeting took centre stage and as ever there was some top class racing. Not sure if we saw too many future festival winners running but there were some interesting performances both good and bad.
One notable feature of the meeting was how many of the chases were won by horses that were up with the pace for most of the way. It’s a trend that I have been noticing more and more in handicap chases this season.
At Doncaster jockey Wayne Hutchinson won the plaudits with a four timer, including a horse that I have put into this weeks eyecatchers column. Hutchinson is a top class jockey who many shrewd punters including Tom Segal (Pricewise) hold in high regard. Last season he didn’t really kick on as many thought he would but he is now the number one at the Alan King yard and hopefully his four timer will also lead to a few more outside rides in the big Saturday races.
Cheltenham International Meeting Review
The two day International meeting traditionally attracts some decent horses and competitive races and there was certainly plenty of the latter.
One of my recent eyecatchers Onenightinvienna was beaten into 2nd place in the first race. He was trying to give 5lb to the winner so the performance was a good one with 6 lengths back to the third. The other two performances that took the eye came from Aachen and Josies Orders.
Aachen might be an 11 year old but he was given a tremendous front running ride, from his jockey off, a very lightweight to win by 17 lengths. That win took him to 5/14 over fences and after the race connections were talking about giving the horse a Grand National entry. He seems to be improving over fences despite his age. One of my eyecatchers Vieux Lion Rouge was still in with some sort of chance when unseating his rider three out and should be kept on the right side. Another one from the race to keep an eye on was the Druid’s Nephew who also made a bad mistake three out which effectively ended any chance he might have had. The ground would have been plenty soft enough for the horse. He is still on course for another tilt at the Grand National and has to be on anyone’s shortlist for that race even at this early stage.
Josies Orders took the Cross Country race and what a transformation there has been in this horse since his move to Enda Bolger’s yard. The seven year old has really taken to these unique races and his trainer continues to be the trainer to follow in cross country races. Jockey Nina Carberry gave him a lovely ride and the gelding was made favourite on the back of this performance for the Cross Country race at the Festival. He looks the up and coming horse in this sphere and is a worthy favourite for that race at a best priced 4/1.
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup took centre stage on Saturday and it was trainer Philip Hobbs who took the honours taking first and second in this valuable handicap chase. The winner Village Vic didn’t have any problems with the ground and he made it a hatrick of handicap wins. The eight year old continues on the upgrade, as he made all and stayed on too strongly for his rivals. On the evidence of this run he could stay even further than 2m 5f. Champagne West returned to his favourite track after almost a year off the track and lost nothing in defeat. Given his lack of big handicap chase experience this was a cracking run and he is another who will no doubt be seen at next years Festival. I think he was fit enough, as this was his target race, but it was never going to be easy to give 14lb to an improver like the winner.
The real disappointment of the day was the running of Peace and Co in the International Hurdle. Last years Triumph Hurdle winner was considered to be the best of the UK horses for next years Champion Hurdle and was as low as 8/1 in some books. He pulled like a train on his seasonal return and his jockey was unable to hold him, as he took up the running at the third hurdle. Those exertions took their toll and he was a beaten horse by the second last. That run was too bad to be true and on Sunday trainer Nicky Henderson reported that the horse had cut his hind leg early in the race which goes someway to explain this performance. He is a best priced 16/1 with Paddy Power for the Champion Hurdle and given his trainer is one of the best in the business with top class hurdlers it would be folly to dismiss his chance on basis of this of this run.
Former World Hurdle winner More of That continued his chasing career with a solid if unspectacular win in the novices chase, making it 2/2 in the sphere. The seven year old is a safe jumper who can only get better with more experience. He will have plenty of options at the Festival from the JLT or more likely the RSA Novice Chase but teasingly his trainer Jonjo O’Neill mentioned that the horse could even go for the Gold Cup. It would be interesting if connections decided to go for the big race and he is a best priced 33/1 with Paddy Power for the Gold Cup.
Finally, a special mention for the likeable Pearl’s Legend trained by John Spearing the ultra consistent eight year old was always up with the pace in the 2m handicap chase and battled on well to hold the runner up Going Concern, who looked sure to win between the last two. No doubt connections will be thinking about a tilt at the Grand Annual Handicap Chase in March as the horse has the jumping and battling qualities to run well in it.
Thursday December 10th
Barrakilla – Evan Williams – The eight year old was having his first start since disappointing at the years Cheltenham Festival, in the race won by the Druids Nephew (9/1 that day). He hasn’t been the easiest horse to train, in the past couple of years, as this was only his 4th start since winning at Warwick in December 2013. Had finished second in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last season and previously had run well at Sandown in a good race. He is 1/7 (4 places) over fences but looks the sort who can improve this season if staying sound. He tends to need his first start and it showed here as he couldn’t get past the winner in the straight and had to settle for 2nd at the finish. Seems to handle most going and trip of 2m 2f would have been on the short side with all his chase winning form coming over an extended 2m 4f.
Friday December 11th
Ballyculla – Warren Greatrex – Gained his first win over fences at the 7th attempt in this 3m handicap chase. The lightly raced eight year old evidently appreciates plenty of juice in the ground and he is now 3/12 on either soft or heavy going. This was the geldings first run since finishing 5th at the Punchestown Festival in May. Under topweight he led most of the way and it was good to see him battle back when headed in the straight. After the race there was talk of the Welsh Grand National but whether that race would suit him I am not so sure. In good hands though and there should be another decent handicap in him before the season is out over 3m 1f plus.
Comeonginger – Chris Gordon – Was an improving handicap chaser last season winning three times and came into this race running off only 3lb higher than for his last win at Kempton. A notable feature of his racing has been excellent jumping and it was in evidence here once again as he looked the likely winner coming to the last. At the last his jockey lost an iron and the weakened on the run in and was beaten a short head at the line. He would have won but for that incident but this was still a welcome return to form after a couple of below par efforts in the autumn when his trainer was going through a quiet spell. The eight year old probably found the ground a bit too soft on this occasion, as his trainer had said in the past that he doesn’t like testing winter ground. The Topham Trophy at Aintree has been talked about as a possible target for the horse and given his jumping and prominent racing style that could be a suitable race for him. However, it’s worth noting though that the gelding is 4/5 at 2m 4 & 5f but 0/11 over further than 2m 5f.
One Track Mind – Warren Greatrex – The five year old was expected to make a winning seasonal return on his handicap debut in this 3m handicap hurdle and was sent off only 11/4 shot at the off. He was there in with a chance at the last but could only stay on at the same pace in the run in and had to settle for a 3 ½ length 5th. This was only his 5th start over hurdles so there is plenty of scope for improvement in the horse in the sphere. His trainer thinks he could be smart and on the evidence of this run with the weight of confidence in the market he could be right. There will be a decent handicap hurdle in the gelding son of Flemensfirth that’s for sure.
Saturday December 12th
Going Concern – Evan Williams – Came into the new season not looking the best handicapped horse in training but he has improved with each start this season. Was an excellent 4th at the Paddy Power meeting in November and improved once again when finishing 2nd in the 2m handicap chase here. Had travelled well through the race and looked the likely winner coming to the last but wasn’t able to get past Pearls Legend on the run in. The eight year old has won on heavy but three of his four career wins have come with good in the going description so the ground would have been plenty soft enough for the horse. Two wins at Chepstow and his good Cheltenham runs indicate that he well suited to an undulating track. I am sure he can win again at around two miles when he gets better ground. Another who could return for the Festival.
Sego Success – Alan King – The seven year old won twice last winter at Wetherby and Warwick before a slightly disappointing 5th the Four Mile Chase at Cheltenham, only 9/2 for that race, and pulling up in handicap debut at the Scottish Grand National. A shade below par on his two starts this autumn he bounced back to form in this Class 2 handicap chase over 3m. Jockey was very positive on the horse and he made all in the first time cheekpieces. Making the running suited the horse and his jumping was a lot better than it had been in recent runs. Trainer doesn’t think he likes heavy going but the ground was soft here and he is now 3/4 on soft going. With his confidence back he can improve further when racing over 3m 2f plus and there should be further success for the Sego this winter.
That’s it for now. Next week I will tell you about a couple of Irish trained horses that I have nibbled at ante post for next years Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Good luck with your betting this week and as ever if you have any questions or comments about the eyecatcher horses leave a message and I will reply to them when time allows.