The Eyecatchers provided us with some nice winners over the festive horse racing period courtesy of Full Shift 6/1, Tea For Two 5/2 and The Last Samuri 13/2 and hopefully some of you will have been on the Gary Moore trained Ar Mad in the big novices chase at Kempton on Sunday. In my review of the Tingle Creek meeting this is what I had written about the horse’s performance:
“Arguably the most impressive performance was in the Grade 1 Novice Chase where Ar Mad made all to win comfortably. The five year old put up the best performance seen by a two mile novice chaser in the UK so far this season and was yet another winner for Gary Moore. The Arkle Novice Chase at Cheltenham will probably not be on his agenda this season as the trainer feels he is a much better horse going right handed”
My reviews of the weekend racing will put you onto some nice priced winners in the coming weeks and we will get into full swing so to speak in the New Year. In the meantime once again this week’s eyecatcher column is shorter than normal but I have managed to add brief review of some of the best performances from the Boxing Day action at Kempton & Leopardstown
Boxing Day Review
Fantastic Faugheen Returns!
Altior got Kempton’s card off to an excellent start with a very impressive win in the novice hurdle to put himself in the picture for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for which is a best priced 10/1 with William Hill, The Nicky Henderson trained horse is now four from four over hurdles and keeps improving with every run. He already looks the best of the home contingent for the Supreme.
Tea For Two took the three mile Feltham Novice’s Chase and put up another good performance to make it two from two over fences. The win was notable for jockey Lizzie Kelly becoming the first woman rider to take a Grade 1 chase. Most bookmakers cut the horse’s price for the RSA Novices Chase. I wouldn’t be in a rush to take the price now available as he has always looked to be a much better horse going right handed, where he is 7/8 but 0/6 going the other way.
Faugheen showed his Punchestown running to be all wrong when easily taking the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Back to his best, this years Champion Hurdle winner looks likely to add another victory in the race on the evidence of this performance.
The King George VI Chase provided a dramatic finish. This year’s renewal had looked one of the best of recent years and so it proved. The well backed favourite Don Cossack had just taken second when he came to grief at the second last leaving Cue Card and Vautour to fight out for the first prize. Vautour took up the running at the 11th fence and was travelling best off all three out but a slight mistake at the last didn’t help, still he battled on the run in before being caught in the shadow of the post by the hard ridden Cue Card.
It’s not hard to think that Don Cossack, who had just headed Cue Card for second when falling, would have gone very close here. Vautour lost nothing in defeat, he possibly didn’t stay and a tilt at the Gold Cup must now be in doubt although he would be suited going left handed and on better ground. Maybe the Ryanair Chase will turn out to be an option for the six year old. Cue Card will definitely head to the Gold Cup and is still in the running for the million pound bonus after winning the Betfair Chase & King George VI. He needed a very strong ride after the last from jockey Paddy Brennan to beat Vautour and although he stayed on gamely I think this is about as far the horse wants to go. Don Cossack would be the one to take out of the race for the Gold Cup but two starts at Cheltenham haven’t seen the horse at his best. Maybe he isn’t well suited to the undulations?
Over at Leopardstown it was Douvan who took centre stage when taking the Grade 1 Novices Chase in good style to make it 2/2 over fences for last years Supreme Novices Hurdle winner. Despite making a couple of mistakes at the last two fences he jumped well for most of the race. The previously unbeaten over fences Ttebbob ran like something was amiss and was pulled up before the third last which made Douvan’s task much easier. The five year old is now 6/6 since joining the Willie Mullins stable and is the one they all have to beat in the Arkle at Cheltenham.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
Saturday December 26th
There are only four eyecatchers in this week’s column but I have added an extra horse to the software for Eyecatcher Pro subscribers. This particular horse ran well over Christmas and is being primed for the same race she won last year.
Baron Alco – Garry Moore – The four year old made it three from three this season with a battling win in this 2m 5f handicap hurdle. Clearly this son of Dom Alco is a fast improving young hurdler and although he will go up in the weights there is a good chance that his improvement hasn’t yet finished. He is now 3/6 when soft appears in the going description, unplaced on his one start on heavy. He clearly likes to make the running with all three of this season’s wins coming when he has been at the head of affairs. It had looked like he would be beaten by the eventual second on the run in but he found plenty for pressure. The Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle over C&D next month looks a natural next target for him and he does look the one to beat in that race although it’s worth bearing in mind that the jockey did say after a recent Fontwell win that “He needs time between his races” and the Lanzarote is less than two weeks away.
Aerlite Supreme – Evan Williams – Was having his 4th start for his new trainer and this was a much better performance after a very poor run on his previous start at Haydock. Held up at the back he was making some headway before making a mistake two out. Beaten 8 lengths into 7th at the finish, without that mistake he would have got closer, the jockey wasn’t hard on him when his chance had gone. Two wins on heavy when trained in Ireland show he has a liking for deep ground. A winner at 2m 4f, should stay a bit further, all his wins have come when going right handed although he has run with credit the other way round. Three of his career wins have come on undulating track. A return to chasing cant be discounted were he is 1/6 over the larger obstacles. There is hopefully a handicap in the horse off his present mark!
Sunday December 27th
Two Taffs – Dan Skelton – Won a bumper on his debut at Market Rasen back in the spring and was very unlucky not to win on his hurdling debut at Bangor three starts back, when making a mistake at the last and only being beaten a head into third. Making his handicap debut, he looked on a decent mark before the race and was well backed into favouritism before the off. Had looked keen in his previous races and was held up in the rear but in race with a moderate early pace being at the back wasn’t the place to be. He settled much better, travelled well into the race but was never positioned to catch the first two and had to settle fo an eight length 3rd at the finish. His full sister won over 2m 3f & 2m6f so he should get much further than the two miles he has raced over so far. Has the ability to win a handicap hurdle or two of his present mark before going chasing.
Folsom Blue – Mouse Morris – The eight year old was having his first start for his new trainer and was returning from 13 months off the track. He ran a cracker here to finish third in the valuable Paddy Power Handicap Chase. He battled on all the way to the line, over a trip which would have been short of his best. He had finished 5th in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in 2014 and his last win came on heavy going over 3m 4f at Punchestown back in February of that year. He is 3/5 on heavy ground, never out the places on such going, and his other career win came on soft. This is his time of year all his career wins have come between December & February. There is always the chance of the dreaded ‘bounce’ on his next start but he is with a trainer who can prepare one for a big race. The handicapper will no doubt put him up for this performance, hopefully not too much, but he should remain on a decent handicap mark and he has the ability to win another marathon handicap chase when he gets really testing ground.
All that remains is to wish you all a peaceful and hopefully prosperous New Year