Another good week for the eyecatchers column with 5 winners from just 11 bets and 12.5pts level stakes profit to add to the kitty. Indeed over 60pts profit has been made from my eyecatchers since the 10th November 2015.
As in previous weeks before looking at this week’s eyecatchers I will have a brief look at the weekend’s action and see if there were any pointers for Cheltenham in March.
Weekend Review: Dodging Bullets Fails Newbury Target!
The highlight of the weekend for most punters was the latest running of the Betfair Handicap Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday. Once again a novice took the valuable first prize and added to the recent excellent win record of five & six year olds in the race. This year’s winner Agrapart, trained by Nick Williams, also underlined how useful Lizzie Kelly’s 5lb can be in races like this although it’s likely she would have won without it here anyway. It would be nice if Lizzie could get more opportunities for outside stables in these big handicaps. Whilst not wanting to get into the debate about opportunities for women jockeys, I think it’s fair to say if Lizzie was called Jack or David she would be getting more rides in these races.
Away from the big handicap it was another woman who took the plaudits this time a trainer. Kerry Lee’s Top Gamble landed a bit of gamble when beating last year’s Champion Chase hero Dodging Bullets. This was yet another good advertisement for the training skills of Kerry who took over the license from her father Richard less than a year ago. There will be plenty of winners coming out of that yard in the coming years that’s for sure!
Back to Dodging Bullets and vibes coming out of the Paul Nicholls stable early in the week were positive and most pundits were expecting the 8 year old to win despite this being his first run since winning at last years Festival. Sadly for his supporters it was not to be as he could only finish 2nd despite travelling well through most of the race. He had been very week in the market and all the money was for Top Gamble who went off favourite at the off. It has clearly taken the horse plenty of time to come to himself this season and he has just over four weeks to Cheltenham. He will clearly come on for this reappearance and good ground come March will see him in a much better light than the heavy he faced on Saturday. It would be too early to dismiss his chances of making it back to back Champion Chases wins but time is not on his side. His performance, only served to harden the price of ante post favourite Un De Sceaux for the big race next month.
The Denman Chase had been won in the past by the likes of Denman, Kauto Star, Long Run and last year by subsequent Gold Cup winner Coneygree. There was no Gold Cup winner in this year’s renewal that’s for sure. Houblon Des Obeaux took the race and bounced back from some below par runs so far this season. Clearly well suited by a big galloping track like Newbury he won’t be heading to Cheltenham according to trainer Venetia Williams as it’s a track he hasn’t run well at in the past. The Aintree Grand National or the Scottish Grand National could be a target for the horse but maybe he is just better horse when running in smaller fields like Saturday’s.
Another horse to have his Cheltenham hopes dashed was L’Ami Serge who was beaten in the Kingmaker Novice Chase at Warwick at 1/5 on. He didn’t jump with that much fluency and found very little when asked for his effort before the second last fence. After his good win at Wetherby this was a really disappointing effort and after the race connections immediately ruled out taking on Douvan in the Arkle Novice Chase at Chelenham and even the six year olds participation in the JLT is now in doubt after this performance.
As like previous weeks here is the section where you will find my Cheltenham Festival notebook horses if there are any. This week there are three horses that caught my eye with March in mind.
Out Sam – RSA Novices Chase – This year’s RSA looks like it could be a really good renewal with the likes of No More Heroes and More Of That heading the ante post market for the and my ante post bet in the race Seeyouatmidnight not far behind in the betting. I was also impressed by the Warren Greatrex trained Out Sam at Newbury. The seven year old only beat two rivals here but the step up to three miles suited the horse. He is likely to take his chance in the RSA after this win and his trainer was quoted after the race as saying: “He´s still very raw, but that´s the first time he´s travelled well and jumped well, and then he was pricking his ears when he got to the front. Handicaps are probably out now, but he´s in the RSA and he´ll be a better horse on better round”. He is now a best priced 25/1 for the RSA and I have added him to my shortlist for that race.
Ballyandy – Champion Bumper – Not a race that I have had many bets in the past and I haven’t been doing much research on this seasons bumper horses but I was impressed with the win by the Nigel Twiston – Davies trained horse. He was to strong for his rivals as he won by 9 lengths in the Listed bumper at Newbury. That made it 3 /4 for the horse and he paid a big compliment to the Sue Gardner Coeur Blimey who beat him at Ascot before Christmas, albeit getting 7lb from the Twiston –Davies horse. Kayf Tara is the sire of Ballyandy and he is a sire to watch for at the Cheltenham Festival. A best priced 12/1 for Cheltenham he looks a fair price to me and I will also now be keeping tabs on Coeur Blimey who is a best priced 16/1 for the same race.
Measureofmydreams – National Hunt Chase – Got lucky at Navan on Sunday when his stablemate and favourite Black Hercules made a mistake and fell at the last when looking likely to win. Black Hercules remains favourite in most books for the National Hunt Chase but you couldn’t rule out Measureofmydreams in the same race. A winner at Punchestown on his chase debut where he had jumped very novicey but there was plenty to like about his jumping on this occasion. He was travelling as well as the winner until the last and some of his jumping earlier in the race was really excellent. Trainer Willie Mulllins had said after Punchestown; “he´s going to be a better chaser than hurdler and he will improve going over a longer trip. He´s one of our staying types”. Connections think he will prefer better going which could be a positive come March. Four miles should also suit him and like Black Hercules, the National Hunt Chase looks the ideal target for him. There is a lot to like about the horse and the 33/1 that was available with Betbright, at the time of writing of this article, looks a good price to me.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
I have got four eyecatchers this week for you but if you’re an Eyecatcher Pro subscriber I have also added a horse that ran wel last week at Meydan.
Sunday 7th February
Taglietelle – Gordon Elliott – The seven year old was a 1 length 4th in last years Coral Cup at Cheltenham before going on to win a valuable handicap hurdle at Aintree over 3m 1/2f. In the process of running a big race in this Pertemps qualifier when making a mistake at the 3rd last which probably stopped him from going closer than he did. He was still staying on at the finish for a 4 ½ length 3rd at the line on ground that would have been plenty soft enough for the horse. Well suited by the tempo of a big field and more at home on good going four of his career wins have come with good in the going description. He is no doubt being aimed at the final of series in March so this was a good prep for March and he looks capable of going close in one of these big field spring handicaps again. I will be interesting to see if trainer utilises his conditional jockey Jack Kennedy to take 3lb off the horses back in any of the races?
Thursday 11th February
Firm Order – Paul Webber – Has reached the veteran’s stage at 11 years of age but he is still capable of winning a handicap chase. Had shaped much better on his previous start at Sandown and was quietly fancied for this handicap chase but sadly didn’t get further than 4th when blundering and unseating his rider. Four of his five career wins have come with good in the going description and four of them when going right handed. Can now run back down in Class 4 company and he is 7lb lower than his last winning mark (including jockey claim). At his age he vulnerable to any improvers in his races but he is to well handicapped to ignore at present.
Friday 12th February
Always On The Run – Tom George – A winner over hurdles for his previous trainer. The six year old was having his second start over fences in this handicap chase. He had shaped with plenty of promise when 4th at Warwick on heavy ground over 2m 4f. The drop back to 2m here was of benefit to him, as was the better ground he faced. After the race his trainer said a race at Newbury in March was his target. He certainly won’t be inconvenienced by quicker spring ground and looks capable of plenty of improvement over fences and can win more races.
Saturday 13th February
Affaire D´Honneur – Henry Whittington – Well supported in the morning of the Betfair Handicap Hurdle. The five year old had shaped well when finishing 2nd on his first start at Kempton in December and was expected to go close here. He wasn’t helped by the standing start and was very slowly away. In a race where it paid to race close to the pace he did well to get as close as he did finishing a 13 length 4th. Still a maiden, he must be the best maiden handicap hurdler in training, this was only his 5th career start so he is capable of further progress and does look a nicely handicapped horse and if things go his way he looks capable of winning a decent pot. Could be aimed at next months Imperial Cup at Sandown?
All that’s left is to wish you a profitable week and see you all next week.