Well, the sun is shining this morning and what a great weekend’s horse racing we have seen even though it was run mostly in the gloom at Ascot & Haydock. All’s good in the world and my last four bets were winners. Does life get any better? Probably, but for now, I will take it.
Last week I introduced a new feature to this column “Insight on the Weekend” and it did rather well so I will be keeping it in for the rest of the jumps season at least. Last week I discussed two races and identified two winners in Acting Lass at Ascot and The Dutchman, who won the valuable Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock. Hopefully, some of you were on at the 12/1 advised to Eyecatcher Pro Subscribers.
Reflections On Un De Sceaux and Wind Ops
The highlight of the weekend for me on the non-betting front was Un De Sceaux taking the Clarence House Stakes at Ascot for the third time. What a star the 10-year-old is. There may be better horses in Willie Mullin’s yard but there is no doubt there is no more consistent horse than this fella. He just turns up and does the business for connections. The Ryanair Chase at the Festival beckons, a race he won last year, but if the ground was to be soft, I hope he gets another go in the Champion Chase.
Two horses have now won after a wind operation. Now what type of wind op they had we don’t know but at least punters can see on the racecards if they have had one since their last run, which can only be good for the sport. It was interesting to see what trainer Lucinda Russell had to say on the subject last week. Lucinda’s opinion was that horses that have made a noise in their races usually improve for a wind op. But trainers also carry out wind ops on horses in an attempt to see if they can get any improvement for the procedure.
My view is that these latter horses may, or more likely will not improve for it. So punters will need to check post-race comments about a horse’s performance to glean that sort of information. This can sometimes be found in the Racing Post or on the BHA website in the Stewards reports section-
By the way, I think this section is essential reading if you want to find out why a horse ran poorly on its last start.
Before looking at this week’s horses for the tracker lets have a look ahead too what happening later this week.
Insight on the Weekend
On Thursday It’s Thyestes Day at Gowran Park nice to see a big handicap still being raced in midweek, not on a weekend. Meanwhile, over this side of the Irish Sea, we have Cheltenham Trials Day the last meeting at the course before the Festival and at Doncaster, we have the Sky Bet Chase.
Thursday 25th January
Gowran Park – Thyestes Handicap Chase – 3m 1f
Champagne West won this race last year and is only 4lb higher this time around and such was the manner of his win that he still looks on a winnable mark. Sadly, the 10-year-old has run very poorly on both his two starts of this season. A return to this venue and back to 3m 1f will be in his favour and if he was to replicate last years performance he would go close again this year.
Out Sam ran with promise on his first start for Gordon Elliott when 10th of 28 in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He will strip fitter for that run, his first since April and looks attractively weighted on the best of his form for the previous trainer Warren Greatrex. If he gets a run would have to be high on the shortlist. Has been nicely backed for the race in the last few days.
A Genie In A Bottle trained by Noel Meade was very much on the upgrade over fences but didn’t really give his running when coming over for the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury. Going right handed might suit him more and he’s capable of going well if bouncing back to his previous best form.
The trainer also has plenty of others entered up including Monbeg Notorious and Sutton Manor with both looking capable of landing decent handicap chases before the season is out.
Add in three recent eyecatchers in Mall Dini, Call The Taxie and Vieux Morvan and you have the makings of really good race. Not sure how I will be playing the race but Eyecatcher Pro subscribers will get my selections for the race on Thursday morning.
Saturday 27th January
Doncaster – Sky Bet Chase -3m
L’Ami Serge trained by Nicky Henderson heads the ante-post market and this Grade 1 staying hurdler would be an interesting runner if he takes his chance here off his chase mark. No problem with the 3m or the likely soft ground but he is also entered in Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle, so the 8-year-old isn’t a certain runner.
Vibrato Valtat showed he stays 3m on good ground when second over C&D last month but the softer ground will test his stamina even more. The handicapper has only raised the 9-year-old 4lb for that run and he remains a well-treated horse on his old form. His trainer Emma Lavelle has a 31% win strike rate with her Doncaster runners in the past 5 years.
Trainer Alan King has won the last two running’s of the race and he could saddle Label Des Obeaux and the 7-year-old is slowly coming down the handicap, just 3lb higher than his last winning mark. Soft ground and 3m isn’t an issue for him as he is 2 wins from 6 runs on the going and he’s 3 wins from 7 runs over 3m. Each way claims if he can bounce back here.
Bigbadjohn is an interesting recruit to the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable and is having his first start since leaving Rebecca Curtis so has to be respected off what looks a competitive mark. Paul Nicholls has two potential runners in Frodon and Warrior’s Tale and both need respecting if taking their chance in the race.
Besides L’Ami Serge Henderson has also entered O O Seven. The 8-year-old jumped the Aintree fences like an old hand when 4th in last years Topham Chase, particularly given his lack of chasing experience and that race will no doubt be on the gelding’s agenda again. He has run respectably on both his starts this season when 3rd at Newbury and 4th at Ascot last month. He ran well for a long way in the latter race but may be better over shorter than 3m.
No stamina problems for the Sue Smith-trained Wakanda who bounced back to form with a close-up 2nd in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. The handicapper has only put the 9-year-old up 1lb for that head defeat so he remains on a competitive mark. if you knew he was a guaranteed runner the 14/1 available with BetVictor would make plenty of appeal each way as the race could cut up before post time.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
Wednesday 17th January
Saint Calvados – Harry Whittington – The 5-year-old created a good impression when jumping really well to win on his chase debut at Newbury last month. Back over C&D he once again jumped superbly well to boss a small field and win comfortably. He is now 2 wins from 2 runs over fences both on soft & heavy ground. He will have to be considered a serious Arkle contender if as effective on good ground which would be a bit of an unknown for him.
Still, the 33/1 available with William Hill for that race looks tempting each way. Before Cheltenham, he will take in the Kingmaker Novices Chase at Warwick and he will be a tough nut to beat there.
Final Choice – Warren Greatrex – The 5-year-old was making his seasonal reappearance in the 2 ½ f handicap hurdle. A winner of juvenile hurdle over C&D last season he came into the race looking on a workable handicap mark based on the best of his juvenile form. He needed his first start last season so he should come on for this run. Running well for a long way he only gave best coming to the second last. There is a handicap hurdle like this in before the season ends.
Thursday 18th January
Lukime – Venetia Williams – The 6-year-old ran well enough in finishing 3rd in moderate looking 2m 5f maiden hurdle. He’s now run in four hurdle races and is qualified for handicaps. His full brother stayed 2m 7f and won over 2m 6f so a step up in trip could bring out a bit more improvement in him. His best could come when he goes over a fence but there could a small handicap hurdle in the gelding before the season is out, maybe on better ground.
Dawson City – Polly Gundry – The 9-year-old was a winner around Wincanton last March which remains his only win over fences. Off 2lb higher, he put in a much better performance than he had his two previous runs and was finishing his race of well enough after the last to finish a 3 ¾ length 3rd at the line.
He’s not the easiest horse to win with, plenty of placed efforts, but if he can build on this run he looks on a workable handicap mark. Once again the 9-year-old shaped like he needs a bit further than 3m 2f, stayed 3m 4f well enough when 2nd in last years Sussex National.
Saturday 20th January
Burbank – Nicky Henderson – The 6-year-old was no match for his revitalised stablemate Jenkins in this valuable 2m 3 ½ f handicap hurdle. A useful novice hurdler last season with his best performance coming when 4th in the Neptune Novices Hurdle at last years Cheltenham Festival.
He was beaten at 8/11 on his chase debut at Ludlow, never really jumping or travelling that day. In the first time cheekpieces and back over hurdles this was a much better run to finish 3rd, as he was still very much in contention two out. A sounder surface won’t inconvenience him and if the headgear continues to work there is a handicap hurdle in the gelding at around 2m 4f.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.