Weekly Eye-Catchers – Horse Racing

horse racing

Hi all,

Last weekend’s horse racing couldn’t match the quality of the previous ones but there were plenty of take from the action.

Weekend Review

Firstly, one had to be impressed with the battling qualities of the Amy Murphy trained Kalashnikov in holding off his rivals to win ‘mud splattered’ Betfair Hurdle. He will now head for the Supreme or the Ballymore novice hurdles at Cheltenham and won’t be disgraced in whatever race he ends up running in.

Kalashnikov’s win made it another profitable day for followers of the Weekend Insight feature. In last week’s column my verdict on the race was.

“At this early stage my two against the field are the unexposed pair of Kalashnikov (12/1 @ Coral) and Lough Derg Spirit (14/1 @ Coral)”.

The other selection in the race Lough Derg Spirit, also run a good race (more about him in the eyecatchers below). I have another big race in focus this week so let’s hope the profitable run will continue.

Altior confirmed that he is both ‘hail and hearty’ when making a winning seasonal reappearance at Newbury on Saturday. He will be to beat in the Champion Chase with this race under his belt.

On the same card Native River jumped really well to win the Denman Chase also on his seasonal return. He is now firmly on course for the Gold Cup. It has to be said that he didn’t have much to beat.

The runner up Cloudy Dream doesn’t really stay the trip on soft ground. While the third home, Saphir Du Rheu who wasn’t that far behind the winner in last years Gold Cup was badly in need of the run and is a more effective horse on better ground anyway.

I am sure Native River will give his supporters a good run for their money next month but even in a very open year I think he will just fall short.

I have left the best till last. I am not sure I have seen a novice chaser jump as well this season as Saint Calvados did when winning the Kingmaker Novices Chase at Warwick. I had highlighted the 5-year-old after his win at Newbury as one to follow in a previous column as well as an ante-post selection for the Arkle Novice’s Chase at the Festival. This is what I wrote after his last win.

“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”.

I took the 33/1 and hopefully you did too. Now the ground and track remain slight concern but given he is now as low as 6/1 for the race, at least we know we have managed to get a cracking value each way bet.

Insight on the Weekend

This weekend’s big race jumps action is at Haydock & Ascot but Wincanton also has the valuable Kingwell Hurdle on its card.

Let me begin at Haydock where it’s Grand National Trial’s Day with the betting race of the card and indeed the day being the Betfred Grand National Trial run over 3m 4f. Last years renewal was won by the David Pipe trained Vieux Lion Rouge who is declared to run again the race.

It’s this race which I am putting under the spotlight this week.

Haydock Saturday 10th February

3:15 – Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1)

Seven of the last ten renewals of the race have taken place on heavy ground and I would expect that to be the case this time. So an ability to see out the 3m 4f trip will be essential. The trends for the race may not be as obvious as for last weeks big race but there are a couple of interesting ones nonetheless. Haydock has a bit of a reputation as a horses for course’s track but all the last ten winners of the race had either never placed or had placed once at the track before and all ten winners had won between 1 & 3 handicap chases.

Blaklion is the ante-post favourite for the race and rightly so given his form this season, last time out was a good winner of the Becher Chase and his form figures here are 12. He was second in this race last year beaten 3 ¼ lengths but he is 5lb worse off at the weight with last years winner.

Vieux Lion Rouge is just 4lb higher than last year but he came into last years race having won the Becher Chase at Aintree on his previous start but he could only finish a well beaten 7th in this year’s race well behind Blaklion. That surely wasn’t his true form and better can be expected. He has won on heavy, is 2 from 2 over fences here and the return from a 70 day lay off won’t be an issue as he goes well fresh – 6 wins from 10 runs 8 placed when returning from a 60+ day absence.

Besides Vieux Lion Rouge, trainer David Pipe has also entered the 6-year-old Daklondike who is in the same ownership. The 6-year-old is a progressive young handicap chaser. He is 7lb higher than when winning the Mandarin Chase at Newbury on his last start but there should be more to come from him over this sort of trip although he has yet to race beyond 3m 2f. He is 4 wins from 6 runs on soft and heavy, including 2 from 2 on heavy. It will be interesting to see which of the pair run. Only one 6-year-old has run in the race in the past 10 years so he can’t be ruled out on age grounds. The 12/1 available at the time of writing with BetVictor looks good to me.

Wild West Wind trained by Tom George comes into the race after falling in the Welsh Grand National on his last start. The 9-year-old is lightly raced for his age as he has only had 11 starts under rules. He is now 3 wins from 5 runs 4 placed over fences so there should be more to come. He loves the mud and his form figures on heavy are F111F. He was jumping well and still travelling powerfully when coming down in the Welsh National. Plenty in his favour then and If he handles the track, first run at Haydock, he has to have a big chance here.

Three Faces West has to be a strong contender, he goes well here, he handles heavy ground and he has a valuable handicap like this in him. The Philip Hobbs horses are still not really firing for me so I can pass him over at his odds at the time of writing.

Verdict: I am going to take on Blaklion here with Wild West Wind (8/1 @Bet365) and Daklondike (12/1 @ BetVictor), if David Pipe runs him, if not I will be having a saver on Vieux Lion Rouge.

This Weeks Eyecatchers

Just the three for the trackers this week but I do have a well-handicapped all-weather exclusive tracker horse for Eyecatcher Pro subscribers, the last one won at 25/1.

Thursday 8th February


Crown Hill – Johnny Farrelly – Yet to win this season but the 8 year-old was only beaten a head returned to 3m. He has only had six starts over fences winning two of them and although he is 10lb higher than for his last win over fences, he showed here that he can win a handicap like this of his present mark. Likes juice in the ground and stay further than 3m.

Friday 9th February


Renwick – Dan Skelton – The 5-year-old impressed in the paddock before his racecourse debut in the second division of the bumper. A big strong son of Milan he has the size to make a chaser in time and will also be better over further on pedigree. Ran with real promise for the future and was staying on steadily at the finish when finishing 6th.

Saturday 10th February

Lough Derg Spirit – Nicky Henderson – The 6-year-old ran better than his final position suggests in the Betfair Hurdle. He remains an unexposed horse over hurdles, this was only his 6th start and he shaped here like he needs a stiffer test than 2m to be seen at his best and should improve for a step up in trip. This was his first start since November so he will be fresher than most when it comes to the spring festival handicap hurdles. Just a slight concern that his best performances have come right-handed but I would be happy to give him a go at Cheltenham & Aintree on better ground.

All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.


John Burke

I have a MA in International Politics and having spent a number of years working in political campaigning but I eventually I realised that politics was not the world where I wanted to work I had been interested in horse racing since the late 1980s but in the early years I was merely just betting and watching racing like most people as a bit of fun and a hobby, then the hobby becomes a passion and that’s what happened to me with horse racing. I soon realised that to make money from my hobby I had to learn as much as I could about the sport and betting in general. The whole process took time but after a number of successful years of betting, I decided in 2011 to take the plunge, gave up my full time day job and decided to bet on horse racing as a part time business and I haven’t looked back since. I like to specialise in the better class of races and I love to solve the puzzles posed by big field handicaps the latter races often provide punters with great value betting opportunities. Whilst most of my time is spent reviewing previous races I like to keep things as simple as possible as even the biggest field handicaps can usually be pruned down to half a dozen strong contenders with the right sort of approach.
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