Weekly Eye-Catchers – Horse Racing

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It’s always nice when a plan comes together in horse racing and it did on Saturday with the rescheduled Coral Welsh Grand National. Hopefully you were on one of my eye-catchers in the shape of Mountainous. This is what I had written about Kerry Lee’s trained runner in a previous column:

“Is well handicapped on his best form. Fair reappearance on seasonal return on going quicker than he likes. Now 3lb lower than when winning the Welsh Grand National in 2013. All his five career wins at Chepstow & Ffos Las, four wins on heavy & one on soft all wins have come within 30 days of his last run”

Given the race was at Chepstow, it was on heavy going, stamina was guaranteed and he was well handicapped horse. How could you not have been on him unless you were put off by the trends based pundits on age grounds?

Mountainous once again proves the importance of putting horses into your notebook to back when they get their optimum conditions. By doing so you would have grabbed 12/1 on Saturday morning and I know some of you were on at even bigger prices.

Like last week a shorter article than I would have liked with only four notebook horses, I find that you have to be careful with form on the heavy ground and it pays long term to take much of it with a “pinch of salt”.

I have also added a handicap hurdler to the software for Eyecatcher Pro subscribers. This one has returned from a year off the track, due to injury, but is still thought to be capable of taking a nice handicap when he encounters better ground in the spring.

I will start with a brief look back at Saturday’s racing at Chepstow & Kempton.

Saturday Review

Obviously the highlight of the weekend for me was Mountainous in the Welsh Grand National but you to have to respect the run of Shotgun Paddy in the same race. The nine year old was trying to give the winner nearly a stone but battled on under his big weight to finish 3rd. A hard race here can bottom out a horse but hopefully It wont have left a mark on the Emma Lavelle trained runner who is on his last winning mark and can win a valuable chase like his. The four mile Eider Chase is said to be his next target, a race which he was favourite for last year and where he unseated his rider. He certainly is worth looking out for in these sort of races.

The other interesting performance from Chepstow came from the improving Otago Trail. The eight year old made it 2/3 over fences with an easy win in the 2m 4f handicap chase. He is a clearly an improving horse who loves the mud, both his wins over fences have come on heavy going. Saturday’s win earned him a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 157 which puts him only a few pounds behind top UK based novices like Tea For Two and Ar Mad. He is sill progressing and can be competitive at Graded level although he probably needs really testing ground if he is to beat the best novices.

The highlight of Kempton’s Saturday card was the William Hill Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle. This year’s renewal only contained a small field of nine runners and the race was won at the start when the jockey on the winner Yala Enki got a seven length start on the rest of the field, he clearly likes to be at the head of affairs and is on the upgrade but he wont get such uncontested lead in future races. I backed the horse on the day but I still found the race unsatisfactory from a form perspective.

The Grand National is three months away but Kruzhlinin, having his first run for his new trainer Philip Hobbs and first run since February of last year, won the three mile handicap chase at Kempton. Well backed before the race he stayed on better than his rivals. He is entitled to come on for the run and is being aimed at Aintree. Handles any ground and wasn’t disgraced when finishing 10th in the Grand National in 2014 when only a seven year old. His former trainer Donald McCain had always saw the horse as a serious contender for the ‘National’ and is one that creeps onto my shortlist for the race.

This Weeks Eyecatchers

Thursday January 7th


Russian Realm – Richard Hughes – Former Champion jockey Richard Hughes has made a good start to his training career and one of the horses that he has brought into his yard is this former Sir Michael Stoute, David O’Meara trained six year old. Incidentally he had ridden the horse in last years Victoria Cup at Ascot for David O’Meara. Not the most consistent of horses but certainly has ability. This was his second start for his new trainer and he was trying 6f for the first time, previous run over a mile, not surprising he was a little outpaced over the trip but was running on well to take third beaten just 1 ½ lengths. Both his career wins have come over 7f so a return to that trip would ideally suit but a strongly run 6f on a stiffer track looks better for the horse than a return to a mile. Would be interesting over 6f on softish ground on turf, some of his best performances have come with give in the ground.

Friday January 8th


Foylesideview – Harry Chisman – The four year old had been 0/17 before winning at Wolverhampton just before Christmas but the step up in distance suited the son of Dark Angel, and the further step up in trip today didn’t seem a problem for the horse either. He was slow away from the stalls in this race but was finishing to good effect to take third at the line. Will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts but the gelding is progressing and another Class 6 handicap over this sort of trip looks well within range off this sort of mark.

Saturday January 9th


Upswing – Jonjo O’Neill – The eight year old had run such a good race for a relative novice over fences when second to the useful Sausalito Sausage in a valuable staying handicap chase at the Paddy Power meeting that he was well touted for the Welsh Grand National despite the trainer indicating that he was worried that horse wouldn’t like the really testing ground. That assessment proved correct as the horse was never travelling and pulled up early in the race. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the trainer has been really struggling to find winners in recent weeks so the stables form could also have paid its part in the horse’s poor performance. I am happy to give him more chances on better ground and when the trainer is back amongst the winners. Given this was only his 5th start over fences he is open to further progress in the sphere and looks the sort to pick up a valuable pot before the season is out. Certainly not one to give up on yet!


Baie Des Iles – Ross O’Sullivan – The five year old was having her first start over fences and her first run in a handicap in Ireland. Jumping really well she was given a really patient ride by top amateur jockey Derek O’Connor and was allowed to get into the race in her own time. Travelling well two out she jumped to the front at the last and found plenty for pressure to win this 3m 1f chase on heavy ground. Clearly she liked the step up in trip and looks like staying is her game. The trainer mentioned the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park as a possible target or the Grand National Trial back here later in the month. The Irish Grand National could also be on the agenda in the spring as she is a mare on the upgrade. Worth noting her best performances in France in RPR’s also came on very testing going so it will be interesting to see how she handles better going? The best performance of the week for me and not just because I backed her!

Good luck with your betting this week and as ever if you have any questions or comments about the notebook horses leave a message and I will reply to them when time allows.

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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