Weekly Eye-Catchers – Horse Racing

horse racing

Good morning all,

In this week’s column looking at horse racing eyecatchers, you will find the following:

• My performances of the weekend;
• Last week’s horses for your tracker;
• A look ahead to Saturday’s big handicap the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and a 16/1 shot that can go well for his small stable.

With Monday’s news that Faugheen will not run in this years Champion Hurdle I am holding back my latest ante post Cheltenham briefing, which was a look at the Champion Hurdle, until next week.

Saturday’s Big Race Review

There was plenty of good racing last weekend so I thought I would I would focus on one of Saturday’s races from Musselburgh and a couple of likeable performances from Wetherby and Lingfield.

It was the first running of the 4m 1f Bet365 Edinburgh National at Musselburgh. A field of 13 went to post for what looked a competitive race on paper.

Alverado trained by the inform Fergal O’Brien was sent off 9/2 favourite he stamina for the trip was guaranteed and he had his favoured sound surface. There were some doubts as to how his riding style would be suited by the track. He was up with the pace and was still in contention coming to five out but from then on it looked like age was catching up on the 12 year old has he didn’t have the pace stay with leaders and eventually finished 6th.

Beeves finished one place ahead of Alverado and was another runner who was suited by the good ground. He had helped to set a strong pace and was still in with a chance of finishing in the places coming to three out but it was a losing battle from then as he probably didn’t really get home over this marathon trip. He looks on a workable mark when dropped back in distance and given all three of his handicap chase wins have come in field sizes 7 or less, a smaller field seems to suit him over fences.

Full Jack’s only attempt over 3m 2f in Britain came back in April 2015 when he was 2nd in the Highland National at Perth over 3m 6f. Despite being 4lb out of the weights and 7lb higher than for his last win he ran a really good race to finish 4th and looked to be going as well as the eventual winner coming to two out. A real marathon test of stamina looks ideal for the 10 year old who seem suited to a sound surface and has no problems going right handed.

Azure Fly – Did best of those who helped to set the strong pace and did well to finish 3rd. The good ground was very much in the 9 year old’s favour and he ran a sound race. Another unexposed over a marathon trip and he will be worth another go. Looks on a workable mark but worth bearing in mind that all his career win have come in the second half of the year and he remains 0 wins from 9 runs in Class 2 or higher.

Gonalston Cloud – Who had won the Lincolnshire National and was an excellent 2nd in the North Yorkshire National at Catterick last month. Showed once gain that these regional nationals are his sort of race with a brave 2nd placing despite having lost a shoe. Good ground and 3m 4f+ are his optimum conditions. He might be 10 year old but he hasn’t got too many miles on the clock and his record over fences is now 4 wins from 10 runs 7 places over fences. A very likable sort, who always give punters a run for their money when he gets his favoured ground.

Dancing Shadow was a gritty winner at Doncaster on his previous start on his 19th attempt under rules, he didn’t look an obvious one to follow up but clearly a stamina test is what he needed. Given a fine hold up ride by Noel Fehily, the further they went the better the 8 year old looked. Once he took the lead two out there only looked like there would be winner despite the valiant efforts of the runner up on the run in. This was a nice pot for trainer Victor Dartnell to win and the long journey back to Devon would have been a good after this.

Just a quick mention for the Paul Nicholls trained Just A Par. The 10 year old was racing off the same mark as when beaten a short head in last years Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, a race he had won in 2015. He was never travelling and this sharp track wouldn’t be ideal for him either. Like a few of his trainer’s runners he just didn’t fire on this occasion. He has now run poorly on both his starts this season but another good run at Sandown in April would not surprise me at all.

Decorated Knight and Oldgrangewood Look Horses To Follow!

Oldgrangewood made it 3 wins from 4 runs over fences, was also still well in contention when brought down at Aintree in December, when winning for the second time at Wetherby. The six year old travelled strongly throughout the race and when his jockey asked him to win his race between the last two he only needed to be pushed out for a cosy 2 ¼ length win at the line. The handicapper will have his say now, but he should stay a bit further than 2m 4, but his trainer Dan Skelton has a progressive and improving young chaser on his hands. He handled the ground which looked more heavy than soft very well and there should be a nice pot in him.

Meanwhile on the all weather Decorated Knight trained by Roger Charlton took the Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield in very impressive fashion. The five year old was not only making his all weather debut but it was his first run since easily winning a Group 3 at Leopardstown over 1m 1f back in the summer. He had two much speed inside the final furlong for the runner up Arab Spring, who also ran well given this was his first start since October. This run will have put him spot on for the Winter Derby and there won’t be much between the pair if they both line up for that race. I say if because there is the possibility that Decorated Knight could take a step up in class to run in Group 1 at Meydan. Wherever he goes this lightly raced horse, only had 10 starts, will be worth following and he can also do well on turf when, the ground rides quick during the summer.

This Weeks Eyecatchers

There are three notebook horses for you this week and I will of course be adding a few more exclusively for Eyecatcher Pro subscribers:

Wednesday 1st February


Some Are Lucky – Tom George – Had shaped well when a 1 ¼ length 3rd at Newbury on his chase debut last month. Up 4lb for that run in this race, the rain that fell before racing, turning the going soft, wasn’t in the six year old favour. He travelled like the best horse in the race for much of the race and although wasn’t as good at some of his fences as he had been on his previous start. He only weakened out of it between the last two and eventually finished a tired horse in 3rd place. Still looks on workable handicap mark off 132 and the two who finished in front of him here handled conditions better on the day and also look useful novice chasers. His sire Gold Well’s progeny seem to prefer decent going and return to good or good to soft, at worst; can see him into the winner’s enclosure.

Friday 3rd February


Under Siege – Stuart Williams – The five year old was well backed in the morning for this 6f handicap and was eventually sent off 7/2 joint favourite. He could only finish 7th at the finish but to be fair to the horse his jockey Osin Murphy did ease the horse up inside the final furlong when he realised the horse wouldn’t win. This was his first start since September so he is entitled to strip fitter for this run and the yard which usually does well on the all weather at this time of year is going through a poor run. When the stable is among the winners he will run better than this. He is now 0 wins from 3 runs at Kempton but 2 wins from 4 runs 3 places over 6f at Chelmsford. The market support for him before the race indicates that connections think he is capable of winning off this sort of mark.

Saturday 4th February


Justification – Gary Moore – Was having only his 2nd start in three years which indicates he hasn’t been the easiest horse to keep sound in recent years. Ran a decent race when 4th at Plumpton on his previous start and although he was beaten 10 lengths, in 3rd in this Class 3 handicap hurdle, he put up a really good performance here. This was the 9 year old’s handicap debut and he was still in with every chance two out before fading on what was really heavy ground on the hurdles track. Better ground will suit him and connections have a potentially well handicapped horse on their hands if they can keep him sound!

Betfair Hurdle Preview – Newbury

Saturday see’s Britain’s richest handicap hurdle, the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle over 2m ½f. Traditionally it was one of the biggest betting races of the National Hunt calendar although probably isn’t these days. The race is usually won by young unexposed hurdler, all of the last ten winners of the race were aged five or six, the last 10 winners had run in 10 or fewer hurdle races and 7 of the last 10 winners had never won a handicap hurdle.

Since 2005, 3 favourites have been successful for a LSP of 4.75 points, although 5 of the remaining 7 winners were sent off at odds ranging from 12/1 to 50/1 so horses can win at bigger odds. The most successful trainer during this period is Gary Moore with 3 wins from 11 runners 1 placed.

Despite the defection at the five day declaration stage of the Gordon Elliott trained Sutton Place owner J P McManus has a strong hand in the race. Looking at the sponsors ante post odds he has the joint favourites in Consul de Thaix trained by Nicky Henderson and the unexposed Paul Nicholls trained Movewiththetimes, who made it 2 wins from 3 runs over hurdles when winning a novice hurdle at Wincanton in December. Both horses are 5/1 for the race.

The Alan King trained William H Bonney carries a 6lb penalty for his recent win in a Cheltenham handicap hurdle and looks sure to go well here and he can be backed at best priced 9/1 with the sponsors.

There doesn’t seem to be much juice in the prices of most of the runners and better odds will no doubt be available on the day. Of those at bigger prices the only one to catch my eye is the Robert Stephens trained Beltor. The six year old was a smart juvenile and although he has had problems with his knee which he injured in the Fighting Fifth in 2015. He was a good winner on the all weather in December and was 3rd back over hurdles at Kempton at Christmas. He could have won that day if he hadn’t have made a mistake at the last when in the lead. His trainer has said this race has been his target all season and that Newbury’s flat and long run in will suit the six year old. He looks to have a decent each way chance off a nice racing weight and the son of Authorised is 2 wins from 4 runs on soft ground. He can be backed at 16/1 with the sponsors for those who want to have a nibble ante post.

All that’s left is to wish you all a profitable weeks betting and lets just hope that the forecast cold weather doesn’t pose problems for Newbury on Saturday!


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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