Weekly Eyecatchers – Horse Racing

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A profitable Friday and Saturday for the Eycatchers as Woodford County, won Exeter’s Devon National on Friday at 8/1 and on Saturday Carole’s Destrier won the staying handicap at Sandown at an SP of 5/1, bigger was available early in the day for those who grabbed the early prices. I seem to be doing best in 3m+ handicap chases at the moment and I have three such horses in this weeks’ column. Maybe I should be concentrating on that sphere and it’s something I will be monitoring within horse racing.

It’s worth reminding new readers about what I wrote about Woodford County after his poor reappearance at Sedgefield:

“A thorough stayer who appreciates testing going, all his 4 career wins have come on soft going or worse. He is running off the same mark as when winning at Newbury last November so there should be a race in the horse when he gets his optimum conditions”

He had 3m 7f at Exeter and heavy going, clearly his optimum conditions and an example of why you should keep notebook horses if you want some nice priced winners.

If your with the Eyecatcher Pro Software, I have to apologise as I did say last week that I would be adding a note to the tracker horses to let you know If I was backing them on the day they were running. Unfortunately time once again caught up with me and I wasn’t able to get it done. Fingers crossed it will happen sometime this week and I am also hoping to do a bit of a tidy up of my tracker horses.

I have added four all weather horses to the software for Eycatcher Pro subscribers. Two of the horses are very well handicapped and look ready to win again.

This week I thought I would start with a quick look at the weekend’s racing and I hope this will be a regular feature over the coming months.

Weekend Review

There was some great racing this weekend on both sides of the Irish Sea. Sandown and Aintree took centre stage on Saturday and Punchestown joined the party on Sunday.

Saturday – Sandown & Aintree

It was Tingle Creek Day at Sandown on Saturday and it could have been renamed Gary Moore Day as the trainer had a treble on the card. The highlight of which was Sire de Grugy’s second success in the Tingle Creek Chase, He may not be the horse he was but he showed really battling qualities to win and had to survive a later steward’s enquiry. A case could have been made for a change in the result but at least common sense prevailed and he kept the race.

Arguably the most impressive performance was in the Grade 1 Novice Chase where Ar Mad made all to win comfortably. The five year old put up the best performance seen by a two mile novice chaser in the UK so far this season and was yet another winner for Gary Moore. The Arkle Novice Chase at Cheltenham will probably not be on his agenda this season as the trainer feels he is a much better horse going right handed.

There were two really good performances in handicaps by Lil Rockerfeller, more of that one later and Carole’s Destrier. The latter proved his stamina for marathon trips when staying on well to win the 3m 5f handicap chase. He could now be aimed at the Welsh Grand National but whatever his fate there I think there will be another nice race in the seven year old who was one of my eyecatchers after his recent run at Wincanton.

Over at Aintree Don Poli returned to action and this years RSA Novice Chase showed he is all about stamina as he beat last years Grand National hero Many Clouds by four lengths,. despite the jockey having to deal with a slipped saddle during the race. He looks a serious contender for next years Gold Cup and is at the head of the market with a few bookmakers for that race. The further he goes the better he gets!

Another eyecatching performance came from the Dan Skelton trained Virgilio in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle. The six year old is 4/6 over hurdles, including two over C&D, and has won on both good and soft going now. Was well backed before the race and won very easily on his seasonal reappearance. Looks a very smart horse and can go onto much better things.

Sunday – Punchestown

On Sunday at Punchestown it was trainer Willie Mullins who took the honours with a treble. Djakadam won the Grace 1 John Durkan Chase when staying on too strongly for his rivals and he should come on plenty for the run and will no doubt be heading for another tilt at the Gold Cup alongside stablemate Don Poli.

Ponte Alexandre returned from almost a thousand days off the track when winning the beginners chase. He made most of the running and jumped really well on his debut over fences. Connections were delighted with his run as he can only improve for the run and if he stays sound will be another Mullins trained horse heading for Cheltenham.

For me Sunday’s best performance came from the Liam Burke trained Sumos Novios, partly because I had a nice bet on the horse, the seven year old who is a big powerful chasing type was only having his 5th career start. His trainer had said before the race that the horse hadn’t been the easiest to train but he jumped really well and stayed on too powerfully for his rivals to win fairly easily at the finish. Will go up for this run but he is open to any amount of improvement over fences. Given his size and notable knee action he will always be a better horse on soft ground or worse and he also maybe a better horse with a bit of space between his races?

Not on this weeks list but will be worth following and can win more races. The second in the same race Empire of Dirt managed to get round but he isn’t the easiest ride as kept jumping to his left and looks a better horse going the other way around. Clearly a horse with plenty of ability and he will no doubt pop up in valuable handicap chase before the season is out. Sizing Gold finished third, after a really long lay off, he had looked in need of the run before the race but he jumped well and showed there is valuable pot in him. Trainer Henry de Bromhead thinks the eight year old is well handicapped horse at present and that the Paddy Power handicap over Christmas has been his early season target.

Wednesday December 2nd


Goodtoknow – Kerry Lee – The seven year old made a pleasing seasonal reappearance when finishing second in this 3m 2f handicap chase. Only 1/13 over fences but he can usually be relied upon to run his race as six second places confirm. Both his career wins have come on heavy, both in December and both have come when running between 16 & 60 days since his last run. I am sure his rookie trainer can get him back into the winner’s enclosure sooner rather than later.

Ozzy Thomas – Henry Olivier – The five year old had made a promising start to his chasing career when second at Chepstow at the beginning of November and ran another good race in this 2m novices handicap chase. He took up the running early in the race and he and the eventual winner pulled clear of the rest of the field. He couldn’t hold the winner on the rain softened ground. Both his chase starts have been on soft going but he won a NH flat race on good to firm and he won over hurdles at Towcester on good ground. Still has time on his side and he can win one of these type of races when he gets better ground.

Friday December 4th


Tea For Two – Nick Williams – I am always a bit cautious when I put up a winner as an eyecatcher but the six year old couldn’t have been more impressive when winning on his chase debut. He travelled well and it was his jumping that really caught the eye, in a race that had looked a strong one on paper, you wont see many horses making there debut over fences jump as well as he did. Taking up the running three out he just pulled away from his field in good style. Won the valuable Lanzerote Handicap Hurdle in January but has always been seen as a potentially better chaser than hurdler. He had flopped when favourite for the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock on his previous run but this was more his running. Has won on going from good to heavy so is ground versatile although will be at his best with plenty of give. Interestingly the horse is 6/7 when going right handed and 0/6 going left handed. Now heads for the Feltham Novices Chase over three miles at Kempton not certain to stay that far but he jumps so well it looks worth a try as long if he gets his ground.


Malibu Sun – Ben Pauling – Bounced back after a couple of poor runs over hurdles. The eight year old just got beat on the line by a short head in this 2m Handicap chase, clear of the third, the drying ground at Sandown helped him, 3lb higher than his last winning mark he will no doubt go up for this win but as long as the handicapper doesn’t overreact there is another win in the gelding when he gets better ground all his career wins have come with good in the going description and five have come when running within 30 days of his last run.

Saturday December 5th


Lil Rockerfeller – Neil King – Made it 2/3 at Sandown when taking this valuable 2m handicap hurdle. Given that he wasn’t suited by the moderate gallop he did well to win. Under pressure three out he stayed on well and once again showed great battling qualities to win after the last. The four year old finds plenty for pressure and although he doesn’t win his race by far, looks like one of those horses that the handicapper has trouble rating. I hope that continues to be the case as his trainer said at the start of the season that he would be aimed at the 2m 5f Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. That race should suit him and the way he races over 2m suggests that trip could bring out further improvement. Suited by a little cut in the ground, 4/7 when soft appears in the going description and now 3/3 on good to soft. Interestingly seems like a horse that needs a recent run as all five of his career wins have come when running within 30 days of his last run. Something to be aware of when it comes to the spring festivals!

Ballyheigue Bay – Chris Gordon – Another to make a nice seasonal reappearance for connections. Did well in novice chases last season, including a six length win at Kempton in February over three miles, and is now 2/5 over fences. The eight year old proved his stamina, when finishing 3rd in the race won by the useful Carole’s Destrier. He jumps well and his prominent style of running can soon get other horses in trouble as it did in this race. All his career wins and indeed best performances have come when running within 60 days of his last run so this should bring him on nicely. Not fully exposed over fences there are more handicaps to be won with him over 3m +.


Algernon Pazham – Nigel Twiston Davies – The six year old was chucked into the deep end in the Becher Chase over the National fences. This was only his 7th start over the larger obstacles and given his relative inexperience it was rather surprising to see him sent off the 7/1 favourite for this big race. Clearly held in high regard by his trainer, he also ran in the Bet365 Gold Cup at the end of last season as a novice, going off only a 12/1 shot. Was never really in contention in the race and after making a few mistakes unseated his rider at the 14th. Handles winter ground and showed on his seasonal reappearance at Bangor that he is still progressing over fences. A race of this nature just came to soon for the son of Milan but he remains a promising young stayer.

I hope you enjoyed the weekend review and good luck with your betting this week. As ever if you have any questions or comments about the eyecatcher 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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