Eye Catchers, by Andrew Watson
Week Ending 1st December, 2013
We are now starting to see some of the eyecatchers from earlier in the season run. We had two running on Saturday Melodic Rendezvous which lost and The Last Samurai, which won at 7/2 beating a hot favourite in the process.
29th November, 2013
(bet365 National Hunt
Wilde Blue Yonder – 1st
Looking at the betting for this race you could have been forgiven for thinking this was probably going to be a stroll in the park for another promising young horse from the Nicky Henderson yard; Sign Of A Victory… the hot 5/4 favourite. But if you looked into the form that had actually been shown it was apparent that Wilde Blue Yonder easily had the best chance on the book. He was a head second to the very smart Purple Bay (9 lengths back to the third) on his debut before running down the field in the Aintree Champion Bumper where his inexperience probably told against him. He reappeared in a bumper at Uttoxeter and routed the field by 13 lengths, giving 10lbs to a useful Jonjo O’Neil runner and the third won cosily next time out.
At an early price of 6/1 he was definitely the value in this maiden hurdle and he won in impressive style. He travelled really strongly and looked the best horse in the race from some distance out, in the main jumping well. However he flattened the last losing momentum which gave a fleeting chance to the others but as soon as Richard Johnston picked him up and gathered him he ran on strongly again pulling away at the line. The reduced margin of victory together with the proximity of Seedling the 33/1 second, may mean he is underestimated but there is no doubt in my mind that he can step up in class and win again
Wilde Blue Yonder should be backed in his next run if not stepped up to listed class.
29th November, 2013 – 13.55 Doncaster
National Ice Cream Wholesalers Handicap Chase
Off the Ground – 1st
Off The Ground (to coin a well touted phrase) being by Oscar was always likely to improve on whatever he did over hurdles when he went chasing. In fact he was pretty useful over hurdles winning a handicap and competing in the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle Final behind Ambion Wood at Sandown in his last outing, when he recorded a very respectable rating of 126.
He only ran 4 times last season and was pulled up on his final outing. But Emma Lavelle’s yard was really out of sorts and this was probably the reason. His first two chase starts were entirely respectable when he finished behind the useful sorts Opening Batsmen and Buddy Bolero. He jumped safely and wasn’t given a hard time of things in either race. The net result of this limited campaign were a very reasonable chasing handicap mark of 121 when he reappeared at Kempton in early December where he definitely looked in need of the run despite going off favourite, finishing 3rd behind Annacoty (was the last of 10 starters to complete so the ground could have been softer than officially stated).
Dropped another 3lbs he resurfaced last week at Doncaster in a useful looking class 3 where he was the subject of a prolonged punt from a morning 7/2 into a starting price of 13/8. He travelled through the race brilliantly and was still pulling Aiden Coleman’s arms out turning for home four out.
The front two spread-eagled the field and were 21 lengths clear of third, with Off the Ground winning by 7 lengths having been eased down after the last. This was a fast time so both the front two are likely to be better than average. Off the Ground jumped accurately and with great enthusiasm from the off and clearly enjoyed the good ground. I don’t expect that the handicapper will not have missed this and he can expect to be hiked at least 8lbs, however he is clearly significantly ahead of his current rating and there is no reason to expect that he cannot go in again of a higher mark.
Off the Ground should be followed on his next three runs in races if not being raised in class (class 3 or below). Good ground will very much enhance his chances
30th November, 2013
Limited Handicap Chase
Valdez – 1st
Valdez from the Alan King yard has always looked potentially smart winning his first two bumpers before signing off with a decent 4th in a listed bumper (My Tent Or Yours finished second). In his second season he progressed further over hurdles winning a couple and finishing second behind the useful Whisper at Cheltenham on his final outing.
On his first start over fences at Exeter in a class 4 beginners chase he had no trouble in justifying favouritism strolling home by 6 lengths from the Italian Yob. Upped in class last week into a class 3 novices handicap chase where he carried top weight he crushed the field jumping well (apart from the 3rd last where he went right) winning as he liked by a massive 24 lengths.
Valdez could not have been more impressive and won this without coming under any pressure at all. He won in a fast time and although the handicapper is likely to raise him by at least 10lbs, however he can go up in class and win again. This kept his 100% record over fences intact and he is definitely one to follow.
Back Valdez on his next three runs in chases up to listed class on good to soft ground or better.