Rhys Williams has shortlisted seven more horses to track from the busy Festive period in the UK and Ireland, including young bumper performers with futures ahead of them and a classy mare who unseated at Doncaster in her last run.

  • Sunday 05 January
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Welcome to the attheraces.com Eyecatchers column. Every week Rhys Williams will pinpoint horses primed to strike in the next few weeks, if not days. Remember, you can add Rhys's weekly updates to your ATR Tracker.



4th - Paddy Power “Only 364 Days Till Christmas” 3yo Maiden Hurdle, Friday 27th December   

Tronador was moderate on the flat for David Lanigan and only rated 58 but he looks likely to make far more of an impact over obstacles judged by the promise of his hurdling debut at Leopardstown.

Racing a little further back than mid division for most of the race, he was trying to make ground at the end of the back straight when he got badly squeezed up in an incident that also resulted in Orlov coming down.

Tronador was given time to recover and gradually started to make ground early in the straight in tenth place before finishing strongly to be beaten only 3½ lengths in fourth. This was a promising start to Tronador’s hurdling career and with better luck in running it may not be too long before he gets off the mark. 


2nd - Go Racing In Yorkshire Winter Festival Maiden Hurdle, Saturday 28th December

Quart De Garde showed a fairly good level of ability in France despite racing much keener than ideal at times and that was once again the case at Catterick on his British debut for Donald McCain.

With the hood reapplied (wore one in three of his six starts in France), he raced a bit keenly in a share of the lead over the first three hurdles before being allowed to stride on entering the home straight for the first time. He quickly opened up a long lead over the field but crashing through the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth hurdles caused him to land awkwardly and lose momentum.

Despite that, he still held a clear advantage leaving the back straight and had all his rivals under pressure but Coup De Gold and Zulu Dawn started to close on him going to 2 out. Zulu Dawn unseated at that hurdle which left Coup De Gold as the only danger and while Quart De Garde fought hard under pressure to hold him off, he was beaten by a neck.

Given the keenness and shuddering mistakes that he made, I think Quart De Garde did well to find as much under pressure in the closing stages as he did. Hopefully this run will have knocked the freshness out of him and he will settle better in the future which will give him a chance to fulfil his potential.

If the quirks can be ironed out, I think he can show himself to be better than his current rating of 119 in time.


2nd - Parsley Maiden Hurdle, Saturday 28th December

The winner of a Brocklesby Park maiden on his debut, Port Of Mars returned after 679 days off the track to make his rules debut in a maiden hurdle at Leicester. Held up in last through the first half of the race, he gradually edged closer down the back straight and turned into the home straight going strongly in a close sixth.

However, it all went wrong for him at 3 out when The Macon Lugnatic jumped across him and almost came down and Port Of Mars was brought to a near standstill. That left him with a huge amount to do and although he closed into second place going to the last, he couldn’t get any closer to Oscar Academy from that point and was beaten 13 lengths.

Given the ground and momentum that was lost at 3 out, I think he would have at least forced Oscar Academy to work very hard for the victory if he hadn’t been hampered and may well have won.

The manner in which Port Of Mars travelled through the race and responded to pressure in very testing conditions after the long absence was encouraging and hopefully he will progress from this.


UR - MansionBet At Doncaster Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase (Listed Race), Sunday 29th December

Queen’s Magic showed a fairly good level of ability over hurdles but she has really come into her own over fences, first winning on chasing debut at Huntingdon before running very well until unseating rider at Doncaster in a Listed race.

Her jumping throughout the race was often a little less than fluent but she was still in touch turning into the home straight for the final time. A good jump at 4 out took her into fourth and she still appeared to have something left to give when she made a mistake at 3 out, landed very steeply and gave James Best no chance of staying in the saddle.

Although it is a bit worrying that she made so many minor errors on this occasion, it’s encouraging that despite that this 130-rated novice having only her second start over fences under rules was still in contention against three very smart and experienced mares rated 149 and 150 when unseating.

Since she unseated at 3 out, her rating can’t be changed for this run and whether she goes into handicap company next time or back against novices, Queen’s Magic looks a mare to keep on the right side of.


3rd - Happy Birthday Susan Eldred Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, Monday 30th December

Having been green and made mistakes when third on debut at Heslaker in May, Foster’sisland made his debut under rules in a bumper at Haydock and shaped encouragingly for the future. He raced a bit keenly tracking the leaders through the early stages before moving into contention travelling well towards the end of the back straight.

He briefly went to the front early in the home straight before being challenged by Ask A Honey Bee and the pair quickly went away from their rivals. Although getting the worst of the battle, Foster’sisland kept responding well to pressure until the early keenness and lack of a recent outing looked to take its toll going through the wings of the last hurdle and he faded back into third, beaten 20 lengths.

I thought this was a good first run under rules from Foster’sisland and he’s one to keep an eye on in bumpers and hurdles in the north.


4th - Newton King Novices’ Hurdle, Monday 30th December

The Jitterbug was another ex-British pointer to shape well on his first start under rules over the festive period. An easy winner of a Bratton Down maiden in May 2018, he returned at Taunton after 589 days off in a novices’ hurdle.

Having initially set off in mid division, he slipped back through the field a little to be towards the back jumping 4 out. Pushed along after 3 out, he got on to the back of the main pack turning the final bend but couldn’t challenge the leaders at any stage and stayed on in the straight to finish fourth, beaten 12½ lengths, despite an error at the last.

I think he wants a galloping track and more of a test of stamina, so he didn’t run too badly on his return to the track considering the unsuitable test. He’s a chasing type on looks and that’s where his future lies but I think he can progress over hurdles before that when getting the right conditions.


3rd - EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Listed Race), Wednesday 1st January

Genola came into the Listed bumper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day on the back of two wins from two runs in AQPS flat races in France, where she was better than the bare result on both occasions.

Held up towards the rear for much of the race, she was briefly nudged along at the top of the hill by Maryline Eon to make sure that she didn’t get shut off due to a diminishing gap ahead of her. She was pushed along earlier than many of her rivals as the field entered the straight and it briefly looked as though she wasn’t making any more headway.

However, once she was given a crack just before going through the wings of the last hurdle, Genola picked up well and started to run on strongly up the hill. Switched into a big gap on the inside, she briefly shied away to the left into the big open space and despite Eon quickly gathering her back up and Genola finding plenty for pressure, she couldn’t quite get to the winner, Audacity.

It’s difficult to be sure which career path Genola will take as they could target the AQPS group class flat programme this year or switch her to hurdling but whichever choice they make I think she’s a very good prospect with this run only enhancing her profile.

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