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.
Vinndication Overlooked For King George Glory at 33's
Minella Drama finished second on both runs in Irish points, including behind Sir Gerhard on debut, and again filled that position on debut under rules at Bangor. He raced keenly early stages and pulled his way into a share of the lead after the first hurdle, but was restrained to track the leader, before travelling well in a leading group of four going to 3 out. Encouraged along, he maintained his position until tiring on the run to the last and finished 5½ lengths behind in second. This was a promising effort on his first run over hurdles in a strong novices’ hurdle. His keenness took its toll late on in the testing conditions, and hopefully this will have knocked the freshness out of him, so he settles better and progresses.
Having run well in two Irish points, Frisco Bay was disappointing in a bumper and over hurdles last season, before a wind op. Returning after 295 days off on his handicap debut, he showed plenty of promise in defeat. He raced in mid division for most part, and his rider was regularly taking a pull on the long run to 5 out. He made a little headway after 4 out and his rider was continuing to take a pull going to 3 out, not wanting to make his effort too soon in the testing conditions. He travelled smoothly into a share of second turning the final bend and was pushed along to chase the leader, getting within a length of him at 2 out. However, he had little left between the final two hurdles and got left behind, finishing eleven lengths back in second. The manner in which Frisco Bay travelled through the race was taking, and that of a horse who is better than his rating. When dropped back in trip, and possibly on better ground, he can get off the mark.
Having made a promising hurdling debut last season, the rest of L’air Du Vent’s season was disappointing. However, he bounced back on his first start trying fences at Chepstow. He tracked the leader, with his jumping gradually warmed up after he was a bit careful in the early stages. A good jump at the last took him close to the leader, but his rider took a pull to race just behind him turning the final bend. Another good jump 5 out took him into the lead and despite getting in tight at 3 out, he maintained a share of the lead at the second last. However, he got in tight again and dropped back into third, and battled to hold third.
This was a good chasing debut from L’air Du Vent and showed he was back to the level that his hurdling debut had promised. I think he ideally wants better ground, so this run can be upgraded, and his mark is unchanged on 131 while the winner in now rated 144. A novice handicap can surely come L’air Du Vent’s way off that mark in the coming weeks.
Martello Sky and Sun Rising Hill were at the head of the market for the bumper and duly finished first and second, but Turpin Gold ran significantly better than the market was expecting on debut in third. Sent off at 33-1, he raced at the back of the tightly-packed field and was still there 3 out. Angled towards the outside, he was pushed along turning down the side of the course and made headway before picking up well turning the final bend. He found plenty, but his inexperience showed as he wandered around and finished third, beaten 2¼ lengths.
Considering he was poorly positioned in a slowly run race, while up against two bumper winners with good form, this was a promising debut. It shouldn’t be long before he’s off the mark given more favourable circumstances.
The Getaway Star showed a good level of ability in bumpers and performed well thrown into Graded company on her hurdling debut at Down Royal. Held up, she jumped cautiously over the first three and was soon detached. Her jumping gradually improved and she made headway, not far behind the main pack 3 out. She stayed on well on the run to 2 out and jumped that hurdle in fifth still in that position after the last, looking well held but running on strongly, beaten 2¾ lengths in fourth.
Given how bad The Getaway Star’s jumping was in the early stages and how she ended up behind, it’s remarkable that she managed to finish so close to the winner and shows just how talented she is. Hopefully in the future her jumping will be sharper from the off, and she looks a very promising novice hurdler, with a step up in trip likely to bring more improvement.
Just Once was moderate on the Flat, but based on the promise of her most recent start over hurdles, she looks likely to make an impact in that sphere. Wearing a tongue-tie for the first time, she initially lined up prominently but dug her toes in as the tape went up and set off in last. She gained one place before the long run to 3 out but still travelled well, while some in front of her were starting to be pushed along. Nudged along in tenth turning into the straight, she made headway but a mistake at 3 out when hampered by a faller at 2 out halted her progress. She couldn’t get near the leaders but ran on under light urging to finish sixteen lengths behind the winner in fifth.
Given what happened at the start, the problems in the straight, and that she wasn’t given a hard ride, this was a promising run. She’s been given an opening rating of 103, and as long as she doesn’t repeat her antics at the start, I think she’s capable of winning off that.
Whoopsey had shown only minor promise at most in maiden and novice hurdles but showed more on her handicap debut at Ascot. She raced in midfield before dropping towards the back with a circuit to go, and then pushed along turning the bend out of Swinley Bottom before coming under stronger pressure. She appeared to be struggling badly but took off late on to finish fifth, beaten 8½ lengths.
There is a chance Whoopsey is a tricky ride given how early she was pushed along, though it’s possible she needs a stiffer test being a full-sister to 3m chase winner Angel Of Harlem out of a 3m hurdle winner. I think she could be better than her rating of 100 when stepped up to a more suitable trip.
Much of the focus prior to and after the Charlie Hall was on Cyrname and his significant price drift before victory. Somewhat lost in the aftermath was Vinndication’s performance in defeat, which I think was as notable as Cyrname’s in victory. While everything went right for Cyrname, plenty went wrong for Vinndication, including slipping into the first, putting him back from a share of the lead into fifth. He recovered in third at the second but made a mistake and lost ground at three of the following four fences via some hesitant jumping. His jumping was better in the home straight, but he edged right at the fences, something he’s done in the past. Pushed along entering the home straight, Vinndication got in tight to 4 out and was a bit slow 3 out, but battled under pressure and ran on strongly but couldn’t challenge Cyrname, beaten two lengths.
Considering the ground Vinndication lost at fences when slipping, hesitant jumping and frequently jumping out to the right, along with the steady pace being against him - but in Cyrname’s favour - I think he did well to finish as close as he did. This performance again showed him jumping to the right, as he did in the 2019 JLT, in the Ultima last season and even when wide at Sandown in the 2019 Scilly Isles. It was also notable how much more assured his jumping was once on the inside rail at Ascot when beating Jerrysback in 2018, and that’s the best he’s jumped over fences in his career.
Connections have suggested the Ladbrokes Trophy could be next, but that would mean running on another left-handed track, which could see him endure a hard race four weeks before the King George. An alternative would be straight to the King George. To start, it’s right-handed, and David Bass could have Vinndication hard against the inner rail, which would improve the chance of him jumping well, either in front or tracking. Second, many of the King George runners are either rated lower than Vinndication, are doubtful stayers or have more targets elsewhere. Further, Cyrname is currently favourite for the race, yet Vinndication got to within two lengths at Wetherby (receiving 2lb), despite much going wrong. The evidence suggests the best option is to send Vinndication straight to the King George, and I think the market underestimates his chance at around 33-1.