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.
Atlantic A Sure Contender For National Trial
7th - Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Handicap Hurdle, Saturday 26th December
Distingo is on a losing run stretching back to Kempton in March 2018 but his latest performance at the same track suggests that he could surprise by breaking that in the neat future. He wasn’t travelling very early on and had to be shaken along at the back of the field after the first hurdle.
He was pushed along to make headway on the run to 3 out and was only just over a length behind the leaders jumping 2 out but he gradually dropped away from that point and he finished 21 lengths behind the winner in seventh.
Distingo has looked a harder ride in recent times with him often not travelling in the early stages and that was repeated in this race. I think a change in headgear, tactics and drop back to a shorter trip could be the catalyst for a return to a better level of form from him.
The impact of cheekpieces seems to have worn off so using blinkers, which have only been used once in his career in France, may rekindle his focus and help him travel better early on.
His better form over hurdles has come when racing handily so reverting to those tactics and dropping back in trip to compensate for this could see Distingo bounce back.
3rd - Holden Plant Rentals Novice Handicap Hurdle, Saturday 26th December
Take All came into this race on the back of an impressive win at Cork and subsequent 14lb rise. Handy from the off in a strongly run race, he jumped to the front at 2 out and went a couple of lengths clear turning the final bend. He came under strong pressure approaching the last and was headed but kept battling on to finish third.
Take All fared by the best of those that raced prominently and he was only picked off late on by a couple of horses that were ridden very patiently towards the back of the field.
He does race keenly which doesn’t make it a given that it’s always possible but I think a slightly more patient ride will see him a better light and he’s still got more improvement to come from a rating of 120.
PU - William Hill Acca Freedom Novices’ Handicap Chase, Saturday 26th December
Mill Race King fell at 3 out when in contention at Leicester on his previous start and despite not completing once again, he shaped with promise for the future. He initially raced towards the back of the field before making headway to be in midfield with a circuit to go.
Angled to the outside, a couple of slick jumps at the first two down the back took him into a narrow lead. Pushed along leaving the back straight, he remained in a handy position and turned into the home straight in a share of second. However, after reaching for 4 out and landing slightly awkwardly he weakened and had nothing left after 2 out, being pulled up before the last.
The manner in which Mill Race King made headway down the back straight early on the final circuit was taking and it was clear that this was too much of a stamina test for him. His point-to-point win came on good ground and it’s likely that a return to quicker ground over a shorter trip, and possibly on a right-handed track given his slight tendency to edge right at fences, will see him a better light and he can take advantage of what looks a generous 5lb drop by the handicapper.
4th - William Hill Lengthen #YourOdds Handicap Chase, Saturday 26th December
Time To Get Up’s first run for Jonjo O’Neill at Aintree caught the attention of the stewards and it seemed an obvious move to step him up in trip but he stayed at the same trip for his latest start at Wetherby. He initially set off in midfield but made a mistake at the first and pitched on landing at the second and he dropped towards the back of the field.
Turning away from the stands to go on to the final circuit he appeared to lose interest and was pushed along as he became detached off the back of the field. He made a little headway at the end of the back straight but was soon off the back of the pack again and his rider just nudged him along in the straight to keep him going where the horse continued to show a lack of interest until running on late to finish fourth.
It’s been clear from Time To Get Up’s performances in Britain and Ireland that he needs a test of stamina to be seen at his best and he’s yet to have that in either start over fences.
His full-sister responded well to the application of a visor and it may be that he will need headgear at some point to help him maintain concentration and his position through the race. He’s been dropped to 130 after this and I think he’s capable of winning off that mark when stepped up to 3m+.
10th - Every Race Live On Racing TV Handicap Hurdle, Saturday 26th December
Peloric shaped quite well on his return to action after 704 days off at the start of the month and, dropped back in trip on Boxing Day, he showed promise once again despite finishing well beaten. He raced keenly under restraint towards the back of the field early on before making a big move to race much closer to the leaders at the first hurdle in the back straight.
He continued that headway to jump the last in the back straight in a share of the lead and he travelled strongly in a leading line of three running down the side of the course. He was nudged along on the approach to 2 out and after reaching for that hurdle, he had nothing left and quickly dropped back through the field to eventually finish tenth.
Making such a big move so early in the race gave Peloric little chance of winning and it’s easy to forgive him weakening quickly late on but it was encouraging how strongly he travelled for a long way. He clearly has issues settling so it might be necessary for the hood to be reapplied and his keenness may prevent him from being able to be ridden more suitably but I think he has more ability than his rating of 102 so he could significantly step up from this performance in future.
1st - Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle, Tuesday 29th December
Millen To One had come up against Dreal Deal and King Alex on his prior two handicap starts before lining up in this novice handicap hurdle at Leopardstown. Held-up at the back of the field from the off, he remained there until making smooth headway on the run to 2 out.
However, his momentum was halted as he dived at the hurdle. He soon regathered his equilibrium and travelled strongly into the straight. He hit the front on the bridle at the last before his rider had to exert more pressure on the run in as Millen To One looked to be idling badly once in the lead.
This was a first victory in his career for Millen To One and I think his lack of experience in the lead clearly showed on the run in. The way that he was able to recover from a serious mistake at 2 out so easily and still get to the front on the bridle suggests that a 6lb rise from this win may not stop him from adding to his tally again this season and he’s open to plenty of improvement.
2nd - Follow @racingtv On Twitter Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, Wednesday 30th December
A strongly contested battle for early supremacy led to the novices’ handicap hurdle at Market Rasen setting up perfectly for horses coming from off the pace. Of the eight finishers, seven of them were not in the leading group at the first hurdle. The only finisher to come from that leading group was Barnay who finished second.
He tracked Cilluirid until taking over the lead at 3 out when that rival dropped away quickly. Barnay continued to hold the lead until being headed on landing after the last by Golden Emblem and that rival went on to beat him by four lengths with ten lengths back to the third.
Considering that he was handy the whole way in a race that favoured those held up and that he raced towards the inside rail in the straight when it’s typically best to stay wide on soft ground at Market Rasen, Barnay’s performance can be significantly upgraded.
He has been raised to 102 but the reapplication of blinkers in his last two starts has clearly had a positive impact and in a race where he doesn’t face so much pressure up front in the early stages, Barnay can get back to winning ways.
2nd - GAIN Handicap Chase, Saturday 2nd January
Treacysenniscorthy’s bold jumping display when making-all at Cork was a wonderful spectacle but in behind Atlantic Shore shaped well over a distance that I think is an insufficient test of stamina for him. He had to be nudged along at various stages and his jumping was nowhere near as slick as the winner but he had moved into second when getting in close to 4 out.
Put under stronger pressure after, he continued to plug away all the way up the straight but couldn’t challenge the winner at any stage and was beaten 4¾ lengths into second.
Atlantic Shore was stepping down in trip having previously finished second at Punchestown over 3m1½f. He’s always looked a strong stayer and this was once again evident at Cork as he lacked the necessary pace for the trip but stayed on well under pressure.
I think he’s capable of doing well in handicap chases over very long distances and the National Trial over 3m4f at Punchestown on 14th February looks a suitable target for him.