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.
Fire’s Flame Shines Brighter On Chasing Debut
2nd - Visit attheraces.com Maiden Hurdle, Tuesday 1st December
Fletch was sent off at 25-1 for his hurdling debut at Southwell and ran better than the market expected in finishing second. Held up on the inside, his jumping lacked confidence and fluency and he was still in a share of third last jumping 3 out.
He came under pressure soon after and responded to get on to the back of the leading group leaving the back straight. He was in sixth turning into the straight before staying on strongly under hands and heels to take second near the line, fourteen lengths behind the winner.
Given how poorly he jumped, Fletch did well to finish second. As long as his poorly jumping was due to inexperience, he has the potential to improve plenty from this.
Fell - Sir Toby Memorial Novices’ Handicap Chase, Wednesday 2nd December
On the back of a wind op, Muse Of Fire was well backed for his handicap and chasing debut at Ludlow. He raced enthusiastically in second through the early stages until being left in front after the sixth fence. The loose horse interfered with him and he jumped to the left to varying degrees down the back straight but he was still just over three lengths clear turning down the side of the course.
He continued to travel well into the home straight and jumped four out three lengths clear but having jumped the fence fine he crumpled on landing and fell.
This was a far more promising performance from Muse Of Fire than his previous runs under rules and he may have won but for falling. A left-handed track may be more suitable for him given how he jumped and having been left on 103, he shouldn’t be long in getting off the mark under rules.
2nd - Watch Racing TV In Stunning HD Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, Thursday 3rd December
Kilmington Rose was a bit disappointing at Exeter but she bounced back with a more encouraging effort at Wincanton on her third start over hurdles. She raced at the head of the chasing group behind the runaway leader early on before going to the front with a circuit to go. She was joined for the lead halfway down the back straight before going on again turning out of the back and she looked to be going best approaching 2 out.
However, she slowed into that and looked idle while Harry Cobden waited for some company between the final two hurdles. Global Harmony got upsides going to the last and Kilmington Rose responded but once again her jumping let her down at the last and she went on to finish five lengths behind the winner in second.
This was better from Kilmington Rose after a below par run at Exeter. She looks a slightly tricky ride and I think she will benefit from a well-run race where she can get cover for as long as possible.
A left-handed track is also likely to be more suitable for her as she’s shown a tendency to jump left at Exeter and Wincanton. She has received a rating of 115 and I think she has more talent that than, with it possibly going to be shown in full over fences in the long term.
2nd - Feed Your Brain oliversbookshop.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle, Saturday 5th December
An Alnwick maiden winner last year, Take Your Time got off the mark over hurdles at Lingfield and looked to follow up under a penalty at Chepstow. He raced prominently from the off but a bad mistake at the fourth resulted in him being pushed along and given a crack. Further slow jumps at the sixth and seventh followed but he regained his prominent position at the end of the back straight.
He was pushed along turning the bend on the long run to 3 out and his jumping was better over the final three hurdles but he couldn’t match the speed of Slip Road and could only stay on into second, 9½ lengths behind him.
Take Your Time’s hurdling hadn’t been completely fluent on his previous two runs at Lingfield and it was even worse in this race. I think his jumping could improve on a right-handed track as he tends to edge right either at or just before the hurdles and he looks in need of more of a test of stamina, not surprising given the manner of his victory at the very stiff Alnwick on debut.
His rating has been left unchanged on 124 and when going into handicap company with a more suitable scenario, I think he can win off that mark.
5th - Hotel Park St Johann Tirol Austria Maiden Hurdle (Div I), Saturday 5th December
Kalkas was bought for £210,000 after a promising debut at Fontainebleau last year and after a year off he returned in a maiden hurdle at Navan. He raced prominently from the off and his jumping technique showed that he had jumped plenty of French style hurdles as he was ‘big’ at a few.
He travelled well in third turning out of the back straight and came to challenge at 3 out but made a mistake and was soon pushed along. He was still in contention at 2 out but from that point he dropped away and was beaten 24 lengths in fifth.
I think this was a good maiden hurdle and the manner in which Kalkas travelled through the race backed up the impression he had made on debut at Fontainebleau. It is possible that he was in need of the run after a year off or he found the trip too far as his debut was over a sharper track.
He did wear a tongue tie for his debut in France so it’s also possible that he could improve for wearing one. He looks a chaser but I think he can show a better level of form over hurdles this season before switching to that sphere.
2nd - Betfair Free Bet On The 1.50 Introductory Juvenile Hurdle, Saturday 5th December
Paros was heavily backed shortly before the start of the juvenile hurdle that opened Sandown’s card on Saturday but it was another French recruit who shaped well in defeat. Hudson de Grugy was very impressive when winning on his fourth start in France in an AQPS flat race and as on that occasion, he was sent to the front at the start.
He made a couple of errors down the back straight but was still in front turning into the home straight with a tightly-packed field behind. He was nudged along going to 2 out and a good jump there put him a length in front before being joined by Elham Valley going to the last.
Hudson de Grugy crashed through the hurdle and landed awkwardly, costing him momentum at a crucial stage, and although he rallied on the run-in he couldn’t challenge the winner.
This was a good British and hurdling debut from Hudson de Grugy and backed up the impression he made in France that he is talented and stays well. He looked a bit idle in front and he did wear blinkers in France so the reapplication of those over this trip to sharpen him up or longer trips when out of juvenile company will likely see him at his best.
3rd - Watch Plumpton Race Replays On attheraces.com Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race, Monday 7th December
The bumper that ended Plumpton’s card on Monday looked a strong one beforehand and it didn’t disappoint with plenty of promising runs. A notable one came from Sandy Brook, who had put in an eyecatching run on debut in an Irish point to point on his only previous start.
He raced in midfield for much of the contest and was nudged along and briefly outpaced going down the hill on the final circuit. Switched towards the middle of the track he picked up again and he was pushed along in fifth turning out of the back straight. He came under stronger pressure in the straight and responded well to finish third.
I think the track was completely unsuitable for Sandy Brook who is a big chasing type and will likely want a test of stamina in time so for him to run so well in a strong bumper in very encouraging.
He should make a mark over hurdles this season before going on to be at his best over fences in the long term.