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.
Eagle To Reach New Heights Next Season
Team Of Firsts was one of four newcomers in this maiden and performed by far the best in finishing fourth. Held up towards the back through the first half of the race, he crept a bit closer early in the straight. With just under three furlongs to go he was pushed along before coming under pressure two out. Despite looking green and edging left, he responded well and ran on strongly late to be beaten 2¾ lengths into fourth.
The first three home were the first three in the early stages, so this was a very good effort by Team Of Firsts on his debut considering his early position. He shouldn’t be long in getting off the mark and looks a good middle-distance prospect for next season.
Spilt Passion was Ger Lyons’ second string in this contest but comfortably beat the first string with a highly promising debut. Having broken fairly well, she was restrained with the aim of getting a position nearer the inside rail, and ended up in last position. She was travelling well in last and still had a lot of horses in front of her when pushed along two out. From that point she closed strongly, mostly under hands and heels, beaten 1¾ lengths in third. It was notable how much ground Spilt Passion made up having been so far back. Better luck with the draw can hopefully see her not ridden as patiently in future, and she can break her maiden.
Oasis Cove showed minor ability on debut at Ascot and built on that with a promising run at Newmarket. Having broken well, she tracked the leader on the far rail and still showed signs of inexperience. Pushed along with three to go, she responded well but became unbalanced and stumbled going into the dip. She continued to look uncomfortable on the undulations, but picked up again on the climb and stayed on into third. Oasis Cove is still mentally developing and will be better suited by a flatter track, so there could be improvement to come in the long term at around 1m2f.
Ava Go Joe was one of three newcomers in this novice and his inexperience was clear from the off. He was slowly into stride and then shifted sharply to the left leaving the stalls, which left him detached at the back. He continued to race greenly before realising what was required of him, gradually staying on under hands and heels in the final couple of furlongs into seventh. Considering how much Ava Go Joe did wrong in the first half, it was encouraging he finished as close, as at one point he looked like a detached last. It may be handicaps are where he is seen to best effect, but he could improve significantly next time.
Rock Eagle had shaped promisingly in his prep run for the Cesarewitch and performed well in the race itself. He raced a few lengths off the leaders early on and was still travelling well with half a mile to go. However, once under pressure with three to go he didn’t respond much and only plugged on into fifth. The manner in which Rock Eagle travelled was notable, though it’s difficult to know if it was the ground or trip - or both - which resulted in him not finding as much as seemed likely. However, I think a return to quicker ground will help and this lightly raced five-year-old can progress further in staying handicaps next season.
Miramis has been chucked in at the deep end in Group company on both starts. She showed promise on debut when slowly away and green, and improved plenty from that when fifth in the Anglesey. Again she was slow to stride, but not as markedly as on debut, and was soon allowed to stride forward into a prominent position after a furlong. She was still travelling strongly two out but couldn’t match A Case Of You’s burst of acceleration. She kept responding in the final furlong to finish fifth, beaten 3½ lengths.
This was a promising run from Miramis considering she was only having her second start and again missed the break. A maiden should be a formality before black type once again.
Three horses dominated from the off, with the others never in with a chance, but it was one of them in the second group who caught the eye. Liberty Bella was often a front runner over hurdles last season, but was dropped out in the second group. She occasionally reached for the fences but generally jumped well. She couldn’t get anywhere near the leading trio but kept going well into sixth. Given her usual tactics and the ground being quicker than ideal, it was clear Liberty Bella wasn’t seen at her best under the circumstances. Her jumping was encouraging for the future, and on softer ground and given a more realistic target, she can be far more competitive.