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.
Route To March Onward To Northern Novice Success
4th - Visit attheraces.com Mares’ Handicap Hurdle, Tuesday 8th December
A point-to-point winner in 2017, Coachella Green had shown little subsequently in five starts prior to lining up at Uttoxeter for her handicap debut. In a first-time tongue tie and cheekpieces, she initially raced a bit keenly a few lengths behind the leaders before being allowed to stride forward to join the leaders after the first hurdle.
She went to the front with a circuit to go and was just over two lengths in front leaving the back straight. She was still travelling well turning into the home straight in front but after a slight error at 3 out she came under driving and was soon joined and headed by Glencoum Lass. Coachella Green jumped 2 out in a share of second place but had little left after that and faded to finish 21¾ lengths behind the winner in fourth.
Although she finished well beaten, this was an encouraging run from Coachella Green who showed more than she had done in three previous starts under rules. Although she may be capable of winning off this mark on soft ground, I think she is likely to be seen to better effect on quicker ground so there could be improvement to come from her in the spring.
3rd - Play 3-2-Win For Free At MansionBet Novices’ Hurdle, Thursday 10th December
After being outclassed in a Listed bumper at Cheltenham last month, Onward Route returned to calmer waters for his hurdling debut at Newcastle. He tracked Sunset West in second from the start and jumped well throughout the first circuit. He was nudged along turning into the straight a few lengths behind the leader and looked to be closing as a result before reaching for 3 out and landed slightly awkwardly.
Shaken up after, he responded and made progress to challenge at 2 out which he reached for and landed awkwardly again. A further mistake at the last cost him further momentum and he finished third.
This was a promising start over hurdles from Onward Route who may have finished second with three slicker jumps in the straight. Given how well he jumped prior to that, it’s hoped that this was merely his inexperience under pressure over hurdles showing and his jumping will be sharper in the closing stages in future.
3rd - Irish Racing Industry Fundraiser For Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin In Memory Of Pat Smullen Maiden Hurdle, Thursday 10th December
Cavallino looked to lack speed when making his debut in a bumper at Punchestown in October so it was surprising that he was sent to the very sharp track at Tramore for his hurdling debut. He was pushed along at the start to gain a prominent position and he was given a crack after making a mistake at the third.
He regained his position tracking the leader but lost ground again in the home straight on the second circuit and dropped back to fifth. He was pushed up into second going to 3 out but landed awkwardly there. He maintained his position in second on the very long run to 2 out before being shaken up leaving the back straight. He took a little while to respond to firmer pressure but eventually got the message and jumped 2 out in a share of the lead before going to the lead running to the last. However, he dived at it and was down on his nose and dropped back into third at the finish.
Cavallino was a bit unlucky to not get off the mark on his hurdling debut and that was despite looking all at sea on the very tight track. On a more galloping track and/or over further, there could be plenty of improvement to come from Cavallino.
3rd - Download The Star Sports App Now Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, Sunday 13th December
Wavering Down showed minor promise in three starts in novice hurdles and built on those with an encouraging performance on handicap debut at Southwell. He raced keenly under restraint at the back of the field early on and he was a few lengths off the back of the pack leaving the back straight for the first time.
He made a little headway from halfway down the back on the last circuit and was briefly shaken up after jumping 3 out. He latched on to the back of the main group leaving the back straight but soon came under pressure. He looked set to finish fifth between the last two hurdles but stayed on gamely on the run in to grab third near the line.
Considering Wavering Down was taken out of a race at Exeter earlier in the month due to the ground, it’s likely that the ground at Southwell was softer than ideal for him so his performance can be upgraded. He was also reported to have a breathing problem at Exeter two starts ago, so it may be that a wind op is required at some time. When racing on quicker ground, I think Wavering Down can show that a rating of 100 underestimates his ability.
3rd - Sky Sports Racing Channel 415 Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, Monday 14th December
Honest Oscar ran well on her debut in an Irish maiden point to point for Kieran Roche in December last year when chasing home subsequent bumper winner Rose Of Arcadia and Shirocco’s Dream who was since bought for £260,000. She made her rules debut in a bumper at Plumpton and raced towards the back of the field early on.
She became a little keen running down the hill for the first time and moved up into midfield. She maintained that position before making headway running down the hill on the final circuit and she moved smoothly to challenge the leaders at the end of the back straight. She very briefly appeared to be going best on the side of the course but once coming under pressure in the straight she gradually faded into third, beaten 12¾ lengths.
The manner in which Honest Oscar travelled through the race was encouraging and she showed that the ability shown on debut is still there. Zoe Davison was a career 1-120 in bumpers prior to this so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Honest Oscar improves when switched to hurdles.
2nd - Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares INH Flat Race, Monday 14th December
Feddans was sent off at 66-1 for her debut in a bumper at Naas and she ran far better than the market predicted in finishing second. She was held up at the back of the field early on and she was still there turning down the back straight.
She raced a bit keenly once amongst horses and travelled strongly on the inside in second last towards the end of the back straight. She was stuck behind a wall of horses early in the home straight and had to be switched a couple of times to get a run. Nudged along, she looked green and initially looked likely to finish in mid division but once she realised what she was supposed to be doing, Feddans ran on well under only hands and heels to finish second.
Feddans’ half-sister, Sunndans, showed a good level of ability in bumpers last year and Feddans has followed suit with this display. She’s likely to improve a lot mentally for this and I’m expecting a sharper performance next time.