Rhys Williams has shortlisted six horses to track, includes a juvenile who was placed on National Hunt debut despite jumping errors.

  • Thursday 19 December
  • Blog
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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.


3rd - Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Novices’ Handicap Chase, Tuesday 10th December

Tea Time On Mars finished last of three finishers on his first run in a handicap chase at Fontwell but hinted that his turn may not be far away once he gets the conditions he wants. In ever-softening ground, his jumping lacked fluency and he appeared to be struggling and likely to drop away after 4 out. However, he rallied under pressure and although he couldn’t put in a significant challenge, he was still only three lengths behind the leader at the last before being left behind and coming home 13½ lengths behind Christmas In April. I think Tea Time On Mars will be far better suited by a return to quicker ground and a slight drop back in trip and when that happens I think he can be successful off his new mark of 107.

4th - Buy Your 2020 Membership Now Handicap, Thursday 12th December

Lucky’s Dream returned to the track after a break of 140 days at Chelmsford and had absolutely no luck in running. Having raced a bit keenly under restraint in midfield, Jason Watson had to take a pull turning the final bend to prevent Lucky’s Dream from running on to the heels of the horse in front. He continued to be stuck behind rivals, travelling well, until a furlong out when it looked like he might eventually get a clear run to the outside but Dreamboat Dave drifted to the left and closed that gap and that left Lucky’s Dream to finish in fourth having never come under any pressure. The manner in which Lucky’s Dream travelled through the race suggested that, with some better luck, he could have a good winter ahead of him on the all-weather.

3rd - “Follow The Race To Westminster bonuscodebets.co.uk/uk-election” Handicap Hurdle, Thursday 12th December

The problems that Rose Dobbin’s yard had last season have been well-documented and Geordielandgangsta’s handicap debut at Newcastle suggested that he may not be too long in being a successful part of its resurgence this season. Returning after a 324-day break, he appeared to be on the back foot for much of the race with some sloppy jumping not helping his cause. He briefly dropped towards the back of a tightly packed field turning the final bend but responded well to being pushed along and was only about a length behind the leader at 3 out. Having come under stronger pressure after jumping 3 out, he was outpaced and another mistake at 2 out followed but he kept battling and stayed on well to take third place on the line. Geordielandgangsta looked all about stamina when finishing second in a point a couple of years ago and this run did nothing to change that view. A step up to 3 miles should suit and it will be over fences where he’s likely to make most impact in the long term.

3rd - JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Novices’ Championship Hurdle Series Qualifier), Saturday 14th December

Elysian Flame was a progressive soft ground-loving stayer on the flat last season and his hurdling debut at Cheltenham suggested that he could have a good future in that sphere too. Held up at the back of the field, he jinked into the first and was slow over it and was a bit awkward over the second hurdle too. Further jumping issues followed, including showing a tendency to jump to the left, and he was in seventh place after jumping 2 out. Nudged along, he started to make headway and soon moved into fourth early in the straight. He continued to run on strongly and was only about 2½ lengths behind Botox Has at the last when he made another untidy leap, losing plenty of momentum in the process, before staying on well on the run-in to grab third near the line. Considering how badly Elysian Flame jumped, he did very well to be in contention at the last in a field of this quality. He is clearly very much at home on soft ground and, if his jumping improves as would be expected with experience, he can make his mark over hurdles in such conditions.

6th - Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3), Saturday 14th December

Not That Fuisse’s route to the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup caught the eye of many, taking in three beginners’/novice chases in which he rating could only be raised if he won, and his performance in the race did likewise on ground that I think was softer than ideal. Having initially set off in last, he was a bit keen and with two slick leaps he was soon into midfield. He continued to travel and jump well on the outside of the field before making a big move to be much handier on the top end of the course. He travelled well down the hill and still appeared to be going fine after three out but once asked for more effort early in the straight he had little left to offer and ended up being beaten 24 lengths in sixth. He’s been dropped 1lb to 130 for this and I think that when he gets back on good ground over distances around 2m4f, he can show himself to be better than that rating.

10th - Park Mares’ Handicap Hurdle

Another Skelton-trained horse caught the eye in the closing mares’ handicap hurdle on Saturday’s card at Cheltenham. While much of the attention going into and coming out of this race was on Dame De Compagnie, JP McManus’s other runner Vision Du Puy shaped much better than her finishing position suggests. Held up towards the back of the field, her jumping was a little lacking in fluency at times and she made one notable error in the back straight. However, she was still travelling well on the inside as the field turned to go down the hill. She came under pressure after jumping 2 out and was still in contention turning into the straight before dropping away and she finished 25 lengths behind the winner in tenth. This distance clearly looked too far for her and it tends to be beneficial to be wide on the hurdles course at Cheltenham in soft ground so being on the inside may not have helped her cause either. I think quicker ground could help too and the combination of that and a drop back to a more suitable 2 miles is likely to see her in a better light.

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