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.
Robertson To Rebound From Huntingdon Loss
Oscar Robertson showed a fairly good level of ability in two starts over hurdles last season but chasing was always likely to be where he would be seen at his best. His chasing debut came at Huntingdon and he showed promise, setting off in a narrow lead before attacking the first fence to gain over a length on his nearest rivals. He continued to jump well until crashing through 5 out, a mistake Johnny Burke did well to survive. Oscar Robertson remained prominent and jumped better over the next two, but gradually dropped away, before rallying late to grab fourth. Oscar Robertson’s jumping until the chance-ending mistake was the most taking part of his performance, and it was encouraging he jumped well following the mistake. Hopefully this run will have knocked the freshness out of him and he be more controlled in front next time.
Gabynako showed promise in a maiden point to point and bumper, but stepped up on that when second on his hurdling debut at Punchestown. He raced keenly just behind the leaders until moving up to challenge Eskylane leaving the back straight. Gabynako was still travelling well turning into the straight and kept battling away under pressure, but couldn’t quite get to Eskylane, who won by half a length.
Given the ability of the winner and third in bumpers, this was a promising hurdling debut from Gabynako, considering how keen he was early on. Two miles looks his trip, and he shouldn’t be long in getting off the mark.
General Custard faced a tough test on his chasing debut at Wetherby and shaped well without ever looking like winning. Held up early, he jumped well while racing a bit keenly, before mistakes started to creep in on final circuit - an error at the last in the back straight left him last of five. Bumped along, he was detached and going nowhere, but finished strongly to finish fourth, just 2½ lengths behind the second. General Custard’s rating of 122 will remain unchanged, and this experience can help him in handicap company, where he has a chance to take advantage of a potentially lenient mark.
Garry Clermont’s progression over hurdles last season resulted in his final start coming in the Dovecote. His attention this term is over fences, and he made a promising chasing debut at Carlisle. Racing in midfield, he showed a tendency to jump out to the left at fences, but was still travelling strongly 4 out, and a good jump left him tracking the leading line. He was pushed along and switched outside to get a clear run, before closing to be in a line of four 2 out, but dived at it and went left, causing Jonjo O’Neill to be left hanging on round his neck. The rider regained his equilibrium and Garry Clermont rallied to be just a length down, but had nothing more on the run-in when held together to finish sixth. Without the awful mistake, I think Garry Clermont may have won, and his jumping suggests he would be suited by a left-handed track. I think he’s better than a rating of 131.
Bass Rock ran well despite being green on debut at Clairefontaine last year, and after 472 days off, he returned with another good run at Carlisle - his first start for Sandy Thomson. He raced in midfield until making headway in the home straight to track the leaders. A good jump 3 out put him into third, and he continued to respond well to firmer pressure to stay on up the hill, but couldn’t challenge Stoner’s Choice, who beat him by three lengths.
This was a promising British debut, who built on the promise from Clairefontaine, and a slightly longer trip should him in a better light. He can progress over hurdles this season.
Illegal Model was only seen once under rules last season when winning over hurdles at Lingfield. He returned to the track at Uttoxeter after 283 days off, and following a wind op ran very well on handicap debut. He raced towards the back and jumped a bit clumsily at times, before making headway just before turning into the home straight. Travelling smoothly, he was still going well on the run to 2 out but made a mistake and landed flat-footed. He couldn’t recover to challenge the leading pair, but stayed on under pressure to finish 2¼ lengths behind the winner in third. To run to this standard on just his second start under rules after 283 days absent was encouraging, and he’s a staying chaser for the future who can progress in that sphere when switching to it.
Having shown ability in Irish points, Friary Land was well beaten in four starts over hurdles in Ireland in testing ground, before beaten thirty lengths on his debut for Olly Murphy at Fontwell (soft ground). Racing in a handicap for the first time at Stratford, his performance suggested he could be better than his rating under the right circumstances. Entering the back straight he was pushed along and got left behind as the pace quickened, looking to be tailed off coming down the mound, but finished strongly to finish fourth.
The two-mile distance was too sharp for Friary Land, but granted the good ground he wants, was able to show a glimpse of what he’s capable of. When stepped up to a more suitable trip, I think he will prove better than a rating of 89.
The Domino Effect showed ability in all three starts over hurdles last season, and returning to the C&D over which he ran his best race, did well on his return. Racing in midfield early, his jumping was ponderous, and continued to lose ground over hurdles on the final circuit when nudged along to keep in touch. At the back of the leading group turning into the straight, he was pushed along and stayed on well into third, beaten 6½ lengths.
The Domino Effect jumped like a horse schooled over fences, and I expect them to be his next focus given his chaser’s physique. I think he can improve when making that switch, likely over distances of around three miles.