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.
More Suitable Circumstances Can Lead Golan To Further Fortune
Does He Know showed plenty of inexperience and ability last season when finishing second in both starts. He still looked a little green when winning at Ludlow on his first start of this season and built on that with victory in the opening race on Friday. Having raced in midfield, he made headway into second going across the top of the course. Briefly shaken up after jumping 3 out, he jumped 2 out a couple of lengths behind the leader, before a slight error. He responded well to pressure and jumped the last in a narrow lead before staying on strongly up the hill under stronger pressure to win by 4¾ lengths.
Does He Know still looked gawky in the closing stages of this race and there could be more to come when he fully switches on. While he doesn’t make many mistakes, his jumping is also far from slick as he tends to lose momentum on landing. He will likely move into Graded company, and I think with further improvement he can be competitive at that level.
Mossy Fen looked a thorough stayer over hurdles last season so it was anticipated he’d make the running and make it a test of stamina. However, he was held up before a good jump at the third took him on to the heels of the leaders, and another good one at the water put him into the lead. He continued to jump well, but his rider seemed content to allow Soldier Of Love to join him, instead of pressing on in front and look to put others under pressure with his jumping. He was going well coming down the hill for the final time and despite a mistake at 3 out was travelling well to the final bend. However, after jumping 2 out in a share of the lead, he came under pressure and faded very quickly on the run in to finish fourth.
The exuberance Mossy Fen showed with his jumping was very taking for a chasing newcomer. It is a bit worrying he stopped so quickly late on, particularly as he looked awkward under pressure last season, but hopefully it is just a case of the run being needed. While he does show a tendency to edge right at fences, he could be a possible candidate for the National Hunt Chase in March, maybe with blinkers added.
Golan Fortune had previously run in this race twice, finishing fifteenth in 2017 and fourteenth in 2019. Last year he didn’t wear cheekpieces as he usually does, and it was the same again this year. He was in a share of last place turning down, but made a mistake at 3 out, and another slight error at 2 out, before stronger pressure was applied that saw him plug on into ninth, beaten 5½ lengths.
Considering he was without the usual cheekpieces, the ground was quicker than ideal and the trip was shorter than suits, this was a good effort on his first start. I expect next time he will be back up to 3m with cheekpieces back on, and this season it would be advisable for them to attempt to get him qualified for the Pertemps Final.
Ecossais had been disappointing in three starts in Britain, but following a wind op and the tongue-tie back on for the first time in Britain (worn in France), he showed promise. The intention appeared to be to race handily but he was squeezed out at the start, leaving him in midfield, before slipping back to the back of the main group after a circuit. He was pushed along and came under stronger pressure 3 out, plugging on gamely without being in contention to be beaten 23 lengths.
In three previous runs in Britain, Ecossais dropped away tamely late on, so it was encouraging he continued to respond to pressure. I think this class of race was too strong, and he will be more comfortable when racing handily at a slower pace in lower class races. He’s been dropped 5lb to a mark of 100, and I think he has a good chance of taking advantage.
The bumper appeared a strong one beforehand with a collection of winners and a couple of newcomers towards the front of the market. My Drogo was ignored in the market at 50-1 on his debut, but ran far better than the market expected. He was held up in last before gradually making smooth headway on the outside and was switched inside as he turned the final bend in fifth. Pushed along, he quickened to challenge and came under stronger pressure with over a furlong to go. He continued to battle away but couldn’t quite match I Am Maximus late on, beaten 1¾ lengths with seven lengths back to the third.
The ease with which My Drogo sliced through the field was very taking, and it was that effort which told in the closing stages. Given he’s a five-year-old, hurdling looks the most likely focus for the rest of the season, and he can progress into a smart novice.
Angus Cheleda (jockey)
The onslaught of racing on Saturday afternoon meant that one race was often rolling into the next, and the end of the amateur riders’ handicap chase at Cheltenham was on a split screen with a race from Galway. The race may have received less attention, but those that watched saw a never-say-die winning ride from Angus Cheleda on Bermeo. He was already cajoling the horse going out onto the final circuit and had been hard at work by the time they turned down the hill with seven horses still in front of him. Cheleda’s perseverance looked like paying off as Bermeo started to close, and a strong ride saw Bermeo challenge Boughtbeforelunch at the last to stay on up the hill and take victory. This was a first winner at Cheltenham for Cheleda, who was an amateur before the start of the 2019/20 point to point season having started under rules as a conditional in November 2016. The decision to turn amateur saw him win the Men’s Novice Riders title in the truncated season (six winners from twelve rides), and he gained a further victory on Alcala in a hunter chase at Haydock.
Cheleda’s 5lb claim in amateur riders’ races and 7lb claim in non-amateur riders’ races looks valuable based on the evidence of the past year and, if opportunities arise, he can gain further notable success this season both under rules and in the pointing sphere.