A new feature on the blog, a regular column from on-course expert Kiaran O'Brien.
THE ON-COURSE EYE
The On-course Eye is a view from the racecourse where Kiaran O’Brien will attempt to pinpoint future winners based on recent performances. As we know there is no proven scientific formula to finding winners but with over twenty years of racecourse experience he hopes this column will highlight horses that may have slipped under the radar or could still be ahead of the handicapper.
All views are his own.
For many the countdown clock for the Cheltenham Festival in March is activated at Prestbury Park with a fantastic three days of National Hunt racing. Reputations will be enhanced, bubbles will be burst, gambles will be planned and ante-post portfolios built. Finding winners as ever will not be easy.
High on the list of ‘must see’ participants will be the Colin Tizzard-trained FINIAN’S OSCAR who holds an entry on Friday in the Steel Plate and Section Novices’ Chase over 2m4f. A facile winner of his only chase start date at Chepstow last month. He was forced to miss the Festival in March but proved his well being with a hugely impressive victory at Aintree three weeks later.
The strapping five-year-old is built for chasing and anything he did over the smaller obstacles was always seen as a bonus by connections who hold him in the highest regard.
Should he bypass this engagement the Tizzards have a more than able understudy in WEST APPROACH who dotted up on his fencing debut at Ffos Las over 2m5f. The half-brother to stable star Thistlecrack is more than capable of making a name for himself this season in his own right.
The feature event on Saturday is the BetVictor Gold Cup with current favourite Kylemore Lough making his first start for Harry Fry. A multiple winner as a novice he failed to get his head in front in four starts as a second season chaser. He has failed to score on any of his seasonal reappearance and has failed to score on three previous visits to the track.
Two horses that do catch the eye however are STARCHITECT and GO CONQUER.
Both are owned by Paul and Clare Rooney and trained by David Pipe and Jonjo O’Neill respectively. Both handlers have made excellent starts to the season and have a great record in this race having won three of the last six renewals between them. David’s father Martin used to farm this race season after season. Both are available at 16/1 and it would be interesting to see if both are allowed to take their chance
Sunday will see the reappearance of Fox Norton in the Shloer Chase and last season’s easy winner will be hoping to get his season off to the perfect start before setting his sights on bigger targets over the winter. He had an interrupted campaign after picking up a leg injury when winning this last season but the narrowest of defeats in the Champion Chase and subsequent victories at Aintree and Punchestown proved he is a horse of the highest quality.
Whether he is campaigned over the minimum trip this season or stepped up with the Ryanair a possible long term is yet to be determined but all options are open as it stands.
An eye catcher HELLS KITCHEN
If ever the change to front running / bowl along in front riding tactics would benefit a horse, then Hells Kitchen fits the bill perfectly. There is no doubt he has a huge engine but what he doesn’t have is a choke. The JP McManus-owned gelding has had just the two starts over fences and on both occasions, has almost pulled the arms off Barry Geraghty for three quarters of the race. Despite this, he has still been in contention at the business end when others would have given up the ghost.
He can jump, so I’d love to see him given his head from flag fall and see whether the rest can keep up with him as holding him up isn’t doing him any favours.