Andy Gibson’s Eyecatchers Service: Jonbon, Boothill, Kitty’s Light and more
Noticing an interesting achievement usually has more benefits when you think the majority tended to miss it.
My Eyecatchers service takes into account horses that might go under the radar for many, some obvious ones, and a few interesting horse performances that I’d like to face another day.
It can be crucial to recognize successful and lost efforts that may be under- or over-appreciated in the future.
More Episodes of Henry VIII’s Novices’ Chase
I discussed the implications of Jonbon’s performance at Sandown on December 3rd. As previously mentioned, Nicky Henderson’s star rookie chaser is now an underrated favorite for March’s Arkle and his triumphant run will not have gone unnoticed by anyone.
My guess is that runner-up Boothill ran his race in this first class chase as he jumped and traveled far before finally being left behind by the impressive looking winner.
If Jonbon’s time comparisons with the Tingle Creek winner are of interest, Boothill’s are far more intriguing.
The point here is that no one will have overlooked the impressive nature of Jonbon’s success and can see his success down eight lengths as proof of the superiority of a graded horse over a handicapper.
But what if Jonbon turns out to be as good as he’s currently rated?
It’s interesting, then, that Boothill was also faster than Edwardstone from the water jump (about halfway) to the line, and was significantly faster from the pond fence to the winning post.
If time comparisons are worth anything, they’re worth more when they contradict the wisdom of the crowd.
In that case, it’s possible, though far from certain, that Boothill will be underrated the next time we see him. Conversely, with Jonbon, there’s little chance of that being the case.
The final point is that many horses will run faster than a better horse the second half of a race if they ran much slower the first half.
In this case, Jonbon was only marginally slower than Edwardstone from the first fence to the winning post, which would mean the 148-rated Boothill ran the 170-rated Edwardstone to about nine lengths overall while gaining 3lbs.
If we were to take pounds and length literally, it would look very good on the Harry Fry-trained seven-year-old. I don’t know where Boothill will go next; However, I’m hoping he competes from his sub-150 mark further down in a top handicap chase.
Another interesting runner-up
I found L’Homme Presse super impressive when they won the rehearsal chase in late November. He is clearly a very talented horse and one that will be on my short list for the Cheltenham Gold Cup provided he gets the soft ground he needs.
The impressive nature of Jonbon’s recent success at Sandown drew a lot of attention from runners-up Boothill.
I personally hope the same thing happened here between L’Homme Presse and the horse that follows him home, Into Overdrive.
While Into Overdrive stayed strong and closed after the last one, there can be no doubt that the winner came out with something up their sleeve.
However, this runner-up drove very sharply and was still over the race at the 11th fence. He still completed six laps smoothly, but was then passed as the pace picked up on the next. His jockey didn’t panic and gave his horse the time he needed to get back into the running and was suitably rewarded with a second place finish to a very classy winner.
Into Overdrive got away with one here as the handicapper only added 4 pounds to it. He is a brilliant jumper and drives smoothly through his races. He’s one to look forward to over the winter.
If he were mine, I’d go to Rowland Meyrick Chase next. He won Overdrive last time at Wetherby, will appreciate what is likely to be a soft surface on Boxing Day and has shown himself to be good for three miles in this race.
Assess when to forgive an apparently poor performance
Eye-catchers come in all shapes and sizes, and those that seem to have done poorly are just as interesting as everyone else; especially when you think you can understand why they might have let you down.
I thought Kitty’s Light was placed very well by his trainer last time out. The two and three quarter mile drive around Newbury would never play to its strengths.
I like to recall my pre-race thoughts when judging the quality of a performance. At the same time, it’s equally important not to jump to the conclusion that your pre-race thoughts were correct just because the outcome of the race was what you predicted. Likewise when I start my studies on an upcoming race. If I have a horse in mind before beginning my research, I try especially hard to find reasons why that horse might be unsuitable for the day.
In this example with Kitty’s Light I think we have enough evidence that he is likely to show better form in spring competitions.
Whatever the reason, his performances in March and April over the past two seasons have been significantly better than anything else he has achieved earlier in the season.
The way Kitty’s Light was used in his first three chases of the season has caused him to drop from a 144 grade to his current rating of 137.
Last season he ran three times between Christmas and his spring campaign. If he does something similar this season he could be in the early 130s by the time he starts at Sandown in April. He finished second in the 2021 Bet365 Gold Cup while competing with 139. In 2022 he finished third while racing with a rating of 145.
He also ran very well when he finished second to stablemate Cap Du Nord at the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase in Kempton in late February 2022.
Whatever race his shrewd trainer has his sights set on him from February, Kitty’s Light appears to be competing on favorable terms compared to the past two seasons.