Andy Gibson's Eyecatchers Service: Jonbon, Boothill, Kitty's Light and more

Andy Gibson's Eyecatchers Service considers horses that may go under the radar for many, some obvious ones, and a few interesting performances from horses he may be keen to oppose on another day.

There is usually more upside to noting an interesting performance when you believe the majority are more likely to have missed it.

My Eyecatchers Service considers horses that may go under the radar for many, some obvious ones, and a few interesting performances from horses I may be keen to oppose on another day.

Spotting winning and losing efforts that may be underestimated or overestimated in the future can be key.

More fallout from the Henry VIII Novices' Chase

I discussed the implications of Jonbon's performance at Sandown on December 3. As mentioned previously, Nicky Henderson's star novice chaser is now a short priced favourite for the Arkle in March and his winning effort will have been missed by nobody.

In that grade one chase I suspect the runner-up Boothill ran his race as he jumped and travelled well before eventually being left behind by the impressive looking winner.

If Jonbon's time comparisons with the Tingle Creek winner are of some interest, then Boothill's are much more fascinating.

The point here is that nobody will have missed the impressive looking nature of Jonbon's success and may see his eight-length success as proof of the superiority of a graded horse over a handicapper.

However, what if Jonbon turns out to be as good as he is currently rated?

It is of interest, therefore, that Boothill was also faster than Edwardstone from the water jump (about half-way) to the line and considerably quicker from the Pond Fence to the winning post.

If time comparisons are worth anything, they are worth more when they contradict the wisdom of the crowd.

In this instance it is possible, though far from certain, that Boothill could be underestimated the next time we see him. Conversely, there is little to no chance of this being the case with Jonbon.

The final point to make is that many horses will run the second half of a race faster than a better horse if they have run much slower in the first half.

In this instance, Jonbon was only marginally slower than Edwardstone from the first fence to the winning post which would imply that the 148-rated Boothill ran the 170-rated Edwardstone to about nine lengths overall whilst in receipt of 3lbs.

If we wished to take pounds and lengths literally this would look very good for the Harry Fry-trained seven-year-old. I do not know where Boothill will be heading next; however, I am hoping to see him compete off his sub-150 mark in a top handicap chase further down the line.

Another interesting runner-up

I thought L'Homme Presse was super impressive when winning the Rehearsal Chase in late November. He is clearly a very talented horse and one that is on my shortlist for the Cheltenham Gold Cup providing he gets the soft ground he needs.

The impressive nature of Jonbon's recent success at Sandown took plenty of attention away from the runner-up Boothill.

Personally, I hope the same happened here between L'Homme Presse and the horse to follow him home, Into Overdrive.

Whilst Into Overdrive was staying on strongly and closing after the last there can be no doubt that the winner won with something up his sleeve.

That said, this runner-up raced in a very keen manner and was still over racing at the 11th fence. He was still travelling in a smooth manner six out but was then outpaced when the pace quickened at the next. His jockey did not panic and allowed his mount the necessary time to get back into the race and was rewarded accordingly with a second-place finish behind an extremely classy winner.

Into Overdrive has got away with one here as the handicapper has only raised him 4lbs. He is a brilliant jumper and travels smoothly through his races. He is one to look forward to over the winter.

If he were mine, I would be heading for the Rowland Meyrick Chase next. Into Overdrive won at Wetherby last time out, he will appreciate the likely soft ground on Boxing Day, and he proved he stays three miles well in this race.

Assessing when to forgive an apparently poor performance

Eyecatchers can come in all shapes and sizes and those that have performed in an apparently poor way are as interesting as any; especially when you believe you can understand why they may have disappointed.

I thought Kitty's Light was very well placed by his trainer last time out. The two- and three-quarter-mile trip round Newbury was never going to play to his strengths.

I like to remember my pre-race thoughts when assessing the quality of any performance. At the same time, it is equally important not to quickly conclude that your pre-race thoughts were correct simply because the outcome of the race was as you had predicted. Likewise, when beginning my studies on any upcoming race. If I have a horse in mind prior to commencing my research, I try extra hard to find reasons why the horse in question may be unsuited to the day.

In this example with Kitty's Light, I think we have sufficient evidence to suggest that he is likely to produce improved form when competing in the springtime.

For whatever reason, his performances in March and April in the last two seasons have been significantly better than anything else he has achieved earlier in the season.

The way Kitty's Light has been campaigned in his first three chases of the season has resulted in him being dropped from a mark of 144 to his current 137 rating.

Last season he ran three times between Xmas and his spring campaign. If he does something similar this season, he could be down to a mark in the early 130's by the time he competes at Sandown in April. He finished second in the 2021 Bet365 Gold Cup whilst competing off 139. In 2022 he completed in third place whilst racing off a 145 rating.

Furthermore, he ran extremely well when finishing as the runner up to his stable mate Cap Du Nord in the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton in late February 2022.

Whichever race his shrewd trainer targets him at from February onwards, Kitty's Light appears likely to be competing on favourable terms compared to the last two seasons.

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