Andy Gibson's Eyecatchers Service: Saint Roi and three others to watch

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There is usually more upside to noting an interesting performance when you believe the majority are more likely to have missed it. Spotting winning and losing efforts that may be underestimated or overestimated in the future can be key. Below are Andy's notes on five horses that he believes put up noteworthy performances on the opening day of the Aintree Festival.

Saint Roi

I thought his mistake at the tenth fence might help him to settle. Unfortunately, this was not the case as he was still over-racing around the final bend. He probably just about lasted home; that said, I would not be in a hurry to back him over this trip on another day, especially in a small field chase where he is more likely to pull hard again. This race was a slowly run affair compared with the Aintree Bowl which was run an hour later. He was less than half a length down at the last fence before being outstayed by the winner who eventually finished a cosy length and a half in front. Although he would likely settle better given a faster gallop; at the same time, he would be no certainty to see out this trip in a true run race.

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Stage Star

Unlike at Cheltenham, he did not put in a clean round of jumping here. He tried to make all but had the eventual winner in close attendance throughout. He put down at the last in the back straight which was the first sign of all not being well. He was then low and went through the top of the cross fence which is four from home. Once headed after the third last fence he dropped away quickly to finish 15 lengths behind the winner at the line. I doubt he is the most resolute in a finish, which is something I want to remember when he next competes in a race where he is unable to acquire such an easy lead as the one he managed at Cheltenham. Perhaps this poor finishing effort was just as much a response to the effort of that festival win in March. Either way, he is a horse likely to look very good on a going day and be overbet as a consequence; especially if not enjoying a long break between races.

Douglas Talking

I thought he coped admirably well with this jumping test in a more competitive race. He was certainly more efficient than I thought he might be. The form of this race is very strong for the 2024 renewal and, conversely, I will remain open-minded regarding its quality when faced with a different set of conditions. In his case, he is an inexperienced and improving chaser and one that should be difficult to peg back in the right race next season.

Before Midnight

Along with his stable mate Grey Diamond who finished next to him, he was found out by the long run from the second last fence to the last. It was a similar story in the 2022 renewal of this chase. I suspect that the lead is simply too fast and busy for him compared with a smaller field chase where he can dominate. He is beginning to look very well handicapped for a return to a small field chase at Ascot on decent ground early next season.

Dads Lad

Although the ground was as he would have liked, the way the race panned out did nothing for the holdup horses I am happy to draw a line through this run and remain of the view that he is well handicapped for a decent two-mile, good ground chase next season; even more so as the handicapper has finally relented and dropped him to 137.

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