Dan Overall Eye-catchers: Four horses for the notebook after a busy weekend of racing
It was great to see Interne De Sivola, who was flagged in the third edition of this column, win very impressively at Cheltenham in a competitive looking race. As noted then, Nick Williams knows his juvenile hurdlers and they often improve significantly for their first outing. I wouldn’t be rushing to back him for the Triumph just yet. Nick Williams has only had two runners in that race since 2009; both were well beaten but proved to be very good horses in the long term. Perhaps he may prove to be more of a Fred Winter type in the short term, which the yard won back in 2017 with Flying Tiger.
There were a few impressive performances that shook up the Cheltenham ante-post markets, with Stattler earning plenty of plaudits following a very impressive chasing debut. He’s been on many people’s radars for the National Hunt Chase before he’d even jumped a fence in public and I’m sure those that took double figure prices before his chasing debut are very happy right now. Currently disputing favouritism at 5/1 with Run Wild Fred, I would be favouring the latter at this stage given his experience which has consistently proved vital when it comes to the National Hunt Chase. Furthermore, Stattler didn’t look short of pace over the intermediate trip and I wonder if he really needs a thorough stamina test given that he seemed to find three-miles a stretch last season.
Others to note include My Drogo who showed plenty of quirks when winning a modest enough race in a fairly slow time. He clearly possesses a good engine but given how he was overly bold at some fences and wandering around on the approach to others, I wouldn’t be keen on the 7/1 currently available for the newly renamed Turners Novices’ Chase.
Blue Lord also impressed on his debut over fences, further strengthening Willie Mullins hand in the two-mile novice chase division; he has something to find with the likes of Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It on hurdles form, but he looked a natural chaser and perhaps the larger obstacles will close that gap.
Now, let’s move on to some handicappers!
Friday 10th December – 3:35 Cheltenham – Shannon Bridge (9th)
A dual winner in heavy ground last season, Shannon Bridge has hardly been in inspiring form so far this term and despite, once again, failing to beat a rival home, he did at least show up well for a long way here unlike in previous starts.
Prominent throughout, it did look for a long time as though he may play a hand in the finish despite his lofty price until he faded quite rapidly inside the final furlong. Although he would eventually finish last, he certainly put in a more promising display and hinted that a return to form might not be too far away.
Notably, his three most recent wins have all been in testing conditions while sporting a tongue-tie with either cheekpieces or blinkers on to boot. He has been headgear-less on all four starts this season and every run has been on ground that would have been quicker than ideal.
I am writing this before the handicap marks are reassessed but when he is inevitably dropped a few pounds for his run on Friday, he will be below his last winning mark of 133 and he may even be dropped enough to allow him to run in 0-130s, which will make finding a winnable opportunity for him a tad easier.
He’s certainly one to keep in your trackers for when the tongue-tie and blinkers are refitted. Soft ground is also ideal while he may also appreciate dropping back to an intermediate trip.
Saturday 11th December – 1:50 Cheltenham – Deyrann De Carjac (5th)
While Zanza was the obvious eyecatcher having made up an impressive amount of ground from the rear, I fear he may be one that always threatens to land a big prize but his jumping will always hold him back; and he’ll also go up a few pounds for finishing second.
Instead, Deyrann De Carjac may be the one to take from the race after backing up his encouraging run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Held up as is often the way with him, his jumping was far from foot perfect and he made a serious blunder down the back straight which would have certainly taken a bit out of him. Despite these setbacks, he looked a threat as they approached the second last, trading at a low of 3/1 in running having closed to within three lengths. He couldn’t quite go through with his effort, eventually finishing thirteen lengths back in fifth but there was a lot to like about this run.
He’s struggled to hit the heights of his promising novice chase campaign back in 2019/20 but his last two runs in competitive handicaps this term have hinted that he may be close to returning to that sort of form. He’s beginning to look like a well handicapped horse and I don’t think Cheltenham has seen him to best effect. He needs good ground (which hasn’t exactly been in short supply this season) and he would be of interest if reverting to a flatter, sharper track in a handicap over an intermediate trip.
Saturday 11th December – 3:35 Cheltenham – Wynn House (4th)
Quite well fancied for what looked to be a very open mares’ handicap, Wynn House never really threatened after making a few jumping errors and getting detached at a relatively early stage. However, she finished off her race strongly and there would still appear to be room to work with from her current mark.
She won at Wincanton in the manner of a thorough stayer and following her run at Cheltenham, it would appear that she is ready for another attempt at three miles; although her first two attempts at this trip ended in defeat, they came in Grade 2 and listed company and she was far from disgraced on either occasion. With another summer on her back, it would be no surprise if three miles was to prove her optimal trip.
Sunday 12th December – 2:10 Carlisle – Bass Rock (5th)
An entire article could be dedicated to the running of each Pertemps qualifier given the shenanigans that often occur.
In this case, I am not flagging Bass Rock with a view to the final despite the fact that he has qualified; rather, I think he will be very interesting once stepped back in trip.
Sent off the well backed 6/4 favourite, his backers would have been happy for the majority of the contest as he appeared to be going very well in a handy position. However, once push came to shove, he was quickly back peddling up the Carlisle hill, and he eventually finished twelve lengths adrift in fifth.
It was as a similar story on his previous run which also came over three miles. While it would have been hasty to dismiss him as a non-stayer on that evidence alone, his most recent effort at Carlisle would suggest that three miles does stretch him.
His trainer, Sandy Thomson, did flag his stamina concern pre-race; he noted that “we think he’ll stay unless the ground gets soft”. The ground did appear to soften throughout the day and perhaps that sealed his fate, although I’m not sure better ground would’ve changed the result.
Still just a five-year-old, there would appear to be plenty of upside with Bass Rock and a drop back to an intermediate trip would a wise move at this stage of his career. He should be capable of winning again over hurdles and I can envisage him becoming a lovely chaser in time.