Dan Overall's Cheltenham Festival Eye-Catchers: Five horses to take away from Cheltenham

Dan Overall looks back at a fabulous 2022 Cheltenham Festival
Dan Overall looks back at a fabulous 2022 Cheltenham Festival

Having now had time to mull over last week's Cheltenham Festival action, our regular columnist Dan Overall has picked out some horses that really caught his eye, who didn't taste victory during the four days...

Tuesday 15th March – 4:50 Cheltenham (Fred Winter) – Swinging London (6th)

Sent off a completely unfancied 80/1 shot (Perhaps being British trained and coming here after a run at Fakenham isn’t exactly appealing to punters), Swinging London was ridden with extreme restraint and was certainly hindered by the relatively modest pace.

Effectively in last for the first mile, he could be seen travelling strongly on the inside but he only had a couple behind him as the field jumped the third from home. Switched wide by Aidan Coleman on the run to the second from home, he did begin to pick up but he had no chance of threatening the leaders given how the race unfolded. Still about thirteenth as they turned for home, he was the only one to make meaningful progress from the rear, staying on well to finish a never nearer sixth. 

Given how he travelled through the race, you’d be hopeful that he could land a handicap from his current mark of 124, especially in a stronger run race.

An honourable mention must also be given to Gaelic Warrior, who was a big talking horse in the build up and was duly hammered in the betting on the day; he had the run of the race, but he did jump out to his right and perhaps his relative inexperience just cost him on this occasion. Still, there is no doubting that he was well handicapped off 129 and I suspect he will be given a full season as a novice in 2022/2023. It would be no surprise to see him line-up in the Ballymore next season.

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Grand National Odds

Wednesday 16th March – 2:50 Cheltenham (Coral Cup) – Camprond (4th)

The deluge of rain on Wednesday certainly scuppered the chances of many that came here hoping for good, spring ground.

One such runner was Camprond, who had been purposely given a mid-season break with a spring campaign in mind. Given how he needs a sounder surface to be seen to best effect, Camprond ran remarkably well to finish fourth in a gruelling renewal of the Coral Cup, in which very few runners got competitive. I was very interested in him for this race before the rain came and, to be honest, I thought he might be pulled out once it became clear just how testing the ground was.

With his mark likely to remain unchanged, he will be of major interest in a handicap over an intermediate trip; the 2m4f handicap at Aintree could well be on the agenda.

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Thursday 17th March – 4:50 Cheltenham (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) – Grangee (3rd)

The build up to this race often involves a lot of talk about Willie Mullins and for good reason; this season, Allegorie De Vassy & Brandy Love were amongst the most discussed of his runners, but with both of them missing the race for differing reasons, Grangee was the one left to represent the Solerina form line.

Given a patient ride by Paul Townend, she could be seen going ominously well throughout, checking off rivals one by one but she was still about fourteenth as the field turned for home. She came right round the outside to try and bridge the gap, just as the eventual winner had surged to the front. She closed the deficit to just three lengths at the last, and while she kept to her task well, she just couldn’t bridge the gap on route to a never-nearer third. 

Being patiently ridden in this race often pays dividends in this race but on this occasion, I think she was given too much to do given the winner had assured stamina and conditions to suit.

Regardless, this must go down as a very promising effort and the 2m4f Grade 1 Mares Novice Hurdle Final at Fairyhouse next month would be the obvious next step; if she can prove her stamina, that will open up plenty of opportunities for her next season.

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Friday 18th March – 1:30 Cheltenham (Triumph) – Il Etait Temps (5th)

Vauban landed a notable scalp for this column (having been flagged with this race in mind after his hurdling debut) by duly running out an impressive winner despite an errant jump at the last.

His stablemate, Il Etait Temps, who was also flagged in this column after his previous run, yet again caught my eye despite not improving for his last effort as much as I would have hoped.

Very keen early on, he was still throwing his head around at the halfway mark, giving Danny Mullins a torrid time; there are few better at riding a keen horse than Danny Mullins, as he proved this week, so if couldn’t get him to settle by halfway then you know the horse is really pulling hard.

Despite that, he was still in touch on the turn for home and he did briefly threaten to get involved in the finish on the run to the final flight, but his early exertions caught up with him as he eventually finished fairly well beaten in fifth.

To run as well as he did despite his inexperience is a testament to the horses ability and once they can get him to settle, he could be top-class. Given he remains a maiden over hurdles, I suspect that he will be given another go at Grade 1 level at Punchestown – if he fails to win, he will be a fascinating prospect as a novice hurdler next season. There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree and I suspect he will thrive over further in time.

Friday 18th March – 2:50 Cheltenham (Albert Bartlett) – Ballygrifincottage (4th)

I was at the pre-parade before the Albert Bartlett and two horses really caught my eye; Hillcrest, who we know is a stunning horse to look at, and Ballygrifincottage.

I wouldn’t be the shrewdest paddock judge in the world, so take that with a pinch of salt, but I really liked what I saw on the track, too.

Ridden in dead-last for much of the race, Ballygrifincottage began to check them off one by one although he was still about fourteenth upon jumping the third last. Tenth when he jumped the second last, he made very good headway on the run for home once asked for an effort, keeping on well to finish a respectable fourth, the best of the British. 

He didn’t quite have the pace of the front two but there was a lot to like about the way he travelled through the race and the way he stayed on to the line. Given that was only his third run over hurdles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him line-up in the Sefton at Aintree, in which he would have a good chance. However, as a three-time point-to-point winner, his future certainly lies over fences and I can see him taking high-rank amongst the staying novice chaser’s next season. The National Hunt Chase could be tailormade for him.

Grand National 2022
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