Dan Overall Eye-catchers: A potential Grand Annual contender for Paul Nicholls catches the eye

Magic Saint for Paul Nicholls could be an exciting spring prospect.
Magic Saint for Paul Nicholls could be an exciting spring prospect.

Another week in the books and I am pleased to report that it was another good week for the eyecatcher alumni.

Aucunrisque ran out an emphatic winner on his handicap debut in what looked a strong race on paper; don’t be surprised if this progressive young hurdler is lining up in some of the more competitive handicaps in the spring.

Floueur recorded his first victory over the larger obstacles, despite jumping the last “like a bag of hammers”. In case you didn’t see the race, Jerry Hannon’s comments were entirely accurate and while Floueur is capable of the occasional blunder, he’s up to landing a good staying handicap chase down the line; I flagged him as a potential Kim Muir candidate in this column and I’m not surprised to see he now heads that market. 

Torn and Frayed & Galahad Quest landed a 1-2 at Cheltenham on Trials Day while Vauban’s reputation was enhanced when Pied Piper coasted home in the Triumph Hurdle Trial. Vauban was 25/1 for the Triumph after his debut but is now in to 9/2; he’ll line up at the Dublin Racing Festival in a race that will determine whether that short price is justified.

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Wednesday 26th January – 2:20 Wincanton – Certainly Red (2nd)

This small field novice chase looked a match on paper, with Danny Kirwan matching up with Jay Bee Why. The former ran out the ready winner, but with a view to handicaps down the line, there was a lot to like about the run of Certainly Red

Rated far inferior to the aforementioned duo, Lydia Richards’s eight-year-old faced a stiff task on his chasing debut and showed his inexperience with a few novicey leaps. And yet, while he was no match for Danny Kirwan, he finished a fair second and he would have been further clear of Jay Bee Why had he not made a bad mistake three from home.

It’s also worth noting that this race was over an intermediate trip but his best performances over hurdles have all come over three miles and beyond. 

While his jumping will need to slicken up, he can land a handicap chase when eased in grade and up in trip.

Cheltenham Tips

Saturday 29th January – 12:15 Cheltenham – Hystery Bere (3rd)

Having set off in midfield, Hystery Bere lost his position at an early stage and soon found himself in rear and seemingly not going as well as his rivals.

As the field made the turn for home, about three lengths separated the main group, but while Hystery Bere was last but one and slightly detached with Aidan Coleman hard at work. To his credit, he kept responding to his jockey’s urgings and after coming up the far side, he eventually finished a never nearer third which was fairly remarkable given how the race panned out for him.

His best form in this country has come on testing ground and perhaps the quicker conditions caught him out and had him on the backfoot here. With that in mind, he will be of interest on slower ground while the way he finished on this occasion would suggest that a step up in trip would suit.

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Saturday 29th January – 1:40 Fairyhouse – Grangee (Fell)

In what appeared to be a shootout between three Mullins mares’, Allegorie De Vassy emerged victorious from Brandy Love in second. 

The former was given a nice ride and was far more straightforward than the runner up, who was jumping erratically left out in front. To her credit, Brandy Love did remarkably well to finish as close as she did given how poorly she jumped and she clearly has a big engine. These two now head the market for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 7/2 and 5/1, respectively. 

But perhaps the other member of the Mullins trio, Grangee, is being overlooked. Given a more patient ride than her two stablemates, she was being squeezed along to close on the turn for home but had made up ground on the eventual winner when taking a very soft fall at the second from home. I am of the view that, had she not stumbled on landing, she would have gone very close to winning.

And with a view to Cheltenham, Allegorie De Vassy will now carry a 5lbs penalty for this victory while Grangee will not. Furthermore, patient rides often suit over hurdles on the new course so that would also be in her favour. Many will see Brandy Love as the one to take out of this race and while I do think she has the most talent of the three, her wild jumping would not have me rushing to back her; going left-handed will help, but she’s going to have hug the inside rail throughout and there are sections of the new course at Cheltenham with no rail on the inside after the hurdle.

With that in mind, Grangee appeals as the one to be with and I am amazed that she is as big as 16/1 (in a place) for Cheltenham.

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Saturday 29th January – 1:55 Cheltenham – Magic Saint (6th)

January is often a quiet period for Paul Nicholls as his horses are given mind-winter flu jab. This often results in a reduction in runners and winners; this year is no exception.

While a couple of odds-on shots have kept the win count ticking over, there have been a few disappointments and the performance of the yards runners on Saturday would have certainly not been what they were hoping for. From ten runners, only the even money shot Miranda managed a place.

However, the horse to finish closest to the winner was Magic Saint, who finished ten-lengths behind Torn and Frayed in sixth. In truth, he never appeared to be going all that well and it was rather surprising that he still held a chance on the turn for home. His effort eventually flattened out, as it often has done over intermediate trips, but there were positives to take from the run.

His mark has steadily been declining and having been beaten here off 147, he will inevitably go down a couple more pounds. It wasn’t all that long ago that he won off 152, beating Fanion D’Estruval who was running off 150. That came over two-miles and while he has run reasonably well over intermediate trips, I’ve never been convinced that he stays.

With that in mind, I hope that decide to go for the Grand Annual, a race he was sent off favourite for in 2019 (now 25/1 for 2022 renewal). He has plenty of form around Cheltenham, he’s approaching a career-low mark and Paul Nicholls is no stranger to success in the race.

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