Dan Overall Eye-catchers: Cheltenham pointers aplenty with one real standout performer

Constitution Hill soared to the top of the Supreme market with a fine Tolworth win
Constitution Hill soared to the top of the Supreme market with a fine Tolworth win

The Christmas decorations are back gathering dust in the loft, 2022 is well underway and the post-festive lull is here. This period wouldn’t be lauded as the most action-packed in terms of racing, but there were some taking performances which I will discuss shortly.

Before that, I thought it would be a good time to discuss how the eye-catchers column has performed over the past few months.

Prior to this piece, 54 horses have been flagged across 11 editions of this column. 22 of those are yet to run again. Of the 32 that have run, 14 have won, with Red Rookie and Signal Point adding themselves to that roll of honour in the past seven days. While some of those winners have returned at prohibitively short odds, the likes of Midnight Shadow and Interne De Sivola have won at decent prices at Cheltenham. 

I hope, going forward, this column can continue to provide value and with March looming, perhaps we may unearth some Cheltenham winners, too.

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Thursday 6th January – 12:20 Clonmel – Dinoblue (1st) 

Willie Mullins’ reputation with mares precedes him, and for good reason. In fact, upon browsing the market for the Mares’ Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Closutton trainer is responsible for five of the six horses currently trading at 10/1 or shorter.

One of those is Dinoblue, who catapulted herself into festival contention with a very smooth victory on her hurdling debut. The half-sister to Blue Sari was well backed before the off and she never looked in any danger; she travelled powerfully, jumped well and quickened up well when asked to lead home a Mullins 1-2-3. She was conceding experience to both of her stablemates, adding further to the impressive nature of this performance. 

She certainly looks like the type that’s ready to step up in grade and her presence adds to an already deep division. Perhaps the only question you would ask at this stage, with a view to the spring, would be how she’ll handle the better ground given this win came on heavy.

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Saturday 8th January – 12:20 Wincanton – Mini Yeats (3rd)

A fairly innocuous looking maiden hurdle, but the performance of Mini Yeats would have certainly encouraged his connections.

The unraced son of Yeats has a useful pedigree but opened at 66/1, in part due to his relatively unknown connections. However, there was plenty of support for him during the day and his eventual SP was 12/1.

And while he didn’t get his head in front, he certainly justified that market support. Held up in the early stages, he showed his inexperience on occasions and having looked outpaced down the backstraight, he made strong progress from the rear under a determined Charlie Price. The front three looked to have drawn clear of the remainder, but Mini Yeats continued to make headway in the straight and despite being five lengths adrift of the trio at the last and drifting markedly left, he managed to grab third, just three lengths behind the winner.

Given his pedigree and the way he shaped on debut, you imagine he will appreciate a step up in trip in time but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he kept to the minimum distance for now before inevitably going up once tackling handicaps.

He’s one to have in your trackers and given his lesser known connections, he might fly under the radar and pop up at a decent price.

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Saturday 8th January – 2:25 Sandown – Constitution Hill (1st)

This is not the type of horse I typically mention in this column but I must make an exception for this performance by Constitution Hill.

His debut over hurdles was breath-taking, both visually and on the clock, and he came into the Tolworth as a short-priced favourite that was only 4/1 for the Supreme.

The heavy ground was a slight unknown, with Nico De Boinville stating that “you’d need a sail” to get through it. And on a day where many were crawling to the finish, Constitution Hill was sprinting in the manner of a special horse.

On what we have seen so far, he has everything you look for in a top-class prospect; he travels powerfully without pulling, his jumping is accurate and when asked for a bit more, the response is immediate and emphatic. And to boot, he is now proven on contrasting ground conditions; like many a top-class horse before him, he would appear very versatile in terms of conditions. 

He now heads the market for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with Jonbon & Sir Gerhard close behind him. When you throw the likes of Mighty Potter and My Mate Mozzie in there too, this could be a vintage renewal of the festival opener.

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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