Dan Overall Eye-catchers: Back this 20/1 shot for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham

Cheltenham Generic Hurdles Shot_1

Another fascinating week of action has come and gone, with plenty of impressive performances to enjoy and applaud. 

It was great to see three of my “eyecatchers” from the first iteration of this weekly column out again at Cheltenham, with Third Time Lucki winning the Grade 2 Novice Chase, while Midnight Shadow ran out an impressive winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Aucunrisque couldn’t quite complete the hat-trick in the concluding listed bumper but he remains a horse of significant promise. 

Monday 8th November – Monday 12:30 Carlisle – Nurse Susan (1st)

The first National Hunt race of the week saw a quite remarkable performance from the newcomer, Nurse Susan.

Very well backed prior to the off, Dan Skelton’s mare lacked racecourse experience but you certainly wouldn’t have known it based on the way she carried herself through the race. Having travelled and jumped smoothly in midfield for much of the contest, she began to make impressive headway down the back before mounting her challenge on the approach to two out. Once Harry Skelton asked her for more, the response was imminent and she quickly pulled away from Hidor De Bresy, with the second finishing seventeen lengths clear of the remainder. Hidor De Bresy is another good prospect having come into this, his hurdles debut, having won a bumper on his only previous start under rules, but Nurse Susan just looked a class above.

Dan Skelton has been waxing lyrical about his mare ever since, noting that “she’s something a bit special” following the race, while he latter commented that he thinks she is better than Colm Donlon’s other mare, Hardkore, who beat the smart bumper horse Good Risk At All on her rules debut.

Nurse Susan certainly doesn’t lack speed and her pedigree contains plenty of pace, and so it’s not surprising that that her trainer is already contemplating the Mares’ Novices' Hurdle at the Festival, with her next run scheduled to be at Cheltenham in December over the same course and distance as the March equivalent. Quite whether she’s precocious enough for a race of that nature remains to be seen, but she is certainly an exciting long-term prospect for team Skelton.

Wednesday 10th November – 1:10 Exeter – Triple Trade (4th)

Having ran with plenty of credit on his first two starts over hurdles, Triple Trade continued his upward trajectory with an improved effort to finish fourth here in what may turn out to be a very strong novice hurdle. The Tizzard team won the race with Jpr One, with the Persian War runner up, Luttrell Lad back in second while the highly touted I Am Maximus was in third. While the front three were only separated by a length, Triple Trade ran superbly to get to within three lengths of them, pulling twenty lengths clear of the remainder. 

With that run behind him, he will now be allocated a handicap mark and he will now be of significant interest when switched to handicaps. In fact, Colin Tizzard noted in a recent stable tour that “we’ll get a handicap mark and then he’ll be winning”.

All of his starts thus far have come over trips ranging from two-miles to two-miles-and-two-furlongs but his pedigree and run style would suggest that stepping up in trip would bring about further improvement. In time, I expect him to make up into a very decent three-mile chaser, but he is certainly capable of winning over the smaller obstacles in the interim.

Saturday 13th November – 2:15 Cheltenham – Galahad Quest (5th)

Two weeks ago, Galahad Quest earned a spot in this column following a very promising reappearance. I noted in that piece that the Paddy Power Gold Cup was a feasible target and while he fell just short for those that heeded my words, there was plenty to like about his run and more than enough to suggest that he can win a big handicap down the line. 

Held up amongst horses, a tactic which isn’t frequently successful in handicap chases on the old course, he began to make gradual headway down the back but still found himself in tenth upon jumping the fourth from home. As the field picked up the pace coming down the hill, Galahad Quest just couldn’t latch on to the leading group but he stayed on creditably to finish a never nearer fifth.

Given that he’s proven on softer going, it could be that the sound surface at Cheltenham just found him out slightly but that does bode well for his prospects during the winter. That was only his fifth start over fences and this lightly-raced five-year-old remains a horse to keep onside. 

I’m doubling down by having him on this list again but I am convinced that he will have his day in the sun in the not-so-distant future.

Sunday 14th November – 2:55 Cheltenham – No Ordinary Joe (3rd)

While assessing the Greatwood, No Ordinary Joe was amongst the first I dismissed as a betting proposition, primarily due to his short price and his lack of experience for a race of this nature.

Despite my scepticism, I was very impressed by his performance and while he didn’t get his head in front, he did confirm that he is a horse with plenty of potential.

Having raced keenly in front throughout, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually fade out of contention. And yet, as the field jumped the second last and made the turn for home, No Ordinary Joe was seemingly going as well as anything. He would eventually give way to West Cork with Adagio emerging from the rear to take second, but No Ordinary Joe certainly didn’t fade away and his finishing effort was very impressive considering how keen he was. 

His performance is all the more impressive considering it was his first run for six months while his last two runs were merely canters against vastly inferior opposition. 

This is a horse thought worthy of making his hurdles debut in Grade 2 company so his talent has clearly been evident for some time, but he might just start to realise that potential in the coming months. He will have to settle better in the future but if he does, he will be a major player in top two-mile handicap hurdles, with the County Hurdle being a potential target for connections that love a festival handicap.

Sunday 14th November – 3:15 Punchestown – Folcano (6th)

Is there anything more sacred in jumps racing than a 6th place finish in a Pertemps qualifier? The answer is categorically, no.

Of course, I jest, but history has taught us to look at those who finish closer to 6th than 1st in a qualifier when looking for the Pertemps Final winner.

Step forward, Folcano, who just snatched sixth in this Punchestown qualifier. Gordon Elliott loves a Cheltenham handicap and the Pertemps is no exception so it wasn’t too surprising to see him run seven here in what is one of only two Irish qualifiers for this season’s final. He saddled a 1-2-5-6, too, which is an unsurprisingly impressive effort.

Folcano stood out to me as the most likely to be a Cheltenham contender for a few reasons. Firstly, this is just his second season under rules having been a fair novice hurdler last term, so there is still plenty of scope for improvement. Also, this horse was just a 15/2 chance for the Martin Pipe last season where he fell at the first, and so perhaps connections feel there is unfinished business over hurdles. After all, Folcano has some very strong point-to-point form in the book and he would certainly be capable of going chasing, so the fact that they’re keeping him over the smaller obstacles à la The Bosses Oscar could be significant. 

Gordon Elliott also listed him as a “dark horse” to follow in a recent stable tour, with the three-mile handicap hurdle at Navan in early December listed as a potential early season target; that race was won by subsequent Stayers’ Hurdle hero, Flooring Porter, last season; and guess who finished second? It’s that horse again – The Bosses Oscar. 

Folcano will probably need to go up a few pounds in order to guarantee a run in the Pertemps Final (even accounting for the standard Irish mark inflation), and so a good run at Navan would be preferable if indeed they do have one eye on Cheltenham. 20/1 is available for the Final at the time of writing, and while punting on festival handicaps in November won’t be for everyone, I can certainly envisage a reality where he’s half that price by the turn of the year.

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