Dan Overall's Eye-Catchers From Last Week's Action

Third Time Lucki was an impressive winner at Cheltenham on Friday.
Third Time Lucki was an impressive winner at Cheltenham on Friday.

We are delighted to welcome new columnist Dan Overall to the HorseRacing.net team, and he has been tasked with selecting the biggest eye-catchers from last week's action...

Thursday 21st October: 2:48 Newton Abbot – Might I (1st)

Making his hurdles debut in the same race that his stable mate and subsequent Grade 1 hero Metier won last season, Might I was well supported in the market throughout the day and he justified that confidence in fine style.

Keen in the early stages (as he was in both starts in bumper last season), Lorcan Murtagh elected to track the leader and had to resist cruising into the lead too soon following an excellent leap at the third from home. Still, it seemed a matter of time before Might I would sweep past the front-runner and he duly did just that with the minimum of fuss on the run to the second last. He quickened up very smartly thereafter, putting the race to bed comfortably in the manner of a very talented horse.

While only four of the seven runners finished, the second had won a bumper and represents top connections while Halo Des Obeaux, who was well beaten when falling at the last, has an official rating of 133 although that would seem high on recent evidence. The form of the race might not be top notch but the style of the victory was taking and it certainly confirmed the promise he showed in bumpers; he beat a next time out winner on debut and finished fifth in a red-hot listed race at Newbury despite reportedly not being right post-race.

A half-brother to Binge Drinker and Stattler who have both shown their best form over two-and-a-half miles to three-miles, Might I is bred to appreciate a step up in trip with Harry Fry noting on his website that “we are more likely to go up in trip with Might I” while also mentioning that there were no firm plans at this stage. However, due to his keen going nature and his inexperience I can envisage him sticking to shorter trips for now; in fact, he could well take the “Metier route” by going to Ascot for the Introductory Hurdle before heading to Sandown for the Tolworth. Regardless, Might I is an exciting prospect for the Fry yard and his win on Thursday was certainly one of the most impressive performances of the week.

Thursday 21st October: 4:15 Carlisle – The Paddy Pie (3rd)

Sue Smith wouldn’t be known for her early-season success but her winter horses are beginning to re-emerge after their breaks and have most have been shaping with plenty of encouragement. 

One such horse is The Paddy Pie, who finished third at Carlisle on what was just his second start going right-handed; and having watched the race, it is clear to see why they have kept him almost exclusively to left-handed tracks as he was constantly lugging out to his left, something which was confirmed by Ryan Mania to the stewards after the race.

Despite that, he ran a good race from the front and considering he has often improved significantly for his first run of the season, this was a very encouraging effort. Assuming he remains on his current mark of 117, he looks handicapped to strike when next seen going left-handed considering his three previous chase wins coming from marks of 121, 122 and 118.

Another for the Sue Smith team that is more than worthy of a mention is Midnight Shadow, who finished third in the Old Roan on Sunday. Bar a blunder at the second last, he may well have finished closer to the winner but this still rates as a very encouraging effort considering he often needs his first run of the season, the ground would have been on the quick side and he was last of those that finished in the race last year. It will be interesting to see if the handicapper nudges him up at all but if left unchanged, he could feasibly head back to the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, which he finished second in last season and he’d be running off a two-pound lower mark this time.

Friday 22nd October: 2:30 Cheltenham – Third Time Lucki (1st)

Highly tried and perhaps a tad frustrating over hurdles last season, Third Time Lucki duly rewarded those that kept the faith with a dazzling display on his chasing debut. 

Having raced enthusiastically throughout, his slick jumping took him to the lead upon jumping the seventh fence, after which Harry Skelton never looked back, baring one quick look between his legs on the turn for home when he realised that his rivals were a distance behind him. The winning distance was only eight-and-a-half lengths in the end, with Buddy Rich staying on to finish a clear second but that undersells the level of his dominance.

As is the nature of the National Hunt spectacle, we were inundated with Arkle quotes mere seconds after Third Time Lucki crossed the line, with 20/1 being the first show. In truth, I was expecting shorter given how ante-post markets have been in recent times and clearly others agreed with me since, at the time of writing, he is now a 14/1 shot. While that would not be of any interest to me from a punting perspective, I think a few have been using that price as a stone at which they can throw at Third Time Lucki and his future prospects, which to me is rather unfair. Ultimately, what we saw on Friday was an ultra-impressive chasing debut and I struggle to see how any jumps fan could watch that race and fail to be impressed. Admittedly, his main market rivals did disappoint but you couldn’t help but be taken by his enthusiasm and if that remains, he has a bright chasing career ahead.

Dan Skelton also has My Drogo to unleash over fences this term but they are unlikely to clash, with the trainer noting that Third Time Lucki is “a pure two-miler” while My Drogo is likely to be campaigned over intermediate trips.

March is a very long time away and while it is very exciting to talk about the Festival, Third Time Lucki has plenty of tests ahead of him before then, with the Henry VIII mooted as a likely mid-season target. 

Friday 22nd October: 3:40 Cheltenham – Torn and Frayed (3rd)

The outsider of five for what was a competitive Novices’ Handicap, there was a lot to like about Torn and Frayed’s chasing debut and there are certainly races to be won with him over fences.

Ridden patiently by Sam Twiston-Davies, his jumping was fairly good for a novice and he still appeared to hold every chance as the front four motored down towards the third from home but he appeared to get slightly outpaced on the downhill run to that fence. To his credit, he rallied well and after briefly looking as though he would be beaten by quite some distance, he stayed on into third and was only three lengths down at the line.

Considering he was against some classy, race-fit rivals, this was a very encouraging effort and while he always looked as though he would make a better chaser (cliché alert), it does look as if he will surpass his hurdles form over the larger obstacles. He should be capable of landing a similar event over an intermediate trip although he is completely unexposed over further and it would certainly look as though it could bring about some improvement. It is also worth noting that unlike a lot of Nigel Twiston-Davies horses, Torn and Frayed has often come on for his first run after a break which is another reason to have him in mind when he is next seen out on track.

Saturday 23rd October: 5:15 Cheltenham – Aucunrisque (4th) and Dalamoi (5th)

Perhaps my bias is shining through here as I was keen on both of these before the season begun, but I was delighted with both of them on Saturday; they have very different profiles and ran very different races at Cheltenham yet they are united by the fact that they remain exciting prospects for this season and for years to come. While this may not have been the deepest renewal of this particular bumper, it is sure to produce its fair share of winners in the months ahead.

Aucunrisque had the unenviable task of carrying a penalty for his emphatic victory at Stratford earlier in the month. The form of that victory is not worth much but he travelled extremely well that day and he replicated that at Cheltenham; in fact, you could argue that he went too well as Tom Cannon found himself in front far sooner than he would’ve liked. Having coasted to the lead with half a mile remaining, he led all the way until the final 150 yards where he was dragged across the track by the strong finishing Top Dog, eventually finishing fourth (although I still struggle to understand why the placings weren’t altered given how dramatically left Top Dog took Aucunrisque). 

Either way, it was a very pleasing effort and it capped a productive two days for Chris Gordon, who noted after the race that Aucunrisque will probably be sent hurdling although he could be one for listed bumpers if they decide otherwise. Quite compact compared to others in the parade ring, he possesses plenty of pace and he can make an impact over hurdles over the minimum trip. His trainer had an excellent crop of novice hurdlers last season and proved adept at placing them so I’m sure Aucunrisque will be found plenty of suitable opportunities in the coming months.

In contrast to Aucunrisque, Dalamoi looked huge in the parade ring and despite only being a four-year-old, I’m sure connections are already looking forward to the day he goes over fences, especially when you consider that he’s related to the like of Don Poli and Debece. 

Prominent throughout, Dalamoi did best of those up with the pace and despite being headed by Aucunrisque, Dalamoi galloped on strongly which perhaps isn’t surprising given his stout pedigree. In reality, a good ground bumper was never going to see him to best effect and he also looked as though he would come on for the run so this was a very pleasing effort. Being a four-year-old, he has time on his side although I imagine connections will now send him over hurdles where stepping up in trip on softer ground will likely suit. He’s a chaser in the making but there are races to be won with him over hurdles first. 

Dan Overall's Eye-Catchers:

Might I
- The Paddy Pie
- Third Time Lucki
- Torn And Frayed
- Dalamoi

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