Dan Overall Eye-catchers: Five horses to follow including a possible Fred Winter contender

Dan Overall's Eye-Catchers: Joseph O'Brien could have a smart juvenile on his hands
Dan Overall's Eye-Catchers: Joseph O'Brien could have a smart juvenile on his hands

Dan Overall is back with his weekly column, as he picks out some horses that have caught his eye during the last week in racing. Check out which horses are worth putting in your trackers here...

Thursday 2nd December – 14:45 Wincanton – Honneur D’Ajonc (2nd)

A horse that’s been a work in progress ever since showing up well in some very competitive juvenile hurdles last season, Honneur D’Ajonc has been busy and progressive so far this season and his second-place finish on handicap debut represented another positive step in the right direction.

Very easy to back, I did actually fancy him to run well in what appeared to be a very open contest, but the concern was the drop back to two-miles which didn’t seem sure to suit.

And my concern proved to be valid, as Honneur D’Ajonc stayed on very strongly without ever threatening the winner who made all on route to a comfortable success.

Jane Williams has a 37.5% strike rate with her runners lining up in a handicap hurdle for the second time (three wins from eight runners; small sample so take this with a pinch of salt) and I expect her to find a suitable opportunity for her talented four-year-old, with a step back to an intermediate trip hopefully on the agenda.

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Friday 3rd December – 12:55 Exeter – Dubrovnik Harry (3rd)

Described as a “lovely, big type” in the paddock, Dubrovnik Harry showed a lot of immaturity on his racecourse debut, but the way he finished his race off would suggest that he has a fair amount of ability.

Settled amongst horses towards the rear of the field, he jumped markedly right at the first and it was evident from an early stage that he would learn an awful lot from the experience.

As the field swung for home, Dubrovnik Harry was still in ninth but could be spotted widest of all and making good headway under the minimal urgings of Lorcan Murtagh. His less-than-slick jumping continued to hinder his progress but he still galloped on strongly to finish a never-nearer third. The winner looks a useful type for Jane Williams and already had some smart hurdles form in the book while the runner up was race-fit and has some decent bumper form to his name.

Dubrovnik Harry was the only runner to make up any notable ground from the rear and despite flaws in his jumping, this was a very promising start to his career. He is bound to improve from this and while I have little doubt that he has enough ability to be winning races sooner rather than later, it would not be surprising if Harry Fry opts to campaign him a tad conservatively this season with a view to the future as he is clearly a work in progress.

Friday 3rd December – 15:50 Exeter – Hunter Legend (3rd)

It’s been a great few weeks for Venetia Williams and while Hunter Legend may not have enhanced her impressive recent strike rate, I am sure she would have been very pleased with his debut effort in what appeared to be a competitive bumper.

Despite never seemingly going that well, he really started to make progress in the home straight having spent the majority of the race towards the rear of the field. While he never looked like winning, he really caught the eye in finishing third under a rather conservative ride by Charlie Deutsch. 

Perhaps his pedigree is just as notable as his debut effort; he’s a half brother to a couple of decent types in France but more significantly given his trainer, he is a half-brother to the yard stalwart Cepage. 

With that in mind, he should certainly be up to winning races while his long-term future may well lie over fences and up in trip. As with Dubrovnik Legend, I wouldn’t expect Hunter Legend to be campaigned too aggressively this season but he is certainly a horse to have in your trackers.

Sunday 5th December – 11:40 Cork – Champion Green (4th)

Making his hurdling debut after winning a maiden on the flat in September, Champion Green was a notable drifter before the off, but he still shaped with plenty of promise here, leaving the impression that there are plenty of races to be won with him over jumps.

Fourth as they approached the third from home, he still appeared to be travelling the best of all although his less than fluent jumping did stop him from mounting a serious challenge. 

And as such, as the leading field of five jumped the last, J J Slevin crossed the line in fourth having never been able to mount a strong, sustainable challenge.

It’s almost impossible for a J.P McManus-owned horse to avoid being labelled as an “eyecatcher” following this type of run but in this case, I do think Champion Green is worth noting. Joseph O’Brien had Band of Outlaws, who would go on to win the Fred Winter, finish third in this same three-year-old hurdle on his jumps debut back in 2018 and it would not be impossible for Champion Green to follow in his rather large hoofprints. 

Champion Green certainly has some maturing to do if he is to reach those heights but the talent is there and it would not be a great surprise if were to be a factor come Cheltenham time.

Sunday 5th December – 14:57 Huntingdon – Signal Point (6th)

I’ve gone on the record as stating that I believe Signal Point to be an above average mare and for all that her two starts this season have been a tad disappointing on the surface, I remain optimistic that she will prove herself in the long term.

Having travelled well and tiring late on at Cheltenham, I was expecting a more positive ride here and yet Bridget Andrews seemed more than content to hold her up yet again. Not only that, but she was consistently travelling widest of all at crucial stages of the race and while the eventual winner had been front rank throughout, Signal Point was always on the back foot and was shuffled impossibly wide around a track which you simply cannot afford to be forced that wide.

And after completely disappearing out of sight on the turn for home having been forced obscenely wide, I would have expected her to finish close to last and yet despite minimal footage being available, she finished strongly to finish sixth.

While I would often be keen to avoid criticising jockeys, it’s quite clear that everything went wrong for Signal Point here under a strangely negative ride and with her attentions likely to be switched to hurdling in the near future, I would be very hopeful that she could make amends.

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