Dan Overall Eyecatchers: 4 to add to your tracker and a King George fancy

Clan Des Obeaux Dan Overall's fancy for the King George VI Chase.
Clan Des Obeaux Dan Overall's fancy for the King George VI Chase.

Dan Overall returns with his look at last week's racing eyecatchers and a look ahead to the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day...

And just like that, the day we wait all year for is just around the corner; I am, of course, talking about Boxing Day (or St Stephen’s Day, if you prefer).

The King George looks a fascinating renewal, with the Gold Cup winner, Minella Indo seemingly likely to come over. With my Cheltenham hat on, I can see him disappointing at Kempton and drifting for the 2022 Gold Cup, which would make him an attractive betting proposition; ultimately, I see him as a Spring horse that comes alive at Cheltenham and I would be prepared to forgive some below par efforts in the run up to the festival. Asterion Forlonge will be popular but I find it hard to trust him for all that he has bundles of ability. Clan Des Obeaux would be my selection given this has always been the plan and Paul Nicholls is sure to have him primed for the day. I am aware that the record of seasonal debutants in the King George is alarmingly poor but reports out of the yard have been positive and while others may have been coming here after a setback, Clan will arrive fresh for a race that is undoubtedly his main target.

King George VI Chase Odds

Ask Me Early was flagged in this column many weeks ago as a likely Welsh National candidate but Harry Fry has confirmed that his promising grey will miss the engagement having suffered a heavy fall in schooling; his transparency should be lauded given the cryptic messages many trainers insist on giving to the public. As a betting proposition, the Venetia Williams trained Hold That Taught appeals as a contender at 11/1. Second to Ask Me Early at the rearranged Welsh National meeting twelve months ago, that race often produces Welsh National contenders and Hold That Taught has seemingly matured since then.

Welsh National Odds

I sincerely hope that you have all enjoyed reading these columns to date. As we head into the new year, I will be placing a greater emphasis on Cheltenham Festival contenders which I hope you will all enjoy.

With that caveat announced, let’s proceed to those that caught my eye in the past seven days!

Monday 13th December – 1:30 Piumpton – The Trampolinist (4th)

The Trampolinist first caught my eye on her penultimate start where she ran on notably well from off the pace to finish third behind a well-regarded type and a very well supported winner. 

That came in mares’ company and while she raced against the boys on this occasion, she ran a similar race; held up yet again, she was given an awful lot to do and yet she still appeared to going well and with enthusiasm and she began to make progress on the run to the third from home. She looked a tad awkward as Nick Scholfield issued a couple of reminders but she did respond, making up three places once the field turned for home to finish a never nearer fourth; nobody could accuse her of going up and down on the spot, excuse the pun.

That was her third start over hurdles and so she’s likely to enter handicap company next time out and while, at the time of typing, she is yet to receive a mark, I imagine it’ll be around the 102-109 range although that is just my opinion. 

Given the handicapper doesn’t treat her harshly after two eye-catching efforts, she will be of significant interest in handicap company. By Flemensfirth out of D’Gigi who is closely related to an Irish National winner, he run style and pedigree suggest she should be well suited to stepping up in trip.

Tuesday 14th December – 1:30 Wincanton – Oakley (3rd)

Having danced every dance in major two-mile handicap hurdles for Philip Hobbs, Oakley took as step in the wrong direction at the back end of last season but he made a very encouraging reappearance on his first start for his new trainer, the surging Richard Bandey.

While he is without a win since January 2019, he ran many creditable races in defeat from marks in the mid to high 130s. 

His most recent run was certainly a step down in grade and he shaped with a great deal of promise under a patient ride behind two in-form handicap debutants.

It did look as though Oakley may become detached at times following some slow jumps and having often shaped as though he would appreciate a stiffer test of stamina for his former trainer, it might finally be time to step him up in trip.

Assuming his mark of 130 remains unchanged, he looks capable of being very competitive in a similar grade especially over a longer trip.

Wednesday 15th December – 2:35 Newbury – Wonderwall (2nd)

Newbury novice hurdles often prove to be good races; this particular race has been won by the likes of Uxizandre, Value at Risk and The Big Breakway in recent years and I am a big fan of this year’s winner, Pull Again Green.

But as regular readers of this column will know (and on that note, it does mean a great deal that you do take the time to read my ramblings), we sparsely mention last time out winners here and I was very impressed by the hurdling debut of Wonderwall.

Seventh and not disgraced in last season’s Champion Bumper, Wonderwall travelled, in my view, like the best horse in the race on his first start over hurdles despite some novicey jumping. While many looked to hold every chance approaching the second last, Wonderwall was clearly going best of all before making a terrible blunder at the last whereas Pull Again Green, who looks a very strong stayer, winged it and stole the initiative with that leap.

While connections would have been slightly disappointed not to have won, they clearly have an above-average type on their hands and he should be capable of making amends before too long. In time, he should make a lovely chaser given his physique and he has a promising future.

Friday 17th December – 3:30 Ascot – Henri The Second (1st)

Many of you will be noting the fact that I have just said that “we sparsely mention last time out winners”.

And the fact that I said that should draw extra attention to my promotion of Henri The Second, who I am a huge fan of. 

An impressive winner on debut, he was far from a certainty to repeat that in this listed bumper and yet he defied greenness to run out an impressive winner and in doing so, he cemented himself as a top-class prospect.

Keen and hanging left for the majority, he seemed a sitting duck for a closer and yet he kept eking out more despite his defeat looking inevitable at times.

His first win in this sphere hasn’t been well advertised by those that finished behind him but he was visually impressive and, being an occasional optimist, I was hopeful that he’d back that up as I do think he has the potential to be a top-class performer over jumps. 

Knappers Hill, also trained by Paul Nicholls, won this particular race twelve months ago and Henri The Second looks like following a similar path by heading straight to Aintree and avoiding the Cheltenham Festival.

In the long run, I envisage him turning into a superb staying chaser.

Cheltenham Festival Odds
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