CHELTENHAM IS BACK!

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The grass is lush and green, the fences are trimmed and sturdy, and the buzz of excitement can not only be heard, but felt as Cheltenham Racecourse host their Showcase Meeting. Welcoming in the new season with a typically enthralling card!

A trip to the parade ring is a must. The views on the walkway sublime. An amphitheatre like no other.

And then off down the shute and away we go, the tapes are up and so is the wait!

The opening card, as you’d expect, features many exciting prospects, with quality novice events, as well as the usual highly competitive handicaps. I’m going start by taking a look at the novice events, before highlighting a few horses in the handicaps that may be worth a second look.
The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle gets the day underway, and boasts a plethora of interesting contenders.

Recent Grade 2 scorer El Bandit lead the charge for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls, and he certainly has good credentials.

Winner of the Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow 2 weeks ago (9th Oct), El Bandit has improved with every run for Nicholls, winning his last 4 races.

A novice until the end of October, this could well be his last run over hurdles, with novice chasing a possibility. But if he were to win here, he could easily be tried in hotter waters prior to the switch.

The in form Nigel Twiston Davies runs Templeross, who achieved a fair level of form in bumpers last season before making a successful debut over timber at Newton Abbot in September on seasonal debut, beating the Nicholls trained Rainy City in the process. He should improve for his reappearance.

Trained by Fergal O’Brien, Colin’s Sister showed an above average level of form in bumpers last season, culminating in a fine second to the Warren Greatrex trained The Nipper in a Listed Mares event at Sandown in March.

Her successful hurdling debut at Chepstow will have set her up nicely for this. It will certainly be interesting to see how she gets on against the boys, but she does look an exciting prospect over hurdles this season. She certainly has the potential to land blow here.

It would be careless to merely overlook the Charles Byrnes trained Black Water. An extremely shrewd trainer, as he proved when masterminding the infamous Roscommon coup in August, he has a reputation for being a fine target trainer.

Last year he brought Leave At Dawn over for the Paddy Power Meeting, and set sail back to Ireland with the prize in safe keeping.

His wins have all come in the summer months (May, June and August) and therefore not in the most competitive of waters. However any runner he brings to Britain has to be respected.

Pickamix, the winner of a bumper last season, and maiden hurdle on seasonal debut earlier this month, provides Charlie Mann with an interesting contender.

Noel Fehily looks a good jockey booking and Pickamix certainly shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

Next on the card is the squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase, run over a trip of 1m7f199y. And once again, the entires look very interesting.

Marracudja made a successful chasing debut for Paul Nicholls and the newly formed Ditcheat Thoroughbreds syndicate at Newton Abbott in September, and looks a nice prospect for the season ahead.

Likened to former classy Ditcheat performer Sanctuaire by his trainer, Marracudja has clearly been impressing his onlookers at home.

James Ewart could have a smart novice on his hands in the form of Aristo Du Plessis.

A highly progressive horse, Aristo Du Plessis won 6 of his last 8 races over hurdles, rising through the handicap at a rate of knots. He’s certainly an interesting prospect over fences this season.

The Irish contingent comes courtesy of Jessica Harrington, who has runs two, Neverushacon and Gambling Girl, and Henry De Bromhead, who has Ridestan in the mix, the winner of his last two starts in Emerald Isle.

Neil Mulholland has Pinkie Brown engaged here, who won well at Towcester on his most recent outing in earlier this month. While Harry Fry has the well campaigned, recent Market Rasen runner up, Presenting Arms as a possible.

The field is completed by the likeable Gary Moore trained Baron Alco, who rattled up a fine hat-trick over hurdles last season, before finishing a half length second to the exciting Rock The Kasbah in a Class 1 event at Ascot. A consistent, hardy horse, he’s not one to rule out lightly.

 

The second novice chase on the card, the Class 2 Ryman Stationary Cheltenham Business Club Novice Chase, run over 3m80y, also looks an interesting contest.

Gordon Elliott has runs recent Munster National winner Tiger Roll who, of course, landed the 2014 Triumph Hurdle for owners Gigginstown House Stud.

Tiger Roll has gained plenty of experience through the summer months, and as mentioned earlier when discussing Charles Byrnes, Gordon Elliott is another trainer that you have to take serious notice of when travelling horses. Rule him out at your peril.

Henry De Bromhead has 2 contenders here, choosing to run both both Full Cry and Heron Heights. While Jessica Harrington has Duckweed as a possible.

Heron Heights has won 3 of his 5 starts over fences, but one of his 2 defeats did come at the hands of current favourite Tiger Roll at Kilbeggan in August.

He did however slam another of today rivals, Duckweed, by 8L on his latest start at Clonmel in late September. He could be interesting here.

Full Cry has won 2 of his 8 outings over fences, with both wins coming before a third place finish when last seen on the track at Tipperary earlier this month.

All 3 boast mainly summer form, but still have to be respected with the ground sound underfoot.

Martin Keighley has an interesting novice chaser lined up for this race, in the form of Cottersrock.

The winner of a Down Royal bumper and Kempton handicap hurdle last season, he made a successful chasing debut at Uttoxeter earlier this month (Oct 2nd). Given that he’s trained locally, Cottersrock may prove popular here.

Tempestatefloresco represents Colin Tizzard, and boats an unusual profile given that he only made his debut under rules in August, at the age of 8.

A winner on that occasion, he fell when in contention at the penultimate fence on his next start, before finishing second, and then third, to Paul Nicholls smart performer Frodon (who should most definitely be noted if taking up either of his two engagements at Cheltenham on Saturday) in two subsequent runs. He’s hard to access.

 

The Harrison James & Hardie Maiden Hurdle is the fourth novice event on the card. Contested over a trip of 2m87y, the race has attracted some interesting prospects.

The field is headed by the David Bridgwater trained Accord, who finished runner up to Neil Mulholland’s exciting Peter The Mayo Man on hurdling debut at Warwick in late September.

They think a lot of Accord at home, and his promising performance at Warwick means that his presence should be respected.

Next in is Dan Skelton’s Ckalco Des Loges. This is one of 3 entries held by Skelton’s charge over the next few days. However if turning up here, he would rate an interesting contender.

Ian Williams has the superbly names Thehossbehind in the mix. He finished second on his only run to date in a bumper at Worcester in June 2015, beaten 9L by an inmate of former trainer John Ferguson, namely London Prize. He does, however, have a 16 month layoff to overcome.

Phillip Hobbs has Casper King entered here, whose record under rules reads; 5 starts, 5 second place finishes. He does however boast a fair level of form in both bumpers & Maiden/Novice hurdles.

His latest runner up effort came at Chepstow 2 weeks ago, when beaten by the promising Geordie Des Champs, with the highly regarded Capeland, who got off the mark over hurdles at Newton Abbot this afternoon, back in third. It won’t be long before this son of Scorpion gets off the mark.

Garo De Juilley is set to make his eagerly anticipated stable debut for Paul Nicholls, after attracting the praise of those that look after him every day.

Winner of his last 4 starts on the flat in France, the word is that the son of Ungaro has schooled well over hurdles at home. He could well be one of the more exciting young French exports for team Ditcheat this season.

Nicky Henderson runs 2 in the the race, namely Khezerabad, the current favourite, who finished a respectable third behing Paul Nicholls smart Zubayr in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton last season, and Thomas Campbell, who left an average bumper debut behind him when bolting up next time out in a Kelso bumber, winning by 14L. They both clearly have chances.

Tom George’s Bigpipenotobacee and the he Nigel Twiston Davies trained Gulshanigans completed the field. But it’s fair to say that both will need to step up on what they have previously shown to be a factor here.

 

Now for a quick look at horses that might be worth a second look in the handicaps.

 

3.20 CHELTENHAM

FLORRIE BAY:

Nigel Twiston Davies could hardly be in better form, currently operating at an impressive strike rate of 42% (11-26) in the last 14 days.

I like the look of Florrie Boy in this hotly contested handicap, in which the son of Milan is set to carry 10-2, taking in to account Jamie Bargary’s 5lbs claim.

Twice a winner last season, Florrie Boy rose through the ranks, scoring in two Class 4 events before finishing a respectable second to an improving horse of Phillip Hobbs, Braavos, in a Class 3 event at Perth.

He then turned up at Haydock to contest a Class 2 event, where he ran with credit, coming home a 15L sixth to Harry Fry’s consistent Whataknight. Recent novice chase winner Minella Daddy came second, David’s Pipe’s smart Dell’Arca was fourth, Phillip Hobbs grey Brother Tedd was fifth and Paul Nicholls multiple winner Southfield Vic finished one place behind Florrie Boy, to give you an idea of the form.

Both his wins last season came on good ground, and with the Twiston Davies yard in such good form, Florrie Boy could easily outrun his price here.

CURRENT PRICE: 10/1
ARCTIC GOLD:

Twiston Davies also runs Artic Gold, who enjoyed a successful season over hurdles last term, winning 4 times, including twice in Class 3 events.

Perhaps outclassed in two Class 2 outings, first behind Flintham, and then when finding himself unfortunate enough to bump into the hugely exciting Nicky Henderson trained Different Gravey at Ascot, he still ran credibility, finishing sixth on each occasion.

An impressive winner at Ffos Las when last sighted, he forfeited weight to all of his rivals and still won nicely by upwards of 3 1/2L.

Most of his racing has come on ground with plenty of cut, however he did win his maiden hurdle on good ground at Stratford last term, so he should handle conditions.

10lbs claimer Tom Humphries will be doing the steering, which more than counteracts the 7lbs rise the son of Gold Well incurred for his Ffos Las victory. Only a 5yo, there’s every chance that he will be bigger and stronger this year after another summer at grass.

CURRENT PRICE: 16/1
5.05 CHELTENHAM

Neil Mulholland runs the interesting Fingerontheswitch here, who must be better than the 2 attempts he has put up so far over fences.

A smart novice hurdler last season, Fingerontheswitch beat reliable yardstick Ballydine at Worcester, before finishing fourth to future Albert Bartlett winner Unowhatimeanharry at Cheltenham in November.

Since switched to fences Fingerontheswitch has finished fourth, behind Tempestatefloresco (who runs in the 3.55) at Newton Abbot, before finishing second of 2 at Cartmel in late August.

A winner of his third PTP, Fingerontheswitch finished second to the very talented Shantou Village on his second start between the flags, beaten just 4L. Running off a mark of 123, he has to be worth another chance here.

It’s also worth nothing that the yard won this race in 2014 with The Young Master.

CURRENT PRICE: 10/1
5.40 CHELTENHAM:

WISHFULL DREAMING:

Connections have always held Wishfull Dreaming in some regard, and he showed 2 weeks ago, when bolting up at Chepstow, just why they do.

The winner of a Listed bumper at Cheltenham on his second start under rules, The son of Alflora has always promised to be above average, and now he looks to be confirming it.

He travelled and jumped supremely well at Chepstow. And when Richard Johnson said go, the race was put to bed in a matter of strides.

Raised 8lbs for that romp, Phillip Hobbs has reduced that penalty by 3lbs, by putting up conditional jockey Ciaran Gethings. If in the same form, he could be very tough to beat.

CURRENT PRICE: 7/2
CLIFFS OF DOVER:

Paul Nicholls looks to have found a smart recruit to the jumping game in the form of the 3yo, Cliffs Of Dover.

Winner of 3 of his 4 starts over timer, the progeny of Canford Cliffs has won twice in the last week alone, seeing off Moonday Sun at Wincanton last Friday, before taking the scalp of previous easy scorer, and odds on favourite, Lord Huntingdon at Kempton on Sunday.

A slick, quick hurdler, he could be very well in here, and the talented Harry Cobden will once again be claiming his 3lbs allowance. The only real question marks being whether his busy schedule will catch up with him, and whether taking on his elders will prove to much at his tender age.

CURRENT PRICE: 7/1

 

All that’s left to say is good luck!

Have a great 2 days!image

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Under Starters Orders

So it’s that time of year again. As the flat season tails off like a non-stayer in the Ascot Gold Cup – the National Hunt campaign gets a gap up the rails. 

The top hats and tails are traded in for flat caps and tweed as the action moves from Epsom, Newmarket and York – to Aintree, Cheltenham and Punchestown as the frost covers come off yet another eagerly anticipated National Hunt campaign.

As always a new season brings with it fresh opportunities for both human and equine talent alike. New partnerships have been formed and a great many cheques have crossed palms as the National Hunt powerhouses begin to flex their muscles in search of wintertime winners and springtime success. 

Warren Greatrex can rely upon the services of dual Champion Jockey Richard Johnson this season.
On the subject of off season signings – Warren Greatrex will be hoping that Champion Jockey Richard Johnson can provide the stable with further success at the top table this term. Whilst Daryl Jacob will take up a new role as Ben Pauling’s number one, when he’s not required to ride for the ever flourishing partnership of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, of course. 

Meanwhile Charlie Longsdon and Johnny Burke will be hoping to emulate the success experienced by Tom George and Adrian Heskin last season, with the talented young Irishmen looking to put an injury plagued spell behind him as he begins a new chapter of his career after relocating to Great Britain. Early signs are encouraging. 

On the ownership front – it’s interesting to see that Jared Sullivan, who sold the majority of his National Hunt string this time last year – which included subsequent Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air, has once again been splashing the cash on young talent this summer.

Sullivan Bloodstock Limited now have horses with Willie Mullins in Ireland – in addition to Alan King, Harry Fry and Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson in Britain. Talented bumper performers Daphne Du Clos and Fabulous Saga (who has already notched up 2 facile victories over timber this summer) are already well regarded by many shrewd National Hunt judges. Whilst Electro Lido – a half-brother to the talented Valseur Lido, rates another exciting prospect set to carry the widely recognised red and pink silks this season.

In other news – Cheltenham Racecourse would be much obliged if all race goers would refrain from descending on Prestbury Park with golf clubs come November, as the 3 day meeting dubbed the ‘Open Meeting’ for the last 17 years has now been renamed the ‘November Meeting’ in order to avoid confusion with the Golf Tournament known by the same name. I kid you not.

The much loved, and sadly missed, MANY CLOUDS in the pre parade ring at Cheltenham (28/1/2017)

From a strange decision to a much more applauded one – Aintree have renamed the 3m1f contest run on Becher Chase Day in honour of the late, great, gutsy Many Clouds, who won the race, which has now also been upgraded to Grade 2 status, last December.

Other races to have been upgraded ahead the 2017/18 season include: the 2m3f totequadpot Novices’ Chase at Chepstow’s 2 day Jumps Festival in October – promoted from Class 2 to Listed status; the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – which will be run as a Grade 3 contest for the very first time in 2018; and the Betway Handicap Chase at Aintree’s Randox Health Grand National Meeting – which will also be run as a Grade 3 contest this spring. Both were previously of Listed status. 

It will come as a huge relief to many, not least those trainers who have pleaded for change persistently, that the BHA have recently launched a number of new initiatives to revamp a novice chase system that has, in truth, been in decline for a number of years. 

More weight-for-age novice chases, 6 additional races confined to horses who have just 1 win to their name over hurdles, a new £100,000 novice handicap chase final in the spring and an adjustment to the ratings band for the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, which is now 0-145 having previously been 0-140, are all changes implemented by the BHA in an attempt to breathe new life into the novice chasing divisions this winter. A positive move – let’s hope it has the desired effect.

One of the most notable, and perhaps most welcome, changes this season is the introduction of 48 hour declarations for all Cheltenham Festival races. This move will also see a reserve system put in place for Festival handicaps, and also includes a restriction on declarations for the fantastic four-day meeting. 

Reserves will be granted a run should a horse be withdrawn prior to 1pm the day before the race. With the restriction of just one declaration per horse only being waived for those who have been balloted out/failed to make a race when declared as a reserve. 

Hopefully this will make this particular aspect of racing more transparent to cater for not only the every day racing fan, but also those who may only enjoy racing from time to time. As well as allowing more horses and therefore connections, who may have previously missed out due to multiple declarations, to be a part of the biggest show on turf. 

Happily the changes have been greeted with both praise and optimism from everyone within the National Hunt community, including current Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson and 10 time champ Paul Nicholls, who simply commented “job done” when asked for his thoughts on the subject. However trainers aside – I’m sure it’s the punters who will be breathing the biggest sigh of relief!

The Dublin Racing Festival is a fantastic initiative combining 2 top class cards to make one hugely exciting fixture.

On the Irish scene the biggest change is unquestionably the introduction of the Dublin Racing Festival, which will see both the Irish Champion Hurdle (Saturday) and Irish Gold Cup (Sunday) contested at a two day fixture at Leopardstown on the 3rd and 4th of February.

Welcomed by both Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins, who helped to launch the initiative in Dublin last week, the meeting will be home to 7 Grade 1 contests and will boast £1.5 million in prize money.

Located a full 5 weeks before the Cheltenham Festival in the fixture list, Willie Mullins feels the meeting is ideally placed, commenting; “I’ll be trying to get my best horses there in the best possible shape.” A statement of intent from the master of Closutton. 

FINIAN’S OSCAR battles with BACARDYS in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown (28/4/2017)

On to stars of our sport – and whilst the tried and tested winter warriors are always of great interest, many will be eagerly anticipating the plethora of potential packed youngsters contesting novice events over both hurdles and fences this winter. None more so, perhaps, than the hugely exciting Colin Tizzard trained Finian’s Oscar, who progressed from smooth PTP scorer to Grade 1 winning novice hurdler inside 77 days last term. A hugely impressive feat, I’m sure you’d agree.

However even more impressive was the manner in which the 5-year-old achieved his victory at Portrush in October, clocking a time only comparable to Cheltenham Festival winners Brindisi Breeze and Simonsig in the pointing field over the last 10 years. Reported to jump well at home, the talented son of Oscar will undoubtedly be dining at the top table of the novice chase division this winter. 

FAYONAGH could be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Fayonagh is the name on the lips of every man, woman and nag when discussing novice hurdlers following her breathtaking victory in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March. And the hugely exciting daughter of Kalanisi could be back on the track in a novice hurdle in the next few weeks according to her adoring trainer, Gordon Elliott. 

It will extremely interesting to see whether the mighty mare will be kept against her own sex or be allowed to do battle with the boys this winter. However her presence is yet another nod to the continued success of the changes implemented to the mares programme in recent years, which are undoubtedly having the desired effect. 

SAMCRO looks hugely exciting prospect for graded novice hurdles this winter.
Cause ToujoursDebuchet, Getabird, If The Cap FitsRavenhill RoadRed JackSamcro, Vision Des FlosWestern Ryder and Whiskey In The Jar are further hugely exciting prospects entering the hurdling ranks this winter. Whilst Bacardys, BallyandyDeath Duty, Kimberlite Candy, MovewiththetimesPetit Mouchoir, Monalee, TopofthegameYanworth and Willoughby Court could easily develop into high class novice chasers.

Other highly touted names to note include Annamix, a Rich Ricci owned 4-year-old who has been extremely well supported for the Supreme Novices Hurdle in recent weeks (currently 14/1 favourite), and Apple’s Shakira, a full sister to Cheltenham Festival Mares’ Hurdle heroine Apple’s Jade, who will carry the famous green and gold bands of JP McManus when she turns out for champion trainer Nicky Henderson this season. 

Mare’s Hurdle heroine APPLES’S JADE is likely to reappear in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal in November.

We’ve seen some truly magnificent mares grace the racecourse in recent years, and the battle between Apple’s Jade, Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag in the Mares’ Hurdle this spring was undoubtedly a highlight of Cheltenham’s fabulous four-day Festival. Whilst at the same time highlighting the sheer amount of high quality racemares strutting their stuff on the racetrack at present.

Unusually it’s not a Willie Mullins trained contender heading the betting for the Dawn Run Mare’s Novices’ Hurdle this year, with the aforementioned Fayonagh currently sitting pretty at the head of the pack. 

However there’s no shortage of quality opposition waiting for her this winter, as Nicky Henderson’s smart youngster Daphne Du Clos, Harry’s Fry’s exciting 4-year-old Outofthisworld and the unbeaten dual Listed scorer Cap Soleil, who hails from the burgeoning Grange Hill Farm yard of Fergal O’Brien, all rate serious contenders for graded glory come the spring. And that’s before we even stop to consider what the Master of Closutton may have up his sleeve.

CONEY ISLAND has strong form in the book and could easily develop into a Grade 1 chaser this winter.

In addition to both the young and female talent, there are, of course, many exciting second season campaigners who will hold lofty aspirations this winter, with Aintree Grade 1 winner The Worlds End, who could well develop into a serious contender for the Stayers Hurdle come March, and Drinmore Novices’ Chase winner Coney Island, who could easily be considered a live outsider for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, just two exciting up-and-comers who could really make a name for themselves this season. 

Call Me Lord, Captain Forez, Charli ParcsCliffs Of Dover, Defi Du SeuilDivin Bere, Le Breuil, MelonPingshou and Wholestone are further second season hurdlers who could easily enjoy a productive campaign. Whilst Clan Des Obeaux, Cloudy Dream, Disko, Flying AngelGreat Field, Min, Politologue, Road To Respect and Waiting Patiently could all land valuable prizes over the larger obstacles. 

Irish Grand National winner OUR DUKE looks tailor made for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

On to the big boys and, providing they all stay sound, the 2018 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup looks a tantalising prospect with defending Champion Sizing John facing stern opposition in the shape of Thistlecrack, Yorkhill, Might Bite, Minella RoccoOur Duke and Native River in his quest to become the first horse to successfully defend his crown since Best Mate recorded a hat-trick of triumphs between 2002 and 2004. 

Jessica Harrington enjoyed what can only be described as a fairytale spring campaign, landing the Coral Cup, Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival – as well as the Irish Gold Cup, Irish Grand National and Punchestown Gold Cup in the Emerald Isle.

SIZING JOHN will attempt to land the £1,000,000 Jockey Club Bonus this season.
Sizing John was responsible for the Gold Cup hat-trick, and will be aimed at the £1,000,000 Jockey Club bonus this season, comprising of the Betfair Chase at Haydock, King George VI Chase at Kempton and the blue riband contest at Prestbury Park in March. A bold move, but one the 7-year-old could well be up too. 

Meanwhile every ardent National Hunt enthusiast will be praying that the mighty King George victor Thistlecrack will return in fine fettle this festive season following a hugely disappointing, but thankfully minor, tendon injury that reared its ugly head just weeks before the blue riband contest last term. And if indeed he does, his legion of devout followers will be hoping that the 2016 Stayers Hurdle winner can make up for lost time and strike Gold come March. 

YORKHILL was a hugely impressive winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Beware a chestnut son of Presenting, there’s no disputing that Yorkhill possesses talent and quirks in equal measure. However many believe that the former can overpower the latter this spring, which could see the dual Cheltenham Festival scorer land Willie Mullins what would be, rather remarkably, a maiden Cheltenham Gold Cup success. 

Others, however, will point to RSA Chase winner Might Bite, breathtaking Irish Grand National scorer Our Duke, this year’s runner up Minella Rocco and last season’s Hennessy Gold Cup winning – Welsh Grand National Hero Native River, who won’t be back in action until Christmastime having returned from Cheltenham a little worse for wear according to his trainer Colin Tizzard, who all boast obvious claims themselves.

DOUVAN working at the Curragh with David Casey. Could he topple the almighty ALTIOR this spring?

The 2 mile division certainly won’t be one for the faint hearted either, with a clash of the titans a real possibility should Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci elect to keep their pride and joy Douvan, who was recently reported to be in “tip-top shape” by his trainer, over the minimum trip this winter, embarking on what can only be described as a collision course with last season’s almighty Arkle Chase victor Altior.

Already a short priced favourite for the Champion Chase in March, Nicky Henderson’s dual Cheltenham Festival scorer remains unbeaten over obstacles. However if Douvan has fully recovered from the problem that saw his own long unbeaten run ended at Prestbury Park in March, we could be in for a real barnstormer of a battle come the spring.

Whilst Altior will return to action at Sandown (Tingle Creek) in December, many eyes will be upon his stablemate Might Bite 2 weeks earlier, as he could potentially clash with Bristol De MaiCue CardSizing John and any other aspiring £1,000,000 bonus hunters in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, which would represent the 8-year-old’s first foray into open Grade 1 company.

A mouthwatering clash in prospect, it’s an early indication of the brilliant battles we can look forward to this winter as the National Hunt campaign really takes off in earnest. 

JP McManus looks to have a stranglehold over the 2 mile hurdling scene, with both current Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air and the unbeaten Triumph Hurdle hero Defi Du Seuil already sitting pretty at the head of the antepost market for the Championship 2 mile – opening day contest.

Not for the first time – it was a master stroke by the chief of Seven Barrows to revert to timber with Buveur D’Air after recording a brace of victories over the larger obstacles last winter. However he certainly won’t have things all his own way this year, as Phillip Hobbs’ talented three-time Grade 1 winner rates a serious threat to all if continuing the rapid progression that rendered him untouchable last term.

We all know the unfavourable statistics regarding 5-year-old’s in the Champion Hurdle (Katchit was the last 5yo to land the prize in 2008), but many are still understandably keen on the son of Voix Du Nord given his unbeaten status (7/7), which of course means it’s impossible to know what’s the youngsters limitations are.  

UN DE SCEAUX put up a sparkling performance in the Ryanair Chase last season.
It’s a nod to the sheer amount of talent currently flying over fences and tackling timber that I’m yet to mention the likes of 2015 Gold Cup king Coneygree, huge fan favourite Cue Card, last season’s hugely progressive multiple Grade 1 winner Fox Norton, Stayers Hurdle victor Nichols Canyon, Champion Chase hero Special Tiara or the breathtaking Ryanair Chase scorer Un De Sceaux. If you’re not getting goosebumps yet, this probably isn’t the game for you!

Each epitomise what many staunch supporters love about National Hunt Racing, returning year-on-year and performing previously unthinkable feats that tug at the heartstrings and make us go weak at the knees. Racing, particularly jumping, truly is a sport like no other. 

On to the subject of handicaps – Nicky Henderson looks set to unleash a number of talented youngsters into competitive contests this year, with Brave Eagle, Call Me LordCharli Parcs and Divin Bere four notable names set to remain over timber not only to gain experience, but also in the hope that they can land a valuable pot or two in the process. 

They will be aided by the extremely talented James Bowen this winter, who is undoubtedly a superb addition to the Seven Barrows roster. This could prove to be a very potent partnership – both this year and beyond.

CAMPEADOR looks primed to win a big pot this season after crashing out at the final flight of hurdles on each of his last two visits to the racetrack.

Then there’s the chief of Cullentra House Stables Gordon Elliott, of course, who will undoubtedly both prepare and place his horses perfectly over the coming months, with talented performers such as Campeador, Squouater and The Storyteller just three names who instantly spring to mind when considering valuable handicaps. 

Interestingly Elliott has also called upon the riding talents of James Bowen over the summer months, and, when not required to ride for his boss Nicky Henderson, it’s entirely possible he could pick up a few choice spares from the powerful Irish juggernaut this winter. 

Will we see ‘FAUGHEEN the machine’ back on the racecourse this season?

Having already touched upon returning stars such as Douvan and Thistlecrack, it would be rude, and indeed an oversight, not to mention the much loved ‘Faugheen the machine’ who has been the subject of positive reports from both Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh in recent weeks, in addition to grabbing the limelight in a jumpers parade at the Curragh last month.

Rich Ricci’s high class hurdler hasn’t been seen on the racetrack since landing the Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2016. However hopes are high that dual Cheltenham Festival winner has fully recovered from the suspensory ligament injury that has kept him on sidelines or the best part of 22 months, with Mullins reporting the 9-year-old to be “in great order” and highlighting the Morgiana Hurdle (19th November) at Punchestown as a potential early season target. 

BLOW BY BLOW is in good form and cantering away according to trainer Gordon Elliott.
Barters Hill and Blow By Blow are further names to note on the comeback trail this term, with Ben Pauling recently posting an upbeat bulletin regarding the former, who will hopefully return in a handicap hurdle prior to Christmas, where the Grade 1 winning novice hurdler will line up off a very lenient looking handicap mark of 142.

Meanwhile Blow By Blow, who hasn’t been seen since landing a Punchestown Festival Bumper at the expense of Champion Hurdle runner Moon Racer in April 2016, is another hugely exciting prospect who can hopefully make his presence felt in graded novice hurdles this winter. Gordon  Elliott has recently reported the 6-year-old to be “in good form and cantering away”, so early signs are encouraging. 

Battles won’t be confined solely to the racetrack, of course, as Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins will undoubtedly exchange blows in the Irish Trainers’ Championship once again come the spring. Elliott came desperately close to dethroning the King of Closutton last season, and has once again invested heavily in some exciting French talent this summer in a bid to turn the tables in his favour.

Dortmund Park, who won the French Champion Bumper last season, could easily develop into a smart 2 mile novice hurdler for Gigginstown House Stud this winter. Whilst Destin D’Ajonc, who bolted up on his sole start over hurdles at Auteuil last October, will be contesting conditions/graded hurdles in the green and gold bands of his new owner, JP McManus. Both rate extremely exciting prospects for this season and beyond. 

It goes without saying that Mr Mullins has also been shopping in France during the ‘off-season’, however its two former point-to-pointers who have been well touted in recent weeks, namely Aione and Stay Humble.

Aione, a smooth winner a Dromahane in May, received a positive mention from Patrick Mullins when interviewed on At The Races recently, and will carry the familiar pink and green silks of leading patrons Rich & Susannah Ricci this term. Whilst Stay Humble, who posted a hugely impressive success at Ballynoe in April, has been snapped up by prominent owner Graham Wylie and has attracted plenty of support in the ante-post market for the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in recent weeks. 

FOX NORTON is another potential money spinner for Colin Tizzard this season.
On this side of the Irish Sea – it goes without saying that 10 time top trainer Paul Nicholls will be plotting away in his Ditcheat den targeting Saturday successes’ that will prise the trophy out of the hands of Nicky Henderson once more.
However it’s no two horse race, of course, as Colin Tizzard remains many people’s dark horse to break the dominance of the powerful duo, with the Dorset based Dairy Farmer – turned multiple Grade 1 winning racehorse trainer assembling an A-Team even Lieutenant Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith would be envious of. 

Indeed this is the time of year where everyone from owner to admirer can close their eyes and dare to dream. Anything and everything seems possible with a whole 7 months of non stop action and nail biting drama stretched out ahead on a new Natinal Hunt script yet to be written. 

Of course much of what’s gone before could easily be outdated by the time the action really gets underway this autumn, as tongues are already wagging about the prospect of Yorkhill reverting to timber, with the Champion Hurdle muted as a potential long term target for Graham Wylie’s hugely talented chestnut gelding. And, of course, the deadly Douvan could easily take a step up in trip and test his mettle in a race such as the King George VI Chase. Now who can honestly say they wouldn’t love to see that?

It goes without saying that these are all questions that only time can answer, and until that time comes I’m sure there will be, as there always are, umpteen subplots to keep us all entertained in a National Hunt season that never disappoints.

So it’s time to get the leg up and sit tight. What began as a trot in May is about to break into an all out gallop. But remember – it’s a Aintree marathon, not a Newmarket sprint! Good luck!


If you’d like to read more content regarding horses to follow this season, please head to my home page where you can find extensive blogs focusing on novice hurdlers, second season hurdlers, novice chasers and potentially well handicapped horses heading into the 2017/18 National Hunt campaign. As well as some ante-post investments which could provide extra entertainment over the winter months of what is always an enthralling Jumps season. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, any feedback would be greatly appreciated. 

Good luck and, most importantly, enjoy. 

Kind regards, 

Stu ‘Jimbo’ Williams  (@Jimbo_JumpsMan)


FOOTNOTE:

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the brilliant Susie Cahill (@GirloftheSummer) for the fantastic photos of Apple’s Jade, Blow By Blow, CampeadorConey IslandDouvan, FaugheenFayonagh, Finian’s Oscar, Fox NortonOur Duke, SamcroUn De Sceaux and Yorkhill.

If you’d like to see more of Susie’s photos head over to facebook.com/ridingonthegallops

Long Range Ante-Post Investments

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but personally I can’t resist a few ante-post wagers when Autumn arrives, hopefully bagging both value and entertainment over the winter months of what is always an enthralling National Hunt campaign. 

As we all know ante-post betting is a fine balance of risk Vs reward, and beating the bookies with a nice juicy double figure price tastes so much sweeter than taking a less generous starting price of 6/4 on raceday.

So here’s a quick look at some ante-post wagers that will hopefully stay the course and could even lead to a hefty payout come the spring!


TO WIN ANY RACE AT THE 2018 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL

RED JACK   4-y-o  b g                              Mahler (GB) – Hollygrove Bonnie (IRE)

For those who still enjoy a long range ante-post flutter, like myself, this market can be a god send, especially if you’re confident that you’re still getting good value for a horse who could have a number of potential targets come the spring.

I always approach ante-post novice hurdle markets with trepidation – for obvious reasons, as we all know that many horses are equal until obstacles get in the way! However I have found one horse who looks worth investing in at this tremendously early stage.

Many people are excited at the prospect of seeing Red Jack tackle timber this term after notching up two impressive bumper victories earlier this year, beating non other than subsequent Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper runner up Debuchet on debut at Naas in January. 

Purchased by JP McManus prior to victory at Fairyhouse in April – he went into many people’s notebooks thereafter, and confidence in the 4-year-old has only been buoyed by positive comments emanating from his trainer Noel Meade in recent weeks.

It’s hard to predict where he could end up come the spring, however he can be backed at 16/1 to win any Cheltenham Festival race with Paddy Power. With that concession, he’s worth a small investment now. 

RED JACK   16/1   (Paddy Power)


ARKLE NOVICES’ CHASE              (13/3/2018)

BALLYANDY   6-y-o  b g                             Kayf Tara (GB) – Megalex (GB)

Surprisingly there’s been very little chit chat about last season’s hugely impressive Betfair Hurdle winner in the bulid up to the jumps season proper, something I consider quite perplexing given the fact he was extremely well supported to taste Cheltenham Festival success for the second year in succession at Prestbury Park in March before enduring a nightmare passage through the curtain raising contest, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, finally finishing fourth. 

Having taken time to adapt to jumping hurdles the 2016 Champion Bumper winner made a mockery of an opening handicap mark of 135 in Newbury’s valuable February contest, confirming the promise he’d shown early in his career. 

Ballyandy is certainly a fine stamp of a horse – and without doubt has the scope to jump fences should go connections give him the green light to do so this autumn. If indeed they do, it goes without saying that the son of Kayf Tara would rate an extremely exciting prospect this winter.

Already a Cheltenham Festival winner – a price of 25/1 could look rather generous come March.

BALLYANDY   25/1  (Generally)

▫️

MOVEWITHTHETIMES   6-y-o  ch g Presenting (GB) – Dare To Venture (IRE)

Paul Nicholls certainly has plenty to look forward too this winter, particularly when it comes to novice chasing. Movewiththetimes is just one hugely exciting prospect the 10 time Champion Trainer is set to unleash over fences this winter, and it goes without saying that he sits pretty high in pecking order at Manor Farm Stables. 

Form figures of 1412 over timber read extremely well for a horse who’s built for one job – and one job only. And this scopey son of Presenting could easily take high rank in the 2m – 2m4f novice chasing division this winter. 

Badly hampered in a Grade 2 contest won by Champion Hurdle runner Moon Racer at Cheltenham in November, the strapping 6-y-o’s best effort came in the ultra competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury – where he broke free of the field with fellow novice Ballyandy, who pipped him to the prize by just three-quarters of a length. 

A small setback scuppered plans for Movewiththetimes to line up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a contest for which he had been well supported on the back of his Betfair Hurdle second. However I’m sure connections wouldn’t have been overly dismayed given Paul Nicholls’ modus operandi of giving future chasers an easy time in their novice hurdle year.

I fully expect to see Movewiththetimes flourish over fences this winter, and the 25/1 bookmakers are currently offering could look obscenely generous come the Cheltenham Festival in March. 

MOVEWITHTHETIMES   25/1   (Generally)


NATIONAL HUNT CHASE (4 Miler)(13/3/2018)

FAGAN   7-y-o  ro g                                      Fair Mix (IRE) – Northwood May (GB)

Gordon Elliott & Lisa O’Neil landed this 4 mile contest with Tiger Roll in march, and the master of Cullentra stables looks to have another ideal candidate for the marathon contest in 2018. 

A series of setbacks limited Fagan to one racecourse appearance last term, where he weakened quickly before pulling up over 2m5f at Fairyhouse on New Years Day. As the winner of 3 of his 6 starts between the  flags, the manner in which he weakened tamely on that chasing debut was surely too bad a performance to be true. 

Back on the track at Perth in July, Fagan appeared to have the measure of talented opponent Beat That before being left well clear at the last when Nicky Henderson’s charge crashed out. That effort was much more like it, and Davy Russell appeared to have plenty of horse underneath him should an effort have been required. 

Second behind non other than Unowhatimeanharry in the 2016 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, that performance demonstrated both his ability to handle the Prestbury Park track and his liking for a real test of stamina. Two things that will stand the Ronnie Bartlett owned 7-year-old in good stead come March. 

Like Fagan this yearTiger Roll started his campaign in the summer months before tasting Cheltenham Festival success last term, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the King Of Cullentra repeated the feat with Fagan come March. 

FAGAN   20/1   (Bet 365)

▫️

ELEGANT ESCAPE   5-y-o  b g                Dubai Destination (USA) – Graineuaile (IRE)

Many would be immediately put off backing this scopey son of Dubai Destination purely because of his age (this race tends to favour older horses), however the 5-year-olds illustrious stablemate Native River finished second in this contest at the tender age of 6 two years ago, so I’m not going to worry about that particular trend too much for now.

Curiously the similarities don’t end there, as Elegant Escape has a profile very similar to the Hennessy Gold Cup winning – Welsh Grand National hero at this early stage of his career, having notched up a brace novice hurdle victories before taking a rise in class and appearing to be caught out in the very highest grade.

Native River finished ninth in the 2015 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, whilst Elegant Escape came home in seventh earlier this year. The former has clearly benefited greatly for encountering stamina sapping trips over fences, and I believe the same could be true of his undoubtedly talented stablemate.

Second to the highly regarded Samcro in a Monksgrange PTP in April 2016, Colin Tizzard’s inmate appears to have flourished for another summer at grass, which has afforded the youngster time to grow into his imposing, rangy frame.

I may be completely wrong, of course, but at 50/1 he must be worth a small investment now. After all – he who dares…

ELEGANT ESCAPE   50/1   (Paddy Power & Betfair)


NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES’ HURDLE                         (14/3/2018)

SAMCRO   5-y-o  ch g                          Germany (USA) – Dun Dun (IRE)

Samcro’s reputation most certainly preceded his racecourse debut at Punchestown last November, and despite poor visibility restricting just how much we saw of the £335,000 Gigginstown House Stud purchase, he appeared out of the gloom to record a hugely impressive 9 and a half length victory.

Winner of his sole PTP at Monksgrange, the chestnut gelding is held in the highest possible regard by the chief of Cullentra Stables. And Gordon Elliott will just be as keen as anyone to see just what his latest racing machine is capable of over obstacles this term. 

Made to work on his second outing in December, the son of Germany had to make his own running that day before picking up when asked. However there’s no doubting that he saved his best performance for his third and final start of the campaign when sprinting clear of 6 rivals on better ground at Fairyhouse, showing a useful set of gears that will stand the youngster in good stead over the years to come. 

It was a performance that hinted that the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle could prove the ideal contest for Samcro, with his potent blend of speed and stamina well suited the 2m5f Grade 1 contest. At 16/1, he’s worth a flutter. 

SAMCRO   16/1   (Generally)


RSA CHASE                                       (14/3/2018)

MONALEE   6-y-o  b g                               Milan (GB) – Tempest Belle (IRE)

Henry De Bromhead’s Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle runner up rates an extremely exciting novice chase prospect this term, and his performance at the biggest show on turf earlier this year makes him a standout contender for an antepost punt this autumn. 

The imposing son of Milan lowered the colours of the smart pair The Storyteller and Turcagua on hurdling debut last term, before splitting smart prospects Death Duty (first) and Invitation Only (third) in Grade 2 company at Navan in December.

A facile success at Clonmel in February set the scopey 6-year-old up perfectly for his superb Cheltenham Festival performance in March. And in hindsight, his disappointing fourth place finish at the Punchestown Festival on his final appearance last term was perhaps a bridge too far coming just five weeks after his Festival exploits, as the Albert Bartlett always turns into an attritional battle of wills and really gets to the bottom of a young horse. 

Winner of his solitary start between the flags at Templenacarigga in January 2016, Monalee certainly possesses the size and scope to make up into a serious novice chaser this term. And the 3 mile trip of the RSA Chase would look ideal for the youngster who appeared to enjoy the undulations at Prestbury Park last term. 

MONALEE   16/1   (Bet 365)

▫️

BACARDYS   6-y-o  b g                             Coastal Path (GB) – Oacise (FR)

You get the impression that if Bacardys carried the pink and green silks of Rich Ricci or green and gold bands of JP McManus then he’d be much more highly regarded by the racing public than he currently is.

Third in the 2016 Champion Bumper, this talented son of Coastal Path notched a brace of Grade 1 victories last term, firstly in the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle in February – before lowering the colours of the hugely exciting fellow dual Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Finian’s Oscar at the Punchestown Festival in April.

The impressive winner of a Quakerstown PTP in April 2015, Bacardys is undoubtedly one of the most exciting novice chase prospects heading into the 2017/18 National Hunt campaign. And having achieved both of his Grade 1 victories through stamina last term, a step up to the 3 miles looks the obvious step to take with the imposing bay gelding.

Badly hampered by the fall of the sadly ill fated Consul De Thaix in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle this March, the 6-year-old’s third place Festival finish in 2016 displays his ability to handle the unique twists and turns of Prestbury Park, which is obviously advantageous. And at 16/1, he’s undoubtedly worth keeping on side this season.

BACARDYS   16/1   (Generally)


GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY CHASE (14/3/2018)


CAUSE OF CAUSES   9-y-o  b g    Dynaformer (USA) – Angel In My Heart (FR)

This may not be the most original of selections, but given his age, last season’s impressive victory in the race and his impeccable Cheltenham Festival resume, Cause Of Causes looks a fair bet at 9/1 to make it an incredible Festival four-timer come March. 

Gordon Elliott’s 9-year-old landed the National Hunt Chase in 2015 before tasting success in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup 12 months later. Switched to Cross Country events last term, a trip to Cheltenham’s Trial’s Day meeting combined with 2 further jaunts across the Irish Sea to school over the unique twists, turns and cheese wedges Prestbury Park has to offer provided the JP McManus owned gelding with ample experience prior to the big day in March.

A fine second placed effort in the Randox Health Grand National in April showed just what a gutsy and gallant performer Cause Of Causes is, and the bromance he has struck up with leading Amateur Jockey Jamie Codd appears every bit as strong as the bond between Ant and Dec, you just simply can’t imagine one without the other.

Barring injury it must be odds on that Cause Of Causes will once again line up in the ‘banks race’ at Prestbury Park in March. And if he does it’s safe to say he’ll be nowhere near the 9/1 currently available on the day. 

CAUSE OF CAUSES   9/1   (Bet 365)


JLT NOVICES’ CHASE                     (15/3/2018)              

FINIAN’S OSCAR   5-y-o  b g                  Oscar (IRE) – Trinity Alley (IRE)

Winner of the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle on just his second start under rules, Finian’s Oscar is without doubt one of the most exciting young prospects in National Hunt Racing. Alan Potts signed a cheque for £250,000 to secure the services of the talented youngster at Tatersalls Ireland Cheltenham November Sales last year after the dashing son of Oscar made a striking impression when landing a Portrush PTP in October. And it already looks like a very shrew investment. 

It certainly didn’t take long for Finian’s Oscar to start repaying his lucky new connections, securing Grade 1 success just 77 days after recording his victory between the flags. And despite the disappointment of missing the Cheltenham Festival with a stone bruise, where he would surely have gone extremely close in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, further Grade 1 success was achieved in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

An agonising photo finish defeat at the hooves of Grade 1 Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle winner Bacardys at Punchestown did little to tarnish the reputation of the super exciting 5-year-old, and fences should bring out the very best in Colin Tizzard’s charge who clocked a time only comparable to Cheltenham Festival winners Simonsig and Brindisi Breeze in the pointing field over the last decade. 

The JLT Novices’ Chase would look the obvious long range target for Finian’s Oscar, who should hopefully develop into a top class staying chaser in the years to come. That said, the strapping youngster is clearly not devoid speed having landed a Grade 1 contest over 2 miles last season, which means he should possess the perfect blend of speed and stamina for this intermediate distance at this stage of his career. 

FINIAN’S OSCAR   10/1   (Generally)


STAYERS HURDLE                           (15/32018)

THE WORLDS END   6-y-o  b g       Stowaway (GB) – Bright Sprite (IRE)

This hugely talented son of Stowaway looks set to play a major role in the staying hurdle division this winter after a number of fine displays in the novice ranks last term. Coming down at the penultimate flight of hurdles in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle when travelling strongly under a confident looking Adrian Heskin, The Worlds End secured Grade 1 compensation at Aintree, despite a less than fluent leap at the last.

Barring that blip at Cheltenham Tom George’s hugely exciting prospect would be entering this campaign unbeaten over timber, having chalked up a brace of victories at Chepstow before taking the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock on route to the biggest show on turf in March.

The scopey 6-year-old certainly looks to have the physique to jumps fences, and therefore it must be a nod to the promise and talent the youngster is displaying at home that he remains over hurdles for another year, with the Stayers Hurdle the obvious long term target given how well the Stowaway gelding travelled around Prestbury Park last season. 

Baracouda, Inglis Drever and the brilliant Big Bucks aside, the Stayers Hurdle has gone to the way of second season hurdlers 3 times in the last 4 years, with victories for More Of That (2014), Cole Harden (2015) and the mighty Thistlecrack (2016) showing that a progressive young hurdler has a real chance of landing this prestigious day 3 prize. There’s every chance that The Worlds End can improve that record come March.

THE WORLDS END   12/1   (Generally)


DAWN RUN MARES’ NOVICES’ HURDLE (15/3/2018)


CAP SOLEIL   4-y-o  b f                     Kapgarde (FR) – Move Again (FR)

The quality of Fergal O’Brien’s Grange Hill Farm string is rapidly improving year on year. And last season the canny Cotswolds based trainer unleashed a clutch of magnificent mares both in bumpers and over hurdles, with perhaps the pick of them being the hugely talented 4-year-old Cap Soleil.

After a bloodless victory at Newbury on debut, Cap Soleil lowered the colours of subsequent impressive Listed scorer Daphne Du Clos at Cheltenham on New Years Day, who herself flirted with favouritism for the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival prior to suffering a setback at home. 

Listed success also awaited the winner as Cap Soleil travelled to Sandown on Imperial Cup day to dispatch 10 talented mares on her third and final start of the campaign, overcoming traffic on the run for home before scoring a shade cosily when granted a clear passage up the rails. 

Her gutsy and determined attitude will no doubt prove a key asset in her future career. And allied to her high performance racing engine, there looks to be many big days ahead for the talented young mare. 

CAP SOLEIL   16/1   (Bet 365)


CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP            (16/3/2018)

OUR DUKE   7-y-o  b g                              Oscar (IRE) – Good Thyne Jenny (IRE)

Last season’s hugely impressive Irish Grand National winner hardly requires any introduction. Our Duke looks set for a huge second season over fences with Jessica Harrington already plotting a route through the winter months which includes the Lexus Chase at Christmas and Irish Gold Cup in February. Tantalising prospects indeed. 

Should the imposing son of Oscar pass those Grade 1 tests with flying colours, National Hunt Racing’s blue ribband contest awaits. And connections will be hoping that their decision to bypass the Cheltenham Festival last season will pay dividends come the spring.

A Grade 1 winner over 3 miles at Leopardstown last December, Our Duke accounted for the talented pair Coney Island and Disko in the process. Although Coney Island has yet to grace the racetrack subsequently, he did land the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices’ Chase prior to that Christmas contest. Whilst Disko, who reversed the the form with Our Duke over 2m5f (Grade 1) in February, ran a fine race to finish third to Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival before securing Grade 1 honours when stepping back up in trip at Punchestown in the Spring. 

It was impossible not to be blown away by the Our Duke’s performance at Fairyhouse in April, and the way he travelled and jumped was indicative of a racehorse coming of age. His 14 length demolition job saw him raised 14lbs to a mark of 167, just 1lb shy of his Gold Cup winning stablemate Sizing John. And if both board the boat to Cheltenham in rude health come March Robbie Power will have an incredibly tough decision to make.

OUR DUKE   10/1   (Generally)

▫️

CONEY ISLAND   6-y-o  b g         Flemensfirth (USA) – Millys Gesture (IRE)

In addition to Our Duke I’m also inclined to suggest a small each way bet on the aforementioned Coney Island, as I firmly believe that the Irish staying novice chase form of last season is far superior to the British. 

Eddie Harty’s 6-year-old ran a huge race in defeat at Leopardstown over Christmas, and has plenty of scope to improve after just 3 starts over fences last term.

Already a Grade 1 winner over the larger obstacles, I’d be very interested in the JP McManus owned gelding if he turned up in Ladbrokes Gold Cup (Hennessy Gold Cup) at Newbury on the first Saturday in December, as he could arguably be fairly well treated off a mark of 157 if he is indeed up to tackling open Grade 1 company later on in the campaign. 

Many a Gold Cup winner has proven their ability in Newbury’s prestigious Grade 3 Handicap, and if Coney Island did launch a successful raid in December he’d be nowhere near the 40/1 currently available with Skybet.

CONEY ISLAND   40/1   (BET STARS)


SELECTIONS:

To Win Any Race (Cheltenham Festival 2018) 

Red Jack   16/1

Arkle Novices’ Chase

Ballyandy   25/1   &   Movewiththetimes   25/1

National Hunt Chase

Fagan   20/1   &   Elegant Escape   50/1

RSA Chase

Bacardys   16/1   &   Monalee   16/1

Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

Samcro   16/1

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase

Cause Of Causes   9/1

JLT Novices’ Chase

Finian’s Oscar   10/1

Stayers Hurdle

The Worlds End   12/1

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Cap Soleil   16/1

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Our Duke   10/1   &   Coney Island   40/1


FOOTNOTE:

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the brilliant Susie Cahill (@GirloftheSummer) for the fantastic photos of BacardysCause Of Causes, Coney IslandFinian’s Oscar, MonaleeOur Duke and Samcro.

If you’d like to see more of Susie’s photos head over to facebook.com/ridingonthegallops


Take Two  🎬

Notebooks at the ready – here’s a quick look at 10 fleet-footed hurdlers who could enjoy a productive second season over timber this term.

Having already looked at handicappers to follow in previous blogs, this time I’ve identified individuals who look set to grace the top table over timber, as well as those who could progress from classy handicaps into graded company this winter.

So without further ado, here’s 10 names to look out for in 2017/18. 

⚪️


BARTERS HILL   7-y-o  b g                  Kalanisi (IRE) – Circle The Wagons (IRE)

Trainer:  Ben Pauling

Owner:  Circle Of Friends

Form:  11111114P

Although Barters Hill was a novice hurdler in the 2015/16 campaign, the fact that he jumped just 7 steeplechase fences before suffering an injury last November means that Ben Pauling’s popular Grade 1 winning novice is set to embark on just his second season over hurdles this winter.

A 3-time bumper winner in 2014/15, the imposing son of Kalinisi rattled up as many victories of hurdles, including the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury, prior to finishing fourth in the 2016 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Set to return this season – the 7-year old has been the subject of upbeat bulletins from his adoring trainer of late, who stated that Barters Hill will return in a handicap hurdle off a lenient looking mark of 142. If all goes well, he could easily develop into a leading contender for the 2018 Stayers Hurdle. 


CALL ME LORD   4-y-o  b g                     Slickly (FR) – Sosa (GER)

Trainer:  Nicky Henderson

Owner :  Simon Munir  &  Isaac Souede

Form:  5111

This French bred 4-year-old made a striking impression on the closing day of last season, travelling strongly under Daryl Jacob who only had to push the gelding out to record a 3 and a half length success.

Twice a winner in his native France, Call Me Lord made a mockery of a handicap mark of 135 at Sandown, and will reappear this winter off a mark of 143.

Nicky Henderson does very well with 2 mile hurdlers, and he may already have a top 2 mile handicap pencilled in for the Simon Munir & Isaac Souede owned youngster this winter. Time will tell. 


CAPTAIN FOREZ   5-y-o  b g               Network (GER) – Pourkoipa Du Forez (FR)

Trainer:  Dan Skelton

Owner:  John Hales

Form:  2322

This scopey son of Network displayed a fair level of ability last season, with a Grade 2 runner up effort at Ascot in December bettered by a Grade 1 second placed finish at Aintree in April, where Dan Skelton’s 5-year-old finished just 3 lengths adrift of the hugely talented Finian’s Oscar.

Held in high regard by both his trainer and owner, the fact that the latter has given the green light for Captain Forez to stay hurdling for another year shouldn’t be overlooked, as it’s no secret that John Hales only buys horses with chasing in mind. 

A gorgeous, rangy French bred, we may not see the best of this talented youngster until he embarks on a career over fences in 12 months times. However he certainly commands respect in 2 and a half miles novice hurdles this winter.


CHARLI PARCS   4-y-o  b g                  Anabaa Blue (FR) – Ella Parcs (FR)

Trainer:  Nicky Henderson

Owner:  J P McManus

Form:  11F6

Perhaps considered a ‘hype horse’ by many, it was impossible to ignore the enthusiasm of his Champion Trainer prior to the Cheltenham Festival this March, where a sixth place finish in the Triumph Hurdle did little to add substance to the built up ‘hype’.

Having made a sparkling British debut at Kempton over Christmas, Charli Parcs blotted his copybook with a strange performance in the Adonis Hurdle in February, coming off the bridle going down the back straight before crashing out at the penultimate flight of hurdles when arguably battling his way back into contention.

As previously mentioned, Nicky Henderson has a knack for training 2 miles hurdlers, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the JP McManus owned 4-year-old begins to repay his trainers faith this winter. 


CLIFFS OF DOVER   4-y-o  b g             Canford Cliffs (IRE) – Basanti (USA)

Trainer:  Paul Nicholls

Owner:  Mr & Mrs J D Cotton

Form:  1311111

A hugely progressive Juvenile hurdler last autumn, Cliffs Of Dover has won 6 of his 7 starts over timber, including rattling up a 5-timer which culminated with victory in the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster in December.

A small setback kept the 4-year-old of the track during the spring, however Paul Nicholls has reported the “aggressive hurdler” to be good nick following a summer at grass, and stated that he “could well improve again” this season.

It will be interesting to see which route the 10 time champion trainer takes with the son of Canford Cliffs this winter, but whichever way they do decide to go, he must be taken seriously given his hugely impressive strike rate.


DEFI DU SEUIL   4-y-o  b g                         Voix Du Nord (FR) – Quarvine Du Seuil (FR)

Trainer:  Phillip Hobbs

Owner:  J P McManus

Form:  211111111

Undoubtedly the most eye catching name on this list, Defi Du Seuil’s unbeaten status, not to mention his 3 Grade 1 victories which include Triumph Hurdle success at the Cheltenham Festival in March, mark Phillip Hobbs’ son of Voix Du Nord out as a well above average 2 mile hurdler.

Indeed seven trips to the racecourse yielded seven victories last term, and it appears many are prepared to ignore the ominous statistics regarding 5-year-old’s in the Champion Hurdle this spring, as the exciting youngster already sists second on the antepost lists for the Championship 2 mile contest in March.

Pencilled in to return in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle (confined to 4-year-olds) at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting in October, the masses will be hoping for another demolition job that would set the JP McManus owned gelding nicely for a campaign in Open Grade 1 company this winter.


DIVIN BERE   4-y-o  b g                             Della Francesca (USA) – Mofa Bere (FR)

Trainer:  Nicky Henderson

Owner:  Chris Giles

Form:  122122

Sent off a well supported 9/2 favourite for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Nicky Henderson’s strong looking 4-year-old failed by just a length to defy top weight at Prestbury Park in March, finishing second to the Nick Williams trained Flying Tiger, who received 5lbs.

Divin Bere gave weight and a beating to subsequent Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle scorer Master Blueyes at Huntingdon in January, before undergoing a wind operation prior to his brave effort in the Cotswolds this spring.

Second behind the aforementioned Champion Hurdle hopefull Defi Du Seuil in the Grade 1 Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in April, the Chris Giles owned youngster finished just 1 and a half lengths behind the three-time Grade 1 winner, and looks set to contest some of the classier 2 mile handicap hurdles this winter. And who knows, he could even develop into an outside contender for the Champion Hurdle come the spring. 


LE BREUIL   5-y-o  ch g                       Anzillero (GER) – Slew Dancer (GB)

Trainer:  Ben Pauling

Owner:  Miss Emma Collins

Form:  1411P

Ben Pauling landed a maiden Cheltenham Festival success last season when Willoughby Court bravely out battled the sadly ill fated Neon Wolf to secure the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. However the Paul & Clare Rooney owned youngster wasn’t the only talented novice hurdler Pauling sent to the track last term, as Le Breuil was also rated a top propest by his Cheltenham based trainer heading into the 2016/17 campaign. 

An imposing chestnut gelding, Le Breuil won his first two starts over timber before pulling up behind the hugely exciting Finian’s Oscar in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices Hurdle at Aintree in the spring. And although the 5-year-old could easily head over fences at some stage this season, both his age and attractive handicap mark of 139 could be enough to convince connections to stick to hurdling for another year.

Arguably at his best on ground with some give, this talented son of Anzillero could enjoy a very productive second season over timber, and could even develop into a viable outsider for Stayers Hurdle if proving himself over 3 miles prior to March.


THE WORLDS END   6-y-o  b g        Stowaway (GB) – Bright Sprite (IRE)

Trainer:  Tom George

Owner:  The McNeil Family

Form:  F13111F1

A horse I’m really looking forward too this season, The Worlds End looks a hugely exciting prospect for graded staying hurdles following a host of promising performances as a novice last term.

Having sauntered to 9 length success in the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock in February, Tom George’s scopey 6-year-old was moving menacingly in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before meeting the penultimate flight of hurdles all wrong and taking a nastily looking fall.

Thankfully the son of Stowaway evaded injury in the Cotswolds, and banished the memories with an impressive victory in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree three weeks later. He really could be anything, and I for one will be keeping the strapping youngster on side this season. 


WHOLESTONE   6-y-o  br g             Craigsteel (GB) – Last Theatre (IRE)

Trainer:  Nigel Twiston-Davies

Owner:  Simon Munir  &  Isaac Souede

Form:  13F112113

Perhaps underrated by many last season, Wholstone enjoyed a hugely productive winter campaign which included three victories at Prestbury Park, of which two were achieved in Grade 2 company.

A brave third placed effort in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle this March provides encouragement that the Simon Munir & Isaac Souede owned 6-year-old, who clearly possesses a touch of class, can bridge the gap between novice and open company this winter, with the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby pencilled in as a potential early season target.

If Wetherby was a wash out connections could elect to send Wholestone over fences this winter. However I have a feeling this underrated performer could once again turn a few heads this term. Only time will tell. 

Ante-Post Punting – It’s Not All About Cheltenham.

Whether you’re a lover or a hater – ante-post punting is always a topic that dominates social media in the build up to a new National Hunt campaign.

It goes without saying that we all hold strong early season Cheltenham Festival fancies, and indeed harbour dreams of combining these selections in various multiple bets in the hope of landing that elusive life changing sum of money. Alas – if only it were that simple.

However despite the relentless stream of Cheltenham Festival chit chat crammed into 140 characters from dawn until dusk between Monday and Sunday, something I must confess to regularly partaking in myself, it should be remembered that there are plenty of early season contests that are more than worthy of just as much attention as the end of season highlights.

With this in mind I’ve taken a closer look at the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham, the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the Ladbrokes Gold Cup (The Hennessy Gold Cup to give the race it’s proper name) at Newbury with the aim of finding a good value antepost patent that would have the bookies running for cover should we strike lucky in the early exchanges of the the 2017/18 campaign.

As we all know – targets for many are far from certain at this early stage of the season. However if these 3 do indeed turn up on the day, they must all hold obvious claims.


LEG 1:

The BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2m4f 78y   (Grade 3)

Cheltenham, Saturday 18th November 2017

The first real marquee contest of Cheltenham’s 2017/18 campaign, the BetVictor Gold Cup is always a hugely competitive event. Taquin Du Seuil landed this prestigious prize for his popular handler Jonjo O’Neill’s last term, defying a lofty handicap mark of 156 in a thrilling battle to the line with the ultra consistent Prestbury Park regular Village Vic.

Despite the experienced campaigners reigning supreme last year, I’m immediately drawn to second season chasers in these valuable early season handicaps. And there’s certainly no shortage of talented candidates who jump off the page as potential players this time around.

Shantou Village (148) currently heads the market for his burgeoning young trainer Neil Mulholland. Whilst Arkle Chase runner up Cloudy Dream (155) and Aintree Grade 1 scorer Flying Angel (157) could provide Malcolm Jefferson and Nigel Twiston-Davies with serious challengers come November.

Bun Doran (139)Politologue (154)Top Notch (157) and Waiting Patiently (150) are further significant names to chuck into the hat having displayed significant promise as novices – highlighting just what a tricky and competitive heat this 2017 renewal could be.

However it’s another second season chaser that’s caught my eye, as I think his handicap mark of 148 gives him a serious chance in a contest of this nature before stepping into open Grade 1 company to tackle the big boys later on in the season.

Sent over fences at the tender age of 4, Clan Des Obeaux followed up a slightly dissapointing chase debut at Chepstow with a hugely impressive success at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting last November, jumping supremely well before sauntering clear of his rivals with his head well and truly in his chest.

Second to subsequent RSA Chase runner up Whisper in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Years Day, Paul Nicholls’ imposing youngster failed to fire next time out when sent off the well supported 13/8 favourite for the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park in February. A run that was simply too bad to be true.

Having landed the odds at Exeter on his penultimate start of the season, Clan Des Obeaux once again failed to fire on his final start last term, finishing fourth of the 5 runners in the Grade 2 Future Champion Novices’ Chase at Ayr in April.

That said, the fleet-footed 5-year-old clearly possesses bags of potential, and I’m of the opinion that it was merely weakness that prevented the strapping young gelding from holding his form throughout the entirety of last season.

With that in mind, the son of Kapgarde could easily take a giant leap forwards this term having been afforded time to grow and mature both mentally and physically over the long summer months. And if that is indeed the case, Clan Des Obeaux could easily develop into a 160+ middle distance chaser this winter, who would certainly be more than capable of scooping a sizeable pot for his powerful Ditcheat based connections.

Clan Des Obeaux jumped around Prestbury Park with great zest on New Years Day, and it was perhaps only the misunderstanding with Sam Twiston-Davies at the penultimate fence that cost the youngster victory. However it’s also interesting to note that Paul Nicholls’ has tinkered with 5-year-old’s wind this summer, something that could eke out significant improvement.

The 2m4f trip should prove ideal at this stage of his career, and the ground holds no fears for Paul Nicholls’ imposing bay. The yard sent out John Hales popular grey Al Ferof to land this prize for the very first time in 2012, before doubling up with Caid Du Berlais 2 years later. All concerned will be hoping that Clan Des Obeaux can emulate those successes and bring home the BetVictor Gold Cup this November.

CLAN DES OBEAUX   25/1   (Generally)


LEG 2:

The Betfair Chase                                         3m 24y   (Grade 1)

Haydock, Saturday 25th November 2017

Inaugurated in 2005, The Betfair Chase has already embedded itself into the crown of the 3 mile chasing division. Mainly thanks to the exploits of the late, great, legendary dual Gold Cup winner – and five time King George hero – Kauto Star, who landed this Grade 1 prize on no fewer than 4 occasions.

Firm fan favourite Cue Card has also more than played his part, landing the spoils 3 times in the last 4 years. And it’s highly likely that Colin Tizzard’s hugely popular performer will return to defend his Haydock crown this November.

However this year the hat-trick hero is set to face stern opposition in the form of last season’s Irish, Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cup king Sizing John, with Jessica Harrington recently reiterating the intention to take aim at the £1,000,000 Jockey Club Triple Crown, which requires the 7-year-old to scoop this prize before chasing success in the King George at Kempton on route to a successful title defence at the Cheltenham Fetsival in March. Doesn’t it sound easy when you put it like that?

Of last season’s batch of novice staying chasers – RSA victor Might Bite looks the most likely candidate on paper, with the bookmakers taking no risks in pricing up the dual Grade 1 winner at no bigger than 4/1 for what would likely be his first assignment in open Grade 1 company

However on this occasion it’s a more battle hardened campaigner that’s caught my eye, with his record around Haydock and a real liking for soft ground two factors that make the 10/1 shot a very attractive prospect representing 2010 winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Bristol De Mai ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock in January, jumping and galloping a field of high quality handicappers into the ground with the bare minimum of fuss. The imposing 6-year-old crossed the line a full 22 lengths clear of the smart runner up Otago Trail (156) without being asked a single question by Daryl Jacob, who merely pointed and steered whilst Bristol De Mai set about his task with great relish and gusto.

A 20 length Grade 2 winner on his only previous visit to the Merseyside track, the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned youngster has shown incredible consistency over the larger obstacles, finishing either first or second in 11 of his 14 starts over fences in the last 2 seasons.

When allowed to stride on the scopey grey can be very hard to peg back, and given his record at the track and rating of 159 – it seems highly likely that Bristol De Mai will indeed face the starter at the end of November.

A prep run would definitely be advantageous, as would a healthy downpour of rain. And if both of those box’s are ticked come race day the talented mud lover could certainly give the rest a lot to think about if bowling out in front and utilising his springheeled jumping to full effect.

BRISTOL DE MAI   10/1   (Skybet)


LEG 3:

The Ladbrokes Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m1f 214y

Newbury, Saturday 2nd December

Roll on the Labrokes Gold Cup (Hennessy Gold Cup) and once again we’re faced with the dimlemma of potentially progressive second season chasers tackling seasoned contenders who will be eager to make sure that the whipper snappers don’t have it all their own way.

The talented but fragile American (157) has led the market for this hugely popular and prestigious Grade 3 Handicap ever since the antepost lists were drawn up. And provided there’s plenty of rain about that week – Harry Fry’s 7-year-old is likely to be very warm order come race time.

Another novice currently sits second in the antepost lists, as Tom George’s Cheltenham Festival runner up Singlefarmpayment (146) looks likely to dip his toe into these deep waters with the aim of going one place better than his agonising defeat in the Ultima Handicap Chase last March.

Of the two highest rated staying novice chasers last term, the aforementioned Might Bite (162) would be the most likely to turn up as Jessica Harrington has already stated that breathtaking Irish Grand National winner Our Duke (167) will be kept on Irish soil until a probable tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Nicky Henderson, on the other hand, won the Hennessy Gold Cup with subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bob’s Worth (off a mark of 160) in 2012. And the Champion trainer could easily attempt to repeat that particular feat with Might Bite should he wish to do so.

Of the more experienced brigade Coneygree would look to be the standout contender at the prices, and would certainly command respect should the Bradstock’s allow their 2015 Gold Cup hero take his chance off a mark of 165.

The 10-year-old’s participation could well hinge on his showing on the Kerry National at Listowel this month (13th), and I’m sure we’d all love to see the relentless galloper taste big race success once again.

However in line with the BetVictor Gold Cup, this is a race where I tend to favour a progressive second season chaser. And this year I feel there’s an Irish trained 6-year-old who could well develop into a Gold Cup contender this spring lurking at a generous looking double figure price.

Coney Island (157) has always looked a chaser in the making and confirmed that theory when landing the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse last December. The ease in which the son of Flemensfirth travelled through the race before hitting the front and never looking in danger was enough to see the youngster sent off the 5/2 favourite to beat the aforementioned Our Duke (167) and subsequent dual Grade 1 scorer Disko (157) in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Beaten just half a length by the hugely exciting Our Duke – the front 3 pulled a full 21 lengths clear of their contemporaries, with the subsequent successes’ achieved by the first and third impressively advertising the form throughout a quality packed spring campaign.

Disappointingly for antepost backers, myself included, Coney Island suffered a setback in the weeks leading up to the Cheltenham Festival and was forced to sit out the RSA Chase as a result. Well backed prior to the news breaking, many shrewd judges were very keen on the Eddie Harty trained raider – who, for one reason or another, hasn’t been sighted since.

Although his lack of experience could be considered a negative, Coney Island could easily possess the scope for significant improvement after just 3 starts over fences, scope which could well see the 6-year-old competing in open Grade 1 company come the Spring. And if that is indeed the case, a rating of 157 could easily underestimate the geldings ability, especially if a seasoned campaigner such as Coneygree were present to keep the weights down for the Irish trained youngster.

All in all Coney Island looks a fair price at 25/1 given his exploits in Grade 1 novice company last term. Especially given the subsequent showings of Our Duke and Disko in hugely competitive spring events.

Eddie Harty described the JP McManus owned youngster as a future Gold Cup horse following his hugely impressive Drinmore victory in November. And if Coney Island does make the trip across the Irish Sea, he looks well worth keeping on side.

CONEY ISLAND   25/1   (Generally)


SELECTIONS:

BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase        Clan Des Obeaux   25/1

Betfair Chase                                            Bristol De Mai   10/1

Ladbrokes Gold Cup (Hennessy Gold Cup) Coney Island   25/1


A £1 Each Way Patent with Skybet (25/1 – 10/1 – 25/1) currently returns £9018.25.

Well, stranger things have happened!

Good luck.


CLAN DES OBEAUX could be a completely different prospect after another summer at grass.
BRISTOL DE MAI could take some pegging back on soft ground around Haydock.
CONEY ISLAND could easily develop into a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender this season.


FOOTNOTE:

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the brilliant Susie Cahill (@GirloftheSummer) for the fantastic photo of Coney Island.

If you’d like to see more of Susie’s photos head over to facebook.com/ridingonthegallops

Colin Tizzard – OPEN DAY REPORT (28/8/2017)

I’m pleased to say that I was one of many ardent National Hunt enthusiasts who attended Venn Farm Stables this afternoon as Colin Tizzard threw open the gates and offered a warm welcome to all ahead of what will hopefully prove to be yet another hugely successful campaign for the dairy farmer turned top class multiple Grade 1 winning racehorse trainer. 

Cue Card, Finian’s Oscar, Fox Norton, Native River and Thistlecrack were just five stable A-listers who paraded before a mesmerised audience, alongside exciting novice chase prospect Elegant Escape, Champion Hurdle contender Pingshou and promising youngster Slate House, a £260,000 purchase this spring. 

For those who couldn’t make it to the picturesque village of Sherborne in Dorset today, here’s a brief summary of what those who attended discovered. 


CUE CARD   11-y-o  b g

   

Welcomed with an ovation, there’s a warmth about the glint in the eye and broad smile that breaks out over Colin Tizzard’s face when Cue Card enters stage left, and it was fantastic to hear that the multiple Grade 1 winner had enjoyed a rip roaring time on his summer holidays this year.

Once again the Charlie Hall Chase, Betfair Chase, King George, Ascot Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup are on Cue Card‘s agenda. And Joe Tizzard stated that he’d be surprised if the 11-year-old couldn’t win another Grade 1 this season. 

Colin Tizzard has ridden his stable legend personally of late, and reports the star to be in fine fettle. Another season awaits. 


ELEGANT ESCAPE   5-y-o  b g

   

Last season was very much an exercise in gaining racecourse experience for Elegant Escape, and hopes are high that the son of Dubai Destination, who finished second to Samcro in a Monksgrange PTP, can take a huge leap forwards when tackling the larger obstacles this winter.

Tizzard drew laughter when explaining the reason behind the name Elegant Escape, coming from an incident in Ireland when the youngster was trained by Gordon Elliott. Having escaped the yard, the 5-year-old was captured by gypsies near by, who wasted little time in jumping some gates in a field before Elliott et al could catch up with them!

Trips ranging from 2m4f to 3m will be on the youngsters radar this winter, and as Tizzard stated, you won’t find many finer looking specimens now he’s filled out and grown into his scopey, imposing frame. 


FINIAN’S OSCAR   5-y-o  b g

   

It’s fair to say that Joe Tizzard was unable to hide his excitement when talking in glowing terms about sending dual Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Finian’s Oscar over fences this season. And, in all fairness, I can’t say I blame him!

Tizzard remarked that the son of Oscar was the best horse of his age they had trained, some statement given the ammunition that has passed through Venn Farm in recent years. 

The strapping 5-year-old appeared to have summered extremely well, and was in fine form both in his box and during the parade. A big future lies ahead.  


FOX NORTON   7-y-o  b g

   

Greeting his public with a much shorter tail than he had before his summer break due to a tail biter, culprit unknown, Fox Norton is set for another exciting season after notching Grade 1 victories at both Aintree and Punchestown in the Spring. 

Colin Tizzard is eager to try the son of Lando over 3 miles this season, mentioning the King George as a possible target should Sizing John suffer any kind of setback early  doors this term. 

Otherwise it will be 2m – 2m5f again this winter, and the 7-year-old could start out in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December. 


NATIVE RIVER   7-y-o  ch g

   

Native River is undoubtedly a firm favourite of his adoring trainer, who is convinced that his Hennessy Gold Cup winning Welsh Grand National hero can improve upon his third place finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March. 

Tizzard did state that the talented chestnut probably won’t be seen on the track until Christmas time, having not been right after his Cheltenham Festival exertions in the Spring. 

The Dorset based handler is also of the opinion that Native River runs his best races second and third time out, and aims to get the 7-year-old back to the Gold Cup after just 1 or 2 starts this term.


PINGSHOU   7-y-o  b g


It’s fair to say there were a few raised eyebrows when Joe Tizzard announced that Pingshou will be aimed at the Champion Hurdle this winter, and will return to contest some of the traditional trials to gauge whether it’s a realistic long term target prior to Christmas. 

If not the talented 7-year-old will be sent over fences, a job that should suit him well given his significant size and scope. Another exciting season awaits the Aintree Grade 1 winner. 


ROYAL VACATION   7-y-o  b g

Winner of the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase last term, there’s a belief that the 7-year-old can progress once again this term, having returned from the field looking bigger and stronger than ever before.

The Hennessy Gold Cup is a likely early season target, and Joe Tizzard see’s the son of King’s Theatre competing in plenty of classy staying handicaps this term.

It should also be noted that Royal Vacation has recently had a wind operation. 


SLATE HOUSE   5-y-o  b g


A £260,000 purchase at the Cheltenham Festival sales, Slate House is a fine stamp of a horse who’s future most certainly lies over fences in time.

However the strapping son of Presenting could easily make his mark in novice hurdles this season, and both Colin and Joe Tizzard spoke in glowing terms about the promising 5-year-old. 

He’s certainly a name to keep in mind. 


THISTLECRACK   9-y-o  b g

   

Confidence in the camp is high that the mighty King George victor Thistlecrack will return in time to defend his Christmas time crown at Kempton Park this December. And it’s clear, quite understandably, that Colin Tizzard can’t wait to get the imposing 9-year-old back on the racetrack this winter. 

Of course the talented son of Kayf Tara will be built up slowly, and it’s therefore extremely unlikely that he will be seen in competitive action before Boxing Day at Kempton. 

But hopes are certainly high for his King George defence. And then hopefully the 2016 Stayers Hurdle winner will get his chance to line up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup come March. 

⚪️

Storm Home and Vision Des Flos were two further exciting youngsters sighted in their stables. As were firm favourites Third Intention and Topham Chase winner Ultragold, who could be a Grand National horse come the spring. 

Alary was another star who looked well after his summer break. And the same owners’ New To This Town was also a standout, who can hopefully fulfil the promise he displayed in bumpers last year. 

It’s also worth noting that recent Uttoxeter Summer Cup winner Tempestatefloresco is on course to line up in the Kerry National at Listowel in a couple of weeks, where he could meet 2015 Gold Cup hero Coneygree, who would ensure the consistent 9-year-old would get in off a relative featherweight. Both Colin and Joe expressed confidence in the son of Storming Home.

One sad note to come out of the day was the confirmation that hugely exciting £480,000 maiden Point winner Flemenshill is no longer with us, having suffered a heart attack during a routine canter a few weeks ago. Easily one of the most impressive winners between the flags in recent years, it’s a great shame he won’t be able to fulfil his undoubted potential. 

Finally, Tizzard again mentioned his desire to run Native River in the Grand National, joking that he’d continue to badger the owners daily until they cave in and agree! Tailor made for the race according to his trainer, the dashing chestnut would certainly be some sight over the unique spruce fences. 

⚪️

I’m sure I speak on behalf of the entire National Hunt Racing community when I say a huge thank you to Colin and Joe Tizzard, all of the owners who allowed us to get up close and personal with their exciting star’s and, of course, the stable staff without whom events of this nature wouldn’t be possible.

Below are some snaps of the stars on show.

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Stable & fan favourite CUE CARD.
Exciting chase prospect ELEGANT ESCAPE.
The hugely exciting FINIAN’S OSCAR.
Dual Grade 1 winner FOX NORTON.
Hennessy Gold Cup winning Welsh Grand National hero NATIVE RIVER.
Champion Hurdle hopefull PINGSHOU.
Hennessy Gold Cup contender ROYAL VACATION.
Exciting youngster SLATE HOUSE.
King George winner THISTLECRACK.

NATIVE RIVER parading.
THISTLECRACK.
CUE CARD.

TOP 10’s – Novice Hurdlers & Chasers 2017/18

GETABIRD looks a top prospect for Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci.

Having assembled extensive lists of both exciting novice hurdle and chase prospects in recent weeks, I’ve now selected 10 of each that I’m really looking forward too this winter.

⚪️

1. DEBUCHET   4-y-o  gr g                 Smadoun (FR) – Luzerne Du Poitou (FR)


TRAINER:  Mags Mullins                       FORM:  2121

Second in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March, Mags Mullins’ gorgeous grey was the model of consistency last term, posting form figures of 2121 in high quality National Hunt Flat races on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Having found only the hugely talented pair of Red Jack and Fayonagh too good last term, Debuchet proved himself to be well above average when slamming his opposition at both Leopardstown and Limerick either side of his top class Prestbury Park effort.

The son of Smadoun looked the winner at Cheltenham before the mighty mare Fayonagh hit overdrive in the final furlong of the contest. And having enjoyed another summer at grass to both strengthen and mature, Debuchet looks to set to enjoy a hugely profitable season over timber. 


2. FAYONAGH   6-y-o  b m                  Kalanisi (IRE) – Fair Ina (IRE)


TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott                     FORM:  81111

A mare who requires no introduction, the Champion Bumper winner is without doubt the name on the lips of every ardent National Hunt supporter this Autumn, and looks set for a hugely exciting season jumping hurdles.

Unbeaten in 4 starts for Gordon Elliott (8th on racecourse debut), it was the manner in which Fayonagh stormed up the hill at Cheltenham that really caught the imagination of the jumping fraternity, and it looks as though 2-and-a-half-miles could be the ideal trip for the strong looking daughter of Kalanisi this term. 

Whether Elliott will keep the mighty mare against her own sex or look to battle the boys this term will be fascinating to see. But whichever route they do decide to take, Fayonagh looks set to take high rank in the novice hurdle division this winter.


3. GETABIRD   5-y-o  b g                     Getaway (GER) – Fern Bird (IRE)


TRAINER:  Willie Mullins                     FORM:  R111

Antepost favourite for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham after a deeply impressive debut success at Fairyhouse last December, Rich Ricci’s son of Germany disappointingly didn’t make it to the Festival after suffering a setback when landing the odds on Thyestes day at Gowran Park in January.

There was plenty of talk about the powerful looking 5-year-old prior to his successful debut at Fairyhouse last term, and we know how little it takes for people to latch on to these Rich Ricci owned – Willie Mullins trained youngsters following the obscene amount of success experienced with the likes of Champagne Fever, Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour in recent years. 

That said, you can’t argue with what Getabird has shown on the track thus far, and he rates an exciting novice hurdle prospect for the powerful partnership this winter.

A winner between the flags at Largy in April 2016, Getabird could be one for middle distance novice hurdles this winter. And, like many of these, looks set to contest graded events this season. 


4. OUTOFTHISWORLD   4-y-o  b/br m Shantou (USA) – Mystic Masie (IRE)


TRAINER:  Harry Fry                             FORM:  1

Harry Fry has shown that he’s more than capable with the ladies in recent years, and in Outofthisworld the Cheltenham Festival winning trainer looks to have another very special lady in his life.

This talented daughter of Shantou ran out an eye catching 11 length winner of a Market Rasen bumper in late March, where the 4-y-o showed an impressive turn of foot when Noel Fehily sent her about her business with 2 furlongs left to run. 

It’s possible that Harry Fry could aim Outofthisworld at the Listed Mares’ Bumper at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting in November, a race he won with smart racemare Bitofapuzzle in 2014, before sending the talented mare over timber this winter. And if that is indeed the plan, she’s certainly one to take very seriously both at Cheltenham in November and beyond. 


5. RAVENHILL ROAD   6-y-o  ch g            Exit To Nowhere (USA) – Zaffarella (IRE)


TRAINER:  Brian Ellison                       FORM:  111

Ravenhill Road burst in to the scene with a hugely impressive bumper success at Market Rasen last October, before following up in equally impressive fashion at Doncaster one month later. The 6-year-old received a couple of novice hurdle entries following his second bumper success last term, before looking likely to run in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March. 

However disappointingly we didn’t get to see the imposing chestnut gelding again last term, but I’m sure connections will be eager to get the youngster back on track in the early exchanges of this season. 

The winner of his sole Point at Broughshane in May 2016, Brian Ellison looks to have a very smart prospect on his hands this winter, who looks more than capable of holding his own in graded company should he receive a clear run. 


6. RED JACK   4-y-o  b g                         Mahler (GB) – Hollygrove Bonnie (IRE)


TRAINER:  Noel Meade                         FORM:  11

The subject of much talk on social media this summer, Red Jack could take high rank in the novice hurdle division this season after recording a brace of victories from as many starts in bumpers last term.

A debut succes over subsequent Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper runner up Debuchet certainly reads well, and the third home, Le Richebourg, has also given the form a solid look since.

JP McManus wasted no time in signing a cheque to secure the services of Red Jack following his debut success at Naas in January, and given the way he stormed to success when last seen at Fairyhouse, it certainly looks money well spent.

Likely to start out over the minimum trip this autumn, the son of Mahler could easily develop into a serious contender for either the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle come the spring.


7. SAMCRO   5-y-o  ch g                      Germany (USA) – Dun Dun (IRE)


TRAINER: Gordon Elliott                      FORM:  1111

This £335,000 Gigginstown House Stud purchase barely needs any introduction, especially given the promise he showed on the racetrack last term.

The gorgeous, scopey son of Germany recorded three successive bumper victories last term, the most impressive of the trio coming at Fairyhouse in April when sprinting clear of his field after being asked to quicken by Lisa O’Neil, displaying an impressive range of gears that will undoubtedly stand the youngster in good stead over the years to come. 

That performance gave me the impression that Samcro could be seen to best effect of intermediate trips this winter, with his potent blend of speed and stamina making the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle look an ideal long range target.

Indeed we may not see the best of Samcro until he embarks on a novice chase career in 12 months time. However he looks more than capable of securing graded success over timber this winter. 


8. THE BIG BITE   4-y-o  b g               Scorpion (IRE) – Thanks Noel (IRE)


TRAINER:  Tom Lacey                           FORM:  1

If you didn’t witness the victory of The Big Bite you really did miss out! Having been held up in rear the rangy youngster looked outpaced over 3 furlongs, running greener than a seasick sailor, before realising what his job was about and flying home in the final furlong to beat the Nicky Henderson trained mare Polly’s Pursuit by an easy 3-and-a-half-lengths.

Given the manor in which the son of Scorpion approached the first 1m7f of that contest – his winning margin, and the speed at which he hit the line, mark him out as a very exciting prospect for novice hurdles this season.

A nice long summer at grass can only have done the 4-year-old the world of good, allowing him time mature both mentally and physically before embarking on a career over timber. Remember the name, The Big Bite.


9. VISION DES FLOS   4-y-o  b g             Balko (FR) – Marie Royale (FR)


TRAINER:  Colin Tizzard                       FORM:  1

Winner of the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in April, this good looking son of Balko traveled strongly throughout the 2 mile contest before making smooth headway approaching the turn for home and gamely seeing off the Willie Mullins trained Hollowgraphic on the run to the line.

Its always pleasing to see a young horse have the guts to put his head down and battle in the early stages of their career, and the attitude Vision Des Flos displayed to repel what looked a strong looking field is certainly a promising sign for the gelding going forwards.

Transferred to Colin Tizzard this summer, the 4-year-old can only improve for both the experience he gained at Punchestown and the subsequent summer break that will have provided the talented youngster with ample of time to mature and grow both mentally and physically ahead of his novice hurdle campaign. 

I fully expect to see Vision Des Flos contesting graded novice events in Britain this winter.


10. WHISKEY IN THE JAR   5-y-o  b g   Oscar (IRE) – Baie Barbara (IRE)


TRAINER:  Dan Skelton                         FORM:  21

This gorgeous son of Oscar looks a very exciting young prospect for the ever flourishing Lodge Hill operation of Dan Skelton. And although we may not see the best of him until he embarks on a chasing career this time next year, he certainly rates a top prospect for novice hurdles this winter.

Badly hampered before staying on well to take second behind the talented Monbeg Worldwide (who has won twice subsequently) in a Roscommon bumper last October, Whiskey In The Jar ran out a facile winner on his only start for Dan Skelton last term. With Harry Skelton enjoying what can only be described as an armchair ride at Warwick in March.

Dan Skelton has a number of talented youngsters entering the novice hurdling ranks this winter, and it goes without saying that Whiskey In The Jar must sit pretty high up in the pecking order at Lodge Hill. 

Dan Skelton always seems to have his string pretty well forward, and therefore this imposing 5-year-old could well be seen early doors this autumn. He’s definitely worth looking out for. 


1. BACARDYS   6-y-o  b g                      Coastal Path (GB) – Oasice (FR)

‪    

TRAINER:  Willie Mullins                       IDEAL CONDITIONS:   2m4f – 3m   Gd – Hy

I’m not sure this talented son of Coastal Path truly got the credit he deserved last term having won both the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle and Grade 1 Tattersalls Irish Champion Novice Hurdle either side of an unfortunate trip to the Cheltenham Festival when pulling up after being severely hampered by the mid race departure of Consul De Thaix.

Indeed the strapping youngster won every race he completed last season, with a debut fall at Cork and his luckless Cheltenham Festival effort the only blemishes in what was otherwise a hugely successful campaign. 

The winner of a maiden point at Quakerstown in April 2015, Bacardys looked a very smart prospect in the hands of Derek O’Connor, who has spoke in glowing terms about the 6-year-old subsequently.

Willie Mullins’ charge lowered the colours of the hugely exciting Finian’s Oscar at Punchestown in April, form that rates very highly indeed. He is without question a serious Grade 1 contender this winter and could easily develop into a strong contender for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival come March. 


2. BALLYANDY   6-y-o  b g                         Kayf Tara (GB) – Megalex (GB)

    

TRAINER:  Nigel Twiston-Davies           IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m4f   Gd – Sft

Surprisingly there’s been very little chit chat about last season’s hugely impressive Betfair Hurdle winner in the bulid up to the jumps season proper, something I consider quite perplexing given the fact he was extremely well supported to taste Cheltenham Festival success for the second year in succession at Prestbury Park in March before enduring a nightmare passage through the curtain raising contest, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, when finishing fourth. 

Having taken time to adapt to jumping hurdles, the 2016 Champion Bumper winner made a mockery of an opening handicap mark of 135 in Newbury’s valuable February contest, confirming the huge promise he’d shown early in his career. 

Ballyandy is certainly a fine stamp of a horse, and without doubt has the scope to jump fences should connections give him the green light to do so this autumn. If indeed they do, it goes without saying that the son of Kayf Tara would rate an extremely exciting prospect this winter, with either the Arkle Novices Chase or JLT Novives Chase likely Cheltenham Festival targets come the spring. 


3. DEATH DUTY   6-y-o  b g                Shantou (USA) – Midnight Gift (IRE)

    

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott                       IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Sft – Hy

Had Death Duty converted favouritism into success in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in the spring he would undoubtedly be the name on the lips of every ardent National Hunt Racing enthusiast on both sides of the Irish Sea. However the talented son of Shantou ejected jockey Bryan Copper at the final flight of hurdles, and even if he hadn’t, he certainly wouldn’t have been troubling the judges.

The apple of Gordon Elliott’s eye, Death Duty landed novice hurdles at Grade 3, Grade 2 and Grade 1 level last winter, and has always been considered a hugely exciting chasing prospect by both Elliot and owners Gigginstown House Stud.

Death Duty claimed the scalps of many talented opponents last term, including Blood Crazed Tiger, Invitation Only, Monalee and Turcagua before his disappointing effort at Prestbury Park in the Spring. Something that shouldn’t be easily forgotten. 

The Albert Bartlett is always an attritional contest in which many a ‘good one’ has been beaten over the years. That defeat aside, the 6-year-old remains a hugely exciting prospect for 2m4f – 3m novice chase’s this winter. 


4. FINIAN’S OSCAR   5-y-o  b g              Oscar (IRE) – Trinity Alley (IRE)

     

TRAINER:  Colin Tizzard                        IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m5f   Gd – Sft

Last season Finian’s Oscar progressed from Point winner to Grade 1 winning novice hurdler in just 77 days, a hugely impressive feat I’m sure you’d agree. However even more impressive was the manner in which he achieved his victory at Portrush in October, clocking a time only comparable to Cheltenham Festival winners Brindisi Breeze and Simonsig in the pointing field over the last 10 years.

The talented son of Oscar shot to the head of the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle market following a smooth success in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle in January, before falling victim to a stone bruise which ruled the youngster out of competing on jump racing’s biggest stage just days before the greatest show on turf got underway. A huge disappointment for connections and ardent racing enthusiasts alike. 

However the hugely exciting 5-year-old gained Grade 1 compensation at Aintree in April, and very nearly secured a top level treble when narrowly being denied by the aforementioned Bacardys in a head bobbing battle to the line at the Punchestown Festival. Where, if splitting hairs, Robbie Power perhaps set sail for home a tad early, leaving himself vulnerable to dogged Willie Mullins trained winner late on. 

Colin Tizzard has some serious National Hunt firepower residing in his Venn Farm Stables at Present, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Finian’s Oscar has the potential to the scale the upper echelons of the chasing division over the years to come. However this year the JLT Novices’ Chase would look the ideal long term target given the geldings rich blend of both speed and stamina. 


5. MONALEE   6-y-o  b g                          Milan (GB) – Tempest Belle (IRE)

    

TRAINER:  Henry De Bromhead          IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd – Hy

Henry De Bromhead’s scopey son of Milan performed to a very high standard in novice hurdles last term, with his best performance coming at the Cheltenham Festival in March when chasing home Penhill in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

The talented 6-year-old displayed his ability early doors last season, with a victory over the smart pair The Storytellar and Turcagua at Punchestown in November preceding a fair effort in defeat at Navan one month later, where De Bromhead’s charge split the well regarded duo of Death Duty and Invitation Only in second. 

Punchestown was perhaps a step too far for Monalee, who appeared to be feeling the effects of what is always a gruelling Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. However it certainly takes no gloss off what he achieved last term, and I’m sure connections will be excited to see what their classy performer is capable of over the lager obstacles this winter. 

De Bromhead certainly hasn’t looked to play down the regard in which he holds his talented gelding, who looks every inch a graded staying chaser in the making. And like Bacardys, I fully expect to see the Monalee develop into a serious contender for the RSA Chase come March.  


6. MOVEWITHTHETIMES   6yo  ch g Presenting (UK) – Dare To Venture (IRE)

      

TRAINER:  Paul Nicholls                         IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m4f   GS – Sft

Paul Nicholls certainly has plenty to look forward too this winter, with the master of Ditcheat set to unleash a particularly strong team of novice chasers this season, including the JP McManus owned Movewiththetimes. Form figures of 1412 over timber read extremely well for a horse who’s built for one job, and one job only. And this son of Presenting could easily take high rank in the 2m – 2m4f novice chase divisions this winter. 

Badly hampered in a Grade 2 contest won by Champion Hurdle runner Moon Racer at Cheltenham in November, the strapping 6-y-o’s best effort came in the ultra competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury,  where he broke free of the field with fellow novice Ballyandy, who pipped him to the prize by just three-quarters of a length at the line. 

A small setback scuppered plans for Movewiththetimes to line up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a contest for which he had been well supported on the back of his Betfair Hurdle second. However I’d imagine connections wouldn’t have been overly dismayed given Paul Nicholls’ modus operandi of giving future chasers an easy time of things in their novice hurdle year.

As previously stated, Paul Nicholls’ has a very nice batch of novice chase prospects the winter, and it’s odds on that Movewiththetimes will be very near the top of the pecking order at Ditcheat. He certainly shouldn’t be underestimated against any opponent this term. 


7. PINGSHOU   7-y-o  b g                      Definite Article (GB) – Quest Of Passion (FR)

     

TRAINER:  Colin Tizzard                       IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m   Gd – GS

Colin Tizzard’s son of Definite Article took his form to a whole new level in the Spring, landing Grade 1 spoils at Aintree before putting up a throughly respectable effort in defeat at the Punchestown Fetsival later that month when matching strides with warm favourite Melon at the head of affairs and exchanging blows that rendered the pair unable to repel the the fast finishing kick of Cialos Emery, who swooped past the flagging duo in the final furlong of the contest.

A winner at Cheltenham in November, the imposing 7-year-old has size and scope in abundance, and it’s quite conceivable that he could surpass the level of form he achieved over timber when he faced with steeplechase fences this winter.

Pingshou is seen to best effect when dictating the pace over 2 miles on spring ground, so I wouldn’t be deterred if he found life a bit tougher in the depths of the winter campaign. However he’s certainly one to keep in mind come the big spring Festival’s. 


8. SUTTON PLACE   6-y-o  b g                  Mahler (GB) – Glebe Beauty (IRE)

      

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott                      IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m4f   Sft – Hy

Without doubt one of the most exciting young prospects on this list, Sutton Place returned from a spell on the sidelines with victories in Grade 3 and Grade 2 company at Naas and Navan respectively earlier this year, before being pulled up lame on better ground at the Punchestown Festival in April.

Having lowered the colours of subsequent Coral Cup winner Supasundae at Naas in January, the scopey JP McManus owned 6-year-old ran out a smart winner of the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February, which prompted talk of a possible tilt at the Champion Hurdle before Gordon Elliot swiftly moved to rule it out.

Sutton Place certainly possesses the physique of a chaser and will undoubtedly be competing in graded company this winter providing his aspiring Champion trainer can keep him off the treatment table. Granted a clear run, he truly could be anything. 


9. TOPOFTHEGAME   5yo   ch g Flemensfirth (USA) – Derry Vale (IRE)

      

TRAINER:  Paul Nicholls                        IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   GS – Sft

This gorgeous son of Flemensfirth really fills the eye. Winner of his solitary start between the flags at Belclare in March 2016, Paul Nicholls’ scopey youngster impressively dispatched Dan Skelton’s smart performer No Hassle Hoff (second) and Nicky Henderson’s dual scorer Brave Eagle (third) by upwards of 9 lengths. 

Topofthegame’s first appearance under rules resulted in success at Ascot in December, before a fourth placed finish behind subsequent Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle third Wholestone in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham on Festival trial’s day in January. 

Second to subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle sixth (and Aintree Grade 1 second) Beyond Conceit at Ascot on his third and final appearance last term, Paul Nicholls was clearly minding his promising youngster with a chasing career firmly at the forefront of his mind.

To say Topofthegame has the size and scope for fences would be an understatement, and it’s a nod to his ability that he ran so well in some competitive heats over timber last term. The imposing son of Flemensfirth could easily develop into a very smart novice chaser this winter, and can hopefully develop into high class chaser for Paul Nicholls’ over the coming years. 


10. WILLOUGHBY COURT   6-y-o   br g      Court Cave (IRE) – Willoughby Sue (IRE)


TRAINER:  Ben Pauling                          IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   GS – Sft

Winner of the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in March, Willoughby Court bravely out battled Harry Fry’s sadly departed Neon Wolf at Prestbury Park, landing the spoils in a photo finish and providing the burgeoning Bourton Hill Farm operation of Ben Pauling with a maiden Cheltenham Festival success.

The way the youngster won at Cheltenham clearly suggested that stamina will be his forte over the years to come, having made every yard of the running and really sticking to the task when pressed all the way to line by the high class runner up, rewarding David Bass for his enterprising ride. 

A Grade 2 winner at Warwick in February, Willoughby Court rates a hugely exciting prospect for middle distance to staying novice chase trips this winter. And he certainly shouldn’t be underestimated against any opponent he may face this season. 

Paul and Clare Rooney have become staunch supporters of National Hunt Racing in recent years, and hopefully this hugely talented son of Court Cave can develop into a flagbearer for the couple, who’s stock continues to rise significantly year on year. 


10+1. YANWORTH   7-y-o  ch g                         Norse Dancer (IRE) – Yota (FR)


TRAINER:  Alan King                              IDEAL CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd – Hy

As highest rated hurdler set to embark on a career over fences this winter, it would be an oversight not too include Yanworth on this list, with Alan King recently reiterating the intention to send the JP McManus owned chestnut over fences this winter. 

Sent off the 2/1 favourite to claim Champion Hurdle successs in March, Yanworth ran a hugely disappointing race to finish seventh before later being disqualified. However the strapping 7-year-old has subsequently displayed that his future lies over further with a battling success in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree. And given the level of form the ‘Orange Machine’ achieved over timber, he must rate a hugely exciting prospect for novice chases this winter.

Alan Kings’s son of Norse Dancer has always been a classy performer, finishing fourth in the 2015 Champion Bumper before chasing home the hugely talented Yorkhill in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle 12 months later.

A dual Grade 1 winner last season, the scopey gelding has often jumped hurdles as though they were fences, and could easily develop into a top class 2m4f – 3m novice chaser this winter.

⚪️

FAYONAGH is a hugely exciting prospect for novice hurdles this term.
SAMCRO will be competing in Grade 1 company this winter.
FINIAN’S OSCAR (left) and BACARDYS are hugely exciting novice chase prospects this season.
Last season’s Betfair Hurdle winner BALLYANDY looks a smart novice chase prospect for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
DEATH DUTY is the apple of aspiring Irish Champion Trainer Gordon Elliott’s eye.
Last season’s Albert Bartlett runner up MONALEE rates a serious staying chase prospect this term.
MOVEWITHTHETIMES looks a hugely exciting novice chase prospect for Paul Nicholls and JP McManus.
Aintree Grade 1 winner PINGSHOU could progress further over fences.
SUTTON PLACE could take high rank in novice chase company granted a clear run this winter.
TOPOFTHEGAME has the size and scope to make up into graded novice chaser for Paul Nicholls this season.
 

 FOOTNOTE:

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the brilliant Susie Cahill (@GirloftheSummer) for the fantastic photos of Fayonagh, Getabird, Samcro, Finian’s Oscar & Bacardys, Death Duty, Monalee, Pingshou and Sutton Place.

If you’d like to see more of Susie’s photos head over to facebook.com/ridingonthegallops

Fencing Fancies – Novice Chasers 2017/18

To witness a racehorse glide majestically over a fence is a sight that can only be described as pure poetry in motion. 

Indeed some horses are simply built to jump the birch, and below I’ve assembled a list of hugely promising prospect’s who can hopefully make their presence felt in the novice chasing ranks this season. 

However there is one name missing from the list following the hugely tragic events of this weekend, with the worst possible news breaking today that Harry Fry’s super talented 6-year-old Neon Wolf is sadly no longer with us.

I’d just like to pass on my sincere condolences to Harry Fry, the Masterson family and all of the team at Seaborough, and encourage everyone, as hard as it may be, to remember and treasure both the good times and the memories of a horse who oozed class in everything he did. 

RIP Neon Wolf.


ANY SECOND NOW   5-y-o  b g               Oscar (IRE) – Pretty Neat (IRE)

TRAINER:  Ted Walsh                     OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f   GS – Sft

Ted Walsh has trained some seriously smart chasers over the years, including Punchestown Gold Cup winner (2000), and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner up (2002), Commanche Court – as well as Aintree Grand National hero Papillon, who triumphed in the year 2000.

This year the top class jockey sire has a hugely exciting prospect in the form of Any Second Now, who followed up a maiden hurdle success at Navan with victory in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown in January. 

Third in Grade 2 company on his penultimate start of the campaign, the JP McManus owned 5-year-old unseated his jockey on his final racecourse appearance in the spring when trying 2-and-a-half-miles for the very first time at Fairyhouse. A distance that could prove ideal for the talented youngster this winter. 

When interviewed Ted Walsh gave the impression that last season was merely an education in racing for Any Second Now, and the fact he was streetwise enough to score in Grade 2 company is undoubtedly a very positive sign for the geldings future career. It will be interesting to see just what this rangy son of Oscar is capable of over fences this winter. 


BACARDYS   6-y-o  b g                           Coastal Path (GB) – Oasice (FR)

TRAINER:  Willie Mullins                OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd – Hy

I’m not sure this talented son of Coastal Path truly got the credit he deserved last term having won both the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle and Grade 1 Tattersalls Irish Champion Novice Hurdle either side of an unfortunate trip to the Cheltenham Festival when pulling up after being severely hampered by the mid race departure of Consul De Thaix.

Indeed the strapping youngster won every race he completed last season, with a debut fall at Cork and his luckless Cheltenham Festival effort the only blemishes in what was otherwise a hugely successful campaign. 

The winner of a maiden point at Quakerstown in April 2015, Bacardys looked a very smart prospect in the hands of Derek O’Connor that day, who has spoke in glowing terms about the 6-year-old subsequently.

Willie Mullins’ charge lowered the colours of the hugely exciting Finian’s Oscar at Punchestown in April, form that rates very highly indeed. He is without question a serious Grade 1 contender this winter and certainly shouldn’t be underestimated. 


BALLYANDY   6-y-o  b g                             Kayf Tara (GB) – Megalex (GB)

TRAINER:  Nigel Twiston-Davies    OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m4f   Gd – Sft

Surprisingly there’s been very little chit chat about last season’s hugely impressive Betfair Hurdle winner in the bulid up to the jumps season proper, something I consider quite perplexing given the fact he was extremely well supported to taste Cheltenham Festival success for the second year in succession at Prestbury Park in March before enduring a nightmare passage through the curtain raising contest, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, finally finishing fourth. 

Having taken time to adapt to jumping hurdles the 2016 Champion Bumper winner made a mockery of an opening handicap mark of 135 in Newbury’s valuable February contest, confirming the promise he’d shown early in his career. 

Ballyandy is certainly a fine stamp of a horse, and without doubt has the scope to jump fences should go connections give him the green light to do so this autumn. If indeed they do, it goes without saying that the son of Kayf Tara would rate an extremely exciting prospect this winter. 


BALLYARTHUR    7yo  b g                         Kayf Tara (UK) – Ariels Serenade (IRE)

TRAINER:  Nigel Twiston-Davies    OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m  Gd – Sft

Well supported at Cheltenham last November, Ballyarthur went into the notebook after running a fine race to finish fourth to Behind Time, Solomn Grundy and Call To Order, with the second and third victorious subsequently.

The scopey Nigel Twiston-Davies trained bay continued to demonstrate a fair level of form throughout the season, however one gets the impression it was merely a case of gaining racecourse experience and marking time until the day came where this imposing gelding would face a steeplechase fence.

Rated 129 over hurdles, Ballyarthur looks just the type of horse his canny Cotswolds based trainer excels with over fences. And I wouldn’t expect that mark to last too long if entered in a novice handicap chase early doors this autumn.


BALLYOPTIC   7-y-o  b g                              Old Vic (GB) – Lambourne Lace (IRE)

TRAINER:  Nigel Twiston-Davies     OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  3m+   Gd – Hy

Ballyoptic looked to have the world at his feet after a successful return to the track at Chepstow last October. However disappointingly it didn’t transpire that way for the son of Old Vic, who failed to get his head in front on 6 subsequent trips to the track despite running well in defeat on a number of occasions.

Second and fourth behind the talented Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) and Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) respectively last term, Ballyoptic was pulled up in the Stayers Hurdle when sent of a a 14/1 shot in March. 

A strong looking 7-year-old, the Nigel Twiston- Davies trained bay looks to be all about stamina, and therefore the 4 mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival would looks ideal long term target for Ballyoptic, who won once and placed second twice from 5 starts between the flags in 2014/15.


BLOOD CRAZED TIGER   6-y-o  b g      King’s Theatre (IRE) – Mardi Roberta (IRE)

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott              OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd

Blood Crazed Tiger hasn’t be seen on a racehorse since February this year, presumably suffering a setback that saw the talented son of King’s Theatre miss the Spring Festivals and start his summer break earlier than most.

However it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Gigginstown House Stud owned 6-year-old rattled up a four-timer between May and November last year before finishing third behind the smart pair Death Duty and Turcagua in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas in January.

Hopefully Blood Crazed Tiger has recovered from the setback that kept him off the track in the spring, and connections will be hoping that the scopey youngster can can make up for lost time in the early exchanges of this season. 


BON PAPA   6-y-o  br g                        Network (GER) – Gibelotte (FR)

TRAINER:  Willie Mullins               OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m4f   GS – Sft

A big baby last season, one gets the impression that Willie Mullins was merely attempting to educate Bon Papa in the art of racing last term, however it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the master of Closutton considered the scopey son of Network good enough to contest the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, where his inexperience told.

The imposing 6-year-old arrived at Prestbury Park having landed the odds at Gowran Park in January, and although a P in his formline does little to encourage confidence, he did run well for a long way before his attitude put paid to his chances.

Hopefully another summer at grass with have provided Bon Papa with ample time to mature both mentally and physically. And if that is indeed the case, he could make up into a very nice novice chaser this winter. 


BRELADE   5-y-o  b g                        Presenting (GB) – Polivalente (FR)

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott              OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m   Gd – GS

This talented son of Presenting looks just the type Gordon Elliott may keep over hurdles to contest some of the better 2 mile handicaps on both sides of the Irish Sea this winter. However if he does send the scopey 5-year-old over the larger obstacles he could easily take high rank amongst the exciting batch of novice chasers the King of cullentra is set to unleash this season.

Brelade won a Nass Bumper in early November before following up in a maiden hurdle at Navan later that month. However his best piece of form is arguably a fine third placed finish in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, beaten just 3 lengths by subsequent Punchestown Festival Grade 1 scorer Bacardys.

Sixth in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in March, a mark of 142 could tempt connections to stay over hurdles in the early exchanges of this season. But if and when Brelade does face a steeplechase fence, he rates a smart prospect for 2m novice chases on decent ground. 


BRIO CONTI   6-y-o  gr g                            Dom Alco (FR) – Cadoulie Wood (FR)

TRAINER:  Paul Nicholls                   OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f   Gd – Sft

Paul Nicholls has a plethora of exciting prospects heading over fences this winter, including this talented grey son of Dom Alco who landed the consolation race staged at Kempton for those who missed the cut for Cheltenham Fetsival handicaps in March. 

An easy winner on his previous start at Doncaster, the scopey 6-year-old finished fifth in the ultra competitive Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle on his final start of the campaign, beaten just 8-and-three-quarter lengths by the hugely exciting dual Grade 1 winner Finian’s Oscar.

Six starts over timber last term ensure Brio Conti will head into his novice chase campaign with plenty of racecourse experience. And the imposing grey looks just the type the master of Ditcheat excels with. 


CAPITAINE   5-y-o  gr g                Montmartre (FR) – Patte De Velour (FR)

TRAINER:  Paul Nicholls                OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m   Gd – GS

I was very taken by the way this dashing grey ran his field into submission in the Grade 2 Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot last December, showing a clean pair of heels and an abily to glide over his obstacles whilst conceding a penalty to all bar one of his rivals.

A five length second to the hugely exciting Finian’s Oscar in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown next time out, Paul Nicholls’ talented youngster continued to perform to a respectable level of form for the remainder of the campaign, despite only scoring once more when landing the odds at Wincanton in April. 

As is often the case with Paul Nicholls, Capitaine was given one run over fences in early May before being let down for his summer break, experience that can only be considered advantageous when the big boys come out to play this autumn.

Despite a few heart in mouth leaps eary on the scopey grey soon found his stride and eased clear of his inferior opposition to record an effortless 10 length success at Newton Abbot. And when the Ditcheat machine cranks into action this autumn Capitaine is certainly one to keep a close eye on when encountering his favoured good ground. 


CONSTANTINE BAY   6-y-o  b g                Kayf Tara (GB) – Alina Rheinberg (GER)

TRAINER:  Nicky Henderson          OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  3m   Gd – Hy

Form figures of 11144 demonstrate just what a consistent and competitive campaign Nicky Henderson’s inmate enjoyed last season, only tasting defeat in Grade 1 company when contesting the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

Winner of the Grade 2 River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in February, the son of Kayf Tara experienced major interference when The Worlds End crashed out at the penultimate flight of hurdles in the Albert Bartlett, before staying on like a train to take a hugely respectable fourth place finish at the line.

The attitude Constantine Bay displayed at both Cheltenham and Aintree will certainly stand the 6-year-old in good stead over fences. And I fully expect to see the youngster competing in graded company this term. 


CRACK MOME   5-y-o  ch g                  Spanish Moon (USA) – Peche Moon (FR)

TRAINER:  Willie Mullins              OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m   Sft – Hy

It’s fair to say this gorgeous chestnut gelding was merely a big baby last term, showing clear signs of significant potential -but ultimately coming up short when sent off a 4/11 favourite for the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown in January, finishing second behind the aforementioned Any Second Now.

A comfortable winner of a Clonmel maiden hurdle prior to that Punchestown defeat, the imposing 5-year-old signed off for the season with a hugely unsuccessful trip to the Cheltenham Festival in March, finishing thirteenth of the fourteen runners in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. 

However, like with Bon Papa, it shouldn’t be ignored that the master of Closutton considered Crack Mome to be good enough to make the trip to Prestbury Park last term. And given his size and scope the son of Spanish Moon could easily develop into a graded novice chaser this winter providing he’s matured mentally for another summer at grass. 


DE DOLLAR MAN   6-y-o  ch g              Vinnie Roe (IRE) – Dollar Bay (IRE)

TRAINER:  Evan Williams               OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f   Sft – Hy

Winner of his solitary start between the flags at Castletown-Geoghegan in October last year, De Dollar Man made the perfect start to life under rules when landing a Uttoxeter bumper in December, beating  subsequent Punchestown Festival Bumper scorer Dead Right by 1-and-a-quarter lengths.

Evan Williams’s 6-year-old won a maiden hurdle at Ayr in January before finishing third behind the smart pair Beyond Conceit and Topofthegame in Grade 2 company at Ascot in February. He then signed off for the season with a ninth placed effort in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, when sent off a 50/1 shot.  

The imposing chestnut gelding appeared to relish the prevailing underground conditions he encountered at both Uttoxeter and Ayr last season, and could easily notch up a few victories in soft ground novice chases’ this winter. 


DEATH DUTY   6-y-o  b g                     Shantou (USA) – Midnight Gift (IRE)

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott                 OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Sft – Hy

Had Death Duty converted favouritism into success in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in the spring he would undoubtedly be the name on the lips of every ardent National Hunt Racing enthusiast on both sides of the Irish Sea. However the talented son of Shantou ejected jockey Bryan Copper at the final flight of hurdles, and even if he hadn’t, he certainly wouldn’t have been troubling the judges.

The apple of Gordon Elliott’s eye, Death Duty landed novice hurdles at Grade 3, Grade 2 and Grade 1 level last winter, and has always been considered a hugely exciting chasing prospect by both Elliot and owners Gigginstown House Stud.

The Albert Bartlett is always an attritional contest in which many a ‘good one’ has been beaten in over the years. That defeat aside, the 6-year-old remains a hugely exciting prospect in 2m4f – 3m novice chase’s this winter. 


DEBECE   6-y-o  b g                                      Kayf Tara (GB) – Dalamine (FR)

TRAINER:  Tim Vaughan                OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m – 3m   Gd – Sft

Tim Vaughan looks to have a very nice chasing prospect on his hands this season as dual hurdle winner, and Aintree Grade 3 third, Debece heads over fences in search of graded success. Despite cutting little ice in the early exchanges of last season the son of Kayf Tara took his form to a whole new level with a brace of fine performances in the spring. Which must have connections purring at the thought of what’s to come this term. 

A 25 length winner of a run of the mill class 4 event at Newbury in March, Tom Vaughan’s youngster took a steep rise in class to contest the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree a few weeks later, where he only found the 149 rated The World’s End and 145 rated Beyond Conceit too good, going down by a mere half-a-length at the line.

Having enjoyed six starts over timber last term Debece should possess more than the required amount of racecourse experience to give him the edge over many of his contemporaries in the early exchanges this autumn. And who knows, he may even be a nice price if he lines up in a competitive enough looking heat early doors. 


DIEGO DU CHARMIL   5-y-o  b g  Ballingarry (IRE) – Daramour (FR)

TRAINER:  Paul Nicholls                OMTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m   Gd 

Winner of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, Paul Nicholls imposing bay gelding has always looked a chaser in the making and I’m sure connections consider it a huge bonus that he’s managed to pick up a few decent pots over timber on the way.  

Allowed another year to mature before embarking on a career over fences the talented 5-year-old picked up a nice prize at Chepstow on his reappearance last term, with further success coming in the Listed Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh in February, on both occasions appreciating the sound underfoot conditions.

Diego Du Charmil has bags of size and scope and clearly possesses a smart racing engine. He could easily progress into a graded performer over the larger obstacles this winter, and hailing from Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat yard, he’s certainly in the right hands to do so. 


ELEGANT ESCAPE    5yo  b g                 Dubai Destination (USA) – Graineuaile (IRE)

TRAINER:  Colin Tizzard                OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   GS – Hy 

Second to the hugely impressive and exciting prospect Samcro in a Monksgrange PTP in April 2016, the pair pulled 20 lengths clear of the remainder, marking themselves out as well above average youngsters. Transferred to Colin Tizzard the scopey 5-y-o quickly recorded a brace of victories before finishing a thoroughly respectable fourth behind the talented Messire Des Obeaux (146), beaten just 7 lengths, in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December.

Fifth in a Cheltenham Grade 2 event in January, Elegant Escape signed off the campaign with a brace of 7th placed efforts in Grade 1 company at Cheltenham and Aintree. Respectable performances for a horse that was always going to make a better chaser than hurdler. 

Colin Tizzard is responsible for a plethora of National Hunt star’s at present, and indeed looks to have a very smart team of novice chasers heading into the 2017/18 campaign. Elegant Escape is certainly a name for the notebooks, and could easily develop into a graded performer this term.


FAGAN   7-y-o  ro g                                      Fair Mix (IRE) – Northwood May (GB)

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott               OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  3m+   Gd

A series of setbacks limited Fagan to one racecourse appearance last term, where he weakened quickly on chase debut at Fairyhouse before pulled up by jockey Keith Donoghue. As the winner of 3 of his 6 starts between the flags the manner in which he weakened tamely was surely too bad a performance to be true. 

Back on the track at Perth in July the scopey 7-year-old appeared to have the measure of talented opponent Beat That before being left well clear at the last when Nicky Henderson’s charge crashed out. That effort was much more like it, and Davy Russell appeared to have plenty of horse underneath him should an effort have been required. 

Second behind non other than Unowhatimeanharry in the 2016 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, that performance demonstrated both his ability to handle the Prestbury Park track and his liking for a real test of stamina. Attributes that suggest the 4 mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival could be an ideal long term target.  


FINIAN’S OSCAR   5-y-o  b g                   Oscar (IRE) – Trinity Alley (IRE)

TRAINER:  Colin Tizzard                   OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m5f   Gd – Sft

Last season Finian’s Oscar progressed from Point winner to Grade 1 winning novice hurdler in just 77 days, a hugely impressive feat I’m sure you’d agree. However even more impressive was the manner in which he achieved his victory at Portrush in October, clocking a time only comparable to Cheltenham Festival winners Brindisi Breeze and Simonsig in the pointing field over the last 10 years.

The talented son of Oscar shot to the head of the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle market following his smooth success in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle in January, before falling victim to a stone bruise which ruled the youngster out of competing on jump racing’s biggest stage. A huge disappointment for connections and ardent racing enthusiasts alike. 

However the hugely exciting 5-year-old gained Grade 1 compensation at Aintree in April, and very nearly secured a top level treble when narrowly being denied by the aforementioned Bacardys in a head bobbing battle to the line at the Punchestown Festival. Where, if splitting hairs, Robbie Power perhaps set sail for home a tad early.

Colin Tizzard has some serious National Hunt firepower residing in his Venn Farm Stables at Present, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Finian’s Oscar has the potential to the scale the upper echelons of the chasing division over the years to come. 


GIVE ME A COPPER   7-y-o  ch g    Presenting (GB) – Copper Supreme (IRE)

TRAINER:  Paul Nicholls                 OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  3m+    GS – Hy

Beware a Chestnut son of Presenting, Give Me A Copper arrived at Ditcheat with a reputation almost as big as his price tag, which meant that the money was down and the pressure was on every time the stamina laden 7-year-old graced the racetrack last term. Built to jump fences, I’m sure connections will be mad keen to see just what their imposing chestnut gelding is capable of this winter. 

A 14 length victory on hurdling debut at Exeter preceded a disappointing sixth place finish in Grade 2 company at Doncaster when extremely well supported for the River Don Novices’ Hurdle won by Nicky Henderson’s subsequent Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle fourth Constantine Bay.

Back on track with a battling victory at Ayr in April, Give Me A Copper should really come into his own as a staying novice chaser this term, with the 4 mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival a likely long range target. 


IMPULSIVE STAR   7-y-o  b g                    Busy Flight (GB) – Impulsive Ita (IRE)

TRAINER:  Neil Mulholland             OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m  Gd – Hy

This Robert Waley-Cohen owned 7-year-old mixed novice hurdles with open handicap company last term, progressing with every run before ending his campaign with a hugely disappointing performance in the ultra competitive Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival, trailing in 21st of the 24 runners.

Form figures of 111411 prior to that below par showing clearly demonstrate that the son of Busy Flight possesss significant potential, and Neil Mulholland looks the ideal trainer to bring that talent to the surface.

A winner between the flags in March 2016, Impulsive Star has the physique of chaser and will hopefully improve further for the larger obstacles this term. He’s definitely a name to look out for. 


INVITATION ONLY   6-y-o  b g    Flemensfirth (USA) – Norabelle (FR)

TRAINER:  Willie Mullins              OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   GS – Sft

Despite ultimately disappointing of timber last term, Invitation Only remains a hugely exciting prospect for 2m4f – 3m novice chases’ this winter following his mightily impressive success between the flags at Ballynoe in March 2015.

Having dispatched the smart mare Barra on his debut over timber at Gowran Park in November, the scopey son of Flemensfirth was sent off a well supported even money favourite for the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle in December, where he simply couldn’t live with the smart pair Death Duty and Monalee, who finished first and second respectively, when the pace quickened on the run for home.

The powerful looking 6-year-old has always looked like a chaser in the making, and hopefully this year he can live up to the hype that has surrounded him since his impressive point success in 2015. If he can, he could easily develop into a high class middle distance plus novice chaser this winter. 


JERRYSBACK   5-y-o  b g                         Jeremy (USA) – Get A Few Bob Back (IRE)

TRAINER:  Philip Hobbs                  OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f   GS – Hy

This imposing JP McManus owned youngster has been brought along slowly in his career to date, being kept away from graded company and instead allowed to gain both experience and confidence in small events at Plumpton and Wetherby last term. 

As a result the talented 5-year-old could be considered ‘under the radar’ heading into what could well prove to be a very profitable novice chase campaign this winter. Winner of his fourth start between the flags at Loughanmore last October, this rangy son of Jeremy could take high rank among the 2m4f – 3m novice chasers come the spring. 

We’re constantly told that patience is a virtue, and connections will be hoping the slowly slowly catchy monkey approach will pay dividends this season. 


JURY DUTY   6-y-o  b g                                Well Chosen (GB) – Swan Heart (IRE)

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott               OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd – Sft

Third in the ultra competitive Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Jury Duty looks just the the type who may be campaigned quietly over fences this winter with another tilt at a Cheltenham Festival handicap in mind come the spring. 

Winner of a typically competitive Navan handicap last November, the son of Well Chosen performerd consistently throughout the winter months before arriving at Prestbury Park ready to run the race of his life. However he had no chance with the easy winner Presenting Percy, who certainly wouldn’t have been without a chance in Grade 1 novice company had connections elected to take that route instead. 

Having finished third on his second start between the flags in 2015, Jury Duty looks the type to have improved for both racing and the experience it has brought with it. He could be one to watch out for at the big spring festivals next year. 


KEEPER HILL   6-y-o  b g                Westerner (GB) – You Take Care (IRE)

TRAINER:  Warren Greatrex         OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f    GS

The McNeil Family have owned some real fan favourites over the years, perhaps the most popular being the gallant grey Walkon who ran his heart out everytime he graced the racetrack. With exciting Stayers Hurdle prospect The Worlds End remaining over timber this term, the Warren Greatrex trained Keeper Hill is set to carry the families colours in novice chase events this winter.

The experienced 6-year-old finished second on hurdling debut before quickly rattling up at hat-trick of victories between November and February, accounting for the talented Grade 1 winner Messire Des Obeaux in a Listed contest when bringing up the final leg of that quick-fire treble.

Seventh in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Keeper Hill signed off for the season with a respectable sixth placed finish in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. Two fair efforts in such deep waters.

This strapping young gelding certainly has the physique for fences and could easily develop into a graded class performer this term. He’s certainly one Champion Jockey Richard Johnson will be looking forward too this term. 


MINELLA AWARDS   6-y-o  b g              Oscar (IRE) – Montys Miss (IRE)

TRAINER:  Harry Fry                       OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m  Gd – Sft

Second in a Maiden Point at Tallow in February 2015, this imposing bay gelding has been afford plenty of time to mature and develop by his shrewd Cheltenham Festival winning trainer Harry Fry, who reaped the rewards for his patient approach when Minella Awards scooped back-to-back valuable handicaps at Sandown and the Punchestown Festival earlier this year.

Bulit to jump fences, the scopey 6-year-old showed all the attributes you could wish for in a staying chaser at Punchestown, travelling and jumping with fluency before showing a pleasing attitude when asked to knuckle down and win his race. 

This son of Oscar fits firmly into the category of ‘could be anything’ over fences. However I suspect that connections will be sufficiently rewarded for their patient approach, and Minella Awards is certainly a name to look out for this winter. 


MONALEE   6-y-o  b g                               Milan (GB) – Tempest Belle (IRE)

TRAINER:  Henry De Bromhead   OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd – Hy

Henry De Bromhead’s scopey son of Milan performed to a very high standard in novice hurdles last term, with his best performance coming at the Cheltenham Festival in March when chasing home Penhill in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

The talented 6-year-old displayed his ability early doors last season, with a victory over the smart pair The Storytellar (142) and Turcagua (139) at Punchestown in November preceding a fair effort in defeat at Navan one month later, where De Bromhead’s charge split the well regarded duo of Death Duty (146) and Invitation Only (140) in second. 

Punchestown was perhaps a step too far for  Monalee who appeared to be feeling the effects of what is always a gruelling Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. However it certainly takes no gloss off what he achieved last term, and I’m sure connections will be excited to see what their classy performer is capable of over the lager obstacles this winter. 

De Bromhead certainly hasn’t looked to play down the regard in which he holds Monalee, who looks every inch a staying chaser who will be competing at the top table in novice events this term. 


MOVEWITHTHETIMES    6yo  ch Presenting (UK) – Dare To Venture (IRE)

TRAINER:  Paul Nicholls                OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m4f   GS – Sft

Paul Nicholls certainly has plenty to look forward too this winter as Movewiththetimes looks yet another hugely exciting prospect set to tackle the larger obstacles in the 2017/18 campaign. Form figures of 1412 over timber read extremely well for a horse who’s built for one job, and one job only. And this son of Presenting could easily take high rank in the 2m – 2m4f novice chase divisions this winter. 

Badly hampered in a Grade 2 contest won by Champion Hurdle runner Moon Racer at Cheltenham in November, the strapping 6-y-o’s best effort came in the ultra competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury where he broke free of the field with fellow novice Ballyandy, who pipped him to the prize by just three-quarters of a length. 

A small setback scuppered plans for Movewiththetimes to line up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a contest for which he had been well supported on the back of his Betfair Hurdle second. However I’d imagine connections wouldn’t have been overly dismayed given Paul Nicholls’ modus operandi of giving future chasers an easy time in their novice hurdle year.

As previously stated, Paul Nicholls’ has a very nice batch of novice chase prospects the winter. And it’s odds on that Movewiththetimes will be very near the top of the pecking order at Ditcheat, which is some statement this year. 


MR MCGO   6-y-o  b g                               Touch Of Land (FR) – La Principal (IRE)

TRAINER:  Donald McCain            OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m4f   Sft – Hy

I’m sure I’m not the only racing enthusiast who would love to see Donald McCain unearth another Grade 1 performer after a top level lean spell following the retirements of former fan favourites Cinders’s And Ashes, Overturn and Peddlers Cross. And whilst I wouldn’t be bold enough to suggest that Mr Mcgo can fill that particular void, I do think the youngster could pick up a few races in the North before heading down south should the opportunity arise.

Twice a winner on ground with plenty of give last term, McCain’s charge finished seventh in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham on his penultimate start before closing out his season with a ninth place finish in open handicap company at Aintree. However it should be noted that Mr Mcgo shaped far better than his final placing suggested at Aintree, having travelled into the race well under Will Kennedy before his stamina appeared to ebb away over the extended 3 mile trip. 

His mark of 135 could look exploitable in a novice handicap chase in the early exchanges of the season. And wouldn’t it be fantastic if Mr Mcgo could deliver Donald McCain another much deserved graded success at some stage this winter. 


PEREGRINE RUN   7-y-o  b g                  King’s Theatre (IRE) – Masriyna’s Article (IRE)

TRAINER:  Peter Fahey                   OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4/5f   Gd 

Having completed a 4-timer with victory at Prestbury Park in December, Peregrine Run returned to the Cotswolds to claim a thoroughly respectable eleventh place finish in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Finishing the season with a smart hurdle rating of 142. 

An early starter this season, the son of King’s Theatre is already 2 from 4 over fences for Peter Fahey, who clearly decided it would be advantageous to get some early match practise into the 7-year-old ahead of what could be a hugely productive winter/spring campaign.

Yet to contest a chase beyond 2m2f, Peregrine Run should have plenty more to come when stepping up in trip later on this season. And he could easily scoop a decent pot for his connections on good ground come the spring.


PETIT MOUCHOIR   6-y-o  gr g                     Al Namix (FR) – Arnette (FR)

TRAINER:  Henry De Bromhead     OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m  Gd – GS

Winner of his solitary start between the flags at Kirkistown in February 2015, Petit Mouchoir will undoubtedly be one of the highest rated hurdler’s to contest novice chases’ this winter after recording a brace of Grade 1 victories at Leopardstown last term, the second of which being the Irish Champion Hurlde in January.

The Gigginstown Stud owned grey has always looked a high class racehorse, and promised much for the future when narrowly being denied in the 2016 Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree by none other than subsequent Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air, with the talented Willie Mullins trained mare Limini eight lengths further back in third. Pretty fair form in hindsight!

Henry De Bromhead has a knack of training top class 2 mile chasers, having landed the Queen Mother Champion Chase twice in the last 7 years, with Sizing Europe in 2011 and reigning champ Special Tiara earlier this year. While that contest could be open to the exciting 6-year-old in 2019, this season his canny trainer will be hoping the Champion Hurdle third can develop into a strong contender for the Arkle Novices’ Chase on day 1 of the 2018 Cheltenham Featival. 


PINGSHOU 7-y-o b g                             Definite Article (GB) – Quest Of Passion (FR)

TRAINER: Colin Tizzard                 OPTIMUM CONDITIONS: 2m Gd – GS

Colin Tizzard’s son of Definite Article took his form to a whole new level in the Spring, landing Grade 1 spoils at Aintree before putting up a throughly respectable effort in defeat at the Punchestown Fetsival later that month when matching strides with warm favourite Melon at the head of affairs and exchanging blows that rendered the pair unable to repel the the fast finishing kick of Cialos Emery, who swooped past the flagging duo in the final furlong of the contest.

A winner at Cheltenham in November, the imposing 7-year-old has size and scope in abundance, and it’s quite conceivable that he could surpass the level of form he achieved over timber when he faced with steeplechase fences this winter.

Pingshou is seen to best effect when dictating the pace over 2 miles on spring ground, so I wouldn’t be deterred if he found life a bit tougher in the depths of the winter campaign. However he’s certainly one to keep in mind come the big spring Festival’s next year. 


PRESENTING PERCY   6-y-o  b g                 Sir Percy (GB) – Hunca Munca (IRE)

TRAINER:  Patrick Kelly                 OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd – Hy

Despite Davy Russell’s insistence that Phil Smith had all but ended Presenting Percy’s chances of success in the Pertemps Final when handing the gelding a mark of 146, the talented 6-year-old turned the hugely competitive Prestbury Park handicap into a procession, crossing the line with with clear daylight separating himself and his toiling contemporaries. 

Campaigned with one contest in mind, Patrick Kelly ran his promising youngster in competitive handicaps at Leopardstown and Punchestown in December and February respectively, presumably in an attempt to ensure Presenting Percy was savvy enough to handle the rough and tumble environment of a big field Cheltenham handicap.

Slightly disappointing at Punchestown on his final appearance last term, the strapping 7-year-old was probably over the top having been on the go since October (8th start). It will be very interesting to see how the son of Sir Percy is campaigned over the larger obstacles this winter, as he must rate a smart prospect for staying novice chases. 


RIVER WYLDE   6-y-o  b g                       Oscar (IRE) – Clarin River (IRE)

TRAINER:  Nicky Henderson           OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m   Gd – Sft

Having started last season with a disappointing showing at Prestbury Park when sent off well supported 13/8 favourite, River Wylde flourished when sent over timber, taking a brace of minor events at Ludlow before landing the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton in February.

The talented bay travelled well throughout the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival, leading briefly around the turn for home before battling on gamely to hold off the fast finishing Ballyandy and claim a third placed finish under stable jockey Nico De Boinville.

A disappointing fifth place finish at Aintree when sent of the 9/4 joint favourite can easily be forgiven after the 6-year-olds Cheltenham exertions just 3 weeks previously. And Nicky Henderson’s talented 2 miler can certainly make his presence felt in novice chase company this term. 


ROBIN ROE   6-y-o  b g                             Robin Des Champs (FR) – Talktothetail (IRE)

TRAINER:  Dan Skelton                  OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f   Gd – Sft

Winner of a maiden point at Boulta in November 2015, this imposing son of sought after jumps sire Robin Des Champs landed a Warwick bumper debut for Dan Skelton in March last year, before reappearing over timber last term with a deeply impressive victory at Aintree in October.

Sent off a strong 7/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on the back of that facile performance, Robin Roe crashed out the third last when still travelling powerfully in the hands of Harry Skelton. And just to make matters worse, the 6-year-old suffered an injury that saw his season cut short. Something far from ideal from an experience point of view.

Whether connections will elect send the talented youngster straight over fences remains to be seen, however it wouldn’t surprise me if they used the ‘Fixed Brush’ handicap hurdle at Haydock as a stepping stone to chasing, a contest the yard won with the sadly ill-fated Baradari in 2015. 

Whatever route they take – Robin Roe certainly rates a hugely exciting prospect for this winter and beyond. And when heading over fences he looks well worth trying in graded company based on his Aintree exertions last autumn. 


SUTTON PLACE   6-y-o  b g                     Mahler (GB) – Glebe Beauty (IRE)

TRAINER: Gordon Elliott               OPTIMUM CONDITIONS: 2m – 2m4f Sft – Hy

Without doubt one of the most exciting young prospects on this list, Sutton Place returned from a spell on the sidelines with victories in Grade 3 and Grade 2 company at Naas and Navan respectively earlier this year, before being pulled up lame on better ground at the Punchestown Festival in April.

Having lowered the colours of subsequent Coral Cup winner Supasundae at Naas in January, the scopey JP McManus owned 6-year-old ran out a smart winner of the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February, which prompted talk of a possible tilt at the Champion Hurdle before Gordon Elliot swiftly moved to rule it out.

Sutton Place certainly possesses the physique of a chaser and will undoubtedly be competing in graded company this winter providing his aspiring Champion trainer can keep him off the treatment table. Granted a clear run, he truly could be anything. 


THE UNIT   6-y-o  b g                                  Gold Well (GB) – Sovana (FR)

TRAINER:  Alan King                      OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4/5f   Gd 

Perhaps one of the darker names on this list, The Unit finally appeared to come of age for Alan King last term, who has always maintained that the well put together son of Gold Well was better than what he had shown on the track previously. 

Having shed his maiden tag at Doncaster in November, the scopey 6-year-old claimed the spoils twice from his next 3 starts, only being denied a 4-timer by the hugely progressive Harry Fry trained Air Horse One at Taunton in January.

The Unit took his form to a whole new level with a Grade 1 third placed finish behind the hugely exciting novice chase prospect Pingshou at Aintree in April, only beaten a total of 7 lengths. He could easily surprise a few this winter. 


TOMBSTONE   7-y-o  ch g                        Robin Des Champs (FR) – Connaught Hall (IRE)

TRAINER:  Gordon Elliott                OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m – 2m2f   Sft – Hy

Sent off a well supported 7/2 favourite for the ultra competitive Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival after defeating former Champion Hurdler Jezki in Grade 3 company at Gowran Park in February, Tombstone ran no kind of race at Prestbury Park, and, in truth, showed little sparkle in two subsequent starts at Fairyhouse and Punchestown in April. 

Fourth in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a race that has worked out incredibly well, clearly this imposing son of top class jumps sire Robin Des Champs is better than his latest Cheltenham Festival effort suggests. 

A quick glance through the formbook clearly indicates a preference for ground with plenty of give, which could explain his lacklustre efforts this spring. And prior to a receiving a favourable looking handicap mark from Phil Smith, Gordon Elliot was intent on running Tombstone in the Champion Hurdle, something that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Granted soft ground this winter the scopey chestnut gelding could easily rediscover his undoubted potential. And if he does, the 7-year-old could make a big mark in graded company this term. 


TOPOFTHEGAME   5yo  ch g        Flemensfirth (USA) – Derry Vale (IRE)

TRAINER: Paul Nicholls                 OPTIMUM CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m GS – Sft

This gorgeous son of Flemensfirth really fills the eye. Winner of his solitary start between the flags at Belclare in March 2016, Paul Nicholls scopey youngster impressively dispatched Dan Skelton’s smart performer No Hassle Hoff (second) and Nicky Henderson’s dual scorer Brave Eagle (third) by upwards of 9 lengths. 

Topofthegame’s first appearance under rules resulted in success at Ascot in December, before a fourth placed finish behind subsequent Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle third Wholestone (145) in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham on Festival trial’s day in January. 

Second to subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle sixth (and Aintree Grade 1 second) Beyond Conceit (145) at Ascot on his third and final appearance last term, Paul Nicholls was clearly minding his promising youngster last term with a chasing career firmly at the forefront of his mind.

To say Topofthegame has the size and scope for fences would be an understatement, and it’s a nod to his ability that he ran so well in some competitive heats over timber last term. The imposing son of Flemensfirth could easily develop into a very smart novice chaser this winter, and will hopefully become high class chaser for Paul Nicholls’ over the coming years. 


WEST APPROACH   7-y-o  b g                   Westerner (GB) – Ardstown (GB)

TRAINER:  Colin Tizzard                   OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  3m   Gd – Sft

If we received £1 for every time we were told that West Approach is a half brother to the mighty Thistlecrack then we’d all be very rich indeed. That said, the scopey 7-year-old has shown flashes of significant ability despite failing to take home the first prize since getting off the mark over hurdles at Newton Abbot in May of last year.

Creditable efforts in novice hurdles last autumn preceded two smarts showings in open Grade 1 company at Ascot and Cheltenham respectively. Firstly unseating his rider when running a big race in the Long Walk Hurdle in December, before an impressive third place finish the Cleeve Hurdle on Cheltenham’s Trial’s Day card in January. Both contests were won by Unowhatimeanharry

West Approach certainly possesses the size and scope to make up into a fair novice chaser this term. And his experience in open Grade 1 company can only assist the son of Westerner when faced with tough graded assignments this winter. 


WHOLESTONE   6-y-o  br g             Craigsteel (GB) – Last Theatre (IRE)

TRAINER:  Nigel Twiston-Davies    OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m5f – 3m   Gd – Sft

A dual Grade 2 winner at Cheltenham last term, Wholestone was a regular at the home of National Hunt Racing, complementing his 3 victories with a second placed finish behind the aforementioned Peregrine Run in November, and a hugely respectable third place effort in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in March.

Impressive form figures of 12113 were achieved in spite of the 6-year-old’s habit of hitting a hurdle or two on the way around, and connections will undoubtedly be hoping that the son of Craigsteel will afford his fences more respect this winter.

It’s odds on that Wholstone will return to his local track to contest graded novice chases this term. And given the consistency he displayed in good company last season, he could easily land a decent prize for Simon Munir, Isaac Souede and Nigel Twiston-Davies this winter. 


WILLOUGHBY COURT   6-y-o  br g       Court Cave (IRE) – Willoughby Sue (IRE)

TRAINER:  Ben Pauling                    OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   GS – Sft

Winner of the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in March, Willoughby Court out battled Harry Fry’s sadly departed Neon Wolf on the climb to the line at Prestbury Park, landing the spoils in a photo finish and providing the burgeoning Bourton Hill Farm operation of Ben Pauling with a maiden Cheltenham Festival success.

Paul and Clare Rooney have become staunch supporters of National Hunt Racing in recent years, and hopefully this hugely talented son of Court Cave can develop into a flagbearer for the couple with plenty of big days lying ahead for the promising 6-year-old. 

A Grade 2 winner at Warwick in February, Willoughby Court rates a hugely exciting prospect for middle distance to staying novice chase trips this winter. And he certainly shouldn’t be underestimated against any opponent he may face. 


YANWORTH   7-y-o  ch g                         Norse Dancer (IRE) – Yota (FR)

TRAINER:  Alan King                       OPTIMUM CONDITIONS:  2m4f – 3m   Gd – Hy

The highest rated hurdler set to embark on a career over fences this winter, Yanworth disappointed many when sent off the 2/1 favourite to claim Champion Hurdle successs in March, finishing seventh before later being disqualified. 

However the strapping 7-year-old has subsequently displayed that his future lies over further with a battling success in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree. And given the level of form the ‘Orange Machine’ achieved over timber, the JP McManus owned gelding rates a hugely exciting prospect for novice chases this winter. 

Alan Kings’s son of Norse Dancer has always been a classy performer, finishing fourth in the 2015 Champion Bumper before chasing home the hugely talented Yorkhill in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle 12 months later.

A dual Grade 1 winner last season, the scopey Chestnut gelding has often jumped hurdles as though they were fences, and could easily develop into a top class 2m4f – 3m novice chaser this winter. 


FOOTNOTE:

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the brilliant Susie Cahill (@GirloftheSummer) for the fantastic photos (below) of Blood Crazed Tiger, Bon Papa, Brelade, Jury Duty, Petit Mouchoir, Tombstone and Finian’s Oscar & Bacardys.

If you’d like to see more of Susie’s photos head over to facebook.com/ridingonthegallops

BLOOD CRAZED TIGER looks a smart prospect for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud.
BON PAPA could improve significantly after another summer at grass.
BRELADE could make his mark in graded novice chases’ this winter.
Both FINIAN’S OSCAR (left) and BACARDYS will be competing in Grade 1 company this term.
JURY DUTY can gain some experience over fences this winter before competing at the big spring festivals.
PETIT MOUCHOIR could be a serious Arkle Chase contender come March.
TOMBSTONE could make a really smart 2 mile chaser this winter.