Saturday Selections

The Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase – Wincanton 3.35

It’s hardly original, however, El Bandit looks a good bet at Wincanton in Saturday.

The lightly-raced seven-year-old was a Grade 2 winner over hurdles and will have been trained to the minute following 17 months on the sidelines.

His record on good ground reads 6311111101. While his record over trips in excess of 3m reads 7101.

He won first time out in 2016 and although his lack of experience is an obvious negative, I am in no doubt whatsoever that his ten-time champion trainer, who has a fine record in this race, will have schooled his charge on numerous occasions in preparation for this contest.

El Bandit has scope for significant improvement in this sphere.

SELECTION: El Bandit 6/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power, Boylesports)

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Rewards4Racing Handicap Chase – Aintree 2.40

Hell’s Kitchen looks overpriced should he turn up at Aintree on Saturday.

Harry Fry’s lightly raced eight-year-old is the last horse to get the better of Cheltenham Festival winner Mister Whitaker, who shot to the head of the antepost betting for the BetVictor Gold Cup following a smart reappearance success in the Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle last weekend.

It is fair to say that the JP McManus owned gelding has his quirks. However, he has also displayed significant potential on the few occasions that he has made it to the racetrack, and a mark of 145 may underestimate his ability on a line through his aforementioned Kempton victim.

It should also be noted that the fourth home that day, the Peter Bowen trained Beggar’s Wishes, has since rattled-up a hat-trick, which gives the form further substance.

Sent off the 9/2 favourite for a competitive handicap at Leopardstown when last seen in February, Hell’s Kitchen made a mistake at the fourth last fence as the race was beginning in earnest. Therefore, I am happy to overlook that effort and instead focus on his fine showing at Kempton.

A reproduction of that effort would see him go very close on Saturday.

SELECTION: Hell’s Kitchen 8/1 (William Hill)

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Chepstow Selection

The 2.20 at Chepstow is a 2m3f100y novice hurdle for which Nicky Henderson provides the odds-on favourite Before Midnight, who was turned over at prohibitive odds of 1-2 last time out.

With that in mind he is clearly no banker tomorrow, therefore it may pay to look for some each-way value against the favourite, especially with 3 places up for grabs.

There are many hurdling debutants who have displayed potential in bumpers, however, it may pay to side with the Ian Williams trained Some Operator, who makes his debut under rules after changing hands for £68,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham February Sale.

Cormac Doyle trained Some Operator to win his solitary point-to-point at Tallow in February, where he kicked for home approaching the final fence and ran on gamely to secure 1 length success from the well supported 6/4 favourite Notachance.

Ian Williams boasts a 16% strike-rate (6-38) in the last two weeks and it interesting that connections have elected to head straight over hurdles instead of contesting a bumper, which may be an indication of how well the four-year-old has taken to timber.

Tom O’Brien will take the mount and, needless to say, any market support would be encouraging.

CHEPSTOW 2.20 – Some Operator 11/1 (Generally)

Cheltenham: The Showcase Meeting (Saturday)

2.00 “MATCHBOOK BETTING EXCHANGE” HANDICAP CHASE (Class 2) 3m1f

For Good Measure has all the makings of a real plot job tomorrow.

The stamina-laden seven-year-old will tackle three miles for the first time over fences in a race that his brother – the much loved Balthazar King – won 3 times. He is well treated based on his rating over hurdles (137h – 132f) and will compete off a featherweight 10-1.

Furthermore, his course form at Prestbury Park reads 2529 – with the latter effort coming in the ultra-competitive Pertemps Final at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival – which offers further reason for optimism.

Make no mistake, this is a very competitive heat and there will be no room for error, which may be a slight concern given his lack of experience over the larger obstacles. However, he will relish the good ground and appears to have many factors in his favour.

SELECTION: For Good Measure 7/1 (Unibet)

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3.45 PERTEMPS NETWORK HANDICAP HURDLE (Series Qualifier) (Class 2) 2m7f208y

It is virtually impossible to hold a strong opinion on the Pertemps Qualifier at Prestbury Park tomorrow but King Calvin, who returns to action with the benefit of a wind op, could go well at a double-figure price.

Jack Barber’s lightly-raced six-year-old comfortably dispatched subsequent Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle winner Secret Investor at Wicanton in March before finishing second to the highly regarded Master Tommytucker at Exeter in April.

The son of King’s Theatre regained the winning thread at Newton Abbot in May and could find plenty of improvement over staying trips this winter. Both Barber and jockey Nick Scholfield have been amongst the winners of late and ground conditions look favourable.

SELECTION: King Calvin 16/1 (Bet 365)

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5.30 JOCKEY CLUB OWNERS SYNDICATE STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE (Class 2) 2m87y

I don’t tend to get too involved with bumpers as a rule, however, I do think that the locally trained Strong Glance will go close tomorrow.

The promising five-year old ran out an easy winner at Southwell last November before placing fifth in a red-hot Listed bumper at Ascot in December. That was undoubtedly one of the best bumpers contested on either side of the Irish Sea last term and the fact that Fergal O’Brien has elected to give the son of Passing Glance another run in a bumper as opposed to a novice hurdle should not be overlooked.

Read nothing into jockey bookings as Alain Cawley has ridden Strong Glance on both of his previous starts.

O’Brien sent out Herecomestheboom to land the corresponding contest 12 months ago and, although his string haven’t quite sparked yet this autumn, it would be no surprise to see the cake loving Irishman land the spoils once again.

SELECTION: Strong Glance 7/1 (Generally)

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Cheltenham: The Showcase Meeting (Friday)

In less than 24 hours Prestbury Park will fling open the gates on yet another eagerly anticipated National Hunt campaign, playing host their two day Showcase Meeting – a fixture that has gone from strength to strength in recent years.

Below is my full 7 race preview featuring every runner from every race.

Good luck and enjoy!

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2.00THE BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE (Class 2) 2m5f

Net De Treve made a successful start to his career over timber at Uttoxeter three weeks ago and will enjoy conditions at Cheltenham tomorrow.

It was somewhat surprising that Tom George’s five-year-old couldn’t land a bumper last term but he certainly looks set to make up for it over hurdles.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Rocco came good at Chepstow two weeks ago and will bid to emulate stablemate The New One, who landed this event in 2012.

The imposing five-year-old was having his third start over hurdles in Wales and displayed a really pleasing attitude in the closing stages. He looks sure to appreciate the stiff up-hill finish.

Gordon Elliott always has runners at this meeting and will be represented by the experienced mare Make My Heart Fly, who rattled-up a fantastic four-timer in Britain this summer.

This obviously represents a rise in class for the six-year-old but she does arrive in fine heart and with fitness in her side, which can only be a positive.

Sean Bowen has been booked to ride Irish raider Go Another One, who has won three times during the summer and arrives here in search of a hat-trick following victories at Stratford and Kelso respectively.

Bowen has ridden the six-year-old to all three of his successes this season and will hope to maintain their impressive strike-rate tomorrow. Entered in both novice and handicap company at the start of the week, it is interesting that connections have elected to take this route. Indeed, it may be a tip in itself.

Carardier, who will be the mount of Barry Geraghty, is another Irish raider who arrives with solid form in the book.

The lightly raced six-year-old placed third behind the classy pair Woodland Opera and Peregrine Run when last seen at Down Royal in August and will appreciate the decent ground at Prestbury Park tomorrow. He certainly warrants a market check.

Tony Carroll fields dual-purpose performer Havana Beat, who fell when in search of a hat-trick on his latest start over timber.

The versatile eight-year-old was last victorious at Aintree in April where he saw off the consistent Northern trained Dear Sire and tough-as-teak Sternrubin by upwards of 10 lengths. A recent outing on the All-Weather at Kempton will have blown away the cobwebs and another bold bid can be expected tomorrow.

Grageelagh Girl, who is 2-3 over hurdles, and Sizing Cusimano, who was the only one to finish when successful at Market Rasen, will require a career best to get involved here.

CONCLUSION:

Cases can be made for each of the Irish trained trio in this opening contest, however, I am happy to side with the improving ROCCO, who won a shade cosily on his reappearance at Chepstow and should be much more at home over this intermediate trip. The manner of his victory suggested that both the extra yardage and stiff uphill finish will be right up his street tomorrow. While the form of his yard offers further reason for optimism.

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2.35THE SQUAREINTHEAIR.COM NOVICES’ CHASE (Class 2) 1m7f199y

Caid Du Lin, One For Billy and Dear Sire will renew rivalries after placing first, second and third respectively at Worcester in September.

The latter, who was the highest rated over timber (142), reversed the form with the former at Sedgefield earlier this month. While the middle-named hasn’t been sighted subsequently but only narrowly failed to concede 12 to the winner that day and arrives here with consistent form-figures of 21122 over fences. This represents a steep rise in class for all three, but you can’t put a figure on experience.

Gary Moore will represented by former Willie Mullins inmate Diakali, who has taken to fences like the proverbial duck to water, winning his two starts by a combined distance of 52 lengths.

Those victories came in Class 4 and Class 3 contests respectively and this rise is class should give connections a better idea of where they stand in the pecking order. The ground will be ideal and a big run can be expected.

Storm Home is a fascinating contender on based on his solitary start between the flags at Largy in April 2016, where he was set to beat subsequent dual Grade 2 winning novice hurdler Getabird before crashing out at the final fence. However, he was very disappointing on his first attempt over fences at Uttoxeter in May and will need to show significant improvement to get involved here.

Sister Sybil ran out an impressive 15 lengths winner of a class 2 Mares Handicap Chase at Prestbury Park in April and will hope to continue her upward curve in the in the hands of Tom O’Brien. While Kevin Frost and Paddy Brennan team up with the hat-trick seeking All Set To Go, who sauntered to a 27 lengths success at Worcester last month and will relish the good ground that he will encounter tomorrow.

CONCLUSION:

Diakali appears to be a smart recruit to the novice chasing ranks based on his two facile wins during the summer. However, it may pay to side with the greatly consistent ONE FOR BILLY, who very nearly conceded 12lbs to the re-opposing Caid Du Lin at Worcester last time out. The Skelton yard are sending out plenty of winners at present and the six-year-old will arrive here fit and ready to run with conditions to suit.

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3.10THE BRANDON HILL CAPITAL HANDICAP HURDLE (Class 3) 2m5f

2017 Champion Bumper seventh And The New makes his handicap debut off a mark 135, which could be workable given the way in which the form of his latest effort has worked out.

Johnny Farrelly’s seven-year-old finished third behind Michael’s Mount, who placed third in the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices Hurdle on his next start before scoring at Ludlow in March. While the second home, Doux Pretender, won his only subsequent start by 5 lengths.

It may also be significant that the son of Kalinisi is stepping-up in trip on his handicap debut, which looks sure to suit given the ability he displayed in bumpers.

Both Really Super and Vive Le Roi arrive here harbouring hat-trick aspirations.

The former appears to be on a steep upwards curve following two smart victories at Worcester this summer and will attempt to defy a 7lb higher mark for Amy Murphy, Jack Quinlan and the very enthusiastic White Diamond Racing Partnership. The former flat performer jumped well and won with authority on her latest start and undoubtedly warrants her place in this field.

The penny also appears to have dropped for Vive Le Roi, who is vastly experienced over timber and has won his last two starts by a combined distance of 20 lengths. The seven-year-old was handed a 9lb rise for his latest success and will need to improve again to get competitive here. However, both the ground and trip are to his liking.

Last season’s Grade 3 Imperial Cup winner Mr Antolini will represent the father and son team of Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.

The eight-year-old boasts a progressive profile since arriving from Ireland and bumped into another improving horse when finishing second at Plumpton in April. He will line-up off a 2lb lower mark tomorrow and could easily continue his progression.

Golden Birthday has been dropped 3lb for his lacklustre showing in the Grade 3 Silver Trophy at Chepstow two weeks ago and is now only 2lb higher than his last winning mark. While Court Minstrel, who finished a wholly respectable seventh in that very same contest, will run off the same mark of 131.

The locally trained Lungarno Palace returned to action with an odds-on success at Stratford three weeks ago and will be looking to build upon that success tomorrow. The former flat performer defied a penalty on his seasonal reappearance and ran a number of promising races in defeat last winter.

This is perhaps his toughest task to date, but he can’t be ruled out and any market support would be encouraging.

Whatthebutlersaw brings both a wealth of experience and greatly consistent profile to the party with form figures of 31261121 achieved since November 2016.

Lightly raced for his age, the Dominic Ffrench Davis trained nine-year-old looked better than ever when running out a 6 lengths winner of his latest start at Fontwell. More will be needed in his bid to overcome a 10lb hike in the weights, but his consistent profile and scope for improvement after just 16 career starts renders him a noteworthy contender.

Gordon Elliott is doubly represented with both High Expectations and is Water Sprite.

The former is the mount of Richard Johnson and arrives here following a smooth success at Sedgefield in early September. While the latter will be ridden by Denis O’Regan and will be looking to build upon his gutsy success at Limerick two weeks ago.

Brillare Momento is a course and distance winner who ran a respectable race to finish third on her reappearance at Worcester in September. While Fortunate George, who ran no race at all when well beaten in handicap company at Aintree in the spring, may find life tough off a mark of 134.

Canton Prince and Christmas In April also line-up here following confidence boosting successes.

The former ran out a comfortable winner at Warwick earlier this month. While the latter was successful at the same course in May and will be having his first start for Colin Tizzard after transferring from Nicky Henderson during the summer.

Donald McCain will field Good Tradition, who ran out a comfortable winner of his penultimate start at Perth but found both a 6lb rise and step-up in class too hot to handle when finishing seventh of eight runners at Kelso last month. He will find this contest no easier.

The JP McManus owned Melody Of Scotland could only finish sixth of ten runners when sent off the 11/4 favourite at Plumpton last month, and will have to better that effort significantly to feature here. While First Assignment, who placed third in Grade 3 novice company at Sandown in March, could have more to offer following a summer at grass and warrants a market check.

Mallow Ben comfortably landed a handicap hurdle at Fontwell in September before falling at the same venue four weeks later.

Unfortunately, his mid-race departure means that we have no idea how he would have fared off his new mark of 124. Therefore the market may be the best guide as to how well he will run.

Irish raider Roi De Dubai and bottom weight Trans Express complete the field.

CONCLUSION:

Cases can be made for many of these, however, AND THE NEW has plenty of scope for progress off his mark of 135, especially stepping-up in trip on his handicap debut. The form of his latest effort couldn’t have worked out much better and his seventh placed finish in the 2017 Champion Bumper demonstrates his ability to handle the track.

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3.45 – THE ‘MATCHBOOK TIME TO MOVE OVER’ NOVICES’ CHASE (Class 2) 3m80y

There is no question that fan-favourite Lil Rockerfeller, who came agonising close to scoring a upset in the 2017 Stayers Hurdle, is the class act in this four-runner field.

Neil King’s tough-as-teak seven-year-old beat the promising Wenyerreadyfreddie on his fencing debut at Uttoxeter three weeks ago and could easily develop into a leading novice this winter if transferring his hurdling capabilities.

King has sent out 2 winners from his last 9 runners and you could bet your last pound that he will have his stable star primed for this contest.

Both Dan Skelton and Charlie Longsdon have also been amongst the winners of late and will be represented by Shannon Bridge and Treacle Tart respectively.

The former, who placed second behind Enniscoffey Oscar in the Grade 2 River Don Novices’ Hurdle in January, will be making his debut over fences. While the latter got off the mark at the third time of asking at Worcester last month and will be looking to put both his experience and fitness to good use.

Arctic Gold, who is yet to score in nine attempts over fences, completes the field.

CONCLUSION:

Lil Rockerfeller is a wonderful servant for both connections and jumps racing as a sport. However, he is perhaps seen to best effect over intermediate trips despite his brilliant second placed effort in 2017 Stayers Hurdle. With this in mind it may be worth chancing chasing debutant SHANNON BRIDGE, who nearly won a Grade 2 novice hurdle in January. The five-year-old is bred to to make a better chaser and was victorious on reappearance 12 months ago. His stable’s good form is also reason for optimism.

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4.20 – THE FOUNDATION DEVELOPMENTS LTD MAIDEN HURDLE (Class 3) 2m87y

This race is arguably the most intriguing in the as it features three hugely exciting prospects in the form of Sebastopol, Seven De Baune and Thomas Darby.

Sebastopol made a striking impression at Ayr in April when running away with a traditionally well-contested bumper following strong market support.

Tom Lacey’s exciting son of Fame And Glory ran-out an impressive winner of an English point-to-point last term and rates a hugely exciting prospect for novice hurdles this winter. His high cruising speed could could cause a few of these some problems tomorrow, especially on the forecast better ground.

Roger Brookhouse enjoyed great success in novice hurdles last winter, most notably with Supreme Novices Hurdle hero Summerville Boy and Aintree Grade 1 scorer Black Op. This year the prominent owner has another clutch of exciting youngsters to go to war with, and Seven De Baune is undoubtedly one of the most promising.

Third on his solitary start between the flags in December last year, the imposing five-year-old made an impressive start to his career under rules when recording an effortless 6 lengths success at Uttoxeter in May.

That effort came on good ground so conditions hold no fears. While his trainer, Ian Williams, has been amongst the winners of late late, which is always an encouraging sign.

Bumper winner Thomas Darby will prove popular for Olly Murphy and Richard Johnson, and rightly so given the way in which the form of his debut effort has worked out.

The runner-up, Black Kalinisi, ran out a comfortable winner of his next two starts (1 Bumper, 1 Hurdle). While the fourth, Nanny Pat’s, was also victorious on his only subsequent visit to the racetrack. Therefore much is expected of the Diana Whateley owned five-year-old this winter.

He won that bumper on good ground so conditions are no issue here, and it’s interesting that Murphy has elected to bring him to Prestbury Park so soon, which could be a tip in itself.

Bang On Frankie hasn’t been seen since chasing home Western Ryder at Chepstow last November. However, the form of that contest looks particularly solid given the subsequent exploits of the winner, which includes defeating subsequent Grade 1 scorers Lalor and Summerville Boy at Prestbury Park in December.

That effort came on heavy ground and the six-year-old is yet to encounter better ground. He could easily feature if handling conditions.

Henry Brooke has been booked to steer Lunar Jet on his debut over hurdles, and he arrives here fit following a summer spent on the flat.

Rated 83 in that sphere, the four-year-old could develop into a decent novice hurdler this winter but may be vulnerable to more experienced rivals tomorrow.

World War is another former flat performer who will be having his first start over hurdles. However, his best form on the level came on ground with plenty of cut, therefore he may find this a rude awakening.

Some Day Soon has hit the woodwork on his previous two starts – the latest being his hurdling debut – and will hope to build upon those efforts tomorrow. While former flat performer Tamayef, who was deemed good enough to take on Apple’s Shakira at Cheltenham last December, may find this a touch warm.

French bumper winner Elixir De Nutz was considered good enough to contest the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle Trial on his british debut in January and has since been transferred from Philip Hobbs to Colin Tizzard.

The four-year-old son of Al Namix fell when holding every chance at Uttoxeter in May on his only subsequent start (when trained by Philip Hobbs) and falls into the bracket of ‘could he anything’ at this early stage of his career. The market may be the best guide as to how he may perform tomorrow.

Dan Skelton fields both Amoola Gold, who was a disappointing favourite at Uttoxeter last time out, and Falcon Sun, who has offered little encouragement on his four outings to date, here. However, both look up against it given the opposition they will face.

Primal Focus and Secret Melody may also struggle here based on the form they have displayed thus far.

CONCLUSION:

This really is a fantastic race in prospect featuring three potentially very smart novice hurdlers. While I fully respect both Seven De Baune and Thomas Darby, I was very taken by SEBASTOPOL at Ayr in April and believe that he can develop into a graded novice hurdler this winter. Therefore i am hopeful that he can make a winning debut tomorrow.

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4.55 – THE RYMAN STATIONARY CHELTENHAM BUSINESS CLUB AMATEUR RIDERS’ HANDICAP CHASE (Class 3) 3m1f

In-form trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies will be represented by both Another Frontier, who will be partnered by Michael Malloy, and Muckle Roe, who will be the mount of Zac Baker.

The former arrives here in good heart with form figures of 121 achieved on his last three outings, with his only defeat coming at the hoofs of subsequent Scottish Grand National winner Joe Farrell at Newbury in March. While the latter, who placed second in this grade from a 1lb higher mark in the spring, could also go well if fit enough to do himself justice.

Presenting Julio was sent off a 7/2 favourite for the corresponding contest 12 months ago and will represent the powerful partnership of Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd once again.

The Irish raider suffered interference in-running last year and i am sure that his extremely talented jockey will go out of his way to find a clearer passage tomorrow. He undoubtedly commands respect off a 1lb lower mark.

Bells ‘N’ Banjos placed fifth in a much better contest than this at Prestbury Park last October and will line-up here off an 8lb lower mark.

Good ground brings out the best in Fergal O’Brien’s eight-year-old and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the canny Cotswolds based handler teamed up with Aly Stirling to land this prize in 2016 with the galant Troika Steppes. Market support would be encouraging.

Neil Mulholland is responsible for last time out scorer Cornish Warrior, who beat an in-form rival in the shape of Little Windmill at Southwell, with the front pair pulling 20 lengths clear of the field.

The handicapper reacted by putting the gutsy so of Oscar up 5lb, which may underestimate just what achieved that day. However, only time will tell.

Vinegar Hill warmed up for this contest will a wholly respectable third placed finish over hurdles at Uttoxeter last month. The second won next time out to give the form a solid look, however, he is rated higher over fences and was pulled-up on his latest outing in this sphere, which does temper enthusiasm.

Former Cullentra Stables inmate Killer Crow will be the mount of Kit Alexander and could get involved if recapturing anything like the form he displayed in 2015/16 when trained by Gordon Elliott.

This will be just his third start since arriving from Ireland and he will compete from a career low rating of 112.

Goohar knows his way around Prestbury Park and could get involved for his in-form trainer Henry Daly. While Fifty Shades, who won well over 3m1f170y at Newton Abbot in July, may well be weighed up to his best at present.

Sam Red, who is a whopping 19lbs lower than when last successful at this time last year, will be the mount of 5lb claimer William Marshall.

The Dan Skelton trained seven-year-old ran some respectable races last season including a second placed effort behind the highly regarded Mount Mews, who received 12lb, at Doncaster in January. He could easily feature if running up to that level tomorrow.

Cucklington recorded a brace of soft ground victories at Wincanton in the spring before being beaten into second place off a mark 113.

Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old could easily have more to come following a long summer break and could easily go well from the same mark he carried at Chepstow.

Asking Questions is 2-3 over fences and open to any amount of improvement for Oliver Greenhall this winter.

The six-year-old arrives here following a satisfactory return to action at Southwell two weeks ago and could easily get involved if handing the better ground.

Peter Bowen is enjoying a fine season to date and will saddle the good-ground loving Dotties Dilema in this contest tomorrow.

The evergreen son of Pierre finished the best part of 10 lengths behind the re-opposing Another Frontier at Uttoxeter three weeks ago when in search of a hat-trick following successes at Cartmel and Southwell in August and September respectively. It appears that the handicapper may have caught up with him for now.

Calin Du Brizais and Irish raider Oighear Dubh are admirably consistent but don’t win too often. While Perfect Pirate, who won nicely on his chasing debut at Towcester last November, has been disappointing since.

The often weak finishing Sporting Boy isn’t the most tempting of propositions at such a demanding course. While Robinroyale, who hasn’t shown much in three starts over fences, Sergeant Brody, who lacks experience, and Under The Phone, who has won only once from 12 outings over the larger obstacles, look up against it.

CONCLUSION:

Cornish Warrior is a worthy favourite based upon his impressive success over an in-form rival at Southwell three weeks ago. However, it may pay to side with both BELLS ‘N’ BANJOS and SAM RED, who are well handicapped on their best form from last season and appear to be fair value at double figure prices.

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5.30 – THE ‘MATCHBOOK BETTING PODCAST’ CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’ HANDICAP HURDLE (Class 3) 2m87y

Magic Dancer was 2-2 at Prestbury Park last season and could still be on a good mark following a 4lb rise for a gutsy success in April.

Kerry Lee’s good ground loving six-year-old also placed seventh in the ultra-competitive Grade 3 Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle on unsuitably soft terrain at Ascot in December and, although he has never won fresh, does tend to run respectably first time out.

Lord Condi didn’t make his hurdling bow until September this year but has already notched two victories from three starts for Cotswolds based handler Martin Keighley. The promising five-year-old will make his handicap debut from a mark of 125 and should not be inconvenienced by the drop in trip as he scored over 2m1f at Plumpton last month.

Harry Stock will take a handy 3lb off the youngsters back and he must hold every chance in his bid to land a hat-trick.

The Sophie Leech trained Man Of Plenty placed second in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and could go well from a 5lb higher mark.

The experienced nine-year-old ran fifth in the Grade 3 Imperial Cup at Sandown before claiming a creditable second placed finish in a Punchestown Festival Handicap during the spring. His experience and durability are strong assets in this race.

Bryony Frost is an eye-catching jockey booking for Minellaforleisure, who’s last success came from a 1lb lower mark at Prestbury Park in April 2016. While Sunnytahliateigan, who won a brace of good ground contests in the spring, has also run well in the Cotswolds before and, therefore, should not be dismissed out of hand.

Donald McCain and Harrison Beswick team up with the hat-trick seeking four-year-old Noah And The Ark, who will make his handicap debut from a mark of 122, which may be lenient given the manner in which he dismissed his rivals at both Stratford and Kelso in September and October respectively.

Our Merlin shot up the handicap with a number of fine performances last season, scoring a hat-trick of victories in December before placing second behind Call Me Lord at Sandown and third behind the ultra-consistent Remiluc at Cheltenham in January.

Both decent ground and his rapidly-rising mark would have to be a concern here. However, his consistency is admirable and another bold effort is possible.

Storm Rising is a fascinating contender on his Stable debut for Dr Richard Newland. The son of Canford Cliffs has enjoyed a hugely productive summer on the flat with Denis Hogan in Ireland, winning at Limerick and Galway in addiction to placing second on three occasions.

The good doctor has enjoyed plenty of success with Irish recruits in recent years and could have another potentially well-handicapped youngster to go to war with this winter. Market support would be hugely encouraging.

Majestic Touch may have more to offer for after just five outings over hurdles.

The son of Kalinisi is lightly raced for his age and didn’t fair too badly last term despite his stable underperforming on the whole. He did disappoint when sent off the 6/4 favourite at Fontwell three weeks ago but could bounce back to form if granted a proper gallop.

Silver Star will be having his third start in just 14 days for Gordon Elliott.

The experienced five-year-old has won twice over timber this summer in addition running a number of respectable in defeat. He will compete from a mark 6lb higher than his Irish rating and will likely prove popular given his trainers impressive strike-rate in Britain.

Mad Jack Mytton is 1lb below his last winning mark but is getting harder to predict with each year that passes. By contrast, the vastly experienced Mister Universum is fairy consistent but looks handicapped to his best for the time being.

Irish raider Long Call hasn’t been sighted over hurdles since April 2017 but is perhaps worth a market check given his canny connections.

Conditions don’t look favourable for Seven Barrows representative Malachite, who’s solitary success to date was achieved on soft ground.

Shoal Bay, who made a promising start to his career last season, could get involved for Colin Tizzard. While Chieftains Choice, who has been running well of late but may be on a tough enough mark as a result, will also face the starter.

CONCLUSION:

This ultra-competitive event can go the way of MAGIC DANCER, who was 2-2 at Cheltenham last season and returns to action off a 4lb higher mark than when successful at the April meeting. The progressive youngster has undergone a wind operation during the summer and will be greeted by ideal conditions in the Cotswolds tomorrow.

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SELECTONS:

2.00 – Rocco 8/1

2.35 – One For Billy 4/1

3.10 – And The New 10/1

3.45 – Shannon Bridge 9/2

4.20 – Sebastopol 2/1

4.55 – Bells ‘N’ Banjos 16/1

Sam Red 14/1

5.30 – Magic Dancer 11/2

ANTEPOST ANGLES: The BetVictor Gold Cup

This year’s renewal of the BetVictor Gold Cup looks set to be a quality affair with Cheltenham Festival handicap first and second Mr Whitaker and Rather Be, former festival winners Tully East and The Storyteller, and the returning former-festival runner-up Baron Alco all prominent in the betting at this very early stage.

Mister Whitaker is already a dual course winner who displayed a fantastic attitude when scoring at Prestbury Park in March. While Rather Be, who had looked set to land the spoils that day, is perhaps unlucky not to be unbeaten over fences and could easily have more to come for his champion trainer this winter.

Tully East was well supported for this contest 12 months ago but, frustratingly for his backers, fell victim to the weather at the eleventh hour. While fellow Irish raider the The Storyteller ran out a good winner of the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate in the spring and is undoubtedly a leading player for the chief of Cullentra Stables Gordon Elliott.

Baron Alco made a hugely encouraging return to action at Chepstow last weekend and could go very well from a mark of 142, which is 4lbs lower than when chasing home subsequent Grade 1 winner Road To Respect in the 2017 edition of the aforementioned festival handicap.

David Pipe’s french import King’s Socks, who finished fifth behind The Storyteller in March, is another potential player following a wind op this summer. And we’re still yet to consider last year’s victor Splash Of Ginge, who finished 3 places ahead of the Pipe’s charge at Cheltenham and will undoubtedly launch a bold bid to defend his crown next month.

While cases can be made for all of the above I find myself drawn to Gary Moore’s lightly raced Benatar, who was far too keen on his seasonal reappearance at Newton Abbot but should strip fitter going forwards.

The burly six-year-old took his form to a whole new level when sent over fences last season, achieving form-figures of 1113 including a hard-fought success over subsequent Grade 1 winner Finian’s Oscar at Ascot in December. Those efforts saw Gary Moore’s charge sent off a 10/1 chance for the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase in March, where he placed third behind Gordon’s Elliott’s talented mare Shattered Love.

The form of that festival contest could hardly have worked out any better with the second home, Terrefort, landing Grade 1 honours at Aintree next time out, the fourth home, Kemboy, winning two of his next three starts (falling on the other occasion), and the fifth home, the sadly departed Finian’s Oscar, also landing Grade 1 spoils on Merseyside in the spring.

Those rivals ended the season with ratings of 158, 157 and 156 respectively. While the Gigginstown House Stud owned winner boasts an official rating of 153. Therefore it’s easy to make a case that Benatar could be well treated off a mark of 149.

The son of Beneficial displayed his customary keenness at Cheltenham which is far from ideal on a course that places an increased emphasis on stamina. Thankfully, the BetVictor Gold Cup is contested on the Old Course which should hopefully see the field go a stride or two quicker and enable Benatar, who is generally a superb jumper, to settle much better than he did in March.

Of those at the head of the betting I would be particularly keen on Rather Be. However, I simply can’t understand why Benatar is twice the price of Henderson’s inmate given his rock solid piece of festival form. Therefore he simply has to be supported for this early season showpiece.

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BENATAR 25/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)

BETVICTOR GOLD CUP

1pt each way

Cheveley Park Stud Recruits 2018/19

Cheveley Park Stud have invested heavily in a number of promising young recruits during the summer and will have horses in training with British champion trainer Nicky Henderson, Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins and the king of Cullentra Stables Gordon Elliott this winter.

Below I have assembled a list of horses of exciting point-to-point graduates who will carry the familiar red and white silks of Cheveley Park Stud in the 2018/19 National Hunt campaign.

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BEYONDTHESTORM 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Blue Gale (IRE)

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Previous Handler: Denis Paul Murphy

Form: 1

£150,000 Cheltenham December Sale

This rangy son of Flemensfirth was snapped up for £150,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham December Sale following a smart debut success between the flags at Moira two weeks previously.

Jamie Codd steered the five-year-old to a neck success over subsequent bumper runner-up Presented Well, who briefly headed Beyondthestorm on the approach to the final fence but could not hold off his powerful late thrust.

That performance suggested that Beyondthestorm may be seen to best effect over staying trips under rules and, although I am in no doubt whatsoever that he could land a bumper or two this season, I would imagine that novice hurdles will be on his agenda sooner rather than later.

Undoubtedly a staying chaser down the line – hopefully he can begin to make his mark under rules this winter.

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ENVOI ALLEN 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Muhtathir (GB) – Reaction (FR)

Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Previous Handler: Colin Bowe

Form: 1

£400,000 – Cheltenham February Sale

Envoi Allen looked every inch a high class prospect when making a successful debut at Ballinaboola in February, storming clear of his five rivals approaching the final fence and cruising to an effortless ten lengths success in the hands of 2017 Champion point-to-point jockey Barry O’Neill.

The scopey four-year-old turned out for Colin Bowe and Walter Connors, who last teamed up with dual Grade 2 winning hurdler Getabird and are well renowned for producing talented young racehorses.

From the family of last season’s talented juvenile hurdler Espoir D’Allen, Envoi Allen attracted plenty of interest in the ring before being knocked down to Gordon Elliott for the princely sum of £400,000 and will now carry the easily recognisable colours of Cheveley Park Stud when going into battle this winter.

Much will be expected of the son of Muhtathir when he makes his racecourse debut this autumn. Hopefully he can confirm the immense promise he displayed between the flags and follow in the footsteps of Faugheen, Samcro and many more successful ex-pointers.

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LARQUEBUSE 4-y-o b f

Breeding: Saddler Maker (IRE) – Sirene Du Rheu (FR)

Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Former Handler: Colin Bowe

Form: 1

This imposing filly make a striking impression when easing to a comfortable 8 lengths success at Durrow in March, where a neat round of fencing and potent turn of foot rendered her far-too-good for her five rivals.

A daughter of Saddler Maker, who counts last season’s facile Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai amongst his progeny, Larquebuse travelled well through the soft ground and responded well when asked for her effort, which bodes well for her rules career both this year and beyond.

Given her age and location I would imagine that this hugely exciting four-year-old will spend this season in bumpers before embarking on a career over hurdles in 12 months time. She undoubtedly possesses the ability to win races this winter and could easily turn up in a valuable bumper come the spring.

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MALONE ROAD 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Kalanisi (IRE) – Zaffarella (IRE)

Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Previous Handler: Stuart Crawford

Form: 1

£325,000 – Aintree Sales

Having bagged the top two lots at the Cheltenham Festival Sale in March, the chief of a Cullentra Stables reloaded and took aim at the Aintree Sales in April, this time handing over £325,000 to secure the services of easy Loughanmore winner Malone Road.

This athletic son of Kalanisi travelled well throughout the three mile contest and displayed a smart turn of foot following a less than fluent leap at the final fence to win going away by an eye-catching three and a half lengths.

So impressed by the the performance of both the first and second home that day, Gordon Elliott also purchased the runner-up Soldier At War, who had put the majority of the field in trouble from a very early stage. Furthermore, this was the quickest run race on the day, stopping the clock a full twenty-two seconds faster than the day’s average.

A half-brother to dual bumper winners Winsor Avenue and Ravenhill Road, picking up a bumper or two should be a formality for this strong travelling four-year-old. However, we may not see the best of him until he jumps fences.

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ONTHEROPES 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Presenting (GB) – Dushion (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Previous Handler: Denis Paul Murphy

Form: 2

£240,000 – Cheltenham Festival Sale

While Gordon Elliott landed several significant blows at the Cheltenham Festival Sale in March, Willie Mullins ensured that it was no one-way fight, bouncing back with the acquisition of this aptly-named son of Presenting, who cost £240,000 following a narrow defeat on his solitary start between the flags at Punchestown in February.

It’s fair to say that the winner, Madiba Passion, enjoyed the run of the race out in front and that Ontheropes, who had to make up a fair amount of ground in the final mile of the contest, would probably have won had he not made a shuddering mistake at the final fence.

The way in which Ontheropes stayed on powerfully to almost pass his rival in the dying strides undoubtedly caught the attention of messers Mullins and Kirk, and the gutsy four-year-old will undoubtedly win his fair share of races under rules.

Given what he displayed at Punchestown, a Bumper success or two should be a formality this term. And, in the fullness of time, he could easily turn out to be a diamond in the rough.

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PRAGMATIC 5-y-o gr g

Breeding: High Rock (IRE) – Electrostatique (FR)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Previous Handler: Donncha Duggan

Form: F1

Pragmatic may be one of the cheaper purchases on this impressive list of recruits but he could easily represent one of the shrewdest pieces of business given what he displayed at Dungarvan in January, where he ran-out a most impressive 8 lengths winner on his second start between the flags.

The grey son of High Rock led from flag-fall and made all of the running, throwing in a series of big leaps that ensured his opposition could not challenge him at the head of affairs before easing clear to record a smart success after negotiating the final fence. Both the third and fourth – namely Stung For Cash and Ballybreen – won next time out to give the form some substance.

That performance earned the five-year-old an £82,000 transfer to Closutton where he will undoubtedly start his career under rules in bumpers before heading over obstacles.

Pragmatic is definitely a name to keep in mind both this winter and beyond.

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OTHER NOTABLE PURCHASES:

Lethal Steps displayed a smart level of form on the flat earning an official rating of 102 while applying himself well in Listed company. Therefore, connections will be hopeful that he can develop into a smart juvenile hurdler this winter.

The grey son of Lethal Force joined Cheveley Park Stud for 300,000gns and was swiftly transferred to Gordon Elliott, who has sent out two winners and three runners-up in the Triumph Hurdle in the last five years. Clearly Lethal Steps is in the right hands.

Gelded since arriving in Ireland, both of his victories to date came on good ground, however, it is far too soon to presume that he will not handle slower conditions. He is undoubtedly a horse to look forward too this winter.

Cheveley Park Stud also have Justice Chief, who has already notched up a hat-trick of victories over timber, for Juvenile hurdles this winter. While A Plus Tard, who has won twice from three starts over hurdles, and Allaho and En Beton, who both finished second on their solitary starts to date, are French recruits who will carry the red, blue and white silks into battle this season.

Northern Lights 2018/19

20 Northern trained horses to look forward too in 2018/19:

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BETTER GETALONG 7-y-o b g

Breeding: Gold Well (GB) – Arequipa (IRE)

Trainer: Nicky Richards

Owner: David Wesley Yates

Better Getalong enjoyed a productive time over hurdles last season and enters the 2018/19 campaign on an attractive looking mark of 135.

The promising seven-year-old won two of his five starts over timber last term and only gave way to talented opposition such as Cyrus Darius at Kelso and Slate House and subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Summerville Boy in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham in November.

Grade 1 company proved a step too far for Better Getalong in the spring, however, he was sent off an un-fancied 40/1 shot and did make a fairly bad mistake at the sixth flight of hurdles which certainly didn’t help his cause against high-class opposition such as Black Op, Lostintranslation and On The Blind Side amongst others.

Given his age it is entirely possible that connections with elect to send the son of Gold Well over fences this winter. If indeed they do, a novice handicap chase would surely be at his mercy in the north.

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BIG RIVER 8-y-o b g

Breeding: Milan (GB) – Call Kate (IRE)

Trainer: Lucinda Russell

Owner: Two Black Labs

Lucinda Russell has a real knack for training three-mile chasers and she appears to have uncovered yet another promising stayer in the form of Big River, who won two of his five starts as a novice last season and enters the new campaign on a potentially lenient handicap mark.

Pulled up at Haydock in November – Big River was found to have suffered an atrial fibrillation as well as losing two shoes. However, thankfully, he recovered quickly and even managed a third-placed finish behind subsequent Cheltenham Festival runner-up Ms Parfois at Warwick just 49 days later.

The scopey son of Milan signed off for the summer with a gallant second-placed effort behind Harry Fry’s well-handicapped novice Behind Time, who received a mammoth 23lb from Lucinda Russell’s charge. It was a hugely creditable performance given his problems in November and offered plenty of promise for the 2018/19 campaign.

I envisage the 8-year-old tackling some of the classier staying handicaps this winter, with his proven ability to handle varying types of ground a real advantage given the extreme conditions we have faced in the last 12 months.

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BLACK PIRATE 6-y-o b g

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Proper Posh (GB)

Trainer: James Ewart

Owner: Leeds Plywood And Doors Ltd

Black Pirate is perhaps one of the darker names on this list despite achieving a good level of form in bumpers last season. However, that could all be about to change as the promising six-year-old’s embarks upon his debut season over hurdles.

James Ewart’s son of Black Sam Ballamy landed him first two starts by a combined distance of 12 lengths before running a fine race to chase home Tom Lacey’s hugely exciting prospect Sebastopol in what is a traditionally strong contest at Ayr in April.

The manner in which Black Pirate despatched his rivals at both Wetherby and Ayr was hugely impressive, but it was his second trip to the latter venue that suggested to me that he may be capable of taking-on the ‘big boys’ this winter.

I would expect to see Black Pirate land a couple of novice events in the north before dipping his toe into the deeper waters of the south. Therefore, he is definitely one for the trackers.

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CLOUDY DREAM 8-y-o gr g

Breeding: Cloudings (IRE) – Run Away Dream (IRE)

Trainer: Donald McCain

Owner: Trevor Hemmings

Cloudy Dream is a high-class operator on his day and will now turn out for Donald McCain following a summer transfer from Ruth Jefferson.

The glitzy grey was the model of consistency term with four second-placed efforts during the winter and a fine third-placed finish in the Ryanair Chase in March. However, he failed to register a solitary success, which may be why Trevor Hemmings has elected to shuffle his pack during the off-season.

The popular son of Cloudings crossed swords with many formidable opponents last winter, including former Hennessy Gold Cup and Cotswolds Chase winner Smad Place, multiple Grade 1 scorer Fox Norton and subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup king Native River. Not to mention the Irish duo of Balko Des Flos and Un De Sceaux at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Further graded contests await this winter and hopefully the change of scenery can bring with it a change of luck. I’m sure many would love to see both horse and trainer land a much deserved Grade 1 victory.

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DIAMOND BRIG 6-y-o b g

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Lady Brig (GB)

Trainer: Rose Dobbin

Owner: Trevor Hemmings

This promising son of Black Sam Bellamy may have gone somewhat under the radar last season as he made only one appearance under rules, when comfortably putting a field of vastly experienced chasers to the sword in the Brewin Dolphin Buccleuch Chase (A Maiden Hunters Chase) at Kelso in April.

That smooth victory was enough to convince Grand National loving owner Trevor Hemmings to snap up the six-year-old who was successful in three of his four starts between the flags in Britain and looks the ideal type for races run on soft ground over extreme trips. Therefore races such as the Rehearsal Chase and Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle could be appropriate targets in the north, while races such as the Welsh Grand National and Midlands Grand National would appeal in the south.

Rose Dobbin trained a career best 25 winners last season and has a handful of smart prospects to go to war with this winter. Diamond Brig is undoubtedly one of her most intriguing inmates and I am convinced that he possesses the ability to land a big pot for her South Hazelriggg based operation this season.

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GUITAR PETE 8-y-o gr g

Breeding: Dark Angel (IRE) – Innishmore (IRE)

Trainer: Nicky Richards

Owner: Mrs P Sloan

Guitar Pete struck a blow for the north when landing the valuable Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December, where he saw off the challenge of Paul Nicholls’ classy operator Clan Des Obeaux to score by a decisive 2.75 lengths.

Nicky Richards battle-hardened eight-year-old failed to win on his three subsequent visits to the racetrack last season, however, he did manage a thoroughly respectable sixth-placed finish in the ultra-competitive Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival in March and is now only 3lb higher than when successful in December.

You would imagine that connections will target the BetVictor Gold Cup in November prior to returning a month later in defence of his crown. Clearly it will no easy feat, however, stranger things can and will happen.

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HILL SIXTEEN 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Court Cave (IRE) – Chasers Chic (GB)

Trainer: Sue Smith

Owner: Trevor Hemmings

Yet another promising youngster who will don the familiar green and yellow quartered silks of leading northern patron Trevor Hemmings – Hill Sixteen displayed both guts and stamina when landing a well contested Maiden point at Dromahane in April, attributes that will stand him in good stead during his career under rules.

The Court Cave gelding is undoubtedly seen as a long-term staying chaser by his new connections. However, he could easily surprise a few this winter and pick up a novice hurdle or two in the north.

Hill Sixteen made £100,000 when going through the ring at Aintree in April and will most likely enjoy a light season over hurdles efore embarking upon a career over fences in 12 months time.

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JONNIESOFA 8-y-o b g

Breeding: Well Made (GER) – Lucky Sarah (IRE)

Trainer: Rose Dobbin

Owner: R & Mrs A Houghton & A Houghton

As previously mentioned Rose Dobbin heads into the winter months with her most promising string to date, and Grade 2 winning novice hurdler Jonniesofa is undoubtedly one of her leading lights.

Lightly raced for his age – Jonniesofa has clocked up four wins from just nine career starts and made a smooth transition to fences at Carlisle last October before seemingly disappointing at Haydock in December. However, it later transpired that the fragile eight-year-old had suffered a recurrence of a tendon injury that first reared its ugly head in March 2016.

Rose Dobbin recently mentioned that he will be scanned again in November with a view to getting him back on the racetrack in February 2019. Given that he won first time out over fences following a 587 day layoff, he is most definitely one to keep an eye out for when he does make his return this season.

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MIDNIGHT SHADOW 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Midnight Legend (GB) – Holy Smoke (GB)

Trainer: Sue Smith

Owner: Mrs Aafke Clarke

Midnight Shadow proved to be a very consistent novice hurdler last season and gained a much deserved Grade 2 success when landing the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in April.

The son of Midnight Legend achieved rating of 140 over timber after chasing home smart opposition such as Paul Nicholls’ promising youngster Mont Des Avaloirs and Kim Bailey’s exciting novice chase prospect First Flow before placing seventh in Grade 1 company at Aintree and lowering the colours of the highly regarded Claimantakinforgan at Ayr. With form figures of 1222U71 demonstrating just how consistent the five-year-old was.

This year Midnight Shadow will embark upon a career over fences, a discipline in which he could thrive both in the North and when traveling South. Having already visited Haydock on three occasions last winter – showing form figures of 22U – a return to the Merseyside track looks like this term.

Sue Smith has a very exciting prospect on her hands and there’s every chance that he could develop into an outsider for the Arkle Novices’ Chase come the spring if all goes to plan in the coming months.

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MOUNT MEWS 7-y-o b g

Breeding: Presenting (GB) – Kneeland Last (IRE)

Trainer: Donald McCain

Owner: Trevor Hemmings

Like with Cloudy Dream, Mount Mews has joined Donald McCain during the off season and will be looking to get his career back on track after reverting to hurdles during his novice chase campaign last term.

The Trevor Hemmings owned seven-year-old has always been held in the highest regard and many were expecting the son of Presenting to develop into a leading novice chaser last season following an effortless seven lengths success at Doncaster in January. However, after finishing second and third on two subsequent starts, the decision was made to revert to hurdles and tackle the ultra-competitive Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, where he finished tenth.

Retrospectively, that decision may look unnecessary given the way in which the form of his latest effort – when third in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot – reads, with Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase winner Black Corton claiming the victory and subsequent Cheltenham Festival runner-up Ms Parfois placing second.

Mounts Mews looks well-treated off a mark of 139 over fences and Donald McCain has already confirmed that he will be campaigned over the larger obstacles. Therefore, he is definitely a horse for the trackers this season.

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MR MCGO 7-y-o b g

Breeding: Touch Of Land (FR) – La Principal (FR)

Trainer: Donald McCain

Owner: Jon Glews

Mr Mcgo missed the entirety of the 2017/18 National Hunt season after suffering a tendon injury following a novice hurdle campaign that saw him win twice and run two perfectly respectable races at both Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring.

This year the scopey seven-year-old will tackle fences where his official hurdle rating of 135 could be put to good use in a novice handicap chase. After which he could climb the ranks if retaining all of the ability that he displayed prior to his injury.

Mr Mcgo is seen to best effect on soft ground or worse, therefore he is one to keep in mind over the many months ahead as he could easily rattle up a sequence of soft ground successes in the north before potentially returning to Cheltenham or Aintree during the spring – ground permitting.

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ONE FOR ARTHUR 9-y-o b g

Breeding: Milan (GB) – Nonnetia (FR)

Trainer: Lucinda Russell

Owner: The Golf Widows

2017 Grand National hero One For Arthur is back in training following a season on the sidelines nursing a tendon injury that he suffered in the aftermath of his super-success on Merseyside.

The 2016/17 campaign was certainly one to remember for Lucinda Russell and the brilliantly named Two Golf Widows, as One For Arthur won three of his four starts including the Grade 3 Classic Handicap Chase a Warwick in January, which acted as the perfect springboard to his Aintree exploits.

Lucinda Russell recently confirmed that the popular son of Milan is back cantering following a lot of pre-training and plenty of time spent on the treadmill, and he could be back on the racecourse as early as November with the Betfair Chase (24th November), the Ladbrokes Trophy (1st December) and the Becher Chase (8th December) all under consideration.

Hopefully One For Arthur’s injury worries are behind him and he can pick-up from where he left off this winter.

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POGUE 5-y-o gr g

Breeding: Stowaway (IRE) – Night Palm (IRE)

Trainer: Donald McCain

Owner: John Turner

This scopey grey gelding is easily one of the most exciting recruits to join Donald McCain in recent years after storming to success in an Oldcastle point-to-point and subsequently changing hands for the princely sum of £100,000 at the Cheltenham May sale.

Pogue was narrowly denied on his debut between the flags when blundering at the last and failing to reel in the vastly more experienced Along The Reeks, who prevailed by a head. However, there was no mistake when the exciting son of Stowaway got off the mark at Oldcastle two weeks later, scoring by a comfortable 10 lengths after putting in a fluent fencing performance.

This imposing five-year-old is undoubtedly a chaser in the making but should be able to make his mark over timber this winter, where victories in the north should be a formality and graded contest may be an option come the spring.

Donald McCain hasn’t tasted Grade 1 success since the sadly fragile Cinders And Ashes landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2013. Hopefully this hugely promising five-year-old can develop into a real flag-bearer for his Grand National winning handler.

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SAM SPINNER 6-y-o b g

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Dawn Spinner (GB)

Trainer: Jedd O’Keeffe

Owner: Caron & Paul Chapman

Sam Spinner was sent off a well supported 9/4 favourite to land the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham in March but could only finish fifth in a contest where the emphasis was put on speed rather than stamina.

Jedd O’Keffee’s stable star earned the right to be sent off favourite for that illustrious contest by running-out a convincing 17 lengths winner of the ultra-competitive Grade 3 Stayers Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in November and the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December, after-which the handicapper rated Sam Spinner 164.

Aged just six, there is every possibility that Sam Spinner will jump fences at some stage in the not too distant future. However, connections may elect to stay over timber for the time being as he is undoubtedly the number one staying hurdler on this side of the Irish Sea.

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SAM’S GUNNER 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy

Trainer: Mick Easterby

Owner: Falcon’s Line Ltd

This chestnut son of Black Sam Bellamy marked himself out as a potentially smart young horse when landing the Grade 3 European Breeders’ Fund Matchbook VIP “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Sandown in March, where hit the front after jumping the last and soon pulled clear of a toiling field to record a smart 7 lengths success under Will Kennedy.

That success earned the promising five-year-old a shot at Grade 1 company at Aintree four weeks later. However, having been held up in rear, Sam’s Gunner felt the pinch when the main protagonists started to race and lost touch completely before being pulled up with three left to jump.

It is entirely possible that Mick Easterby’s charge was still feeling the effects of his Sandown exertions when pulling up at Aintree and I would therefore be optimistic that there is still more to come from the youngster this winter.

It will be interesting to see whether connections elect to stay of hurdles or tackle fences this winter as he would undoubtedly be an intriguing novice chaser if that was indeed the plan. Whatever he does do, he certainly rates one to follow.

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SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT 10-y-o b g

Breeding: Midnight Legend (GB) – Morsky Baloo (GB)

Trainer: Sandy Thompson

Owner: Mrs David Thompson

Seeyouatmidnight has been a terrific servant to Sandy Thompson and perhaps hasn’t truly received the credit that he deserves given his greatly consistent profile over the last five seasons.

The gusty son of Midnight Legend has finished in the first three on no fewer than 12 of his 17 starts under rules, with Grade 2 victories at both Cheltenham and Haydock demonstrating his ability to compete both in the north and the south over both hurdles and fences.

Unfortunately a setback meant that we only got to see the talented ten-year-old twice last season, where an eleventh placed finish in the Aintree Grand National was wholly respectable given the circumstances. However, granted a clear run this winter, I am convinced that he can better that result in 2019 and he may even be able to land a decent prize en route to Liverpool.

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SOME REIGN 7-y-o b g

Breeding: Kayf Tara (GB) – Bridge Love (FR)

Trainer: Rose Dobbin

Owner: Mr & Mrs Duncan Davidson

Rose Dobbin’s lightly raced seven-year-old displayed distinct promise on his first two starts over timber last season before refusing to race at Musselburgh in December and closing out his novice hurdle campaign with a brace of third-placed efforts at Wetherby and Kelso respectively.

Some Reign chased home subsequent dual-scorer Beyond The Clouds on debut before getting off the mark at the second time of asking and, although his latest efforts could be described as slightly disappointing, i am of the opinion that stepping up in trip may help him this winter.

A strapping son of Kayf Tara – there is every chance that Some Reign will improve for jumping fences this season and it wouldn’t surprise me if connections elected to start the seven-year-old off in a novice handicap chase as his mark of 127 looks fair on the balance of his form.

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UPPERTOWN PRINCE 6-y-o b g

Breeding: Strategic Prince (GB) – Tarrawarra (IRE)

Trainer: Donald McCain

Owner: T G Leslie

Uppertown Prince is yet another hugely exciting prospect for Donald McCain this winter as the the promising six-year-old is set embark upon a novice chase campaign that will hopefully see the son of Strategic Price contesting graded races come the spring.

Tim Leslie’s talented youngster got off the mark at the first time of asking over timber and progressed to finish second in Grade 2 company at Haydock in February and fourth behind the hugely exciting Santini in Grade 1 company at Aintree.

Those efforts earned Uppertown Prince an official rating of 140 over hurdles and connections will be hopeful that he can improve upon that rating over fences, where trips in excess of 2m4f will be on the agenda.

I expect Uppertown Prince to gain valuable experience in the north before travelling to the south and testing his mettle in graded company. Hopefully he can develop into a smart staying chaser for long-time owner Tim Leslie, who enjoyed plenty of success with Peddlers Cross and Overturn some years ago.

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VINTAGE CLOUDS 8-y-o gr g

Breeding: Cloudings (IRE) – Rare Vintage (IRE)

Trainer: Sue Smith

Owner: Trevor Hemmings

Vintage Clouds was all-the-rage for the Scottish Grand National in April after narrowing missing the cut for Aintree’s showpiece the previous weekend. However, connections had to settle for a third-placed finish as Joe Farrell and Ballyoptic enjoyed a titanic tussle for victory.

Sue Smith’s son of Cloudings’ arrived at Ayr on the back of a huge run in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, where a third placed effort rewarded strong each-way support that saw the gusty grey sent off at a single figure price of 7/1.

Vintage Clouds will start this season with a career high mark of 143 and I am positive that connections will tailor his season around the Grand National. Therefore, I expect to see the stamina-laden eight-year-old running well in competitive staying chases this winter in order to achieve a mark that will guarantee him a spot at Aintree.

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WAITING PATIENTLY 7-y-o b g

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Rossavon (IRE)

Trainer: Ruth Jefferson

Owner: Richard Collins

There is not question that Waiting Patiently is the gem in the crown of Northern racing at present, with his unbeaten status over fences and scintillating success in the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase making the seven-year-old one of the most exciting horses currently plying his trade in Britain.

Lightly raced for his age, Ruth Jefferson’s pride and joy can already count horses such as Cue Card, Frodon, Politologue and Top Notch amongst his victims and, ominously for his future opposition, he only appears to get better every time he graces the racetrack.

Unfortunately a setback ended the seven-year’s old season after Ascot in February and, although not career threatening, Waiting Patienly could be the order of the winter as we may not see him until after Christmas as connections understandably will not be rushing him back.

Hopefully the super-exciting son of Flemensfirth will return in 2019 and pick up from where he left off last term. If indeed he does, he could take in two of the big spring festivals where his talents undoubtedly deserve to be showcased.

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WAKANDA 9-y-o b g

Breeding: Westerner (GB) – Chanson Indienne (FR)

Trainer: Sue Smith

Owner: M B Scholey & The Late R H Scholey

You simply couldn’t write a list of northern trained horses and not include Sue Smith’s battle-hardened handicapper Wakanda, who was victorious in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster last season and will undoubtedly go close in a number of good quality staying handicap contests once again this winter.

Incredibly, that was the nine-year-old’s first success since December 2015 and two subsequent efforts have seen him pulled up and well beaten at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals respectively during the spring.

Alas, the handicapper is yet to relent, therefore Wakanda will start the season with an official rating 148 – having received a 3lb rise for his Doncaster success – and may need to drop back down the handicap before troubling the judges once again. It may take time given his greatly consistent profile but I am confident that connections won’t have to wait quite as long as last time to land the spoils again.