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

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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.

Bold Statements 2018/19

1. Colin Tizzard will train the winner of Grade 1 Novice Chase at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.

The Irish stranglehold on the Cheltenham Festival shows no signs of waning as messers Mullins and Elliott only appear to grow stronger with every year and indeed each Bloodstock sale that passes. However, while the mighty Samcro may have took the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle back to the Emerald Isle in March, both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle were won by the ‘home team’, with Champion Hurdle hopeful Summerville landing the former and the tough-as-nails Kilbricken Storm winning Friday’s novice slug-fest.

Furthermore, 6 of the 9 places up for grabs in the Grade 1 novices hurdles in March went to British trained horses, and many of those youngsters possess the potential to develop into smart novice chasers this winter. When looking at the list of likely candidates there is one trainer in particular who sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb – namely Colin Tizzard.

The master of Venn Farm Stables has seen his stock rise – both physically and metaphorically – at a rate of knots in recent years thanks in no small part to the exploits of multiple Grade 1 winning fan-favourite Cue Card; Stayers Hurdle and King George hero Thistlecrack; and Hennessy Gold Cup, Welsh Grand National and reigning Gold Cup king Native River. This year the dairy farmer turned top-class racehorse trainer can count Lostintranslation, Slate House, Vision Des Flos, White Moon and the aforementioned Kilbricken Storm amongst his exciting roster of novice chasers – all of whom displayed significant potential over timber last term.

Both Slate House and Vision Des Flos could easily develop in Arkle contenders this season. While Kilbricken Storm, Lostintranslation and White Moon could be spilt between the JLT and RSA depending on how they fair throughout the winter months. With ammunition such as this in his Somerset-based armoury – Colin Tizzard has every chance of landing a Grade 1 novice chase in the Cotswolds come the spring.

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2. Harry Skelton will be Champion Jockey this season.

Richard Johnson wasted little time in filling the boots that he had chased for so many years when taking over the mantle from AP McCoy and surging to success in the Jump Jockeys Championship in each of the last 3 season’s. However, has the ‘champ’ finally met his match in the form of Harry Skelton, who currently sits at the top of the standings with 8 more wins to his name.

Skelton is currently operating at a 31% strike-rate with 85 wins achieved from 278 mounts. While Johnson, who has had 91 more rides (369) this summer, has ridden 77 winners at a success-rate of 21%.

Interestingly, Johnson’s tally of winners has dropped each year, with 235 winners in 2015/16, 180 winners in 2016/17 and 176 winners in 2017/18. In that same time period Harry Skelton’s numbers have been on the incline, with 101 winners in both the 2015/16 and 2016/17 season’s, before recording a career best tally of 131 winners last term.

Yes – Johnson will continue to get more mounts and indeed more winners as the season progresses, with long-time ally Philip Hobbs and Stayers Hurdle winning trainer Warren Greatrex providing plenty of ammunition throughout the wet winter months. However, surely Skelton’s talents can no-longer be ignored and although his brother Dan provides an unprecedented percentage of his current winners, more outside rides simply must be forthcoming.

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3. Native River will defend his Gold Cup Crown.

Those who are beaten in their first attempt do no return and lift the Cheltenham Gold Cup – or so they say, something that Native River had clearly not been made aware of prior to his all-the-way success in the blue riband contest in March. Now, however, the spring-heeled chestnut with a blaze almost as bright as his star-studded status faces a new task as he bids to become the first horse to successfully defend his crown since Best Mate’s third and final success in 2004.

To give you an idea of the monumental task facing the fleet-footed leaper, not one of the three previous winners – namely Coneygree (2015), Don Cossack (2016) and Sizing John (2017) – took to the track in defence of their titles, as their moment in the sun had clearly taken its toll and sadly left a mark that may never disappear. However, I am hopeful that Native River can break that cycle as he never seems to enjoy an easy race yet always appears to bounce back better than ever before.

Let’s not forget that Garfield, as he is affectionately nicknamed at home, landed the 2016 Welsh Grand National just 31 days after lifting the Hennessy Gold Cup, and still went on to land the Denman Chase in February en route to a third-placed finish in the Cotswolds that March.

The latest noises coming out of Somerset suggest that Native River could make a bold-bid become the first horse to plunder The Jockey Club’s £1m bonus by landing the Betfair Chase at Haydock and King George VI Chase at Kempton before returning to Cheltenham in defence of his Gold Cup crown. While that is no easy task – if there is one horse in training who possesses both the heart and ability to pull it off – it might just be Native River.

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4. Fergal O’Brien will train 100 winners this season.

Canny Cotswolds-based handler Fergal O’Brien has recorded career-best tally’s of 60 winners in each of the last two seasons, with his well balanced string of exciting young talent and reliable stable stalwarts providing a steady flow of winners at all levels of the game – including in Grade 1 company courtesy of stable favourite Poetic Rhythm, who landed the Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December.

This year the master of Grange Hill Farm’s upper yard appears to have a seriously exciting bunch of novice hurdlers to go war with – including Perth winner Jarveys Plate, Champion Bumper eighth Mercy Mercy Me, easy Southwell scorer Strong Glance and the very promising Time To Move On, who beat a smart prospect in the care of Harry Fry by a comfortable 10 lengths at Exeter in December.

Those talented youngsters alongside experienced campaigners such as Barney Dwan, Cap Soleil, Colin’s Sister, Master Dee Oscar Rose, Perfect Candidate, Poetic Rhythm and the much loved winter-warrior Alvarado can hopefully catapult the cake loving Irishman to the next level this winter. And that’s before you factor in the new batch of bumper horses who will undoubtedly get the yard off to a flying start this autumn.

Furthermore, the yard can rely upon the services of talented conditional jockey Connor Brace this season, who is the grandson of leading Point-to-Point owner/trainer David Brace. The young Welshman displayed plenty of promise between the flags last season, riding 21 winners and being awarded the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association’s 2018 Novice Rider award. Needless to say – his 7lb claim could be gold-dust this winter.

Yes, it’s a huge ask to jump from 60 winners to 100, but this is by far the strongest team that O’Brien has ever assembled and anything is possible when you have such an exciting young squad – just ask Sir Alex Ferguson if you don’t believe me!

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5. Donald McCain will train a Grade 1 winner this season.

You have to wind the clock back 5 years to the spring of 2013 to find Donald McCain’s last Grade 1 success, which came courtesy of the hugely talented but sadly fragile Cinders And Ashes in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. However, the 2011 Grand National winning handler clawed his way back into the top 10 in the trainer’s championship last season and boasts a plethora of promising recruits to go to war with this winter.

Names to look forward too include promising novice chaser Uppertown Prince, who placed fourth behind the hugely exciting Santini in Grade 1 company at Aintree, and £100,000 summer purchase Pogue, who looked hugely promising when running out a 10 lengths winner of his second start between the flags at Oldcastle in May. Whether either will be up-to competing in Grade 1 company remains to be seen. However, they are undoubtedly two of the most exciting young horses to reside at Bankhouse in recent years.

Trevor Hemmings has further-bolstered the squad of his long-time ally by sending him last season’s Ryanair Chase third Cloudy Dream and the potentially well-handicapped Mount Mews, who has always been held in the highest regard and could easily flourish for the change of scenery.

Donald McCain must be chomping at the bit for the jumps season ‘proper’ to commence. Hopefully, he can build upon last season’s impressive figures and dine at the top table of National Hunt racing once more.

Novice Hurdlers 2018/19

50 exciting novice hurdle prospects heading into the 2018/19 National Hunt campaign.

Trackers at the ready!

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ACEY MILAN 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Milan (GB) – Strong Wishes (IRE)

Trainer: Anthony Honeyball

Owner: Owners For Owners: Acey Milan

Bumper Form: 21114

Acey Milan notched up a quick fire hat-trick last season, including landing Listed events at both Cheltenham and Newbury in January and February respectively.

Those performances earned the promising four-year-old a ticket to the Cheltenham Festival, where he performed with great credit to place fourth in the Champion Bumper behind the exciting Closutton trained trio of Relegate, Carefully Selected and subsequent Punchestown Festival bumper scorer Tornado Flyer.

Anthony Honeyball’s son of Milan could easily develop into a smart novice hurdler this winter, and he could easily return to Prestbury Park at some stage this season given his his proven ability to perform in the Cotswolds.

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ANNAMIX 5-y-o gr g

Breeding: Martaline (GB) – Tashtiyana (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: Mrs S Ricci

Hurdle Form: 2

Annamix was all the rage for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at this stage 12 months ago following positive reports from both Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci whenever somebody pushed a microphone in their face and enquired about the once-raced grey.

Unfortunately for connections – and of course those who had already struck antepost wagers on the five-year-old – the French import was ruled out for the remainder of the season after suffering a pelvis injury in November. However, he is now ready to return to action and can hopefully make up for lost time this winter.

Mick Taros, who got the better Annamix at Compiegne, won his only subsequent start in September 2017, so the form of his solitary appearance to date looks fairly respectable. I am sure that his Irish debut will be eagerly anticipated.

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BLACKBOW 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Stowaway (GB) – Rinnce Moll (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: Roaringwater Syndicate

Bumper Form: 1152

This former English pointer made a real name for himself in bumpers last season, landing Grade 2 honours at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival in February before placing fifth and second in Grade 1 company Cheltenham and Punchestown respectively.

Patrick Mullins elected to ride this imposing five-year-old ahead of Relegate (first), Carefully Selected (second) and Tornado Flyer in the Champion Bumper, which is a clear indication of the regard in which the son of Stowaway is held at Closutton.

I envisage Blackbow developing into a top class novice hurdler over trips ranging from 2m4f to 3m. Therefore the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle would look potential targets come the spring. His debut over timber is eagerly anticipated.

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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.

Bumpers Form: 112

Black Pirate is perhaps one of the darker horses 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 on 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.

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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BRACE YOURSELF 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Mahler (GB) – Angelica Garnett (GB)

Trainer: Noel Meade

Owner: Mrs Patricia Hunt

Bumper Form: 132

Brace Yourself changed hands for £165,000 at the Cheltenham November Sale following a fine second placed effort on his solitary start between the flags at Portrush in October, where a mistake at final fence may have cost the scopey five-year-old victory.

Mags O’Toole placed the final bid on behalf of former Irish champion trainer Noel Meade and the son of Mahler made the perfect start to his career under rules when bounding clear to score by an impressive 24 lengths at Down Royal in December.

While chasing will undoubtedly be his job in the fullness of time, I foresee this promising chestnut developing into a fair staying novice hurdler this season, who may even be capable of landing a graded race when encountering some hock-deep ground in the depths of winter.

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BREWIN’UPASTORM 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Milan (GB) – Daraheen Diamond (IRE)

Trainer: Olly Murphy

Owner: Mrs Barbara Hester

Bumper Form: 14

Olly Murphy described Brewin’Upastorm as the best horse he has in the yard when the five-year-old, who cost a whopping £250,000 when going through the ring, made a successful start to his career under rules at Hereford in January.

The Milan gelding earned his hefty price-tag with smart success at Quakerstown in April 2017, where he got the better of Tom George’s smart prospect Stop The World and subsequent point scorer Press Conference, who is now in training with Jessica Harrington.

While Brewin’Upastorm’s fourth-placed effort at Newbury was somewhat disappointing, it did come just 25 days after his Hereford exertions and I am therefore inclined to put a line through that effort as many young, inexperienced horses find it hard to perform twice in such a short period of time. He undoubtedly remains a horse to look forward too this winter.

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BULLIONAIRE 5-y-o b g

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

Trainer: Harry Fry

Owner: Phil Fry & Charlie Walker – Osborne House

Bumper Form: 12

Many were looking forward to seeing Bullionaire tackle timber last season, but unfortunately for those supporters – and of course his connections – the exciting five-year-old was only sighted once on the racetrack last winter – when chasing home the potentially smart Didtheyleaveuoutto in a Listed bumper at Ascot.

Thankfully age is on Bullionaire’s side and he remains a top prospect given his strong bumper form and exciting profile, which will undoubtedly make him a short price favourite when Harry Fry elects to unleash the son of Gold Well novice company this autumn.

I would expect Fry to trace a similar path to that taken by stablemate If The Cap Fits last season, with two low-key assignments in order to gain experience before taking the ‘big-boys’ as the season progresses. Whatever the plan, he is undoubtedly a very exciting prospect who could easily be contesting graded events come the spring.

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CAREFULLY SELECTED 6-y-o b g

Breeding: Well Chosen (GB) – Knockamullen Girl (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: Miss M A Masterson

Bumper Form: 1123

Carefully Selected went about his business without great fanfare last season, but nearly hit the headlines when coming agonisingly close to tasting Cheltenham Festival success in the Champion Bumper, only for stablemate Relegate to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the final 50 yards of a stamina-sapping contest.

That effort confirmed that the scopey five-year-old possesses many of the key attributes that you would look for in a classy racehorse, with guts, determination and deep reserves of stamina just 3 qualities that will stand him in good stead both this season and beyond.

Trips in excess of 2m4f will be right up the scopey youngsters street, therefore I would expect the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or even the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle to come under consideration depending on what happens between now and then.

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CARIBERT 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Ballingarry (IRE) – Cardamine (FR)

Trainer: Harry Fry

Owner: Phil Fry & Charlie Walker – Osborne House

Bumper Form: 121

Caribert is another promising five-year-old in the care of Harry Fry who will look to mark his mark in novice hurdles this winter following a fine season in bumpers last term.

The spritely son of Ballingarry made a successful debut at Wincanton before chasing home Fergal O’Brien’s smart prospect Time To Move On at Exeter in December. However, he got back to winning ways when making all at Newbury in March, when conceding weight to all-bar one of his rivals and displaying a pleasing attitude.

Again, I would expect a low-key starting point and a gradual rise in class as the season progresses. It will be interesting to see just how far he can go this winter.

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COLREEVY 5-y-o b m

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Poetics Girl (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: Mrs N Flynn

Bumper Form: 1371

Colreevy displayed a smart level of form in bumpers last season and will undoubtedly spend the winter months doing battle against other exciting young mares both on English and Irish soil.

The scopey five-year-old topped and tailed her debut season under rules with victories – kicking off with a comfortable success at Fairyhouse in December before signing off for the season with a Grade 3 prize at the Punchestown Festival in April.

I would expect to see Colreevy competing over trips ranging from 2m4f to 3m this winter and it would be no surprise to see her knocking on the door in graded company as the season progresses.

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COMMANDER OF FLEET 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Fame And Glory (GB) – Coonagh Cross (IRE)

Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Owner: Gigginstown House Stud

Bumper Form: 1

This time last year we were taking about Samcro, who fulfilled all expectations during a stellar novice hurdle campaign for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud. This year I am hoping that lightening can strike twice with this hugely exciting son of Fame And Glory, who could also be well above average based on what he has displayed thus far.

Having been the only horse to complete the course on his solitary start between the flags at Moig South in March, it was hard to know exactly what to expect when Commander Of Fleet made his debut under rules at the Punchestown Festival in April. However, what we saw at Punchestown dispelled any notion of doubt, as the fleet footed gelding travelled supremely well under Barry O’Neil before quickening clear upon turning for for home to record a most impressive 8.5 lengths success.

While I would never dream of comparing the four-year-old with his super-talented stablemate, Commander Of Fleet did appear to display the same blend of speed and stamina that Samcro had at the same stage of his career, which makes the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle seem like the obvious target at this very early stage.

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CITY ISLAND 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Court Cave (IRE) – Victorine (IRE)

Trainer: Martin Brassil

Owner: Mrs Bernardine Mulryan

Bumper/Hurdle Form: 211

This talented son of Court Cave made a successful debut over hurdles at the Galway Festival in August where he saw off the vastly more experienced Debuchet and subsequent easy scorer Getareason by a comfortable 3.25 lengths.

That fine performance came on the back of two good efforts in bumpers during the spring – firstly when chasing home Willie Mullins’ smart prospect Passageway at the Punchestown Festival before returning to the Dublin venue to get off the mark at the second time of asking.

City Island undoubtedly possesses the ability to develop into a smart novice hurdler over trips ranging from 2m4f to 3m this winter, and could even prove good enough to contest some graded events come the spring.

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COEUR SUBLIME 3-y-o b g

Breeding: Elusive Pimpernel (USA) – Love Knot (IRE)

Trainer: TBC

Owner: TBC

Flat Form: 1

This fleet-footed son of Elusive Pimpernel got the better of subsequent Listed scorer Southern France on his racecourse debut at Navan in April – forging clear from the two furlong-out marker and gamely holding on as Aidan O’Briens’ Royal Ascot runner-up rattled home.

Subsequently purchased for €280,000 at the Punchestown Sale in April, Coeur Sublime could develop into a very smart juvenile hurdler this winter and could easily become a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle in the spring.

Peter Fahey has introduced a number of high-class recruits to the jumping game in recent years and I am in no doubt whatsoever that this exciting three-year-old could be yet another graded performer in the making.

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DANNY KIRWAN 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Scorpion (IRE) – Sainte Baronne (FR)

Trainer: Paul Nicholls

Owner: Mrs Johnny de la Hey

Bumper Form: 10

Danny Kirwan announced himself a horse of serious potential when sweeping aside a strong looking field at Kempton in February.

That long-awaited debut under rules confirmed the promise that the scopey son of Scorpion had displayed on his solitary start between the flags at Lisronagn in October 2017, where he cruised to an 11 lengths success under top amateur jockey Jamie Codd.

Given his size, scope and potential as a chaser, I would expect Danny Kirwan to have a light campaign with a view to going chasing in 12 months time. However, he could easily land a graded prize at some stage this winter.

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DIDTHEYLEAVEUOUTTO 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Presenting (GB) – Pretty Puttens (IRE)

Trainer: Nick Gifford

Owner: JP McManus

Bumper Form: 110

Nick Gifford’s chestnut son of Presenting was well-fancied for the Champion Bumper last season on the back of his hugely impressive Listed success at Ascot in December, only for the rain to scupper his chances at the eleventh hour.

The JP McManus owned five-year-old was the subject of strong-market support at Ascot after making a deep impression at Lingfield in November – where he sprinted clear of his 13 rivals to score by an ever-increasing 10 lengths.

Clearly decent ground is important to Didtheyleaveuoutto, who could easily be the next super-exciting son of top class jumps sire Presenting. He reminds me somewhat of the same owners Yanworth, who also displayed significant ability in bumpers. I am sure that connections would be delighted if he proves even half as good as Alan King’s multiple grade 1 winner.

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DOWNTOWN GETAWAY 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Getaway (GER) – Shang A Lang (IRE)

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Owner:

Bumper Form: 1

Downtown Getaway made a hugely impressive debut at Fairyhouse in December, where he dismantled a field jam-packed with subsequent winners by upwards of 12 lengths in very taking fashion.

The promising five-year-old was sent to the Cheltenham December Sale two weeks later where he changed hands for the princely sum of £350,000 to be trained by British champion trainer Nicky Henderson. However, despite being aimed at the Champion Bumper, we are yet to see the exciting son of Getaway on these shores.

I am particularly looking forward to seeing what Downtown Getaway is capable of over hurdles and I am very optimistic that he will be contesting graded events during the spring.

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DUHALLOW GESTURE 6-y-o b m

Breeding: King’s Theatre (IRE) – Rare Gesture (IRE)

Trainer: Anthony Honeyball

Owner: Galveston Partners

Bumper Form: 113

This gutsy daughter King’s Theatre made a good impression in bumpers last season, landing a decent event at Tipperary it May before relocating to England and running-out a cosy 2.25 lengths winner of a Listed event at Huntington on her debut for Anthony Honeyball.

Duhallow Gesture was then put-away with the valuable Grade 2 Mares Bumper at Aintree in mind, and she certainly didn’t disappoint when displaying a determined attitude en route a fine third-placed finish behind the potentially smart Irish raider Getaway Katie Mai.

It will be interesting to see which route connections will elect to go down this winter as her qualities will stand her in good stead both against her own sex and when in receipt of weight against the boys. She is definitely one to place in the tracker.

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EBONY GALE 4-y-o br g

Breeding: Shirocco (GER) – Glenora Gale (IRE)

Trainer: Philip Hobbs

Owner: Mrs Judith Luff

Bumper Form: 61

Philip Hobbs endured a torrid time last season and will be hoping to bounce back will a stellar campaign this year. While the master trainer undoubtedly houses a number of well-handicapped horses at his Minehead HQ, I am particularly looking forward to seeing how Wincanton bumper scorer Ebony Gale will progress this winter.

This four-year-old son of Shirocco improved markedly upon his sixth-placed debut effort at Kempton when recording a pleasing 28/1 success at Wincanton four-weeks later – where he got the better of stablemate Larkbarrow Lad, who had previously finished third behind smart prospects Danny Kirwan and Pym in a very warm heat at Kempton in February.

Another summer at grass will have done Ebony Gale the world of good and, while graded races may prove beyond him this winter, I am confident that there are races to be with the promising youngster this season.

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ELDORADO ALLEN 4-y-o gr g

Breeding: Khalkevi (IRE) – Hesmeralda (FR)

Trainer: Colin Tizzard

Owner: TBC

Hurdle Form: 3

This gorgeous grey son of Grand Prix De Paris winner Khalkevi could be anything after finishing third at Auteuil on his solitary start France this spring. However, Colin Tizzard remarked that he is a “proper horse” for the months ahead at his charity open day in August, which naturally increases expectations.

A quick glance at the form of that race hardly sets the pulse racing, with the second displaying subsequent form figures of 20P and the winner placing sixth of eight runners (only 6 finished) when last seen in April.

Clearly Eldorado Allen has been showing the master of Venn Farm stables plenty at home and the French-import could prove to be a very shrewd purchase if transferring that ability to the racetrack.

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ERITAGE 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Martaline (GB) – Sauves La Reine (FR)

Trainer: Paul Nicholls

Owner: Angela Tincknell

Bumper Form: 1

Tom Malone struck the winning bid of €205,000 to secure this once raced son of Martaline on behalf of Paul Nicholls at the Arqana Sales in July.

The former Fabrice Foucher inmate landed a 1m4f bumper at Pornichet in July, where he hit the front with a furlong left to run and crossed the line with a comfortable 3.5 lengths advantage.

Eritage looks an exciting long-term prospect for his new owner Angela Tincknell and will most likely been seen over hurdles sooner rather than later given his new surroundings. He should prove effective over trips ranging from 2m to 2m4f this season.

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FAUSTINOVICK 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Cormorant Cove (GB)

Trainer: Colin Tizzard

Owner: TBC

PTP Form: 2

From the family of former three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Inglis Drever, Faustinovick had the misfortune of bumping into the aforementioned Andy Dufrense on his solitary start between the flags at Borris House in March. The winner looked particularly smart and this scopey son of Black Sam Bellamy put in a fine, determined performance to finish 12 lengths clear of the third placed horse.

Having been withdrawn from the Cheltenham Festival Sale in March, Colin Tizzard stepped in with a winning bid of £170,000 to secure the four-year-old at the Aintree Sales in April. Given what he displayed on debut, that could easily be money well spend.

Tizzard doesn’t tend to hang around with his young horses and i therefore expect to see Faustinovick over hurdles sooner rather than later. However, we may not see the best of him until he see’s a fence in 12 months time.

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FELIX DESJY 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Maresca Sorrento (FR) – Lamadoun (FR)

Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Owner: Gigginstown House Stud

Bumper Form: 1165

Felix Desjy kick-started his career under rules will smooth victories at Punchestown and Down Royal before having his sights raised to Grade 1 company at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals.

The Gigginstown House Stud owned five-year-old achieved creditable sixth-placed and fifth-placed finishes respectively during the spring, and as a result enters the 2018/19 season as a leading prospect for novice hurdles.

Gordon Elliott has plethora of exciting young horses to go to war with this winter and will therefore have great difficulty in keeping his Cullentra inmates apart. However, Felix Desjy has already proven that he can mix it with the big boys and will have the requisite racecourse experience to hit the ground running in the autumn.

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FONTLEY HOUSE 6-y-o ch g

Breeding: Getaway (GER) – Down Town Cork (IRE)

Trainer: Tom George

Owner: TBC

Bumper Form: 3

This once-raced son of in demand sire Getaway attracted steady market support ahead of his racecourse debut at the Punchestown Festival in April, where he ran a race full of promise behind two vastly more experienced rivals in the form of Lone Wolf (3 previous starts) and All For Joy (4 previous starts).

A trip to the sales beckoned for Fontley House in May, and Tom George may have landed himself a bargain when parting with the very reasonable sum of £40,000 to bring the six-year-old to England.

The way in which Fontley House stuck his chestnut head down and battled all the way to the line at Punchestown was very pleasing indeed, and he undoubtedly possesses the attributes to progress into a smart performer over the many season’s to come. He could go under the radar this winter.

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GALLAHERS CROSS 6-y-o b g

Breeding: Getaway (GER) – Raheen Lady (IRE)

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Owner: Grech & Parkin

Bumper Form: 14

Nicky Henderson has another hugely exciting son of Getaway to go to war with this winter in the form of easy Galway bumper scorer Gallahers Cross, who cost the princely sum of £260,000 at the Cheltenham November Sale.

The talented six-year-old’s solitary subsequent start came in Listed company at Ascot where he bumped into some seriously smart youngsters who also possess the ability to make a name for themselves this season. Therefore his fourth-placed finish his wholly respectable.

Gallahers Cross will don the familiar black and pink silks of leading patrons Grech & Parkin this winter and could easily follow in the footsteps of the same owners Claimantakinforgan, who tasted Grade 2 success in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle last December. If all goes well, he is another who could prove good enough for the big festivals come the spring.

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GARRETTSTOWN 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Doyen (IRE) – Azur (IRE)

Trainer: Olly Murphy

Owner: The Phillies Partnership

Bumper Form: 1

This scopey five-year-old made a striking impression when easily forging clear of eight rivals on heavy ground at Chepstow – recording an 8 lengths success with the bare minimum of fuss.

It is impossible to know exactly what the form of that contest is worth as only the ninth-placed horse, who was beaten out of sight, has graced the racetrack subsequently. However, he could hardly have been more impressive on the eye and looked every inch a potential graded performer in the making.

Olly Murphy has a number of exciting youngsters to go to war with this winter and there is no question that Garrettstown is very high-up on his list. Indeed, the Doyen gelding could take some stopping when the mud starts to fly and the Challow Hurdle at Newbury could be the ideal pre-Christmas target.

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GETAWAY JOHN 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Getaway (GER) – Present Your Own (IRE)

Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Owner: John F Doyle

Bumper Form: 32110

Yet another son of Getaway on this list – Getaway John displayed a thoroughly consistent profile in bumpers last season and may have been ready for a break by the time the Punchestown Festival rolled around in April, therefore i am inclined to put a line through that lacklustre effort.

The scopey chestnut geliding appeared to improve with each start last season, with his best performance arguably coming at Fairyhouse in the spring, where he comfortably dispatched the aforementioned previous winner Brace Yourself by 2.75 lengths.

The rangy five-year-old may fall just below the top novice hurdles this season and could be a slow burner to keep an eye on his the second half of the season. With that in mind, he is definitely a name to put in your tracker.

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GETAWAY KATIE MAI

Breeding: Getaway (GER) – Carrigmoorna Style (IRE)

Trainer: John Queally

Owner: Michael Owen Daly

Bumper Form: 121

This exciting daughter of Getaway landed the valuable Listed Mares Bumper at Aintree in April and could easily develop into a classy novice hurdler against her own sex this winter.

Getaway Katie Mai made the perfect start to her career under rules when comfortably landing a bumper at Ballinrobe last August. She then enhanced her reputation further by splitting subsequent Champion Bumper first and seventh Relegate and Colreevy in the Grade 2 Coolmore N.H. Sires Irish EBF Mares I.N.H Flat Race at Leopardstown in February.

If taking to hurdles well the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle would look like an obvious long-term target at this very early stage.

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GOOD BOY BOBBY 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Princess Gaia (IRE)

Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies

Owner: Paul & Clare Rooney

Bumper Form: 1131

Good Boy Bobby won 3 of his 4 starts in bumpers last season and appears to be yet another hugely promising prospect for enthusiastic owners Paul and Clare Rooney.

The five-year-old’s solitary defeat came in Listed company at Newbury, where he attempted to concede 6lb to subsequent Champion Bumper fourth Acey Milan, which was clearly asking a lot of the scopey son of Flemensfirth.

Good Boy Bobby clearly possesses plenty of ability and could easily develop into a smart middle-distance novice hurdler this winter. However, he does appear to be a real chaser in the making and we may not see the best of him for another 12 months at least.

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GOOD MAN JIM 5-y-o gr g

Breeding: Martaline (GB) – Precious Lucy (FR)

Trainer: Tom George

Owner: Roger Brookhouse

Bumper Form: 0

Having come with a hefty price-tag of £360,000 at the Cheltenham November Sale following a most impressive success at Dowth Hall in October – it is fair to say that Good Man Jim made very disappointing debut under rules when losing his place tamely in the final 5 furlongs and trailing-in a remote last of the 17 horses to complete the course at Warwick in April.

Strangely, the imposing grey gelding put-in a very similar performance on his first attempt between the flags at Monksgrange in March 2017, and therefore may be vulnerable to a quirk or two which can make like extremely difficult.

Clearly the talent is there and it may simply be inexperience that has led to his rather strange efforts thus far. Given time I am confident that the five-year-old can develop into a classy operator under rules, who may even be up to competing in graded races at some stage down the line.

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GYPSY ISLAND 4-y-o b f

Breeding: Jeremy (USA) – Thieving Gypsy (IRE)

Trainer: Peter Fahey

Owner: Ms Bernadette Leigh

Bumper Form: 1

This hugely exciting daughter of Jeremy only made her racecourse debut two weeks ago and may therefore spend the remainder of the season in bumpers should connections be temped to take in some of the valuable graded Mares bumpers on either side of the Irish Sea during in the spring. However, I simply couldn’t leave her off this list as she could easily develop into a leading novice hurdler if having her attentions switched to timber.

Peter Fahey was effusive in his praise for Gyspy Island following her smooth five-length success at Ballinrobe last month, remarking; “she’s a proper one” in his post race interview and revealing that she had “worked all over” his smart chaser Peregrine Run at home the previous week.

Whatever the plan this winter, Gypsy Island is most definitely a name to look out for both this season and beyond.

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HARAMBE 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Malinas (GER) – Crystal Princess (IRE)

Trainer: Alan King

Owner: Niall Farrell & Friends

Bumper Form: 123

This promising son of Malinas recorded a smart level of form in bumpers last season, culminating in a fine third-placed effort in the Grade 2 Weatherbys Racing Bank Standard Open National Hunt Flat race at Aintree in the spring.

Alan King’s five-year-old displayed a good attitude when battling on bravely to score by a neck on his racecourse debut at Ludlow in December, after which he ran a huge race to finish second behind Jamie Snowden’s smart youngster Thebannerkingrebel at Bangor – while conceding upwards of 7lb to all but his victor on heavy ground.

While Harambe may ultimately fall just below the top novice hurdlers come the spring, I am confident that he can make his mark in decent company this winter.

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HOLLOWGRAPHIC 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Beat Hollow (GB) – Corskeagh Shadow (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: Ballylinch Stud

Bumper Form: 21

Hollowgraphic displayed real promise when chasing home Colin Tizzard’s graded performer Vision Des Flos at the Punchestown Festival in 2017, and only enhanced his reputation further when cruising to a most impressive 13 lengths success at Punchestown in December.

The form of that contest has worked out well, with four subsequent bumper winners – including dual-scorer Dunvegan – adding substance to the striking impression that the chestnut son of Beat Hollow made in December.

Hollowgraphic has size and scope in abundance and will undoubtedly be an exciting recruit to the novice chasing ranks in 12 months time. However, he can certainly make his presence felt in graded novice hurdles in the meantime.

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JARVEYS PLATE 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Getaway (GER) – She’s Got To Go (IRE)

Trainer: Fergal O’Brien

Owner: The Yes No Wait Sorries

Bumper Form: 1

Canny Cotswolds based handler Fergal O’Brien may have unearthed yet another shrewd bargain in the form of Javeys Plate, who made a successful start to his career under rules when scoring by 3.75 lengths at Perth in April.

This striking son of in demand sire Getaway placed second and third in two starts between the flags at Dromahane and Mainstown respectively, before making the move to Grange Hill Farm to begin the next chapter of his very promising career.

We may not see the best of this scopey five-year-old until he sets his sights on a steeplechase fence in 12 months time. However, I am very confident that he can make his mark in soft ground novice hurdles this winter.

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KATESON 5-y-o gr g

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Silver Kate (IRE)

Trainer: Tom Lacey

Owner: DMRichardsRobertsChurchWardW-Williams

Bumper Form: 12722

Kateson gained plenty of experience in bumpers last season and will therefore be more than ready for his debut season over hurdles this winter, where he could continue to make a name for both himself and his burgeoning young trainer Tom Lacey.

This grey son of Black Sam Bellamy kept good company last season, culminating in a fine second-placed effort behind the Warren Greatrex trained Portrush Ted in Grade 2 company at Aintree in April. Naturally, form of that nature makes the five-year-old an intriguing prospect this winter.

Trips in excess of 2m3f should prove ideal at this stage of his career. While his proven ability to perform on varying types of ground will stand the youngster in good stead this season.

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KNOW THE SCORE 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Prairie Bell (IRE)

Trainer: David Pipe

Owner: The Angove Family

Bumper Form: 10

Know The Score cost connections the eye-watering sum of £380,000 when going through the ring at the Cheltenham November Sale following an easy 6 length success on his solitary start between the flags at Ballinaboola the previous Sunday.

The scopey son of Flemensfirth was given plenty of time to settle in too in new surrounds at Pond House before making his rules bow at Towcester in February, where a 13 length success was enough to earn the promising five-year-old a ticket to the Champion Bumper in March.

Although he failed to land a blow when finishing fourteenth of the twenty-three runners, Know The Score lost little in defeat and will only benefit for the valuable racecourse experience. Another summer at grass with have done the him the world of good and he could easily develop into a classy operator this season.

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MERCY MERCY ME 6-y-o b g

Breeding: Shirocco (GER) – Monsignorita (IRE)

Trainer: Fergal O’Brien

Owner: Malcolm Denmark

Bumper Form: 187

Fergal O’Brien had no shortage of bumper winners last season, however, he only elected to send one of those winners to the Cheltenham Festival in March, which is a clear indication of the regard in which the canny Cotswolds-based handler holds Sandown scorer Mercy Mercy Me.

Malcolm Denmark’s son of Shirocco ran a wholly respectable race to finish eighth in the Cotswolds before going one place better in the Aintree equivalent one month later, providing sufficient optimism that he can develop into a fair novice hurdler this term.

The master of Grange Hill Farm looks to have a strong team of horses heading into the 2018/19 season, and Mercy Mercy Me is undoubtedly one of his brightest young prospects.

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MINELLA INDO 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Beat Hollow (GB) – Carrigeen Lilly (IRE)

Trainer: Henry De Bromhead

Owner: Barry Maloney

Bumper Form: 3

This scopey bay gelding made a hugely promising debut at the Punchestown Festival in April when chasing home Willie Mullins’ smart prospect Passageway and subsequent dual scorer City Island after contesting the lead for the majority of the contest.

Minella Indo ran out the impressive winner of a Dromahane point-to-point in March, where a series of big leaps and a potent finishing-kick marked him out a very smart recruit to the winter game.

A half-brother to Gary Moore’s smart chaser Benatar, we may not see the best of this imposing five-year-old until he faces a steeplechase fence in 12 months time. However, he could easily enjoy a profitable season over hurdles where graded races will be very much on the agenda.

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PASSAGEWAY 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Stowaway (GB) – Lusty Beg (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: Linda Mulcahy & Mary Wolridge

Bumper Form: 1

This Closutton inmate may have gone somewhat under the radar as he didn’t make his racecourse debut until the Punchestown Festival in April. However, he made a very good impression when out-pointing the aforementioned pair City Island and Minella Indo under a well-judged Patrick Mullins ride.

I have a feeling that the form of that contest will work out fairly well, as City Island comfortably landed his next two starts and Minella Indo travelled as though he is a well above-average recruit for Henry De Bromhead.

Unable to score in two attempts between the flags, Willie Mullins is a master of both improving and placing young horses in his care and I would expect to see this chestnut gelding contesting graded novice hurdles this winter.

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PYM 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Stowaway (GB) – Liss Rua (IRE)

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Owner: Mrs Patricia Pugh

Bumper Form: 129

Pym, who carries the very same black and green silks as last season’s Champion Chase hero Altior, has spent the last two seasons in bumpers but will finally embark on a career over hurdles when returning to action in the autumn.

The well-build son of Stowaway looked like a very smart prospect when comfortably landing a well contested bumper at Ayr in April 2017 before adding two respectable efforts in good company last season – firstly behind the aforementioned Danny Kirwan at Kempton and latterly when placing ninth finish in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Pym has a very similar profile to Altior at this early stage of his career and I am sure that connections would be over the moon if he possesses even half as much ability as his illustrious stablemate over obstacles.

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QUEENOHEARTS 5-y-o ch m

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Chars (IRE)

Trainer: Stuart Edmunds

Owner: The Sherington Partnership

Bumper Form: 411

Queenohearts progressed markedly from her debut effort at Chepstow to land her next two starts at Towcester and Sandown respectively, on the latter occasion claiming the valuable Listed EBF Stallions/TBA Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race on Imperial Cup day.

Stuart Edmund’s exciting daughter of Flemensfirth accounted for subsequent scorers Pineapple Rush (second) and Midnightreferendem (third) when getting off the mark in fine fashion at Towcester and beat a field jam-packed with previous winners when lining-up in Esher, marking herself out as a well above-average racemare.

Ireland may possess a plethora of exciting young Mares for novice hurdles this winter, but what Britain lacks in quantity they more-than make up for in quality, and i am convinced that this promising five-year-old can put-it-up to the Irish raiders when they inevitably travel to Britain in the springs.

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RELEGATE 5-y-o b m

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Last Of The Bunch (GB)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: Paul McKeon

Bumper Form: 1117

Last season’s Champion Bumper winner is undoubtedly a smart prospect for novice hurdles this winter and could easily become a force to be reckoned with against her own sex in the spring.

This talented daughter of Flemensfirth came from the clouds to reel in her stablemate Carefully Selected in the Cotswolds and clearly possess an engine that will stand her in good stead over obstacles both this season and beyond.

Relegate had some smart young prospects in-behind when scoring in Grade 2 company at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival in February, and she could easily develop into yet another top class mate for her genius champion trainer, who may even elect to unleash her against the boys at some stage during the season.

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RHINESTONE 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Montjeu (IRE) – Apticanti (USA)

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Owner: JP McManus

Bumper Form: 2129

Joseph O’Brien’s well bred five-year-old attracted plenty of support for the Champion Bumper in March but could only manage a ninth-placed finish after weakening just the final furlong of stamina-sapping renewal.

The JP McManus owned gelding arrived in the Cotswolds on the back of a fine second placed effort behind the aforementioned Blackbow in Grade 2 company at the Dublin Racing Festival, where a gaping 15 length gap back to the third marked the pair out as potentially very smart horses.

O’Brien elected to skip the Punchestown Festival and turn Rhinestone out for a lengthy summer holiday ahead of his debut season over obstacles, where I am confident that he will develop into a graded performer once again.

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SEBASTOPOL 4-y-o b g

Breeding: Fame And Glory (GB) – Knockcroghery (IRE)

Trainer: Tom Lacey

Owner: Boultbee Brooks Ltd

Bumper Form: 1

Sebastopol burst onto the scene when comfortably landing what is traditionally a strong bumper at Ayr in April, where he got the better of the aforementioned Black Pirate by a commanding 3.5 lengths.

Tom Lacey’s exciting four-year-old travelled strongly throughout the 2m contest before sauntering into the lead with two furlongs left to run. After which, he comfortably held off the late surge of James Ewart’s dual bumper scorer to make the perfect start to his career under rules.

Sired by the sadly departed Fame And Glory, who has thrown some particularly promising jumpers in recent years, Sebastopol ran out an impressive winner of his solitary start between the flags at Larkhill in January and is undoubtedly a very exciting recruit to the novice hurdling ranks this winter.

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STRONG GLANCE 5-y-o bl g

Breeding: Passing Glance (GB) – Strong Westerner (IRE)

Trainer: Fergal O’Brien

Owner: Welfordgolf Syndicate

Bumper Form: 15

Fergal O’Brien’s five-year-year made the perfect start to his career under rules at Southwell in November when picking-up in fine style to record a most pleasing 3.5 lengths success under Alainn Cawley.

That fine effort earned the son of Passing Glance a shot at Listed company where he once again impressed when finishing fifth behind the potentially smart Didtheyleaveuoutto. As previously discussed, that form looks particularly solid.

O’Brien has a very smart team of novice hurdlers this winter and Strong Glance is undoubtedly right up there on the list. The manner in which he won at Southwell would suggest that trips ranging from 2m4f to 3m may prove ideal over obstacles.

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THEBANNERKINGREBEL 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Arakan (USA) – One Love (IRE)

Trainer: Jamie Snowden

Owner: Sir Chips Keswick

Bumper Form: 11P

Jamie Snowden and Sir Chips Keswick have teamed up with some smart jumpers in recent years, however, this particularly promising son of Arakan could easily be their most exciting prospect yet, which is some statement to make when you factor in their Cheltenham Festival success with the talented Present View in 2014.

Thebannerkingrebel made a striking impression when sauntering to success at Warwick in January, before enhancing his reputation further with yet another comfortable victory at Bangor one month later, where he finished 3.25 lengths in advance of the aforementioned Harambe.

The Cheltenham Festival proved to be a step-too-far for the four-year-old at this early stage of his career, but I would happily overlook his pulled-up effort given the promise that he displayed at both Warwick and Bangor. Hopefully he can develop into a smart novice hurdler this winter.

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THE BIG BITE 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Scorpion (IRE) – Thanks Noel (IRE)

Trainer: Tom George

Owner: N T Griffith & H M Haddock

Bumper Form: 110

The Big Bite made a successful bumper debut at Lingfield in March 2017 and, for reasons only known by those connected to the five-year-old, he extended his bumper career into last season, where he doubled his tally of successes at Huntingdon before claiming a respectable eleventh-placed finish at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

This winter the scopey son of Scorpion will embark on a novice hurdle campaign and, like a number of these, may slip somewhat under the radar given his less fashionable connections. However, the engine he has displayed thus far should see the five-year-old enjoy a fruitful campaign over trips in excess of 2m3f.

Clearly connections hold The Big Bite in high regard and George displayed his proficiency when it comes to training novice hurdlers with both Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Summerville Boy and Top Novices’ Hurdle scorer Black Op last season. Therefore anything is possible with this obviously talented youngster.

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TIDAL FLOW 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Mrs Philip (GB)

Trainer: Philip Hobbs

Owner: Brocade Racing

Bumper Form: 14

As mentioned previously – Phillip Hobbs didn’t have much luck last season and I am therefore happy to draw a line through Tidal Flow’s disappointing fourth placed finish at Wincanton in February and instead focus on the five-year-old’s smart success at Newbury, where he beat two subsequent winners – Burrows Edge (second) and Don’t Ask (third) – by 5 lengths and 10 lengths respectively.

Tidal Flow was bred by champion jockey Richard Johnson, who must have been pleased by the response he received when giving the promising youngster at squeeze at Newbury. And, although his second appearance was disappointing at first glance, it should be remembered that the scopey gelding was attempting to concede 12lb to each of the three horses who finished ahead of him.

I can see the Brocade Racing owned gelding developing into a smart middle-distance novice this winter and am very much looking forward to seeing what he is capable of after enjoying a nice long summer at grass, which will have afforded him the time to mature both mentally and physically.

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TORNADO FLYER 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Mucho Macabi (IRE)

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Owner: T F P Partnership

Bumper Form: 131

Tornado Flyer won two of his three starts in bumpers last season, with his third-placed finish in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham the only blemish on his already impressive CV.

The imposing son of Flemensfirth had a host of big names in behind when landing Grade 1 honours at the Punchestown Festival in April, which naturally makes him one of the most exciting young recruits to enter the novice hurdling ranks this winter.

It goes without saying that Willie Mullins has a strong team of young horses to go to war with this winter and Tornado Flyer is undoubtedly near the top of the pecking order at Closutton. Trips ranging from 2m to 2m4f should be right up his street this season and another trip to the Cotswolds looks likely come the spring.

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TWO FOR GOLD 5-y-o b g

Breeding: Gold Well (GB) – Two Of Each (IRE)

Trainer: Kim Bailey

Owner: May We Never Be Found Out Partnership 2

Bumper Form: 161

Kim Bailey excelled with his novice hurdlers last season – with First Flow, who won the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle, Red River, who landed the Class 2 Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial Novices’ Hurdle, and Vinndication, who scored an impressive victory in the Listed Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle, all enjoying profitable seasons over timber. I am therefore very hopeful that Two For Gold can replicate their success this winter.

The promising youngster landed bumpers at Southwell and Doncaster either side of a solid sixth-placed effort in the aforementioned Listed contest won by Didtheyleaveuoutto at Ascot. There is no question that form of that nature is enough to make this exciting son of Gold Well a top prospect this winter.

I expect Kim Bailey to find one or two low-key contests before testing Two For Gold’s credentials in graded company this winter. Hopefully he can develop into another graded performer for his Gold Cup winning trainer.

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TIME TO MOVE ON 5-y-o ch g

Breeding: Flemensfirth (USA) – Kapricia Speed (FR)

Trainer: Fergal O’Brien

Owner: Paul & Clare Rooney

Bumper Form: 11

As previously alluded too – Fergal O’Brien was more like Bumper O’Brien last autumn with the Cotswolds based handler firing in bumper winners right, left and centre during the months of October and November. However, this promising son of Flemensfirth didn’t make his racecourse debut until December, but he was most certainly worth the wait.

Time To Move On lowered the colours of Harry Fry’s previous and subsequent bumper scorer Caribert by a comfortable 10 lengths on debut at Exeter, before conceding upwards of 7lb to all of his rivals when maintaining his unbeaten status at the same track in February.

This scopey chestnut gelding looks tailor-made for chasing, therefore we may not see the best of him for another 12 months at least. That said, he undoubtedly possess enough ability to make his mark over timber.

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42

Long-Range Antepost Punts

LONG RANGE ANTEPOST PUNTS:

This weeks blog is all about antepost punting, including selections for the Ladbrokes Trophy, King George and the Cheltenham Festival.

Enjoy and good luck!

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ELEGANT ESCAPE & MS PARFOIS

16/1 & 33/1 The Ladbrokes Trophy (Hennessy Gold Cup) (Ladbrokes)

I will kick-start this blog with two selections for the Ladbrokes Trophy, as both look overpriced after enjoying solid novice chase campaigns last season.

My first selection is Elegant Escape, whom I still have nightmares about after advising the stamina-laden six-year-old at 50/1 for the National Hunt Chase last season.

To put it simply – Elegant Escape jumps very well, stays all day and won a Grade 2 novice chase at Newbury last season. In fact, he has a very similar profile to stablemate and Gold Cup hero Native River, who landed the Hennessy off a mark of 155 in 2016.

The scopey gelding’s third-placed effort behind Presenting Percy and Monalee in the RSA Chase rates a very good piece of form, and he can only have benefited from another summer at grass which will have afforded him the time to grow and mature both mentally and physically.

I am firmly of the opinion that Elegant Escape can land a valuable handicap this season. Therefore, I am hopeful that he can make his presence felt in this hugely prestigious contest.

My second selection is Ms Parfois, who was hugely progressive last season and could have plenty more to come after undergoing a breathing procedure this summer.

Like with Elegant Escape, Ms Parfois is a sound jumper who possesses deep reserves of stamina, as proven by her narrow defeat in the National Hunt Chase in March. She also scored a victory at Newbury last season and actually finished 9 lengths ahead of Colin Tizzard’s charge in Grade 1 company at Aintree.

Terrefort, who won that Aintree contest despite conceding 7lb (Mares allowance) to Anthony Honeyball’s talented seven-year-old, is half the price of Ms Parfois at present. However, he may find it hard to concede 19lb should the pair meet again at Newbury.

I was surprised to see Ms Parfois priced up at 33/1 given her rock-solid form and scope for improvement. Therefore she is well worth taking a punt on now.

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DOUVAN

12/1 King George VI Chase (Generally)

I have long been of the opinion that Douvan would thrive over staying trips and, with his seemingly unbeatable persona now a thing of the past, I am increasingly hopeful that connections will be temped to try the dual Cheltenham Festival winner over 3m this season.

The King George VI Chase may prove the ideal contest in which to unleash the high-classy eight-year-old should connections indeed elect to go down the 3m route, with kemptons flat track and frequent fences very much playing to Douvan’s strengths.

Might Bite is already a short-pried antepost favourite and deservedly so given strong course form. However, I am confident that Douvan can find significant improvement over further and therefore can’t resist taking a small interest in him at the generous looking price of 12/1.

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COMMANDER OF FLEET

12/1 Any Race (Coral, William Hill) or 16/1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Generally)

12 months ago I advised backing Samcro at 16/1 for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, and thankfully he delivered on the biggest stage of all. This year I am hoping that lightening can strike twice with this hugely exciting son of Fame And Glory, who could also be well above average based on what he has displayed thus far.

Having been the only horse to complete the course on his solitary start between the flags at Moig South in March, it was hard to know exactly what to expect when Commander Of Fleet made his debut under rules at the Punchestown Festival in April. However, what we saw at Punchestown dispelled any notion of doubt, as the fleet footed gelding travelled supremely well under Barry O’Neil before quickening clear upon turning for for home to record a most impressive 8.5 lengths success.

While I would never dream of comparing the four-year-old with his super-talented stablemate, Commander Of Fleet did appear to display the same blend of speed and stamina that Samcro had at the same stage of his career, which makes the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle seem like the obvious target at this very early stage.

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GETAWAY KATIE MAI

16/1 Any Race (William Hill) or 20/1 Mares Novices’ Hurdle (Bet 365, Skybet)

This exciting daughter of Getaway landed the valuable Listed Mares Bumper at Aintree in April and could easily develop into a classy novice hurdler against her own sex this winter.

Getaway Katie Mai made the perfect start to her career under rules when comfortably landing a bumper at Ballinrobe last August. She then enhanced her reputation further by splitting subsequent Champion Bumper first and seventh Relegate and Colreevy in the Grade 2 Coolmore N.H. Sires Irish EBF Mares I.N.H Flat Race at Leopardstown in February.

This market is often influenced by trainers, with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott being somewhat ‘man-marked’ by the bookmakers. I am convinced that this talented mare would be half the price she currently is if trained by either of the dominant Irish juggernauts. Therefore, I am more than happy to take some of the 20/1 that is currently on offer for the Mares Novices Novices’ Hurdle.

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CAREFULLY SELECTED

14/1 Any Race (William Hill)

Carefully Selected went about his business without great fanfare last season, but nearly hit the headlines when coming agonisingly close to tasting Cheltenham Festival success in the Champion Bumper, only for stablemate Relegate to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the final 50 yards of a stamina-sapping contest.

That effort confirmed that the scopey five-year-old possesses many of the key attributes that you would look for in a classy racehorse, with guts, determination and deep reserves of stamina just 3 qualities that will stand him in good stead both this season and beyond.

Second guessing Willie Mullins is like trying to escape from a maze while blindfolded, therefore I wouldn’t like to speculate too much on where Carefully Selected may turn-up in March. That said, clearly trips in excess of 2m4f will be right up the scopey youngsters street, therefore I would expect the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or even the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle to come under consideration depending on what happens between now and then.

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KALASHNIKOV

8/1 Any Race (Generally) or 14/1 Arkle (Betfair, Paddy Power)

Regular readers of my work may remember that I advised Kalashnikov at 25/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season, and to this day I remain convinced that better ground would have seen the imposing five-year-old prevail in the Cotswolds.

Unfortunately for me, and for anyone else who backed the exciting youngster, Summerville Boy is the only horse to get the better of Kalashnikov on the racetrack to date. However, it is fair to say that Tom George’s Champion Hurdle hopeful had conditions well and truly in his favour on both occasions that the pair met last season.

Putting their head-to-head rivalry to one side, the duo ended the campaign with official ratings of 156 and 152 respectively, which puts them firmly amongst the top novice hurdlers on either side of the Irish Sea last term. However, I am convinced that Kalashnikov can better that rating in the next chapter of his promising career.

Last week Amy Murphy confirmed that last season’s Betfair Hurdle winner had enjoyed a fantastic summer at grass and will head straight over fences when returning to action in the autumn. With that in mind, I am happy to strike antepost wager now.

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BLACK OP

8/1 Any Race (William Hill) or 10/1 JLT Novices’ Chase (Generally)

Tom George’s imposing son of Sandmason was firmly amongst the top novice hurdlers on either side of the Irish Sea last season, with a second placed finish in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle and a Grade 1 success at Aintree earning the seven-year-old an official rating of 152. This year the scopey gelding will embark on a career over the larger obstacles where, in my opinion, he has even greater scope for improvement given his sheer size and bodybuilder physique.

His three best performances to date, those being the two aforementioned contests and his second placed effort in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham in January, came over two-and-a-half-miles and I would imagine that Tom George will be learning towards the JLT Novices’ Chase come March. However, I wouldn’t rule out the RSA Chase at this very early stage, therefore the 8/1 on offer to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival looks the shrewd way to play.

Black Op appears to possess all of the key attributes that you would look for in the archetypal steeplechaser. That, combined to his impressive form at Prestbury Park, make the talented gelding a tempting proposition.

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SANTINI

12/1 Any Race (Coral, William Hill) or 12/1 RSA Chase (Generally)

Santini is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young horses in National Hunt Racing at present, with his third place finish at the Cheltenham Festival and Grade 1 success at Aintree marking the Milan gelding out as a well above average prospect.

The six-year-old, who has size and scope in abundance, also boasts form that ties in with the aforementioned Black Op, whom he outstayed to land the Grade 2 Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park in January. That form now looks exceptionally strong given Black Op’s subsequent exploits.

The master of Seven Barrows enjoyed a one-two in the 2017 RSA Chase courtesy of Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite and Ladbrokes Trophy second Whisper, who both played their part in a memorable renewal. This year Henderson appears to have another serious contender for whom the sky is the limit after just 4 career starts.

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OK CORRAL

25/1 Any Race (William Hill) or 33/1 National Hunt Chase (Generally)

Like Black Op, Ok Corral had to settle for second place at this year’s Cheltenham Festival when chasing home surprise winner Kilbricken Storm in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. While that narrow defeat must be frustrating for backers, it did reveal that the eight-year-old relishes a true test of stamina and the long Cheltenham hill – two important details to bear in mind going forwards.

The JP McManus owned gelding has size and scope in abundance, which should aid the Seven Barrows inmate in his transition to fences, where – if transferring the ability he displayed over timber – I could easily see the son of Mahler developing into a genuine National Hunt Chase contender come March.

It goes without saying that Ok Corral could have plenty more to come after just seven career starts in four years. Furthermore, he has already proven his effectiveness on varying types of ground which, as this year’s festival proved, is very important when weighing up the pro’s and con’s of an antepost wager.

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CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC

20/1 Any Race (William Hill)

Champagne Classic announced himself a horse of significant potential when landing the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle and Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle in the spring of 2017. However, he missed the entirety of last season after picking up a leg injury and will return this autumn with the aim of making up for lost time.

Both subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Coo Star Sivola and last season’s highly-progressive stayer Thomas Campbell were amongst seven-year-old’s victims in the Cotswolds last year. However, the form of his Punchestown Festival success reads even more impressively, with Stayers Hurdle hero Penhill, RSA Chase first and second Presenting Percy and Monalee, and Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase winner Al Boum Photo all in-behind.

There are plenty of potential options for Champagne Classic come the spring, with the JLT Novices’ Chase, RSA Novices’ Chase, National Hunt Chase and a selection of handicap contests all potential targets for Gordon Elliott’s gelding. Therefore, the 20/1 currently on offer to win any festival race looks incredible value that simply must be snapped-up.

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MONALEE

10/1 Any Race (Coral) or 16/1 Ryanair Chase (Betfair, Paddy Power)

Henry De Bromhead’s Grade 1 winning novice was no match for dual Cheltenham Festival scorer Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase in March, but the manner in which he travelled through the race before lacking the finishing kick of his compatriot suggested that a drop back to two-and-a-half miles may be right up his street.

The performance was reminiscent of his showing in the 2017 Albert Bartlett, on that occasion being outpaced by this year’s Stayers Hurdle hero Penhill. When you factor in that Presenting Percy is favourite in many books for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Monalee’s festival forms looks incredibly solid.

The Ryanair Chase is contested on the New Course which puts an increased emphasis on stamina. Therefore it could be the ideal contest given Monalee’s proven form over trips ranging from two-and-a-half-miles to three. His price of 16/1 looks very fair indeed.

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Handicap Hotpots 2018/19

HANDICAP HOTPOTS?

This week I have assembled a list of 20 potentially well handicapped horses heading into the 2018/19 campaign. Hopefully they will prove profitable to follow throughout the winter months and into the spring.

Trackers at the ready – here we go!

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ANOTHER BARNEY 5-y-o gr g

Trainer: Jessica Harrington

Owner: Robcour

Official Hurdle Rating: 124

Another Barney made a good impression when comfortably landing his maiden hurdle at Naas in January. However, three subsequent visits to the the racetrack have somewhat muted the early enthusiasm.

That said, the well-built five-year-old did run a respectable race on his final start of the season at the Punchestown Festival, when placing fifth on his handicap debut from a mark of 124. And I am firmly of the opinion that a step-up in trip could allow the grey to fulfil his early promise.

Jessica Harrington has a good track record of improving horses in their second season over hurdles and I wouldn’t be surprised if Another Barney turned up in a decent handicap hurdle come the spring.

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ANY SECOND NOW 6-y-o b g

Trainer: Ted Walsh

Owner: JP McManus

Official Chase Rating: 144

Any Second Now was the subject of strong antepost support for the 2m4f Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but could only finish eighth after getting tapped for toe when the pace quickened approaching the penultimate fence.

The Grade 2 winning novice hurdler chased home Grade 1 Arkle Novices’ Chase winner Footpad, Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase winner Monalee and Grade 3 Total Event Rental Novice Chase winner Invitation Only in Ireland last winner, who are rated 166, 158 and 152 respectively. Therefore it is easy to see why the six-year-old attracted such strong support in March.

I will be absolutely flabbergasted if we don’t get to see this talented son of Oscar over 3m this season where could easily make a mockery of a mark of 144. The valuable Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan or prestigious Paddy Power Chase, a race that owner JP McManus likes to win, at Leopardstown will surely come under consideration.

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BALLYALTON 11-y-o b g

Trainer: Ian Williams

Owner: John Westwood

Official Chase Rating: 137

Poor old Ballyalton has had more than his fair share of injury layoffs over the years, missing the entirely of the 2014/15 season after chasing home Faugheen in the 2014 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, as well as the 2016/17 campaign after landing the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2016.

However, despite his unfortunate setbacks, Ballyalton appears to have retained the majority of his ability, as demonstrated by a brace of fourth placed efforts in the BetVictor Gold Cup and Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate last season.

The experienced eleven-year-old has a similar profile to last year’s Verterans Chase Final winner Buywise, and I wonder if connections may be tempted to go down that valuable route this season. If indeed they do, he could be very well treated off a mark of 137.

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BALLYHILL 7-y-o b/br g

Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies

Owner: S Such & CG Paletta

Official Chase Rating: 134

Without doubt Ballyhill’s best performance last season came at Prestbury Park on New Years Day when sluicing through the mud to defeat a field jam-packed with experienced handicappers. That victory was achieved from a mark of 133 and, given the manner of his success, I am confident that he can land another decent prize this season.

Three subsequent efforts have yielded tree heavy defeats. However, this is no bad thing as the seven-year-old’s mark is now only 1lb higher than when last successful. Which means that his next success may not be too far away.

Versatile in terms of ground, Ballyhill will be contesting some decent handicap chases between 2m and 2m4f this winter, and i would be very surprised if he didn’t land at least one decent pot before the season is out.

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COOLANLY 6-y-o b g

Trainer: Fergal O’Brien

Owner: Five Go Racing

Official Hurdle Rating: 134

Coolanly begins this season as a thrice raced novice, which is no surprise when you factor in the class of opposition that he has faced over timber thus far.

Having been unfortunate enough to bump into Kim Bailey’s unbeaten youngster Vinndication on hurdling debut in December, connections elected to pitch the promising six-year-old into Grade 1 company at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, where he finished twelfth in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and fifth in the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle, which is wholly respectable given his blatant lack of experience.

Vindication beat Coolanly by 4.5 lengths off level weights at Leicester and currently boasts an official rating of 149, which makes the Grange Hill Farm inmate look potentially well handicapped off a mark 134.

The winning point-to-pointer has a similar profile to stablemate and Grade 1 winner Poetic Rhythm, who began last season as a novice after achieving strong form-lines in his debut campaign over hurdles. If Coolanly can improve as much as Poetic Rhyth, he could land a good prize this winter.

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COURT MINSTREL 11-y-o b g

Trainer: Evan Williams

Owner: Mrs Janet Davies

Official Hurdle Rating: 137

I simply have to include the gallant Court Minstrel on this list as he enters the 2018/19 National Hunt campaign on his lowest mark since March 2013 and will most likey be aimed at the Grade 3 totepool Silver Trophy once again, a prize he won in both 2015 and 2017 off marks of 149 and 142 respectively.

The experienced eleven-year-old relishes both ground and a strong gallop – conditions that allow him to watch on from the rear before scything through the field and launching his customary late attack.

Court Minstrel has returned at 40/1 and 14/1 in his two previous victories at Chepstow, and he will undoubtedly be a big price should he return this year given his form since last year’s success, which reads 938000. He simply has to be taken seriously if lining-up once more.

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DOITFORTHEVILLAGE 9-y-o b g

Trainer: Paul Henderson

Owner: The Rockbourne Partnership

Official Chase Rating: 137

Paul Henderson has landed the Class 2 BetVictor Handicap Chase in each of the last two seasons, firstly with Un Beau Roman in 2017, and latterly with Doitforthevillage, who scored off a mark of 135 last term.

I have a sneaky suspicion that Doitforthevillage will return to Prestbury Park this November in a bid to make it an impressive hat-trick of successes for his canny trainer, and he looks to hold every chance off just a 2lb higher mark.

Should this indeed be the plan I would expect the nine-year-old to enjoy a pipe-opener, just as he did 12 months ago, beforehand. He is definitely one to bear in mind should he arrive in the Cotswolds this November.

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DOUBLE TREASURE 7-y-o b g

Trainer: Jamie Snowden

Owner: Sir Chips Keswick

Official Chase Rating: 142

Double Treasure benefitted greatly from a wind operation when rattling up a fantastic four-timer last summer that saw his handicap mark rise a whopping 42 pounds to a rating of 150, from which he ran a throughly respectable race to finish seventh in the BetVictor Gold Cup in November.

Unfortunately, Jamie Snowden’s rapidly progressive seven-year-old suffered a setback in that valuable contest and wasn’t seen again until April when finishing twelfth of thirteen runners in handicap company at Cheltenham. But, thankfully, the scopey son of King’s Theatre looked back to his normal self when landing a brace of novice hurdles in June.

Double Treasure will start this season off a rating of 142 – just 5lb higher than his last winning mark. And I am confident that he can land a decent prize this season with the BetVictor Gold Cup a probable early season target.

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FOXTAIL HILL 9-y-o b g

Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies

Owner: Options O Syndicate

Official Chase Rating: 138

Foxtail Hill heads into the 2018/19 campaign on the back of a five-race losing streak following a gusty success at Cheltenham last October, where he held off the late thrust of subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Le Prezien to score by a neck.

The experienced nine-year-old will start this season off a mark 2lb lower than he carried to success in the Cotswolds, which makes him of great interest in the early exchanges this autumn.

Foxtail Hill won first time out last year so it would be no surprise to see him make his seasonal debut in the corresponding contest in October. And, given his trainers traditional early-season good form, he is definitely one to look out for.

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IMPACT FACTOR 6-y-o b g

Trainer: Jessica Harrington

Owner: Robcour

Official Hurdle Rating: 139

Impact Factor is another second-season hurdler in the care of Jessica Harrington and, like his aforementioned stablemate, I am confident that he has a lot more to offer when stepping up in trip this winter.

The scopey son of Flemensfirth finished just 7 lengths behind dual Grade 2 scorer Getabird last season and was deemed good enough to travel over to Aintree to contest the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle in April, where he trailed in last of the eleven to complete the course.

It remains to be seen whether connections will elect to send Impact Factor over fences this winter. However, if he does stay over timber, I could easily see him landing a decent pot come the spring.

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KING’S SOCKS 6-y-o b g

Trainer: David Pipe

Owner: Bryan Drew

Official Chase Rating: 139

Last season I advised backing King’s Socks at 20/1 for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, a race in which David Pipe’s six-year-old placed fifth at an SP of 7/1 following strong market support in the weeks leading up to the Cheltenham Festival.

King’s Socks put-up a fine performance in the Cotswolds when you factor in that it was only his second start on these shores, and I more than happy to forgive his subsequent showing at Aintree as he was clearly trained with one target in mind all season long.

The French import travelled as well as anything to the second-last at Prestbury Park and will start this season off a 1lb lower mark of 139. I would imagine that the BetVictor Gold Cup would be an early season target, with another trip to the Cheltenham Festival very much on the agenda in 2019.

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MAGIC DANCER 6-y-o b g

Trainer: Kerry Lee

Owner: Mark E Smith & The Magic Partnership

Official Hurdle Rating: 128

Magic Dancer won 3 of his 6 starts last season, including two victories at the home of British jumps racing – Cheltenham. And, despite receiving a 4lb rise for his latest success, I am convinced that he got off lightly for a comfortable 6 lengths victory.

Good ground appears to bring out the best in Kerrie Lee’s six-year-old. Although he did put up a respectable performance to finish seventh in an attritional renewal of the Grade 3 Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle on heavy ground in December.

There must be every chance that Magic Dancer will return to the Cotswolds this autumn having displayed an obvious liking for track. However, he is worthy of support at any venue if conditions are favourable. Therefore, he is most definitely one for the tracker.

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MIND’S EYE

Trainer: Henry De Bromhead

Owner: Gigginstown House Stud

Official Hurdle Rating: 135

It’s odds on that Mind’s Eye will have his attentions switched to fences this winter given both his age and steeplechasing orientated owners. However, should he not take to his new job, he could always return to the smaller obstacles off a lenient looking mark of 135.

Henry De Bromhead’s six-year-old found only the supercharged Samcro too good on his hurdling debut at Punchestown last October, before notching a quick-fire double at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, lowing the colours of subsequent Cheltenham Festival scorer Blow By Blow at the former.

Mind’s Eye placed fourth in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree on his final outing last season and should improve over middle distance trips this winter. Whether that improvement will come over hurdles or fences remains to be seen.

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MISTERTON 7-y-o gr g

Trainer: Harry Fry

Owner: Wilkin, Orr, Boileau & Sim

Official Hurdle Rating: 141

Harry Fry’s talented grey hasn’t been sighted since placing ninth in the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February. However, that effort came on unsuitably soft ground and the promising seven-year-old had displayed a deeply progressive profile prior to that contest.

The slick jumping son of Sagamix made a sparking reappearance at Chepstow before suffering a narrow defeat at the hooves of Elgin in the Grade 3 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle in November. That form now looks rock solid with Alan King’s charge landing the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle subsequently.

Misterton, who’s fluent hurdling technique is particularly devastating on good ground, goes particularly well fresh. Therefore I expect Harry Fry to unleash the grey in a valuable contest this autumn.

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MOMELLA 6-y-o ch m

Trainer: Harry Fry

Owner: Holt, Clark, Macnabb, Nugent & Robinson.

Official Hurdle Rating: 142

This scopey mare may have gone somewhat under the radar last season despite running some mighty races in defeat either side of an impressive success against her own sex at Cheltenham’s International Meeting in December.

Momella displayed significant potential when chasing home exciting Seven Barrows inmate On The Blind Side at Cheltenham in November, and again proved her ability to mix it with the ‘big boys’ when placing third behind Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Black Op in Grade 1 company at Aintree.

While a mark of 142 is no gift, I am confident that she can land a decent handicap this winter with a handy mares allowance on her side. Harry Fry is very shrewd when it comes to placing those in his care and I am sure that he will already have an early-season target in mind, with the Greatwood Hurdle in November a distinct possibility.

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NUBE NEGRA 4-y-o br g

Trainer: Dan Skelton

Owner: T Spraggett

Official Hurdle Rating: 135

Nube Negra confirmed his ability to be competitive off this mark when placing third in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

While the form of that particular contest is generally suspect, the manner in which the four-year-old travelled into the race before flattening-out up the long Cheltenham hill was particularly eye-catching. Therefore I am inclined to overlook that detail.

A subsequent poor showing at Aintree means that Nube Negra will start this season on a workable mark. I am confident that Dan Skelton can place the son of Dink shrewdly this winter.

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SHADY OPERATOR 5-y-o b g

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Owner: JP McManus

Official Hurdle Rating: 133

Career form figures of 12122 are a clear indication of the ability that this promising son of Court Cave possesses. Especially when you factor in the calibre of opposition that Shady Operator has come up against thus far.

The JP McManus owned five-year-old got off the mark at the second time of asking after bumping into Gordon Elliott’s exciting youngster Cracking Smart on his hurdling debut in October. While the form of his success may not amount to much, the manner of his victory was pleasing on the eye.

Shady Operator’s two subsequent trips to the racecourse have seen him chase home recent Galway Hurdle winner Sharjah and the progressive Antey, who are both owned by Rich Ricci and therefore trained by Willie Mullins. I am sure that connections will already be plotting which valuable handicap contest to unleash him in this winter.

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SIZING TENNESSEE 10-y-o ch g

Trainer: Colin Tizzard

Owner: Ann & Alan Potts

Official Chase Rating: 143

The inclusion of Sizing Tennessee may raise a few eyebrows given his less than fluent fencing and high-enough mark of 143. However, he does boast a number of very solid efforts last season, including a fine second placed finish in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Years Day.

The rangy ten-year-old’s solitary success last term came at Prestbury Park in December, when making all to win by 6 lengths over 3m1f. Although he wasn’t able to add to that victory last winter, Sizing Tennessee ran another big race to place third in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Which again displays his admirable consistency and liking for the Cotswolds.

I have a feeling that Colin Tizzard will aim the experienced campaigner at a number of decent 2m4+ handicaps this winter and it really wouldn’t surprise he if he was up to landing at least one of them before the season is out.

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VIEUX MORVAN 9-y-o bl g

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Owner: M L Bloodstock Ltd

Official Chase Rating: 138

This time last year Vieux Morvan left the stable of top French trainer Guy Cheral to join the roster of Melbourne Cup and Irish Derby winning trainer Joseph O’Brien, who thought enough of the then eight-year-old to hand him his Irish debut in the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown, where a fifth placed finish was wholly respectable.

Dropped to 2m5f for his second foray over Irish obstacles, the experienced French-bred claimed second place behind the fast finishing Last Goodbye, who got into the race off a featherweight 10-0. The winning distance was 9 lengths, with a further 9.5 lengths back to the third.

Vieux Morvan was then trained with the Galway Plate in mind, but failed to make the cut before being brought down in his ‘conciliation’ contest two days later. While he will start this season off a mark 5lbs higher than when second in February, Joseph O’Brien has already proven himself to be a very shrewd operator and I am confident that he and race planner Kevin Blake can find the ideal contest for the nine-year-old this winter.

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WILLIAM H BONNEY 7-y-o b g

Trainer: Alan King

Owner: Mr & Mrs R Scott

Official Hurdle Rating: 125

I am in no doubt whatsoever that William H Bonney has a decent prize in him this season from a career low mark of 125, especially when the mud is flying in the deepest depths of the winter campaign.

The experienced seven-year-old was beaten only six-and-a-half-lengths into fifth place in a classy renewal of the Greatwood Hurdle from a mark of 137 last November, and again ran respectably to finish eighth in the Betfair Hurdle off a mark of 134 in February. Naturally, this level of form makes a mark of 125 look extremely attractive.

The geldings last success came at Prestbury Park in January 2017, and it wouldn’t surprise me if connections elected to aim William H Bonney at the Greatwood Hurdle once again.