Our writer @hracingchat has ten horses worth following this upcoming National Hunt season.
1 – Fayonagh – Unbeaten in 3 starts for Gordon Elliot including the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festival’s, this mare is a horse to follow this season over hurdles. The Supreme Novices Hurdle or the Mares Novice hurdle at the Festival are the most likely main targets for her this season.
2 – Defi Du Seuil – It was a busy novice season for him last year winning all seven of his races. His wins at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals highlight the ability he has. This fellow has a high cruising speed and will take some stopping over fences, in novice company, this season. The Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham festival will likely be his main target for the season ahead. Only slight concern for me, he looks more of a hurdler than chaser.
3 – Our Duke – His performance in the Irish Grand National Chase last season was one of the performances of the season, for me. This horse just loves a stamina test and the further they go, the more he will relish. Connections decided to miss the main festivals last year in order to save him this season, which my pay dividends. He will surely be one of the leading contenders for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, should he stay sound.
4 – Getabird – one of the ante post favourites last year for the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, he unfortunately picked up an injury the month before the race. At 5 years old, he remains a horse of outstanding talent and will surely be one of the leading lights for Willie Mullins’ team come March, for any of the Novice Hurdle races.
5 – Blow By Blow – He is one of the top 2 or 3 horses that I’m really looking forward to seeing this season. Despite missing the whole of last season through injury, his form prior to that outlined his immense potential. When last sighted, he beat last years Albert Bartlett favourite Death Duty, who has a big reputation and 2015 Champion Bumper winner, Moon Racer. He looks a chaser down the line but I will be looking forward to watching him over the novice staying Hurdle races this season. Potential Gold Cup horse.
6 – Yorkhill – One of the most exciting horses in training at the moment. He has a variety of options next season, does he stay chasing or revert to hurdling? He beat the highly touted Yanworth in the Neptune Novice Hurdle at the festival in 2016 and followed that win up a year later only this time over fences, winning the JLT Novice Chase. Personally, I don’t think he’s the most natural chaser and only his class and ability pulled him through last March. “A future Gold Cup contender” was mentioned off the back of his win last year at the Festival but his chasing technique would need to improve considerably for that to be a real possibility. If he reverts to hurdling next season, he’ll be a big Champion Hurdle player come March. Let’s hope Willie makes that call.
7 – Divin Bere – Quite possibly a season too early for him, next year as five-year old hurdlers are notoriously hard to place. Second in last years Fred Winter, he came within a neck of the winner carrying top weight. Consequently, at Aintree, he finished a close second to Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil. He evidently has got a lot of ability and this fellow is one to follow in the seasons ahead.
8 – Bacardys – Another horse that I’m really looking forward to seeing next season. Fell when quietly fancied in the Neptune last year, he made no such mistake at Punchestown beating a few top class horses in the process including Finian’s Oscar, Death Duty and Let’s Dance. Proven at a variety of trips, his options remain open but either the JLT or RSA Novice Chase at the Festival are likely to be his main targets this season.
9 – Might Bite – Undoubtedly has got massive potential and a serious amount of ability. Will surely be aimed for the Gold Cup in March but I have slight stamina worries. He is very quirky and is more style rather than guts. He is a major contender for the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup but I would be inclined to think he is much more suited to the former. He needs to fill out, learn settle and concentrate better to be in with a chance of winning the Gold Cup in March.
10 – Willoughby Court – Showed bits of decent form before showcasing his ability in the Neptune Novice Hurdle at the festival last year beating the ill-fated Neon Wolf. The later carried a huge reputation into the Festival and was one of the bankers of the meeting for many. After that performance, trainer Ben Pauling put him away with chasing in mind next season. With that form in mind, he will surely have a major say with the JLT or the RSA Chase his most likely targets.