Our Columnist @Jimbo_Jumpsman has complied a list of Novice hurdlers and chasers to follow this upcoming National hunt campaign.
1. DEBUCHET 4-y-o gr g Smadoun (FR) – Luzerne Du Poitou (FR)
TRAINER: Mags Mullins FORM: 2121
Second in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March, Mags Mullins’ gorgeous grey was the model of consistency last term, posting form figures of 2121 in high quality National Hunt Flat races on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Having found only the hugely talented pair of Red Jack and Fayonagh too good last term, Debuchet proved himself to be well above average when slamming his opposition at both Leopardstown and Limerick either side of his top class Prestbury Park effort.
The son of Smadoun looked the winner at Cheltenham before the mighty mare Fayonagh hit overdrive in the final furlong of the contest. And having enjoyed another summer at grass to both strengthen and mature, Debuchet looks to set to enjoy a hugely profitable season over timber.
2. FAYONAGH 6-y-o b m Kalanisi (IRE) – Fair Ina (IRE)
TRAINER: Gordon Elliott FORM: 81111
A mare who requires no introduction, the Champion Bumper winner is without doubt the name on the lips of every ardent National Hunt supporter this Autumn, and looks set for a hugely exciting season jumping hurdles.
Unbeaten in 4 starts for Gordon Elliott (8th on racecourse debut), it was the manner in which Fayonaghstormed up the hill at Cheltenham that really caught the imagination of the jumping fraternity, and it looks as though 2-and-a-half-miles could be the ideal trip for the strong looking daughter of Kalanisi this term.
Whether Elliott will keep the mighty mare against her own sex or look to battle the boys this term will be fascinating to see. But whichever route they do decide to take, Fayonagh looks set to take high rank in the novice hurdle division this winter.
3. GETABIRD 5-y-o b g Getaway (GER) – Fern Bird (IRE)
TRAINER: Willie Mullins FORM: R111
Antepost favourite for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham after a deeply impressive debut success at Fairyhouse last December, Rich Ricci’s son of Germany disappointingly didn’t make it to the Festival after suffering a setback when landing the odds on Thyestes day at Gowran Park in January.
There was plenty of talk about the powerful looking 5-year-old prior to his successful debut at Fairyhouse last term, and we know how little it takes for people to latch on to these Rich Ricci owned – Willie Mullins trained youngsters following the obscene amount of success experienced with the likes of Champagne Fever, Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour in recent years.
That said, you can’t argue with what Getabird has shown on the track thus far, and he rates an exciting novice hurdle prospect for the powerful partnership this winter.
A winner between the flags at Largy in April 2016, Getabird could be one for middle distance novice hurdles this winter. And, like many of these, looks set to contest graded events this season.
4. OUTOFTHISWORLD 4-y-o b/br m Shantou (USA) – Mystic Masie (IRE)
TRAINER: Harry Fry FORM: 1
Harry Fry has shown that he’s more than capable with the ladies in recent years, and in Outofthisworld the Cheltenham Festival winning trainer looks to have another very special lady in his life.
This talented daughter of Shantou ran out an eye catching 11 length winner of a Market Rasen bumper in late March, where the 4-y-o showed an impressive turn of foot when Noel Fehily sent her about her business with 2 furlongs left to run.
It’s possible that Harry Fry could aim Outofthisworld at the Listed Mares’ Bumper at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting in November, a race he won with smart racemare Bitofapuzzle in 2014, before sending the talented mare over timber this winter. And if that is indeed the plan, she’s certainly one to take very seriously both at Cheltenham in November and beyond.
5. RAVENHILL ROAD 6-y-o ch g Exit To Nowhere (USA) – Zaffarella (IRE)
TRAINER: Brian Ellison FORM: 111
Ravenhill Road burst in to the scene with a hugely impressive bumper success at Market Rasen last October, before following up in equally impressive fashion at Doncaster one month later. The 6-year-old received a couple of novice hurdle entries following his second bumper success last term, before looking likely to run in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
However disappointingly we didn’t get to see the imposing chestnut gelding again last term, but I’m sure connections will be eager to get the youngster back on track in the early exchanges of this season.
The winner of his sole Point at Broughshane in May 2016, Brian Ellison looks to have a very smart prospect on his hands this winter, who looks more than capable of holding his own in graded company should he receive a clear run.
6. RED JACK 4-y-o b g Mahler (GB) – Hollygrove Bonnie (IRE)
TRAINER: Noel Meade FORM: 11
The subject of much talk on social media this summer, Red Jack could take high rank in the novice hurdle division this season after recording a brace of victories from as many starts in bumpers last term.
A debut succes over subsequent Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper runner up Debuchet certainly reads well, and the third home, Le Richebourg, has also given the form a solid look since.
JP McManus wasted no time in signing a cheque to secure the services of Red Jack following his debut success at Naas in January, and given the way he stormed to success when last seen at Fairyhouse, it certainly looks money well spent.
Likely to start out over the minimum trip this autumn, the son of Mahler could easily develop into a serious contender for either the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle come the spring.
7. SAMCRO 5-y-o ch g Germany (USA) – Dun Dun (IRE)
TRAINER: Gordon Elliott FORM: 1111
This £335,000 Gigginstown House Stud purchase barely needs any introduction, especially given the promise he showed on the racetrack last term.
The gorgeous, scopey son of Germany recorded three successive bumper victories last term, the most impressive of the trio coming at Fairyhouse in April when sprinting clear of his field after being asked to quicken by Lisa O’Neil, displaying an impressive range of gears that will undoubtedly stand the youngster in good stead over the years to come.
That performance gave me the impression that Samcro could be seen to best effect of intermediate trips this winter, with his potent blend of speed and stamina making the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle look an ideal long range target.
Indeed we may not see the best of Samcro until he embarks on a novice chase career in 12 months time. However he looks more than capable of securing graded success over timber this winter.
8. THE BIG BITE 4-y-o b g Scorpion (IRE) – Thanks Noel (IRE)
TRAINER: Tom Lacey FORM: 1
If you didn’t witness the victory of The Big Bite you really did miss out! Having been held up in rear the rangy youngster looked outpaced over 3 furlongs, running greener than a seasick sailor, before realising what his job was about and flying home in the final furlong to beat the Nicky Henderson trained mare Polly’s Pursuit by an easy 3-and-a-half-lengths.
Given the manor in which the son of Scorpion approached the first 1m7f of that contest – his winning margin, and the speed at which he hit the line, mark him out as a very exciting prospect for novice hurdles this season.
A nice long summer at grass can only have done the 4-year-old the world of good, allowing him time mature both mentally and physically before embarking on a career over timber. Remember the name, The Big Bite.
9. VISION DES FLOS 4-y-o b g Balko (FR) – Marie Royale (FR)
TRAINER: Colin Tizzard FORM: 1
Winner of the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in April, this good looking son of Balko traveled strongly throughout the 2 mile contest before making smooth headway approaching the turn for home and gamely seeing off the Willie Mullins trained Hollowgraphic on the run to the line.
Its always pleasing to see a young horse have the guts to put his head down and battle in the early stages of their career, and the attitude Vision Des Flos displayed to repel what looked a strong looking field is certainly a promising sign for the gelding going forwards.
Transferred to Colin Tizzard this summer, the 4-year-old can only improve for both the experience he gained at Punchestown and the subsequent summer break that will have provided the talented youngster with ample of time to mature and grow both mentally and physically ahead of his novice hurdle campaign.
I fully expect to see Vision Des Flos contesting graded novice events in Britain this winter.
10. WHISKEY IN THE JAR 5-y-o b g Oscar (IRE) – Baie Barbara (IRE)
TRAINER: Dan Skelton FORM: 21
This gorgeous son of Oscar looks a very exciting young prospect for the ever flourishing Lodge Hill operation of Dan Skelton. And although we may not see the best of him until he embarks on a chasing career this time next year, he certainly rates a top prospect for novice hurdles this winter.
Badly hampered before staying on well to take second behind the talented Monbeg Worldwide (who has won twice subsequently) in a Roscommon bumper last October, Whiskey In The Jar ran out a facile winner on his only start for Dan Skelton last term. With Harry Skelton enjoying what can only be described as an armchair ride at Warwick in March.
Dan Skelton has a number of talented youngsters entering the novice hurdling ranks this winter, and it goes without saying that Whiskey In The Jar must sit pretty high up in the pecking order at Lodge Hill.
Dan Skelton always seems to have his string pretty well forward, and therefore this imposing 5-year-old could well be seen early doors this autumn. He’s definitely worth looking out for.
1. BACARDYS 6-y-o b g Coastal Path (GB) – Oasice (FR)
TRAINER: Willie Mullins IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m Gd – Hy
I’m not sure this talented son of Coastal Path truly got the credit he deserved last term having won both the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle and Grade 1 Tattersalls Irish Champion Novice Hurdle either side of an unfortunate trip to the Cheltenham Festival when pulling up after being severely hampered by the mid race departure of Consul De Thaix.
Indeed the strapping youngster won every race he completed last season, with a debut fall at Cork and his luckless Cheltenham Festival effort the only blemishes in what was otherwise a hugely successful campaign.
The winner of a maiden point at Quakerstown in April 2015, Bacardyslooked a very smart prospect in the hands of Derek O’Connor, who has spoke in glowing terms about the 6-year-old subsequently.
Willie Mullins’ charge lowered the colours of the hugely exciting Finian’s Oscar at Punchestown in April, form that rates very highly indeed. He is without question a serious Grade 1 contender this winter and could easily develop into a strong contender for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival come March.
2. BALLYANDY 6-y-o b g Kayf Tara (GB) – Megalex (GB)
TRAINER: Nigel Twiston-Davies IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m – 2m4f Gd – Sft
Surprisingly there’s been very little chit chat about last season’s hugely impressive Betfair Hurdle winner in the bulid up to the jumps season proper, something I consider quite perplexing given the fact he was extremely well supported to taste Cheltenham Festival success for the second year in succession at Prestbury Park in March before enduring a nightmare passage through the curtain raising contest, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, when finishing fourth.
Having taken time to adapt to jumping hurdles, the 2016 Champion Bumper winner made a mockery of an opening handicap mark of 135 in Newbury’s valuable February contest, confirming the huge promise he’d shown early in his career.
Ballyandy is certainly a fine stamp of a horse, and without doubt has the scope to jump fences should connections give him the green light to do so this autumn. If indeed they do, it goes without saying that the son of Kayf Tara would rate an extremely exciting prospect this winter, with either the Arkle Novices Chase or JLT Novives Chase likely Cheltenham Festival targets come the spring.
3. DEATH DUTY 6-y-o b g Shantou (USA) – Midnight Gift (IRE)
TRAINER: Gordon Elliott IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m Sft – Hy
Had Death Duty converted favouritism into success in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in the spring he would undoubtedly be the name on the lips of every ardent National Hunt Racing enthusiast on both sides of the Irish Sea. However the talented son of Shantou ejected jockey Bryan Copper at the final flight of hurdles, and even if he hadn’t, he certainly wouldn’t have been troubling the judges.
The apple of Gordon Elliott’s eye, Death Duty landed novice hurdles at Grade 3, Grade 2 and Grade 1 level last winter, and has always been considered a hugely exciting chasing prospect by both Elliot and owners Gigginstown House Stud.
Death Duty claimed the scalps of many talented opponents last term, including Blood Crazed Tiger, Invitation Only, Monalee and Turcagua before his disappointing effort at Prestbury Park in the Spring. Something that shouldn’t be easily forgotten.
The Albert Bartlett is always an attritional contest in which many a ‘good one’ has been beaten over the years. That defeat aside, the 6-year-old remains a hugely exciting prospect for 2m4f – 3m novice chase’s this winter.
4. FINIAN’S OSCAR 5-y-o b g Oscar (IRE) – Trinity Alley (IRE)
TRAINER: Colin Tizzard IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m – 2m5f Gd – Sft
Last season Finian’s Oscar progressed from Point winner to Grade 1 winning novice hurdler in just 77 days, a hugely impressive feat I’m sure you’d agree. However even more impressive was the manner in which he achieved his victory at Portrush in October, clocking a time only comparable to Cheltenham Festival winners Brindisi Breeze and Simonsig in the pointing field over the last 10 years.
The talented son of Oscar shot to the head of the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle market following a smooth success in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle in January, before falling victim to a stone bruise which ruled the youngster out of competing on jump racing’s biggest stage just days before the greatest show on turf got underway. A huge disappointment for connections and ardent racing enthusiasts alike.
However the hugely exciting 5-year-old gained Grade 1 compensation at Aintree in April, and very nearly secured a top level treble when narrowly being denied by the aforementioned Bacardys in a head bobbing battle to the line at the Punchestown Festival. Where, if splitting hairs, Robbie Power perhaps set sail for home a tad early, leaving himself vulnerable to dogged Willie Mullins trained winner late on.
Colin Tizzard has some serious National Hunt firepower residing in his Venn Farm Stables at Present, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Finian’s Oscar has the potential to the scale the upper echelons of the chasing division over the years to come. However this year the JLT Novices’ Chase would look the ideal long term target given the geldings rich blend of both speed and stamina.
5. MONALEE 6-y-o b g Milan (GB) – Tempest Belle (IRE)
TRAINER: Henry De Bromhead IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m Gd – Hy
Henry De Bromhead’s scopey son of Milan performed to a very high standard in novice hurdles last term, with his best performance coming at the Cheltenham Festival in March when chasing home Penhill in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
The talented 6-year-old displayed his ability early doors last season, with a victory over the smart pair The Storytellar and Turcagua at Punchestown in November preceding a fair effort in defeat at Navan one month later, where De Bromhead’s charge split the well regarded duo of Death Duty and Invitation Only in second.
Punchestown was perhaps a step too far for Monalee, who appeared to be feeling the effects of what is always a gruelling Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. However it certainly takes no gloss off what he achieved last term, and I’m sure connections will be excited to see what their classy performer is capable of over the lager obstacles this winter.
De Bromhead certainly hasn’t looked to play down the regard in which he holds his talented gelding, who looks every inch a graded staying chaser in the making. And like Bacardys, I fully expect to see the Monalee develop into a serious contender for the RSA Chase come March.
6. MOVEWITHTHETIMES 6yo ch g Presenting (UK) – Dare To Venture (IRE)
TRAINER: Paul Nicholls IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m – 2m4f GS – Sft
Paul Nicholls certainly has plenty to look forward too this winter, with the master of Ditcheat set to unleash a particularly strong team of novice chasers this season, including the JP McManus owned Movewiththetimes. Form figures of 1412 over timber read extremely well for a horse who’s built for one job, and one job only. And this son of Presenting could easily take high rank in the 2m – 2m4f novice chase divisions this winter.
Badly hampered in a Grade 2 contest won by Champion Hurdle runner Moon Racer at Cheltenham in November, the strapping 6-y-o’s best effort came in the ultra competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, where he broke free of the field with fellow novice Ballyandy, who pipped him to the prize by just three-quarters of a length at the line.
A small setback scuppered plans for Movewiththetimes to line up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a contest for which he had been well supported on the back of his Betfair Hurdle second. However I’d imagine connections wouldn’t have been overly dismayed given Paul Nicholls’ modus operandi of giving future chasers an easy time of things in their novice hurdle year.
As previously stated, Paul Nicholls’ has a very nice batch of novice chase prospects the winter, and it’s odds on that Movewiththetimes will be very near the top of the pecking order at Ditcheat. He certainly shouldn’t be underestimated against any opponent this term.
7. PINGSHOU 7-y-o b g Definite Article (GB) – Quest Of Passion (FR)
TRAINER: Colin Tizzard IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m Gd – GS
Colin Tizzard’s son of Definite Article took his form to a whole new level in the Spring, landing Grade 1 spoils at Aintree before putting up a throughly respectable effort in defeat at the Punchestown Fetsival later that month when matching strides with warm favourite Melon at the head of affairs and exchanging blows that rendered the pair unable to repel the the fast finishing kick of Cialos Emery, who swooped past the flagging duo in the final furlong of the contest.
A winner at Cheltenham in November, the imposing 7-year-old has size and scope in abundance, and it’s quite conceivable that he could surpass the level of form he achieved over timber when he faced with steeplechase fences this winter.
Pingshou is seen to best effect when dictating the pace over 2 miles on spring ground, so I wouldn’t be deterred if he found life a bit tougher in the depths of the winter campaign. However he’s certainly one to keep in mind come the big spring Festival’s.
8. SUTTON PLACE 6-y-o b g Mahler (GB) – Glebe Beauty (IRE)
TRAINER: Gordon Elliott IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m – 2m4f Sft – Hy
Without doubt one of the most exciting young prospects on this list, Sutton Place returned from a spell on the sidelines with victories in Grade 3 and Grade 2 company at Naas and Navan respectively earlier this year, before being pulled up lame on better ground at the Punchestown Festival in April.
Having lowered the colours of subsequent Coral Cup winner Supasundae at Naas in January, the scopey JP McManus owned 6-year-old ran out a smart winner of the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February, which prompted talk of a possible tilt at the Champion Hurdle before Gordon Elliot swiftly moved to rule it out.
Sutton Place certainly possesses the physique of a chaser and will undoubtedly be competing in graded company this winter providing his aspiring Champion trainer can keep him off the treatment table. Granted a clear run, he truly could be anything.
9. TOPOFTHEGAME 5yo ch g Flemensfirth (USA) – Derry Vale (IRE)
TRAINER: Paul Nicholls IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m GS – Sft
This gorgeous son of Flemensfirth really fills the eye. Winner of his solitary start between the flags at Belclare in March 2016, Paul Nicholls’ scopey youngster impressively dispatched Dan Skelton’s smart performer No Hassle Hoff (second) and Nicky Henderson’s dual scorer Brave Eagle (third) by upwards of 9 lengths.
Topofthegame’s first appearance under rules resulted in success at Ascot in December, before a fourth placed finish behind subsequent Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle third Wholestone in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham on Festival trial’s day in January.
Second to subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle sixth (and Aintree Grade 1 second) Beyond Conceit at Ascot on his third and final appearance last term, Paul Nicholls was clearly minding his promising youngster with a chasing career firmly at the forefront of his mind.
To say Topofthegame has the size and scope for fences would be an understatement, and it’s a nod to his ability that he ran so well in somecompetitive heats over timber last term. The imposing son of Flemensfirth could easily develop into a very smart novice chaser this winter, and can hopefully develop into high class chaser for Paul Nicholls’ over the coming years.
10. WILLOUGHBY COURT 6-y-o br g Court Cave (IRE) – Willoughby Sue (IRE)
TRAINER: Ben Pauling IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m GS – Sft
Winner of the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in March, Willoughby Courtbravely out battled Harry Fry’s sadly departed Neon Wolf at Prestbury Park, landing the spoils in a photo finish and providing the burgeoning Bourton Hill Farm operation of Ben Pauling with a maiden Cheltenham Festival success.
The way the youngster won at Cheltenham clearly suggested that stamina will be his forte over the years to come, having made every yard of the running and really sticking to the task when pressed all the way to line by the high class runner up, rewarding David Bass for his enterprising ride.
A Grade 2 winner at Warwick in February, Willoughby Court rates a hugely exciting prospect for middle distance to staying novice chase trips this winter. And he certainly shouldn’t be underestimated against any opponent he may face this season.
Paul and Clare Rooney have become staunch supporters of National Hunt Racing in recent years, and hopefully this hugely talented son of Court Cave can develop into a flagbearer for the couple, who’s stock continues to rise significantly year on year.
10+1. YANWORTH 7-y-o ch g Norse Dancer (IRE) – Yota (FR)
TRAINER: Alan King IDEAL CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m Gd – Hy
As highest rated hurdler set to embark on a career over fences this winter, it would be an oversight not too include Yanworth on this list, with Alan King recently reiterating the intention to send the JP McManus owned chestnut over fences this winter.
Sent off the 2/1 favourite to claim Champion Hurdle successs in March, Yanworth ran a hugely disappointing race to finish seventh before later being disqualified. However the strapping 7-year-old has subsequently displayed that his future lies over further with a battling success in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree. And given the level of form the ‘Orange Machine’ achieved over timber, he must rate a hugely exciting prospect for novice chases this winter.
Alan Kings’s son of Norse Dancer has always been a classy performer, finishing fourth in the 2015 Champion Bumper before chasing home the hugely talented Yorkhill in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle 12 months later.
A dual Grade 1 winner last season, the scope gelding has often jumped hurdles as though they were fences, and could easily develop into a top class 2m4f – 3m novice chaser this winter.