Today I have a guest post for you from Paul Ferguson, author of Jumpers to Follow 2016-2017.
I have met Paul a few times both at his Aintree preview evening in Rigby’s (a pub in Liverpool) and at Aintree racecourse. I was delighted when he agreed to highlight three horses of interest that it could be worth keeping an eye on.
The great thing about jumps racing is that you can follow a horse’s progress through the ranks over a number of years. My own interest peaks when they go chasing and it will be interesting to see how far these three can progress in the years to come.
For now I will hand straight over to Paul. I enjoyed the read and hope you do too…
Given Josh’s liking for a handicapper, particularly a handicap chaser, I thought I would start this feature with a horse that should end up in that division, the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds.
Once a winner and three times a runner-up at Haydock last winter, the six-year-old grey looks just the type to improve once faced with the larger obstacles and it isn’t hard to imagine him contesting some of the better long distance handicap chases in time. Whether that is later on this season, time will tell, but he also ought to be worth following in novice company in the north to begin with, and should certainly add to his tally, which currently comprises of a Wetherby bumper and that aforementioned Haydock novice hurdle.
Both victories to date have been gained on soft ground and he twice, including when successful, faced the ‘fixed brush’ hurdles at the Merseyside track. Currently rated 137, there is a possibility he could return to the same course for the valuable handicap hurdle on Betfair Chase day, though I rather suspect that Smith and owner Trevor Hemmings will want to crack straight on over fences. The West Yorkshire-based trainer often sends her better novices to Carlisle for their chasing debut, so don’t be surprised to see this son of Cloudings kick-off his campaign in Cumbria.
When asked to provide any ‘horses to follow’ piece, and I’m asked to come up with plenty this time of year, it would be easy to nominate a horse or two from the Willie Mullins yard. That would be rather boring, however, so instead my second selection hails from the yard of his cousin, Seamus.
Twice a winner last term Western Cape is another embryonic chaser, but off a mark of 128 there is surely a handicap hurdle to be won with him, beforehand. Bought for £85,000 following an encouraging second in a four-year-old maiden point at Tralee, he impressively won a Southwell bumper on his debut under rules, on his first start for current connections.
Bogged down at Lingfield on his debut over hurdles, the Westerner gelding caused a shock when winning an Ascot maiden hurdle the week before Christmas, travelling powerfully en route to recording an authoritative success. The five-year-old ran a similar race when runner-up at the same track, before disappointing on his final start of the season, in the EBF Final at Sandown.
Dropped 2lbs, I think this horse has plenty of scope for improvement and will be disappointed if he can’t land a nice prize before fences are considered. He looks to have the pace for 2m4f, but should stay further, once learning to settle.
For my third and final selection I will revert to type, as regular readers of my work will know, I like to focus on horses graduating from bumpers into the novice hurdle division. There are plenty to choose from and, in fact, 21 of this year’s Leading Prospects in Jumpers To Follow ran in bumpers last term. But, having seen him up close recently and seen the development he has made physically, I’ll go with the Fergal O’Brien-trained Pride Of Lecale.
Only 13th in the Champion Bumper and seventh at Aintree, the imposing son of Multiplex ran well for a long way in both races, having earlier won by 14 lengths in deep ground at Chepstow. Twice a runner-up before that (also, both on heavy ground), he won his sole start between the flags in Ireland and should make his mark once stepped up in trip this winter.
The five-year-old carries the silks of Paul & Clare Rooney and possesses plenty of size and scope for jumping. Again, his long-term future lies over fences but, for the time being, he should be worth following in novice hurdles when the ground is soft.
How to Get Your Copy
My thanks to Paul for spending the time to write this piece.
This is the 10th edition pf Paul’s book and I have my copy sat on my desk. I always enjoy flicking through and it is a good read.
This year’s book includes…
- Foreword by top National Hunt trainer, Charlie Longsdon
- In-depth analysis of Paul’s 40 Leading Prospects for the season
- Additional ‘Horses to Follow’ from Ireland
- Stable Round-Up (Horses to Follow from more than 60 stables from around the country)
- Under The Hammer- who has been busy buying what (eye popping numbers as always)
- Horses to Follow from several leading jockeys – Jamie Codd (Champion Irish Point-to-Point rider), Jane Mangan, Nick Scholfield & Harry Skelton.
- Q&A with industry experts – Graham Cunningham (RUK / C4), Tony Calvin (Betting Journalist), Frank Keogh (BBC) & Gina Harding (At The Races & C4)
(it is paperback and will be posted to your designated address)
(I am not getting any commission from any book sales. Paul was kind enough to write this article for free and it would be a bit rude of me if I didn’t mention how you could get a copy! Of course if plenty of you do buy a copy and end up tracking the odd horse we may all benefit if you comment on daily posts etc 🙂 )
Paul is also worth a follow on Twitter: You can follow him HERE>>>