Below is a guest post from a blogger called Stu Williams. I bumped into him on twitter, where his enthusiasm for all things jumps racing was rather infectious. His only flaw is that he bangs on about the Cheltenham Festival far too early! 🙂 I have since had the pleasure of sharing a pint or two with him at Aintree and when I saw he had started compiling some ‘horses to follow’ I thought who better to ask for a guest post.
He kindly agreed. He just loves writing about National Hunt Racing. There is no catch here. If you want to check out his blog there is a link below.
His twitter bio sums things up rather succinctly… Chairman of the Native River fan club /Once tipped a quirky grey called Labaik to win the Supreme at 50/1 / Keen blogger/ Aspiring horse racing journalist.
I hope you enjoy what follows. Notebooks at the ready. (he has started with some handicappers to follow… )
All the best,
Over to Stu….
I’m delighted to have been asked by Josh to pen a piece regarding ‘horses to follow’ during the 2017/18 National Hunt campaign.
Being a keen blogger I got to know Josh through Twitter, and although we apply completely different methodologies to finding winners, i’m pleased to say that we’ve both tasted plenty of success to date.
Now don’t get me wrong – it’s not all sweetness and light, of course, as we all have our fair share of dismal disasters too. Indeed Racing is a game where you have to roll with the punches, as neither form nor trends can identify every winner, every day – all year round.
Personally I’ve always believed that it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to betting strategies, as the old and rather overused adage goes; there’s more than one way to boil an egg. However one thing is for sure – you never stop learning in this game.
Having been tasked with identifying well handicapped horses, I’ve assembled a list of 10 who appear to be heading into the winter months at the right end of the handicap.
Just for fun, I’ve also highlighted 5 strapping youngsters who could exploit a favourable looking hurdle rating in a novice handicap chase this autumn, in addition to 5 interesting novice hurdle prospects who could possibly be considered ‘under the radar’.
If you like what you see, you can find more of my work at;
10 HANDICAPPERS TO FOLLOW THIS WINTER
BRAVE EAGLE 5-y-o b g
Yeats (IRE) – Sinful Pleasure (IRE)
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Official Hurdle Rating: 133
Optimum Conditions: 2m – 2m4f Gd
It’s fair to say not many of Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson’s inmates go under the radar nowadays, however I feel it’s possible this son of Yeats could well fit into that category.
Brave Eagle arrived at Seven Barrows following a brace of third place efforts in Irish PTP’s. The most notable being his debut effort at Belclare, where the unfurnished then 4-year-old chased home Paul Nicholls’ exciting chasing prospect Topofthegame (139) and Dan Skelton’s smart performer No Hassle Hoff (134) over 3 miles.
Despite some less than fluent leaps Brave Eagle recorded a debut success at Ludlow in January, before doubling up at Fontwell at the end of March where again his hurdling wasn’t always pleasing on the eye. However hurdling technique is something that can be worked on, especially with age on his side, and it was the high performance racing engine he displayed, particularly at Fontwell, that caught my eye.
When sent about his business Brave Eagle set about his task with enthusiasm and gusto, running out a 9 length winner at the line, but certainly value for more. And with that in mind, and given another summer to mature both mentally and physically, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Nicky Henderson already has a race in mind for the progressive 5-year-old this winter.
CALIPTO 7-y-o b g
Califet (FR) – Peutiot (FR)
Trainer: Venetia Williams
Official Chase Rating: 138
Optimum Conditions: 2m4f Gd – Hy
This former Ditcheat inmate is interesting for a number of reasons, the fact that he now turns out for Venetia Williams being just one. A fair looking handicap mark and a smart performance in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival off the back of a lengthy spell off the track are further interesting things to note. And the son of Califet could well land a decent prize for his relatively new connections this term.
With just six starts over fences to his name in 2 seasons, clearly the French bred isn’t the easiest horse to train. He has, however, shown a fair level of form when he has graced the racecourse, with the pick of his novice form being a close up Grade 2 third place finish behind the talented pairGarde La Victoire (156) and Fox Norton (169) at Cheltenham in November 2015.
Having not been seen since being sent off a relatively well supported 9/2 shot on the final day of the 2015/16 season at Sandown, his final start for Paul Nicholls, it’s of great interest that Venetia Williams elected give Calipto his stable debut in such a competitive race as the Grand Annual. Signifying, perhaps, that she considers the 7-year-old to be on an exploitable looking handicap mark.
A sixth place finish rates a hugely respectable effort given his time off the track, with his only subsequent effort again showing signs of promise before a heavy fall at the twelfth fence at Ayr in April.
Formerly a smart juvenile hurdler for Paul Nicholls, Calipto has always promised to land a big race at some stage in his career. Hopefully he can achieve that success for Venetia Williams this winter.
DINO VELVET 4-y-o b g
Naaqoos (GB) – Matgil (FR)
Trainer: Alan King
Official Hurdle Rating: 125
Optimum Conditions: 2m – 2m4f GS – Sft
Keeping with form, Alan King once again enjoyed a successful campaign with his Juvenile hurdlers last term, particularly with Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle winner Master Blueyes among others. However if you asked him about the prospects of his squad for the 2016/17 campaign, Dino Velvet would have certainly been near the top of the pack.
Pitched into Grade 2 company at Prestbury Park for his debut over timber, the son of Naaqoos looked booked for a fair third place finish before clipping the top bar of the last and crashing out, the race won by the unbeaten subsequent Triumph Hurdle victor Defi Du Seuil.
Off the mark at the second attempt, Alan King’s charge finished fourth, again behind Phillip Hobbs’ 3 time Grade 1 winner, in the Grade 1 Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow over Christmas, before a brace of second placed efforts behind the smart Don Bersy (133) at Warwick and another Hobbs trained horse I’m A Game Changer (133) at Ludlow in January and February respectively.
A staying on sixth place effort in the hugely competitive Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle offered further food for thought, and it could be that a step up in trip to 2-and-a-half-miles may eke out some improvement in the Barbury Castle trained 4-year-old this winter. If so, Dino Velvet could easily surpass his current mark of 125.
KIMBERLITE CANDY 5-y-o b g
Flemensfirth (USA) – Mandys Native (IRE)
Trainer: Tom Lacey
Official Hurdle Rating: 134
Optimum Conditions: 2m4f+ GS – Sft
Perhaps one of the darker horses on this list, Kimberlite Candy has only been seen on the racetrack 3 times to date, winning a maiden hurdle at Ascot on debut before following up in a novice hurdle at Newcastle in mid December.
Pitched into Grade 2 company at Cheltenham in January, the scopey 5-year-old weakened quickly at the fifth and was soon pulled up by Barry Geraghty. Presumably something had gone amiss.
I’d been pretty keen on the well put together son of Flemensfirth that day, having been mightily impressed by the way he cruised through the mud at Newcastle before readily quickening clear on the bridle, conceding a 7lb penalty with the minimum of fuss.
Although he undoubtedly has the stature to make a fine chaser down the line, given his connections it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kimberlite Candy attempt to exploit what looks to be a lenient handicap mark when the mud starts to fly this winter. And if they could get some more experience into the youngster early doors, something like the fixed brush handicap hurdle at Haydock could prove an ideal target, with the likely soft ground and fixed brush Hurdles potentially a match made in heaven for the JP McManus owned gelding.
MORNING HERALD 6-y-o br m
Lucky Story (USA) – Wakeful (GB)
Trainer: Martin Keighley
Official Hurdle Rating: 127
Optimum Conditions: 2m4f – 3m GF – Gd
Another potential dark horse on this list, Morning Herald looks an interesting prospect for her Cotswolds based handler Martin Keighley. Already twice a winner over timber, the talented mare heads into the 2017/18 campaign rated 127, which could look lenient when granted her optimum conditions.
An easy 15 length winner on her second start over hurdles, the daughter of Lucky Story recorded her second success at Exeter in May of last year. However it was her next run at Ludlow that caught my eye, when running a fine race and only failing by 2-and-three-quarter lengths to concede 18lbs to Henry Daly’s prolific winner Nordic Nymph (124) on her first try over 3 miles.
Nordic Nymph (who had won 3 of her previous 4 starts) went on to win her next 2 races, giving the form of that Ludlow contest a significant boost. However, unfortunately, Martin Keighley’s mare failed to fire when next sighted at Ascot, and indeed hasn’t been seen since that disappointing December day. However it’s possible the slightly softer ground and drop in trip to 2m5f simply wasn’t to her liking.
Restored to 3 miles and granted some decent underfoot conditions Morning Herald could look well treated off the same mark from which she was narrowly denied by Nordic Nymph last October. She’s definitely one to keep and eye on and could be out early doors.
NO HASSLE HOFF 5-y-o b/br g
Craigsteel (GB) – Endless Patience (IRE)
Trainer: Dan Skelton
Official Hurdle Rating: 134
Optimum Conditions: 3m Gd – Sft
It’s hardly surprising to see a horse trained by Dan Skelton make the list. And the horse in question, No Hassle Hoff, is perhaps one of the more obvious candidates who appears to be on the right side of the handicapper heading into the 2017/18 campaign.
Second behind Paul Nicholls’ exciting prospect Topofthegame (139) in a Belclare PTP in March 2016, the son of Craigsteel put a debut fall behind him to score in facile fashion at Hereford 3 weeks later, before taking a hike in class to finish third behind dual Grade 2 scorer, and Grade 1 third (Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle), Wholestone (145) at Cheltenham in December.
A brace of second placed finishes followed in the new year. Firstly going down by a head to Nicky Henderson’s tough performer Constantine Bay (144) in the Grade 2 River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in January, before chasing home subsequent Aintree Grade 1 winner The Worlds End (149) in the Grade 2 Prestige Novices Hurdle at Haydock a month later.
Pitched into open handicap company for the first time at Aintree’s Grand National Meeting, the money came in spades for the youngster who lined up with an attractive looking opening mark of just 134. However No Hassle Hoff raced keenly that day, and it’s no surprise that despite rounding the turn in second place, he weakened to finish fourth behind the impressive winner Fountains Windfall (146), who in truth had put the race to bed approaching the end of the back straight.
That effort was a fine performance for a 5-year-old in such a hugely competitive handicap, and the form displayed against classy horses in graded company prior to Aintree really does make his mark of 134 look lenient.
Having shown an ability to act on varying ground conditions, there’s every possibility that No Hassle Hoff will scoop at least one big pot for his shrewd connections this winter.
POETIC RHYTHM 6-y-o ch g Flemensfirth (USA) – Sommer Sonnet (IRE)
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien
Official Hurdle Rating: 130
Optimum Conditions: 2m – 2m4f Gd – Sft
Campaigned almost exclusively at the home of National Hunt Racing last term, Poetic Rhythm faced many a fair rival in a 6 race season, including subsequent Grade 1 winner Pingshou (150) at Prestbury Park in both December and January.
Third behind the smart pair Wholestone (145) and William Henry (145) in a hot looking Grade 2 contest on Cheltenham’s Trial’s day card, the 6-year-old tackled the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, running a very respectable race when factoring in his starting price of 66/1.
The rangy youngster will undoubtedly make a smart novice chaser when having his attentions switched to the larger obstacles. However there are always a few nice pots to be won over hurdles early doors, and it would certainly be of interest if Poetic Rhythm showed up at Chepstow in October, where he ran out a hugely impressive bumper winner last autumn, or perhaps back at Cheltenham for either the Showcase (Oct) or Open (Nov) meetings.
A dual bumper winner last term, form figures of 115330 read well when you consider the class of company the striking chestnut gelding has kept to date. And a mark of 130 certainly looks exploitable for a canny trainer who’s stock continues to rise season on season.
SQUOUATEUR 6-y-o gr g
Martaline (GB) – Samansonnienne (FR)
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Official Chase Rating: 133
Optimum Conditions: 2m4f – 3m4f GS – Hy
The subject of strong antepost support for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup in the weeks leading up the Cheltenham Fetsival earlier this year, Gordon Elliott’s son of Martaline was in process of making up ground before a mistake at the third last unseated Champion Amateur jockey Jamie Codd.
Sent off a solid 5/1 favourite that day, a glance through the form book would suggest that Squouateur had been campaigned with one objective in mind all season long, to reach the biggest 4 days in the National Hunt calendar primed to run the race of his life.
Cheltenham was the first time that the scopey grey gelding had tackled a staying trip over fences, having been campaigned at at trips between 2m and 2m4f throughout the winter months. Clearly connections felt there was significant improvement to be found in the JP McManus owned youngster for a serious test of stamina.
Despite clearly wanting further Squouateur certainly wasn’t disgraced over shorter trips last term. But he will undoubtedly be a much better horse when tackling stamina sapping trips in big field handicaps this term, where the experienced 6-year-old would surely be capable of landing a valuable pot off a lowly mark of 133.
The Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown in December could look an ideal target for Squouateur, with the 3 mile trip and likely prevailing ground conditions looking the ideal combination for the Cullentra Stables trained inmate.
SUMKINDOFKING 6-y-o br g
King’s Theatre (IRE) – Shannon Rose (IRE)
Trainer: Tom George
Official Hurdle Rating: 129
Optimum Conditions: 2m4f – 3m Gd – Sft
A hugely impressive winner on his second start between the flags at Inch in March 2016, Sumkingofking made a striking impression on racecourse debut last November, travelling supremely well on route to an easy 12 length success in a National Hunt Flat race at Chepstow. A smooth hurdling success followed later that month, and it looked as though the well put together son of King’s Theatre was set to tackle graded company for the remainder of the campaign. However further success, surprisingly, proved elusive.
A brace of disappointing performances at Cheltenham were followed by a reasonable showing in a Class 2 contest at Kempton in March put on for those who failed to make the cut for Cheltenham Festival handicaps earlier that week. However a mid-division finish on his final start of the campaign at Aintree, when sent off the 8/1 co-favourite, once again rated a less than satisfactory effort.
That said, a mark of 129 could look extremely lenient if Tom George’s youngster has developed both mentally and physically for another summer at grass. And it’s entirely possible that a switch to the larger obstacles could unlock the huge potential Sumkingofking displayed between the flags last year.
Whether the 6-year-old will be aimed at a valuable handicap hurdle before facing a steeplechase fence remains to be seen, but if he does a step up to 3 miles could well be on the agenda. If that were to be the case, he could well be another perfect candidate for the fixed brush handicap hurdle at Haydock in November ground permitting, as Tom George has previously stated that the gelding has a preference for decent ground. That said, he did win his 3 mile PTP on ground officially described as soft.
Wherever Sumkingofking does line up he has to be worth another chance. And given the glimpses of promise he showed early in his career, hopefully he’ll make up into a nice novice chaser when the time comes.
VINTAGE CLOUDS 7-y-o gr g
Cloudings (IRE) – Rare Vintage (IRE)
Trainer: Sue Smith
Official Chase Rating: 132
Optimum Conditions: 3m+ GS – Hy
Nothing quite says staying chaser more than a set of Trevor Hemmings green, yellow and white silks. And in Vintage Clouds the prominent owner looks to have a staying chaser of considerable promise following a string of fine efforts in open handicap company last season.
A second season novice this term, the son of Cloudings rattled up a hat-trick of silver medal efforts in novice company last November/December, before taking a giant leap forward into open handicap company in in the new year. And although the 7-year-old has tasted the turf twice from 4 attempts in hugely competitive handicaps, the bare form doesn’t tell the whole story.
Vintage Clouds’ first mishap came when sitting third, 5 lengths off the pace, with 3 left to jump in the Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock. With the second F blotting the copy book coming when part of a select group pulling clear of the field rounding the the turn for home in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, unfortunately getting the penultimate fence all wrong and crashing out when place money was still a possibility.
However each of those efforts were followed up by very solid performances. In February Sue Smith’s grey finished a very creditable third in Haydock’s Grade 3 Grand National Trial, behind the stamina laden Vieux Lion Rouge (154) and gallant Grand National fourth Blaklion (155).
Seventh in the Scottish Grand National on his final start last term, the experience gathered in these assignments can only be a positive for the stout stayer over the seasons to come. And surely a lowly handicap mark of 134 underestimates the level of ability Vintage Clouds possesses.
NOVICE HANDICAP CHASERS
ACCORD 7-y-o b g
Arcadio (GER) – Detente (GB)
Trainer: David Bridgwater
Official Hurdle Rating: 118
Optimum Conditions: 2m – 2m4f Gd – Sft
This son of Arcadio has been on my radar since October last year, and although i have no doubt he has a hurdle race in him off his current mark of 118 I’d love to see him turn up in a novice handicap chase where, in my opinion, he’d be very well treated.
A winner between the flags at Borris House in December 2015, Accord has only graced the racecourse 4 times subsequently, on each occasion posting a respectable effort whilst bumping into a fair level of opposition.
Second to Paul Nicholls’ (previously with Neil Mulholland) smart performer Peter The Mayo Man (137) on racecourse debut at Warwick last September, front running tactics were employed on his next start at Cheltenham where he ran on gamely to finish a close third behind the Nicky Henderson trained pair Thomas Campbell (138) and Khezerabad (135).
A brace of third placed efforts followed, behind No Comment (145) and Mr Monochrome (130) at Market Rasen on his penultimate start of the season, before the strapping gelding chased home subsequent Triumph Hurdle seventh Coeur De Lion and Aintree Festival handicap winner Rather Be (143) over 2 miles at Sandown.
Yet to run beyond 2m2.5f under rules, I’m of the opinion that a step up in trip and softer ground could bring about significant improvement (won his PTP over 3m in soft ground) in Accord. But of course, only time will tell.
BALLYARTHUR 7yo b g
Kayf Tara (UK) – Ariels Serenade (IRE)
TRAINER: Nigel Twiston-Davies
OFFICIAL HURDLE RATING: 129
OPTIMUM CONDITIONS: 2m4f – 3m Gd – Sft
Well supported at Cheltenham last November, Ballyarthur went into the notebook after running a fine race to finish fourth to Behind Time, Solomn Grundy and Call To Order, with the second and third victorious subsequently.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained bay continued to demonstrate a fair level of form throughout the season, however one gets the impression it was merely a case of gaining racecourse experience and marking time until the day came where this imposing gelding would face a steeplechase fence.
A winner between the flags at Tyrella in January 2015, to son of Kayf Tara has size and scope in abundance. And another summer at grass can only have aided the 7-year-old, who could easily develop into a 135-140 rated chaser of this winter.
Rated 129 over hurdles, Ballyarthur looks just the type of horse his canny Cotswolds based trainer excels with over fences. And I wouldn’t expect that mark to last too long if entered in a novice handicap chase early doors this autumn.
GLOBAL STAGE 6-y-o b g
Multiplex (GB) – Tintera (IRE)
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien
Official Hurdle Rating: 132
Optitmum Conditions: 2m4f+ Sft – Hy
At first glance a mark of 132 may look fairly steep based on what this imposing son of Multiplex has achieved on the racecourse to date. However delve deeper and you can make a case that there could be plenty more to come from the well put together 6-year-old this term.
A winner between the flags at the fourth time of asking, Global Stage made his hurdling debut, and indeed racecourse debut, in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last term, finishing fourth beaten just 10 lengths by the hugely impressive and super talented Finian’s Oscar (151). The fact he was thrown into such deep waters first time out gives a clear indication of the regard in which he is held at Fergal O’Briens Grange Hill Farm headquarters, which promises much for the future.
Raised in trip next time out, the strapping youngster finished second to solid yardstick Ballyarthur (129) at Leicester, with the pair pulling 21 lengths clear of their toiling field. This again rated a solid effort for one with such little experience under rules, whilst confirming the promise of his debut effort.
A faller when last sighted in February, a nice long summer break could be just what the doctor ordered, allowing Global Stage time to grow and mature before entering the fray once again this winter.
One gets the feeling that a further step up in trip could potentially be in offing, as the way he runs suggests stamina could well prove his forte over the years to come. With that in mind I’d hope he would be very competitive in the right company, and I’d be even keener if the scopey gelding was sent over fences this autumn as he’d certainly be one to take a price about in a 2m4+ novice handicap chase.
MR MCGO 6-y-o b g
Touch Of Land (FR) – La Principal (IRE)
TRAINER: Donald McCain
OFFICIAL HURDLE RATING: 135
OPTIMUM CONDITIONS: 2m – 2m4f Sft – Hy
I’m sure I’m not the only racing enthusiast who would love to see Donald McCain unearth another Grade 1 performer after a top level lean spell following the retirements of former fan favourites Cinders’s And Ashes, Overturn and Peddlers Cross.
Whilst I wouldn’t be bold enough to suggest that Mr Mcgo can fill that particular void, I do think the youngster, who kept smart company last term, could pick up a few races in the North before heading down south should the opportunity arise.
Twice a winner on ground with plenty of give last term, McCain’s charge finished seventh in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham on his penultimate start, before closing out his season with a ninth place finish in open handicap company at Aintree – however it should be noted that Mr Mcgo shaped far better than his final placing suggested, having travelled into the race well under Will Kennedy before his stamina appeared to ebb away over the extended 3 mile trip.
A mark of 135 could look exploitable in a novice handicap chase in the early exchanges of the season, particularly in the north. But beyond that, wouldn’t it be fantastic if Mr Mcgo could deliver Donald McCain another much deserved graded success at some stage this winter.
REPORT TO BASE 5-y-o b g
Westerner (GB) – Marina Du Berlais (FR)
Trainer: Evan Williams
Official Hurdle Rating: 136
Optimum Conditions: 2m – 2m4f GS – Hy
Winner of his sole start between the flags, beating the aforementioned Brave Eagle at Dromahane in April 2016, Evan Williams acquired the promising son of Westerner on behalf of prominent owners Mr and Mrs William Rucker. And gladly for all involved, Report To Base made the perfect start to his career under rules scoring in smooth fashion in a novice hurdle at Uttoxeter in November.
Sent to Bangor for his second foray over timber, the strapping youngster faced the unenviable task of conceding both a penalty and mares allowance to Aintree Grade 2 mares’ bumper victor Kayf Grace over 2m149y. Report For Base ran a fine race in defeat, the deficit just 2-and-a-half lengths at the line. Unfortunately Nicky Henderson’s talented mare failed to make it back to the racetrack last term and therefore it’s impossible to be 100% sure what the form of the race is worth. But when you consider her previous exploits and the fact that Evan Williams’ charge had to concede a full stone to his rival, it was clearly a very smart effort.
Second to Coo Star Sivola (140) at Cheltenham on New Years Day, the aforementioned Poetic Rhythm (130), subsequent Grade 1 winner Pingshou (152) and the well thought of Sumkingofking (129) were third, fourth and fifth respectively, giving the form a very solid look.
Fifth behind the hugely talented The Worlds End in the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle on his final start of the campaign, Report To Base travelled keenly before tiring on his first attempt over 3 miles. However he was by no means disgraced, and looks another youngster who could improve tenfold for another summer at grass.
Chasing will undoubtedly be his game over the years to come, and he’s another who would look well treated in a novice handicap chase should connections elect to head straight down that route. He’s definitely one to follow.
‘UNDER THE RADAR’ NOVICE HURDLE PROSPECTS
OUTOFTHISWORLD 4-y-o b/br m
Shantou (USA) – Mystic Masie (IRE)
TRAINER: Harry Fry
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.
RAVENHILL ROAD 6-y-o ch g
Exit To Nowhere (USA) – Zaffarella (IRE)
TRAINER: Brian Ellison
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.
RUN TO MILAN 5-y-o b g
Milan (GB) – Run Supreme (IRE)
TRAINER: Victor Dartnall
Perhaps one of the darker prospects on this list, Run To Milan made a successful debut at Wincanton last December before later being disqualified after triamcinolone acetonide (a substance which may be legitimately used in horses in training but is a Prohibited Substance on raceday, pursuant to Rule (G)16, in breach of Rule (G)2.1 of the Rules of Racing) was found in the gelding’s post race urine sample.
The son of Milan wasn’t seen again until lining up in Grade 2 company at Aintree in a contest won by Richard Woollcott’s smart prospect Lalor, who incidentally had been promoted to first place at Wincanton following Run To Milan’s disqualification. However the 5-year-old was unable to land a blow at the Liverpool track, weakening in the final furlong and eventually coming home twelfth.
It’s entirely possible that Run To Milan didn’t enjoy the quicker underfoot conditions at Aintree in April, having appeared to relish the softer ground he encountered at Wincanton on Boxing Day. With that in mind, Victor Dartnall’s charge is certainly one to look out for in soft ground novice hurdles this winter.
SAM BROWN 5-y-o b g
Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Cream Cracker (GB)
TRAINER: Anthony Honeyball
Perhaps a name that snuck under the radar last term, Sam Brown claimed the scalp of the aforementioned Grade 2 scorer Lalor at Wincanton in February before following up at Newbury in May, where the well put together 5-year-old shouldered a penalty for his earlier success and toughed it out in pleasing fashion inside the final furlong of the contest.
Yet to encounter a sound racing surface, it’s impossible to say whether soft ground is a requisite for this above average son of Black Sam Bellamy. However given the ‘summer’ we’ve experienced thus far, that probably won’t be an issue any time soon.
Anthony Honeyball is renowned for doing well with his bumper horses, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the youngster attempt to shoulder a double penalty before embarking on a career of timber this term.
Sam Brown may prove to be just below graded class in time, however there are certainly races to be won with him this winter.
THE BIG BITE 4-y-o b g
Scorpion (IRE) – Thanks Noel (IRE)
TRAINER: Tom Lacey
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.
I hope you enjoyed the read and have picked out a few there to follow in the coming months.
My thanks to Stu for the above.