What follows is a guest post from Paul Ferguson, who highlights five novice chasers to keep an eye on, taken from his excellent Jumpers To Follow 2019/20 publication. My thanks to Paul, who as ever has provided plenty of useful information for us to absorb. Over to Paul >>>
Racing To Profit – Novice Chasers To Follow 2019-20
Given that Josh likes to focus on chasers he’s asked me to nominate a quintet of less-exposed horses who I believe could improve for being sent chasing, and who could be worth keeping tabs on this season and beyond…
BOLD PLAN (Evan Williams) BHA Rating 132
A heavy-ground Irish Points winner, Bold Plan kept good company over hurdles last term and although he only won once from four starts, marked himself down as the type who could improve once sent chasing.
The Jeremy five-year-old made the most of the 7lbs he received from subsequent Dovecote winner, Southfield Stone, when winning at Taunton, after which he finished a sound second, on his handicap debut at Uttoxeter. A smooth traveller, jumping appears to be his forte (also jumped really well when beating New Age Dawning in his maiden Point) and although he is likely to start off over 2m4f, he should appreciate going up in distance.
FINAWN BAWN (Olly Murphy) BHA Rating 133
Olly Murphy has an enviable bunch of young horses to go to war with this season, as he continues his inevitable ascendancy towards the top of the training ranks. Last season’s high-class novice hurdlers Brewin’upastorm (a particular favourite of mine) and Thomas Darby are set to head a strong-looking novice chase team at Warren Chase, where Finawn Bawn is a less-exposed stayer, who also has the scope to do well over fences.
A bumper winner at Ayr in May of last year, the Robin des Champs six-year-old won twice from four starts over hurdles and finished third in the Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick. He appeals as the type to improve for going 3m this season and soft ground could also help, as he looks to be crying out for a stiffer test of stamina.
FONTSANTA (Emma Lavelle) BHA Rating 134
A winner at the third time of asking over hurdles at Hereford in March, Emma Lavelle and Barry Fenton have been very patient with Fontsanta and that patience was rewarded when he ran out a very easy 11-length winner. Keen in his bumpers the season before (wore a hood on both occasions), the Flemensfirth six-year-old was an eye-catcher at Newbury on his hurdles debut and then finished fifth in a competitive maiden at Chepstow. Given his physique, he looks another who should improve for going chasing.
Stable-mate Down The Highway (officially rated 2lbs lower) also deserves a mention, as he is likely to follow a similar path. Again, given his physique, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he were to step forward now he is sent chasing.
MINELLA BOBO (Rebecca Curtis) BHA Rating 126
Rebecca Curtis looks to have plenty to look forward to this season, with Lisnagar Oscar one who she will, no doubt, hope will fly the flag in Graded novice chase company for the stable. However, the horse I am most looking forward to from her yard is Minella Bobo, who actually finished one place in front of Fontsanta, in that aforementioned maiden hurdle at Chepstow. The grey – who had beaten Fergal O’Brien’s Liosduin Bhearna (second in the same Chepstow maiden before winning two handicap hurdles) in an Irish Point – had earlier caught the eye with how he moved in a Newbury bumper, and he got off the mark in a weak event at Stratford in mid-April. The six-year-old Oscar gelding looks potentially well handicapped and should certainly be capable of winning a novices’ handicap chase in the early part of the season.
MOONLIGHTER (Jane Williams) BHA Rating 133
The final one to make the list is Moonlighter, who has been off the track since disappointing at Ascot in January, but will return as a novice chaser in the coming weeks, and is yet another who very much has the look of a horse who could flourish over fences.
A six-year-old by Midnight Legend, Moonlighter had earlier won on his second start over hurdles, when jumping really well to score at Ascot. There is a lovely photo of him on page 6 of this year’s Jumpers To Follow actually (apologies for the blatant plug) which highlights the shape he made over hurdles and strongly hints at him making his mark as a chaser. On his third start last season, he was a faller when in the process of running a sound race in a competitive novice hurdle at Newbury (in which Fontsanta finished fifth) and the race wasn’t run to suit at Ascot last time. Not short of speed, I would expect him to start off over intermediate trips, but being a half-brother to Horatio Hornblower, he is bred to get further in time.