This week, Seymour Biz takes a look at the hurdlers likely to dominate, in 2018/2019. Connections of these horses will already be making plans for Cheltenham, with the world’s greatest jumps festival just a few short months away. You can find all recent UK horse racing analysis and previews from Seymour Biz in his weekly Saturday Horse Racing Tips column.
Olly Murphy’s 6-year-old hurdler finished the season off last year in fine style with two victories at Market Rasen and Carlisle. Earlier in the year he had finished second four times running, a case of forever the bridesmaid but was finally able to get in front in a novice hurdle in January. He then followed up that up in February after settling better over a further five furlongs. He looks just the sort to make a further step up in distance for his progressive trainer. Murphy had 47 wins last season and this gelding should help him to surpass that tally this time around.
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This young hurdler had a rude awakening on his first experience of a racecourse as a novice at Ascot. Looking all over the winner he smashed into the last when two lengths clear. After that assignment he was sent out highly fancied for his next race at Sandown but could only finish second. His trainer, Gary Moore, must have considered he still had plenty of potential as he was then sent to Aintree for a Grade 1 hurdle but his inexperience was there for all to see and he put in a laboured performance to finish sixth. Moore has had all summer to work on him and brush up his jumping and I fully expect to see him visiting the winners enclosure in high quality handicaps this winter.
From one of the country’s smaller stables came this star performer. He won his first outing at Wetherby in March last year and that was a precursor of what was to come. He started last season with wins at Wetherby and Doncaster before running into his nemesis, Summerville Boy, at Sandown in January. He then went to Newbury for the Betfair Hurdle and stayed on strongly to take the contest. The Supreme Novices was next on the agenda but he was, agonisingly for his connections, beaten a neck by Summerville Boy once again. He has reportedly strengthened up during the summer and is a likeable type, he will continue to give a good account of himself after his fine performances last season.
No list like this would be complete without a Willie Mullins horse and his top class mare is taken to have another brilliant season. A winner of all four of her races last season she will be aimed very highly again this year. Her first race for Mullins after moving from France was at Tramore where she beat her 13 rivals by a massive 15 lengths. Next at Fairyhouse she again romped home by 11 lengths to set her up for Cheltenham. The Dawn Run was her target and sent off odds on she never gave her supporters an anxious moment with a 18 lengths victory. Her final outing was at Fairyhouse in April with another 8 lengths win. The manner of her victories show she will go on to great things depending where Mullins sends her. Will she go for the mares hurdle or race in open races? Whatever is decided for her she will be a star.
This young hurdler showed his inexperience at the end of last season when falling in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival. It was perhaps a big ask for the 4-year-old trained by Alan King. After a good run into second at Fontwell on his debut over hurdles he than proceeded to win his next two starts. He was then raised in class to run in the VIctor Ludorum at Haydock but ran very keenly and blew his chance two out. Raised in class again for the Cheltenham race the pressure got to him and he only got as far as the third before coming down. King said of him “He’s done well over the summer and he’s relaxed now. I’m hoping that there’s more to come from him.”
After a poor season in 2016/2017 this 6-year-old gelding trained by Harry Fry came back with a bang in his first race in his last campaign. That was in a 2 mile 5 furlongs race at Cheltenham where he sluiced up showing he is fully able to take on longer distances. He ran below par at Newbury next time in December but came back to form when winning at Fontwell in January. He was stepped up in distance next time tackling 2m 7f for the first time and finishing third in a high class handicap at Sandown. His final race was at the Cheltenham Festival where he has excuses for a poor run after being struck into. I fully expect him to come back fit and well and he will be a force to be reckoned with over three mile handicap hurdles.
This Spanish bred 4-year-old gelding is in the care of trainer Nick Skelton and has shown great promise in his first season. On his first appearance at a racecourse in this country he ran away with a juvenile race at Market Rasen. He then followed that up with a very good second behind Apple’s Shakira at Cheltenham. Well fancied next time out at Doncaster he displayed his class winning a very good novice hurdle. He was then sent to Cheltenham for the Fred Winter which was his debut in handicap company. He probably timed his run too early as he led two out but was unable to sustain that lead up the Cheltenham hill finishing four lengths back in third. His final race of the season was a Grade 1 at Aintree where he finished a creditable fifth in top class company. If he drops back to handicaps he should be a horse to follow in the coming year.
As mainly a flat trainer I think Jedd O’Keefe was quite surprised to have such a top class hurdler on his hands. With a couple of wins as a 4-year-old he really blossomed the next year with four wins from five outings. One of those was at Haydock last November in the Stayers Hurdle he then followed that up with a victory at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle in December. And so Cheltenham beckoned in the Stayers Hurdle but he didn’t set a strong enough pace and his jumping was not at it’s best and he finished fifth. He finished his season at Aintree with a third place in the Stayers Hurdle where he ran in snatches despite being sent off favourite. I fully expect him to improve on last season in top class long distance races.
With the abundance of talent that Nicky Henderson has at Seven Barrows it is difficult to pick out which of his horses to put in a list like this. But one that seems to have gone pretty much unnoticed is this French import. After a nondescript season across the Channel where he pulled up and fell in his two chase races he has been switched back to hurdles by Henderson. On his debut for his new trainer he fairly romped home at Sandown going six lengths clear. He was raised in the handicap for that win but went back to the same course in April and repeated the feat this time by four lengths in a very competitive handicap. He certainly looks like he is destined for better things and could even develop into a Group horse at 20 to 22 furlongs.
This is Tom George’s star of the stable but he may not have thought that at the beginning of 2018. He ran three times before the new year and showed promise but failed to get his nose in front. He was runner up in his first outing at Stratford then filled the same position in a Cheltenham hurdle. He went back to Prestbury Park in December and finished third when well fancied in a hot handicap. George knew he had a special horse in his hands when he finally got his head in front at Sandown in January and he was put away in preparation for the Supreme Novices. Even though he made a complete hash of the second last he rallied well up the hill to beat Kalashnikov by a neck. George said of him “He has summered well and strengthened up nicely. He will more than likely be staying over hurdles this season.” I am sure he will be thinking Champion Hurdle.