The leaves on the trees are browning and that means it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2018/2019 jumps campaign. Seymour Biz has been charged with picking out the horses we need to keep an eye on and this week he runs the rule over the novices you will soon be hearing about, as the long road to Cheltenham gets underway.
This gelding is trained by Olly Murphy who has had a great first season saddling 47 winners after stepping out from under Gordon Elliot’s wing. This horse will surely add to his tally after showing a good turn of foot in his two bumpers last season. First time out he romped home on soft ground at Hereford winning an amateur race by 9 lengths. Next time out he ran in heavy ground at Newbury in a Listed bumper but could manage only fourth in the conditions as he failed to see out the trip. Murphy said of his charge “He has very good bumper form and has summered well. He could turn out to be a very smart novice hurdler”
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Paul Nicholls’s yard is chock full of promising novices not least the very highly rated My Way. But this 5-year old gelding can prove to be just as good given the good ground he needs to shine. His debut was originally delayed when he was withdrawn at Newbury due to the soft going. But he got the going he required next time in a Kempton bumper and he fully justified favouritism winning by two lengths. He then went to Aintree and ran very disappointingly in a Grade 2 bumper but he can be forgiven that run due to the soft going that day. Nichols states “he has done plenty of jumping at home” and given the ground he requires a promising season is in the offing.
Running in the colours of J.P. McManus and trained by Nick Gifford this long striding chestnut gelding certainly had a good start to his career last year. He started by winning a bumper on the all-weather at Lingfield where he thrashed the field winning by 10 lengths. He then moved on to a Listed race at Ascot and again toyed with a very good field and came home by almost 3 lengths. The only challenge for him next was the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham but after racing prominently he found the soft ground against him and he finished down the field. Gifford said “The way he gallops he will want a trip “. Expect to see him on good ground over 2 1/2 to 3 miles.
Philip Hobbs had a lousy season last year due to a virus in the yard. What that means is we have not seen the best of his horses as we move into a new season. Stable jockey, Richard Johnson said “ It’s exciting knowing there are horses we haven’t seen the best of”. And one of those could well be Lord Duneen who ran twice over hurdles last year. First he ran fifth in a hot race at Exeter behind a couple of subsequent Grade 1 winners. After a break he went to Kempton for another novice hurdle. He ran a bit green that day but showed he understands what is required of him and was only just run out of it in a sprint for the line. He should improve after those experiences and from his breeding a step up in trip is also within the realm of possibilities.
Nicky Henderson has a wealth of fine young novices in his yard and picking one out makes for a difficult choice. But I do like the look of this 4-year-old gelding. On his debut in a Kempton bumper over 2 miles on St Patrick’s Day he quickened up well and won going away. The following month he went to Aintree and was well backed to follow up after his previous victory. But the Group contest proved too much for the gelding at this stage of his career and he finished down the field. Henderson said “He has grown considerably during the summer and has a bright future over hurdles “. He is expected to be aimed high and stepping up in trip should not prove a problem.
Dan Skelton’s 5-year-old gelding had an interesting start to his career last season having three runs over hurdles. He started as at Newbury in a two mile novice hurdle running encouragingly but green and finished fifth. He returned to the same course for an introductory hurdle next time out and looked like he was getting the hang of things finishing third on this occasion. The following month in January he was sent over a further three furlongs at Doncaster and ran much more like the finished article. After being held up he kept on well to again finish third but this was much improved form and it looks as though he could take on longer distances. He is due to run at Aintree at the end of October over two and a half miles which is his optimum trip.
Harry Fry has a embarrassment of riches in his stable this season with his novices including Bullionaire and Caribert and I have the feeling that Samarquand has been slightly overlooked. He only made one appearance on a racecourse last season and that was at Wincanton at the end of April. Possibly Fry was waiting for good ground for his talented gelding who burst clear of the rest of the field two furlongs out along with Bold Plan. Samarquand prevailed by a neck that day and with the turn of foot he showed he should go on to better things in two mile novice hurdles.
This 5-year-old gelding is very highly thought of by trainer Tom George. He won really well on his debut in a two mile Musselburgh bumper in February easily seeing off his rivals that day. So much so George considered he was ready for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. He ran widest of all that day and had no cover but he was up with the pace and only faded over the last 300 yards and finished 12th. His trainer said “He won his bumper at Musselburgh in good style and ran better than his finishing position suggested in the Champion Bumper. He should be an exciting novice hurdler to look forward to”. I agree with that and once he learns to settle he will be winning races for his connections.
TIME TO MOVE ON
Fergal O’Brien’s star novice is a very top class horse in making. His first run was at Exeter in December where he was up against a hot favourite in Caribert who was expected to win easily. But he upset Harry Fry’s charge when he sluiced through the field to win by ten lengths. He came back to the same course in February and carrying a four pound penalty over the same distance he again dispensed with his rivals. On both occasions the going was heavy so it looks like he relishes bottomless ground. Fergal O’Brien said of him “He is a three mile chaser in the making”, but prior to that I am sure we will see him winning races over hurdles at up to three miles. He is definitely a horse with the potential to go on to great things.
This filly is trained by Henry Daly in Ludlow and she has only had one run under rules in her life. That was 2 mile bumper at Bangor in May. She went off at a huge price (40/1) that day and was held up in midfield to get her used to the pace. She went fourth a furlong out then had a light switch turned on and realising what was required she ran on well and was closing on the winner at the finish. The winner was her highly regarded stablemate, Kalifornia, who was only a length in front of her at the line with the pair almost four lengths clear of the field. It is said she has summered well and Daly stated “she should win a bumper before progressing to novice hurdles”. She has an entry at Aintree at the end of October and that should be an interesting contest.