The 2019/2020 National Hunt campaign is now underway and of course we are already looking forward to the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival. Seymour Biz has picked out 12 outstanding-looking horses to follow and he begins with a hot prospect for the RSA. Expect big performances from these coveted animals, over the Winter.
This 5-year-old trained by Ben Pauling started his season last year with two victories at Newbury and Leicester in Class 3 races. In his next run out at Haydock in a Supreme Novices trial, he led until two out but eventually went down to the very smart Mister Fisher by two and a half lengths. That was a performance of some class and it persuaded connections to go for the Ballymore at Cheltenham and swerve the Supreme. This was the first time the gelding had tackled further than 2 miles and an extra 5 furlongs was some challenge. Different tactics were used and he was held up to make good headway from four out to finish third behind City Island and Champ. He finished in front of some classy horses that day and will have learnt from the experience, he will take longer distances in his stride and will move on to novice chasing. I expect him to be back at Cheltenham in March for a tilt at the RSA.
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This 7-year -old only came to Willie Mullins’s yard at the end of 2016 after a career in France. Mullins has been patient with him as he did not run until March this year at Naas in a Beginners Chase, where as an odds-on favourite he made all and romped home by 31 lengths. After that facile victory he was sent to Punchestown for the Ryanair Novices Chase taking on the fine Defi Du Seuil. He gave Phillip Hobbs’s gelding a four and a quarter length beating with the rest of the field out with the washing. This horse has everything in front of him and after his Punchestown victory Mullins said “We think he’s a star and that if he’s as good as we think he is, God knows what would happen”. This is a special horse and could well be aimed at the Queen Mother Chase come March.
This gelding started last season by winning two out of his first three races but they were pretty ordinary affairs at Plumpton and Exeter however he did win those races convincingly. These victories prompted trainer Paul Nicholls to move him up to Class1 company and he was entered into the Challow Hurdle at Newbury and only went down by two and a half lengths to Champ. From here he ran a fair fourth at Ascot over a distance that didn’t suit and was then well beaten at Kelso when odds-on favourite. As the weather changed in April and he got the good ground he relishes he went back to Scotland to run at Ayr in a Series Qualifier and romped home by 6 lengths. From here he went to Sandown for the Novices Championship Final and got the better of an excellent field coming home almost 3 lengths clear. Nicholls has stated he does not consider the 6-year-old a Champion Hurdle horse a will instead send him novice chasing looking at him heading for the Arkle at the festival.
GET IN THE QUEUE
Trainer Harry Fry has high hopes for this 5-year-old gelding after his three wins from three runs in bumpers last season. He will be fondly remembered by jockey Noel Fehily as giving him a winner on his very last ride before retirement. The horse was a hot favourite that day at Newbury after victories at Uttoxeter and Exeter and he duly obliged by four and a half lengths giving Fehily an armchair ride on his last time in the saddle, there was not a dry eye in the house! But while Fehily exits stage left, Harry Fry thinks Get In The Queue can take centre stage as a novice hurdler and should be able to tackle distances up to 20 furlongs. He will pick up good races up to that distance during the season, but his primary target will surely be the Supreme Novices.
This 5-year-old mare is in the care of Henry De Bromhead and he has high hopes for her for the coming season. She had a faultless campaign last year winning four from four, the first three victories came at Fairyhouse and Thurles the Thurles race being a Listed contest. After these wins she was highly fancied for the Mares Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham but it was not to be. Bromhead said “she wasn’t a hundred percent so we backed off and gave the festival a miss”. Instead she went back to Fairyhouse in April for the Grade 1 Mares Novice Hurdle Final. Here she faced several mares from the Cheltenham race including the winner but she put her 15 rivals to the sword, and pretty easily as well. She is top class and may carry all before her in the mares category including the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham this year, but in the future she may also take on the geldings in chases.
Colin Tizzard’s gelding really came to the fore last season after a reasonably quiet year in 2017/2018. He was upped in distance in his first race of the campaign at Newbury, only going down to La Bague Au Roi by a length and a half. He ran into the same rival again at the same course at the end of November but blundered badly three out so losing any chance he had. Next up was the Dipper Chase on New Years Day at Cheltenham where he took up the running in the last 100yards and won going away up the hill. After a prep run at Sandown where he went down to Defi Du Seuil, it was off to Cheltenham for the JLT Novices Chase but unfortunately he ran into the same rival again. He was in the lead 200 yards out but his nemesis was the stronger up the hill and won going away. That said Tizzards charge was 7 lengths clear of the rest of the field. So he was upped in trip for his final outing of the year in the Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree where he hammered a top class field, winning by 6 lengths. After that performance Tizzard will be looking to gear Lostintranslation season towards the Gold Cup in March
Nicky Henderson’s charge was one of my horses to follow last year and I make no apology for putting him up again. The hurdler ran five times last season and began with a fine second beaten only a short head at Newbury where he raced keenly. He then came out and won two novice hurdles in quick succession at Kempton and Haydock. After these victories Henderson considered the horse good enough to take his chance in the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham but he made little impression and could finish only 8th. In his final run of the year he went back to Haydock for his first run in handicap company bu unfortunately hit the last hurdle and could finish only 7th, he would have been closer without that mistake. He is only a 5-year-old and his trainer may up him in trip, he will figure in some top class handicaps up to 2 mile 4 furlongs.
THIS 6-year-old gelding joined Nicky Henderson’s string from Lucinda Russell last November and the trainer had some fair success with him but took it easy with him in preparation for this year. He started with a novice Hurdle in January at Kempton and he stayed on well to justify favouritism and take the contest. From there he went to Sandown for another novice Hurdle and this time he really stamped his authority on the rest of the field coming home easily by 8 lengths. His final outing was at Aintree in the Top Novices Hurdle but that proved too big an ask and after hitting two out he could only trail in 6th of 7 runners. Comments have been made about him looking on the weak side and Henderson will have worked on him during the summer to build up his strength. I expect him to improve considerably during the coming season, look for him running in handicap hurdles and then he may even switch to chasing during the year
After winning two bumpers in 2017/2018 season, one of which was a Listed race, trainer Stuart Edmunds knew he had a top class mare on his hands to go to war with last season. Her first outing was at Chepstow where she raced over hurdles for the first time and it certainly showed. From four out she was all over the place, she hit the fourth last, jinked before two out, hung left between the last two and was not fluent at the last. But even after all those errors she still managed to finish second beaten only a length and a half. She then went to Haydock and was backed down to favourite, she did not let het supporters down taking the honours in a Listed race. She then fought back gamely to win at Sandown and showed she understood what was required of her. And so to Cheltenham and although her wins had been over 2m3f and 2m4f, Edmunds ran her in the Dawn Run which is only over 2m1f. The trip proved too sharp for her and she finished down the field 10 lengths behind the winner. Be prepared to see her over the bigger obstacles at up to 3 miles.
Colin Tizzard has some horse on his hands with Reserve Tank although it didn’t look that way in his first two races at the end of 2018. It was considered he made a good debut but in reality he was well beaten on both occasions. So on his appearance at Sandown in February he was not given much chance against the odds on favourite but he showed some class and put in a mistake free round to win by two and a quarter lengths. Even after that victory he was not given a hope in the Class 1 Mersey Novices Hurdle at Aintree but he outstayed his rivals and came home at 20/1. Next up was the Champion Novices Hurdle at Punchestown and again he was not highly fancied but took the spoils in a battling finish. It is reported he has had a good summer and came out early this season a Listed Novices Chase over just short of two and a half miles at Chepstow. In a three runner contest he was challenging when he hit the last and finished second. Look for him to build on that experience during the winter and go for the JLT in March.
Purchased for £175,000 as a winning 4-year-old Irish pointer he looked a disappointment in his first five outings, failing to get his head in front. However he was proving to be frustrating with four second places in that time. But trainer, Paul Nicholls, is nothing if not patient with his charges and he found an opening for him at Stratford in April where he justified favouritism and won by over 4 lengths. He then finished his season off by winning over 3 miles at Kempton in May. He began last season by winning a hurdle at Chepstow in October before beginning his chasing career in November at Wincanton then Warwick in January, but seconditis prevailed yet again and he couldn’t get his head in front. After a terrible effort at Kempton when as odds on favourite he finished last of four with no excuses, it was back to Wincanton where he thrashed Jenkins by 20 lengths. His final outing was at Ayr where he faced a top class field in the Future Champions Novices Chase, he took up the lead 5 out and came home almost four lengths clear of the rest. He will do well at up to three miles in top end handicaps.
TOP VILLE BEN
He has been a busy horse, firstly for trainer Nicky Henderson for whom he won four races out of seven starts. He moved to Philip Kirby’s yard in September 2017 and during that season he had nine outings with just the one victory in a handicap hurdle at Haydock at the end of December. Last year he was sent novice chasing by trainer Kirby and was successful at Hexham and Wetherby in his first two outings. From these victories the trainer could see he had something special on his hands and upped him in class to run in the Reynoldstown at Ascot where after being headed three out faded to finish last 16 lengths behind the winner. The RSA at the festival was his next objective but after racing prominently he unfortunately fell at the sixth. Kirby then dropped him in class and gave him a chance to recover his composure by running him in a small Wetherby novice hurdle. He went off favourite and duly obliged, so it was off to Aintree for the Mildmay Novices where against the top horses in this grade he was headed between the last two fences and just lost second in the dying strides. Look for him in long distance chases such as the Charlie Hall and the Welsh National.