10 Horses To Follow This National Hunt Season
Racing Editor for bettingexpert. Always searching for winners "against the crowd" and trying to find the value.
Which horses should you follow this National Hunt racing season? Today on the blog Stephen delivers 10 horses that you should keep an eye on as the 2012/2013 jumps season progresses.
With the jumps season about to get into full swing in October, we look at 10 horses to follow through the winter ahead. These are not the usual obvious big names designed to win maximum prize money, but rather some darker horses from generally smaller yards that should prove a good deal better than they have shown so far.
1- CHRISTOPHER WREN : Trainer - Nick Gifford
After the death of his legendary father Josh, few would begrudge son Nick a fantastic season in 2012/13 and this strapping gelding looks a likely type to progress in novice chases after creating quite an impression in two handicap hurdles last term. He travelled strongly on the bridle in both those races before edging ahead after the last, idling once in front, and looks just the sort to take to the larger obstacles this time round.
A couple of disappointing runs in better races from a higher mark at the back-end mask his scope for improvement, and owner J.P.McManus will be looking forward to landing a touch or two if reports of his schooling pre-season are correct. Made a disappointing reappearance when finishing tired at Newton Abbot, but will surely leave that form behind when fully wound up.
2- CLASSINAGLASS : Trainer - David Easterby
David Easterby is the least well known in the massive northern family dynasty, but he has a useful young prospect on his hands in this 5-y-o. He had some useful form between the flags before landing market confidence in style on his Bangor hunter chase debut, and was then far from disgraced in a red-hot hunter at Stratford (one paced for pressure from the Mound but shaped well).
A smooth traveller, he is always likely to need decent ground but could well progress up through the ranks in a division that is often weakly contested, especially around the Northern tracks.
3- KILMACOWEN : Trainer - Fergal O'Brien
This rookie trainer has done extremely well in his first season and is a yard to follow this time round, particularly when the cash is down. This maiden Irish pointer finished second at Lingfield in November 2011 before struggling in deep ground on his next two starts. He proved a revelation on a faster surface at Warwick in March when routing a decent field, and then shaped very well over an inadequate trip behind Attaglance at Aintree.
All three poor career runs can be excused on account of testing ground and he looks a proper chasing type if his shrewd connections opt for that route, with a decent test at three miles sure to prove his optimum.
4- RIVAL D'ESTRUVAL : Trainer - Pauline Robson
Still only a 7-y-o this progressive type has been a real standard bearer for the up-and-coming Pauline Robson stable. He showed that his future laid over the larger obstacles when finishing a creditable 14l second in a Grade 2 chase at the end of the season last term, and looks set to run up a sequence if campaigned more realistically this time round.
A very smooth traveller, with plenty of scope over a fence, he gets on particularly well with the quiet riding style of Timmy Murphy and could be one to land a decent handicap as he gains experience.
5- HEEZ A CRACKER : Trainer - Emma Lavelle
This half brother to the high-class Crack Away Jack has been very lightly raced to date with just eight career starts and has shown his best form only on a couple of occasions. However, he could be just the type to excel when going over the larger obstacles and is very much one to follow (especially when strong in the market as usual with all runners from this astute stable).
His win at Huntingdon last January was a useful effort upped in trip, and a further step up to three miles or further looks sure to suit this time round.
6- DIGGERS MATE : Trainer - Bob Buckler
A half brother to the yard's high-class triple bumper winner Mizzurka and connections' 2m 6f hurdle/3m-3m 5f chase winner Double Dizzy made his debut outing in a Listed bumper at Newbury in February, sent off an unfancied 66/1 chance but outrunning those odds in eyecatching fashion under a "considerate" ride. He raced at the rear of the field and was bustled along from over a half mile out, beginning to get the idea from the top of the straight and making steady progress throughout the final two furlongs to eventually finish in sixth behind Shutthefrontdoor.
However, he was unable to build on that debut run successfully when contesting a good bumper at Chepstow a month later, racing up with the pace from the outset but failing to pick as expected and fading out of contention from the two furlong pole. He shaped a lot better than the bare result, going very well for a long way until appearing to lack the pace to hold his position once things began to develop.
His run-style and pedigree points to him coming into his own once granted a stiff test of stamina over obstacles, showing more than enough in two outings last term to suggest there is plenty to work on and another summer on his back will also have done him the power of good.
7- PENDRA : Trainer - Charlie Longsdon
The Longsden yard was one of the major success tales of last season, with a superb strike rate maintained from start to finish and he looks a trainer destined to press the likes of Nicholls, Henderson and Pipe in the coming months.
This well-regarded gelding made his one and only outing to date came in a bumper at Huntingdon back in mid-March, sent off a well-backed 9/4f and giving supporters no worry at all as he cruised home in the style of a high class prospect. He raced towards the rear of the field early until moving closer at the halfway stage, tracking the leaders and going best of all with over half a mile left to run, short of room briefly passing the two furlong marker but forging clear approaching the final furlong to run out a clear-cut 8 length winner from Beckhani.
It probably wasn't the strongest of bumper races contested last season but he is bred to be useful over obstacles and ought to prove more than capable of making an impact in novice hurdles this term.
8- MELODIC RENDEZVOUS : Trainer - Jeremy Scott
Another stable that punters have correctly latched onto is the Jeremy Scott yard, and this 6-y-o looks one to watch when switched to hurdles this season. A few of the bigger named stables had well touted runners when he made his debut at Chepstow in March, but they could not get close as he revelled in the deep ground to land some market confidence.
He then stepped up massively in class when sent over for the Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown where he finished a leg-weary second to Champagne Fever. Stamina is likely to be his strong suit when sent hurdling this time round, but he should be able to build up a winning sequence before upped in class and targetted at the festivals in 2012. A very exciting prospect.
9- PUFFIN BILLY : Trainer - Oliver Sherwood
A costly €48,000 purchase last year for this small yard, he made his debut in an extended 2m 2f bumper at Fontwell back in March, coming in for inspired sustained support in the market throughout the day to end up a solid 9/4 chance. He proved very free and keen under restraint at the rear of the field, but travelled strongly throughout, moving closer with over half a mile left to run and making smooth headway before leading on the bit over two furlongs out and drawing clear in effortless fashion.
The runner-up, fourth (by 21 lengths in a novice hurdle) and fifth have all won since to give the form a very good look and he is a smart prospect for novice hurdles this term.
10- THREE OLD AMIGOS : Trainer - Victor Dartnall
The Dartnall yard enjoyed a very good 2011-12 and are a force to be reckoned with this season. This gelding made his debut back in May in a bumper at Exeter, for which he was sent off an unfancied 16/1 chance beforehand. He raced in midfield until pushed along to make headway with around half a mile left to run, taking up the running over two furlongs out but looking near enough clueless off the bridle out in front, challenged inside the final furlong by eventual runner-up Atlantic Roller but staying on well to score by a length.
It was to this gelding's credit that he was able to make a winning debut at all, shaping as though finding 2m on debut an inadequate test of stamina and also displaying obvious signs of greenness before pleasingly finding plenty to hold off a more experienced rival.
This son of Karinga Bay's future surely lies in novice hurdles over 2m 4f+ and it will be interesting to see which route his shrewd connections pursue (very much a scopey chasing sort).
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