The National Hunt season is beginning to get into top gear now and the big guns are starting to emerge. Seeing Finian’s Oscar’s effortless victory at Chepstow really got the spine tingling. There is so much to look forward to this season from the potential of Faugheen making a much anticipated return in a bid to regain his Champion Hurdle crown, to a mouth-watering number of top class staying chasers locking horns throughout the coming months. I’ve got 10 horses to follow for the coming season that I’d like to think will be landing a fair number of prizes between them!
1. Daphne Du Clos (Nicky Henderson)
A French recruit for the Champion Trainer last season, Daphne Du Clos only just went down to Fergal O’Brien’s exciting filly Cap Soleil on yard debut before winning a Listed Bumper at Newbury in very classy fashion. She cruised into the race stylishly on the bridle before easing clear of subsequent Cheltenham Champion Bumper fifth, Western Ryder. Unfortunately she picked up an injury so that was her final start of the season. She boasts a huge amount of potential and at this point in time I very much think of her as a huge Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle contender at Cheltenham in March. (Daphne Du Clos has sadly been ruled out for the season due to injury)
2. Blow By Blow (Gordon Elliott)
Whilst with Willie Mullins, Blow By Blow was the winner of three bumpers, claiming the notable scalps of Death Duty, Moon Racer and Bacardys in the process. He has since moved to Gordon Elliott’s yard but sadly wasn’t seen at all last season due to injury. In line to be a Novice Hurdler this season, I think he could another right out of the top drawer for owners Gigginstown. I can see him taking some big races this winter and I would think the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle or the Albert Bartlett are on the agenda.
3. Champ (Nicky Henderson)
A horse that I’m excited about this season is Nicky Henderson’s Champ, after all you can’t name a horse that without it being high class can you?! He won is debut bumper very easily, despite pulling hard for the majority of the race. He could only manage second on his subsequent start (although he wasn’t given a hard time) behind a promising sort of Emma Lavelle’s in Irish Prophecy. Champ, by King’s Theatre is out of a half-sister to three time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate, so he is certainly bred for the job. He’ll go Novice Hurdling this season and looks one who could have a very bright future.
4. Monalee (Henry de Bromhead)
Monalee has been a model of consistency for Henry de Bromhead, only finishing outside of the top two on a single occasion which was when fourth at Punchestown on his final start of last season. Prior to that he was a Grade 3 winner that finished an excellent second in the Albert Bartlett. He’s a Point to Point winner and I think his career was always going to be over fences, so the fact he did so well last year was a bonus. A Novice Chasing season awaits and I’m a huge fan of this tough and genuine horse, the RSA beckons.
5. Topofthegame (Paul Nicholls)
He’s a lightly raced sort for Paul Nicholls, having had just the 3 starts under rules and gaining one victory. Being a big, scopey type, chasing was always going to be the name of the game and his trainer has indicated that the son of Flemensfirth will be going Novice Chasing over 2½ miles plus this season. He was good over hurdles, being rated 139 and finished a solid fourth in a Grade 2, but I expect his career to lift off in the coming campaign. In his Point to Point win, he beat the very useful No Hassle Hoff by an easy 9-lengths and he’s one that I’m very much looking forward to as Nicholls tries to regain his Champion Trainer title.
6. If The Cap Fits (Harry Fry)
Harry Fry is developing quite a reputation and has some very promising horses in his care at present. This dual bumper winner could hardly have been more impressive on his hurdles debut at the start of October, jumping very well and drawing effortlessly clear after the final flight. I can see him climbing the ladder readily this season whilst picking up a few nice prizes along the way. He looks to have a decent engine and should be good between 2 and 2½ miles.
7. The Storyteller (Gordon Elliott)
He was going to be one of my best bets for the Cheltenham Festival last season in the Martin Pipe, but sadly he suffered an injury which ruled him out of it. He has got better and better the more he’s raced, his second to Monalee at Punchestown reads well with Turcagua and Call The Taxie in behind. He went on to win his next couple of starts by 9-lengths each, disposing of the useful Battleford in the latter contest. Still very lightly raced, I can see him progressing more this season and winning his fair share of races.
8. Waiting Patiently (Malcolm Jefferson)
Unbeaten over fences, this Grade 2 winner could be set for a huge season. He got the better of Politologue on his final start by 1¼ lengths, but was value for more than that in my opinion. That looks a very strong piece of form as if the latter hadn’t of fallen at the final fence at Aintree back in April, he may well be a Grade 1 winner. Waiting Patiently has been seen to best effect on soft ground so when he gets his conditions, he should be competing in some of the top races this season.
9. William Henry (Nicky Henderson)
To say the Champion Trainer has a few nice types at the moment is an understatement, I think William Henry is one of many that will be making their mark from Seven Barrows this coming winter. The seven year old has just the seven races under belt, which means there could still be plenty more improvement to come. He’s won four times, all of which were comfortable and he boasts extremely solid seconds behind Grade 1 winner Pingshou and Grade 1 placed Wholestone. Novice Chasing is on the agenda for William Henry this season and with his trainer thinking a lot of him, he should be more than playing his part in some of the big races.
10. Robin Roe (Dan Skelton)
Sent off the 7/4 favourite for the Challow Hurdle on New Years Eve, Robin Roe suffered a nasty fall when making smooth progress and that unfortunately ruled him out for the rest of the season. But to my understanding he’s back in light exercise and this extremely lightly raced son of Robin Des Champs could well be out of the top drawer. On hurdles debut he beat No Comment in handsome style who has since franked the form on multiple occasions. Robin Roe is in great hands and if feeling no ill effects from his knee injury, will be picking up many a pot for his young trainer.