With Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting upon us, I have decided to do a couple of Ten to Follow lists which I hope cover most areas in Jump Racing. Included are a few horses that could potentially be underrated going into the season, plus some obvious key contenders for the top races at the Cheltenham Festival. This first piece focuses on ten British contenders that are worth keeping an eye on with the ten Irish contenders published next week. Irish 10 to follow now published. JP
At Fishers Cross – Rebecca Curtis
If there is a horse that could take on Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle then this horse comes out top of the list. He went the whole of last season unbeaten progressing to be the top staying novice hurdler in the UK with his two Grade One successes at Cheltenham and Aintree. The latter being his most impressive on quicker ground that connections feared he wouldn’t handle. Whether he returns at Wetherby on Charlie Hall day or at Newbury on Hennessy day, he is one to be very excited about. However, having seen Big Buck’s in the flesh recently, he will have to improve even further from his novice season but I’m confident he will.
Close Touch – Nicky Henderson
Whilst Nicky Henderson has plenty of novice chasers to go to battle with this season, this is one that wouldn’t be on the top of most people’s lists with the likes of Oscar Whiskey and Chatterbox coming out of the same stable. Owned by the Queen, he has strong form with another horse that I rate highly in African Gold, when second to him at Doncaster. The decision to miss the big festivals will be of benefit to this son of Generous. He ended his season on a high with a dominant display in the Grade Three novice handicap hurdle on Imperial Cup day where he beat Many Clouds by twelve lengths. He is the type of horse that I see sticking to 2m4f this season, where I can see the Grade Two novice at the Newbury Hennessy meeting being an early target before a possible trip to the Jewson, although Henderson would want to keep him apart from Oscar Whiskey.
Diamond King – Donald McCain
This son of King’s Theatre remains unbeaten after two facile successes in bumpers at Wetherby and Bangor with a combined distance of 35 lengths. Although the horses he beat look average at best, he couldn’t have done it any easier on both starts. He looks to be one of the leading novice hurdle contenders at around 2m4f and will take a lot of beating in novice hurdles up north. He could be the type for the Neptune come March time.
Grand Vision – Colin Tizzard
A horse that missed the whole of last season through injury, he had a successful novice hurdle campaign the season before with his final two runs being the most significant. The first one being in a Pertemps qualifier which he won in great fashion from Sa Suffit, but what made that win all the more impressive was the fact that four others came out of the race and won at the Festival. He was sent off at 25/1 in the Albert Bartlett where he ran the race of his life to finish third behind Brindisi Breeze and Boston Bob. If the horse has recovered 100% from his injury, then a novice chase campaign would probably be the plan. He could turn into a lively RSA Chase outsider or end up in the National Hunt Chase.
Keltus – Paul Nicholls
Although he has had only one run under British rules, he won comfortably in a juvenile hurdle at Chepstow and should have plenty of improvement still in him. Whether he can become a Triumph horse remains to be seen, but he was fluent and accurate enough on his debut, plus he handled the inclines of Chepstow well enough to suggest Cheltenham won’t be a problem for him. He could go back to Chepstow over Christmas for the Grade One juvenile.
Module – Tom George
A second season chaser that definitely looks open to plenty of improvement. His novice chase campaign got off to a bad start when he took an uncharacteristic fall at Exeter when travelling strongly, but he set the record straight with a win at Newbury beating Colour Squadron before going on to a facile success at Leicester. Pitched in against the likes of Dynaste and Captain Conan in the Jewson, he ran a fantastic race to be fourth having been outpaced. This horse looks the type for an early season big handicap like the Paddy Power Gold Cup and longer term he could potentially develop into a Ryanair horse.
Potters Cross – Rebecca Curtis
Whilst racking my brains to try and find a couple to put in this that are potentially under the radar or will improve for the future, this horse stuck out like a sore thumb. I was at Chepstow when he made his hurdles debut and was taken immediately by his size and scope in the paddock. A point to point winner, throughout the race last Saturday, he jumped most of the hurdles as if they were fences. He looked the likely winner at one stage before two costly errors late on scuppered his chances and already looked to want at least three miles over hurdles. He will be one who will stay further in time over fences as well and should pick up some long distance novice hurdle prizes this season.
Real Milan – Donald McCain
I always like to take a long term view and look out for potential Grand National horses and being trained by none other than Donald McCain, this horse could fit the bill. Having won two novice chases on desperate ground at Carlisle and Ayr, he stepped up in grade for the Reynoldstown at Ascot where he sadly made an awful mistake and was lucky to stay on his feet. He then went on to Cheltenham where he ran much better than the end result suggested in the RSA Chase, as he was right there turning into the straight before he stopped very quickly. This was due to a problem with his wind which has been rectified over the summer. Although I mentioned Aintree’s greatest steeplechase, I feel he’s on an attractive mark on 132 for some big staying handicaps earlier on in the season so he will be one to watch out for.
Tiger Cliff – Alan King
It’s always nice to see a classy Flat horse go over hurdles and this one could potentially be very smart over obstacles. Swapping from the yard of Lady Cecil to Alan King, the Henry Ponsonby owned gelding has had a highly successful year which includes a win in one of Europe’s biggest handicap, the Ebor. He looks to have scope to be able to jump a hurdle with the Supreme Novice Hurdle probably being the big target this season, although I wouldn’t be surprised if something like the Totesport Trophy at Newbury crossed the minds of connections.
Unioniste – Paul Nicholls
The final horse on my ten to follow list is one that will divide opinions. Trained by Paul Nicholls, this five year old grey achieved the rarity of winning one of Cheltenham’s biggest handicap chases at the age of four in convincing style beating Walkon. Although he got the weight advantage and was carrying 9-9, he couldn’t have won more impressively. He then stepped up to three miles at Newbury where he only just beat Hadrian’s Approach before being disappointing behind Lord Windermere in the RSA Chase. However, he was only beaten nine lengths and was over the top having not had a break when coming over from France. Having had a summer to develop and strengthen up, Nicholls could have plenty of fun with him this season with plenty of options whether in staying handicap chases or in Graded company.
What do you make of Adam’s British 10 to Follow? Let us know in the Comments below or tweet @JPFestival. Thanks. JP
Irish 10 to follow now published. JP