You can almost sense the collective sigh of relief.
The stag and hen dos are nursing their hangovers after a long summer of hedonistic partying from York down to Ascot in what was undoubtedly a gloriously sun soaked flat season. In my home town of Thirsk, the sunburnt faces of inebriated happy racegoers has been a regular feature of recent summer Saturdays and it’s been a great boon for the town.
However for the genuine hardened racing fan it’s possibly a different perspective and the summer action has in recent years increasingly witnessed social scenes that haven’t reflected the true passion and heart of what is a fabulous sport. Thankfully tracks like Ascot have acted on this and introduced some more stringent door policies to keep those away who would tarnish the image of an industry we love so much. But this is a debate for another day.
Now it’s time to celebrate. The arguably superior action of winter has arrived: the jumps! The equine sport for hard-core genuine lovers of the British horse racing game where things are a little more dark, misty and muddy. And that’s how we like it. From Perth down to Newton Abbot, punters will brave the elements to witness the National Hunt season as it enthrals us through the autumn and winters months before reaching its sheer eruption in March for The Cheltenham Festival where the champions are truly judged.
Therefore to give you the punter that crucial edge, I have assessed some of the key trainers’ potential stars in the making and compiled a five jumpers to follow for the season.
An appropriate way to start would be to take a look at the trainer who, incredibly, in his 40th year with a training license holds possibly all the aces for the three championship markets. Let’s head to Seven Barrows..
NICKY HENDERSON: TERREFORT
An enviable position in be in you might say. But to saddle the three favourites for the main championship races for next March’s Cheltenham Festival is no doubt also a lot of pressure to handle for champion trainer Nicky Henderson. Buveur D’Air, Altior and Might Bite are all set for targeted campaigns to land The Champion Hurdle, The Champion Chase and The Gold Cup with possibly the latter the most desired after Might Bite came out second best to Native River in last season’s Blue Riband blockbuster.
However, it’s not all about these three. Henderson’s team have assembled yet another wealth of talent that will take some beating to stop Seven Barrows from retaining their champions title.
One I have picked out is a stayer called Terrefort who really developed as a novice last season. He looks set for a tilt at The Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at the end of November where he is currently the 10/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power, Boylesports) favourite in the ante post lists.
He registered two Grade One victories last season and despite the reports that he doesn’t work well at home, he looks the type that may develop into a smart chaser to compete at the highest level.
COLIN TIZZARD: WHITE MOON
The main focus for the Wimborne based outfit will of course be the double pronged attack for the £1 million bonus “triple crown” through winning The Betfair Chase, The King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and The Cheltenham Gold Cup. Native River the current Gold Cup champion and the relatively under achieving Thistlecrack lead this ambitious objective. Thistlecrack has been besieged with injury since his 2016 King George triumph but the signals coming from Venn Farm are extremely positive. Game on.
However, I quite like the look of White Moon who started well last season with a couple of eye-catching novice hurdle wins at Wincanton and Exeter before disappointing at Sandown. He will be switched to chasing for this season and may be worth latching onto for novice chases around 2 ½ to 3 miles. Interesting contender.
PAUL NICHOLLS: MASTER TOMMYTUCKER
Fans of the Ditcheat trainer have been yearning for another Denman, Kauto Star or Silviniaco Conti for several seasons now and whilst Paul Nicholls admits that the wealth of Grade One winners have been thin on the ground, he is confident of his collection of young and up and coming hurdlers and chasers. Politologue who ran a blinder in last season’s Champion Chase leads the stable into the new season and the plan is to test his staying credentials by running him in the Betfair Chase later this month.
But the talk in the yard and in the press is all about Master Tommytucker. He’s fairly inexperienced but unbeaten over hurdles. However, his scope and frame suggests he is a considerable chaser in the making so with inexperience in mind, Paul Nicholls has reportedly recommended starting him over hurdles and graduate to the bigger obstacles later in the season. He ran a decent enough race when falling at Chepstow in a novice chase a couple of weeks ago so his next outing will be interesting to see how much that had an effect on him. Will possibly revert to hurdles.
WILLIE MULLINS: BELLSHILL
The County Carlow maestro was recently added to the Cheltenham Hall of Fame at HQ and deservedly so. The combination of himself and flamboyant owner Rich Ricci should be at the heart of The Festival next March per usual with the likes of the rejuvenated Faugheen campaigning for the World Hurdle and Douvan possibly extending distance.
Footpad was undoubtedly the star of the yard last season and the trainer is characteristically keeping his options open regarding his Arkle winner with The Cheltenham Gold Cup a potential long term target.
I have selected Bellshill for this season as it looks like The Punchestown Gold Cup winner will be primed for a busier campaign with the top chases in mind, culminating with a shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.
GORDON ELLIOTT: VISION D’HONNEUR
It’s a little known fact that last year’s “King of Cheltenham” Gordon Elliott is a huge fan of the Australian soap opera, Home & Away and will not receive any communication between 1330 and 1400 on weekdays. It also looks like the County Meath trainer is set to win plenty of races at home in Ireland and here in the UK with another great team assembled to pinpoint the top championship races in March.
Samcro of course is the star of the stable although the ante post markets for The Champion Hurdle were sent into turmoil after his shock defeat in a Grade 2 hurdle at Down Royal last weekend. No doubt he will come on for that run however.
Elliott also has an exciting bunch of youngsters coming through after a busy summer at the sales. I’ve picked out Vision D’Honneur as a progressive novice hurdler who has won a French bumper. Gordon Elliott has described him as an exciting prospect for the coming season.
Good luck with the new National Hunt season!
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (00:00 6th November 2018) and are subject to change.