If anyone with a fleeting interest in the upcoming jumps season was asked which they think would be the most talked about horses of the season, it would probably be Altior and Tiger Roll. Both are on the threshold of history as one hopes to make an impact when he makes the transition from the 2 mile to 3 mile division, whilst the other hopes to be the first horse ever to win 3 back to back Grand Nationals.
However, there are plenty of other great hopes from the high profile stables, all aiming to make an impact at the pinnacle of the season, The Cheltenham Festival in March next year.
So the 2019-2020 National Hunt season is upon us! Let us guide you through the key trainers and see which pivotal horses are most likely to make the grade. We’ll assess the chances of top British trainers Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson as well as the Irish challenge from Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. The puzzle of the ante post markets for the top races and of course The Cheltenham Festival will be analysed and we’ll point you to any good value early bets to consider.
We have chosen four trainers to concentrate on for this preview. Obviously there are other great outfits out there producing some excellent horses and we’ll take a look at horses we think will make the headlines from other stables up and down the land in our five to follow later in the season.
First off, to Somerset. The Ditcheat based trainer, Paul Nicholls, had a somewhat resurgent season last year, finding himself back in the winner’s enclosure for a handful of Grade One’s including The King George VI Chase, The RSA Chase and Ryanair Chase. It looks like another bold bid for championship glory this season.
PAUL NICHOLLS: RETURN OF THE GRADE ONE WINNERS
Paul Nicholls actually admits himself that he was pleasantly surprised by the improved performances of some of his yard stars especially the likes of Clans Des Obeaux and Frodon who memorably romped away with The King George VI Chase and Ryanair Chase respectively.
The latter even more satisfying as it confirmed that a long standing commitment with Bryony Frost had paid off with the first ever female jump jockey landing a Grade One victory at The Cheltenham Festival.
However, Nicholls believes he has the strongest team assembled since the glory days of Denman, Kauto Star and Big Bucks. Cyrname is a big part of that and Nicholls believes we’re finally going to see this potential superstar hit the heights that were hinted at last season.
The first big mouth-watering clash of the season is set for November when Cyrname could line up against the mighty Altior, in the 2m 5f Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot. According to the handicapper, there is a pound difference in weight in favour of Cyrname (176). Cyrname really made his name last season with a 17 length win in The Ascot Chase which Paul Nicholls insists could be interpreted as decent form.
Speaking to the Racing Post, Nicholls reflected on that run.
“Yes, there’s a chance that the form in that race may flatter him but Politologue went on to be runner up behind Altior in The Champion Chase, so the form looks sound.”
Cyrname is reported to be in good shape. The horse had a breathing operation two years ago and had his palate cauterised over the summer, which is standard procedure according to the trainer.
CLAN DES OBEAUX
As things stand, last year’s King George winner Clan Des Obeaux is Paul Nicholl’s most probable best shot for The Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Top Of The Game, last year’s RSA Chase winner has been sadly ruled out for the season of which Paul Nicholls had high hopes for.
Nevertheless, Nicholls has Down Royal in his sights for Clan Des Obeaux as his stable star will kick off his campaign at the Northern Ireland track for the Ladbrokes Champion Chase (previously called The JNwines Champions Chase) on 2nd November.
Nicholls believes the right handed track will suit him for a first run as a prep for another crack at The King George on Boxing Day. Ideally for the Gold Cup, he will need livelier ground as he didn’t seem to stay up the hill in the softer ground last year.
However, The Ryanair Chase hero, Frodon could also figure in the Gold Cup mix.
According to Nicholls, speaking to The Racing Post:
“He’ll go to Aintree on October 27th for the Old Roan Chase again. His rating of 169ib is 11ib higher than when he won it last year, so it won’t be easy giving weight away, but at least it’s a limited handicap.”
Bryony Frost will then have the chance to add to his Grade One glory by riding him in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 23rd November.
OTHERS TO NOTE
In terms of early season targets, the enigmatic Present Man will attempt the hat trick in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton on November 9th whilst Brio Conti has been prepared very much in mind with The Bet Victor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November (12/1 with William Hill and Bet Victor).
Paul Nicholls had high hopes for Give Me A Copper last season but didn’t quite meet expectations. But Nicholls insists that he should not be given up on and believes him a firm player for the staying chase handicaps.
An exciting chaser in the making could be Getaway Trump who ended up as one of Britain’s leading novice hurdlers. Nicholls believes that he is short on Champion Hurdle ability but may be a smart novice chaser.
Trucker’s Lodge is in the mud lark compartment and will be aimed at The Welsh National once he has qualified for the race with a couple more runs over fences.
NICKY HENDERSON: ALTIOR TO STEP UP IN TRIP
With 19 Grade One wins under his belt, Altior has nothing to prove at the 2 mile trip so a campaign over the longer distances comes as no surprise considering his incredible turn of foot in his two Champion Chase wins when finishing up the hill.
However. his Seven Barrows handler Nicky Henderson is cautious. Speaking to the Racing Post, he said:
“I know there is a lot of talk about The King George. I think a little bit further would help, but whether 3m is within his reach, I don’t know. Perhaps we could try further before The King George but I’m not very keen on The Betfair Chase at Haydock, so maybe the 1965 Chase at Ascot in November is the best place to find out and try him over a little but further.”
Altior is currently 11/4 best with William Hill for The King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Despite his demise in last season’s Champion Hurdle, Henderson believes his dual champion Buveau D’Air will be back for more this season, especially after ending last season on a high note when winning the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Buveau D’Air looks set to make his return in The Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on 30th November.
Henderson is still mystified with Might Bite’s disappointing last season after winning The King George and finishing runner-up in The Gold Cup in the season before. However, the trainer reports that Might Bite has summered well and has hinted that he may be aimed at shorter distances.
Possibly Henderson’s principal stayer, the RSA Chase runner up Santini will probably kick off his season at Newbury for the Ladbrokes Trophy, where he is currently 8/1 favourite with William Hill.
Nicky Henderson believes he has a strong novice chasing team this season and has singled out his Albert Bartlett Hurdle fourth, Dickie Diver as a potentially exciting novice chaser. Currently he is 25/1 for the RSA Chase with Bet Victor.
Champ also one to look out for, along with Precious Cargo who will be aimed at the 2m novice chase division.
Last season finally saw Willie Mullins exorcise the Gold Cup ghost as Al Boum Photo made the 2018-2019 season for the Country Carlow trainer one of his best on record.
This year’s team is as formidable as ever with much of the talk circulating around his Champion Chase hope, Chacun Pour Soi.
CHACUN POUR SOI
This 7 year old French import wasn’t exactly on everybody’s lips this time last year, however, his convincing defeat of JLT Novices Chase winner Defi Du Seuil and Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres in the Punchestown Grade 1 Ryanair Novices Chase has put him firmly in the spotlight.
The plan is to stick at the 2 mile division with The Champion Chase as the ultimate objective where he is currently 5/1 with William Hill, Bet Victor and Betfred.
Kemboy is probably the leading light in the staying chase department. Despite falling at the first fence in the Gold Cup, he still managed to land three Grade 1 victories including the Aintree Betway Bowl and Punchestown Gold Cup.
He looks set to make his reappearance at Down Royal for The Ladbrokes Champion Chase (previously the JNwine Champions Chase) in November.
DOUVAN, UN DE SCEAUX & MIN
These three stalwarts of the Mullins outfit are heading for the twilights of their careers but look set to have busy campaigns ahead of them.
Douvan is back in training but no plans as yet.
Min returns on the back of a career performance best when he pulverised his rivals in the Melling Chase at Aintree last April. According to Mullins, he may return in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown or The Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
This will almost certainly be Un De Sceaux’s last season and he is set for a campaign which should culminate in the Ryanair or Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle hero Klassical Dream is set for a Champion Hurdle campaign and looks set to start his season in the Morgiana Hurdle or WKD Hurdle at Down Royal. He is currently 7/2 favourite for The Champion Hurdle with William Hill and Betfred.
Melon is going novice chasing after two runner-up performances in The Champion Hurdle and has schooled well with the fences according to Willie Mullins. He’ll be aimed at 2 mile novice chases: 12/1 for The Arkle with Betfair, William Hill, Bet Victor.
GORDON ELLIOT: TIGER ROLL SET TO EMULATE RED RUM?
Michael O’Leary stated after Tiger Roll’s extraordinary second straight Grand National victory that the 9 year old would not return to go or a third in 2020. Most of us knew better that O’Leary is not one to duck the limelight so it’s no surprise that trainer Gordon Elliot has a similar map planned for this season.
Speaking to Brian Sheerin of the Racing Post he stated:
“It’ll be a very similar campaign to last season. The only thing we might do a bit differently is we probably won’t go for the cross-country race at Cheltenham in November with him, as he’d have to carry a lot of weight. You’d be looking at the Boyne Hurdle at Navan, the cross-country race at The Cheltenham Festival and then, all being well, back to Aintree.”
It was a clearly frustrating season for Samcro after so much promise as a novice. However, Elliott reports him to be in good condition after a wind operation and a season over the fences is on the agenda. The November Down Royal meeting is a possibility.
Ten times Grade 1 winner Apple’s Jade has also had a wind operation after her disappointing performance in The Champion Hurdle and is pencilled in for a similar campaign to last season, taking in the Lismulllen Hurdle at Navan and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Probably Elliott’s best hope for a second Gold Cup victory and although Elliott admits he is not the most strongest or robust horse, Delta Work is capable of progressing to being a Gold Cup horse. He is scheduled to run in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
OTHER EXCITING PROSPECTS
Battleoverdoyen is ready after a good summer to embark on a novice chasing career whilst Champagne Classic, Felix Desjy and Cracking Smart also look smart recruits for novice chasing.
The almost forgotten Labaik, who triumphed at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival by winning The Supreme Novices, is back in training and if all remains well he will be aimed at The Champion Hurdle for 2020.
THE ANTE POST MARKETS FOR NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
THE BET VICTOR GOLD CUP, CHELTENHAM, SATURDAY 16TH NOVEMBER
The first big handicap of the season is wide open at this stage with the Dan Skelton trained consistent Spirit Of The Games leading the market.
- Spirit Of The Games 9/1 (William Hill)
- Siruh Du Lac 10/1 (William Hill, Coral)
- The Russian Doyen 12/1 (Coral)
- Brio Conti 12/1 (William Hill, Bet Victor)
- Baron Alco 16/1 (William Hill, Coral)
- Janika 16/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)
THE BETFAIR CHASE, HAYDOCK, SATURDAY 23RD NOVEMBER
The Grade One event at Haydock will see track specialist Bristol De Mai attempt to land a hat trick whilst Ryanair Chase winner, Frodon, also holds an entry.
- Bristol De Mai 2/1 (Betfair, Bet Victor, Paddy Power, Coral)
- Lost In Translation 4/1 (William Hill, Betfred)
- Clans Des Obeaux 5/1 (Betfair, Bet Victor, Paddy Power, Coral, Betfred)
- Frodon 7/1 (Unibet)
- Native River 7/1 (William Hill)
THE LADBROKES TROPHY CHASE, NEWBURY, SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER
Nicky Henderson’s RSA Chase runner-up Santini heads the market for the Newbury classic.
- Santini 7/1 (Unibet)
- Benie Des Dieux 12/1 (William Hill, Unibet)
- Cabaret Queen 12/1 (William Hill)
- La Bague Au Roi 12/1 (William Hill, Bet Victor, Unibet, Coral, Betfred)
- OK Corral 14/1 (Unibet)
THE KING GEORGE VI CHASE, KEMPTON, BOXING DAY
The Boxing Day Grade 1 chase is all about Altior, providing he can prove his staying credentials in his prep run against Cyrname in the Ascot event in November. Firms taking no chances here. Cyrname an interesting entry at 11/2.
- Altior 11/4 (William Hill)
- Clans Des Obeaux 11/2 (Unibet, Betfred)
- Cyrname 11/2 (Betfair)
- Kemboy 8/1 (William Hill, Betfair, Paddy Power)
- Lostintranslation 10/1 (William Hill, Bet Victor, Unibet)
THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL
THE CHAMPION HURDLE, TUESDAY 10TH MARCH
Very competitive market with Supreme Novices winner Klassical Dream holding market leader position over hat trick seeking Buveur D’Air.
- Klassical Dream 7/2 (William Hill, Betfred)
- Buveur D’Air 6/1 (William Hill, Betfair, Bet Victor, Paddy Power, Unibet)
- Pentland Hills 10/1 (Bet Victor, Unibet, Coral)
- Fusil Raffles 16/1 (William Hill, Betfred)
THE CHAMPION CHASE, WEDNESDAY 11TH MARCH
If Altior decides to go down this route again, he’ll find it tough with the potentially exciting Cyrname and Chacun Pour Soi very much in the mix.
- Altior 5/1 (William Hill)
- Chacun Pour Soi 5/1 (William Hill, Bet Victor, Unibet, Betfred)
- Min 12/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power, Unibet, Coral, Betfred)
- Cyrname 20/1 (Unibet)
THE GOLD CUP, FRIDAY 13TH MARCH
Extremely open market at this stage very much dominated by the Willie Mullins entries. The 16/1 for Altior stands out as the most intriguing ante post bet around at the moment. That will not hang around if the plan to tackle 3 miles exceeds expectations.
- Kemboy 13/2 (Betfair)
- Al Boum Photo 8/1 (William Hill, Bet Victor)
- Lostintranslation 10/1 (Betfair, Bet Victor, Paddy Power, Unibet, Coral, Betfred)
- Santini 10/1 (William Hill)
- Altior 16/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (18:00 22nd October 2019) and are subject to change.