Ben Pauling’s five to follow
The prospect of Ben Pauling breaking further new ground this season looks to be an almost certainty given the quality of the firepower he has at his disposal.
Barters Hill: Set to go novice chasing
The victory of Barters Hill in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December provided Pauling with a first Grade One winner and there are hopes more boxes on his CV can be ticked off throughout the course of the colder months.
With a number of unexposed types expected to make their presence felt, together with those that helped the Bourton-on-the-Water handler achieve the success he enjoyed last season returning, it is clear to see why his levels of optimism are high.
"I was thrilled with the season as a whole. It was disappointing that Barters Hill got beat at Cheltenham, but unfortunately we had a bit of a bug at the back end of March and April and that is why we didn't finish the season how we started," said Pauling.
"Going through the year we had our first Grade One winner, highest amount of winners and total prize-money, and a near 20 per cent strike rate, so it was another step forward.
"We've got nearly 60 on the books this season so we should be looking at 45 to 50 winners if they stay healthy."
Pauling picked out five that should help pay their way and more:
"Last season went right to plan until Cheltenham, when he was slightly wrong going into the race. He was only beaten four and a half lengths and lost nothing in defeat, but we know he is a lot better than that.
"He is going to start novice chasing over two and a half miles at Bangor, then we might take him to Newbury at the Hennessy meeting for the Grade Two Berkshire Novices' Chase. Then we might look towards the Feltham at Kempton over Christmas, if not then the Dipper on New Year's Day is the alternative.
"We are very keen to keep him at two and a half early in the season and I'm pretty sure he has got the speed to win over two and a half.
"He is in the best form I've had him. He has schooled well and everything's going fine. Although he is an end-to-end galloper, he is not a slogger
"He won't be running much between Christmas and Cheltenham, as he is a horse that appears best after he has had a break and not had a lot of racing."
"He was a horse that really snuck up on us last year and I didn't think he would be as good as he ended up being. He is very ground dependent. He does not want winter wet ground, he has to have good ground.
"He was second behind O O Seven at Huntingdon on it, then he beat Waterlord back at Huntingdon. He beat Mobait by 19 lengths and although he is a summer jumping horse he was giving him a stone.
"I think he is a horse that takes a run to get fit and after his first run we might put him in the Greatwood then go novice chasing.
"He is still unexposed. We don't know what his limitations over hurdles are, as we never got to put him in a championship race to find out."
"He won his only start in a bumper at Warwick. I don't know what he beat, but he certainly did it well.
"Richard Johnson rode him and settled him mid-division, moved into contention smoothly and put the race to bed quickly only needing to be pushed out.
"He will have another run in a bumper then I imagine he will go hurdling and I'd like to look at one of the better two-and-a-half-mile hurdles for him. We will plot his route as we go along, but I think he is very nice."
"We are hoping he will be our first ever Grand National runner. We may put him in a hurdle first as a prep race for the Becher Chase where hopefully he can pick up a mark in the mid 140s.
"Once he has got the mark we know he needs, we will be gentle until April. He is a very exciting horse and is only going to improve in staying handicap chases.
"He jumps so well and I think the bigger obstacles are made for him – I could not honestly think of another horse that is better made for them.
"He is a great, big, rangy individual and the way he won his races last year he was jumping from fence to fence which puts everything else to the test.
"Ever since I've had him I thought of him as a National horse."
"He won his first two bumpers last year and ended the season finishing fifth at Aintree. He definitely wants two and a half miles.
"He is an absolutely electric jumper and the plan is to run him in the same race that Barters Hill won at Huntingdon on October 30.
"We will make plans from there. I don't think he wants the slog of a Challow, but it might be something we look at if the ground is not horrific.
"There is a nice two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two novice before Christmas which may be an option. He would be close up there to the best of my novice hurdlers."
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