One Jump Ahead: Six to follow
The jumps season is soon to move up a gear and One Jump Ahead author Mark Howard gives us half a dozen horses to watch out for.
Duke Des Champs: Looks an interesting prospect over fences this season.
Harry Fry trained his first Cheltenham Festival winner last March when Unowhatimeanharry captured the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle. The eight year old has subsequently been bought by J.P.McManus and the same combination are also responsible for the potentially well handicapped BEHIND TIME.
Appropriately named, the Stowaway gelding was soundly beaten on his first two starts at Newbury and Taunton but the penny seemingly dropped on his third run at Exeter. Contesting a two and a quarter mile novice hurdle in February, he was only denied by a short neck behind the 139-rated and Graded-placed Captain Chaos. Now eligible for novice handicap hurdles, he doesn't look overburdened off a mark of 115, especially when stepped up in trip. He couldn't be in better hands either.
While he didn't make it to Cheltenham in March, Invitation Only did readers of this same piece 12 months ago a favour or two in the spring and he looks set to develop into a top-class staying novice hurdler this winter. From the same stable, it is hoped CARTER McKAY will emerge as a leading contender for the Festival bumper next spring, as he bids to provide Willie Mullins with a record-breaking ninth win in the race. A five-year-old gelding by Martaline, he was a 10 lengths winner of his second Irish point in April when handled by Nick Stokes. Bought by Pearl Bloodstock four days later at the Aintree Sale for a cool £160,000, his Rules debut is eagerly anticipated.
DUKE DES CHAMPS was a useful performer in bumpers and over hurdles reaching an official mark of 139 in the latter discipline. However, Philip Hobbs believes the six year old will come into his own once tackling fences for the first time this season. Successful over timber at Market Rasen and Ascot, he wasn't disgraced in Grade 1 company at Aintree on his final run last April. Two and a half miles novice chases will be on his agenda this time around and it will be disappointing if he doesn't prove a real money spinner and develop into a high-class novice.
Another of Paul Nicholls' former assistants, namely Dan Skelton, is also blessed with some exciting talent amongst his novices. Whatduhavtoget looked just that on her first run over hurdles at Uttoxeter on Sunday and the stable hold similarly high hopes for another ex-Irish pointer, ROBIN ROE.
The Robin Des Champs gelding won in Ireland for Timmy Hyde, prior to joining his current yard. He made an immediate impact in the UK, too, when beating 17 rivals in a bumper at Warwick in March. The runner-up (twice) and sixth have won since suggesting it was an above-average event. Reported to have thrived during the summer, he could emerge as a contender for something like the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on New Year's Eve.
Following Eddie and Michael O'Leary's decision to withdraw their 60-strong string from Closutton, Paul Nicholls has shortened up considerably for this season's trainers' title. Not surprisingly, the multiple winning champion has been busy 'shopping' during the summer and Team Ditcheat has been strengthened by the arrival of the unbeaten TOPOFTHEGAME.
Only four, he was a nine lengths winner of his sole Irish point for Donnachadh Doyle at Belclare in mid March. Acquired the following month by Anthony Bromley on behalf of Chris Giles for £120,000, he may contest a bumper before jumping hurdles. He is a horse with a big future.
Malcolm Jefferson has taken charge of the lightly raced WAITING PATIENTLY, who shaped with distinct promise in three runs for Keith Reveley last term. A fine big gelding by Flemensfirth, he finished runner-up at Hexham and Doncaster before readily going one better at Sedgefield on his most recent outing in late January. Granted a favourable looking mark of 123, he has unfinished business over hurdles but I suspect his new trainer will be looking to send him over fences sooner rather than later. If that's the case, it will be a surprise if he doesn't clean up in a 0-125 or 0-130 novices' handicap. He has the potential to be much better than his current rating.
One Jump Ahead, which includes interviews with Gordon Elliott, Brian Ellison, Harry Fry, Warren Greatrex, Philip Hobbs, Malcolm Jefferson, Alan King, Paul Nicholls, Ben Pauling, David Pipe, Dan Skelton and Harry Whittington, can be purchased for £9.99 (including postage) from www.mhpublications.co.uk