In the final of our jump season previews, our team look at hurdlers to follow this National Hunt season. Our expert tipsters will have horse racing tips every day of the year, lets look at those who have caught their eye for 2017/18.
1 Diamond Guy – 4yo bay gelding – Paul Nicholls
Graham Roach’s colours were carried by a large number of winners through the years, most notably Viking Flagship, the winner of a pair of Champion Chases as well as a Tingle Creek in his illustrious career. It’s been a year since Roach’s passing, the executors of his will left with instructions to sell all his racing stock bar a single bay gelding, Diamond Guy. For a man with such a wealth of experience and knowledge of the ‘Sport of Kings’ that this is the only horse chosen to carry his silks is a tip in itself. He was the winner of a small field Wincanton bumper in April and while he may not have beaten much, the manner in which he did it was very much of a horse to follow. Diamond Guy pictured below.
2 Verdana Blue – 5yo bay mare – Nicky Henderson
A solid enough bumper performer in Ireland for her breeder Edmond Kent, it was no surprise to see her improve hugely for a move to Seven Barrows. She was in front as they approached the last in the Troll House Mares Novice at the Cheltenham Festival, just run out of things up the hill by a couple who had been ridden with a little more restraint. She travelled like the best horse in the race in a further Listed contest in April, again run out of things up the hill. Still only a baby, she should improve for another summer on her back, with an opening mark of 136 for this season looking exploitable over hurdles before chasing next season.
3 Elgin – 5yo bay gelding – Alan King
Enjoyed a successful novice campaign, rounded out with a solid seventh in the Supreme Novices’ when still looking a little unfurnished. He was by no means disgraced, having shaped for much of the season as if further will suit this time around. He has shown his best form on flat tracks, with a strong gallop helping him perform to his best. He begins the season from 140, with something like the Lanzarote at Kempton in January looking tailor made for him over two and a half.
4 Mohaayed – 5yo bay gelding – Dan Skelton
Pitched straight in against Elgin and Neon Wolf in his first couple of starts in novice hurdles, he had his attention swiftly changed to handicaps. Seventh in the County Hurdle and third in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, he shapes as if he will be a major player in similar two mile handicaps this season. He was rated as high as 106 on the flat (only beaten five lengths by Gleneagles in the Irish 2000 Guineas) he could make it into the early 150’s over hurdles so an opening gambit of 136 could be potentially exploitable.
5 Just A Sting – 5yo bay gelding – Harry Fry
Bullionaire is on every other ‘to follow’ list going for Harry Fry but the team have the equally impressive bumper scorer Just A Sting also to go to war with this season. He took a long time to get going on his debut at Bangor, the move to a far stiffer track at Exeter on his second outing suiting him much better. On both occasions, he briefly looked in trouble before digging deep to get back on top. He is going to need a trip over hurdles, with his dam showing her best form over three miles. Two and a half should be fine for him this autumn on a galloping track but it would be no surprise if he made up into more of an Albert Bartlett horse come March.
6 The Big Bite – 4yo bay gelding Tom Lacey
Stood out as a potential chaser of the future walking around the parade ring on his Lingfield debut. It was rather surprising that not only was he capable of winning at the first time of asking at a sharp track but that he did it so impressively. The second and third have both won over hurdles since, the third a dual scorer now rated 128. He was a little tapped for toe down the hill before picking up well in the straight. It will be fascinating to see where connections start him this season, given that he looks to boast a smart combination of speed and stamina. His dam is a half sister to RSA winner Cooldine so whatever he does over hurdles this season, he’s only going to get better when tackling fences.
7 Chooseyourweapon – 4yo bay gelding – Evan Williams
A £210,000 purchase at the April Cheltenham sales, he was an impressive winner of his one and only point to point in Ireland at Inch. There were seven of them turning for home within a couple of lengths there, with Chooseyourweapon at the head of affairs. He briefly looked as if he might get swallowed up after pitching on landing three out, but he hit the rising ground and really dug deep. A couple of lengths in front at the last, he was six clear at the line, roaring away from the field, the further they went the better. Whatever he does this season, he will improve on over time but he looks to have all the tools to make a well above average staying novice.
8 Searching For Gold – 5yo bay gelding – Charlie Longsdon
Sent off favourite on all four starts so far, twice in point to points and in a pair of bumpers. It was no great surprise to see him a little short of speed at Southwell having won over three miles in Ireland, a trip to Towcester and the stiff track there saw him in a much better light. His dam was twice a winner on the flat on decent ground so that win coming on good to firm wasn’t unexpected, though he has coped with softer in point to points. Two miles is probably a minimum for him over hurdles, with a stiff track clearly playing well to his strengths.
9 Dans Le Vent – 4yo bay gelding Jamie Snowdon
Twice a bumper winner as well as sixth behind Fayonagh in the Festival Bumper, he has to work harder than his short odds suggested in April at Ludlow. Having run his first three races at Towcester, Newbury and Cheltenham that should be lesson learnt by connections, that he requires a solid galloping track to be seen to best effect (no surprise to see Huntingdon no use on hurdling debut.) Jamie Snowdon is an underrated trainer so chances are that he will be able to pick up a novice or two this season at solid prices before stepping up in class. His sixth at the Festival can be marked up as he was prominent in a race that favoured those from off the pace, he is a fascinating recruit.
10 Skipthecuddles – 6yo bay gelding Graeme McPherson
Kept some smart company as a novice, getting off the mark at Wetherby on soft ground. He found things a little beyond him at a pair of spring festivals, eighth in the Neptune before midfield in a Punchestown handicap. He shaped a little better than his final position at the latter, right in the mix two out, he just lacked the finish of other rivals. McPherson said in his blog over the summer that he “should continue to improve into a high-class staying hurdler” this season and from a mark of 136 to start with, he should be competitive in three mile handicaps on any ground.