You can smell it in the air, the jumps season is almost upon us and soon the mud, sweat and tears of the National Hunt campaign will be all that us racing fans can think about.
The questions of Cheltenham and ante-post punts are already under starters orders as the long-term horse racing tips begin to get jotted down by those ‘in-the-know’.
With that in mind, Luke Parkinson has taken a look at at some of the potential stars over fences this season and picked out his ten to chasers to follow.
Beakstown was an impressive winner of the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle on Classic Chase day at Warwick last season and was added to many punters notebooks as a result.
Both Dan and Harry Skelton were fairly clear that day that Beakstown was a chaser in the making and anything he did over hurdles was only going to be a bonus to what could lie ahead over fences.
For that reason, the fact he was pulled up in the Ballymore at Cheltenham last season shouldn’t be too much of a concern. He has the size and scope to really take off over the bigger obstacles and he should have the JLT or the RSA Chase in his sights come the big festival in March.
You get the feeling that trainer Ben Pauling is pretty keen on Bright Forecast and some big things could await for him over fences this season.
It’s not hard to understand his enthusiasm either, because after winning two of his four starts over hurdles, he went on to finish runner-up to the talented Mister Fisher in a Grade Two at Haydock before a solid third behind City Island in the Ballymore at Cheltenham.
Like Beakstown, that could all be a bonus to what is expected to be a high-class career over fences.
After seemingly excelling against her own sex over in Ireland, there will have been a few racing fans scratching their heads as to why we didn’t get the chance to see Camelia De Cotte at Cheltenham last year.
Victories came at Grade Two and Three level last season, with her latest a convincing five-and-a-half length victory over Pravalaguna at Fairyhouse in April. Willie Mullins is sure to be a man with a plan though, and it would be very surprising if she wasn’t to make the trip over the Irish sea this term.
She seems at her best over 2m4f, and could well do with the newly-introduced Mares Chase being moved forward a few years if Mullins wants to give her a winning option come March.
You would do well to find a better jumping performance than that showed by Cyrname in the Ascot Chase last season, and that has got many people talking him up as a real rival for Altior, if he does stay at two miles.
Sadly, Cheltenham was left off the agenda by the connections of Cyrname last year and then he was ruled out of a battle against Altior at Sandown because of the quick ground.
That shouldn’t be a problem this season after the soggy summer we’ve just had and he could well by the flag bearer for Paul Nicholls this campaign.
The only slight concern is that he has often shown his best when going right-handed, but he’ll surely have to go left at either Cheltenham or Aintree if he wants to prove his class at the very highest level.
Either way, Nicholls is sure to have him primed and ready to go.
Draconien was a Grade One winner over hurdles at the Punchestown Festival in 2018, beating the likes of Vision Des Flos and Mengli Khan, to earn an official rating of 150.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t seen last season because of an injury but he was rumoured to have shaped well over fences before that and as long as he has retained his talent that he should be one to follow this season.
His trainer, Willie Mullins, had likened him to Footpad ahead of his novice chasing campaign and if he can achieve a similar level then he really will be a force to be reckoned with over two miles this season.
Lostintranslation spent the majority of last season battling it out at or over 2m4f with Defi Du Seuil, and although he beat him in the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, it was Defi who got the better of the next two encounters including the JLT.
That forced connections to go in a different direction and that worked a treat when Lostintranslation was upped to 3m1f when beating RSA Chase winner Topofthegame in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April.
That has put him right in the picture for the Gold Cup this season and given he is already a winner at Prestbury Park, there could be worse ante-post punts in the pack.
The winner of the Albert Bartlett isn’t exactly the most talked about horse of the Cheltenham Festival, but there is plenty to like about last season’s winner, Minella Indo, and he should be expected to continue the upward curve over fences.
He travelled beautifully in that race last year and hit the front on the turn for home, which is a fairly long way on that new course at Cheltenham. That proves he’s got plenty of stamina in the tank and a touch of class about him as well.
The RSA Chase could be his for the taking if everything goes to plan.
Unbeaten in four starts last season, Reserve Tank made real progress over hurdles, culminating in a Grade One success in the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown where he beat off some highly regarded horses including the Ballymore winner, City Island.
That could prove to be a fine bit of form, as too could his win the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree where he had Brewin’upastorm and Angels Breath behind him.
Trained by Colin Tizzard, he is certainly in good hands and the JLT is likely to be his target over fences this season, although a go at further wouldn’t be out of the question.
Samcro needs no introduction. The Gigginstown-owned Chesnut was a real talking horse back in 2018, where he lived up to the billing by landing the Ballymore at the Festival.
However, things haven’t been quite so simple since then and a plan to go for the Champion Hurdle last season was soon thwarted after defeats at Down Royal and Newcastle.
Instead, it is likely he will finally get a chance to go chasing this season and if the original enthusiasm can be regained then they’ll be plenty of punters returning to shout him up the Cheltenham hill.
With the sad news that RSA Chase winner Topofthegame has been ruled out for the season, that could well open door to the Gold Cup for the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini.
He was second in the RSA in March but had an injury scare running up to that race and in many people’s eyes would have got the better of Topofthegame had he had a better preparation.
Henderson will be hoping to give him exactly that this season as he eyes his first Gold Cup since Bobs Worth in 2013.