With the National Hunt season quickly approaching James Stevens has unearthed some dark horses who are worth following for the season.
Ami Desbois 7-y-o novice chaser, T: Graeme McPherson, O: EPDS Racing Partnership
Owned by our friends at EPDS Racing, Ami Desbois showed plenty of promise for Graeme McPherson last season and could be set for a big season over fences. He ran well when fifth at the Cheltenham Festival, and was only a length off Grade Two honours when second to Wholestone. He finished his hurdling career with a victory at Newcastle.
Graeme McPherson, trainer: “He was fifth in the Albert Bartlett last year and won four times over hurdles. He seems like a very exciting novice chaser to have in the yard probably to race around three miles on soft ground. He should be much better over fences than hurdles. We are really looking forward to running him this season.”
Brainstorm 5-y-o bumper, T: Warren Greatrex, O: Unknown
Brianstorm is set to make his racecourse debut in the coming months, but looks to have a strong profile following his impressive win on his point-to-point debut. He won easily, and his jockey asked very little of him that day. That form has taken a boost with the third horse Cinema De Quartier since being snapped up by Gigginstown and winning over hurdles. His trainer has enjoyed plenty of success with his bumper horses in recent years, and this one could be the latest star.
Warren Greatrex, trainer: “He won a point-to-point in Ireland not last season, but the year before. He had been with Rebecca Curtis but never ran for her, and been with me since July. He will run in a bumper towards the end of the month. He will probably run in one bumper then go hurdling, where he could be even better. He looks like he is going to do well. He’s a nice type, and he’s quite forward going. He’s done everything right at home.”
Debece 6-y-o novice chaser, T: Tim Vaughan O: Robert Kirkland
A horse that has been gradually improving throughout last season was Debece for Tim Vaughan. He ran creditably in top handicap level through the winter, but looked a classy individual when winning by a huge 19 lengths in a novice handicap at Newbury. This prompted connections to test him at the top level, and he ran excellently when a half-a-length third in the G1 Sefton at Aintree. He’s a horse that’s built to be a chaser rather than a hurdler, and a strong season awaits.
Tim Vaughan, trainer: “Debece has always been a really good horse for us. He won so well at Newbury, and almost won a Grade One at Aintree so we couldn’t be more pleased with him. He’s going to crack on with novice chasing this season, and I am excited to try him over the longer staying trips.”
“He probably won’t run until mid-November, with the reason being we want him in his best shape for the Spring. He seems to go on most ground, but I wouldn’t try him on any extremes, he’s versatile. I think he will be a proper staying novice chaser, and I think he will improve a ton going over fences and a longer trip. With a little bit of luck he could be the type that ends up in the RSA at Cheltenham.”
Delirious Love 5-y-o bumper, T: Graeme McPherson, O: The Wildcat Syndicate
An unraced son of Definite Article, who has a good sire record with National Hunt horses, whilst his dam won multiple times at Grade Three level over hurdles. He’s a half-brother to bumper winner What A Lark, who won on his only start. This horse has been impressing his trainer at home and could be winning early on in his career.
Graeme McPherson, trainer: “We had a very promising horse last year called Captain McGarry, but he is out for the season with a leg injury. However, I think this horse could be much better than him. He’s by Definite Article, and he is a bumper horse who will be out in the next couple of weeks. He is a very exciting horse, and I can’t wait to get him running.”
Ilovemints 5-y-o novice hurdler, T: David Pipe O: Value Racing Club
Ilovemints is a new addition to David Pipe’s stable and could start to show her true potential for the 2017/18 season. She looked a very smart mare with a very good debut win, but hasn’t quite built on that since. She has switched to David Pipe’s Devon setup, and expectations are very high as she switches to hurdles.
James Couldwell, racing manager to Value Racing: “Ilovemints looked a very smart mare winning a bumper on debut by 15 lengths. She was then sold for a reported six figure sum to remain in the yard. She went off the 7-4 for a mares Listed Bumper at Aintree, she finished 6th. Everything happened too quickly for Ilovemints, her debut win was on soft going.”
“She came out of the race with reported sore shines and needed some time off. She ran again finishing 7th and 3rd, each occasion the going was too lively and she needed a break. “We snapped her up and was very surprised to secure her for the money we did. She’s a lovely looking mare with a high knee action, she needs soft ground. We’ll send her over hurdles and hope she can be above average, likely around 2m4f. I would like to think winning a mares’ novice hurdle will be well within her compass. She might just be one for the new mares’ race at the Cheltenham Festival, we hope so anyway!”
John Constable 6-y-o hurdler, T: Evan Williams, O: Walters Plant Hire Ltd
John Constable has certainly been a work in progress for Evan Williams, and after plenty of near misses in top handicaps he finally has unleashed his true colours. He was sent off favourite for the Swinton, routing the field in impressive style to be raised sixteen pounds. He found his latest rise not challenging enough when winning at Listed level at Market Rasen, and now bigger races are being targeted.
Evan Williams, trainer: “He’s a horse that has surprised me a little this season, but he’s obviously an improved horse and we don’t quite know how good he could be this season. He won the Swinton and then a Listed handicap really well and now we have to think about the bigger races.”
“Every now and then you get a horse that keeps improving through the handicap, and he seems like he could be one of those. He’s so progressive and it’s exciting to know how he will do in conditions. Confidence is high, he’s won good races against good horses. We don’t know exactly where he will go yet, but hopefully he can keep progressing.”
Lastbutnotleast 7-y-o novice chasing mare, T: Donald McCain, O: Sarah Leslie & Beryl McCain
The switch from hurdling to chasing is going to continue the progression of Donald McCain’s smart mare Lastbutnotleast. She’s three from three from hurdling, including winning quite impressively at Listed level in her last start. She should be a good mare to follow for the season, especially against her own sex.
Donald McCain, trainer: “She is probably going to go novice chasing this winter, and she is pretty decent. I’d say she is one of the nicest horses we have at the minute, but she needs pretty soft ground. Three miles is her best trip, and she’s better in chases against her own sex. She looks a useful mare, we are looking forward to the season with her.”
Le Breuil 5-y-o hurdler, T: Ben Pauling, O: Miss Emma Collins
Last season Le Breuil looked like a very smart horse in the making, when winning well at Newbury and Sedgefield. He was last seen being pulled-up at Aintree, but wasn’t a hundred percent and a line can be drawn through that run. Although not the easiest to train, he is highly rated by his trainer and could be one to keep winning throughout the season.
Ben Pauling, trainer: “He’s as good as I have got at the yard to be honest. He’s talented, and a very athletic horse that is only going to improve. He was completely and utterly wrong at Aintree when he ran there, and health-wise he didn’t really have the smoothest of seasons.”
“He won well at Newbury, and to be honest he wasn’t fittest then so to do what he did shows how much class he has. He’s versatile on the ground, and he would win over most trips but 2m4f would be his best. He will stay over hurdles. I think he could take high order in handicap hurdles, and then I’d like to think he can be Group class.”
Netley Abbey – 3-y-o juvenile hurdler, T: Karen George O: Henacre Racing Club
One who could give you a few quick winners is Netley Abbey who has been impressing since switching from Harry Dunlop’s yard. He’s only rated 47 on the flat, with his best run being a third-place finish at Wolverhampton but is a horse who will benefit to switching to longer races. After pleasing connections, he promises to give his syndicate an exciting year.
Adrian King, racing manger to Henacre: “He is thriving at Karen’s and looks a different horse to the one that we picked up He is improving, both physically and mentally, week-by-week. He’s never going to be superstar on the flat, but he has developed a beautiful, long stride. He gallops and he stays and he has the makings of a decent hurdler. He will also jump a fence in time.”
“Nick Scholfield has been schooling him over hurdles for me and he is a real natural. We will be taking him up to Lambourn for another session next week. There is a gilt-edged opportunity for him to get off the mark on the flat next month, so that will be his first target. We can then try to pick up another prize (or 2) on the flat, and go jumping in the new year or send him straight over hurdles in November.”
Topofthegame 5-y-o novice chaser, T: Paul Nicholls, O: Chris Giles
Topofthegame has only seen the racecourse four times, but has very much impressed his multiple champion trainer. He has won two races, a point-to-point and a hurdles contest, and finished fourth in a Grade Two contest. He capped off last year with a narrow defeat at Ascot, but should improve significantly now switched to fences.
Paul Nicholls, trainer: “He only won one novice hurdle last year, but he ran some nice races in defeat since. He looks like a nice horse for the season, and he should progress over fences. He a big horse, will be nice to go novice chasing with. He goes on any ground, and we will probably start him off at 2m4f and he’s a stayer so we will have to see where he ends up.”
Video from Racing UK.