Dark Horses For 2016/2017 National Hunt Season

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The National Hunt season is well underway now, before we go too far, it’s time to look at some horses who we feel will be making an impact this season and beyond.   We all know the likes of Douvan, Faugheen and Thistlecrack who will no doubt form the nucleus of an awful lot of “to follow” lists this season but we here are myracing.com like to take things a little further.  Long time followers will know the pride we take in providing long shot winners so here in a rare glimpse into the inner sanctum, welcome to the dark horses to follow list for the 2016/17 National Hunt season!


6yo bay gelding
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Pedigree: Kayf Tara-Ariels Serenade

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Sparsely seen so far in his career, he arrived in the UK off the back of a point to point win in Ireland where victims included the now rated 137, Jonniesofa.  He made a good impression on debut for current connections when getting outpaced by ex 100+ rated flat racer Nabucco over the sharp 2m3f at Huntingdon.  That was hardly surprising given his 3 mile win in Ireland but he beat the 3rd that day 13 lengths (now rated 123) so there is more than enough ability to think that he can make a fair impression in staying novice hurdles this season.  He has been a shade disappointing in a pair of starts early this season but a step up to 3 miles and eventually a chase fence in front of him are going to show him in a different light.

Drovers Lane

4yo bay gelding
Trainer: Rebecca Curtis
Pedigree: Oscar-Minnie Turbo

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper

The highest rated 4yo point to pointer in Ireland last season was knocked down at £135,000 to Rebecca Curtis at Tattersalls in May.  He was badly hampered early on his debut, doing well to get back into that contest and finish 3rd.  He followed that up with an effortless 8 length victory at Necarne in a time 7 seconds quicker than Redhotfillypeppers the day before.  Curtis has a soft spot for Oscar’s (O’Faolains Boy, At Fishers Cross etc) so it will be very interesting to see if this one ends up taking the typical Curtis Ffos Las bumper route during this season.  A three mile chaser in the making, he could be one to follow for the foreseeable future.


4yo brown gelding
Trainer: Ben Pauling
Pedigree: Dubai Destination-Princess Mairead

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Neptune or Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Just a single Irish Point to Point run to go on in the form book but what a run it was!  Splitting Claimantakinforgan who had the rumour mill spinning before his successful Haydock debut for Nicky Henderson and another Henderson inmate, Lough Derg Spirit.  The latter will have gone in any number of notebooks this season after a sensational hurdling debut at Kempton including those of the bookies who made him as short as 12/1 for the Supreme Novices at the Cheltenham Festival.  Ben Pauling is a very capable young trainer with what could potentially be a very exciting prospect on his hands.

Messire Des Obeaux

4yo bay gelding
Trainer: Alan King
Pedigree: Saddler Maker-Madame Lys

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Coral Cup or Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Handicap Hurdle

Alan King was keen to pitch this horse in the deep end on his UK debut and he did just that at Haydock in February where he was 3rd to the smart Frodon.  He was niggled along passing the stands after just 2 flights in the Fred Winter and having got back into the race down the back, was readily outpaced late on.  Deeper ground is going to suit during the winter and now that connections have an idea of his talents, after a winning return off 128 in a Bangor handicap, expect this full brother to Paul Nicholls smart Bouvreuil to continue to progress as the season continues.

Mr Big Shot

5yo brown gelding
Trainer: David Pipe
Pedigree: Flemensfirth-Une Etoile

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Neptune or Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Seen just the once when a very easy winner of a Uttoxeter bumper, this massive horse has the potential to live up to his lofty name.  He looked a big baby on that run, the penny dropping late on and quickly putting plenty of ground between him and the field.  The 4th and 5th have both won since to give the form a nice little boost while the further he went the better he was.  That is to be expected given that his dam is a full sister to Philson Run who won a Midlands National and was 4th to Silver Birch in the National itself.  He is another likely to hit his stride over fences in time but can give connections plenty of fun over hurdles in the meantime.

Pride Of Lecale

5yo bay gelding
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien
Pedigree: Multiplex-Rock Gossip

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

A winner of an Irish Point to Point, it took him three starts to get off the mark in bumpers, eventually running riot at Chepstow by 14 lengths.  He was ultimately well beaten in both the Champion Bumpers at Cheltenham and Aintree but was noted tanking through both contests before giving way late on.  He has the size to make a nice chaser in a year or two but there is every chance that he will add a few notches onto his belt in novice hurdles this season with stamina unlikely to be a problem.

Queen Odessa

5yo bay mare
Trainer: Harry Fry
Pedigree: King’s Theatre-Ma Furie

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Mares’ Novice Hurdle

She quickly went in the notebook on her debut when placed at Lingfield behind a dual subsequent winner Unbuckled while the 4th has also won since.  She was unsuited to having to make her own running when winning at Doncaster on her 2nd start but the horse she beat there went on to win Grade 2 mares bumper at the Grand National meeting while the 5th has rattled up a hat-trick of hurdling wins.  She is a full sister to King’s Odyssey of Evan Williams who is rated 147 over fences with connections describing her as “a promising mare…a nice stayer in the making.”  She got a little bogged down on soft ground at Cheltenham on her reappearance but on better ground this Spring, expect huge improvement.


4yo chestnut filly
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Pedigree: Robin Des Champs-Mhuire Na Gale

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival Mares’ Novice Hurdle

Not such a “dark horse” for those who follow racing closely as this £200,000 purchase from the Irish Point to Point scene made a huge impression on her sole start so far (a 10 length win at Necarne) and has since had whispered comparisons with Annie Power.  It’s a huge leap of faith to think that she is able to get anywhere close to Annie’s level at the moment but she is likely to mop up novice hurdles this season and could be the one to follow in the hoofprints of Limini on the way to the Cheltenham Festival.

Ruby Rambler

6yo bay mare
Trainer: Lucy Wadham
Pedigree: Notnowcato-Arrahun

Possible Season Target: EBF Mares Novices’ Chase Final (Cheltenham, April)

A winner of two hurdles so far in nine career starts.  She began last season with a fluent success at Towcester where she made every yard of the running, easing clear in the closing stages.  She struggled a little when thrown into Listed level on her next start but quickly put that run to bed when making a successful handicap debut off a mark of 125 at Southwell.  Two more defeats at Listed level followed but she ran into some smart mares on those occasions (Jessbers Dream among others), and shouldn’t be too harshly judged on those.  We saw her in April at Newbury where she caught the eye in the parade ring, she dwarfed the field on that occasion and despite underperforming on ground that was too quick for her she went in the notebook as one who could easily make more of an impact in novice chases this season.

What A Moment

6yo bay gelding
Trainer: David Pipe
Pedigree: Milan-Cuiloge Lady

Possible Season Target: Cheltenham Festival National Hunt Chase

Cost connections £68,000 after finishing runner up to Drumlee Sunset on his point to point debut (Fagan a well beaten 4th, now rated 145) he began life in the UK with a win in a Towcester bumper.  A 2nd to O O Seven on his hurdling debut was again promising and he shaped well again at Ascot in January when behind Duke Des Champs.  His final run of the season can easily be disregarded given the abject form the yard were in at the time and given his size, he was always going to be a chaser.  He won a handicap chase at Cheltenham recently off a mark of 127 and the further he went the better he got so a tilt at the National Hunt Chase at the Festival could be on the agenda for this novice.

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