Your Definitive Guide to the National Hunt Season 2015/16

Huntttt The days are getting shorter, there’s a nip in the air and summer is becoming a distant memory – all of which is music to the ears of National Hunt aficionados.

Read more: National Hunt Vs. Flat Racing – What’s the Difference?

Yes, the flat season is as good as over, the jumps season is here, and we’re getting excited.

Here is our essential guide to the 2015/16 National Hunt: the big races, the big horses and the big-value bets.

The main National Hunt 2015/16 meetings

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse 

The Open, 13th-15th November:

Many say it’s the weekend that Jump racing starts.  The Open weekend features the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Shloer Chase – a highlight of Cheltenham’s only Sunday meeting of the season.

TheBetfair Chase Weekend, 20th November:

The first Grade 1 of the season, The Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, kicks the National Hunt Season off in style and was won last season by Silviniaco Conti for the second time.

The bet365 Festival,26-28th November:

Newbury’s fine festival includes the Hennessey Gold Cup, a historic race that’s traditionally contested (and usually won) by serious Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders.

Tingle Creek Christmas Festival, 5th December:

This festive event contains two Grade 1 races: the Henry VII Novices Chase and the Tingle Creek Chase.

William Hill Winter Festival, 26th December:

King Kempton Park’s flagship Boxing Day festival contains three Grade 1 races, including the King George VI (pictured) – the UK’s second-most prestigious race.

Peter Marsh Chase Day, 23rd January:

The first big meeting of the New Year features four Grade 2 races as the countdown to Cheltenham really begins.

Ascot Chase Raceday, 14th February:

Valentine’s Day sees punters get hot under the collar at the Grade 1 Ascot Chase – often the last chance to see horses primed for Cheltenham.

Cheltenham Week, 15-18th March:

The big one. Cheltenham Week features fourteen Grade 1 races, including the National Hunt Chase, as some of the world’s top runners and jockeys descend on the West Country for the finest worldwide racing. Read more: Cheltenham 2016: Betting Tips

Grand National Weekend, 7-9th April:

GFN This weekend hosts 11 Grade 1 races as well as the Grand National – the most illustrious jumps race of them all.

Scottish Grand National Festival, 15-16th April:

A week after, it’s the Scots’ turn. Ayr racecourse’s big weekend features the Scottish National and the shorter Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Bet365 Jump Finale Weekend:

The official culmination of the National Hunt season features its final Grade 1, the Celebration Chase, and the bet365 Gold Cup.

National Hunt 2015/6: Horses to Watch out for

O’Faolains Boy

Despite being relatively young, Rebecca Curtis is developing a strong reputation as a Cheltenham specialist, having trained four winners in the last four years. Many will be looking at her highly-rated gelding O’Faolains Boy to make an impression in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March after an injury-stricken season last term.

He won Cheltenham’s RSA Chase in 2014 and was as low as 16-1 to win last season’s Gold Cup before he was laid low with a sprained fetlock.

2015/16 could be his year.


Still unbeaten in 10 races, Faugheen has outclassed the chasing pack over the past three seasons.

Last year’s Champion Hurdle was obviously his biggest achievement, and he will be looking to join an illustrious list of Champions who have successfully retained their crown for the ever popular Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh.



Vautour after winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, 2014.

Willie Mullins’ gelding is an early favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and despite never having raced over two and a half miles, his track record makes it easy to see why. His price may be a little low in our humble opinion, but this is a big horse with a lorryload of class.

He has a pair of emphatic Cheltenham victories under his belt already and at just 8 years old come March, can still improve.

Road To Riches

Road to Riches grabbed two impressive Class 1 wins in the winter of last season before placing third in the 2015 Gold Cup and he’ll be bidding for more lucrative early-season success before another stab at jump racing’s most prestigious prize.

Cyrus Darius

This Malcolm Jefferson-trained runner made an inauspicious start to last season, before stepping up significantly in novice hurdles last March.

At Aintree he beat seven other previous winners to emphatically land the Class 1 Novices Hurdle, beating Paul Nicholls’ well-regarded Vago Collonges by an easy ten lengths. This raw, talented horse is equally capable over fences, judged on his fencing debut at Perth, and is certainly capable of providing top performances on good to soft surfaces.

Expect him to be one of the favourites at the Arkle Trophy and other big races if he continues to improve with experience.

National Hunt 2015/6: Jockeys to Watch out for

Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson, finally escaping from AP McCoy’s shadow, is the favourite to be crowned Champion Jockey at the end of the season.

He has, after all, been second to McCoy in 15 of the Irishman’s 20 victorious seasons and because he’s backed by top trainers like Philip Hobbs, this should be the season he breaks his duck.

Sam Twiston-Davies

Sam Twiston Davies

Sam Twiston-Davies

In the Trainers’ Championship, Paul Nicholls is the overwhelming favourite to take home the most prize money for the ninth time in the last ten seasons.

So it makes sense that Nicholls’ stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies is second only to Johnson to take home the Jockey Championship and priced accordingly.

The young Brit has ridden more than 100 winners in the past two seasons and will be on board some of the sport’s best runners, so will always be there and thereabouts when he’s in action.

Barry Geraghty

After the retirement of McCoy, Barry Geraghty has left the stable of Nicky Henderson – with whom he had a very productive professional relationship – to ride for top racehorse owner JP McManus.

However, Cheltenham expert Geraghty is an outside bet for Champion Jockey because he’s likely to be primed for the bigger events and probably won’t feature in enough races to compete against the likes of Johnson and Twiston-Davies. Nevertheless, the sight of the Irishman on a JP McManus horse is sure to strike fear into the bookies.

Sean Bowen

Fresh-faced Sean Bowen is tipped to be one of horse racing’s brightest young talents.

17-year old Bowen became one of the Grand National’s youngest riders when he finished 11th this year on Mon Parrain and was crowned Champion conditional with 51 wins in 2014/15. Dubbed the ‘new AP’, Bowen rides for his father Peter as well as for Paul Nicholls, who praised the young jockey for his knack of “making horses run”.

He’s best priced at 33-1 for Champion Jockey, but he’ll pick up more races this season so don’t be surprised if you see those odds falling with a good start.

Brian Hughes

Hughes is currently best priced at a long 50/1 to take home the Champion Jockey title, but there are many who are looking at him to make a decent challenge to the top riders this season.

He may not have the backing of the biggest yards in the south, but he has good connections in the north and in Ireland, and showed real skill to steer 33-1 shot Somersby in to second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase glory last March, just a length and a quarter behind the Paul Nicholls-trained Dodging Bullets.

Hughes’ talent is there for all to see, and if he can continue to get paired with more promising runners, he’ll be worth watching and backing this season.

Great value ante-post bets for the 2015/16 National Hunt

Check out our Cheltenham 2016 Gold Cup Betting Tips

National Hunt 2015/6: Who’s your money on?

Who are you looking forward to seeing this season? Which trainers could spring a surprise? Chew the fat with us over on Twitter @Myracingtips. Or, for an in-depth guide to all the weekend’s big races, be sure to check out our Channel 4 tips page. Free Horse Racing Tips From My Racing   Images: bet365 Gold CupCheltenham and King George VI Chase by  Kate under CC BY-SA 2.0, Finishing post at Aintree by Paul, Sam Twiston Davies by Paul and  Vautour by Carine under CC BY 2.0.

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