10 to watch over jumps this winter
The National Hunt season hits top gear this weekend. With Flemenstar and Sprinter Sacre already on their way to the top, Chris McGrath picks lesser lights to look out for
21/17- (David Pipe)
French import who made a dazzling debut on these shores at Newbury in March, in command a long way out, and again went with terrific dash in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, just 11 days later. Once again he had plenty off the bridle, turning in, only to find the extra distance too much over such a stiff track. Still unexposed, Balgarry will surely surpass his revised mark.
2. Captain Sunshine
2F211-6 (Emma Lavelle)
Gradually found his feet as a novice last season, but his ultimate fulfilment beckons over longer trips. Half-brothers won the Irish National and Pertemps Final, and he might end up targeting the latter himself, after a promising return round Cheltenham last month. The priority that day was to blow away cobwebs in his technique, but his finish through midfield – from well off the pace – announced a well treated horse.
3. Cash And Go
31115- (Nicky Henderson)
Edward O'Grady seemed to have expected little else after his Grade One breakthrough at Leopardstown last Christmas, but the horse disappeared after finishing lame in his only subsequent start. He has now resurfaced at Seven Barrows, and could start out in a valuable handicap at Cheltenham on Sunday. Perhaps the Tote Gold Trophy, a race in which his new trainer has a fine record, is near the top of his agenda.
4. Clondaw Knight
F1- (Lucinda Russell)
Having had the loss of a first Festival winner placed in ghastly perspective by the second freak accident that claimed his young rider, Lucinda Russell and Sandy Seymour have done their best to look to the future. And this could be the pick of several potential replacements for Brindisi Breeze. Still only four, he cost £140,000 after a superb point-to-point win in Ireland – and all neutrals hope he proves worth every penny.
1/3211- (Donald McCain)
Rather scrambled home for consecutive odds-on wins in January, but his trainer felt that those performances barely scratched the surface and put him away to mature. The way this useful bumper horse had tanked into contention against a smart rival on his hurdling debut leaves no doubt that he will repay that patience, when switched to fences this season.
6. Master Malt
2- (Alistair Whillans)
Good to see this small Scottish stable housing a young horse capable of amplifying its undoubted abilities. Nicely bred and quietly backed, he shaped with tremendous promise on his debut against a Nicky Henderson hotpot in a bumper at Ayr in April. After cruising out of midfield to challenge, he was only worried out of it close home and finished fully 15 lengths clear of the rest.
7. New Year's Eve
1129- (John Ferguson)
His new venture as a jumps trainer soon made Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager a serious embarrassment to rivals who had been in the game for years, and this one laid down perhaps his most exciting marker. Sent off favourite for the Cheltenham Bumper, he challenged smoothly turning in but was narrowly outstayed up the hill. Though he then nearly drowned in absurd conditions at Punchestown, he will surely be a force over hurdles with a suitable emphasis on speed.
8. On His Own
4P1-B1F (Willie Mullins)
Very few miles on the clock since his transfer to Ireland's champion trainer but soon announced his Grand National credentials with an impressive success at Gowran in January. Sure enough, he was moving ominously in third when paying for his first mistake at Becher's second time. Entering his prime at eight, he will be given a circumspect preparation to guarantee he returns to Liverpool with a similarly feasible rating.
9. Rule The World
1-12 (Mouse Morris)
Impressive in a point-to-point and maiden hurdle, he then stepped up to three miles against more seasoned rivals at Cork. One of those was able to set a slow pace, and worried Rule The World out of a photo after he had tanked through to challenge, just betraying inexperience in his jumping. In the best of hands, he may yet live up to his immodest christening.
10. Un Atout
1- (Willie Mullins)
Sent off at long odds-on for his debut in a four-year-olds' bumper at Naas in January, he coasted 24 lengths clear, and Ireland's prepotent jumps trainer was purring afterwards about his temperament – and also, significantly, his schooling technique. Sidelined by a muscle problem thereafter, he will be sent straight over hurdles. Widely available at 33-1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and that could prove a sporting punt.
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