When writing the original horses to follow piece, I had a list of around forty horses to consider. During the process, some were taken out due to clashing categories and others due to having second thoughts which left me with a reasonable list of twenty. That piece is available to read here. (http://jpfestival.com/horses-to-follow-2/201415-jump-horses-follow)
I was then asked by Dean from Racing Groups if I could contribute a ten to follow list for his site so I have duly obliged. Some that are in this list failed to make the original list but not for negative reasons. For instance, Seeyouatmidnight was removed because there were already several staying novice chasers however the likes of Son Du Berlais, The Outlaw and Westhorpe were through recent news in the Racing Post and rechecking my tracker.
I would also like to thank Will Kedjayni for proof-reading the final word document.
ANALIFET – 4 – Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins ended last season with the top rated juvenile hurdler in Abbyssial but it could very easily have been his stablemate Analifet whose season ended prematurely when fracturing her pelvis over Christmas at Leopardstown. Before that she had looked a filly of huge quality when bolting up on debut at Punchestown when beating stable companion Noble Inn without needing to come off the bridle. The same comment applies to her second start in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse when again beating the same rival with consummate ease and underlining leading claims for the Triumph Hurdle.
She returns this season and still remains an exciting proposition as we still don’t know how good she could be and is certainly better than just competing in mares’ only contests although the likely end of year target would be the Mares Hurdle. If allowed to try herself at the top level, she could even progress into a lively outsider for the Champion Hurdle.
BATTLE BORN – 5 – Charlie Longsdon
Charlie Longsdon has a lovely bunch of younger horses going novice hurdling this season with the likes of A Vos Gardes and Our Kaempfer flying the flag but this son of Kayf Tara has shown plenty of promise on all his starts to date.
He began in a Point to Point where he was second to the highly regarded No More Heroes at Dromahane before moving to Longsdons’ yard. His first run under rules was at Haydock in a bumper where he seemed outpaced before plugging on to finish third behind Desoto County and Wuff. He then got off the mark on deep ground at Warwick when using his experience from Haydock to make all the running and stayed on stoutly to beat King’s Odyssea. He then won impressively by thirty one lengths at Bangor with Charlie Deutsch claiming seven pounds to remove the penalty received for his Warwick win.
For his final bumper start, he went to Aintree for their Champion Bumper and wasn’t disgraced on better ground when attempting to make all the running when sixth behind Ballybolley; only beaten eight lengths. A step up in trip over hurdles will bring out more in him and his ability to handle deep ground will be to his advantage over the winter.
BLUE FASHION – 5 – Nicky Henderson
In the original list of horses to follow, Nicky Henderson only made one appearance with the hugely exciting Beat That however in this instalment he makes two more with this son of Scorpion. For an Irish bred horse, he went the unusual way of starting his career in France where he showed a fair level of form in his juvenile days on very soft ground. His final run in France but his first under Henderson’s name was a fair effort when fourth behind the impressive Diakali and was only three and a half lengths behind the runner up Ptit Zig who looks a top chasing prospect for Paul Nicholls.
He only appeared once in England last season at Haydock when he was second in a highly competitive handicap behind World Hurdle winner More Of That giving him six pounds and was beaten two lengths. He is entitled to have improved hugely especially given his imposing size as he just looks an out and out chaser. Two and a half miles should be his ideal distance to start off at with potential early season targets including the Berkshire Novices’ Chase in which Henderson has a good recent record with four winners since the turn of the millennium including dual Aintree Foxhunters winner Katarino in 2001 and the 2013 Gold Cup winner Bob’s Worth. He should also get three miles in time and looks a horse with a bright future over the larger obstacles.
CANTLOW – 9 – Paul Webber
It’s unusual to see an older horse in these horses to follow list however Cantlow is different for a few reasons. His profile to me screams out for one race late in the campaign which he could either be ideally suited to or take an instant dislike to in the Crabbie’s Grand National.
He was first noticed when second to Saint Are in the 2011 Sefton Novice Hurdle at the Grand National meeting when staying on strongly into second on the run in. His next season was then planned around the Pertemps Final where he finished third behind Cape Tribulation before going novice chasing where he was given some enterprising rides whilst attempting to get a handicap mark including when second to this year’s Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy although he fractured his pelvis during that victory.
Unfortunately for connections, he made it to his main target of the season the Byrne Group Plate where he bled down at the start so was withdrawn on veterinary advice before being a huge disappointment at Aintree in a handicap chase won by Battle Group. Last season began at Wetherby where he looked to need the run behind Ultimate before going on to win at Newbury over two and a half miles beating Easter Meteor but not after a significant error four out.
This trait continued on his next start where he made a bad error just after halfway in the Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup in December at Cheltenham before staying on behind Double Ross. That race has worked out unbelievably well with the winner third in a Grade One, the second Colour Squadron and fifth John’s Spirit both confirming their running in this year’s Byrne Group Plate and Ma Filleule now rated 163 after a devastating display in the Topham Trophy over the National fences.
Cantlow returned to the Festival for the Baylis & Harding Handicap Chase where he was travelling well before falling in front of the stands around the halfway mark. He then got left at the start at Aintree over hurdles so can be forgiven there and ended his season with a solid effort in the Irish National carrying top weight when eighth to Shutthefrontdoor.
The reasons I believe the Grand National will suit this horse are as follows. His profile resembles a mishmash of both Don’t Push It and Sunnyhillboy in particular ways as they both interested me for the race when they both first ran in it. His half-brother was a staying Grade One novice winner Darkness and like Cantlow, he had a tendency to clout a fence so stamina wouldn’t be much of a worry. I also believe he is the type of horse who would relish the challenge of Aintree even though his jumping is questionable at the best of times.
One thing he does need to do is finish in the first four in a three mile plus chase however on the evidence of how he finishes his races off, that isn’t a big worry. A bit more of a left-field selection which could either reap the rewards or leave me with egg on my face.
CHATEZ – 3 – Alan King
This entry might not even go jumping at all but I feel if he does then he will be a force to be reckoned with in juvenile hurdles. His trainer Alan King has done particularly well in this sphere in recent years with examples including Triumph Hurdle winners in Penzance and 2008 Champion Hurdle winner Katchit. Chatez has shown a fair level of form on the flat rated 98 including a big handicap win in the Silver Bowl at Haydock on soft ground. He also appeared at Royal Ascot where on quicker ground he wasn’t disgraced in the Britannia when eleventh to Born In Bombay beaten seven lengths.
His last current run at the time of writing was over ten furlongs where he was beaten by a well handicapped horse in Winter Thunder on Newmarket’s July course. He hasn’t been seen since which could either imply connections are waiting for a juvenile hurdle campaign or softer ground on the flat. If they go juvenile hurdling he could easily make up into a leading contender for either the Triumph Hurdle or the Fred Winter depending on what ability he shows.
KELTUS – 4 – Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls has some nice horses from his bunch of juveniles with the likes of Calipto and Katgary, but Keltus looks to be one who has slipped slightly under the radar after some hugely promising efforts at the back end of last season.
His career in the UK began well with success at Chepstow in a juvenile hurdle where he jumped efficiently to beat Wooly Bully by five lengths before disappointing slightly in the Wensleydale behind Royal Irish Hussar at Wetherby. He then finished second in a handicap hurdle at Huntingdon when trying to make all the running behind Fergall in December.
With the winter ground setting in, he was put away for the Fred Winter in which he could be described as unlucky as he was virtually taken out by the fallen Astre De La Cour and lost several lengths. Despite that, he ran an eye-catching race up the hill to finish fourth behind Hawk High before not appreciating the softer underfoot conditions when fourth behind Dispour at Sandown however he certainly wasn’t disgraced beaten less than four lengths.
As he wants a sounder surface, his potential targets will be very early in the campaign and during the spring. He looks to be going on a novice chase campaign as he is entered tomorrow in a novice chase at Newton Abbot against Court Minstrel. This route is interesting for him with Nicholls deciding to use the advantage of the 4yo weight allowance which he did successfully with Valco De Touzaine twelve months ago however he wouldn’t be out of place in a competitive handicap hurdle on decent ground.
SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT – 6 – Sandy Thomson
One of my personal highlights of last season was watching the progression over hurdles of this son of Midnight Legend who looks every inch a chaser in the making. He doesn’t come from a fashionable yard in Sandy Thomson which isn’t meant offensively but has looked a very smart individual who lowered some big colours.
On his hurdling debut, he was sent off 66/1 at Hexham where he went out and made every yard of the running to be the highly regarded Regal Encore over two miles on heavy ground. That distance was always going to be on the sharp side for him and for his next start at Musselburgh he was stepped up to three miles for the Albert Bartlett Trial where again he went off an unfancied 22/1 but again won beating Racing Pulse by nine lengths. Instead of contesting the Grade Two novice hurdle on Haydock’s Grand National Trial day, the Rendlesham was decided upon as his next race where yet again he went from the front and showed his tenaciousness when slogging it out on desperately bad ground to beat Mickie with 2013 World Hurdle runner up and recently retired Celestial Halo back in third.
He was probably found out slightly on better ground at Aintree in the Sefton but still ran a nice race whilst not being able to keep up with Beat That and Cole Harden after the second last with both of those having the potential to make up into World Hurdle candidates. After that he wasn’t beaten up by Ryan Mania who looked after him to come home in third. Novice chasing will be the plan this season and given plenty of cut in the ground over three miles plus, he will be some force to be reckoned with however if he was to race on better ground I wouldn’t hold it against him. He could be a potential type for the National Hunt Chase on better ground where his strong stamina would come into play.
SON DU BERLAIS – 4 – Nicky Henderson
This horse is a very late addition to my horses to follow having read the Racing Post on Monday. He only raced twice in France for his trainer Robert Collet and his introduction to racing at Auteuil was a hair-raising experience as he almost got carried out at the second hurdle when the leader decided to run out and proceeded to take half the field with him. He recovered to finish fourth in the end but the run is best forgotten. (Link to the incident with Son Du Berlais carrying the red colours – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9xavEaGE4w)
His next start is what brought him to my attention when researching for possible reasons why he would be at Nicky Henderson’s yard. The proof was when returned to Auteuil in March and won very impressively, having sprinted from the final hurdle to win as he pleased with plenty in the tank. (Link to Son Du Berlais’ win at Auteuil -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s07nmGc36ME)
The form hasn’t worked out too well however on the eye it was a really taking performance from a horse that could make into a smart prospect in England. One thing to note is that he loses his novice hurdle status at the beginning of November and his first main target is the Persian War at Chepstow at the end of October. If he wins that impressively he could follow the route that Silviniaco Conti took after winning the race by going to the Ascot Hurdle. A drop back to the minimum trip at some point wouldn’t be the worst idea with his turn of foot either.
Son Du Berlais is now due to run tomorrow at Newton Abbot.
THE OUTLAW – 4 – Paul Nicholls
This son of Presenting wouldn’t be one mentioned in many horses to follow lists but his one and only start at Taunton showed plenty of promise when second to a more experienced rival in One For The Guv’Nr whilst showing plenty of greenness. He will probably run in at least another bumper before going hurdling where he will improve for a step up in distance and like many from the yard, he will be given time to grow into his frame.
WESTHORPE – 5 – Willie Mullins
The final horse to make the list comes from Willie Mullins and is a novice hurdler who probably won’t be at the top of the pecking order with the amount of talent going hurdling from the stable including Shaneshill, Tell Us More, Allez Columbieres and Black Hercules however he does look a potentially nice performer.
On his only racecourse outing to date in February, he beat the Paul Nolan trained Fine Article in a Fairyhouse bumper after travelling easily throughout the race and putting it to bed in game fashion despite showing some signs of greenness in the final furlong. The second then went on to win nicely at Gowran before posting a solid effort when fourth in the Grade One bumper at Punchestown behind Shaneshill beaten eight and a quarter lengths and the third Officer Cadet also came out and won at Downpatrick.
It would be no surprise to see him return in another bumper before going over hurdles at the minimum distance to start off with. He should at least get two and a half in time.