15 horses to follow for the 2020/2021 jumps season
Our in-house racing expert Chad Yeomans reveals his list of horses to keep a close eye on throughout the new National Hunt season.
It’s hard not to be drawn to horses like Envoi Allen and Shishkin when looking ahead to the new National Hunt season.
However, rather than include the more obvious candidates, I’ve created a list of horses that I think will not only improve from what they’ve shown so far, but may even end up running at some of the bigger meetings this season and beyond.
And, more importantly, they all have the ability to win races…
Allart (6YO) – Nicky Henderson
This horse won’t reach the same heights as his stablemates Shishkin and Chantry House, but I was still very impressed with Allart’s effort behind the pair of them in a superb renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
He was in the leading quintet that had pulled away from the rest of the field as they turned for home, but his effort petered out as they jumped the last.
The winner, Shishkin, will take all the beating in the 2m novice chase division, while the runner-up, Abacadabras has Champion Hurdler written all over him.
Allart has a mark of 146 so, while a career over fences beckons, his connections could be tempted to exploit that. Something like the Greatwood at Cheltenham in November, wouldn’t be totally out of his depth.
Appreciate It (6YO) – Willie Mullins
As ever, Willie Mullins, looks to have a very strong team of novices across all codes going into this season and Appreciate It looks as though he could go right to the top of the staying hurdling division before likely being put out over fences the following year.
There weren’t many bumper performances as taking as his one at Leopardstown in February, where he annihilated his opponents to arrive at Cheltenham as many people’s banker.
He travelled extremely well in the Champion Bumper on the day, but just got tapped for toe by his stablemate Ferny Hollow, who you’d imagine will be a very good novice hurdler at the minimum trip.
The way Appreciate It tanked through the race from the front – doing it the hard way – suggests he has a massive engine and that stepping up in trip will bring out the best in him.
He’s currently the favourite for the Neptune Novices’ next year and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him give his trainer another Festival winner come March.
Butte Montana (5YO) – Fergal O’Brien
When a four-year-old travels around Cheltenham with the same zest that Butte Montana did on his debut in the National Hunt Flat Race last season, it suggests they could just be above average.
The simple fact that he was even entered into a race of that depth by his trainer, who has a host of talented bumper horses every year, is telling enough in itself.
Settled to the rear of the field, he travelled well throughout and made up plenty of ground on what was described as heavy going, only getting caught late on by the wet sail of Time Flies By, who will also win plenty of races.
He then went to Ascot in the Listed bumper – which is always a very hot contest – and, while he was well beaten, I’m inclined to put a line through it.
The fact he wasn’t seen again suggests that something was amiss, and I’d expect him to try his hand at another bumper, potentially back at Cheltenham. He’ll be winning races, for sure.
Column Of Fire (6YO) – Gordon Elliott
There will be plenty out there who can remember Column Of Fire falling at the last in the Martin Pipe when looking like he was coming to win under Eoin Walsh.
He had been campaigned for that race, which usually means that his connections had thought he was handicapped well enough for it.
He was third on his first crack over 3m in a valuable handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival and, off his current mark of 145, there will definitely be some handicap hurdles over 2½m and above that his connections will have an eye on if they stay over hurdles.
If they decide to put him over fences, then he’ll make a lovely horse and is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Daly Tiger (7YO) – Noel Meade
Noel Meade only sends horses to Cheltenham if he thinks they won’t be totally outclassed, so it was interesting that he sent Daly Tiger to run in the now redundant Northern Trust Handicap Chase.
He ran behind some of the best 2m novice chasers in his first season over fences and, while his jumping was novicey at times, I’m sure that will improve as he gets more experience under his belt and steps up in trip.
He’s only gone further than 2m twice in his career and ran very well both times. He finished ninth at the Festival but ran with lots of promise and I’d be surprised if he can’t progress to win a few handicaps this season.
Drift Rock (6YO) – Peter Bowen
It’s been a while since Peter Bowen has had a horse that has taken him to all of the big festivals, but Drift Rock could well do just that in the future.
The son of Malinas was well-supported before his debut at Chepstow last season, but his inexperience showed late on as he ended his debut run in fourth place. He improved from that first run to his second when he was beaten by a smart Paul Nicholls horse back at the same track the following month.
He should be able to win a moderate bumper with ease, though it wouldn’t be unlike his connections to send him over hurdles, where he can certainly win a few novice races, especially if kept to some of the smaller courses on soft ground.
He’ll improve with racing and with age and is one to keep on your side.
Easywork (6YO) – Gordon Elliott
Not many horses have given Envoi Allen a real race, but Easywork did just that at Cheltenham in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle in March, despite his jockey reporting that he ran too free.
He may have the pace for 2m, but he will certainly stay further, and will no doubt be able to mop up plenty of novice chases and maybe even some Graded ones, too.
Envoi Allen will obviously be very tough to beat wherever he goes, but make no mistake, Easywork won’t be too far behind.
Golan Fortune (8YO) – Phil Middleton
I have no doubt that, at some point this season, Phil Middleton will successfully place Golan Fortune to win a valuable handicap in soft or heavy ground, possibly over 3m.
Mr Middleton has had great success over the past few seasons and, in Golan Fortune’s 12 completed career starts (having fallen once and been pulled up on another), he has already been in the top three eight times. That’s a superb record – especially for a horse who is still rated 139 – and includes the scalps of some very good horses.
There is undoubtedly more to come this season and I suspect another crack at the Big Buck’s – the same valuable handicap he won at Cheltenham last November – would be high on the cards.
Hook Up (4YO) – Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins has won every renewal of the Mares’ Novice Hurdle since its inception five years ago, and he could have another good candidate on his hands in the shape of Hook Up, who remains a novice for this season having not won as a juvenile.
She finished third on her debut in a Grade 3 behind stablemate and eventual Triumph Hurdle winner, Burning Victory, when she had to go around the field to mount a challenge, meaning that she got racing earlier than her rider would have liked.
That was still a great start to life for her new connections, who then sent her to the Triumph Hurdle, when she was said to have had an excuse for only beating two of her rivals home. She still travelled well at the back of the field that day, up until coming down the hill, and would have learned plenty for that experience.
She looks very smart and is just the type to continue her trainer’s dominance in the mares’ novice division.
Honest Vic (7YO) – Henry Daly
Honest Vic won two of four races last season and finished his campaign with a very good fifth in the Coral Cup at the Festival. He was only put up 1lb for that effort and still looks a horse of great potential, especially over his mark of 141.
The only other time he was beaten last season was at Haydock over 2m 3f, when he found the trip a touch too short but kept on strongly to the line to finish fourth.
The son of Kalanisi has always shaped like a stayer and his best work is often done late on in his races. He’s also a half-brother to a horse than has won over a trip as far as 3m 6f.
I think he’ll improve again for going up in trip and a sharp 3m on a track like Market Rasen or Kempton would appear ideal for him.
Numitor (6YO) – Heather Main
Numitor’s true future lies over fences, so I’d be surprised if he doesn’t feature in next year’s version of this list.
Standing at 18 hands tall, he’s a big-framed horse who will no doubt win plenty of races when he goes over larger obstacles. However, the form he showed in his four starts last season suggests he can certainly win over hurdles this season, too.
The grey gelding has run four times for trainer Heather Main and, surprisingly for his size, ran better around the sharper courses. He still showed promise on his other two runs at Newbury and Doncaster, so I don’t think there is a preference bias just yet.
Based on his breeding lines, I’m not sure what his best trip will be as there is plenty of speed running through him but, to my eye, he’ll have no problem at 2½m this season.
Redford Road (7YO) – Nigel Twiston-Davies
There’s a certain novice chase at Perth in September that Nigel Twiston-Davies can almost call his own, having won six of the last 10 renewals with a horse you could consider his best novice chaser of that season.
He ran Redford Road in it this year and, though he was beaten by a horse with chase experience, he ran with promise over a trip that was much too short for him.
He was a winner of a 3m hurdle at Cheltenham in December 2019 and ended his season with a good effort in the Albert Bartlett, where he was slightly outclassed by the best-of-the-best from England and Ireland in what was a stellar renewal.
I expect him to step up to 3m sooner rather than later and think he’ll be able to win plenty of races this season.
Tedham (6YO) – Jonjo O’Neill
Tedham hasn’t been successful since his victory at Wincanton in January 2019 and, although he’d have left many of his backers frustrated with some of his performances last season, I’m sure he’ll make amends now he’s going over fences.
He has apparently impressed his connections schooling over fences, who must have thought about contesting more handicap hurdles off his mark of 131. As a six-year-old, he’ll still be learning and will keep on improving, too.
He will stay 3m but I imagine he’ll start at around 2½m and has more than enough ability to make a name for himself.
Step To The Top (5YO) – Noel Williams
Noel Williams is very good at placing mares and he has another exciting prospect on his hands in the shape of Step To The Top.
She didn’t manage to win any of her three bumpers last season but ran with promise in all of them, including on her final start of the season in a Listed bumper at Kempton, when she managed to finish second despite being very keen throughout.
The way she raced suggested that she’ll stay 2½m problem, but she could be winning races over 2m this season. I’d like to think she’ll be a dominant force among the mares novice hurdlers and could end up at the Mares’ Day during Cheltenham’s April meeting.
Sheshoon Sonny (6YO) – Alan King
Alan King is now seen as a dual-purpose trainer having built up his team of horses on the Flat, but still has more horses in training during the winter.
Sheshoon Sonny might not hit the same heights as some of the yard’s other stars, but there are races to be won off his current mark of 117. He is a big, slow learner who will definitely keep improving with age and I’d be surprised if he’s not left this mark way behind in 12 months’ time.
He seems to do his best work towards the end of his races and I think 2½m will be within his range.
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