Katie Walsh: 6 names I think are set for a season to remember
In her first column ahead of the new National Hunt season, the Betway ambassador reveals the horses, trainer and jockey she thinks will be making headlines.
The National Hunt season properly kicks off this weekend in England with a great two-day fixture at Chepstow.
The excitement is really starting to bubble so, before the off, here are six names I think could be set for a memorable campaign.
Saint Roi (Willie Mullins)
The season is already under way over here in Ireland and I think we may have already seen a potential star.
Saint Roi absolutely sluiced up at Tipperary last week, winning a Grade 3 hurdle by 5½ lengths.
I was so impressed by the way he won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. He travelled like a dream and quickened well to win comfortably.
He’s going to be trained as a Champion Hurdle horse and, from what I’ve seen, he’s got the ability to do it.
If he does, then he’ll be the first horse since Rooster Booster to win both the County Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle, which would be some achievement.
Envoi Allen (Gordon Elliott)
I know it’s obvious and not overly original, but there can’t be a racing fan out there who isn’t excited by Envoi Allen. He’s just so exciting and is clearly a superstar.
I must admit, I didn’t believe the hype when I saw him in his first bumper. I thought he was good, but I didn’t think that he’d go unbeaten for the next two seasons.
Like all the best horses, it doesn’t matter what track, trip or ground he runs on – he always manages to find an extra gear and keep winning.
These types of horses don’t come around often but, when they do, they have to be enjoyed, so I for one am going to enjoy watching this future Gold Cup horse in his novice chase season.
An Fraoch Mor (Ross O’Sullivan)
A horse that my husband Ross is really looking forward to getting out this season is An Fraoch Mor, who was progressive last season and won very well at Navan.
He was disappointing on his more recent start at Naas, but I’m inclined to put a line through that run.
He’s a big, strong horse that wants some proper soft jumping ground. I think he’ll start off over 2m this season and we’ll go from there.
Any Second Now (Ted Walsh)
The Aintree Grand National has been very good to the Walsh Family over the years so it means an awful lot to us.
It’s very hard to get your hands on a Grand National horse, but Any Second Now is definitely the right type for the race and will be campaigned accordingly. Dad will come up with a plan for him to get him in the best possible condition on the day.
What I love so much about the Grand National is that the winner can come from a small yard somewhere.
It doesn’t have to come from the big operations with the most horses – it really can be won by anyone, and that’s what makes it so special.
I’ve long been a fan of Jack Kennedy, but there can’t be many jockeys who, at his age, have had the bad luck with injuries that he’s endured.
The poor lad has been really unfortunate, but his talent when he’s riding is there for all to see. I really hope he has a clear season from injuries, and then he can showcase to everyone just how good he is.
We’ve seen Ruby [Walsh] and Barry [Geraghty] retire from the saddle recently so there is a space over here for a poster-boy top jockey, and Jack really could fit that bill.
For as long as he’s riding for Gordon [Elliott], he’s going to have some very exciting horses to ride, so here’s hoping we see all his ability this year.
It’s exciting to see young talent coming through the training ranks and, with the host of horses he has, I think Olly Murphy is going to have a great season.
He learned a lot when he was assistant to Gordon. He’s clearly very good at getting horses fit and, more importantly, getting them to win.
He won his first Grade 1 last season when Itchy Feet won the Betway Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown Park and I don’t think it will be his last.
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