Five National Hunt Horses to Follow – 2013/14

As the flat season draws to a close, our attentions turn to the upcoming National Hunt season, with plenty of potential stars about to make their re-appearances.

Oscar Rock (Malcolm Jefferson)

The 5-y-o went into many notebooks after running away with a very competitive bumper at Newbury in February, and he looks set for a massive season.

Transferring from the Harry Fry stable to Malcolm Jefferson, means he is nearer his owners in the north of England, and a big campaign looks in-store, with all roads leading to Prestbury Park in March.

Fry neglected the chance to rush his charge into racing at the Festival last year, choosing to bide his time and have a tilt at the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, for which he is currently 12/1.

He beat the subsequent front-three in the Grade Two Aintree Bumper, which means his price has slowly been dropping since his last run, yet it is expected to continue to be chipped away at with every passing performance.

His former trainer suggested ‘the sky is the limit’ with the gelding, and following him should prove extremely profitable (including ante-post).

Just A Par (Paul Nicholls)

NICHOLLS

Ditcheat may well have seen better days, but there is still plenty of exciting prospects to get in the notebook for the coming season, and none-more-so, than novice chaser, Just A Par.

After winning a maiden-hurdle at Punchestown impressively in November, he changed hands for £260,000, with Paul Barber and Graham Roach taking ownership.

He performed with great credit on his only two starts over hurdles for Paul Nicholls, finishing runner-up on both starts, including behind the very highly-rated Fishers Cross in a Grade One at Aintree.

He was bought with chasing in mind, so last year’s performances were a bonus in terms of returns of income. He is a big type, who looks as though he will thrive over fences, and you can guarantee he will have the best chance of becoming a top chaser, with the schooling programmes and facilities on offer at Ditcheat.

There will be plenty of hype around his first public appearance over fences, and if he impresses as expected under Daryl Jacob, the 25/1 on offer for the RSA Chase at the Festival, will not last very long.

Blackmail (Tony Martin)

The shrewd Irish handler could hardly contain his excitement when his 5-y-o ran out a very impressive winner at the Galway Festival.

He has made a seamless transition to hurdles from the flat, winning both of his starts in impressive fashion. He looks like a likely improver, and Martin has a reputation for getting the best out of youngsters with potential, and the 33/1 on offer for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at next year’s Festival is fairly certain to be a lot shorter come the day.

His is closely matched with stablemate Ted Veale on flat form, and if he manages to continue his upward curve, he should be in for a big season.

Master Red (Donald McCain)

mccain

McCain is a master at selecting the right races to ensure his charges can spring together a run of victories, and Master Red looks a perfect type for McCain to continue this trait.

He won on his only start for Andrew Cook, running out a comfortable winner at 20/1, before being sent to Donald McCain.

The son of Red Clubs cost £100,000 and the 4-y-o has some brilliant family connections, being out of a full-sister to the classy Ghizao.

His bumper form has panned out well, and he has shown glimpses of high-class ability on his two starts for McCain, finishing second on debut (when travelling best of all, before flattening out), and a wide-margin win in a Sedgefield bumper.

He may not have the mould of a future Cheltenham winner, but there are plenty of races to be won with the 4-y-o this season, and it will certainly pay to keep him onside.

Baradari (Venetia Williams)

The very shrewd Guy Petit purchased a three-year-old son of Manduro, from the Aga Khan Stud to be sent to Venetia Williams, by the name of Baradari.

The €235,000 purchase has finished runner-up on two occasions at Listed level in France, is from a brilliant jumping pedigree (half-brother to Grade One winning hurdler Barizan), and looks set to be an exciting prospect over hurdles.

His physique suggests he will enjoy the step up to middle-distances, and you can guarantee he will be schooled extensively by Williams before he sees the racecourse.

He looks a very classy type and although he is not currently marked up for any ante-post races, he should return a very profitable season if he manages to transfer his ability over obstacles, so make sure you got on early.

 

The Grand National.

It’s that time of year when betting shops see an unusual surge in attendance, as the nation gathers to place their yearly bets on the worlds biggest steeplechase.

As 40 runners depart into the Merseyside wilderness, the world holds it’s collective breath as they maraud down to the opening fence, clutching their betting slips with more hope than expectation.

In a 21 year life, I have only ever managed to back the winner of the race twice (Red Marauder and Amberleigh House), yet that never stops me coming back every year, with the mindset that I have finally found ‘the one’.

Aintree 2

I get more texts in the days leading up to the Grand National, than I do for the rest of the year combined usually, with my racing knowledge deemed worthy for one race a year.

Hopefully I won’t let you all down!

Anyways, on with the racing, and as there are 40 runners, I won’t bore you with low-downs of each horses strengths and weakness, I will simply highlight what I believe the first four home will be.

FIRST – CAPPA BLEU

Evan Williams’ 11yo was fourth in the race last year, and has been laid out for another crack at the big prize.

He has finished second on his two starts this term, pleasing his trainer with both runs.

Connections know what it takes to run a big race, after State of Play was placed in three nationals with Paul Maloney on board, as-well as Cappa’s fourth place last year.

Cappa Bleu’s run was impeded several times and he looked as though he would struggle to land any sort of blow, before staying on best of all on the flat, eventually knuckling down and staying on for fourth.

He manages to get into the race on a relatively low weight of 10 stone 11lbs, which he should be able to carry comfortably.

His jumping is impeccable, and if he manages to avoid trouble tomorrow, his jumping strength, tied in with his stamina and connections’ nous of making sure their mounts run a big race, the 12/1 on offer looks incredible value.

SECOND – SEABASS

Katie Walsh’s mount finished third last year, and will be hoping to go two better, as he lines up once more.

The Ted Walsh trained 10yo looked the likely winner last year, before fading up the run in.

The 75 yards less to run this year, will definitely play in to his hands, and he looks to have a real chance of allowing Walsh to become the first female jockey to ever land the Grand National.

A close third in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse last time out is solid form, and it would be no surprised to see the gelding go off as favourite come Saturday afternoon.

A solid jumper, a great relationship with his jockey and a slightly shortened trip suggest a big run is expected from Seabass and he can fill up one of the places.

THIRD – ACROSS THE BAY

Owners of the 9yo turned down a six-figure sum for their only horse last month which in itself shows just how much potential they think he has.

He has already beaten leading fancy Cappa Bleu this season, albeit when the latter was in need of the run. However this is solid form, and Donald McCain’s gelding has since had a wind operation which has helped considerably.

The 9yo landed the Grade 2 Rendlesham at Haydock on his only run since the operation, and the manner of his success suggested the step up in trip is likely to suit.

He tends to lead from the front, which is the best place to be in the national, in an attempt to keep away from the carnage that a faller would bring to the middle of the pack.

Trainer Donald McCain knows what it takes to get a horse right for the big race, having done so with Ballabriggs in 2011.

40/1 looks too big to ignore, and is sure to receive some each-way interest before the race begins.

FOURTH – CHICAGO GREY

Gordon Elliot’s charge will be hoping to carry on the success of grey horses in the race, after Neptune Collonges finally got rid of the voodoo last year.

The 10yo never really managed to get into the race last year, as he was brought down at the fifth fence, but will be hoping for a big run come Saturday.

He was last seen landing a Grade 2 at Navan, staying on best of all to beat a high-class trio.

The form of the race has worked out extremely well as the runner-up since come out and landed a Grade 2 himself.

Chicago Grey’s form is rock solid, and with Paul Carberry on board, the stylish jockey is sure to give the grey his best chance of winning.

A low weight of 10 stone 7 lbs, strengthens his case further and it would be no surprise to see the 10yo make the frame.

Overall Prediction:

1st: Cappa Bleu (12/1)

2nd: Seabass (10/1)

3rd: Across the Bay (40/1)

4th: Chicago Grey (14/1)

Advice:

1 point e.w: Cappa Bleu @ 12/1 (Various)

 

2013: +23.11