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)
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 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.