I decided that I wouldn’t include winners in this list otherwise the likes of Altior (Nicky Henderson), Buveur D’Air (Nicky Henderson), Frodon (Paul Nicholls) and Cap Soleil (Fergal O’Brien) would have made the list. I strongly recommend looking out for the last named Mare as I thought she was an incredibly impressive TOP RATED winner on debut!
I therefore have looked for horses that have been beaten and hopefully highlighted some that you have either forgotten about or didn’t see yourself.
One For Arthur – 5th in the Becher Chase @ Aintree
One For Arthur ran a career best when 5th in the Becher Chase at Aintree off a mark of 137 having previously won at Kelso over 3m2f. Having his first run over the National fences he jumped them really well whilst being held up out the back by Derek Fox. Coming into Bechers Brook he was still a long way back and was actually 2nd last of those remaining. At this point, the 4 horses that beat him were 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th and were already moving into positions to strike and with Aachen pulling up after the Canal Turn this left One For Arthur in last place (15th). Between Valentines Brook and the turn into the final he made rapid headway and by the time he got to the 2nd last, he had moved into 5th place. A slight mistake here checked his momentum and whilst he was then unable to get on terms with the front 4 he never stopped running to the line. The 4 that beat him had all had previous experience over the fences. Highland Lodge had won the Becher the year before whilst The Last Samuri, Ucello Contin and Vieux Lion Rouge had finished 2nd, 6th and 7th respectively in last seasons Grand National.
Having made up so much ground in a short amount of time, this run has to be marked up and over the longer 4m2f trip of the Grand National he could work his way into the race slowly and be a force to be reckoned with. He does probably need to go up a few lb to get into the Grand National but surely connections will be doing everything they can now to do this.
Being by Milan he is related to some very smart stayers including Dual Welsh National winner Mountainous and multiple Cross Country Chase winners in Josies Orders and Big Shu.
Hadrians Approach – 4th in the Hennessy @ Newbury
Hadrians Approach was last seen finishing a very good 4th in the Hennessy at Newbury but due to the exciting finish between Caroles Destrier and Native River, those further behind appeared to be missed. Held up for most the race he started to make headway turning into the straight in a similar fashion to how The Druids Nephew did back in 2014. Still pulling Paul Moloney’s arms out he made a mistake at the 3rd last and pecked and was then again slow into the 2nd last. This probably cost him all chance in this race. Jumping the last in 6th he stayed on really well past last years Hennessy winner Smad Place and last years RSA Chase winner Blaklion and this was a big step forward on his previous run at Ascot.
Having won a Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in 2014 he clearly stays further than this 3m2f trip and was winning that off a mark of 146. He has since dropped to a mark of 140 and the handicapper didn’t change his mark after his good 4th in the Hennessy. He’s probably handicapped now to win a big handicap race and both the Welsh National and the Grand National look viable options (if he can make it further than last year where he fell at the 1st).
Kylemore Lough – 5th in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup @ Cheltenham
Kylemore Lough was Grade 1 and 2 winner last season for Kerry Lee and made his return this season in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Tracking the leaders for most of the race he just about took it up at the 3rd last when stumbling badly on landing and quickly dropped back to 5th and after his long lay off, I expected him to be pulled up quickly. He wasn’t however and after some urging from Jamie Moore around the turn into the straight he moved back into the lead and a great jump at the 2nd last saw him looking like he might overcome this mistake and win the race. However when getting in close at the last he lost all momentum and Frodon went past and in the last 50 yards he was passed by 3 others to finish 5th with his lack of a recent run and his mistake just finding him out in the dying strides. Despite finishing 5th he was just a length behind the 2nd place horse and only 3 lengths behind the winner.
The handicapper again has not changed his mark and with fitness now assured he should be able to play a big hand in a feature handicap in the near future. Having not had a recent run, you have to think the shuddering mistake at the 3rd last took a lot out of him and his slow jump at the last may well have cost him 2nd place.
Foxrock – 5th in the Risk of Thunder Chase @ Punchestown
Foxrock went from running a Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup to running in a Cross Country race back at Punchestown. Sent off just 7/2, the field was very quickly strung out and he was a long way back. He never really made any in-roads and wasn’t given a hard time. Having his first experience over the fences and hurdles, he should have learnt plenty for this run and I think next time he will be ridden much closer to the pace and kept more involved.
He was being touted as a future Gold Cup horse and so mixing it in Cross Country Races should be well within his compass and he’s one that could be interesting in the Cross Country race at the Festival
Consul De Thaix – 2nd in the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle
Consul De Thaix is one that I have to talk about although I’m sure many would have seen him already. Having only had 1 run before he ran in the Triumph Hurdle he ran only moderately there finishing back in 10th place. This season he has finished 2nd twice in decent handicaps including the Grade 3 handicap at Ascot last time out. At both Sandown and Ascot he’s looked in need of further as he’s been outpaced early on before running on late to get up for 2nd. At Sandown he finished really well up the hill and it may be that with a combination of a fast pace and an uphill finish which he should get at the Cheltenham Festival he can still be very competitive over 2m rather than a step up in distance.
I would be surprised if Nicky Henderson ran him again before the Festival and it will be interesting to see what race he turns up in!
Le Rocher – 2nd in the 32red.com Handicap hurdle
Le Rocher has some very smart Juvenile form which included winning a Grade 2 and Grade 1 hurdle race at Cheltenham and Chepstow respectively. After a long lay off he made his return at Ascot and ran well for most of the race before getting tired late on as would be expected.
His next race was very interesting as for most of it, we the public were completely unsighted due to the fog. He reportedly finished a close 2nd behind Clyne who is now going to be aimed at a Champion Hurdle trial. When they did come into view briefly in the straight, he was still travelling really well for Lizzie Kelly and it may turn out that finishing 2nd to Clyne is a very good performance. With another run now under his belt and a mark still lower than his Juvenile days, Le Rocher looks like a horse to win a decent handicap in the near future.
Warrantor – 2nd in the BetVictor Handicap Chase
Warrantor is another horse that ran well on his reappearance after a long time off the track. Having not run for 7 months he made his reappearance in the BetVictor Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and was held up for most of the journey. He was also kept out wide for the whole race and this ground he probably gave away could well have been the difference between winning and losing the race. A slow jump at the 3rd last didn’t help his chance but he turned into the straight still going well. Jumping the last alongside the winner Viconte Du Noyer he was just a bit slow away from it and then wandered under pressure. He ended up finishing 2nd by just 1 length and looks sure to go one better in the near future.
The winner was having his first run for Colin Tizzard who had stepped him up significantly in distance and he may well have been well handicapped at this distance. Warrantor should have improved for that run and a race like the Welsh National could be on his agenda next (if he gets in).