National Hunt Horses To Follow 2022 – 2023

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None of the obvious Constitution Hill, Galopin Des Champs, Sir Gerhard, Honeysuckle types….for me these are a bit pointless in these blogs as everyone is aware of them!

I am going to send these thoughts to the respective trainers and hope to get a few lines back from them regarding the horse and any potential plans. Let’s see what they come back with (if any reply). Any replies will be added to the blog when we get them.

Might I (Rated 142) – Harry Fry

Might I has a rating of 142 and personally I think this is what Harry Fry should be looking to exploit with Might I over hurdles has been beaten by Constitution Hill, Jonbon, Richmond Lake & Three Stripe Life. I would suggest at least 3 of these are Grade 1 horses with only Richmond Lake possibly not quite being up to the same level. Nevertheless I therefore feel Might I has been beaten by some very smart horses and his handicap mark underestimates him. Last time out he was raced over 2m4f at Aintree and that could be where they feel his future lies and with that in mind, I would be looking at the Silver Trophy at Chepstow where if he wins he can then be aimed at the Graded races for the rest of the season.

Lady Adare – Harry Fry

Lady finished last season 3 from 3 over hurdles and I was a bit disappointed she didn’t turn up in the Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival. It was arguably her debut over hurdles that was her most impressive run having beaten Get A Tonic, Credo, Tweet Skirt and Holly who’s subsequent form read 1132213315416041 (6 wins from 17 runs) and Lady Adare beat these comfortably. Lady Adare then ran in 2 more Novice hurdles winning at 2/5 & 1/4 so nothing to learn from these races. I thought she looked quite a big mare and it’s very possible she could be sent over fences already but if she’s not then I think she will be a big player in Mares hurdles. There’s a Mares handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in December that I think could be a starting point with the Warwick Listed race and Grade 2 & the Mares Hurdle Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival being the long term target.

Kittys Light (Rated 144) – Christian Williams

Kitty’s Light is STILL only 6 turning 7 and yet has already finished 3rd in a Badger Beers Trophy, 2nd & 3rd in a Bet65 Gold Cup, 2nd in a Coral Trophy, 2nd in a Scottish National & 2nd in a Charlie Hall. Whilst you may look at this and think he’s unreliable or frustrating, he’s probably been achieving more than he should have at his age. I really hope connections give the Welsh National a go and the Grand National at Aintree. I think Kitty’s Light IS well handicapped and if we just look at his 2 most recent runs we can see he was beaten by Win My Wings (raised 14lb) and Hewick (has since won the Galway Plate as well and was running a huge race today in the Kerry National). Whatever staying handicap chase he runs in he is worth backing.

From Christian Williams:

With Kitty’s Light being bred to run on the flat there is always a worry that their peak performances come at a young age rather than a NH bred horse that mature and improve with age.
At some stage those long staying chases have an effect on performance.
Enrilo last year was an example what a hard marathon race can do in the 2021 BET365 Gold Cup. He totally last his form.
Kitty will have no option but to run in all the big staying chases and if everything goes his way in one of them let’s hope he can eventually get his head in front.

Bonttay – Fergal O’Brien

Bonttay finished the season 3 from 3 in NHF races including 2 wins at Cheltenham. She was only 4 and that could have been why Fergal and his team didn’t run her in the Champion Bumper at the Festival. Behind her on her 2 runs at Cheltenham included Mayhem Mya (3rd behind Nurse Susan & Love Envoi at Lingfield), Top Dog (Listed NHF race winner), Aucunrisque (Grade 2 winner at Kempton & Sussex Champion Hurdle winner) which suggests the form at Cheltenham was above average and Bonttay had beaten these in good style. She likes to be held up and finish strongly and I don’t think she needs to go up in trip just yet. I hope connections can find her an easy Novice hurdle to start off her season before going to Lingfield for the Winter Millions Mares Novice hurdle and ending the season at the Cheltenham Festival in the Mares Novice Hurdle. I really think she’s that good!

Holly – Jonjo O’Neill

Holly caught my eye last season when she finished 5th on her return from 336 days off the track at Uttoxeter. I didn’t know however how strong that form was going to end up being and Holly contributed to this by winning on her next start at Wincanton. We have to remember she is only 4 turning 5 and likely to still be improving. Her win at Wincanton looked average but the horses around her have done well recently with the 2nd having now won his last 2 races and the 3rd has also won his last 2 races. Whilst these haven’t been off marks that are exciting for Holly it does suggest she beat horses that can at least win themselves. Whilst Holly has only had the 2 runs over hurdles for Jonjo O’Neill she had already had experience and wins on the track in France and I think Holly can prove this season she’s quite good. Will be interesting to see where she starts off and what sort of handicap mark the handicapper gives her.

Time To Get Up (Rated 139) – Jonjo O’Neill

Time To Get Up I feel was initially aimed at the Grand National last year after running in the Sefton over the National fences which having won the Midlands National on his previous start would have definitely been a trip that was too short for him. He only beat 2 home that day and that may have changed their minds as to where they were going with him and he didn’t run again until late February when he ran in the Grand National trial at Haydock where he drifted before the off to a crazy 22/1. He ran really well and arguably travelled best off all but faded late on. The winner has not been seen since whilst the runner up was the Haydock heavy going specialist Bristol De Mai. Time To Get Up then went back to Uttoxeter for the Midlands National and ran well but could only finish 3rd beaten 12 lengths having been sent off the 11/4 favourite. The winner Screaming Colours had finished 4th in the 2021 Midlands National, 2nd in the Cork Grand National and subsequently finished 4th in the Irish Grand National. Time To Get Up disappointed in the Irish National finishing 13th of 27 but we can forgive him that run as he may not have liked travelling to Ireland and his usual rider Jonjo O’Neill Jnr was not on board. Off a current mark of 139, he would definitely need to win a race to get into the Grand National and I think this year they will be going for the Becher Chase over just shy of 3m2f and hoping he can win that and get into the Grand National.

Garry Clermont (Rated 139) – Jonjo O’Neill

Garry Clermont is a horse that I think has been running over the wrong trip recently despite his form reading 3P4 over this trip. I hope connections drop him back to 2m where I think his form is stronger. He finished 2nd to Captain Morgs at Ascot over 2m and then finished 3rd at Ascot behind Tritonic & Onemorefortheroad and in front of Metier & West Cork. Subsequently Onemorefortheroad finished 4th in the Imperial Cup whilst Metier won at Lingfield in a lucrative handicap & West Cork finished 4th in a County Hurdle & 2nd in a Scottish Champion Hurdle. This Ascot 3rd from Garry Clermont was a very strong piece of form and I hope we see him back in that race again this year. He’s rated 139 currently which is actually 3lb lower than when finishing 3rd (beaten just 3 1/4 lengths). I hope he also returns and gets his fitness run back at Ascot to reacquaint himself with the course.

Mister Coffey (Rated 140) – Nicky Henderson

I imagine many people will skip past this one as he’s not a likable horse especially after his 2nd at the Cheltenham Festival in the Kim Muir where I actually think Sam thought he was going to win comfortably and never really asked for an effort until it was too late. He dropped back in trip on his next start in the Topham where he found himself well back early on and was never able to get involved. I think his 140 rating is not his limit and he can be rated 150+ by the end of the season if he’s found races that suit him. The London Gold Cup at Ascot & the 3m2f Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in December could well be early season targets

Hollow Games (Rated 142 – Irish Mark) – Gordon Elliott

Hollow Games is owned by Bective Stud who I think are trying to win the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival. 2 Years ago they had The Bosses Oscar run a great race for 2nd (arguably after being poorly placed) whilst last year they had both Tullybeg and Folcano running. Folcano looked like he had been laid out for the race after squeezing in to the race after finishing 6th in a Qualifier whilst Tullybeg arrived off the back of a good 5th in a qualifier and looked progressive. Neither were able to get involved however. Hollow Games looks to be a bit more classy than all 3 of their previous runners in the last 2 years. Hollow Games has twice finished 3rd in a Grade 1 before the festival, 3rd in the Martin Pipe at the Festival and 5th in a Grade 1 at Punchestown. Currently rated 142, this is 4lb higher than The Bosses Oscar started the 2020 season and I hope they can be more careful with his placement. I hope he runs in the Qualifier that Gordon used last year to qualify 4 runners (Commander of Fleet fell before winning at Navan & then at the Cheltenham Festival in the Coral Cup) including Dallas Des Pictons & Folcano. He could then run in his owners race ‘Bective Stud Handicap’ at Navan and see how he’s then rated. I’m sure winning their own race would be a worthwhile consolation to the Festival. If he fails to win this race however he should be a nice mark for the Festival and the Pertemps Final.

Adagio (Rated 152) – David Pipe

Adagio as a 5 year old probably did well last season to achieve what he did including finishing a close 2nd in a Greatwood Hurdle and 2nd in a Kingwell before finding the Grade 1’s at Cheltenham and Punchestown beyond him at this stage of his career. Those 2 runs at Cheltenham & Punchestown may stand him in good stead this season as he should be stronger again and I think he should return to the Greatwood hurdle again. He’s only 5lb higher (Ballyandy was 2nd in 2020 off 154 when beaten by the 128 rated The Shunter) than last year and the form of that race worked out well. West Cork (10lb higher), Camprond (7lb higher), Tritonic (2lb higher), Glory and Fortune (11lb higher), Maries Rock (15lb higher) suggesting it was a good Greatwood Hurdle. I think Adagio can come back here and run another big race before returning to Graded company.

Delta Work (Rated 157 – Irish Mark) – Gordon Elliott

The only Cheltenham Festival winner from 2022 in this blog. Delta Work beat Tiger Roll in the Cross Country before finishing 3rd in the Grand National. On heavy going at Cheltenham and racing against Tiger Roll, this race must have left a mark and that potentially cost him in the Grand National. Generally both of these races require experience of the course or fences and he’s ran crackers in both on his first attempts and I think he’ll win the Cross Country again this year but a lot easier with no Tiger Roll in the race and that should mean he turns up to the National a bit fresher and that should see him finish better and that could be the difference between his 3rd last year and winning in 2023.

Escaria Ten (Rated 151 – Irish Mark) – Gordon Elliott

Escaria Ten finished 9th in the Grand National last season which wasn’t a bad effort but he was well beaten and if I owned him, I wouldn’t be going back for it this season. That would therefore make me target races to win and see if he can end up in Grade 1 events. We have to remember his 3rd behind Galvin & Next Destination at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021 when well in front of Snow Leopardess was a very good effort. His subsequent runs can all be accounted for. The race went wrong at the start in the Irish National, it was a fitness run in the Thyestes, he was beaten by a very good horse in Any Second Now at Fairyhouse and then ran ok in the National. I hope this year they target the feature handicaps including the Thyestes Handicap Chase (don’t use it as a fitness run) and then go for the Ultima at the Festival. I think he will have enough speed for this race.

Hystery Bere (Rated 129) – Tom Symonds

Hystery Bere was disappointing after his 3rd placed effort at Cheltenham behind Cormier & Severance who both went on to record good efforts at Kelso, Aintree & Cheltenham. 4th placed Byzantine Empire has since won twice and recorded other good efforts and is rated 10lb higher. I want to give Hystery Bere another chance this year and hope he just wasn’t right after his 3rd placed effort. If there were reasons for these poor runs then you would have to think he’s well handicapped based on his effort at Cheltenham

Ahoy Senor (Rated 161) – Lucinda Russell

The highest rated horse in our list and fairly obvious and I think he’ll be even better this year than he was last. His jumping was getting better last season before a terrible round at Cheltenham when only beaten 3 1/4 lengths by L’Homme Presse. I reckon he lost 6-7 lengths in the jumping and if they’ve really worked on that then he’ll be a big player in the feature Grade 1 events this year. I’m already on at 20/1 for the Gold Cup and was delighted with the way he jumped at Aintree where he beat Fury Road, L’Homme Presse & Bravemansgame in very impressive fashion. The Irish horses are the dangers come the Gold Cup but in England/Scotland he should be very tough to beat!

Honest Vic (Rated 139) – Tom George

Honest Vic has moved to Tom George from Henry Daly & at 9 turning 10, I hope connections aim to win as many races as they can rather than gearing him around a return to the Pertemps Final (despite being unlucky last year as he surely hit the front too soon when finishing a good 5th). I hope his return is in the Pertemps Qualifier he won impressively back in 2020 off a 2lb higher mark. His 5th at Cheltenham just 2 runs ago shows he’s certainly not past it and if he can win that then they can look at a plan for the season. I think he could certainly win a couple of handicaps this season if they ‘go for it’

From Tom George:

You may be slightly surprised to hear but Honest Vic is out in our yard in France where he will start of his French campaign. He will be suited to the conditions races out there and hopefully will pick up some nice prize money in the process . He has been schooling and working well over there and seems to be enjoying the French lifestyle!

Nurse Susan (Rated 129) – Dan Skelton

Nurse Susan is a mare that I’m a big fan of and I think she could be very well handicapped off 129. She was only 5 last season in the Mares Novices Hurdle and ran a great race for 4th. The only concern with adding her to this blog is she is owned by Colm Donlon who also owns Langer Dan. Langer Dan was hugely unlucky not to win the Bonus for winning the Imperial Cup and at Cheltenham as he finished 2nd at the Festival in 2021 to Galopin Des Champs (how he got into a handicap off 142 is crazy now). I think they could well try a similar plan with Nurse Susan who I genuinely think would win an Imperial Cup/Morebattle Hurdle (depending on who’s offering the bonus) in good style and could have the Mares Hurdle, County Hurdle or Coral Cup as potential races at the Festival. Last year a 5lb penalty for winning the Morebattle Hurdle would have seen Nurse Susan get in the County Hurdle off bottom weight!

Too Friendly (Rated 125) – Dan Skelton

Too Friendly looked the type of 4 year old last season that would continue improving and after running a credible 5th in the Fred Winter (will always be called that for me) he finished well beaten in a Grade 1 at Aintree. Grade 1’s look beyond him but I think off his handicap mark of 125 he can certainly run some good races in England when not taking on the Irish battalion. When finishing 5th at Cheltenham, he was for me the best of the English trained as whilst Bell Ex One had Paul Nicholls name next to him, he had been trained in the main by R Cody in Ireland and only just joined Paul when running at Cheltenham. The obvious starting point for Too Friendly would be the Paul Ferguson 4 Year Old Jumpers To Follow hurdle at Chepstow where if he wins that, he can start looking ahead with the likes of the Gerry Feilden & even the Betfair Hurdle as potential options. I would be disappointed if he’s not rated mid to high 130’s come the end of the season.

Itchy Feet (Rated 150) – Olly Murphy

Olly Murphy really wanted to retain Itchy Feet and now owned by the Nick Brown Syndicate, you would hope they try and win some races with him quickly to get a quick return. Rated 150 means he is 3lb LOWER than when beaten 1 length into 2nd by Allmankind in the Monets Garden Old Roan Chase. Midnight Shadow & Fanion D’estruval were behind and both went on to win a feature handicap and run well in other races. Allmankind competed at Grade 1 level although was not good enough. Surely this race at Aintree has to be the aim for Itchy Feet who could then take the syndicate to the likes of Ascot and Cheltenham in some good handicaps.

Rouge Vif (Rated 147) – Harry Whittington

Rouge Vif is now off a mark where he could win a couple of handicaps over 2m. After being overfaced by Paul Nicholls last year he is back with Harry Whittington and hopefully he returns to Cheltenham in a handicap. In 2020 he ran in a handicap over 2m off a mark of 156 and never came off the bridle winning by 7 1/2 lengths. This was in October and hopefully he returns there next month. Off 147 even if he won you would hope he would be rated LOWER than his 156 mark and could well be aimed then at the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival with a couple of hopeful tilts in Graded company before that.

For Pleasure (Rated 136) – Alex Hales

For Pleasure was 25/1 in the morning of the Grand Annual and just in the last hour before the race he was backed into 7/1 (we had advised him at 33/1). Having been taking on the likes of Edwardstone, Third Time Lucki and Brave Seasca for most of the season, running in handicap company looked the way to go. Unfortunately when he missed the start and got shuffled back his front running style and his race was over from an early stage and he pulled up early on. I thought it was interesting that his next run was back in Grade 1 company as I think connections knew they had a well handicapped horse but didn’t want to ‘waste’ it on a nothing race. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s geared around returning to the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in March but if he turns up in any handicap before that he has to be considered as I think he’s very well handicapped.

Gunsight Ridge (Rated 133) – Olly Murphy

Gunsight Ridge makes up this list and I think he had a good season last year whilst bumping into the in form or well handicapped horses. He was beaten at Exeter in December on his 2nd run back by L’Homme Presse who was running off 128. He then won well at Sandown beating Bun Doran. He returned to Sandown in February where he was beaten by Dolos (who we had advised for this race) and Frero Banbou who ran well in all his races last season except on his final start at Aintree. Gunsight Ridge in finishing 3rd had beaten Bun Doran and Tamaroc Du Mathan who both won races themselves within their next couple of races and it’s looking likely that Sandown race was a good race. Gunsight Ridge then went to Aintree for the Red Rum Handicap Chase and was sent off the 4/1 favourite after being well supported late on but was beaten too early to suggest he ran his true race and this race has to be marked down as ‘something amiss’ and the post-race report found he had suffered a small wound to his right-hind heel bulb as well as having lost it’s shoe. This could have been the reason for such a poor run and I think he can bounce back this season and continue to climb up the ratings. He’s got to be a 140+ horse.

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