National Hunt Horses To Follow 2023- 2024
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None of the obvious Marine Nationale, Facile Vega, Impaire Et Passe, Gerri Colombe….for me these are a bit pointless in these blogs as everyone is aware of them! I also try and look for those that are likely to feature in the feature handicaps!
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.
*Denotes Irish Handicap Mark
Last year we highlighted from an early stage a Dan Skelton winner in the Coral Cup. This year, if he sends one to the Coral Cup then he would take all the beating. Still trying to find out what happened to Playful Saint!
Pembroke (Rated 135) – Coral Cup
We start off with a Dan Skelton horse who I think will end up in the Coral Cup just like I did last year with Langer Dan (many were suggesting he would end up in the Martin Pipe again). This Dan Skelton 6 year old has the potential to be very well handicapped off just 135 considering the trainer is adamant/convinced he is a Grade 1 horse. Off 135 he would have got into the Martin Pipe where I think he would have gone close. Dan already had Langer Dan laid out for the Coral Cup but turned up with 2 in the Martin Pipe who were sent off 28/1 & 33/1. This is where Pembroke should have been running. For me, he doesn’t have the speed for 2m. You could argue and I certainly would, his best run last season came when finishing 2nd in the Ballymore Grade 2 at Cheltenham in January. He was just outbattled that day on his first run over the 2 ½ mile trip. He returned to 2m at the Cheltenham Festival (for the County Hurdle – Dan still won it with Faivoir) and again travelled well for most of the race but when asked to pick up, wasn’t as quick as those around him and he finished 17th when sent off 9/2. He stepped back up in class to Grade 1 company at Aintree and ran a respectable 5th beaten 10 lengths at 33/1. These are the exact types that when stepped back up in trip and back into handicaps can pick up a couple including hopefully the Coral Cup!
Favori De Champdou (Rated 137*) – Pertemps Final
Favori De Champdou was one of the talking horses of last years festival with many suggesting we might see him (including me) in the Martin Pipe, if the Martin Pipe had been over 3m, he would have definitely run here but as it’s only over 2 ½, the Albert Bartlett was the decision and disappointed at Grade 1 level when pulling up. He returned to Punchestown in another Grade 1 and again showed he’s not up to this level when finishing 4th beaten 16 lengths by Gaelic Warrior. His previous efforts before these 2 Grade 1 tries were however very good including winning a Grade 2 at Limerick comfortably with Letsbeclearaboutit who he beat subsequently finishing 4th in 2 Grade 1 events. I think this form shows Favori De Champdou is quite smart but maybe at this stage in his career lacking at Grade 1 level. I see no reason for him to go over fences (at least not yet) but do see an opportunity for Gordon Elliott to win another Pertemps Final. Gordon hasn’t actually won this race since 2020 when Sire Du Berlais won it (he’s since improved in to a Grade 1 horse having won 3 Grade 1’s now) and that’s the trajectory I could see Favori De Champdou going along IF he’s reverted to handicaps this season. Eric Bloodaxe sadly died last year after finishing a good 2nd in the Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown. He had been well beaten in the Albert Bartlett the year before and this Qualifier is where I think we’ll see Favori De Champdou. A top 4 finish and he would get in and off his current Irish Mark of 137, he would probably turn up at Cheltenham rated 145 which would get him in and likely to be a Graded horse in a handicap over a trip that suits.
Might I (Rated 146) – Martin Pipe
EDIT: After writing this, it was announced he was going to chasing this season!
Might I arguably showed he was a 2 ½ mile horse last year after finding 3m at Haydock on his return too far and then not quite getting there over 2m at Cheltenham behind Hacker Des Places in January before finishing 4th at Cheltenham in the Martin Pipe. I think however this season he can start off in the Greatwood Hurdle back over 2m at Cheltenham and fully expect him to be able to run a big race in this race. I do think he might also be targeted at returning for the Martin Pipe at the end of the season with Ben Bromley as his likely jockey if the double green don’t have a runner. Ben currently claims 5lb and that could even be useful in the Greatwood Hurdle in November.
Jolie Coeur Allen – Mares Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham
Jolie Coeur Allen has had one run for Willie Mullins and that was in a Grade 2 NHF race at Aintree when sent off 3/1 favourite. She went off favourite despite having only finished 2nd in a race in France. One of only 2 4 year olds running she actually ran a really good race for 5th. Personally I think she travelled incredibly well and maybe didn’t pick up quite as expected when asked for an effort late on. Being only 4 and on only her 2nd course start, I fully expect her to improve especially now she’s had a summer at Willie Mullins and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s done plenty of schooling this summer with the main aim being the Mares Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham. I fully expect her to be good enough for a race of this quality. There’s a few Graded hurdles on route that I expect to see her in.
Tritonic (Rated 134) – Betfair Exchange Hurdle
Tritonic has run well twice on the flat season and I think he’s coming back to himself personally. Over hurdles he dropped from a mark of 143 to 134 however his flat mark has largely stayed the same. I don’t think he wants 2 ½ mile personally over hurdles and returning to 2m off this low 134 mark, I think he can run some big races in the feature 2m handicaps this season. He could easily start off in the Greatwood Hurdle (5th in 2021 off 142) before returning to the Betfair Exchange Trophy which he won in 2021 off a mark of 141. His form at Ascot over both codes reads 21813 which shows he clearly likes Ascot (his 8th came on Heavy going). He’s had plenty of experience now over hurdles but he’s still only 6 turning 7 and I think this could be his best year.
Petit Tonnerre (Rated 139) – Lanzarote Hurdle
Not listed as in training with Jonjo anymore
Petit Tonnerre is only 5 turning 6 and yet has already contested some feature handicaps including the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton and the County Hurdle last season. He ran ok in the latter finishing 7th beaten just 6 lengths. I think the year after their Juvenile season, horses can struggle even in handicaps and I think this year he will be much better. His effort last year in the Lanzarote was disappointing but he was definitely looked after. He was hampered early on by a faller and then made a mistake himself 5 out and was very quickly pulled up. I think he’ll return this year for the same and hopefully can go much better. I think he can progress in to a top staying handicapper over hurdles and run well in this race on route.
Playful Saint (Rated 135) – Betfair Hurdle
Playful Saint was last seen finishing 3rd in the Imperial Cup behind Iceo and Knickerbockerglory having won at Leicester comfortably. He had also finished ¾ lengths 2nd to Love Envoi and that is top quality form and I really think he’s ahead of his mark. Go back and watch his 3rd place finish in the Imperial Cup, he was arguably given too much to do after racing keenly early on. When they quickened turning into the straight, he found himself a long way back and on the slower part of the track down the inside but finished incredibly well and I think with a better ride, would have pushed Iceo late on. I think Dan and the team know he’s very good and were disappointed with this 3rd place finish and as such didn’t want to ‘waste’ him at Cheltenham particularly as they felt they would win the County Hurdle anyway with Pembroke (they did win the race but with Faivoir). With this in mind, I think they will target the lucrative handicap hurdles including the Betfair Hurdle or aim him at the Imperial Cup/Morebattle Hurdle and try and win the bonus with him. I genuinely believe he’s that good and that far ahead of his mark.
Tekao (Rated 133*) – Liffey Handicap
Tekao is very smart but hasn’t really been able to show that yet properly as he’s often ran in to trouble and he was last seen unseating at Galway in a fairly moderate handicap hurdle and he wasn’t particularly going well when unseating. I’m going to forgive him this run however and look at some of his previous efforts including when 3rd in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown behind Gala Marceau & Lossiemouth. This is top quality form and after this he was sent off 3/1 for the Boodles Hurdle at Cheltenham but a bad mistake 3 out cost him all chance and he wasn’t given a hard time after that. 2 Years ago Gaelic Warrior was sent off a short price favourite for the Boodles Hurdle and went on to win the Liffey Handicap last season. I think Tekao could be the sort that could replicate this starting off this season off with a mark of 133 (Gaelic Warrior started off 134).
Green Book (Rated 139) – Heroes Handicap
Green Book is only 6 turning 7 and yet he’s already won a Chester Plate (when he was 4) and 2 Heroes Handicaps at Sandown (when 5 & 6) and I think he can come back for a 3rd. After winning it for a 2nd time he ran moderately in the Rendlesham before returning to handicap company for the Pertemps Final where he ran great for 4th when I think he went for home too soon. Had Charlie delayed his effort just ½ furlong I think he would have won the Pertemps Final. His 4th place finish did not see him go up in the handicap which I think was hugely eyecatching considering I think he should have won with a better ride. He’s not been seen since his 4th place effort at Cheltenham and I imagine he’ll get one prep run in late December/January in order to get him ready to try and win the Heroes Handicap for a 3rd successive year. Not only is it somewhat of an achievement to win any race 3 times but it’s also good prize money (£50k+) for the winner so it’s definitely worth targeting.
The horse who could go to Ascot would be an early season horse whilst I do really like the one for the Peter O’Sullevan at Newbury as well. A few of these will also run big races in Nationals this year!
Hollow Games (Rated 144) – Ultima
Hollow Games I really liked last season for the Pertemps Final (he was in our NH Horses To Follow last year) over 3m after his eyecatching effort in the Martin Pipe the year before and was really disappointed to see him switched to fences and then campaigned over 2m. After winning a Beginners Chase comfortably over 2m1f, connections stuck at it for the rest of the season and it didn’t work. Unsurprisingly he ran a cracker in the Galway Plate when stepped up to 2m6f back in August and I think he’ll improve again for a step up further. It’s possible he’s even an Irish National type but I think he’ll initially be aimed at the Ultima at Cheltenham over 3m.
Monbeg Genius (Rated 147) – Ladbroke Trophy
I would argue this one may be too obvious really to be in my horses to follow considering I don’t normally like the real obvious Grade 1 winners etc. However Monbeg Genius has form that looks so strong. He went on a roll between December & March winning 3 before turning up to Cheltenham as a Novice and ran a huge race for 3rd in the Ultima. This looked good at the time, but it looks even better now as the winner Corach Rambler went on to win the Grand National whilst the runner up Fastorslow went on to win the Punchestown Gold Cup beating Galopin Des Champs & Bravemansgame. Monbeg Genius is 7 turning 8 and I have a feeling that Jonjo might gamble this season……by gamble, I mean not run him again until the Ultima! Is he likely to bump into 2 ridiculously well handicapped horses next year. I don’t think so and I would genuinely be thinking he would win if he didn’t run again until the Ultima! He could obviously turn up in the Ladbroke Trophy where he would also have a massive chance.
The Goffer (Rated 145*) – Paddy Power
The Goffer finished 4th in the Ultima behind the aforementioned Corach Rambler, Fastorslow & Monbeg Genius. The Goffer actually led 2 from home but both got outstayed by stronger staying types but I also feel he was reaching the end of his stamina. It was therefore a surprise (but maybe I was wrong) to see him stepped UP in trip for the Irish National where he pulled up despite travelling quite well for a fair while. He ran a similar race at Sandown in the Bet365 Gold Cup, this time finishing the race and running ok to be fair for 4th but travelled really well again before not getting home. A similar effort in the Galway Plate over 2m6f and again at Listowel over 3m when travelling better than his finishing positions. I really believe that he needs dropping in trip and being asked for an effort sooner. His most recent win actually came on the run before Cheltenham last year when winning over 2m5f at Leopardstown in a feature handicap. I think he needs dropping in trip and I’m hoping Gordon knows this and he’s been running over these longer trips knowing he’s likely to drop in the handicap. So where do we go with The Goffer, well I think he wants a drop in trip and we know he runs well at Cheltenham…..the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November & the Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap. Last year these 2 races were worth 90k and 57k to the winner! 2 Races well worth winning on route to trying to Plate at the Festival or maybe even the Ryanair if he’s won the 2 previous races!
Mister Coffey (Rated 143) – Becher Chase
Mister Coffey, I actually thought was given a poor ride in the Grand National…..why on earth is Nico De Boinville going for home so early. The fact he was clear between 3 out and 2 out surely suggests he went too early. This for me however did demonstrate when his jockey gets his fractions right he can go close in a feature race and also that I think he wants a trip of more than 3m but also a handicap. His effort when 3rd at Cheltenham wasn’t a bad effort behind Gaillard Du Mesnil (10lb higher) and Chemical Energy (2lb higher) but it wasn’t a handicap. I feel connections might work back from the Grand National again and they could go one of 2 routes with either the Becher Chase or the Ladbrokes Chase as their early season target. The Becher Chase would arguably be slightly easier but the Ladbrokes Chase is worth more to win, Mister Coffey has twice run at Newbury and actually ran ok on both occasions considering they were both over 2m which was in hindsight clearly too short. I guess they could also go for broke and aim just to go very well in the Grand National again and try and get him into the race off roughly the same mark. Maybe they could try and win Grade 1’s all season before dropping back into handicap company and winning (he would have won with a better ride in 2021) the Kim Muir at Cheltenham and turning up to Aintree off the back of a confidence boosting win and clearly ahead of his mark. If he was mine, I would be aiming at the Becher Chase before going into Graded company. I think he’s quite nicely ahead of his mark when he gets a good ride and conditions and even if he won the Becher Chase and went up 6-8lb, I actually think he would still be ahead of his mark!
Mahler Mission – Welsh National
Mahler Mission was going to win the National Hunt Challenge Cup at Cheltenham wasn’t he. He fell 2 out so I guess it wasn’t 100% guaranteed but he didn’t look like he was anywhere near to stopping. He was running over 3m over hurdles on just his 4th start under rules when beating The Real Whacker back in January 2022 suggesting he was always going to be a staying chaser. Despite this, he didn’t run over 3m until the Cheltenham Festival of 2023 and he was likely showing his true hand here. His Irish Handicap mark of 148 looks very lenient considering he was likely going to beat another Irish horse rated 155 who ran a cracker in the Grand National. His trainer has brought him to Sedgefield, Doncaster, Cheltenham x 3 & Perth in his career so far suggesting he’s not afraid to bring him over and that would suggest to me that we may see Mahler Mission in the Welsh National at Chepstow. I can see him running in the Welsh National (would go very close), Irish Gold Cup/Bobbyjo Chase and then running in the Grand National. I certainly think he can go very close in at least 1 feature National this season.
Champ Kiely – Broadway Novices
Champ Kiely looked a big chasing type last season and despite this he was still able to run some great races over hurdles including 4th not beaten by far by Marine Nationale, 3rd in the Ballymore at Cheltenham and 3rd at Punchestown in another Grade 1. I think after Champ Kiely won over 2m5f over hurdles in July 2022, connections felt it was worth trying over 2m, 2 ½ mile last season and ‘whatever he did was a bonus’ . You arguably don’t want to bottom him out considering he was already seen as a future chaser so no point going up to 3m over hurdles. That however I think will all change over fences and can see him running in either the Broadway Novices over 3m or even the National Hunt Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. I think he’ll be good enough to be aimed at the Grade 1 at Cheltenham. His hurdling looked quite good but I expect his chasing to be even better and I think he’s got stamina in abundance!
Bold Endeavour (Rated 145) – Coral Trophy
Bold Endeavour started last season pulling up for Laura Morgan at Carlise before moving to Nicky Henderson who in just 4 months saw him turning up to a Grade 2 event and going off 4/9. He was clearly disappointing when only finishing 2nd beaten by Oscar Elite and it appeared at this stage Nicky decided to allow him more time before returning to fences as he was subsequently dropped back over hurdles for the Coral Cup where he an eyecatching 5th. He then went and finished 2nd for us (twice) at Cheltenham in April and then again at Haydock in the Long Distance handicap hurdle. There was arguably nothing wrong with these efforts and he might start off the season in the Betfair Exchange Stayers Hurdle just to see if they can win a feature handicap with him and whether he truly stays 3m. I think from then on however he’ll be back over fences with something like the Coral Trophy at Kempton being his aim. It’s great prize money, is an easy 3m (so he should definitely get it) and off around 145-150 you would be hopeful he can go very close considering he was being thought of as a future Grade 1 chaser when he was moving up the ranks last season.
Before Midnight (Rated 135) – Ascot
Before Midnight is no spring chicken at the age of 10 turning 11 but I think he’s handicapped well enough to start this season with a few wins and he could be one for the early part of the 23/24 season. The races that catch my eye for him off his current 135 mark would be the 2 handicaps at Ascot over 2m in October and November. He has got previous at Ascot with his form reading 133 with his 2 3rd places coming off marks of 147 and 146. Off just 135 you would be very hopeful he can go close in both of these races which are surely his targets as they were worth £65k & £42k last year. Off 135, even if he were to win the first of these then you would still be hopeful he could be well handicapped for the 2nd of these. I thought it was interesting to see that he wasn’t seen again at Ascot last season after his 3rd place in November and although he only ran a shocker once (final start) he dropped from 146 to 135. If they can get him fit then it’s very possible that he goes straight to Ascot without a prep run in the next few weeks.
Maxxum (Rated 138 over hurdles*) – Ultima
Maxxum started last season in great style finishing 2nd at Punchestown over 2 ½ mile before stepping up to 2m6f at Navan and winning and then winning the Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown in December really easily (16 length). In February he went to Leopardstown and finished a well beaten 12th but that doesn’t explain the full story. He was never able to get involved after being hampered and with a clear run he would have got a lot closer. He then went to Cheltenham for the Pertemps Final and was sent off just 9/2 after being well supported on the day and again his 14th finishing position doesn’t give a fair reflection of his effort. He was given a lot to do by Davy Russell and made rapid ground around the outside of the field before running in to trouble down the near side. This cost him all momentum as he was picking up so quickly. He then made a mistake at the last and Davy gave up on him. He then went to Tipperary in May for a Beginners Chase and won comfortably enough from Walk Away (who was making his return from a layoff but before that, he had finished 2nd to Asterion Forlonge which was strong form). Back in 3rd was Hubrisko who has subsequently finished 2nd to Salvadore Ziggy and Ballyadam over fences as well as recently winning his own Beginners Chase by 13 lengths. For Maxxum to beat both Walk Away and Hubrisko on chasing debut, he can surely only improve over fences. I can see Maxxum being aimed at a return to the Cheltenham and I think he’ll be aimed at the Ultima which should suit him and if connections can carefully campaign him so he’s back to Cheltenham off a similar mark (145) then I would be confident of a huge run. I imagine he’ll be aimed at one of the feature handicaps at Leopardstown or Punchestown before that however.
Beauport (Rated 142) – Peter O’Sullevan Handicap Chase
Beauport was just getting involved at Aintree when falling at the 15th when sent off 9/2 joint favourite and you can be sure off his current 142 mark he’s well handicapped over fences and it would be no surprise to see him run a big race in a feature 3m+ handicap in the near future. I think he’ll be aimed at a return to Aintree (maybe not via Cheltenham this time) but his first target this side of Christmas should be the Peter O’Sullevan Handicap Chase. He’s only been to Newbury once and he finished 2nd beaten just ½ length by Dashel Drasher when just failing to get there in time over 2m4f. The 2m6f over fences should be spot on for him and I think he would take all the beating against largely inferior (based on the race being a 0-145) rivals. Fingers crossed his owners agree!
Your Own Story (Rated 127) – Durham National
Your Own Story finished 6th in the Scottish National in April when sent off the 4/1 favourite and having advised Kitty’s Light for this race, we were confident we were going to beat Your Own Story from an early stage after he was unable to hold the lead from around the 5th and continued to lose further ground throughout the race. I admit, I completely switched off from Your Own Story from about 1 mile out and was therefore surprised to see he had finished 6th only beaten about 10 lengths. After losing ground turning into the straight he rallied really well down the final straight and maybe just found the experience beyond him at this stage in career (12th run). His previous win at Wetherby over 3m6f shows he stays these Marathon trips and he looks like he’ll improve again this season now turning 8. He s only rated 127 so wouldn’t be getting in a Grand National at the moment but it wouldn’t surprise me if he contested a few other Nationals this season including the Durham National at Sedgefield, Welsh National at Chepstow and Midlands National at Uttoxeter and maybe if he’s won one of these then he might squeeze in at the bottom of the Grand National field. I would be confident of big runs in all of these earlier season National’s particularly the Durham National at Sedgefield.
Major Dundee (Rated 137) – Grand National
Major Dundee won the Midlands National at Uttoxeter beating Tile Tapper and Notachance in what looks like strong staying form and to be fair to Major Dundee, this was only his 2nd run of over further than 3m2f in his career. On his other try he finished 3rd in the Scottish National behind Win My Wings and Kitty’s Light who were arguably very well handicapped horses. In hindsight Major Dundee should have never been a 12/1 shot for the Midlands National but anyway. Owned by the Exors of the Late Mr Trevor Hemmings, you can imagine he’ll be aimed at the Grand National at Aintree and probably via the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury. He’ll probably need to win at least once race this season to get into the Grand National so the Welsh National would also be a possible target. I fully expect him to be one of the Staying Handicap Chasers to follow this season and expect him to win at least one of the feature races.
The Big Breakaway (Rated 149) – Welsh National
The Big Breakaway might not be a horse to follow but definitely a horse to watch out for in the Welsh National. He was only 7 last year when finishing 2nd in the Welsh National on his first try over a marathon trip and was beaten just 1 ¾ lengths by The Two Amigos who himself had previously finished 2nd in the Welsh National in 2021. The Big Breakaway then didn’t run again until the Ultima where he disappointed but arguably needed the run and was using it as a prep run for the Grand National. His campaign came to an end in the Grand National when being hampered and bumped at the 2nd and falling (not really his fault). This must have frustrated connections as he had obviously been given an easy time up to the Grand National with that race as the plan only for this to end so quickly. This season I can see him getting a few more runs as they won’t want to ‘waste’ another 2nd half of the season. I imagine he’ll be aimed at a return to the Welsh National where I fully expect him to run a big race but then to be seen in the other National’s afterwards such as the Midlands National