McCain is ready to Up And Go
One Jump Ahead author Mark Howard with some horses to follow from the major jumps yards this winter.
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Few trainers have made a bigger impression in recent years than Donald McCain. Ballabriggs provided the McCain family with their fifth Grand National victory in 2011 and Donald his first. Last season saw the yard send out a personal best 153 winners and Bankhouse Stables is jam packed with equine talent for the winter ahead.
Donald has recruited heavily from the Irish point field, a source which has served him well in recent seasons, most notably by stable star Peddlers Cross. While the former Champion Hurdle runner-up is set to revert to the smaller obstacles, it is interesting to note Donald nominated Up And Go as his horse to follow for the months ahead.
A wide margin winner of a two and a half miles point at Lemonfield in March, he could be seen in a bumper before turning his attentions to novice hurdles. Donald is also keen on the prospects of Baltmoar. A four year old gelding by Flemensfirth, he won his only point before being purchased by Diane and Grahame Whateley.
Lucinda Russell is another shining star in the north. With the assistance of multiple champion jockey Peter Scudamore, the Perth based outfit were responsible for 57 winners last term and it will be a surprise if that figures isn't surpassed this time.
Rather like the McCain operation, Lucinda has turned to the Irish pointing field for new recruits and is understandably keen on Hexham novice hurdle winner Green Flag. Look out, too, for the once raced Present Lodger. Held in the highest regard by Paul Cashman in Ireland, he won his only start and may have his first run under Rules in the same bumper ill-fated stablemate Brindisi Breeze contested at Musselburgh in November. He could be smart and is very much one to follow.
Having learned his trade under Nicky Henderson, it is no surprise to see Charlie Longsdon making such a big impression. The stable sent out 17 bumper winners at a strike-rate of 28% last season and are particularly strong in the novice hurdle division this time. Spirit of Shankly has won two out of three in bumpers and is all set to go novice hurdling.
Expect him to take high rank, a comment which also applies to the unbeaten Up To Something. Only workmanlike when winning on his hurdling debut at Uttoxeter over the minimum trip, he will be a different proposition when tackling further. The pair could be very good.
Another young trainer to keep tabs on this season is Anthony Honeyball. Having ridden as a conditional jockey for Paul Nicholls, Anthony also worked for Richard Barber. Amongst the eight bumper winners he trained last season, the unbeaten Regal Encore looks the pick. An easy winner at Southwell last winter, he successfully carried a penalty at Chepstow this month. It was his first run since being purchased by champion owner J.P.McManus and he looks a hugely exciting prospect.
Expect him to stay in bumpers this term with the Festival event the ultimate target. Victors Serenade was in the process of running well when making a bad mistake at the fifth last in a competitive handicap chase at Chepstow in October. The Welsh National is his main target and, granted his favoured bottomless ground, he ought to go well.
David Pipe appears very strong in the novice department for the new campaign. Understandably, the head of Pond House is looking forward to seeing Dynaste run over fences for the first time. The six year old was rated 161 over hurdles, having chased home the mighty Big Buck's on his latest three starts and he has the make and shape to develop into an equally good chaser.
Grands Crus is expected to start off his season in either the Paddy Power Gold Cup or the Betfair Chase. Keep an eye out for the grey's full brother Gevrey Chambertin, who looked more than useful in bumpers last season. He will be a real force in staying novice hurdles.
Finally, the trainers' title will be dominated by Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson once again. The bookmakers are expecting the latter to wrestle the title away from Ditcheat and provide the former with his third championship but his first since the 1986/87 season. Both yards have an embarrassment of riches for the winter ahead but pay special attention to Cash And Go (Henderson) and Wonderful Charm (Nicholls).
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