Ben Linfoot: My Stable
Ben Linfoot continues our ten jumpers to follow series for the 2013-2014 National Hunt season.
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With the National Hunt season about to hit top gear at Cheltenham this weekend, focus naturally turns to horses to follow throughout the jumps campaign.
My ten aren't likely to be collecting hoards of graded races throughout the next five months, but they are horses that are in my own My Stable tracker for one reason or another.
Hopefully that explains the inclusion of the likes of Harry The Viking, who did nothing but disappoint last season!
Art Of Logistics - Brilliant young jockey Bryan Cooper was one of the stories of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival after victories on Ted Veale, Benefficient and Our Conor. The latter won't be his flagship horse for next year's Festival with Danny Mullins retained to ride for owner Barry Connell, but he could have a stellar ride on the same day in the form of Art Of Logistics. Not only does trainer Dessie Hughes know what it takes to win a Champion Hurdle, he knows what it takes to win the Racing Post Arkle, too, following two victories as a jockey in the race in the late seventies. He's yet to conquer the contest as a trainer, but his Art Of Logistics could develop into a contender at least. A good bumper horse, and a good hurdler, Art Of Logistics has unsurprisingly gone up another level since tackling a fence and his Grade 3 win in the Buck House Novices' Chase at Punchestown on October 17 was impressive. He should make his mark at the top level in Ireland before having a crack at the Arkle in March, on what could be another landmark day for the Kildare handler.
Azorian - Eoin Griffin did a fantastic job with the talented hurdler Kazal from 2006-2008. He won five graded contests in a row in a four-month period at the height of his powers and finished a highly creditable third to Inglis Drever in the 2008 Ladbrokes World Hurdle on his only trip to the Cheltenham Festival. In the same season that Kazal went on his winning streak, stablemate Lounaos was putting together a sequence of her own and was sent off the 7/2 favourite in Katchit's JCB Triumph Hurdle. Cheltenham horses have been thin on the ground for Grifffin since then, but Azorian, running for powerhouse Irish owners Gigginstown Stud, could change all that. A point-to-point winner at Kilfeacle last January, he looked a very good bumper horse and then thrashed his opposition in a maiden hurdle at Cork on November 3 despite jumping to his left on the right-handed track. A highly promising individual, he could rack up a sequence of wins before going for the Neptune or Albert Bartlett.
Duke Of Navan - Nicky Richards won a Kelso bumper on March 24 2012 with Eduard, stablemate Duke Of Navan finishing second to land the Greystoke handler a one-two. Both horses are developing into nice prospects but it's Duke Of Navan that really excites following his win at the same track in the Morebattle Hurdle on Valentine's Day. He beat the 155-rated favourite Any Given Day by two and a half lengths despite pecking on landing after the last, travelling strongly after being held up and going clear up the run-in. The Morebattle win was only his fourth start over hurdles and it was his last start, Richards purposely missing Cheltenham with him and saying, "He is a steeplechaser in the making. It's not all about this season." That patience can be rewarded this campaign.
Edmund Kean - You could make a ten to follow list from horses that contested the EBF Paddypower.com 'National Hunt' Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown on Imperial Cup day, however, I'll just take the two. First up, David Pipe's Edmund Kean. A six-year-old son of Old Vic, he won novice hurdles at Fakenham and Taunton in February before finishing third at Sandown, staying on well to get within a nose of the runner-up Many Clouds (see below). The pair were 12 lengths behind the winner Close Touch but both look likely types to progress this campaign. Edmund Kean looks a stayer in the making and he could take the route Grands Crus did in his breakthrough season over hurdles - the 2m5f handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on the Friday of the Paddy Power meeting followed by the 'Fixed Brush' Hurdle at Haydock. He'll line up in the former off a mark of 132 and he'll be of major interest off that rating if he takes his chance, though that could be in doubt if the ground remains good. So far in his career, he's only raced on a softer surface.
Firth Of The Clyde - Malcolm Jefferson pulled off one of the great training performances when his Cape Tribulation and Attaglance won at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in 2012. He's been rewarded by being sent horses of the calibre of Oscar Rock, and, while Firth Of The Clyde wouldn't be in his class, I do think he's a handicapper to keep on the right side of. A maiden over hurdles after six starts, he was pitched straight into handicap company on his first start over fences at Carlisle on October 30. Sent off at 10/1 for the two-mile contest, he was held up in rear and jumped well before finding just Definite Dream too strong in the closing stages. The handicapper has put him up 5lb to a mark of 120 after that, but he was 14-lengths clear of the third and there is plenty more to come from him considering his inexperience. He should get further and he was a good third to the aforementioned Duke Of Navan on the best ground he has ever encountered on debut, so a longer trip and better ground might unlock further improvement too.
Harry The Viking - There are possibly 100 horses you would rather follow from Paul Nicholls' Ditcheat yard than this one. After all, he has form figures of PU-PU-9-10-PU after an extremely disappointing second season over fences. The rot started when he was sent off 6/1 favourite for the Scottish National, the first of the PU's, and things got gradually worse from there. However, the handicapper has given him a chance. He's now rated 135 having been 143 in Scotland and, on his best form, it's a mark he's capable of defying. Nicholls reckons he looks better than ever, he's had a wind operation since he was last seen and a long break since his last PU - which was in the Grand National at Aintree. He's still only eight too. With his rating lowered, his sights will be as well and he's one to be wary of in any handicap chase he lines up for, but especially when the ground isn't riding too bad.
Many Clouds - The second horse from the EBF Final at Sandown but a very different type to Edmund Kean. This fellow was always going to be a different proposition when he saw a fence but he wasn't a bad novice hurdler at all, winning at Ascot and Exeter in between good seconds at Wetherby and Sandown. Oliver Sherwood has already had him out this season and he was very impressive on his chase debut at Carlisle, jumping like a seasoned pro to beat Knock A Hand, with the 157-rated hurdler Holywell almost ten lengths back in third. That was over two and a half miles in heavy ground and he'll certainly get three. He could well develop into a live RSA hope and I would expect him to add to his win tally before then.
Open Day -I couldn't have a list of horses to follow without a Jonjo O'Neill representative in it and I'll put up Open Day as one to watch from Jackdaws Castle this season. He's shaped like a thorough stayer almost every time he's been on a racecourse but he's yet to run over further than two and a half miles. His second to Dark Lover at Cheltenham last December, his win at Ffos Las in March and his second to Hidden Identity on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow all suggested he'd thrive over three miles. He's crept back up towards his career-high mark of 135 following a consistent run of form but he looks capable of progressing further when the emphasis is on stamina, whether that be over a testing two and a half miles or three for the first time.
Shantou Magic - David Pipe's Red Sherlock would've been in this list had Ian Ogg not already flagged up his potential earlier in the series. He's out of the fantastic race mare Lady Cricket and looked a likely sort in bumpers, so his hurdling debut will be highly anticipated. The Ascot bumper he won on February 16 looks a good race with the second, The Skyfarmer, the third, Captain Cutter, and the fourth, Shantou Magic, all subsequent winners over timber. The latter is trained by Charlie Longsdon and could hardly have been more impressive on his hurdling debut at Fontwell on October 23, staying on strongly to win by an eased-down nine lengths. He'll stay further than two and a half miles and looks worth keeping on the right side of.
Two Rockers - Alan King's son of Milan made such a good impression when winning novice hurdles at Towcester (x2) and in the Grade 2 'Prestige' at Haydock last season, that he has to be on the radar this campaign. Okay, he finished last of eight in the Neptune, fully 30 lengths behind The New One, on his last start, but that clearly wasn't his running. Perhaps the ground was too fast for him, perhaps he didn't like Cheltenham. Whatever it was, he remains a horse with a future and I expect him to be a real force to be reckoned with, especially on soft or heavy ground. The word is he'll be going novice chasing and if he does it wouldn't surprise were he to develop into a Feltham (or Kauto Star) horse, or a Reynoldstown horse, or, if it came up soft, an RSA horse even. It wouldn't be the biggest surprise either were he to start off in a handicap hurdle, as a rating of 144 might tempt connections. Like Edmund Kean, he's in the 'Fixed Brush' Hurdle at Haydock on November 23 and that's been a likely port of call for would-be chasers with potentially good hurdle marks over the years. He could still be very good when encountering his optimum conditions.
My Stable 'how to' guide:
• To search for a horse, trainer or jockey, type their name in the search bar and click on the magnifying glass.
• To add a horse, trainer or jockey to your stable, do the above and then click on 'add to my stable'.
• To view your stable, go to 'your selections' located towards the top right when you are logged in.
• To receive email alerts from your stable, you must tick the box located under the tab 'E-Mail'.
• To stop receiving alerts, untick the box. To delete your selection from your stable, select the red cross.
• To change your email details, go to Sky Bet and log-in with your My Stable username and password. Go to your name in the top left and 'click here for all account options'. Go to 'My Details' and then scroll down to your email address. Change it in the box provided.