Matt Brocklebank highlights 10 high-class horses who missed the Cheltenham Festival but could yet be capable of lighting up the National Hunt campaign.
Blackbow - Willie Mullins
Given the fact point-to-point winner Blackbow surely won't be seen to best effect until tackling three miles over fences, Willie Mullins' horse performed exceptionally well during his bumper campaign last year. After winning his first two, including a defeat of Rhinestone in a Grade Two at Leopardstown last February, he was fifth behind Relegate in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and then second to another stablemate in Tornado Flyer at Punchestown. Given we've yet to see him out all season, it would now be surprising if Willie Mullins opts to break his novice status in anything other than a Grade One, while he could also remain in the bumper sphere if the ground were to soften appreciably. He's exciting long-term but could yet have a big say this season.
Carefully Selected - Willie Mullins
If you'd completely had your fill of National Hunt racing at the end of Cheltenham Festival week, you may well have missed Carefully Selected's long-awaited hurdling debut win at Limerick on Sunday. It wasn't flashy, but flashy won't be his style and in the end he landed cramped odds of 1/3 with something to spare. He's bound to come on for the run and, providing conditions are deemed to be soft enough, he'll be a massive player in the staying novice hurdle division at Fairyhouse and Punchestown over the next month or so.
Cilaos Emery - Willie Mullins
Cilaos Emery, a 159-rated hurdler, made a really exciting start to life over fences when winning by four lengths first time out at Gowran Park in late-January. He was subsequently found to be suffering with a pulled muscle in the build-up to the Arkle and given how well Gowran third and Willie Mullins stablemate Duc Des Genievres went on to win at Cheltenham, the future looks a bright one for Cilaos Emery. A rematch with the Arkle winner in Punchestown's Ryanair Novice Chase - a race the yard won last year with Footpad - would be fascinating.
Dynamite Dollars - Paul Nicholls
The Maghull Novices' Chase (2m) and opening Manifesto Novices' Chase (2m4f) will presumably be the Aintree options for Dynamite Dollars after he was forced out of the Racing Post Arkle due to a setback. Paul Nicholls has won the last two runnings of the Maghull with San Benedeto and Diego Du Charmil so while Dynamite Dollars' overall form took one or two knocks at Cheltenham, the trainer knows exactly what type of horse is required to win a Grade One prize at the Grand National meeting.
Emitom - Warren Greatrex
The unbeaten Emitom goes to Aintree with a burgeoning reputation after he knuckled down to win in determined fashion from Interconnected at Newbury at the start of the month. That race was targeted after the Sidney Banks Novices' Hurdle meeting at Huntingdon was abandoned due to the equine influenza outbreak and it was encouraging to see a different side to a horse who had barely been asked a serious question in his first four races. Emiton beat Lisnagar Oscar with ease at Ffos Las at the start of the season and will have options over 2m4f (Mersey Novices' Hurdle) and 3m (Sefton Novices' Hurdle) on Merseyside.
Fusil Raffles - Nicky Henderson
The 2019 JCB Triumph Hurdle won't be remembered for the right reasons, sadly, but Nicky Henderson won the race with Plumpton scorer Pentland Hills. On the face of it, the son of Motivator didn't boast anything like the sort of form shown by his stablemate Fusil Raffles, who destroyed his Adonis Hurdle rivals at Kempton on February 23. So Henderson will clearly be looking forward to the Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree, a race he won with Binocular in 2008 and We Have A Dream last season.
La Bague Au Roi - Warren Greatrex
La Bague Au Roi's novice chase campaign could hardly have gone any better so far and, after the decision was made to skip the Cheltenham Festival, what unfolded at Prestbury Park last week must have given connections another major boost ahead of Aintree. Lostintranslation, a horse La Bague Au Roi has beaten twice earlier in the campaign, was a creditable second in the JLT, while Kauto Star Novices' Chase runner-up Topofthegame went on to win the RSA Chase, beating Kempton third Santini in the process. Aintree's Grade One Mildmay Novices' Chase - won by Saphir Du Rheu, Native River, Might Bite and Terrefort in recent seasons - looks her next port of call.
Mall Dini - Pat Kelly
Favourite for just about every handicap chase you could think of at Cheltenham, Mall Dini didn't even turn up at Prestbury Park. How very Pat Kelly. But he did turn up at Limerick on Sunday, in a beginners chase, over 2m1f and a bit, and was sent off as 4/5 favourite to break his chasing duck at the 14th attempt. He didn't manage to do it, he was second, but he remains a horse that could pop up in a big spring handicap, perhaps, even, the biggest of all. He could well attempt to 'do a Rule The World' and break his maiden tag over fences in the National and, well, that would just be very Pat Kelly, wouldn't it?
Penhill - Willie Mullins
No official word yet on whether he’ll race again this season but Penhill was a major miss at Cheltenham this year, having won the 2017 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the 2018 Stayers’ Hurdle in recent seasons. He was last seen in public finishing second to stablemate Faugheen in the Grade One Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at Punchestown last April and that will more than likely be the target once more providing Willie Mullins has had time to get him fit and ready.
Samcro - Gordon Elliott
Samcro fell when pitched into the Punchestown Champion Hurdle against his elders last spring and things haven’t gone well for him this year. An infection was discovered which helps explain his three disappointing defeats earlier this season and if able to recapture his brilliant best from early last term, he’d be a major force. Could move back up in distance for the Grade One Aintree Hurdle but another shot at two miles and a return to Punchestown may appeal more to his connections following the layoff.