One Jump Ahead author and Racing TV analyst Mark Howard nominates five horses well worth keeping track of during the National Hunt season.
Dan Skelton trained North Hill Harvey to win the Greatwood Hurdle and a Grade 2 novice chase at Cheltenham in successive years.
The Kayf Tara gelding was originally trained by Tom Lacey and Paul Nicholls’ former assistant has returned to the same source to acquire another winning English pointer CADZAND.
The Stowaway gelding was a fifteen lengths winner at Charlton Horethorne in March and was bought privately soon afterwards. By all accounts, the four year old has impressed his new connections and is one to follow in novice hurdles this winter.
DICKIE DIVER was purchased for £210,000 having won his only Irish point-to-point. The J.P.McManus owned gelding developed into a high-class staying novice hurdler last winter for Nicky Henderson earning an official rating of 141.
A winner at Chepstow in February, he fared best of the home contingent in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival finishing fourth.
Ideally suited by testing conditions, the six-year-old stays well and looks tailormade for a return to Prestbury Park next March with the RSA Chase his most likely target.
The former champion trainer has won the three miles event on three occasions and it will be no surprise if this Gold Well gelding makes it four.
Owners Rich and Susannah Ricci have won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle three times and they may have a prime candidate for the 2020 renewal.
FLY SMART, like the ill-fated Vautour, was trained in France by Guillaume Macaire and the four-year-old won his only start on the Flat before switching to hurdles.
Two lengths second at Auteuil in October last year, the form of the race has worked out extremely well. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh (twice), eighth (four times) and ninth have all won subsequently.
Bought soon afterwards and given time to mature, he looks an exciting recruit for Willie Mullins and the Riccis.
Grade 2-winning hurdler Midnight Shadow is expected to be one of the north’s leading novice chasers this season but keep an eye on stablemate HILL SIXTEEN, too.
The former Irish pointer, who cost £100,000 in the spring of last year, only won once over hurdles but was placed on his other five starts and looks every inch a chaser in the making. Rated 123, he has yet to race beyond two and a half miles under Rules but will stay further. Watch out for him in a novices’ handicap chase on his fencing bow this autumn.
Eleven-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won the Triumph Hurdle twice and he will be hoping French recruit MICK PASTOR emerges as a live contender for next March’s event.
The Meshaheer gelding was an impressive six lengths winner at Auteuil in March when handled by young trainer Mikael Mescam.
The form received a substantial boost with the runner-up winning a Grade 3 hurdle at the same track next time. Snapped up by J.P.McManus, he could make his British debut at Cheltenham’s November meeting in a Grade 2 event Nicholls has won with compatriots Cerium (2004), Sam Winner (2010), Hinterland (2011), Far West (2012) and Quel Destin (2018).
Mark Howard - Author of One Jump Ahead & Racing TV analyst...
One Jump Ahead, which includes interviews with Kim Bailey, Harry Fry, Warren Greatrex, Philip Hobbs, Alan King, Tom Lacey, Donald McCain, Olly Murphy, Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe and Nicky Richards can be purchased for £10.99 (including postage) from www.mhpublications.co.uk