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Top five favourite jumps horses of the season

Ms Parfois (centre) challenging in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

Our expert highlights his five favourite horses of the 2017/18 National Hunt racing campaign and speculates what direction they could head down next season.


Sandown’s season-ending spectacular, combined with the fantastic Festival at Punchestown, brought the curtain down on the 2017/18 National Hunt racing season. There have been thrills, spills, successes and shocks aplenty over the last eight months and jumps aficionados will already be looking towards next season with great anticipation.

I sat on the edge of my seat throughout much of the jumps racing campaign and there are a handful of horses who have run their way into my heart. Here are five of my favourite horses from the last National Hunt season and what they could get up to during the 2018/19 campaign.

Black Corton


Paul Nicholls sent his novice chaser to Fontwell on June 6th, where he carried a rating of 140 to victory over two mediocre opponents. I doubt even Nicholls himself could have predicted the progression that followed, as six months and seven appearances later, Black Corton powered home to win the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

Bryony Frost became just the second female rider to enter a Grade One winners’ enclosure following that Christmas victory at Kempton and her relationship with Black Corton was one of the feel-good sub-plots of the season. Sadly, the seven-year-old’s busy campaign caught up with him during the spring, where he finished in the middle of the pack in both the RSA and the Mildmay.

Another summer campaign is unlikely for a horse connections are hoping to see run in the Gold Cup when the 2019 Cheltenham Festival rolls around. An early season schedule tailored towards an outing in the King George is expected and I, for one, am really excited to see what Black Corton can achieve outside novice company.

Bryony Frost roars Black Corton on to victory in the Kauto Star.



Footpad


As soon as Footpad leapt a fence on his chasing debut at Navan, you could tell Willie Mullins’ charge was going to be a force to be reckoned with over the larger obstacles. Footpad arrived at the Cheltenham Festival with two Grade One’s already under his belt and even a shuddering error on the back straight couldn’t stop Ruby Walsh’s mount sauntering to a 14-length triumph in the Arkle.

A routine victory at the Punchestown Festival saw Footpad end his novice campaign unbeaten and largely untroubled. Trying to second guess which path Willie Mullins will take Footpad down next season is extremely difficult, but the Champion Chase and a stunning showdown with Altior could be the most likely route.

Douvan’s return to form could see a change in MO for Footpad, as could the progression of Sceau Royal, another two mile chaser owned by Munir & Suoede. Footpad has proven on several occasions he stays two-and-a-half and even three miles, so a Christmas tilt at the King George could also be on the cards.

Footpad powering to an easy victory in The Ryanair Novice Steeplechase at Punchestown.



Tiger Roll


I tipped Tiger Roll to win both the Cross Country at Cheltenham and the Grand National, so it’s hardly surprising – after he claimed both trophies in excellent fashion – that he makes my list of favourite horses from last season. None of Tiger Roll’s rivals could lay a glove on him as he cruised to the Cross Country crown and for 95% of the Grand National, he was by far and away the best horse in the race.

The problem Gordon Elliott now faces is getting Tiger Roll to win again. Very few winners of the National in recent history have been able to come out the following season and win again. However, at the age of eight, Tiger Roll can be give plenty of time to recover from his exploits and he’s expected to appear before Christmas.

A return to Aintree to defend his crown is Tiger Roll’s most likely objective in 2019 and it’s likely he will tread a similar path to that he followed last season. However, any horse capable of winning the Grand National must surely be worthy of an outing in the Gold Cup, so it would be no surprise to see Tiger Roll strut his stuff in Cheltenham’s most famous race.

Tiger Roll (right) sticks his nose out to win the Grand National.




Elegant Escape


Despite an age of just five, Elegant Escaped proved he had class and staying power in abundance when defeating Black Corton in the John Francombe. Sadly, Colin Tizzard’s charge couldn’t replicate that run in the Kauto Star, but the fight he showed to finish second - after an error-strewn display - proved to everyone he was going to be a stayer to be feared over the coming seasons.

Harry Cobden was let down again by his mount’s jumping during the spring. Yet, third place finishes in both the RSA and the Mildmay are results not to be sniffed at. There can’t be many six-year-olds on the circuit who have already appeared eight Graded races, let alone won a Grade Two over fences, so there’s no doubting Elegant Escape’s future lies at the highest level.

Colin Tizzard will surely have his eyes set on the King George and maybe even a tilt at the Gold Cup. Elegant Escape clearly has bags of potential, a huge engine and has shown a liking for softer ground conditions, so maybe a sneaky tilt at the Welsh National could be on the cards at the end of the year.

Elegant Escape (right) outstays Black Corton (left) to win the John Francombe.


Ms Parfois


Like the previously mentioned Black Corton, Ms Parfois’ novice chasing campaign started in low-key fashion, finishing third in a mediocre contest at Uttoxeter. A run of three straight victories followed, before Anthony Honeyball’s mare had to settle for second as Black Corton romped to victory in the Rendelsham.

With two fences to jump in the National Hunt Chase, Ms Parfois was traveling like a dream. A picture book jump at the last looked to have secured the biggest win of her career, until Rathvinden was produced at the perfect moment to snatch victory in that historic four-miler. Despite the efforts that performance would clearly have taken out of her, Ms Parfois ended her season with another wonderful display - pushing Terrefort for much of the Mildmay, only to be beaten into second on the run to the line.

There are several directions Anthony Honeyball could take Ms Parfois down next season, but she looks an out-and-out stayer, so an appearance in some kind of National must be high on his list of objectives. Her enjoyment of juicy ground makes the Welsh National an option, as is a return to Aintree in April, where she could become the first mare in half a century to triumph in the world’s most famous handicap.


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Top five favourite jumps horses of the season

Our expert highlights his five favourite horses of the 2017/18 National Hunt racing campaign and speculates what direction they could head down next season.

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