2019/20 National Hunt Horses To Follow – 20 horses from various yards to track over the jumps
Having covered all of the major stables with individual articles, our expert gathers the 20 remaining horses on his list of horses to track and throws them into one article
Regular readers of my horses to follow series will know I’ve covered most of the biggest stables with individual articles. However, there’s a long-list of runners from the so-called lesser yards who warrant a place on my tracker list. Here are 20 horses from selected trainers who I think could earn punters a pretty penny during the new National Hunt campaign.
Horses To Follow (Various trainer)
Al Dancer – Nigel Twiston-Davies
Al Dancer enjoyed a busy campaign last season, winning four of his five starts over hurdles. Although the highlight of his campaign came in the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle at Ascot, where Nigel Twiston-Davies charge defeated Getaway Trump and many other high-class novices, his most visually impressive victory came at Cheltenham in December, as Al Dancer strode clear in the style of a very good horse.
Twiston-Davies’ charge suffered just his second defeat in seven starts under rules at Cheltenham, where he ran no sort of race at all in the Supreme Hurdle, crossing the line a well-beaten tenth. Al Dancer will now start out over fences after a good summer break and his breeding suggests he should improve even further over the larger obstacles.
De Rasher Counter – Emma Lavelle
Whenever I saw De Rasher Counter run during his novice hurdling campaign in 2017/18, I couldn’t help but think, “I can’t wait to see this boy jump a fence”. It took Emma Lavelle’s imposing gelding a couple of starts over the larger obstacles to find his feet last autumn, but a narrow victory over a subsequent winner at Newbury was followed by a fine second at Chepstow, when giving six-pounds to classy winner, Now McGinty.
De Rasher Counter then outlined his promise for future seasons with a fantastic weight-carrying victory at Uttoxeter, where Lavelle’s seven-year-old hacked up through heavy ground to secure his first victory over three miles. The Ladbrokes Trophy is the early-season plan for De Rasher Counter and I could see this likeable seven-year-old shaping up into a genuine Welsh National, or maybe even a Grand National contender.
Dundrum Wood – Olly Murphy
Olly Murphy’s charge clearly wasn’t suited by the sluggish pace set on his only bumper appearance last season, where he stayed on down the straight at Warwick to finish third. Although he was beaten at a very short price that day, Dundrum Wood made a good impression and this son of Flemensfirth looks the type who will progress steadily up to a high level when he goes novice hurdling.
Éclair Surf – Emma Lavelle
On his second start between the flags, Éclair Surf hammered some handy point-to-pointers at Bandon, hacking up on bottomless ground to win by well over 30 lengths. Emma Lavelle’s team then moved to purchase this five-year-old for £140k at a sales event at Cheltenham and, although his new trainer will likely take a patient approach, he should find some suitable winning opportunities when he makes his British debut during the wet winter months.
Emitom – Warren Greatrex
Despite being one of my most successful tracker horses last season, I wasn’t that convinced by Emitom’s narrow victory at Newbury at the beginning of March and thought he would struggle in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. On the contrary, Warren Greatrex’s charge rose to the occasion and was eating into Champ’s lead when the finishing line arrived.
Novice chasing was discussed by Warren Greatrex and his team, but they’ve made the sensible decision to keep this laid-back five-year-old over hurdles as target the Stayers’ Hurdle. I don’t think Emitom is anywhere close to reaching his true potential as a racehorse just yet we could see a Paisley Park-like progression as he matures and develops.
*Update – Emitom has suffered a set-back and won’t be out until the New Year*
First Assignment – Ian Williams
First Assignment endeared himself to me last season with some tenacious performances in staying handicap hurdles. Ian Williams’ charge won twice at Cheltenham during the early stages of the season, before a couple of third-placed finishes in high-profile handicaps, including a narrow defeat to Paisley Park in the Grade Three Betfair Exchange Handicap at Haydock in November.
Resulted tailed off during the second-half of the season, but that can be forgiven considering his exploits earlier in the campaign. This former pointer looked like he had the size and scope to thrive over fences and I’ll be interested to see how far he progresses during the upcoming season. Good ground seems to be key to his chances.
Honeysuckle – Henry De Bromhead
The only downside to an otherwise superb novice hurdling campaign for Honeysuckle was when injury ruled Henry De Bromhead’s mare out of an appearance at the Cheltenham Festival. Honeysuckle made up for that absence at Fairyhouse a few weeks later, where she gave Cheltenham winner, Eglantine Du Seuil and some other decent novices a sound thrashing in the Grade One Mares’ Novices’ Finale.
Honeysuckle ended the season just two pounds short of the 152-mark Laurina was handed following her own unbeaten novice hurdling campaign. Although she trounced her rivals on her solitary start as a point-to-pointer, I’d be surprised if De Bromhead went chasing with Honeysuckle this term and she could make her Cheltenham Festival debut in the Mares’ Hurdle come the spring.
Indefatigable – Paul Webber
One who could rival Honeysuckle in that Grade One for mares is Indefatigable, who built on a decent showing at the Cheltenham Festival with a sparkling Listed success at Prestbury Park in April. Paul Webber’s mare had to recover from an early jumping mistake to finish fifth in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. There were no such problems a month later, as Indefatigable trounced 136-rated The Cull Bank to secure a valuable Listed prize.
I don’t think Webber will be afraid to take on the boys during the early stages of the season, as Indefatigable seems to have the size and strength to cut it against her male rivals. The most obvious winning opportunities could still be found within her own sex, however, and if she has progressed through the summer, Indefatigable should be challenging for Graded prizes over hurdles this term.
Ishkhara Lady – Harry Fry
Harry Fry’s mare made a lasting impression on her debut under rules at Plumpton in December. Noel Fehily’s mount was a 4/1 shot as she tackled the geldings, but Ishkhara Lady showed the boys a clean set of heels as she powered to a clear-cut success under Noel Fehily. Four of the eight horses behind her have since come out and won, boosting her 15-length triumph significantly.
Fry revealed his mare was suffering from sore shins following that electrifying debut and she was removed from action for the remainder of the campaign. Another outing in a Listed bumper is pencilled in for the autumn, before Ishkhara Lady starts out over hurdles later in the season.
King Roland – Harry Fry
I really wanted to include Get In The Queue in this list, but Harry Fry’s youngster has suffered an injury that will keep him out for the majority of the season. Another of Fry’s bumper horses to catch the eye last term was King Roland and he looks to be a very smart novice hurdling prospect to follow during the upcoming campaign.
This five-year-old son of Stowaway followed a superb 22-length bumper win with a second victory on the flat at Ffos Las, where King Roland successfully carried a penalty to victory. King Rowland strode clear to win by ten lengths on his only start between the flags and he’s certainly one to watch out for this term, especially when the ground gets testing.
Midnight Shadow – Sue Smith
Sue Smith’s six-year-old made excellent progress over hurdles last season, beating future County Hurdle winner, Ch’tibello at Aintree before outstaying Wholestone up the Cheltenham hill to win the Relkeel Hurdle on New Years Day. Sadly, Midnight Shadow couldn’t repeat that showing in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March, where a final-fence error brought Danny Cook’s mount to a virtual stand-still.
Following his superb victory in the Relkeel Hurdle, Danny Cook spoke openly about how excited he and Smith were to take Midnight Shadow over fences in 19/20, claiming his mount will be much more effective when presented with the larger obstacles. Few in this season’s novice chasing ranks will boast the same experience and success as Midnight Shadow and Smith’s charge could be a big player in the big Graded races over two-and-a-half and three miles this season.
Minella Indo – Henry De Bromhead
The Albert Bartlett is such a long, hard, slog of a race, that it often takes it’s entrants many months to recover. Some are never the same again. Minella Indo, on the other hand, returned to action just six weeks after carrying odds of 50/1 into the winners’ enclosure at Prestbury Park and looked as fresh as a daisy, defeating Allaho and Carefully Selected in the Grade One Irish Daily Mirror Hurdle at Punchestown.
True, Henry De Bromhead’s novice had only ran twice heading into Cheltenham, but to secure a pair of two-length victories in two taxing three-mile Grade Ones was an incredible effort. De Bromhead has always been confident his six-year-old would be even better over fences and there are few better trainers at helping horses progress over the larger obstacles. It’s easy to see why Minella Indo is the ante-post favourite for next year’s RSA. He could take some stopping.
Mr Grey Sky – Kim Bailey
I’m always impressed when young horses can win under a penalty in bumpers and Mr Grey Sky was another who managed it last season. Kim Bailey’s youngster earned a really high RPR of 127 after securing a snug victory on his second start at Haydock and Mr Grey Sky beat plenty of future winners during both of those bumper victories. The future looks bright for this son of Fame And Glory as he starts out as a novice hurdler.
Reikers Island – Philip Hobbs
Philip Hobbs decided to go chasing with his gelding, at the tender age of just five and Reikers Island showed battling qualities beyond his year during the winter. Three weeks after a six-length triumph at Wincanton, Hobbs’ charge narrowly lost out in a thrilling renewal of the Mandarin Handicap, losing out to classy ten-year-old Carole’s Destrier.
I haven’t included many handicappers who will be sticking to the same discipline in this list and Reikers Island struggled during the second half of the season. However, Hobbs’ charge really caught my eye on several occasions during his novice chasing campaign and I feel he will develop into a Graded-quality staying chaser during his second season over the larger obstacles.
Road To Respect – Noel Meade
I’m aware that Road To Respect could become somewhat of a cliff horse for me. Yet, I’m remain completely convinced this wonderfully horse is one of the best staying chasers in Ireland and there’s more to come from Noel Meade’s stable star over the coming months. I simply couldn’t leave him off my list.
Road To Respect got no luck at Leopardstown over Christmas, slipping twice before staying on to claim third behind Kemboy in the Lexus Chase. Jumping mistakes cost Sean Flanagan’s mount dearly as he finished third in the Ryanair and Road To Respect registered yet another error-strewn display behind Kemboy at Aintree on his final outing.
We saw in last year’s JNWine Champion Chase how good Road to Respect can be when on his game. Meade has had the summer to iron out the jumping problems that plagued his eight-year-old during the spring and Road To Respect will be a big player in all the major Grade Ones over fences – so long as the ground comes up suitably good.
Sams Profile – Mouse Morris
One of the most unheralded novice hurdlers from last season, Sam’s Profile enjoyed a hugely successful first season under rules. Mouse Morris’ youngster won on debut and went on to place in three Graded races, including a pair of runner-up finishes in Grade Ones at Naas and Punchestown, where Sams Profile lost out to Reserve Tank by just half-a-length.
In the build-up to Cheltenham, Morris described his budding stable star as a next year job and I’m really hoping the team have decided to go chasing with this hardy son of Black Sam Bellamy. I’m sure Sams Profile will get three miles given time, but his immediate future could lie over two-and-a-half miles and I expect Morris’ charge will take high order over the larger obstacles.
The Olympian – Alan King
The Olympian feature three times on the flat during his two-year-old season, finishing second twice before claiming a narrow victory on the Rowley Mile. Alan King’s charge lost out to now-100 rated West End Charmer and 103-rated Pablo Escobar on his first two starts, before defeating Travel On and Mind The Crack at Newmarket, both of whom have reached rating in the mid-90s since.
JP McManus moved swiftly to purchase King’s youngster this summer, when it was confirmed that he’d started schooling over fences. Olympic Glory has sired a Group One winner on the flat and one of his three progeny who have gone jumping so far has managed to win this season. The Olympian clearly has plenty of class and I’m hopeful he’ll shape up into a Triumph Hurdle candidate this season.
Thebannerkingrebel – Jamie Snowden
Jamie Snowden has had to be really patient with Thebannerkingrebel. Injury struck after Gavin Sheehan pulled his mount up in the 2018 Champion Bumper, but Snowden’s gelding belayed over a year off the track to push McFabulous all the way to the line in Aintree’s feature flat race last season. Two simple successes in Novice Hurdles followed, which will allow Thebannerkingrebel to maintain his novice status throughout the upcoming campaign and Snowden will be confident he can shape up into a Graded performer over obstacles.
Thomas Darby – Olly Murphy
After kicking off life over hurdles with an impressive defeat of Elixir De Nutz at Cheltenham, Thomas Darby ran well in defeat in strong Class Two’s at Ascot and Kempton. Olly Murphy feared the softening ground had gone against both Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet ahead of the Surpreme. So, he will have been as surprised as anyone to see both of his contenders find their way into the places and, of the two, Thomas Darby is the one to follow as he takes his first tentative steps over fences during the new season.
Murphy will be a trainer to follow during the 2019/20 campaign. Gordon Elliott’s former right-hand man has gone from strength-to-strength since going it alone, with his stable growing at an alarming rate, and Thomas Darby has the ability to be the flagship horse for Murphy’s growing operation.
Yalltari – Venetia Williams
Yalltari was the final name on my list of horses to follow last year, having looked a strong chaser in the making during a brief, unbeaten novice hurdling campaign. Venetia Williams’ gelding finished second on his chasing debut, losing out narrowly to future winner Steely Addition, before claiming a simple success on his second start over the larger obstacles at Chepstow.
Yalltari fell at the first fence when hampered by a rival on his third start, but that didn’t stop Williams chucking her charge into the Grade Two Reynoldstown at Ascot in February. Charlie Deutsch’s mount performer really well that day, on ground which was always going to be a little quick, finishing a close third behind Mister Malarky and Now McGinty. There’s plenty more to come from Yalltari and he could be a big player in any staying handicap run on testing ground. The Welsh Grand National could even be an option.