With all three National Hunt meetings again washed out on Wednesday, I thought I would take a brief look back at the action from the weekend and nominate a few young eye-catchers for the ‘notebook’.
The pick of the action from Cheltenham, in terms of the future, came in the 2m4½f Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, in which the front pair Red Sherlock and Rathvinden emerged with plenty of credit.
The former maintained his unbeaten record in determined fashion and there was a lot to like about the way he picked up once entering the straight, while the runner-up also kept on strongly after the last (admittedly without ever looking like getting to the winner) despite an indifferent round of hurdling. The pair pulled 29 lengths clear and are clearly above-average novices.
Arguably even more of an intriguing novice hurdle was the River Don from Doncaster and, despite the racing losing a little when Racing Pulse was pulled out, the front two are another pair of smart long-term prospects.
The winner Urban Hymn is progressing rapidly under rules and took the big step up in class in his stride, dictating matters from the front under Brian Hughes. The six-year-old, who is reportedly held in the highest regard, will no doubt make up in to a smart chaser next term and, with that in mind plus the same connections having Oscar Rock to consider, it could be that he skips the Festival this year.
The Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree is one race that springs to mind for the son of Robin Des Champs, though a lot will depend on how Oscar Rock fares when we next see him at Haydock on 15th February.
The runner-up Blakemount is a horse I have been impressed with all season and he once again proved he finds plenty for pressure here, closing all the way to the line under a determined ride.
Sue Smith’s six-year-old is by Presenting so could well improve again when meeting better ground in the spring and the Sefton is also a race that should be on the radar of his connections. Before that, he is likely to take his chance in the Albert Bartlett and, though he will need to improve to figure there, he could easily outrun his likely odds. Like the winner, he will make up in to a smart novice chaser in the north next term.
Over in Ireland, the Boylesports.com Hurdle was also won by a novice that warrants following in the shape of Enda Bolger’s Gilgamboa. The son of Westerner was having just his fourth start over timber when landing the valuable prize and he travelled in to the straight like a potentially high-class individual.
The six-year-old already jumps his hurdles like fences and his trainer could hardly hide his excitement with regards to his future over the larger obstacles. With that in mind, the JP McManus owned improver may be spared a trip to Cheltenham this year, though he does hold an entry in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury – given I put up Irving for that contest a couple of weeks ago, I hope Gilgamboa remains at home.
On Sunday, the Leopardstown bumper was taken by Windsor Park, but I liked the way the runner-up Marinero went through the race and he should be able to go one better before the season is out.
Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2013-14
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New for 2013-14:
Grade 1 winning jockeys Nick Scholfield and Jane Mangan provide readers with their horses to follow
Last years results included:
* Leading Prospects, Arvika Ligeonniere (x3), Boston Bob, Captain Conan (x3), Champagne Fever (x2 inc Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Glens Melody, Melodic Rendezvous, Simonsig (Arkle) & Un Atout won 13 Grade 1 novice contests between them
* My Tent Or Yours won 4 times including the Betfair Hurdle and the Top Novices’ at Aintree
* Stable Round-Up included Neptune winner The New One, Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Court Minstrel and David Pipe’s Dynaste of whom it read “could follow the Grands Crus path of last year, starting in the Steel Plate And Sections before he is readied for the Feltham” – he won both races and also scored at Aintree in April
* Across The Sea – Mount Benbulben 14/1 winner of the Grade 1 novice chase at the Punchestown Festival
* Under The Hammer – horses featured in this section included Champion Bumper winner Briar Hill (25/1) and The Liquidator, who won the equivalent Grade 1 at Punchestown – this section has been greatly increased for 2013-14