With the flat season now well underway, us jump fanatics are already pining for the jump season to return, so with that in mind I thought I’d highlight some exciting prospects for next season to pass away the time! The idea of this is to try and keep away from the obvious as much as I can, and hopefully find some value selections to follow next season….
CAPTAIN FOREZ (FR)
Trainer: Dan Skelton
Owner: John Hales
Dan Skelton continues to make his presence felt in the trainer ranks, and the five year old CAPTAIN FOREZ can be his first really big star when going chasing next season.
3rd on his debut in a hot novice hurdle at Newbury behind Jenkins, he was then second to Capitaine at Ascot in December. Skelton seems to like to give his best prospects time to develop and he elected to skip Cheltenham with him and instead stepped the horse up to 2.5 miles at Aintree. Going down by just 3 lengths to Finian’s Oscar in that Grade 1 novice hurdle was no mean feat as the tight track would not have suited.
By Network, out of a Robin Des Champs mare he is bred to be a chaser and he could step up in trip again and be at the top of the staying novices next season. The JLT or RSA Chase would be his target next year but long term I see him as a Gold Cup prospect for 2019.
CLAN DES OBEAUX (FR)
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Owner: Mason, Ferguson & Barber
Paul Nicholls was pipped to the trainer’s title this year, but it has been an on-going transition from the Kauto Star years for the Ditcheat handler and he has plenty of fine prospects to go to war with next season. Among those is the 5 year old CLAN DES OBEAUX who could make an impact in the staying chase division next year.
A decent juvenile hurdler he was always going to be a long term chase prospect and he announced himself a smart horse when slamming subsequent Grade 1 placed Virgilio by 10 lengths at Newbury in November. He then went down by a narrow margin to the top class Whisper at Cheltenham at the New Year meeting, his 3rd defeat in 3 attempts at the track.
It would seem he is to be seen at his best on soft ground, where his form reads 1121251, with his two runner-up places coming at Cheltenham and his 5th at Sandown where something was amiss. Arguably his two most impressive performances have come at Newbury, and that would raise the obvious possibility of going for the Ladbroke Gold Cup (formerly Hennessy). There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree, and with the furthest he has gone so far being 2.5 miles there is every possibility that there is improvement to be found when stepped up further in trip. His last run was at Ayr where he finished 4th behind the classy Cloudy Dream, seemingly outpaced before staying on well to finish only 6 lengths adrift at the line. He was rated 150 prior to that run, and happily got dropped 2lbs after it. I make him well capable of being a 160+ performer and he can be a threat in the big staying handicap chase despite his youth. He did jump to his right at Ayr, so hopefully Nicholls can iron out and chinks in him and allow him to realise his potential.
CONEY ISLAND (IRE)
Trainer: E P Harty
Owner: JP McManus
I spent plenty of time analysing the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting, and could find no other way other than to give huge ratings to the front three horses. Happily the winner Our Duke went on to land the Irish National and is now a major contender for next seasons Gold Cup, while the third horse Disko was 3rd in the JLT before landing his own Grade 1 at Punchestown over 3 miles.
With the form being franked so well, and the sensational time of the race I can’t help feeling that the horse that split those two rivals has been somewhat forgotten. That horse is CONEY ISLAND, and I hope to see him match the subsequent exploits of Our Duke and Disko.
A decent novice hurdler, Coney Island is already a Grade 1 winner over fences after landing a red hot renewal of the Drinmore Chase (Road To Respect was 4th) over 2.5miles. He was towards the head of the market in both the JLT and RSA Chase before suffering a bruised foot and missing the end of season festivals. Whilst that is not ideal, and it remains to be seen how he returns from that injury, there is some comfort in that he didn’t have to go head to head with Might Bite in a brutal RSA Chase, or take on the enigmatic Yorkhill over half a mile shorter. With another summer on his back, and time to recover from his injury I hope this horse can be a major player in the staying chase division.
His mother was a half-sister to Wichita Lineman and so 3 mile chases should be well within his grasp. He did get outstayed by Our Duke at Leopardstown though and one could argue that 2.5 miles may be the more suitable distance for him. Either way, do not forget about Coney Island!
Trainer: Philip Hobbs
Owner: JP McManus
In a year where the novice hurdling division looked a fairly average vintage, there is one horse that created a lasting visual impression on me who actually skipped the end of season festivals. That horse is the Hobbs trained JP McManus horse JERRYSBACK.
The time of his races haven’t leapt off the page, but that is largely due to the manner of his victories where he has simply toyed with the opposition winning hard held on both occasions. And he hasn’t been beating trees in those races. Look at the form of the horses in behind him on his first start:
2nd Jaisalmer – set to win Kempton novice hurdle before falling at last. Race was won by 135-rated horse.
3rd Groundunderrepair – won next time out at Lingfield.
4th Zero Grand – won next two starts, now rated 134.
5th King Uther – won Lingfield maiden hurdle.
He then won his second start cosily at Wetherby; with the third horse Eaton Hill subsequently winning. The manner of his two victories from decent horses leads me to believe this former point to point horse is a red hot prospect for novice chasing next season. Hobbs and McManus combined with the Triumph hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil this season, and I expect to see this horse take high rank in the novice chase division.
The horse was as short as 12/1 for the Neptune Hurdle after his second success, but connections wisely opted to let him start his summer holiday early and that caution will hopefully be rewarded as he is only a 5 year old and with his point to point background his future undoubtedly looks set to be over the larger obstacles. By Jeremy, his dam was out of a 3 mile hurdler half- sister to Celtic Shot, so trips of 2.5m+ would look to be on his agenda.
Trainer: Jessica Harrington
Owner: G M McGrath
Yorkhill was undoubtedly one of the star horses of last season, winning the JLT Chase at Cheltenham before putting in one of the most extraordinary jumping displays I’ve seen when throwing away the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. He put up some strong performances on the clock and it was one of the horses in behind him last year that caught my eye, namely the Jessica Harrington trained JETT.
From the family of Champion Hurdler Jezki, Jett similarly has to have good ground to be at his best. At the time of his run behind Yorkill, the form was being dismissed largely due to Jett’s proximity to the winner, however whilst he is a notch below that class do not dismiss this horse altogether.
If we look at his form in races on yielding ground or better his form reads 52U2, there is nothing to get excited about straightway until we dig deeper into those runs. His 5th was in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Punchestown, and his first runner-up position was on his comeback run over hurdles behind De Plotting Shed when he needed the run. Subsequently sent over fences he unseated two out at Christmas when going well, considering the race was won by Bleu Et Rouge, with Gangster, Don’t Touch It and Acapella Bourgeois in close proximity it was potentially going to be an excellent run. He then chased home Yorkhill on the best ground he’s had, with the aforementioned Gangster 6.5 lengths further back in third. The time of that race was exceptional, and whilst he was no match for Yorkhill he highlighted himself as a very good chaser and one worth following.
Like the rest of his family, he has to have decent ground to be at his best, so look out for him should he encounter such conditions as he seems to be well under the radar at this stage. Currently rated just 142, he could land a big handicap chase over 2.5 miles off that mark.
SUTTON PLACE (IRE)
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Owner: JP McManus
I’ve written before about how exciting a novice chase prospect SUTTON PLACE is, and next season is the time for him to deliver on that promise. On my ratings he will be the highest rated hurdler going chasing next year and he can make a big splash in that scene.
He spent an extra season over hurdles this season, and whilst this isn’t ideal it largely came around due to an interrupted preparation to the campaign so I can let it go on this occasion. Over hurdles this season he put in an awesome display to give weight and a beating to subsequent Coral Cup winner and Grade 1 placed Supasundae. He was pulled up when set to launch a challenge in the stayers hurdle at Punchestown on his last start, but this came on decent ground and I was surprised that connections let him take his chance there.
Providing that race hasn’t caused anything untoward to go wrong, he can be a major player in novice chases over 2.5 miles, with the Drinmore looking the obvious early season target. He would appear to be better on soft ground though, and so I would look to be with him in autumn and winter in Ireland but perhaps look to take him on at short odds on better ground should he go to Cheltenham. He can though land Grade 1 races away from there should he get his ground conditions and his chase debut is eagerly anticipated.
I’ll be adding a few more to this list throughout the summer to try and alleviate the dross from the flat!