15 Horses To Follow for the 2020/2021 Jumps Season

Fifteen likely ones for you to keep tabs on this jumps campaign – here are the Roy Waterhouse Steeplechasing 15 horses to follow for the 2020/21 National Hunt campaign.

First published 9th September 2020

Aye Right (IRE)
7 b g Yeats (IRE) – Gaybric (IRE) (Presenting)
Trained by Harriet Graham

This popular Northern jumper is yet to match his hurdles form over fences, but he almost certainly will do in 2020/21. With early-season improvement in the Autumn of 2019 – notably his second to Bordeaux Bill at Carlisle in November – he went up to 147 on my ratings, then his attention was turned to fences. Given a tough task against Sam Spinner in the December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster on chase debut, he was doing okay when unseating with six to jump; then he demolished sole rival Mulcahys Hill at Newcastle in January, taking it up five out. He was given another tough ask in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and ran above his 100/1 odds for a long way, surviving a couple of mistakes but only beaten off at the home turn. Aye Right should get at least one handicap chase win this season, and the Sky Bet Chase – the old Great Yorkshire – at Doncaster would be a plausible target. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 147; Chase 125(+)


Captain Drake (IRE)
7 b g Getaway (GER) – Julika (GER) (Bebos (GER))
Trained by Harry Fry

It’s likely that the Nationals – not necessarily that one at Aintree, of course – are where Captain Drake’s headed this season. After an unpromising start to his chasing career, with a tailed-off and an unseat, it clicked in a 0-130 handicap chase at Exeter on New Year’s Day, travelling best on the home turn and driven out to pull further clear of The Kings Writ. After going a bit in snatches prior to unseating at Ascot next time, he got his first go at a National – the Midlands version at Uttoxeter. He did well, running into one in clear winner Truckers Lodge, but he wasn’t beaten off until making mistakes at the last two, fading on the run-in. His jumping needs to improve, but granted that, Captain Drake should do well over extreme trips in 2020/21. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 127; Chase 132


Clemencia (IRE)
4 b g Pour Moi (IRE) – Cleofila (IRE) (Teofilo (IRE))
Trained by Tim Vaughan

This one was a revelation after a stable switch. Clemencia won once in four hurdles runs for Brendan Duke, taking a juvenile maiden at Cork in December, but after that was tried in better company and well beaten, first tailed off against Aspire Tower at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, then well held behind A Wave Of The Sea at the same track in February. After that he changed hands and crossed the Irish Sea to join Cowbridge trainer Tim Vaughan, and on his only run for the yard so far ran a stormer in the Boodles (Fred Winter) Juvenile Handicap. Taken off his legs from the third, and hard ridden from the second last, he was only four lengths down turning for home, and stuck to his task after the last, only just failing to get fourth behind Aramax. The early-season races for four year-olds – such as the conditions’ hurdle at Cheltenham in October – are suitable early-season targets for Clemencia, but he very much shaped as though he could do with two and a half miles in the Boodles, and that brings the likes of the Silver Trophy at Chepstow into the mix. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 131


Do Wanna Know (IRE)
6 b g Frammassone (IRE) – Mille Et Une Nuits (FR) (Ecologist)
Trained by Charlie Longsdon

The paddock for the 2m3f137y novices’ hurdle at Huntingdon on 3rd November 2019 was chock-full of chasers in the making. One of them won it – Do Wanna Know, runner-up in a point, and making his debut under Rules. Not that fancied in the market, starting 14/1, he was left in front at the third last and hard ridden after a mistake two out, staying on under pressure to hold off Hurricane Harvey (won next two) by half a length. He fell at Newbury next time, then wasn’t troubled against just the one rival, Wonderful Woman, at Catterick in February, this time going off at 1/25 on what turned out to be his final outing of the campaign. Tall and unfurnished in the paddock at Huntingdon, Do Wanna Know is sure to have strengthened over the Summer, and is one that I definitely wanna know in novice chases. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 115


Gallant John Joe (IRE)
7 b g Presenting – Shuil A Hocht (IRE) (Mohaajir (USA))
Trained by Oliver McKiernan

With a best rating from me over hurdles of 137, there was every chance Gallant John Joe would be a useful novice chaser last season. Indeed he was, but surprisingly he didn’t win one, so he’ll start this season as arguably the best second-season novice chaser in training in Ireland. The best of his three runs over fences came at Naas in March when he was third, beaten half a length, behind Royal Rendezvous, challenging at the second last and leading when steadied into the last, only headed 100 yards from the post but not flinching under pressure. He’s very much bred to stay three miles and more (the 2020 Ulster National-winner Space Cadet is a half-brother), so it’s perhaps surprising that connections have yet to try going up in distance, but when they do, chase wins surely await Gallant John Joe this season. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 137; Chase 133


Harry Senior (IRE)
6 b g Oscar (IRE) – Surf Like A Lady (IRE) (Presenting)
Trained by Colin Tizzard

‘Pick any 2019/20 novice hurdler from a big yard as a chaser.’ For me, Colin Tizzard is almost where Elliott, Henderson, Nicholls and Mullins are  – the go-to yards for racing journalists, tipsters and bloggers alike to get their jumpers to follow from. After the latest Cheltenham Festival, those looking at Tizzard’s increasingly-strong team are more likely to pick The Big Breakaway than Harry Senior, but I’m nailing my colours to this one’s mast. He absolutely bossed the paddock prior to the 2m4f Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ – a trial for the similarly-named Grade 1 over the trip in March – at Cheltenham’s Festival Trials-card in January, and he did so in the race as well, looking poised two out and running on to lead going to the last, beating King Roland. He showed a lot of speed in what was a steadily-run race, but on breeding would have been fine in the Ballymore; but they went for the Albert Bartlett over three miles – he’s no certainty to stay that trip, but it went wrong before we got a chance to see for sure when he blundered badly at the fifth, lost his place and was pulled up before the seventh. Harry Senior is sure to make a better chaser, but at this stage I’d definitely prefer to see him in the Marsh over two and a half next March, not the RSA over the longer trip. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 140


Hold The Note (IRE)
6 b g Jeremy (USA) – Keys Hope (IRE) (Luso)
Trained by Mick Channon

We’ve covered the best second-season maiden chaser in Ireland, now we’ve got the British equivalent in Hold The Note, who’s proven over three miles already. Not fancied prior to the Grade 2 Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick in January, he travelled best approaching the last but found Two For Gold too strong on the run-in. Dropped in trip for the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival, having perhaps not quite got home at Warwick, this time he shaped as though needing the longer trip when third to Imperial Aura and Galvin in what was a strong renewal, outpaced between the last two fences and jumping the last eight lengths down in fifth, then staying on to make two places up the hill. There’s more to come from Hold The Note in 2020/21 and he’s sure to get chase wins. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 119; Chase 141


Kupatana (IRE)
7 b m Westerner – Kildea Cailin (IRE) (Anshan)
Trained by Henry De Bromhead

Like it or not – and plenty don’t – there’ll be more good races, over hurdles and fences, restricted to mares this season, not least the new one over fences at the Cheltenham Festival. My long-range tip for that is Kupatana, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls, who was sold as part of the Grech and Parkin-dispersal at the Doncaster Sales in May 2019 for £210,000, probably with her post-racing career in mind. Her three starts in 2019/20 were write-offs, tailed off on each occasion, but judged on her effort at Killarney in August, she’s found herself. Not only that, but she did what she did after near-bolting following two false starts, taking the best part of three furlongs to pull up both times – going freely in front as usual, she was still there with a chance at the second last, prior to fading approaching the last as Mortal and Robin Des Foret fought out the finish. Likely to be at least second favourite against whatever Mullins- and Elliott-trained mares she takes on, Kupatana could well bag a couple of mares’ chases. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 121; Chase 136


Lightly Squeeze
6 b g Poet’s Voice – Zuleika Dobson (Cadeaux Genereux)
Trained by Harry Fry

This improved hurdler deserves compensation for a last-flight departure in the Betfair Hurdle when he was last in a hurdle race. Lightly Squeeze earned his place in the Newbury feature in February when he posted a hattrick in three ordinary handicap hurdles, the first two (both 0-110) at Wincanton then Taunton over Christmas – proving himself over 2m3f in the latter – then at Plumpton in a 0-115 on January 5th. He looked like he didn’t belong in a race that bad, some seven lengths in front on the bit turning for home, then between 15 and 20 lengths up at the last before he was heavily eased. The style marks of the Plumpton win suggested he could do something in the hottest Grade 3 handicap hurdle of the season in Britain outside of the Cheltenham Festival, and he was bang in contention – despite mistakes three out and the next – and staying on disputing the lead, when falling heavily at the last; some think he’d have won, but he’d have definitely placed at least. Back with an okay run on the Flat at Haydock in August, if there’s any justice Lightly Squeeze will get that win this season, with the likes of the Greatwood at Cheltenham and the race at Ascot just before Christmas picking themselves. Roy’s rating: Hurdles 137


Marcle Ridge (IRE)
8 b g Presenting – Labarynth (IRE) (Exit To Nowhere)
Trained by Sam Jukes

It’s been a few years since a hunter chaser has been included in the Fifteen/Ten To Follow, but let’s give Marcle Ridge a throw – unlike a lot of hunters, he’s younger than ten. He made an instant impact when tried under Rules at Cheltenham’s hunter chase-evening in May 2019, and when making his seasonal debut in 2020 he ran the useful Caid Du Berlais – champion hunter-winner at the 2019 Punchestown Festival – to five lengths in a point at Buckfastleigh, leading to the second last. He tried to take out the St. James’s Place Foxhunter at the Cheltenham Festival from the front as well, and his jumping from fence to fence was a sight to behold, but the game looked up when they reeled him in at the third last and he tired to finish sixth, beaten 27 lengths behind It Came To Pass. The way he jumped, and went from the front with dash, shorter distance-hunters – like the Aintree Foxhunters’ – will show Marcle Ridge in a better light. Roy’s rating: Chase 120


Marlborough Sounds 
5 b g Camelot – Wind Surf (USA) (Lil’s Lad (USA))
Trained by Amy Murphy

It’s common knowledge, but Newmarket trainer Amy Murphy is going places. Kalashnikov won a Betfair Hurdle and a Manifesto Novices’ Chase, handicap chaser Mercian Prince was officially rated 149 at his best, and Really Super took the 2020 Summer Plate. What chance of Marlborough Sounds improving in his second season’s hurdling? At least reasonable – he’s only had four runs over timber at the time of writing. He improved tremendously on two placed efforts when landing a 0-130 handicap at Fontwell in January, leading between the last two flights and three lengths up when steadied into the last, driven out and not stopping passing the post, beating Aiguille Rouge by eight lengths. He wasn’t seen again after he disappointed at Newbury in February, but that was over 2m5f and he didn’t stay (not certain to get further than 2m2f on breeding), and back over the minimum trip, Marlborough Sounds should be winning again over hurdles. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 129


Oscar Robertson (IRE)
6 b g Oscar (IRE) – Beaus Polly (IRE) (Presenting)
Trained by Tom George

There aren’t many racehorses taller than this one, and Oscar Robertson should be some sight in three-mile novice chases this season. Straight into hurdling following a promising effort in a warm Chepstow bumper, he was the best-looking horse on show all day at Wetherby on November 16th and produced a promising performance, having had a bit to do with three to jump but staying on at the second last, leading at the final flight and coming six lengths clear of Blossoming Forth. Only fourth to Young Bull back at the West Yorkshire track in December, he wasn’t seen out again. He looked unfurnished when viewed in the paddock at Wetherby, and is sure to have strengthened over the Summer. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Oscar Robertson over fences. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 108+


Steely Addition (IRE)
8 b g Craigsteel – Blond’s Addition (IRE) (Lord Americo (IRE))
Trained by Philip Hobbs

Although the form book says Steely Addition ran two poor races from two starts in 2019/20, there was enough about the second of them to suggest that he’s still got potential to take a good handicap in 2020/21. After winning at Chepstow and Hereford during his novice chase-season, he was given an impossible task on his reappearance when taking on Santini in the Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown in November and, sure enough, he was all done from the 17th, trailing in. His outing in the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February went a lot, lot better than that for a long way – he gradually crept forward and travelled kindly until, going for a run against the inside rail, his path was blocked turning out of the back straight, and he weakened quickly from four out, pulled up before the third last behind Smooth Stepper. It might be that extreme trips are not the way to go here, at least on the heavy ground they had at Haydock that day (it was also exceptionally windy), but the likes of the Badger Ales Chase might be more suitable. Roy’s rating: Hurdle 128; Chase 137


Step To The Top (IRE)
5 b m Doyen (IRE) – Step On My Soul (IRE) (Dr Massini (IRE))
Trained by Noel Williams

A likely sort for novice hurdles in 2020/21, Step To The Top shaped well when placed in all three of her bumpers. On the strength of her first two efforts at Ludlow and Warwick, she went off 8/1 third favourite for the Listed EBF Mares’ NH Flat Race at Kempton in March (moved from the abandoned Sandown meeting the previous week) and ran her best race, coming under a ride in sixth with eight lengths to find on the home turn before passing many of her rivals to take second behind Coquelicot, closing the gap to just over two lengths at the line. A half-sister to dual bumper winner Shantewe (useful two-mile hurdler Chief Yeoman is in this family also), Step To The Top should win her share over hurdles; the way she finished at Kempton, she’ll have no problem staying two and a half miles. Roy’s rating: NHF 99 


Vienna Court (IRE)
5 b m Mahler – Gales Present (IRE) (Presenting)
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies

‘And my long range-tip for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle is…’ No, that is not the idea in picking Vienna Court, same as it wasn’t when picking Indefatigable for last year’s list – it’s the same as it was a year ago; this one’s likely to pick up a mares’ hurdle or two when going up in trip. What Vienna Court has in common with Indefatigable is that she ran with promise in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but we’ll get to that. She was kept busy last season, running seven times over hurdles, winning twice, at Ffos Las in October and Taunton in February. She was first stepped up in grade at Warwick later that month in the Grade 2 Jane Seymour Mares’ Novice, challenging for second when making a mistake at the second last, hard driven and keeping on without making an impression on Emmas Joy. Cheltenham next; she started 50/1, and sure enough didn’t trouble the principals, but was closing on the downhill run to the second last when blundering there, well held at the last but closing on the seventh up the hill. Pedigree suggests that, over the two miles one furlong of the Cheltenham race, she had an impossible task from the getgo – her unraced dam is out of a half-sister to Denman, so when she goes up in trip – particularly to three miles – Vienna Court may well produce substantial improvement. Roy’s rating: 126