How do you improve on a Ten to Follow? You make it a Fifteen to Follow – at least this season… Here are the Roy Waterhouse Steeplechasing 15 horses to follow for the 2019/20 National Hunt campaign.
8 b m Kayf Tara – Rocheflamme (FR) (Snurge (IRE))
Trained by Henry Daly
It was a busy enough season for this one in 2018/19, running in 12 chases stretching back to the end of April 2018, but she won four of them, including a Listed event at Wincanton in February. She took her chance in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and, having been lucky not to get brought down at the 18th, she was arguably moving best of the field on the turn for home, but was beginning to weaken when falling two out. She’d probably had enough for the time being when pulled up at Perth in April, so that can be ignored, and with so many Listed mares’ steeplechases in the calendar now it’ll be a shock if Atlanta Ablaze doesn’t win at least once in 2019/20.
6 b g Milan – Daraheen Diamond (IRE) (Husyan (USA))
Trained by Olly Murphy
Perhaps a trainer doesn’t need a winner to have a good Cheltenham Festival, and 24 hours after the unfancied stablemates Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet gave their handler Olly Murphy a two-three in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, his Brewin’upastorm was a good fourth in the Wednesday opener, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. After he made quick ground to track the leaders with three to jump, he faded approaching the last and finished just under six lengths behind City Island, having perhaps made his move sooner than ideal. His subsequent second to Reserve Tank in the Mersey Novices’ at Aintree is no disgrace, that winner following up at Punchestown, and it’ll be interesting to see how Brewin’upastorm gets on this season. His solitary win over hurdles – at Huntingdon in December – was over two miles, but his form at the festivals shows that he’s equally effective at two and a half.
Clondaw Castle (IRE)
7 b g Oscar (IRE) – Lohort Castle (IRE) (Presenting)
Trained by Tom George
The front-running Clondaw Castle could do well this season. His Leicester win in January, at the expense of odds-on favourite Burbank, suggested that he could be something good over fences, making all and not seriously troubled at any point, nor asked a serious question. After following up at Huntingdon stiffer tasks awaited, and he ran better than his finishing position suggested in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, ridden up with the pace and, after chasing Duc Des Genievres closest with three to jump, weakened from the next. That might have left its mark, as he disappointed behind Ornua in the Maghull at Aintree when last seen, but he’ll surely get good ground once or twice next season. At least one two-mile handicap chase should go Clondaw Castle’s way, possibly the valuable one at Ascot in mid-November should connections go for that.
Desir Du Large (FR)
6 gr g Zambezi Sun – Rapsodie Sea (FR) (April Night (FR))
Trained by Joseph O’Brien
The way Desir Du Large has been campaigned up to now suggests that not only did he need time before he made his one and only start in 2018/19, but that he needed time to recover after it; a stable-switch, from Mouse Morris to Joseph O’Brien, may have been a factor too. Having shown nothing much in a maiden hurdle and three bumpers in 2017/18, Desir Du Large was strong in the market for the closing bumper at Fairyhouse on December 1st (opened 11/4, SP 3/1) and this well-made gelding, despite looking as though the run would bring him on, showed a good turn of foot in beating the favourite Valdieu by five lengths. We’re sure to see more of him this season you’d think, so expect Desir Du Large to do well over hurdles this season.
Honest Vic (IRE)
6 b g Kalanisi (IRE) – Miss Vic Lovin (IRE) (Old Vic)
Trained by Henry Daly
Although Honest Vic went through last season winless, there was one ‘nearly’ and one ‘what-might-have-been’ to his name. The ‘nearly’ was in a strong handicap hurdle at Ascot in February when, in a first-time visor, he was a short-head second to Brio Conti – subsequent Imperial Cup-winner Malaya was back in fourth. The might-have-been was on his final start of the campaign, at Cheltenham in April, when he went from struggling in rear at the second last to three lengths off the leader and gaining approaching the final flight, when he made a chance-ending mistake and pecked badly on landing, losing around five lengths and causing the jockey to lose his irons. Left on 126 after that, he’ll start the new season well treated.
6 b m Schiaparelli (GER) – Spin The Wheel (IRE) (Kalanisi (IRE))
Trained by Paul Webber
‘First British-trained runner home in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.’ Up to now that’s the best that the home yards could have hoped for, but the first in the 2019 renewal, Indefatigable, who came fifth to Eglantine Du Seuil, could be in for a good season. After winning a Uttoxeter novice she went for Listed or Graded novices on her four subsequent starts, running the popular Lady Buttons to a neck at Doncaster in January, before going to Cheltenham. Several mistakes didn’t stop her from running well, as she held a place-chance at the last, only to fade in the last 150 yards. Returning to Prestbury Park in April for the mares-only fixture, she won an uncompetitive four-runner Listed event in ready fashion, overcoming a blunder at the seventh to beat The Cull Bank by ten lengths. There’s more to come from this one and she won’t go short of opportunities (mares don’t these days).
8 ch g Limnos (JPN) – Madame Johann (FR) (Johann Quatz (FR))
Trained by Nigel Hawke
I’m rather chancing my arm throwing this one in, but there was enough to like about his run – what there was of it – in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival to suggest that he’ll win a chase or two. Given a year and a half off after winning over hurdles at Carlisle and Haydock in March 2017, he didn’t do much at Newbury on his comeback run and chasing debut when fourth to Chosen Path in December. Hardly credentials which pointed to a good chance in the Festival four-miler, as it was for the last time, but he was running above his 100/1 odds – closing in midfield and going comfortably – when falling at the 17th fence. Still eligible for novice (and indeed maiden) chases, Johanos should win a couple this season. He’s proven on heavy going.
6 b g Midnight Legend – Gaspaisie (FR) (Beyssac (FR))
Trained by Gary Moore
There must be something about horses with first names – Tim, Jim, Pete and Simon were all winning jumpers in the last 25 years and the latest, Larry, has turned out all right too. Having won over fences at Sandown in January, he went very close to winning at Newbury in March, warming to his task and leading three out, only to be headed by Bob Mahler inside the last 100 yards. On the strength of that he went off favourite to take the Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap at Sandown on the final day of the season and, looking well and racing wide, he worked his way into the race, chased the leader at the Pond Fence three out, led after the next and stayed on well to beat Gone Platinum a neck, conceding 25 lbs to the runner-up. Accurately treated on 143 to start the new campaign, he’d be worth his place in one of the big two-and-a-half-mile handicap chases at Cheltenham from November to January; he’s also effective at three miles.
5 b g Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Lucylou I (IRE) (Bob Back (USA))
Trained by Mouse Morris
He made last season’s ten; he makes this season’s fifteen, despite winning only a maiden hurdle last season (still managing to return a level-stakes profit on SP over his five starts). It was graded events all the way after winning at Cork in November, and he was runner-up twice before going for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He shaped better than the distance beaten suggests, moving comfortably when bumped by the winner City Island at the second last, ridden and beaten off the home turn and finishing fifth beaten just short of 15 lengths. He ran in the Champion Novice over two and a half miles at the Punchestown Festival on his last start, and was beaten only by the Aintree winner Reserve Tank, going second approaching the last only to make the last of a series of mistakes, and though closing on the run-in never getting to the winner. Probably going chasing, Sams Profile still has a promising future.
5 b g Kayf Tara – Rosita Bay (Hernando (FR))
Trained by Philip Hobbs
Cheltenian, Philip Hobbs’ appropriately-named Champion Bumper-winner, went on to land a Scottish Champion Hurdle. This one didn’t win at Cheltenham and wouldn’t jump off the page for the Ayr race either, but will be good to go when running over two and a half miles and upwards over hurdles. On the back of a debut-success at Worcester in October, Thyme Hill went for a Listed bumper at Cheltenham in November and ran Master Debonair to a neck. He wasn’t seen again until the Champion Bumper and ran well considering his relative lack of pace, prominently positioned, first niggled along at halfway, outpaced in the last half mile before staying on to go third in the final furlong, beaten two and a half lengths by Envoi Allen in the end. Likely to go for the Ballymore or the Albert Bartlett if returning to Cheltenham for the 2020 Festival, Thyme Hill should do well in novice hurdles.
Tout Est Permis (FR)
6 gr g Linda’s Lad – Kadalbleue (FR) (Kadalko (FR))
Trained by Noel Meade
Switching Tout Est Permis to the Noel Meade-yard worked the oracle last season, and a Galway-win in October was followed by his most lucrative success to date, in the Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan in November, when he had subsequent Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light back in third. Stepped up in class, in theory, for the Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles, he beat Sub Lieutenant a short-head in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, not going as well as the eventual runner-up leaving the back straight but staying on and making up a length and a half from the last. He took his chance in the Irish Grand National on the back of that, but the extreme test of stamina at Fairyhouse proved too much for the six year-old and he weakened, having travelled and jumped soundly to the 19th. Still unexposed and young enough to improve, there could be more in the offing.
Walk Away (IRE)
6 b g Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) – Pegus Love (IRE) (Executive Perk)
Trained by Henry De Bromhead
Point winner Walk Away has only had the three starts under Rules, with the second and third of those at two of the big three Festival-meetings, so it’s safe to say that he’s well thought of. Once asked to go and win the race in a Thurles maiden on March 7th, he found plenty to be ten lengths up jumping the last, decisively beating next time out-winner Final List, and earning a trip to Aintree for the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. It was a big ask, but he did really well for two reasons; firstly his inexperience, and secondly his coming from the rear in a race which wasn’t run to suit the stayers in the line-up, holding a chance of a place (as did several others) at the second last and unable to find more, looking held when bungling the final flight, nearly 13 lengths fourth to Champ in the end. He disappointed behind Albert Bartlett-winner Minella Indo at the Punchestown Festival, but that can probably be overlooked, and it’ll be interesting to see if Walk Away stays over hurdles or goes chasing in 2019/20.
What’s Occurring (IRE)
6 b g Rail Link – Lovely Origny (FR) (Robin Des Champs (FR))
Trained by Oliver Sherwood
This one looks a chaser, tall and unfurnished, but he got two wins over hurdles last season on his first two starts of the campaign, both at Hereford. About his best subsequent run was in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury on December 1st, in which he still had a chance of a place at the second last before fading into fifth, only beaten just over six lengths though, behind Global Citizen. Last seen out in the valuable novices’ handicap hurdle at Sandown on the final day of the season, he looked the part in the paddock but weakened, after tracking the leaders to the home turn, and was well beaten behind Getaway Trump. On breeding this one will stay three miles, but it’s fences that he really needs going forward. He’s well treated off 123 at the start of 2019/20 as well.
6 ro or gr g Kayf Tara – Silver Spinner (Silver Patriarch (IRE))
Trained by Mrs Jessica Harrington
Three times a runner-up over fences before lining up in the Leopardstown Chase in February, Whisperinthebreeze got his first chase win – and second in all – in that Grade A handicap, holding a three-length lead at the last and maintaining it to the line, with the subsequent Topham Chase-winner Cadmium in fourth. Next up was the National Hunt Chase and, having been left in front at the ninth, it was one mistake too many when he fell at the 14th. He did better in the Irish Grand National, but was asked to force the pace from the 15th and was soon around six lengths ahead, the effort unsurprisingly telling as he travelled much the worst of the leaders on the home turn, weakening before blundering at the third last. The trip of the Irish Grand National should be within Whisperinthebreeze’s compass – his dam stayed three miles – but there’ll be ample opportunity prior to that to gain lucrative compensation.
8 gr g Kayf Tara – Lily Grey (FR) (Kadalko (FR))
Trained by Miss Venetia Williams
It’s a common opinion in jump racing circles; if it’s muddy, it must be Venetia Williams. Likely then that Yalltari will give followers of the yard a sense of déjà vu this season, if he hasn’t already. He only got the one win in his four chases, but he demonstrated that soft ground suits him just fine at Chepstow on the Welsh Grand National undercard, up with the pace throughout, still going comfortably three out and not needing to be hard ridden to assert on the run-in, beating Bob Mahler just over two lengths. A good third to Mister Malarky in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot was his best subsequent run. There’ll be plenty of soft and heavy ground around, and races such as the Peter Marsh and National Trial at Haydock appeal as suitable targets for Yalltari in 2019/20.