National Hunt season 16/17 – Chasers to follow

Welcome to the next page in our horses to follow for the upcoming National Hunt season 2016/2017. Our handicappers to follow page seemed to prove a hit with some nice comments and a few retweets on Twitter, so I can’t complain and would like to say thank you to all who took time to read it. It was a blog page designed for not only horses who are on the up but also horses who have maybe had a quiet spell in the last season or 2 and could take full advantage of their decreasing marks, hopefully the page can pick a few winners over the season.

We now move onto chasers to follow in this section for the new season and hopefully I can put up a few decent horses to follow over the season with not only the novice chasers to follow, but also more experienced chasers too. I am only going on my own knowledge of horses who could be able to undertake their novice chase campaign this season, as you can never tell what trainers are going to do these days, however I will be waiting for stable tours and such like in late September for plans for novice hurdlers and more established hurdlers. So lets have a go at pin pointing some horses capable of making a name for themselves over fences this season:

Alpha Des Obeaux – A glaringly obvious choice to start off the blog but this Saddler Maker gelding was a huge talent last year after staying over hurdles. Alpha Des Obeaux was expected to make his chasing bow last season, however he was to stay over hurdles as Gigginstown main staying hurdler hope and despite only 1 win last season in the Grade 2 Galmoy hurdle, he placed in 3 Grade 1’s including the Punchestown World Hurdle, Hattons Grace hurdle and finishing a fine 2nd to Colin Tizzard’s machine Thistlecrack in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival. With 11 starts over hurdles, he is likely to be a top class novice chaser this season and is highly regarded by his connections. Mouse Morris has stated that he is “a proper horse” and “will be a really good one, given time”, and this 6 year old could easily be a Gold Cup horse (Bryan Cooper said this back in his novice hurdle days too). Given he has had time to mature over fences, has class and guts and is trained by a very astute trainer, who has enjoyed some real success with Gigginstown Stud owned horses lately. He will definitely be a horse to follow for the RSA chase this season coming.

Aux Ptits Soins – Another horse who was expected to undertake his chasing campaign last season, it was a sight that many punters were licking their lips at. However, the Paul Nicholls trained gelding suffered with a couple of problems which held him up throughout the season and he wasn’t seen until finishing a respectable 5th in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham. He is very much likely to take up his chasing career this season and it’s a testament to the horse that Nicholls thinks he’s the best horse he’s had since Kauto Star. Travelling like a good horse to the top of the hill in March, he obviously lacked any race fitness and plugged on to 5th place. Despite having those problems and still lacking any real race maturity, it’s clear that he’s a top class chaser in the making and is another one who everyone will be following to the RSA this season.

Born Survivor – Dan Skelton is well known for keeping some of his best horses who have their future over fences under wraps in their novice hurdle days. Three Musketeers is a good example of that with a light campaign over hurdles helping them mature and grow, Born Survivor likely to follow the same campaign too. Winner of 2 hurdles last season, he also finished 4th in the Grade 2 Leamington novice hurdles, the same hurdle that was won by Three Musketeers in the previous season. A winner of a point to point in Ireland, he’s always been highly rated by connections and I expect him to be very much a chaser to follow this season. Described as a proper horse by owner Richard Kelvin-Hughes and a horse who in time, could be outstanding by Dan Skelton – his owners parted with £220,000 for this son of Kings Theatre. Bred out of a mare to Bob Back, his breeding suggests that fences will be the making of him. Dan Skelton has confirmed he will be going over fences this year but not before he takes in the fixed brush handicap hurdle at Haydock in November, which he will run off a rating of 139, which could make him a serious contender.

Duke Des Champs – The Philip Hobbs trained Duke Des Champs was a fair novice hurdler last season winning over timber twice before finishing a well beaten 6th in the Sefton novice hurdle at the Aintree festival. The Robin Des Champs gelding has always been the type to improve for chasing and it is expected he will provide Hobbs and Johnson an above average novice chaser for the new campaign. He failed to stay the true 3 miles in races at Haydock and Aintree but you’d expect to see a stronger horse this season and given Hobbs likes to start his best novice chasers at Exeter, you’d think you would see him there in October or November.

One Track Mind  – I, and I can only guess quite a few others were able to get One Track Mind beat in a handicap at Cheltenham in December 2015 off an official rating of 139. You’d wonder quite how he was managed to be beaten by a little bit of a minefield that day considering he culminated his season in winning the Grade 1 Punchestown stayers hurdle at the Punchestown festival in May last season. Although it was probably horses under-performing that day with Alpha Des Obeaux finishing as if he had enough that day and Shaneshill falling at the last when in contention, it was still a remarkable effort by the Warren Greatex trained horse. Described as being a ‘Gold Cup’ horse by jockey Gavin Sheehan, he is expected to be high rank among the staying novice chasers this season. Expect to see him out in the next few weeks before tackling a graded novice chase at Newbury at the Hennessy meeting.

O O Seven – Kept under wraps last season by Nicky Henderson, who always had chasing in mind for this Flemensfirth bred gelding, he is expected to be another top class piece of ammunition for Henderson over fences this year. Probably better known for finishing 2nd to the mighty Yorkhill in the Tolworth hurdle at Sandown last season, he finished 8th in the Neptune at the Festival won by Yorkhill. Last seen finishing 2nd to Jers Girl at Punchestown, giving 18lb to the filly, I’d expect him to be a top class contender for the JLT novice chase or even being kept for Aintree by his trainer. Despite being bred to appreciate a trip, it’s clear he has a fair bit of a speed and will probably appreciate the step up in trip to 3 miles in the distant future, despite beating Fagan over 3 miles at Musselburgh who finished 2nd in the Albert Bartlett.

Fixe Le Kap – Nicky Henderson has a great deal of ammunition this season for the novice chase division and this big strapping 4 year old will be up there with the best of them I think. A decent juvenile last season finishing 2nd in the Victor Ludorum at Haydock in a race that didn’t suit him and then finishing 8th in the Fred Winter at the festival on ground that he found much too lively. A lover of soft ground, he is expected to relish being over fences with his trainer saying to his owners that he could be ‘next years Bristol De Mai’ after his win at Warwick. He is likely to tackle a step up in trip this season which was confirmed by Nicky Henderson at his open day (Along with going over fences) and out of a mare to the solid National Hunt sire Turgeon, I can only assume he will get 3 miles in the distant future.

Cup Final – JP McManus will have his usual army of novice chasers this season and he has a fair sort in Cup Final who has been a fragile horse to look after in the past few years. Flopping in the Pertemps when a big run was expected at last seasons festival, he finished his season winning the 3 mile handicap hurdle at the Punchestown festival off a big weight in an absolute minefield. What was even more impressive was that he gave the improving Jury Duty 20lb that day nailing him on the line. Always thought of highly by connections, he is another Henderson horse who is expected to take to fences well and although he is unlikely to be a grade 1 performer over fences, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be a good level handicapper over the big obstacles with one of the big staying nationals being an obvious aim. McManus enjoys taking an army to the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in the Spring, and he could be the exact type who goes on the ferry to Ireland this season if he’s taken to fences as expected.

Tango De Juilley – This horse caught my eye back at the Cheltenham in 2015 before Vautour’s superb JLT win in the paddock. Watching the horses being saddled in the pre parade ring, it was this french bred gelding who caught my eye the most. An absolutely huge monster of a horse was my thinking when I first caught a glimpse of him and ever since then, I have kept an eye on him. Only seen twice since that JLT, where he finished a well beaten 6th that day, he had clearly suffered with problems last season, where he only made 1 outing at the Cheltenham festival. What was remarkable about that run was that he was able to produce a fantastic run to finish 2nd in the Brown and Stable plate handicap chase behind Empire of Dirt. As everyone knows, to win or even come close to winning a handicap at the festival, you need to be at the top of your game and ideally have had a run or 2 beforehand, so for the horse to finish 2nd on his first outing of the season off a mark of 149 shows he is definitely one to watch this season. Improvement is expected this season again in his first full season proper over fences off a mark of 152.

War Sound – I was really disappointed with War Sound last season. What promised to be a big season for him, ended up in half the season missed through injury problems before failing to fire in the Betfair Hurdle when highly fancied and being pulled out of numerous races including another attempt at repeating his Swinton hurdle win from the previous 14/15 season due to fast ground. He only appeared once last season through niggles but I have a friend who works in the Hobbs stable from time to time and they mentioned he was working down the house in the run up to the Betfair hurdle and a big run was fancied. Too much rain came for him that day and he finished down the pack in a race which fell apart due to the terrible conditions. Moving on, this has always been a horse who was highly rated by connections and despite having a ton of speed, he was viewed as a 3 mile chaser in the making. Confirmed by Philip Hobbs, his current trainer, that he will be over fences this season and I expect him to make up for lost time and be a real force over fences. Bred to stay further then 2 miles, he could step up in trip in time but he has the speed for the minimum trip.

Noble Endeavor – It remains to be seen whether he is a horse who enjoys the long extreme distances such as the National Hunt chase where he was an unlucky faller when in contention at the festival in March, but Noble Endeavor definitely has the capability to win a big pot this season over fences. A talented novice hurdler, he had a patchy start to his chasing career last season but given his breeding, trainer and the likelihood of Davy Russell riding him whenever possible, there is no doubt he is going to be able to compete in all the big handicaps ranging from 2 1/2 miles plus in Ireland and possibly even a trip to England could be on the cards for him too. He is no doubt going to be a real asset to Gordon Elliot’s attempt to be champion trainer in Ireland this season.

Tombstone – A horse who I always liked last season, he finished a very creditable 4th in the Supreme novices hurdle, which I think will be a race that will work out very well. Still quite an immature and green horse, he is likely to improve for the step up in trip and the step up to fences. A horse with a fair amount of speed, he has the size and scope for fences and you can expect him to probably take in all the minimum trip graded novice chases in Ireland before a possible step up in trip. Despite being a little quirky in his races, I expect him to take to fences very easily and you’d like to think another summer on his back will only make him stronger too. Last year he wasn’t really seeing out his races, and a hood was applied to calm him down too as he has a tendency to pull, so it’s possible we won’t see the best of this fella in those small field chases. A fast pace may be necessary with better ground a preferred option for him too.

Cole Harden – I expected a big in the World Hurdle by Cole Harden but perhaps he just isn’t as good as we thought and he was destroyed, like many others, by the talent Thistlecrack. However, since last season Warren Greatex, his trainer, has confirmed that he was suffering from cartilage problems and had an operation in the summer. He is now confirmed to start his novice chasing campaign for this season, where he is expected to be at the top of the chain in both the middle distance and staying contests. A tough, genuine horse, I would be inclined to put a line through his dismal runs last season and it’s interesting that Warren has mentioned he could attack from the front in those middle distance races this season. While he does stay 3 miles, he could be a real ideal candidate for the JLT trip this season due to the fact that the race is on the Old Course on the Thursday which is a stiff test. Definitely one to look forward to this season and one to not give up on either.

Champers On Ice – David Pipe has rather lost his way recently but it’s horses like Champers On Ice who could give him more ammunition to rise to the top of the jumps game. It’s an interesting one as to why David Pipe hasn’t got the cream of the crop over jumps, seeing as he has owners who are willing to splash the cash. However, with Moon Racer, Un Temps Pour Tout and Champers On Ice, he has a solid base to win more prize money this season. Going back to Champers On Ice, he was one of my favourite horses to follow last season with his gutsy displays in numerous hurdle races. Winning 2 races over hurdles and placing in another 2 including a 3rd place in the Albert Bartlett will give him a solid platform to build on over fences this year. Tough, genuine and a horse who will keep on galloping makes him an ideal candidate for either the RSA or a possible tilt at the 4 miles in the National Hunt Chase. Mentioned by Pipe as having grown over the summer, he will appreciate all the top staying novice chases through the winter on his favoured soft ground and I think we’ll see him at the Hennessy meeting in November.

Yorkhill – Probably one of my favourite horses in training, this lad must be top of the ranks in terms of ability however he is a little quirky horse and certainly gives Willie Mullins a headache now and then. An impressive winner of the Tolworth and followed that up with another impressive win in the Neptune novices at the Festival, he pulled too hard in a small field at Aintree, just about doing the job and then blotted his copybook with a tired looking run at Punchestown. He will start off this season over fences and will no doubt be at the top of the tree in either the 2 mile divison or the middle distance races. A horse blended with speed and stamina, it will be interesting to see if he takes on Altior in the 2 mile division as he has all the attributes to be an Arkle winner. The only problem with Yorkhill is no his ability, but the fact that he pulls like a train and this can be detrimental especially in small fields. Better ground and big fields will be ideal but novice chases aren’t blessed with big fields anymore apart from at the festival, and we might not see the best of him till March.

Missed Approach – Missed Approach was an impressive winner of a Pertemps qualifier at the Hennessy meeting before failing to run any sort of race in the follow up race at Cheltenham in March. Greatex was probably asking too much of a horse with so little experience to come and win a festival handicap after 4 months off the track with such little experience too, so you probably shouldn’t read too much into that run. He then ran a fair race finishing 2nd to a well handicapped Dan Skelton horse giving weight to him at the Scottish grand national festival at Ayr in April in a really solid handicap with some very decent horses running. Confirmed to go chasing this season by his trainer, he has always been a chaser in the making being an ex point-to-point horse. Bred to appreciate a trip, he is a type of horse who will pay his way over fences and will no doubt be competing in the high class staying handicaps in time.

Arpege D’alene – Big things were expected from this Dom Alco gelding last season when he embarked on his novice chasing campaign but nothing went to plan, he failed to take to fences finishing 2nd in the grade 2 Rising Stars novice chase at Wincanton looking very uncomfortable before being possibly running in a chase that was a step too high for him running against experienced horses in a Graduation chase at Newbury. Switched back to hurdles in February he won a Pertemps qualifier at Chepstow before just failing to get his nose infront in a messy affair at the festival in March in the same race. Failing to get into the race at Aintree in soft ground, it may of been a race too far with 2 hard races in 2 months probably not helping his cause. A switch back to fences is expected with a possible run this week at Newton Abbot or Chepstow and I’m really looking forward to seeing him, hopefully, take to fences this time given he will be stronger, more mature and has the experience to take into the new season. I expect him to be an RSA contender if things go well.

Bouvreuil – Relatively unknown sire Saddler Maker has seemed to keep producing tough, honest and genuine horses and Bouvreuil is no different to that. A good juvenile who finished 2nd in the Fred Winter at the 2015 festival, he enjoyed a solid start to his fencing career with the highlight being his cracking effort in the CHAPS novice handicap chase at the festival in 2016 finishing 2nd to Ballyalton. Rated 146, I think he has a very good shot at going close in the old Paddy Power handicap chase at Cheltenham in November and I think the step up to 3 miles will be a positive one long term for him too. Brought by JP McManus in the summer, he will no doubt have top jockey Barry Geraghty on board when a big run is expected at some point and I fully expect this fella to improve throughout the season as his first season over fences was very productive.

Clan Des Obeaux – Probably my juvenile to watch from last season, I think Paul Nicholls could have a very good chaser on his hands in time here. Always a ‘chaser in the making’, I think Paul will take his time, however I expect him to improve for the move to fences. Impressive winner of a Newbury juvenile, he was beaten by the slow pace at the trials meeting at Cheltenham in January before finishing a solid 6th on fast ground at the festival in the Triumph. A fast pace, a possible step up and trip and cut in the ground will help this gelding produce his best work and whether he starts over fences straight away or has a run over hurdles, I’m expecting big things from this Kapgarde bred horse.

Its’afreebee – This horse caught my eye last season when he won the Supreme novices trial at Haydock and is entered up this week to make his chasing debut which I’m really looking forward to. Tough and genuine, he finished his season last year with a solid 3rd in the Neptune behind Yorkhill and Yanworth and Dan Skelton expects him to make his mark over fences and the best thing about this fella is that he handles any ground. Expected to be in the mix in the decent novice chases between 2 and 2 and half miles, I’d say him, Welsh Shadow and Born Survivor look a very good trio for the Skelton yard to go to war with this season.

Up for Review – I’ve always had my eye on Up for Review ever since big things were expected from him after his pointing days. Joint favourite at one point to win the Albert Bartlett with Barters Hill, he failed to fire in a novice hurdle at Doncaster against said horse and pulled up in his next outing in the Albert Bartlett. Showed his class against 3 solid stayers in a novice hurdle at Perth which contained Nambour and Fagan (Both should be good chasers this season too), big things are expected over fences now when switched this season. Soft ground may be a requirement for him as his best work has come in those conditions and I expect him to be a top class handicapper, if not more over fences.

Black Hercules – Long term I have always viewed this fella as a Gold Cup horse and I still think he is capable of that. Last season he enjoyed a great first season over fences which culminated in him winning the JLT chase. I, like many others, were scratching his head when Willie Mullins decided to nominate the JLT over 2m4 when he was viewed as a horse for the National Hunt Chase over 4 miles! Well, Willie is the master trainer and that is what separates him from us and the Heron Island gelding produced a superb performance to fend off Bristol De Mai in March. A little keen last season, he may be campaigned at those middle distance trips before stepping up in the future once again and I think he has a big shot at whatever Grade 1 races he wants in Ireland this season from those middle distance 2 and a half races to 3 miles.

Charbel – I originally put Charbel in my handicappers to follow as I thought Kim Bailey would keep him over hurdles this season, however reading his stable tour, Bailey has confirmed that Charbel will go over fences this season instead. A horse to definitely follow over those 2 mile trips, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him line up as a real contender in the Arkle in March. A horse who is bred for the flat, you wouldn’t think he would go over fences on breeding, however he has shown plenty of ability under rules in the National Hunt game and I think he is one I will definitely be following in minimum trip novice chases. A horse with plenty of speed, he could be stepped up in trip too as he shown a great deal of stamina and ability in the Supreme novices from the front before finishing a valiant 5th. He set a scorching pace that day, and he could be one for a flat track from the front, with Aintree and Newbury ideally suiting him. Making a bad mistake at Punchestown when still in contention, big things are expected of him from his trainer this season.

I could go on and list more and more horses however I feel I have given a few of my horses to follow over fences this season that are definitely confirmed anyway. There are going to plenty of decisions to be made over the next few weeks for hurdlers such as Buveur D’Air, Min and co over whether they stay over hurdles or go over fences too. Roll on Chepstow on Saturday!





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