National Hunt Handicappers to follow 17/18

Hello and welcome back to our new revamped name (If you are a regular follower although I’m pretty sure not many people will follow us regularly but hey ho!). We have a new name and a new Twitter handle @TheNationalHunt and are now renamed National Hunt Racing on Twitter as our main name now. It appeals to more people as some novices probably don’t know the name Antepost, so we thought we’d try and appeal to novice gamblers and people who may not know too much about the sport and want some help and information to improve. We will be posting as much as we can over the season, certainly more then normal as we can be inconsistent with our blog posts but we’ll endeavour to make sure we try and post as much information on here and our Twitter page.

Writing this on the 1st August, we are only just over a couple of months away from the Chepstow meeting in October to signal the tide turning from the flat racing season into the jumps season and currently now the Goodwood festival is on, which signals that we are within touching distance. Last year I covered a good few handicappers to follow and had a number of improvers who won a good few races over the year including some big ones too. The most notable names on that list included: Definitely Red, As De Mee, Noble Endeavor, Sambremont, Modus and Sceau Royal all won some big races over the season, so that was a decent page to follow. It probably included a few too many horses really and I’m just going to give out 20 to follow over handicaps over both codes (fences or hurdles) and hopefully can pick a few winners for you to follow throughout the season. It won’t be worth backing these blind but if the conditions all suit then most will give a run for your money. I’ll be following this post in September time with chasers and hurdlers to follow. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Southfield Royale – I had really high hopes for the Neil Mullholland trained gelding Southfield Royale last season but he didn’t quite reach the heights I had hoped. Mainly due to a setback that prevented him from being seen on the racecourse till late January when he ran a below par effort in the Sky Bet chase. Always playing catch up with only one run over the season, he was next seen in the Kim Muir at the Festival where he went off 7/1 falling early on. His next run was in the Scottish National where he went off a single figure price in that race too but never found any sort of rhythm and was tailed off. It’s fair to see that he was unlucky last season and a horse who had an interrupted early season usually finds it hard to spark and will always be playing catch up, and that is something to keep in mind. Based on his novice chase form especially his form in the National Hunt Chase race in 2016 which has given us a Gold Cup 2nd and 3rd and had a number of form boosts elsewhere too, he looks to have a good few pounds on the handicapper with a rating of very well treated 138. I’ll be stunned if he isn’t at least 10lb better then that mark and is definitely one to watch if he has prospered over the summer.

Elgin and High Bridge – Combining the 2 together due to the fact that they were both in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season and are the 2 to take away from it with regards to handicapping. I don’t envisage either of them going over fences due to their breeding (Both bred for the flat primarily) and thus meaning that both will likely reappear in handicap hurdles this season coming. Firstly lets talk about High Bridge, a very decent bumper horse who spent 2 seasons running in bumpers where he finished up finishing 6th in the Champion Bumper in 2016 behind some very useful horses. Last season he went hurdling after moving to Ben Pauling winning 3 novice hurdles easily before finishing 9th in the Supreme. He might possibly need further now but off a mark of 141, which looks workable given his form and given his liking for Newbury, something like the Gerry Feilden limited handicap at Newbury early season may suit. As for Elgin, he performed consistently throughout the season winning 2 novice hurdles and finishing 2nd in graded races before a 7th in the Supreme. He looks capable of winning off his mark of 140 with his reading of his 2nd behind Neon Wolf and River Wylde looking good and his beating of Mohaayed at Kempton (Mohaayed performed well in handicaps after including the County hurdle) reading very well. He could step up in trip but looks pacy enough for 2 miles, both should be winning competitive handicaps this year off their current marks.

Diamond King – An obvious candidate considering he’s quite a high profile horse but Diamond King strikes me as the type of horse who probably should be allowed time and experience in his switch to fences. A former Coral Cup handicap winner at the Festival, he went novice chasing last season winning his first outing looking a very comfortable chaser before experiencing an underwhelming campaign. He went into the 24 runner handicap at the festival going off 5/1 favourite after only 3 runs over fences after a 3 month break too, it was some ask for a novice and he pulled up that day in a disappointing run. Not seen to his best on either run at Punchestown in April and May afterwards, it would be unforgiving to give up on him now. A clean, neat jumper, he should have no problem winning next season if he gets his favoured good ground off a mark of 145 in Ireland and strikes me as the type of horse who may take a run or 2 early season for the penny to finally drop in a good handicap over fences.

Diable De Sivola – Nick Williams had the winner of the Fred Winter at the Festival last season and Lizzie Kelly had the choice of riding one of his 2 runners in that race. She picked the wrong one in Diable De Sivola who managed to finish a staying on 5th and the winner Flying Tiger was the winner with champion jockey Richard Johnson on board. It’s the 5th place horse that catches my eye as a decent handicapper to follow next season off a mark of 132. Highly rated by connections, it is thought he will prosper over distances beyond 2 miles as he has always been staying on in his races and I think he is capable of picking up a couple of handicaps this season despite it being notoriously difficult as a 4 year old going into open company these days. Big field handicaps may be the making of him rather then small field juvenile races which he had to endure last season. Saying that, he finished a never nearer 2 length 2nd to the winner and top class Defi Du Seuil at Cheltenham at one point in the season which reads well. A possible return in the 4 year old race at Cheltenham in October could be his starting point as he loves Cheltenham clearly, but he is one to watch when he goes up in distance.

Bun Doran – When you look at Bun Doran’s breeding it would scream 3 miles plus. Hasn’t been anything like that in his career to date but he does look a horse who is capable of being a handicapper to follow this year over middle distance trips and if he learns to relax as he gets more mature, then it wouldn’t surprise me if he was a real solid staying chaser to follow too. He was first seen last year undertaking his novice chase campaign where he won an open handicap over fences on only his 2nd start. Pulling up in a Grade 2 at Haydock novice chase in January, he put that effort behind him on heavy sod to finish a really solid 6th in the Close Brothers novice handicap on the first day at the festival where he made 3 or 4 mistakes throughout the race. Next seen finishing a really good 3rd in the Red Rum at Aintree over 2 miles, he did his best work at the end and will likely to be seen at longer trips this season. Given he’s only had 5 runs over fences and looks able to compete in big field handicaps over fences already, he should make a mockery of his rating of 139 at some point in the season. An ex point to point winner over 3 miles suggests he could be one to follow in the staying chases later on in the season, assuming he relaxes and settles this year.

Vintage Clouds – The shrewd Sue Smith trained gelding Vintage Clouds enjoyed a fairly solid start to his chasing career despite 2 falls in a busy season. Whilst he never managed to win a race over fences and is still currently a maiden, he performed creditably enough over the season to suggest that his mark of 132 is a gift from the gods this season. Last seen finishing a very good 7th in the Scottish National back in April on ground that probably was too quick for him, it’s likely that he will be back contesting those valuable staying handicaps again this season. Able to handle big field conditions despite 2 heavy falls in the Peter Marsh, when looking set for a place, and a fall at Cheltenham in the Ultima handicap chase when likely to finish in the top 7, Vintage Clouds could be one to watch especially on ground that has some juice in it. Possibly a tilt at the decent staying handicap at Cheltenham in October over 3 miles plus if the ground is soft enough could be an ideal starting point and no doubt we will see him sometime at Aintree too given his owner Mr Hemmings, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December followed by a possible tilt at the big one in April.

Emerging Force – My initial fancy for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival originally around mid season, unfortunately the Harry Whittington trained gelding met a setback and wasn’t seen until Aintree in April where he was seen finishing 5th in an open handicap. Never a positive for a horse to get injured in the middle of the season, if everything is 100% with the horse this season then he will likely make a mark of his official rating 139. Only the 4 runs over fences last season, meaning he will obviously improve over the season with more experience especially in big fields and I’d expect him to be contesting the staying handicaps towards the end of the season over 3 miles plus. It’s notable that he was set to win a staying handicap at Haydock over hurdles off top weight off a mark of 140 before unshipping at the last in 2016, so a mark of 139 looks a gift over fences. Highly rated by connections, especially his trainer, you’d like to see him gain a run or 2 for confidence and fitness early season although maybe a tilt at the Sodexo Gold Cup in late October might be on their minds if they wanted an early target.

Potters Legend Another horse rated 139, Lucy Wadham has a good staying handicapper on her hands for this season coming. 7 runs over fences last season on his novice chasing campaign, he was able to win a couple of small field novice chases before finishing in the top 4 in 4 big field handicaps including one in the Kim Muir at the Festival and one in a listed handicap at Aintree. This is a good solid base for the Midnight Legend gelding to build upon into the new season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him tackle the Bet365 Gold Cup at Wadham’s near track Sandown in April. Looking through his form, you’d have to say he has around at least 5+ pounds in hand on the handicapper and given his breeding and his consistency on various types of ground, you’d have to say this fella is very versatile in any conditions which bodes well for him. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t able to win a handicap off 139 especially in those long distance handicaps as he has shown he’s much more of a stayer relishing every furlong over 3 miles in his races so far.

Fletchers Flyer – Another horse who had a setback early season and struggled to play catch up throughout the year. It’s always a huge thing for any horse to be able to have a good pre season and a injury free campaign. Fletchers Flyer main target was always the Irish Grand National and that target was mentioned by trainer Harry Fry very early on. He managed to get there in one piece after a couple of runs through the season, both at Ascot where he hardly sparkled, however he was set for a big run at Fairyhouse going off 10/1 before the off and looking to hold a decent chance before making a bad mistake 5 out and never recovering. He wouldn’t of beaten the Gold Cup 2018 winner Our Duke that day regardless, but it was disappointing to see him go out like a light. Hopefully with a better summer and a niggle free early season, he will be able to compete in handicaps off a mark of 143. Notably he prefers to go right handed, so a tilt at those valuable Ascot handicaps in October and December may be on the agenda before another go at the Irish Grand National due to his Irish owners.

Chef D’Oeuvre – I thought Warren Greatex had a really underwhelming season in 16/17. He looked to have plenty of novice chasers in his rank to put him on the map in the chasing sphere but apart from Missed Approach who was probably his best chaser overall with a 2nd in the 4 miler, they all disappointed. One horse who I thought would be a decent chaser was Chef D’Oeuvre and except for a single win over fences in horrible conditions at Hereford, he never really lived up to expectations. A horse who caught my eye at Cheltenham in 2016 when he made eyecatching headway in a race famously won by Yanworth when he won on the bridle and made his emergence onto the scene. He was one of my chasers to follow last season and I’ve got a feeling that Greatex may have been suffering with a small bug in his yard as a number of horses performed under par throughout the season and I expect him to have a change of fortune in this coming season. If CDO is allowed some time and patience early season to get his confidence, and he meets his favoured conditions, testing ground, then I’d expect him to perform better then his current mark of 130. He could pick up a small field confidence boosting handicap in the winter before going onto better things and mid winter handicaps where the ground goes bottomless at places like Haydock will suit.

Mohaayed – It’s always difficult to put hurdlers into handicappers to follow as you never know if those novice hurdlers from last year will go chasing or stay hurdling. I’m going to assume the flat bred Mohaayed trained by Dan Skelton will stay hurdling this year and is likely to play a part in Skelton’s team for big handicap hurdles this season. Rated 137, that mark looks workable for this tough fella who performed with real credit in his first season over hurdles in some competitive handicaps. Given he’s only had 6 runs over hurdle, I doubt he will of reached his ceiling yet and he has some decent form which makes him a horse who could have several pounds worth of improvement in him. His 7th place finish in the County hurdle on his 4th run over hurdles, finishing only 3 lengths behind the winner reads well whilst he went a couple of places better in the Scottish Champion Hurdle finishing 3rd before a hack around to win 4k at Market Rasen in May in a 2 runner race. His first target will likely be the Greatwood at Cheltenham in November, and I expect they will go from there.

Charli Parcs – The talk of the town at one point last season, things turned sour when he went off 4/7f in the Adonis at Kempton in February for both his trainer Nicky Henderson and my betting slips for Cheltenham as he looked beaten before falling 2 out. He put a smile on Nicky Henderson’s face constantly after his delightful win at Kempton over Christmas and big things were expected of him. He was even talked about and put in as Supreme favourite at one point and Nicky Henderson never dismissed his gelding being able to win the Supreme, high praise indeed. Things didn’t go to plan and after falling in the Adonis, he went the Triumph route to take on fellow McManus owned Defi Du Seuil amongst others. Made headway on the downhill slope but faded, it’s expected that he will make a name for himself this year. Talk of working down the house at Seven Barrows emerged constantly through the season and with a mark of 145 and a full pre season and time to get over that mishap in the Adonis which was never ideal for a horse going into a full blooded Festival that takes no prisoners, I expect him to not only take part in handicaps but also Grade 1 events this season. If he does take in handicap, his mark of 145 could look silly (In my opinion) and I hope he exploits that on his way to bigger things later on in the season.

Moon Racer – Unsure over his discipline this season coming, his mark of 142 does look tempting for a handicap over hurdles early season if they decide to go down that route. Clearly a Grade 1 animal when you look at his bumper form and his early season form too in his first couple of runs over hurdles in late 2016, it ended up being well documented that Moon Racer was never right from Christmas onwards. The Supreme/Champion Hurdle debate was the hot topic for a while in the jumps season and connections picked the Champion Hurdle. In hindsight you would of said go for the easier option but given his age (8), they went for the riskier option and he made a mistake and blew up, being pulled up mid race. Unfortunate for all of the connections as he’s such a high quality horse although clearly very fragile, they tried another go at Aintree where he didn’t look himself throughout the race. You’d like to think with a summer on his back and clear run he can come back to himself for the 2 mile races off a competitive mark. A high quality turn of foot, shown himself to be a decent jumper of hurdles (See his November Cheltenham win) and in hindsight he should be rated 10-15lbs higher then his current mark on form, he could be a really live contender for the Greatwood should connections choose to go this route.

Wounded Warrior – A horse who has always threatened a good deal in his career but has always found a little bad luck through injury at a crucial time, the Noel Meade trained Wounded Warrior, assuming all OK, will go into the new season off a mark of 144 in Ireland and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him exploit a fair mark at some point in the season. A horse who enjoyed a good novice chase campaign, big things were expected of him in his 2nd season over fences but that never materialised as he suffered with injuries and was only seen twice. He had a full campaign last season running 6 times pulling up 3 times including in the English and Irish Grand National’s. Rated at 155 at one point, he may need a little help from the handicapper and it may not be until deep winter on soft ground that we see a resurgence from him. He revels in soft ground and not being the quickest horse around means he appreciated extreme distance trips. Going through his form, you’d say that he isn’t a handicapper to follow but remember this is a horse who beat Definitely Red in his point to point days and Grand National winner Rule the World too, so he definitely has ability and could be a few pounds infront of the handicapper when enjoying his optimum conditions. Give him a little time this season and hopefully we will see Wounded Warrior become a horse connections always thought he would be (If he survives the Gigginstown cull that is!).

Ibis Du Rheu – Another second season chaser who is likely to make his mark in a big handicap in the first part of the season. Paul Nicholls trained and John Hales owned second season chaser who seems to enjoy a middle distance trip at Cheltenham…Does that remind you of a certain horse? A certain horse called Al Ferof? And a race that Al Ferof won? The old Paddy Power handicap of course. A mark of 144 looks fair for a horse of Ibis Du Rheu’s ability and I do wonder if Paul Nicholls has put him away after a torrid time in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival with this in mind. Either that or the Hennessy where a flat 3 miles may be within his comfort too. The former Martin Pipe conditionals handicap winner raced 4 times over fences last season, most notably facing the mighty Thistlecrack in a Grade 2 at November before racing 3 times with an eye catching 3rd place in a valuable novice handicap chase at Cheltenham on trials day where he caught the eye staying on. Despite a rough time in March at the Festival, he was always bound to struggle in a big field handicap against experienced horses at the Festival and I fully expect Nicholls to find a small field novice chase in October (If all OK with fitness) before having a tilt at the BetVictor Gold Cup at the Open meeting in November at the Mecca.

That’s it for now. I will update anymore I can think of but not much is jumping off the page at the moment especially in types of hurdlers to follow in handicaps this year. It’s always a struggle to know what discipline those novice hurdlers are going to follow as you don’t know if they are going chasing. When I find out the plans for various horses then I will update again. Roll on October!












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