Check out the latest list of horses to have caught the eye over the last two weeks -- a period that covered Cheltenham’s big Open meeting. Recent winners from previous lists include Clondaw Kaempfer, Eduard, Far West, Fourjacks and Sizing Rio.
ALAND ISLANDS (WON, Newcastle Nov 16)
Stowaway, a former high-class middle-distance horse on the flat, is building quite a reputation as a sire of top-class jumps prospects. And he has another in Tim Vaughan’s six-year-old who produced as polished a chasing debut here as it is possible to see. It wasn’t a bad race and they went a respectable gallop, but he travelled and jumped with aplomb before surging clear at the business end. Given that it was also only the fifth outing of his career, no wonder Vaughan and owner JP McManus are getting dizzy about his potential.
BROADBACKBOB (WON, Plumpton Nov 19)
Plumpton seemed a strange place for Nicky Henderson to introduce one of his brightest novice-chase prospects. But the track has put up a £60,000 bonus for any horse that wins at the Sussex venue and goes on to land a Cheltenham Festival prize too, so his appearance actually emphasised the regard with which the seven-year-old is held. He didn’t let his trainer down either, feeling his way early on before easing into a powerful rhythm once he started motoring from four out. It’s worth remembering that he beat subsequent Festival winner Cinders And Ashes in a novice hurdle at Ascot this time last year before injury curtailed his campaign.
BLOOD COTIL (WON, Fairyhouse Nov 21)
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins can often be relied upon to unleash a challenger for the Trumph Hurdle -- and the word from his yard is that this French recruit is the pick of this season’s bunch. Indeed Mullins has already been heard comparing him to Scolardy, who won the Cheltenham Festival’s big juvenile race for him ten years ago. Considering he spent almost the entire race fighting for his head under the tightest of Ruby Walsh reins, the gelding deserves a lot of credit for quickening clear the way he did from the final flight. Once he learns to settle, he could be some tool.
CLOUDY COPPER (WON, Exeter Nov 14)
It’s not often a 1/3 shot from the stable of champion trainer Paul Nicholls gets turned over. So the winning performance of this Jonjo O’Neill-trained newcomer on his UK debut is well worth a second glance. OK, he received 7lb from the favourite, but he was value for much further than the five lengths he strode away from him, unextended. The winner of a 3m point-to-point on heavy ground in Ireland, where he was highly regarded by his previous trainer, Donal Coffey, he has a solid National Hunt pedigree and boasts a bright future.
CHAMPAGNE FEVER (WON, Cork Nov 18)
Few novice hurdlers excite me as much as Willie Mullins’s five-year-old grey, who rounded off his bumper exploits last season with victories at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals. The genuine son of Stowaway boasts the most fantastic attitude, so it was thrilling to see him attack his debut over timber with such relish and enthusiasm. Dictating a proper gallop from the off, he allied speed to superb jumping, showing why Mullins has temporarily abandoned plans to send him straight over fences. It will take a very good horse to lower his colours this term.
CASH AND GO (2ND, Cheltenham Nov 18)
When Nicky Henderson withdrew his Champion Hurdle hope, Darlan, from the Racing Post Hurdle because of deep ground, he must have known he had a suitable substitute waiting in the wings. And so it proved, as this five-year-old recruit from Edward O’Grady’s yard in Ireland defied a long absence to underline his potential. The winner of an albeit sub-standard Grade One novice hurdle last Christmas, he was then knocked off course by injury, so Barry Geraghty was anxious not to press all his buttons. But he showed enough to suggest that while he’s considered a chaser in the making, he could well bag a rich race over hurdles first.
CLONDAW COURT (WON, Punchestown Nov 17)
Willie Mullins’s five-year-old. a recruit from the Irish point-to-point field, was sent off 2/5 favourite and almost certainly beat nothing more than a bunch of boats on this, his bumper bow. But the manner in which he disposed of them showed why £130,000 was paid for him and why he’s a horse well worth following. From the home turn, he eased further and further clear with barely a murmur of assistance from the saddle, replicating the manner in which he won his point at Largy. He’s a son of emerging sire Court Cave (a son of Sadler’s Wells and a brother of Beat Hollow).
DYNASTE (WON, Cheltenham Nov 16)
I confess there is nothing original about the inclusion in this list of the two Martin Pipe-trained novice chasers who lit up the Open meeting at Prestbury Park. But I make no apology for it, particularly in the case of this good-looking six-year-old who made the transition from hurdles without turning a hair. The runner-up, Fingal Bay, is a prospect of the highest class and did nothing wrong. Yet Dynaste brushed him aside with contemptuous ease, tanking through the contest, jumping superbly, edging closer on the bridle and quickening clear once let loose from the final fence. He did receive 5lb from the Philip Hobbs rival, but that horse had a race-fitness/chase-experience advantage.
EASTER DAY (WON, Ascot Nov 24)
Paul Nicholls has a fondness for the progeny of German sire, Malinas, and little wonder when he has a tough and improving novice hurdler of the likes of this four-year-old on his books. Although impressive on his seasonal bow at Fontwell, this contest was a more searching test altogether, yet he passed it with flying colours, running on strongly to fend off a useful runner-up, already rated as high as 135. The ground was as testing as it gets at Ascot, yet jockey Daryl Jacob is sure he will handle a better surface too. Connections think so highly of him that they are now eyeing the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas.
IFANDBUTWHYNOT (WON, Cheltenham Nov 17)
As the last race of Paddy Power Gold Cup day, in the gathering gloom of the Cotswolds, this novices’ handicap hurdle passed by largely unnoticed. But it yielded one of the performances of the weekend by David O’Meara’s six year-old, who is improving so rapidly that he could collect one or two more decent prizes this winter, providing the handicapper is not too severe on him. It looked as if jockey Timmy Murphy had given him too much to do, particularly when he was hampered by a faller at the second last. But the gelding freewheeled into contention off the home bend before bounding clear up the hill. The form of his previous win at Newcastle three weeks earlier, when beating the highly-rated Eduard, should not be under-estimated.
JOANNE ONE (WON, Navan Nov 25)
My Twitter timeline was clogged up by criticism of the ride afforded the favourite by Nina Carberry in this valuable Listed bumper for mares. But to my eyes, she was simply beaten by a better filly in John Kiely’s four-year-old daughter of four-time Irish St Leger winner, Vinne Roe, who picked up in terrific style to power home, despite desperate ground. She did benefit from a canny ride up the inner by Colin Motherway, which was in stark contrast to the one she received when an unlucky loser on her debut at Cork earlier in the month, but she looks a talented sort to go to war with over hurdles.
OUR FATHER (WON, Cheltenham Nov 17)
Even though he had to concede weight to all his rivals, I could not countenance defeat for Paul Nicholls’s giant grey, Sire Collonges, in this novice chase. So for Martin Pipe’s handsome grey to knock spots off him on his fencing debut, on the back of a 219-day absence, was some performance. Lightly-raced, he has always given glimpses of his potential over hurdles, while also looking a fragile sort best caught fresh. But on the evidence of his physical appearance here and the way he travelled and jumped under a lovely educational ride by Timmy Murphy, he has the potential to go all the way to the top over the larger obstacles.
STAYING ARTICLE (WON, Cork Nov 18)
If you’re searching for a wild outsider to upset the applecart in the Champion Hurdle, look no further than Edward O’Grady’s lightly-raced seven-year-old. I admit I don’t even know if O’Grady is preparing the horse for the race. But I do know he has the potential to improve into a genuine contender, so the 94s currently available on the exchanges has to be worth a nibble, doesn’t it? He first came to my attention when defying top weight to finish an unlucky third in the Boylesports Hurdle in January, which persuaded his handler to leave him in last season’s Champion until the final forfeit stage. He subsequently suffered a setback that kept him off the track for nine months. But after a spin on the Flat behind the ill-fated Go Native, he toughed it out here, even though he was 11lb wrong with the runner-up, to underline his renewed wellbeing. It was only the eighth run of his career, yet he’s never been out of the frame. Adding to his Cheltenhem credentials are that he’s said to prefer good spring ground and that he hails from the family of former Triumph Hurdle winner Shawiya.
SUPER DUTY (2ND, Haydock Nov 23)
As on debut, Donald McCain’s young chaser was beaten into second here. But I am more convinced than ever that he is a quality animal in the making and capable of picking up a major prize. Stepped up to a more suitable trip over 2m6f, he travelled and jumped like a winner throughout and would surely have prevailed had jockey Jason Maguire kicked on sooner. Instead, and understandably, Maguire seemed careful not to ask too much of his mount on very testing ground, given that the six-year-old is clearly still learning the game and still has a long season ahead of him. As a result, the Paul Nicholls-trained favourite, who had been ridden from some way out, was able to draw alongside, lock horns and outbattle him in the closing stages. The RSA Chase is surely on his agenda.
TARLA (WON, Clonmel Nov 15)
I don’t agree with many of the exaggerated, accusatory observations of Matt Chapman on At The Races. But he was so right to get giddy about the sparkling pillar-to-post chasing debut of Willie Mullins’s six-year-old mare. She was pitched straight into a Grade Three against previous winners, but jumped like an old pro for Ruby Walsh before easing readily clear. Mullins plans to alternate between fences and hurdles, but is convinced that the French-bred has the abilty to be top-class. Maybe the next Quevega?......
HORSES TO FOLLOW SUPPLIED BY SCOOP RACING (RICHARD SILVERWOOD).