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2m - 2m4f Hurdlers
2m - 2m4f Chasers
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Ten Horses to Follow for the 2016/17 Season
5 b g Montmartre (FR) - Oh La Miss (FR) (Le Balafre (FR)
Trainer: Harry Whittington
Filling the gap left in the Harry Whittington-yard by the loss of their Aintree winner, stable star Arzal, is a tough, maybe impossible task, but in Bigmartre, the Lambourn handler and his team still have a prospect to look forward to in 2016/17. This long-striding ex-French gelding got two wins from his six starts after joining his present stable in 2015/16 and, likely to be switched to fences - he had two chase starts in France, running second on one of them - looks likely to add to those successes in the new season. He didn't beat much in novice hurdles at Fontwell in October and Haydock in December, but had heavy going for the latter and held on well from Vintage Clouds, having been sent clear off the home turn. His best subsequent run was in the two-mile handicap hurdle for conditionals and amateurs at Aintree in April - with the ground borderline heavy after incessant downpours it brought about a better run from Bigmartre than had been expected beforehand, passing a few after the last and keeping on for third to Ivan Grozny, beaten 14 lengths. Soft ground seems important to Bigmartre, and he has the potential to match or exceed his official 133-rating in novice chases.
Camping Ground (FR)
6 b g Goldneyev (USA) - Camomille (GER) (Pennekamp (USA))
Trainer: Robert Walford
Fourth over just two miles in the 2015 Imperial Cup, Camping Ground was returned to hurdles after a reappearance fall in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, with a modicum of success. On heavy going over 2m4f in the Relkeel at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, he was the only one going well at the top of the hill and pulled 11 lengths clear of Lil Rockerfeller, but that was as good as it got as he finished towards the rear in the Cleeve in late January, the Champion Hurdle in March and the Aintree Hurdle in April, in the latter beaten officially 90 lengths behind Annie Power. However the reason why Camping Ground makes the Ten To Follow is what he was appearing to be doing in the Peterborough at the time of his exit. Fourth of the five runners in the betting, though not totally unfancied at 13/2, he was travelling comfortably and yet to be asked for a serious effort, looking likely to be involved in the finish, when unseating his rider at the 12th. Connections will surely try chasing again this season - he held an entry in the 2015 King George and his potential was there for all to see in the Peterborough. A tallish, well made gelding (physically the best type in the paddock before the Peterborough Chase), races like the Ascot and Ryanair Chases could be where he's headed in 2017.
Coney Island (IRE)
5 b g Flemensfirth (USA) - Millys Gesture (IRE) (Milan)
Trainer: Edward P Harty
This stoutly-bred youngster is already proven at three miles and, as he's only five, has a huge future in front of him. Placed in his first two maiden hurdles in the Autumn, he broke his duck at Leopardstown on Boxing Day over the minimum trip, going nine lengths clear of Improver. A step up to Grade 1 in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in February proved too much as he ran fifth of five to Bleu Et Rouge but, perhaps, little should be read into it given the trip - 2m2f, which now looks short of his best - and the opposition, with the second Tombstone, third Bellshill and fourth Petit Mouchoir all in the frame in good novice hurdles later on. Coney Island then won his only handicap to date, a valuable novice event at Fairyhouse in March off a mark of 130, then took his form to another level in the Grade 1 novice hurdle over three miles at the Punchestown Festival, in which he took on Bellshill again and finished a lot closer to him. Held up, and surviving two noted mistakes, he made smooth headway with four to jump, chased the leaders two out and, shaken up, held every chance at the last but couldn't match Bellshill early on the run-in. To his credit Coney Island rallied in the last two or three strides, but the deficit was too great. This is a decent long term prospect - he could do with brushing up his jumping, but other than that, there's nothing not to like. He already stays well and would probably do well over fences if sent chasing this season, but looks well treated with a Turf Club rating of 145 if going for handicap hurdles to start with.
7 b g Helissio (FR) - Scolboa (IRE) (Bob's Return (IRE))
Trainer: Charlie Longsdon
Coologue was perhaps a little immature last season, which might have contributed to his only getting one win from six starts in his novice chase campaign, but he looks likely to do a lot better as he tackles handicaps in 2016/17. A successful chasing debut in what turned out to be a very hot Bangor novice in October promised much. His next four runs were at Doncaster, the second of which was in the Grade 2 December Novices' Chase and, on soft ground getting softer, having raced clear from the second and travelled best on the home turn, he started to come under the cosh when Southfield Royale joined him and a mistake at the second last decided it. There was better going for his next run and he acquitted himself well off a mark of 139 in the Sky Bet Chase, in which for me he showed considerable greenness, nudged along between four out and the next, pushed along and carrying his head high, wandering, changing his legs twice and always held behind Ziga Boy. He did the same things in the finish next time in a three-runner novice, going down by half a length to Presenting Arms at odds of 1/3, and you can put a line through his last run when, again on very soft ground in the rain, he was made too much use of at Aintree when pulled up behind Maggio. Ground no worse than good to soft looks important to Coologue, and he has the ability to win a handicap chase off the 140-rating with which he'll start the new season.
Cyrius Moriviere (FR)
6 b g Vendangeur (IRE) - Sagesse Moriviere (FR) (Vaguely Pleasant (FR))
Trainer: Ben Pauling
Cyrius Moriviere wasn't seen out since January 29th, but will start the new season unexposed with potential in good handicap hurdles. After a promising second to O O Seven at Huntingdon in November, he got the first of two novice hurdle wins at the same track in December, looking well in the paddock, leading with three to jump and sent clear, staying on well after the last to hold off Waterlord. The opposition and heavy going was too much for him in the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown in January next time behind Yorkhill, but he posted a new personal best on good to soft at Doncaster on what turned out to be his last start of the season, jumping soundly and pulling further clear from the third last to trounce Moabit, who subsequently became one of the best Summer 2016-novice hurdlers. Cyrius Moriviere is only workmanlike in stature and doesn't appeal as a chasing type, but he'll be going close off his 136-mark over the smaller obstacles.
Double Shuffle (IRE)
6 b g Milan - Fiddlers Bar (IRE) (Un Desperado (FR))
Trainer: Tom George
There's more to come from Double Shuffle, who raced in good company on each of his five runs in his first season over fences. He was unfancied on his chasing debut, going off 20/1 in a field of five at Cheltenham in October, but having led before the fifth, was only headed by Art Mauresque between the last two. His fourth to More Of That at the same track in November wasn't quite up to the same level, and he dropped in class to get off the mark over fences at Ludlow in December off 134 in a novices' limited handicap, leading with five to jump and going best, staying on well enough when ridden and holding on from Fourth Act after the jockey had stopped riding a couple of strides from the post. He was up to 138 when going to the Cheltenham Festival for the novices' handicap chase and was sent on, pushed along from three out and only headed after the second last, fading up the hill and being closed on in the last few yards. He was probably over the top when a disappointing fifth to Definitly Red in the Hillhouse Quarry Chase at Ayr in April on his last start. Double Shuffle normally races prominently but doesn't need to make the running; he should hold his own in handicap chases and is the type to do well in the Topham.
Minella Daddy (IRE)
6 b g Flemensfirth (USA) - Old Moon (IRE) (Old Vic)
Trainer: Peter Bowen
Haverfordwest trainer Peter Bowen is normally associated with Summer jumpers, but in Minella Daddy he has a horse likely to make an impact over the Winter in novice chases, having possibly done better than connections expected over hurdles. On his second run over timber, stepped up to 2m7f at Fakenham in January, he raced lazily at times but ground out a six length-win over Girly Girl, jumping big at the eighth on the way. He was dropped in trip next time at Southwell over the brush hurdles and did well in the circumstances, hard driven from the second last and getting the better jump at the last but unable to peg back Final Nudge. Tried in the 3m Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Aintree on Grand National day, he was held up - not ideal tactics in a race where the early gallop was medium at best - and, after a mistake at the last, picked off a couple late in the day behind Ubak. The pace was much stronger over 2m7f again at Haydock in May when he was last seen out, and he was ridden closer to the head of affairs - two factors which contrbuted to a much improved performance, not for the first time a bit on and off the bridle but doing good late work to go second to Whataknight on the run-in. Minella Daddy looks best on soft or heavy ground - his 130-mark is workable, but he's sure to be better over fences than hurdles. He's all about stamina, both on pedigree and the way he races, and looks sure to stay three and a half miles and more.
Smart Talk (IRE)
6 b m Hubbly Bubbly (USA) - Belon Breeze (IRE) (Strong Gale)
Trainer: Brian Ellison
Further expansion of the National Hunt programme for mares in 2016/17 - particularly as regards chases - just adds to the incentive that was already there for trainers to keep mares in training, and point winner Smart Talk, a full sister to that useful staying chaser Idle Talk, is one name likely to turn up in the best mares' races in the new season. She was kept busy in novice hurdles in 2015/16, racing seven times and winning four of them, at Worcester in October, Sedgefield in November, a Listed race over 2m3f at Haydock in December and, stepped up in class, in a non-novice Grade 2 over 2m140y at Doncaster in January. Taking on a good mare in the form of her life in Lily Waugh, she wasn't out of the first two and took a definite lead going to the third last where she blundered; not losing any ground, she took the lead back after a big jump two out, and was driven all out to beat Lily Waugh by three and a quarter lengths. Despite the minimum trip at Doncaster looking barely far enough, she took her chance in the new Grade 2 mares' novices' hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but the stable's runners weren't in the best of form over the meeting and, having made the running, she weakened through the field before and after the last behind Limini. Back in training in August and - according to her trainer Brian Ellison's website - having done well over the Summer, there's more to come from Smart Talk, who will prove best over two and a half miles and further.
Tully East (IRE)
6 b g Shantou (USA) - Ghillie's Bay (IRE) (King's Ride)
Trainer: Alan Fleming
Tully East was being touted as a chasing prospect before he started over hurdles last season and it seems likely that a novice chase campaign is on the cards in 2016/17. He got two wins from his five hurdle starts, well treated on the second of them at Punchestown in November when he raced off just 120 in his first handicap, turning up in front at the second last as if he'd just joined in and going further clear without being hard ridden. From that 0-123 event he was immediately stepped up to Grade 1 company and found wanting, unfancied in the betting and doing well to run just under eight lengths sixth to Long Dog in the Future Champions Novice at Leopardstown over Christmas, outpaced after a mistake two out. Tully East then went up in trip on what turned out to be his last start of the season in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, accurately treated with 140 but not wanted in the market again. He outran his starting price of 50/1, held up and racing wide early then starting a move from the fifth, moving strongly at the head of the chasing group at the top of the hill, shaken up before the home turn and leading into the straight before challenged on all sides and headed going to the omitted last hurdle, weakening up the hill behind Ibis Du Rheu but still holding on to fourth, although leaving the impression he could have bettered that position if he'd been held on to for longer. Tully East's chasing debut is eagerly anticipated; he will prove effective at 2m4f and may stay three miles.
William H Bonney
5 b g Midnight Legend - Calamintha (Mtoto)
Trainer: Alan King
Prolific National Hunt sire Midnight Legend passed away in 2016, but there will still be plenty of his stock on the track in 2016/17. One of his sons, William H Bonney, has potential for improvement. Placed in both his bumpers, he won two of his four starts in novice hurdles, going in on his debut over timber at Plumpton in November and, after running second to Premier Bond at Newbury in December, finding the two-mile trip plenty far enough when successfully defying his penalty at Towcester in February, leading two out and all out in the end to beat Chic Theatre. He cut little ice in the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham when last seen, tenth to Altior after losing his place from the third last. Accurately treated off 136, he could well win a good two-mile handicap hurdle this season; fences are a possibility too.
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