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THE 2017/18

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Who's Top of Roy's 2017/18 National Hunt Ratings?

Here's my own unique take on the Anglo-Irish jump racing classifications.

Since January 2015 I've maintained my own jump racing handicap for all National Hunt racing in Britain and Ireland. The 'system', if it can be so described, is loosely based on the 0-170 scale used by the British Horseracing Authority to rate steeplechasers and hurdlers.

There are a couple of simple yet important differences between how I do it and how they do it - with me, there's no weight-for-sex and no weight-for-age. Neat figures, then, without any tweaking to make them look good.

Suppose you have a handicap hurdle in December where three horses, all carrying 11st 5lbs, are separated by heads at the finish. One is a five-year-old gelding, one is a three-year-old gelding and one is a seven-year-old mare. I decide that the five-year-old, a solid, reliable yardstick, has run to 120. If that's the case, then so have the three-year-old and the mare in this mythical, virtual triple dead-heat.

With that explained, now read on for my top 20-rated chasers, novice chasers, hurdlers, older novice hurdlers, juvenile hurdlers, chasing mares and hurdling mares for the 2017/18 season. Race distances given are not always the official distances the races took place over and are rounded up to the nearest furlong. Horses who came out equal 20th are included in the tables, therefore in some cases more than 20 horses are listed.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

Top 20 Chasers

Despite not travelling as well as Min through the race, Altior comes out as top chaser - eventual runner-up Min giving his running despite not finding anything much off the bridle - but that is surely the last time Altior runs in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the way he ran at Cheltenham (and in the Celebration Chase at Sandown) suggesting that he is crying out for a step up in trip. Footpad is likely to beat Altior for pace if they meet.

I'd love to see an Altior - Native River clash, be it in the King George at Kempton, the Cheltenham Gold Cup or anywhere else over three miles. The soft going at Cheltenham was all in Native River's favour, but whatever the ground, the Gold Cup isn't usually won by a horse making all. He and Might Bite were first and second jumping the first, after the first circuit and at the post. If it's the usual good ground at the 2019 Festival then I can't see Native River holding on to the title.

The principals from both the Leopardstown three-mile Grade 1s didn't back up their efforts in either the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Punchestown equivalent, Bellshill taking advantage at Punchestown, but the latter will need to improve - in terms of stamina as well as form - if going for the 2019 Gold Cup.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

Top 20 Novice Chasers

It was bad luck for Al Boum Photo's supporters when Paul Townend had his 'brain-freeze' and took him out at the last in the Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown carrying out Finian's Oscar, but before that he'd won well at Fairyhouse in the Ryanair Gold Cup defeating Shattered Love, and he has to be considered for either the Ryanair Chase or the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2019.

Al Boum Photo still had every chance when falling two out in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but Presenting Percy was arguably travelling the better, and earned high style marks for drawing clear of Monalee - he deserves to be considered for the 2019 Gold Cup, but he and Al Boum Photo have about the same credentials going in to the new season.

Over two miles Footpad, with one of his rivals throughout the campaign Petit Mouchoir shaping as though wanting a mile and a quarter come the end of the season, bossed the best novice chases over the minimum trip. I was sceptical going in to the Arkle, but he was impressive at Cheltenham - albeit from a small field, and surviving a blunder at the sixth - and I'd back him against Altior.

Not making the top 20 novice chasers - or top 23, as this table actually is - was Step Back, the bet365 Gold Cup Chase winner at Sandown, who I have on 142.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

Mares' Chasers

On balance Ireland still edges Britain when it comes to steeplechasing mares - Shattered Love following home Al Boum Photo at Fairyhouse over Easter for the best performance - but there are signs that the Brits are catching up, and hopes must be high that National Hunt Chase runner-up Ms Parfois will develop into a National horse (not necessarily the Aintree one in 2019, but for sure further down the line).

The form of Actinpieces and Mia's Storm, who finished what started as a promising novice chase season with two falls, fell away at the end of their campaigns, while Benie Des Dieux finished the season over hurdles - with lucrative results, as discussed later in this piece.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

Top 20 Hurdlers

Despite apparently carrying a growth in the groin area the size of a mandarin orange, the Faugheen-machine returned to his imperious best to take the Champion Stayers' Hurdle at Punchestown, defeating the Stayers' Hurdle-winner from Cheltenham Penhill, for whom there were no excuses - hence Faugheen posting the same figure that he posted over two miles in his pomp. The extra mile was the reason for the dramatic improvement at Punchestown.

Over two miles, much of a muchness. Buveur D'Air was unimpressive in victory in taking his second Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival - taking the third Mick Jazz, surprise victor in the Leopardstown-race in which Faugheen pulled up over Christmas, as the yardstick, it falls a few lbs short of his best of last season - as well as short of the better performances over the minimum trip up to early February.

Between those trips, it was the two and a half-mile Aintree Hurdle which saw L'Ami Serge post his usual one win of the season, at the expense of Supasundae who, having shown the same level of high-class form over all three distances, is either incredibly versatile, or has become a horse without a trip.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

Top 20 Older Novice Hurdlers

It would have been hugely informative if Samcro had stood up in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, rather than fall at the third last - he was travelling well at the time and would have run close, but even without that, he's the season's leading older novice hurdler, and the future's huge whatever connections do with him next season.

The same for Aintree winner Black Op, who chased Samcro home at Cheltenham and, like him, has limitless potential as a chaser. Indeed his trainer Tom George must be really excited, as he also has Supreme Novices'-winner Summerville Boy, who was tapped for pace at Cheltenham and did all his best work at the end. Both horses will surely excel over fences.

Getabird's future probably lies over hurdles, but having been impressive some of the time, he needs to settle better - he pulled too hard in the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham and on the first of his two races at the Punchestown Festival. Having disappointed over two miles on the Tuesday at Punchestown, he settled better and was travelling well, looking likely to take a hand, when nearly brought down by the faller Debuchet at the second last in the two and a half-mile Grade 1-novice on the Friday. One couldn't be sure what we'll get from him in the new season.

Dortmund Park, the main beneficiary of what happened to Getabird at Punchestown, posted a season's best in that race, but his figure was only 141 and it's not good enough to make the table.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

Top 20 Juvenile Hurdlers

Ironically, at the end of a season which included a single-figure field for the Triumph Hurdle, like some years back in the day it was a confused, muddy picture where the juvenile hurdlers are concerned. None stand out, and it's likely that none will go on to be famous for longer than five minutes.

Farclas was the pick of the paddock for the Triumph, but clearly left his form at Cheltenham when running well below par in the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown, in which Saldier, who was well held at Cheltenham but showed improved form in defeat at Fairyhouse, found the necessary improvement to get a surprise win. The pony-sized Mr Adjudicator was runner-up in both races and suggests that Saldier's performance was as good as it looks on paper.

Something trained by Nicky Henderson is usually in the top three juveniles and the unbeaten We Have A Dream, who acted very well in the Chepstow mud in the Finale Hurdle, showed his versatility where the going is concerned in the Anniversary Hurdle at Aintree to end his season with a perfect five-from-five record over hurdles, but, as the likes of Peace And Co and Defi Du Seuil have demonstrated, that is no guarantee of a successful second season's hurdling.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

Top 20 Mares' Hurdlers

At the start of the season it looked business as usual for Apple's Jade, who showed her best form against geldings, but she was a little off her game in the David Nicholson at the Cheltenham Festival, and there was something more than familiar about the result.

A Willie Mullins-trained winner of the mares' championship at Cheltenham is something you can reasonably expect most years, and Benie Des Dieux took after Vroum Vroum Mag in successfully making the transition from chasing to hurdling and beating the best of her sex, following up in workmanlike style from Augusta Kate in the Punchestown equivalent.

If Benie Des Dieux is to be beaten in the 2019 renewal, guess what, the one likely to do it is also trained in Closutton - Laurina, who made the opposition look like a bunch of ordinary horses at a gaff track in the midweek (which is probably where you'll see most of them next season) in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novice at Cheltenham, proved her stamina over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse over Easter, and the gaps left by the retirements of Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag have arguably already been filled by two worthy mares.

Click to go to: Chasers | Novice Chasers | Mares' Chasers | Hurdlers | Older Novice Hurdlers | Juvenile Hurdlers | Mares' Hurdlers

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