The temperatures are dropping and the nights are drawing in across the UK and Ireland and that can only mean one thing; the main part of the National Hunt season is almost upon us. Jump Racing fans are scrambling around looking for the new stars of the upcoming season and with that in mind we are more than happy to jump on the Ten to Follow bandwagon.
The ten horses on the list this year are a mixture of new names and more well known stars of the sport and while they are unlikely to all be Cheltenham Festival winners, our editor @seanraymond is hoping the majority of them will be in the winners enclosure this winter.
Trainer - Gary Moore Owner - Ashley Head
The majority of us already know plenty about Ar Mad but this horse remains a fascinating prospect for the future and that ensures he makes the list this season. The form of this Gary Moore trained 6YO as a Novice Chaser was excellent and there is every reason to think that he would have been a player in the Arkle had he been fit enough to run at the Festival last March.
Ar Mad dished out a ten length beating to Bristol De Mai to win the Henry VIII at Sandown last December as he relished a front running ride and that was top draw form by any standard at Grade 1 level. He added a Grade 2 to his CV at Kempton when winning the Wayward Lad over Christmas with the excellent Vaniteux unable to beat him that day despite having 2lbs in his favour. Vaniteux looked to be franking that form when unseating in the Arkle with 2nd place at his mercy and that is another boost for Ar Mad fans like me.
There remain residual doubts about him going left handed despite his win at Plumpton, which ended his season, but provided he gets back from injury in full health, Ar Mad will wins races this season and could be a major player when it comes to the Champion Chase division in the UK this winter.
Ar Mad is currently a best price 25/1 with Paddy Power for the 2017 Champion Chase
Blow By Blow
Trainer - Willie Mullins Owner - Gigginstown House Stud
Willie Mullins does of course have a whole host of young novice hurdlers to go to war with this season by there is every chance that Blow By Blow is the best of the bunch. The 5YO son of Robin Des Champs won three of his four Bumper starts last winter as he seemed to improve with every run, and at the same time he marked himself out as a potential future star.
His defeat of the highly touted Death Duty was impressive at Fairyhouse but even that was surpassed by his win in the Champion Flat race at the Punchestown Festival at the back end of April. 2015 Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer was unable to get past Blow By Blow that day and it was hard not be taken by his attitude at Punchestown. Clearly a chaser in the making, Blow By Blow is sure to get a trip given his breeding and few would be surprised if he was a major Albert Bartlett player for Mullins come March. The next Don Cossack for Gigginstown?
Blow By Blow is currently a best price of 16/1 with Bet 365 for the 2017 Albert Bartlett
Trainer - Neil Mulholland Owner - Roger Brookhouse
Neil Mulholland has been quietly been building an excellent team of horses over the past few years and in the form of Clondaw Cracker, he could well have another star on his hands. Bought for £120,000 by Roger Brookhouse last December after an impressive P2P debut win, the 5YO son of Court Cave made a very pleasing debut under rules for for his new yard back in April and the signs for him are very positive.
The already mentioned debut under rules came at Wawrick last back end when he beat two very highly touted horses in the form of Brio Conti and Asum in pleasing fashion. Brio Conti franked that form next time out when winning at Stratford for Paul Nicholls and with that in mind, Neil Mulholland will be hoping that Clondaw Cracker can be a winner over hurdles this winter at a high level.
Garo De Juilley
Trainer - Paul Nicholls Owner - Ian Fogg & Potensis Bloodstock
Paul Nichiolls does of course have a whole host of young horses at Ditcheat heading into the new season but the exciting Garo De Juilley might well be the best of the pack. A very nice looking 4YO, Garo De Juilley arrived at the Champion Trainer's yard in the spring but having impressed all at Ditcheat from day one, his novice status was kept intact for this season with connections clearly minding the horse.
The son of Ungaro certainly impressed over in France with four successive wins last Autumn and that was enough for Ian Fogg to splash out and bring him across to the UK. Ditcheat Assistant trainer Harry Derham has recently described Garo De Juilley as a 'high class prospect for this season' with the showcase meeting at Cheltenham penciled in for his British debut over hurdles. It remains to be seen if we will see the best of this horse this season, given his tender age, but there is no doubt that Garo De Juilley is one for the tracker and a novice hurdler who is sure to win races.
Trainer - Willie Mullins Owner - Andrea and Graham Wylie
Another Willie Mullins novice hurdler for this season, Invitation Only was a P2P winner before arriving at the Closutton stable and he falls into that horrible 'he could be anything' cliche bracket. The 5YO son of Flemensfirth was looked after last season with just two late season bumper runs but he certainly impressed on those starts and we can expect a big career for him over obstacles.
Patrick Mullins gave Invitation Only a cracking front running ride at the Punchestown Festival to prove this horse isn't short of speed although his breeding and P2P win suggests that he is likely to be versatile when it comes to stamina. There is every chance that Willie Mullins will want to keep Invitation Only and Blow By Blow apart during their novice hurdle career with the Wylie horse perhaps one for the Intermediate Neptune trip for the time being.
Invitation Only is currently a best price 16/1 with Bet 365 for the 2017 Neptune
Trainer - Nicky Henderson Owner - JP McManus
JP McManus has been on something of a spending spree this summer and all the signs at the moment suggest that Kotkikova could be a very nice horse to follow in the green and gold silks. A 5YO grey mare, Kotkikova is yet to race in the UK but she had a remarkable record over in France with eight wins from her last nine races and the vibes from Seven Barrows since she arrived have been very positive indeed about this horse.
At a recent owners day, Nicky Henderson said that Kotkikova 'has absolutely everything' which is high praise indeed and going by looks, she really could be very special. She will of course need to prove herself away from the heavy ground of France but the early signs and words are promising and it will be fascinating to see how Nicky Henderson campaigns her this winter. They have the option of keeping her with her own sex for the time being given that she is only five but she has already been schooled over fences and the future for Kotkikova is hopefully going to be over the bigger obstacles.
Trainer - Nicky Henderson Owner - JP McManus
Plenty of National Hunt fans, including me, are itching to see Ok Corral back on track this season after the highly rated 6YO missed the entirety of last campaign with a number of niggles. A son of Mahler, from the same family as Tidal Bay, Ok Corral impressed everyone back in early 2015 with two very good Bumper runs which have worked out very well indeed. His debut Bumper win at Kempton over High Bridge has been franked since with that horse finishing a close up 6th in the Champion Bumper of 2016 for John Fergusin, whilst his last run is looking even better.
Nicky Henderson took Ok Corral to the Punchestown Festival back in April 2015 with the horse only narrowly beaten by Yorkhill in a race that now looks top class. The front two were well clear of the field that day and with Yorkhill winning the Neptune last season, it is easy to get excited about this runner-up. There are always one or two worries about a horse coming off of an injury but this is clearly a top class type who can take high rank in the novice hurdle division this winter.
Prince Of Scars
Trainer - Gordon Elliott Owner - Gigginstown
Prince Of Scars is a very interesting horse and one that flew slightly under the radar last season for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown. A 6YO son of Flemensfirth, Prince Of Scars started last season with two handicap wins for connections before making a major impression when winning the Grade Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown to mark himself out as a top class individual.
Subsequent World Hurdle 2nd Alpha Des Obeaux was well beaten by Prince Of Scars that day at Leopardstown, as was Cheltenham winner Martello Tower, and he was looked after for the rest of the season as a result. Connections decided to swerve the good ground of Cheltenham in the spring although they did turn up at Aintree in the Liverpool Hurdle on soft ground with Prince Of Scars finishing a respectable 3rd that day behind Thistlecrack and Shaneshill.
A quicker gallop would have seen him to better impact in Liverpool and there is no doubt that this horse looks all over a chasing type. Soft ground, a trip and fences are all needed for Prince Of Scars to be seen at his best and when he gets them, he will be a top class staying novice chaser this season.
Prince Of Scars is currently a best price 25/1 with Paddy Power for the RSA Chase
Trainer - Gordon Elliott Owner - JP McManus
JP McManus continues to be one of the most important and powerful owners in National Hunt racing and he will be hoping he has another star on his hands in the form of the hugely exciting Sutton Place. Trained by Gordon Elliott, who continues to go from strength-to-strength, the 5YO son of Mahler took the eye last season with three wins from four starts and he is expected to be an exciting addition to the novice chase ranks this winter.
Sutton Place bolted up in impressive fashion at Navan back in March ahead of Royal Caviar in very testing ground which was a performance that saw many add the horse to their tracker. He was less impressive in some ways last time out when winning at Fairyhouse by a smaller margin ahead of the same horse, but he did show heart that day as he recovered from some bad jumping mistakes to get up on the line. Sutton Place looked a little green last season but there is certainly an engine under his bonnet and his pedigree suggests he could want a stamina test in time.
Trainer - Harry Fry Owner - C J S Horton
A 6YO stayer in the making for Harry Fry who impressed last spring with two novice hurdle wins from two starts and he looks every inch a chaser to follow this winter. Wotzizname arrived at the Dorset yard of Harry Fry with plenty of P2P experience and immediately took to racing under rules with a 15 length win on debut at Exeter. That was certainly a taking win and he followed that up with an even more impressive display as he won at Uttoxeter under a penalty at the start of May.
Harry Fry was very positive about Wotzizname after that win at Uttoxeter saying he is a 'horse we can dream about' and it is clear that the he was minding him for a big career over fences, beginning this Autumn. Both of his novice hurdle wins came over a trip just shy of 3m and this horse looks every inch a stamina lark so we can expect him to take close order in some of the big staying novice chases this season. Could be one for the four miler in the spring?
Wotzizname is currently a best price 50/1 with Bet 365 to win the 2017 National Hunt Chase