October is now almost upon us and that means that trainers and racing fans of the National Hunt game are busying preparing themselves for the winter season to kick in fully. It is always an exciting stage of the season as we start the long road to the Cheltenham Festival and there has been plenty of news over the past seven days with all of that firmly in the front of our minds. Plans are being made and paths plotted with the stars of the sport now back in full training ahead of the big races in the winter and we have picked out five of the most important bits of news from the last seven days in the world of jump racing.
Trainer Toby Balding Dies
There was some sad news last week with the news that popular former trainer Toby Balding has passed away at the age of 78. Balding was a major figure on the National Hunt scene throughout his career and the tributes poured in for him following the sad news on Thursday evening. Balding trained two winners of the Grand National in 1969 and 1989 while he tasted Gold Cup glory as a handler in 1992 when Cool Ground claimed a famous win. In addition, Balding played a major part in bringing through jockeys like AP McCoy and Adrian Maguire, giving both of them jobs as young jockeys and there is no doubt that he left a major mark on the sport.
Champion Hurdler Jezki Set For Morgiana Return
There was positive news from Jessie Harrington this week with the news that Jezki is going well at home. The Champion Hurdle hero from last season is being aimed towards at a return in the Morgiana Hurdle in November as the first step on the path back to the Festival in March. The JP McManus owned horse improved with every run last season as he produced a career best at Prestbury Park and punters who fancy him for the repeat can currently get a price of around 6/1 with most on-line firms.
Defy Logic To Miss The Season
There was bad news for Paul Nolan this week with the news that his Group 1 winning star, Defy Logic, will miss the entire season with a tendon injury. The seven-year-old won the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown last Boxing Day but hasn't been seen since flopping in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown at the back end of January. The horse had been a 33/1 shot for the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March but he will now be put away for the winter as he bids to recoverer from this latest set-back.
Son Du Berlais Makes Impressive Debut
The main part of the winter may be still a few weeks away but one or two nice horses have already made an impression this last week. Chief among those was Son Du Berlais who hacked up on his British debut for Nicky Henderson at Newton Abbott on Monday afternoon. The JP McManus owned four-year-old won the 2m3f Novices Hurdle on the bridle under AP McCoy and he could well go to Chepstow for the Persian War Novices Hurdle for his next assignment this season. He will only be a novice hurdler until November but he looks a classy animal who could be one to watch this season for Henderson and McCoy.
Minstrel Holds Court On Chasing Debut
There was another interesting winner at Newton Abbot on Monday with the Evan Williams trained Court Minstrel pleasing on his first chasing start. The seven-year-old beat odds-on favourite Keltus in comfy fashion to win the South West Racing Club Novices Chase over 2m2f and he might be one to keep an eye on. Rated 154 as a hurdler, Court Minstrel looked at home over the bigger obstacles on Monday and Even Williams said after this success that he is likely to go for a Novice Chase at Cheltenham during the Showcase Meeting next time out.