The 2011/2012 National Hunt season was one of the best in recent memory, producing a number of up and coming horses that are sure to become even more familiar names over the next couple of years.
Listed below are five horses that we have highlighted as ones to follow during the 2012/2013 Jumps Season, all of them will be first season chasers this coming Autumn and Winter and on the back of successful hurdling careers we are excited about seeing them step up to tackle bigger obstacles.
Simonsig - Nicky Henderson
Trained by Nicky Henderson, whose Seven Barrows stable, Simonsig was the hugely impressive winner of the Grade One Neptune Investment Novice Hurdle over 2m5f at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival before going on to win the Grade Two Mersey Novices Hurdle at Aintree three weeks later. Henderson plans to take him chasing this coming season with the Arkle being the ultimate target, for which he is already the 4/1 antepost favourite.
Originally a point to point runner over in Ireland, Simonsig has won his first start under rules for then trainer, Ian Ferguson, in a bumper at Fairyhouse before making the transition to the Henderson yard ahead of last season.
Two victories from three runs prior to the Cheltenham Festival saw him go off favourite for the Neptune Novices Hurdle, in which, he demolished 16 rivals, winning by seven lengths. He followed that up with a 15 length victory in Aintree's Mersey Novices Hurdle before being put away for the Summer. He will next be seen in Novice Chase company and rates as one of the most exciting prospects ahead of the new season.
Boston Bob - Willie Mullins
Without doubt one of the stars of the Willie Mullins stable in Ireland last season, Boston Bob was fully expected to underline his credentials by winning the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle over 3 miles at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival. However, he found the ill fated Brindisi Breeze, ridden by equally tragic story of jockey, Campbell Gillies, too good for him on that day but before that, he had won all three starts over hurdles by a cumulative eight lengths.
It is believed that the Mullins yard is optimistic about his first season over fences and given his proven stamina, it is no surprise to see him at the head of the market for the RSA Chase and if his jumping holds up, this seven year old could be a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender in the making.
Fingal Bay - Philip Hobbs
Trained by Philipp Hobbs, Fingal Bay would seem to be a natural born chaser who enjoyed plenty of success in graded company over hurdles last season. His successes included a 2¾ length victory over the highly regarded Simonsig in the Winter Novice Hurdle at Sandown Park in December and the Grade One Challow Novices Hurdle at Newbury. After missing the Cheltenham Festival in March, Fingal Bay's only career defeat came on his last outing, finishing second behind Lovcen in the Sefton Novices Hurdle over 3m1f at Aintree in April.
Hobbs now intends to send the six year old chasing and as another with stamina in no doubt, he looks to be the principle rival to Boston Bob in the Novices Staying division and is rated the 10/1 joint favourite alongside the Willie Mullins runner in the RSA Chase antepost betting.
Oscar Whisky - Nicky Henderson
Another Nick Henderson trained runner to watch out for over the bigger obstacles this season is Oscar Whisky, a name that will be all too familiar to most National Hunt fans following his impressive career to date over hurdles.
The seven year old made his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010 where on the back of four wins from four starts prior to the meeting, he could only manage fourth behind Menorah in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and 12 months later in 2011, the son of famous National Hunt sire, Oscar, finished third behind Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
After that, he was stepped up in distance to race over 2m4f and 2m5f, where, one fall at Ascot aside, he would win his next four starts, a sequence that saw him touted as a contender to dethrone Big Buck's of his World Hurdle crown at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival. However, despite going off the 4/1 second favoruite, he could only manage fifth on his first and only try over three miles but he did manage a return to winning ways at the Grand National meeting in April by landing the Aintree Hurdle for a second consecutive year.
Henderson is now understood to be prepared to give Oscar Whisky a try over fences and if he transfers his ability from hurdles to jumps, then he certain is one to watch over the coming months and before he has even left the ground to chance an open ditch on a racecourse, bookmakers make him the 8/1 second favourite, behind stablemate, Simonsig, to win the Arkle at Cheltenham 2013.
There’s No Panic - Paul Nicholls
Trained by Paul Nicholls, this seven year old has much catching up to do after missing last season with injury. Before that however, he showed signs that he was a decent hurdler in the making, finishing third in the 2010 Neptune Novices Hurdle before missing another 13 months before finishing second in a Cheltenham handicap on his last start some 18 months ago before he made his winning comeback and first start chasing at Fontwell in early October.
He is big and rangy and one which will be interesting to watch on his chasing debut, if he can steer clear of injury and realise his potential over fences then he could be one to follow over distances of around two and half miles.