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National Hunt Ante Post Predictions From jumpsracing.co.uk Team

Wednesday 5th October 2016

This is an exciting part of the year for fans of jumps racing with the big winter fixtures now so close we can almost smell them. The first meeting at Cheltenham is just a few short weeks away and with that in mind, we have decided to get our crystal ball out and make some early predictions.

We gathered up our team of writers, tipsters and contributors and told them that whether they liked it or not, they had to make some ante post decisions.......

Paul Dunn - Jumps Racing Contributor

Champion Hurdle 2017 Bet - Apple's Jade

With Apple’s Jade now in the hands of Gordon Elliott following the fall-out between Gigginstown and Willie Mullins, it looks increasingly likely that she’ll be trained for the Champion Hurdle. 41 lengths better than Ivanovich Gorbotov at Aintree and described as the best juvenile that Mullins has trained, she looks the value alternative to Faugheen and Annie Power.

Champion Chase 2017 Bet - Ar Mad

Not a race to get too heavily involved in antepost. Douvan can’t be backed at evens when there is a possibility he’ll be upped in trip, Sprinter Sacre is delicate and there are doubts over which of the Mullins horses will turn up. Ar Mad was a top novice last year so 25/1 could be the each-way play.

World Hurdle 2017 Bet - Yanworth

Another very difficult race to weigh up at this stage. Alan King has confirmed that Yanworth will be staying over the smaller obstacles this season so the Word Hurdle looks the most likely target. At 14/1 he looks a fair each-way price.

Gold Cup 2017 Bet - Coneygree

Thistlecrack is an exciting recruit to the chasing game but it is difficult to recommend him at 7/1 before seeing him jump a fence. Coneygree, on the other hand, is a Gold Cup winner so, provided he is none the worse for his injury, he rates a better value selection at around 12/1.

My One Horse to follow this Season Is…… Douvan

Putting betting aside, the one horse I’m most looking forward to watching this season is undoubtedly Douvan. Don’t be surprised if he goes for the King George. If he wins that, would connections be tempted to go for the Gold Cup?

Tom Lee - www.jumpsracing.co.uk tipster and contributor

Champion Hurdle 2017 Bet - Annie Power

The brilliant More Of That and Cheltenham's last hurdle are the only things ever to have defeated Annie Power, and in a year where stablemate Faugheen is trying to find his way back from injury, Altior looks set to tackle fences, and everything else has got to improve significantly to trouble her, she is an unoriginal but rock solid long range prediction to retain her crown.

Champion Chase 2017 Bet - Sprinter Sacre

Moscow Flyer won this race as an 11-year-old, and anyone who saw Sprinter win it in March 2016 will know he could be emulated by a horse who is already a legend in 2017. Sprinter Sacre will likely find Douvan standing in the way, but they all thought Un De Sceaux was unbeatable, and look what happened there...

World Hurdle 2017 Bet - One Track Mind

In a division where plenty of the principle names could end up shopping elsewhere, either over fences or at different distances, Warren Greatrex could be the man to follow with Punchestown winner, One Track Mind. The stable know how to win this race, taking it with Cole Harden a couple of years ago. There was no fluke about this horse's Grade 1 win in Ireland, and he has only been seen a handful of times over timber. 

Gold Cup 2017 Bet - Thistlecrack

That a trainer as shrewd as Colin Tizzard is prepared to sacrifice Thistlecrack's position as the King of the staying hurdlers tells you all you need to know about his decision to send Thistlecrack chasing. The engine, the ability, the physique, what's not to like about a horse who will attempt to become the first horse in history to win both the World Hurdle and Gold Cup? He'll be up against horses either injury prone or fading, and what's more he's trained by a genius.  

My One Horse to follow this Season Is…… Westend Story

Endless potential as this speedy five-year-old by Westerner tackles hurdles for the first time. Looked electric in bumpers at Huntingdon and Exeter last season, going off odds on for both. Ran a fine race at the Cheltenham Festival when fifth in the Champion Bumper.  Philip Hobbs will be loving the thought of him starring over timber.

Richard Smith - www.jumpsracing.co.uk Contributor

Champion Hurdle 2017 Bet - Apple's Jade

Who can forget Apple's Jade's demolition job at Aintree in April? The 41 length victory was arguably one of the performances of last season, when reversing the Triumph Hurdle form with Ivanovich Gorbatov. That second place finish at Cheltenham remains the only blemish on the resume of this exciting filly. The four-year-old confirmed that her Liverpool triumph wasn't a one-off, signing off last term with another comprehensive win at the Punchestown Festival.

As Annie Power proved back in March, the girls are more than capable of holding their weight with the boys and if Apple's Jade is as good as the evidence to date suggests, she has to rate a major player heading in to the new campaign. She may have left Willie Mullins as part of the Gigginstown re-allocation of its runners from the County Carlow yard, but her new handler, Gordon Elliott, is sure to embrace having such a talent at his disposal and the Champion Hurdle seems like a risk-free route for any would-be ante post backers.

Champion Chase 2017 Bet - Douvan

A very unoriginal call, but what's not to like abut Douvan? He continues to pass the eye-test race after race, an absolute joy to watch, and there is nothing that suggests that the six-year-old shouldn't continue on the upward trajectory that has become a recurring theme over the past two years.

Nobody's going to get rich backing the Willie Mullins runner at the even money that is currently on offer about him claiming another Festival win, but everyone should embrace what promises to be a superstar for years to come, without even considering him as a betting proposition. Providing he steers clear of injury, sit back and enjoy Douvan's domination.

World Hurdle 2017 Bet - Vroum Vroum Mag

Where Vroum Vroum winds up next March is anybody's guess, with suggestions that last season's Mares Hurdle winner could be tried over fences once again. If she does, then forget this prediction, but her progression since arriving at the Willie Mullins yard from France in 2014, a 10 race winning streak, means that the seven-year-old has to be held in high regard, whichever route she takes.

The World Hurdle looks to be an obvious choice for a mare that has already shown she has the engine to stay three miles, and with the likelihood that stablemate, Annie Power, will try and defend her Champion Hurdle crown, the World Hurdle looks an obvious target. It's frustrating that this pick isn't one with certitude, but expect Vroum Vroum Mag to be another star of the jumps scene over the coming months.    

Gold Cup 2017 Bet - Don Cossack

All eyes will be on Thistlecrack over bigger obstacles and if he's anywhere near as good over fences as he has been over hurdles, he'll surely be a formidable contender in his new division. However, Don Cossack was an impressive winner of the Gold Cup back in March, and it seems the 'would he, wouldn't he' debate surrounding Cue Card's fall overshadowed what was actually an imposing victory from the Gordon Elliott trained nine-year-old.

There's some new kids on the block in the mix to win National Hunt racing's premier prize, but with the likes of Thistlecrack, Vautour and Douvan having something to prove if they take their chance next March, then Don Cossack looks the pick of the contenders. Double digit quotes about Don Cossack becoming the first since horse since Best Mate in 2004 to win back-to-back Gold Cups are pretty insulting and he's taken to put up a successful defence.

My One Horse to follow this Season Is…… Barters Hill

There has a lot to like about Barters Hill, over the past couple of seasons, before the six-year-old's unbeaten record came to a halt in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival, back in March. Prior to that, the Ben Pauling trained runner had won seven on the bounce under rules, including the Grade One, Challow Novices' Hurdle, proving he has the class to compete at the top level of the sport. Looking further back in to his form, the son of Kalanisi has a really strong win to his name in the shape of a Grade Two Bumper at the 2015 Grand National meeting, where he beat subsequent Grade One winners, Bellshill and Buveur D'Air. His reputation saw him dominate the ante post market for the Albert Bartlett, before finishing fourth, but far from disgraced after some fitness concerns during the build up to the meeting.

The plan is to send him chasing this season and if he retains anything close to the ability he has shown thus far in his career, as he transitions to big obstacles, he, just like his trainer, could have a very bright future and the RSA Chase is the likely target with stamina not an issue. Pauling is entering his third season as a full license holder, but his time as Nicky Henderson's assistant will ensure that Barters Hill is in safe hands when it comes to realising his full potential. 

Russell Palmer - www.jumpsracing.co.uk Contributor

Champion Hurdle 2017 Bet - Not Sure!

Could Faugheen represent value at 3/1? It's a tough race to predict with question marks over where he or Annie Power (second favourite) will race and whether or not they'll be kept apart.

Champion Chase 2017 Bet - Sizing John

Forget Douvan at the price and Sprinter Sacre is too old. It's 16/1 bar those in the ante post market so step forward Sizing John at a massive 40/1. Switched to Jessica Harrington in the summer, this horse has seen the backside of Douvan twice at the Festival before and Jess knows how to train a Champion Chase winner. 

World Hurdle 2017 Bet - No Bet!

No bet. My goodness, with Thistlecrack set to go chasing this season it's a minefield as to who will even run in the race from those at the top of the betting. Willie Mullins has intimated Shaneshill will stay hurdling and he has three Festival runner-up finishes in his career thus far. Runner up behind Thistlecrack in the Liverpool Hurdle last season there's some value at 16's.

Gold Cup 2017 Bet - Blaklion

I'd love to see either Thistlecrack or Cue Card to win it for the Tizzards, but I really like the look of 33/1 about last year's RSA Chase winner Blaklion. He probably lacks the class of some of his peers but he acts on any ground and has a real will to win and could make a mockery of the price.  

My One Horse to follow this Season Is…… Killultagh Vic

Robbed of a Festival appearance by Injury last March, Killultagh Vic should give punters plenty to shout about this season. Versatile over two and a half miles to three, the seven year old is unbeaten over fences and has a hurdle victory over Thistlecrack to his name to boot. 28/1 for the Gold Cup and 16/1 for the World Hurdle I think he'll give you a real run for your money this season.

Steve Chambers - Jumps Racing Contributor

Champion Hurdle 2017 Bet - Annie Power

Annie Power emphatically broke her Cheltenham Festival hoodoo with a dominant victory in last season’s Champion Hurdle, and with her stablemate and 2015 Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen on the road to recovery it would be no surprise to see Willie Mullins’ 2017 Champion Hurdle team spearheaded by the marvellous mare.

Faugheen will need to prove he still possesses his brilliance, so at this stage he is certainly not one to side with, while Apple’s Jade is another to etch into the shortlist as she ventures from a fine four-year-old campaign last term, but Annie Power is the selection at this early stage as she aims to enhance her already lofty reputation.

Champion Chase 2017 Bet - Douvan

Sprinter Sacre’s regaining of the Champion Chase crown in March will live long in the memories of National Hunt fans, but it’s going to be tough for him to land a hat-trick of two-mile Championship crowns in 2017 as he will have the small matter of potentially beating Douvan, who has catapulted into the limelight with a perfect ten wins out of ten, and the Willie Mullins-trained superstar can continue his dominance and could prove to be value at Evens with bet365 come the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.
A facile seven-length winner of the Arkle last season, Douvan will certainly topple Un De Sceaux off his perch as Mullins premier two-mile chaser, and he can duly land a festival hat-trick with Champion Chase victory in emphatic style to continue his progression up the jumping ladder. 

World Hurdle 2017 Bet - One Track Mind

Finding a horse at this stage who runs in the 2017 World Hurdle could be an achievement in itself with the top few in the ante-post betting (Thistlecrack, Annie Power, Faugheen) all likely to be heading elsewhere, so it’s a real minefield to try and decipher this impossible staying hurdling conundrum, so with that in mind it could be worth taking a flyer on an outsider.
Warren Greatrex’s One Track Mind ended last season with a fine win in the Grade 1 Champions Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown, and he will aim to follow in the footsteps of stablemate Cole Harden, who bounded to glory in the 2015 World Hurdle, and at a current 20/1 with Coral it could be One Track Mind that causes a stir in the staying hurdling sphere this term, and he is a tentative selection at this early stage.

Gold Cup 2017 Bet - Vautour

The potential sidestep to fences for World Hurdle champion Thistlecrack.  The return of former Gold Cup winner Coneygree.  The possible rematch between last season’s star triumvirate of Gold Cup hero Don Cossack, dual runner-up Djakadam, and late faller Cue Card all add significant spice to the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup market.
But, if Vautour is finally handed his chance at Jump racing’s biggest crown then the multiple Cheltenham Festival winner can add another Grade 1 success to his impressive CV, and at 8/1 with bet365 he is a sensational bet.  A rampant winner of the Ryanair Chase last season, the seven-year-old could well be tested over three miles on Boxing Day as he aims to land King George VI Chase glory, but it’s GL50 in March where he really is a different animal, and the Gold Cup trip will prove no issue whatsoever on good to soft spring ground, and he can down all the aforementioned heavyweights in sublime style and secure his status as one of the Cheltenham Festival greats of the modern era.

My One Horse to follow this Season Is…… Buveur D'Air

Buveur D’air ended last season with a fine win in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, but Nicky Henderson’s charge is all set for a campaign over fences this season and it’s that discipline where he is expected to shine, and while he may head into the season down the Seven Barrows pecking order behind Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Altior, it could be the larger obstacles that see him leapfrog his stablemate, with a potential Arkle Trophy win on the cards come March.
Altior is as short as 3/1 with bet365 for the Arkle, but Buveur D’air is a mouth-watering 14/1 with Sky Bet for the same race, and he could well be a lot shorter come the day of the race, and he is certainly one horse I will be keeping an eye on in what could be an intriguing division this season.

Sean Raymond - Jumps Racing.co.uk Editor

Champion Hurdle 2017 Bet - Annie Power

Not many horses win the Champion Hurdle twice on the spin but Annie Power might just do that this season. The brilliant mare was far too good for the division last year and with doubts about plenty of her market rivals at this stage, she looks a safe bet to repeat her famous victory.

Stablemate Faugheen is a major danger but will connections want them to clash? That remains doubtful with Faugheen potentially stepping up in trip. Apple's Jade is a huge talent and remains dangerous but juveniles stepping up have a terrible record in the Champion Hurdle which means Annie P remains the most likely winner at this early stage.

Champion Chase 2017 Bet - Ar Mad

If Douvan stays at two miles this season then he wins the Queen Mother Champion Chase but backing a horse at around even money at this time of the year is not for me. We all love Sprinter Sacre but another crown is a massive ask for an ageing horse (I hope I am wrong) which means that I am looking elsewhere for my selection.

Ar Mad had a brilliant novice season with wins over Bristol De Mai and Vaniteux very impressive indeed and although he still needs to prove himself going left-handed at the very highest level, at around 25s he is a massive price given his talent.

World Hurdle 2017 Bet - Ballyoptic

Anyone having a bet on the World Hurdle at this stage of the season needs their head looking at to be honest with a whole host of question marks over the market leaders at the moment. If pushed for a selection, I would take a chance on the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Ballyoptic who remains a very interesting horse.

Connections have already suggested the World Hurdle route for Ballyoptic which is a positive and he went slightly under the radar last back end with three successive wins. The best of them came at Grade 1 level when winning he Sefton Novices Hurdle at Aintree ahead of the very good Bellshill which was a race won the previous year by Thistlecrack. Enough said.

Gold Cup 2017 Bet - Black Hercules

Another potential classic renewal of the Gold Cup in 2017 but there are doubts over a number of the market leaders. Coneygree and Don Cossack have both been there and done that but both have to prove themselves after injuries, whilst Cue Card might have missed his best chance when falling last season.

If Thistlecrack takes to fences he has to be a player but I don't fancy lumping on him before he has jumped a fence in public whilst Vautour is a big threat if he takes the Gold Cup route. At this stage i am happy to look further down the list with Black Hercules one name that sticks out at an each-way price. A winner over 3m last season as a novice chaser, he showed plenty of class when winning the JLT down in trip and that could be the ideal combination for a tilt at the Gold Cup for owner Graham Wylie.

My One Horse to follow this Season Is…… Prince Of Scars

Deliberately trying to avoid the obvious horses I have decided to plump for Prince Of Scars who is set to embark on a Novice Chasing career this season. The Gordon Elliott trained horse was a Group 1 winner over hurdles last term, when beating subsequent World Hurdle 2nd Alpha Des Obeaux in nice fashion, and we can expect more from a horse built for fences.

He certainly needs some cut in the ground to be seen to best impact which means Cheltenham may not be his bag come the spring but Prince Of Scars remains a top class animal who is sure to win races this winter for Gigginstown.

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