2012 has been a great year for National Hunt racing with a number of top class horses producing some memorable performances. We have decided to pick out five horses who have been right at the top of the game during the calendar year as we ultimately look to find the National Hunt Horse of The Year. The calendar year of course straddles the back end of last season and the start of this one and horses that have maintained their form throughout that period have of course been taken into serious consideration.
We want your opinions on which of the five horses below you feel should be crowned our National Hunt Horse of the Year. There is a compelling case for each of them and as always we expect there to be plenty of strong comments thrown at us and we wouldn't have it any other way. Let us know which of our nominations you feel has done the most to deserve the title of horse of the year and why.
There is very little left to be said about the great Big Buck's that hasn't already been said but once again he has proven to be a racing machine in 2012. The Paul Nicholls horse has won four races to date this calendar year including a stunning fourth World Hurdle on the bounce at the Cheltenham Festival. The fans erupted at Prestbury Park as he held off Voler La Vedette up the hill as he once again proved to have plenty of heart to go with his undoubted class. He followed that up with his customary win at Aintree in the Liverpool Hurdle and he made his seasonal return at Newbury in the Long Distance Hurdle on 1st December where he cantered to victory, which was his 18th win on the trot and there is no sign of that run ending any time soon! It's also worth noting that he comfortably dispatched Dynaste back in January in the Cleeve Hurdle and the Pipe horses has since gone on to frank that form so far this season by becoming the favourite for the 2013 RSA Chase.
The Nicky Henderson horse has burst onto the scene in 2012 to become one of the most exciting chasers currently in training in the UK. He has picked up three wins to date this year with the highlight coming at Cheltenham when he stormed to a famous Arkle success. The first day of the Festival was lit up by the class of Sprinter Sacre who jumped with such style and found plenty up the hill to pull clear of Cue Card. That form was given a boost when Cue Card came out first time this season to hack up in the Haldon Gold Cup and based on potential alone Sprinter Sacre has to come into consideration here. Henderson sent him to Aintree following his Festival win and he once again hacked up to win the Grade 1 Maghull Novices Chase by a mile to confirm his superstar status.
It is impossible to talk about a horse of the year for 2012 without mentioning Hunt Ball. The Keiran Burke trained horse has won four races so far this calendar year and he has risen through the weights like a rocket in one of the stories of the season. Hunt Ball started the year rated at 102 and is now as high as 157 with some even touting him as a potential Gold Cup horse in 2013. His biggest win of 2012 came at the Cheltenham Festival when he won the Pulteney Land Investments Novices Handicap Chase carrying a mammoth 12 stone on his back in one of the highlights of the meeting. He stepped into Grade 1 company at Aintree when he finished a very gallant third in the Betfair Bowl as he completed his journey from a low rated handicapper to a horse dining at the top table of staying chasers. His copy book has been blotted slightly this season when he was pulled up on his first start in the Paddy Power Gold Cup but he didn't seem to enjoy the ground and will look to redeem himself in the King George on Boxing Day.
Sir Des Champs
The Willie Mullins trained Sir Des Champs has won all three of his starts so far this calendar year and appears to have a glorious future ahead of him. His big success this year came when he won at the Cheltenham Festival for the second year on the bounce back in March. He dispatched Champion Court in some style to win the Jewson Novices Chase and ear mark himself out as a class act to keep a close eye in the coming months. He went back to Ireland following that triumph to cruise to victory at the Punchestown Festival in the Champion Novice Chase by 36 lengths and those two performances are enough for many to consider him the horse of the year. Sir Des Champs has now won eight races on the bounce and while 2012 has been a big one many expect 2013 to be the defining year for Gigginstown in-mate.
The second Nicky Henderson horse on our list of nominations for Horse of the Year is the hugely exciting Simonsig. The popular grey has won all three of his starts so far this calendar year and the world looks his oyster as he embarks on a chasing career over the coming months. His win in the Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival was a scintillating performance as he confirmed the potential most believed he possessed. Simonsig came out quickly after his Cheltenham win to win the Mersey Novices Hurdle at the Aintree Festival by a brilliant 15 lengths. He certainly proved himself as the best novice hurdler in racing last season and given the quality of his performance at the Cheltenham Festival it would be fair to suggest he could be the Horse of the Year for 2012.