Donald McCain has gradually assembled a stellar team at his Cholmondeley base in Cheshire and the former Grand National-winning trainer will head into the new National Hunt season with a multitude of talent as he looks to fight it out with the likes of Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls for what is set to be another mouth-watering campaign over the coming few months.
McCain, who has taken over the reins from his father Ginger with aplomb over the last few years, will undoubtedly call on the likes of Cinders And Ashes, Peddlers Cross and Overturn, who have helped propel him into the big time with some Grade One successes, but along with that aforementioned triumvirate, he will be hoping to introduce a host of new talent to the Jumps scene this season and we look at some of those who could be Cheltenham Festival bound come March.
Former Supreme winner Cinders And Ashes failed to build on some marvellous novice form and struggled to get his head in front all last season, but McCain will be hoping that he can turn a corner with the six-year-old this season and launch him back into the elite of the hurdling division, whilst Overturn is another looking to bounce back after disappointing in the Arkle Challenge Trophy.
However, the classy dual-purpose performer has shown a real zest for the game and if he can recapture his exuberant front-running style could well be competing in the top two-mile races all season and a possible tilt at Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase could be his final port of call come the spring.
Away from the luminaries of the stable, there are some interesting new recruits for the new season and Dispour has already made his British debut over timber when winning a mediocre contest at Bangor at the start of October and the former French Flat horse is open to huge improvement as the season progresses and McCain is sure to gradually build up his ability with the €175,000 purchase likely to be a prominent figure in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Diamond King produced a couple of taking bumper performances last season and his 19-length victory at Bangor in April showed that he could be a potential novice hurdler to follow for the 2013-2014 season and McCain already knows the recipe to mastermind a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victory, as he showed with the abovementioned Cinders And Ashes in 2012, so it would be no surprise if this King’s Theatre gelding was to ruffle a few feathers in the novice division during the campaign.
Last seen being pulled up in the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury, Clondaw Kaempfer may have fallen out of punter’s thoughts, but the four-year-old showed his potential when landing a Listed Haydock event in style in his previous outing and if he can bounce back from a lengthy absence could be another prominent figure in a yard oozing with potential.
Super Duty ran a stormer when second in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at last year’s festival and the progressive staying chaser could be the next to come off the McCain production line for a tilt at the Grand National and he could follow in the footsteps of Aintree hero Ballabriggs in using the Kim Muir as a springboard to Merseyside glory and duly attempting to bag another National crown for the McCain family.
Others who could potentially blossom into potential Cheltenham candidates include the Musselburgh bumper winner Plan Again, who is sure to improve as the season continues, whilst the likes of Hills Of Dubai and I Need Gold are a couple of point-to-point winners adding yet more depth to a strong team for McCain as he looks to challenge Messrs Henderson and Nicholls in some of the top Graded races this season.