Paul’s October Blog uploaded - NH Season Leading 20 Handicaps Big Race Trends uploaded - The Jumps Season Service 2023/24 will commence on Friday, October 27th.
Firstly a very Happy 16th Birthday to my son and also a very Happy and Chilled Out 85th Birthday to my dad falling asleep watching the snooker. A busy and expensive day in the Jones household! Pizza and Manchester City v Barcelona it is later. 2-2.
The final newsletter before the eve of the Cheltenham Festival was sent out this morning so if it didn’t appear in your inbox then please check your spam filter. The Jumps Season Service officially restarts next week.
It’s Haldon Gold Cup Day. If Garde La Victoire can pick his feet up then he looks the right favourite in receipt of 12lb from Dodging Bullets who Paul Nicholls is expecting to have a better season now that he has had a clear run with him before stepping him up in trip and has even said that he’ll have a King George entry. Tom George has targeted this race one more than once before so if one of the lesser lights can get into the thick of the action then maybe it will be Sir Valentino.
I am away for the next week but will be logging on every day, updating the website and replying to enquiries so will write Ante-Post Focus today and pre-set it to go live at 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday as usual. I’ll be covering quite a few races from The Breeders’ Cup to the Badger Ales Trophy, JNWine Gold Cup and Greatwood Hurdle. I have also added Jonjo O’Neill, Ben Pauling, Harry Whittington and Malcolm Jefferson to the best of the Stable Tours in Horses to Follow and doubled the amount of Willie Mullins horses initially highlighted.
In addition to my Ten to Follow for the season (also in Horses to Follow) I promised to give a Ten Forgotten Horses list, not so much to follow as we don’t know in what shape they will return but certainly horses to monitor closely. Rather than adding them to the HTF section, as I want to keep Stable Tours at the top, I list them here.
Beat That – Beat Cole Harden in a Grade 1 at Aintree and the beat Don Poli in a Grade 1 at Punchestown in his novice hurdle season so it is not hard to see why it was so frustrating that Nicky Henderson couldn’t get him to a racecourse last season due to a suspensory problem. The plan is to go chasing and hope that his powers haven’t been weakened. Having raced just seven times under Rules he has a huge future ahead of him if nursed back to his best and it would be no surprise whatsoever if he ends up being the leading home hope for the big spring staying novice chases.
Bertimont – Almost stole the Haydock Park Champion Hurdle Trial from The New One two seasons ago but missed the last campaign through a setback but is reported to looking as good as ever by Dan Skelton who is expecting to pick up a nice prize or two with him in races below the highest level.
Caracci Apache – Was restricted to one novice chase last season as he struck into himself badly having previously been a smart staying novice hurdler beating Blakion in the River Don. He is back now having had a couple of runs on the flat and Henderson remains hopeful that he can go a long way over fences.
Champagne Fever – Top class on his day but those days are becoming harder to predict. He is back in full training after missing all of last season and could do well in the many Grade 2/3 chases between 2m-2m4f in Ireland leaving the Grade 1s to Douvan.
Cyrus Darius – The winner of the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2015 was restricted to just one run over fences last season when winning a novice chase in Perth in September where he could have been more fluent. Unfortunately that win means he will have to go into open company but he is very exciting if back in A1 shape and his shrewd trainer has few peers when it comes to placing his horses.
Eduard – The way that his trainer talks in glowing terms of Eduard continually opens my mind into believing that he could go right to the very top as Richards wouldn’t exactly be Mr Chatty. Fourth in the Ryanair as a 6yo in 2015 the last time we saw him, he is back in full training with the plan to up him to 3m so he could start off in the staying chase at Aintree in which Don Poli beat Many Clouds last season. He is gorgeous horse with time on his side so maybe missing last season could be a blessing in disguise.
Jolly’s Cracked It - Dead-heated with Sternrubin to win the Ladbroke Hurdle last season but injury has kept him off the course since then. The intention is to try and win that valuable prize for a second season and then look at going chasing, which is where his future certainly lies.
Max Dynamite - hasn’t run over timber since the Galway Hurdle in 2015 when he was runner-up but he has since won the Lonsdale Cup and beaten half a length into second in the Melbourne Cup. His two races on the Flat this season didn’t go to plan as he was unfit for the Henry II Stakes and didn’t stay in the Ascot Gold Cup but he has been freshened up to attack the major jumps festivals and when Willie Mullins says he could be well handicapped over hurdles, that suggests to me that he thinks he is very well handicapped.
Red Sherlock - Hasn’t been seen on a racecourse since he was injured in Faugheen’s Neptune but had looked so good in his previous start when winning at Cheltenham. He is back cantering and David Pipe still feels he has the potential to go to the top. This son of Shirocco out of the high-class Lady Cricket was one of my stronger fancies at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival where he looked such a magnificent specimen in the paddock muscled up to the hilt beforehand. Therefore I am going to trust my eyes as he has the potential to go right the top judged on his win at Cheltenham in January 2014 and he is still only seven.
Vukovar – Has moved from Warren Greatrex (having initially been with Harry Fry) to Gordon Elliott who reports that he is fully over his problems and wants soft ground. He has only run once since December 2014 when pulled up in the Betfred Bowl which was an ambitious target moving up a mile in trip. It will be interesting to see what race distance Elliott fancies sending him over but he could be hard to catch under forcing targets in testing conditions in Ireland between 2m-2m4f.
We had a good weekend on Premier League Picks with 6/1 about Burnley getting a draw at Man Utd (a big thank you to their goalkeeper and the referee!) and that will return on Friday a day after Week 8 of NFL. Then into next week Paul Smith will return to preview the India-England Test Series which starts on November 9 after his successful 14/1 recommendation on 2-2 in the England-Pakistan series and 12/1 about West Indies to win the T20 World Cup. Paul will also be previewing four of the five individual test matches.