Find below the 20 horses that made it onto Tipstar champion Dan Overall's 'winless ones to watch' list ahead of the 2022-23 jumps season. Make sure you add each one to your Racing TV Tracker!.
Trainer: Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero
Ideal races: Conditions: Handicap hurdles/chases over two-and-half-miles
One of the top five rated five-year-old UK pointers in 2020/21, he was sold for a rather reasonable sum of £45,000 when you consider he was bought for €42,000 as a store in 2019.
His debut under rules came at the Cheltenham October meeting in a competitive two-mile novice hurdle. Ridden patiently, he became outpaced on the downhill run to three-out and while he could never land a blow stayed on notably well to finish sixth over a trip that was definitely on the sharp side for him. The race has worked out well, with the front five all winning since.
Ridden patiently again on his next start, this time over an intermediate trip, it was another case of never threatening the principals but he confirmed the promise of his hurdling debut with a respectable third. Subsequent Lanzarote winner and Martin Pipe runner-up Cobbler’s Dream (now rated 140) was in second while the winner, Thunder Rock, won three of his next four starts and is now rated 135.
Adjournment was in front at the last on his final start, here at Market Rasen
His final start of the season saw a significant tactical change, with Henry Brooke deciding to go from the front. Unfortunately, Charlie Hammond on Harry Du Berlais accompanied him, with the two engaging in a sustained duel for much of the race at a very strong pace. The latter eventually pulled up but Adjournment continued to lead until the final 150 yards, at which point he was headed as his early exertions took their toll. Given how the race unfolded, his effort can be marked up.
An opening mark of 112 looks to be workable and while he will be of interest over hurdles, I suspect he will be seen to best effect once sent over fences.
Josh Guerriero says: “Adjournment had a slight injury after his run at Market Rasen hence he didn’t run again after that so it probably was the difference of him winning and getting beat. He is currently doing some steady rehab work before he starts any cantering in the next couple of weeks but generally, he looks great and we can’t wait to get going with him. He was a big, tall weak horse so he should definitely be a better horse with time and with going over fences and form wise he looks like he could be on a nice mark. The plan would be to find a little race to start off in and then hopefully look at a nicer race with the longer-term plan being to go over fences.”
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien.
Ideal races: Handicap chases over two-and-a-half miles plus.
Formerly trained by Colin Tizzard, for whom he won a bumper, he moved to Fergal O’Brien’s at the beginning of last season but didn’t get his head in front in three starts. However, it was a season of steady progression, which should stand him in good stead this time around.
Fairly weak in the market ahead of his stable, and hurdling, debut, he shaped with plenty of promise. Having raced a shade keenly in the early stages, he became outpaced on the run to the second last before staying on nicely, giving the distinct impression that he would improve for the run.
And he duly did when finishing a creditable third at Wetherby in a competitive novice hurdle and both the winner, and runner-up, in that race had amassed plenty of experience plus had achieved a solid level of form, with this trio pulling well clear of the remainder.
Ridden more aggressively on this occasion, Autonomous Cloud again looked one paced, but his finishing effort was strong.
He arguably should have won on his most recent start when narrowly beaten, and he made notable errors at two of the final three hurdles. The form isn’t easy to assess as the winner was making his hurling debut, and hasn’t been seen since, while the rest of the field, bar the front trio, were all sent off at triple-figure odds. The rival that dead-heated with Autonomous Cloud for second, Super Survivor, has won his other two starts over hurdles, though, so the race has some solidity.
While all three of his starts last season came over intermediate distances, he looks to be crying out for a step up in trip and his size, as well as his pedigree, would suggest that fences will be the making of him; by Flemensfirth out of a chase winner who is a sister to the formerly 140-plus rated Gala Ball, while she is also out of a sister to the top-class chaser, Voy Por Ustedes.
He will be effective over two-and-a-half miles when ridden positively, but he will be seen to best effect over three-miles plus, particularly as he begins to mature and fill his frame. Since the 2020-21 jumps season, Fergal O’Brien has an impressive 26 per cent strike-rate in handicap chases with chase debutants.
Owner Max McNeill says: “Autonomous Cloud will go novice handicap chasing. He’s a big brute of a horse who just needs time to grow into his frame”.
Trainer: Henry Daly.
Ideal races: Handicap hurdles/chases over two-and-a-half miles plus.
Henry Daly enjoyed a fruitful campaign last season recording 30 winners (his best total since the 2017-18 season) with a healthy strike-rate of 19.48 per cent.
His leading horse in terms of prize money was Fortescue – the admirable staying chaser who won the Swinley Chase at Ascot before unseating in the Grand National.
Blenkinsop is a half-brother to Fortescue and, like his relation, who ended his first season under rules with a rating of 108 and no wins from seven starts, Blenkinsop has shown some promise in his career so far, but it is hoped that better days lie ahead.
Well beaten in two bumpers at the end of 2021, he attracted a good amount of support in the market ahead of his hurdling debut, going off at 6-1 having opened at double-figures.
While that support went unrewarded, he stayed on well at the finish to only be beaten 14 lengths having looked like he would have been much further back following a couple of tired jumps at the final two hurdles.
The two-mile trip would have been on the sharp side, and perhaps he caught a second wind after the last, as he did make quite notable progress.
His backers abandoned him next time as he drifted alarmingly out to 14-1 but he ran another solid race, again staying on well over two miles to finish just three lengths adrift of the winner, who went on to win his next two starts and is now rated 126. The fourth also won on his next start, albeit over fences.
His final run was slightly underwhelming but the quick ground appeared to catch him out on that occasion. He also jumped and hung left-handed, so he may well be better going left-handed.
Following three runs over hurdles over two miles, which all came around sharp, right-handed tracks, Blenkinsop will begin the new season from a rating of 104, which looks workable.
He comes from a family that Henry Daly knows very well; we have already discussed Fortescue, but he is also a full brother to Go West Young Man, who reached a rating of 125 for Daly, and a half-brother to Lord Grantham, who reached a rating of 128.
The dam is also a half-sister to six winners, five of whom were trained by Daly. All three of the aforementioned siblings improved significantly after their first one or two seasons, and it is hoped that Blenkinsop will follow suit.
I suspect he will come into his own over fences and once upped in trip.
Trainer: Tom Lacey.
Ideal races: Novice hurdles over two miles (and further once learning to settle).
You will struggle to find a bumper horse that achieved a higher level of form without winning than Blow Your Wad.
Well backed ahead of his debut, he raced enthusiastically out the back in what was a slowly run race, which hindered his chances from a tactical perspective. With four furlongs to go, he made swift headway under Stan Sheppard but was forced wide to do so, as the race began to develop into a sprint. He was unable to reel in the winner, Luccia, who had the advantage of racing prominently; she was also receiving a stone in weight from Blow Your Wad thanks to the jockey’s claim and the sex allowance and, as a daughter of The Gurkah out of a dam that placed at Group level on the flat, the test of speed was more likely to suit her. Furthermore, Luccia went on to win a Listed race at Sandown by seventeen lengths on her next start.
Blow Your Wad threw the race away on his second start, trading at a low of 1.12 upon hitting the front before hanging badly to his left and running very green inside the final furlong. While disappointing for his backers that day, it reinforced the idea that he is a youngster with a lot of ability, but with some quirks to accompany it. I have also taken a rather strong view of that race, as I believe the third is a decent prospect, too.
Allowed to take his chance in a Grade Two bumper at Aintree, he travelled powerfully in the rear before making a sweeping move to get into a challenging position. Yet again, though, as Stan Sheppard asked him for more, he began to hang to his left and ran green. It is to his credit that, despite these quirks, he managed to finish fourth in what is traditionally a very deep race.
By Walk In The Park out of a half-sister to Faugheen, his attractive pedigree would appear to match his level of ability. Only a four-year-old, the best is yet to come and, if maturing, he has the talent to compete in the top novice hurdle races this season. It may be that he needs more time, in which case he may be of interest later in the season in handicaps. He will stay further than two miles in time once learning to settle, too.
Tom Lacey says: “He has summered very well and does seem to have grown up a little. We hope putting a hurdle in front of him will concentrate the mind and he will hopefully be competing in some of the better novice hurdles this season. He is a horse we think a lot of and believe he has a big engine, it is just a case of bringing him along slowly, in his own time as he clearly has a fractious mind.”
Trainer: Noel Williams.
Ideal races: Handicap hurdles over two-and-a-half miles.
A mare whose last win came under Wayne Hutchinson, and who is now rated 99 wouldn’t be a conventional pick for a list such as this . . . but bear with me as I try to explain!
Briery Express showed a good level of promise during the 2018-19 jumps season. A winner of a mares’ bumper at Aintree, that is traditionally a strong race, she showed a good attitude and resolute stamina to beat a decent field, despite racing keenly in the early stages.
A good run in Listed company followed, which confirmed she was a good prospect without being a top-notcher before two rather disappointing efforts in the spring which, admittedly, came in strong contests.
However, given she would be off the track for 1045 days after her run at Aintree in April, it would be fair to forgive that effort.
Not many mares return from such large absences, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her back in February this year when making her hurdling debut as a nine-year-old. To call the race a mess would be an understatement; they crawled along over the first few furlongs before Billams Legacy carted her way to the front, forging a 20-length lead. Once the leader began to tire, Briery Express and the eventual winner, Corey’s Courage, went on before the former, rather understandably, tired late on. Given how long she had been off the track, and her pre-race market weakness, this was an encouraging effort.
She backed that up with a solid second at Wincanton, keeping on well to chase home the winner who made all. Again, she was notably weak in the market, which is worth bearing in mind.
Following those two efforts, she has been allocated an opening mark of 99. Based on the bare form of her starts over hurdles, this is about fair, but her earlier efforts in bumpers point to her being better than that and she appears to have retained plenty of ability.
The fact that connections have persisted with her must be somewhat of a pointer to their belief that she can win races over hurdles, and her lowly mark means there will be plenty of weak races to target. She will be of particular interest when stepped up in trip, having shaped like she wants further than two miles, and being out of a half-sister to Briery Queen (2m4f winner) and Briery Fox (3m winner).
Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill.
Ideal races: Bumper or novice hurdles over two to two-and-a-half miles.
Second in his sole point-to-point behind subsequent Aintree bumper winner, Lookaway, the pair pulled well clear of the rest, and it was not surprising to see both sell for six-figure sums, with Jonjo O’Neill’s new recruit fetching £115,000.
With Lookaway making a winning rules debut two weeks before Collectors Item, the latter was subject to strong market support and was sent off the 9-4 favourite for a strong Newbury bumper.
Ridden with patience, the race developed into a sprint, but he picked up nicely under hands and heels to share the lead inside the final two furlongs. Once fully asked for his effort, he ran a tad green, although he may well have been intimidated by the eventual winner, Weveallbeencaught, who dwarfed Collectors Item and took him across to the far rail on the run-in.
That bumper is traditionally a strong affair (having produced the likes of McFabulous and Sam Brown in recent years) and this renewal looked no exception; the front two pulled nicely clear of Hardy Fella and Firestream, both of whom brought plenty of experience and winning form into the race.
While Weveallbeencaught hasn’t been seen since, the vibes about him have been very strong, with Nigel Twiston-Davies comparing him to Imperial Commander in the aftermath, while Sam Twiston-Davies was quick to name him as a young horse to watch this season when asked over the summer.
Collectors Item has the pedigree to match his apparent ability; he’s a full-brother to last season’s Galmoy Hurdle winner, Royal Kahala, and a useful three-mile hurdle winner, while his dam is out of a dual Cleeve Hurdle winner. With that in mind, he should appreciate a test of stamina in time, but he demonstrated enough speed at Newbury to suggest he can make an impact over two miles to begin with.
Jonjo O’Neill says: “Second to Lookaway, this year’s Aintree Grade 2 Bumper winner at The Grand National Festival in his point to point, he has some serious form in the book already. We decided to run him in a bumper at Newbury and he ran extremely well when just touched off from a highly touted individual from Nigel Twiston Davies’ stable. He showed some green-ness in his debut, so we were really impressed with his turn of foot at Newbury. He is an exciting prospect to go novice hurdling with this season. He has always looked like a chaser so that is where his future lies but we shall enjoy some good days with him before then.“
Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill
Ideal races: Novice Hurdles over two-and-a-half miles plus
Fame And Concrete stuck to his task with great credit on his latest start at Newbury
The second Jonjo O’Neill horse to feature in this series and, like Collectors Item, he too has form that ties in to Aintree bumper winner Lookaway.
As Jonjo kindly explains, Fame And Concrete had a small setback at the beginning of last season meaning a novice hurdling campaign was shelved, with his reappearance coming in a Newbury bumper behind the aforementioned Lookaway. In stamina-sapping conditions, he stayed on nicely under pressure to finish second in an effort all the more impressive given the winner’s subsequent exploits and the fact that he was carrying a penalty and returning from a niggle on the back of an eleven-month absence.
It was good to see him bounce back having been disappointing on his previous start, especially given the level of promise he showed when bolting up in Southwell bumper (in which the now 132-rated Deeper Blue was in second).
A half-brother to The Welsh Paddies and Clondaw Anchor, both of whom have shown a good level of form over three-miles, Fame And Concrete also appears as though he will appreciate a stern test of stamina once sent over hurdles.
Jonjo O’Neill says: “A horse we have always liked and thought had a lot of potential. He unfortunately picked up a small niggle early in the season which prevented us from embarking on a novice hurdle campaign. We decided to give him another run in a bumper at Newbury where he came second to Lookaway, this year’s Grade 2 Aintree bumper winner at The Grand National meeting. We gave the winner a penalty that day for a win the previous season, so in hindsight it was a smashing performance. He will now go on a novice hurdle campaign, most likely over staying trips”
Trainer: Harry Fry.
Ideal races: Novice Hurdles over two-and-a-half miles.
How Will I Know was purchased for £75,000 at the March Cheltenham sale in 2021 having finished an unlucky second on debut at Punchestown, and the form of that race has a solid look to it. The winner, Ernest Grey, subsequently sold for £105,000 and bolted up on his debut for Alan King before being sent off a well-fancied 4-1 chance for the Aintree bumper, while the third and fourth have both won since under rules.
The five-year-old’s British debut wasn’t quite as impressive as the aforementioned Ernest Grey, but it certainly confirmed the promise that he had shown at Punchestown. Having moved well in midfield throughout much of the race, he made an impressive move through horses to challenge for the lead inside the final two furlongs. He pulled clear with Shallow River (first) & Shomen Uchi (second), ultimately coming out third best, but only by a length.
Shallow River went on to win impressively on his hurdling debut while the runner-up won next time out before finishing a creditable sixth at Aintree.
A half-brother to the useful duo Murphy’s Law and Old Rascals, whose victories came over trips ranging from 2m4f to 2m7f, I suspect that is How Will I know will follow suit in proving most effective over intermediate distances.
Deep, winter ground should pose no issues for him and he looks the type to develop into an above-average novice hurdler for the Harry Fry team.
Harry Fry says:: “How Will I Know was back in training on September 1st, with a view to running from December onwards. The plan is to go novice hurdling & see how he progresses.”
Trainer: Lucinda Russell
Ideal races: Novice hurdles over two-miles (and further as he learns to settle)
Idem stuck on well on his latest start in April - just the four-year-old's second career run
Lucinda Russell’s recent record in bumpers doesn’t leap off the page; you’d have to go back to March 2020 to find her last winner in that sphere, with her record since then standing at 0/52 – even Ahoy Senor couldn’t end the dry streak. And while Idem couldn’t improve his trainer’s recent record, he showed more than enough to suggest that he will be winning races over obstacles.
Set a tough task on Rules debut in a “Junior” bumper at Aintree, he raced enthusiastically in a handy position before cruising into the lead with two furlongs to go, trading at a low of 1.3 in running. He was eventually ran-down by the more experienced and race-fit Leigonar, who went on to run with credit in more competitive races later in the season.
Given a five-month break, we next saw him at Ayr on Scottish Grand National day for what is traditionally a strong race, although I suspect this wasn’t a vintage renewal. Given a patient ride in a steadily-run race, he did best of those coming from off the pace to finish a very creditable third, with the first and second always being in a prominent position.
A half-brother to a French Listed hurdle winner, his dam also won a Listed hurdle in France (also won a chase) and she is a half-sister to the admirable Vieux Lion Rouge. As such, he should stay further in time but as a four-year-old who has shown a tendency to be keen in his races I suspect he will start off over the minimum trip. He has the ability to win over hurdles, particularly at the Northern tracks.
Lucinda Russell says: “He is by Rail Link, whose progeny are said to be quirky, and Idem is certainly that. The same person always rides him out at home and Derek (Fox) will ride him in all of his races. We didn’t want to pressurise him last season, hence why he only had the two starts quite far apart. We’re really pleased with him; he has a big engine and will go novice hurdling. He will start over two miles but will get further, and the 2m2f races at Kelso are potential options. He is still immature and there is plenty of improvement to come.”
Trainer: Tom Symonds.
Ideal races: Novice hurdles over two miles.
An accomplished performer on the flat, Kellahen made a pleasing transition to hurdles in two rather low-key efforts last season while leaving the impression that better was to come.
A prolific three-year old when trained in Germany, he won a German Derby trial before being sent off at single-figure odds for the German Derby itself, in which he finished down the field, although he did win the Austrian Derby on his next start.
He ended up winning twice as a four-year-old in France, earning a British equivalent mark of 92, and while discretion is advised when comparing French and British ratings, it does help to ratify that he is clearly a talented horse.
It was therefore a surprise to see him make a belated hurdling debut at Huntingdon in January 2022 where he produced an encouraging effort given it was his stable, hurdle, and British debut following a five-month absence. He certainly showed an aptitude for hurdling there plus raced enthusiastically before tiring towards the finish.
He produced a slightly improved effort next time out when giving the useful Whizz Kid a race, briefly threatening to challenge before weakening after the last, at which point he was looked after by Ben Poste.
As Tom Symonds mentions below, Kellahen always gave the impression that he would benefit from a break afterwards as, despite the fact he was absent for five months following his final start in France, he was quite intensely campaigned as a three and four-year-old, and it can take time for horses to adapt.
I wouldn’t be looking to back Kellahen first time out this season, but he will become an interesting proposition upon entering handicap company (mark dependent, of course).
Tom Symonds says: “Kellahen is back in and cantering away again. We were very pleased with his hurdle runs last season, and I know there are bits we can improve on. Last season was adequate, but it may be beneficial that he remains a novice for this season after a summer at grass. It just felt that last year we were training a horse that could benefit from a break at some point. The plan this season would be to get a mark on his first start and be guided by that. I would imagine he will stay further but we will probably stick to two miles to start with. He is a lovely horse that seems to really enjoy his new discipline. From the start he was very forward in his schooling sessions. He is in good form and rather fresh at present, so fingers crossed we have a clear run with him.”
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien.
Ideal races: Handicap Chases over intermediate trips.
Formerly trained by Nick Williams, Keplerian was one that typified the trainer’s approach to young, maturing horses in that it was clear he was learning on the job, and I am sure Keplerian will progress as expected for Fergal O’Brien, who now trains this youngster due to Williams handing in his UK licence.
His first two starts under rules were underwhelming, but he took a step forward on his third start when finishing a fair fourth in a maiden hurdle at Chepstow.
Ridden with restraint, he travelled through the race well before making smooth headway to track the leaders on the turn for home. He couldn’t match the leading trio for speed, but he kept on nicely without being given a hard time by Chester Williams.
He ran a similar race 12 days later in a good maiden hurdle at Exeter where he again travelled like a good horse before hitting a flat spot, and then rallying to finish fourth.
With all three starts over hurdles coming over two miles, it appeared obvious to step him up in trip for his handicap debut, and that’s what connections did. However, several flights of hurdles were omitted, with the race turning into a thorough test of stamina which is not what Keplerian needed at that stage of his career, particularly as he was carrying top weight.
There were positives to take from it, however, and he dropped to a mark of 97 following that run. I have little doubt that he’s a better horse than we’ve seen so far, and we have often seen horses trained by Nick Williams improve dramatically for the experience plus Keplerian looked like a big-framed youngster in need of experience, and time, last season.
He’s from a family that Williams and the owners have had great success with, being a half-brother to Horatio Hornblower, Le Cameleon and Moonlighter. Like them, I have no doubt that trips in excess of two miles will see him to best effect once he matures, while he also looks the type to thrive over fences.
Quite whether he will be the finished article by the end of the season remains to be seen, but Fergal O’Brien will be the beneficiary of the education Keplerian has received so far and, given his handler’s recent track record, this five-year-old could rack up multiple victories this season and beyond, especially since he’s starting from such a lowly mark.
Trainer: Nicky Martin.
Ideal races: Handicap chases over three-miles plus.
Lucky So And So not only caught my eye at Exeter on his hurdling debut, he also received plenty of attention from the stewards after powering home having been towards the rear throughout the majority of the race.
Tailed off in sixth as the leading quintet approached the third last, David Pritchard only asked him for a serious effort after the final flight, at which point he passed two horses to finish a clear third, with his rider noting that he “got a second wind turning in”.
Admittedly, he was only passing beaten rivals, but it was still a noteworthy effort from the 125-1 chance.
Upped in trip to an extended three-mile-and-one-furlong for his next start, he was again ridden patiently and showed signs of greenness throughout. As the front two began to stride on after the third last, Lucky So And So appeared to be flat out, but he again stayed on stoutly, and nearly pinched second from Late Romantic who, together with the winner, has significantly more experience and both were up with the pace throughout.
Dropped back to an intermediate trip for his final outing of the season, he was ridden more aggressively but lacked the pace necessary to maintain his challenge as the leading group turned into the straight.
Following those three runs over hurdles, he has been allocated an opening mark of 112, which is fair based on what he’s achieved. However, he has plenty of scope for improvement once switched to chasing, with David Pritchard noting in the aforementioned steward’s report that his charge “is a future three-mile chaser who gallops at one pace”.
It would be of no surprise to see him return to Exeter, where two of his three starts over hurdles have been, for some of their marathon handicap chases. Only a five-year-old, he has his best days ahead of him.
Nicky Martin says: “The summer has done him well; he’s filled out a lot. The plan is to go chasing, although we have not jumped a fence yet! I was very pleased with last season, and he does need a good three miles and soft ground.”
Trainer: Oliver Sherwood.
Ideal races: Handicap Hurdles over intermediate trips.
Having fetched €70,000 as a three-year-old, Maclaine displayed a fair level of talent on his first three starts last season, despite clearly having plenty to learn.
Keen and green on debut, he arguably should have won but found himself blocked by a wall of horses as the race began to unfold. Once switched to the rail, it took a while for him to understand what was required, but he did keep on well to finish a close fourth. Admittedly, it was a weak bumper by Newbury’s standards, but Maclaine demonstrated enough to be optimistic about his future.
Keenness was his undoing on his hurdling debut, which came over two-and-a-half-miles. He was far from disgraced, though, and the race has worked out quite well, with the front three now rated 127, 134 and 138 respectively.
Dropped back to two miles for his most recent start, Jonathan Burke elected to hold him up in an attempt to switch him off. While still raw, there were signs that Maclaine was learning and the move he made to get into contention on the run to three-out was very eye-catching.
Ultimately, he was no match for Walking On Air and was narrowly denied by the 122-rated Hecouldbetheone for second, but it was another step in the right direction.
By Masked Marvel out of a full-sister to the useful stayer Wait For Me, his long-term future is likely to be as a staying-chaser, but he is capable of making an impact over hurdles in the meantime. He needs one more run to qualify for a mark, at which stage he will be of particular interest in handicaps over intermediate trips if learning to settle.
Oliver Sherwood says: “Maclaine was a very big backward baby last year, so we purposely didn’t give him much racing. He has summered very well and strengthened up quite considerably. He is a chaser in the making but will start over hurdles 2m-2.5m. I haven’t got any set plans for him at the moment.”
Trainer: Gary Moore
Ideal races: Handicap Hurdles over two-miles to two-and-a-half miles on good ground
If this name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been running creditably in many competitive staying events at some of the Flat’s biggest meetings in recent months. And yet, being the National Hunt obsessive I am, it is his three low-key runs in February/March over hurdles that earn him a spot on this list.
Absent from the track for 511 days prior to his hurdling debut having shown a good level of ability for Ralph Beckett, Make My Day was fairly weak in the market but moved well through the race having been ridden with patience. He appeared to be coming to mount a challenge on the run to the second last and was only a few down at the last under hands and heels, but a tired jump ended any chance with Josh Moore giving him a considered ride to the line.
Turned out just fifteen days later in a three-runner race at Fontwell, he was weak in the market yet again; that’s notable considering the eventual strong favourite and winner, Jerrash, is also trained by Gary Moore. Still, he made the favourite work for the victory and although he was getting 7lbs from the winner, Jerrash came into the race with an official rating of 130 (now 127) so it was a fair effort in defeat for all that it was a small field.
Another quick turnaround followed, this time the break between races just eleven days. His third race in less than four weeks following a near year-and-half-absence appeared one step too many as he faded quite quickly into a well-beaten third.
The consequence of those three swifts starts is an opening mark of 104 and, given the promise he has shown thus far and his fairly-well established ability as a 90-rated Flat horse, this looks to be very lenient.
Given his preference for good ground, look out for him either early or late in the season.
Gary Moore says: “Will definitely be back over hurdles and, like you, I think he is well handicapped”
Trainer: Fergal O’Brien.
Ideal races: Handicap hurdles/chases over three miles.
It is quite mystifying how Marble Sands failed to win last season; in four starts, he was beaten by a combined distance of seven lengths. While I’m sure connections were frustrated by his near misses, the £23,797 of prize money he accumulated in defeat would have softened the blow.
Held in high regard by Graeme McPherson, who trained him before the merger with Fergal O’Brien, he achieved a high level of form in bumpers, but it was hoped he would excel over obstacles.
He made a promising debut behind Milan Bridge, who went on to win two of his next three starts and is now rated 126, staying on stoutly over an intermediate trip having made a notable error at the last. His jumping let him down again in the French Furze, for all that he ran respectably without taking a notable step forward from his debut.
Consistency was his forte in bumpers and, following another near miss in novice company (in a race that worked out fairly well), it appeared as though a similar story was taking place over hurdles.
However, he produced a career-best effort when second in the EBF Final, a race that is traditionally a very strong affair. Shaping like a stayer, he has been nudged up to a rating of 123, but he remains unexposed at staying trips and he will have many options next season with his novice status intact.
Trainer: Gary Moore.
Ideal races: Handicap Chases over three miles.
His season was cut short by a small injury, but I’m sure connections were pleased with what Next Left showed in his first three starts under rules.
Given a patient ride on debut, he crept into contention nicely on the turn for home but tired quite quickly thereafter, leaving the impression that we would come on for the run. An improved effort followed when finishing second at Plumpton, in what was admittedly a rather weak affair.
Next Left’s effort there could be marked up, though, as the ground would have certainly been on the quick side for him, while a track like Plumpton probably isn’t ideal for a horse of his stature.
Given an opening mark of 112, he was set a tough task on handicap debut in one of the more competitive 0-120’s you will find, a race which will be remembered for the gamble on Ardhill and his emphatic victory.
Gary Moore-trained contender filled the next two places, with Next Left staying on well to finish third. While we haven’t seen the winner since, the second, Imphal, won his next start, while So Said I (4th) went on to win his next two starts.
Even the fifth, Honor Grey, who was beaten comprehensively, recorded back-to-back wins shortly after this race.
The consequence of that form working out so well is that Next Left has been nudged up three pounds, but a mark of 115 would seem well within his range based upon what we have seen thus far.
He certainly has the physique to transition well to fences and he is also a full-brother to the useful point/chase winner, Ya Boy Ya. Handicap chases over staying trips on soft ground should see him to best effect.
Gary Moore says: “A very nice horse who went up just for standing in his stable. He did meet with a small injury, but he is fine now and definitely going novice chasing.”
Trainer: Emma Lavelle.
Ideal races: Novice hurdles over two-and-a-half miles.
Purchased for £82,000 as a store, Nollyador showed plenty of promise on his first season under rules, running with credit on all four starts and bumping into some top prospects in the process.
Making his debut at Ascot, he was ridden on the home turn and while he was no match for the leading group, I liked the way he picked up under Tom Bellamy ‘s urgings.
He confirmed the promise of that effort next time, finishing a fine third in what was a tactical affair; the first and second disputed the lead from the off and were a dozen lengths clear of the pursuing group, of which Nollyador was a part.
Nollyador did best of the chasing pack, which is to his credit, while the winner also finished second in the aforementioned Ascot race.
He then bumped into a useful prospect of Charlie Longsdon’s, staying on dourly to close all the way to the line and it was a similar story on his fourth and final start where he finished third to subsequent Aintree bumper winner, Lookaway. Interestingly, he had been withdrawn due to testing conditions prior to that start but seemed to handle them well, which bodes well for his future.
From the family of smart French chaser, Pablo Du Charmil, he is bred to be smart and his half-brother, Peejaybee, demonstrated a good level of ability last season, finishing the season on a mark of 129 following a fifth-place finish in the EBF final. Nollyador’s run style, and pedigree, suggests he will appreciate a stiffer test over hurdles, and I expect him to take his form to the next level.
Frances Howard (Racing manager for Highclere) says: “He improved with each run last year and was arguably unlucky not to get his head in front. We questioned after his last run at Newbury whether he was struggling to finish his races (immaturity/breathing) but as time went on the form worked out so well (particularly Newbury race) that I think he just bumped into one or two.
"He has always been held in high regard by Emma who minded him last season. He has done extremely well for his summer holidays, and we can’t wait to see him novice hurdling this season. I suspect he will be 2m4f - I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a 3m chaser in time but he showed enough toe in his bumpers to suggest he will be ok over 2m4 this year.
"We had his soft palate cauterised over the summer and he is now fully back in action with Emma – he is looking great and going really well so we are very excited about the upcoming season.”
Trainer: Nicky Henderson.
Ideal races: Novice hurdles (followed by handicaps) over two to two-and-a-half miles.
An impressive winner of a Warwick bumper in which he beat stablemate Surrey Quest, who is now rated 130 over hurdles, Russian Ruler was touted as one of the more promising novice hurdlers for Nicky Henderson ahead of the 2021-22 season.
And while it wasn’t smooth sailing, he showed enough to suggest it would be wise to keep the faith.
Not seen until January 2022, he raced with plenty of enthusiasm, giving his hurdles plenty of daylight in the early stages of the race. Having moved smoothly to challenge for the lead three out, he got in close to the second last, and didn’t respond to Nico De Boinville’s urgings as might have been expected, eventually finishing third. Henderson reported on his Unibet blog that he didn’t come out of the race well so, given the circumstances, this should still be considered a satisfactory hurdling debut.
By the time he was ready to run again, it was approaching the spring and connections were keen to preserve his novice status; or if he were to lose it, they wanted to win a big pot in doing so. As such, they targeted the Dovecote; a tough ask for an inexperienced youngster who has clearly had his share of training issues.
However, he ran a very credible race to finish fifth, although appeared to stumble after the last which may well have cost him a couple of places, as he looked set to finish third for much of the home straight.
Still only a five-year-old, he retains plenty of potential and he should have little problem winning an ordinary maiden/novice hurdle. Thereafter, he could develop into a useful handicapper although, being by Sholokhov out of a half-sister to the dam of Special Tiara, he may be at his best once sent over fences.
Nicky Henderson says: “He has just come in from his summer at grass and is looking and feeling very well. I’m afraid last season was an absolute disaster as following his win in a bumper the previous spring, I thought he would be one of our top novice hurdlers. I can only say we have done a minor wind procedure by cauterising his palate which may or may not make a difference. He will start as a novice hurdler this season although he will jump a fence in time. I thought he would be a high-class horse and hope that in time he will be one.”
Trainer: Paul Nicholls.
Ideal races: Handicap chases over two-miles.
Sonigino came to Britain with a lofty reputation, in part due to the French handicapper allocating him a UK-equivalent mark of 140 after his three starts, two of which were impressive wins.
However, those victories were a double-edged sword as, due to being in May and June, it allowed him to maintain his novice status, but it also meant he would carry a 10lb penalty - a tough task for any horse, let alone a four-year-old adapting to a new environment.
Despite that, he shaped with plenty of promise on his debut for Paul Nicholls, finishing third in a Listed race which has worked out well. The British handicapper allocated him an opening mark of 128 prior to this race (not quite as controversial as Gaelic Warrior, but another example of French ratings not being taken literally), which opened up the option to go down the handicap route.
And he duly did, running with credit behind Tommy’s Oscar and Unexpected Party in what were deep races, racing far too freely to truly do himself justice on both occasions.
His season ended on a rather disappointing note but it’s far too early to write him off. Throughout all of last season, he struck me as the type to thrive once sent over fences as he’s a free-going sort with plenty of scope, and he could have a very productive season this time around, especially given his reduced rating of 119.
Trainer: Alan King.
Ideal races: Novice hurdles over two-and-a-half miles plus.
Beaten by an aggregate of 29 lengths on his two starts last season, he may not jump off the page at first glance, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his future.
He moved into contention nicely on debut before getting tired, and I suspect that was due to him needing the run, more than anything.
Given a couple of months off after his debut effort, he took a nice step forward when chasing home a couple of smart prospects in the shape of Blow Your Wad, who went on to finish fourth in the Aintree bumper, and Tahmuras, who is an exciting prospect for Paul Nicholls and the Noel Fehily Racing Syndicate.
Admittedly, Technology was still over ten-lengths behind at the finish, but I liked the way he went through the race, staying on well despite lacking the gears necessary to challenge the front two.
Considering his pedigree, it isn’t surprising that he hasn’t won a bumper as he’s by Yeats out of a half-sister to Bobs Worth who herself is out of a sister to the dam of Wholestone, so his breeding screams stamina, as does the way he has shaped in his races so far.
As such, I expect him to take improve notably once stepped up in trip over hurdles. He may sneak under the radar in novice hurdles over two-and-a-half miles and beyond or, alternatively, look out for him in a handicap, if he begins his hurdling career over shorter.
Max McNeill (owner of Technology) says: “Technology is one who should be considered. Another one we have hopes for and goes novice hurdling. Alan King didn’t win a bumper with him, but he didn’t win one with Edwardstone, either! He certainly will be (one for 2m4f+).”
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