Enjoy the second instalment of Dan Overall's four-part series outlining horses, who did not win last season, that he expects will pay to follow during the 2023-24 Jumps season. A youngster who Nicky Henderson still has high hopes for is among this week's list, and make sure you add each one to your Racing TV Tracker!
The purpose of this column is to highlight horses that, as a result of not winning last season, may sneak under the radar over the coming months, and take their form to the next level plus find plenty of winning opportunities. Hopefully they’ll be a nice price, too.
Last season’s column provided plenty of winners, with Blenkinsop and Sonigino, who scored multiple times, being two of the flagbearers.
Last season's Winless Ones To Watch list made a level stakes profit (win only) but, as I stressed this time 12 months ago, this is not a list of horses to back blindly. I hope my guide for what I believe are each horse's ideal conditions will prove helpful but, as always, consider the opposition in each race.
I hope you find this column interesting, informative and rewarding. Each one will also include exclusive trainer comments.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson.
Ideal races: Novice/Handicap Hurdles between two and two-and-a-half miles.
There were plenty of whispers about this beautiful grey in the build-up to last season, and while he hasn’t quite delivered as of yet, it is early days for the lightly-raced five-year-old.
He made his racecourse debut at Sandown in a race that Nicky Henderson had won six times in the past ten years, with notable names such Vaniteux, O O Seven and a certain Constitution Hill on the roll of honour.
In opposition was Authorised Speed, who had to give Immortal 5lb but had a clear experience edge. Those two pulled well clear, and Gary Moore’s useful novice was too strong on the day, but it was an encouraging debut nonetheless from Immortal. The third, Gadot, who was 13 lengths behind Immortal, is now rated 111.
Only seen once thereafter, his most recent start came two-and-a-half months after his debut. In the interim, he underwent wind surgery and sported a tongue-tie for his last run, which is a slight concern given he’s only at the start of his career. Nevertheless, he ran another promising race behind another useful Gary Moore inmate, Givega. A notable error at the second-last hurdle hindered his winning chance, but it wasn’t the difference between winning and losing. He again pulled well clear of the third, too.
Given an opening mark of 110, that looks lenient based upon the calibre of horse he has chased home, and the clear upside he has. While he lacks experience, he’ll be difficult to ignore running in handicaps from that rating. He should have no problem stepping up in trip in time, too, but I suspect he will begin the season over two miles.
Nicky Henderson says: “He is a five-year-old we all like a lot – a lovely big, beautiful moving grey gelding by Montmartre that Hen Knight bought for Pat Sexton. He was big and a bit weak as well last season but we went straight over hurdles with him and he started with an outstanding run at Sandown when jumping beautifully, but was just outwitted by a good young horse, Authorised Speed. He went back to Sandown again and although finishing second again, ran a race full of promise. He has had a great summer and the fact he is still a novice can only be to his benefit. Hopefully, with a full campaign, he can go a long way over hurdles and he will be very, very exciting when he goes over fences in a year or so’s time.”
Trainer: Dan Skelton.
Ideal races: Novice hurdles and/or handicap hurdles/chases over two-and-a-half miles.
Well backed to win his point-to-point in March 2022, he was subsequently sold for £75,000, and the form of that race has worked out well; the second, Mount Bonete, won a bumper first time out for Chris Gordon, while Fascinating Rhythm, who unseated when in with a chance, went on to win three of his next six starts in point-to-points.
Hoe Joly Smoke made his debut for Dan Skelton in a competitive maiden hurdle at Chepstow, and with Mount Bonete winning 19 days earlier, he went off the 11/4 favourite. He found the now 133-rated Makin’yourmindup too strong, but he ran a race full of promise, and perhaps would’ve finished closer had he not made a fiddling error at the final hurdle. The winner has franked the form, while the three in behind Hoe Joly Smoke in third to fifth give the race a solid look as they are now rated 117, 124 and 116 respectively.
Dropped back in trip for his next start, which came 101 days after Chepstow, his notable market weakness implied that he may not have been seen to best effect here. Despite this, he again shaped with promise in coming from off the pace to finish third in what was a steadily run affair. The runner-up, Crebilly, was a model of consistency last season and ended up on a rating of 134, while the winner is unbeaten in points and under rules.
I’m prepared to put a line through his final run, which came in the Grade Two Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso – a tough task. While you will see a P against his form figures, I encourage you to watch the race; he was getting into contention, tracking the eventual winner, when he stumbled after the second last and was quickly pulled-up by Harry Skelton after a glance down. Harry reported that he lost his action, but no abnormalities were discovered post-race, thankfully.
Hoe Joly Smoke will begin the season with a plethora of options. A rating of 119 makes plenty of appeal, should he go down the handicap route, while he could begin in maiden/novice company. I’d be surprised if connections opt to go over fences straight away, but he would make appeal in that sphere if they do. I suspect he will be at his best over intermediate trips for now before stepping up to three miles in time.
Trainer: Sam Thomas.
Ideal races: Novice Hurdles over two-miles and further.
A winner of her sole point-to-point, she received a beautifully patient ride from Derek O’Connor to beat a decent field. The second has since won a bumper, while the third and fourth won a point on their next start.
Subsequently sold for £220,000 at the Tattersalls Cheltenham Festival sales, her new connections were not shy in expressing the regard in which they held her; so much so that she made her rules debut in the Listed Henrietta Knight Mares’ Bumper at Huntingdon. Sent off the well-backed 11-8 favourite, she raced with enthusiasm and looked like justifying the market confidence with a sweeping move around the outside. In the end, she couldn’t quite repel the more experienced Lilting Verse, and while this was far from the strongest renewal of this race, it was a highly encouraging first run under rules.
We didn't see her for over four months after that and, as explained on the Potter Group blog, she experienced several niggly issues throughout the season (primarily coughing/spluttering) which had limited her appearances on course.
With the season drawing to a close, connections let her take her chance at Aintree in the Grade Two Mares’ Bumper. In a race where it paid to be ridden with patience, Alfie’s Princess found herself up with pace throughout and was still disputing the lead as they turned for home. She eventually weakened into eight, but was far from disgraced.
With a season over hurdles on the horizon, and with a clearer run than she had last season, I would not be surprised if Alfie’s Princess progressed into a mare capable of competing at graded level. A half-sister to the useful Glamorgan Duke, her dam is also a half-sister to the high-class Harbour Pilot, so she should have no problem staying much further than two miles.
Trainer: Kerry Lee.
Ideal races: Handicap Chases over two-and-a-half miles plus.
New Found Fame made a strong impression on his debut when bolting up against experienced rivals with winning form in March last year.
While that was his only run of the season, hopes were high heading into the 2022-23 campaign, but it began inauspiciously, as he pulled up sharply in a novice hurdle at Ffos Las in October. With his novice status set to expire at the end of November, Kerry Lee decided to give him one more start prior to the deadline which, thankfully, was a much-improved effort. Under a penalty, he stayed on nicely behind the now 132-rated Theatre Man, finishing well from off the pace.
From an opening rating of 120, his first start in handicap company was a tough task. At Kempton on Boxing Day, he finished a respectable 12-length seventh behind Grey Dawning. He failed to build on that effort next time out, but there were slightly more encouraging signs on his final start of the season.
Down to a rating of 113, you’d need to be a forgiving type, but I think it’s too soon to write him off. Connections have always thought of him as a chaser, and his pedigree certainly backs that up; by Fame and Glory, he is a half-brother to Fortria Chase winner Arctic Skipper, as well as the useful handicapper, Castle Robin. There is every chance that New Found Fame will make a better chaser, and Kerry Lee’s strike-rate over fences (17.8%, A/E 1.05) is superior to her strike-rate over hurdles (12.9%, A/E 0.85). Her record with chase debutants in handicap company is 23.3% and they have been profitable to back blind, so don’t be put off when he makes his debut over the larger obstacles.
Trainer: Olly Murphy.
Ideal races: Novice Hurdles over two to two-and-a-half miles.
Olly Murphy operates at an impressive 23 per cent strike-rate in bumpers, with the likes of Indeevar Bleu and Little Miss Dante representing some of the best of last season. Given his strike-rate, he must be wondering how Act Of Authority didn’t manage to win one, based upon the regard he seems to be held, although he did bump into some smart rivals.
A winner of a point-to-point, he was subsequently sold to Olly Murphy for £200,000. The third, Fortunate Soldier, beat the useful American Sniper on his next point-to-point start, and he was sold to Olly Murphy for €200,000.
Subject to glowing pre-season reports, he was understandably well-backed when he made his debut in a bumper at Musselburgh. But this was no ordinary Musselburgh bumper. Having battled his way to the front, he was run down late by a Florida Dreams, who was also making his debut, and won the Grade Two Bumper at Aintree on his next start.
After a promising debut, he was sent off the 2-1 favourite to win a Taunton bumper two months later on quicker ground. Just like on debut, he travelled sweetly but found one to good, this time in the form of the Hughie Morrison-trained Secret Squirrel (watch above). Act Of Authority had to give the winner 10lb, and he has won his only other start since. He's also a flashy type, and is out of a half-sister to Hughie Morrison’s Champion Hurdle runner-up, Marble Arch, so is one to watch in his own right.
By Authorized, his dam was placed at Listed level on the Flat over trips ranging from a mile-and-a-half, to two-miles, while also being a useful hurdler. Both of his runs have come on sharp tracks, but he shapes like he’d appreciate a stiffer test of stamina. He should also have the pace to win over two miles, although a galloping track may see him to best effect. He should have little problem staying further, and rates a good prospect for novice hurdles this season.Discover all the latest horse racing free bets and bookmaker sign-up offers from Racing TV’s trusted bookmaker partners! Click here for more details.
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