With the 2023-24 National Hunt season on the horizon, it’s time to start populating those Racing TV Trackers.
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: Dan Skelton.
Ideal races:: Novice/Handicap chases over two miles (and further).
The first of three Dan Skelton-trained horses that will feature in the Winless Ones To Watch list. L’Eau Du Sud arrived from France with a big reputation and while he hasn’t quite lived up to it as of yet, there are plenty of reasons to expect improvement this season.
Winner of a Listed race over hurdles on his final start in France (which has worked out quite well), he was purchased privately thereafter and the French handicapper allocated him a rating of 66kg, which is equivalent to 145 in the UK.
As is common practice for the British handicapper these days, L’Eau Du Sud was given a lenient-looking mark of 132 ahead of his British debut, which came on soft ground at Haydock over 2m3f. Having opened at 11-10, he was a notable drifter in the market (SP 3/1) but he shaped with considerable promise under a patient ride.
After moving stylishly into second on the turn for home, he was the only one to threaten the tearaway front-runner before fading into fourth on the run in.
Given he was only a four-year-old having his first run in this country in tiring conditions, this was an encouraging effort.
Third at Kempton on his next start, which came over two miles, he again travelled well (trading at 2.04 in-running) in a race that contained the subsequent County Hurdle winner, and Martin Pipe runner-up (Faivoir and No Ordinary Joe).
Interestingly, the tongue tie that he always wore in France was reapplied for this run, but he still appeared slightly weak in the finish.
Third in the Morebattle Hurdle on his final start of the season, it was another encouraging effort, and he did look to find under pressure, which bodes well for his future. I am of the opinion that he was still a weak horse last season and, if improving for the summer break, he could take a big step forward this term.
A rating of 131 is more than workable, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to compete in graded novice chases this season.
Trainer: Harry Fry.
Ideal races: Handicap hurdles over two-and-a-half miles plus.
He wouldn’t jump out at you based on his accomplishments thus far, but I suspect Danton is a slow burner who will improve for handicapping once stepped up in trip.
Danton made his debut in a bumper at Exeter, and attracted some market support, despite seemingly being the Harry Fry-trained second string.
In rear for much of the race, he made some headway on the outside as the field began to sprint for home, and while never in with a winning chance, he stayed on well to finish a respectable fifth.
This may seem irrelevant, but I recall watching the race at the time and as the camera panned to the winner after the line, Danton could be seen going past him as Bryan Carver struggled to pull him up.
Not a bumper type, his attention was quickly switched to hurdling, although it was a far from pleasing introduction. Never jumping with fluency, his debut over obstacles ended up with him being pulled up at an early stage.
His second attempt was much more pleasing when he finished third to the useful Afadil. Much like his bumper, this was a slowly run race (7.2 seconds slower than the other maiden hurdle on the card) and this wouldn’t have suited, especially as he was held up.
His final start of the season came in another two-mile maiden hurdle where he, yet again, finished a staying-on third to a Paul Nicholls-trained rival.
Allocated a rating of 95, which can only be described as fair based upon what he’s achieved, it’s hoped he can improve once stepped up in trip.
There is an abundance of stamina in his pedigree, and some of his notable relations (Ravished & Caheronaun) also started on lowly handicap marks before improving notably for a trip, and with time.
Harry Fry says: “Danton improved with experience last year and, as you say, he is crying out for a step up in trip, which is exactly what we plan to do.”
Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill.
Ideal races: Novice Hurdles over two to two-and-a-half miles.
An impressive winner of two AQPS races in 2021, connections have evidently had to be patient with Hasthing, but he could well repay their perseverance over the coming months.
Over 500 days after his second victory in France, Hasthing made his British debut at Uttoxeter on Midlands National day, and while there were only seven runners, top bumper yards were represented, and it looked to be a good race on paper.
The winner had finished second to Better Days Ahead in a point-to-point, the third was a last-time-out winner, while the fourth was making his debut for the Skelton’s having chased home a useful type on his racecourse debut.
Hasthing had to carry a double penalty and was relatively unfancied having been sent off at 17-2. Ridden with restraint, he was sixth of seven as they turned for home, but he kept responding to Jonjo O'Neill Jr’s urgings to finish a never-nearer second.
Allowed to take his chance in the Grade Two bumper at Aintree, a contest which traditionally throws up plenty of winners, he ran another impressive race to finish third, running on strongly from off the pace. Considering this race turned into a relative sprint, it makes his effort all the more impressive, given his earlier position.
The future looks bright for this six-year-old, who is bred to appreciate further in time and, given he only made his British debut in March of last year, I suspect he will improve significantly with better preparation. He should be at his best on softer ground than he experienced at Aintree, too.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls.
Ideal races: Novice/Handicap Chases over two to two-and-a-half miles.
Kandoo Kid has evidently been frustrating to train given he’s had two wind surgeries, and just six starts, in three seasons.
And while that is obviously a concern, if he can stay sound, then there should be plenty of races to win with him over fences; and in Paul Nicholls, he’s certainly trained by the right man to do just that.
A bumper winner in the Spring of 2021, he made a successful hurdling debut at Ascot in October, and that came as somewhat of a surprise, too, given it looked a deep race plus he was sent off at 11-1.
He stayed on strongly that day over two miles, getting up inside the final 100 yards to deny the ill-fated Shallwehaveonemore, who went on to fill the same position in the Dovecote before his untimely passing, while those further back have also gone on to plenty of success; the third to seventh are now rated 131, 129, 128, 126 & 129 respectively.
That was all we saw of Kandoo Kid that season, as he reportedly injured himself getting off a lorry which, while unfortunate, does give a viable reason for his absence.
He made his reappearance in an Introductory Hurdle at Ascot in November last year where he finished a respectable third under a penalty having raced too keenly, which you can excuse given it was his first start for over a year.
He was slightly disappointing on his handicap debut afterwards off a rating of 132, although the handicapper seems to have dropped him a rather generous 7lb for that run.
As with the 2021-22 season, his 2022-23 season was cut short – this time, due to a splint injury he picked up in the spring which has been described as “little”, so hopefully there will be no adverse effects.
If you peruse previous stable tours and post-race interviews, you will see that Kandoo Kid has always been considered a long-term chasing prospect and, being by Kapgarde out of a half-sister to Politologue, you can understand why.
While he has undoubtedly caused connections plenty of headaches, he’s still only a seven-year-old, and from a generous looking mark, he could repay their patience this season, starting in novice/handicap chases.
Trainer: Charlie Longsdon.
Ideal races: Novice/Handicap Hurdles over two miles and further.
Not one that would leap off the page based purely on form figures, but there were definite signs of promise from this youngster last season, and certainly more than enough to suggest that Gentleman Jacques has a future over jumps.
Charlie Longsdon notes on his website that he “thought (Gentleman Jacques) would be too backwards to get to the racecourse last season”. With that in mind, plus the fact that the four-year-old is a scopey individual, there are reasons to mark up his performances last season.
Making his debut at Warwick in February, plenty of runners had winning form next to their names. The first, third, fifth and seventh had all won before, while the second and sixth had both run to a good standard. As a newcomer, this was always going to be a tough task, and yet there was a significant amount of market support for him.
Green in the early stages, the initial pace was slow, and Gentleman Jacques had to be ridden as the field began to quicken. While never threatening to win, he kept finding under pressure to finish a very respectable fourth.
His next and final start last season came at Newbury in the Goffs UK Spring Sale Bumper – a race that connections of most of the runners would have targeted since the start of the season.
This renewal was run on testing ground, and many were struggling at an early stage, but not Gentleman Jacques who travelled powerfully and looked like mounting a very strong challenge as they turned into the straight. He couldn’t sustain that effort, though, and eventually faded into ninth, but he shaped considerably better than his finishing position suggests.
I suspect Gentleman Jacques will improve considerably for his bumper experiences, and with another summer now on his back. By Mount Nelson, there is an abundance of stamina on his dam’s side and I would imagine he’d thrive as a staying chaser in time.
In the meantime, though, he can win over hurdles, and could pop up at a decent price early in the season. It is also worth noting that the Charlie Longsdon stable tend to start quickly; they have a 21 per cent strike-rate in maiden/novice hurdles in September annd October.
*Charlie Longsdon says: “He is a fine big horse who we like very much. He was eye catching first time out at Warwick and then he ran a really strong race at Newbury. Obviously the winner looked very good, but we went with him for a long way and just paid the price in the final furlong on soft ground. He was still raw and weak last season so should be a lot stronger for the summer in the field. And as you say I never thought he’d get to the racecourse last season - he just thrived on his work.
"He looks great at the moment and I will probably go novice hurdling over 2m with a view to stepping up in trip. He jumps very well and the plan will be to have him ready to run from the beginning of October. If his fast work is good nearing then I might well run him in one more bumper - he definitely has the ability to win a bumper.”Add an unlimited number of horses into your Racing TV Tracker and never miss a winner again! Click here for more details.
Select any odd to add a bet