Footpad can light up season

1. Santini (Nicky Henderson)

In the novel ‘The Great Santini’ the main character combines fighter pilot brilliance with an insatiable need to dominate his rivals, so this may turn out to one be brilliantly named horse.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, he is just one of a deep horde of emerging chasers housed at Seven Barrows. Santini raced four times over hurdles last season including a solid third in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival and a victory in the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree.

Henderson contends that his impressively built gelding was only “messing around” over hurdles and he could well be the dominant staying novice chaser this

season.

Ante-post recommendation: RSA Chase Cheltenham 8-1.

2. Terrefort (Nicky Henderson)

Another fine staying prospect from the Henderson yard, Terrefort is a year younger than stablemate Santini but will be playing senior hurling sooner.

Rock hard from five jump runs in France, he developed into an impressive novice chaser of last season with Grade One wins at Sandown and Aintree bookending a fine second to Shattered Love at Cheltenham.

He is due to reappear at Sandown next week in a race won last year by Might Bite and this should put him straight for The Ladbrokes Trophy (previously Hennessy Gold Cup) at Newbury in December — a race that usually favours second-season chasers.

Ante-post recommendation:

Ladbrokes Trophy 10-1.

3. Mengli Khan (Gordon Elliott)

As a two-year-old, Mengli Khan was considered handy enough to contest the Group 1 One Racing Post Trophy but his Flat career ended tamely with two wins in eight races and he was bought by Gigginstown for jumping purposes.

Good enough to win the Royal Bond and finish third at the festival to Sommerville Boy, Elliott feels he won’t reach the top level over hurdles, so he goes novice chasing. There is no reason why he shouldn’t enjoy a long lucrative winter in the better class two-mile novice chases.

Ante-post recommendation:

Arkle Chase Cheltenham 16-1.

4. Coo Star Sivola (Nick Williams)

There is rarely a bad winner of the Ultima Festival Handicap Chase and the race has been a reliable indicator of future triumph ever since its inception in 1946. Royal Tan, West Tip, Charter Party, and Rough Quest have all won it on their way to Grand National or Gold Cup glory.

Coo Star Sivola grabbed media prominence when winning the latest edition, mostly because he provided golden girl jockey Lizzie Kelly with her first Cheltenham Festival success. This was a distraction from a notable effort from a six-year-old novice.

Coo Star Sivola had a gentle pipe-opener at Chepstow a couple of weeks ago and Nick William’s gelding should be competitive in long-distance chases when the ground finally gets softer.

Ante-post recommendation: No definite long-term ante-post targets yet.

5. Un Temps Pour Toi (David Pipe)

Like Coo De Sivola, Un Temps Pour Toi has won the Ultima Chase, twice in his case.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t been seen since the second of those two wins a year and a half ago, but despite the dangers of trusting repair jobs on horse injuries he is worth tracking.

His second win in the Ultima earned him a rating of 155, just under top class level but with any improvement would make him a contender in lucrative handicaps and Grade Two staying chases.

Trainer David Pipe is delighted with his recovery and has him almost ready for a comeback in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.

More realistically, a steady season of improving fitness could make him an ideal National type come spring.

Ante-post recommendation: Aintree Grand National 33-1.

6. Bellshill (Willie Mullins)

There has always been something intangible about Bellshill, but it took until the end of last season to find out what. As it happens he is a very talented staying chaser.

He won the Punchestown Champion Bumper in 2015 with Disko, Modus, and Altior in his immediate slipstream but never truly graduated to the top table until the dying weeks of spring.

Under a welter weight in the Irish National he was cantering over his field between the last two but jumped sharply left at the last costing him, and several others, their chances.

The formbook shows a demotion to fifth place, the eye told a different story — this was an epic performance.

He won the Punchestown Gold Cup next time out and goes into this season a strong contender for domestic staying chases with a clear pathway to Gold Cup competitiveness.

Ante-post recommendation: Cheltenham Gold Cup 20-1 .

7. Frodon (Paul Nicholls)

Not long ago a search for winter winners would probably have started (and finished) at Paul Nicholls’

Ditcheat stable.

His light has dimmed beneath the glare of Henderson, Elliott, and Mullins in recent seasons and while he has continued to train lots of winners, the quality hasn’t matched the quantity as much as the old days.

But his young string is maturing and Frodon is talented enough to help re-establish the stable.

A winner on his reappearance at Aintree last week, he should be a constant threat in middle distance chases this season and has recently been well supported for the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Ante-post recommendation: BetVictor Gold Cup 14-1.

8. Balko Des Flos (Henry De Bromhead)

De Bromhead’s seven-year-old blossomed into a very useful chaser last season with two wins at major festivals.

What was unusual is that winners of the Galway Plate on good ground in high summer are rarely talented or versatile enough to follow up in Ryanair Chase on soft to heavy at Cheltenham in the spring. His easy victory over Un De Sceaux was certainly no fluke. Now established among the chasing elite, the key to his season will be in how well he stays a trip.

He has had the unusual recent luxury of a summer break and reemerges this weekend in the JN Nicholson chase at Down Royal.

Ante-post recommendation:

Ryanair Chase 10-1.

9. Waiting Patiently (Ruth Jefferson)

When Ruth Jefferson took over training duties after her father Malcolm’s death last spring the hope surrounding Waiting Patiently would have been one of the small consolations.

This lightly-raced gelding was being campaigned last season without a planned stopover at Cheltenham but was injured before his real target date at Aintree and was put away until now. Unbeaten in six chases at two and a half miles, it will be interesting to see how he goes when upped in trip. A large hope from a small stable but not without chances for progression to the big leagues.

Ante-post recommendation: King George 7-1.

10. Footpad (Willie Mullins)

The best we’ll save till last. If there was ever a horse that proved the old maxim “that jumping is the name of the game” then step forward Footpad.

By far the most impressive novice chaser last season, he was unbeaten in five chases, four of them Grade Ones, with a combined winning margin of 53 lengths. Although only six he’d been around the block over hurdles for several years but became a completely different animal with a fence in front of him.

Mullins faces a key decision; keep him at two miles and take on Altior all season or stretch him further in hope of an elusive first Gold Cup. It could yet be the season’s finest narrative.

Ante-post recommendation: Champion Chase 4-1.


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