The weather is turning and last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup signalled an end to serious Flat racing. Enter the jumpers. Stay on the good side of these 10 chasers in the months ahead.
Nothing stirs the imagination more at this time of the season than a sideways glance at ante-post prices for the big novice races next spring.
The RSA Chase at Cheltenham in 2020 is a case in point. Potential superstars such as Champ, Laurina, Minella Indo, Samcro, and Battleoverdoyen dominate, horses that could define long-distance chasing for years to come.
‘Battle’ has the scope and ability to be the best of them all. Disappointingly pulled up when favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, he won well on his chasing debut at Galway last week when badly in need of the run.
Elliott loves him and his future looks bright.
Ante-post recommendation: RSA Chase: 20-1
This seven-year-old son of Fleminsfirth progressed from early promise in novice hurdles to become a full-blown contender over fences.
He only won two from six last season, but the second of these was a six-length destruction of the high-class Topofthegame at Aintree.
Lostintranslation was second to Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival over a distance shorter than ideal and Colin Tizzard has an ambitious season carefully programmed through the Betfair Chase, the King George, and the Gold Cup.
Lostintranslation made a good start to the season when winning well at Carlisle last Sunday.
Betfair Chase: 3-1
Defi Du Seuil, still only six, was an unbeatable juvenile hurdler who looked a future Champion Hurdle contender until everybody remembered that winners of the Triumph Hurdle rarely reach that pinnacle and he lost his way.
He has excelled since being switched to fences, however, culminating in that good win over Lostintranslation in the JLT.
He is probably not quick enough to challenge the best two-milers and wouldn’t stay well enough for the Gold Cup so the two-and-a-half-mile interim distance looks ideal and he should be a serious competitor in the Ryanair Chase over a course he loves.
Ryanair Chase: 8-1
The six-year-old son of Getaway dodged the big festivals last season and so has little wear and tear on the chassis. A winner four times over hurdles, he rounded off last season impressively with a lucrative win at Sandown under a big weight and finished the season rated 155, not too far behind champion novice Klassical Dream.
Nicholls was originally intent on keeping him over hurdles but reversed that decision and he will be hard to beat in novice chases, particularly on better ground over two miles.
Arkle Chase: 33-1
OK Corral was indirectly involved in jump racing’s dirtiest gunfight last season, the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, a race that went down in history for jockeys being suspended for trying too hard.
Although that contest is a four-mile novice slog for amateur riders, it is always a solid indicator of future winners, particularly in long distance handicap chases.
OK Corral was backed into short-priced favouritism before being pulled up three out that day and the kindness of his jockey, Derek O’Connor on that occasion could be rewarded in spades in next month’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
Ladbrokes Trophy: 12-1
Burrows Saint is one of those young chasers lingering in the twilight zone between heavyweights in handicaps and a level-weight place among the elite.
Still only six, Rich Ricci’s gelding is clearly improving rapidly, winning three chases in Ireland last year including the Fairyhouse Grand National where he was a heavily backed favourite. This was a spectacular performance for a novice and his trainer will first try him at the top level to evaluate his true ability.
He still may end up at Aintree for the National and in an act of national treachery could well prevent the Tiger Roll hat-trick.
Grand National: 20-1
By the time of the Gold Cup next year, Santini will be aged eight and at the peak of his athletic prime.
His career to date is graded is ‘B minus’ — doing well, could do better.
He was a top-class staying novice hurdler and was expected to develop into a dominant young chaser this time last year, but only collected once from three starts including a narrow defeat by Topofthegame in the RSA.
This was better than it looked as his return from a foot problem had been rushed.
Henderson has been vocally excited by Santini from the start and is still adamant he remains a very live Gold Cup candidate.
Cheltenham Gold Cup: 10-1
One of the most impressive performances, visually at least, at Cheltenham in March was when A Plus Tard won the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase by 16 lengths.
Behind in fourth was the best of the home team, The Russian Doyen, who was immediately put away for the summer with a rating of 141 which could make him a dangerous weapon for Tizzard in middle distance handicap chases provided normal improvement continues.
He has some lucrative early-season targets over two and a half miles and should pay his way.
Virgin Bet Handicap Chase: 7/1
Chacun Pour Soi easily beat Defi Du Seuil over the minimum distance at Punchestown last May to confirm the favourable impression he created in his only other Irish outing when he strolled home at Naas by 31 lengths in February.
Although he turns eight on New Year’s Day, he still has relatively few miles on the clock and looks tailor-made to replace ageing stablemates Douvan and Un De Sceaux, in the two-mile division.
Mullins is upbeat and unusually direct on this programme this year.
“What he did last season was very promising indeed,” he says. “You’d have to hope he could improve enough to be a Champion Chase contender.”
With Altior expected to move up in distance this year Chacun Pour Soi could be the one to fill a large void.
Champion Chase: 5-1
Owned by always enthusiastic but currently bamboozled members of the Supreme Racing Club, Kemboy improved beyond their wildest dreams last season and emerged as one of the top long-distance chasers, winning three important Grade Ones in the process.
When the horse is eventually allowed to run, Mullins plans a programme leading to a tilt at the Gold Cup where he unluckily unseated David Mullins at the first fence last March.
Hopefully a truce can be found between the principals of Supreme Racing and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) so that he can run again soon, as he looks to have the blend of speed and accuracy that are tailor-made for the King George on St Stephen’s Day.
King George: 13-2