10 National Hunt Horses For The Notebook
Arpege D’Alene (Paul Nicholls)
A thorough stayer who ran well in the four mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham festival to finish a shade over six lengths fourth behind the Gordon Elliott trained Tiger Roll. He looked a little outpaced that day with four to jump and stuck to his task well under pressure, but was always being held late on. Would be an interesting contender if he received an entry in the Scottish National at Ayr later in the month, a race in which novices have ran well in previously.
Ballymalin (Nigel Twiston-Davies)
Steady if somewhat unspectacular improvement this season having been on the go since September, that said his seven races have been fairly evenly spread out at four or five week intervals. His most recent effort when seventh in the Pertemps Final at the festival was a fair run but the race may well have been just a tad too competitive for him. He remains open to further progress and will hopefully be found another suitable opportunity before the season is through. He has won on going ranging from Good to as testing as Heavy.
Charbel (Kim Bailey)
Deemed somewhat unlucky when coming to grief two from home in the Arkle, it is doubtful that he would have beaten the top novice Altior – however I would have expected him to have been a fair runner up had he remained on his feet. That was only his third start over fences and he appears open to plenty of improvement as he gains experience. Charbel could well take in Aintree or Punchestown on his next outing, with a route taken next season which will hopefully lead him back to Cheltenham again next March.
Footpad (Willie Mullins)
Performed with plenty of credit when a ten and a half lengths fourth behind Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle, in fairness though I’d place him slightly short of the absolute best of the two milers over timber. He is nonetheless a talented individual, connections maybe tempted to go to Aintree or Punchestown but a more fruitful campaign could be to send him to France again like they did last summer where he collected a Grade three event in May and a big money Grade One contest in June. Footpad appears equally effective at either the minimum trip or at around two and a half miles.
Melon (Willie Mullins)
The form of his hurdles debut win does not amount to a great deal, with the runner up Broken Soul having been beaten three times since, however given his inexperience Melon ran a smashing race in the festival opener when chasing home the quirky winner Labaik. That will have done Willie Mullins’s charge no end of good and Melon certainly looks a hurdler to follow for the future. I’d imagine Punchestown would be on the agenda later in the month with all roads leading to taking on the best timber toppers over two miles next term. A very likeable type that has a nice turn of foot and looks open to any amount of improvement.
River Frost (Alan King)
A fair young hurdler who has won three from six since arriving from France. On his most recent outing he struck me as not yet ready for the hurly burly of a race such as the Coral Cup when beaten a shade over eight lengths in to ninth place behind the winner Supersundae. He’s only a five year old and should be capable of further progress. River Frost stays 2m 5f well and may well stay three miles in time. Sure to be placed to the best of his ability and will hopefully be found suitable chances within handicap company.
Singlefarmpayment (Tom George)
Narrowly denied when beaten just a short head by Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase last time out, after travelling well throughout and making smooth headway with four to jump he just failed to overhaul the David Pipe runner. That was only Singlefarmpayment’s fifth start over fences and his first outside of novice company so in hindsight not a bad effort. He jumps well in the main and stays trips of around three and a quarter miles comfortably and will hopefully visit the winner’s enclosure again before the campaign finishes. Looking further down the line his logical early season target for next term would be the Ladbroke Gold Cup (Formerly The Hennessy) at Newbury in November.
Top Gamble (Kerry Lee)
A little way off the best over two miles these days but justified stable confidence in supplementing him for the Champion Chase when running a stormer to be fourth behind Special Tiara & co, narrowly denied third spot by Sir Valentino in a driving finish up the hill. A return to a trip of around 2m 4f should be beneficial to his requirements and his very capable trainer will be keen to see him collect a nice prize before the season is over. At nine Top Gamble is unlikely to be open to any improvement but wherever he lines up next he should be able to putting up another bold showing.
Two Taffs (Dan Skelton)
Two Taffs did very well to finish third of twenty last time out in the Close Brothers Novices Handicap, beaten only a length and a half in total by Tully East and Gold Present. He was running in mid division when badly hampered at the eighth and lost ground and momentum, however he managed to get back in to contention and made headway to chase the leaders with three to jump. It’s hard to say if being hampered cost him the race as it was too far out to be anywhere near conclusive but he stayed on well enough despite always looking held. Hopefully compensation will await over trips in the region of two and a half miles and it’s difficult to think that he will remain a maiden over fences for much longer.
Western Ryder (Warren Greatrex)
The Champion Bumper at Cheltenham is always an ultra competitive affair and this year was no exception with any amount of future winners in the field. One that I like for the seasons ahead is Western Ryder who ran a solid race when finishing fifth a shade over three lengths behind the winner Fayonagh. Whether he goes to Aintree or Punchestown remains to be seen but I’ll be hugely surprised if he doesn’t progress with experience. Western Ryder should make a nice novice hurdler next season and will stay further than the minimum trip in time. I’m sure my notebook is not the only one that his name went in to.