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Irish Panther (Eddie O’Grady)
He was on my radar last season after an opening second to Fact or File in a Leopardstown Bumper and Christmas but I was a little disappointed that he was beaten in to third at Punchestown in his next start. However, the winner – Willie Mullins’ Ballyburn – looks a major contender for top novice hurdle honours this season. Irish Panther finished his season by chasing home Walk Away Harry at the Punchestown Festival, where he hit the front too soon. He mightn’t be a Grade 1 winner-in-waiting, but could turn out to be a high-class handicapper or a graded performer later in the season.
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Bowenspark (Henry Daly)
A dual bumper winner who followed up under a penalty at Warwick and the form is working out well. He was fourth in a Listed bumper at Newbury when held up out the back off a really steady pace so the leaders were able to keep going. He was a little unconsidered at Aintree and started at 33/1 but was a massive eye-catcher when finishing fifth to Aslukgoes as he flew home.
Bowenspark bolted up on his first start over hurdles at Stratford (5/4-4/9f) and the EBF final could be a possible target at Sandown next March. If not, he could be targeted at a big handicap hurdle.
Willmount (Nicky Henderson)
He caught my eye when trained by Neil Mulholland and the move to Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows’ yard means he obviously caught the attention of someone else! He cost £340,000 after winning his Irish point-to-point and won easily on debut at Doncaster last January with the second that day subsequently winning afterwards. He followed up again at the same venue in March when conceding 22lbs to his rivals and was talked about as a possible Aintree bumper horse by Mulholland, who warned he’d need plenty of give in the ground.
Since his move to Henderson, his new trainer has apparently bought a half-sister to Willmount on the back of some of his homework. A very nice horse in the making and should be followed and if things work out could be one for the Ballymore Hurdle over 2m 5f or the 3m Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next season.
Factual Fact (Henry De Bromhead)
An easy eight length winner on debut at Thurles coming from off the pace to take it up in the straight and win going away. The Sam Curling-trained favourite that day – I Won’t Back Down – finished down the field but won next time out and has subsequently been sold to English trainer Harry Fry for £100k. He’s all speed and Factual Fact could be worth following before the hype horses appear.
Redemption Day (Willie Mullins)
It’s not often a Willie Mullins runner is under the radar but Redemption Day bounced back to form at the Punchestown Festival in 2022 to get much closer to Facile Vega, having been down the field to his stablemate at Cheltenham. He missed last season though injury and if he were to show his old sparkle in a maiden hurdle this term, fancy prices for the Supreme Novices or Ballymore Hurdle wouldn’t last long for Redemption Day.
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