American – Harry Fry
Though he bypassed last season’s major spring Festivals, American certainly shouldn’t be forgotten about this season, going unbeaten over fences and impressing with his bold jumping on all three of those starts.
Felt to need soft ground by trainer Harry Fry, who reports that American is a fragile sort, he should have big winter handicaps like the Ladbrokes Gold Cup (formerly the Hennessy) and the Welsh Grand National on his radar this season.
Billy Bronco – Evan Williams
Billy Bronco was probably fortunate to win a race last season, having taken advantage of a late faller when getting off the mark at Ayr in January, but he is still lightly raced and as a full-brother to winning machine Tobefair (who landed a seven-timer when scoring at Newbury last season) he should have more to offer this season when going back up to three miles.
Brio Conti – Paul Nicholls
Brio Conti took a few starts to click over hurdles last season, but he was improving fast during the second half of his campaign, winning handicaps at Doncaster and Kempton (most impressively) before running a good fifth in the Grade 1 Mersery Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
He wasn’t quite as classy over hurdles as the likes of Finian’s Oscar, but he is a cracking prospect for chasing this term and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he made more of an impact at the highest level over fences.
Elgin – Alan King
Elgin clashed heads with some smart sorts after winning a traditionally strong novice at Kempton on Boxing Day, but seems to have been handed a workable opening handicap mark based on how that form has worked out (gave weight and a beating to Mohaayed, who ran well in the Scottish Champion Hurdle later in the season).
He is entered in a handicap over two miles at Chepstow on Sunday and is definitely one to keep on side.
Impulsive Star – Neil Mulholland
Impulsive Star was ultimately a disappointing favourite in the Pertemps Final at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, but given his relative inexperience we can forgive him for not taking to the hustle and bustle of a big-field Festival handicap first time round.
He is sure to have more races in him over hurdles if kept in that sphere this term, though it’ll be when he’s sent chasing that we may see him at his very best given his build and pointing background.
Just Minded – Sue Smith
A chaser on looks who is owned by Trevor Hemmings and trained by Sue Smith. Everything points to Just Minded improving for the switch to fences this season, and though he met with defeat on three of his four starts over hurdles last term, he is expected to leave that form well behind when the time comes for him to tackle the larger obstacles.
Minella Awards – Harry Fry
The key to Minella Awards could be spring ground – he was below form on both starts in testing conditions for Nicky Henderson and on his first start for Harry Fry – and he is one to watch out for at the business-end of the coming season.
He was improving in leaps and bounds at the end of 2016/17, winning at Sandown and Punchestown, and reportedly goes novice chasing this season.
Thomas Campbell – Nicky Henderson
Thomas Campbell became a bit expensive to follow last season, beaten at single-figure odds on three of his last four starts, but he is not one to give up on going forward, whether he goes over fences or sticks to hurdling.
He’s been shaping up as though a step up to three miles will do him plenty of favours, and it’s easy to see him making up into a graded-class performer over that trip this season.
Topofthegame – Paul Nicholls
Described by trainer Paul Nicholls as one of the biggest horses he’s trained, it’s very hard not to see Topofthegame improving for the switch to fences this season, and he is expected to leave his useful hurdling form from last season – which included a win at Ascot on his Rules debut – behind when meeting with a fence. He looks set to have his first chasing start at Chepstow on Saturday.
Willoughby Court – Ben Pauling
It’s debatable whether Willoughby Court would have beaten the ill-fated Neon Wolf in last season’s Neptune if the latter hadn’t pecked at the last, but either way, Willoughby Court showed gritty determination to hold on under an aggressive ride from David Bass.
Reportedly set for fences this season and clearly very versatile regarding underfoot conditions (previously won in the mud at Warwick), he is expected to make his mark at the highest level as a novice chaser.
* You can pick up a copy of Timeform’s Jumps Issue of Horses To Follow here.