It’s pretty hard to compile a 10 to follow for the NH season as there are so many nice horses to choose from – so I have decided put my picks into two parts.
The first six are charges that I have personally backed for specific ante-post races for which I feel that remain outstanding value. All of them are each-way plays.
The second half, comprises of four horses are ones which may not have a specific target but a quartet that I feel have plenty of room to improve and/or are well handicapped at the moment.
Paul’s Ante-post value plays
1. FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES
A really good juvenile hurdler, but fencing was always going to be his game. That was confirmed last week when he slammed no less a horse than Melon in a beginners chase at Navan.
This five-year-old has loads of scope to improve dramatically as we go through the season and I believe two and a half miles will be his optimum trip. Samcro makes the market in the JLT Chase at 6/1 but that supposedly all-talking superstar still has it all to prove and at 16/1 the selection is a ridiculously seductive each-way play.
2. FUSIR RAFFLES
Winner of the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton and the Champion four-year-old Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, FR, was always going to be a better five and six-year-old as he matured physically and mentally.
Entering the senior ranks this term his performance in landing the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last week was described by many as ‘workmanlike’. The ITV Racing team were particularly scathing in their criticism, but I quite frankly think they are wrong!
A Champion Hurdle or indeed any prospective Cheltenham Festival race is not won in early November and this beautiful physical specimen will only improve as he becomes more experienced.
He hurdles very quickly and efficiently, has a high cruising speed and picks up well at the end of his races. It is interesting that the layers were reluctant to really push him out markedly in the betting following Wincanton and the 14/1 with PP come March could represent outstanding e/w value.
3. THE GLANCING QUEEN
The Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival is a race I want to target and I had to make a decision between the Gordon Elliot trained Daylight Katie and Alan King’s charge and I just thought that the latter has the greater scope to improve.
A convincing winner of the Mares’ Open Bumper at the Aintree Festival, she at the very least matched that form when finishing fifth behind the classy Envoi Allen in what looked a particularly strong renewal of the Cheltenham Champion Bumper four weeks earlier.
I know she is the apple of Alan King’s eye and at 14/1 I have already backed her for glory next March.
Let’s take a break from the Cheltenham Festival and have a look at a young horse being targeted at the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (old Hennessy) at Newbury at the end of the month.
The race has long been a stepping stone for such races as the Gold Cup, but more often than not the Welsh and Aintree Nationals have been the ultimate port of call for the winners and placed horses down through the years, as this event can sometimes turn into a real stayers slog.
David Pipe’s charge fits the bill perfectly being a dour stayer who revels in the mud, conditions which will inconvenience a few of his classier and indeed speedier rivals on the day.
Winner of four of his 10 chase starts including the Tommy Whittle Chase last year off a mark of 139 he has already set himself up for the big races, with a lovely staying on second in a Pertemps qualifier at Newbury.
If we get bottomless ground back at the Berkshire track later this month then he could prove huge each-way value at 50/1. It is worth noting that Pipe won this race in 2008 with the similarly tough Madison Du Berlais.
Has always been a slow burner for the Willie Mullins yard and despite being eight going on nine this season, I think he will reach his peak this campaign.
That impression was further confirmed by his seasonal reappearance when he absolutely toyed with Apple’s Jade in the Lismullen Hurdle last week.
Three miles on decent ground will always be his port of call and it is worth recording his success over the mare was a career-best effort by some way on only his 16th start under rules.
The 16/1 for the Stayers Hurdle looks well worth consideration.
6. MALL DINI
Why would anyone in their right mind include a horse that is 0-15 in his chase career and time and time again keeps on hitting the crossbar?
Well, I will tell you. First of all he has won at the Cheltenham Festival (Pertemps Hurdle off 139), been second in the Kim Muir off 143 and just been very unlucky with injuries and various setbacks.
However, this could finally be the season where he strikes gold as he enters the hunter-chasing ranks for Pat Kelly. This drop in grade, allied to the fact that he is still relatively unexposed makes him a big player if he can make it to the Foxhunters in one piece and he could be the each-way play in the race run at a track that quite obviously suits his run style.
7. STICK WITH BILL
This is a nice, staying, novice hurdler under the care of the shrewd Harry Whittingham. He made his timber topping debut at Chepstow last week and ran well behind the well regarded Potters Venture. However, he will only come into his own over three miles, on testing ground on a galloping track.
8. THE KING OF MAY
It always pays to have a northern-trained horse on your side when making these lists as they tend to be over-priced when meeting their Southern counterparts. I loved the way that The King Of May jumped around Carlisle last time out on his chasing debut and there is bags more to come from this son of High Rock. He has that great combination of speed and stamina and Brian Ellison is a genius at placing young talent to the best of their potential.
He could very well represent Noel Meade in one of the novice hurdles at Cheltenham, but Noel is very wary about over-facing his young horses and is more likely to play it soft and gentle with this four-year-old. Despite running quite freely he still put a decent maiden field to bed and turned the lights off at Punchestown last time out. If Noel does enter him in one of the big festivals then sit up and take notice.
10. LAKE VIEW LAD
And finally, a long-distance stayer that still has potential for either Aintree and/or Cheltenham, despite blowing out in the Liverpool show piece last year.
Lake View Lad was the last week gamble for the 2019 Grand National, backed from 33/1 into 14/1, but simply found the pace to hot to handle on the first circuit. In all of his previous 13 chases, he had raced prominently and put his fabulous jumping technique to good use.
Previously a huge eye-catching running on third behind Beware The Bear in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, he may have found the big one coming too early on the back of that effort. Give in the ground and a severe test is what he wants and if it comes up soft at Cheltenham or Aintree those two races could well be on the agenda again.