NH 2022-23: Ten To Follow

Our Ten To Follow for the National Hunt Season, including 1 FREE Ante Post Bet for The 2023 Cheltenham Festival.

Easy As That – Venetia Williams
A very lightly raced and completely unexposed 7yo, who is reportedly going novice chasing this season. Two from two in NH Flat races where he had looked really impressive, he faltered in his first two runs over hurdles, basically down to his awful hurdling. Losing lengths at every hurdle, in the circumstances he did well to finish where he did in those first two hurdle races. He then showed improved technique on his handicap debut and bolted up in deep ground off a mark of just 114. He’s still potentially very well handicapped and if jumping fences better than he did hurdles, like many do as you need to respect the bigger obstacles, then he’s very much at the right end of the handicap. He excels in deep, soft ground. He missed last season due to a couple of niggles, so returns off a long break.
Update: Runner up in a match on his chase debut, he’ll need to improve his jumping if he’s to capitalise on his handicap mark.

Firestep – Nicky Henderson
Very much a dark horse for this season, having missed an intended campaign last year due toa couple of small niggles. He’d previously won both of his NH flat races and is extremely highly regarded by the Henderson camp. A very comfortable winner at Southwell on his debut, he cruised into the lead and won very comfortably, whilst still looking very much in need of the experience. The same again at Chepstow where again he travelled like a different class animal to his opposition, took it up and through inexperience just idled in front, winning very comfortably if not by far. It’s been suggested the yard felt he was perhaps they’re number novice hurdle hope for last season, and that feeling remains for this season, he’s an exciting young horse that could go all the way to the top.

Gelino Bello – Paul Nicholls
A very good novice hurdler last season, winning his maiden hurdle at Aintree before a promising 2nd at Cheltenham in December. He then ran a decent race when 4th in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton against more seasoned handicappers; gaining valuable experience over a trip perhaps just shy of what he wants. A confidence boosting win at Newbury led him to the Grade1 staying novice hurdle at Aintree, where having travelled well he stayed on strongly in the closing stages to win well. He’d reportedly schooled before that race, with a view to chasing this year and is very much in the mould of Bravemansgame. As such he’s likely to be aimed at the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, with Aintree perhaps a more likely end target than Cheltenham. Whatever his campaign, he’s sure to win races over fences.
Update: Made hard work of winning his chase debut, he jumped well and is sure to improve for the run.

Gericault Roque – David Pipe
A model of consistency and has to be considered unlucky not to have notched up at least one win last season, finishing 3rd on his reappearance and then runner up on his next four starts, running a personal best each time, culminating on a 2nd place at the Cheltenham Festival when running from out of the handicap. He’s still a novice, so will surely pick up a race early on this season before perhaps then hunting for a big handicap pot. He’s still lightly raced so could well have a good deal more improvement to come, is versatile with regard to ground conditions and could again have a very productive season, with hopefully what would be one or two well deserved victories along the way.
Update: Ran okay for a long way on his reappearance over hurdles and will be much fitter for his next engagement.

Iceo – Paul Nicholls
Made a huge impression on his UK debut at Kempton when bolting up by 17 lengths and immediately getting quotes for the Triumph Hurdle. He was then well beaten behind Pied Piper at Cheltenham, before an improved effort on that in his final run of what was a light campaign back at Kempton. That was perhaps also considered a little disappointing as he never looked like winning and was being scrubbed along quite a way out. Dropping to nearly last as they turned for home, he then stayed on really well under hands and heels to be nearest at the finish and beaten around 4 lengths. He looked to be screaming out for a longer trip, in fact he’d have probably gone very close to winning over another half mile. His sire has produced plenty of horses that have improved for a longer trip. He’ll be very interesting over further this season, or in fact if the stable send hm over fences to take advantage of the 4yo allowance, which they’ve done many times before.

Jonbon – Nicky Henderson
A full brother to the mighty Douvan, the expectations for Jonbon were high even before stepping onto a racecourse, let alone following a facile 15 length victory in a point to point in the November of 2020. Snapped up by the Nicky Henderson yard he duly won his only NH Flat race in March 2021 and the hype bang waggon was in town for his novice hurdle campaign last season. He was incredibly impressive on his first two starts over hurdles at Newbury and Ascot, winning with his head in his chest on both occasions and beating some fair types in the process. He had to work harder next time at Haydock, but ultimately came out a comfortable winner giving away weight to all of his rivals. Sent off 3rd favourite for the Supreme at Cheltenham, he was blown away by the impressive Constitution Hill but still ran a fine race to be 2nd. Back to winning ways at Aintree on his final start, he showed a great attitude to hold on and finish that race off very strongly, with eh front two pulling miles clear of the field. Set to go novice chasing his season, he’s sure to be one of the leading lights in that division with either the Arkle or the 2 ½ mile novice chase as his likely targets.

Kincardine – Nicky Henderson
A lightly raced horse for the King with just the 4 hurdles starts to date. A winner at Newbury on his 3rd start he was then no match for the impressive Pull Again Green back at the same venue at the beginning of April. That wasn’t a bad run at all considering the winner won again at Cheltenham and is now rated some 20lbs higher than Kincardine. He’s bred to stay and has reportedly worked really well over fences, so a novice chase campaign looks to be on the agenda this season. Connections could well look to exploit what could prove to be a pretty lenient handicap mark, before hoping to go onto better things.

Saint Sam – Willie Mullins
Things just didn’t go his way at times over fences last season and we’re sure we haven’t seen the best of his yet, whilst he’s only a 5yo so have plenty of time to show what he’s capable of. He was a decent 4yo hurdler, where he showed his best form when ridden patiently in a big field at Cheltenham, finding only future grade 1 winner Jeff Kidder too good, whilst giving the winner a stone. He made an impressive winner debut over fences before then finishing 3rd to Blue Lord where he was ridden to aggressively from the front, but still kept tabs on the 1st and 2nd on the run in after the last. He was hampered by a faller in the Arkle and unseated at the 4th, before then being ridden from the front at Punchestown. He was still right there when sprawling on landing at the 2nd last losing all chance. He wasn’t far off the top 2 mile novice chasers last year, but with things not quite going his way, he might just sneak under the radar this year.

Stattler – Willie Mullins
Whilst he may not have the WOW factor of stablemate Galopin Des Champs, he has every attribute to suggest he can dine at the top stable of the staying chasers this season. He was a decent novice hurdler but was always going to come into his own as a chaser and had a very good first season over fences. An impressive winner of his chase debut where he showed a fair turn off foot, he then showed really good battling and staying qualities when getting the better of Farouk D’alene at Naas. The runner up that day would have gone pretty close in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham but for falling 2 out. Stattler went on to win the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and whilst that was perhaps the easy option, he won really impressively and comes into this season unbeaten over fences. He has to step up in order to compete with the establish 3 mile chasers, but he has scope for improvement is only a 7yo and can prove himself up to that level as the season progresses.

Three Stripe Life – Gordon Elliot
A fine 4th in the Cheltenham bumper on only his 2ns racecourse appearance the previous season, he started his hurdling career in fine style at Fairyhouse. He then contesting five grade 1 races showing high class form and a real battling tough attitude each time. Slightly unlucky when 2nd to Mighty Potter over an inadequate 2 miles, the was then runner up to Sir Gerhard at Leopardstown before filling the same spot behind the winner at Cheltenham, although he got closer to the winner at the festival, over the longer trip of 2m5f. A good winner at Aintree where he powered away from the field, he ended his season when 3rd to State Man where he was unsuited by the slow tactical affair and couldn’t match the winners turn of pace.  He’s bred to be a chaser and connections have suggested they’re really looking forward to sending him over the larger obstacles. Sure to start off over shorter trips, the strength in depth of the novice division could be pretty high this year, and it wouldn’t surprise to see this chap sent over 3 miles come the spring festivals, avoiding the speedier types. He looked a very strong stayer over hurdles.

Additional Horse To Follow.
Iroko – Oliver Greenall
He showed plenty of promise in a couple of runs in France, the first of which was behind subsequent Triumph Hurdle 4th Icare Allen at Moulins, before finishing 2nd at Auteuil in a race that has produced six subsequent winners. He was highly tried as a novice last year, making his stable debut in the Grade1 Finale Hurdle at Chepstow behind the very useful Porticello. Iroko travelled nicely for the game, before getting outpaced and then running on well into a highly respectable 4th place. He then went to Kempton on another graded event and again finished 4th behind subsequent grade 1 winner Knights Salute. He again found himself outpaced over the minimum trip before staying on again suggesting a step up in trip would suit. As a result of not winning last season, he remains a novice for this season and has been given a potentially lenient handicap mark of 120. He holds 3 entries this Saturday, one in a novices hurdle and two in handicap hurdles. He’s certainly one to add to your trackers and he’ll be worth following this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him rated at least a stone higher as the season progresses.

Ante Post Bet for Cheltenham:

Gold Cup – Stattler (e/w) – 20/1 Bet365, Betfred, generally 16/1
Willie Mullins “I’ll aim for the top with him, start him off like he could be a Gold Cup horse but certainly a trip will be no trouble to him and jumping will be no trouble to him, so we’ll be aiming him at those top staying chases.”

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