Ten for the jumps
Paul Ferguson with a selection of horses he’ll be backing this winter
ALTIOR (NICKY HENDERSON)
Unbeaten in five starts over hurdles last season,culminating in a taking success in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, Altior’s connections now have to decide whether to head down the Champion Hurdle route, or send their son of High Chaparral over fences, and, having been schooled over the larger obstacles at the end of last season, I think they will opt for the latter. The six-year-old looks a chaser in waiting to me and could easily end up as a serious contender for the Arkle Trophy,a race that Nicky Henderson has won on five occasions.
BALLYANDY (NIGEL TWISTON-DAVIES)
The Champion Bumper winner looks sure to take high rank in the novice hurdle division this season and he should be expected to be returning to the festival with leading claims next March. Quick enough to start over 2m, it is likely that Ballyandy will be stepped up in trip at some stage and he could well be aimed at the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, a race the TwistonDavies has won three times previously, with Gaelstrom, Fundamentalist and The New One.
The winner of four bumpers in all last season,the Kayf Tara gelding is versatile in terms of ground and,given how his stable tend to hit the ground running,he might be out fairly early.
BETAMECHE (DAN SKELTON)
Dan Skelton has plenty of exciting youngsters to look forward to this season and Betameche must be high up the pecking order, having impressed when winning bumpers at Newcastle and Wetherby last season.
Trained by Nicky Richards when scoring on debut,the grey then defied a penalty on his first start for Skelton, travelling like a high-class prospect. To date, the Kapgarde five-year-old has raced exclusively on testing ground,but he is bred to handle quicker conditions and he looks a lovely long-term prospect.
CLOUDY DREAM (MALCOLM JEFFERSON)
Twice a winner in bumpers, Cloudy Dream was beaten on his debut over hurdles last November, after which he never looked back. A smooth winner at Doncaster, the six-year-old made a successful handicap debut at Market Rasen before rattling home, from an uncompromising position, to finish runner-up in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.
The grey has more to offer over hurdles, but he has the physique of a chaser and is expected to head straight over fences on his return. A keen-going sort, he should get 2m4f once learning to settle, and he ought to be difficult to beat in northern novice chases.If he continues to progress, he could easily make up into a Cheltenham or Aintree contender next spring.
DEBECE (TIM VAUGHAN)
Beaten in a couple of bumpers last term, Debece got it right at the third time of asking in that sphere,running away with a Market Rasen contest by 19 lengths. Kept on the go, he made a successful hurdles debut in early-May,again impressing with the way he travelled and he powered clear in the closing stages.It didn’t look the deepest of races by the track’s standards, but the fifth horse Barman has won three times since, and this half-brother to Don Poli should improve once going up in trip. He could make a mark in better company.
JENKINS (NICKY HENDERSON)
A hugely impressive winner on debut at Newbury in early April, Jenkins was subsequently sent off odds-on to land the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival, where he went down by half a length under Patrick Mullins. Keen in the early stages of the race, he was given an aggressive ride and,despite relinquishing his unbeaten record, the Azamour gelding still came out of the race with great credit.A four-year-old that possesses plenty of pace, he looks capable of making up into a smart two-mile novice hurdler this season.
MR BIG SHOT (DAVID PIPE)
Just four days after enjoying Cheltenham Festival success courtesy of Un Temps Pour Tout, David Pipe and Caroline Tisdall saw their debutant Mr Big Shot win the bumper at Uttoxeter on Midlands Grand National day.
A big son of Flemensfirth, he ran in snatches down the back straight, but really found his stride inside the final quarter-mile, eventually scoring by 8 lengths in what looked a decent event on paper. A lovely long-term prospect, who will in time be a three-mile chaser, he should be capable of making his pres- ence felt in the staying novice hurdle division this season.
PRIDE OF LECALE (FERGAL O’BRIEN)
Only 13th in the Champion Bumper and seventh in the Grade 2 at Aintree, that doesn’t tell the whole story, as Pride Of Lecale shaped a fair bit better than the bare result on both occasions.The Multiplex five-year-old had earlier travelled well when runner-up on his first two starts under rules and the former winning Irish point-to-pointer got off the mark in impressive fashion at Chepstow in February.
Fergal O’Brien’s charge is another future chaser down the line, but should certainly be capable of winning races over hurdles beforehand and should relish an extra half-mile, once sent over timber.
WESTERN CAPE (SEAMUS MULLINS)
An 8-length winner of a Southwell bumper on his debut under rules last October, Western Cape got off the mark at the second time of asking over hurdles, when springing a 33-1 shock at Ascot. He travelled powerfully on both occasions and ran a similar race when runner-up to Duke Des Champs (back at Ascot).
Slightly disappointing on his final start of the campaign in the EBF Final, the fiveyear-old can leave that form behind on his return and looks one to follow in handicap hurdles off his current mark of 128. Chasing is also an option, but he has more to offer over the smaller obstacles, beforehand.
YANWORTH (ALAN KING)
Despite losing his 100% record over hurdles in the Neptune, Yanworth remains a top-class prospect for graded hurdles this season and there ought to be plenty of opportunities for him, given his ability to handle testing ground. A stunning winner at Cheltenham on trials day, the sixyear-old might start in the Coral Ascot Hurdle in November, after which the Relkeel Hurdle would be an option, should connections wish to go up in trip.
Probably capable of winning over shorter, it might be that he develops into a World Hurdle contender as the season unfolds. I’d certainly be disappointed (and a little surprised) if he couldn’t land a couple of valuable races at some stage throughout the season.