Proud Northerner Paul Ferguson with some of his favourite local talent
Fergie’s Northern horses to follow in the National Hunt season
I’ve read plenty on social media of late about the lack of Northern based horses in the numerous lists of horses to follow for the forthcoming National Hunt season. So, I thought I’d produce another 10 – nine of which feature in
Jumpers To Follow I must add – who should be worth following in the months ahead. ALL HAIL CAESAR (Rebecca Menzies) A four-year-old by Nathaniel, All Hail Caesar was pitched in deep on his racecourse debut by Becky Menzies, contesting the bumper that concludes the Scottish Grand National meeting at Ayr. He moved well for a long way under Henry Brooke and was beaten just 11 lengths in the end, by the exciting Sebastopol, who featured among last month’s Ten To Follow.
All Hail Caesar is probably more than capable of winning a bumper before he switches to hurdles and given his pedigree, he might be at his best on a relatively decent surface. AYE RIGHT (Harriet Graham) Having won a bumper and shaped with promise in a couple of starts over hurdles last season, Aye Right has been out nice and early this term, recording two victories at Kelso. The five-yearold is a powerful galloper who jumps very well and though life will be tougher from now as he either goes up in grade or carries a double-penalty, he remains a nice long-term prospect. Handicaps will also be considered for Harriet Graham’s Yeats gelding and he is one to look forward to over fences in 12 months’ time. BLACK PIRATE (James Ewart) Another who ran in the bumper at Ayr on Scottish Grand National day, Black Pirate finished runner-up to Sebastopol under a double-penalty and rates a smart prospect for James Ewart. From the family of Hobbs Hill, the six-year-old had earlier won a brace of bumpers in taking fashion. He put up a really good performance on heavy ground on debut at Wetherby, winning what appeared quite a strong race, before following up in a much less competitive affair at Ayr. A former winning Pointer, he should make a big impact in novice hurdles and is clearly versatile in terms of ground. I’M TO BLAME (Keith Dalgleish) Two from two in bumpers last season, I’m To Blame scored at Catterick on debut – beating subsequent winners Going Gold and Return Ticket – before following up under a penalty at Musselburgh. A five-year-old by Winged Love, he moved well on both occasions and probably won with more in hand than the official margin might suggest last time.
Bred to stay a bit further, he looks more than capable of adding to his tally once switched to hurdles in the upcoming weeks. NORTHERN SOUL (Ruth Jefferson) The first of two nice youngsters in the care of trainer Ruth Jefferson, Northern Soul won a Market Rasen bumper at the second time of asking and looks the type who could improve a fair bit for over hurdles over an extra half-mile. Reportedly in need of a decent surface, the five-year-old is a Presenting halfbrother to Attaglance, who completed the Cheltenham and Aintree double in 2012 for the Jefferson yard. A more galloping track should suit, so keep an eye out for him at somewhere like Wetherby or Doncaster. POGUE (Donald McCain) I thought I would include one ‘dark horse’ who has yet to race under Rules and I’ve plumped for Donald McCain’s Pogue, who created a really good impression when winning a maiden Point-to-Point at Oldcastle in May. A mistake at the last probably cost him on debut, but he made amends in no uncertain terms next time, running out a 10-length winner and the grey son of Stowaway is yet another to note in the
novice hurdle division. RETURN TICKET (Ruth Jefferson) The obvious horse to include for the ‘North’ would have been the unbeaten chaser Waiting Patiently, who could easily be the shining light for the region once again this term. It is very much hoped that Ruth Jefferson’s seven-year-old returns to action in the same sort of form that saw him run away with the Grade 1 Ascot Chase in February, after which he was side-lined for the remainder of the season. He would have been too obvious, however, but the same connections have another nice prospect to look forward to, in the shape of Return Ticket, who won on his hurdling debut at Ayr during May. The five-year-old son of Getaway had earlier won a bumper on his second start – third behind the aforementioned I’m To Blame on debut – in impressive fashion at Catterick and he looks to possess plenty of speed, so expect to see him kept to the minimum trip for the time being. Another who wants decent ground, he could be out fairly early before being given a midseason break. UNCLE ALASTAIR (Nicky Richards) The winner of two bumpers the season before last, Uncle Alastair was a faller on his hurdles debut at Ayr, after which he rattled up a hat-trick in novice hurdles, for Nicky Richards and the Rooney’s. Slightly disappointing in a competitive three-runner race at Newcastle (albeit he was conceding 4lbs to --two nice horses) the son of Midnight Legend went on to finish a sound third on his handicap debut at Ayr, and he might well improve once again now he goes over fences. The six-year-old relishes deep ground and looks a nice staying handicap chaser down the line; in the meantime, he ought to win his share in the novice division. UPPERTOWN PRINCE (Donald McCain) Another smart novice chase prospect, Uppertown Prince impressed me more than once last season, notably on his debut for Donald McCain and Tim Leslie, when scoring comfortably at the trainer’s local track, Bangor-OnDee. After a couple of seconds, he won a weak race at Ayr before running a sound race behind Santini (4th) in the Grade 1 Sefton at Aintree. A former winning Irish pointer, the six-year-old appeals as the type to improve now he goes chasing and he should take high rank in that division in the North. He’s quick enough to win over 2m4f before going back up to 3m. WINDSOR AVENUE (Brian Ellison) A half-brother to the same connections’ Ravenhill Road – who, it is hoped, will bounce back to form himself in novice chase company – Windsor Avenue won a couple of bumpers last season and looks another to note in northern novice hurdles. An Irish Points winner before being purchased for £65,000 last December, the Winged Love sixyear-old scored at Sedgefield on his debut under Rules, before following up in a three-runner race at Carlisle. He won in a canter on that occasion – eventually scoring by 24 lengths – and the runner-up advertised the form by winning a novice hurdle at Warwick in early-October. Windsor Avenue looks a stayer in the making and has raced exclusively on testing ground to date.