Racing Ahead


Top tipsters offers early thoughts about the new Jump season


While the Flat season might not be over, I have been fully immersed in the upcoming National Hunt campaign, spending the summer putting together the 15th edition of Jumpers To Follow. In October’s magazine, I will pen my customary 10-to-follow for the season, but in the meantime I thought I would focus on the fillies and mares who could be set to make a big impact during the coming months.

With a better programme in place for mares these days and additional races added at the Cheltenham Festival, the strength-in-depth is rightfully growing in terms of mares in training. Honeysuckl­e and Put The Kettle On have shown that beating the boys is possible, too, while the argument as to whether such high-class mares should receive such a hefty sex-allowance is right. My view in that regard would be that there aren’t too many at that exalted level and that they should still receive an allowance.

While the following bunch might not develop into Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase contenders in years to come, I certainly think that they will win races in the months (and years) ahead, so take note:

The first person that springs to mind when looking at mares’ events is Willie Mullins. The all-conquering trainer has won Cheltenham’s David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle on nine occasions and the Dawn Run Novices’ Hurdle five times (there have been only six runnings of that particular race). Clearly a master at buying the right type of mare – partly down to leading bloodstock agent, Harold Kirk – year after year Mullins seems to produce a constant conveyor belt of high-quality fillies and mares.

Despite not winning either Festival contest this year, last season was no different in the bumper division, as he was responsibl­e for several winning mares. A winner at Grade 2 and Grade 3 level, Champion Bumper sixth Grangee was probably the pick, whilet Belle Metal beat the boys in the Listed four-year-old bumper at Limerick. Those two are on the small side (which isn’t to say they won’t develop into smart hurdlers), whereas Brandy Love is a former Point-to-Point winner who created a lasting impression on her Rules debut at Fairyhouse. She then finished third behind stable-mate Grangee at the Dublin Racing Festival, but I’m convinced she is better than that bare form and will prove that to be the case in the coming months. Clearly at home on deep ground, she jumped really well when winning her Point as a four-year-old and looks a smart prospect, who possesses plenty of scope for improvemen­t.

Due to the wet weather, Mullins was able to get a run into some of his brighter young prospects during May and won five bumpers during the month. Among that quintet were the Cheveley Park-owned pair of geldings Classic Getaway and Grangeclar­e West, while he also introduced another exciting filly in the shape of Ashroe Diamond.

A four-year-old by Walk In The Park, she ran out an impressive 14-lengths winner (runner-up won next time) and although she has subsequent­ly been beaten at the Galway Festival, she remains a highly-promising youngster. A four-year-old filly taking on older geldings is never easy, but she again travelled kindly for Patrick Mullins and should be difficult to beat when reverting to her own sex. She could be one for the Listed Muckelmeg bumper at Gowran in the early weeks of the season, although I believe that sending her straight over hurdles is the more likely option. Given her pedigree, she might improve for returning to softer ground.

Staying in Ireland and a couple of Point-to-Point winners to note are Call Her Now and Happy d’Ex. The former is a four-year-old by Presenting who won at Necarne for Cormac Doyle and has since joined the stable of Lorna Fowler (cost £240,000). She jumped well in the closing stages and could be seen in a bumper, before going hurdling.

Happy d’Ex was a winner for Denis Murphy and although she beat only two rivals, did so in taking fashion. The

daughter of Saddler Maker showed a fine turn of foot to clear away and was subsequent­ly purchased by Gordon Elliott (£195,000) on behalf of KTDA Racing, who enjoyed Cheltenham Festival success this year, courtesy of Mount Ida. She looks to possess plenty of pace, so should be up to winning a mares’ bumper for her new connection­s.

Brian Acheson (aka Robcour) has been busy in the transfer market during the closed-season and he has taken ownership of wide-margin bumper winner Jumping Jet. A winner at Gowran Park by 29-lengths on debut for Barry Fitzgerald, she is a Getaway five-year-old and the form of that race has worked out well, with the second winning next time (then finished runner-up in a Grade 3 at Punchestow­n before the aforementi­oned Grangee) and both the third and ninth home won bumpers before the season finished, too. She is training at Cullentra House with Denise Foster (with the license of Gordon Elliott soon to be reinstated) and she might want stepping up in trip over hurdles in due course.

Another who will be sporting the Robcour silks is Foxy Girl, a three-yearold filly who finished runner-up on her sole start for David Cottin in France. She is by Saint des Saints and hails from the family of smart juvenile hurdler Far West, although I believe that she will be given plenty of time to acclimatis­e at her new surroundin­gs. Now in training with Henry de Bromhead, she was beaten just over a length by then stable-mate Matilda du Berlais, who won a Listed race by 10 lengths on her second start and then just failed to confirm the form with the runner-up in the Grade 3 Prix Sagan. She boasts strong form and looks an exciting recruit.

Switching to England and the pick of last season’s crop of bumper mares is Elle est Belle, who finished third in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and runner-up in the Grade 2 at Aintree. Dan Skelton’s five-year-old had earlier won in a canter at the Merseyside track and dead-heated in a Listed event at Cheltenham, where she had Allavina and Martello Sky back in fourth and fifth, respective­ly.

That pair won three times apiece over hurdles last season and the former rates a nice prospect for fences for trainer Olly Murphy, so the form is strong and she improved on that in the spring. She was further back than ideal in a falsely-run Champion Bumper, but kept on well and ran a similar race at Aintree, where she was beaten only by Me Too Please, who won a maiden on the Flat the following month.

A speedy sort, she will be campaigned over the minimum trip and ought to be difficult to beat in mares’ novice hurdles en route to the festival. As she showed at the festival, she is also more than capable of taking on the boys.

Third and fifth at Aintree were Miss Lamb and Wheres Maud Gone, and they are another pair to note in the same division. The former won

bumpers in January and November of 2020, then split Eileendove­r and Grangee in a Listed event at Market Rasen. On better terms, she reversed form with the winner at Aintree and she should make up into a decent novice hurdler in the North.

Wheres Maud Gone had won impressive­ly in Ireland before joining the burgeoning yard of Laura Morgan, for whom she made a winning start at Ayr, beating Condesa (gave 7lbs) who was placed in a Listed event next time. A strong-traveller, she wore a tonguetie at Aintree (suggesting that there might be a slight issue with her breathing) and didn’t enjoy the smoothest of passages around the side of the course. She is another who can win more races, now she goes hurdling.

Other notable winners in the bumper division include Credo, who won twice for Anthony Honeyball, making all at Plumpton and Fontwell, and Marsh Wren, who was successful on her racecourse debut for trainer Stuart Edmunds. And, one more from the bumper division (there were plenty more to choose from) is the Ian Williams-trained Walk In The Storm, who finished runner-up on debut at Worcester, but should be more than capable of winning an early-season bumper before hurdling is considered. She split the well-bred I Spy A Diva and subsequent Ludlow winner Malaita, shaping with plenty of encouragem­ent and she herself has a very nice pedigree, being a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Tornado Flyer.

Finally, I thought that I would wrap things up by nominating a couple of mares to note in handicap company, starting with the Warren Greatrextr­ained Timeless Beauty.

She cost £100,000 after winning her Irish Point-to-Point and perhaps, didn’t quite live up to expectatio­ns in the early part of last season. That resulted in her being handed an opening mark of 99, which she duly made look rather lenient when winning in heavy ground at Ayr, and although she couldn’t back that up in two subsequent starts, she remains a promising sort for chasing.

A huge mare by Yeats, she begins the new campaign on a mark of 107 and should win races over fences when the mud is flying.

And, another to note under similarly testing conditions is Fontaine Collonges, who ploughed through the mud to beat No Risk des Flos (won again next time) in heavy ground at Leicester on her third start over hurdles. Twice a non-runner during February, we didn’t get to see her again, but she remains completely unexposed and begins the season on a mark of 116. A chaser on looks, whether she goes straight over fences or heads down the handicap hurdle route remains to be seen, but it will be a shock if the Venetia Williams-trained six-year-old doesn’t add to her tally this winter.

There are plenty more mares who appear in this year’s edition of Jumpers To Follow, which can be preordered now and is due for publicatio­n on Friday 10th September https://weatherbys­

 ??  ?? Timeless Beauty
Timeless Beauty
 ??  ?? Honeysuckl­e and Rachael Blackmore win the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle
Honeysuckl­e and Rachael Blackmore win the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle

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