The top jockey outlines ten horses he's looking forward to partnering in 2017/18.
This is an exciting time of year, as the new National Hunt season starts to swing into action and all the top winter horses start to get going. There is a lot to look forward to.
I am hoping for a clear run at it now. I missed out on the Cheltenham Festival last season through injury and, while I got back for Aintree, I was injured again at Fairyhouse in the Irish Grand National and I missed out on the Punchestown Festival and on all the summer festivals.
It’s part of it of course, you expect injuries as a National Hunt rider. I’m just hoping that I have had my quota now for a while!
Here are ten horses that I am really looking forward to riding this season.
I don’t know very much about her, but she has a big reputation coming from France and she is an exciting acquisition.
A full-sister to Apple’s Jade, she won a three-year-old hurdle at Vichy in May by eight and a half lengths. I schooled her last week at Nicky Henderson’s and she went well. She could be an exciting juvenile this season and, if she has inherited some of her big sister's ability, she could be very good.
Obviously he was very impressive in the Champion Hurdle and in the Aintree Hurdle last season. He had an unusual preparation for the Champion Hurdle, in that he ran in two novice chases, both of which he won, before going back over hurdles. It was obviously an inspired decision by Nicky and the boss to go back over hurdles, and it was some training performance by Nicky.
He is a worthy champion, he sets the standard for the top two-mile hurdlers this season. A lot does hinge on Faugheen, whether or not he can come back and re-produce his best this season as a nine-year-old. It would be fascinating to see Faugheen and Buveur D’Air take each other on.
You can’t fault what Buveur D’Air has done over hurdles, he is a top-class hurdler and he is the reigning champion. It will be exciting to get going with him again this season.
He won the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase last year on just his second run over fences, he stayed on well to win that day. His jumping just caught him out a little in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, and even then he was only beaten a half a length by Our Duke, who went on to win the Irish National.
He didn’t run after that last season, but he is another with time on his side. He has only raced three times over fences, so he could progress a lot this season. He could be a horse with a big future.
I have ridden the winner of the JCB Triumph Hurdle five times, but he is probably the best juvenile hurdler that I have ever ridden.
He was exciting from day one, he went through last season unbeaten. He won his first five, then he won the Triumph Hurdle, then he won the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree. That’s serious for a juvenile, to win seven times.
It is never easy for a four-year-old, taking on his elders the following year, but if they are really talented, they can do it, and I’d say that it wasn’t a weak division last year, I’d say it was a good bunch of juveniles.
Even on ratings as he stands, he doesn’t have much to find with the top hurdlers. And when you factor in his potential progression as he matures further, he could be right in there among them. Obviously there is a potential clash there with Buveur D’Air, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it!
He ran a massive race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup to finish second to Sizing John. We always thought that he had a performance like that in him.
He won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham the previous season as a novice, so there was never any doubt about his stamina, but he has class as well, and he is still only young. He is only seven now rising eight, and he has done very well physically over the summer. He is ready to go now, and it looks like he is going to start off for the season at Punchestown in the Irish Daily Star Chase next Thursday. We’ll see how he goes there and take it from there.
He did well last season, he won on his hurdling debut at Fontwell in October and then, after getting beaten in a messy enough race at Cheltenham in November, he won nicely at Wincanton in December. Then he finished second in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February, which was a big run for a horse who was so inexperienced in such a big handicap.
He was on track for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he had a little setback just before the race, so he didn’t run there, and he didn’t race again last season.
He goes over fences this season. Paul is very excited about him and thinks that he could make up into one of the leading novice chasers. He is set to start off at Newton Abbot this Friday.
He could be a very good novice hurdler this season. He was impressive in winning his two bumpers, at Naas in January and at Fairyhouse in April, his first in the boss’s colours.
I had a sit on him down in Noel’s last week, and he has a lovely way of going about him. He is a big horse who has lots of scope for progression, and he is from the family of Numbersixvalverde, so he should stay well.
He had a fantastic season last season. Outside of the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, he was faultless.
He won the Long Distance Hurdle, the Long Walk Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle before finishing third in the Stayers’ Hurdle. He just wasn’t as good as he can be at Cheltenham, he just didn’t put up his best performance. Then he went to Punchestown and just got the better of a hell of a battle with the Stayers’ Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon.
Hopefully he can pick up again now where he left off last season. He has won nine of his 10 races since he joined Harry Fry, which is some record. He is just a seriously talented staying hurdler.
He was another top-class hurdler, he was a top-class novice and he won the Ascot Hurdle, the Christmas Hurdle and the Kingwell Hurdle on his first three runs last season. He put up no show at all in the Champion Hurdle, which was obviously disappointing, and I’d say that he wasn’t at his best either at Aintree, it was just his class that got him home in the Liverpool Hurdle.
He has schooled well over fences, so he could be an exciting novice chaser this season. He has enough scope for fences and he had a good enough technique over hurdles, so I am hopeful that he can be at least as good over fences as he was over hurdles. And he is versatile as regards trip, he won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, a sharp two miles, and he won the Liverpool Hurdle over three.