Jumps Season - At The Races

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Rising Stars

    Jamie Lynch highlights 12 youngsters with the potential to reach the top this season.
  • Features

No sooner had the Cheltenham Festival finished than the lockdown began, and, in racing, don’t we know it, never let forget it by the blinkered band who believe that one led to the other.

But the critical consequence of the abandonment of the spring festivals was that certain league tables were left undefined and unrefined, particularly amongst the new-wave novices. Plenty presented themselves at Cheltenham, of course, but we enter a new season with fewer novices unmasked than usual.

Therefore, this list of a dozen novices to follow – comprising both hurdlers and chasers – attempts to dig a little deeper to unearth the lurkers in the less-obvious layer, though there’s also a handful of high-profile horses who could hit the big time.

Horse profiles

Appreciate It (IRE)

The Champion Bumper is always the first port of call for finding the headline hurdlers of the future, and the 2019 edition featured a short-priced favourite, Appreciate It, who lost the battle but may win the war. Paddy Mullins was, in some way, the architect of his own downfall, because the month before he’d found the key to Ferny Hollow, who swooped similarly late at Cheltenham under Townend to overhaul Appreciate It.

What was unusual about Appreciate It is that he’d earlier won a bumper over 2½m, not to mention an Irish point before then, so it was a wonder he had the pace to lead the Champion Bumper field for much of the straight, and that augurs very well for his hurdling prospects. The sky’s the limit for him this season, already the ante-post favourite for both the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett.

Boothill (IRE)

The horse who did best of the British (in fourth) in the Champion Bumper was Third Time Lucki, who beat Bothwell Bridge at Huntingdon on his way there; and so it says plenty about Boothill that he put away Bothwell Bridge by an even wider margin at Kempton on his debut in February. It was his debut under Rules, but Boothill had been runner-up in two Irish points, the reason he cost £125,000, along with his pedigree.

He’s by Presenting and from the family of Irish Raptor and Frantic Tan, who both won high-end handicap chases over long distances, all of which suggests Boothill should have loads of stamina and therefore loads of scope. He’ll quickly climb the ladder in novice hurdles.

Cobbler's Way (IRE)

Hopefully the problem that prompted his pulling up in the Albert Bartlett – for which he was just 14/1 – was just a short-lived setback, because Cobbler’s Way always had bigger ambitions for bigger obstacles. If you designed a horse for fences then it would look a lot like Cobbler’s Way, and if you picked a stable for him then it would probably be Henry de Bromhead’s, an academy of advancement for chasers.

Latest Exhibition was beaten just a neck in the Albert Bartlett, and Cobbler’s Way had chased that one home in the Grade 1 Golden Cygnet (2¾m) at Leopardstown, when getting into the sort of rhythm that will serve him very well over fences. He has all the tools to go to the top as a chaser.

Video Form
28 Dec 2018:

Espoir De Romay (FR)

In just a year of racing, March to March, Espoir De Romay went from being beaten 20 lengths in a Ludlow novice to contesting the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival. He finished only in mid-division at Cheltenham, but taking the inside route didn’t help, and he earned his place with a runaway win in a handicap at Wincanton, where he showed the sort of qualities that will make him an even better chaser.

He certainly has the size for the job, and the style, being a straightforward and strong-galloping sort, on top of which he’s completely unexposed at 3m+. He’s a good bet to flourish in novice handicap chases this season.

Video Form
30 Nov 2019:

Lord Baddesley (IRE)

Last season was a good one for Chris Gordon, who matched his previous best for winners (30), while hitting a new high for strike-rate, and doing particularly well with novice hurdles, principally Go Whatever and Highway One O Two. The latter went from strength to strength and completed a hat-trick in the Grade 2 Dovecote, after a foundation of two runs in bumpers the previous season.

The two foundation runs in bumpers by Lord Baddesley were several notches above what Highway One O Two showed at the same stage, beaten just a neck on his debut at Worcester at 40/1 and then inhibited by the slow pace at Kempton four months later. Those building blocks suggest a bright future, for a horse – and a stable – that’s still somewhat under the radar.

Video Form
15 Nov 2020:
2 Oct 2020:
23 Oct 2019:

Ragnar Lodbrok (IRE)

In two bumpers, both in December, Ragnor Lodbrok was beaten by five horses. They included the first two in the Champion Bumper, Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It, and Eric Bloodaxe, who was top of the division at the turn of the year. What’s more, neither race got to the bottom of Ragnar Lodbrok, set a lot to do at Fairyhouse and diluted by the slow pace at Leopardstown, where he went off only 5/2 against Appreciate It.

That was it for the first phase, but that’s rather the point, in that it was just the first phase, and all of his potential is still plugged, awaiting the cork to be popped. Under the masterful management of Gordon Elliott, it’s easy to envisage Ragnar Lodbrok making a Graded-class novice hurdler.

Sizable Sam

  • 6-y-o; chestnut gelding
  • Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy - Halo Flora (Alflora)
  • Trained by: J Scott
  • Last Race: Newbury, 21 Feb 2021 13:50
  • Result: 5/16, prominent, pressed leader 8th, led 3 out, headed 2 out, rallied at last until no extra flat, lost fourth close home
  • View full form

Selecting horses to follow is sometimes as much about trainers to follow, and I’ve always been a fan of Jeremy Scott, whose numbers weren’t quite so good last season, but from fewer runners, and his general trajectory is still upwards. It’s horses like Sizable Sam that could propel Scott to the next level.

Two runs in bumpers, three months apart, was the perfect platform for Sizable Sam, beaten a short head at Wincanton before comfortably containing favourite Cadzand at Warwick, both sharp tracks, when there’s a feeling that he’ll shine for a stiffer stamina test, sizable by name and by nature. Sam and Scott could well help each other hit the heights this season.

The Big Getaway

Getaway or Breakaway. One of “The Bigs” is a must for any short-list this season, given their paired-up potential for chasing. The Big Breakaway ran very well in the Ballymore, but The Big Getaway was still 6½ lengths ahead of him, in third, both in the jetwash of Envoi Allen.

You couldn’t find a more ready-made chaser than The Big Getaway, from his background (point winner) to his build (a huge horse) and his sweeping stride. It’s hard to see the 20/1 for the RSA lasting if he does what expected when first faced with fences, and it goes almost without saying that he’s with the right trainer to take him to the top.

The Edgar Wallace (IRE)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Flemensfirth - Annalecky (Bob's Return)
  • Trained by: K C Bailey
  • Last Race: Doncaster, 29 Jan 2021 13:32
  • Result: 2/12, prominent, nit fluent 4th, every chance when not fluent 3 out, soon hung left, beaten and switched right flat, kept on
  • View full form

In a time of many Mullins monsters, Black Hercules always went rather underrated and unnoticed, yet he appeared at three Cheltenham Festivals: he finished fourth in the Champion Bumper, was beaten favourite in the Albert Bartlett, and won the 2016 JLT by 4 lengths from Bristol De Mai. Such a career is a recommendation for the genes and means of his half-brother, The Edgar Wallace, as well as the reason he cost €140,000.

Form figures of 3-2-1 in bumpers speak of the development of The Edgar Wallace in his formative phase, giving Adrimel a race at Doncaster prior to an easy win in the mud at Hereford, purposeful under positive tactics, looking ready and very able for the next challenge of hurdling.

Video Form
29 Jan 2021:
20 Nov 2020:
16 Mar 2020:
19 Feb 2020:

Thunderstruck (IRE)

A speculative one, but whether Thunderstruck stays hurdling or goes chasing, we haven’t seen anything like the best of him yet. In six runs so far, he has finished second in two bumpers and two novices, unlucky to meet Enrilo at Wincanton and King Roland at Exeter.

For his handicap debut, he was upped in trip (to 3m) and thrown in at the deep end, for a well-contested 0-145 at Newbury, where he moved with menace before an awkward landing at the third-last put paid to his chance. The fact he’s a point winner adds to the appeal of fences, but, either way, there are plenty of options for him, and plenty going for him.

Video Form
6 Nov 2019:
24 Feb 2019:

Milvale (IRE)

Sandy Thomson returned his best figures last season, with wins up as well as strike-rate. It took until February for Milvale to add to that tally, but it was a wide-margin win that signalled even better days ahead. The catalyst for the improvement at Kelso, on his handicap debut, was an increased test of stamina, no coincidence considering he’s a half-brother to Emperor’s Choice, winner of the 2014 Welsh National, a race in bottomless ground over 8 minutes in the completion.

There’ll be a lot of races this winter – hurdles or maybe fences for him – that will tap into that endless endurance all the more, which makes him one to follow in the North, for his talented trainer.

Video Form
6 Dec 2019:
12 Oct 2019:

Muckamore (IRE)

  • 7-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Sholokhov - Gales Return (Bob's Return)
  • Trained by: N A Twiston-Davies
  • Last Race: Leicester, 18 Feb 2021 12:30
  • Result: PU/8, led narrowly, mistake 1st, headed narrowly 5th, led after 7th, headed 9th, led 12th, ridden before 2 out, headed before last, soon weakened, pulled up after jumping the last
  • View full form

He came up against two good horses on his first two starts, namely Imperial Alcazar and Southfield Harvest, hence the reason Muckamore was sent off at 5/2-on at Taunton, on the last day before racing’s lockdown. He barely broke sweat to take care of Vinnie’s Getaway, by 11 lengths, and put some gloss on his graduation. But that’s just the beginning.

He’s a candidate for an early move to chasing, given that he looks to have the size for it, on top of which he’s an Irish point winner, and he’ll be 7 at the turn of the year. Whether it’s hurdles or fences, he’s the sort to quickly climb the handicap ladder.

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