Jumps Season - At The Races


    Graham Dench reflects on the highlights of another memorable National Hunt season.
  • Features

It’s never easy establishing an accurate pecking order among the hundreds of horses who begin in bumpers, but you would struggle to find a better candidate for top honours over obstacles than Get In The Queue.

The five-year-old was briefly a leading candidate for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, and he would surely have gone close there, but Harry Fry chose to swerve that in favour of a valuable race at Newbury the following week, where he had no trouble making it three wins from three starts and in the process gave the retiring Noel Fehily a perfect send off. 

Fry had a second string to his bow too in King Roland, who put up very strong performances at both Uttoxeter and Ffos Las. The Cheltenham bumper went to another terrific prospect in Envoi Allen, trained by Gordon Elliott for the Cheveley Park Stud - a growing force over jumps and owner of another leading bumper horse in Malone Road, who missed the second half of the season through injury, and successful also of Festival winner A Plus Tard. 

Envoi Allen, who has already won a point-to-point and looks a proper jumping type, had to give the Willie Mullins-trained Blue Sari a chunky 8lb weight-for-age allowance, and he was game when the chips were down. 

The Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill was a close third at Cheltenham, with the winner’s stable-mate Abacadabras fourth before going on to run second in the Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown. 

Abacadabras was beaten at Punchestown only by the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old mare Colreevy, who is a rarity in that her bumper career has been stretched over two seasons and she has run in six such races, winning three.

She has to go over jumps now and her trainer is of course a master at placing a classy mare, so she is one we will surely hear plenty more of. Elliott’s team also includes impressive Goffs Land Rover Bumper winner Festival D’Ex, while Mullins and Joseph O’Brien also have strong teams as usual, but there were a couple of particularly good prospects in two of Ireland’s smaller stables.

Peter Fahey has Punchestown Grade 3 winner Gypsy Island for JP McManus. Grand National-winning trainer Martin Brassill, who enjoyed Cheltenham Festival success with City Island, has fellow Punchestown winner Longhouse Poet for the same owners.

Back in Britain Alan King reckoned he had a particularly good team, which included Aintree mares’ winner The Glancing Queen, while Paul Nicholls believes fellow Grade 2 Aintree bumper winner McFabulous, a half-brother to Waiting Patiently, is a class act for novice hurdles.

They can’t all be champions, and there will be dozens of others probably held in similarly high regard at home, but some of these will surely be challenging for top honours over hurdles.

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