Updated: Nov 22, 2021
The National Hunt season is in full flow, and it’s only going to get better! So I decided it was time to pick my ‘Ten to Follow’. I wanted to go against the grain a little and choose some up-and-coming horses that might get overlooked, rather than going for the same, proven, top-class horses that many others do. I've chosen several lightly raced horses, alongside others, who I think are well handicapped and have a big-race win in them. Some have had a go at a high level already, whilst others are still learning their trade. Will they flop? Or will they go on to bigger things? Let’s find out!
A progressive type last season, winning the Tolworth impressively by 12 lengths and heading into Cheltenham unbeaten in three starts over hurdles since moving to Harry Fry. A below-par performance in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, though, has seen him absent from the racetrack since. The trainer could not explain why he ran so poorly that day, as reflected by his strong position in the market, and they have taken their time to ensure he is completely sound and is training well for the coming season. He looks like an interesting horse going forward and no doubt is still a prospect for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival. His 3 wins prior to the Cheltenham mishap saw him win by a combined total of 27.5 lengths under jockey Sean Bowen, earning an OR of 142. The option to run over the larger obstacles remains one of interest and opens further possibilities going forward. Providing he can put his last race behind him, there is no reason he can't continue to make progress this season and develop into a top-class hurdler. He currently holds a provisional entry in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on 27th November and testing ground looks the way forward for him.
Go Dante –
A lightly raced yet promising horse for the Olly Murphy contingent, Go Dante has looked impressive in both runs so far (his debut bumper and on hurdling debut). On his debut in March earlier this year, he showed a good attitude and turn of foot to win by some 7.5 lengths, despite his inexperience. He travelled through the race well and went clear after hitting the front. It is unclear what exactly he beat in that race, but he put it to bed comfortably. He was then off the course for 7 months before returning last month for his hurdling debut at Bangor. Again going off as the favourite, he forged on with one other before being left in the lead 2 out. Despite only having one race prior, he jumped and stuck to the task well, pulling further clear and showing no signs of inexperience, eventually winning by 18 lengths. The result would've been closer had his closest challenger not fallen, but he looked to have the better of them upon jumping the second to last fence, anyway. Two very impressive performances on softish ground have set him up nicely for some Novice hurdling, and he had an entry in a Grade 2 bumper at the Grand National meeting in April but was a non-runner on veterinary advice, so is clearly well regarded.
Another talented-looking horse for the Olly Murphy stable, it might pay to keep tabs on Copperless this season. After a tricky start to his racing career (requiring wind surgery after one start) and not taking to hurdling perhaps quite as easily as everyone had expected, this gelding has kicked on well since the turn of the year. 3 runs so far in 2021 have resulted in 2 wins, which would probably have been 3 if not for falling 2 out at Aintree in April. The first came on good ground at Taunton in March where he showed a good turn of foot to pull away on the run-in, before the unfortunate fall 2 out, when still going easily, in a Class 2 amateur race. His big win, though, came most recently in May where he won readily a Grade 3 event at Haydock, quickening clear from some well-rated opposition. That was a very impressive win, and if kicking off the winter campaign in similar form, could be hard to stop. The pedigree isn't to be frowned at either, with his sire (Kayf Tara) a 3-time stayer of the year on the flat, and his dam (Presenting Copper) being a handy 2m-2m4f hurdler/chaser herself. No fancy entries yet, but it might not be long before we see him fighting with the best!
Stage Star –
A very promising horse for Paul Nicholls, Stage Star has shown a good attitude and the ability to go with it. With a nice pedigree combining the sire Fame And Glory, and dam Sparky May (sire Gr1 winner at 2, 3, 4, and 5, dam Gr2 winner over hurdles) this horse looks to have a bright future, and is a horse I have shares in too! His bumper career started well, winning on debut easily by 7 lengths, before finishing a close 2nd to the also talented Knappers Hill in a Listed event at Ascot. He then ran another solid race, again behind Knappers Hill, in a Grade 2 at the Aintree Grand National meeting, finishing a very impressive 3rd. Fast forward to last month and we find Stage Star making his hurdles debut. It was never in doubt, after some very slick jumping, as he went clear approaching the last and was eased down approaching the line. The rest of the field finished well tailed off whilst Stage Star still had a lot to give. It looks as though the Supreme Hurdle could be the aim at Cheltenham next year, and with more experience, there is no reason this ‘star’ won’t shine bright come March.
One for the Kim Bailey collective this time (who has a strong team of young horses) and another that looks to have bags of potential going forward. He moved to Kim Bailey’s yard after easily winning a point-to-point late last year and straight away stated his intent when winning a Warwick bumper from the front by 17 lengths. That form has since been franked, with the 3rd and 6th position horses winning over hurdles in the spring. He's been off the track for 274 days since that impressive victory and recently made his comeback in a maiden hurdle at Lingfield. It didn’t quite go to plan, though, and despite being the favourite, was beaten 7.75 lengths back in 3rd. The ground was not as testing as in the bumper that he won, nor was his jumping slick, which are all plausible reasons for the poor performance. Inexperience may have been a factor and I’m happy to draw a line through the run. A longer trip could suit going forward, and if brushing up on his jumping, there is no reason he couldn't become a graded horse in the future. It would be surprising if he didn't develop into a smart performer with a few more runs under his belt.
Silver Forever –
Another for the Paul Nicholls team, this time with slightly more experience. Silver Forever started promisingly in Bumpers and Novice Hurdles during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. She won 5 of the 9 races she contested (including a Listed event) and placed in the other 4. She was then, however, absent from the track for 670 days before making her return to Newbury earlier this month to go chasing. She faced only one other rival in Imperial Alcazar, who was by no means easy opposition, but showed no signs of rustiness as she got the job done readily by 6 lengths. Despite her opponent opting to make the running, Silver Forever stuck with him well and showed that she still had what it takes, pulling clear on the run-in. It might not have gone completely to plan for her so far, but Paul Nicholls stuck with her (which tells you all that you need to know) and she has made a very impressive introduction to chasing. She looks like a real gutsy horse that Paul and his team can have a lot of fun with this coming season and hopefully she will get some chances at the top level. Over to you Silver!
Another horse on this list for Owners Group that I have shares in, but a first for Nicky Henderson. Fable joined Nicky’s yard after a comprehensive 12 length victory in a point race in September last year when left in the clear at the last. Her first taste of action for him saw her finish a brave 2nd to the more experienced and equally talented Rose Of Arcadia at Wincanton, finishing well. A similar performance saw her win 2nd time out at Huntingdon. Her most recent course appearance, though, was in March at Haydock, where upped in trip she won comfortably by 8.5 lengths, making all the running. The form of the 2nd to Rose of Arcadia has since worked out well, as the latter has run respectably at Class 2 and Group level. Nicky Henderson said she doesn't show much at home, but he thinks a lot of her, and she does her talking on the track where it matters. It's unclear where her limit lies, however, I think she could have a bright future and it will be interesting to see how she gets on over the winter period. Fable’s sire was a high-class stayer, so trips of 3m+ look sure to suit going forward. It looks likely that chasing will be an option later in the season.
7 down, 3 to go, and we might have another Goshen on our hands here! Shallwehaveonemore is a 4-year-old for the Gary Moore team, running in the same colours as their high-class, if not quirky, hurdler Goshen. This horse looks to have a nice pedigree, being sired by Authorized, a multiple Group 1 flat winner for Peter Chapple-Hyam. Winning the Racing Post Trophy, Derby and Juddmonte International, Authorized was a lightly raced yet talented horse that accumulated over £1 million in prize money from just 7 runs. He has also sired several smart jumpers, including the likes of Tiger Roll, Nichols Canyon, and, of course, Goshen. Shallwehaveonemore was acquired for a lowly £7,000 and his owner boasts a 50% strike rate with his 3 jumps horses to date. He’s beaten the Nicky Henderson trained Walking On Air comfortably in a bumper and followed up recently with a 2nd on his hurdles debut behind the potentially smart Kandoo Kid, finishing ahead of the also potentially smart Peking Rose in 3rd. He ran slightly free that day, and if learning to settle better, could be a force to be reckoned with going forward.
Young Buck –
Horse number 3 for the Paul Nicholls team here comes in the form of Young Buck, a horse running in the same colours as the mighty Big Bucks! Sired by the excellent Yeats, the 4-time Ascot Gold Cup winner and leading NH sire, this horse has a lot going for him as a staying Novice Chaser. Despite already being 7, he is a lightly raced horse who has shown plenty of ability over hurdles, never out of the top 3 before unseating last time. He was travelling best and 2 lengths ahead with 3 to jump, before sprawling on landing and unseating jockey Sean Bowen. Alaphilippe was the eventual winner of that race and has since run a respectable 5th in a Grade 1 Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, so had he finished the race and won, that form has substance. We haven’t seen him since February and he doesn't hold any fancy race entries, but a rating of 133 looks well within his reach and is something he could exploit going forwards. Fingers crossed he can resume his progress when next seen!
Star Gate –
The last horse on this list is Star Gate for the Evan Williams team. Despite only having 5 runs so far, this horse has already achieved a rating of 147 after finishing only behind the impressive Bravemansgame in a Grade 1 Novices' Hurdle last year. The lead-up to that run was also very impressive, winning the Ballymore Winter Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) at Sandown by 8.5 lengths, and easily winning his debut maiden by 6.5 lengths. He was acquired by Evan Williams following a win in a point-to-point event at Belharbour in February last year and has made good progress in each start since. He has travelled strongly through each race, and despite finishing 10 lengths behind Bravemansgame, looked good for a long way. We will probably see him to best effect on testing ground, and they will probably aim him at Novice Chases this season. The rating of 147 doesn't look anywhere near his limit, with the 3rd placed horse in the Novices’ Hurdle now a Listed winner. It will be interesting to see just how far he can go this season.
So that’s it for my 10 to follow for this coming National Hunt season. There are a lot of talented up-and-coming horses out there, but these were the ten that took my eye! Are there any you would've included on this list? Let me know down below!