• Top 10 Novice Hurdlers

    Let's have a go at following ten horses this season – with all the pitfalls that entails!

    We are hoping for ten horses that fall into the category of proven performers at the top level of potential top-level performers. A bit like your Fantasy Football team, it helps if we can go a bit left field too.

    As such, we have tried to be a little bit original – as well as going with some of the greats. The chances are a setback or two will hurt our Ten To Follow dreams – but right now, everything is possible.

    And when the season is over, hopefully we don't have eggs on our faces! Choosing ten established novice hurdlers to follow this season proved tricky…

    1. Annamix

    The Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham is a race Willie Mullins snared in 2013 (Champagne Fever), 2014 (Vautour) and 2015 (Douvan). While he failed to win the race since, he supplied the hot favourite each year in Min, Melon and Getabird.

    Another Mullins French recruit, Annamix was highly touted last year and, as happens with a lot of novices for these connections, his price shortened considerably prior to a debut in Ireland that never happened. Having suffered a knock, connections appear to have taken a cautious approach to his recovery, giving him time and preserving his novice status for this season. 

    2. Blackbow

    Blackbow was an outstanding bumper performer last season, winning twice and second in the Punchestown Grade 1 Bumper. This is quite impressive as, being a former pointer with plenty of size, he is not designed for bumpers. He should stay well over hurdles and certainly make into a high-class novice, perhaps ending up in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham. 

    3. Coeur Sublime

    Coeur Sublime was purchased for €260,000 after winning his only start, a 1m2f Navan maiden for Peter Fahey. His new connections, the Chris Jones/Gordon Elliott axis, had a smart juvenile hurdler previously in Mega Fortune, for whom fate unfortunately was not favourable. However, this son of Elusive Pimpernel produced a professional performance in winning at Down Royal and looks a smart hurdler in the making. 

    4. Daly Tiger

    Gigginstown House Stud does not have a huge number of high-class bumper horses from last season going hurdling this season. Rapid Escape has died, while Felix Desjy ran poorly at Navan on his second hurdling start but had excuses. Daly Tiger, quite a smart sort for Noel Meade last year, has been off since December but is really highly regarded and looks an out-and-out two-miler. 

    5. Dinons

    Having failed in five goes to win a bumper – then again, Moscow Flyer failed to win one – Dinons hardly seemed anything out of the ordinary going hurdling this season and he fell at Bellewstown on his jumping debut at odds of 5-1. 

    Incredibly, he is five from five since, winning by an aggregate margin of over 80 lengths and he took his form to  a new level at Cheltenham last time, suggesting the Albert Bartlett will be right up his street come March. He is trained by Gordon Elliott and runs in the familiar Tim O'Driscoll colours. 

    6. Getaway John

    The Getaway-bred gelding fluffed his lines at Punchestown at the Festival but he had won there previously and followed up at Fairyhouse. A relatively inexpensive purchase as a three-year-old, he looks likely to stay very well for Gordon Elliott. 

    7. Jon Snow

    Jon Snow won his third start when trained in France, coming from the barn of Fabrice Chappet. Rich Ricci now owns the son of Le Havre, which is in training with Willie Mullins and the early reports are most favourable. 

    Remarkably, Mullins has only won the Triumph Hurdle once, with Scolardy in 2002, but he may have a lively contender in 2019. Jon Snow is interesting on pedigree, being the product of a half-sister to Champion Hurdle winner Binocular. 

    8. Lethal Steps

    Lethal Steps brings a pretty exceptional level of Flat form to the table, having joined Gordon Elliott for Cheveley Park. He won twice for Ger Lyons and was beaten two lengths in a Listed race on his final British start, having moved to Andrew Balding.

    While down the field in a Premier Handicap on his Irish debut, he could be anything over hurdles if he gets two miles, having seemingly stayed ten furlongs on the level. 

    9. Rhinestone

    Rhinestone slammed Sancta Simona in a Thurles bumper before finishing second to Blackbow at Leopardstown. He won by a deceptively snug short head on his hurdling debut at Naas and, while it is difficult to predict where he may go from here, he has the gears to do good things in the jumping game.  

    10. Sancta Simona

    Willie Mullins has dominated the mares' novice hurdle at Cheltenham since its inception. Sancta Simona may indeed find that the biggest danger to her claims come March comes from within her own yard but she is certainly very exciting, winning her maiden hurdle readily and bolting up in a Down Royal Grade 3 in November. 

    She travels like a class act and looks to be crying out for races strongly run. Longer term, she has the size to jump fences.

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