Racing fans, I have something a little different for you to take a look at. The horses that I have listed here are not just a bunch of Cheltenham Festival hopefuls, they are promising horses that I think will do plenty of winning for us throughout the 2023/24 Jumps season. And who knows, there may even be a new superstar hidden away amongst them…
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Sire: Walk In The Park
Dam: Caltra Princess
Trainer: Olly Murphy
Owner: Mrs R J Skan
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the Walk In The Park progeny and Resplendent Grey looks a really nice five-year-old for Olly Murphy. The gelding has taken what I like to call the ‘perfect path' for a newcomer, going from two Bumpers to two Novice Hurdles in the same season, which I feel gives them plenty of experience to go forward with.
Resplendent Grey has taken it all in his stride. He won decisively on debut at Market Rasen (by over eight lengths) and then finished third, behind two subsequent winners, at Huntingdon. So that form works out pretty nicely.
He looked pretty straightforward during both of his Bumpers, but seemingly improved again in his two starts over Hurdles. In the first, he only needed to be pushed out to win by a couple of lengths and it was very impressive. He is a noticeably strong traveller and won again next time out at Perth, putting the race to bed two out and beating an odds on shot from the Fergal O'Brien team.
He's a horse that is showing all the right signs and I like the fact he is so responsive to his jockey. Whenever Sean Bowen asks for a stride, he gets it, if he asks him for an effort, or a turn of foot, he gets it. Even though he may not be up to Graded level, he will win plenty of races and is a nice type to go forward with.
I'd actually like to see Resplendent Grey go Novice Chasing, as he's clearly got the right attitude, but I feel Olly may actually give him another year over Hurdles before taking that step. Whichever path he ultimately goes down, I'm very excited to follow his progress this season.
Sire: Sans Frontieres
Dam: May's Magic
Trainer: Paul Gilligan
Owner: Lynch, Quinn & McGrath
Interestingly, Buddy One is the only Irish runner in my 10 to follow, which is rather unusual. He is trained by Paul Gilligan, who doesn't have a massive stable, but he has a very nice gelding here, and one who still looks relatively unexposed at this stage of his career. In fact, I think there could be a decent Handicap in him this season, based on some of his previous form.
He won a Maiden Hurdle at Fairyhouse in January and backed that up with two runner-up efforts at Limerick and Thurles. Then he headed over for the Cheltenham Festival to contest in the Martin Pipe, running off a mark of just 131 (10st 12lb). He showed clear signs of progression that day, by outrunning his mark and finished third behind Iroko by less than two lengths, it was a huge effort.
You may at the time have thought that was a fluke, but when he turned up at Aintree in April, he bettered that performance, finishing much more strongly than he did at Cheltenham and coming second to Fennor Cross. He travelled smoothly off a 4lb higher mark, which proved to me that he had clear signs of ability and was able to back it up, so by this point he was firmly on my radar.
He had two spins on the Flat during the summer to keep him ticking over and then returned to action over Hurdles at the Galway Festival in August, where he was in great form, finishing fourth in a deep Handicap, off a big weight. He is still relatively unexposed as a six-year-old and is clearly still in good a form, which makes me think he is worth watching closely this season.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Buddy One come over for Cheltenham on New Year's Day and take one of the big Handicaps. He will be a really interesting horse to follow, particularly so if he remains over Hurdles and I'm pretty sure connections will look after his mark until they find a big, valuable Handicap for him. I’m convinced there is a big pot in this lad this season and I think he will go under the radar for the underrated Paul Gilligan team.
Dam: Queen Of The Stage
Trainer: Jonjo O'neill
Owner: T C McKeever
The Jonjo O'Neill team have a nice five-year-old called Land Genie, who is a half-brother to the highest-rated Jumps horse on the planet, Constitution Hill, so he is well worth a follow this season.
I really don't know too much about him at this point, except that he won his only Bumper start to date at Huntingdon and he did it in handy enough fashion. It was what I’d call quite a nice performance, without blowing you away, so he still remains a bit of an enigma at this stage.
Jonjo Jr rode him from the middle of the pack and he always seemed to have plenty in the tank, responding willingly when he was asked for an effort 2f out and winning comfortably enough by a couple of lengths – an experience that will have done him the world of good.
Jonjo O'Neill seems to have some nice recruits for this season at Jackdaws and I’m hopeful that Land Genie is one of the better ones. I’m also pretty sure he will go Novice Hurdling this season and there are sure to be plenty of eyes on him as a close relation of Constitution Hill, including mine. Whatever happens, it will be good to see what he has to offer this coming season.
Dam: Baraka Du Berlais
Trainer: Dan Skelton
Owner: Mr and Mrs J D Cotton
Next up is Dan Skelton's seven-year-old gelding Sail Away, another that I think has a big pot in him this season. He is very lightly-raced for his age and only had two runs last season, after spending nearly 300 days off the track due to minor injuries.
His first start back after that long break was in a four-runner race at Chepstow over 2m 3f, where he made a really big impression on me. The distance was clearly a bit on the short side for him, but he was very competitive and he ran a very credible second to Jetoile, who has gone on to win again since.
That was a very encouraging return to action for Sail Away, but his next start, over the extended three miles at Ayr, impressed me even more, when he bolted up to win by 11 lengths. His mark took a bit of a hit, going up from 136 to 145, but if you go back and watch the race, you’ll see that it’s not at all unreasonable.
A mark of 145 will make him competitive in some decent Graded Handicaps for the upcoming season and providing he remains injury free, he could still prove to be well-handicapped. Especially when you take into account the level of ability he showed in that last run, which was seriously impressive and really put him on my radar.
Sail Away is very lightly raced and I’m certain that Dan Skelton will have his eyes on a big prize for this lad - potentially something like the Plate at the Cheltenham Festival. Time will tell, but I’m keeping a close eye on his path this season. He will win a big one, mark my words.
Dam: Leith Walk
Trainer: Evan Williams
Owner: Mr & Mrs Williams Rucker
Evan Williams has a lovely son of Doyen on his yard, the appropriately named Doyen Star, who really caught my eye in his two Hurdle starts last season. Both runs came at Chepstow, which is form I really like, as it's very similar to Cheltenham. Chepstow is a very tough track to win around, but he managed it nicely, finishing more than two lengths in front on both occasions.
On his November debut he was really green. He was having a look around the whole time, but still jumped really nicely, making smooth headway and taking the lead before the final flight. He was a bit all over the place on the run in, but for a Novice on debut, there was a lot to like about him.
He then went back to Chepstow in February, in a much deeper race and only needed to be pushed out to win, again by just over two lengths. He made all from the front, travelling and jumping really well.
It all seemed very easy for him, he is a real natural and he surely has a bright future ahead of him. The horse he beat that day was Crebilly, from the Jonjo yard, who had plenty of experience over Doyen Star and he has gone on to better things, so the form stacks up nicely too.
I think connections will opt to stay over Hurdles, but I would absolutely love to see him go Chasing this season. He won a Point-to Point back in April last year, by well over two lengths, so I think he could make a smashing Chaser and there have been some good ones in the Doyen family. Doyen Star clearly has a bit of class about him and if he does go the route of Novice Chasing, he may go slightly under the radar, so keep him on side.
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