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Horses to Look For In the 2015/16 Jumps Season

By Kory Walker in Sports
| October 10, 2015 12:00 am PDT
Horse Jumping Hurdle

This weekend sees the Totepool Chepstow Jumps Festival take place at Chepstow. For many in the horse racing industry, it’s this meeting that marks the real start of the new National Hunt season. With the ground getting softer, and the nights drawing in, the schedule of jumps races is about to get underway in earnest.

I enjoy the jumps season much more than I do the flat season. I don’t mind flat racing at all, and indeed Royal Ascot is one of my favorite meets, but the jumps are just that much more exciting for me. Picking winners is generally harder of course, although I tend to find there are more opportunities for finding value bets.

In this post I’m going to list a few horses that I think are worth following this season. I’m not promising that they’re going to win all their races, or even any of them, but they are certainly ones to keep an eye on in my opinion.

Annie Power

  • 7 year old
  • Mare
  • Trained by Willie Mullins

Annie Power seems like a logical horse to start with, as she is widely considered to be one of the most promising National Hunt mares for many a year. She was trained by Jim Bolger originally, but after being sold in 2012 she was moved to Mullins’ yard. Since then, she has a fabulous record over hurdles.

From 11 starts she has won nine, and that record includes three victories in Grade 1 races.  Her two defeats have both come in high profile races at Cheltenham – the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in 2014 and the Mares’ Hurdle in 2015 – but she was embarrassed in neither. Her stamina seemed to just get the better of her in 2014, while in 2015 she looked well set until falling at the final fence.

There has been talk of her moving from hurdles to chasing, but I’m not sure that will happen this season. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her entered in the Mares’ Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in fact. Either way, she’s definitely one to watch and I expect her to post more victories in the coming months.

Bellshill

  • 5 year old
  • Gelding
  • Trained by Willie Mullins

Bellshill was running in point-to-point races less than two years ago, but he now has a full season of bumpers behind him. He was raced in five bumpers last season, starting at Thurles where he made a winning debut. Although his next two performances were not particularly impressive, his two subsequent runs definitely caught the eye.

He finished a credible second in a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree, and within three weeks he had claimed another victory. This one came at the Punchestown Festival, in the Champion Bumper, beating the well-fancied Disko.

I think there is further improvement to come from this gelding, and I’ll be looking out for his entries. An impressive novice hurdle season could well be on the cards.

Dodging Bullets

  • 7 year old
  • Gelding
  • Trained by Paul Nicholls

It wasn’t that long ago that Dodging Bullets looked like a horse that was never going to quite make it at the very top level. He had a solid record in Grade 2 races, but generally didn’t perform to the required level when stepping up to the Grade 1s.

Things changed last season though. He had a tongue tie fitted, and there was also some work done on his breathing, and seemed to become almost a different horse. He won the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, and followed that up with a victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. He proved that those wins were not a blip by then going onto the Cheltenham Festival and winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Dodging Bullets’ victory in that last race has been talked down by some, with suggestions that his main threats had off days. I don’t buy into that theory at all though, and neither does his trainer based on comments he’s made about his quality. I wouldn’t be at all shocked if this gelding lands some more victories this season.

My Tent Or Yours

  • 8 year old
  • Gelding
  • Trained by Paul Nicholls

I’ve won some good bets on My Tent Or Yours over the years. I also lost a big one when he just lost out to Jezki in the Champion Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival. I’d have been confident of him making up for that loss last season had he not got injured and been forced to take a few months away from the course.

Clearly an excellent hurdler, the suggestions are that he’ll be moving onto chasing this season. He’s more than capable for sure, and I think he can make Grade 1 standard over the bigger jumps too. Whether he makes the switch or not, I imagine I’ll be very tempted to keep backing him.

Simonsig

  • 9 year old
  • Gelding
  • Trained by Nicky Henderson

Simonsig is a horse that did make the switch from hurdling to chasing. Having established a reputation as a first class hurdler, he was raced over fences in the 2012/13 season. It looked like a good move too, as he was unbeaten in his three starts.

However, he’s had injury problems since then. Those injuries may yet prove to have had a long term affect, but I think there’s enough quality about this horse to ensure a winning return. It will be interesting to see what distances he’s run over this season, as I’m not sure he’s well suited to longer races. At two miles, though, he’s likely to be worth considering.

Tycoon Prince

  • 5 year old
  • Gelding
  • Trained by Gordon Elliot

Tycoon Prince looks like a very exciting prospect, and he’s been talked about in glowing terms by his trainer. He was lightly raced in bumpers last season, appearing in just four, and this could prove to be a smart move as he’ll be fresh for his upcoming novice hurdle season. This well bred gelding has already shown he knows how to win, with three victories from his four bumpers, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he really makes a name for himself this year.

His performance at Naas last season was particularly impressive, and if he shows any improvement at all this year then I’ll be quietly confident of making some money from backing him. He’s one to put on your follow list for sure.

Other Notable Horses

The six horses mentioned above are the top entries on my follow list for new jumps season, but there are several more I’ll be watching closely. Here’s a selection of other horses that I recommend keeping track of.

  • Arctic Fire
  • Cole Harden
  • Coneygree
  • Minella Rocco
  • O’Faolain’s Boy
  • Oscar Rock
  • Road To Riches
  • Sizing John
  • Southfield Theatre
  • The Saint James

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