The Jump Season Opener at Chepstow is now just weeks away, and National Hunt fans are naturally getting excited about what 2023/24 has in store.
So, I’ve put together a list of five horses to follow – maybe even at (“it’s all about Cheltenham” critics look away now) Prestbury Park in March next year.
Mullins inmate looks to possess big bro’s talent
The horse that most excites me ahead of the new season is Willie Mullins’ Mirazur West – a full-brother to 2020 Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow who sports the iconic green and gold silks of JP McManus.
He made his debut in a Naas bumper just a couple of weeks after the Festival in March and could hardly have looked more impressive, beating two well-regarded types for Paul Nolan and Henry De Bromhead.
That form has already been franked somewhat, with Nolan’s horse running with credit in a warm bumper at the Punchestown Festival – the same meeting where Rhaenyra, who was a whopping 32L behind at Naas, was runner-up in a Grade 3 mares’ bumper.
Mirazur West clearly has lots of ability and, judging by the amount of money that came for him the last day, is thought a lot of at Closutton. Hopefully he doesn’t share the fragility of his sibling, however.
A novice hurdling campaign is likely and his current price of 16/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival is of serious interest.
Woop-woop, that’s the sound of da police!
For many, the two-mile novice chasing division is at the mercy of Supreme winner Marine Nationale and runner-up Facile Vega. That’s assuming Constitution Hill remains over hurdles, anyway.
Those two are almost certain to feature, of course, but one that’s going under the radar is Vega’s stablemate Mister Policeman.
After a couple of runs as a four-year-old in France, the son of Triple Threat was acquired by Rich Ricci and sent to Willie Mullins. He then made a winning start for the yard in an open-company, two-mile hurdle race at Cork.
Giving weight to the 142-rated Cash Back and Fils D’oudairies (146), who won a Grade 3 at Tipperary in July, it was a serious effort on only his third appearance on a racecourse.
“He’s a lovely horse who has a big future. He is very clever to jump and is a nice prospect.”
– Jockey Michael O’Sullivan after riding Mister Policeman to victory at Cork
I’ve heard whispers that the Arkle is not only his long-term target, but that he’s fancied for it too – even at this early stage. Therefore, 16/1 looks very fair.
Take a trip Down Memory Lane
Literally, I suspect Gordon Elliott’s Down Memory Lane will want a trip when he goes jumping this season.
The five-year-old son of Walk In The Park went to Fairyhouse in February under the weight of a very lofty reputation gained after a seriously impressive PTP in October last year. Green throughout, he tanked into contention and stayed on very strongly in what looked a testing affair. The form of that bumper looks decent enough too.
He might be one we see at Down Royal early on in the season before going onto bigger and better things.
JP purchase could rule the mares’ novices’ division
When Peter Fahey’s Tiger Bay Queen came from last to first to win a Listed mares’ bumper at Fairyhouse in April by a widening 7L, I was very impressed. So was JP McManus, who wasted no time in buying the five-year-old daughter of Westerner.
The form of that race is solid, too. The sixth-placed Arctic Fly, who was beaten over 16L, won at the same level at Galway the other month, and the fourth-placed Theatre Native was thought plenty of heading into the contest.
Fahey is a brilliant trainer of mares and JP won’t have departed with an undisclosed amount of money for no reason. She’s one to take very seriously this term.
The forgotten Barry Connell horse?
The word ‘forgotten’ is probably a bit strong, but as Marine Nationale has developed into Barry Connell’s flagship horse, that’s kind of what’s happened to Good Land.
After winning the G1 Nathaniel Lacy at the Dublin Racing Festival, he finished 4/10 in the Ballymore. Given he was reportedly “not right” afterwards, that wasn’t a bad performance whatsoever.
Connell has always said there wasn’t much between the two horses, and if that remains true after another summer then the seven-year-old son of Blue Bresil is a novice chaser to keep firmly onside.
He’s currently 18/1 to win the Turners – a race which always cuts up significantly – at Cheltenham. Not to be sniffed at.