There is top class jumps action from Cheltenham, Punchestown and Aintree
The jumps season kicks into action this weekend with Cheltenham taking centre stage. There will be plenty of returning heroes and those hoping to become the stars of the future with 79 horses in total being declared. Couple that with an attractive looking cards at Punchestown and Aintree on Sunday and NH fans have quite the few days to look forward to!
We've gone through the cards and found five intriguing runners worth a follow at the weekend and through the rest of the season.ADRIEN DU PONT
Successful in three of his four starts last season for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, including a Grade 1 juvenile contest at Chepstow, the 4yo is still lightly raced and unexposed over hurdles. He certainly falls into the category of 'could be anything' especially when you consider his powerful connections.IDENTITY THIEF
A Grade 1 winning hurdler last season, he mixed it with the best of the best over 2 miles including when finishing 6th in the Champion Hurdle. Last seen finishing second to the mighty mare Vroum Vroum Mag at the Punchestown Festival, Henry De Bromhead's 6yo could be an exciting addition to the chase ranks this season and is already as short as RSA Chase or the 14/1 for the Arkle in March.SHANTOU VILLAGE
Pulled up in the Albert Bartlett when 7/2 favourite, Neil Mullholand's 6yo was last seen hacking up in a novice chase at Fontwell back in August. Saturday will be a good test of his credentials as a chaser with connections dreaming of a return to the track in March for either the RSA Chase or the JLT.
Highly rated by his trainer Dan Skelton, the 5yo is another who is still lightly raced and unexposed. A winner of two of his three starts last season, connections have confirmed he will have another campaign over hurdles before going chasing next season. Sunday could be the start of his progression through the handicap ranks and into graded company.GOD'S OWN
Tom George's 8yo finished last season in the form of his life, winning two Grade 1's in the form of the Melling Chase at Aintree and the Champion Chase at Punchestown (where he overcame Willie Mulins' aeroplane Vautour). Saturday could see him take on some old foes in Sire De Grugy and Vibrato Valtat at a venue he clearly enjoys. If he can show anywhere near the form he did towards the end of last summer, connections will be eyeing up more top level success this season.