Top pundit Andy Holding picks out ten horses to follow this National Hunt season.
LUCKY PASS (Gordon Elliot) Smart bumper horse for Willie Mullins last season who has now joined Gordon Elliot and should make into an exciting novice hurdler for new connections.
SUTTON PLACE (Gordon Elliot) Impressed by the way he got himself out of jail with smart turn of foot to land a Grade 2 hurdle on his final start last season and looks be one of his stable’s best young novice chase prospects for this campaign.
ROCONGA (Edward O’Grady) Yet to meet his full potential over hurdles, but the signs are encouraging that he’s ready to make a big breakthrough this season based on his last two performances. Seems to be coping better with soft ground nowadays – which had the potential to be his Achilles Heel over the winter – and this smooth-travelling type can land a big pot when conditions are in his favour.
SCEAU ROYAL (Alan King) Smart juvenile last season who began his campaign in the best possible fashion with a smooth success at Cheltenham recently – impressing with the smart turn of foot he exhibited from the back of the last hurdle. Although traditionally this can be a tough season for second-season hurdlers, the signs are this year that the crop of 2016 are an above-average bunch and although it’s too early in the day to suggest he’s the new Katchit in the yard, he certainly deserves the chance to go down the Graded race route to find out where he sits against the very best hurdlers.
APPLE’S JADE (Gordon Elliot) On the evidence of her victories at Aintree and Punchestown, this filly has to rank as the best of her generation last season and her new handler looks to have inherited a potential Champion Hurdle candidate on all known form. Although she goes well enough on decent ground, softer conditions appear to suit her best and some of the more established names in the 2m hurdling department will need to up their game this year with her around.
WINTER ESCAPE (Alan King) Lightly-raced five-year-old who was unbeaten in three runs last year and has the potential to go to the very top the more he matures. Apparently starts his season off in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and providing he comes through that test with flying colours, Graded races look certain to be on the cards for this classy individual.
NATIVE RIVER (Colin Tizzard) Hails from a stable who enjoyed a stellar season last year and this fella was one of the shining lights. His victory in the Grade 1 novices’ chase at Aintree signalled him as one of the best young staying chasers of his generation and he has the potential to go all the way to the top of the tree during this campaign. Likely to start his season off in the Hennessy at Newbury, the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March will have to become a distinct possibility for this strong-stayer if he were to excel in his first big examination.
VIVALDI COLLONGES (Paul Nicholls) Clocked a big speed figure when landing a competitive handicap at Ayr on Scottish National Day and has the potential to land a big pot at some stage this season if his apparent phobia of big fields can be ironed out.
ZUBAYR (Paul Nicholls) Winner of the Adonis Hurdle on his first start for the Ditcheat handler and probably found the race coming too soon when disappointing in the Triumph Hurdle. Starts this campaign off a fair mark over hurdles, but could also exploit the weight-for-age allowances if sent over fences.
STAND UP AND FIGHT (Enda Bolger) Clocked a decent speed figure when getting off the mark on his second start at Punchestown recently and has the physical scope to progress into a smart chaser further down the line. Really exciting type.