Sunday, 11 October 2015

An ‘alternative’ three to follow for the 2015/16 National Hunt season...

In the transition between Flat and National Hunt seasons, you'll see plenty of Horses to Follow guides and Stable Tours being plugged in the papers, books and blogs. And so many of them focus on the big stables, for obvious reasons. But if you want to look a little wider for your winners, and let's face it, they all pay the same unless you're betting big numbers, then Ben Aitken's guide is worth a read. In addition to his 20 To Follow, linked from the bottom of this article, he had a handful which just missed out, so he shared them here.

Ben's site, Narrowing The Field, is a tremendous resource for National Hunt racing, with Trends, Systems and Alternative Analysis - it's a welcome deviation from the mainstream coverage. And you can follow Ben on Twitter @Narrowthefield

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An ‘alternative’ three to follow for the 2015/16 National Hunt season...

BON ENFANT (W Greatrex) - This 4yo Saint Des Saints gelding made a striking impression on racecourse debut at Wincanton in April, staying on strongly down the home-straight to lead inside the final furlong and comfortably put the race to bed in the final 100 yards. It took a little while for the penny to drop when push came to shove but in the end he was easily on top and won going away. He was then stepped up in grade at Punchestown but failed to land any significant blow, being held-up out the back and never remotely getting involved. That was a run I suspect you can put a line through, something his trainer Warren Greatrex backed up when I quizzed him about the horse...

“Bon Enfant won well at Wincanton. He was too far back at Punchestown so dismiss that run. He will go hurdling, probably over 2 miles to start with but will stay 2m 4f in time.
A nice horse for you to follow”

I would very much agree with the trainer in that 2m4f will probably turn out to be his optimum trip as there is a decent mix of speed and stamina influences in his pedigree and he certainly has the size and scope to make into an above average hurdler this season.

On the ground front I suspect Good to Soft and softer will prove to be prime underfoot conditions for him.

Ideal Conditions – 2m – 2m5f Hurdles | Good to Soft or softer ground

BEAST OF BURDEN (R Curtis) – This beautifully bred individual should make a big impact over fences this term. He won three of his five starts last season (one bumper and two hurdle wins) in imposing fashion, two of them by 11 lengths and the other by a commanding 27 lengths, and looked like he was simply passing the time until being sent chasing. He was last seen when finishing down the field in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival although it’s easy to forgive that below-par run as it was reported that he bled from the nose that day.

He raced over varying distances last season but he looked most impressive when winning over 23 furlongs at Bangor and the signs are that 2m5f+ will be where he is seen to best effect, possibly the longer the better.

I wouldn’t be 100% convinced he is a graded chaser in the making (haven’t completely dismissed that idea though) and it may be that he is the type that has a big staying handicap in him at some stage of his career.

Wherever he ultimately ends up he should be seen winning a few novice chases this season.

Ideal Conditions – 2m5f+ Chases | Good to Soft or softer ground | Possibly seen to best effect on galloping tracks

DALAMAN (T Vaughan) – This Duke Of Marmalade youngster ran in a trio of ‘junior’ bumper contests last term, starting off with a staying on third at Exeter and then following that up with a thumping eight length victory in the mud at Towcester. He backed up that win with a fine fourth in a Listed bumper for 4yo’s at Cheltenham on New Year’s day.

He was then, wisely, given the remainder of the season off to mature and fill out into his frame in preparation for a hurdling campaign this term where I suspect he will show improved form when sent over longer trips.

An assumption backed up by his trainer Tim Vaughan when I asked what his thoughts and plans for the horse were for this season... Dalaman appeared very solid for us last year. We are hoping to go straight novice hurdling with him over 2m3f -2m6f on ground good or softer. I would hope he will develop into a nice staying hurdler this year.

There should definitely be races to be won with him over hurdles and the staying strength he showed in his bumpers will be able to utilised to its full when he faces longer trips and greater examinations of his stamina.

Ideal Conditions – 2m4f+ Hurdles | Ground with cut in it

The above three horses just missed out on making my final ‘Alternative 20 To Follow’ list which was released to readers of my own website. My 20 to follow list had three very simple rules...

1) No Mullins horses
2) No Nicholls horses
3) No Henderson horses

You can see who did make that list here >>> NTF Alternative 20 to follow for 15/16

Ben Aitken (Narrowing The Field)

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