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Ten to follow for the jumps season

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Rishi Persad | 13:19 UK time, Friday, 6 November 2009

I confess that I am already missing Sea The Stars who is happily tucked away in retirement after the most sensational season which I find hard to believe will ever be repeated.

However, unless you are the type of racing fan who baulks at the idea of watching jump racing, then it won't be long before you can allow the images of Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded to replace the memory of Sea The Stars stretching away from his Arc rivals.

So I thought this may be a good time to highlight 10 horses to follow for the next few months - I can hear trainers around the country groaning in dreaded anticipation that one of their charges may end up in my list.

I'll start with Paul Nicholls' Alfie Sherrin who won both his starts last season.

The six-year-old had won a Larkhill point-to-point before joining the Ditcheat trainer and caused something of a surprise to connections when he won a bumper at Chepstow.

Stepped up to a trip just shy of three miles and faced with hurdles in public for the first time at Fontwell, he bolted up.

It is apparent to anyone watching that he has enormous potential particularly when he is sent over fences.

He ran okay in the Silver Trophy over the smaller obstacles on his seasonal debut but I reckon when he goes chasing we'll see him in his best light.

Behind Alfie Sherrin at Chepstow was the grey Bakbenscher who was hampered and shuffled to the back of the field before staying on past a few beaten horses, which looked an ideal comeback run considering he was far from fit for his reappearance.

He has been carefully handled by trainer Alan King who missed last season's festivals as he thought the six-year-old was not ready mentally. However he is now ready to go over fences and could prove a star.

Crack Away Jack looked a Champion Hurdle candidate after he won on his return to action at Chepstow 12 months ago.


The handsome chestnut rounded off his campaign with an excellent fourth to Punjabi at the Cheltenham Festival.

His trainer Emma Lavelle plans to send him over fences with the Arkle his ultimate target. I watched this horse run at Ascot last November and was convinced then that he should be chasing and was surprised that he finished just two lengths off the best hurdlers around in the Champion.

He's only five and I believe that he will be the leading two-mile novice of the season.

I'm looking forward to seeing Paul Nicholls' Ghizao go over hurdles this season.

Owned jointly by David Johnson and Andy Stewart, this German-bred horse sluiced home by 24 lengths in a bumper at Newton Abbot in August and though he beat little of consequence, the five-year-old has the look of a potentially decent hurdler.

One of my biggest disappointments at Cheltenham last March was a crumpled ante-post voucher for the Champion Hurdle with the name of Hurricane Fly.

In fairness, he may not have even run in that race anyway but injury prevented an appearance at the Festival.

He's only been beaten once since joining Willie Mullins' team in Ireland from France where he was speedy enough to beat Champion Stakes winner Literato over a mile on the flat.

His last two wins were sensational and his form is rock solid. He smashed Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Go Native twice last term and there is nothing in the established cast of two-milers that should concern connections.

My one proviso is that his sire is Montjeu and some of his progeny can go the wrong way after initial promise. However, barring that one apprehension, I expect Hurricane Fly to blitz his hurdling rivals all season long. Mullins is on record as saying that this year he has his best team of horses.

So I thought it worth including one other from his County Carlow stable. I'm going for the once-raced Lios A Choill who won a Fairyhouse bumper stylishly last February.

The five-year-old has clearly inherited some serious ability and can hopefully emulate some of the achievements of his half sister, Liss A Paoraigh, who was a top class racemare.

My staying hurdler to follow this year is Henry Daly's Mighty Man. Clearly Big Buck's is the outstanding performer in this category and is the obvious choice. However, I thought I'd give the courageous Mighty Man one more chance to prove that he is one of the best hurdlers over the longer trips that we have seen.

Having played second fiddle to the late Inglis Drever before injury seemingly forced him into retirement, the nine-year-old made a fine return to racing after two years off to finish fifth in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Mighty Man then made Big Buck's pull out all the stops at Aintree, where a mistake at the last may have proved costly. At his age and after all his problems the odds are against him topping his division, but his determination and will to win could help him go close in some of the championship races.

Now, anyone who has seen or heard what I have said about staying chasers will know that I would like to be considered one of Kauto Star's biggest fans and I fully expect the champ to prove the top dog once again this season.

However I wanted to find a serious challenger to put on my list and i have gone for a fairly obvious one - Notre Pere.
This huge eight-year-old announced himself on these shores with an easy win in the Welsh National at Chepstow and improved with every run subsequently and will return this year as Ireland's main hope of dethroning the mighty Kauto Star at Cheltenham next March.

Another fairly unexposed horse on my list is Nicky Henderson's Quantitativeeasing who has had just the one run last April in Ireland.

The full brother to a former top-class hurdler, Asian Maze, cruised to a comfortable success at Punchestown and looked a horse of immense potential. He will have the services of Tony McCoy this season as he will race in the colours of JP McManus and is definitely a novice hurdler to follow.

Howard Johnson's Tidal Bay began his campaign 12 months ago as one of the credible challengers to Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded. However, after finishing second in the Tingle Creek before Christmas, things began to go downhill and he seemed to have a problem.

He has undergone a 'hobday' operation during the summer to help his breathing and following an encouraging comeback behind Monets Garden at Aintree in the Old Roan Chase, he can go on from there.

So there we have it - 10 horses to either follow or forget! Let me know what horses you think may be worth following this season and good luck.


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