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Five to follow

Now that the National Hunt season has hit top gear, here are five Irish-trained horses who could be worth following through the season.


Echoes In Rain

Trainer: Willie Mullins 

Echoes In Rain progressed significantly last season as a novice hurdler as she gained experience.  Free and keen in front when she could finish only fourth in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Hurdle at Punchestown in January, she was impressive in winning another Grade 2 contest at Naas in February when she was able to sit in behind a strong pace that confirmed front-runner Razzle Dazzle Love set. 

She didn’t go to Cheltenham last March.  Instead she went to Fairyhouse in early April and ran out an impressive winner of another Grade 2 race, before rounding off her season at the Punchestown Festival by winning the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle.

She is going to have to continue her progression this season if she is going to take her place among the top two-mile hurdlers – her official rating of 143 tells you that she has to improve by 22lb to get up to Honeysuckle’s level – but there is every chance that she can.  She is only five and, still a keen-going sort, she could continue to progress this season as she matures and learns more about settling through her races.  She is set to start off in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown today, and it will be fascinating to see how she fares there, stepping into open class for the first time.


Eklat De Rire

Trainer: Henry de Bromhead

Henry de Bromhead thought enough of Eklat De Rire last season to allow him take his chance in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (the old RSA Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival last March on the back of just two runs over fences.  Unfortunately, we never got to see how he compared to Monkfish there, as he stumbled on landing over the 12th fence and unseated his rider.

He had impressed, though, in his first two chases.  He won his beginners’ chase at Punchestown in December fairly easily, and he made all to win a Grade 3 race at Naas in January, when he jumped well and stayed on gamely to get home by a length and three quarters from Escaria Ten, who went to Cheltenham and finished a close-up third behind Galvin in the National Hunt Chase.

There was a long way to go in the Brown Advisory Chase, but Eklat De Rire was jumping and travelling well behind Monkfish before his departure. 

He started off this season nicely by winning a listed chase at Wexford, the same race that his stable companion Minella Indo won last year, and it is probable now that he will take his chance in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at the end of this month.  He should be a big player in that, racing off a British rating of 154, just 2lb higher than his Irish mark.  Longer term, a lightly raced young chaser who has lots of scope for progression, he could improve sufficiently to be able to take his place among the top staying chasers this season.



Trainer: Gordon Elliott

Fifth behind Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2020, it looked like Eskylane was set for a productive novice hurdling campaign last season when he won his maiden on his hurdling bow at Punchestown last October. 

It didn’t really happen for him afterwards last season, but he looked good in winning a handicap hurdle at Down Royal two weeks ago on his second run this term.  That was much more like it from the Flemensfirth gelding, he travelled really well through his race for Jack Kennedy, and he came away from his rivals impressively on the run-in.

The handicapper raised him by 10lb for that win to a mark of 144, but Gordon Elliott’s horse may not have reached the summit of his ability yet, and there could be more to come from him in good handicap hurdles off that type of mark.


Galopin Des Champs

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Beaten in each of his first three runs for Willie Mullins last season over two miles, Galopin Des Champs progressed significantly as he stepped up in trip. 

Audrey Turley’s horse stayed on strongly to land the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March over an extended two and a half miles, and he stepped forward again from that when he stepped up to three miles at the Punchestown Festival and won the Grade 1 Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle by 12 lengths.

He could be an exciting novice chaser this season.  A half-brother to Flute Des Champs, who won a listed chase over two miles and six furlongs in France for Galopin Des Champs’ former trainer Arnaud Chaille-Chaille, he could be an even better chaser than hurdler.  Still only five, he could take his place among the best staying novice chasers this season.


Magic Daze

Trainer: Henry de Bromhead

Magic Daze did remarkably well to finish second to her stable companion Telmesomethinggirl in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.  Keen and free through the early stages of the race, she led at a fast pace in a race in which the hold-up horses came to the fore.  The first and third home, Telmesomethinggirl and Mighty Blue, were third last and second last of the 15 runners early on.

The Robcour mare raced strongly in front, and she was still travelling well in the lead as they rounded the home turn.  She was only caught by her stable companion on the run to the final flight, and the manner in which she kept on up the hill after she had been passed to retain second place was admirable.

Henry de Bromhead’s mare was beaten on her chasing debut at Galway last month, but that was on soft ground over two and a quarter miles, and up Galway’s unforgiving hill.  She should do better when she is faced with more of a test of speed.  She should be happier over two miles at Cork today.  Still only five, she jumps fences well, and the fact that she put up the best performance of her career so far at Cheltenham, on her only run to date there, is worth keeping in mind.

© The Sunday Times, 14th November 2021