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Five to follow

With the National Hunt season about to get into full swing, here are five horses who might be worth following as the season develops.

Capodanno (Trainer: Willie Mullins)

Capodanno was a good hurdler, but he progressed to be an even better chaser last season.  Fourth in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, when a couple of things went against him, Willie Mullins’ horse rounded off the season with an authoritative display in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Punchestown in April.  He was ridden forward that day, and he ran out an impressive winner.

JP McManus’ horse is going to have to improve again if he is going to take his place among the top staying chasers this season, but he is only six and he has lots of scope for progression.  In the more immediate term, he could be a big player if he takes his chance in the Coral Gold Cup (the old Hennessy) at Newbury next month.

Banbridge (Joseph O’Brien)

Banbridge was a progressive novice hurdler last season, he won the Martin Pipe Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and he was impressive in winning his beginners’ chase at Gowran Park on his chasing bow four weeks ago.  His jumping was superb that day, he was efficient and accurate, and he won with even more in hand than the eight-and-a-half-length winning margin.

Joseph O’Brien’s horse has the potential to progress as a novice chaser this season and, with that Cheltenham Festival win on his CV, he will be of interest if he runs at Cheltenham’s November meeting, and/or if he goes back to the Festival in March.

Marine Nationale (Barry Connell)

Marine Nationale was impressive in beating some talented rivals in a bumper at Punchestown in May on his racecourse debut, and he was more impressive in following up at Killarney in August.

Given a nice break by Barry Connell after that, he returned in a maiden hurdle back at Punchestown two and a half weeks ago and, again, he ran out an easy winner.  His jumping was very good for a debutant that day, and he could take a high rank among the top novice hurdlers this season. 

Frontal Assault (Gordon Elliott)

Frontal Assault didn’t win over fences last season, but he ran some mighty races in defeat, including in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in April, when he stayed on well to finish second behind Lord Lariat.

Gordon Elliott’s horse got off the mark over fences four weeks ago at Galway when he stayed on strongly to win well over two miles and six and a half furlongs, a distance that was surely shorter than ideal.  He will be of interest now when he steps up in trip again, and there could be a big staying handicap chase in him this season, possibly the Troytown Chase at Navan next month.  Interestingly, he has a remarkably similar profile to the profile that his stable companion Run Wild Fred had before he won the Troytown last year.

Cougar (Padraig Roche)

It took Cougar a little while to get off the mark on the flat, but he was impressive in winning his maiden at The Curragh in June on his final run for Aidan O’Brien, and he got off the mark on his first attempt over hurdles at Gowran Park four weeks ago on his first run for Padraig Roche.

A really well-bred colt, by Deep Impact and out of a sister to Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Maybe, his jumping was very good at Gowran, and that augurs well for the season ahead.  A 92-rated horse on the flat, he is an exciting juvenile hurdler for the season ahead.

© The Sunday Times, 30th October 2022