Originally Published: 18th November 2014
I decided for the 14/15 National Hunt season to write (a little belatedly) a ten to follow. The format for mine (I make my own rules!) is eight horses, one trainer and one jockey.
Given I am writing in mid November, I already have the benefit of the Charlie Hall and the Cheltenham Open Meeting.
In this first instalment, I am covering No More Heroes for Gordon Elliott and Ma Filleule for Nicky Henderson.
Second Insallment: (posted 20th November) concerns Bellshill and Gods Own.
Third Installment: (posted 25th November) concerns More of That and The New One
No More Heroes | Gordon Elliott
This is a Gordon Elliott inmate and a son of Presenting. The horse was a point to pointer and acquitted himself very well in bumpers last year. In fact, he won two of them, the latter being a highly informative piece of form as he beat Milsean (Willie Mullins) with the two coming clear. Milsean, formerly unbeaten, went on to decimate his next rivals by the best art of a furlong.
At the seasonal preview evening at Cheltenham, Gordon Elliott was on the panel and he could not have been more glowing about his thoughts for No More Heroes.
Subsequently, he made his seasonal and hurdling debut on Sunday and won as you might expect from an 2/11 shot. That was over two and a half miles in soft Punchestown ground and signals excellent staying credentials for the horse. In the race, he overcame a little greenness and jumped slightly left, nothing alarming; certainly less so for his Cheltenham prospects.
The victory was all the better for these impediments, his jumping was generally fine but he did hit the top of one or two and I would like to see those lessons taken in on his next appearance.
Seemingly the next major assignment will be the Royal Bond Grade 1 on the 30th November and I would be getting aboard the 16/1 prices for March for the Albert Bartlett. I am a bit disappointed that I cannot see a price in the Neptune, perhaps I missed the memo but as far as I can tell, he could easily turn up in either.
Advice: Back for the Albert Bartlett 16/1 …. Keep eyes on a price for the Neptune.
Ma Filleule | Nicky Henderson
I was thinking that this little grey mare was going to be a decent mid 140s rated hurdler / chaser but she surpassed all my expectations with two performances at the end of last season. Firstly, beaten by Holywell in a red-hot Festival handicap which with hindsight, reads very well; Holywell, her master that day, is now well placed in the Gold Cup market.
Then she went on to prove her festival performance to be no fluke when admonishing a sound beating, over the national fences (off a mark of 150), to a field of 20, an eye-catching performance indeed. More than that, it was exceptional – She was giving weight to all but two of the field and age to every single one of them.
Now rated 162, her seasonal debut was an Irish raid that was too bad to be true. She always seems to have taken her racing well and so I hope to see her bounce back.
Her seasonal target might be a tricky one. Having run so well over the National fences, that might be in the trainers mind. You cannot argue with her performance over those unique fences, she was not qualified to race in the National last year under their new age rues, but on New Years Day, she turns 7 and could end up there (33/1). She has entirely the wrong profile though for a National, such young horses rarely show well. In fact we’ve not had a 7yo winner for decades. Having shown such strong form she’d currently be conceding lumps to the present National champ Pineau de Re. So where for our girl?
She could fall into that trap of being too strong for handicaps if she falls short at the top grade and so I think they have to campaign her with ambition for the blue riband events and bottom that talent out.
Thus, hold your breath…. I think she could be a genuine contender for the Gold Cup and firstly the King George. Wild? Well, consider that she is only rated 9lbs inferior to Bobs Worth and 1lb inferior to Lord Windermere, the reigning Gold Cup champ.
I cannot remember the last mare to even line up in the Gold Cup but the race allows 7lbs for them. This girl has already proven tough and in a wide open Gold Cup market, I suggest an interest at 33/1. She has the aforementioned entry in the King George which is telling (currently 25/1 and worth a shekel too); if she does herself credit there, perhaps, just perhaps she could make a bit of history and fly the flag for those tough talented mares that can mix it with the boys.
What adds to my theorising on this is that I think this division is falling apart for Nicky Henderson. Bobs Worth looks a bit mercurial after last years show. Simonsig, current favourite for the King George is a horse I am not even convinced will be fit again and Oscar Whiskey does not look that interesting to me.
If Ma Filleuele can put in a good early season show, she might quickly become the yards best idea of their leading light staying chaser. She has shown Cheltenham form too which is a huge positive.
It does seem a little wild to expect her to line up in a Gold Cup but the price reflects it. If not there, then I have no idea what the plan will be for her as she would have to give lumps away in handicaps.