The National hunt season is now in full swing and a number of this seasons leading horses have made their reappearances, as excitement continues to build. For most connections, it is all about the Cheltenham festival in March, with preparations starting to build at this early stage. One of the most exciting divisions at present looks to be the novice chasers, so here we cover two horses that are worth following and are expected to be strong challengers for the races come March.
The first horse worth noting and to follow is the Nicky Henderson trained, Champ. He is now seven years of age and finished last season as possibly the leading novice hurdler in training. This included him winning all his starts bar finishing second in the Ballymore Novices’ hurdle at the festival itself. Following this defeat, he signed off by winning the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ hurdle in impression fashion at Aintree by three lengths. In the process he also extended his career record to six wins from just nine starts under rules.
Champ then returned this season following a 216 day break and made his debut over the larger obstacles in a Beginners’ Chase at Newbury. This was a difficult start as he faced off against a number of exciting horses that included Dashel Drasher and Beakstown. Sent off at odds of 8/13 at sites such as bet-wv.com, he put in an impressive round of jumping, making one or two small errors. However, he made smooth headway to lead at the last and was shaken up to go clear up the run in and win readily by 3 and a half lengths.
This victory was a very impressive start to his chasing career and he is going to take all the beating moving forward. His most likely target is the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham festival and he is the general 5/1 favourite with local bookmakers. Champ can also be supported at 16/1 for the JLT and 33/1 for the Arkle, which are the other novices chases at the meeting.
The second horse is the Gordon Elliott trained seven year old, Samcro. Big things have been expected of the horse for much of his career but he had a disappointing season last year, when he clearly had his issues. Prior to this he landed the Ballymore Novices’ hurdle impressively at the 2018 Cheltenham festival, when he was many people’s banker over the four days. At the time, he had extended his unbeaten record to eight and was being targeted at the Champion hurdle, despite his best clearly going to come when tackling fences.
Samcro put in four consecutive poor runs without a victory, that included finishing fifth of six in the Grade One Ryanair hurdle at Leopardstown. He was then ruled out for the rest of the season and this meant he missed the 2019 Cheltenham festival. Following a 307 day break, Samcro returned and made his first start over fences in a Beginners Chase at Down Royal. As expected he was sent off at 1/3 against a modest field and made virtually all of the running to win by 17 lengths very impressively. He also produced a near perfect round of jumping and now looks to be back in rude health.
This victory now means that he could now live up to his lofty reputation and may just be a future Gold Cup winner in waiting. If he can continue to progress then he is going to take a lot of beating with his most likely target set to be the JLT at the Cheltenham festival, in which he can be supported at odds of 7/1. Samcro is also just 10/1 for the Arkle and 16/1 for the longer trip in the RSA Chase.