Open Eagle proved to be an impressive winner of the November Handicap at Doncaster but that victory was the final highlight of the 2014 flat season in the UK with attention now switching to the winter national hunt calendar.
Most roads usually lead to Cheltenham in March for the annual jumps championships but Prestbury Park also stages the prestigious Paddy Power Gold Cup on November 15th as part of the Open meeting usually recognised as the moment when the jumps season really begins.
Johns Spirit will attempt to win the ‘Paddy Power’ for the second successive season but must carry almost a stone more than last November but he is an autumn horse as he proved by winning at the course last month over 2m4f. He cannot be ignored at a price of 12/1 with 888Sport while ante-post favourite Present View is also a course winner.
Present View won a novice handicap chase over course and distance during the 2014 festival and has been in the first two in each of six steeplechases. A second placing in a hurdle race at Cheltenham last month will have sharpened the horse for this race and his odds of 8/1 with 888Sport are appealing but Buywise is another course winner worth considering with William Hill quoting him at 12/1.
The Evan Williams trained six year old gelding has only lost one race since beginning a chasing career and a second last fence blunder cost him any chance of winning when fifth to Present View in that same festival race. A useful two mile chase victory at Ludlow when beating the fitter Area Fifty One should ensure that Buywise is in peak condition prior to the Paddy Power.
It is expected that the ‘Paddy Power’ will be another closely contested affair but this is also the time of the year when potential candidates are considered for other races in the months ahead.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup, for example, is reckoned to be at the mercy of any promising young ‘chaser with both Bobsworth and Silviniaco Conti failing to enhance their reputations during the 2014 renewal.
The Jonjo O’Neill trained Holywell improved throughout last season culminating in winning a 3 mile handicap chase at the festival and then scoring in the Midmay Novices Chase at Aintree, but he disappointed in his recent seasonal appearance at Carlisle. Yet nobody can argue with the form of Lord Windermere at the festival with two successive victories including the 2014 Gold Cup and maybe he is just a horse for the course at the festival.
For the Champion Hurdle, Jezki may return to defend his crown but the Willie Mullins trained Faugheen looked an ominously good prospect when winning the Neptune Novices Hurdle at the festival and is being aimed at the main two mile hurdle races. It is uncertain at this stage whether impressive Supreme Novices Hurdle winner Vautour will follow a hurdles or novice chasing campaign.
Among the two mile chasers Sire De Grugy is expected to confirm his superiority despite incurring minor surgery while a heart issue raises questions as to whether Sprinter Sacre will ever the same horse as during his dominant spell in the 2012-13 campaign.
Other horses worth following during 2014-15 jumps campaign include?
- Thomas Crapper – Novice chaser over 2m 4f and who usually runs well at Cheltenham
- Rocky Creek – A 3 mile chaser who could be aimed at the Hennessy by Nicky Henderson
- Un De Sceaux – He was unbeaten over hurdles but missed Cheltenham. It is expected that he will be aimed at two mile novice chases by Willie Mullins.
- Tell Us More – A novice hurdler for Willie Mullins who was an impressive performer in bumpers.
- Eduardo – Trained in the North of England by Nicky Richards and is effective over 2m – 2m4f. Won three of his four races last season and was just beaten by Many Clouds on seasonal reappearance.