Much changes in horse racing from one week to the next, but many times punters are caught out by ditching their own notebook horses after one bad run and this is something we should look to cut out.
As such, here are 20 National Hunt horses to follow for the rest of the campaign, all of whom are expected by their yards to go on and deliver success, at least between now and the spring festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree, Ayr and beyond.
Keep these names in mind, along with what their favoured conditions are, as we look to get an early betting advantage before the season gets going in earnest.
Ask Dillon (Fergal O’Brien)
Trained by the excellent Fergal O’Brien, some of his trainer’s personality traits clearly rub off on him. He hasn’t jumped a fence yet, but as soon as he does and over a long enough trip, we should see his true talent come out. He remains one to watch in advance of the festival.
Birchdale (Nicky Henderson)
Sent off at just 6/1 for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival, Henderson has acknowledged since that his entry there was a mistake and that he simply didn’t stay the distance.
It’s thought now that he should be a major force over around 2½ miles and that he will yet make up into a top-class type.
Black Op (Tom George)
During an eight-race hurdling career, Tom George’s gelding reached a high level having been beaten only by Santini and Samcro en route to winning the 2018 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.
His form tailed off, but having gone through wind surgery he returned to the track at Stratford at the end of October and simply blitzed his opposition in great style. There’s no doubt he’s back, he will get better, and is likely to be kept at sub-three-mile trips at which he will be a major force.
Bourbon Boderline (Dan Skelton)
A look through his bare form to date wouldn’t get you too excited it has to be said, but as a full brother to the next horse on our list below, Brewin’upastorm, he is bred to be very good.
After taking a point-to-point by ten lengths he was third in a bumper at Warwick, a race he was expected to win, while this season he started off with another underwhelming performance over hurdles at Carlisle. He’ll remain in the novice hurdle ranks and will hit his stride soon enough, so keep the faith for now.
Brewin’upastorm (Olly Murphy)
Having had a short hurdling career which culminated in a Grade 1 runner-up effort at Aintree, he’s already being sent over fences and recently battled his way to victory at Carlisle.
That was not seen as too impressive by many, but a few things went against him there yet he still scored and he’ll get a whole lot better as the season rolls on, the six-year-old being no forlorn hope for next year’s Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.
Bright Forecast (Ben Pauling)
Despite being beaten twice when put into graded company last season, this five-year-old was improving pretty rapidly from race to race, culminating with a fine third place finish in the Ballymore Novices’ at the Festival.
His profile suggests he’ll improve again for going over fences and so look out for him moving on and up the ranks as he heads for Cheltenham, perhaps in the RSA Chase.
Champagne Court (Jeremy Scott)
Still hurdling at the moment and remaining consistent if not prolific in that sphere, he looks the perfect type to go chasing at some point and especially over three miles plus, so he should remain in the notebook for now and he’ll be of significant interest if switching codes as the season goes on.
Clondaw Castle (Tom George)
Improving very nicely for the switch to fences before being pitched in a little high in the Arkle, where to be fair he was a very good fourth on the day, he was arguably over the top when filling the same finishing spot at Aintree when beaten 23 lengths in the Maghull Novices’ Chase.
Having been freshened up he can return in much better order and off a mark of 144 would be of strong interest in a two-mile handicap, though he’ll make his mark in open races anyway as the months go on.
Fakir D’oudairies (Joseph O’Brien)
I really liked this horse’s chances in the Supreme Novices last season and, as just a four-year-old, it could have experience that got him beaten there although he ran a cracker in any case.
It goes without saying that experience will bring the best out of him, but also a look at his profile suggests more of a test will do the same and so this chap will be of strong interest if being tried out at 2½ miles or even further.
Fusil Raffles (Nicky Henderson)
The form surrounding Fakir D’oudiaires will crop up several times, and it does here. Nicky Henderson’s four-year-old is two-from-two in Britain, has missed some time on the track due to a skinned leg and yet still took care of Joseph O’Brien’s horse by 2¾ lengths at Punchestown.
He’s one that could go for the Champion Hurdle potentially, but he will be of even more interest if turning up for the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton which I believe is a strong possibility.
Imperial Alcazar (Fergal O’Brien)
It was no surprise whatsoever to see this gelding break his maiden at Aintree having been stepped up significantly in trip to 2½ miles and he can go from strength to strength now.
That distance, plus plenty of give underfoot, appear to be prerequisites now for the son of Vinnie Roe to keep getting his head in front so do keep that in mind when checking out his future entries.
McFabulous (Paul Nicholls)
Getting the obvious out of the way first; this five-year-old is a Grade 2 winner already and is trained by one of the best in the business, so he’s not exactly a dark horse.
But Paul Nicholls is very, very keen on him and there’s little doubt that as a good jumper with the right yard he will stay really well and will be targeted at something like the Supreme Novices Hurdle for which he’s a very live contender.
Montego Grey (Dan Skelton)
Fourth on debut, fifth in a hot race at Ascot and then a cosy winner at Market Rasen, it’s fair to say Montego Grey’s bumper campaign was a success but we will only see the best of him when he has obstacles to clear.
When going novice hurdling over two miles, ideally on ground not too soft underfoot, we can expect some significant improvement and we should keep in mind that he’s in the right yard and working with some very smart types, something that should bring about a further upturn in his performance level.
No Regrets (Nicky Richards)
Even allowing for the fact that he was making his first bumper start, No Regrets did not have things go his way when fourth at Ayr in April. It’s interesting that he was sent off joint-favourite for that race though and if the money had been right, we could be talking now about a very smart prospect.
If allowed to go hurdling this term, ideally over 2½ miles, we should see some good displays and potentially at good value prices too.
Pentland Hills (Nicky Henderson)
Only a young horse, in fact one who has close form with Fakir D’oudairies who is much respected here, he could just climb the hurdling ranks very rapidly this season.
He’s so talented in fact that his chances in next year’s Champion Hurdle are not dismissed and with that in mind, should he turn up in some top two-mile races over the course of the season at value prices he should be snapped up.
Poker Play (David Pipe)
Having apparently schooled nicely before a big improvement in his form when winning his second chase at Ffos Las, his trainer is looking forward to his season and rightly so.
With a love of soft ground and probably no further than 2½ to 2¾ miles, he should win his share of novice chases and perhaps will be underestimated if going into handicap company somewhere.
Ramses De Teillee (David Pipe)
The seven-year-old has already reached a good level but has so much more left to give yet. His trainer plans to run him in novice hurdles – he’s already won at the Showcase Meeting – before aiming him at the major staying chases, including the Grand National for which he’d be the perfect age.
He’ll need a proper test with soft or heavy ground no problem, so should any rain fall at Aintree he should be remembered regardless of what he has achieved throughout the season.
Shishkin (Nicky Henderson)
The brilliant and irrepressible Nicky Henderson could have yet another good one on his hands here.
A point winner who won his bumper very well on debut for the yard, the five-year-old will go novice hurdling now and could be one that makes the very top rank with nothing less than the Cheltenham Festival on his radar.
Sofia’s Rock (Dan Skelton)
Rated 96 on the flat for Mark Johnston, the son of Rock of Gibraltar is bound to be decent and he’s already made a good start having won two hurdles on his way to being rated 142.
He’s been dropped a couple of pounds now after his starting this campaign with an underwhelming third place at Kempton, but that was at Listed level and much is expected of him with his trainer Dan Skelton having gone on record to say he believes he will have a good year.
Windsor Avenue (Brian Ellison)
As proven by the handling of the likes of Definitly Red and Forest Bihan, Brian Ellison knows how to get the job done in National Hunt racing and his Windsor Avenue certainly looks a chaser to follow.
A 134-rated hurdler, Ellison kept Windsor Avenue local when taking him to Sedgefield for his bow over the larger obstacles and he didn’t disappoint, landing the odds by a very easy 21 lengths. If kept over at least 2½ miles this one remains of strong interest for the rest of the season.