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The jumps are coming: All eyes on the impending National Hunt season

| 02.09.2014

It may only be the end of August, but as the days get shorter and the nights start to get cooler, National Hunt fans will be rubbing their hands with glee at the impending return of the jumps action.

As trainers up and down the country get their charges ready, debating about potential changes in trip, whether to switch to chasing from hurdling, or which race to target at the Cheltenham Festival, we take a look at a trio of horses who we are most looking forward to seeing on track over the winter.

Sprinter Sacre

Before being pulled up at Kempton in December, Sprinter Sacre was thought of as a world beater, and to many still is. The subsequent discovery of a heart defect, while giving an explanation for his performance, put paid to any chance of back-to-back Queen Mother Champion Chases.

But now back in training, trainer Nicky Henderson has described how ‘The Black Aeroplane’ “looks magnificent after his long summer break”, before confirming that “everything is A1 with him.”

If he returns in anything like the same condition, it may be fair to say subsequent Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy may have had his moment at the top. A mouth-watering season reappearance head-to-head will tell us more.

Talk of glory at Cheltenham next March may be a long way off  with his cardiac issues not certain to have disappeared for good, but considering he was sent off at 1/4 for the 2013 renewal, a  runaway success could be in store if he arrives in one piece.

The New One

Probably the unlucky horse of this year’s festival, almost brought to a standstill by the ill-fated fall of Our Conor, Sam Twiston Davies’ mount stayed on gallantly to finish third in the Champion Hurdle.

He returned to training at the end of July and could be set for more improvement, with his young years likely to offer room for scope. Trainer Nigel Twiston Davies described how he “has had a really good summer” and “had a chance to grow…to fill out a bit”.

There could be some room to manoeuvre at odds of 4/1 to find retribution at next year’s showpiece, with his potential rivals still shrouded in mystery.

Runner-up this year My Tent or Yours could be set for a chasing career, Hurricane Fly looks on the downgrade, and with Willie Mullins sporting an embarrassment of riches in addition to ‘The Fly’ it would be a brave man to say who he will definitely send to the opening day’s feature.

A similar path as last year looks in store for The New One, with a Listed race at Kempton in November his likely starting point.

More of That

This year’s World Hurdle was billed as the clash between Annie Power and Big Buck’s, but no one seemed to tell More of That.

Jonjo O’Neill’s charge battled on strongly up the hill to claim the Group 1 at his first attempt at the top level, and could be a horse with a bright future.

He started the season winning a Class 3 Handicap at Wetherby, and wouldn’t have appeared on most people’s radar for the stayers showpiece.

But victory in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, saw Barry Geraghty’s charge sent off a 15/2 chance at Prestbury Park.

He is 2/1 to complete the double, and with Big Buck’s retiring and a possible chasing career on the agenda for Annie Power, he could have it his own way on the Thursday’s feature race.

All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.