The last season has only just ended, but punters are already counting down the days until the new jumps campaign begins. While the flat season takes place, it is a perfect opportunity for the trainers, horses, and punters to take a moment and relax ahead of the next jumps season. However, training will soon begin again ahead of the sport resuming.
The 2018-19 season will live long in the memory, with so many highlights. Bryony Frost’s first Grade One success at Cheltenham, Tiger Roll’s Grand National win and Altior’s record-breaking haul are all moments that stick out. But, which horses should punters be keeping a closer eye on for the coming season?
Things didn’t quite go to plan for JP McManus’ six-year-old at the Cheltenham festival, and that seventh-place finish was followed up by being pulled up at Fairyhouse the following month. The bad mistake that he made on the first circuit of the Close Brothers certainly dented his confidence, and although he did remarkably well to pull back within contention; it wasn’t helped when he was blocked off four from home. On another day, it could have been a different story, and punters should remain intrigued by Shady Operator.
This was his first start in a handicap, and the signs weren’t too disparaging. His form for the season up until this point was solid with two wins at Cork and Punchestown. The latter of which occurred when he held off a fierce charge for the line from the ill-fated Ballyward. Time is very much on his side, and Joseph O’Brien will be hoping that he can improve on his jumping because staying is no problem for this six-year-old.
Meanwhile, O’Brien will be hoping that Iridessa can rediscover her form after finishing eighth in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Betway are currently offering 12/1 as of 17th May for the three-year-old to bounce back with a win in The Oaks at Epsom.
The Ben Pauling trained five-year-old was many tipsters darkhorse pick to steal the show at the Cheltenham festival. However, things didn’t pan out that way, and he was well beaten by City Island in the end. It should be noted that this was his first run in Grade One company and his first run over two miles under rules. His form just highlights how good he can be, and there’s an expectancy within the Pauling camp that Bright Forecast could be destined for great things in the future.
He entered the festival in fine form, having won twice at Newbury and Leicester, before finishing second behind Mister Fisher at Haydock. He was set off at a massive 25/1 shout for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, so it was hardly surprising that he was at least worth an each-way chance for punters. Next season will be a big one for the Pauling yard, and Bright Forecast could lead their charge with a first Grade One success.
One of the most talked about issues of the whole year in the racing calendar was the outbreak of the equine flu, which cast doubts over whether the Cheltenham festival would even take place. However, it did, but it plagued the preparation of many punters picks for the week festival in Santini.
Nicky Henderson’s three-year-old had expected to run well at the festival before the news breaking of the flu, which ensured that his preparation run before the festival was called off. Along with this, he lost a shoe during schooling just a few days before the off in the RSA Chase.
Undoubtedly his luck was out at the tail end of the past season, but with a new one brings an expectancy that he must deliver this campaign. The fact that he only finished half a length behind Topofthegame in the RSA was astonishing considering what had transpired before the race.
Hopes are still high within the Henderson camp that the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a possible destination for his star next season, and odds of 12/1 aren’t anything that would put punters off; especially considering his staying power. He has won four of his eight runs; with three of these coming since his switch to train with Henderson. The legendary trainer knows what he has with Santini, and that is a star.