by Mark Rowntree (@uptheirons007)
HESTER FLEMEN – Nicky Richards (Paul & Clare Rooney)
8yo Chestnut Mare – Flemensfirth/Hester Hall
Hester Flemen hasn’t been a regular visitor to the racecourse, but she’s unbeaten in three rules appearances for Donald McCain and Nicky Richards. A strapping, strong mare with a background in Irish Point to Points, fences were always going to be her forte, so in truth it’s no real surprise that she’s been lightly raced as she fills out into her frame.
A facile Carlisle bumper victory (December 2014) was quickly backed up by a winning debut over hurdles in a small field Novices Hurdle for Mares (2m4f) at Newcastle (January 2015). Absent thereafter, she left the care of Donald McCain during the early months of the 2015/16 season to join Nicky Richards at Greystoke.
She made her first start for Richards at Catterick in December 2015, when making all and staying on well to take a 3m 1f Beginners Chase by six lengths. In maintaining her unbeaten record, she disposed of the more experienced trio of Racing Europe, Central Flame and Warriors Tale.
This success left Richards with a dilemma for the remainder of the season, with few suitable Novice events open to a mare with her ability. However, as has always been the case with Hester Flemen, the longer term is of more importance, and her trainer has stated that she’ll be upped markedly in grade this winter.
Richards reported to Racing UK: “I think she’ll be a black type mare – she’s very nice.” Furthermore, with her bumper, hurdle and beginners chase victories all coming on either Soft or Heavy ground, Richards noted: “She’s very ground dependent –she needs cut.”
LADY BEAUFORT – John Quinn (The Desperados)
5yo Chestnut Mare – Shirocco/Kadassa
The word ahead of her debut on Morebattle Hurdle day at Kelso (February 2016) was that plenty was expected of Lady Beaufort. However, similar comments also applied to her main market rival, the Nicky Richards trained Randy Pike.
Lady Beaufort raced prominently towards the leaders and travelled well throughout before ranging alongside and swiftly past Randy Pike approaching the final furlong. With the pair pulling well clear of the remainder, Lady Beaufort was merely pushed out by Richard Johnson to record a comfortable three length success.
Whilst strictly on paper, a Class 6 Heavy ground National Hunt Flat race at Kelso isn’t worth going overboard about; especially with Randy Pike a well beaten third at Ayr subsequently, the professional attitude of Lady Beaufort stood out.
Lady Beaufort passed through the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham Festival Sale (Lot 2), but was retained by her vendor at £80,000. If kicking off the new campaign from her current yard, Lady Beaufort is likely to be campaigned in Novice Hurdles, and quite possibly if progressing quickly, she may be able to follow Intense Tango’s route to Wetherby and then onto Doncaster for the OLBG.com Listed and Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdles.
CLOUDY DREAM – Malcolm Jefferson (Trevor Hemmings)
6yo Grey Gelding – Cloudings/Run Away Dream
Cloudy Dream needs little by way of introduction, having progressed rapidly through bumpers, novice hurdles and into competitive handicap hurdles.
The grey Cloudings gelding kicked off his previous campaign in a bumper at Carlisle (October 2015), before being a beaten odds-on favourite in a Hexham Novices Hurdle. The suspicion was he’d been given a moderate ride at Hexham, with subsequent time analysis seeming to back this view up. Held up off a very slow pace, the race developed into a blisteringly quick finish over the final two furlongs. Nevertheless, the form worked out well with both the winner Nuts Well and second Waiting Patiently also progressing quickly thereafter.
Stepped upto 2m 3f next time at Doncaster, he galloped all over old foe Waiting Patiently showing a smart turn of foot from the final hurdle to score by one and a quarter lengths. After a few months off the track he went onto produce a career best on each of his final two starts upped into Handicaps.
As a six length winner over 2m 2f+ at Market Rasen (off 122), he subsequently contested the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr from a revised mark of 133. He fair rattled home from the last (when seventh at best) to get within a fast diminishing length and a quarter of the Dan Skelton trained Ch’tibello. Ch’tibello of course having form closely tied in with Supreme Novices Hurdle winner Altior from earlier in the season.
Whilst Cloudy Dream has shown an ability to handle Soft ground, he avoided the worst of the winter weather and Good or Good to Soft seems to be his optimum underfoot conditions. The suspicion is that despite his ownership, he’ll most likely remain over hurdles this season, with valuable conditions events such as the Morebattle and Premier Hurdles (over 2m 2f at Kelso) possibly on the agenda. He’ll start the 2016/17 season with a revised hurdles rating of 137.
BETAMECHE – Dan Skelton (Judy Craymer)
5yo Grey Gelding – Kapgarde/Kaldona
With Dan Skelton training at Alcester in Warwickshire, I admit to being a shade out of geographical focus by including Betameche within this list. However, I make no apology, and having previously been trained by Nicky Richards and unbeaten in bumpers at Newcastle & Wetherby, his inclusion is fully justifiable.
A physically impressive grey gelding, Betameche was a striking winner of a Class 6 Newcastle National Hunt Flat race (December 2015) on debut as a four year old. Well backed overnight, and despite showing some signs of greenness, Betameche got the job done with the minimum of fuss, and in the style of a horse with a very bright future.
Therefore, it came as a major surprise to learn that Betameche had been sold by his previous owners (Langdale Bloodstock) to head into training with Dan Skelton. He reappeared for his new connections at Wetherby (April 2016) with the market strongly suggesting that he would be forced to play second fiddle to the Warren Greatrex trained Keeper Hill. However, upon visual inspection in the paddock, Betameche simply reaffirmed my previous belief that he was a very nice youngster in the making, which frankly left me baffled by such market disparity.
Betameche travelled strongly throughout for Bridget Andrews, eased to the front about a furlong and a half from home and galloped on strongly to repel previous winners Sam Spinner and Keeper Hill by four and a half and six lengths respectively.
“Abundantly talented” were words that I’d used to describe Betameche following his Newcastle debut success, and whilst both of his victories to date have come with cut (Soft & Heavy), he appears to lack neither speed nor stamina. If continuing to progress for his excellent young trainer, it’ll be no surprise to see Betameche in action at Cheltenham come March 2017. Based upon what we’ve witnessed, 2m 4f could be his optimum trip for a Novice Hurdle campaign.
NEWTOWN LAD – Lucinda Russell (John J Murray/Lynne Maclennan)
6yo Bay Gelding – Craigsteel/Rocher Lady
Newtown Lad is a horse that strikes me as very much in a similar mould to the Michael Scudamore trained Kingswell Theatre (in the same ownership).
A 20 length winner of a three-mile Yielding to Soft Irish Point to Point at Boulta (November 2015), Newtown Lad has subsequently raced on three occasions this side of the Irish Sea for Lucinda Russell.
An inauspicious seventh of twelve in a Haydock bumper in late March 2016, was somewhat surprisingly backed up by success just a couple of weeks later at Hexham in a Heavy ground two mile Novices Hurdle.
Whilst Newtown Lad looked the part pre-race at Hexham, it was very much with the longer term in mind. A strong looking rangy individual, Newtown Lad appeared very much chasing material; and chasing material over staying trips to boot.
Therefore; it was a shade disappointing that Newtown Lad wasn’t able to build upon his initial success when stepping upto 2m 7 & a half furlongs back at Hexham in another Novices Hurdle. Beaten into fourth by just over four lengths by Buckskin Boulta, Newtown Lad was a shade laboured and one paced in the closing stages of the race.
However, in his defence, this race was came in June, was off a short break, and he did have the disappointing but talented 125-rated Another Bill in behind. Furthermore, an official going description of Good is likely to have been plenty quick enough for Newtown Lad.
A Novice Chase campaign most likely awaits this winter, with staying distances of three miles on Soft ground promising to suit. Although the bare form of his Hexham success may not amount to much (fourth placed Wazowski did win subsequently), Newtown Lad will more than pay his way with time in both Northern Novice Handicap and Handicap Chases.
WAITING PATIENTLY – Malcolm Jefferson (Richard Collins)
5yo Bay Gelding – Flemensfirth/Rossavon
Waiting Patiently has form closely tied in with Cloudy Dream, and whilst it was no surprise to see Cloudy Dream reverse Hexham placings with Waiting Patiently at Doncaster (November 2015), Waiting Patiently remains a most promising prospect.
By Flemensfirth, Waiting Patiently appeared to avoid the worst of the ground last winter, and the combination of a sharper track and drying Good to Soft ground helped the 5yo break the Maiden tag in an above average Class 4 Novices Hurdle at Sedgefield on his final start (January 2016).
This Sedgefield race looked competitive on paper beforehand with runner up Libby Mae a three time course winner, and the third placed Western Rules (undone by the drying ground) a prior dual bumper and Novice Hurdle scorer. Furthermore, the fifth placed Ash Park went onto record four victories subsequently for Stuart Coltherd by mid-June 2016.
Confidently handled by Harry Challoner, Waiting Patiently evidently relished stepping upto 2m3f at Sedgefield, staying on strongly to score by three and a half lengths. An official hurdles rating of 123 looks very workable, set alongside the improving Nuts Well (133) and Cloudy Dream (137). Waiting Patiently has enough ability to land a valuable Northern Handicap Hurdle for his new trainer Malcolm Jefferson. Drying ground will most likely play to his strengths and spring 2017 could well be his time to shine.
BIG RIVER – Lucinda Russell (Two Black Labs)
6yo Bay Gelding – Milan/Call Kate
Big River hasn’t been seen in action since winning at Kelso in October 2015, but is back in training ahead of the 2016/17 season. Noted on his trainers’ website as a strong robust type who should be a stayer over fences, he’s a horse to look forward to this season.
A Glenbane Point to Point scorer, the 6yo Milan gelding has visited the racecourse on three occasions for Lucinda Russell. A half-length runner up to the heavily backed Brain Power in a Newcastle bumper (February 2015), Big River quickly went one better the following month when downing the scopey subsequent dual hurdle winner Gully’s Edge at Kelso.
On his sole start over hurdles at Kelso (October 2015), he justified favouritism when taking the 2m Carnacrack “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle by two lengths from Just Georgie. Staying on strongly from the last, Big River appeared certain to be well suited by stepping up in trip, and it was a surprise to see him absent thereafter for the remainder of the 2015/16 campaign.
Big River looks the type to relish fences, and will be going Novice Chasing sooner rather than later. He’s likely to be far more adept over a trip of three miles (than two), although it should be noted he’s done the majority of his racing to date on ground no softer than Good to Soft. With this in mind, and if presenting themselves, it’s worthwhile waiting to see if he can handle more extreme ground conditions. However, Big River is a horse with a future over fences for a trainer who has a proven track record of excelling with staying chasers.
SAM’S ADVENTURE – Brian Ellison (Mrs J A Martin)
4yo Bay Gelding – Black Sam Bellamy/My Adventure
Sam’s Adventure more than demonstrated his natural ability by building upon an emphatic debut success at Wetherby when landing the valuable DBS Spring Sales Bumper at Newbury in March 2016.
This is a race which traditionally works out well and in just seeing off the Harry Fry trained Bags Groove by a nose, Sam’s Adventure displayed his character and tenacity in abundance. This Newbury test had been in stark contrast to his debut at Wetherby when largely unchallenged for much of the home straight he was merely pushed clear to score by nineteen lengths.
Furthermore, the fact that Sam’s Adventure was able to step up swiftly from a Class 6 to a Class 2 race in the space of four weeks, bodes extremely well for the future. At a relatively raw age of four, he not only maintained his unbeaten record, but defeated rivals from the South (some his elders) who were already previous winners. These horses included Sir Antony Browne (Alan King), Boudry (Warren Greatrex) and Cultivator (Nicky Henderson).
Sam’s Adventure’s owner tends to do relatively well with her Novice Hurdlers; so most likely to start off in a low key event in the North; it will be fascinating to see how this son of Black Sam Bellamy fares over obstacles. A trip of 2m at a track such as Carlisle would seem the obvious starting point, but Sam’s Adventure appears the type to be able to cope with stepping up in trip as the season progresses. Given his proven ability to handle testing ground, a reasonable late November target could be the 2m6f The French Furze Novices Hurdle at Newcastle on November 26th.
DUBAI ANGEL – Malcolm Jefferson (Mrs D W Davenport)
5yo Bay Gelding – Dubai Destination/Just Another Penny
Given an extended break since finishing second to Braavos at Market Rasen in October 2015, Dubai Angel promises to be a horse open to further improvement.
Whilst no match for the fully tuned up Meet The Legend at a Kelso twilight fixture in September 2015, Dubai Angel had shown distinct promise in emerging best out of a pack which contained subsequent three time winners Mardale and Barney Dwan; with the latter named landing a valuable Sandown Park Novices Handicap Hurdle (March 2016) from a mark of 129. Dubai Angel’s Kelso bumper was certainly a strong race for the grade and the time of the year, with Meet The Legend also making his mark for new connections in the South after leaving the care of Keith Dalgliesh.
Whilst appearing a shade one paced when beaten by Braavos (now rated in the high 120’s), Dubai Angel can be excused, with a step up to 2m4f over hurdles always promising to suit. Furthermore, with the benefit of hindsight in mind, it’s quite possible that Brian Hughes will be keener to play to those ‘staying’ strengths going forward than was the case at Market Rasen.
I’d anticipate that the combination of a further year to strengthen physically and the stepping up in trip over hurdles will see Dubai Angel in an increasingly positive light. He is a horse that is likely to be fairly well handicapped when allocated an initial mark, and can be envisaged winning plenty of races for connections who should be commended for favouring the longer-term development off their horses over the immediacy of a rushed development during their formative years.
BESTIARIUS – Keith Reveley (Richard Collins)
4yo Bay Gelding – Vinnie Roe/Chione
The overnight and early morning markets spoke volumes for Bestiarius ahead of his racecourse debut at Newcastle (March 2016). A half-brother to Night in Milan, the strong market confidence was well and truly justified as the four year old ran out a most convincing four length winner of a Heavy ground ‘Newcomers’ National Hunt Flat Race.
In the immediate fortnight that followed this race, Bestiarius was a late entry (Lot 23) to the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham Festival Sale, before being an even later withdrawal. Given this sales entry, it remains to be seen whether or not Bestiarius has been sold privately or indeed kicks off the new campaign for Keith Reveley.
Whilst the bare form of this Newcastle race is either untested (runner up Blakerigg yet to reappear) or deemed fairly moderate (third placed Black Ivory finally a winner at Hexham, and fourth placed Eaton Hill subsequently a runner up in a small field Ffos Las bumper), Bestiarius has the potential to prove far superior to his Newcastle rivals with time. He’s most certainly a horse for the notebook for Novice Hurdles, with an already proven ability to handle deep ground; conditions which prevailed at Newcastle throughout the majority of the previous National Hunt campaign.
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