Five National Hunt horses to look out for this season
The Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter Racecourse is one of the big National Hunt races of the 2018/19 campaign and part of a 17 race day fixture list at the Devon course this season. The winner of the 2m1f Grade Two contest usually goes on to be a big contender for one of the leading races at the Cheltenham Festival in the division.
Here is a look at five horses to follow this season including some of which that will feature in the two-mile chase division.
Diego du Charmil
Diego do Charmil has an entry in the 2018 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter and could be set for a big campaign. Paul Nicholls’ runner is a second-year chaser and should be able to lean on his experience over fences to good effect this season. The French-bred horse produced a career-best performance in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase at the Grand National meeting at Aintree back in April. Partnered by Harry Codham, the pair beat the odds-on favourite Petit Mouchoir in the Grade One contest. If the six-year-old can reproduce his run at Aintree when he lines up at Exeter and other National Hunt courses this season, there can be more success had at the highest level.
It was reported last week by Oddschecker that Laurina is being backed to win the Champion Hurdle this season and it is no surprise that there is a lot of confidence behind Willie Mullins’ mare. At the Cheltenham Festival last season, she was one of the most impressive winners at the meeting when she claimed the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle by an emphatic 18 lengths. Laurina is expected to take on the opposite sex this season, therefore, expect to see her line up in all of the leading 2m hurdle races in the UK and Ireland.
Presenting Percy is the 6/1 favourite to win the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup going into the 2018/19 season as the 2018 RSA Chase winner is expected to have an immediate impact in his campaign outside of novice company. The seven-year-old from Patrick Kelly’s yard may just be the next superstar in the sport and, in order for him to become the leading chaser in the UK and Ireland, he will need to prevail in the big races this season. The Irish horse is expected to travel across for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and, if all goes well during the campaign, he will return to the Festival in March for a shot at the Blue Riband event of the week where he is likely to take on last year’s winner Native River and Might Bite.
It was a faultless campaign from Footpad last season as he won all five of his racecourse starts, including the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Festival. One of the most fascinating battles of the 2018/19 season will be when Footpad takes on Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the leading 2m chase contest on the National Hunt calendar. In his last two races run last season, Footpad won by a combined total of 26 lengths against Grade One opposition. If he improves again this year, he could take some stopping, even by the mighty Altior.
Things didn’t quite go to plan for Faugheen last season on his return to the racecourse following his lengthy injury as he could only finish sixth in the Champion Hurdle, the race he won in 2015 before his setback. Connections opted to step their horse up in trip at the Punchestown Festival a month later where he sealed the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Irish meeting. Faugheen is likely to remain at 3m during the 2018/18 campaign and that could be the best move for Mullins’ hurdler, who is now 10 years old. The 2m Champion Hurdle division is full of younger horses who are improving all the time, therefore, the Stayers’ Hurdle should give Faugheen his best chance of a third Cheltenham Festival success.
The Cheltenham Festival begins on 12th March this season and runs all the way through to 15th March in what is the best five days national hunt racing in the sport.