Lizzie Kelly reveals her six to watch ahead of Cheltenham’s November meeting this week – Grade One winning jump jockey joins Racemail for the jumps season
- Nicky Henderson’s chaser Shishkin can fill the horseshoes of stablemate Altior
- Bravemansgame has stacks of potential and impressed on his chasing debut
- Brave Kingdon caught the eye with maiden victory at Chepstow last week
Cheltenham’s November meeting starts on Friday and with trainers beginning to roll out their big guns jumps racing is well and truly centre stage.
I may no longer be a jockey but I am still heavily involved in the sport, riding out almost every day and going to the track for media work. I am looking forward to sharing my opinions with Racemail readers throughout the season.
We’ve already seen some exciting performances.
Bravemansgame’s jumping was fantastic when he made his chasing debut at Newton Abbot
Dan Skelton’s Allmankind looked exceptional when winning the Old Roan Chase at Aintree last month, bouncing back from being beaten in last year’s Arkle Novices’ Chase. He should continue to improve as he learns to relax more in his races.
The team of trainer Colin Tizzard looks to be in better form. It was encouraging to see Eldorado Allen, who was a bit of a bridesmaid last season, win last week’s Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.
Novice hurdler Camprond has already answered some serious questions in confident style for trainer Philip Hobbs and jockey Aidan Coleman with wins at Chepstow and Cheltenham last month, while King George VI Chase winner Frodon was special when landing the Champion Chase at Down Royal last week.
There are so many classy horses to look out for but here are six I will be following extra closely…
SHISHKIN: Nicky Henderson’s chaser has huge horseshoes to fill after the retirement of stablemate and dual Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Altior. But he was imperious when winning the Arkle in March and followed up in style at Aintree a few weeks later. His potential clash with Chacun Pour Soi in next month’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown will be tasty.
BRAVEMANSGAME: It didn’t quite work out at Cheltenham and Aintree for the gelding trained by Paul Nicholls but he is a Grade One winning novice hurdler whose jumping was fantastic when he made his chasing debut at Newton Abbot. He has stacks of potential.
BRAVE KINGDOM: Nicholls has inherited some talented horses from fellow trainer Harry Whittington and this one caught the eye at Chepstow last week, romping home in a maiden hurdle.
HERMES BOY: A horse I bought and really like who is trained by my mother Jane Williams. He showed bags of promise when second to I Like To Move It on his hurdling debut at Worcester last month and the form looks even better after the winner followed up by landing another novice hurdle at Cheltenham last month. He runs at Bangor this afternoon.
LEADING CHOICE: A horse I have ridden quite a lot at the Somerset stable of Nicky Martin. He won a Bumper at Ffos Las last month and he will be even better when he eventually goes over hurdles.
GLADIATEUR ALLEN: A good winner at Ascot last season and ran well in a hot Sandown race. Another trained by my mother, the ground was terrible when he made his seasonal comeback at Ffos Las when they went slow and he pulled too hard. He has a great engine and lots of promise.
Serious revamp required in Britain
Going into the jumps season it is difficult to ignore the shamrock-clad elephant in the room. Ireland delivered a ‘green wash’ at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, beating the home team 23 wins to five and leaving many over here debating what had gone wrong. It won’t get much easier this season either given the Irish remain so strong.
Their ranks include Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle, last season’s Gold Cup winner Minella Indo, Chacun Pour Soi, Energumene plus two-time Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo, who trainer Willie Mullins has said will have a busier season as he tries to regain his crown.
Ireland delivered a ‘green wash’ at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival with 23 wins
This is going to take some turning around and a serious revamp of the programme in Britain is needed.
There are too many options to run, especially for the chasers, providing escape routes to avoid rivals and too many soft races. In contrast, less racing in Ireland means competitors have to clash more. They get battle-hardened, which can prove a big factor when the pressure is on at the Festival.
On Sunday, Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House, one of the big British hopes for the Gold Cup and King George VI Chase, beat a single rival at Sandown. He strolled home and would have had to work harder on the gallops. If we want to turn things round we have to be brave and make radical decisions about how our season is constructed.