With the National Hunt season kicking into top gear, we’ve taken a look at five horses who look set to land Grade One prizes over the next 12 months.
This exciting five-year-old novice hurdler doesn’t hail from an Irish heavyweight stable, but has impressed in defeating several from the Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott yards and looks one to follow into 2023.
Trained and owned by Barry Connell, Marine Nationale won a Punchestown bumper back in May and doubled up in August, before making a taking hurdles debut back at the same venue in August.
But the unbeaten Supreme hope was more impressive in taking his first Grade One in December, travelling strongly in behind before meeting some trouble and jumping averagely, before showing plenty of speed to get up on the line to win by a head from Irish Point.
That bare form wouldn’t be enough to challenge the likes of Facile Vega, but you’d imagine a strong pace – one he would get in the Cheltenham Festival opener – could suit, and the owner-trainer has confirmed that will be his target.
From one exciting novice to another, Paul Nicholls’ Hermes Allen made quite the impression when winning by a remarkable 27 lengths on hurdling debut under Bryony Frost for owners including Sir Alex Ferguson.
He would go on to prove himself in better company next time, winning by nine lengths in a Grade Two at Cheltenham over the Ballymore distance (2m5f), although that might not be the ultimate target this season.
The Challow Hurdle at Newbury next week would seem the ideal stepping stone for the Nicholls team, having won the race with Stage Star and Bravemansgame in recent years.
Neither of them converted at Cheltenham though, and it could well be that Aintree suits this five-year-old better.
Another off the conveyor belt of French talent to enter the Willie Mullins yard, El Fabiolo hasn’t seen a fence in public yet but already sits second in the market for the Arkle behind Henry VIII winner Jonbon.
El Fabiolo was beaten narrowly by Jonbon at Aintree last season, although the former did jump poorly that day and was inconvenienced in the run, so that could be upgraded and he made no mistake when lining up later that month at Punchestown.
If, and it’s a big if, he takes to the larger obstacles, no doubt he will be a threat at a decent price to Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon when March swings around.
Another from the Willie Mullins team, Brandy Love is arguably the most exciting mare in training (sorry, Honeysuckle) after a spectacular season last time that included throwing away a Fairyhouse Grade Three when jumping violently out to her left throughout.
She would miss the Cheltenham Festival but made amends at Punchestown, where her jumping trait wasn’t as pronounced, defeating the Mares’ Novice winner Love Envoi by eight lengths.
The six-year-old could go over fences but is surely more likely to take in a competitive Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, although while Epatante and Honeysuckle could be on the wane, Brandy Love looks one on the up.
A horse that already has an Ultima Handicap Chase victory to his name wouldn’t seem the most obvious horse to follow this year, but a different target looks on the cards for Corach Rambler and the Lucinda Russell team this time.
He impressed as a novice chaser and looks a reliable jumper now, which is a major positive with the Grand National the ultimate target for this eight-year-old.
Only put up 7lb for that taking success at Cheltenham, he was surprisingly dropped 1lb for a good fourth in the competitive Corl Gold Cup – a mark of 146 could well be worth protecting for a team that know what it takes to win the biggest race of all.
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The post Five to follow! Marine Nationale, El Fabiolo and Brandy Love among horses set to thrive in 2023 appeared first on WorldNewsEra.