Alex Hammond Blog
Last Updated: 13/11/19 1:44pm
Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond looks back on the recent jumps action and ahead to Cheltenham's November meeting in her latest blog.
Fusil Raffles made a winning return at Wincanton - how impressed were you?
Well, he got the job done, but I expect many people were hoping for something more flashy from Nicky Henderson's odds on favourite in the Elite Hurdle.
Things I liked: He travelled strongly and in the main and jumped slickly. Yes, he was a bit fresh and probably didn't settle as well as he will with this run under his belt, but he kept finding all the way to the line. This is a race that throws up some smart performers (not necessarily Champion Hurdle winners) and was a positive start to his season. According to Henderson the race came a couple of weeks too soon, so he should improve for the outing.
Things I don't like: In the same yard as Buveur D'Air who is a more superior and accomplished hurdler at this stage. In the same yard as Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills, who is another of Henderson's leading Champion Hurdle contenders. His trainer says he hasn't grown and filled out as much as he'd have liked over the summer.
Overall, it was a satisfactory start to his season and I've no doubt there will be exciting times ahead for connections of this talented four-year-old, but he still has some way to go to prove himself against the established and hardened star two milers. That's not to say he won't, but he needs to progress again. He's 11/1 with Sky Bet for the Champion Hurdle and the Christmas Hurdle is likely to be next.
A busy Sunday of action - Santini at Sandown and a host of exciting prospects winning at Navan. What took your eye?
Well as you say, there were plenty of notable performances from horses we'll be seeing plenty of over the coming months, but I was particularly impressed with Fakir D'Oudairies.
We were chatting about Joseph O'Brien in last week's blog and here he is again, this time with a leading jumps prospect.
I loved this horse when he was contesting top level four-year-old hurdle races last season, but it looks like he'll be even better over fences and it's interesting O'Brien has taken this route with him, rather than sticking over the smaller obstacles.
He's a precocious French-bred horse who should excel chasing and he should be capable of going to the very top. He's 9/1 for the Arkle with Sky Bet.
The three-day Cheltenham November Meeting takes centre stage this weekend - any early fancies?
Well Slate House is a horse I have on my radar this season, so I'll keep an eye on his entries. He's in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday and is currently Sky Bet's 5/1 favourite. I know that doesn't scream value in a race like this, but I'll take a 5/1 winner any day and I think he's capable of following up his win on his seasonal reappearance in a novices' chase at this track last month. He's an exciting chase prospect for Colin Tizzard and I'll be disappointed if he's beaten.
Another horse I have on my list to follow this season is I K Brunel and the McNeill family have him entered at Cheltenham on Friday in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. Adrian Heskin is jocked up on the Olly Murphy trained five-year-old, so it's looks like the plan is to run him. He broke his maiden over hurdles at Fontwell on his reappearance last month and he looks an exciting prospect. He's 7/2 with Sky Bet for Friday's contest and a massive 40/1 for the Ballymore at the Cheltenham festival in March.
Anyone that follows racing reasonably closely will have noticed that Venetia Williams and Fergal O'Brien have made flying starts to their seasons. With both stables red hot I'll be keeping a close eye on their entries in the coming weeks. Entries that stand out are Achille (Williams) who is in handicap chases on Friday and Saturday at Cheltenham and Benny's Bridge in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday.
Brewin'upastorm was one of my horses to follow last season and he's on my list again this time round after a taking chasing debut at Carlisle for Olly Murphy. He's entered in a hot novices' chase at Prestbury Park on Friday and I hope he can take the next step up the ladder against some smart prospects.