Hold onto your horses
King ace could go right to the top this season
By Nic Doggett. Last Updated: 07/11/12 5:20pm
Hold On Julio: Possible Gold Cup contender?
Nic Doggett selects one jumps horse to follow from each of the top five British stables (based on last season's prizemoney earnings).
Sanctuaire - Paul Nicholls
Although more high-profile than some in this list, Paul Nicholls' talented six-year-old looks a horse who can go right to the very top this season.
Having become disappointing over hurdles, a switch to chasing really paid dividends in the new year, resulting in three bloodless victories. One might argue that he didn't beat much in the first two races, but by slamming Somersby in the Celebration Chase, he stamped himself as a very exciting prospect.
Expect him to head to the Tingle Creek and then the Champion Chase, and whilst horses such as Sizing Europe, Finian's Rainbow and Sprinter Sacre are very tough opponents, there is reason to believe that his liking for the Sandown fences could swing the race in his favour come Christmas time.
And let's not forget that Nicholls has won 7 of the last 10 renewals; Sanctuaire looks his outstanding candidate this season.
Captain Conan - Nicky Henderson
It was a surprise for many, including his trainer Nicky Henderson, when this French recruit was successful on his UK debut at Sandown. He wasn't able to add to that narrow defeat of Colour Squadron, however he wasn't disgraced in three subsequent runs on ground quicker than ideal.
After that rushed novice hurdling campaign, he'll definitely go chasing this year and he has the scope to make a real impact when the ground is testing, especially when stepped up in trip.
Obviously the big spring festivals are often run on quicker ground, but if the going is suitable then races such as the Jewson Novices' Chase/RSA Chase at Cheltenham and the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown look suitable long-term targets.
Super Duty - Donald McCain
Despite a crashing (and worrying) fall at Ayr in January, the son of Shantou bounced back by beating Keys at Ascot and then chasing home Simonsig at the Aintree Festival. Although no match for the winner, he would have gone closer had he not made a mistake late on and he has an exciting season over fences ahead.
He was beaten by a good Robert Bewley horse on his reappearance at Carlisle but that was over two miles and his future certainly lies over 2m4f and further (he comes from a staying family), and he has the scope to really do some damage in the early part of this season.
However he proved last year that he's more than capable of holding his own at the bigger meetings and McCain's charge may well head to Bangor next before being aimed at more illustrious races, perhaps something like the Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
It's A Gimme - Jonjo O'Neill
His novice form last season wasn't amazing by anyone's standards, indeed jockey Tony McCoy was disappointed after his Southwell win in February, and he signed off last season with a costly defeat at Aintree albeit against more experience rivals.
However he ran the progressive Raya Star very close on his reappearance at Ascot on Saturday and, despite a rise to a rating of 140, he looks on a fair mark and that lofty perch should ensure he gets into the bigger and more valuable two mile handicaps this season.
Big fields and a strong pace will suit as he doesn't do much in-front, but he looks a potential successor to his more illustrious handicapping stablemate Get Me Out Of Here.
Hold On Julio - Alan King
King's nine-year-old attracted plenty of column inches last season and looks set to do so once again following a promising reappearance at Cheltenham. His jumping was scratchy but he still ran on well up the hill, suggesting that he would have won had his fencing been more accurate.
The former hunter-chaser only disappointed once last season, at the Cheltenham Festival, but his preparation hadn't been smooth and his excellent return, where King would have left something to work on, shows that he's back in good health.
He has an entry in the Hennessy, and is now rated 148, and although it may be slightly pie in the sky, there's no real reason why he can't continue his improvement, and make the step up to the top level.
King hasn't had a Gold Cup contender in recent years, but if this son of Blueprint continues his upward curve, then he could feasibly mirror last-season's victor Synchronised at Cheltenham in March.