Weekend Preview: Five Jumps horses to keep an eye on

Tiger Roll is set to run over hurdles at Navan on Sunday.
Tiger Roll is set to run over hurdles at Navan on Sunday.

Nick Seddon takes an early look at the entries for Saturday’s Jumps racing, and picks out five that have caught his eye…

Lord Du Mesnil - 12:32 Kelso, Saturday (also entered in the 12:50 at Ffos Las on Sunday)

Lord Du Mesnil was one of the most progressive staying chasers in training last year, so much so that he features in the entries for the Betfair Chase later this month, so it is interesting to see him entered in two novice contests over hurdles at the weekend. One of the quirks of Jumps racing is that you retain your novice status in a code until you pick up a success, meaning that very smart chasers are occasionally able to exploit lower marks over timber later in their careers - something which Ramses De Teillee showed with aplomb last year - and this looks a good opportunity for Lord Du Mesnil to get back to full fitness without affecting his current chasing mark of 153. 

It will be interesting to see how Richard Hobson campaigns his charge this year, and while a tilt at the Betfair may be slightly ambitious, it’s worth noting that he showed some smart form at the track last year, winning two valuable contests in quick succession over the Christmas period. A campaign centred around the Grand National seems more likely, and outings over timber are a useful way of keeping a horse ticking along before Aintree - a route to winning the National which the likes of Ballabriggs and Pineau De Re have used in recent years. Of his two entries at the weekend, Lord Du Mesnil’s engagement over just over two and three quarter miles at Kelso feels like a better fit, and although his hurdling mark is easily the highest in the field, the fact that he’s in a novice contest means that he can take his chance on good terms. Lord Du Mesnil will undoubtedly come on for this run, but the novice hurdling sphere could prove to be a fruitful distraction should Aintree become his intended destination. 

Eglantine du Seuil - 13:50 Wincanton, Saturday

Jared Sullivan’s decision to switch his string to the UK over the summer was good news for the Paul Nicholls operation, and the latest of his big hitters, Eglantine Du Seuil, is due to make her return in a mares’ event at Wincanton on Saturday. The 2019 Mares' Novices' Hurdle winner hasn't got her nose in-front since that Festival success, and rounded off a disappointing campaign by finishing down the field in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham in March.

The switch to Ditcheat is an interesting one, though, and she looks to have been found an excellent opportunity to return to winning ways - at a track where her new handler can boast a 34% strike rate over the past five seasons. Eglantine Du Seuil will have to give an awful lot of weight away to the field if she does line up, but she's won on the back of an absence in the past, and ought to have far too much class here. 

If The Cap Fits - 14:25 Wincanton, Saturday

The novice chasing division is beginning to heat up nicely as we head into November, and there’s an excellent field of five due to head to post over two and a half miles at Wincanton on Saturday. Both Hurricane Harvey and Ga Law deserve respect after impressive starts to their new careers, though the headline acts are undoubtedly the trio of Grand Sancy, Fiddlerontheroof and If The Cap Fits. The last-named carries the colours of Simon Munir & Isaac Souede having been purchased from the Rooneys over the summer, and the classy staying hurdler appeals as a fine chasing prospect this term.

Indeed, he’s a chaser on looks, and made the perfect start to his career when accounting for Fiddlerontheroof and Emitom in pretty comfortable fashion on his debut over a furlong further at Ffos Las last month. There’s room for improvement in the jumping department after a bit of a shaky start on debut, and there was very much of learning on the job at Ffos Las, but If The Cap Fits is a classy type, and we ought to be seeing him in Graded company sooner rather than later.

Goshen - Elite Hurdle, Wincanton, Saturday

Saturday’s feature is the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, which can act as an early season indicator for the Champion Hurdle next March. Admittedly, this race tends to produce a lively outsider for the showpiece rather than a bona fide contender, though this year’s renewal is a strong one, and all eyes will be on Goshen. Gary Moore’s four-year-old was one of the stories of last season, and looked for the world as though he was going to bolt up in the Triumph Hurdle, too, before dramatically unseating Jamie Moore when clear at the final flight. This will be the first time that he faces his elders over obstacles, and he will do so fit, having had two runs on the Flat over the past couple of months.

Goshen was fancied as a potential Ebor Handicap contender at the beginning of the summer, though that didn’t materialise, and he’ll perhaps line-up at Wincanton with less backers than he did, having suffered two defeats on the level at short prices. It would be unfair to judge his Champion Hurdle credentials on those outings on the Flat, and as an 8/1 second favourite for the big race at the time of writing, a repeat of his Triumph run would certainly mark him out as a serious player this season. It is worth noting that leading players from the Triumph Hurdle don’t always train on as hoped, however, and as a 7/4 favourite at the time of writing, he’s best watched off level weights up against the likes of Sceau Royal, Ballyandy, Diego Du Charmil and Solo.

Tiger Roll - 13:00 Navan, Sunday

There’s an excellent card at Navan on Sunday, one which is headlined by the ultra-competitive Troytown Handicap Chase, though all eyes will be on the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle earlier on the card, which looks set to feature the dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll. There will always be a feeling of what might of been with Tiger Roll, who was robbed of the chance of sealing a hat-trick due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and he'll be an 11-year-old by the time the National rolls around next April. He seems likely to be campaigned for the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham prior to that, and we've already seen him once since racing's return, when well-held over a mile and a half on the Flat here last month.

That run didn't tell us an awful lot, but he will at least strip fitter, and it's worth noting that he won on reappearance at this level when striking in the Boyne Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs here in February 2019. That 25/1 victory was an unexpected one, and Tiger Roll will likely need further to be seen to best effect these days. It seems likely that he will be trained to peak in the spring, and is best watched as a consequence at the weekend. 

2021 Cheltenham Festival
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