10 Horses to Follow for National Hunt Season: Could some Cheltenham Festival winners emerge from this team?

Could some Cheltenham Festival winners emerge from our horses to follow?
Could some Cheltenham Festival winners emerge from our horses to follow?

With the National Hunt season on the horizon, it's that time of the year where jumps fans start compiling their horses to follow, and here at HorseRacing.net our man Steve Chambers has picked out ten horses he's looking forward to seeing during the 2022/23 campaign. Some maybe household names, while some may not have reached their full potential yet, but all ten have shown signs they could be very smart, and some could even be challenging for glory at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival in March.

1. Gaillard Du Mesnil - Willie Mullins

Five runs over fences and five defeats wouldn't necessarily fill you with much confidence going into the new National Hunt season, but in Gaillard Du Mesnil Willie Mullins has an exciting staying chaser, who can remain in the novice chasing ranks if he wishes this campaign, and he is the first to be etched on to the list. A five-length third to L'Homme Presse in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, he then put up a huge effort when third in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, and that emphasised the fact that he could be a real dour stayer with marathon trips potentially his bag. Already a 7/1 ante-post favourite for the National Hunt Chase at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, this six-year-old former Grade 1-winning novice hurdler can have a really exciting season over fences and he is a top prospect for the Closutton team.

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2. Hitman - Paul Nicholls

One win from eight chase starts, Hitman could well be a slow burner for Paul Nicholls, as he performed with credit in some top level races last season but failed to get his head in front on several occasions. After a five-and-a-half length second to stablemate Greaneteen in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, the six-year-old failed to figure prominently when third in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury. However, it was when he was upped in trip to two-and-a-half miles at Aintree that saw him blossom as he was second in the Grade 1 Melling Chase. Well beaten that day by Fakir D'Oudairies, Hitman could well step up in trip again this campaign, and with the Old Roan Chase at Aintree set to be his first port of call, it would be no shock - should he run well - to see him line up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day over three miles. As big as 25/1 at the time of writing, he could be one that fails to see out the Cheltenham Gold Cup trip, but a flat track at Christmas time could be right up his street and see him in with a shot of a prestigious Grade 1 this term.

3. No Ordinary Joe - Nicky Henderson

Nicky Henderson will yet again have an embarrassment of riches heading into the new National Hunt season with the likes of Constitution Hill and Shishkin flying the flag for the Seven Barrows team. Alongside the more established superstars, there are sure to be some new emerging stars and one of those could be No Ordinary Joe. The six-year-old son of Getaway stormed into the limelight with a hugely eye-catching run in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham's November meeting, as despite pulling ferociously hard throughout that event he still managed to finish third behind West Cork. Sent off a red-hot favourite next time out Ascot in Grade 3 company, he ran no race at all when pulled up in that hot handicap and he wasn't seen again on the track. Henderson will need to get him settle in his races, but he showed he had an almighty engine in the Greatwood. He's a 16/1 shot for that race again this year, but perhaps the Henderson team could send him over a fence this season, which would hopefully force him to settle and concentrate a little more.

4. Gaelic Warrior - Willie Mullins

One of the talking horses in the lead-up to the Cheltenham Festival, Gaelic Warrior was regarded as the Irish banker heading into the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, but the Willie Mullins-trained hotpot - who lined up off an eye-catching of 129 - could only finish second to Irish compatriot Brazil in the juvenile event. That was his first start for the Closutton team, so there's sure to be more to come over the coming years, and much like the abovementioned No Ordinary Joe he raced keenly that day so it will be a task for Mullins to get him to settle in his races. Still a hugely exciting four-year-old, Gaelic Warrior could be competing at the very top level as the season goes on.

5. Torn And Frayed - Nigel Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies saddled the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander to Paddy Power Gold Cup glory back in 2008 and the Naunton handler could look to scoop that prize again in November with an extremely smart staying chaser in the shape of Torn And Frayed. Beaten in five novice and novice handicap chases at the start of his chasing career, Torn And Frayed finally produced the goods with a stunning six-length victory in a hugely competitive handicap chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, and he could well return to Prestbury Park to replicate that display in the November showpiece. Currently a 14/1 best price for the Paddy Power Gold Cup, Torn And Frayed will have a much stiffer assignment on his hands off a higher mark, but could he challenge for glory in this before possibly targeting the Ryanair Chase in March?

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6. Blazing Khal - Charles Byrnes

A real revelation over hurdles last season, Blazing Khal was a dual winner at Cheltenham - which came in Ballymore and Albert Bartlett trials - but the Charles Byrnes-trained six-year-old son of Kalanisi failed to reach the Cheltenham Festival, as he was not seen on the track following a fine win at Jumps Racing HQ in December. Having showed tremendous stamina in his two Cheltenham wins, he heads into this season with a 100% record and he could well be somewhat of a forgotten horse. A current 20/1 chance for the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase and the Stayers' Hurdle, whichever discipline the Byrnes team opt to send their smooth traveller over he has to be considered a huge player.

7. Stattler - Willie Mullins

With so much firepower at his disposal, Willie Mullins is accustomed to having big race winners at the big spring festivals, but Stattler's sparkling eight-length win in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival may not have been given the credit it deserved as he obliterated the very smart performer Run Wild Fred in the staying contest. Three wins out of three as a novice, Stattler had every bit a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse about him, and at 20/1 for the blue riband event he could give you a terrific run for your money. There's no denying A Plus Tard still sits top of the Gold Cup picture, with Minella Indo and stablemates Galopin Des Champs and Allaho sure to be aimed at the showpiece race, but Stattler could well follow in the hoofprints of Native River by returning to Cheltenham a National Hunt Chase winner and claiming Gold Cup glory.

8. Luccia - Nicky Henderson

Imperious in two bumpers last season, Nicky Henderson's Luccia is already a 10/1 ante-post favourite for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and she could be a really smart prospect sent over hurdles this season. Last seen bounding to an emphatic 17-lengh victory in the Mares' Bumper final at Sandown Park in March, the four-year-old daughter of The Gurkha has already shown a high level of form in the National Hunt arena. It will be a whole new ball game sent into the novice hurdling ranks and she has had some issues already in her career, but providing Nicky Henderson can keep her sound she has to be one to follow.

9. Queens Brook - Gordon Elliott

Queens Brook jumped the final flight of hurdles in front in last season's Mares' Hurdle, but was just outstayed by the classy Marie's Rock in a thrilling finish to the 2m 4f Grade 1 contest. Well, that performance certainly showed that Gordon Elliott's seven-year-old mare can perform to an extremely high level and she's a 12/1 chance to go one better next season. Third in the Champion Bumper at the 2021 festival on only her second ever start, Queens Brook has been held in very high regard at Cullentra House and she could well be one of the star mares of the new season.

10. Redemption Day - Willie Mullins

Moving on to the tenth and last horse to follow - and some may bemoan the fact another performer for one of the premier trainers gets into the list, but such is the firepower Willie Mullins has then it's hard to veer away from his battalion when compiling groups of horses to watch. Redemption Day is a hugely exciting youngster as having disappointed when tenth in the Champion Bumper, he showed his ability when chasing home Facile Vega in the bumper at the Punchestown Festival. Beaten just over a length that day, he was outclassed by his esteemed stablemate, but with only three runs on his CV he is sure to improve significantly this season and has to be a leading contender for the premier novice hurdles.

2023 Cheltenham Festival Odds
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