The 2023/24 Jumps Season is underway and we’ve got all our team to give their ’10 to follow’ for the NH season.
Jake Russell is the first to give his selections, which include a Olly Murphy runner who he has down as the most exciting Novice Hurdler to follow this season!
JUNTA MARVEL (Willie Mullins)
It feels almost compulsory to include a Willie Mullins bumper horse in these 10 Horse to follow article, and although there could be a few to choose from, the one I am selecting is Junta Marvel.
The Mare was a bit of a late bloomer for the yard last season, making her debut late on in the season when lining up over 2m3f at Limerick, where she won by just under 3 lengths. With the 2nd horse Bioluminescence looking like a nice type in her own right, who was well backed before the off. With both of them pulling well clear from the rest of the field. It was next time out where she really caught the eye, lining up in a Grade 3 Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in April, stepping down to 2-miles for the first time. She didn’t look slow by any means, which will be good for her heading into her Novice Hurdling season. One slight concern was she was flashing her tail when under pressure late on the race at Punchestown, however that didn’t deter her, as she won going away by 2 lengths.
I’m unsure as to what her trip will be over Hurdles, but I would like to see her start over 2 miles, as she clearly isn’t a slow type as shown at Punchestown. She may not reach the heights of some of the yards types, but I think she will have a very productive season.
WILLIETHEBUILDER (Dan Skelton)
A horse that has already run this season, when landing a Novice Hurdle at Uttoxeter, he did beat a rival with plenty of experience that day, and he done it very well indeed. The son of Arcadio had three runs in Ireland for Declan Queally, two bumpers and a point to point. He was well fancied and sent off odds on for the point to point, so there would have been plenty of confidence there. Plus two nice efforts in bumpers at Fairyhouse and Punchestown respectively, where he finished 5th and 2nd, still learning on the job. He has since transferred to Dan Skelton, who manage to get him to win quite nicely on Hurdle debut.
It’s easy to get carried away when we see a Novice win it’s first run over obstacles like he did at Uttoxeter a few weeks back, but I think it could be justified with him. He is liked at home by his trainer, who said he is an easy type to train and doesn’t need much work to get ready. Although he might not be a world beater or a Grade 1 type, I think he will pick up some nice prizes this season. One thing to note as well is the Skelton horses have started the season in impressive fashion, I think they will have a big year this season.
COMPLETE UNKNOWN (Paul Nicholls)
A horse that has won in all of the codes he has raced in, which includes one win in one run in a bumper, one win in seven attempts over hurdles, before going on to win on 2 occasions over fences in just four runs. It’s clear he is more than made for fences, having won 50% of his races over the larger obstacles, plus he was pitched straight into Grade 2 company over fences at Warwick on just his second run over them.
He gave the perfect impression over fences on his chase debut, jumping well before pulling away to win by three quarters of a length. He then finished 2nd in that Grade 2 at Warwick, well beaten by a nice type, before going on to probably run his best two races to date next time out. A very easy 16 length win in a Handicap at Kempton, before going on to come 2nd in the Grade 1 Mildmay Chase at Aintree, only beaten by a possible Gold Cup hopefully, finishing 4 lengths clear of fourth.
He is set to be aimed at the Collin Parker Chase at Carlisle before heading off to the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury, and I think he is tailor made for that contest. I think should all go well between now and then, he is a sure thing to run well in the race, as that will be his seasonal target.
INTHEWATERSIDE (Paul Nicholls)
One of the bumper performers from last season who I think is going a little under the radar at present for multiple time Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls, who had 18 indvidual winners of bumpers last season, and I would hazard a guess quite a few of those will go on to make good jumpers. Although Paul has the Champion Bumper 3rd going Novice Hurdling this season, I think Inthewaterside could be one to keep a very close eye on as the season progresses.
Sent to Exeter, a venue where Paul likes to send out his bumper horses, he wasn’t that well fancied like most of the Nicholls bumper runners, however despite him doing everything wrong on the day, he still held on to win by a length. Very green throughout, and forcing his way to lead very early on, he was pushed along with 3 furlongs to go, lugging and hanging left down the straight, looking very green. He then started to hand right in the closing stages, but held on to win in the end, still actually running through the line. Looking back at that performance, it’s surprising he actually won, despite doing it all wrong. But it was his run next time out that caught the eye, when lining up against Wrappedupinmay on a decent little bumper contest at Sandown. Not very well fancied in the market, he couldn’t have won any easier, looking a lot more switched on an knowledgeable of what to do, he made all to forge clear by just under 7 lengths. That was a much more of a complete performance in comparison to the debut effort, and the horse he beat that day won a Warwick bumper with ease since they met.
I think once there is an obstacle in front of him, he will just keep improving with each run. Word is Paul Nicholls and connections think a lot of him, he could be one of their better horses heading into this season.
NEMEAN LION (Kerry Lee)
It is always nice to see the ‘smaller’ trainer have a nice type on their hands, and having reached a mark of 100 in Germany on the flat, Nemean Lion took to hurdling quite well last season in just the four runs he had over the obstacles. Kerry Lee’s recruit won pretty well on his hurdles debut at Hereford, jumping well before pulling clear to land the prize by just under 10 lengths. He then placed second in a Introductory Hurdle at Haydock, having to give a nice horse of Fergal O’Briens 5lbs in the weight, before going on to finish a very good third behind Tahmuras in the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown. Only to be beaten by a little over 3 lengths, and unlucky not to finish closer as he wasn’t fluent at the 2nd last Hurdle. The Kerry Lee horse then rounded off his novice campaign with a strong victory in the Grade 2 Premier Novices Hurdle at Kelso, where he won by 1 and three quarters.
His trainer is mainly known for doing very well with her chasers, however she does have a nice hurdler to go to war with here, who shown that when landing the Welsh Champion Hurdle over the weekend off the mark of 135. He looked fit and ready to go at Ffos-Las on Sunday, staying on very well in the closing stages to land the feature prize of the day, with his trainer afterwards stating the Greatwood at Cheltenham will be his next assignment. I think he will come on wonders for the run, and with his very sound jumping, I can very much see him landing a decent prize or two this season.
INDEEVAR BLEU (Olly Murphy)
I very much like this time of year, when we get to see winning bumper performers from last season show their colours over hurdles for the new season ahead, as we look to unearth the new potential superstar for yards, with lofty plans for the season going forward. The Olly Murphy team didn’t exactly have their usual very productive season last term, but they have some nice recruits heading into this season, none more so that his gelded son of Blue Bresil, who had just the one run in bumpers last season.
Olly Murphy has stated that win at Wetherby in March came as a little surprise, due to the horse being so big and backward and not doing much at home, so the expectation was he will come on for racing as he grows and fills his frame. But he couldn’t have been anymore impressive, well backed before hand, he duly obliged that support by winning by half the track, cantering over his rivals with 3 furlongs to go, before pulling way clear to win by 12 lengths. His rider that day and the current leader of the jumps champion jockey title Sean Bowen was very much buzzing after that performance, and struggled to pull the horse up until they got half way around the back straight, so there was still loads in the locker after the run evidently.
I think even by the end of the year he could be an absolute force in Novice Hurdles, and he is probably the most exciting Novice Hurdler for me out of any in my 10 to follow list. The yard have said he will start off in a Maiden contest at a big track somewhere, it’s clear to see they are quite excited to see him strut his stuff over hurdles this term.
SAO CARLOS (Olly Murphy)
Another nice type for the Olly Murphy team, and as I mentioned in the last paragraph, He does have some nice recruits this season, especially a few nice bumper types who will be heading down the Novice Hurdle route. This horse, like Indeevar Bleu, had just the one run in a bumper last season, which was a winning effort at Market Rasen. And although he won by just a length, it pays to go back and watch that effort, as with 3 furlongs to go he readily shot clear, making it a real test for the rest, before pulling clear in the home straight, always doing enough and looking for company as they headed to the line. It was the manner that he shot about 10 lengths clear in just a few strides down the home straight that caught my eye, really looking like a very nice, quick 2 miler in the making.
That was definitely a performance that caught my eye at the time, and at that point he was owned by his father Aiden Murphy. However Sao Carlos also caught the eye of others and has since been purchased by the very powerful Ged Mason, Sir Alex Ferguson, John Hales and J Driver outfit, who have had many top horses over the years. I think the fact powerful owners have swooped to take this horse speaks a bit about him, and Olly Murphy is also cooing over him for the season ahead. He is another one I am excited to see over obstacles this season.
APPLE AWAY (Lucinda Russell)
A real surprise package last season, and a real nice staying type in the making, she came on leaps and bounds with each passing run last season, eventually winning a Grade 1 at Aintree. It looks as if she will be going chasing this season (She was entered at Worcester at the start of October but didn’t run) and she does look the sort to flourish over the bigger obstacles, like her stable mate Ahoy Senor, who won the same race at Aintree over Hurdles before going on to become a very nice chaser and a Gold Cup hopeful for connections.
She has had the 7 runs over hurdles, with 4 of them being winning efforts, including that by far career best in the Grade 1 Grand Sefton at Aintree, to which she beat some very nice types in the process, really grinding it out and staying on stoutly heading to the line. She is owned by a syndicate/racing club, so it’s great to see them do well and potentially have a graded type heading over fences this season. I think she will improve even more for the larger obstacles, and could be a fun one for connections as the season progresses.
ROCK HOUSE (Dan Skelton)
Another horse who fairly impressed in bumpers last season was the Skelton’s Rock House, who also won a point-to-point back in April, in pretty decent fashion in the end. A very easy winner on debut at Huntingdon in April with Bob Bob Ricard 3 lengths in behind, the Skelton five-year-old attempted to follow-up that smooth victory last time under a penalty at Warwick a month later. He could only finish second to a decent-looking Nicky Henderson gelding who was getting eight pounds in the weights with the Skelton horse, which in the end was a decent enough performance as he was only beaten by just under 2 lengths on the day.
The son of Westerner will no doubt be jumping fences in the near future as he has won a point-to-point over 3 miles for Charlie and Francesca Poste, but I feel he could land some nice prizes over hurdles first, before inevitable tackling the larger obstacles in the near future. More to the present, and he was a winner on Hurdle debut at Worcester by 13 lengths, before tackling the Grade 2 Persian War Novices Hurdle at Chepstow over the weekend, where he was sent off the 2nd favourite in the market. Beaten by just under 10 lengths, he did look a bit novicey at times and the incredibly softer under foot conditions might not have suit at this stage over hurdles. However, he still ran well and placed in patterned company, so I can see him landing one or two more decent novice contests as the season progresses.
FIRESTREAM (Anthony Honeyball)
Maybe not your conventional one to follow horse, but the main reason I have included him into my 10 to follow is because I think his current handicap mark of 124 could be exploited this season ahead, as I think he might be a little better than the rating suggests.
An eye-catching bumper campaign two seasons ago, looking like a real nice type for Novice Hurdles last season, a few (Including myself) were predicting him to progress into a graded-performer last season in the Novice Hurdle contests. Anthony Honeyball’s gelding ran out a 21-length winner on his hurdles debut at Chepstow in November, but he was then beaten under a penalty at Ffos Las in late December and could only finish fourth on his final novice outing at Fontwell in January, where he was well fancied to win off the mark of 130 but couldn’t do so unfortunately. The team might be a shade disappointed with what Firestream did last season in Novice contests, however there is still some encouragement to be taken from those defeats last season.
It is unsure on what they are going to do with him this year in terms of hurdles or fences, but for the sake of this article I hope he stays over the smaller obstacles, as I feel his hurdle mark is a little lenient and he could land a nice prize this season. The promise he showed as a bumper horse two seasons back when winning once and placing on a few other occasions, suggests he could put it all together now in open company.
Jake’s 10 To Follow
- JUNTA MARVEL (Willie Mullins)
- WILLIETHEBUILDER (Dan Skelton)
- COMPLETE UNKNOWN (Paul Nicholls)
- INTHEWATERSIDE (Paul Nicholls)
- NEMEAN LION (Kerry Lee)
- INDEEVAR BLEU (Olly Murphy)
- SAO CARLOS (Olly Murphy)
- APPLE AWAY (Lucinda Russell)
- ROCK HOUSE (Dan Skelton)
- FIRESTREAM (Anthony Honeyball)
Check out all our other tipsters ’10 To Follow’ for the 23/24 Jumps season here:
- Andrew Mount’s 10 To Follow
- Dave Young’s (Cheltmental) 10 To Follow
- Matt Sutcliffe’s 10 To Follow
- Tom Aldridge’s 10 To Follow
- Dan Corbally’s 10 To Follow
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