The jumps season is alive and kicking and as we progress through November they’ll be plenty of stars returning and others already running for the second time this campaign.
So far so good for some of the big names this season and I was lucky enough to witness the brilliant jumping display from Lostintranslation last Sunday at Carlisle, and caught Envoi Allen’s impressive debut over hurdles on the TV while racing at Ayr on Saturday.
Both look to have big seasons ahead of them and I’d be very surprised if they aren’t both right in the mix at Cheltenham in March.
For now, though, we’re treated to some really competitive heats across the UK and Ireland this weekend where I’ve picked out some fancies at Wincanton and Navan.
Flic Ou Voyou (12:40 Wincanton)
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Jockey: Harry Cobden
Plenty of Paul Nicholls’ horses have needed the run so far this season, but with Flic Ou Voyou already having that out of the way when a close second at Chepstow last month, he should be able to strike for the champion trainer.
He was only second by a neck at Chepstow last time, when caught just a few strides from home, and ran out of steam really when making a mistake two out.
That run, matched with more schooling at home, should have sharpened him up for his next test at Wincanton this weekend, where he already has two bumper wins to his name.
Reserve Tank (2:25 Wincanton)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Robbie Power
Much like Flic Ou Voyou, Reserve Tank should come on again after finishing second to Jarveys Plate at Chepstow in October
As a multiple Grade One winner over hurdles, he is well fancied to go right to the top over fences this season and showed enough last time in defeat to keep the faith for a little longer over fences.
Race fitness should be on his side at Wincanton this Saturday and I’m backing him to put in a real eye-catching performance.
Andy Dufresne (1:35 Navan)
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Jockey: Mark Walsh
As a bit of a talking horse this season, Andy Dufresne is well worth following at Navan on Sunday.
The JP McManus five-year-old was an impressive bumper winner on his only start under rules at Down Royal in January, where he beat the Willie Mullins-trained Golden Spread by 10 lengths.
He also comfortably beat Faustinovick, now with Colin Tizzard, in his point-to-point at Borris House in March, and that is a horse that finished second in his first race over hurdles at Carlisle last Sunday.
Andy Dufresne could be a step above all that and considering Gordon Elliott is operating with a 23% strike rate over the last fortnight, I’d expect him to be visiting the winner’s enclosure at the first time of asking over hurdles.
A Plus Tard (2:20 Navan)
Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Jockey: Rachael Blackmore
This looks a really good race on paper and one that should be watched with some interest on Sunday.
Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres is perhaps the star attraction, but A Plus Tard, a winner of the Close Brothers at Cheltenham, just about gets the nod for me.
It’s his first go at two miles, but conditions are likely to be very soft at Navan this weekend and that could play into his staying power, especially when he’s already won and placed under heavy and very soft conditions over 2m2f from his days in France.
He also carries five-pound less than Duc Des Genievres and six less than Ballyoisin who won this race last year.
Trainer Henry De Bromhead is known for improving horses as they progress into chasers and A Plus Tard could be another one that falls into that category this weekend.