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National Hunt Season 16/17: Our Five Most Memorable Moments

Jumps jockeys are a hardy lot.

Their 'season' goes all year long, with barely one day's break between finishing on Sandown's Gold Cup day, and starting all over again the day after. Such a long season inevitably creates dozens and dozens of incredible moments - even if this time we were to enjoy our sport without regular sightings of superstars Vautour, Faugheen, Annie Power, Douvan and Don Cossack.

Still, it was another remarkable season of National Hunt racing and here are our five most memorable moments.

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National Hunt Season 16/17
The Most Memorable Moments

Might Bite stops at the concessions stand before winning RSA

Even for Cheltenham - a course famous for heart stopping drama - this dash for the line was one of the most remarkable finishes in the sport's history.

The famous hill has broken many a superstar, and you just never see a horse able to regain speed after faltering - yet that's exactly what Might Bite did.

Nearly at a standstill on the run in, Nico de Boinville was losing his battle keep the quirky son of Scorpion to his task.

He'd hinted at having dramatic tendencies when falling at the last in the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton while miles clear, when we were on at 8/1.

It seemed to be the loose horse that did the trick, causing Might Bite to regain focus just in time to regather himself and reel in the brave Whisper on the line.

No more than half an hour earlier Willoughby Court - tipped here at 16/1 - had held off Neon Wolf in a race that on an ordinary day would have been hoarding the superlatives for itself.

Instead, it had been quickly & thoroughly trumped by scenes racing fans will never forget.

Such is the unrelenting drama of the Cheltenham Festival!

Many Clouds & Thistlecrack's Costwold Chase Duel

No sport calls on such range or depth of emotions as Jumps Racing, and the 2017 Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham had the lot.

Many Clouds was a popular Grand National and previous Cotswold Chase winner - owned by the likable Trevor Hemmings.

Yet the story leading in to the race was the story dominating the National Hunt season.

Was Thistlecrack going to win the Gold Cup?

He'd already earned his stripes outside of Novice company, when beating Cue Card in the King George at Kempton, and this seemed like an easy opportunity to gain valuable chase course experience before the big one.

Many Clouds led them turning for home and jumped every fence like a stag. Thistlecrack was making mistakes - reminding us he was still a novice - but he still cruised up and looked the winner jumping the last ... and then again on the run in ... but Many Clouds was refusing to be beaten. Leighton Aspell surged home and got up by a head, tipped by our team at 8/1.

Even without the tragic events that followed, this race would have lived long in the memory, but with the passing of Many Clouds it has been cemented in to the folklore of the sport. Thistlecrack also wore the wounds of battle - unable to run again that season.

From euphoric highs to shattering news of a fallen hero in a matter of moments - no afternoon greater defined the sport. As Tom Kerr wrote, 'we came to celebrate one champion, and left with tears for another'.

Many Clouds swamped the vote and was named National Hunt Racehorse of the Year by the Racing Post, the second time he'd won the award.

Labaik; Laytown languishing to Festival flourishing

If quirky types are your thing then the 16/17 National Hunt season had plenty to keep you entertained.

In October he stood still in a Laytown Maiden.

In September he won a charity race at Leopardstown under Sheikh Fahad Al Thani.

In November there was a glimmer. A Grade 3 at Navan was decent form, but his tilt at the Champion Hurdle seemed far fetched after refusing to race all three occasions since.

At the tapes in March he was a 25/1 chance, half a furlong later he was 8/1.

Melon had been the Mullins hype machine all winter and Ruby must have thought the race was his turning for home - but the distinctive grey and orange flashed by in emphatic fashion.

Labaik did eventually frank the form with a 2l fourth in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but suffered a serious injury which threatens to bring his remarkable racing career to an abrupt halt.

One for Scotland

Gold Cups and Grand Nationals are regular highlights of the National Hunt calendar, and Sizing John is unlucky to miss out here.

The Irish Gold Cup especially was a fantastic race at a meeting full to the brim with breathless finishes.

Robbie Power swept the boards at all three Spring Festivals, much like our Horse Racing Tipster did at Punchestown, but for me the 2017 Grand National was the more memorable.

Actually, it was the 20 minutes following the great race, rather than the race itself.

It was so easy to be completely won over by the warm, genuine nature of the connections of northern raider, One For Arthur.

Lucinda Russell, and especially the 'Two Golf Widows', were a joy to behold - and represented much of the every day appeal of National Hunt racing. It was the human, affordable, likable side of the game - and it was a genuine pleasure to share their success on racing's biggest day in the calendar.

Tea for Two winning the Aintree Bowl under Lizzie Kelly

Often the Aintree Festival can feel like the consolation race, the second division of the opening handicap on the card and, Grand National aside, rarely has much of an impact on these sorts of lists.

However, Lizzie Kelly's story stands out and sneaks in to our top five.

The first lady to win a Grade One chase, Lizzie Kelly added another on the same horse - this time outside of Novice company.

The pair parted ways after just two fences in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, so to see off Cue Card by a neck after a well judged ride was an especially heart warming moment....even for Cue Card backers!

What was your favourite moment of the year? Join the conversation.



Cheltenham Festival 2017 – Review

Cheltenham Festival is over for another year and before we focus on Aintree and Punchestown, let's take a look at a number of horses who caught our eye for future success.

1. River Wylde - An excellent 3rd in the Supreme Novices, described as immature by trainer in the lead up to the race and yards representatives often go on to better things, e.g. Buveur D'Air & Sprinter Sacre. (Champion Hurdle @ 33/1 - generally)

2. Neon Wolf - Highly regarded and impressive in the build up to the festival. Lost nothing in defeat to determined and high class rival and may have even won for pecking after the last. One to follow over fences next year.

3. Might Bite - Impressive and quirky when winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, looks one to follow, especially if heading back to Kempton for The King George on Boxing day. (King George @ 5/1 - Hills, Betfred)

4. Yorkhill - Impressive winner of the JLT, still plenty to learn over fences but huge engine and agree with jockey who rates him as a Gold Cup horse next year. (Gold Cup @ 8/1 - Several)

5. Artic Fire - Returned from a lengthy absence to run out an impressive winner of the County Hurdle off top weight. No surprise if turned out again at Aintree or Punchestown and fancied to go be seriously competitive back in graded company.

6. Native River - Lost nothing in defeat when 3rd in Gold Cup, interesting that yard weren't firing and the ground had got quick enough. He's all about stamina and looks one to follow in next years staying chases when getting his conditions.


Betfair Hurdle

The Betfair Hurdle can throw up some decent winners including 'My Tent Or Yours' & 'Zarkandar' in recent years and this years renewal looks interesting rather than vintage. Here are the main contenders and our verdict on Saturday's race:-

Ballyandy (5/1)
Last season's Champion Bumper winner hasn't quite lived up to expectations over hurdles this season, however, trainer believes he has been let in lightly on handicap debut, can see running in first three but no steal at the prices. 

Movewiththetimes (11/2)
behind Ballyandy in November at Cheltenham but in good hands and looks the type to improve with racing.

Clyne (11/2)
Winner in the fog in Dec and career best last time, all three of those runs came at Haydock on v soft ground and others preferred here.

William H Bonney (9/1)
Good winner at Cheltenham last time and value for more than winner margin, fancied to go well and 9/1 looks value EW.


Conclusion: - At the prices 'William H Bonney' looks overpriced, was value for more than winning margin at Cheltenham last time and fancied to go close.



Caspian Caviar Gold Cup

It's back to the home of NH racing this weekend and the feature race is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, many contested the BetVictor Gold Cup here in November which provides a solid form line.

Village Vic (7/1)
Won the race last year off 136, much higher in weights now but  fancied to make bold bid from the front.

Buywise (10/1)
Has threatened for long time to win a big one but always seems to run on to late when the winner has flown, solid EW chance but opposable for win.

Aso (9/1)
Arguably could have finished closer when 4th in the BetVictor Gold Cup, best form is on soft ground and unlikely to get that here, opposable unless rain arrives.

Bouvreuil (6/1)
Tricky ride who has high head carriage, well backed this week but others preferred.

Thomas Brown (10/1)
More unexposed than most, won well last time at Ascot and fancied to go well. Slight concern is that didn't run very well over course in March.

Conclusion: - This doesn't look quite as strong as the BetVictor Gold Cup in November, where Village Vic lead everywhere but the line. Although vunerable to a better handicapped unexposed rival, he will make a bold bid from the front and give you solid run for your money.


Tingle Creek Betting Preview

After this weeks fiasco regarding the participation of Douvan we now know the six contenders who will contest this years renewal of The Tingle Creek. These are our views on the runners:

Un De Sceaux (15/8)
Put in his place by Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham and looks short enough in the betting considering he is likely to be taken on for lead and jumping put under pressure, worth opposing.

Ar Mad (10/3)
Put up an electric performances both at Kempton and here during his novice campaign last year. Likely prove hard to peg back if turning up here (still has entry in Peterborough Chase)

Sir De Grugy (7/2)
Back to form in handicap last time, more on plate now but has run numerous decent races around here. At age of 10 there is no more improvement to come and vulnerable to younger rivals. 

Gods Own (5/1)
Didn't get home in G2 at Ascot last time, despite travelling best turning for home. Fancied to go very close as strong pace up front may set it up for him. 

Vibrato Valtat  (25/1)
Looks  overpriced on bits and pieces of form, including 3rd in this last year. Travelled best at Aintree on seasonal debut but has disappointing run last time to put behind him. 

Sir Valentino (50/1)
Career best last time in Haldon Gold Cup but much more needed here and would be a surprise winner.

Conclusion: - If turning up here rather than going to Huntingdon - 'Ar Mad' is going to take some catching as is fancied to make all. 



Hennessy Gold Cup Betting Preview

This weekend sees the running of the always ultra competitive Hennessy Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury, run over a testing 3m 2f. Much like the Paddy Power Bet Victor Chase at Cheltenham in November, experienced handicappers are pitted against inexperienced, but potentially well handicapped second season chasers.

Our resident Horse Racing expert The Flyer has previewed the main protagonists:

Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury: Saturday 26th November

"Native River (6/1)
He has plenty of ticks in the right boxes, he's unexposed, stays very well and had a pleasing prep over hurdles at Wetherby recently. However the bookmakers haven't missed him and at 6/1 there is very little value.

Vyta Du Roc (8/1)
Looked in need of real test when outpaced in RSA Chase, recent rain in favour and fits the profile of Hennessy winner, respected.

Un Temps Pour Tout (9/1)
Winner over hurdles on recent start, Cheltenham festival winner over fences in March and solid claims, respected.

Saphir Du Rheu (9/1)
Looks to be too short in the betting. Is potentially well handicapped but doesn't look a natural over fences and is readily opposed.

Henri Parry Morgan (10/1)
Progressive last year was well backed when unseating in Bet365 Gold Cup, needs to resume progress to be involved in finish here, others look to have more solid claims.

Blaklion (9/1)
Last seasons RSA winner has been well backed in recent days. He is capable of running well, but looks vulnerable to a better handicapped rival.

Smad Place (11/1)
Last years winner had a very good prep at Aintree last time and looks to have a very solid EW chance.

Conclusion: - Smad Place looks to have a solid EW chance and is worth backing against potentially unexposed rivals, will go from the front and is strongly fancied to be involved in finish."

The Flyer is man in form at the moment. Following up a spectacular effort at Cheltenham with even more impressive results at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday - where he landed four winners for a 6.3pt profit on the day.

He'll have a full card of tips for the big day at Newbury as usual, available to all Members.



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