National Hunt on top once more

WITH THE flat season drawing to a close, National Hunt racing once more takes over top billing with the first seasonal highlights in the shape of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham (November 10-12) and the Newbury Festival (November 24-26) beckoning.

Big races bringing together the best horses in training can be confusing, and here are my candidates for major honours this winter:

Champion jockey Tony McCoy rates Black Jack Ketchum as the best horse he has sat on, and I will not disagree. Last season’s Cheltenham novice’s winner should not be opposed in staying hurdles, whatever the grade.

Brave Inca is another McCoy mount destined to make his home in the winner’s enclosures around the country.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has an outstanding chance of challenging Irish dominance in the Champion Hurdle with the six-year-old gelding Desert Quest. The William Hill Handicap Hurdle winner will be near unbeatable when fit following this Saturday’s pedestrian performance at Wincanton.

Fourth on my list is novice chaser Taranis, who took the Silver Trophy Hurdle for Nicholls last spring.

François Doumen may have a live Grand National contender in L’Ami.

David Pipe’s Our Vic looks to be finally ready to take top chasing honours this time around, while Monet’s Garden can do the same over the smaller obstacles.

Finally three potential money spinners: Conservation, Roll Along and Oco should all run up rewarding sequences in smaller races – good luck!