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The National Hunt Flat of Class 2017/18

20-August-2018 9:20
in General
by Admin

National Hunt Flat races have always been a fascination for me. So much raw and untapped talent and potential on show, yet for some reason a lot of punters tend to shy away from them. One of the main reasons being there is often so little form to work with and what form is on offer is often clouded by the spectre of the unraced horse who is in the betting with chance, so the presumption always is somebody somewhere knows something.

Well that can be said of most races, particularly with horses in the betting but with PPPU against their name, bit extreme I know but it does happen. So, what’s the answer? Well it’s no different than studying any other race, just different variables. What form is on offer, I watch at least twice, particularly if there are horse in the race having their 2nd or 3rd runs. I watch their actions carefully either on TV or better still when live on course to try and determine their going requirements and I study their pedigrees to try and understand what type of trip they might require now and the future. Being able to watch a horse gallop half speed to post is very useful in establishing the action and ground requirement will be needed.

I don’t subscribe to the view or take it for granted that because two horses are full brothers or sisters that their going and trip requirements will be the same let alone their ability’s.

Denman and his full brother Siverburn are a prime example of this. One stayed longer than the mother in law, had the engine of a jumbo jet and at his best could destroy the best of fields carrying history making weights. The other whilst being a decent hurdler (winning the Tolworth), could hardly get a yard over 20f and but acted in deeper ground than his full brother.

The last and sometimes most important clue can come from the point to point field mainly In Ireland, but English point form is not without its merits although I do think that it is not as strong as it was 20yrs ago, particularly round the SW tracks when the Pipe and Barber owned, and trained horses were in their pomp.

A lot of clues as to whether a horse that has run well in a 3mile point has the speed/pace to win a 2mile NHF race can be gleaned from studying and watching an English/Irish p2p.

So what of the class of 2017/18?

Well this is one area where I like to rely on my own ratings a lot. The difference in Racing Post rating for their top-rated horse as opposed to Timeform is around 20lb, which frankly is ridiculous and the truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.

I’ve found over the years that if my rating fall somewhere in between I am usually in the right ball park, I’ve almost certainly missed something for better or worse if I am too high or way below. So, I like to do my own ratings, compare them with RP and Timeform afterwards to decide whether I am happy, or I should go back and take another look.

It would be easy for me to sit here and reel off all the top bumper horses of the season, we all know who they are, and we know when they appear on the track in Autumn and winter they will be restrictive odds and so will any anti post markets for Cheltenham and beyond.

I think the best thing to do in looking for value in Novice Hurdles next season is to skip that top echelon, at least initially, and look at the horses 10/15lb plus shy of them but with improvement to come and form that in the main ties in, with that in mind I offer you the following.

Portrush Ted

On the face of it Portrush Ted looked to have an inauspicious start to his NHF career until winning the Grade 2 NHF at the Grand National Meeting. However a detailed look at the form in each of the races that he has run in shows he has been in with some serious opposition in his last 4 races, some of which will feature in this list later on.

There is a distinct possibility that Portrush Ted requires genuine soft ground to show his best. Good to soft may mean he finds one or two horses having too much toe for him.

One thing is for certain, 20f plus is going to bring the best out in him and I fully expect to see him in the winners enclosure this coming season at 20f + with genuine soft ground to draw his stamina out.

Being by Shantou out of a Kings Theatre mare he will be screaming out for those conditions sooner rather than later. His trainers expression of shock at his Aintree win was down more to how difficult it’s been to keep him sound. A detailed examination of his collateral form before Aintree would have revealed the extent of the value on offer at 25/1.


Kateson has a significant piece of from tied in with Portrush Ted having finished second to that Horse at Aintree.

A good deal of this seasons strong bumper form goes back to the listed race at Ascot on 22nd December which was won by Didtheyleaveuoutto and it was in this race Kateson finished an excellent seventh beaten 9L on G/S ground. The form is rock solid with Bullionaire and Flying sofa filling the places.

A subsequent second to Remastered at Chepstow was, as it turns out, a fantastic effort as Remastered has excellent form tied in with the exciting Downtown Getaway at Fairyhouse and was bought immediately after that race by David Pipe.

Kateson will be exciting to watch in the coming months wherever he turns up. Almost certainly needs further now, 20f plus, a Stiff course to bring stamina into play (a son of Black Sam Bellamy), Soft ground ideal…Seems to have a particular liking for Chepstow.

It should be noted that his trainer, Tom Lacey, had indicated that he would be put away and looked after he had run in the listed race at Ascot. Clearly something changed his mind and Kateson must have been showing positive signs at home.

The Gunner Murphy

A very interesting son of Oscar makes the list in the form of The Gunner Murphy, A big rangy scopey horse, chasing type on looks.

He has run 3 times, pulled up on his last run at the Fairyhouse Easter meeting which I can entirely forgive as the ground was absolutely vile. So, when we examine and watch the first two runs, won one, second in the other, what we actually see is a horse ridden by the great Derek O’Connor, subsequently bought by Joseph O’Brien after his first run at The Tattersalls Ire November sale for 42k Euros for JP McManus.

Watching those first two races the first thing that comes to mind is he has an engine, probably needs further but isn’t short of speed but ran absolutely as green as grass, having a good look round on the run in on both runs, not helping his jockey one bit. Despite all that still won and finished second in races where the form has worked out quite well, nothing fantastic, but quite well.

This horse is all about potential and has clearly been looked after.

Kept away from heavy ground, 16f to 20f will be ideal, has an engine and isn’t short of speed. A few months at summer grass and a healthy dose of maturity will see this horse showing considerable improvement.

Downtown Getaway

Am extremely interesting winner of a Fairyhouse bumper back in early December. He powered away from the field in the home straight under Katie Walsh leaving subsequent Chepstow winner Remastered trailing 12 lengths adrift and Lone Wolf a further 5 length’s back, Lone Wolf will be discussed further down this list but it should be noted that he won a 2m2f NHF race in April at the Punchestown festival. So the form of the Fairyhouse NHF race has been well and truly franked.

A typical son of Getaway, trained by Mags Mullins, Downtown Getaway is all about speed for me on his pedigree and I fully expect him to thrive at around 2m at the top tracks in Ireland in the Autumn and Winter, G/S or Soft ground will be key in my opinion.

Unless there was some sort of problem, which at the time of writing we don’t about, one can only conclude that such was the impression created in the Fairyhouse race, a decision was made to look after him and not to race him on the hock deep ground that followed throughout the winter.

Certainly it was visually impressive and form wise that has been franked so we await the re-emergence of Downtown Getaway with great interest and anticipation.

The Big Bite

Tom George has a very nice horse on his hands in The Big Bite. Three runs and two wins and as green as they come in all 3 runs, so the fact he managed to win two of them tells you this horse has something about him.

The Cheltenham bumper was a race in which he was fully entitled to take his chance beforehand but was readily outclassed in truth and again ran too green to do himself justice. However that’s not to say with a summer on his back and a little bit of maturity he won’t close that gap. To what degree he may do that is unclear yet but watching his Huntingdon NHF race win leaves me in no doubt that this is a horse a horse with significant potential. It’s not easy for young horses in NHF races to carry a penalty and yet he did just that with some ease at Huntingdon beating Subsequent Towcester winner Shaughnessy who in between franked the form with an excellent run against top NHF horse The flying sofa.

His sire scorpion is a sire that can stamp his stock at a variety of trips and The Big Bite’s running style and action says to me that 16f will be plenty at the moment. His action certainly suggests cut will suit but his running style suggests that somewhere like Uttoxeter or Wetherby would be a good starting point for him over hurdles. He will be well up to winning around those tracks and that will tell us whether or not he is up for a trip back to Cheltenham, maybe for the open meeting.


Remastered is a very interesting horse. His first two runs at Punchestown and Limerick in NHF races were on the inauspicious side to say the least, then in the summer of 2017 one can only conclude that with the sun on his back and a couple of months of summer grass he strengthened up physically and mentally.

His reappearance at Fairyhouse on Dec 3rd, 2017 looked like same old same old on the face of it as he was beaten 12 lengths into second place. However, his conqueror that day was none other than Downtown Getaway whom I have already written about and in my opinion will turn out to be a very very good horse this season. It was also a good distance back to the third Lone wolf who is also in my sights.

Such was the impression left by the first three home that day that David Pipe stepped in to buy Remastered in a private sale and Pond House must have a good horse on their hands now as 8 weeks after the Fairyhouse Race Remastered went to Chepstow and put up a taking performance in defeating Kateson who has significant form tied in with Portrush Ted and the Listed NHF at Ascot on 2nd December 2017.

We did not see Remastered again that season, presumably the ground may have had something to do with that and being only 5yo with such good form ties before and after the Chepstow race he is a horse well worth protecting for the coming season as with another summer on his back and added maturity one can only assume there is significant improvement to come. Cut in the ground will be important, his running style is that of a horse that will need further in time and a stiff course or a good galloping track like Wetherby ,Newbury or more likely, Exeter bound to suit. It would not surprise me at all if he reappeared at the Charlie Hall Chase meeting or even more so in the Novice Hurdle on Haldon Gold Cup day in early November.

Lone wolf

Lone wolf makes the list for two reasons really. In the Fairyhouse race won by Downtown Getaway in which Remastered was second, Lone wolf was way back in the pack passing 4f out, probably in 10th or 11th place. What was noticeable was he wasn’t pushing or scrubbing along, he was always travelling nicely. When the front two kicked for home off the final bend he had just begun to make a move but the front two were gone. Nevertheless, he stayed on without too much apparent effort and passed everything else to finish third.

Stepped to 20f on his next run at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting, he simply wasn’t ready for the trip at that stage nor ready to meet a horse of the Calibre of Carefully Selected, who would turn out to be one of the top rated bumper horses of the season. I am happy to ignore that run an write it off completely.

Brought back to 2m and put into a Novice Hurdle Listed race at Punchestown in February, gives some idea of the regard in which his trainer Joseph O’Brien, holds for this horse.

Again it was too much too soon, but the fact they willing to try must say something about what Lone Wolf is showing them at home and the regard in which he is held.

After a good break of around 10 weeks, Lone Wolf was brought back to NHF racing over 2m 2f at the Punchestown festival where it all came together. Needing every yard of the 18f but quickening in the last furlong to show a determination to fight to the line.

Ignoring his second and third runs is easy to do and indeed should be done.

This Horse had two realistic chances to show his best form and the form around them is solid as are the conditions in the way those races were run. Lone wolf should more than pay his way in Novice Hurdles over 20f plus this season, stiff galloping tracks are always going to bring the best out in him and he will no doubt get further in time over fences

Time To Move On

A very Taking performance from Time to Move on at Exeter on debut, 16f, hock deep mud, stiff galloping track, you could be forgiven at looking at the race and saying “well nothing else coped with conditions”. However if you watch the race there was a lot more to it than that plus the fact Time to Move on came out under very similar conditions just over 8 weeks later over C/D and under a penalty and still won albeit with a degree of less comfort than his debut.

It was the manner in which he won on debut that was striking thing. He appeared to cruise through the race and when asked the question in the home straight there were no if buts or maybe’s, the call was answered instantaneously and he powered away, which given the conditions was taking, but left the impression, whatever the conditions, the engine is there and the call would have been answered.

Clearly two tough races, only a 5yo, he has not been asked to do anymore and will benefit hugely for the spring and summer break. Very good and shrewd owners, excellent and very talented trainer, one can’t help thinking there is a plan for this lad, I would not have thought we will see him before November. Maybe a prep race at Exeter again ? Wincanton might be too sharp for him but Chepstow or Wetherby would suit followed by the good Novice Hurdle at the open meeting ? Speculation on my part but if he were mine I think that’s what I would be looking at this moment.

In any event one for the tracker


A son of Getaway out of out of an Oscar mare is always worth a second look on pedigree alone, when said horse is owned by Gigginstown and trained by Joseph O’Brien its worthy of consideration. Added to that, to make your debut in one of the feature meetings of the season ( Leopardstown Christmas Meeting) then folk like me tend to stand up and take note.

Clearly unfancied at 16/1 he was always in the vanguard of the race, on the rails in 4th for most of the way. Briefly had the door shut on him round the final bend but it was open again in a matter of strides and Barry O’Neil gathered his mount in and visibly quickened in the last half furlong to win the race a touch cosy in the end.

It’s very easy in that type of finish to be deceived by an optical illusion that a horse is quickening when actually it’s the horses around that are slowing down. In my opinion that didn’t happen here, the second also quickened again when the winner came to him as the third and fourth dropped away.

I am very confident we witnessed a really good performance here and he fact we haven’t seen him again indicates he is probably thought of a being immature ( the trainer alluded to this in post-race comment). He looks to have a real engine and an exciting future awaits for Alighted

Black Pirate

At the time of writing I have been reading that, sadly, Black Sam Bellamy, leading National Hunt sire has died. What a fantastic sire he has been, and we can only hope in last few crops he will leave us another great champion to remember him by.

Black Pirate’s NHF career got under way with a demolition job at Wetherby, the only real Challenge to him up the home straight after he had turned the burners on was a son of Court Cave called Court Master, trained by Michael Scudamore, won his only point before running an absolute blinder against Black Pirate. Wasn’t seen out again last season and should go in the tracker because of the promise of his performance and the collateral form with Black Pirate.

Black Pirate followed up his Wetherby win with facile victory in a 3-runner race at Ayr.

Now Black Pirate’s key piece of form for me lies in his last run of the season at the Scottish Grand National meeting. He went down three and three-quarter lengths to a horse called Sebastopol of Tom Lacey’s ridden by Aiden Coleman who should also go in your tracker having won his maiden point and the pulling well clear of the field with Black Pirate on his rules debut at Ayr.

Black Pirate was conceding nine pounds to Sebastopol yet only went down just over three lengths fighting all the way to the line and pulling clear of the field on Good ground. A long way from the heavy ground he demolished his Wetherby field on.

So, in my opinion, this is a horse we can really look forward to, preferably with decent cut in the ground but provided he is not carrying a double penalty like he was at Ayr, good ground should hold no terrors.

He has the speed to cope with 2 miles on good ground but with cut should be a real force to be reckoned with over further and on a galloping/stiff track. He is a big scopey horse and its unlikely in my opinion that a tight flat track would suit.


Harry Fry must be really looking forward to this son of Ballingarry making the track this season. The NHF race with ends the card on Badger Ales day at Wincanton has long been a good reference point at the start of the campaign for horses who are forward enough to do themselves justice but also, held in high enough regard by their trainers to run in it. Always keenly contested by top stables, the latest renewal was no exception.

Caribert was more than an average winner of the race, dominating from the back straight he gradually turned the screw on his rivals and won with some authority. It was genuinely soft ground that day, before the really bad ground took over for the rest of the winter, so this performance can be marked up even more.

Caribert reappeared 3 weeks later in what turned out to be a hot Exeter NHF race which was won by the previously mentioned Time to Move On. Carrying a penalty and giving 7lb to Time to move on he ran an absolute cracker finishing second and franking his Wincanton form in no uncertain terms.

Having had two races in 3 weeks and showing such promise, his master trainer showed how adept he is at handling these young horses and opted to give Caribert a decent break, missing the worst of the winter ground as it happened.

It was soft enough however when he reappeared in March at the prestigious Goffs UK Spring Bumper at Newbury. That didn’t stop him taking the field apart in the home straight in one of the most impressive bumper performances of the season, this side of the pond. A mention should be made at this point (and note to go with it) of the second placed horse, Hotter than Hell. Alan Kings horse pulled 7L clear of the third horse, on this his debut, and that in itself, given the ground and the quality and prestige of the race is worthy enough to go in the tracker.

Caribert will undoubtedly get further in time and on ground with plenty of cut on galloping tracks will make his mark in Novice Hurdles this season.

My only reservation is that he acts so well on flat galloping tracks, I would just be a fraction cautious about the price on a stiff uphill finish track like Sandown or Cheltenham. He handled the undulations fine at Exeter, so it probably won’t be a problem, but we must consider all factors before parting with hard earned cash to the bookmaker.

Brewin’ upastorm

Olly Murphy is undoubtedly one of the rising stars of the NH training ranks and any examination of the horses purchased at the Goffs and Tatts Ire NH sales this summer will show some highly regarded pedigrees with big price tags are on their way to his care for the coming season.

Of the horses in his care at the moment is this gorgeous scopey son of Milan. He won an Irish p2p in good fashion at Quakerstown in April 2017 and was put in the care of Dan Skelton in October. For whatever reason he was only with Skelton for a month before being transferred to the Olly Murphy’s yard.

Brewin’Upastorm made his rules debut at Hereford in January. A fine tactical ride by Fergus Gregory saw him hug the outside rail running on what was far and away the best ground and despite giving ground away in doing that powered home in impressive style. Now apart from the visually impressive nature of the win the horse in second place was none other than Portrush Ted who has been written about, extensively, earlier.

The race was won by nine lengths getting seven Pound from the second, but I can assure you, such was the manor of the victory, the result would have been the same at level weights.

Brewin’ Upastorm’s second and final appearance of the season came in another red-hot Newbury bumper which was won by the 129 rated Acey Milan. Only Tiring in the last 200 yds on what was absolutely desperate ground whilst also conceding six pounds to the winner.

Given his form line through Portrush Ted, I would expect, on better ground, Brewin ‘Upastorm to beat Acey Milan should they clash again.

Make sure you put all these in your tracker and hopefully we will have a good profitable winter following them at the right prices in the right races to suit

Pete Ingram

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