In about a month’s time the National Hunt season will get into full flow with Grade 1 contests coming thick and fast, starting with the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Although the usual suspects will no doubt be lining up to contest the three-miler, which Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card won last year, there will be a number of hurdling stars that will be stepping up over fences for the first time.
Here, we shine the spotlight on three of the biggest hurdling names to switch obstacles this season:
The New One
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable star has been a Champion Hurdle regular at the Cheltenham Festival for the past three seasons, but the eight-year-old will be absent this year as he bids to make a late career change.
A veteran of two Grade 1 hurdle triumphs and 25 career starts, The New One has impressed in schooling over the larger obstacles and will be sent out as a novice chaser once the ground suits.
“As soon as the ground is right and we find the right race he’s ready to go,” his trainer told the Racing Post.
As another potential Champion Hurdler, Nicky Henderson’s Altior impressed with a five-race winning streak over the smaller flights last season, culminating in a Cheltenham Festival victory over well-fancied Min in the Supreme.
It appeared to be a tough decision whether to send the six-year-old over fences or keep him as a hurdler, but Henderson has opted for the former route, with the Arkle his intended destination.
We go 5/2 that Altior wins the Festival’s second race, which makes him our ante-post favourite.
Along with Cue Card, Thistlecrack arguably allows trainer Colin Tizzard to boast the best staying chaser and hurdler in the UK respectively.
However, after destroying the field to take the Festival’s World Hurdle crown, the Sherborne handler has opted to switch his eight-year-old to chasing, with a contest against Cue Card in the Gold Cup the aim.
The yard has stressed that they will take things on a race-by-race basis with Thistlecrack, and haven’t ruled out dropping back to hurdles. As such he appears in three of our ante-post Festival markets.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing