Following the late-summer heatwave across the UK, returning wet weather up and down the country brings a reminder that the Flat season is coming to a close, with the National Hunt campaign almost upon us once more.
All roads lead to Cheltenham as ever, so we’ve had a gander at the storylines brewing up nicely among the jumpers.
The return of Coneygree
Mark Bradstock’s gelding became the first novice chaser in over 40 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup 18 months ago, but hasn’t been seen in action since sustaining a hock injury when schooling last December.
Coneygree’s Grade 2 Denman Chase victory in February 2015 saw his odds go all the way down to 7/1 prior to Cheltenham’s big day, where Bradstock’s boy duly delivered with a 1½l win over Willie Mullins’ Djakadam.
He was joint-favourite to retain the Gold Cup before being ruled out, and with the Oxfordshire-based trainer suggesting his stable star is in ‘great nick’ as of the end of last month, Coneygree’s comeback will be met with keen interest.
You can have 12/1 about the nine-year-old reliving his greatest success to date next March, with Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase and Newbury’s Hennessey Gold Cup likely assignments early on.
Mullins’ Supreme Novice
The County Carlow handler, owner Rich Ricci and jockey Ruby Walsh dominated Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle between 2013-2015, with Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan all landing the first race of the Festival for the trio.
Min couldn’t make it four on the bounce back in March, coming second by 7l to Nicky Henderson’s Altior, but the fearsome three seem likely to go again this season with another French-bred youngster.
Senewalk, a half-brother to both Douvan and Min, is yet to race over obstacles since linking up with Mullins, but will be watched with great interest in the run up to Cheltenham.
If he proves to be a chip off the old block, Senewalk will surely go off favourite for the Supreme.
The Faugheen/Annie Power Champion Hurdle conundrum
Ricci owns the two horses at the head of the betting for the 2m showpiece over small obstacles, but it seems highly unlikely – certainly on past form – that 2015 Champion Hurdler Faugheen and last year’s winner Annie Power will face off in the Cotswolds.
You can have 5/1 about the latter winning the World Hurdle, but she failed in the 3m event when 11/8 favourite in 2014.
It may be worth holding on for a price about Annie Power winning the Mares’ Hurdle, in which she fell at the last when well clear 18 months ago.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.