I LOVE this time of year. The dying embers of the Flat season are slowly extinguished by the autumnal optimism of the jumps. Old favourites who feel like distant friends return to the spotlight. Today was a good example with Smad Place and Silviniaco Conti appearing at Kempton. But one aspect I enjoy more than anything is trying to identify the future household names: horses who will become part of the National Hunt furniture.
Tomorrow’s Exeter card is full of potential stars. None more so than DUKE DES CHAMPS in the 1.20. Richard Johnson is the man of the moment and the racing fraternity seems to be willing him to his first jockeys’ title. He recently singled out Duke Des Champs as a horse to follow for the winter. Picking one out from the equine artillery at the hands of Philip Hobbs must have been tricky but this fellow has clearly been making all the right noises. This is a warm novices hurdle with Messrs Nicholls and Skelton saddling promising types but, although he is one for the future, I suspect there will be some long faces if Duke Des Champs does not do the business on his hurdling debut.
Another young horse who could develop into a Cheltenham Festival contender is YANWORTH (1.50) who makes his hurdling debut at the Devon track. Alan King clearly loves this fellow and he was fourth in the Cheltenham bumper in March. He is expected to need further than 2m in time and, although he will be a short price, he should win.
That man Dickie Johnson also has a chance in the big race, the Haldon Cup. I like the look of DUNRAVEN STORM who ran a blinder last time and could offer some value against Sire de Grugy and co.
Finally, THE TOURARD MAN (2.50) makes his chasing debut and he is probably one of the toughest horses in training. He is nine years old and has point to point experience. He also had a recent run over hurdles so should be straight enough for this.