This time of year is a good time for spotting future jumping stars. Some winners of minor novice hurdles can go on to better things. However, even more fail to make an impact when upped in class. How can you tell the future stars from the ordinary horses? Sadly, there’s no magic formula, no hard and fast rule. However, there are differences between Britain and Ireland.
That may sound strange because British and Irish racing have similar characteristics. The tracks are a mix of flat and undulating, training methods are similar, so are riding styles and race distances. The weather and the seasons are pretty much the same. So, what’s different about the novice hurdles?
Spotting the differences
For a start, there is less racing in Ireland. Fewer races mean more runners, especially in maiden and novice hurdles. It is rare to see an Irish novice hurdle with a really big field without it featuring at least one or two well above average horses, usually trained by Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott. You can be pretty sure that the winner is useful and will be worth following.
In Britain, when a lightly-raced horse wins a minor novice hurdle race at a big track, he or she often gets hyped up as the next big thing. Those horses tend to start at a false price next time out. They go off as hot favourites yet fail to produce the goods. However, when a horse wins a minor race at a small track it is sometimes under the radar and so is under-rated by punters on its next start.
Three horses spring to mind that fall into this category, having won well at minor tracks recently.
The first is Colin Tizzard’s Shoal Bay, a winner at Taunton on November 16. Next, Nicky Henderson’s Sunshade, who won at Ludlow on the same day as Shoal Bay. And third, Balkov, trained by Micky Hammond, who scored easily at Sedgefield on November 28.
Look out for them next time out. They made be worth spotting.