Horse racing | Snapshot of the 2021-22 national hunting season: major events and horses to watch


The national hunting season started in earnest in Chepstow earlier this month, and with Cheltenham opening its doors for the first time on the weekend after Champions Day, it seems now is a good time to anticipate the new campaign.

Last season was dominated by the Irish invasion, and a lot has been written about what can and must be done to restore balance. But as always, a new season brings new hope and I hope the riders below can give us a lot of fun in 2021-2022 and maybe win a nice prize or two.

First of all, here is a list of key dates to mark in the calendar for the next few months.


November 12 – 14: CHELTENHAM – November meeting

November 20: HAYDOCK – Betfair Chase Day

December 4: SANDOWN – Tingle Creek Chase

December 10 – 11: CHELTENHAM – International Meeting

December 26: KEMPTON – Hunt for King George VI

December 26 – 29: LEOPARDSTOWN – Christmas party

December 27: CHEPSTOW – Welsh Grand National

January 1: CHELTENHAM – New Year’s meeting

January 22: ASCOT – Clarence House Chase

January 29: CHELTENHAM – Meeting Trials

February 12: NEWBURY – Super Saturday

February 19: ASCOT – Betfair Ascot Chase

March 15 – 18: CHELTENHAM – Cheltenham Festival

April 1 – 2: AYR – Scottish Grand National Meeting

April 7 – 9: AINTREE – Grand Meeting National

April 26 – 30: PUNCHESTOWN – Punchestown Festival


ASK ME TT – Harry Fry

Ask Me Early won a point to point in his second start a few years ago and only had the two hurdles starts before embarking on a pursuit campaign. His heavy-ground chase debut produced an impressive five-length victory and he followed it on Welsh National Track Day with a mark 6 pounds higher.

A month later, Ask Me Early never hiked a lot in Sandown and was arrested early. It was his first start on a right-handed track, and six weeks later, back on a left-handed track, he claimed the 11-11 victory at Uttoxeter on the Midlands National Day. This victory saw the handicapper raise him to 140 and races like the Ladbrokes Trophy or, more likely, the Welsh Grand National come into play for the 7-year-old.

BEAR GHYLLS – Nicky Martin

Bear Ghylls burst onto the scene by winning a Warwick bumper by NINETEEN lengths in the spring of 2020 and entered last year’s Cheltenham Festival undefeated in three hurdles competitions, all on loose or heavy ground. He acquitted himself when he was fourth at the Ballymore and is one of Novice Chase’s main prospects on this side of the Irish Sea.

There are plenty of opportunities for depth contests in the middle of winter in which I expect him to rank high. There will also be an emotional follow-up when he returns as his regular driver Matt Griffiths was injured in a fatal car. crash and at the time of writing remains in critical condition.

The prospects for horses such as Bear Ghylls will hopefully be a big positive factor in Griffith’s rehabilitation and we wish him the best of luck in his recovery. Hopefully Bear Ghylls can take a high rank among novice hunters this season.

BOOTHILL – Harry Fry

Boothill became my ante post bet for the Supreme Novices Hurdle after galloping to success in Taunton in December. Sadly, a setback ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign, but it gives his coach Harry Fry an abundance of options.

He could be treated very well with a score of 137 considering the form of the horses he beat on his hurdles debut at Kempton. A two-mile handicap obstacle might be ideal for his return to action. As a double points-to-points finalist, a chase campaign could also be on the agenda, along with travel acceleration. He was very enthusiastic in his races so maybe a lap over the small obstacles to cool off might be the way to go and he will be supported wherever he turns up this season. He could take a high rank in the chosen discipline.

COPPER FREE – Olly Murphy



Copperless got the compensation he deserved by escaping with the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May. He traveled extremely well in this competition and sprinted behind the last to beat Cormier (now ranked 80 on the flat after a few wins) and Persian War winner G2 Camprond. The fact that he blew them away and gained 15 pounds to reach a mark of 141 in his sixth rule start sets him apart as a very progressive horse and who knows how far he would have won at Aintree in April if he was. had not lost two while traveling like the wrath of God.

This race saw Rowland Ward and Camprond battling for the finish and perhaps a return to the Elite Hurdle in Wincanton with G2 could give the connections a feel for their situation. The Greatwood at Cheltenham would be another viable starting point and it’s not beyond the realms that he develops into a Champion Hurdle candidate this season.


One of two horses on Gold Cup-winning jockey Sam Tomas’s court list, Good Risk At All looks to have a bright future. A close second on his debut was improved at the Cheltenham November reunion, but it was his return from a three-month hiatus at Newbury in February that really made me take note.

He traveled there fiercely in a listed company and under penalty of his previous victory but took it back at the start of the straight line and cleared himself before hanging on a little late, still showing signs of greenness. He was almost giving a stone in weight to the runner-up who was a two-time winner who finished ninth in the Champion Bumper and is already a winner in hurdles.

I expect him to make his hurdles debut this fall and this is the one I will be watching closely.

JAY BEE WHY – Alan King

Jay Bee Why looked like an exciting jumping prospect when he went from a favorite in his hurdles debut at Warwick and only ran well on his second start on wood when he didn’t. was only beaten three lengths in a row until a grade 2 return on the same track. Another easy win under a penalty again at Warwick set him up for a tilt at a first-year novice at Aintree, but he couldn’t live with the exciting My Drogo and came back to the fifth house well beaten .

He still holds a lot of promise as he embarks on a career as a rookie hunter by being a winning pointer and would have been fine in a stronger individual. He can take a high rank among this season and could be one of the likes of Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival.



SAM BARTON – Emma Lavelle

The sad passing of Trevor Hemmings will be a huge loss for the National Hunt race, but we hope that his famous green, yellow and white bristles survive and that they may find some success thanks to Sam Barton.

Sam Barton is a typical horse of Trevor Hemmings, a late maturing hunter in the making, and the first signs on the hurdles have certainly been positive. He grabbed attention when sending a promising field to Doncaster in January and followed with a solid fourth place in the EBF final at Sandown on the eve of Cheltenham under heavy weight.

He could stop early in the season in the novice handicap pursuits from a mark in the low 130 and I expect him to fly higher later in the season when he’s even higher. high in the journey.

SKYTASTIC – Sam Thomas

Skytastic, like their teammate Good Risk At All, won a few bumpers last season, one at Newbury and then at Doncaster in February. His first bumper works well, with the next five at home winning five races between themselves before defying a penalty by doing the most on soft ground at Doncaster.

He was a bit passionate in these competitions but clearly has talent and pace. He has the ability to jump hurdles and expects to see him come out early before a winter break when the heavy terrain kicks in and then back for a spring campaign.

I spoke to Sam Thomas before the Cheltenham Festival, and although neither of his two horses that I list in this piece made the Spring Festivals, he was adamant that the patient approach was still the plan and I hope they will reap the rewards this season. .

STAR GATE – Evan Williams

Star Gate is a point winner whose short career in hurdles so far has seen him land a second year at Sandown and a second year at the Challow Hurdle in Newbury. He was 10 lengths behind on Bravemansgame there, but has traveled a long way, and although he has only beaten two rivals before in Sandown, it is once again the way he has traveled that drew attention.

Evan Williams has decided not to direct Star Gate in the New Year and it looks like the soft, deep-ground novice pursuits will see him better this season. He’s still only five years old and ranked 143, so with a lot of improvements to come, he’s another one to seriously consider as he embarks on his hunting career.

ZINC WHITE – Oliver Greenall

Zinc White is one of the apartment’s most anticipated young hurdles this season, costing £ 310,000 on the eve of Royal Ascot in the summer. He was taken off target at the Royal Reunion due to the fast pitch turning into a pair of heavy ground 3 year old handicaps. The pitch was so bad at Wetherby in the first that the game was abandoned right after and he defied the climb to win by seven lengths at Sandown to finish 87.

He stays well and enjoys deep terrain, so races like the Juvenile Hurdle Final at Chepstow on Welsh National Day come into play if he has a good mastery over hurdles, while the Connections also contemplate races of return to the long-term level, suggesting that they consider its brand. of 87 for being a little below its ceiling.

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