With the increasing popularity of the summer jumping campaign, there’s always something to keep National Hunt fans occupied over the warmer months. Really though the end of the Grand National Festival at Aintree marked the end of the big time jumping action for another year.
And what an ending it was with Tiger Roll entering the history books in spectacular style. If the flat campaign can come close to such excitement and drama – and it usually does – fans will be in for a treat. Here we take a look at a few of the potential big stories and horses to follow of the year.
Too Darn Hot Still Too Darn Good?
If asked to name the one three year old they are most looking forward to seeing at the track this year, we suspect the first name on the lips of many would be that of the John Gosden trained, Too Darn Hot. Simply scintillating in a juvenile campaign which saw him win all four starts with ease, culminating in a top-level success at Newmarket in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, he looks the real deal.
The compilers certainly seem impressed, making the Lord Lloyd-Webber owned son of Dubawi the favourite for just about everything, including both the 2000 Guineas (11/10 with Ladbrokes) and the Derby (5/1 with Betfair). The question is will he retain his superiority at three in a similar vein to Frankel? Or bomb out like fellow Champion Juvenile, Air Force Blue?
We don’t have to wait long to see him return to action anyway as he is pencilled in to make his comeback in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on 13th April.
Blue Is The Colour?
The 2018/19 campaign marked something of a landmark year for the owning and breeding powerhouse that is Godolphin. Having threatened to burst right back into the big time for the past couple of season’s they enjoyed a stellar year, headlined of course by a first ever success in the Derby courtesy of the Charlie Appleby trained Masar, and ending with Cross Counter’s win in the Melbourne Cup.
If the early season international results are anything to go by, we may well be in for more of the same this time around. Already having bagged the Dubai World Cup with Thunder Snow, the Lincoln Handicap with Auxerre and a host of other contests around the world, it may pay to cast a second glance at any runner sporting those famous royal blue silks.
It is to be hoped Masar will be back following an injury problem, but there are plenty of other’s in the Godolphin ranks more than capable of bagging a big prize or two. Blue Point if anything looks an improved sprinter this season and heads the betting for both the King’s Stand Stakes and Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot; Cross Counter looks set to give Stradivarius something to think about in the staying division; whilst the likes of Persian King, Zakouski and Al Hilalee are just a few of the potential stars lurking amongst the operations classic crop.
Awesome Aidan On Top Again?
Looking at the evidence of the last ten years or more, results indicate that any preview of a flat season would be incomplete without a nod to a certain Irishman by the name of Aidan O’Brien. Aidan may not have managed to add to his Derby haul last season, but thanks to Forever Together (The Oaks), Saxon Warrior (2000 Guineas) and Kew Gardens (St. Leger), the master of Ballydoyle did land three of the other four British Classics and remains a man to be feared whenever he rocks up in Group 1 event anywhere on the planet.
O’Brien as ever has contenders stacking up for all the main events, including Ten Sovereigns and Magna Grecia in the 2000 Guineas, Just Wonderful and Fairyland in the 1000, and Japan and Broome who are second and third favourites for the Derby respectively.
Gosden Mare Able To Enter History Books?
Looking further ahead, this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp has the potential to be a truly historic edition of Europe’s greatest all-age middle distance race. A lot of water can flow under the bridge between now and October, but should the current favourite for the race make it to Longchamp and deliver, she will go down as perhaps the all-time greatest in the race.
Eight horses in all have landed the race on two separate occasions, with legendary performers such as Ribot, Alleged and Treve counting amongst that number, but none so far have won the race three times. Kept in training for another year, that task is the main objective to have been set for another of the superstars of the John Gosden string; the wonder-mare, Enable. She only just clung on from Sea Of Class in the race in 2018, but didn’t enjoy the smoothest of preparations last season and is the 4/1 favourite for this year’s race with Ladbrokes.
With plenty more to look forward to besides, including a steady stream of top handicaps and quality festivals such as Glorious Goodwood and of course Royal Ascot, be sure tune in to the 2019 flat season.