The National Hunt season has really started to pick up pace as we head deep into the autumn. Too many X to follow lists are full of obvious types who have already shown Graded winning form so to fly in the face of that, we have picked out 10 darker horses (9 and a Listed winner) who hopefully have been less spotted by other horse racing fans!
1 – Another Mystery – Lucy Wadham
A point winner, he looked a little weak in the finish last season, shaping as if he will be all the better for another summer on his back. There was plenty to like in a smart looking Ascot bumper before a pair of hurdles runs and a handicap debut over fences.
The bigger obstacles are going to be where his future lies this season. His stamina looked to give way over three miles at Warwick on his chase debut and he didn’t jump well on his return at Fakenham last week but it’s too early to be giving up on him from a mark sub 100.
2 – Boombawn – Dan Skelton
Went firmly in the notebook when third at Newbury in November 2021. The pair who beat him that day were Jonbon and Good Risk At All. As a four-year-old against a pair a year older off level weights, it was a smart performance to only be beaten nine lengths by a subsequent Grade 1 winner.
He closed out his campaign with a runner-up effort at Sandown to Knappers Hill on his handicap debut. That form has already looked strong this season with that winner landing the Silver Trophy at Chepstow off a mark of 141. He won a Listed contest himself over the weekend at Kempton and can use that as a springboard for a productive campaign.
3 – Foxhollow – Sandy Thomson
Showed up well on his debut when runner-up at Doncaster, in the care of Gavin Cromwell at that point. Two runs for his current trainer have not been at that same level but he’s still completely unexposed heading into this season.
A half-brother to Tolworth runner-up Jetoile, a step up in trip and softer ground over the winter are both going to see him in a better light. He kicks off his season from a mark of just 99 for a yard who are very capable of finding the key to their charges.
4 – Gamaret – Venetia Williams
Stayed on powerfully to win a maiden hurdle at Fontwell in February, a race that looked a good quality contest for that track. The runner-up has placed off 113 since and the third has been successful off 108. After just three career starts, an opening mark of 115 looks perfectly fair for this gelding.
He shapes as if a longer distance is going to suit him, having a good look around when he hit the front in that Fontwell race. That greenness should be run out of him in time but it does give the impression that he’s going to be the type who only just does enough. That should keep him ahead of the handicapper.
5 – Keplerian – Fergal O’Brien
Didn’t get within 21 lengths of a winner in five starts last season but he showed an awful lot more promise than that suggests. He was keen enough in his races but regularly caught the eye tanking along late enough in the piece to think there is a decent engine under the bonnet.
The step up to 2m5f on his handicap debut looked to stretch him at Hereford in February but he can kick off this campaign off a mark of just 97 and should be a chaser in the making. A half-brother to chasers Moonlighter (a winner of 144) Le Chameleon (winner off 126) and Horatio Hornblower (winner off 123) he is open to major improvement this season.
6 – Learntalot – Olly Murphy
Three runs as a novice hurdler last season, he ran to a similar level in all three starts. Those came over both two and two and a half miles on good to soft and heavy ground so he looks a versatile enough type. A debut at the age of 6 suggests that he has taken plenty of time to mature with his efforts showing that he still has some way to go.
He is a half-brother to Ministerforsport who was a winner over hurdles from 132 and runner-up in a Grade 3 contest over fences. Sent off odds on against one already rated 115 on his third and final run of last season, he opens up off 110 and should do better than that with time.
7 – Pilot Show – Warren Greatrex
The winner of a point, he improved with each run over hurdles as he gradually stepped up in trip. His final effort when third at Kempton has been boosted nicely with the fourth and sixth both winning handicaps since. His own opening mark of 108 looking more than fair on that line of form.
A pedigree that suggests stamina will be his forte, his form has come on a wide variety of ground. That can stand him in good stead. He jumped a little to the left in that Kempton contest so a return the other way round should suit him better than right-handed does.
8 – Salamanca Bay – Jonathan Fogarty
A little inconsistent last season when keen in his races, he ran riot at Thurles in March when connections allowed him his head and let him go from the front. Pitched into the Grade 1 Top Novices’ at Aintree the following month, he was sent off 80/1 but still in front when unseating three out.
It would have been unlikely that he would’ve played a major role there but he was still in there pitching at the time. His dam is a half-sister to the 150-rated Stolen Silver who is a Grade 2 winner over fences and that might be the right direction for connections to send this gelding.
9 – T’Araison – Jonjo O’Neill
Has not achieved an awful lot so far in his career but there has been the odd glimmer of promise. There was better on his chasing debut at Huntingdon in March when finishing fourth. He would’ve been closer but for making a few niggling mistakes.
That suggested that stamina is his weapon of choice and it could be that he makes up into a regional national type this season. A full-brother to Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo, he has an awfully long way to go to get remotely close given he is just rated 88 but there is certainly potential there for him to be better than his current rating this season.
10 – Tfou – Nicky Richards
Showed a similar level of form in three starts last season, one bumper and a pair of novice hurdles. There was plenty to like from the most recent of those at Ayr, keeping on well over two and a half miles without being knocked about.
He had been well supported on that occasion, which given his yard, makes him of interest going forward. A longer trip this season should see him in a better light, especially once handicapping, so there should be plenty more to come from him with chasing looking his game.