The jumps season swings into action at Chepstow this weekend and here Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway, who specialises in hurdles races, gives his five to follow for the season.
There aren’t many better trainers of staying hurdlers than Jonjo O’Neill and he has expertly guided An Tailliur to seven handicap hurdle wins. There could be more to come this season.
An Tailliur is still improving according to Racing Post Ratings, having recorded his highest two figures on his last two starts, and is up just 2lb for finishing second at Cartmel last time.
He is effective on all types of courses and all sorts of ground, so can never be discounted, and is still quite unexposed in staying hurdles. He has run only three times over 2m7f or further.
Further improvement looks on the cards and maybe Haydock in November will be his first port of call for what was once known as the fixed brush hurdle. That seems an obvious target.
First Street was one of the biggest eyecatchers of the Cheltenham Festival when chasing home State Man in the County Hurdle after going the inside when others challenged wide.
The form is rock solid. The winner went on to land a Grade 1 novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, fourth West Cork finished second in the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the well-held tenth Felix Desjy won a red-hot handicap hurdle at Punchestown next time.
First Street can be forgiven a disappointing run in a Grade 1 at Aintree on his next start when he might have been feeling the effects of a hard race at Cheltenham and looks sure to make his mark in top-class races this season, whether that be 2m handicaps or when upped in trip.
He is still a maiden after five hurdles starts and lost his way in the spring, but Great Heart'Jac has bits and pieces of form that suggest he could be well handicapped off a mark of just 108.
The pick of his form came when beaten only a neck by the now 123-rated Moriko De Vassy at Doncaster in January and he finished clear of third-placed Russian Ruler, who went on to finish fifth in the Dovecote at Kempton. His current mark is lenient based on that effort alone.
Even his fourth in a hot contest at Newbury next time, when he finished close up behind second and third Jaramillo and Groom De Cotte who are rated in the 110s, giving both weight, would suggest that he is fairly treated. He’s one to follow at a low level this season.
Moriko De Vassy would have given the now 133-rated Balco Coastal a race under a 7lb penalty at Huntingdon in December but for falling at the second last and must be of interest in any list of potential handicappers for the coming season on that form. He is rated just 125.
He proved he was smart when duly defying a penalty to beat the aforementioned Great Heart’Jac and Russian Ruler at Doncaster on his next start and you can ignore his last run.
He finished last of eight in the Dovecote at Kempton, but rider Aidan Coleman reported that he was never travelling and he has more to offer this season, especially on good ground.
The County Hurdle is always one of the strongest handicaps of the season and State Man was one of the most impressive winners you are likely to see. He powered through the race on the bridle and kept on well to win going away from the aforementioned runner-up First Street.
State Man proved that he is a top-class hurdler in the making when running away with a Grade 1 novice at the Punchestown festival next time and there should be more to come.
Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle dominate the market for the Champion Hurdle, but State Man is a dangerous lurker coming in under the radar for Willie Mullins and could surprise.