TEMPLEGATE returns with his series of the top horses to look at in the countdown to Cheltenham Festival.
Already this week some ante-post markets have been rocked with the news The Nice Guy, last year's Albert Bartlett winner, is out for the season.
Here, Templegate takes a look at those who have caught his eye with some promising recent runs…
It feels like the jumps season has got really going now we’ve had a two-dayer at Cheltenham.
This opening meeting features lots of good action but hasn’t been the greatest pointer to success at the Festival next March.
Only a trio of horses have run at the Showcase and gone on to score at the big one in the past three seasons.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn't get the notebook out as there were some good performances.
STRAW FAN JACK was an eyecatcher for Sheila Lewis as he won the squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase with plenty left in the tank.
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He beat a useful yardstick in Gordon Elliott’s Ash Tree Meadow and his excellent jumping really caught the eye.
He would have to progress a good deal more to win the Arkle and offers of 50-1 seem right.
But you can forgive Lewis for aiming high as she has only just gone full-time training after running a beauty salon.
A high-end handicap is definitely within his grasp.
SHOOT FIRST went to the head of the Pertemps Final betting with a smooth success in Saturday’s qualifier.
Irish trainer Charles Byrnes knows what he’s doing with horses like this and he was backed from 6-1 into 9-4 on the day.
Stepping up to three miles has brought lots of improvement and he had plenty in hand.
We’ll have to see what the handicapper does when it comes to his return for the final but there is definitely more to come.
RIDERS ONTHE STORM was the star turn at Aintree on Sunday as he took the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase in a right ding-dong with HITMAN.
The winner loves the flat track at Liverpool and this made it two wins and a third from three starts there.
If trainer Richard Hobson has any sense he’ll try to peak him for a big prize at the Grand National meeting.
Hitman again came up just short, this time by just a head.
He is another who isn’t particularly suited by an undulating track like Cheltenham although he was a good second in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last year.
That’s a good target again although the Peterborough Chase at pancake-level Huntingdon might make more sense.
Third home GA LAW is the one for the notebook after running a cracker returning from 20 months off.
He looks a certain future winner at a high level.
He was only just getting going over this 2m4f and he’ll really come into his own at a more testing track or over 3m at a flatter course.
He’s in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham next month and, provided that doesn’t come too soon, he looks a live contender.
There’s some 12-1 around and that looks solid each-way.
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