WITH September around the corner, it won’t be long before the wraps are taken off the leading National Hunt horses.

I have been recently ringing around for the forthcoming edition of One Jump Ahead and, anyone in any doubt as to whether the trainer’s title in the UK will be wrestled away from Paul Nicholls needs to think again.

Team Ditcheat, who sent out six Grade 1 winners during 2022/2023 including two at the Cheltenham Festival, has been swelled during the summer with a host of new talent.

The stable are particularly strong in the novice chase department with Hermes Allen, Knappers Hill, Stay Away Fay and Tahmuras all set to go over fences.

Paul is already eyeing the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton (November 11th) for Knappers Hill provided everything goes to plan on his chasing bow at Chepstow (October 14th) a month earlier.

Grade 1-winning novice hurdler Hermes Allen, who has undergone wind surgery, will almost certainly start over the intermediate trip but don’t be surprised if he is accompanying Bravemansgame to Kempton on St Stephen’s Day, for the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

In terms of one for the future, owner Max McNeill is involved in the once raced Quebecois who was acquired for a hefty £320,000 at the Cheltenham Festival sale in March.

The former Sean Doyle-trained four-year-old was beaten a length in a point-to-point at Castlelands 11 days earlier. With Harry Cobden in the saddle, he is one to watch out for in a bumper.

Racing League still a flop

THE principle of the Racing League continues to flounder and has far from achieved anything like its critical aims of the then chief marketing officer Olly Harris when launched in 2020.

We were told it ‘would engage millions of fans and so boost racecourse attendances.’

Covid wiped out the first year but attendances in 2021 totalled a mere 12,102 followed by a paltry 7,935 in 2022. Three of the six fixtures for the 2023 version have already taken place but we haven’t been privy to the attendances for those.

Despite the fact the meetings are well served with TV coverage from ITV and Sky Sports Racing and William Hill haven’t shirked in their support with the prize-money on offer - £325,000 was on offer at Chepstow on the August 10th– the concept hasn’t captured racing fans imagination.


With the greatest respect, those behind the idea could have been more selective with their locations – three of the six tracks are all-weather venues, while Chepstow is more associated with the Welsh National than a five-furlong handicap.

As far as the teams are concerned, Joanna Mason (Ireland), Rossa Ryan (London & South), Oisin Murphy and Hayley Turner (Scotland), David Egan and Tom Queally (Wales) and Josephine Gordon (Yorkshire) – try explaining that to a non-racing audience?

One to watch for York today

ED Bethell, who took over from his father James at the end of 2020, has enjoyed an excellent season with 33 winners at a strike-rate of 25%.

The Middleham handler tasted listed success with Regional and, having spoken to him last week, he feels his best chance on the Knavesmire is Ovideo in the appropriately named Sky Bet Finale Handicap at 5.20pm, which rounds off the four day Festival.

The three-year-old won the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar in May and his last run at Newbury wasn’t too bad either.

Beaten five lengths by the subsequent Group 3 Rose of Lancaster Stakes winner Al Aasy in the Listed Steventon Stakes, Ed believes a strongly run 10 furlongs on fast ground on a flat track will bring out the best in the Lope De Vega colt.

The last time Ovideo ran at York, in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes a year ago, he had Chaldean in front of him and Shaquille behind him. That’ll do me.

Recent winners

Highlighted in this column recently were:

Vintage Stakes (11/8) and Prix Morny (22/5) winner Vandeek - noted on July 29th after his debut.

Miaharris - listed weekend winner (9/4) - noted on August 5th