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Seven stars to look forward to during the 2017-18 National Hunt season

Thistlecrack, Sizing John and Might Bite are back in action

With the flat season almost at a close, attention will soon turn to the 2017-18 National Hunt campaign.

Meetings at Punchestown and Haydock get the season truly underway in November, before the King George VI Chase takes centre-stage on Boxing Day.

The Coral News Team take a look at some of the key players in National Hunt racing this season, while casting their eye on a few more to keep an eye on.

Sizing John

The Jessica Harrington-trained seven-year-old established himself as a star last season. After a series of second place finishes to Douvan, Sizing John was stepped up in trip and duly completed a Gold Cup treble with victories at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown.

With jockey Robbie Power on board, the son of Midnight Legend took the step-up to 3m in his stride. This year the Coral News Team are expecting more great things from the British raider.

It emerged last week that the Cheltenham Gold Cup king will be aimed at the £1m Triple Crown bonus. With victories at Haydock, and in Kempton’s King George VI Chase plus the Gold Cup required, it is a tough ask for any horse. Sizing John has the quality though, and at 20/1 is best priced to become the first since Kauto Star in 2007 to accomplish the feat.

Apple’s Jade

Gordon Elliot’s stable star is already a multiple Grade 1 winner. But even so, her reappearance is eagerly anticipated by all National Hunt fans.

The aim for connections is to make it two from two in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. If she can do that, the leading lady of jump racing will be well on her way to emulating Quevega’s record five-in-a row from 2009 to 2014.

The World’s End

A horse on the tip of the tongue of a lot of people. His emergence over hurdles last season was eye-catching. In truth, the six-year-old was incredibly unlucky not to open his Grade 1 account in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

He was a faller that day, but bounced back with an impressive showing to claim victory in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April. The Stayers’ Hurdle could be the aim for this excellent bay gelding. He’s 8/1 to eclipse the likes of Yanworth and Unowhatimeanharry.

Willoughby Court

With a Cheltenham Festival success to his name in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, Willoughby Court looks set for a switch to chasing this season. He’s 14/1 apiece for the JLT Novices’ Chase and RSA Chase, while it’s 25/1 that he emulates Sprinter Sacre and Douvan and wins the Arkle.

There’s improvement to come from the six-year-old. Expect to see him run out at Huntingdon or Bangor as the new National Hunt calendar gets underway.

Might Bite

His duel with Whisper was one of the highlights of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. The Nicky Henderson trained star hung badly to his right when seemingly cruising to victory in the RSA Chase. Up against stablemate Whisper, Might Bite recovered to claim victory before defeating the same rival to land the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree four weeks later.

The son of Scorpion is now being aimed towards the Stayers’ Triple Crown. With Sizing John his main challenger, the eight-year-old is 33/1 to manage the feat.

Burbank

Another Nicky Henderson favourite who showed his capabilities in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. He defied odds of 50/1 to finish fourth that day behind the aforementioned Willoughby Court and the sadly departed Neon Wolf.

He’s still only lightly raced and if aimed towards fences this season looks capable of maintaining his improvement. One to watch for the coming season from the Henderson stable.

Thistlecrack

It’s impossible to look forward to the National Hunt season without including Thistlecrack. The seemingly imperious nine-year-old took to chasing like a duck to water, dominating in his first four starts after switching from hurdles. No-one can forget that incredible display of jumping to claim the King George VI Chase at Kempton last year.

But defeat to Many Clouds in what proved to be an emotional Cotswold Chase in January leaves Colin Tizzard’s charge with a point to prove. That was his last run of the season, with injury keeping him out of the Cheltenham Festival. With the new National Hunt season almost upon us, the Coral News Team can’t wait to see Thistlecrack back in action once again.

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