Dovecote Novices Hurdle Guide

1. Angels Breath

Trainer - Nicky Henderson

Jockey -

Before last weekend, Angels Breath was the favourite for the similarly sponsored Sky Bet Supreme at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, despite the fact he has only jumped four hurdles on a racetrack before.

Purchased by Ronnie Bartlett and the Walters Plant Hire company, this 5yo grey gelding made his debut for the yard in that heavily-omitted hurdles contest at Ascot back in December, and has struggled to find a race fit for his needs since.

Clear natural speed in his run, and gets the chance to showcase what he is all about to promote his future Grade One claims.

2. Itchy Feet

Trainer - Olly Murphy

Jockey - Gavin Sheehan

A course and distance winner here four months ago, Itchy Feet returns from a little lay-off to get a much needed run into the legs before the Cheltenham Festival.

Winning his bumper at Stratford in September, he went onto win twice in the month of October at Southwell and Kempton as named - the latter in a Listed race.

He was only a length down on Elixir Du Nutz in a Supreme trial at Prestbury Park in November - a horse who has since gone onto win a Grade One at Sandown.

Will be in the frame once again.

3. Ashutor

Trainer - Paul Nicholls

Jockey -

A beaten favourite on his one sole start for Paul Nicholls since making the swoop from France, and that was when he finished second in a Ludlow maiden.

That was only three weeks ago, so a chance to go again quickly to build on the performance he has already given.

More established horses in this market however.

4. Brandon Castle

Trainer - Neil King

Jockey -

Brandon Castle has certainly turned a corner since moving on from Archie Watson, and is a perfect two out of two for his new yard over jumps.

A decent horse on the flat back in 2017 - including landing a hat-trick at Ayr in October of that year, but his career came to a standstill in 2018, when managing just one win and a number of unplaced efforts.

New life over hurdles, and both wins have come in Sussex at Plumpton.

Big jump up here nonetheless.

5. Brecon Hill

Trainer - Sarah Humphrey

Jockey -

Sarah Humphrey trains a rather quiet yard, but she could have a flagbearer on her hands, if Brecon Hill can handle the step-up to top company in the Dovecote.

Five efforts so far over hurdles, and seems to have got better with each - winning on his third time lucky appearance at Huntingdon.

He returned to the Cambridgeshire venue when running into the bright novice Brewin'upastorm, but got back to winning ways last time out at Leicester.

Nice each way price, for a horse with useful talents.

6. Bright Forecast

Trainer - Ben Pauling

Jockey -

A brilliant horse to follow this season, Bright Forecast will look to rain down on his rivals once again, this time at Kempton.

Highly thought of prior to his 25/1 debut at Newbury back in December, where he went on to storm home up the run-in late on to land the spoils.

He proved that was no fluke on his next start at Leicester, before running into one of the best around in the division in Mister Fisher at Haydock, but did not disgrace two lengths down in second.

Good be a decent each way player in the Supreme, but a solid contender for this.

7. Colonel Custard

Trainer - Nicky Martin

Jockey - Matt Griffiths

The 'cooly' named Colonel Custard steps back into this grade for the first time since his disappointment in the Supreme Trial at Cheltenham back in November.

Around that effort, he has proved comfortable winners in Class Four's at Ffos Las latest and Newton Abbot, whilst also being narrowly touched off at Bangor.

Back in top company, and lots to prove.

8. I K Brunel

Trainer - Olly Murphy

Jockey -

Fantastic debut at Carlisle in November when winning a bumper on soft ground, which was followed up by a useful start over hurdles.

The 5yo finished third at Cheltenham in December to subsequent Grade One winner Elixir De Nutz, and was not really that far away given the fact it was his first experience up the iconic hill.

Connections think the world of this horse, and could be the dark horse in the field so do not forget about him.

9. Normal Norman

Trainer - John Ryan

Jockey -

Winner on New Years Day at Musselburgh, when getting the better of useful filly Chica Buena - who at the time was bidding for a five-timer.

Has risen up the ranks, and now has a crack at top-graded company for the first time.

However, others would be preferred on profiles and achievements to date, and although it would not be considered a miracle if this 5yo chestnut got his head in front, it would be definitely unlikely.

10. Rouge Vif

Trainer - Harry Whittingdon

Jockey - Gavin Sheehan

Another horse who has come into contact with Mister Fisher this term, Rouge Vif returned to winning ways - just about, in a much easier contest three weeks ago at Newcastle.

Sent off at odds of 4/11, he was running around with his head in the air and did not prove the simplest task for his jockey.

A win is a win, which matched his triumph at Southwell earlier in the campaign.

Definite player.

11. Scarlet Dragon

Trainer - Alan King

Jockey - Wayne Hutchinson

Interesting to see this horse currently valued as the second favourite at the time of writing, given the fact he has only raced once over hurdles - with that coming in the shape of a win in a Pertemps Qualifier at Huntingdon, almost a month ago on his jumps debut.

Form has been franked since with the second following up, but Scarlet Dragon will be known for his exploits on the flat for the same trainer - who helped guide him to several place efforts in group affairs.

Looks to make his name as a National Hunt horse now, and likely to run well.

12. Southfield Stone

Trainer - Paul Nicholls

Jockey -

Fine progress as a novice, by running superbly in the Tolworth in his last start but one at Sandown.

Back down to a Class Four last time out, but failed to get the job done - providing one of the shocks of that day at Taunton.

Two weeks later, he needs to respond sharply, and learn to put the race to bed quicker.

Much harder company here - possibly the hardest he has faced, so must be on his A game to stand a convincing chance.

13. Strong Glance

Trainer - Fergal O'Brien

Jockey -

Lots of ground to find on the basis of his runs so far this campaign for the Welfordgolf Syndicate.

After winning a bumper at Cheltenham in October, hurdles clearly did not seem to suit at Newbury on his next start in a Class Three - won by Bright Forecast, when proving frustrating as the 5/2 favourite.

Not much better next time when lowered again in grade, when failing to figure at Doncaster, so lots to improve on all round.

14. Thistle Do Nicely

Trainer - Jamie Snowden

Jockey -

After two easy wins at Wincanton and Wetherby on his first two starts over hurdles for Jamie Snowden, this 5yo gelding ran a fruitful race at Ascot in December when behind Angels Breath at Ascot.

However, he was bidding to get the confidence levels back with a return to winning ways in a Class Four on his next start at Wincanton, which in the end went completely pair shaped.

Elusive Belle - a smart mare for Nicky Henderson was in a league of her own, but Thistle Do Nicely failed to really provide any sort of challenge.

Another individual that needs to recover.

15. Tokay Dokey

Trainer - Dan Skelton

Jockey - Harry Skelton

Perhaps the most interesting one under the radar is the 5yo Tokay Dokey, who is yet to be beaten in three starts under rules for the Skeltons.

After winning his bumper at Market Rasen in May of last year, this gelding has won back-to-back Class Four's at Uttoxeter, and looks set for a rise in the weights.

Completely unexposed, and a striking contender.

16. Daphne Du Clos

Trainer - Nicky Henderson

Jockey -

The mare Daphne Du Clos competes the field, and will bid to spring a surprise on the field, after making her long awaited return to the track last month.

After finishing fifth as the even-money favourite at Huntingdon behind Scarlet Dragon three weeks ago, the 6yo completed her first start in almost two years and her first in all over hurdles.

Her absence has been unknown, having scored in a bumper when last seen in February 2017 at Newbury - ahead of the likes of Western Ryder and Dynamite Dollars, so good to see her back.

Will look to push on now.