Five National Hunt Jockeys to watch out for this season

1. Ruby Walsh

I suppose this sounds rather obvious, but last year, injury seriously disrupted the popular Irishman's campaign. Having just returned from a broken leg, he rode Footpad to an almighty victory in the Racing Post Arkle before winning the Mares on Benie Des Dieux. However, he aggravated his leg once more, when Al Boum Photo fell the following day in the RSA Chase which subsequently ruled him out for the rest of the festival.

Ruby is now back, and any Mullins horse - or any horse for that matter, always has a chance with Ruby aboard. With 58 Cheltenham winners to his name, he is one of the standout stars of the jump season. With an injury-free season, many would expect him to be the leading jockey at the festival once more - a feat he sustained five times in a row between 2013 and 2017. Many would argue, he is one the best jump jockeys of all time.

2. Daryl Jacob

Daryl Jacob is a rider who requires no introduction, with plenty of notable success in recent seasons.

Back in 2014, he was involved in a freak accident during the Cheltenham Festival which saw him hospitalised and his position at Paul Nicholls yard under threat. His place was awarded to Sam Twiston-Davies, and the Wexford-born pilot had to move on.

Jacob responded in great style and was named the retained rider for top jumps owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede which has certainly worked out. He has rode several winners: such as the popular Top Notch, Messire Des Obeaux, L’Ami Serge and Bristol De Mai - who bolted up in the Betfair Chase last season.

Jacob recorded almost 100 winners in 2016 from over 400 mounts for the likes of Nicky Henderson, Alan King and Nigel Twiston-Davies - operating a strike rate of 25%. He further added to that last season, by teaming up with Ben Pauling as stable jockey, and continuing his association with Munir and Souede. If all goes his way, he may even get the ride back on Footpad, should Ruby Walsh be needed elsewhere.

3. Aiden Coleman

Another Irishman - Aiden Coleman will be looking forward to another big season, riding for some of the richest owners in the game. After cutting from his regular trainer two years ago, Coleman went freelance, and was utilised to great effect by many top trainers, including Jonjo O’Neill - where he has rode many winners.

The likes of Colin Tizzard, Brian Ellison, Rebecca Curtis and Charlie Longsdon have also bought into Coleman’s talents in the saddle, along with old boss Venetia Williams amongst others. He also has sported the colours of JP McManus several times in the past.

However, Coleman certainly has an aim to accomplish. He is yet to land that all important first Cheltenham Festival winner, and has a notably poor record at Prestbury Park. Last season, with a good opportunity for Grade 1 success in the Arkle, he disappointed aboard Saint Calvados.

4. Rachael Blackmore

After an article yesterday on about Rachael Blackmore's superb start to the season, she is surely one to follow for the upcoming season. Female Jockeys were the buzz throughout much of last season, with Blackmore, along with Bryony Frost and Lizzie Kelly continuing to shine in the saddle.

This season has only begun in earnest, and Blackmore currently sits second in the Irish jockeys table with 48 winners – only one winner behind Paul Townend. Rachael was the first female jockey to go professional in Ireland and to be this close currently is some feat. She is a former champion conditional, riding for the biggest yards in the country and has some great opportunities this year - in particular for Gigginstown House Stud to add to her already creditable portfolio of winners.

5. The Bowens

Putting two into one, it could be a big season ahead of the two young Bowens - Sean and James. Together they have already rode 89 winners together; 47 for Sean and 42 for James. From a level stake, they are both have an excellent strike rate - with Sean +72.36 and James a little less on +51.26.

In 2015, Sean - the elder, became the first 17-year-old to win jump racing's apprentice jockey title. His triumph was sealed by winning the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Just A Par. Tipped as a potential future champion, he completed a double on that day after victory on Lil Rockerfeller in the opener - a horse who has since finished third in the Stayers Hurdle.

As for James, he was named Stobart Conditional Jump Jockey of the year last season. The 17-year-old from Pembrokeshire rode 57 winners from 335 rides last year, with his standout victory being the win on Raz De Maree in the Welsh Grand National.

BOTH have big seasons ahead.