The Jump season kicks off properly next month, which will see the return of some of our racing favourites. Those in possession of Cheltenham crowns, will begin their quest on defending them at the Festival in March.
As the calendar switches from Group races (flat) to Graded ones, the season will open with the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, and the Charlie Hall at Wetherby in October.
Leg one of the Jumps Triple Crown commences at Haydock in November, in the Betfair Chase - where last year Bristol de Mai bolted up by a monster 57-lengths. The season also heads north to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, and to Newbury for the Ladbrokes Trophy - formally known as the Hennessey.
As we head to Christmas, several trials will have taken place for the feature races at Cheltenham such as the Long Walk at Ascot (for the Stayers Hurdle) and the Tingle Creek at Sandown (for the Champion Chase). We should hope to see the return of last year’s heroes such as Altior, Might Bite and Buveir D’Air - coincidentally all trained by Nicky Henderson, as soon as possible.
The Irish will send their usual brigade to Cheltenham in March, a festival they have conquered in past years. Faugheen - stablestar for Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins looks to be upped in distance for the Stayers, meanwhile Douvan will hope to have an injury-free campaign as he aspires to become the Champion Chaser.
As for Gordon Elliot, Samcro lost his unbeaten record when falling at Punchestown at the end of last season and faces a tough choice whether to stay hurdling or go novice chasing, meanwhile National hero Tiger Roll looks to defend his title, with another trip to the Cross Country forming a good preparation run for the Aintree highlight.
After Boxing Day and the King George at Kempton (leg 2 of Triple Crown), Cheltenham hold more festival trials in January before the big meeting in March. The season will close in May after the Grand National at Aintree and the Celebration Chase at Sandown.
Some big names to watch out for this season includes Laurina, who bolted up in the Mares Novice for Willie Mullins at Prestbury Park last year. Waiting Patiently - who skipped Cheltenham last year for a run at Aintree but only to get injured, and of course the gutsy Native River, who won the Gold Cup ever-so impressively last term.
The Jumps horses are back from their holidays, and are ready to return.