Gearing up for Cheltenham Festival 2022: three novice horses to watch from Warwick

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  • A number of novice winners from Warwick’s jump racing meeting on Saturday 15 January will head to the Cheltenham Festival in March with a good chance of success. Here are three to follow…

    Brave Seasca

    The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old looked the pick of Warwick’s winners, beating Sky Pirate seven lengths in the Alder Demain & Akers PMS Oxford Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase. It completed a hat-trick of wins for the gelding, who has taken to fences like a duck to water and he could follow Sky Pirate who, last year, went on from winning this to winning the Grand Annual.

    “He was getting lumps of weight from Sky Pirate,” pointed out the trainer, “but he’s progressing.”

    Charlie Deutsch, who is having a cracking season, said: “He gave me a great feel. I was surprised how quick his jumping was. He’s just as quick if he’s short as he is when he’s long. He takes you along and enjoys it.”


    He may not be Paul Nicholls’ best-known horse, but the trainer must have a pretty soft spot for him. He is now nine wins from 11 starts after winning the Wigley Group Hampton Novices’ Chase over three miles, making it four on the bounce.

    “Today’s performance was quite a bit ahead of Doncaster [his previous win],” said jockey Adrian Heskin, who rides for owner Max McNeill.

    “He’d fool you to watch him – he’s got speed, he’s not just a slogger. People are talking about the National Hunt Chase, but I think he’d be worth a crack at the Grade One [ex-RSA but now the Brown Advisory].”

    Stag Horn

    Archie Watson does not have many jumpers, but the switch to hurdles of Stag Horn – a decent staying handicapper on the Flat – means he has a horse to take to Cheltenham.

    On just his second start against vastly more experienced jumpers, he made all under an aggressive ride from Nick Scholfield to win the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle by two lengths from Gentleman At Arms.

    The biggest relevance of his win, however, may be in breeding terms. Saturday might be the moment that Golden Horn, his dad and an exceptional Derby winner, becomes a jump sire after disappointing with his runners on the Flat (one Group Three winner so far.)

    “I knew what I was sitting on having spoken to Gavin Sheehan,” said Scholfield. “You won’t get a horse with a bigger heart. Flat horses don’t always take to it, but he attacks his hurdles. I was surprised the others were so close to me – I was pressing all the way. He’ll stay further.”

    • Read Marcus’s full report on the weekend’s racing action in Horse & Hound, in shops on Thursday 20 January

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