The rider is hot on the heels of champion jockey Richard Johnson, who is hoping to claim his fifth title. Brian’s partnership with Donald McCain is paying off as the trainer continues to show his resilience, having rebuilt his string after owners Paul and Clare Rooney removed their horses from his yard. If Donald has 100 winners this season and both Richard and Brian stay injury free, it might be a close fight.
Jonjo O’Neill Jnr
The young jockey looked a chip off the old block in his breakthrough season last winter. Rides from his father — trainer Jonjo O’Neill — look like being supplemented with a few from Colin Tizzard, so he should keep progressing.
The champion trainer looks to be in a strong position to hold onto his title. Among his stars, he has Cyrname and Clan Des Obeaux. The latter has started off in the JW Wine Chase at Down Royal before defending his King George title. With Altior vacating the two-mile ranks, Politologue — runner-up in the Champion Chase — should pick up a good prize this season.
The Lambourn handler’s top horses include Altior and Buveur D’Air. The latter may benefit from a small back surgery, which he underwent in the summer, and a third Champion Hurdle may not be beyond him after all.
Emma Lavelle… and Colin Tizzard
The trainer made a strong start to the season. She can rule the staying hurdle scene once again with Paisley Park, while the pick of Colin Tizzard’s novice hurdlers could be Master Debonair, who was a smart bumper horse last season.
Over the summer, the trainer has enjoyed a 28% strike rate with 20 summer horses. With double that number due to be in the yard over the winter, and if he can maintain that great form over the next few months, he is well on the way to his best season ever. Thebannerkingrebel, runner-up to McFabulous at Aintree, took to hurdles like a duck to water in the spring and should be Jamie’s flagship horse.
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Races not to miss this season…
The Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot (23 November): Nicky Henderson has decided to step Altior up in trip to see what he is capable of. This race is the starting point that could lead to the King George and who knows what else.
The Randox Health Grand National at Aintree (4 April): can Tiger Roll win a third National to match the legendary Red Rum? The horse standing between him and victory could be One For Arthur — given how he ran last year when the ground was too quick and he kept unseating in his races, before finishing an outstanding sixth in the National. Lucinda Russell had him back earlier this year and is very happy with him.
Don’t miss our National Hunt special (31 October) in Horse & Hound magazine — on sale now.