Birchdale looks to be part of a strong novice chasing team.
Below are a few of champion owner JP McManus' string who maybe going under the radar slightly, who I feel are top prospects for the coming season across the sea in Ireland and on English soil.
ENTOUCAS – 5 YO – JOSEPH O’BRIEN – NOVICE HURDLER – 2m +
Finished in behind Klassical Dream in a maiden and a Grade 1 last season. Still a novice going into this season and plenty more to come from him. I'd imagine a step up in trip will certainly help. Expect him to be pitching up in graded/conditions class races. Also, he is by Network so should make a chaser in time.
ELIXIR D’AINEY – 5 YO – WILLIE MULLINS – NOVICE HURDLER – 2m +
A solid start to life in Ireland when very well backed and second to Vision D'honneur, who went onto run well in Grade 1s later in the spring. Another kept for their novice status this season and trained by the master, there are a number of options going into this season between novices and open company races.
CHANTRY HOUSE – 5 YO – NICKY HENDERSON – NOVICE HURDLER – 2m4f
A horse that has always been held in high regard. A two time point winner by Yeats, he won his bumper at Warwick with minimal fuss. He did hold hurdles entries towards to back end of the season, notably at the Punchestown festival but the ground never became right which shows how much they think of him in not risking him on unsuitable ground. I expect this rangey 5 year old to take top rank in the novice hurdle division and could develop into a Ballymore contender come March.
PHOENIX WAY – 6 YO – HARRY FRY – NOVICE CHASER – 2m4f
A satisfactory start to his career last season after disappointing on debut when favourite. Ran a good race at Sandown when finishing 2nd to I Cant Explain which produced plenty of winners and went on to notch a win in a weak race at Fontwell towards the end of the season. Chasing was always going to be his game and should kick on this season as his retains a lot of potential for the bigger obstacles.
RATHHILL – 6 YO – NICKY HENDERSON – NOVICE CHASER – 2m +
A perfect start to life under rules at Newbury where he jumped, travelled and quickened like a real smart horse. Pitch straight into Grade 1 company in the Tolworth Novice Hurdle, the writing was on the wall on long way out and trailed home last. Something was obviously amiss that day and a line can be put through that run. A winning pointer by Getaway, chasing should be his game and retains a great propect in that sphere this coming season where a step up in trip will also help.