You've seen the raw emotion, the plethora of stars on show within the British Flat Racing Season, and the Breeders' Cup has been and gone, as has both the Melbourne and Japan Cups; Maybe you're looking to try something new? Something exciting? Something exhilarating? The British National Hunt Season, steeplechasing to its unfamiliar new friends, is just that.
With the first steps on the road towards a new, fascinating season complete, there is no better time to begin your interest in the unique aspect of horse racing that the National Hunt season provides. Whilst North America has its unique aspect in the shape of harness racing, a feature that Drive On and Garnet Barnsdale can provide insight into, National Hunt racing provides exhilarating finishes, emotional stories and exceptional visions in abundance.
So where do you start? What races do you need to see? Who do you need to see? With December fast approaching, the tantalising prospect of the engaging of rivalries, old and new, begin to draw closer. A month renowned for cementing the storylines that shall take shape in the concluding months of the season, December is the mid-season, the important stop en route to Festival glory, the stop at which hopes and dreams can be enhanced and ended.
Saturday sees Newbury Racecourse, rebranded, reinvigorated and revitalised since the conclusion of last year's season, hold the Hennessey Gold Cup. A race in which Cheltenham Gold Cup champions and contenders alike have been created, Nicky Henderson looks to kick start a Cheltenham Gold Cup campaign of his own with the talented Champion Novice Steeplechaser, Bob's Worth.
A winner at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011 and 2012, Bob's Worth looks to start his season in the tough handicap waters of the Hennessey Gold Cup, in which just one horse carries more weight than the Henderson star. A talented individual who is yet to hit his ceiling of potential, Bob's Worth began his season at this meeting last season with a short-head victory over the raw, talented Cue Card.
Thriving at Cheltenham is what Bob's Worth does best. Undefeated in three starts at the track, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is on the radar of the seven year old son of Bob Back, yet the Hennessey Gold Cup is most certainly a target that Henderson will want his star to claim, and one he is entirely capable of winning.
Paul Nicholls, for whom Denman created emotional history for in this race on two incredible occasions, enters the frustrating enigma that is Tidal Bay. A Champion of his division in 2008, Tidal Bay had proved an awkward type, one who did not seemingly always want to show his full potential in his races. However, a shift to the Nicholls barn looked to eventually remove that quirk and make up Tidal Bay into the highly fancied horse with huge potential within his armoury.
Can Tidal Bay produce a performance of this magnitude though?
Victorious in 2011, Carruthers has failed to place in a race since his victory in last year's renewal, yet National Hunt racing is where dreams are made of, a home of emotional victories, and the Hennessy Gold Cup is home to many of those. Bred by Lord Oaksey, who sadly died on 5th September, Carruthers is retained by the Oaksey Partnership. A strong supporter of racing in his lifetime, Lord Oaksey was, in the words of many, the greatest amateur steeplechase jockey of his time.
Few will begrudge Carruthers a successful defence in the year his past owner and breeder has passed.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)