Since ‘Drive to Survive’ hit Netflix screens in March 2019, sports of all kinds have fallen over themselves to replicate its docuseries template. The show goes behind the scenes to examine the personalities, politics and exploits of Formula 1’s major players. It has taken the sport to new levels, and both F1 viewing figures and attendance numbers have skyrocketed.
British horse racing is the latest in a long line of businesses that plan to harness all that is good about its sport and use television to bring it to a new audience in an exciting way. With financial help from Flutter, the company that owns Betfair, Paddy Power and Sky Bet, a deal has been struck to create a six-part TV series that will cover jumps racing’s most significant meetings and the stories behind its stars.
ITV, which holds the rights to televise the best British race meetings live until the end of 2026, will broadcast the new show. It has been allocated a 9 pm timeslot and will air in late summer. The ‘pimp slot’ on the flagship ITV1 channel can confidently be expected to attract viewing figures of a million-plus.
Two Stars That Could Help ITV Docu Box Clever
This exciting new series will revolve around jump racing’s major race meetings, starting with Kempton Park’s King George on Boxing Day and concluding with the Aintree Festival. Of course, these two gatherings bookend the world-famous Cheltenham Festival.
In 2023, jump racing’s showpiece race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, went to the Irish-trained Galopin Des Champs. As a seven-year-old, the French-bred horse could improve further in 2024, and he is just 2/1 in the ante-post betting to retain his crown during the season ahead.
Constitution Hill is seven-from-seven over hurdles and was an imperious winner of last season’s Unibet Champion Hurdle and Aintree Hurdle. Quoted as the 4/9 favourite to take the Champion title for a second time, he will likely be the equine version of Max Verstappen in ITV’s new docuseries.
Five Horses for Punters Profit
But two championship races do not make up a National Hunt season. Our editorial team has identified five promising horses that should find their way to the winner’s enclosure during the 2023/24 jumps season. Hopefully, they will show punters profit, and they might find a place on the Roll of Honour of one of the sport’s major races.
The closing Nursery Of Champions INH Flat Race goes to Mirazur West, with the five-year-old cruising home to win in fine style under Derek O’Connor for @williemullinsnh 🏆 pic.twitter.com/yms260BeRo
— Naas Racecourse (@NaasRacecourse) March 30, 2023
The Supreme Novices Hurdle is the first race of Cheltenham’s four-day Festival, and identifying its potential winner is an excellent place to start our list. The candidate we like is Mirazur West. A full brother to the brilliant Cheltenham Festival-winning Ferny Hollow, this horse won his only start (at Naas) with consummate ease and looks to have star quality.
Down Memory Lane, like Mirazur West, is trained in Ireland and owned by JP McManus. He has a similar profile to our Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fancy. One-from-one in National Hunt Flat races – scoring impressively at Fairyhouse at the end of February – the best horse racing betting sites have this gelding quoted on 20/1 for Cheltenham’s Ballymore Hurdle. It appears a fair bet.
Stars That Can Shine Brighter
Irish Point has already raced nine times, so few will view him as a potential improver. However, he is only five and Grade-1 success at the Aintree Festival on his latest start indicates the further he goes, the better he will be.
Untried beyond two miles and four furlongs or outside novice company, he could be something special when stepping up to three miles. Currently priced on 20/1, Irish Point is our choice in the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle. It is a race that his trainer won last season with the 33/1 shot, Sire Du Berlais.
Marine Nationale pounces to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
It’s a first win at the Cheltenham Festival for @Michael_OSull#ITVRacing | #CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/LcpsQz4vTB
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 14, 2023
Taking the Supreme Novices Hurdle and unbeaten in five career starts, Marine Nationale is no dark horse. He could follow another Supreme Novices Hurdle winner, Constitution Hill, into the superstar league by sweeping up the major novice chases this season – and we certainly would not be backing against him doing that.
The only British-trained horse on our list, and the fifth and final horse to follow, is Jonbon. This Nicky Henderson trained full brother to the brilliant Douvan fetched £570,000 at the sales. He has recouped over half his purchase price by winning 10 of his 12 starts.
Jonbon’s two defeats came in Cheltenham Festival races. But unconvinced we have seen the best of him – despite featuring in our ‘eight-to-follow‘ list in 2021 – we expect him to make some meaningful hay in races such as the Tingle Creek at Sandown Park in early December.
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