With the new season now upon us, the South Midlands-based trainers are looking forward to getting going. And, although the first meeting in the area – the Heythrop at Cocklebarrow – doesn’t take place until January 25th, there are plenty of opportunities to travel further afield in the early weeks.

Jake Exelby has been getting the lowdown on some horses to follow in the 2015/2016 season, from familiar faces – including a Gold Cup winner  to untapped promise. A selection of trainers have given us one or more horses along these lines:

Early Bird a horse who is likely to run before the new year.

Shooting Star on the upgrade. May be a real dark horse, one coming from Ireland or from National Hunt, or one that should improve this season.

Top Banana the star of the show. The one horse they hope will hit the heights this season.

Let’s hope (for the trainers’ sake at least) that plenty of these live up to expectations! The author accepts no responsibility for money handed to the bookies on any of the featured horses and not returned as winning bets!

Tom Ellis

Early Bird

Midnight Rebel

All being well, will be running at the first Cottenham meeting. She missed last season through injury and has been plagued with problems, but loves good ground and will hopefully pick up a little race.

Shooting Star

Total Compliance

Got off to a shaky start last season but finished up being beaten only a head on his final run. Sure to pick up a maiden at least! He's a compact, strong horse who takes lots of graft at home and his jumping wasn't great to start with, but improved every time he ran.

Pauline Harkin

Early Bird

Velvet Cloud

Likely to run at Cottenham. She’s good at keeping herself fit and will go well for a more experienced jockey.

Shooting Star

Don’t Budge Me

Still a maiden. Came over from Ireland last year, but was injured in the lorry. He’s come right now and is showing enormous promise for his very patient owners.

Top Banana

Out Of Range

He’s a big, unfurnished type who hasn’t finished progressing. He’s getting better every day and has still got another year’s improvement in him. He’ll go pointing first and should do well in Hunter Chases.

Claire Hart

Early Bird


Should go to Black Forest Lodge. He’s Mr Reliable. Jordan Nailor will ride him again, this season for a syndicate. I don’t know if an 11-year-old can improve, but he’s in seriously good order.

Shooting Star

The Applebobber

A half-brother to Dabinett Moon who ran once at Kingston  Blount last season. He’s had a wind operation and if it’s worked… well just look at his half-sister!

Top Banana


The best horse in the yard without a doubt. If we can pick up where we left off last year, that’ll be great. He’s had  chips of one removed over the summer and will hopefully start off in a point-to-point in February then go Hunter  Chasing.

James Henderson

Shooting Star

Oliver James

He’s doing quite a lot of work and will be ready when (son and jockey) Fred is! We don’t really have targets – we’ll just get him fit and hope!

Top Banana

Otto The Great

I’d like to give him a go in Hunter Chases as he’s won a  couple of Opens and Fred is getting a licence (to ride  under Rules). He’s only seven, but if he’s not good  enough, he’ll go back pointing.

Alan Hill

Early Bird

Cara Carlotta

Placed in a Bumper and bought from Philip Hobbs in the summer. She enjoyed hunting, which helped settle her as she came “with a bit of a buzz” and has schooled really well. The plan is to go for the two mile four furlong Maiden at Cottenham. Owned by a syndicate run by Carolyn Wheeler, mother of Lucy, who will ride when available.

Shooting Star

Man Of Steel

Last season, he came to us wound up. When we got him right, he won his last three, as his mental and physical attitude came together and he’s come back the same.  Hopefully he’ll run around New Year and I’m really excited about seeing him on the track. He’s won an Intermediate and a Club race so he’s now got to take on the bigger boys in Opens and Hunter Chases.

Top Banana

Harbour Court

I’ve now got him right again. The 2014 Cheltenham Foxhunters was a horrible race – his wind was wrong and   it took over a year to get him right again. He looked back  to his best at Cheltenham (in April) and has come back in awesome form. May run at Barbury Castle and if the ground is good, could go back to Cheltenham for another go at the Foxhunters. He’s only nine and still has a big run in him.

Fred Hutsby

Early Bird

Nashville Tommy

We're planning to go to Cottenham with him. He’s a six-year-old who won a Maiden in Ireland. Not a big strong horse like a lot of mine, but a nice enough sort and he worked well with Penmore Mill recently.

Shooting Star

Kristian Gray

I think we’ve found the key to him and he’s come back in a lot better form this year and, ideally, the aim is the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham. He wants cut in the ground and we won’t be rushing him.

Top Banana

Penmore Mill

Likely to run in the Ladies at Cottenham with Hannah  Watson. We’ve got no big expectations this year but may target the AGA Final at Stratford and, if we qualify, he’ll have a squeak. Won’t run more than once a month.

Chris Loggin

Early Bird

Bit Of A Barney

We’re planning to run him at Larkhill but given his record of attendance, he’ll probably play truant! He was fourth at Mollington last season, but has only run twice since winning at Whitfield three and a half years ago

Shooting Star

Steel Away J

Won his Maiden at Kingston Blount then ran well in fourth there before disappointing on his final outing. Hopefully there’s a bit of improvement to come but he is eight.

Julie Marles

Early Bird

The Ultimate Lad

Will hopefully go to Cottenham. A changed horse after a wind operation last season. He’s had lots of issues but no-one tries harder.

Shooting Star

Brake Hill

He was so green last season. It’s hard when they win first  time out and still have it all to learn. He’s grown up and is  much stronger this year.

Top Banana

All Great N Theory

Will hopefully go to Barbury Castle. It's his first run after a long absence but we think a lot of him.

Francesca Nimmo

Early Bird


Owned by The Priority SMS Partnership, he was bought  over the summer from Ireland, where he showed promise in three starts last season. He has been working nicely and looks likely to run in the two mile four furlong maidenat either Cottenham or Black Forest Lodge.

Shooting Star


To pick one at this stage is difficult as we have a handful  of exciting unraced three and four years olds that are progressing well. One with plenty of size and scope who  is sure to catch the eye in the paddock is a three-year-old by Scorpion out of Derriana. He stands around 17 hands and has been schooling well.

Top Banana

Last Time D'Albain

Owned by Mrs J Jackson-Stops and Mr S Allen. Bought  over the summer for owner-rider James Jackson-Stops to ride, he looks likely to start his campaign in a point-to-point in January. The aim will be the Cheltenham Foxhunters, for which he is already qualified, with the  plan to then run at Aintree, where he finished third last season. He looks a very exciting addition to the yard.

Laura Thomas

Early Bird

Future Of Milan

Nicely bred five-year-old gelding by Milan, who will hopefully run in one of the Maidens at Black Forest Lodge. It won’t matter distance-wise, so we will probably be guided by the entries. He is doing everything right at home and has been schooling particularly well.

Shooting Star

Berwick Bassett

Owned by the Barbury Bunch Syndicate and is a horse that really excites me. He is the only horse that can work with Full Trottle at home and one I am expecting to climb up through the grades rapidly. May run in the young horse maiden at Barbury Castle.

Top Banana

Full Trottle 

My nutty superstar who did us proud last season by  finishing with a nice win at Fontwell. He has come in even bigger and stronger this season and dare I say it, a little more chilled... Johnny Bailey and he seem to really click together and his jumping has really improved with lots of steady schooling. His Open and Hunter Chase campaig  should kick off with the Mixed Open at Black Forest Lodge.

Tim Underwood

Shooting Star


A soft ground horse. Won first time out at Larkhill then ran  quite well at Lockinge but badly at Kingston Blount – he’d picked up an allergy to pollen. He was quite smart in  Ireland, but had been on the go for 18 months so was a  tired horse last year. Should improve this season and if  he gets the rub of the green, could be quite smart.

Top Banana


Showed smart pointing form in Ireland and wasn’t beatenfar by On The Fringe at Punchestown. He goes on any ground and should be out in mid-January. I may ride him myself – I’m 68 now and my goal is to carry on and ride a winner at 70!

Robert Waley-Cohen

Early Bird


We’re hoping to run him in the Mens Open at the first Larkhill meeting. He’s had a year off so won’t get any penalities and has come back stronger this year with a better attitude, helped by hunting once a week. His leg has not been an issue and you wouldn’t know he’d had a problem.

Shooting Star

Storm Lantern

Has improved no end and may go to Cottenham for the two and a half mile Conditions race. He seems more up for it this year – he’s more settled in his work and has schooled brilliantly. Hopefully it’ll be his season.

Top Banana

Long Run

We’re still on the road to rehab with him and are planning to go to Kelso for a Hunter Chase in mid-January. We’ll see how he runs and take it from there, but the obvious aim is the Cheltenham Foxhunters.