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National Hunt Horses to Follow

With the flat season having drawn to a close the national hunt season clicks into top gear and fans of the jumping game will certainly be looking forward to some of their old favourites returning to the track.

Every punter will have a few names etched in their memory from the previous season of improving horses, who could venture on to bigger and better things the following season and more importantly bag you a winner in a big race.

Obviously, you will have the leading lights in the likes of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle and Big Buck's looking to secure his fourth consecutive World Hurdle, but it's those youngsters making the transition from the hurdle ranks to the chasing game that can get the juices flowing.

So, in this section we take a look at some of the horses that could be worth following for the 2011/2012 season and hope to put you on the right track to finding those elusive winners.

We also take a look at the national hunt horses that have impressed us this season and are ones to watch, so click on to our National Hunt Eyecatchers section to see who has been put up by our team.

Big Buck's

An obvious one to start with, but Paul Nicholls' phenomenon has been dominating the staying hurdle ranks for the last three seasons notching up 12 consecutive top class hurdle wins including three Ladbrokes World Hurdle crowns.

Even though some quarters would like to see him tackle fences again, it is almost certain that the eight-year-old will stay over the smaller obstacles and there will have to be a top class up-and-coming rival to knock him off his perch and rival him for staying supremacy.

Read more about Big Buck's and the races he could be aimed at for the new season.

Long Run

2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run stormed to success beating the old pretenders of Kauto Star and Denman in a Cheltenham Festival classic and now the Nicky Henderson-trained runner can continue to dominate the top class chases.

Still fairly young, Long Run is sure to be back at Prestbury Park in March to try and retain his Gold Cup crown, but along the way will be extremely tough to beat in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park, another title he will want to win again.

Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen proved his worth on the horse in both Grade One victories last season and with age on his side he is likely to improve even further and is surely going to be at the forefront of the chasing highlights during the 2011/2012 season.

Take a more in-depth look at Long Run's career and potential races for the 2011/2012 seson.

Hurricane Fly

Willie Mullins' Hurricane Fly was simply sublime last season and the son of Montjeu can continue to bag top notch hurdles in both the UK & Ireland during the 2011/2012 season.

Finally fighting fit to contest the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Hurricane Fly was electric beating Peddlers Cross by one-and-a-quarter lengths under a terrific ride from Ruby Walsh and then went on to saunter t success in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

If Mullins can get another incident-free season out of his seven-year-old then surely he will be very tough to beat and some of the novice's stepping up will have to be very classy to dislodge him from the 2m hurdling ranks.

Check out Hurricane Fly's career in more detail and the races that could be on the agenda for the 2011/2012 season.

Bobs Worth

Nicky Henderson's six-year-old is certainly one to keep on the right side of having stormed to glory in the Albert Bartlett Novice's Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.  Sent off a short-priced favourite that day he stalked the leaders and when Barry Geraghty let the handbrake off he duly obliged to beat the classy Mossley by two-and-a-quarter lengths,

Henderson has elected to send him down the novice chasing route and he sure will be one to follow in the RSA Chase betting for the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.

Find out more about Bobs Worth and where he could be heading for the new 2011/2012 season.

Zarkandar

A classy bred flat horse and half-brother to 2008 Arc winner Zarkava, Zarkandar's switch to the national hunt game was an interesting one, but he turned into a superstar as he bagged the JCB Triumph Hurdle in only his second start over timber.

Paul Nicholls should have some fun with his French recruit and could be handed the assignment of the Champion Hurdle and looking to dethrone Hurricane Fly and with the multiple champion trainer likely to have him schooled a lot more, he sure will be an interesting horse to follow for the 2011/2012 season.

Take a look at Zarkandar's achievements to date and what is in store for him throughout the 2011/2012 season.

Peddlers Cross

Donald McCain's Champion Hurdle runner-up will make the transition to fences for the up-and-coming season and is sure to be a lively contender for the novice chases, whether the Grand National-winning trainer decides to send him to the more likely Arkle or RSA Chase come the Cheltenham Festival.

Unbeaten until the Champion Hurdle, the six-year-old showed his class when beating Binocular in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and his second to Hurricane Fly was no mean feat. 

One of the most exciting chasing recruits for the new 2011/2012 season Peddlers Cross is certainly a novice chaser to look out for.

Find out more about Peddlers Cross and what could be in store for Donald McCain's star in the 2011/2012 season.

Captain Chris

Philip Hobbs' Captain Chris was an eyecatching winner of the 2011 Arkle Chase and could well sep up from novice company to be a leading player over fences this season.

Speed and stamina is hard to come by with many horses, but this seven-year-old gelding showed he had both last season not only winning over two miles, but had no problem over 2m 4f.

The Champion Chase or Ryanair Chase are likely to be on the agenda and personally I feel the latter will certainly be the way to go as he progresses into a top class chaser in the 2011/2012 campaign.

Read more about Captain Chris and where he could be heading for the 2011/2012 campaign.

Sam Winner

Possibly a surprise inclusion to the list, but Paul Nicholls' up-and-coming star could be a revelation over fences this campaign.  Recruited from France he was well fancied for the JCB Triumph Hurdle following some facile successes at Cheltenham earlier in the season.

However, everything happened a bit too quickly for him that day as he began to catch the eye when staying on for fourth.  Now likely to have a go chasing, the four-year-old will certainly enjoy going that stride slower and could well be a contender for either the Arkle or RSA Chase come March.

Find out more about Sam Winner's short career and what races he may contest in the 2011/2012 season.

Spirit Son

Nicky Henderson's Supreme Novices' second showed his class when storming to success in the Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree a month later annihilating Cue Card by 13 lengths and Paul Nicholls' Rock on Ruby by a further 8 lengths,

Now likely to have a tilt at the Champion Hurdle, the five-year-old will be expertly placed by the Seven Barrows handler and will no doubt be a major contender in some of the leading 2m hurdle contests throughout the season.

Take a look at Spirit Son's career and where Nicky Henderson's five-year-old may be heading for the 2011/2012 season.

Grands Crus

David Pipe's grey was a revelation last year, but couldn't quite beat the mighty Big Buck's in a memorable World Hurdle, but this season will see the six-year-old gelding move to chasing and will certainly will be a useful tool at Pond House.

Staying is the order of the day, so the RSA Chase will certainly be at the forefront of Pipe's ideas and surely he will be a force to be reckoned with if taking to fences.

Read more about Grands Crus career and how he could be an RSA Chase contender at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.

Check out our Latest National Hunt Eyecatchers.