The 2022-23 jumps racing season is in full flow, with all roads already leading to the Cheltenham Festival in March as the stars of the show begin to be turned out by the big-name trainers in a bid to get them in tip-top shape for the four-day Prestbury Park thriller next year.
Not all the top horses have managed to hit the ground running, however, with some of the ante-post favourites in the horse racing betting odds failing to hit the ground running in their much-anticipated seasonal reappearances — much to the disappointment of the punters who had them in their trackers or turned up at the course to see a star in action.
While there is still plenty of time to turn their form around before the Festival, it’s not a good look to have a blemish on your race record. So, with that said, read on as a take a look at four horses who disappointed on their first outings of this campaign.
The biggest shock of this season thus far arguably came at Fairyhouse earlier this month, as Honeysuckle’s 16-race unbeaten record came to an abrupt end in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle — a Grade 1 contest she has won on three previous occasions.
Not many horses have the ability to make a racecourse fall silent, but when the Henry de Bromhead-trained mare had nothing left to give after the final hurdle, falling back to third behind Teahupoo and Klassical Dream, the crowd at Fairyhouse was in shock.
Frustratingly for jumps racing fans, it puts her blockbuster clash with Constitution Hill at next year’s Champion Hurdle in serious doubt.
A Plus Tard
It hasn’t been the best of starts to the season for history-maker Rachael Blackmore, with just one win in her last 24 rides at the time of writing, and she was aboard 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard as he disappointed at Haydock last month.
Also from De Bromhead’s Knockeen stable, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned horse looked like a good pick to spend your free bet offers on to retain his Gold Cup crown in March. The 1/2F for the Betfair Chase, a race the eight-year-old won by 22 lengths last year, A Plus Tard was pulled up three out.
As a result, A Plus Tard has dropped back to third in the Gold Cup betting — coming in behind Galopin Des Champs and L’Homme Presse.
After looking far from his best when he amazingly came from behind to beat Energumene in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last January before being pulled up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson confirmed that they had discovered Shishkin had a rare bone condition.
However, after a 262-day break, the eight-year-old returned to action for the Tinkle Creek at Sandown earlier this month and there was a lot of fanfare surrounding his reappearance. But it wasn’t his day, being kicked by another horse at the start before finishing third after an inarticulate run by his high standards.
Shishkin is now way back at 16/1 for the Queen Mother, behind Energumene, Tinkle Creek winner Edwardstone and Ferny Hallow.
Unfortunately for De Bromhead and Blackmore, the duo feature on this list for a third time — making you wonder if they are about to go through a transitional period at Knockeen after a meteoric rise to the top of the sport in the last few seasons.
Bob Olinger has been another of their star names in that time, winning twice at the Cheltenham Festival, albeit being handed some luck as Galopin Des Champs fell at the final hurdle when well clear at the last in the Turners Novices’ Chase back in March.
The seven-year-old was reverted back to hurdles this year, but came second on his second debut over the obstacles — finishing two lengths behind Home By The Less in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.