National Hunt season: 10 horses that shone in 2022-23
With the 2022-23 National Hunt season now officially over, we’ve picked out our top 10 performers over the jumps.
Paul Nicholls was crowned champion trainer for the 14th time and Brian Hughes claimed a third jockeys’ title, but these were the horses that lit up another cracking campaign.
The undoubted star of the 2022-23 season, National Hunt racing’s flagship performer did not disappoint with a flawless campaign culminating in victories at both Cheltenham and Aintree. His Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle triumphs ultimately served as a simple appetiser to the main course, which came in the Champion Hurdle when he was crowned king in style. Nicky Henderson’s charge then moved on to Liverpool where his all-the-way success in the Aintree Hurdle put the cherry on top of the cake.
What does the future hold for Constitution Hill?🤔
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 23, 2023
Galopin Des Champs
Heading into the season with unbridled potential but nagging stamina doubts, Willie Mullins was adamant in his assertions the Gold Cup was his for the taking. Not for the first time, the master of Closutton was proved 100 per cent correct as, having advertised his newly-found patience in the John Durkan and Irish Gold Cup, the seven-year-old bounded up the Cheltenham hill to register an ultra-impressive success in the blue riband.
Having provided Barry Connell and Michael O’Sullivan with the first Grade One success of their respective training and riding careers in the Royal Bond, the six-year-old got the Cheltenham Festival off with a bang when he hunted down Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hotpot Facile Vega to land a deadly blow and remain unbeaten. It remains to be seen whether he goes down the Champion Hurdle route or switches to fences.
Sire Du Berlais
Gordon Elliott’s 11-year-old made a mockery of his advancing years to win both the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and defend his Liverpool Hurdle crown during the spring. It was his third victory at the Cheltenham Festival, while his performance at Aintree proved the Cullentra House veteran is as good as he has ever been.
Sire Du Berlais surges home to win the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 15, 2023
The King George had been Bravemansgame’s ultimate target since his days as a novice hurdler and that long-term objective was complete on Boxing Day as Nicholls’ chaser provided the Ditcheat handler with victory number 13 in Kempton’s Christmas feature. A brave second in the Gold Cup was to follow as he confirmed himself as the number one staying chaser in Britain.
The Real Whacker
Trained by Irishman Patrick Neville in North Yorkshire, this seven-year-old made Prestbury Park his playground in 2022-23 and provided one of the feelgood stories of the season when proving best of the staying novices in the Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival.
Having joined the select group of horses to win the Ultima Chase two years on the trot at the Cheltenham Festival, Lucinda Russell’s nine-year-old headed to Merseyside with the hopes of Scotland on his enigmatic shoulders. He duly waltzed around Aintree to provide the Arlary House handler with a second win in the Grand National.
Corach Rambler wins the 2023 Randox Grand National! 🏆
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 15, 2023
Mullins entered the National Hunt season with no shortage of top-class novice chasers at his disposal but El Fabiolo ranked clear number one by the end of the campaign. He backed up an impressive victory in the Irish Arkle by downing Jonbon at the Cheltenham Festival equivalent and added a Punchestown Festival romp for good measure. Is sure to be a Champion Chase contender next term.
A Dream To Share
Following a taking success at the Dublin Racing Festival, he went on to provide 85-year-old John Kiely with a first Cheltenham Festival victory when landing the Champion Bumper. Ridden in both races by 18-year-old John Gleeson, there were emotional scenes in the winner’s enclosure at Prestbury Park as Kiely was joined by the jockey’s parents, Brian and Clare, who had bred and previously owned the five-year-old.
The defending champion headed to the Queen Mother Champion Chase with questions to answer following a below-par performance on trials day, but answered his critics in style with a devastating display to become a two-time winner of the day two feature. He finished off with a second successive victory in Punchestown’s Champion Chase but was made to work hard by stablemate Chacun Pour Soi, probably showing signs that his Cheltenham exertions took a fair bit out of him.