Trainer Jamie Snowden has already posted his best season with four months of the campaign to run and boasts the same strike rate – a highly commendable 26 per cent – as his former boss Nicky Henderson.
However, with several novice hurdlers being aimed at the Cheltenham Festival and, somewhat out of the blue, a Grand National horse in the yard, the best of the 2019-20 season may still be ahead for the former officer in the King’s Royal Hussars, who is now in his 10th season, and his eighth in Lambourn.
In his previous best season Snowden, 40, saddled 35 winners but he is already up to 42 this time and counting. “What is different? Better horses,” he said.
“The whole thing has been moving in the right direction in the past four or five years. Better horses running in better races – it all goes hand-in-hand.
“When we first moved to Lambourn our first runner won the Summer National, but things notched up another gear when Present View won the novice handicap chase at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.”
Thebannerkingrebel, who was sent from Ireland to win a bumper and be sold, ended up recording some very smart bumper form and has won all completed starts over hurdles. He is due to run in the Rossington Main at Haydock a week on Saturday before going for the Supreme Novices Hurdle on the opening day of Cheltenham.
Pacify is likely to be the Duchess of Cornwall’s first Festival runner. He has five wins from six starts this season. Following his Christmas break he will go to Exeter for a run before the Ballymore Hurdle. Thomas MacDonagh, winner of his past three starts, goes for the River Don at Doncaster with a view to running in the Albert Bartlett in March while Kiltealy Briggs will take a similar route.
The most pleasant surprise for Snowden this season was when Hogan’s Heights won the Grand Sefton by 16 lengths at Aintree last month to book his National place. He will be Snowden’s first runner in the race.
“He was always a good jumper and won three novices but we didn’t think he was very well handicapped so we thought we would just give him a spin over the fences and come back in April for the Foxhunter,” said the trainer. “He took to them like a duck to water and has gone up to a mark of 146 so should get in the National.”