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Saturday, 21 December, 2002, 16:18 GMT
Six to follow
Norman Williamson guides Rhinestone Cowboy to victory
Rhinestone Cowboy has looked impressive
BBC Sport Online's Elizabeth Hudson focuses on some of the horses who could make an impact during the winter campaign.


Ned Kelly

After missing the 2002 Cheltenham Festival, the 2003 Champion Hurdle was to be the aim for the Edward O'Grady-trained six-year-old.

His seasonal reappearance at Fairyhouse at the start of December saw him finish a distant third behind Limestone Lad.

Later it was revealed that the horse was lame and he will now miss the remainder of the 2002-03 season, including his chance at Cheltenham glory.

Update:
1 Dec (2m4f hurdle, Fairyhouse) Well-beaten third behind Limestone Lad.


First Love

Although Queen Elizabeth II is well known for her involvement in Flat racing, she has not been known for her love of National Hunt.

But this season represents a new beginning for the Queen - following the Queen Mother's death, the monarch has taken over her mother's horses.

The Queen is known for her involvement with horses
The Queen could enjoy success with First Love

First Love was the horse that gave the Queen Mother her last track success in Sandown Park last March.

Much is expected of the Nicky Henderson trained gelding this season, especially in novice chases over two miles.

Despite starting odds-on favourite in his opening two races of the season, the horse has finished second on both occasions but a first win cannot be far away.

Update:
28 Nov (2m chase, Uttoxeter) Sent off 8-15f but could only manage second in heavy conditions behind Claymore.
28 Dec (2m2f chase, Newbury) The 4-5f led up to the third last fence but was outpaced by chasing debutant Montalcino and was eventually beaten by 15 lengths.
11 Feb (2m5f novice chase, Folkestone) Third time lucky for the horse. Yet again the odds-on favourite (5-6) but under the guidance of Mick Fitzgerald, they pulled away and, jumping well, held on for a comfortable 17 length victory.


The Bunny Boiler

Trained by Noel Meade, the 2003 Aintree Grand National looks likely to be a target for this eight-year-old.

He overcame a mistake at the last fence of the 2002 Irish Grand National to beat Give Over.

A brave competitor, he is known for his staying power in handicap chases.

As well as the Fairyhouse success, he also triumphed by 20 lengths in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on heavy ground.

After two promising displays in Ireland, he has struggled since, failing to make an impact at the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Update:
17 Nov (3m hurdle, Navan) Beaten 2l by Silver Steel on soft going.
15 Dec (3m hurdle, Navan) Winner by a head after going off as 9-4 joint favourite.
27 Dec (3m 5f Welsh Grand National, Chepstow) Pulled up after going off as 5-1 second favourite when well behind the winner Mini Sensation
23 Jan (3m handicap chase, Gowran Pk) Well-beaten eighth of 13 runners (6-1) in a race won by Be My Belle on soft to heavy ground.


Rhinestone Cowboy

Trained by Jonjo O'Neill, he was another impressive campaigner last season.

After an easy win in Feburary at Ascot, he went off as favourite in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

But he could not quite overhaul Pizarro and was bumped around a bit as the pair battled up the run-in, although the stewards did not take any action.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill
O'Neill has successfully made the transition from jockey to trainer

This season, hurdles are his aim and all the indications are he could acquit himself well.

O'Neill has big hopes for his horse, who made a successful debut over hurdles at Newbury in November.

Like Ned Kelly, he is owned by the Magnier family, who are also involved with the recently-retired Flat racing superstar Rock of Gibraltar.

Update:
17 Nov (2m bumper, Cheltenham) Under a confident ride from 18-year-old JP Magnier, he beat an impressive field.
29 Nov (2m mdn hurdle, Newbury) Sent off odds-on favourite and won comfortably in soft conditions.
13 Dec (2m1f novice hurdle, Cheltenham) Victory by a neck after trailing the leader Tealby by eight lengths at the second last fence.
1 Feb (2m novice hurdle, Wetherby) A fourth win in a row to continue his good form, beating Always Rainbows comfortably by a length and three-quarters.
15 Feb (2m hurdle, Wincanton) Beats a quality field (including Champion Hurdler Hors La Loi III) with awesome ease.


Copeland

From the Martin Pipe stable, Copeland always tries hard and has proved to be very consistent.

The seven-year-old had a successful time over hurdles last season with victories in Sandown's Masai Hurdle and the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury, both under the guidance of Tony McCoy.

Tony McCoy and Copeland
McCoy and Copeland at Wincanton

Two miles appears to be a speciality and although he is likely to remain a challenger over that distance this season, he is also set to participate in chases.

But his first run in almost ten months at the Tote Gold Trophy he did not travel well and failed to make an impact.

Update:
8 Feb (2mf handicap, Newbury) A disappointing first run of the season in the Tote Gold Trophy where the top weight finished well beaten in 11th behind Spirit Leader.


Inca Trail

If family history is anything to go by, this Henrietta Knight-trained horse, a full brother of Gold Cup winner Best Mate, has much to live up to.

In his first run, he was the easy winner of a bumper at Naas but looks destined for bigger and better things.

After an early run at Cheltenham, Knight says the six-year-old will go over hurdles this season.

Although he is a different colour to Best Mate, Knight believes they have many similar characteristics.

"He is not quite so strong behind but the physical similarity is there. He seems to possess plenty of ability," she said.

After two defeats, he made it third time lucky in Ludlow, despite being the 1-4 odds-on favourite, with his maiden victory over hurdles.

Update:
17 Nov (2m bumper, Cheltenham) Ran promisingly to finish four lengths third behind Rhinestone Cowboy.
6 Dec (2m novice hurdle, Sandown) A promising debut over hurdles, coming 3l second to the highly-rated Lord Sam.
3 Jan (2m 5f maiden hurdle, Ludlow) A narrow victory by three quarters of a length over 66-1 shot Buckerby Lane.


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