We have an interesting National Hunt card to look forward to at Taunton on Thursday, and we’ve scanned the races to narrow the field down to three horses that might be worth keeping an eye on:
1.15 Taunton: Racing To School Bridgewater College Novices Hurdle Div I (2 miles 104 yards)
The only horse in the race with a rating is the one that piques our interest here, as Paul Nicholls has decided to send Matterhorn into a novice contest rather than potentially exploiting the lenient mark of 122 he currently holds.
By far the most experienced hurdler in the field, a season or two ago Harry Cobden, who recently signed up as horse racing brand ambassador with Planet Sport Bet, stated Matterhorn is one of five horses to follow for the season ahead.
Unfortunately things haven't quite worked out for the French recruit since being sent to the Nicholls yard, as he was forced to pull up on his stable debut. However since then he had wind surgery and took a little break before running again at the back end of last season.
His first run after his op was a winning effort here at Taunton, where he raced very freely and jumped well to make all and forge 13 lengths clear of Final Encore by 13 lengths and win virtually unchallenged.
He then attempted to back that up in another novice contest under a penalty, but could only manage second place that day, albeit by just three quarters of a length in the end.
He did race very freely again on his last start of the season, and probably didn't quite respond to pressure as well as he did on the Taunton effort, however since then he has had another wind operation to help sort out any remaining issues.
That might be enough to put him right here, and the thinking is he will be using this novice race as a platform to potentially go onto bigger and better things this season. He should be winning a contest of this nature, before they potentially go down the route of exploiting his seemingly favourable handicap mark.
1.50 Taunton: Racing To School Bridgewater College Novices Hurdle Div II (2 miles 104 yards)
There is another Paul Nicholls horse in this race who will most likely go off the short-priced favourite, and although he has the hurdling experience to boot, he has already had two attempts to win a novice contest without landing either of them.
Therefore Jeremy Scott's bumper winner Diesel Line gets our nod and looks looks a nice recruit to the novice hurdling division for the season ahead.
This horse has had a gelding operation already early in his career, and has also had a wind operation since that debut bumper win at Exeter in February.
Diesel Line beat a Paul Nicholls-trained favourite hands down with a very nice performance that day, travelling superbly throughout the contest, and going by far the best with three furlongs to go.
From there he cruised into gear before getting shaken up by Rex Dingle (who rides him on hurdle debut here) to forge clear, and win very readily indeed by over three lengths at tasty 5/1 odds.
That bumper effort was a real nice performance on racecourse debut, and given the fact he was sent off at a fairly short price, there was obviously positive vibes around him heading into the contest.
He looks a very nice type heading into his novice season, and is one to keep an eye on no matter what happens at Taunton for his hurdling debut.
3:00pm Taunton: Age UK Somerset 75th Anniversary Maiden Hurdle (2 miles 3 furlongs)
Another horse that comes off the back of a decent winning bumper effort last season, Geezer Rockstar heads into a novice hurdling campaign after just one start last season, which was a winning effort in a bumper at this course in April on good-to-soft ground.
Sent off at the odds of 11/2, he beat a very short-priced Paul Nicholls horse in the form of Jackpot D'Athou, who has since won quite nicely by a couple of lengths on hurdling debut at Chepstow.
Geezer Rockstar put in a very professional debut performance, running very prominently throughout before leading with a furlong to go, pulling clear in the closing stages to win readily by three lengths, and looking like a true professional.
That form has been franked with the then short priced favourite in behind since winning nicely on hurdle debut, that puts the Harry Fry horse in good stead for his hurdle debut here.
He might go off as a short-priced prospect himself on Thursday, but looking at the race he should be very hard to beat by his rivals here.
Given his pedigree he should be tailor-made for taking on obstacles, and is very much a potentially nice novice hurdler to keep an eye on for the season ahead.
Race previews provided by @ Jake Russell