The national hunt season came to an end at Sandown last weekend and right on the last day of the season we were given a glimpse into the future when Step Back triumphed in the Bet365 Gold Cup. Not only was it the fact that he won the race, but it was the way he jumped throughout and stamped his authority on the field that really impressed onlookers. He stayed every inch of the 3m5f trip, showing he is certainly a staying type and he could go on further next season, turning into a genuine Grand National contender if things go well for the Mark Bradstock trained runner.
The big reason for there being so much excitement around Step Back is his very unexposed profile. He has had just four runs over fences, winning two of them to go with his two hurdle runs, where he won one of them.
A 16 length victory at Fakenham at the beginning of April probably should have alerted us to his promise, but that race didn’t appear to be the strongest at the time. However, after seeing him run at Sandown, where he won by another wide margin, it’s clear that this horse is seriously talented. He had many solid yardsticks in behind him at Sandown, including some who had run in the 2018 Grand National. One of those was Blaklion who was strongly fancied for both the National and the race at Sandown, although he never landed a blow in either race.
Trainer Mark Bradstock knows what to do when it comes to looking after top class horses and I am sure that a plan has already been put together for next season. The final race in that plan will be a very big one, and the main target throughout the season and right now it seems that the final race will be the 2019 Grand National. We have seen enough from Step Back to suggest he is able to compete at that level, and it is likely we haven’t seen the best of him yet, something that will get jumps fans excited even though we have to wait a long time until we see him again.
As one season comes to an end we always get a group of horses who do something special and get us excited for what will happen further down the line. Step Back is one of many horses that have that excitement around them, and a horse that many people will be looking forward to seeing when he does return either at the end of 2018 or in early 2019. He looks the type to make up into a Grand National horse based on what we have seen so far, and with potentially, even more, to come from him as he gets more experience under his belt, Step Back looks capable of taking a big step forward next season.