The nights are drawing in, and my dear wife informs me that the heating must go on. I watched the weather forecast yesterday and it appears that a series of low pressure systems are ‘nose to tail’ stretching across the Atlantic all the way to the USA. Apparently Ascot’s dress-code for this Saturday has been relaxed so that the public can wear wellington boots or galoshes. Just in case the above left us in any doubt at all, Chepstow’s first meeting on Saturday helped confirm that the new winter jump racing season has begun. Never have I been so pleased to hear the words ‘soft, heavy in places,’ ah music to my ears. Chepstow was terrific. Philip Hobbs, Paul Nicholls and Alan King all unveiled exciting new talent in the form of Duke Des Champs, Golden Doyen, Karezak and Emerging Talent. Not to be outdone Dan Skelton and Rebecca Curtis impressed with Shelford and Relentless Dreamer respectively. There were also terrific displays from Southfield Theatre and Victors Serenade. The latter in particular has overcome a number of frustrating health problems and could go on to bigger and better things, if he stays fit. And so we now look forward to the ‘Home of Jump Racing’ welcoming its adoring public for the first time this winter.
The Showcase at Cheltenham is a two day event, certain to attract a wealth of equine talent. Of course, it’s still only October and the likes of Nicholls, Henderson and O’Neill will have dozens of future stars still going through their pre-season training. Nevertheless, last year’s meeting welcomed two future Festival winners in Lac Fontana and Balthazar King. Also in attendance were Balder Succes (Grade 1 novice chase winner), Johns Spirit (Paddy Power winner), Kings Palace (Grade 2 novice hurdle winner), and Thomas Crapper (second at the Festival in March). Quite simply, Cheltenham attracts quality. This weekend is sure to be no different. As well as a number of new potential stars, several old favourites may also be in attendance. The wonderful Knockara Beau is entered in the Pertemps Series Qualifier on Friday and Martin Keighley’s classy chaser Champion Court is due to run on Saturday.
A couple of Cheltenham Festival winners are also entered – Tiger Roll (Triumph winner) and Present View (Reward4Racing Chase winner), are both set to start new campaigns. Chances are that plenty of trainers will have a change of heart by the weekend. Plans are always fluid, dependant on so many factors. With that in mind, I will throw a few names into the melting pot in the hope that they show up as planned. Blaklion (Friday’s Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle) is an obvious one. Likely to be stepped up in trip as the season progresses, the Twiston-Davies horse looks classy, and should be the type to storm up the famous hill. Mister Springsprong (same race) is a future chaser to follow. However, he could still run well at this trip over hurdles, especially with some cut in the ground. Un Ace (Friday’s 2m novices’ chase) could be very exciting over fences. He may need further and has Court Minstrel to beat. But he’ll make into a better chaser than any of these. Highland Retreat (Friday’s 3m novices’ chase) needs more rain to be seen at her best. She’s built for fences and should be too good for these boys, assuming Southfield Theatre stays at home. Le Bec (Saturday’s Showcase Trophy) needs decent ground to have a chance. A victory here could seriously damage his chances of winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, but I’m sure the trainer feels he needs more experience. Un Ace (Saturday’s 2m4f novices’ chase) could win on Friday or Saturday. The Saturday race could be a better option for Kim Bailey’s horse. And that is why we love the Jumps!
Followers and Members of JPFestival.com are guaranteed a winter of excitement and enthusiasm for the World’s greatest sport. Cheltenham inspires such passion. The long ride to The Festival has begun. Jump aboard and hold on tight! – For analysis, discussion, debate and more on the Jump Season ahead, join us for our Cheltenham Showcase and Season Preview Broadcast on Thursday 17 October at 7pm. Free for Community Members, £3 for non-members – REGISTER HERE. JP