There are no doubts now that the 2014/15 National Hunt season is beginning to get into full swing with today’s meeting at Chepstow the one that most enthusiasts look at as the proper return. Last year’s meeting had some bearing on the entire season with Balder Succes who went on from his chase winning debut to become the highest rated two mile novice chaser and Killala Quay who went onto Grade Two success at Sandown plus was fourth behind Faugheen in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival. At the end of each review, I shall put a list of horses that caught the eye for future reference.
With the return of the National Hunt, OnTheOtherHoof shall be doing our jumps season preview video next Monday night around 8pm so we hope you can join us and even send in your questions/horses to follow for the upcoming campaign. Keep an eye on our Twitter page (@OnTheOtherHoof) for details of the video.
The opener on the card was the juvenile hurdle in which champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a very good record with the likes of Far West, Domatline and Keltus all winning this race in recent years. He relied this year on the favourite Full Blast who was very disappointing after making an early mistake when fifth behind the Alan King trained Karezak.
The winner moved to King’s yard over the summer and with a tally of five second place finishes, he deserved to get off the mark however some of his leaps left something to be desired although given more time, he will definitely improve his technique. Softer ground also didn’t seem to impede him and it would be no surprise to see him out again quickly, potentially at Aintree’s Old Roan meeting in two weeks’ time. The runner up Golden Doyen will definitely be winning over the winter as he and the winner both pulled twenty two lengths clear of the third Russian Bolero, a winner on his only hurdles start at Plumpton.
Nicholls also had the second favourite of the day in Emerging Talent in the first division of the novice hurdle but he had to settle for the runner up spot behind Shelford who jumped better on the whole and fought all the way to the line. The winner was last seen finishing second to the useful Simply A Legend and could be one for early season handicap hurdles now having run three times. A mark in the mid 120’s wouldn’t be a completely harsh assessment. Emerging Talent looks already to need a fence with his hurdling technique looking very sketchy on occasions plus he didn’t help his chances early on by running far too freely but he looks to possess a fair amount of promise. There are races over hurdles to be won with him but his future lies over fences and he will be given plenty of time to mature.
The second division went the way of Relentless Dreamer for Barry Geraghty and Rebecca Curtis who provided a good boost to his Uttoxeter bumper with two highly regarded horses in Relic Rock and Fletchers Flyer. He jumped nicely in the main and has plenty of stamina in his pedigree which was suggested by the way he finished his race off today. He will probably stay at this distance before tackling further before the season is over whilst Bandit Country ran a race full of promise on debut without Richie McLernon having to get too serious and is one for handicaps later in the campaign.
Of the rest, Bincombe should come on for the run and will probably be seen back in handicap chases in the near future, Ruperra Tom shaped with much more promise than he did on hurdling debut at Chepstow eleven days ago and the favourite Truckers Steel is another chasing type who faded away after not being entirely foot perfect at some of the obstacles.
After some reversals earlier in the card, Southfield Theatre ensured Paul Nicholls left the Monmouthshire venue with a winner after a pleasing enough debut over fences in a race won in recent years by Cue Card, Fingal Bay and Balder Succes. His jumping mostly was sound but there were one or two niggly errors late on when he increased the tempo which could be a worry when he goes up in class but he will definitely come on plenty for the run with the Rising Stars Novices Chase at Wincanton in a couple of weeks an intended target.
The runner up Monkey Kingdom fits a similar mould to his stablemate The Romford Pele having jumped well enough on chase debut and looks the type to be winning some nice handicaps in the future. Broadway Buffalo made a shocking mistake at the second but to his credit jumped better as the race progressed. He will want at least three miles and softer ground to see him at his optimum whilst Prima Porta was unlucky to fall after over jumping at three out.
For write-up purposes, the four year old limited handicap hurdle has no use whatsoever for the form book as the start was a complete farce with nobody wanting to make the running. Full marks however must go to Harry Skelton on the top weight Bertimont for using his brain and poaching an unassailable lead at the beginning of the back straight to win eased down by sixteen lengths. Unfortunately for the horse, the handicapper will have to put him up so you have to hope common sense prevails and he doesn’t go up too much.
Whilst Skelton deserves praise for his quick thinking, his fellow riders which include senior jockeys in the weighing room were made to look complete and utter fools and it robbed the betting public of a proper race with one horse given an unbelievable advantage. The most surprising aspect of this was that the stewards didn’t even hold an inquiry into the race. I have a feeling it won’t be the last we have heard of this incident.
Doctor Richard Newland has a horse to be excited about apart from Pineau De Re in Boondooma who bolted up in the two and a half mile handicap hurdle under seven pound claimer Christopher Ward. He travelled easily throughout before sealing the race in decisive fashion. It will be interesting to see what the handicapper makes of this but he could be back at Chepstow for the Silver Trophy or he could go for the intermediate handicap hurdle at the Paddy Power meeting. Peckhamecho ran well back in second and would be interesting if he goes back chasing off a nice enough mark whilst Agreement was outrunning his odds before falling at the second last.
For hardcore jumps fans, the three mile handicap chase was the race of the day with many old timers returning yet again for another season and it was pleasing to see Victor’s Serenade back in the winners’ enclosure. He ran in this race two years ago where he travelled really well before making a shocking mistake five out and was pulled up instantly. Last season, his trainer Antony Honeyball’s yard was plagued with a virus so it should explain his poor run in the Classic Chase. He travelled well throughout the contest for Denis O’Regan and apart from making a slight error at both five out and the last, he stayed on stoutly to take a deserved win.
The runner up Monbeg Dude looked a completely different horse to the one we saw blundering his way round the same course when winning the Welsh National. Michael Scudamore and his team deserve plenty of credit for ironing out his jumping issues as today was probably his best round with him hunting round at the back before moving into contention. Although he is a strong stayer, the Grand National probably stretched him but he could easily make into a leading contender in the big staying chase at the Paddy Power meeting which he won two years ago and the Becher Chase as he looked to enjoy the National fences and whilst Paul Carberry suits this horse’s waiting tactics, Tom Scudamore has looked a very able substitute both times he has ridden him.
Handy Andy should be winning a race or two of this nature this season whilst Benbens is worth another go over three miles after a jolting mistake in the back straight before plugging on again. Highland Lodge in first time headgear looked very dangerous on the turn for home but didn’t pick up which is confusing as his best efforts seem to come when fresh.
The concluding bumper was won in taking style by the 100,000 Euro purchase Duke Des Champs who stuck his head down and battled tenaciously to fend off Herbert Park. The winner’s dam is a half-sister to dual Gold Cup placed Harbour Pilot and there looked plenty of promise today from this son of Robin Des Champs. Herbert Park showed plenty of promise and will be winning a bumper in the near future. The favourite Murphy’s Way will benefit from softer ground and when the time comes, a step up in distance whilst Salvator’s Legacy was certainly not disgraced back in fourth considering his bid odds.
Horses to take from today
Emerging Talent – Will be a long term plan but looks a very nice horse.
Bandit Country – When he gets a handicap mark, he will be very interesting.
Boondooma – Could be well ahead of the handicapper and has the potential to win some nice races this season.
Monbeg Dude – His jumping was spot on today and can easily bag another staying handicap chase.