Friday, October 09, 2009

The proper start to the jumps season

Many consider tomorrow's meeting at Chepstow the real start to the jumps season; in days gone by the feature race was the Mercedes Benz Chase, with the BBC televising at least three races from the card. How times have changed! The Paul Nicholls stable moves into gear now, and Ruby Walsh will start his regular winter flights across the Irish Sea. In the past, searching for value, I've experimented with an approach of opposing Nicholls' runners at this meeting, the theory being that after their summer break the horses may not be as far forward as many will assume. The results have been decidedly mixed - last year was best forgotten with Nicholls-trained beasts winning four (Tchico Polos 5/2, Herecomesthetruth 10/11f, R De Rien Sivola 8/1 and Taniano even money favourite). As today's Daily Telegraph reports Nicholls feels his charges are as far forward as they were this time last year, I'd advise caution in following the strategy this year.

One I would be prepared to take on is Classic Swain in the four-year-old hurdle at 4.10. Classic Swain has never struck me as straightforward and in the past has shown signs of temperament together with a tendency to miss the odd hurdle out here and there. Any Given Day is a horse I like while Trenchant, with Choc Thornton up, looks the pick of the Alan King runners. Josh Gifford's Helium, a staying-on eighth in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham, is held in high regard but, as with many on their first run of the season, fitness has to be taken on trust; having said that, the tissue prices the horse at 20/1 which looks big. In an open event, Any Given Day is put forward as the tentative selection - his run at Market Rasen in mid-August may give him an edge over some of his rivals here.

Tot Of The Knar has had her fair share of trainers and moved to the Nicholls yard in August. A game mare on her day, she gets into the 3.35 with a light weight but she has been novice chasing in smallish fields - taking on seasoned handicappers here she makes little appeal at cramped odds.

The favourite has won eight of the last ten runnings of the juvenile hurdle which is due off at 4.45. At the time of writing Fongoli is the most experienced animal and the market leader. The King stable won this in 2006 with Katchit and then finished second twice in succession with Pouvoir (2007) and Tuanku (2008). Tombov needs to improve on what we've seen so far to get competitive but the yard wouldn't enter him here on a mere whim. Fongoli is the selection.

Only six go to post for the novice chase at 3.00 which tends to act as a stepping stone for a young chaser destined for better things. As two thirds of the field are seven years old and more, I have concentrated on Nicholls' Gullible Gordon and Jonjo O'Neill's Theatrical Moment - Gullible Gordon gets the vote.

Noted - McCoy chooses to ride at Bangor. Khachaturian is of interest in the opener after his recent second to King Troy over a trip perhaps a little beyond his best. The drop back here should suit, although King Troy, previously fourth in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen, didn't jump well that day. King's Forest is respected. The McManus horses City Theatre and Shadow Dancer will be short odds to take the two novice hurdle events but I'll be tempted to have an each-way dabble on Norma Hill if she's priced around the 12/1 mark in the 3.30. This course and distance winning mare returned to action after a two year layoff with a reasonable effort in August. I've won money on her before - on her day she was a very speedy individual; if she retains her ability, she can be competitive here.


Ben Aitken said...

Khachaturian looks to be meeting some decent sorts tomorrow. The assistance of A P McCoy is a bonus but I get the feeling at least one of the field will be too good for the McCain runner.

GeeDee said...

James De Vassy (11/1) took the four-year-old hurdle, beating the 7/2 joint favourites Classic Swain and Any Given Day four lengths and one and a quarter lengths. Again Classic Swain missed a couple out whilst Any Given Day jumped right when coming under pressure two out. Helium (14/1) held every chance two out before weakening at the last flight and is worth bearing in mind for the future.
Tot Of The Knar went off 100/30 favourite but finished third behind Twiston-Davies' impressive 4/1 winner Beat The Boys who made all on this front-runners' track.
Fongoli was sent off a weak 11/4 favourite in the juvenile hurdle and was well beaten four out, finishing ninth of the twelve runners; Tom George's Olofi (10/1) collected the spoils.
Gullible Gordon obliged but nobody was going to get rich at SP - 4/6f. Having said that, the selection jumped well and won as he liked.
At Bangor, as Ben Aitken has indicated, Khachaturian (7/4) met a couple of smart sorts and was unlucky to go down a short head to Seven Is My Number (9/2) in a driving finish - before the race I would have been fairly confident he could have beaten Seven Is My Number; I'll go back and have another look at SIMN's form which has started to look better in recent weeks.
Surprisingly both McManus-owned novices were turned over at odds-on but Norma Hill (6/1) ran a fine race from the front before succumbing to Rockiteer's (10/1) challenge at the penultimate flight, being beaten nine lengths on the line.