So many of the future stars of the jumps game start off – but don’t neccessarily win – at this two-day Chepstow meeting now that it has become a real fixture in the National Hunt calendar.
We start Sunday’s action at 14.15 with a 2m Juvenile Hurdle and Paul Nicholls – has won this contest for five of the last nine years – will be hoping that his French import Quel Destin can follow up his win at Auteuil when trained by Guy Cherel. Kerry Lee’s Pilgrim Soul is an interesting recruit off the Flat so keep an eye out for any market moves.
The Novice Chase at 14.50 sees Minella Awards return for the first time since his Galway second to Low Sun (who won the Cesarewitch on Saturday) in a handicap hurdle. If he can display the kind of form that saw him placed at Ballybrit, having won at the Punchestown Festival two season ago, he will be tough to beat.
Debece has some great form to his name and could be the surprise package who should at least hit the places.
The Grade 2 Novices Hurdle at 15.25 is a decent contest and the likes of Blaklion, Wonderful Charm, Fingal Bay and Silviniaco Conti have won it in the past before going on to bigger things. Kim Bailey’s Minella Warrior has a fitness advantage over a lot of the field.
Experience of Chepstow’s undulations count for plenty though and Paddy Brennan rides Coolanly who won a bumper at this track 12 months ago and also contested the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at the Festival, where he finished down the field behind Samcro. He’s my pick.
Colin Tizzard’s Kings Lad is the most interesting runner in the 2m 7f Chase at 16.00. He has mixed and matched hurdles and chases with plenty of success. After his wind operation, this one has to be followed and started his season last month when second to Timeforben at Newton Abbott.
Nicky Henderson has had to show a lot of patience with Beat That over the years – but he has won his last two starts. He looked to have retained lots of old ability when I saw him win at Southwell last month over three miles. I think he’s starting to believe in himself again.
I really liked Ballymoy last season when he ran up three wins that culminated in a handicap hurdle win at Sandown in April. He can be a force in the 16.35 even though he’s carrying top weight. However, the very shrewd James Nash sends over Scheu Time from Ireland. Be sure to take note if there’s any market move and I’ll be having a bit on him to hit the frame at least.
There’s plenty of familiar faces in the 2m 3f Chase at 17.10 and it feels like we’ve been following them for years! Nick Williams’ Le Rocher is definitely a horse to track for the season, he may not win on Sunday but is a sure-fire winner later in the year.
Fergal O’Brien’s Barney Dwan is a horse I’ve always loved. He has been a great servant for Paul & Clare Rooney and could just get the better of a few of these. If Gary Moore’s Baron Alco doesn’t run himself into the ground in the early part of this race, he could figure in the shake-up on his first run back since finishing second to Road to Respect at Cheltenham in 2017.
The concluding bumper at 17.40 has some really interesting types in it for the future. Tom George’s Fontley House has the best form on offer when third in a Punchestown bumper when trained in Ireland and Paul Nicholls has won this a couple times in the last decade. His Mcfabulous is related to Graded performer Waiting Patiently. As ever in these races, the market can speak volumes so keep an eye on where the money is going.