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The flat is dead, long live the jumps?

Some feel winter is here when the clocks change, others wait for the first frost, but I am told in no uncertain terms by the switch to a Friday article as the National Hunt races come with a 24 hour declaration process that means I have to switch days to have a clue what is or isn’t running at the weekend! Before that we sadly ought to at least touch on all the bad news again this week, starting with the steroid finding at the Irish yard of Philip Fenton, trainer of the classy Dunguib and novice chaser band Of Blood to name but two, though what happens now is anybody’s guess, though surely he is in line for a long, possibly career ending ban?

Gary Stevens – bionic man?

Positive thoughts seem needed to me next and it was good to see the line up for the attack on the Breeders Cup from these shores, though whether we need to become as “Americanised” as them is a moot point. The press release describes them as Team British Racing (no, really), with 16 runners attacking the dollars from ten trainers, four with previous runners and six newcomers looking forward to the experience, though I have no opinion on their chances until we have a closer look next week when we are much nearer to the actual event. One other last minute piece of Breeders Cup info surprised me and reminded us all just how far medical science has gone in the last few years, with the announcement that top American jockey Gary Stevens will be riding at the event this season. That may not sound like much of a story but he has had thirteen weeks off the track following total knee replacement surgery, just how amazing is that? Three months off and back in the saddle is a testament to both surgeons and the jockeys attitude – he clearly loves the sport to go through that much effort but is one of the all –time greats so I wish him the very best of luck.

Naturally, all the talk with Ron has been about field sizes and going (we waffle on again on the podcast, but we enjoyed it and I hope you can tell how much we love the sport), and I do have to question why so many supposedly pivotal events are held so late in the season and more importantly, invariably on deteriorating ground. I do (almost) understand the pattern system and how difficult it is to fit in with the rest of Europe, but does anyone really believe any of the winners from Champions Day at Ascot are really the best at their respective distances because I don’t? This weekend gives us yet another example with the Group One Racing Post Trophy, and soft ground awaits the eight protagonists, which makes me wonder just how important the form will be. Admittedly some class acts have taken this event in the past such as Motivator, Authorized, St Nicholas Abbey, Camelot, and most recently Kingston Hill, but I will be surprised if there is anything of that calibre here this weekend, and I for one (and Ron for two) will not be having a bet in these conditions.

The National Hunt season is yet to get going properly but the usual suspects already have their strings well forward which is something we can sort of rely on I suppose and we may be able to sue that to our advantage at Aintree Chepstow or even both this weekend. Ron will be delighted to see that his Gold Cup hope Silviniaco Conti will work at Chepstow before racing so must be in good heart, though that won’t help us for now I suppose? Ron is a bit of an expert at spotting future chasers from the hurdling ranks, so I wonder what he thinks about Emma Lavelle’s Timesremembered who starts his latest career in the 4.50pm at Aintree? A good enough sort over the smaller obstacles, he is reported to have schooled impressively at home (famous last words), and may have a touch too much class for these, though it is not an easy introduction with some very good opponents so it will be interesting to see how he gets on here.

Martin Keighley – class act trainer with chances at Aintree Saturday.

Over at Chepstow there are plenty of races worth watching for future reference, but a lot less worth opening the wallet for! Martin Keighley is a trainer I have a lot of time for and somehow fails to get all the credit he deserves, but he does look to have chances of another winner via Primo Capitano in the maiden hurdle at 1.55pm. A winning point to pointer when trained in Ireland he ran well if looking a bit one paced here but steps up to three miles this afternoon which ought to suit, and with that run to put him straight seems sure to go close at the very least. The best race of the day as far as I can see has to be the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at 3.35pm, an eight runner affair but where seven of them were a winner last time out, and you don’t see that very often even at Cheltenham. My Direction has a touch of class about him but makes the odd mistake and may find the soft ground is against him, while Blaklion looks to make it five in a row for Nigel Twiston-Davies and has to be on anybody’s short list? Both have great chances, but I have finally come down on the side of Son Du Berlais who really caught the eye at Newton Abbot in a minor affair, but could be anything. Equally importantly, it gives us a chance to see the form of the Nicky Henderson yard where it matters in the better events, with a lukewarm start overall (only the one win from eleven runners in the past fortnight), which may at least get us a better price for the son of Muhtathir who is yet another French import aiming for the top over here in the United Kingdom.


Selections this week:

Timesremembered 4.50pm Aintree Saturday

Primo Capitano 1.55pm Chepstow Saturday

Son Du Berlais 3.35pm Chepstow Saturday


Horses to follow:

(Flat removed until next season, jumps only from now on unless I spot something on the all-weather).


Creepy – well supported on his debut over fences this week at Chepstow when making all and jumping well throughout to score by twenty lengths easing down. Trainer Martin Keighley thinks a lot of him and he will surely add more races to that success this season with the Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham presumably his long-term objective.

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