JUMP INTO NEW SEASON
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Sizing John, seen here wining the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, will be aimed at jump racing’s £1m Triple Crown bonus this season, says trainer Jessica Harrington. The prize is offered for a horse that wins the Betfair Chase at Haydock, Kempton’s King George VI Chase and the Gold Cup.
Our resident tipster casts his eye over Exeter on November 7
Paul Nicholls and owner John Hales enjoyed Haldon Gold Cup success in 2004 when the top-class Azertyuiop was victorious and they can strike again, with POLITOLOGUE fancied to provide the trainer with his sixth win in the race.
The grey won three of his first four starts last term – the defeat coming at Haydock when trying to concede 3lbs to Waiting Patiently when he was probably set alight too far from home – he was unlucky in Aintree’s Maghull Novices’ Chase on Grand National day, form that has already been franked this season.
Headstrong as usual, he took the race by the scruff of the neck early in the home straight and looked the likeliest winner when jumping the last, only to stumble several strides after the fence. Eventual second Forest Bihan has already made a winning reappearance at Kelso, where he scored off 154, the same mark that Politologue will run off at Exeter (November 7).
The drop back to this sort of trip will prove advantageous until he learns to settle a little more and this looks the ideal starting point to what could prove to be a successful second season over fences.
Three days earlier the staying chasers will take centre stage up at Wether by in the Charlie Hall, but the Gold Cup picture might be more in focus over in Ireland, with Down Royal staging the JNWine.com Champion Chase on the same day.
The entries came out for this race recently and two most interesting are Our Duke and Disko, both Grade 1 winning novices last term. The former scored at the top level over Christmas and, after going down narrowly to Disko over 2m5½f in the Flogas Novice Chase, recorded a high-class handicap performance in the Irish Grand National, scoring off a mark of 153. A strong stayer, the seven-year-old looks just the type to develop into a genuine Gold Cup contender this winter and he might well be up to making a winning reappearance.
Regular readers of my work – featured in Jumpers To Follow as a novice hurdler – will know that I have been a fan of Disko since his bumper days and he also flourished as a novice chaser last term.He was a length off Our Duke over 3m in December and, after exacting his revenge in the Flogas (Galway Plate winner Balko Des Flos finished third), he finished third to Yorkhill in the JLT before landing a second Grade 1 at Punchestown. That was his first success over the trip (3m½f) but it opens up further opportunities and he is also likely to be campaigned with the Gold Cup in mind. Versatile in terms of ground, he is rather like Politologue in that he is a keen-going grey, but he seems to be learning to relax as he gets older.
Back at Wetherby, the West Yorkshire Hurdle could be where The Worlds End kicks off his second season over hurdles and Tom George’s Sefton Novices’Hurdle winner is one that could well bridge the gap into open company.
The six-year-old, who took a nasty fall in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, was winning for the fourth time over timber at Aintree and, though the winning margin was narrow in the end, he idled late on at the end of a long season and was value for more, given how he travelled over the opposition. Rated 149, the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock – where he won impressively earlier last season – would be another option, along with Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle, but this could be the kindest introduction to life outside of novice company, should the ground be deemed suitable.
The following Saturday (11th), Wincanton stages the Badger Ales Chase in which Charlie Longsdon intends on saddling Our Kaempfer, another horse that I have long been a fan of. If truth were told, the eight-year-old hasn’t won as many races as his ability should have allowed him to, but I still believe that he is at his best on a flat right-handed track and his record that way around reads 4111. His sole victory over fences came at Kempton in January, when he bolted up off 138, and given that he has gone well when fresh in the past, a big run could be on the cards here off 146.
Attention moves to Cheltenham the following weekend for what is always a fantastic three-day meeting, with the feature on day two being the BetVictor Gold Cup. Entries aren’t available for any of the races at this fixture at the time of writing and, while it could be that he needs a shade further and might well wait for Newbury, I wouldn’t be surprised to see
Single farm payment given an entry by Tom George.
The seven-year-old won just once from five starts over fences last term, but he was going well when being brought down on trials day – admittedly a long way from home – and he was beaten just a short head on the opening day of the festival. The son of Milan begins the season on a mark of 146 and it will be disappointing if he can’t plunder a valuable prize at some stage.The Ladbrokes Trophy – or the Hennessy as we know it and will probably continue to refer to it as – is a more likely objective, but if the ground were soft I wouldn’t be surprised if connections considered running in the Bet Victor.
The focus moves up north to Haydock on the final Saturday of the month and Jessica Harrington is expected to send her Gold Cup winner Sizing John across the Irish Sea in an attempt to land the first leg of
the £1m ‘Triple Crown’.
Stepped up in trip for the first time last term, the seven-year-old won the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown in February and showed his hardy constitution to complete a famous hat-trick at the Punchestown Festival. Very lightly raced as a stayer, there could be more to come from him this season and he sets the standard in this division.
HORSES TO WATCH
As for the season so far, of the horses that we have seen in action in the early weeks of the new campaign ‘proper’ I was particularly taken with the way Jonjo O’Neill’s Palmers Hill travelled en route to scoring at Uttoxeter.
An expensive winning Irish pointer – won by a wide margin at the second time of asking, having finished behind the illfated Flemenshill on debut – the Gold Well four-year-old only had 1½ lengths in hand at the line in what looked a decent maiden hurdle, but it was the way in which he joined issue up the home straight which impressed me most. He breezed through the race and gave a strong impression that he could take a step up in class in his stride.
The season really got going in midOctober at Chepstow, with the two-day Silver Trophy meeting very well contested. There were notable names on show, but the pick of the winners for me was Alan King’s mare Mia’s Storm who travelled beautifully and jumped well en route to winning what looked a strong staying novices’ chase.
The seven-year-old ended her hurdling career on the up – putting up a career best at Haydock in May when she won a competitive handicap by an easy 8 lengths – and this former winning Irish pointer, who was pitched into Listed company on her Rules debut, looks very exciting. Given the way she moved, she could easily drop back in trip to around 2m4f if required and, given that she has the option of reverting to mares’ only races, King should have plenty of options to play with.
The novice chaser most people expected to light up the fixture was Finian’s Oscar who won on the Saturday. The Mersey Novices’ Hurdle winner wasn’t particularly fluent early on – reported to have scared himself at the third and was allowed time to regain his confidence – but did warm to his task and was well on top in the closing stages. The race, however, fell apart with the unfortunate departure of Alcala as he left the back straight and Colin Tizzard’s exciting fiveyear-old will be better judged after his second start, which could come as soon as Cheltenham’s opening meeting at the end of October.
One final horse for the notebook from the opening contest of the meeting is another Tizzard inmate Lost in translation . A strapping son of Flemensfirth, he had finished fourth in what appeared to be a strong maiden Point-to-Point at Tattersalls Farm last November – JP McManus purchased the front two – and he took the eye with the ease in which he cruised into contention under Robbie Power. A mistake three out – slipped and lost his back legs – probably cost him the race, but he was soon back in front (possibly rushed back up too quickly) only to tire late on.It was a hugely promising debut under Rules and there are sure to be races to be won with him over hurdles, although he will no doubt be a novice chaser to note in 12 months’ time.
The Worlds End