Worcestershire handlers wrested some valuable prizes from the weekend’s opening salvo as the Jumps season burst into life at Chepstow’s admirable Season opener. This sterling effort by the Monmouthshire course to stage a two day card worth over £400,000 without a hint of TV coverage shows what can be done with willpower and persistence.
126 runners competed in the 14 races, and whilst one or two of the races ran up light, the big handicaps were rewarded with excellent fields. This is a longstanding stomping ground for Messrs Nicholls and Hobbs who flex their muscles ahead of back to back Saturday prizes from here to the end of next April, and followers of the West Country pair weren’t disappointed.
However, handlers from the West Mercian area had come prepared too. Smart hurdler Does He know, representing Kim Bailey, was last seen a 20l fifth to Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at the Festival, but opened his chasing account at the first time of asking in the Tom Malone Bloodstock Novices Chase on Friday with a fluent staying performance.
Tom Lacey successfully transitioned Tea Clipper to fences with a comprehensive 3l victory in the listed Dunraven Windows Novices Chase the following day over 3f shorter. Tea Clipper evidently has a penchant for Chepstow; his sole victory in 2020-21 was at this corresponding fixture when winning the Wasdell Group Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle.
The Dunraven Group is owned by trainer and entrepreneur David Brace, who also sponsors Fergal O’Brien’s winner machine a mile along the road from Kim Bailey and within hailing distance of the point-to-point course at Andoversford. And it was Connor Brace, whom he coached through a season of pointing before turning conditional that came good for his Ravenswell employer in the John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase with Paint The Dream, also on his seasonal bow, and owned by his father. There will be smiles all week in Pyle no doubt.
Paint The Dream continues to improve, and this assertive win indicates there may yet be more improvement.
Meanwhile, among the older horses, Some Chaos kept up the early momentum attained by Michael Scudamore’s Bromsash yard in the 3m Veterans Chase. Taking it up 5 out, this 10 year old winner of 6 of his 12 chases made the race his own and won readily. He’s just the sort to capture a following on the Jumps scene where punters love older horses whose running style adds value to their betting.
Meanwhile, another fixture that captures the public interest took place in the Czech Republic yesterday when the 131st Velka Pardubicka took place over the extraordinary fences and course in Pardubice. Sadly, there was no British or Irish entry for the race. In fact, lest one get too smug about the superior quality of Jump racing in these shores, no British runner has been ridden or trained to win this race since the now retired Charlie Mann who trained and rode It’s A Snip to win in 1995.
In an increasingly international market for Jump racing as well as the Flat, a Pardubice experience should be on any aspiring owner’s bucket list, but the home team is always well prepared. Yet at the end of this 4m2f slog, just one length separated winner Talent, ridden by Pavel Slovic, from the runner-up. Let’s hope both can be persuaded to travel over for the Glenfarclas Cross Country at Cheltenham.