All the top southern stables are represented at this year’s Jump Season Opener meeting on Saturday and Sunday and most of the leading jockeys will be riding. The ground is currently good, and with rain about there is no danger of the ground drying out.
Saturday’s card attracted 89 entries, and there are now eight races starting at 1.55. There is also the annual Jumps Legends charity race for former jump jockeys, which is due off at 1.15.
The Chepstow Contract Rentals 10 Year Anniversary Silver Trophy at 4.45 has a maximum field of 18. Dual winner of the race Court Minstrel is lurking near the bottom of the handicap. Close behind him in last year’s race, whose form worked out extremely well, Louis’ Vac Pouch, River Frost are trying again. Philip Hobbs trains the former but Richard Johnson has elected to ride stablemate Sneaky Feeling. Trainer and jockey are in great form.
A small but select field goes to post for the Robert Mottram Memorial Novices Chase over two and a half miles at 3.35. Nicky Henderson’s Monbeg Legend has won three of his four novice chases and has the advantage of experience over fences. Paul Nicholls’s Master Tommytucker was unbeaten in two Exeter novices hurdles earlier this year. Another fencing debutant, Fergal O’Brien’s Challow Hurdle winner Poetic Rhythm, was the best of these over timber.
13 runners contest the three-mile handicap chase at 5.20. Judging by the quantity of 1s in their latest form figures, it should be a very good race. Thomas Patrick won a novice chase at Chepstow in February and progressed so quickly that within a few months he won a £75,000 handicap at Aintree. Triple Chepstow winner Rock The Kasbah will be hard to beat. It’s his first run of the current campaign, but he’s won on three of his last four seasonal reappearances.
On Sunday the quality is just as good. 75 horses compete in seven races, beginning at 2.15.
The feature race at 3.25, the Fox Family Persian War Novices Hurdle, is tremendously competitive. Five of the eight runners have won at least their last two races. Paul Nicholls’s Secret Investor and Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Equus Millar will be popular choices but the dark horse comes Robert Stephens’s yard just ten miles away from Chepstow. He has won three races with the improving Push The Tempo since buying him out of the Irish point-to-point arena.
Some familiar faces line up for the Veterans Chase at 4.00, including previous winners Bob Ford and Double Ross. The senior runner is the 13-year-old Alvarado, who has been placed four times in the Aintree and Scottish Nationals. Most of the 13 runners are ten (the minimum age), so they are by no means over the hill. Five of them have won at Chepstow before.
The juvenile hurdle that opens the card can throw up a good horse that runs up a sequence. Paul Nicholls and Tom George give debuts to Quel Destin and Fanfan Du Seuil, both winners in France. Alan King’s Elysees has decent form on the flat and the yard does well with its first-season hurdlers.
The John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase at 5.10 gives Charbel another chance to fulfil the promise he showed when giving Altior a run for his money until falling two out in the 2017 Arkle Trophy. Things haven’t gone according to plan since, but he’s still only seven, so a good performance under top weight today would put him in contention for the top races over two and two and a half miles.
These are just some of the races which, over these two days, are set to get the proper jumping season underway.