A large crowd packed into Chepstow to watch the Six Nations and seven races. It was fine for most of the afternoon, the going was good to soft, good in places, and there were Cheltenham clues here as well as at the day’s main meeting at Kempton.
The card began with a 2m hurdle. The market spoke strongly in favour of the lightly-raced Highest Sun (15/8 fav), trained by Colin Tizzard. On the long run between the last two flights Tom O’Brien took up the running from Casa Tall, and despite an untidy leap at the final obstacle he drew three and a half lengths ahead to score comfortably. This effort earned him a crack at a Cheltenham race.
The next was a 2m4f maiden hurdle, and this featured an even hotter favourite, Nicky Henderson’s Dickie Diver (30/100), who cost his owner J P McManus £210,000 a year ago. He was second to an improving horse here in January and today he opened his account easily, coasting alongside the hard-at-work Kingsplace on the long run to the last before taking a narrow lead. A scrappy jump there – not his first – meant Aidan Coleman had to shake him up, but he had plenty in reserve as he strolled in, two and a quarter lengths to the good. His next race could be the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.
Two of the four horses competing in the 3m2f novice chase stood out on form. Jammin Masters set out to make all the running and enjoyed a five or six length lead for most of the race. Chef Des Obeaux (11/10) had to work hard to halve the deficit on the far bend, but then his superior stamina came into play and he gradually wore down his rival to take the lead three out. From there it was plain sailing, and he came in 18 lengths ahead to give Nicky Henderson and Aidan Coleman a double.
Philip Hobbs’s course and distance winner Samburu Shujaa had been heavily backed (3/1 overnight down to 5/4 fav) for the 3m hurdle and repaid his followers handsomely. Richard Johnson took him into the lead at the outset and had them all in trouble before a big jump at the second last gave him a clear advantage. The Carmarthenshire-trained Tobefair ran his best race for a long time, staying on well to finish just over two lengths behind. The winner will now go for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham.
A good quality 2m chase followed. The two 3/1 joint favourites fought out the finish, and both ran well enough to justify appearing at Cheltenham next month. Capeland was travelling nicely up the home straight and Bryony Frost waited until the second last before moving smoothly into the lead, but Eamon An Cnoic was on their tail, going just as well, and dashed ahead on the run-in. A blunder by Capeland at the last probably made no difference. David Pipe trained the winner and David Noonan rode him.
Another 2m chase came next. Lickpenny Larry (6/1) was up with the pace throughout and hit the front turning into the home straight, where he beat off a number of challengers with the help of some good jumps at the last three fences. He extended his lead to six lengths on the run-in before tiring and allowing Hands Of Stone to make up half of that deficit. Seven-pound claimer Edward Austin rode the winner for Tom Gretton.
The final race was a bumper, run at a reasonable pace. The Nigel Hawke-trained Some Detail (10/1) was at the back of a group of nine who broke away in the home straight, and he made up ground steadily under pressure to take the lead with a furlong to go. He doesn’t look the quickest, but he had a Paul Nicholls horse, Golden Gift, two lengths back in second, which gives the form a solid look. It was Mr Kieren Buckley’s third win under National Hunt rules, and his first at Chepstow.