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Officially my Jumps Season Service restarts on November 10th ahead of Cheltenham’s Open Meeting but I have decided to bring it forward by two weeks and will comence the first of my weekend previews on Friday covering Charlie Hall Chase day and I will also previewing the best of Ascot jumps card for Saturday afternoon. So if you have yet to re-subscribe or are looking to become a member for the first time and wish to receive that copy in time, please get in touch asap. I will initially look at the Charlie Hall in Ante-Post Focus on Wednesday and then the Breeders’ Cup the following Wednesday followed by the BetVictor Gold Cup where last year we found Annacotty at 16/1.
You will probably have noticed that the jumps stable tours have started in earnest across all media. I did mention that I will dropping the Trainer Trends section for this season but, in Limato tradition who now heads for the Breeders’ Cup Mile rather than the Turf Sprint (what a nightmare his owner has been for ante-post punters this season!), I’ve had a u-turn and will update it but in a different format within a wider new Jumps Season Trends Section that will also feature the best angles at racecourses and race trends for the top handicaps. This will be uploaded just before the next Cheltenham meeting.
It was a nice week for the Horses to Follow with Masham Star (14/1) and Rivet (11/4) winning but the action at Cheltenham this weekend, especially on Saturday, must have whetted any jumps fans’ anticipation of what it is to follow (as will today’s excellent renewal of the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase plus Thistlecrack could return on Tuesday) and the victories of Fox Norton and Sceau Royal were particularly eye catching. Whooosh and whoosh. All six handicap chases (not including the veterans’ series) at the two biggest meetings of the season run so far at Chepstow and Cheltenham plus the Galway Plate and Kerry National were won by horses who contested novice chases the previous campaign which is a theme I am likely to concentrate on in the first few weeks of the season.
But it was a week also tinged with sadness following news of the loss of Moscow Flyer, Rough Quest, Mark Birch and Gold Cup-winning trainer Francis Flood (Glencarraig Lady). I also found it a little sad that the name of Vincent O’Brien will no longer be attached to the County Hurdle with the new Grand National sponsor, Randox Health, stepping in to sponsor the race. In the week where Bob Dylan refused to acknowledge being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and not Reggie and Bollie, the times they are a changin’.
Moscow Flyer’s Tingle Creek, where he beat Azertyuiop and Well Chief, will go down as one of the best steeplechases in history but my favourite memory of him was when winning the Arkle under a fresh-faced Barry Geraghty despite having fallen twice earlier in the season having taken some 16/1 before his chase debut. This season’s Arkle could be a belter if they all get there (no confirmation yet that Yorkhill definitely goes chasing) and Identity Chief was the first of the big guns in that division to strut his stuff yesterday.
Cheltenham have a recent tradition of naming the National Hunt Chase in honour of giants of the turf including Sir Peter O’Sullevan, Lord Oaksey, Terry Biddlecombe and Toby Balding and this season the amateur riders’ race over four miles will be run in recognition of J T McNamara who won the race twice including on the very difficult Realt Dubh, a ride of supreme horsemanship which highlighted that he was just about the best amateur of his time. It was such a good ride that I made it the front cover of The Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide the following year.
Mike Henderson will return towards the end of the week to cover the European Championship Darts, Jeremiah Catskill will be joining us from the early part of next week with the first of his monthly columns concentrating on Flat horses turning their attention to hurdling and Andy Richmond will restart his jumps-based Trading Talk feature next week.