Ante Post Focus uploaded - Cheltenham Festival Week 4 uploaded - Paul's Blog & Andy Richmond's Beating The Bias uploaded - Sunday Race Previews & General Sports uploaded - Saturday Race Previews uploaded - Friday Race Previews uploaded
With the Jumps Season Service set to restart later this month, following the best part of a six months’ break (bar the weekly general sports column on Sundays), welcome back to the monthly blog that will continue throughout the 2023/24 jumps season.
The 1.01 shot landed just under a fortnight ago when Nicky Henderson announced that Constitution Hill would remain over hurdles. The way I read it was not just for this season but for the rest of his career in citing that he and Nico de Boinville didn’t think that he would stay the Gold Cup trip.
Being the man on top, if that’s what Nico thinks then it’s an understandable decision. I do believe though that winning a Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase would give a horse a greater legacy than winning multiple Champion Hurdles. No horse has ever achieved that feat.
I don’t think that the decision to move the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December to Trials Day in late-January hurt one little bit in their thinking though, meaning that, all being well, the better timing between races ensures that the Champion Hurdler can now have one extra run a season over hurdles to help appease those who accuse Henderson of not running him enough.
It’s the teasing that arguably the best hurdler that we have seen might go chasing (Night Nurse remains officially the highest ever rated hurdler and he went chasing finishing second in a Gold Cup) from his owner, Michael Buckley, which led to a widespread disappointment in the final decision. He also teased us that Constitution Hill might take on Honeysuckle at Punchestown after he bolted up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or even contest the Ascot Gold Cup if I recall correctly (though I doubt that was ever seriously on the table) so for him to then come out with a couple of blinding quotes after the announcement like: “I’m fed up for apologising for doing what we want” and “I haven’t met an intelligent person in racing who doesn’t think this is a sensible thing to do” grates on me. Perhaps he shouldn’t give interviews without speaking to his trainer first?
So, with that now off my chest, following my first extended break which has done me the power of good so that I am coming at the next six months fresher than ever before, it’s time to get my head back down again and I can now give full details of what THE JUMPS SEASON SERVICE 2023/24 will entail for when I send out invitations via email later this week so here’s a heads up. There are a couple of tweaks this season with one addition and one reduction.
The addition first. From around half-way through last season, as an additional extra from what was originally advertised, I brought in a General Sports column on Sunday that proved to be very popular so was convinced to continue with that when the website was set to go into hibernation between May-October. As it is still proving to be popular for those who continued their membership to access it these past five months, this season that General Sports column on Sundays at 10.00 a.m. will run weekly throughout The Jumps Season Service from the outset. So, ten extra columns from last season.
The reduction concerns the Punchestown Festival. I don’t know about you but I find it rather boring now given the domination of one stable. In line with previous recent seasons, Willie Mullins won 9/12 Grade 1s (eight won at odds-on) and 17 races in total last season notwithstanding all the 1-2s and 1-2-3s on top of that. He is so dominant at Punchestown that even Gordon Elliott has started to dodge him at this meeting. I will instead cover the meeting as a whole in Ante-Post Focus rather than every race on every day.
Other than those two tweaks, everything else will remain the same as last season including the membership of £595 which runs up until the end of the British Jumps Season on April 27th. The jumps-based coverage will still be as intensive as ever featuring all the usual columns including Ante-Post Focus on Wednesdays at 1.00 p.m. starting on November 1st, Andy Richmond’s Beating The Bias on Mondays from November 6th and Big Race Trends features throughout the season - already uploaded are the 20 leading jumps handicaps. The Thought Of The Day on the home page will return on October 27th. The first Weekend Preview will also be uploaded on October 27th and the first Cheltenham Festival column on October 31st in its usual Tuesday at 7.00 p.m. slot.
Looking at the many outsiders that have been winning at this season’s big flat festivals, notably Royal Ascot where I’ve never seen a run of huge-priced winners the like of before, I’m rather pleased I took this summer off! I’ve enjoyed watching only the good stuff and not having to keep on top of the rest and Mawj winning the 1000 Guineas after a 16/1 ante-post recommendation was my personal highlight.
That’s all change now though as the Jumps Season steps up a gear. In the only two jumps races which I included in the weekly Sunday columns we managed to find Ash Tree Meadow winning the Galway Plate at a best offer of 10/1 so more of the same this season will do nicely.
There are plenty of changes to the Jumps Season programme for 2023/24 to make the racing at the top end more competitive, which can only be a good thing, though as a trends analyst, some of this will also take some getting my head round!
Gone are a number of Grade 2s including the Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial, Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot, John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury and Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick amongst others.
Some other important races have moved positions in the calendar and/or race distance, notably the International Hurdle which to many sets of connections was too close to the Christmas Hurdle and has now been moved to Trials Day. The Tolworth Hurdle (Grade 1) at Sandown has switched to a new Boxing Day fixture at Aintree (for better ground?) plus the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas is now a limited handicap. There’s also an extra week in between Aintree and Punchestown this year which can help enable more horses contest both spring festivals, or indeed, all three.
I’ll leave it there for now but last season’s members can expect an invite from me in their inbox in the coming days.