Yes, there is Group 1 action at Newmarket on Friday, but tomorrow is the Chepstow jumps opener and I can’t contain my excitement.
— Chepstow Racecourse (@Chepstow_Racing) October 12, 2023
In isolation, the action at Chepstow wouldn’t knock your socks off, but it’s the wider picture of the ‘proper’ national hunt season starting today that I can’t stop thinking about.
Ahead of flag-fall at the Welsh track, today’s The Top Three includes three horses to consider on the curtain-raiser of the winter jumps campaign.
1:35 Chepstow – Aye Right @ 4/1 with William Hill – 2pt Win
I always find veteran chases interesting contests to try and find a bet in as experienced, lovable characters get to compete against horses of a similar ability at their grand age. What more can you ask for?
The opening race at Chepstow includes a nice flurry of nostalgia and of the 10-runner field, it’s Aye Right that makes the most appeal.
The highest-rated horse in the race is down to a mark of 150 which seems lenient considering he finished second in last year’s Edinburgh Gin Chase when officially rated six pounds higher.
A Russian victory!
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) October 22, 2022
The form of Kelso’s feature race of the year has worked out well as the winner, Sounds Russian, finished second to Ahoy Senor in the 2023 Cotswold Chase and is now rated 11 pounds higher and the sixth, Eva’s Oskar, won a valuable Cheltenham handicap two months later.
Speaking of the Cotswold Chase, you don’t have to go back too far through the form book to see Aye Right’s third-place effort in the 2022 renewal behind the two-time Grade 1 winner Chantry House and the lovable Santini.
Chantry House recovers to win the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase
It's a 4,000th winner for JP McManus!
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) January 29, 2022
In a veterans chase like this against some horses who would appreciate better ground, Aye Right will enjoy the rain-softened Chepstow ground and with a healthy first-time-out record on his side, 4/1 seems a fair price.
3:23 Chepstow – Chianti Classico @ 11/4 General – 2pt Win
As someone who lives in Gloucestershire and covers the sport for Gloucestershire Live, it seems fitting that on the elected ‘first day of the national hunt season’, I should put up Chianti Classico for the Andoversford-based Kim Bailey.
I spoke to Bailey at the end of last season and one horse we spoke about was this gelding by Shantou who he holds in high regard at Thorndale Farm, so much so that he ran him in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Unfortunately for connections, he pulled up before the last flight in a messy renewal of the staying novice hurdle, though a vet assessment revealed he had post-race heat stress which could explain parts of the run.
The ultra-progressive Chianti Classico completes the hat-trick this term with victory in the £21,000 @VirginBet Handicap Hurdle for @kimbaileyracing & David Bass @wincantonraces to remain unbeaten over timber 🏇
Good to see Longshanks & Sean Houlihan are OK after their tumble pic.twitter.com/gvA02TLwBg
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 7, 2023
Before that, the six-year-old bolted up on good to soft ground at Wincanton by 24 lengths under David Bass to beat Stoner’s Choice, who went on to win 107 days later for Fergal O’Brien, and the brilliant galloper also has course form on his side thanks to his length-and-a-quarter victory over Henri The Second last October.
With an official rating of 133, it’s interesting that connections are sending him into a novices’ handicap chase tomorrow rather than a standard novice chase on his first start over fences.
With the yard in good form – two winners from eight runners in the last 14 days – and having his first start after a wind-op, Chanti Classico is an unexposed type who should be a cracking chaser this season.
3:58 Chepstow – Politacus @ 7/2 with William Hill – 1pt Win
It looks as if the Fergal O’Brien yard is back on song following three winners over the last two days, one of which was an impressive debut over hurdles performance from Kamsinas at Worcester.
With this in mind, taking a swing at Politacus on her first public outing over obstacles doesn’t look like a bad idea.
In what will be the first and final piece of self-promotion in The Top Three, I went down to Ravenswell Farm last week to talk to O’Brien ahead of the season starting and one horse we discussed was his five-year-old mare by Epaulette.
🗣️ "He's come back in looking like a monster – he'll go for the Welsh Grand National."
I sat down with @FOBRacing to discuss his strong team for the 2023/24 Jumps Season.
‣ Dysart Enos
‣ Autonomous Cloud
‣ Oak Grove
‣ Shy Love
Likes and shares appreciated. pic.twitter.com/nQm1FBsB3U
— Ash Symonds Journalism (@ASymondsJourno) October 9, 2023
The esteemed trainer explained that he thought her fourth in the Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper at the Aintree Grand National Festival behind stablemate Dysart Enos showed good promise and the stamina she displayed over an extended two-mile trip is something to be excited about.
Therefore, today’s step up in trip to 2m3f should work well and the rain that Chepstow will receive overnight will also benefit her chances.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) February 18, 2023
Furthermore, Politacus has impressed in her schooling work at home and when asked about how good she could be this year, O’Brien said: “If Politacus shows on the track what she has been showing at home, she won’t be a million miles behind [Dysart Enos].”
Today’s task for Politacus won’t be simple thanks to the inclusion of Florencethemachine, a £120,000 purchase for Paul Nicholls, and Similar Story, a £32,000 buy for Suart Coltherd who bolted up by 12 lengths on her last point-to-point start, but my faith in her remains in conditions that should suit.