Chepstow Jumps Opener | Right place, Right time

Imperial Cup

Yes, there is Group 1 action at Newmarket on Friday, but tomorrow is the Chepstow jumps opener and I can’t contain my excitement.

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

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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.

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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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.

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.

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