Today’s ‘Season Finale’ at Newton Abbot is set to be a cracker. Since declarations were announced, social networks have been abuzz with anticipation. One race in particular has set the pulses racing. It’s rare that an intermediate chase in early October would attract such interest, but for many jump racing fans, the new season begins at 3.55 this afternoon.
So why all the fuss? Quite simply, it’s the quality of runners, trainers and jockeys involved in the five runner field. Though any one of the contenders is more than capable of taking the prize, finding the winner has become an even more complex puzzle. Regular pilots find themselves engaged to ride different partners. A trainer and his jockey are split by an owner. A father and son are split by a trainer. An owner and jockey may be split by a fall at Worcester yesterday. You get the picture.
Three of the first five from the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival re-oppose. Taquin Du Seuil is without doubt the headline act. He’s one of Jonjo O’Neill’s stable stars, and thought by many to be a potential ‘King George’ contender. His win in March was mightily impressive, having looked a rather suspect jumper earlier in the campaign. But he is without regular jockey AP McCoy, who has been claimed to ride the JP McManus owned Colour Squadron.
Double Ross improved with every race throughout his novice chase campaign. Finishing a close third to Jonjo’s fella at The Festival was clearly a lifetime best performance. If he is to win this, he must do so without his usual partner Sam Twiston-Davies, who now rides for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls, and therefore gets the ‘leg-up’ on Wonderful Charm.
He partnered today’s ride at Aintree, when the horse appeared to have his stamina stretched in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase. Previously fifth in that JLT contest, his performance that day had been a little disappointing. He’d started the season stylishly, with his slick jumping catching the eye. On Newton Abbot’s tight track, 'he who jumps best' is sure to take some beating.
Nicholls enters the race double-handed with Black Thunder appearing to be his second string. The trainer had hinted that he would head for Down Royal in November, and is probably ‘best fresh’. The ‘trip’ at this particular track may not be ideal, though the horse is undoubtedly talented.
The fifth and final contender is the Philip Hobbs trained Colour Squadron. Should ‘AP’ be fit enough to ride, after his nasty fall at Worcester yesterday, he will be on-board this JP McManus owned gelding. Second at The Festival in the Byrne Group Plate, he has the same BHA rating as Double Ross. He is prone to the odd blunder, and incredibly remains without a victory over fences. Currently favourite for the race, Richard Johnson is likely to take the ride if required.
But this terrific fixture isn’t all about the tasty main course. Paul Nicholls unleashes several promising types. A smart looking novice hurdler in the opener arrives from France. Arenice Et Pictons, was last seen in a conditions hurdle at Auteuil. Owner’s Potensis Limited, already have Silviniaco Conti and Lac Fontana at the stable.
Solar Impulse may have disappointed slightly over hurdles, but is made for fences. The son of Westerner goes in the two mile novices’ chase. And finally in the last, More Buck’s , related to the mighty Big Buck’s, is ridden by the trainer’s daughter in his second racecourse outing, and carrying those famous ‘Stewart family’ silks.
It’s sure to be a terrific afternoon’s racing. It could be one of Newton Abbot’s greatest.