While Newmarket serve up a feast of entertainment for Flat racing fans, followers of National Hunt racing can rejoice as Chepstow marks the dawn of a new season over the sticks.
And we have twice the fun this time round as the Welsh track unveils their Chepstow Jumps Festival to an expectant public. Sponsored by Totepool, the two-day meeting looks sure to attract quality fields with £250,000 of prize money on offer.
The valuable Tote Silver Trophy is one of the highlights on Saturday, a race won last year by Dan Skelton’s Shelford. Shantou Bob for Warren Greatrex and the Nick Williams trained Tea For Two are eye-catching entrants this time round.
The Robert Mottram Memorial Trophy is a novice chase with a reputation of attracting outstanding horses. The last four renewals have been won by Southfield Theatre, Balder Succes, Fingal Bay and Cue Card. Paul Nicholls’ King George hero Silviniaco Conti was third in the race as a novice chaser back in 2011. The Champion trainer has several interesting entrants for Saturday’s event with As De Mee and Calipto the most notable. Both classy hurdlers, they could take high order over fences.
There’s also an interesting handicap chase on day one which is often used a pipe-opener for decent stayers. Al Co took the 2m7f event in 2013 and went on to win the Scottish National in the same season. Monbeg Dude was runner-up in last year’s renewal before recording fourth place finishes in both the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh National.
Expect a smart juvenile to be unleashed in Sunday’s opener, a race won in the past by Far West, Franchoek and in 2006 by the ‘pocket rocket’ Katchit. One of my all-time favourites, Alan King’s wonderful hurdler had already announced himself as a horse to watch with a stunning win at Market Rasen. In his first campaign over obstacles he was to taste defeat just once in eight outings, when trying to give weight to Degas Art in testing ground at Wetherby. King saddles an interesting French recruit on Sunday, carrying the all-conquering silks of Messrs’ Munir and Souede.
Many are expecting great things from Jamie Snowdon this winter. His stable star is chaser Present View. On the comeback trail after missing the latter part of last season, he heads to Chepstow for his seasonal renewal, with the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham an early winter target. Snowdon was dealt a recent blow when exciting young chaser Val De Law was ruled out for the season, but he has high hopes that Present View can bring success to the yard. Reported to be in “top form”, he loves Cheltenham, and Chepstow should be an ideal starting point.
The Persian War Novices’ Hurdle is the showpiece event on Sunday. Another race with a strong recent history, it went to Reve de Sivola, Silviniaco Conti, Fingal Bay and Wonderful Charm from 2009 to 2012. Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Blaklion to win last year, and his young novice hurdler went on to have a successful campaign, the highlight being a close third in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
It’s a meeting packed with potential and likely to serve as a serious guide to the season ahead. Chepstow have gone ‘all-out’ to make the weekend a successful and enjoyable one for all concerned. I’m pretty sure that few will be disappointed.