This Chepstow meeting has improved in quality in recent years, and again there look to be plenty of clues to take out of it ahead of the rest of the jumps season.


It is often seen in racing where an owner of a prominent horse has a newcomer run in their colours, and comparisons between them are often made.  Such comparisons look to be wide of the mark for the connections of Altior though, as PYM (125+) made his hurdling debut at Chepstow.  There were two divisions of the Novice Hurdle and we can see easily how the two races compare when looking at the sectionals:

Pym Rocco Posh Trish Grand Sancy Garo Du Juilley
To 4 out 176.96 175.66 171.41 175.48 170.99
From 4 out 51.09 50.88 54.11 51.2 53.01
Total 228.05 226.54 225.52 226.68 224

If we just look at the comparison with the other novice hurdle on the card won by Rocco we can see that Pym was slower to four out, and then slower to the line from there, to clock the overall slowest time for the two mile course on the card.  Now, the nature of the race being slowly run meant that we were unable to see what Pym is really made of, but it is still concerning that the times from four out don’t compensate for this.

You can be fairly certain that Henderson has left plenty to work on, and that Pym will improve from here, but he is going to need to step up a hell of a lot to be a feature in a novice hurdle division that will be full of expensive purchases from here there and everywhere.

The other novice hurdle is also worth discussing, as it saw a ride that garnered a fair amount of controversy.  ROCCO (131) won the race, but it was the run of the second BENNY’S BRIDGE (129+) that got social media going!  Paddy Brennan was fairly motionless on Benny’s Bridge, and indeed the racing post comments say, “….kept on same pace, perfectly capable of winning.”  He fairly cantered past the winner after the line, and the visual impression didn’t look great for Brennan for all that the horse looked tricky.  Either way, given the focus on the luminaries in the other novice hurdle and the controversy here, there’s a chance that this race gets underrated.  On the clock, it actually was the stronger race of the two!



One of my favourite horses of last season was Man Of Plenty, who gave plenty of extra place fiends such as myself lots of fun regularly hitting the frame in handicap hurdles at big prices.  Connections look to have another horse capable of mixing it in the big handicap hurdles this season in GARO DE JUILLEY (144) who landed the Silver Trophy in taking style.

As we can see from the times above, he actually clocked the fastest time for the two mile course, despite racing over 2m3.5f.  The full breakdown of times is here:

Pym Rocco Posh Trish Grand Sancy Garo De Juilley
74.33 74.32 70.23 73.91 71.23
17.65 17.55 16.95 17.24 17.43
13.27 12.43 12.84 12.72 13.06
71.71 71.36 71.39 71.61 69.27
12.3 11.94 12.75 11.91 11.93
10.81 10.59 11.19 11.26 10.51
17.46 17.43 18.85 17.38 18.45
10.52 10.92 11.32 10.65 12.12

As you can see the pace was much stronger in this race, and it is the middle sectionals that catch the eye where Garo De Juilley ran 69.27, 11.93 and 10.51 to bolt clear in this race.  That paid its toll on the horse as he came home slower from there, but was still able to hold on and had the race duly won.  It was an impressive turn of foot and shows that he is probably as effective over 2m as over this trip which gives plenty of options for the season ahead.  He was winning this off 134, and I’d be wary of underestimating him.

Last seasons renewal of this race saw plenty of winners come out of it, including Sam Spinner, so POINT OF PRINCIPLE (144), WHATMORE (141), DANS LE VENT (139), THECLOCKISTICKING (144) and CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK (145) all look worthy of consideration in the coming months.  They all look attractively treated on their marks and should pay their way.



I bored people silly banging on about how hot last years novice hurdle division was, but the juvenile division was a strong one too, and the four year old handicap hurdle this weekend looks another race to follow for the months ahead.  Indeed subsequent Swinton Hurdle winner Silver Streak won this race last year.

This years winner GRAND SANCY (135) looks to have benefited from a wind op and the brilliance of Paul Nicholls training.  The time was similar to that of the race won by Rocco, but Grand Sancy was carrying 5lbs more in weight.  Considering the slowly run nature of the contest and how keen he was travelling at the rear of the field this was an impressive performance from the winner.  Doing this off a mark of 125, he looks sure to be one to progress from here.  Note that Nicholls had the now 152-rated chaser Dolos finish second in this race last year.

PADLEYOUROWNCANOE (141) and NAYATI (131) are the other two in the race who ran ahead of their marks in the race.



The novice chase looked a strong heat on paper, and it proved to be so on the clock as well, as SPIRITOFTHEGAMES (150) made a fine chasing debut.  The race lost something when Master Tommytucker fell in the home straight when going well and he is surely going to be an exciting chaser for Nicholls, but we can only guess how he would have finished…and we know how Spiritofthegames finished from the sectionals:

Spiritofthegames The Young Master Still Believing
223 223.03 231.49
58.4 61.44 61.48

The above shows the times taken to get to and from five out on the 2m3.5f course covered in all three races.  As you can see Spiritofthegames clocked the same time to five out, but came home three seconds quicker from there.  This was done over a half mile shorter trip, but he was carrying 10lbs more in weight.  Adjusting for all this and I gave the winner a mark of 150.

He was a good hurdler last season, indeed I rated him 148 when second in the Lanzarote, but he looks to have kicked on again for this chasing debut.  Whether he progresses from here is to be seen, and it may be he will be more one for the decent handicaps in the spring than the top novice chases.  Last year’s novice hurdlers were outstanding, and so this looks set to be a strong novice chase year as a result and so Spiritofthegames might find life tough should he go for graded races in the near future.  He was fifth in a county hurdle, 3rd in the Betfair, and second twice at Kempton in the Lanzarote and a decent handicap on Boxing Day…. He looks well suited to big field races, and I’ll have him high on my shortlist for the spring festival handicaps.



The standout race on the clock for the meeting was that of BALLYMOY (156) who won the two mile handicap on Sunday in a hot time.  This race was won last year by Misterton, with Elgin in 4th, who subsequently finished 1st and 2nd in the Greatwood Hurdle.  Given how hot this race looks to be I found myself wondering if history could repeat itself?!

First let’s see just how good they were on the clock, these are the times taken to get to four out and from there to the line for the two mile section covered in all the hurdle races on the card:

Montestrel Secret Investor Ballymoy
177.4 173.23 168.69
53.42 53.51 55.57
230.82 226.74 224.26


As you can see they went a much faster pace in this race, getting to four out nearly five seconds quicker than Secret Investor did in the Persian War.  The novices only made up two seconds from there, and Ballymoy was carrying 12lbs more than Secret Investor.  After making the necessary adjustments for this I still reach a figure of 156 for the winner.

Bought for £75k after two defeats in PTPs, he was relatively disappointing when beaten in a bumper and novice hurdle (albeit behind Simply The Betts and Kalashnikov).  A wind op though looks to have unlocked the key to this horse, as this was his fourth win on the spin after a novice hurdle campaign that culminated in a win in a hot handicap at Sandown.  Winning here off 139, depending on how he is reassessed, he looks well capable of landing a big handicap hurdle this year.

He may struggle to confirm the form though with I’M A GAME CHANGER (153) who ran a remarkable race for one that was so keen and pulled hard throughout the contest.  Indeed he was well clear of the field going down the back, so to only get beaten two lengths was remarkable.  If they can get him to settle better, and assuming he comes on for this run he looks the one to beat should the two clash again in the Greatwood.  Hobbs had a torrid time of things last season, so it is unsurprising that some of his string could be relatively well treated this year.  I’m A Game Changer was running here off 138, and I’d be confident he can run to a mark pushing 160 should he settle.  Hopefully this run will take the freshness out of him, and with a big field and strong pace in a Greatwood he can land the race.

I’ve been a big fan of the third placed horse VADO FORTE (139) since he won at Warwick last season in a good time.  He ran another big race here, but was unfortunate to bump into two well handicapped horses.  He has the size to be a chaser, and one would assume that is where connections will go with him now.  On his form and running style he looks one perhaps for the novice handicap chase on day one of the festival as he likes to drop out, and a strong pace helps him settle.  Hopefully Tom Lacey can get him handicapped in the golden zone of 140-145 for the race!



The final race worth talking about is that won by CHARBEL (162) who beat the returning BARON ALCO (150) in a good time in the 2m3.5f handicap chase.

Drinks Interval Kings Lad Charbel
223.7 230.79 221.16
61.71 57.77 60.52

The comparisons with the other two chases on the card is shown above, and you can see that Charbel was 2.5s faster to five out than the smart Drinks Interval, and 1.2s faster still to the line.  He did this carrying 9lbs more in weight.  Even after adjusting for the half mile shorter trip I still have to give Charbel a mark of 162.

This was a first win beyond two miles for the horse, and given how he finished I wouldn’t be averse to trying to go further still.  Connections seemed to rule out Cheltenham in the near future given the horse has had two nasty falls at the track, so flat tracks may be where we see him at his best.  I don’t think a King George entry would be wasted money!

He was beating BARON ALCO (150) who was returning for the first time since running 2nd to Road To Respect in the 2017 Festival.  Perhaps Baron Alco was feeling the effects of the long layoff here which meant he was reeled in on the line by Charbel.  He was promoted to favourite for the BetVictor Gold Cup on the back of this, and whilst I have rated him higher than this on his previous run, I’d be wary of assuming he’ll come on for it.  Indeed he would look an obvious bounce candidate.