It’s here, folks – it being Chepstow’s two-day Jump Season Opener which begins on Friday.
The feature is the G2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle, which sees Champion Bumper third Captain Teague make his eagerly-awaited debut over hurdles for Paul Nicholls, but there’s a cracking supporting cast too.
I’ve got a couple of tips for the card – including a fascinating recruit for the Champion Trainer.
14:48 – Panjari @ EVS
If there’s a trainer to follow during the early weeks of the Jumps season, it’s Paul Nicholls. He often cleans up at this time of year – especially this meeting.
I expect him to win the Persian War with Captain Teague, and then just over half-an-hour later I’m hoping he can strike again with PANJARI.
As a dual Listed winner on the flat in Germany, this five-year-old son of Camelot is a unique and exciting recruit to the National Hunt ranks.
I’d say it’s notable that he’s been chosen, from all the talent at Nicholls’ disposal, to start out at this meeting. He’s been called a “very nice prospect” that’s done “loads and loads of schooling” by his Ditcheat handler, so expect him to be fit and raring to go.
This looks an extremely winnable contest too. Of those with form over hurdles, Nigel Hawke’s 110-rated Donnacha sets the standard, but it’s a modest one at best. You’d have to have some respect for Jonjo O’Neill’s unraced Zonda and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Classic King for Emma Lavelle go well, but their profiles just aren’t as inspiring as the selection’s.
One of Nicholls’ stable jockeys Bryony Frost recently suggested Panjari as her horse to follow for the season – if he’s going to live up to that reputation, he’s got to be winning this.
15:23 – Chianti Classico @ 11/4
Immediately after is a Limited Handicap Chase over just shy of three miles. Nine go to post, and the one I like is Kim Bailey’s CHIANTI CLASSICO.
He was progressive last season, notching a hat-trick from October to January which included a 24L success off a mark of 131 at Wincanton. He then ran in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but was pulled up before the last, and later found to have post-race heat stress. Put a line through that, I’d say.
He now goes chasing, which should bring even more out of him. By Shantou and out of a Presenting mare, it’s fair to say the six-year-old, who was a winner between the flags in April 2021 when beating the now 140-rated Stumptown, is bred for it.
Bailey has started the season in good nick too, with two runaway winners from four runners in the last 14 days. One of those was having his first run of the campaign, providing optimism that the selection will be ready to go after a 210-day break.
This looks a competitive affair, but Chianti Classico looks to have as much, if not more scope than his rivals and so, off 133, he’s taken to make a winning start over fences.