The National Hunt season is really beginning to kick off now, and this weekends fixtures and possible line up’s are something to get excited for. The likelihood of seeing Silviniaco Conti, More of That, At Fishers Cross, First Lieutenant, Rocky Creek, Ma Filleule and Boston Bob to name a few, gets the juices going.
Last Saturday saw the first fixture of the season at Aintree, where the first Grade 2 of the season, The Old Roan Chase took place. It was won in good style by Wishful Thinking, making it third time lucky for him. He’s 11 years young who is loving what he does, which is so great to see. There was no sign of a wind problem here, which was great to see. Runner up was Edgardo Sol, who has switched stables from Paul Nicholls and Emma Lavelle. It was a fab ride from Aiden Coleman to finish where he did – the horse couldn’t have stayed any closer to the rail, or jumped any fence closer to the edge if he’d tried. For me, one to watch this season. Uxizandre opened up his campaign in a quiet style. He didn’t get to hard a race, and so had a lovely pipe opener before the Paddy Power at Cheltenham next month.
Over at Chepstow, Blaklion really caught my eye, when winning the Persian War hurdle in impressive style, in the same colours as The New One. He jumped like a buck all of the way round, and I couldn’t help but feel it was a classy performance. Jamie Moore looks to be picking up some cute rides for Nigel Twiston-Davies with son Sam now tied down to Nicholls. He’s another who’ll probably head to Cheltenham’s Paddy Power meeting. Trainer Twiston-Davies said after the race that he’ll need further, so when it comes to looking ahead to the Festival in March, his race is still an unkown, with the Neptune and Albert Bartlett both possibilities. He’s been shortened for both anyway. The race was unfortunately marred by the news that Son Du Berlais had to be put down, following a bad tendon injury, so thoughts to the connections of that classy four year old.
Shelford was another who caught my eye. You can’t help but notice a gutsy horse who clearly loves what he does. He looked a gutsy little thing with his ears back and a face full of determination. His previous race at Ascot has some good form now so he’s one to note too. As is the trainer – I think Dan Skelton will prove himself to be a top trainer this season, and with brother Harry riding for him, their a pair to watch this year.
With the Breeder’s Cup approaching us this weekend, the Flat Racing is still very much still in swing. There are a huge amount of British and Irish heading over, with Mile favourite Toronado been cut to 2-1 from 9-4 with Coral after getting a perfect post in gate five for Saturday’s contest. Coral also shaved Dank a fraction to 7-4 favourite for the Filly & Mare Turf after being drawn in gate three as she bids to repeat last year’s victory for Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore. Frankie Dettori has been given the challenge of riding Chicquita, who threw away a winning chance in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot, in the Turf with Joseph O’Brien on defending champ Magician. Chicquita starts from gate twelve with Magician in eight, one outside Andre Fabre’s favourite Flintshire.
I was gutted to hear that Ballyalton has been ruled out the season by trainer Ian Williams. He was on my ‘to follow’ list for the season, and really thought this season would be an amazing one for connections. Hopefully though he’ll come back better and stronger next season. It must have been a hard decision, but it should be worth it.