The clocks went back over the weekend and that truly signalled the end of British summer time and the beginning of the dark days of winter which means that the new Jump Racing season cranked up another notch.We are really getting into the thick of the action now as we head towards the end of October and we have seen some very nice horses strut their stuff over the past week or so.
As always, we have been a keeping a close eye on all the action with the Cheltenham Festival firmly in the front of our mnds and although March may be some way off still, we have not been short of quality performers over the last seven days.
The Old Roan Chase has grown into one of the best early season chases at Aintree each year and it once again looked like a competitive contest on paper as the tapes went up on Saturday afternoon. JLT Novices Chase runner-up Uxizandre was the taking horse in the build-up but he disappointed slightly to finish a below par fourth place for Alan King and Barry Geraghty.
He was a Grade 1 winner at Aintree last season but he didn't find too much off the bridle after travelling well and may have needed the run. As a result of that, Uxizandre drifted out to 16/1 from 10/1 with Ladbrokes for the Ryanair Chase in March which looks fair although he should be given another chance to prove himself this season.
Even if Uxizandre had run up to expectations, it is unlikely he would have beaten Wishfull Thinking who claimed a stunning victory for Philip Hobbs. The 11-year-old rolled back the years to claim the victory under a big weight as he once again proved himself as a very high class horse on a going day. Wishfull Thinking will be 12 in March and it is hard to see him winning a Ryanair Chase (20/1) any-more but this was impressive on decent ground and he remains a popular horse with jump racing fans.
There was also some top class action for National Hunt fans over at Chepstow on Saturday and one or two performers did catch the eye with the future in mind. Philip Hobbs once again tasted success with the exciting Sausalito Sunrise claiming a nice victory in the Totepool Supporting the Sport you Love Novices Chase over three miles. The six-year-old won two late season novice hurdles last term and looks just as at home over fences if this performance is anything to go by.
Some decent horses have won this race in recent years and Sausalito Sunrise certainly looks a fair sort who is likely to improve. He jumped and travelled nicely and looks likely to have more to come going forward with Ladbrokes cutting him from 20/1 to 16/1 for the RSA Chase in March as a result off this nice success.
The Persian War Novices Hurdle was the feature at Chepstow and there was a big race success for Nigel Twiston-Davies and Jamie Moore. Blaklion completed a five-timer to take the win and he is starting to look like a very nice horse indeed. It was his second win of the season and by far a career best for the five-year-old who was wearing a hood for the first time and loved every second of it. Paddy Power installed Blaklion in their World Hurdle market at 16/1 after this latest success and he is likely to be seen during the Paddy Power meeting next month which should tell us more.
Other Eye Catchers This Week
There was a brilliant race at Exeter last Tuesday with Puffin Billy, Far West and Dunraven Storm taking each other on in a fantastic Beginners Chase. All three came into the race with big reputations and while all three ran OK, it was Dunraven Storm who pulled comfortably clear to claim a decisisive victory in the end. It was another big race success for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson this week with the yard clearly in fine form at the moment and it is impossible to keep them out of this column.
Dunraven Storm looks like a novice chaser to follow this season, while Far West ran ok and remains of interest and Puffin Billy clearly needed the run after a long absence and his connections will be hoping he can return to his best form soon.
There was more good mid-week action at Fontwell Park as well as they hosted a very nice Beginners Chase over 2m4f recently. Albert Bartlett runner-up, Deputy Dan, started odds on for his chasing debut but he found Virak too good with both looking like nice prospects moving forward. It was a welcome win for Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies with Virak travelling strongly throughout and a quote of 20/1 for the JLT Novices Chase in March looks about right after this performance.
Mick Channon has enjoyed some jumping success with Somersby over the past couple of years but he could well have another nice performer on his hands this season in the form of Knock House. The five-year-old was down the field in the Neptune last season but he stormed clear of an average field on his chasing debut at Fakenham on Friday to mark himself out as a chaser to follow. He will need to continue to improve to make an impression at Cheltenham but few would be surprised if he turned up at the Festival with half a chance in one of the staying novice chasers.
One other horse we should mention is the Donald McCain trained Starchitect who won his second juvenile hurdle of the season at Aintree on Sunday afternoon. Under a good ride from Jason Maguire, Starchitect jumped well and wore down odds on favourite Unanimite in the process which looks like solid form at this early stage. Starchitect was cut from 33/1 into 25/1 for the Triumph Hurdle with one firm after this, while Unanimite was pushed out to 33/1 from 20/1 for the same race after he jumped poorly on Sunday.