Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card ahead of Saturday’s action at Wetherby, Ascot, Down Royal and Santa Anita with seven to follow.
You always know the jumps season has moved up a gear when the Charlie Hall Chase comes around again and the Wetherby feature is one of the racing highlights from a tremendous weekend with the Breeders Cup sharing top-billing from across the pond.
The Paul Nicholls’ trained Silviniaco Conti is the 5/4 favourite at BetVictor for the Charlie Hall and there are bullish noises coming out of the stable ahead of his reappearance; it was a poor renewal of the Aintree Festival Novice Chase he won in the spring, however, and he just looks too short in the betting although the race has cut up very badly from the five-day stage.
Many in the Nicholls’ camp think Silviniaco Conti is the one to take over the mantle at Ditcheat from the great Kauto Star, who retired earlier this week, but marginal preference is for Planet Of Sound (3.25) who has few miles on the clock for a 10-y-old, goes well fresh and receives weight from both the Nicholls’ runner and Time For Rupert who finished runner up in the corresponding event last year. The selection finished second in the Hennessy on his reappearance last term and first time out looks the time to catch him.
Alfie Spinner (3.10) is 2lbs wrong at the weights but must go well in the big handicap Chase at Ascot for Nick Williams; I am still kicking myself for not tipping or backing For Non Stop from the same yard last weekend; one note of concern, at the time of writing, there is no jockey booked for the horse who will carry the minimum weight.
Cannington Brook will, hopefully, win a big race this season but with the ground drying up all the time it might not be today. Do keep an eye out for him when the mud is flying this winter.
Winning point-to-pointer Hadrian’s Approach (1.25) can make a successful chase debut for Nicky Henderson; he is, arguably, unlucky not to unbeaten under rules having fell at the second last over timber when beginning to close last time. McCoy rides the mare Swincombe Flame who is an obvious danger in a race that will throw up a few winners in the months to come.
I was very disappointed with Quito De La Roque when he was beaten by the ill-fated subsequent Gold Cup winner Synchronised in the Lexus Chase when last seen over Xmas; I felt he was a Gold Cup horse prior to that effort and it is possible he may still turn out to be one but he is overlooked as he bids to win back to back runnings of the Down Royal JNWine.com Champion Chase a race won twice in recent years by Kauto Star.
The selection is Henry De Bromhead’s dual Champion-Chaser Sizing Europe (2.25) despite the fact that he has never won over 3m but he is given one last chance as long as the ground doesn’t deteriorate from the forecast going of good to soft. The British challenger is Kauto Star’s half-brother Kauto Stone but I’m not convinced he will get 3m having won at this fixture last year over the minimum trip.
Over at Santa Anita and Dundonnell (6.50) is a personal favourite who needs fast ground to be seen at his best; the selection may have found the ground too loose at Doncaster last time in the Champagne Stakes and was an impressive winner before that in the Acomb Stakes at York. The step up to a mile around these turns ought to suit the Roger Charlton-trained juvenile who is well drawn in stall six.
I am very keen on the chances of the French filly Shareta (5/1 at BetVictor) in the Breeders’ Cup Turf; winner of the Yorkshire Oaks earlier in the year and runner up in last year’s Arc she must have fast ground to be seen at her best and Champion-jockey elect Richard Hughes described the turf track as being like a road on Thursday.
Excelebration will be many people’s banker in the Mile after his facile win in the QEII on Champions’ Day and there are many who believe he only has to be pointed in the right direction, but Wise Dan (11.40) rattles off fast ground, has a cracking draw in stall two and can keep the prize at home.