Mark Howard Publications Ltd

Declan unearths another smart one

01-December-2023 17:45
in General
by Admin

It remains to be seen how much jump racing takes place on Saturday with Newcastle's Fighting Fifth Hurdle meeting already a casualty due to the cold snap. With temperatures set to plummet once again on Friday evening, I suspect it will be slim pickings. Nicky Henderson expressed his frustration at Newbury on Friday with the former champion trainer running out of options for his King George bound Shishkin, who was set to contest the Rehearsal Chase at Gosforth Park. With a little over three weeks until Boxing Day, time is running short for the dual Cheltenham Festival winner. One option next weekend would have been the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree but the jump planning committee elected to scrap the Grade 2 event. Another crazy decision. 

It wasn't all doom and gloom for Henderson on Friday though with Jeriko Du Reponet outclassing his seven opponents in the opening two miles maiden hurdle at Newbury - an event the stable have now won seven times in the last ten years, including with subsequent Grade 1 winners Buveur D'Air (2015) and Jonbon (2021). Highlighted as one to follow by Declan Phelan in his Irish Pointers section in One Jump Ahead, the four year old had been steadily supported for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle in recent weeks. While the J.P.McManus owned gelding has a long way to go and, the opposition at the Berkshire track was modest, Jeriko Du Reponet jumped well and readily sauntered away on the bridle to win hard held by over three lengths. Quotes of 4/1 - ironically by Henderson's yard sponsor Unibet - for the Festival opener are mean at best but there is no doubt he is a promising type. His next race, which is likely to be at Kempton on Boxing Day (Altior won the same novice hurdle in 2015), will tell us more before hopefully stepping up in class. Time will tell whether two miles is his optimum trip. 

Hermes Allen's fencing debut had been delayed due to a minor foot issue but the grey gelding started to make up for lost time with a six and a half lengths win in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices' Chase. A Grade 1 winning novice hurdler who came up short at Cheltenham and Aintree last spring, the former pointer underwent wind surgery during the summer and is expected to improve for his seasonal pipeopener. Niggled along before the hometurn, Harry Cobden's mount responded well and was soon in control after the second last. Pulling away for an easy success, his jumping was foot perfect and bigger targets lie ahead. Once again, the Grade 2 Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham would have been a natural stepping stone but that, too, has been removed from the programme. Paul Nicholls has the option of stepping the six year old up to three miles in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton but stablemate Stay Away Fay is earmarked for that event, depending on how he performs at Sandown next week. Either way, the champion trainer is blessed with three cracking novice chasers with another Grade 2 winner Knappers Hill impressing at Wincanton last month.


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