Saturday was a poor day for the Autumn Update with both of my selections in the Cesarewitch running poorly - the pair were beaten with half a mile to run. In addition, the previously unbeaten Lampang underperformed in the Listed Rockingham Stakes at York. Despite winning on good to soft ground at Ripon last time, the Dandy Man colt appeared to find conditions too testing on the Knavesmire. Off the bridle early on, he never looked like making it three out of three. He remains a promising horse for next year.
The ground on the second day of Chepstow's excellent jumping card was described as soft, heavy in places. Therefore conditions were never going to be ideal for Cloth Cap in the staying handicap chase. Even though Jonjo O'Neill's seven year old was beaten nearly thirty lengths, I thought he ran well for a long way and is capable of winning a decent handicap chase. Third in the Scottish National last spring, his season is being geared towards the Grand National in April but with a rating of 137, the seven year old needs to rise in the weights to ensure a place in the line-up at Aintree. A superb jumper, he travelled strongly for Richie McLernon until coming under pressure after the fourth last. Good to soft or quicker ground is ideal and, granted such conditons, he is handicapped to win more races. He ran better than the formbook suggests on Saturday.
The other noteworthy performance at the same track was that of Imperial Aura in the Silver Trophy. A dual winner over timber last season at Carlisle (form has worked out very well) and Newcastle, Kim Bailey's charge made his handicap debut off a mark of 133. Despite his lack of experience, the six year old jumped and travelled well and held and hit the front at the third last. A mistake at the penultimate flight didn't aid his cause, but he kept to finish third. Beaten four lengths, he sat close to a strong gallop throughout and, granted a more patient ride, I think he would have justified strong ante-post support. I have no doubt, he was the best handicapped horse in the field and it was one which got away. I spoke to his owner Ian Robinson at Ayr last month and he was convinced Imperial Aura is a very well handicapped horse and this had been the plan for a while.
It was a lean day for One Jump Ahead but thankfully Make Me A Believer (8/1) ensured it wasn't a totally blank day in the concluding bumper at Chepstow. Indeed, it has been a good couple of days for David Pipe with Vieux Lion Rouge winning twenty four hours earlier. The former Irish pointer displayed an admirable attitude as he fended off the challengers to win by a neck on his Rules debut.
Colin Tizzard has been tipped to challenge Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson for the trainers' title this season. The West Country based handler ran 14 horses over the two days at Chepstow with only one winner. Dual Grade 1 winning hurdler Reserve Tank made his chasing bow on Saturday and, while he jumped well, it was disappointing that he couldn't put the race to bed having mastered market rival Posh Trish after the third last. Headed on the run-in by Jarveys Plate, he was beaten four and a half lengths by a horse who was rated ten pounds inferior over timber.
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