Regular readers of One Jump Ahead will be aware that I was a big fan of Sebastopol (3/1) last season. The former winning English pointer was restricted to two outings over hurdles last season, including when finishing fourth behind Thomas Darby and Elixir De Nutz at Cheltenham nearly a year ago. Only third next time at Ayr, the Fame And Glory gelding missed the rest of the campaign having undergone an operation for a kissing spine. Granted a handicap mark of 127, his trainer Tom Lacey felt he was well treated and so it proved at Wincanton on Thursday. Ridden for the first time by Nico De Boinville, he wasn't the quickest away but soon got into a good rhythm in the two miles handicap hurdle. Leading between the final two flights, he jumped the last cleanly before powering seven lengths clear. Despite the fact he remains a novice, it will be interesting to see if Sebastopol is given an entry in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham (17th November) next month. I think he will be even better over two and a half miles.
Nickolson looked another smart prospect on the same card winning the opening two miles maiden hurdle by four lengths. Olly Murphy's No Risk At All gelding won a bumper at Ayr last season and is held in high regard. A warm order in the betting beforehand, his jumping improved as the race progressed and the five year old always looked in control. He comfortably beat a 122-rated novice in second and one would expect him to defy a penalty without too much trouble. There is an introductory hurdle at Ascot (22nd November), which stablemate Thomas Darby finished runner-up in last season. It would be no surprise to see Nickolson line up in that.
Overall, it was a very good day for One Jump Ahead with 6 winners, namely Nickolson (Evens), Ecco (1/4), Sebastopol (3/1), Terry The Fish (16/1), Pop Rockstar (10/1) and Enrilo (8/15).
The most disappointing performance of the day came from Hill Sixteen who could only beat one rival in the opening two miles novices' handicap chase at Carlisle. Beaten thirteen lengths in sixth position, Sue Smith's former winning pointer was strong in the market beforehand but couldn't get involved at the business end of the race. If one was looking for positives, I thought his jumping was sound and the trip was definitely shy of his best (it was his first run over two miles). It is also worth pointing out his stable haven't hit form yet - they have had 13 runners in the last fortnight and they have finished 6P54805736874. Once tackling further and the Smith inmates are hitting their straps, Hill Sixteen will be a different proposition.
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