The 2022/2023 jump season gets into full swing on Saturday afternoon with a couple of tremendous national hunt cards at Wetherby and Ascot. ITV cameras will show the first four races from both meetings, the highlight of which is the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at the West Yorkshire racecourse.
We have selections for all eight races, including the mouth-watering clash between Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame in the feature race at 3.35pm.
“Tip of the Day” - Ahoy Senor (3.35pm Wetherby) - 2/1 with William Hill
Lucinda Russell’s outstanding staying novice of last season can lay down his Gold Cup claims with a victory over old rival Bravemansgame in a fascinating renewal of this Grade 2 contest.
1.30pm Ascot, 2m 3f - Gowel Road
The eagerly anticipated chasing debut of the enigmatic Goshen who faces no easy task in this novices’ limited handicap chase off top weight of 11st 10lb. The other two chasing debutantes, Samarrive and Cobblers Dream, are expected to make up into decent chasers. But I have always felt that GOWEL ROAD from the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable has the potential to win a valuable prize or two over fences, despite a far from auspicious debut at Perth last month.
The mount of Sam Twiston-Davies never jumped with any fluency at the Scottish track and is sure to have been extensively schooled in the meantime. The Flemensfirth gelding did little wrong in winning three of his ten starts over hurdles for a horse who was always destined to be better over the bigger obstacles. Providing Gowel Road’s jumping holds up with that experience under his belt, the selection can come out on top in a fascinating contest.
1.50pm Wetherby, 2m 3 1/2f - Macavity (Each Way) (Longshot)
An informative novices’ hurdle with the betting expected to prove a significant guide to the outcome. The race looks to concern Learntalot, Prairie Wolf, Autumn Return and MACAVITY (e.w.), although the Ben Pauling-trained Joe Dadancer is an interesting contender as the five-year-old was in the process of winning his only start in an Irish point-to-point when falling at the last fence with a clear lead.
Macavity’s point-to-point bumper win is hard to assess but on his first start since joining trainer Jedd O’Keaffe from Jack Teal recently, and with the aid of a tongue-tie for the first time, is worth chancing at a double-figure price.
2.05pm Ascot, 1m 7 1/2f - Anyharminasking
Top weight ANYHARMINASKING’s latest claim to fame is in being the only horse to have beaten Nicky Henderson’s exciting Champion Hurdle favourite Constitution Hill, that victory coming in an Irish point-to-point 18 months ago.
While it would be unwise to take that form literally, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained son of Getaway has shown himself to be a talented hurdler in his own right and capable of making his mark over the smaller obstacles this season.
After winning novice races at Catterick and Sedgefield back in January, Anyharminasking was being prepared for a crack at the County Hurdle only to sustain a minor injury in the run-up to the festival. O’Neill won this race with Soaring Glory 12 months ago and has earmarked the race for the mount of Jonjo O’Neill Jr for some time.
The JP McManus-owned pair of Call Of The Wild and Broomfield Burg have to be considered, while Highway One O Two may prove best of those at a bigger price.
2.25pm Wetherby, 2m - See The Sea
Molly Olly’s Wishes and Martello Sky, both talented mares rated in the 140′s, will have more ambitious targets later in the season as opposed to this Listed contest. And with that in mind it may pay to take a chance on the Donald McCain-trained SEE THE SEA who has a fitness advantage over the two principles.
The winner of nine races over the smaller obstacles was no match for Sceau Royal at Kempton recently but is sure to make this a test from the front and despite her mark of 131 will expose any lack of condition from the mares’ main rivals.
2.40pm Ascot, 2m 1f - Before Midnight
Amoola Gold beat fellow rival Monsieur Lecoq by a head in this handicap chase 12 months ago, only to lose the race some time later due to having tested positive for a banned substance. It would be poetic justice should Dan Skelton’s charge repeat last year’s victory (but without the aftermath that followed) although this looks to be at least as competitive, with preference for top weight BEFORE MIDNIGHT.
The Sam Thomas-trained gelding has an excellent record fresh, including when winning unchallenged at Cheltenham around this time last year. The mount of Sam Twiston-Davies was not disgraced in better company after that victory when taking on the likes of Shishkin and Funambule Sivola in Graded races.
Only 3lb higher than his last winning mark, Before Midnight is fancied to concede the weight to his nine rivals, with the Paul Nicholls pair of Thyme White and Diego Du Charmil feared most.
3.00pm Wetherby, 3m - Sporting John (Next Best)
After winning the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase last year, expectations were high over fences for the Philip Hobbs-trained and JP McManus-owned SPORTING JOHN. However, things have not gone according to plan over the bigger obstacles since that Sandown victory, leading connections to revert back to hurdles for the son of Getaway.
Impressive wins in staying handicaps at Cheltenham and Warwick were sandwiched by a slightly disappointing display at Prestbury Park. But the seven-year-old is clearly a talented hurdler who could feature among the leading contenders for the big staying hurdle races in the months ahead, starting with this Grade 2 contest registered as The West Yorkshire Hurdle.
The main danger to Tom O’Brien’s mount could come from the mare Indefatigable who won this race 12 months ago and will be spot-on following her run on the Flat at Pontefract recently.
3.15pm Ascot, 3m - Our Power (Each Way)
Third in last season’s Coral Scottish Grand National on just his fourth start over fences, Alan King’s Major Dundee looks sure to win a decent staying handicap chase over the next few months off what is probably a lenient mark of 132.
In a race which is expected to be run at a fierce pace, things may fall right for the Sam Thomas-trained OUR POWER (e.w.) who has been dropped 2lb by the handicapper since finishing fifth in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The mount of Charlie Deutsch looked to be going best of all, turning for home at Prestbury Park, until his run just petered out in the closing stages. Ascot’s three miles should prove ideal for the seven-year-old who appeals most in an open contest.
3.35pm Wetherby, 3m - Ahoy Senor (Nap)
No match for the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame over Kempton’s sharp 3m in Kempton’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over Christmas last year, Lucinda Russell’s exciting Cheltenham Gold Cup hope AHOY SENOR comprehensively turned that form around at Aintree’s Grand National meeting when putting 30 lengths between himself and his old rival in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
Bravemansgame almost certainly failed to give his true running on that occasion but Wetherby may play more to the strengths of the northern contender who beat subsequent Grand National winner Noble Yeats over course and distance back in February.
However, both horses will be making their seasonal reappearances and should come on for the run, as is the case with four of the other five runners, the one exception being outsider Paint The Dream. The result could well boil down to which horse puts in the better round of jumping on the day and if Ahoy Senor repeats his Aintree performance it is hard to see anything posing a threat to Derek Fox’s mount.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.