Jumps Notebook: Show some Front
With the likes of Oscar Rock, Holywell, Sizing Europe, Cockney Sparrow, Unioniste, First Lieutenant, Caid du Berlais and Wyck Hill - all of whom would be on my short-list for a 10-to-follow this season - all poised to make their reappearances, this is a weekend to make any fan of Jumps racing lick their lips with anticipation.
- Related Content
Had a couple of the Paul Nicholls team not misfired badly last weekend, I'd have already backed Unioniste to win the Charlie Hall Chase. Long Run continues to be a wonderful servant to connections and the great game itself, but as he gets older, I reckon he'll take ever longer to get fit - nor can Nicky Henderson pull the rabbit out of the hat again as headgear was used (with good effect) at Cheltenham, but is unlikely to fire him up to the same extent again if redeployed.
Unioniste goes well fresh and I think he'll take to Wetherby. His greatest dangers may lie further out in the betting than with the favourite. Time will tell.
Chicklemix had an interesting entry this week, but bypassed it. I'm still waiting to see her in a novice handicap chase and she stays on the list.
Woodbank was again caught out by his jumping frailties at Ludlow last week, but he's too young and too talented to be giving up on. I'd like to see him have a break now and spend some time working on his jumping technique because he definitely appeared to lose his confidence in the latter part of the race - it was guts that got him as close as he was to Be All Man at the finish.
To the new additions and it's Sire De Grugy who simply has to be included after his emphatic success at Chepstow on Saturday.
It wasn't a great race and with Rebel Rebellion failing to run any sort of race for Paul Nicholls (see above), only the free-going early leader Majala put up a fight.
However Majala set a punishing pace in the conditions, leading to the race being run in a time that was highly impressive given the soft ground, but despite these fierce fractions Sire De Grugy always looked to have the leader in his sights whenever he wanted him.
He came up short in Grade One company at Aintree in April, but Gary Moore was kicking himself after that race for leaving the horse short of his peak after a five-month absence. Indeed, Sire De Grugy ran again twice that month, winning at Stratford and Sandown, on the latter occasion beating some decent yardsticks with a sweeping late run. He jumps well and wants to please.
The question for connections is which route to take given that the shadow of Sprinter Sacre hangs over the elite two-mile division, but there are few men better equipped than Moore to work his way through the programme book and find the right opportunities for Sire De Grugy. A step up to two and a half miles certainly wouldn't be beyond him either - perhaps the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December might be on the agenda?
Another potential class act is Shutthefrontdoor, who to my mind laid down a decent marker for the RSA Chase despite there being such a long way to go between now and Cheltenham when outbattling Beeves to win at Aintree.
The Mildmay fences take some jumping for any novice, but Shutthefrontdoor was impressively polished in that respect. Given that we know he stays much further than this two-and-a-half-mile trip, he deserves credit for pulling out enough to beat Beeves, and he surely won't have been fully wound up at this stage of the campaign.
A good-looking horse with size and strength, he will have learned more from this victory than many of his trainer's runners do when mopping up small-field novice chases at cramped odds and he's one to follow until beaten.
One of the most unexpected tales to emerge from the most recent weeks of the jumps campaign has been the transformation of professional loser Get It On into a winning machine. He had only modest rivals to beat at Ffos Las on Tuesday, but simply cantered all over them, making it two from two having failed to score for more than two years previously despite being sent off at less than 5/1 on 12 of those occasions.
Ballinvarrig was notably well backed to beat Get It On on his seasonal return at Chepstow on Saturday, but connections didn't know what they were about to bump into.
However the 35 lengths he finished behind the winner by no means accurately reflects the margin of supremacy, as Paddy Brennan eased his mount right down once defeat was inevitable.
Watch the replay and you will see a horse who travelled well and looked a surefire future winner this season, especially when connections switch to a right-handed track so that he isn't forfeiting ground at most of his fences. Market Rasen would be my choice, although Tom George also has a decent record at Leicester.