After the first major meeting of the new National Hunt horse racing season proper, there are Chepstow horses to follow who impressed in South Wales.
The two-day event included the Grade 2 Persian War for novice hurdlers and a small but select crop of top novice chasers competing at Listed level.
There were also handicaps, including the Grade 3 Silver Trophy over hurdles and a number of quality chasers, as well as a juvenile hurdle and four-year-olds only contest.
These Chepstow races have been the launchpad for many top class jumps racehorses.
Like Cheltenham, the course is left-handed and undulating – although not to the same extent as Prestbury Park.
Soft ground is proper going for jumpers, yet it found a few out.
There are of course those who will come on for their first runs of the season, but here are five Chepstow horses to follow that caught the eye of OpenOdds experts.
Philip Hobbs took the bold decision to pitch last season’s Cheltenham Champion Bumper third Thyme Hill straight into graded company over hurdles in the Persian War.
He held entries in easier races, yet the decision to run in Chepstow’s Friday feature paid off as he made a taking bow in this sphere.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson settled Thyme Hill in midfield and later pushed him along two out.
The five-year-old son of Kayf Tara went second in-between the last two flights and was driven to lead in the final 150 yards.
Thyme Hill then finished stoutly, outpacing Fiddlerontheroof by a couple of lengths. It was a fine display on his hurdles debut over an extended 2m 3f.
Placed in the Champion Bumper, Thyme Hill produces a classy performance on his hurdling debut under @dickyjohnson77 for @PJHobbs1 to land the @UnibetRacing Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at @Chepstow_Racing… pic.twitter.com/xosbUcTocF
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 11, 2019
Cheltenham Festival quotes from bookmakers flooded in and, now the market has settled down, Thyme Hill is a shorter price for the 3m Albert Bartlett than the Ballymore over an intermediate trip.
Connections surely have a right to dream about one or other of those based on that performance.
There is plenty of stamina in Thyme Hill’s pedigree – for all the Albert Bartlett is a true staying test for novice hurdlers.
At any rate, he is one of the more obvious Chepstow horses to follow after landing the Persian War and advertising Champion Bumper form.
Thyme Hill was the best placed of the English horses at Cheltenham and performers in that sphere often do want longer trips.
Gloucestershire trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies traditionally has a good autumn with his runners. He landed two handicaps with horses carrying top-weight at Chepstow.
The first of those was Torpillo for powerful owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
Connections often look to France for recruits and this cross-Channel import won his first two starts for his current yard last season. They were wide-margin romps in minor juvenile events at Sandown.
Torpillo was at that stage a lively contender for the Triumph Hurdle, but defeat at Haydock in the Victor Ludorum meant a rethink and he ran in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham instead.
He carried top-weight there on soft ground and failed to fire. Despite that disappointing end to last season, punters were prepared to forgive Torpillo despite him encountering similar conditions at Chepstow.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 11, 2019
The Alanadi gelding was backed into 3/1 for the four-year-old limited handicap hurdle and won with any amount in hand eased down by jockey Daryl Jacob.
Torpillo raced wide, but cruised clear of many re-opposing rivals from Cheltenham two out. It was a very impressive return to action.
Although he makes it onto this list of Chepstow horses to follow, the problem is Torpillo may struggle if pitched in similar company against his elders – especially off 11lb higher.
Handicaps are a tough gig for four-year-olds even with some giving weight-for-age allowances. Torpillo is still well worth keeping an eye on, though.
British champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls often targets the Persian War meeting with some of his brightest prospects.
Silver Forever had smart bumper form in the book and justified favouritism on her hurdles bow against fellow mares with a decisive win.
Stable companions Trevelyn’s Corn and Flic Ou Voyou were both beaten at Chepstow, but the five-year-old daughter of Jeremy ensured the yard ended the first day with a winner.
Silver Forever was sent off odds-on and her supporters never had an anxious moment. She led going best in-between the last two hurdles and only needed shaking up by Harry Cobden before going clear.
Victory in South Wales has qualified Silver Forever for the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Finale – a limited handicap run at Newbury over 2m 4f in March.
The series still has plenty of other races in it, but connections may be aiming even higher than that with her.
Although bumper winners tend to want that sort of trip, Silver Forever earned quotes for the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham.
If that is the target, she would be dropping down in distance for a race dominated by Irish raiders since it was introduced at the Festival.
The second of Twiston-Davies’ winners and Chepstow horses to follow is Ballyoptic. Like stable companion Torpillo, he won a competitive handicap off top-weight.
Although now a nine-year-old, the son of Old Vic has always been held in high regard by his yard.
Ballyoptic brought some very classy novice chase form into open company last season after going down by a nose in the 2018 Scottish Grand National.
The English equivalent at Aintree was his target for the campaign, but he fell on reappearance on his first try over the unique spruce covered fences in the Becher Chase.
While Ballyoptic was then a creditable sixth off top-weight in the Welsh Grand National here, he failed to complete in others races.
He was pulled up when tailed off in the Grand National Trial at Haydock and took a tumble four out in the big one itself.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 12, 2019
This reappearance at Chepstow over almost 3m was perhaps the easiest assignment Ballyoptic has had in two years.
He made all under Sam Twiston-Davies and kept on well for a nine-length victory over former Stayers’ Hurdle second Lil Rockerfeller.
Ballyoptic could well be aimed at the Grand National again, but the assessor has put him 5lb for that win to a career high chase mark of 157. It’s 2lb more than what he ran off in the Welsh equivalent last season.
If Colin Tizzard runs Native River in that Christmastime event again, that would keep Ballyoptic’s weight down should he return to Chepstow. He is now two from three at this venue which clearly suits.
Last and by no means least is Fergal O’Brien trained six-year-old Jarveys Plate, who landed a competitive three-runner Listed novice chase.
He was the outsider of the trio, but still backed into 11/2 from 7/1 for victory by punters. Tackling dual Grade 1 winning hurdler Reserve Tank was a tough task on paper.
There were times when Jarveys Plate wasn’t particularly quick through the air or fluent over the fences on his chasing bow, but he warmed to the task on his way round Chepstow.
This Getaway gelding surged clear after Reserve Tank fluffed the last to score by 4 1/2 lengths.
It was an impressive performance against a well-regarded rival who found nothing for pressure and carried his head awkwardly.
Jarveys Plate is a Cheltenham winner over hurdles after landing a Listed Ballymore Trial last season.
There looks to be plenty more to come from him in this sphere, however, but there’s also a suspicion that the runner-up may improve for what was his first chase outing.
O’Brien has seen his charge put up to 149 for the victory – an 8lb hike.
The yard likes to target the Persian War meeting with some of its best inmates, so Jarveys Plate had to be among the Chepstow horses to follow that caught our eye.