1.55 Chepstow – UMNDENI (nap)
The opening division of the novices’ hurdle on the card looks a fascinating renewal, with a last-time-out winner facing a promising bumper winner and one or two returning from absences having shown promise previously.
The selection, trained by Philip Hobbs, is a well-bred son of Balko who made a winning start to his career in a bumper at Warwick in April (well-supported 3/1 market leader), close up and travelling smoothly throughout, taking over on the approach to the straight and staying on well inside the final two furlongs to maintain the advantage and score by 2¾ lengths from Morning Vicar. He showed signs of inexperience when hitting the front that day, still seeing things out strongly enough to repel a previous winner, the pair nicely clear of the remainder. That form has yet to be tested but the impression this gelding created was a lasting one, especially as his pedigree suggests the best is very much yet to come being a brother to last season’s smart novice hurdler Vision Des Flos and out of a half sister to good jumpers Balko Des Flos and Salut Flo. He comes from a stable that has been amongst the winners of late, and it won this particular event a couple of years ago; open to significant improvement and bred to excel over obstacles, it wouldn’t at all surprise to see this son of Balko make a winning start to his hurdling career here.
The Alan King-trained Deyrann De Carjac is a son of Balko who shaped with promise on his seasonal reappearance in a bumper here last October and followed that with a solid effort on his hurdling bow over 2m at Doncaster a month and a half later, staying on nicely from the last to come home in third behind Kalashnikov (beaten 14½ lengths). He wasn’t seen again until chasing home Brahms De Clermont in a 2m novices’ hurdle at Ayr in April, and he made no mistake when fully justifying odds of 2/5 in a 2m maiden hurdle at Warwick three weeks later, keen under restraint close up but readily coming clear in the straight to score by 20 lengths from Sgroppino. He was merely taking advantage of a gilt edged opportunity last time, his previous form when beaten reading very well; a useful prospect that enjoys decent ground, he should go well here despite having to shoulder a 6lb penalty.
Nicky Henderson’s Pym is a son of Stowaway who made a winning debut in a traditionally-strong bumper at Ayr back in April 2017, but he wasn’t seen again until finding only Danny Kirwan too good in a bumper at Kempton in February, rallying well for pressure in the home straight to finish a couple of lengths adrift of the winner at the line. He signed off with a creditable enough ninth place finish in the Grade 2 bumper at Aintree’s Grand National meeting a couple of months later, waited with and shaken up at the top of the straight, eventually responding approaching the final furlong and keeping on well (beaten 18 lengths). The races he has contested thus far show the regard in which he is held, far from disgraced last time when perhaps not enjoying the slow ground and having to come from a fair way back; fact he makes his hurdling debut in the same race as connections’ Altior is perhaps significant and he commands respect, though, given how he shaped in bumpers, 2m may prove something of a minimum in time.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Volcano is a son of Martaline who made a winning debut (for Christian Williams) in a 13f bumper at Exeter last October, claiming the scalp of subsequent Grade 2 winner Acey Milan, but the tables were reversed in no uncertain terms when the pair met again in a 14f Listed event at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. His only other outing came in the Champion Bumper back at Cheltenham a couple of months later, racing in midfield and pushed along on the approach to the straight, soon left well behind and trailing home in 18th behind Relegate (beaten 35 lengths). It is disappointing that he couldn’t kick on from a promising debut success at the expense of a smart sort, coming up short in the face of stiff enough tasks on his two subsequent outings; makes his hurdling debut at a time when his stable is in fine form, but one or two others make more appeal here.
The David Pipe-trained Duc De Beauchene is a son of Saddler Maker who shaped with promise on debut in a bumper at Ffos Las back in March 2017, making good progress from the rear of the field with half a mile left to run, responding all the way to the line but failing by half a length to overhaul Jaunty Warrior. His only other outing to date came in a well-contested bumper at Wetherby four weeks later, refusing to settle fully under restraint in rear, ridden over three furlongs out and getting to within striking distance of the leaders two furlongs out, edging left and soon left behind as he came home in ninth behind Kalashnikov (beaten 24 lengths). For all it was disappointing he couldn’t build on a promising debut effort, that race has worked out particularly well; absence since an obvious concern and entitled to improve for this run, though the market should guide the way in that respect.
Dan Skelton’s Realms Of Fire is a nicely-bred son of Malinas who offered some encouragement on debut in a big-field bumper at Warwick back in April (for Alan King), but he has cut little ice in a pair of 2m novice hurdles at Bangor for his current stable, waited with and soon left behind when the tempo increased. He needs this run for a mark and will be of interest in handicaps from what ought to be a lowly rating given he boasts a good jumping pedigree.