1.25 Chepstow – THE BIG BITE (nap)
This two-mile maiden hurdle is a race that should throw up plenty of future winners, a handful of bumper winners facing point-to-point recruits and one or two others that have shaped with some promise in defeat so far.
The selection, trained by Tom George, is a nicely-bred son of Scorpion who followed up a debut success at Lingfield in March 2017 (for Tom Lacey) with victory in a bumper at Huntingdon on Boxing Day, waited with in touch and making smooth progress on the outer heading into the straight, still on the bit approaching the final furlong and shaken up to lead soon after, driven clear to score by 2½ lengths from Shaughnessy. His only other outing of the season came in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March, waited with and racing exuberantly under restraint, shaken up three furlongs out and never able to muster the speed to challenge, battling on well as he came home 11th of 23 to Relegate (beaten 14¼ lengths). This gelding strongly appeals as the type to make his mark over obstacles, both his pedigree and physique strong indicators that he’ll excel in this sphere, and that he was able to achieve the level of form that he did in bumpers says plenty about him. He finished one place ahead of stablemate Seddon at Cheltenham, and that one was an impressive winner on his hurdling debut last week; for all this son of Scorpion is another by his sire that isn’t entirely straightforward, it wouldn’t at all surprise to see him follow suit.
The Tom Lacey-trained Meep Meep is a daughter of Flemensfirth who followed a debut success in a bumper here last March with a creditable fourth place finish in the Grade 2 mares’ bumper at Aintree the following month, racing in midfield and ridden over two furlongs out, responding well for pressure inside the final furlong and staying on to take fourth behind Getaway Katie Mai (beaten 4¼ lengths). She made her return to action in a 2m 3½f mares’ novice hurdle back here last month, heading up the main group behind the clear leader, driven along between the fourth and third last flights, running around when looking to challenge two out and held from the before the final flight as she came home in fourth behind Posh Trish (beaten 8¾ lengths). It was a reasonable enough introduction over obstacles, shaping as though in need of the run by the finish having tried to challenge two out; quite whether this return to the minimum distance is the answer remains to be seen given her pedigree/the way she shaped in bumpers last term, but she does at least have a run under her belt over timber as well as the sex allowance here.
Alan King’s Harambe is a son of Malinas who made a winning debut in a bumper at Ludlow last December, staying on strongly from off the pace to lead inside the final furlong and score by a neck from Flash The Steel, but he was unable to follow up under a penalty when second of seven to Thebannerkingrebel in a bumper at Bangor in February. However, he stepped up on both of those efforts when contesting a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree a couple of months later, waited with in midfield until making good progress from the top of the straight, challenging two furlongs out and keeping on willingly for pressure but never quite able get to Portrush Ted and having to settle for third (beaten 3¼ lengths). It was a commendable effort in defeat, battling on well for pressure without ever quite looking like getting to the winner and losing second close home, and the winner, fourth, sixth, ninth and one or two others down the field have already come out and won over hurdles. He himself is bred to excel in this sphere and, for all further may well suit in due course, it would be something of a surprise if he wasn’t very much involved here.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Tedham is a nicely-bred son of Shirocco who debuted in a big-field bumper at Warwick in April, racing in touch and taking a keen hold, travelling better than most into straight but soon shaken up and unable to make an impression on clear-cut winner Umndeni, having to settle for third in the end (beaten 6½ lengths). He made his return to action in a 2m 1f novices’ hurdle at Carlisle 20 days ago, waited with in behind the pacesetters and shaken up before two out, left behind by the principals but keeping on well on the flat to finish fourth behind Al Dancer (beaten 11 lengths). This gelding has travelled well to a point on both outings to date, tapped-for-toe once the tempo lifted last time but considerately handled and coming back again at the line; hurdling experience should count for something but likely he’ll excel once tackling a bit further/handicap company.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Ebony Gale is a son of Shirocco who stepped up on his debut sixth at Kempton to land a bumper at Wincanton back in April, restrained into last place early on until moving closer on the approach to the straight, shaken up and making good progress from over two furlongs out to lead approaching the final furlong, staying on well to fend off stablemate Larkbarrow Lad and score by 1¼ lengths. The manner in which he made up the ground to score was impressive, but the level of form he showed in winning that day lags a fair way behind some of the Graded bumper form on offer, with the next three home doing little to enhance the race since. For all he is bred to make a jumper, this looks a tough introduction to hurdling and others make more appeal this time.
Harry Whittington’s Jammy George is a son of Multiplex who showed the benefit of his debut outing to land a bumper at Limerick last December for Thomas Cooper, but he offered very little promise in a couple of maiden hurdles at Naas (2m 3f) and back at Limerick (2m 6f) earlier this year, fading from prominence to end up well beaten on both occasions. He has joined a good yard that has interestingly seen fit to drop him back to 2m straight away, but handicaps will become an option after this and he starts out in Britain in what looks an above-average contest.
The Graeme McPherson-trained Boldmere is a son of Multiplex whose sole outing to date came in a bumper at Wincanton back in April (20/1 chance), racing in midfield until pushed along and somewhat outpaced on the approach to the straight, running green but responding well inside the final two furlongs and keeping on to finish fifth behind Samarquand (beaten 7 lengths). There was plenty of encouragement to take from this gelding’s debut performance, green and a bit caught for speed initially but responding well all the way to the line; kicks off over hurdles in a warm race, but open to improvement and represents a good stable that does better over obstacles.