Sky Sports Racing’s Elliot David has five selections to attack the trio of meetings live on Bank Holiday Monday including the Sussex Champion Chase.
ASK ME EARLY – 2:35 Chepstow
A classy nine-runner field assemble for the Don Long Memorial Chase and with rain forecast from around midnight, much will depend on the conditions come the off with a handful of these likely to prefer some cut in the ground.
Top weight Ramses De Teillee is certainly one who will want it soft with seven of his eight career wins coming on going officially described as soft or heavy. Should the ground fall in his favour he’s likely to give it a bold sight from the front but I fancy he may just struggle to shoulder 12-2 and concede weight to another mud lover in Ask Me Early.
Harry Fry’s nine-year-old was being strongly touted for the Welsh National here not long ago, but injury ruled him out of Chepstow’s showpiece event and he’s been lightly raced since. In just three starts this season his standout form is a Bangor third when well held in behind Dan Skelton’s Le Milos, which we now know to be a strong piece of form.
This race looks to set up slightly easier for him and as a three-time course winner he evidently loves west Wales! As said, I’d want the ground on the soft side for him and if that were the case it would count against the likes of Forgot To Ask in particular.
BIG JIMBO – 3:33 Plumpton
Having made some good progress on the flat of late, Gary Moore’s six-year-old returns to the National Hunt sphere for the first time since April 2021 and looks potentially very well treated.
Form of 3-1-2-2 since returning from a 643-day absence is indicative of a horse in good form and a mark of 91 looks an enticing prospect now switched to hurdles. I don’t think bare form of 3-2-P-5 in this discipline outlines his chances as well as it could and instead you’ve got to look at his effort at Fontwell in September 2020. That maiden, won by Sean Curran’s Talking About You, has worked out well with the winner going on to a peak rating of 135 while 3rd Orchestral Rain reached 121. At the time it was a very encouraging effort from Moore’s charge and though their careers have taken different trajectories he’s got to be worth a look here.
My only query would be the rain we’re due at the Sussex venue on the morning of racing and into the afternoon. He’s got 10f form on soft ground on the flat, but was pulled up when encountering similar in one start over hurdles and as a result is somewhat unproven on a softer surface.
WAR LORD – 4:08 Plumpton
Joe Tizzard’s eight-year-old grey is undoubtedly the class horse of the field in the Sussex Champion Chase and I think there’s plenty of reasons to forgive his run in the Magners Plate at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen.
Looking back through his form it seems clear he prefers a small field, with form in fields of 10 or more reading 2-11. Four of his six wins plus four placed efforts have come in fields of eight or less and the Plumpton feature looks likely to be his cup of tea.
You only have to look back to his 2022 campaign to see him running sound races in Grade Ones at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals and on his day this is undoubtedly a smart horse. I thought he ran a cracking race when back in a small field at Wetherby on February 4, rain softened ground won’t inconvenience him and at odds of 8-1 [at time of writing] he can give you a great run for your money.
THE THUNDERER – 4:38 Wolverhampton
This five-year-old looks a very interesting runner for rookie trainer Ollie Sangster having made the switch from Sean Curran. Sangster narrowly missed out on a winner with his first runner in these colours when Cruise filled the runner-up spot at Kempton, but he looks to have taken on some well-treated horses.
This horse absolutely bolted up on his final start for the retiring Chris Wall at Kempton in October, earning an enhanced rating of 77 but was never sighted in three runs for Curran. The BHA handicapper has dropped him to a mark of 72, just 5lb above that of his Kempton victory and excellent 5lb claimer Connor Planas looks an eye-catching booking here.
This is a modest race and the principals have largely struggled to win off their current handicap marks while Ed Dunlop’s Sarkha has a lot to prove on handicap debut following the gelding op. He’d be worth a market check as a close relative of three winners for the Newmarket handler, while the same can be said for David Menuisier’s Spyfall who is on a bit of a retrieval mission. I fancy the Sangster runner to outrun odds of 12-1 [at time of writing] in an open Handicap.
DIVILSKIN – 5:35 Chepstow
Paul Nicholls boasts an enviable record in bumpers at Chepstow, seeing 18 of 53 runners victorious at a 34 per cent strike rate in the last 10 years. That tally of 18 is more than treble that of any other trainer in the last decade and all the Ditcheat runners in the two divisions (4.55 & 5.35) are worthy of great respect on that alone.
Divilskin was sent off a strongly-backed 4-6 market favourite for a soft ground Southwell bumper in November but fluffed his lines, finishing well beaten in behind the useful Favour And Fortune.
As it turns out, a defeat to that rival would’ve been no disgrace but he was reported to have made a respiratory noise and has since had wind surgery.
The point-to-point winner returns with something to prove, but given his strength in the market prior to that debut is evidently well thought of and can hopefully begin to deliver on his 245,000 guineas price tag here.