THIS is the first weekend of the autumn when the jumpers take centre stage and the highlight is tomorrow’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (3.20pm) at Wetherby. There are no 48-hour declarations for this race, so it’s not certain who will be running, but if the key market principles hold their ground it will be a top class renewal.
Nacarat bids to emulate Ollie Magern, See More Business and One Man by winning this a second time and he goes very well fresh. However, this is a much tougher race than last year and the grey has to concede weight to all of his rivals. Expect him to go off hard from the front, but I’d be surprised if something doesn’t go past him at the business end.
Time For Rupert looked a top class novice chaser last season and went off 7/4 favourite for the RSA Chase. In hindsight, his run to finish fifth was remarkable seeing as he bled after the race and he’s also an excellent jumper. My worry is whether he’s recovered from that setback and you’d also have to think that there are bigger targets ahead for Paul Webber’s stable star.
Nick Williams has had some decent horses in his day, but DIAMOND HARRY is surely the best and his record of 10 wins from 13 starts is formidable. He won last year’s Hennessy in imperious style, missing out on the course record by just 0.7 seconds, and in so doing, keeping up his 100% seasonal reappearance record (five from five).
He was then trained with the Gold Cup in mind, but suffered an injury, and connections have said that he’s now back to his best. His record fresh speaks for itself, and he jumps, travels and stays, so all looks set for a massive run at 5/2 with Star Sports.
Poquelin goes well at this time of year and he is the highest rated in the field, but I just don’t think he has the scope of Diamond Harry. Gordon Elliott’s Chicago Grey is an interesting outsider at 14/1 with Paddy Power, who could sneak into the places if fully recovered from unseating Paul Carberry at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago.
There are some competitive handicaps at Ascot tomorrow and MUIRHEAD must have a great chance of landing the United House Gold Cup (3.40pm) for the in-form Noel Meade stable. The eight-year-old was fifth in the 2009 Champion Hurdle and is now starting to show what he’s made of as a chaser. He won the Munster National readily last time and although he’s shot up in the weights, there should still be plenty of mileage in his handicap mark.
The williamhill.com Handicap Hurdle at 3.00pm is wide open and a chance can be given to pretty much every runner. That said, I was impressed with SIRE DE GRUGY last season and Gary Moore’s horses are flying at the moment. He always targets these big handicaps and the five-year-old looks worth backing each-way at around the 10/1 mark.
Over at Newmarket, I expect DUX SCHOLAR to give Sir Michael Stoute an end of season fillip in the 4.25pm Listed contest. It’s been a disappointing season by Stoute’s high standards, but this Oasis Dream colt deserves to get his head in front.
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SIRE DE GRUGY e/w 3.00pm Ascot (today)
DIAMOND HARRY 3.20pm Wetherby (today)
MUIRHEAD 3.40pm Ascot (today)
DUX SCHOLAR 4.25pm Newmarket (today)