News Paul Ferguson's Jumpers To Follow 4-Y-O Hurdle

Paul Ferguson's Jumpers To Follow 4-Y-O Hurdle


by Paul Ferguson
For the seventh year in succession, Weatherbys sponsor the four-year-old handicap hurdle on the first day of Chepstow’s Jumps Season Opener fixture. This is the fifth year that the race will carry the banner of Jumpers To Follow and I am delighted to see such a competitive field declared for Friday’s contest.

Due to rail movements, it is worth noting that there will be an extra 108 yards added to this race (according to the going report on the BHA site) and that could be quite significant, due to the fact that there appears to be plenty of pace in the race – more of which shortly.
Paul Nicholls boasts a fantastic record in this race, having won it six times in the past 11 years. 2018 winner Grand Sancy carried the red and green silks of Sir Martin Broughton and he is again represented this year, by the grey Hell Red. The winner of the juvenile hurdle at this fixture 12 months ago, he book-ended the campaign by winning comfortably at Newton Abbot and is clearly at home on a relatively sound surface. Nicholls would have had several options for this race, so it seems significant that the son of Martaline was his sole entry last Monday. A mark of 130 seems fair and he should go well.
One possible negative for Hell Red is that he likes to race up with the pace and as briefly touched upon already, there are several other pace angles among his 11 opponents. Top-weight Cabot Cliffs is a free-going/head-strong individual; Casa Loupi made virtually all in all five starts as a juvenile last term and appeared to appreciate the sharp tracks when successful at both Plumpton and Wincanton; the Olly Murphy-trained Tinnahalla looks to be cut from a similar cloth to that pair, in that he, too, needs to be ridden positively; and Caldwell is another who made all when winning in the spring at Musselburgh. He jumped left on that occasion, so should be better suited by the configuration of Chepstow, but is now much worse off at the weights with Nicky Henderson’s filly Progressive.
It could, therefore, be a fascinating watch from a tactical perspective and you would assume that at least one or two of those mentioned will consider dropping-in and attempt to take a lead. Cabot Cliffs, Casa Loupi and Hell Red are three smart performers, however, and could hold a slight class advantage on the opposition.
The only other horse in the field rated in the 130s is the Oliver Greenall-trained Herbiers, who ended last season on a roll, winning handicaps at Ascot and Sandown. He stayed on well to beat his elders on the final day of the season and he had both Tinnahalla and Pyramid Place in behind when successful at Ascot on his penultimate start. Up 12lbs for those two victories, he will find life more difficult and will need to be tuned up for this reappearance, although being a hold-up performer, should have the race run to suit.
That final comment also applies to Elham Valley, who represents the in-form Fergal O’Brien stable. He had Hell Red (9th) and Cabot Cliffs (12th) well behind when running on well to take third spot in the Boodles at Cheltenham in March and a similarly strongly-run race would likely play to his strengths. If they do indeed go hard up front, that aforementioned additional yardage could come into play and it might just be that the race sets up perfectly for him. Hailing from the O’Brien/McPherson stable (the trainers have recently joined forces), fitness is unlikely to be an issue.
The field is completed by Megan, a filly who won impressively on debut last November on soft ground at Leicester; State Crown, who beat three rivals easily at Newton Abbot in late-August, so has race-fitness on his side and also represents a stable who has won this race twice in the past six years; and Orchestral Rain, who is the only other runner with a recent run to their name. He drops back in trip having looked a non-stayer at Perth last month, although more is required here, against much stronger opposition.