It was business as usual as Chepstow opened the autumn season proper for the Jumps season yesterday and today, as Paul Nicholls set out his stall to regain his Champion Trainer status. Four winners each day from among the 8 races on each of the two days signalled an intent to set the pace in the Championship, and to accelerate the modest rate of winners by his standards to date since the resumption of racing on July 1.
Three length winner McFabulous in yesterday's opening Pattern race of the season, the Persian War, masked the ease of victory, and earned a fanciful 14/1 quote for the Stayers Hurdle. Who knows however? With the advent of the Mares race in lieu of the Novices Handicap Chase, the championship graded races are diluted once again, and further improvement may allow him to play among the grown-ups.
A golden hour from 2.30 - 3.30 today allowed the Ditcheat team to scopp up the day's two most valuable races with Secret Investor and Grand Sancy, whilst there was clearly no surprise in Knapper's Hill's facile victory in Div I of the concluding Bumper on his opening bow.
Nicholls lags our very own Fergal O'Brien, whose blistering pace of a winner every third runner has resulted in a £30k lead at thre top of the Championship from 37 winners. Nicholls has been coasting along in second, some 15 winners and £24k adrift. In reality, it's no contest, but all of us in the area have greatly enjoyed one of our own setting the pace in such resolute fashion.
But whilst it wasn't a day for Gloucestershire trainers at Chepstow, it was a red letter day for long serving owner David Brace, whose son Connor is Conditional at Fergal O'Brien's Ravenhill yard. Connor came to promience riding largely for his father between the flags, and Pink Eyed Pedro, a veteran of 10 Pointing wins and a further 4 under Rules, chalked up a winner at his favourite course for David, who trains at Pyle in South Wales, host to the Llangeinor Point-to-Point. This was Connor's 63rd winner since he graduated to the professional ranks in autumn 2018.
It wasn't a blank day for Gloucestershire however. Irish Point-to-Point graduate Scene Not Herd justified favouritism comfortably in the Maiden Hurdle at Hexham for Charlie Longsdon, partnered by Champion Jockey Brian Hughes to make the 530 mile round trio well worthwhile, and bringing Charlie's tally to 11.
From here on in the season gathers momentum, albeit presently still without spectators. And with the Point-to-Point scene starting in a fortnight - again behind closed doors - there will be plenty to assess. We're just all hoping the restrictions may be relaxed by the New Year to enable Cocklebarrow to welcome visitors on January 24. The clock is already ticking...