By Chris Dixon
It may have officially been on the go pretty much since the last one finished, but it’s early days in the ‘real’ jumps season, and it has taken me a while to warm to the winter game again.
However, an afternoon at Cheltenham yesterday suddenly had me looking forward to the action over the sticks for the next six months and the cards at Aintree and Wincanton on Sunday have done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm.
It’s not easy from a punting point of view with several very competitive looking events taking place across the two meetings, but hopefully I can find at least one winner to make for a profitable day.
I’ll start with Aintree where the Old Roan Chase is the feature at 3.00, where the returning second-season chasers Shantou Village and Cloudy Dream head the market.
They are the two horses with the most potential and are set for a good season, but I think Cloudy Dream could well be the one who is further forward at this stage of the season and I’m siding with him at an early price of 5-1.
A high-class novice last season with some very strong form, he has an excellent record when fresh and should be well served by what is likely to be a well-run race over this intermediate trip.
Earlier on the card, I like the claims of Red Infantry in the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap at 1.15.
The winner of a similar event on his return to action at Sandown last season, Ian Williams’ charge failed to build on that opening success but did run enough good races to suggest he is capable of defying his current mark of 118.
A strong travelling horse, he’s the right type for this track and though his sole win was over a shorter trip, he showed enough stamina over this trip at Doncaster last season to suggest the distance won’t be an issue. The fact he was ready last season for his reappearance is encouraging, as is the form of the stable and I think he’s a better handicapped horse than most of his opponents.
The handicaps for veterans regularly attract the interest of racing fans through the season, with lots of old favourites going head to head but from a punting point of view but the horses that have had few or no chances in these races are the ones I’m drawn to.
A few in Aintree’s 1.50 fit the bill, but the one I’m keen on is The Romford Pele.
Campaigned over hurdles last year, presumably as a result of some jumping frailties he’d shown over fences in the past, he went the wrong way following a successful return off a mark of 144 at Newton Abbott. However, a change of scenery following a move to Tom George, who has revitalised a few horses in recent times, could see him rediscover his best form and with his new handler reporting his schooling has been good he makes plenty of appeal off what looks an attractive enough mark of 142 under conditions that should be perfect for him.
For the final selection I’m heading to Wincanton, where I’m hoping Bally Longford can make a winning return to action in the staying handicap at 2.45.
Disappointing when last seen at Kempton in December, an absence since suggests there may have been an issue that day and there’s not much wrong with his previous efforts at Cheltenham on his first two starts for this stable. Indeed, the third-place behind stablemate Theatre Guide suggests he’s on attractive enough mark and though he didn’t quite get home that day after travelling better than the pair that beat him, I think at a less demanding track he should last home. If he does, then he has a great chance and I’m happy to side with him at 9-2.
Chris Dixon’s Sunday selections:
(Prices correct at 9.30am)
1.15 Aintree: Red Infantry at 9-2 with Bet 365
1.50 Aintree: The Romford Pele at a general 6-1
3.00 Aintree: Cloudy Dream at a general 5-1