The first Grade 1 of the new jumps season takes place at Down Royal, where reigning King George champion Clan Des Obeaux faces a formidable opponent in one of last season’s leading novice chasers, Delta Work.
Gordon Elliott’s superstar took three Grade 1s last season and, in my opinion, was the best of the staying novices from last year- his only defeat coming in the RSA, where he may have been more inconvenienced by those who came home ahead of him by the stamina test the race developed into.
A return to an easier three miles here should see him at his best, though the same could be said about Clan Des Obeaux, who developed into a top-class chaser last season and went very well for a long way in the Gold Cup before his tank emptied late on, certainly shaping better than the bare result would suggest.
This race should play to the strengths of both horses and on paper, it’s a ridiculously close call between the pair of them.
The market speaks fractionally in favour of Delta Work, and that’s where I’d be leaning as well, though it’s worth mentioning it would be foolish to discount the reigning champion Road To Respect, who might lack the out-and-out star quality of the top two but is a consistent operator at the top level.
Down Royal’s undercard also features the Grade 2 Daily Mirror Chase over 2m4f, where Secret Investor, Mengli Khan and Real Steel will look to make a winning return to action.
The highlight in Britain is Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase, where dual Grade 1 winning novice chaser La Bague Au Roi looks to make a successful step into open company.
Warren Greatrex’s mare heads the betting for a competitive looking renewal of the Grade 2 event, where she’ll face last year’s winner Definitly Red, Welsh National hero Elegant Escape, Ryanair Chase runner-up Aso, and the locally trained Top Ville Ben.
The old boy Unowhatimeanharry, last seen winning in Grade 1 company at the Punchestown Festival, is the star name in the West Yorkshire Hurdle earlier on Wetherby’s flagship card.
He’ll take on Ballyandy for the Twiston-Davies team, and Tom George’s The Worlds End.
There’s also a competitive card at Ascot featuring two listed handicaps and a Grade 3, with Clondaw Castle, Didtheyleaveuoutto and Mister Malarky my picks for for each respective races whilst for flat fans, the Breeders’ Cup meeting at Santa Anita continues, with many familiar European names looking to bring a top prize back from the States.
Iridessa, Fleeting, Villa Marina and Billesdon Brook all go in the Filly & Mare Turf against local hotpot Sistercharlie. Circus Maximus is favourite to bring home the Mile- his opponents include Space Traveller, Lord Glitters, Hey Gaman, Suedois and last season’s St James’ Palace Stakes winner Without Parole, who makes a debut for leading US trainer Chad Brown.
The meeting is rounded off by the Breeders’ Cup Turf, where Anthony Van Dyck and Old Persian will look to upset Brown’s Arlington Million winner Bricks And Mortar.