Timeform highlight the key horses running at the first big meeting of the jumps season at Chepstow on Friday.
"...fared best of the British when finishing third in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and will be suited by stepping up to 2½m..."
Timeform on Thyme Hill
For many National Hunt fans Chepstow's two-day meeting signals the start of the 'proper' jumps season. This year's fixture, which has been moved to a Friday-Saturday slot, starts with a bang through the Grade 2 Persian War Novices' Hurdle (14:10), which has been used as a springboard to better things by horses such as Silviniaco Conti and Reve de Sivola.
Silviniaco Conti's trainer Paul Nicholls has won two of the last three runnings (and six of the last 12) and is represented this time round by Trevelyn's Corn, who cost £400,000 after winning his point and showed fairly useful form to win a maiden hurdle at Wincanton in March. He was found wanting when fast-tracked into Group 1 company at Aintree the following month but has undergone a wind operation and retains the potential to do much better.
The Persian War is always an intriguing contest as it pits some experienced hurdlers against promising bumper performers thrown in at the deep end on their debut over obstacles. The only two without hurdling experience are Fiddlerontheroof and Thyme Hill, but they are high on the shortlist of likely winners and are certainly among the most interesting types with the future in mind.
Fiddlerontheroof beat a highly regarded horse from the Willie Mullins yard in March and has since joined Colin Tizzard's powerhouse stable after being sold for £200,000, while Thyme Hill fared best of the British when finishing third in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and will be suited by stepping up to 2½m.
Silver Forever also took high rank in the bumper division last season, with her two wins including an impressive debut success at this venue, and she found only one too strong when tackling a listed race at Sandown on her final start. She makes her hurdling debut in the 2m3½f mares' novices' hurdle (17:35) and could be an exciting prospect for Nicholls this season.
Nicholls will also have a leading fancy for the 2m7½f novices' chase (15:20) in the shape of Truckers Lodge, but he will face a stern challenge from Lisnagar Oscar, who won a Grade 2 novices' hurdle at Haydock last year so is of obvious interest on his first start over fences. His limitations were exposed to an extent in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree, but he is clearly a useful sort and may fare better as a chaser, mindful of the fact he won a point by eight lengths.
Many hardcore jumps fans will be most looking forward to the veterans' handicap chase (15:55), which features some stalwarts of the national hunt scene, including Dell' Arca, The Young Master and Perfect Candidate.
The Young Master won over C&D on his reappearance last season and finished runner-up in the bet365 Gold Cup on his final start of the campaign, highlighting the fire still burns brightly, so he is likely to prove popular with punters having had a spin on the Flat last week.
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