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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

The big questions surrounding the Chepstow undercard

Coo Star Sivola makes his chasing debut on Sunday
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Is there another top novice chaser to be discovered?

Attentions have focused on Finian's Oscar in the lead up to this weekend, but the novices' chase on Sunday (2.15) is a good race in its own right, won by useful types such as Shotgun Paddy and Sausalito Sunrise in its six-year history.

All of the six runners were above-average over hurdles and Coo Star Sivola was actually second in last year's Persian War as a four-year-old. 

A second-season novice would not normally expect to be competitive in such company, but Captain Chaos is no ordinary second-season novice. He ran three times for Dan Skelton last year, at either Listed or Grade 2 level, and showed useful form when completing.

Skelton said: "He has some decent form, he was behind American at Warwick and he fell before it got serious at Wetherby.

"He's a second-season novice so he should have the experience edge on a few of them at this stage, but this is a tight novice and I expect plenty of them to be like that, there seem to be plenty of good horses going chasing this year."

More novice chases as competitive as this would be very welcome indeed.

Double Ross (left) finished third in the Hennessy after winning here last year
Life in the old dogs yet?

Veterans' chases like the 3.25 are as popular with fans as they are sniffed at by form purists.

There was one in the eye for the second group last year, as Double Ross won this race and went on to finish third in the Hennessy. He, along with second-placed Loose Chips and Theatrical Star, are back again for another go 12 months on.

The terms are 7lb in Double Ross's favour this year, but that is partly because Loose Chips has managed the rare feat of improving while in the veteran stage of his career. A bold-jumping front-runner, he is just the type of veteran the fans want to see.

Also in the race is Alvarado, more famous for his exploits in Nationals in April. His trainer Fergal O'Brien said: "It's a long time since I had him out this early, but to be fair to him you wouldn't know he was a 12-year-old in his work. As long as it's genuine good, good to soft ground he'll take his chance."

O'Brien added: "His aim will be the Scottish National again, because that's where he comes alive. It's a bit more risky with a horse his age, but as long as he's telling us he's enjoying his racing we'll keep going with him."

Another summer-winter clash to be decided

The 2m handicap hurdle (4.00) has no runners within 9lb of its 150 ceiling, but it still brings together improvers over the summer, those with unfinished business and lots more besides. 

For instance, Supreme seventh Elgin is the top weight and Oldgrangewood, tipped for graded success over fences, also turns up.

Oldgrangewood is almost a stone lower over hurdles than he is over fences after he finished third in Ayr's Future Champions Novices' Chase in April.

Trainer Dan Skelton said: "He'll go back over fences after this race. He has a lower mark over hurdles, though, so we thought we'd give him a try first time."

The six-year-old, who has something of an inclination to race freely, also wears a tongue-tie for the first time. Skelton added: "That's just trying something a bit different with him."

He's a second-season novice so he should have the experience edge on a few of them at this stage
E.W. Terms
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