Racing: Grey Abbey to spike big guns as jumps takes over

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The Independent Online

The Jumping season, which has been hanging about in the wings for a few weeks now, finally leapfrogs its Flat counterpart on to centre stage today, on the domestic billboard at least. Yes, events in Texas tonight will be fascinating, but there will be as many yee-haas of delight from devotees of our winter game at less exotic locations in Yorkshire and Monmouthshire as a selection of serious leppers emerge from summer wraps.

The Jumping season, which has been hanging about in the wings for a few weeks now, finally leapfrogs its Flat counterpart on to centre stage today, on the domestic billboard at least. Yes, events in Texas tonight will be fascinating, but there will be as many yee-haas of delight from devotees of our winter game at less exotic locations in Yorkshire and Monmouthshire as a selection of serious leppers emerge from summer wraps.

The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby is the season's first pointer to high-class chasing form in the staying division. Previous winners include See More Business, One Man, Forgive 'N Forget and Burrough Hill Lad.

The reigning monarch is not present today, but no horse has come closer to dethroning Best Mate than Sir Rembrandt, just half-a-length adrift on that historic day in March. And, if all goes well in today's Grade 2 contest, the eight-year-old will have another go at the triple Gold Cup winner at Exeter next month.

His trainer, Robert Alner, certainly thinks he's hard enough. "He's done well over the summer and we were happy with him when he schooled the other day," he said. "He'll meet some good horses at Wetherby, but that's what happens when you get to where he is."

One of those Alner was referring to was one of last season's best novices, Lord Sam, who looked the part when taking his unbeaten fencing run to four with a gritty success over Grade One winner Hi Cloy at Punchestown in April. Today will be the eight-year-old's first start outside novice company and trainer Victor Dartnall hopes the star of his north Devon stable will rise to the occasion, literally and figuratively. "He seems well, but it's a tall enough order for a second-season chaser moving up in class," he said.

The Charlie Hall is sometimes won, not by ultimately the best horse - which, on the ratings, is easily Sir Rembrandt - but the fittest and there may be value in opposing the big guns with Grey Abbey (2.50). The front-running 10-year-old has found new zest since switching to Howard Johnson's care and finished the season with victory in the Scottish Grand National.

The grey blew the cobwebs away with a racecourse gallop at his favourite Ayr this month. He has won over the course and distance; indeed, all his 12 wins have come on similarly left-handed tracks.

The Wetherby card also features two significant hurdles contests, the West Yorkshire for those with pretensions to the marathon crown and the Wensleydale for the youngest generation. The classiest horse in the former is Crystal D'Ainay, third to Iris's Gift and Baracouda in the Stayers' at Cheltenham. His trainer, Alan King, feels he may benefit from the run and so preference is for Telemoss (3.25), who has not run over the smaller obstacles for more than two years but has been targeted at today.

On the Flat, Newmarket closes for business until the Craven meeting next year with a card that includes four juvenile races. The testing ground will be a major factor, with Ayam Zaman (2.05) only a tentative suggestion. But assuredly assorted futures lie in wait for the young hopefuls on display. The filly that finished second last in the opening maiden 12 months ago, Calomeria, won at her first attempt over hurdles at Haydock last week and turns out at Wetherby today. The one that came in third in the mile listed contest has done rather better. She was a certain Ouija Board.

Hyperion's tips for:

Ayr: 11.0 Danzatrice; 11.30 Passion Fruit; 12.0 Encounter; 12.30 Aston Lad; 1.0 Touch Of Irony.

Kelso: 2.0 Indy Mood; 2.30 Glenfarclas Boy; 3.5 Rosalyons; 3.40 Salvage; 4.15 Thunderclap; 4.50 Sharp Single; 5.20 Fairy Skin Maker.

Wolverhampton: 7.0 Sweet Namiba; 7.30 Linda's Colin; 8.0 West Highland Way; 8.30 Boldini; 9.0 Cashel Mead; 9.30 Bond Millennium.

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