Winter begins officially on Saturday, at least for National Hunt fans. There

is some first class jumping action this weekend on both sides of the

Irish Sea with some established stars and future contenders joining

battle. The Grade 1 James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at the

bucolic Down Royal in Northern Ireland is just about the pick of the


What adds particularly piquancy is the presence of two English raiders

in a race that the Irish have had a stranglehold on. One of those

looking to score a debut win for a horse from over the Irish Sea is

Taranis. He is by far the most interesting runner in the race.

Taranis was top class over two miles but really thrived when stepped up

in trip to win the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival over 2m4f.

That form is out of the very top draw. Toiling in his wake that day was

the impressive grey Monet’s Garden, who went on to lower the colours of

none over than Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star last weekend. If

Taranis gets the trip he wins, simple.

The Bet 365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby is the best of the action in

Britain. Some high-class chasers have won this, including Champion

Chase winner One Man and Gold Cup hero See More Business. There are

plenty of exposed older horses in the field, so it may pay to side with

one that might still be on the upgrade. State of Play fits the bill.

He looked to be headed for the top after an impressive win in the

Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup on his seasonal debut at Newbury last term, but

was rather disappointing thereafter.

However, State of Play is still only seven and has time to resurrect his career. At Ascot, Papini will take all the beating.


2:30 Down: Royal Taranis (win)

2:45 Ascot: Papini (win)

3:30 Wetherby: State of Play (win)

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