CHEPSTOW’S Jump Season Opener on Saturday attracted some big fields and boasted some very competitive, classy racing.

The going was good to soft, good in places.

The first event on the track was the Legends charity race in aid of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. This two mile event on the flat was confined to former jump jockeys, and it produced a marvellous finish. Sam Thomas, the youngest rider in the field, urged Maoi Chinn Tire into the lead almost half a mile out.

Brahms De Clermont, ridden by 66-year-old Sandy May, came with a threatening run on the near side only to be left very short of room when the field had to weave round the last hurdle. Resuming his challenge, Sandy hit the front a hundred yards out only for Sam to conjure up one last effort from his mount, who regained the lead in the last few strides to snatch a short head victory. Maoi Chinn Tire’s first outing for his trainer Jennie Candlish was on his hurdling debut, which he won at odds of 200/1.

The 2m novices hurdle, won by Altior two years ago, was chock full of promising types from bumpers and the point-to-point arena.

This year’s Gold Cup-winning jockey Robbie Power came over from Ireland for one ride, Lostintranslation, and the reason for that became clear as he cruised into the lead four out. Unfortunately, he made a bad mistake at the next, which allowed Paul Nicholls’ Dynamite Dollars (9/4 fav) to take over. That one got the second last wrong and lost the lead, but Sam Twiston-Davies took his time to regroup and he was able to speed past his opponent on the run-in and win by two lengths. The runner-up lost nothing in defeat and Fleminport wasn’t far away in third.

Next on the card was a 2m4f mares novices hurdle. If You Say Run (4/1), the unbeaten winner of an Irish point and a bumper here at Chepstow, wasn’t going the best half a mile out but her stamina took her to the front after the second last. Although running around with greenness after the last, she kept on well. Sam Twiston-Davies was riding his 50th winner of the season and it was a quick double for Paul Nicholls, whose early-season runners in the last few years needed the run. Just A Thought was three lengths away in second and Roksana was third.

The Robert Mottram Memorial, a 2m4f novice chase, has been a launch pad for numerous high class chasers in recent years. This year attention was focused on Colin Tizzard’s much-vaunted Finian’s Oscar (1/3 fav), ridden today by Brian Cooper. However, the race lost much of its lustre when his main opponent Alcala, who was going well, stumbled on the bend leaving the back straight and came down.

After skidding into the third fence, Oscar had lost a little confidence and his jumping was careful until warming up from halfway. Four out he passed the tiring leader, Aintree My Dream, and the race was then over as a contest. He was cantering from three out till the last, and came in eleven lengths ahead of Tintern Theatre. The favourite’s engine is fine, but it would be nice to see him jump with more assurance next time out.

The fourth race was a 2m handicap hurdle for four-year-olds. Paul Nicholls’ Dolos and Silver Streak (10/1) came to the head of affairs after the second last, with the latter’s jockey Mitchell Bastyan sitting still while Dolos’s rider was getting to work. The grey fluffed the last but Bastyan stayed calm and nudged him ahead on the run-in to score by four and a half lengths for a very easy win. Trainer Evan Williams had gone to Newmarket to supervise his runners in the Cesarewitch.

The big race of the day was the Totepool Silver Trophy, a £50,000 2m4f handicap hurdle in which few of the 18 runners could safely be discounted. In a pulsating finish the ten-year-old Court Minstrel (14/1) edged ahead in the last 50 yards for his first win since taking this race two years ago. He’d been backed from 25/1 to as low as 10/1 at one stage. This completed a notable double for Evan Williams and Mitchell Bastyan. Sam Spinner, who fluffed a number of hurdles, finished a half length behind. Peak To Peak, who’d travelled well and led a couple of times in the closing stages, was a further length away with the favourite Wholestone breathing down their necks in fourth.

Favourite backers were treated to a vintage Richard Johnson ride on Rock The Kasbah (2/1 fav) in the 3m chase. He was struggling on the home turn, but kept niggling away and he caught the pace-setting Junction Fourteen at the second last, with Petrou also joining the fray. The Rock and Petrou battled it out but the superior stamina of Johnson’s mount proved decisive and he ground out a two length victory. Does the Welsh National beckon for this Philip Hobbs-trained gelding, whose record at Chepstow is now 22111?

The last race was another 3m chase, but this one was restricted to conditional jockeys. The gallant fourteen-year-old Paddy The Oscar set a decent pace and the result was that Definitly Grey (8/1) was the only horse to stay with him in the home straight, and he took the lead approaching three out. He galloped on to an 18-length success over the eight years older Paddy, who stayed on well to finish second. Paul O’Brien rode the winner for Charlie Longsdon. He will be of interest if running again soon, before being re-handicapped.

The second day of the Jump Season Opener started cloudy but the sun came out in the middle of the afternoon.

The going was good, good to soft in places.

After Briars Smokey Joe won the Shetland Pony race the main business of the day got under way. Gumball (4/6 fav) had bolted up at Stratford two weeks ago and he led throughout the 2m juvenile hurdle. Despite landing on all fours at the first two flights in the home straight he then drew well clear to win by eight lengths for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson. The highly-related Malaya tracked him but couldn’t get in a blow. The winning owner, Terry Warner, is renowned for his liking for greys and he has another good one here. Gumball is probably the best of the three-year-old hurdlers seen so far.

Six went to post for the 3m novices chase. They were well matched according to their hurdling form and all were in contention turning into the straight, where Elegant Escape went on. Before long, though, Mia’s Storm (9/2) could be seen going ominously well in second place. Wayne Hutchinson asked her to reel in the leader two out. She took command with a good jump at the last and scooted away to a three and a quarter length success. It was her third win in a row, proving she is still on the upgrade. Trainer Alan King thinks she may be best fresh and away from heavy ground.

The main event was the Grade 2 Persian War Novices Hurdle over 2m4f. The best turned out award winner, Poetic Rhythm (3/1), took a three length lead approaching the fourth last. Amour De Nuit was going well in second place and looked poised to take the race, and though he closed to within a length and a quarter, the Poet kept galloping, to the conspicuous delight of his supporters in the parade ring. Paddy Brennan rode the winner for Fergal O’Brien. The 270,000 guineas purchase Vision Des Flos did well to finish third in such a hot contest on his hurdling debut.

A 15-runner veterans chase over 3m came next. Double Ross and Fox Appeal swapped the lead a few times coming up the straight and at different times both looked like they could win. That was until the run between the last two, when Bob Ford, on one of his going days, came through to lead. Sean Bowen drove him out to score by four lengths on his first run for trainer Alastair Ralph, carrying the colours of fellow trainer Dr Richard Newland. At 5/1 he was not unsupported. Fox Appeal was best of the rest.

Misterton (4/1) was one of four Harry Fry entries for the Silver Trophy on Saturday, but he opted to take the easier option of Sunday’s 2m handicap hurdle. Noel Fehily had the horse in front turning into the straight, and despite three of his rivals snapping at his heels at the last, he jumped it well and ran on to score by a length and a half from Man Of Plenty. Surprisingly, it was Fry’s first winner at Chepstow.

Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies had two winners yesterday and two more today. The first was Romain De Senam (7/4 fav) in the 2m4f chase. Lowly weighted though he was, the manner of his victory suggests he’s improved for his summer break. He jumped well and could be called the winner before he passed Mystifiable two out. Unextended, he finished seven lengths ahead of Double Shuffle.

Richard Johnson picked himself off the floor when Village Vic fell halfway through the sixth race to partner Kateson (16/1) for Tom Lacey in the first of two bumpers. The grey’s dam won three times here and has definitely passed on some of her ability. Though he held his head high that can hopefully be put down to greenness, for he answered all of Johnson’s calls. Coming from behind, he took the lead a furlong out and held off Classic Ben by a length and a half.

Messrs Nicholls and Twiston-Davies completed their Sunday double in the second bumper with the heavily-backed Mont Des Avaloirs (4/6 fav). He led for most of the race, and hands and heels were all that were necessary to keep a length and three quarters ahead of his toiling opponents, who were led by The Russian Doyen. He’ll go over hurdles next time out.