Jumps Eye-Catchers: Imperial on the march after Ascot

Imperial Aura impressed when winning the Grade 2 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Imperial Aura impressed when winning the Grade 2 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Nick Seddon reviews the weekend’s Jumps action at Haydock, Ascot and Exeter, and along with picking out three eye-catchers to note, he's advising a bet for next year's Ryanair Chase…

Shakem Up'Arry - Ben Pauling (13:50 Haydock, Saturday)

Named after his hugely popular owner Harry Redknapp, Shakem Up'Arry proved to be an interesting novice to follow last season, and showed some useful form despite failing to pick up a win in his four starts over timber that campaign. He was ultimately flying too high when when down the field on his final start in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in March, but he's a likeable front-runner, and showed the benefit of a summer break when making a winning return in good style at Ffos Las at the beginning of November, prevailing by eight and a half lengths.

That win prompted a switch to handicap company by the Ben Pauling team, and he was able to take his chance off an official mark of 130 in what looked a warm event over two miles and three furlongs at Haydock Park on Saturday. Sitting prominently from an early stage, Shakem Up'Arry travelled well into the race in particularly difficult conditions, and still held every chance at two out. He was ultimately well held at the line by the eventual winner, War Lord, but he impressed with his attitude in the closing stages, running all the way to the line. He's worth another try over further at some point on this evidence, and with that Haydock form looking strong at first glance, Shakem Up'Arry ought to be competitive wherever he heads for his next outing - having escaped a penalty from the handicapper for that effort. 

Imperial Aura - Kim Bailey (14:05 Ascot, Saturday)

Admittedly, this year's 1965 Chase didn't have quite the same sparkle as 12 months ago, when Cyrname ended Altior's long unbeaten run, but the four-strong field was a classy one, and Imperial Aura emerged with his credentials greatly enhanced after sealing his third straight success. An excellent winner of the Novices' Handicap in March, Imperial Aura made a winning return in the Colin Parker at Carlisle at the beginning of the month - a race with a habit of producing a smart chaser - and he lined up against three bona fide Grade 1 performers here, in the form of Black Corton, Itchy Feet and Real Steel

The first-named failed to complete for the first time in his career, departing at the ninth, leaving Imperial Aura with two rivals to contend with in the closing stages, and he quickly put matters to bed when rounding the turn for home, capitalising on a mistake by Real Steel at the third last to pull four lengths clear. He arguably hit a small flat spot when pressed for the lead by that rival down the back straight, but Imperial Aura looked better the further he went, winning eased down at the line. He'd be a force to be reckoned with at three miles on this evidence, but the Ryanair Chase looks to be his main target for the season, with Kim Bailey indicating that Imperial Aura will have one more outing before the Festival in March. He'd have strong claims at Cheltenham if replicating this performance there, and bearing in mind that there's likely to be more to come from this progressive seven-year-old yet, it looks worth taking the 7/1 available for him to strike in the Ryanair.

Ryanair Chase
Imperial Aura silk

Imperial Aura

Milanford - Nick Mitchell (12:33 Exeter, Sunday)

Although a regular on the point-to-point scene over the past couple of years, winning once from six outings, Milanford was something of an unknown quantity for his Rules debut at Exeter races on Sunday, and lined up as an unconsidered 66/1 outsider in a novice contest which looked to contain some potentially useful types on paper - including two winning chasers in The Wolf and The Mighty Don. This looked a big ask based on what he had been showing on the amateur circuit, but Milanford settled well in front, jumping well and setting a strong pace for his rivals. He looked more than capable of causing a hefty shock on several occasions throughout the race, jumping the second last with a narrow lead, and although he was eventually worn down by the winner L'Air Du Vent, this was a particularly encouraging first effort under Rules. It will be interesting to see what the handicapper makes of him after his next start, but Milanford certainly doesn't look an also-ran on this evidence, and could prove to be a useful novice over staying trips this campaign.

2021 Cheltenham Festival
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