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Horse Racing Tips - Racing: Keith Melrose's jumps season tips

With Chepstow this weekend signalling the start of the jumps season proper for many, the Racing Post's Keith Melrose picks out five chasers who might be flying under the radar ahead of the new campaign.

Gericault Roque

Trainer: David Pipe

Enjoyed one of the best winless seasons of any horse in 2021-22, racking up second-placed finishes in the Mandarin (behind Saint Palais), Classic Chase (Eclair Surf) and Ultima (Corach Rambler).

His handicap mark went up 12lb for his efforts, although with hindsight given his connections, who have twice won the Ultima, Cheltenham was surely the main aim and it is fair to say that he ran into one in the impressive winner.

Expect this likeable sort to keep contesting major marathon handicap chases. With just nine runs behind him and still being a six-year-old, it is not hard to see further improvement and you can rest assured that David Pipe will place him to best effect.

Major Dundee

Trainer: Alan King

He did remarkably well not to prove too slow for 2m5f at Fakenham, overcame market weakness at Bangor and ran into one in a warm novice handicap at Newbury.

But they were all a means to an end. Major Dundee was campaigned for the Scottish Grand National in his first season over fences and ran a highly respectable third at Ayr.

He was never likely to match Win My Wings that day, but only Kitty's Light also finished ahead of him and the rest were 12 lengths or more in arrears.

As Major Dundee learns, expect him to prove even more of a force in major staying handicaps. Had his late owner Trevor Hemmings still been around, Aintree would surely have been the aim.

His mark will need to go up quite a bit for him to get in the Grand National, and he has generally raced away from deep ground which may put the Becher in doubt, but Major Dundee has a big season ahead in marathon chases.

Scene Not Herd

Trainer: Charlie Longsdon

One of the great joys of watching novice chasers is seeing one who takes to it as though discovering a new joy in life and few last year gave that impression more strongly than Scene Not Herd.

He won his first three starts impressively, amassing some strong form in the process. On the strength of those wins, he was sent off favourite for a Listed handicap at Sandown in March, but for whatever reason was not ridden with the same dash and his jumping, which had been electric on earlier starts, failed him somewhat.

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Scene Not Herd was scratched from the 3m1f handicap chase on Grand National day and it is probably over trips around 3m that his future lies. While he has tended to race away from the mud, he has won at Newcastle and the Rehearsal Chase on Fighting Fifth day could be the right sort of target if connections are comfortable with true winter ground.

Dalyotin

Trainer: Rebecca Menzies

As he ran 22 times in France and is with a trainer who may not be familiar to casual fans, Dalyotin may not be on many horses to follow lists this year. However, Rebecca Menzies is a trainer going places and so is this horse judging by the manner of his win at Sedgefield in March.

Dalyotin was well backed that day and won handsomely, despite the field going a pace which should not have stretched them out. That was his debut over fences in Britain, he won three of his eight chase starts in France and finished second twice more, and given he is from the family of Don Poli his future seems sure to lie over the larger obstacles.

He remains unexposed over staying trips, too, and given he has twice been pulled out on ground described as 'good' he should be set for a winter campaign.

Elvis Mail

Trainer: Nick Alexander

This gelding is rising nine, so do not expect him to improve into a Grade 1 horse at this stage, but he does look to be handicapped to win a good race and showed signs last season that all his ability remains intact.

Having mixed it with smart novices in 2020-21, Elvis Mail spent a lot of last season over hurdles. Eventually, a tendency to tank through races before sputtering out was taken to be a sign of Elvis Mail needing a wind op.

On his next and final start, back over fences at the Scottish Grand National meeting, he brushed off being badly hampered to travel best into the straight. Initially, the response to pressure was again underwhelming, but he eventually ran on again.

The benefits of wind surgery are likely to be more keenly felt at the second time of asking in his case, and a chase mark of 138 underestimates his ability. Watch out for a big run in a good-quality northern handicap at up to 2m4f in the autumn.

By Keith Melrose

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