Features | 19th December 2023

The five owners of exciting young chaser Blackjack Magic are hoping Christmas comes early this year. Their eight-year-old heads the ante-post market for the three-mile Howden Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday, 23rd December, following a “shock” Grade 3 success at Wincanton last month.

Charlie Walker, who shares the gelding with established owner Tony Hayward and long-time friends Eddie O’Gorman and John and Jenny Paterson, says:

“This could be a Christmas to remember. I’ve been in racing long enough to know that it’s better not to get carried away but he’s an exciting young horse who surprised us all in the Badger Beer Handicap Chase.

“It was his first run since April and his trainer Anthony Honeyball thought he’d need it. We were also taking on stars like King George winner Frodon and Threeunderthrufive so to see him win was a bit of a shock.

“He got into a good rhythm and jumped so beautifully around Wincanton that we must be hopeful of another big day at Ascot,” adds Charlie, who also part-owns the second favourite for the Betfair Exchange Trophy on Saturday’s Christmas cracker of a card at Ascot.

“Altobelli, who is in training with Harry Fry, also goes with a big chance and it’s my grandson Lucas’s 13th birthday so it could become a day to remember,” adds Charlie, who has enjoyed over 250 winners as an owner but is sharing the Blackjack Magic experience with newcomers to the sport.

“Eddie has been a friend for nearly 50 years and is new to racing and John was my boss when we worked in insurance in our early 20s. He’s had a couple of shares with me but nothing like the fun he and his wife Jenny are having with Blackjack.”

A winning hurdler for previous handler Jack Barber, the son of Black Sam Bellamy has thrived since joining Honeyball last year and going chasing, winning three of his four completed starts, but took his form to a new level in the Badger Beer.

Commenting on that Wincanton victory under Saturday’s rider Rex Dingle, the Dorset trainer adds: “Running him was an after-thought really. We felt he might need it a bit but thought why not let him take his chance and see what happens.

“He was really good. I thought the runner-up (Threeunderthrufive) might eventually pick us up with fitness telling a bit and with a few of ours just needing it. I was worried we were going to get beat but we didn’t.”

Saturday’s Ascot feature is preferred to the Coral Welsh Grand National four days later while options remain open at the Cheltenham Festival in March. “I don’t know what race he would go for there,” adds Charlie, “He clearly stays very well and it’s very exciting to have a horse good enough have the Festival on his agenda.

“Back in 2018 my horse Count Meribel won the Steel Plate and Sections Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting for Nigel Twiston-Davies but to go to the Festival with a live chance would be a first for me so let’s hope Blackjack can make a few dreams come true.”