Three-time Champion Jockey Richard Johnson will be the star attraction as National Hunt racing returns to Carlisle.
Today will see a packed afternoon card at the Durdar track featuring eight races and 97 declared runners and riders.
Johnson, who has dominated in the saddle since the retirement of AP McCoy, has four rides, including two for high-profile trainer Philip Hobbs.
Hobbs, who’s trained more than 2,500 winners since 1985, sends two hopes from his Somerset stables.
Pineapple Rush, likely to be well fancied in the Super-Price Sportsbook Handicap Hurdle over 2m 4f, has won twice this year in three outings, both times on visits north to Hexham and Sedgefield. Cedar Valley, who goes in the afternoon’s final race, the EBF Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat, was a winner on debut at Taunton in March.
Johnson also rides Tom Lacey’s En Meme Temps in the Novices Hurdle and LooksnowtlikeBrian for Tim Vaughan in a 3m handicap chase.
The 41-year-old again leads the jockeys’ championship having already topped another century of winners. Among his closest pursuers is Carlisle’s top jumps jockey last season, Brian Hughes.
Hughes took the finishing post honours 13 times at the course in 2017/18 and straight away has chances to get his account opened with seven rides.
Six of those are for Grand National winner Donald McCain, including Fin and Game in the Class 3 Novices Limited Handicap. The six-year-old already has three wins from a career that started in January last year.
Quids In, who returned at Bangor a fortnight ago, may well challenge Pineapple Rush in the handicap hurdle.
Hughes also has a ride for Carlisle’s leading national hunt trainer last season, Stuart Crawford. They have six-year-old Rashee in the final race looking to improve on last time’s fifth at Perth.
Northumberland-based trainer Rose Dobbin is particularly keen to see the new season under way at Carlisle.
Her last campaign was her best to date with 25 winners and £203,226 pocketed in prize-money. That success included Slanelough winning at Carlisle’s opening jumps meeting.
On Thursday she has Some Reign, a winner at Kelso 12 months ago, in the Novices Limited Handicap, and Hitman Fred on debut in the Novices Hurdle. Both are partnered by Craig Nichol.
Rose said: “We’re very excited to have probably our best string to date.
“We’ve got plenty of nice young horses and horses that ran well last year like Coole Hall and Planet Nine to go to war with.
“Last year was by far our best season. For three seasons before we’d been stuck on 16 winners, so 25 was a nice jump up from that. We’ve got to aim for that again, if not more.”
“I think it’s a great track to start a novice chaser off at. Two miles round there is a lovely start for them over fences.”
Carlisle Racecourse’s General Manager Molly Dingwall said: “We’re all set for the off.
“The team here have been working ever so hard to make sure the ground is in the best possible condition and we’re very excited for the season ahead.
“It’s a wonderful sight to see these magnificent creatures in flight around the track and we just can’t wait to get started.”
Tickets for the Smarkets Grand Jumps Season opener on Thursday October 18. Adult tickets are £15 (in advance) or £18 (on the day). Under-18s free entry when accompanied by an adult.