An afternoon of top class National Hunt action awaits us on Saturday with Listed and Grade 2 races merely the amuse-bouche to the very high quality Grade 1 Betfair Chase in which we have a pretty decent value bet against the likely favourite.
It’s an early start as Haydock bookends our Saturday tips, starting off with a very well fancied runner of Paul Nicholls’ yard who should ensure we’re off to a flying start.Embed from Getty Images
12.10 Haydock (Newton Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – GRAND SANCY
They’re all race fit for this one so there are no advantages to take there, but I can’t help thinking the form of Grand Sancy’s second in a very slowly run race at this level is the best in this field in a (hopefully) stronger run race this time we can expect significant improvement from Paul Nicholls’ charge.
He followed up easily at Wincanton last time in a race that will have taken very little out of him and I’d expect him to dominate this, though Dan Skelton’s Denmead can give him most trouble after his step up to two-and-a-half miles last time didn’t work out and at this trip he’s likely to be more dangerous.
Not far behind is Cause Toujours for the Ian Williams yard but the youth of Grand Sancy could well win the day in conditions which would appear to be to his liking.
1.15 Haydock (Graduation Chase) – ACTIVIAL
We’re hoping that experience will count for something here as the oldest horse in the field, Activial, is our shout after his solid runner-up effort last time out on his seasonal reappearance, albeit he was a beaten favourite that day.
He took a big step forward at Stratford but that’s something he needed to do having not won since New Year’s Day 2016 but he looks good value in this race to beat Nicky Henderson’s River Wylde.
River Wylde has a better strike-rate than our horse and is bound to be popular in the betting ring following his win at Uttoxeter last November but with a problem having kept him off the track since a disappointing second at Cheltenham a year ago it remains to be seen how good he is now.
Kalondra was going well when unseating his rider in the BetVictor Gold Cup last weekend and is being turned out quickly but at the weights he may have to step forward again from that to beat our boy.
2.05 Ascot (Christy 1965 Chase – Grade 2) – CHARBEL
Betting-wise this race has been all about Politologue this week and he does look some way clear of everything but the selection in this field.
Paul Nicholls’ runner relished this sort of trip when winning at Aintree in April but it could be that the time of year and the softer ground were what he loved that day and I believe he won’t quite reach that level today.
The value in the race then is Kim Bailey’s Charbel who turned over last weekend’s big winner Baron Alco at Chepstow in October and if anything the form may have been slightly underestimated. He’s gone up 5lbs in the handicap for that win but has been patiently waited with and on this ground may prove to be the class act in the race, receiving 6lbs from his main rival.
Benatar has been well backed this week but looks some way behind the big two, though for place backers he seems fairly solid for Gary and Jamie Moore.
2.40 Ascot (Coral Hurdle – Grade 2) – IF THE CAP FITS
A six-runner race that really boils down to three of them, not that you’d know it according to the bookmakers. Paul Nicholls’ Old Guard has every bit the same sort of chance as We Have A Dream tough they are miles apart in terms of the odds, both horses however seeming to be some way short of the selection at the weights.
Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits made his reappearance in the Elite Hurdle two weeks ago and ran a blinder to finish second to Verdana Blue that day over a trip now some way short of what he truly wants.
Before that he’d won three in a row last autumn in the style of a horse improving hand over fist and now, with that extra maturity, will take another step forward now that he’s tackling two-and-a-half miles for the first time. He rates a fair bet but it can only be hoped his price holds up as I’d imagine the pros will be on when betting gets going in earnest at trackside.
3.00 Haydock (Betfair Chase – Grade 1) – NATIVE RIVER
This is a top quality race with a top quality field and, in the most polite way ever, the war of words has been raging this week with trainers of at least four of the five runners very bullish about their chances.
Bristol De Mai was a runaway winner of this last season and goes incredibly well at Haydock but, at the risk of jumping on the bandwagon, I too believe that extreme performance was due to the heavy ground and in these conditions he won’t quite be the same horse.
Might Bite and Native River are both Gold Cup winners but most commentators this week seem to think that the latter is favoured too by softer going and a tougher test and that on this flat track on decent ground he would struggle to overhaul Nicky Henderson’s 9yo.
I can’t say I’m too enamoured with trainer Colin Tizzard’s comments this week that he is not scared at all of Might Bite but I do agree that his is perhaps the better horse and has proven that on merit, this course and ground having been in too many people’s thoughts if anything and it’s hard to believe he may be allowed to go off at something like 3/1.