There may be some small fields in the top action this weekend but the quality is still here especially in what looks a fascinating Betfair Chase – Kyle Merrick looks at the key runners
1.15: Good Boy Bobby – From his early Bumper days he has shown promise. Three-time national hunt flat and hurdle winner. A good second at Cheltenham last season and returned this campaign with success at Bangor at the end of October. The runner up won on Friday at Chepstow so the form looks good. Makes appeal.
1.50: War Lord – The Tizzard trained contender returned this season three weeks ago at Wetherby with an encouraging second in a handicap grade lower. Could be interesting in a competitive heat.
2.25 : This looks a great race. Main Fact arrives in form with three recent victories but does have class question marks at this level. At the opposite end of class and ability, the top runner, Kalashnikov who is on return stands out as well. My preference however is for Third Wind. A great fourth at this year’s Pertemps final at the Cheltenham Festival. Could do well.
3.00 – The feature does not disappoint and the top two in the betting are hard to split. Lostintranslation won this 12 months ago and finished third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. Could be difficult to beat. Bristol De Mai bids for a third triumph in this historic chase after wins in 2017 and 2018. He loves this course. Another winning hope. Clan Des Obeaux looked stunning when 21 lengths clear in the King George at Kempton elven months ago but needs to prove himself at his best on first outing this season. Bellshill is interesting. Second in this year’s BobbyJo Chase and now swaps trainer. Intriguing runner.
3.35 – Perfect Candidate – Won this last year by seven lengths. Slightly disappointing on return when eighth at Aintree a month ago but might be fitter for that effort. The stamina distance can help. Midnight Tune is another who makes appeal as is trying this journey for the first time. Can handle the heavy ground. Ascot
2.05 – Black Corton – The jockey combination is retained and hold a great record. Down in trip. May have the class in the small field.
2.40 – Laurina stands out in the Ascot Hurdle but I also like Call Me Lord who finished runner up last year and went on to Grade 2 victory at Cheltenham. Could be fitter after his Aintree reappearance when fourth of six.
3.17 – Gino Trail – Jamie Moore has a great record and the veteran runs for a third outing for the new trainer. On season debut. May outrun odds and a possible place hope.
3.50 – Wonderwall – Four-year-old by Yeats but sometimes you just have to go with the name.
Gary Sears pinpoints four for the action at Ascot, Haydock and Naas
Always thought MINELLA BOBO would make a decent chaser and ran well at Uttoxeter on reappearance. Dropped 3lb which looks generous and hoping for a bold show in Ascot’s 12.55.
Interesting that Henry De Bromhead has talked about ABBEY MAGIC as a possible Festival mare so off a low weight in the 3.17 should take all the beating.
SNOW LEOPARDESS has looked a really good jumper of fences and shouldn’t be troubled by the step into handicap company in Haydock’s 12.40.
With all the attention on Envoi Allen thought the performance of JANUARY JETS was overlooked at Down Royal – he kept on really well and although the last at Naas looks a really good race, at double figure odds will back each way.
Whistlejacket gets to grips with this afternoon’s handicaps at Ascot and Haydock
There is a mixture of big and small fields at Ascot and Haydock today and I shall mostly be taking aim at the big handicaps. The exception is the Betfair Chase at Haydock at 3.00 where I am taking Lostintranslation to win in a cracking contest. He goes well fresh and the Tizzard horses are now in good form.
Earlier in the handicap hurdle at 1.50 Arrivederci looks the kind of progessive younger horse capable of taking this race. I am also keen on War Lord who was second to the O’Neill horse in a good Wetherby race three weeks ago so I will take these two against the field.
In the 2.25 I like the chances of Relegate, an Irish raider, but also will be supporting Highland Hunter who could improve for a second time wind operation.
In the 3.35 Perfect Candidate looks to have been aimed at the Veterans Chase and I am taking him to run a big race. He is an each way selection.
At Ascot Hold That Taught can take the 12.55 for the in form Venetia Williams team and I fancy Capeland to make up for unseating his rider last time in the 3.17 Best of luck Whistlejacket
Gary McKenzie looks ahead to a fine day’s racing at Haydock with hope of another multiple winner of the Betfair Chase
It is a small field for this year’s Betfair Chase but I think Bellshill and Keeper Hill have a mountain to climb.
Clan Des Obeaux and the aforementioned Bristol De Mai look to be the main dangers and the former would be a bigger worry on his King George form.
He does seem to save his best for Kempton and he will surely be primed for his Boxing Day hat trick attempt. His trainer will still want to win this. The horse had wind surgery in July and that could be significant.
Bristol De Mai is no back number. He seems to have been around forever but is still just nine and he wasn’t far away here last year.
I am hoping LOSTINTRANSLATION joins the happy band of multiple winners and not just because I have him in my Ten to Follow stable. He was a very good winner here last term and the way he travelled through the race impressed me.
If you take out his disappointing King George run then he is 221113 in his last six races, five of which were at the top level.
Laurina and Real Steel both make their debuts for Paul Nicholls following their transfer from Willie Mullins and both have tricky tasks at Ascot.
Both are in small field Grade 2 races and the races will be well worth watching but I won’t be getting involved financially.
The legend that is Don Poli is one of the favourites for the My Odds Boost On Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Chase at 3.35. At his peak he had a rating of 167 but now is down to 130.
He showed enough at Aintree in April to warrant some support here. Perfect Candidate won this last year and although he is rising fourteen he is not without a chance off just 5lb higher.
Kings Monarch was third that day and despite the weight difference being similar he could improve as he is only seven. He won on his reappearance albeit in a less competitive heat.
MIDNIGHT TUNE is the one that interests me. She has been first or second in five of her eight chase starts. She failed to complete on the other three occasions being pulled up twice. She has had wind surgery since her last run so hopefully this will help her get round.
Each way hope
In the Betfair Racing Only Bettor Handicap Hurdle at 1.50 I am willing to take a chance on FLASH THE STEEL. He showed enough at Cheltenham in March to give me each way hope here although he is on a career high mark.
THIRD WIND is the selection for the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at 2.25. He was fourth in the Pertemps which was his first try at three miles. He had to give weight all round on his first run this season but he wasn’t far away.