There’s high quality action at opposite ends of the country this Saturday.
Let’s start at Ascot where the feature race is the Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase.
Un De Sceaux has scared off the opposition and I’m not surprised. On his day, UDS has the ability to beat pretty much anyone and he’s looking for a third straight win in this race.
Last year’s renewal was held at Cheltenham, but returning to the Berkshire setting of Ascot should hold no problems for Willie Mullins’ charge. I fully expect him to win.
Of the dangers, Brain Power is still unexposed as a chaser after only two starts over the big obstacles, so this is a tough ask. I actually think San Benedeto could be the most prominent challenger. He won a Grade 1 novice chase last year and he has improved each year he has been in training.
The Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock is a totally different proposition.
Heavy ground at Haydock will make this a slog, so we need a horse who can battle through the conditions.
Fine Rightly is perhaps a bit overpriced at 25/1 on his best form on heavy ground but he’s not sure to recapture that ability. Yala Enki hasn’t impressed recently, but is another who could feature on ground conditions he enjoys.
Captain Redbeard was a really good winner of the Tommy Whittle Chase at the track a few weeks ago but a 9lbs rise could dent his chances. Hainan also won at Haydock last time out but similarly faces an 8lbs hike in his rating.
Tintern Theatre looks like he’s going places over fences and a mark of 138 may seriously underestimate him. I think he will realistically improve to a rating much higher and he is a firm pick if he handles the heavy ground. If he doesn’t then the progressive Forest des Aigles who has won three races in a row, including on heavy ground, might be the each-way angle.
Earlier on the card, there’s just four runners in the Champion Hurdle trial at 2.40pm.
The New One has won this three years on the spin and can make it four. He’s in good form, including in defeats by My Tent Or Yours and Buveur D’Air.
Ch’Tibello receives some weight from his older rival and he does enjoy heavy ground so he isn’t without a chance, while Clyne and Unison look outclassed.
I just hope the bookies don’t go mad after the race with ante post Cheltenham quotes (for the Stayers Hurdle and Champion Hurdle). If The New One looks impressive, there’s a tendency for over-reaction among the layers and the 40/1 that William Hill are currently offering for the Champion Hurdle won’t be there and nor will the 16/1 on display with a number of firms for the Stayers Hurdle.