A wonderful weekend of racing on both sides of the Irish Sea. We begin our preview at Ascot who stage an eight-race card including the rescheduled Denman Chase and Betfair Hurdle which were due to take place at Newbury last weekend but were lost as a result of the equine flu abandonments.
Fourteen will go to post for the Betfair Hurdle and I feel it will go to one of the improving novices – but which one. Didtheyleaveyououttoo will love the forecast decent ground and Al Dancer has done us a couple of favours so far this term, but the vote goes to Getaway Trump (3.20) trained by Paul Nicholls.
The selection travelled like a top-class novice when outstayed by Champ in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle over an additional half-mile at Newbury over Christmas. The winner is BetVictor’s 5/2 favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival and Getaway Trump is 12/1 (Non Runner No Bet) with BetVictor for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The selection is 3/1 with BetVictor for today’s contest and I would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race.
Ballyandy is only 6lbs higher than when scoring well at Uttoxeter last time and he must go close in the two-and-a-half miles handicap hurdle. The front-running Cloudy Glen should ensure there is a true gallop and that should suit Darling Maltaix (1.00) who travelled very well in the Lanzarote last time but failed to get home or go through with his effort. I am prepared to give him another chance and, as long as he doesn’t pull his chance away, he must go close in another terrific handicap.
The Ascot Chase looks an absolute cracker and there is plenty of pace in the race with Aso, Charbel and Cyrname all wanting to get on with things. This is a big day for Ruth Jefferson and Waiting Patiently (3.55) who was still cruising when badly hampered – more or less brought down – at halfway in the King George last time. The selection won this corresponding Grade 1 event 12 months ago, but I feel this is a better race although he should certainly have the race run to suit.
The big race at Haydock Park is the Grand National Trial and the each way vote goes to the Irish raider Ah Littleluck (3.35) who won a Beginners’ Chase at Navan last month and ran very well when third in a competitive handicap hurdle at the Grand National meeting last spring. The selection is 16/1 with BetVictor who are betting each way five places.
The grey Kateson (4.10) finished third in the Challow Hurdle behind Champ and Getaway Trump and the hope is that today’s step up to three miles for the first time will suit. Tom Scudamore keeps the ride on Tom Lacey’s 6-y-o who is currently 20/1 with BetVictor for the Albert Bartlett next month.
At Wincanton Rons Dream (2.20) must give weight to her four rivals in the listed Mares’ Chase but I feel this extended 3m 1f trip will be ideal and hope she can swoop fast and late under James Bowen for his father Peter.
Kerrow has failed to complete in his two starts this season but he would have won at Bangor on his reappearance and must go close. I am going to take a chance, however, on Overland Flyer (4.05) to conclude what might be a very good day for the Nicholls’ yard. The selection has had a wind operation since pulling up at Worcester back in October. Harry Skelton gets a rare ride for the stable.
Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy misses the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park and, in his absence, I hope to see Monalee (2.30) give 7lbs to last year’s Gold Cup third Anibale Fly (33/1 for both the Gold Cup and Grand National) over a 2m 4f trip that is unlikely to be enough of a test of stamina. This intermediate trip is ideal for Monalee and Rachel Blackmore takes over in the saddle with Noel Fehily still out following his recent appendix operation.
At Huntingdon tomorrow Give Him Time (3.05) drops back to the minimum trip having looked a non-stayer over an additional half-mile at Plumpton last time.
At Navan I hope Chris’s Dream (3.25) can return to winning ways having been well held by Ballyward at Naas last time. The winner is a strong fancy (9/2 at BetVictor) for the NH Chase at Cheltenham next month and Chris’s Dream may not face anything of his calibre today. One note of caution I wonder if 3m is his trip and it should be noted he holds an engagement in the JLT (2m 4f) as well as RSA Chase (3m) at Cheltenham next month.