A sensational days racing and we begin our preview at Haydock Park who stage the first Grade 1 contest of the British jumps season the Betfair Chase with Bristol de Mai putting his unbeaten course record – four runs four wins – on the block against Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation (3.00) and I just prefer the potential of the latter.
The selection was a ready winner of the Grade 1 Novice Chase over 3m 1f at Aintree back in the spring although I am convinced, he will have to improve on that run if he is to lower the colours of Bristol De Mai who has won this corresponding race for the last couple of years and finished third in the Gold Cup back in March.
When you add Frodon to the mix you have three of the best jumpers of a fence in the business in opposition, but I am a huge Lostintranslation fan and at 13/8 at BetVictor he gets the vote.
My two against the field in the valuable 3m Handicap Hurdle are Acey Milan (14/1 with BetVictor) and Ask Ben (2.25) with preference for the latter who will appreciate the rain that is due to hit the track overnight and for much of the day. The each way selection – 11/1 with BetVictor who are betting 1/5th odds 5 places – is 11lbs better off with Lisnagar Oscar for the 10L he was behind that rival on ground quicker than ideal over C&D earlier in the year.
I thought Moving In Style (3.40) ran a promising comeback at Exeter on his reappearance although he jumped slightly out to his left and should prefer today’s left-handed track. Sam Twiston-Davies keeps the ride and the hope is that his low weight will help over this marathon 3m 4f trip.
At Ascot the brilliant Altior takes on Cyrname (2.05) as the Champion Chaser steps up in trip and puts his 19-race unblemished record over jumps on the line over 2m 5f. The trip is not the issue but, having watched re-runs of Altior’s wins last season at Ascot – especially in the Clarence House Chase – and Sandown, I feel he cannot jump out to his left as markedly as he did on those occasions against such a talented rival as the Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old who is two years younger than Nicky Henderson’s great.
If Cyrname gets to the front, and the rail, I can see Altior giving away ground by jumping out to the left at his obstacles. Had this race been at Aintree in the Martell Cup in the spring or the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March there could be only one winner – Altior – but this is a right-handed track against a fast, fluent jumper. If Haydock is a home game for Bristol De Mai then the same can be said for Ascot and Cyrname who is unbeaten in two starts over today’s C&D. It pains me to desert Altior, but at 11/8 with BetVictor I feel Cyrname represents the value.
I thought the handicapper could have been harsher in raising Burton’s Well (12.40) by just 5lbs for his comeback win – albeit in Veteran’s company – but that was an impressive comeback and I hope he can follow up for Venetia Williams and Trevor Hemmings.
Highest Sun (12.55) was beaten less than 5L by Champ at Newbury on his chase debut and he looks to have an excellent chance stepped up to 3m on his handicap debut for Colin Tizzard with Harry Cobden taking the ride given Robbie Power is at Haydock.
The Last Day (3.20) has been raised 11lbs for his facile win at Aintree a fortnight ago but he was so impressive on Merseyside that he must be followed until beaten. Evan Williams’s seven-year-old has winning form on a right-handed track and, if he gets a bit of luck in running, he can defy 3/1 favouritism at BetVictor.
All eyes will be at Haydock and Ascot but the clash between the Albert Bartlett winner Minella Indo and the mare Laurina (2.45) on their respective chase debuts at Gowran Park makes it a hat-trick of mouth-watering races to savour.
Minella Indo may have gone off at 50/1 at Cheltenham but he was a smooth winner in that Grade 1 contest, followed up at Punchestown and this winning pointer is an exciting recruit to chasing. Laurina gets 7lbs from the Henry de Bromhead runner and she certainly did not give her running in the Champion Hurdle back in March. If there is a Gold Cup winner in the field it is Minella Indo. If there is a Champion Chaser in the field it is Laurina.
At Huntingdon Ashutor (1.05) has had a wind operation since he was last seen and he is considered well handicapped for his seasonal reappearance in a lady riders’ event representing Paul Nicholls. Jockey Katie O’Farrell has yet to ride a winner in Britain but has 27 to her name in Ireland. Note the five-year-old is also entered at Kempton on Monday.
In the Troytown Chase at Navan on Sunday I hope to see BetVictor brand ambassador Rachel Blackmore reward each way support on Solomon Grundy (2.30) who ran his best race first time out last season for Henry De Bromhead having been a horse I always felt had a bright future when trained by Neil Mulholland in Britain. At 14/1 with BetVictor – who are paying 5 places – he gets the each way vote.