Today looks a fascinating day of action with two big chases featuring as the main races at Ascot and Haydock respectively.
Last week there was some success for the each-way punt on Dromnea in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick, who came home 3rd at 16/1.
It was a second consecutive weekend where Kerry Lee made the headlines. After training Mountainous’ to win the Welsh National, she repeated the fete by claiming that above-mentioned race with Russe Blanc.
The Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle is seen as a Supreme Trial ahead of the festival. Paul Nicholls’ Le Prezien takes a large chunk out of the market for this renewal.
This son of Blue Bresil has won his last two races quite comfortably after finishing second to the highly touted Yanworth on his stable debut in November. He could prove better than these but he is yet to be tested to see what sort of attitude he has if facing a battle. With him so short in the market there is a bit of value backing his rivals in case something goes against him in the race. In time Nicholls is expecting him to make a chaser.
At a track like Haydock in these conditions it is best to be on horses that tend to front run or sit close to the pace. Bigmartre made all when winning here 24-days ago and showed a likeable attitude in that contest. His jumping looked slick bar for one slight error in the back straight but when Vintage Clouds came alongside him he pulled out a lovely jump at the final flight giving him the advantage, which he made the most of. Harry Whittington has made a good fist to his training career and could add this to what will be a growing resume.
Its’Afreebee may pester Bigmartre for the lead, which is a slight concern. He was a winner over the Fixed Brush hurdles last time over slightly further and the drop back in trip may be a bit too sharp for him. The Skelton yard has started to turn the corner of late after a quiet spell. This son of Danroad looked to have the scope to improve and again could be another to see a fence in time.
Vieux Lille is more tactically versatile. He made all under Tom O’Brien at Exeter last time when favourite at 1/4 but was given a bit more to do two starts ago when coming from the midfield. Doesn’t look to have beaten too much either on his two starts over hurdles but represents a powerful yard.
Advice: Bigmartre (6/1 Each-Way)
A very competitive looking Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle where we can try to steal something from the bookies with four places on offer.
Theos Charm is the favourite but is hard to really assess after two facile victories around Plumpton on testing ground. He’s won with his head on his chest on both giving Tom Cannon a steering job. This race looks to have some depth about it but the big field won’t over face him after competing in good size fields so far in his career. He is open to further improvement and with the ease of his victories means he could still be well handicapped. The step up in trip to 2m3f should also suit him too.
Pricewise has got to Sugar Baron first. He has Novice Hurdle form with Ar Mad, who has been seen to good effect over fences of late, which looks solid enough. On top of that he stays further than this meaning if they go too fast he’ll have the stamina to pick them up late. He has only had four starts for Nicky Henderson, so there could be more to come from this son of Presenting.
Harry Fry’s Zulu Oscar won at Kempton last time but there are plenty of questions that need answering. He will need to prove himself over this trip and on this ground. He is going up in grade, so may be caught out by that too. Rock The Kasbah looks quite solid in this sort of race and is likely to be able to improve on the back of his win at Haydock in November. If settling well behind a strong early pace then he has to be with chances. He was second to Court Minstrel in October at Chepstow and was only picked up by a more experienced and strong finisher in the closing stages. Philip Hobbs’ charge should be suited by how this race pans out too.
The other of my two is Lil Rockerfeller for Neil King. There were doubts about his stamina going into his last encounter at Cheltenham when running over 2m4f. He was second to the impressive Camping Ground, who put himself forward as a contender for the World Hurdle come March. This five-year-old shoulders top-weight but he has done in the past and it hasn’t inconvenienced him. If he can bring the form of that Cheltenham form to the table then he has an outstanding chance. He has a likeable attitude the way he knuckles down when in a battle, as shown by his form figures he is a reliable sort for the each-way punter.
Baron Alco is looking for a four-timer after beating Simply A Legend at Kempton last time. He can race keenly meaning his jumping can be a bit scratchy, but with a strong pace likely to be set he shouldn’t be as keen. The fact he has risen 18-pounds for his three wins would be a slight concern looking back in his form considering he has already been beaten twice by Lil Rockerfeller when receiving a nice amount of weight. At five-year’s-old he could still be an improving type. One more to mention is Royal Guardsman who won at Newbury last time when just doing enough to beat Ibis Du Rheu. It is worth noting that Barry Geraghty takes the ride on this Ali Stronge runner.
Advice: Rock The Kasbah (8/1 Each-Way)
Lil Rockerfeller (12/1 Each-Way)
The Peter Marsh Chase is another Grade 2 contest at Haydock and when you look back at the last ten renewals you can certainly say it’s not a race for favourites. Not one has won the last ten renewals.
Reve De Sivola returns to face fences for the first time since finishing third in the Listed Silver Cup at Ascot in December 2011. He is able to run off that same mark here (139), which compared to his hurdles mark of 160 makes him very well treated. Carrying a low weight on his back could help him but his jumping can let this two-time Long Distance Hurdle winner down.
It’ll be hard for Virak to carry this weight even with Harry Cobden’s seven-pound claim. He has been beaten twice by the very likable Wakanda on his last two but is fairly consistent. One thing is for sure – he likes it at this track where he has won both of his two starts, so can’t be easily discounted.
Fingal Bay and Cloudy Too arguably don’t win as often as they could or should. The former has ran well in defeat so far this campaign but doesn’t see out his races too strongly. The latter however has won since Boxing Day 2013 but is looking rather well handicapped. He’ll stay and handle the conditions, so Sue Smiith’s ten-year-old is one that ticks quite a few boxes.
At Cheltenham last time Seventh Sky didn’t get the run of the race plus it is reported he lost a shoe. He made a mistake early on, which saw him lose early rhythm and never got back into the race. That race came after he won the Tommy Whittle Chase here in December having got the run of the race from the front. Again he won’t have it easy for the running this time with Reve De Sivola in the line up. He has to prove himself off this mark however this nine-year-old looks to have the staying power and back to a course that suits could make a return to winning ways. Trainer Charlie Mann is two from three with his chasers this campaign at Haydock.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies duo are not without a chance. Splash Of Ginge is back to within one-pound of his last winning mark but has to prove he stays this far having only completed this sort of distance once before. The pedigree hints he should and is interesting at the prices, as is Algernon Pazham. He’s been kept busy of late but without much success after unseating in the Welsh Grand National before falling last week in the Betfred Classic Chase. He may have lost some confidence after that fall but the statistics wouldn’t put you off backing last time out fallers. Also Sam Twiston-Davies is back on board and when he’s been in the saddle this seven-year-old has always hit the frame (eight starts, two wins, four seconds and two thirds).
Advice: Seventh Sky (12/1 Each-Way)