West Yorkshire! West Yorkshire! West Yorkshire!
With Timeform Towers situated in God’s own county, just a flat cap’s throw from Wetherby Racecourse, we really should be finding the winner of the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle (2.45pm).
Tipping favourite Ballyoptic may be greeted with a few groans, we feel we are justified as he features in our Fifty To Follow this jumps season and got his campaign off to the perfect start when winning the Grade 3 Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow recently, despite not being fully tuned up according to his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Malcom Jefferson’s Oscar Rock will be trying to keep the prize in Yorkshire, but he looks to have plenty of pudding on his plate.
The other big race at Wetherby is the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase (3.20pm), which features the ever-green and ever popular Cue Card.
After failing to win during the 2014/15 season, the flying grey made a successful return in this race a year ago, beating his old foe Dynaste, and went on to complete a hat-trick with wins in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Cue Card was cruelly denied the chance of winning his connections a £1 million bonus when falling three out in the Gold Cup, still going well at the time, but he at least added another £85,000 to the kitty when bouncing back to win the Bowl at Aintree in April.
He ran below form at Punchestown on his final outing, but he’s apparently pleasing regular rider Paddy Brennan ahead of his seasonal debut. He should prove hard to beat.
There’s also a quality card at Ascot, arguably featuring the big betting race of the day: the Grade 2 Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.35pm).
Saphir du Rheu’s connections had the option of running him in the West Yorkshire Hurdle but have opted for this race, and he undoubtedly has good claims for all his chasing career has been stop-start so far. He is currently fighting out favouritism with Yorkshire’s Tea For Two.
However, a better bet at the prices is Buckhorn Timothy who ran a cracker on his reappearance when second to Potters Cross at Chepstow three weeks ago. It could be a really good 15 minutes for trainer Colin Tizzard.
The two Listed handicaps at Ascot look good punting races too. No, it’s not just because of his name that we fancy Yorkist in the 2m chase (2.25pm), it’s more that he’s joined the excellent young trainer, Dan Skelton.
Skelton also has sound claims of winning the 2m handicap hurdle immediately afterwards (3pm) with last spring’s Scottish Champion Hurdle hero Ch’tibello.
It won’t be a gimme though as he’s opposed by last season’s Fred Winter winner Diego du Charmil, who has gotten his season off to a winning start at Chepstow already and Cloonacool, a Timeform Horse In Focus after catching the eye before falling at the second-last at Market Rasen last month.