It’s not been a great week for sport on TV, with International friendlies and terrible FA Cup replays.
However, there’s good news for horse racing fans on Saturday with contests to suit everyone and a lot of it will help with those ante-post betting slips for the Cheltenham Festival next March.
It all begins at 1.50pm at Haydock in a race that revolves around My Tent Or Yours. Soft ground isn’t an issue for Nicky Henderson’s ace – runner-up in the Champion Hurdle last season on the back of a big absence – so it should be back to yours Pocahontas for tea and cake. Old Guard looks the most obvious danger.
String vests at the ready for the Stella Artois 1965 Chase at 2.05pm. Winner of the Melling Chase at Aintree and the Champion Chase at Punchestown last season, God’s Own is the one to beat on Timeform ratings. But there are plenty of bullets to dodge here, including Paul Nicholls’ former Champion Chase winner of the same name and Vibrato Valtat. Philip Hobbs’ front-running course specialist Royal Regatta could be the one to side with at a price.
Get your impressions of Only Fools & Horses’ Trigger ready for the “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle at 2.25pm. Two Taffs is a horse of great potential but this race usually goes to more battle-hardened types. Unowhatimeanharry was one of last year’s success stories winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, but Yala Enki, who won twice after finishing fifth in this race last year, looks to have been primed to go four places better on Saturday. Don’t pooh-pooh the chances of Thomas Crapper either.
Yanworth lost just once last season, but it was when it mattered most – at the Cheltenham Festival.
Connections are deciding between the Champion and World Hurdles, but if he’s beaten at 2.40pm by Zarkandar – who looked back to his best before his final-flight fall at Aintree earlier this month – then it might be on to Plan C. Garde la Victoire has more engagements than Liz Hurley this weekend, but is respected turning up here.
Cue Card won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, Betfair Chase at Haydock, King George VI Chase at Kempton and Betfred Bowl at Aintree last season, but the one that got away was the biggest prize of all: the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Paddy Brennan is still ruing the partnership crashing out at the third-last (“It’s probably something I’ll never get over”) but Cue Card, fit from a fair third in this year’s Charlie Hall, is the one to beat again in Saturday’s feature at 3pm. The 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree is back after a year out through injury, but might struggle to dominate with dual Betfair Chase winner Silviniaco Conti and the progressive Seeyouatmidnight also in the line-up.
Vaniteux looked sure to be placed when unseating his rider two out in last season’s Arkle Chase at the Festival, while Some Buckle shaped well on his reappearance at Aintree, despite being pulled up after a bad mistake. They look the two to concentrate on at Ascot 3.15pm.
And finally, we return to Haydock to sign off with Saroque in the closing three mile handicap at 3.35pm. He has a good record fresh, Venetia Williams’ stable are starting to hit form, and he’ll relish the testing ground.