He was a very good novice chaser last year, just beaten in the JLT at Cheltenham by York Hill. That lovely comeback run over hurdles was just enough to blow away the cobwebs at Aintree. He travelled well but just blew up. He’s two from two at Ascot and he’s good value at 5/2. At that price he’ll take an awful lot beating.
Big River could well put it up to the more fancied Clan des Obeaux and Born Survivor. He relishes testing ground which Haydock is heavy all over at the moment. He won a Novice Chase at Kelso when the favourite fell but he’s been to Haydock at soft ground last year, finished second to the handicap but been very impressive in heavy ground since Kelso. He’ll have no problem with the trip, the ground’s ideal and he’s getting weight off the whole field. He’s getting 11 pounds of Clan des Obeaux and 4 pounds off Born Survivor and Vintage Clouds and I think they might swing things in his favour. I think he’ll be hard to beat off a low weight.
Verni looks a cracking each way bet. He was second last year in the Martin Pipe beaten only by Champagne Classic who ended up winning a grade 1 at Punchestown afterwards. His form is really strong. The likes of Thomas Campbell who came fifth in that has won a couple of handicaps this year, Born Survivor has won over fences, No Comment was second at the Aintree and Punchestown festivals. The fact that Verni has only gone out four pounds makes it very interesting. It ties in form with Clyne on their run last year here at Haydock but Verni’s improved significantly since then. I think he just has Clyne to beat and I think he might well beat him.
We’ve got five places in this one and I like the look of Champers on Ice. He was third in the Albert Bartlett behind Unowhatimeanharry and Fagan and that was strong enough form. Last year he went chasing and won his Beginners Chase and was second to American who’s a fine favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy in a couple of weeks’ time. He disappointed in the handicap and ultimately in the 4 miler at Cheltenham but he’s got the blinkers on here for the return to hurdles. He loves the stamina test which he’ll get and his mark at 143 looks fair enough for what he’s achieved over hurdles and fences. He just looks sure to be placed and wouldn’t be surprised if he won here.
1.15 pm Haydock – Big River
1.50pm Haydock – Verni
2.05pm Ascot – Top Notch
2.25pm Haydock – Champers on Ice
* All prices correct as of time of posting