The National Hunt season is in full flow now with the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park at 15.00 the centrepiece of a Super Saturday of jumps action.
But there’s plenty on the undercard to support it …
We kick off at Haydock and the opener on ITV is the 13.50 where Kerry Lee’s Magic Dancer carries 10st 6lbs and looks handicapped to go very close to scoring, even if the yard has been struggling for winners of late. Mr Antolini finished fifth to First Assignment last month and could be the one to beat, but Magic Dancer is the each-way selection.
First Assignment actually looks to back-up his Cheltenham win in the 14.25. He looks ahead of the handicapper and is the one to beat as connections try to take advantage before a future ratings rise. However, Theo’s Charm loves the track and was a good third in this last year and looks a good each-way bet with trainer Nick Gifford in form. Irish raider Folsom Blue switches to hurdles for Gordon Elliott where he has a lower handicap rating, having finished fourth in the Irish Grand National last Spring. He shouldn’t be too far away either.
There may only be five runners in the Betfair Chase at 3pm but it’s a belter that contains two King George VI Chase winners in Might Bite and Thistlecrack and a Gold Cup winner in Native River.
I love Mite Bite for this as he has his optimum conditions and this track will play to his strengths.
Native River was one we were all over for the Gold Cup, but Haydock is not going to suit him as much. I’m worried that he will be on the back foot around here.
Thistlecrack is on the comeback trail after injury and you underestimate him at your peril. This track is made for him and I can see him running a big race.
Last year’s runaway winner Bristol De Mai faces very different conditions compared to last year’s heavy ground. Chuck in Clan Des Obeaux who is the youngest runner in the field, a course winner and ran third to Might Bite at Aintree and you have all the makings of a great race.
It’s Might Bite to win for me.
Captain Redbeard loves Haydock and I fancy him for the 3m 1f Chase at 15.35. Don’t underestimate the value of course form at this track and he warmed up by finishing third at Carlisle over hurdles earlier this month.
There’s a small but select field for this 2m 5f Chase at Ascot 14.05 and I really like Politologue. He was a winner first time out last season and that bodes well here. Charbel is interesting after he gave weight and a beating to last week’s VC Bet Chase winner Baron Alco at Chepstow and his stablemate Benatar starts his season off here after being pulled out on the morning of the race last week.
The Ascot Hurdle at 14.40 sees two horses who finished behind Verdana Bleu in the Elite Hurdle go head-to-head again. My worry is that this race will come too quick for both. If The Cap Fits is held in really high regard by Harry Fry and its interesting to see him over a slightly longer trip. We Have A Dream is definitely going to be better over this trip as he was outpaced by the speedsters at Wincanton – so he gets the nod to reverse that form.
It has the makings of a ‘shock’ and Old Guard, the senior pro in this line up, could be the one to do it. He is as tough as old boots and if the front two don’t live up to expectations, he could take advantage with Bryony Frost in the saddle.
Paul Nicholls’ Modus should head the market in the 15.15 and with good reason, but a decent alternative is his stablemate Cyrname. He loves right-handed tracks, is such a good jumper and can get loose here. Sean Bowen gets a great tune out of him and rates a very good each-way play.