The Swinton Hurdle at Haydock (15.10) is the feature race on Saturday for jumps fans and is as competitive as ever.
We’ve form from some of the big novice hurdles at Cheltenham and Aintree to go on as well as a previous winner of the race, who is dropping dangerously down the handicap. While there are plenty with chances in a race where Paddy is paying the first 5 home – I’ve gone for five against the field and one in particular who may be better than a handicapper in time.
John Constable bolted in here in 2017 and has slipped to a very winnable mark again. His trainer Evan Williams has won this race four times in the last six years and could be a decent each-way play if rediscovering his old form.
Top-weight Le Patriote is a strong traveller with big-field handicap form to his name. While his win at Cheltenham last time was over 2m 4f, he does have winning form at Ayr over 2m, which is a similarly fast track to this.
The four-year-old Christopher Wood was third at Aintree to Pentland Hills in a Grade 1 and is improving all the time. He looks to have plenty of scope off his handicap mark.
The JP McManus-owned Project Bluebook has an eye-catching jockey booking in 3lb claimer Johnjo O’Neill Jnr and is worth watching in the market. He won a couple of years ago at the Galway Festival and his trainer John Quinn is a shrewd operator. If those double-digit odds start dropping you know what to do.
However, I’m taking Mister Fisher to win it, despite being a little disappointing recently. You could argue that he gets flustered in big fields and he never landed a blow at Cheltenham in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. He’s talented though as he showed previously when winning at Kempton and at this track in a Grade 2 contest that had people raving about him.
He’s my pick to prevail now that he runs in a handicap.
The long distance hurdle that opens the card has a very lob-sided look to it with top-weight Whisper keeping the weights down for so many of these. Nicky Henderson’s former RSA Chase runner-up is the class act in the contest and will be ready to run after 18 months off. The one that can beat him though is Philip Hobbs’ Wait for Me.
He ran a great race at Sandown last time and this flat track will suit him.
From the first to the last and Nick Williams’ Diable De Sivola ran a great race at Sandown in a hot novice handicap last month when third to Larry, beaten less than two lengths. A reproduction of that form leaves this contest there for the taking.
*Prices are correct at time of publishing but markets are fluid