What a Saturday we have in store! The clash we’ve all been waiting to see goes ahead at Ascot in the Christy 1965 Chase at 14.05 and Bristol De Mai looks for a three-peat in the Betfair Chase at Haydock at 15.00.
We’ll start at Ascot and I’m in Altior’s corner against Cyrname. I find it strange that some people are saying he is too ‘old’ and that his form last season was suspect!
He has won every race over jumps he has run in, is unbeaten in 19 starts and his jockey Nico de Boinville is unbeaten on him every time he rode him!
You can argue that he jumps a bit left when in front on his own but when he ran at Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase he was as straight as a gun-barrel when given a lead by Special Tiara as he was at Sandown in the Tingle Creek a couple of years ago when he beat Un De Sceaux.
Having a lead will be a major plus for him and his main rival Cyrname, will go a good gallop to stretch any stamina doubts about Nicky Henderson’s runner. Cyrname likes jumping right-handed so everything is set up for Altior to sit in behind, travel in third gear and go past the Paul Nicholls runner on the run to the last!
The under-card at Ascot features the 2m 3f Ascot Hurdle at 14.40 which is a good little contest in its own right. Henderson and de Boinville team up with likely favourite Call Me Lord, but it’s his first run of the season and that’s a slight concern. The trip will be fine for him as he started his campaign last season over 3m at Haydock and ran into the eventual Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park.
Given the doubts over this being his first run of the new term, I’ll go for the Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle winner Roksana because she has had a run at Aintree and was a little unlucky to finish second to Top Notch after making a bad mistake.
The 2m 1f Handicap Chase at 15.20 looks an open contest with Diego Du Charmil and Capeland clashing again after providing us with plenty of drama the last time they met at this track. It would have been very close between them had Diego not carried his stablemate through the wing of the fence, while just about squeezing through it himself, to avoid being disqualified.
However it mightn’t be about that pair this time as trainer Gary Moore has gone for the first-time headgear for the front-running Knocknanuss. If that doesn’t light him up too much, he will take some catching out in front.
At Haydock, the feature race of the day is the Betfair Chase at 15.00.
Bristol De Mai is the one for me as he zooms in on a three-peat at the track he loves. Everybody thinks of him as a mud lover but it was good ground last year and he still managed to win.
Lostintranslation was a good winner at Carlisle on his seasonal debut. His form got a fair boost with Defi Du Seuil won at Cheltenham last Sunday. The Ryanair Chase winner Frodon steps into the unknown over this 3m 1f distance a little and while Ballyoptic was a game winner last time in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, this Grade One contest is tougher.
It’s Bristol De Mai all the way for me.
The 2m 3f Handicap Hurdle at 13.50 starts ITV’s coverage at Haydock and Project Bluebook was probably going to win when his rider took the wrong course two out at Wetherby. He races off the same mark and Barry Geraghty is booked, but the worry is that if the ground turns very soft, it brings in a few of the others further down the handicap.
Trainer Henry Daly has his team in great form, so I am taking an each-way punt on Honest Vic.
The 3m handicap hurdle at 14.25 is as competitive as ever and David Pipe’s Umbrigado heads the early market after having a wind operation while previous course winner Lisnagar Oscar will have his supporters back over hurdles, after a planned campaign over fences didn’t work out.
He has to be respected off his rating.
However, at a double-digit price in a race where Paddy is paying the first 6 home if 16 runners go to post, Flash the Steel makes each-way appeal for Dan Skelton’s team, after winning a hot race at Chepstow that normally produces lots of winners.
*Prices and declared runners correct at time of publishing