*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change
This race has been won by the likes of Taquin Du Seuil, Bristol De Mai and Sam Brown in recent years and this £440k point-to-point purchase Papa Tango Charley didn’t win over hurdles until his sixth start. He’s won two Carlisle handicaps easily and while the form of the first is working out well, but he had to work a little harder for his second victory. He’s 2lb shy on the top-rated Minella Drama who is rated 147 and is dropping back from Grade One company, but may have a little to prove.
Jonbon is impossible to oppose really but the Henderson camp will be seeing if Might I can put the Constitution Hill form to the test. A big run from Might I will be a positive for Constitution Hill who beat him easily at Sandown last month. Donny Boy on paper would look to have plenty on his plate to take second, but he has easily won a point-to-point, a bumper and a maiden hurdle. He needs to improve but with the strong pace likely to suit, he could get the runner-up spot if ridden that way.
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This very lightly-raced seven-year-old won his point-to-point beating the now 143-rated Pay The Piper and won his first two starts over hurdles at Taunton – once against Pertemps Final / Stayers Hurdle hopeful Alaphilippe who carried a double penalty. He pulled up at Warwick last February and didn’t run again until an excellent second to Up For Parol at Haydock, who finished sixth in the Lanzarote Hurdle last weekend. The fifth that day, Hart of Steel, has won since. Stellar Magic has gone up 5lb for that but is still open to improvement.
Won this contest last year when beating Buveur D’Air and Ballyandy when making all the running. He has to shoulder a penalty but first-time blinkers could help him execute the same tactics. His trainer Donald McCain is having a great season and has hit 100 winners already. The favourite Tommy’s Oscar was rated 139 a few months ago and while he is improving, he mightn’t be as far ahead of Navajo Pass and the rest of the field as the prices suggest.
My Sister Sarah underperformed at Leopardstown but won a Listed mares race over 3m at Kempton back in November and needs to go right-handed to be at her best. Mollys Ollys Wishes and Western Victory are the top rated on 145 and My Sister Sarah sits on 143. Personally, I’d have My Sister Sarah as the market leader.
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Sam Brown finished third at Aintree last time behind Protektorat, but literally was allowed to walk home when it was clear only three would finish. That was his seasonal reappearance last month and the Anthony Honeyball yard weren’t firing on all four cylinders. With Royale Pagaille in the field, he has only to carry 10st 8lbs and has run very well in deep ground at this venue before when winning a Grade 2 Novices’ Chase. Paddy’s paying 4 places too which will help.
This trip looks ideal for Phoenix Way who won on his chase debut in November 2020 but found Grade One company too hot on his next two runs. He may have needed his comeback run at Newbury in November but put in an improved show at Ascot when chasing Annsam home over three miles. He gets to run off the same mark of 140 again now over a trip that looks ideal.
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Routine Excellence showed nothing in a bumper and four chase starts in three months early last year. but landed a punt in a maiden hurdles for horses who haven’t placed before. He bolted up over 2m3f in that Naas contest ands the second Salmanino, and won a 3m handicap on his next start off 99. Bonnie Kellie, who was in contention when falling at the last, won easily next time in a 2m handicap at Punchestown off a rating of 90. Routine Excellence runs off 88 in this and must be a good thing if running anywhere near that hurdles form. Being a former point-to-point winner, there should be no concerns with the return to chasing in a race where Paddy is paying 5 places.
Nothing has been able to lay a glove on Energumene over jumps so far in Ireland. I loved the way he went head-to-head with Notebook at Cork last time and still was able to win convincingly. If Energumene can’t win at Ascot against Shishkin, then he can’t beat him in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Everything is in his favour to dominate this, like going right handed, the 2m1f trip, a small field… it’s all there. He can put Shishkin to the sword before the straight. I’m as confident as you can be in a race like this. I can’t see either one hammering the other, but I fancy Energumene to do the business.
Bought for £70k after winning his point-to-point in October, Galia Des Liteux won on his hurdles debut at Wetherby over 2m 3f by 30 lengths. It mightn’t have been the strongest of races, but the third has won a bumper since and the fourth now has a rating of 118.
The Grey Falco won his maiden hurdle at Chepstow in 2020 on heavy ground but hasn’t won since. However, his sixth-place finish to Lively Citizen at Cheltenham last time was full of promise. The second Broomfield Burg bolted up in a novice at Kempton subsequently and is among the ante-post favourites for the Betfair Hurdle. Royaume Uni finished third again in a decent Kempton handicap, while the fourth Quito Do Mar was running really well in the Lanzarote Hurdle last weekend, when he fell at the last.
The Grey Falcao has been dropped 3lbs since that Cheltenham run last month and has had a wind operation. The Alastair Ralph yard have had a couple of winners in the last week or so too.
Saturday’s betting tips:
12:50 Haydock – Papa Tango Charly
13:25 Haydock – Donny Boy (without Jonbon)
13:45 Ascot – Stellar Magic
14:00 Haydock – Navajo Pass
14:20 Ascot – My Sister Sarah
14:35 Haydock – Sam Brown (each-way)
14:55 Ascot – Phoenix Way (each-way)
15:25 Navan – Routine Excellence
15:35 Ascot – Energumene
16:05 Ascot – Galia Des Liteux (nap)
16:15 Haydock – The Grey Falco
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
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