We have some very hot handicaps to look forward to, this weekend. Seymour Biz predicts a triumphant seasonal reappearance for Vintage Clouds, a horse that finished 3rd in the 2018 Cheltenham Ultima.
Some fabulous proper winter racing to look forward to all over the country this weekend. So if you can, wrap up warm and get out to watch some great jumping action. Television cameras on Saturday are at Haydock and Ascot with the Betfair Chase at the former. It promises to be a great contest with last year’s hero, Bristol De Mai (who needs soft going), and a repeat of the two main protagonists from the Cheltenham Gold Cup in action, they eyeballed each other on that day in March with the ground proving more suitable for Native River. However with the better surface promised, l fully expect Might Bite to get some semblance of revenge for that defeat. At Ascot the Christy’s 1965 looks good for Min, while the Coral Hurdle should be a shoe-in for Laurina. This is the first outing of the season for the Mullins trained mare as he plots her route to the Champion Hurdle after her victories at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse in March and April. Mullins is of the opinion she could be something very special so it will be exciting to see her strut her stuff at Ascot. But to try and find some value I have looked at the four handicaps being televised, three at Haydock and one at Ascot, for this weeks Lucky Fifteen so here they are.
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I will start with the 3.15 at Ascot, the Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase over two and a bit miles. The extra prize money here has attracted a class field this year and at the top of the betting is Paul Nicholls’s star Modus. He just got home from Duke Of Navan at Cheltenham in October but does tend to make mistakes in his races. Duke Of Navan has a 2lb pull on him here. Alan King states Valdez is ground dependent as he needs rain so I take that as a massive hint. Theinval makes his seasonal reappearance for Nicky Henderson, he finished last season with a fine victory at Ayr beating Dolos and Duke Of Navan but will have 8lb more on his back than he carried that day in April. I like the look of another of Paul Nicholls’s horses and that is Cyrname, one of my Chasers to Follow. He has had a run a run already this season going down by four and a half lengths to the smart Mister Whitaker. He came back fit and well after that and will be ready for this contest.
And so to the main meeting of the day at Haydock and the first televised race is the 1.50, Betfair Best Odds On ITV Races Handicap Hurdle. The bookies favourite for this is Harry Fry’s Black Mischief who has been out already this season but unfortunately fell at the last when looking all over the winner at Market Rasen in October. He had a consistent season last year culminating with a win at Kempton in April. He also won first time out in 2017 which shows he goes well early in the season, he looks my idea of the winner. Amongst his challengers is Cyrus Darius, who has top weight, from Colin Tizzard’s stable. He was a dual winner last season but seems to prefer heavy going, he will not get that on Saturday at Haydock. Paul Nicholls has Cliffs Of Dover declared but after a great season in 2016/17, he ran only once last year and was pulled up then. It remains to be seen if he still retains his old magic and I think he is best watched. Another worth a mention is Mr Antolini who finished last season well, but he had a hard race at the end of October at Cheltenham, he may run into a place at a decent price.
At 2.25 we have the Betfair Exchange Stayers Handicap Hurdle over three miles. It was won by Sam Spinner last year who went on to great things, I wonder if there is anything of that class in this field? First Assignment from Ian Williams’s stable looks the obvious candidate with two victories under his belt already this season. Both those have come at Cheltenham including last week when he won by 9 lengths but he has a 5lb penalty for that last win. Nicky Henderson saddles the top weight with Chef Des Obeaux, who after three wins last year was then highly tried at both the Aintree and Cheltenham Festivals. He was unfortunately pulled up on both occasions so drops back into handicap company to try to get back to winning ways. Paisley Park is another who failed at Cheltenham last March but came to Aintree and won first time out in October. However he is another with a lot of weight to carry here. Looking lower down the handicap Dragon D’Estruval from Nicky Henderson’s yard looks good to me. A chase winner in France, Henderson dropped him back to hurdles in May and he duly obliged winning by 6 lengths, the 5-year-old can go on to good things. Worth a mention is Pobbles Bay who most people had high hopes for last season after his victories the season before, he ran into a place at Aintree last week and may well be placed again.
The Better Value On The Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase is at 3.35 and Chase The Spud, who won this last year, has been given top weight. Unfortunately the gelding was pulled up on his next three runs and has finished his races with problems including bleeding from the nose. On top of that he has 7lbs more than when he won last year and I think that diminishes his chances considerably. Braqueur d’Or trained by Paul Nicholls heads the market on the back of his win at Taunton last week where he won by 6 lengths, this race may come a little too soon. Sue Smith has Vintage Clouds in the lineup for his seasonal reappearance. He won first time out last year and finished his season with two good thirds at Cheltenham and Ayr, he has the class to take this. Also fancied is Captain Redbeard who is a dual course winner, he has had a prep run for this at Carlisle at the beginning of this month finishing third. Takingrisks won on his seasonal debut over hurdles at Ayr at the beginning of the month, the going won’t be a problem for him as he goes on any surface, he may well take a place at a nice price but it’s Vintage Clouds for me.
Saturday Lucky 15
3.15 Ascot. Cyrname
1.50 Haydock. Black Mischief
2.25 Haydock. Dragon d’Estruval
3.35 Haydock. Vintage Clouds