IS defending Gold Cup champion and King George hero Long Run the weekend’s banker in the Betfair Chase at Haydock? Not in my book. Trainer Nicky Henderson will have a repeat of his Boxing Day triumph at Kempton as Long Run’s first principal target of the season and DIAMOND HARRY (3.05) can surely serve it up to the boy wonder.
My selection is at his very best when fresh, a point he underlined when winning last season’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on his seasonal bow. Having fancied Diamond Harry to scoop last month’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, when a last-minute setback caused his disappointing defection, there is no reason to desert him now. Kauto Star bids for a magnificent four-timer in the race and looks sure to be involved, with Time For Rupert and Weird Al adding even more lustre to a mouth-watering contest.
Diamond Harry’s jockey James Reveley has another plum mount aboard his dad Keith’s dour stayer EYRE SQUARE (1.55) in the 3m 4f slog. The eight-year-old is admirably consistent and ran another solid race when chasing home Morning Moment at the Lancashire track last month.
GRANDOUET (12.15) was travelling strongly on the heels of Wincanton winner Celestial Halo when crashing out at the penultimate flight and compensation awaits in the Betfair Hurdle.
At Ascot, MASTER MINDED (2.10) is another big gun to be rolled out by Paul Nicholls and the top weight can see off some smart opponents, most notably Somersby and Kalahari King, in the Amlin 1965 Chase.
OSCAR WHISKY (2.45), third behind Hurricane Fly and Peddlers Cross in the Champion Hurdle, can make a winning reappearance at the main expense of Overturn in the Coral Hurdle.