A wonderful days racing with nine live races on Channel 4 including a significant Grand National Trial at Haydock, and a fascinating renewal of the Grade 1 Ascot Chase from the Berkshire track. Last year’s winner Riverside Theatre makes a belated seasonal reappearance having been off the course since that success twelve months ago, but this looks a stronger renewal especially when you consider his market rival suffered a fatal injury in the 2011 race.
Nick Henderson’s 8-y-o has a history of going very well fresh, however, and his 12-month absence is of no concern but he meets seven rivals including the great Kauto Star’s half-brother Kauto Stone (3.00) himself lightly raced this season having won impressively in Ireland on his seasonal debut.
The selection subsequently finished runner up in the Tingle Creek at Sandown over an inadequate trip to the Champion Chaser Sizing Europe and the step back up in trip will suit; Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has had the race in mind for some time.
Half the field are out of the handicap for Haydock’s National Trial over a stamina-sapping 3m 4f on soft ground. The Welsh National 1-2 Le Beau Bai and Giles Cross cross-swords again and head the market and both have nice racing weights with the classy Neptune Collonges at the head of the handicap. Giles Cross outstayed Rey Nacarado (3.20) in the Southern National on his penultimate start and is better off in the weights but if the latter is more amenable to restraint he can gain his revenge.
Cappa Bleu (2.25) is a leading contender for the National if trainer Evan Williams can persuade connections that Aintree ought to be his main end-of-season objective but he is not short of speed and must go close in Ascot’s listed race over 3m.
Keys (1.15) caught a tartar on his hurdling debut but really should go one better with the extra distance of Ascot’s opener very much in the favour of this progressive stayer on the flat.
Ambion Wood (14.10) battled all the way to the line at Warwick last time over 2m 5f and can maintain his progression upped to 3m in Haydock’s 14.10.
On Sunday do keep an eye out for Charlie Mann’s Maringo Bay (3.15) who has the 4m National Hunt Chase as his Festival target. With that in mind one could argue that Sunday’s 2m 6f trip will be on the sharp side but he ran well behind Alfie Spinner (runs Ascot Saturday) at Chepstow last time when he didn’t jumps as well as the winner. There are good races to be won with the 7-y-o and this is a valuable prize for the track. He receives weight from four of his five rivals and merits the weekend nap.
Atouchbetweenacara (2.35) was bitterly disappointing last time when the money came for him; he has been dropped again in the weights by the handicapper and the blinkers that he wore last time are left off at Wincanton. The race is for horses aged 10 or over, he has no weight to carry and if he is ever going to win another race it should be tomorrow.
We are betting ¼ odds all races from Haydock and Ascot at BetVictor and with the dead eight in the Ascot Chase that represents cracking value.