NICKY HENDERSON fields a strong weekend team headed by RIVERSIDE THEATRE (3.00) in the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase, a race his young chaser won last year. Riverside Theatre dished out a 10 lengths drubbing to Gauvain that day, on the back of his runner-up spot behind Long Run in the King George, and is unlikely to fail through lack of fitness after a full year’s absence.
Henderson saddles useful dual-purpose gelding KEYS (1.15) in a competitive opening 2m 3f novices’ hurdle and the ground won’t be as testing as Keys encountered at Aintree in December when getting a rear view of Cinders And Ashes. Keys was a smart staying handicapper on the level and a high cruising speed should enable Barry Geraghty to ease his mount into contention on the home turn.
Underfoot conditions will be more testing at Haydock and stamina will be paramount in the Betfred Grand National Trial over 3m 4f. The finish may be fought out by the first two home in the Welsh National, Le Beau Bai and GILES CROSS (3.20). Giles Cross looked the probable winner early in the home straight at Chepstow, travelling strongly for Denis O’Regan, but was gradually worn down by worthy winner Le Beau Bai. My selection enjoys a 7lb pull in the weights and may turn the tables on his adversary.
At Lingfield, CAPTAIN DIMITRIUS (4.00) can poke his head in front in Round 7 of the popular Blue Square Sprint Series. Captain Dimitrius has become a real Saturday regular, failing in a blanket finish behind Nubar Boy here seven days ago, and will find this company slightly easier.
In the opener, CLEAN BOWLED (1.10) can reward favourite backers. The application of cheekpieces did the trick in no uncertain terms at Wolverhampton nine days ago when he routed odds-on favourite Crowning Star, who reopposes here with little chance on the formbook of reversing placings.
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