Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton on Saturday. View selections below.
CUE CARD (3.50) can enhance his Cheltenham prospects by landing the Betfair Chase at Ascot. Both Cue Card and one of his principal protagonists here, Finian’s Rainbow, are leading fancies for the Ryanair Chase at next month’s festival but this is not just a two-horse affair, with Gold Cup hopeful Captain Chris and course winner Somersby also chasing the £85,000 first prize.
Cue Card’s stamina ran out in the King George at Kempton, when a mistake at the first fence also seemed to rattle his confidence. Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old is better judged on a fine effort in the Arkle Trophy, when chasing home Sprinter Sacre at a respectable distance, and his wide-margain romp in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his initial outing this season.
Furthermore, his short head defeat by Bob’s Worth at Newbury as a novice, trying to concede 7lb to the current Gold Cup favourite, marked him down as a top-class chaser around 2m 4f. Finian’s Rainbow, winner of a thrilling Champion Chase last March, flopped on his reappearance when heavy ground seemed to expose a breathing problem. Steps have been taken to remedy that complaint but the ground will be very testing once again at Ascot, which is a worry. Captain Chris had a hard race when just collared close home by Long Run in the King George but is a tough nut to crack. He beat Finian’s Rainbow in the 2011 Arkle, while Somersby also handed out a beating to Nicky Henderson’s horse in last season’s Victor Chandler here. It should be a race to savour.
In an intriguing little novice hurdle, dual Cesarewitch hero AAIM TO PROSPER (1.30) can break his duck. Paul Nicholls’ recruit ran into a couple of smart sorts in Minella Forfitness and Zuider Zee at Doncaster 12 days ago when a blunder two out didn’t help his cause.
Welsh National duellists Monbeg Dude and TEAFORTHREE (2.55) lock horns again in the Betfred Grand National Trial over 3m 4f at soggy Haydock. In-form Nick Scholfield gets the leg-up on Teaforthree, winner of the four mile National Hunt Chase at the 2012 Festival, but the big two won’t have it all their own way, with Warwick winner Rigadin De Beauchene boasting stamina in abundance.
Top mare KENTFORD GREY LADY (2.20) is admirably consistent and Emma Lavelle’s seven-year-old, who chased home Quevada at Cheltenham, again went down with flying colours last time out behind Reve De Sivola and Oscar Whisky.
The Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton is the last of the recognised Champion Hurdle warm-ups and ZARKANDER (3.35) will be very hard to beat. He gave weight and a beating to Prospect Wells over course and distance in November and emerged triumph
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