Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday. View selections below.
SILVINIACO CONTI (3.00) can draw first blood in the battle of the big guns in a box-office Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Paul Nicholls’ stable star is taken to repeat last year’s victory and lay down a significant marker for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. Silviniaco Conti goes particularly well when fresh, a point underlined by his emphatic 2012 Charlie Hall Chase success. Victory in this event 12 months ago came at the main expense of Long Run, who reopposes here with plenty to prove after his recent Wetherby shocker. Nicky Henderson’s No 1 hope, gallant Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth, is a more potent threat, especially given his superb first-time-out record. But does he possess the inherent speed to beat Silviniaco Conti? It’s a fascinating conundrum and many observers considered the Nicholls ace an unlucky loser when exiting three out at Cheltenham. This is no two-horse race, however, and with eight declared there’s a strong temptation to play each-way with the likes of classy Cue Card, Dynaste or Tidal Bay in the line-up.
Cue Card’s last attempt at three miles ended in ignomy in the King George but he clearly resented the restraining tactics employed that day. This free-running sort will be allowed to bowl along this time and his rivals wouldn’t want to give Joe Tizzard too much rope. Dynaste was a top novice last season and is pitched in at the deep end by David Pipe. The stable enjoyed a Super Sunday at Cheltenham’s Open meeting but Dynaste has plenty on his plate. Old boy Tidal Bay continues to delight and astound, and any more rain would be in his favour. This race will divide opinions and it’s Silviniaco Conti for me.
On a superb Betfair-sponsored programme, GULLINBURSTI (2.25) can continue Emma Lavelle’s explosive run by landing the ‘Fixed Brush’ Handicap Hurdle over three miles. The seven-year-old sauntered home by 27 lengths at Market Rasen earlier this month and a 9lb rise may not anchor him in this much more competitive 17-runner event.
FAR WEST (12.45) can give the Nicholls team an early score on the door in the Intermediate Hurdle. He chased home the brilliant Our Conor last March and proved his well-being in his recent Wincanton scrap with Melodic Rendezvous. Henderson’s Rolling Star was an expensive failure at Cheltenham and Aintree but may have strengthened up over the summer.
Donald McCain has an impressive record at Haydock and CLONDAW KAEMPER (1.50) is on the comeback trail after picking up a tendon injury in last season’s Challow Hurdle. He had earlier looked an exciting prospect judged on his bumper success over last weekend’s impressive Cheltenham winner The Liquidator in a Fairyhouse bumper, plus subsequent wins at Haydock and Aintree.
At Ascot, AL FEROF (2.05) goes head-to-head with Captain Chris in the Amlin Chase. Despite only three runners going to post, this is set up for an intriguing tactical duel. Al Ferof hasn’t been seen since romping home in last year’s Paddy Power at Cheltenham and is taken to pull rank over the admirable Captain.
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