Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Ascot and Haydock.
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A wonderful card at Haydock Park with the feature event the Grade 1 Betfair Chase over an extended three miles which sees the seasonal reappearance of Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth (9/4 at BetVictor) who is likely to go off favourite but I’m not convinced this flat track is ideal and he is reluctantly overlooked although, whatever happens today, he remains the one to beat at Cheltenham in March.
I think the race will be fought out by last year’s winner Silviniaco Conti (11/4 at BetVictor) and Dynaste (3.00) with marginal preference for the latter who goes so well fresh and representing the yard of David Pipe who had four winners at Cheltenham on Sunday. The grey won on this card two years ago, on his reappearance, and was taken out of the Paddy Power at Cheltenham last weekend to wait for this Grade 1 event. He is currently 6/1 at BetVictor (ew 1/5 odds first 3) and he can reward, at least, each way support.
I would put a line through Silviniaco Conti’s Aintree run back in the spring when he wasn’t at his best despite the fact that he finished within 2l of the winner. He was too good for Long Run in the corresponding event 12 months ago and I fully expect him to confirm the form; another who goes very well fresh he must go close to following up his 2012 success.
I am loath to desert Gullinbursti (7/1) in the Fixed Brush Final but reluctantly do so in favour of bottom weight Night In Milan (2.25) who can reward each way support over these mini-fences before reverting back to the larger obstacles later in the season. This represents a big step up in grade for the Keith Reveley-trained runner and his son James has chosen stablemate Crowning Jewel, but I just favour Night In Milan at 33/1 with BetVictor in another cracking renewal.
I am hoping Far West (12.45) can boost the claims of Melodic Rendezvous for next weekend’s Fighting Fifth in the Intermediate Hurdle; the selection lost little in defeat at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle and today’s forecast soft ground is a plus. Barry Geraghty rides Rolling Star who finished behind the selection in the Triumph when going off the 5/2 favourite and he was again well punted when fifth in the Aintree juvenile hurdle at the National meeting.
If he can improve his jumping Gorgehous Lliege (1.15) must go close for Venetia Williams in the Marathon 3m 5f Chase; the selection did well to get within a length and a quarter of the winner at Sandown last time when suggesting that a thorough test would see him in an even better light.
The Ascot executive must be bitterly disappointed with the turn out for their feature races but they are fascinating events and I like the look of the mare Annie Power (2.40) in the Ascot Hurdle. Trained by the great Willie Mullins in Ireland the selection is unbeaten in seven starts including in Grade 1 company at Fairyhouse back in the spring and although she has the scope to jump a fence in time this looks a good piece of placing by Mullins given she receives 11lbs from Aintree Hurdle winner Zarkandar who is open to further improvement this term.
In the opener Carraig Mor (12.25) can maintain his unbeaten record having scooted clear at Uttoxeter on his debut under rules for Alan King; he could be anything and is clearly one to keep on the right side of.
I may be accused of following Florafern (1.30) over a cliff bit she is taken to go one better than when runner up in the corresponding race last year off a 2lb lower mark. As long as there is no significant rain she must go close although the fact that she is fitted with a hood for the first time tempers confidence slightly; she won first time out last season and today might be her time.