Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Haydock, Ascot and Naas. View selections below
Another wonderful weekend of racing with an excellent card at Haydock Park in which Tim Easterby’s Trustan Times (12.55) reverts back to the larger obstacles having disappointed when last seen over fences back in 2012. A winning point-to-pointer in his native Ireland he was the best of these over timber, will love the ground and certainly has the scope to make his mark over fences. The Paul Nicholls’ trained Benvolio put behind a first fence fall at Fontwell on his chase debut when scoring at Newbury last time and may give the selection most to think about.
The Grade 2 Novices’ Chase is a wonderful renewal; Taquin Du Seuil has the form in the book but must give 7lbs to O’Faolains Boy and David Pipe’s Gevrey Chambertin (1.30) and the latter, a brother of the yards Grand Crus, gets the nod with this intermediate trip of 2m 5f ideal. The selection won the valuable Betfair Fixed Brush Hurdle here back in November and connections have always felt he would make into a top class chaser.
The Stan James Champion Hurdle Trial looks a match between Nicholls’ Ptit Zig (2.40) and Melodic Rendezvous with the former getting the nod despite giving 4lbs to the Jeremy Scott stable star. Ptit Zig finished third in last year’s Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival but has done nothing but improve since and put up a career best effort when second in a valuable Ascot handicap off top-weight last time.
We know five-year-olds have a poor record in the Champion Hurdle itself, which doesn’t augur well for Ptit Zig’s chances in March, but opposition looks thin on the ground today. Melodic Rendezvous was badly out of sorts at Newcastle last time and connections were considering stepping him up in trip and also a possible switch to fences earlier in the season. Those plans are currently on hold and the Nicholls yard saddled Celestial Halo to win the corresponding race in 2012 (abandoned last year) and he can follow up today.
The Peter Marsh Chase is worth the admission money alone. Night Alliance turned the Tommy Whittle into a procession over C&D last time but he is, effectively, 15lbs higher today and that might just prevent him following up in this hotter race.
The Minack is much respected returning from a 700-day absence for Paul Nicholls but I always thought he was better going right-handed and perhaps the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton next month will be targeted.
Katenko is better than he has shown in two starts to date this season and his current odds of 50/1 for the Gold Cup at BetVictor (Non Runner No Bet) will be cut if he wins today but marginal preference goes to Vintage Star (3.15) who will appreciate the step back in trip having looked a non-stayer in the Welsh National (3m 6f) off a 2lb lower mark over Xmas.
Peter Marsh Chase: Odds from BetVictor;
Merry King 4/1
Sydney Paget 6/1
Vintage Star 7/1
Night Alliance 8/1
At Ascot Renard is likely to be all the rage for the 2m 5f handicap Chase after his Chepstow romp last time but that race might have fallen apart in front of him and he must defy a 9lb rise. Tatenen has won this corresponding race the last twice it has been run (abandoned 2013) and he showed he was no back number when scoring at Newbury last time off a 12lbs higher mark. This ground (forecast heavy) might just prevent the hat-trick and Theatrical Star (3.00) gets the vote for the Tizzards although he, too, has been raised 7lbs for winning a poor race at Taunton last time.
It is hardly a vintage renewal of the Clarence House Chase, formerly the Victor Chandler Chase, and I see no reason why Sire De Grugy (3.35) should not follow up his success in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month. He is currently 3/1 (NRNB) for the Bet Victor Champion Chase with the sponsors but if Sprinter Sacre brings his A game to Cheltenham in March then surely they are all playing for second place.
In Ireland Sizing Gold (1.35) has been nibbled at for the RSA Chase (20 into 16s) and he can enhance his claims stepped up to 3 miles in the Naas Grade 2 Novice Chase which is a very hot contest with Roque Angel and Foxrock in opposition.