Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ascot and Haydock Park on Saturday. View selections below.
SILVINIACO CONTI (3.00) can atone for a tepid comeback run by producing a command performance in the star-studded Betfair Chase at Haydock. Paul Nicholls’ yard wasn’t firing on all cylinders when Silviniaco Conti made a disappointing return in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on ground which was on the lively side for last year’s King George hero. The yard has since hit a purple patch but my selection, winner of this event in 2012, will need to be at the top of his game to see off Cue Card, so impressive 12 months ago, and high-class chasers Dynaste, Taquin Du Seuil and Menorah. Cue Card had a stiff task on his return at Exeter and is also expected to improve with that pipe-opener under his belt.
VOLNAY DE THAIX (2.25) has been touted as a handicap snip in the Betfair Fixed Brush Hurdle, and with very good reason. Nicky Henderson’s rising star hacked up at Huntingdon and was put up a stone by the assessor. However, he can run here off a 5lb penalty so, in theory, he has 9lb up his sleeve. The former French-trained gelding should stay this longer trip of three miles but he meets a doughty opponent in David Pipe’s Katkeau. Pipe has lifted this nice prize with Dynaste, Grand Crus and Gevrey Chambertin, and lightly-weighted Katkeau bids to defy a 5lb penalty for last weekend’s thrilling Cheltenham victory over Big Easy, who reopposes with an obvious chance. Stablemate Vieux Lion Rouge can also serve it up to Volnay de Thaix in a cracking contest.
The Henderson/Barry Geraghty axis also hold leading claims with DAWALAN (1.15) in the Betfair-sponsored 2m 4f handicap hurdle. The four-year-old meets some battle-hardened elders but a repeat of his fine second to talented stablemate Sign Of A Victory at Ascot would put him in the frame. Nicholls pulls out last weekend’s Cheltenham scorer Morito Du Berlais under Sam Twiston-Davies and the combination look sure to attract a weight of money.
At Ascot, RAJDHANI EXPRESS (2.05) could surprise last year’s winner Al Ferof and Wishfull Thinking in the Amlin 1965 Chase. Rajdhani Express ran third in the Ryanair Chase in March, with Al Ferof fifth. They met at level weights that day but my selection now receives 10lbs. Philip Hobbs enjoyed a wonderful Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham and Wishfull Thinking is perfectly capable of keeping the ball rolling if repeating his Old Roan form. He also concedes weight to Rajdhani Express, who was still travelling comfortably when dislodging his rider at Aintree.
ULCK DU LIN (3.15), a dual Ascot scorer, clearly goes well at the track and Nicholls has taken 7lb off his back with the booking of young Jack Sherwood. Still only a six-year-old, Ulck Du Lin jumped like an old hand for another inexperienced rider when scoring over course and distance three weeks ago.
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