Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow on Saturday at Haydock Park and Ascot. View selections below
The big Grade 1 event of the day is the Betfair Chase from Haydock Park with last year’s 1-2-3 Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti again in opposition. Cue Card finished fourth at Exeter on his reappearance, but that will have cleared the airwaves and I expect him to again have the measure of Dynaste, making his seasonal reappearance, and Silviniaco Conti who disappointed in the Charlie Hall last month but at a time when the Paul Nicholls runners were in need of their first run of the season.
There is heavy rain due to hit the track on Friday which will suit Harry Topper (3.00) whose jumping can be a bit hit and miss but who goes well fresh and represents the inform yard of Kim Bailey. His Charlie Hall success over 12 months ago was an extraordinary performance given the poor round of jumping he put in but he certainly has an engine and at 14/1 with BetVictor can reward each way support.
The Fixed Brush Hurdle has seen quite a gamble on Volnay De Thaix after his impressive Huntingdon success but I think the two who fought out the finish of Saturday’s listed hurdle at Cheltenham Katkeau and Big Easy (2.25) and I think the Cesarewitch winner can get his revenge on 5lb better terms although it is only 2lbs in real terms as Philip Hobbs’ doesn’t claim on the selection as he did last weekend. I am loath to desert Katkeau who did us a favour last week but he was returning from a long lay-off at Cheltenham and may need time to get over those exertions.
Morito Du Berlais has only been raised 5lbs for last weekend’s Cheltenham success and must have every chance of following up but my two against the field are Heath Hunter and Dawalan (1.15) with preference for the latter stepped up in trip to two-and-a-half miles for the first time.
Lackamon caught a tartar at Sedgefield last time and has a leading chance in the finale but Masters Hill (3.35) is still unexposed over fences and can make a winning reappearance for Colin Tizzard who saddles Cue Card earlier in the afternoon.
At Ascot Wishfull Thinking will be a warm order in the Amlin Chase, having won so impressively at Aintree in the Old Roan Chase last month, but I’m not convinced he is as good racing right-handed and preference is for last year’s winner Al Ferof (2.05) with Ruby Walsh taking the ride for his former guvnor Paul Nicholls. He is a 5/2 shot with BetVictor and as long as the ground doesn’t become too testing he can win this Grade 2 contest for a second time.
Walsh is at Ascot, primarily, to ride Irish raider Faugheen (2.40) who is currently the 3/1 favourite for the Champion Hurdle at BetVictor and really should land the odds in the Coral Hurdle for Willie Mullins who is likely to be making more and more forays to Britain with such an embarrassment of riches at his disposal.
Sunday sees the eagerly-awaited chase debut of Vautour (1.55) at Navan and it will be a huge disappointment if last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner doesn’t make a winning debut over the larger obstacles.
Gallant Oscar (2.55) is thrown in on his chase form in the big handicap hurdle and is only 9lbs higher than when easily scoring over C&D for Tony Martin a fortnight ago.
At Exeter Big Society (2.05) can defy top-weight for Tom George; the selection is a fine strapping individual who is built to carry weight and looked to be getting his act together over the larger obstacles when last seen in the spring.