Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with twelve to follow on Saturday at Haydock Park, Ascot and Wincanton. View selections below
Another wonderful weekend of racing and we begin at Haydock Park where the Grand National Trial is the feature over an extended three-and-a-half miles on ground that is sure to be extremely testing.
Monbeg Dude has been given a chance by the handicapper although he is still 6lbs higher than when last successful and marginal preference goes to Lie Forrit (2.55) despite the fact that the 11-year-old has nothing in hand with Harry The Viking at the revised weights on last month’s Kelso success. Benbens really should have won over half a mile shorter here last month but his stamina gave out in the Welsh National over this trip previously and he is overlooked. It is a wide open contest but Lie Forrit (14/1 at BetVictor) can reward each way support.
At Fishers Cross (2.20) is given a last chance to confirm he is no back number with the Rebecca Curtis yard in such great form. A previous Cheltenham Festival winner he appeared to have the world at his feet but he has failed to scale the heights expected of him and he jumped out to his right at Leopardstown over Christmas when fourth in a stronger race than todays.
Fletchers Flyer (4.00) must give weight away all-round but he looks a thorough stayer and is taken to grind the opposition into submission for Harry Fry. Ballagh promises to be suited by the step up in trip and represents the chief danger in receipt of 7lbs from the selection.
Ballybough Pat is unlikely to take his chance having been declared at Sandown on Friday and Wuff (4.30) is taken to make a belated winning seasonal reappearance for Tom George. A winning pointer he looks extremely well handicapped on his chase debut and must go close with the yard amongst the winners at Leicester earlier in the week. Algernon Pazham and Oscar Fortune are respected but the dogs have been barking about Wuff over fences for some time and he must go close.
Time for tea? Teaforthree (5.05) needs to finish in the first three to be eligible for the Cheltenham Foxhunters and he can’t be opposed despite winning only eight days ago at Bangor-On-Dee. He is a class above today’s opposition although better ground would suit ideally.
At Ascot would you believe Tea For Two (1.30) can land the opener for Nick Williams and Lizzie Kelly who is creating such a good impression in the saddle this season. The selection has won three of four this term and turned a valuable handicap into a procession at Kempton last time.
Teenager Cappa Bleu (2.40) has been given a chance by the handicapper and is taken to land the 3 mile handicap Chase. Twice placed in the Grand National he wasn’t at his best in a Hunter Chase at Kelso on his reappearance but he travelled like he still retained much of his old zest and he finished third in this corresponding race three years ago off a 12lb higher mark.
If Padge (3.15) learnt to settle he would be something to bet on in the handicap hurdle but until he does he can only be a tentative selection given he has been too headstrong in all three of his novice hurdles to date. Diamond King was another who raced too freely last time but that was his seasonal reappearance and now that he has had that run he is likely to settle better. He is a big danger.
The Grade 1 contest on the card can go to Ptit Zig (3.50) who bids to give champion trainer Paul Nicholls a third success in the Ascot Chase but his first since Kauto Star in 2008. The selection is unbeaten in four starts over fences and whilst this represents another step up in class he can take it in his stride en route to the JLT Novice Chase at Cheltenham next month.
Otago Trail (4.20) can maintain his unbeaten record over timber for Venetia Williams; the selection is 25/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at BetVictor and is another who should maintain his 100% record this term en route to the Festival.
The cricket World Cup began last night and Opening Batsman would be a topical selection but he might get taken on for the lead and Toowoomba (1.55) can land the hat-trick at Wincanton for Philip Hobbs.
Sign Of A Victory would be a confident selection on decent ground at Wincanton but heavy rain was forecast on Friday at the track and Blue Heron (3.35) can score for Dan and Nick Skelton. Irving will be favourite having won the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth earlier in the season but he carries a 4lb penalty and the selection might be able to dictate things from the front.
Emma Lavelle’s string have been hitting the bar in recent weeks and there are bits of form which suggest Water Wagtail (4.40) could be very well treated in the finale with conditional Richie O’Dea taking off a valuable 10lbs.