Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Haydock Park and Ascot on Saturday. View selections below.
It’s Groundhog Day at Haydock with SILVINIACO CONTI (3.00), Cue Card and Dynaste locking horns yet again in the Betfair Chase. Paul Nicholls’ dual King George hero had Dynaste (3rd) and Cue Card (4th) well held when winning 12 months ago, reversing placings of the previous year, with Cue Card emerging superior. Silviniaco Conti had beaten Long Run in 2012 and a hat-trick is very much on the cards after a pleasing pipe-opener over hurdles at Kempton.
Cue Card took Dynaste’s scalp in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, with David Pipe’s ‘second string’ Ballynagour back in third. Ballynagour ran Silviniaco Conti to a head at Aintree in April and is certainly no back-number. Throw in talented Holywell and we have a tricky, but absorbing, spectacle in prospect.
There is another small turnout for the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle and Nicholls should again have the answer in IRVING (1.50). This is the time of year to catch him and Irving dished out a seven-length beating to Melodic Rendezvous in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, conceding 3lb, and they meet off levels here. Last year, Irving was denied victory in the Elite by a crashing last-flight fall but went on to land the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle a couple of weeks later.
Nicky Henderson reintroduces Top Notch, whose five-victory sequence was brought narrowly to a halt by Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle, and this should be a useful barometer when gauging the strength of the four-year-old brigade against their elders this season.
The Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle is a far hotter betting heat and a big run is anticipated by TEA FOR TWO (2.25). Nick Williams scooped this prize last year with Aubusson, following in the hoofprints of stablemate Diamond Harry in 2009.
Lizzie Kelly gave Aubusson an aggressive front-running ride to beat Big Easy and similar tactics may well be employed on Tea For Two. He was always prominent before kicking on and spread-eagling his rivals in last season’s Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton, coasting home by 16 lengths. The ground was soft that day and underfoot conditions were probably a shade too lively when Tea For Two ran sixth to Court Minstrel at Chepstow on his seasonal return.
My selection remains attractively handicapped and may outgun all-the-way Exeter scorer Yala Enki. Venetia Williams’ ex-French hurdler galloped his rivals into submission and is nicely weighted. Conversely, three-time course winner Closing Ceremony has a bit to do under 11st 12lb, but should still go well.
Lucinda Russell has made a whirlwind start to the season and NO DEAL (12.40) carries plenty of stable confidence in the 3m 4f handicap chase. No Deal is at his best when the mud is flying and the nine-year-old remains relatively unexposed following two years on the sidelines just when his career seemed ready for lift-off. He has won a bumper/hurdle/chase on deep ground and his sound jumping will stand him in good stead in what will be a real slog.
At Ascot, ROCK ON RUBY (2.40) will take a deal of beating in the Coral Hurdle if the ground doesn’t turn too testing. The 2012 Champion Hurdle winner still retains a touch of class and dished out a beating to Vaniteux and Cole Harden at Cheltenham’s New Year Day fixture. On his recent return Rock On Ruby found three miles on very deep ground at Wetherby beyond him when no match for Kilcooley but this 2m 5f trip is ideal. He should be able to concede 8lb to recent Kempton scorer Brother Tedd.
Compare horse racing odds and bet at the best prices