Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow on Saturday at Haydock Park and Ascot. View selections below
Five will go to post for the Betfair Chase including the winners of the corresponding race for the last three years and it is the hat-trick seeking Silviniaco Conti (3.00) who gets the vote. The selection who won this valuable prize in 2012 and 2014 is likely to try and make all and made a satisfactory comeback when beaten 4l by Brother Tedd (runs Ascot) over timber at the beginning of the month.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has saddled the winner six times in the last nine years and it is well documented that a flat track, three miles and soft ground is ideal; he is 4/5 at BetVictor and is difficult to oppose.
The 2013 winner Cue Card reportedly had breathing issues last term and came back to something like his very best when landing the Charlie Hall on his reappearance at Wetherby. He had the selection over five lengths behind in third when winning the 2013 renewal but he has seen the back of the selection on more than one occasion since.
One slight concern when the selection scored at Aintree in April it was noticeable that he jumped out to his right sometimes markedly and it is possible that Kempton and another tilt at the King George will see him in an even better light.
The 3m 4f chase will take some getting and Lackamon is well treated on his best from despite being raised a couple of pounds since finishing second to Grand National sixth Royale Knight at Sedgefield last month. He must go close but the lightly-raced No Deal (12.40) gets the nod for the inform Lucinda Russell; the selection has stamina to prove but I was taken with his Ayr success on soft ground earlier in the year and first time out might be the time to catch him.
The finale is another fascinating contest; Royal Palladium is 6lbs higher than when finishing runner up at Wincanton in the Badger Ales and is a progressive young stayer but the vote goes to a similar type in Straidnahanna (3.35) up 4lbs for finishing second at Kelso on good ground but at least as adept when the mud is flying.
The selection has always promised to make up into a decent staying chaser and this winning point-to-pointer is open to significant improvement this term.
At Ascot Astigos (12.55) is only 1 lb higher than when finishing third in the corresponding race last year and he was, arguably, unlucky given he was interfered with on more than one occasion. He has yet to win in Britain and has proved frustrating at times but he had a recent pipe-opener over 2m 3f and should be fully wound up this afternoon.
Midnight Belle (1.30) reverts to timber in the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle and is 5lbs lower over hurdles than fences; she is a personal favourite and trainer Tom Symonds has won the corresponding race twice in the last three years.
Vautour makes his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 2 Stella Artois Chase and is impossible to oppose despite the shock defeat of stablemate Faugheen last weekend. This is a cracking contest with Ptit Zig a worthy opponent after his recent Grade 2 success in Down Royal. Vautour has to start somewhere and the long term aim remains the Gold Cup although I think he will line up in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in the spring.
Brother Tedd (2.40) gets a confident vote in the Ascot Hurdle having created such a favourable impression when beating Silviniaco Conti at Kempton on his reappearance; this is much softer ground but I think he’s a decent sort and at 6/4 with BetVictor can beat former Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby in receipt of 8lbs.