Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Ascot, Newcastle and Haydock. View selections below
A wonderful card at Ascot today and Blue Fashion makes his Chase debut for Nicky Henderson and receives 4lbs and more from his five rivals. The 6-year-old finished second to Faugheen over hurdles on his reappearance last season, has the scope to make a chaser, clearly goes well fresh and is potentially a top class novice. That said he lacks the chasing experience of his six rivals and Mala Beech (1.15) gets the vote for Irish raider Gordon Elliot.
The selection fell at Thurles on his reappearance but was a Grade 2 winner over timber and has always promised to make up into a decent staying chaser. This trip is, arguably, on the sharp side but if none the worse for his fall at Thurles he can take this with Davy Russell coming over for the ride.
I am interested to see if there is any market confidence behind Marcilhac for Venetia Williams despite the fact that he is returning from a 644-day lay-off. The selection was a winner over fences in his native France and is still only six years of age; whatever happens this afternoon I suggest we keep on the right side of him.
Marginal preference, however, goes to Ultragold (1.50) who was well backed and still travelling well when coming down four out at Cheltenham last time. It was too soon to say with any certainty that he would have been involved in the finish but he hadn’t been asked for an effort and he is taken to recoup losses for Colin Tizzard; the booking of Noel Fehily is considered a positive.
Saphir Du Rheu reverts to hurdling having finished fifth in the Hennessy under top-weight last month when he appeared not to get home over the extended three-and-a-quarter-miles. Having finished runner up in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham back in March he is, arguably, the one to beat but the vote goes to Thistlecrack (2.25).
Tom Scudamore was in the plate when the gelding won the Grade 1 Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree back in the spring and also for his Long Distance Hurdle success at Newbury last month. He is 2/1 at BetVictor and that looks a fair price for this progressive horse who is another Tizzard-trained animal.
The Sodexho Silver Cup is a terrific race; having backed Gullinbursti at 25s earlier in the week I am pleased to see he has been nibbled at into 14s but this is an ultra-competitive event and it is hard to put a line through any of the 14 runners. The Young Master won the corresponding race from a 6lbs lower mark 12 months ago but he jumped out to his left at Carlisle on his reappearance and unseated Sam Waley-Cohen last time.
Katenko (3.00) is 25/1 at BetVictor and, seemingly, unfancied but, as long as the ground is genuinely soft, he must have every chance for Venetia Williams who won the race with Houblon Des Obeaux in 2013 and the same horse finished runner up last year. Aidan Coleman, one would imagine, could have ridden Houblon Des Obeaux, who is in the field again today, yet has decided to partner Katenko who has been given a chance by the handicapper in a terrific renewal of this valuable handicap chase.
At Newcastle I hope Peter Buchanan makes plenty of use of No Deal (1.20) stepping back in trip in a first time tongue tie, having been tried over a marathon trip at Haydock last time. Trust Thomas (tenderly handled last time) and the progressive Boric are big dangers but if the tongue tie helps his breathing the giant No Deal looks the one to beat.
Island Confusion (2.30) is a winning pointer who shaped with promise on his sole start over fences despite finishing last of three at Ayr in February. The selection won a Bumper on heavy ground and is taken to make a winning seasonal reappearance for the Lucinda Russell yard; Gold Opera is considered the danger.
At Haydock Aso (12.25) looks to have found a gilt-edged opportunity to break his maiden over fences for Venetia Williams. The selection has been well entered up this week, goes on heavy ground and can give the 5lbs to Pain Au Chocolat.