Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with five to follow on Saturday at Ascot and Haydock Park. View selections below
The Clarence House Chase is the feature race from Ascot with former Champion chaser Sire De Grugy meeting last year’s Arkle winner Un De Sceaux (3.00) in a fascinating renewal of this Grade 1 2 mile Chase.
The Willie Mullins trained 8-y-old was still in front, but not at his scintillating best, when coming down two out at Leopardstown on his last start over Xmas. The selection has won all thirteen career starts that he has stood up in, but he has now fell twice in his six runs over fences and this is a big test with Sire De Grugy in the field.
Sire De Grugy is not quite as good as he was but he did land the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month and was just touched off by Sprinter Sacre at Kempton over Xmas. If Sire De Grugy is within a couple of lengths of the Irish runner (8/13 with BetVictor) as the field turn for home then we are in for a rare treat; but the expectation is that Un De Sceaux will have flown.
Earlier in the card there is a fascinating handicap hurdle with Value At Risk (2.25) reverting to timber having come a cropper on both starts over the larger obstacles so far this term. He didn’t get home in the Albert Bartlett over 3m back in March but travelled very well for much of that contest; he can reward each way support at 8/1 with BetVictor with the intermediate 2m 3f trip considered ideal.
Nicky Henderson saddles three in the race and both Kilcrea Vale and Sugar Baron are considered dangers in a hot handicap.
Regal Encore is the 7/2 favourite at BetVictor for the Handicap Chase over 2m 5f but I think this trip is perfect for former Festival winner Salubrious (3.35) of Paul Nicholls. Still only a 9-year-old the selection has been dropped a couple of pounds since running well over 3m here last month and after just three starts over fences he is open to further improvement over the larger obstacles. At 5/1 with BetVictor I would be disappointed if he were not in the shake up.
Its Peter Marsh day at Haydock and Reve De Sivola is back over fences for the first time since December 2011 and can race off a mark 21lbs lower than his current hurdles mark. Many have suggested the new fences at Haydock are not as big as they once were and the Nick Williams-trained 11-year-old is the 4/1 favourite.
I am going to give Katenko (3.15) another chance, however for Venetia Williams despite having pulled up at Ascot on his reappearance when he made a bad error just as he was getting competitive under Aiden Coleman. The selection is 12/1at BetVictor and was beaten just a couple of lengths in this corresponding race two years ago off an 8lbs higher mark.
The Champion Hurdle Trial has been devalued with the late defection of Nicky Henderson’s Peace And Co. I think The New One is vulnerable at the price (4/9 at BetVictor) and would prefer to back the veteran Melodic Rendezvous (6/1 at BetVictor) each way in receipt of 8lbs from the odds on shot who scrambled home in the corresponding race 12 months ago.
Laser Hawk was pulled up in a valuable contest at Warwick having made an early mistake last weekend but is 2lbs lower in the feature event at Taunton for Evan Williams who saddled the winner of this corresponding race two years ago.
In the finale Ut Majeur Aulmes (4.30) was run out of it close home at Wincanton last time and can go one better from a 3lbs higher mark given the winner (Quite By Chance) followed up earlier in the week.
Douvan (Arkle) and Faugheen (Irish Champion Hurdle) put their own Festival credentials on the line at Leopardstown on Sunday and both are expected to come through unscathed.