Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with nine to follow on Saturday at Chepstow, Whetherby, Ascot and Ayr. View selections below
The Charlie Hall Chase is the feature race on a decent card at Wetherby with the last two winners of the race Menorah (2014) and Cue Card giving weight away to five mostly younger rivals.
Cue Card went on to win the Betfair Chase and King George last season before coming down three out in the Gold Cup when, seemingly, going every bit as well as the eventual winner Don Cossack. At 4/6 the Colin Tizzard-trained 10-year-old is the one to beat but he must give 5lbs to the RSA Chase winner Blaklion (3.20) and it is the latter who gets the each way vote.
The selection is not overly-big but, indeed, has the heart of a lion and bounced off the good ground when scoring at Cheltenham back in March; does he strike me as a future Gold Cup winner? No, but he will make sure the odds on favourite knows he has been in a race; he is 5/1 at BetVictor and I would be disappointed if he didn’t make the first two.
I am a big admirer of both trainer Graeme McPherson and his chasing debutant Holy Bush Henry but Malcolm Jefferson’s Double W’s (1.35) can follow up his recent Carlisle win off a 7lbs higher mark in the opening novices’ handicap chase. The selection will get further in time but he is held in some regard by the yard and I cannot oppose him until he meets with defeat over fences.
Native River is a fascinating contender in the West Yorkshire Hurdle but this might be a spin over timber ahead of a crack at the Hennessy Gold Cup next month for which he is 10/1 second favourite at BetVictor.
I hope it’s a good day for Nigel Twiston-Davies as his Ballyoptic (2.45) is the recommendation. The 6-y-old won the Grade 1 Novice at Aintree back in the spring before winning a valuable handicap at Chepstow on his reappearance. If there is a realistic World Hurdle contender in the field I think it is Ballyoptic although he won’t find giving 4lbs to the Romford Pele an easy task.
Zeroshadesofgrey (4.30) made his only start over fences in the corresponding 3m chase last season but sat behind Southfield Theatre who jumped left across him on several occasions and it affected his confidence. In the hope that he gets a good look at his fences today he is given another chance although he would be ideally served by softer ground.
It pains me to desert Master Dee in Ascot’s opener but Remind Me Later (1.55) is lurking at the foot of the weights for Gary Moore and this dual winning fast ground point winner has been dropped a couple of pounds for a decent comeback, although last of three, at Plumpton earlier in the month. Both hurdle wins came on a right-hand track and he could be very well handicapped at present although I wouldn’t want him to give Master Dee too much rope.
In the valuable 2m handicap hurdle Ch’Tibello looks a vulnerable favourite and my two against the field are Harry Fry’s Hint Of Mint and Cloonacool (3.00) with marginal preference for the latter who finished fifth in this corresponding race last season from a 1lb higher mark when a blunder three out stopped him in is tracks. The selection’s jumping again failed the test when coming down two out when just about to mount a challenge at Market Rasen last time.
The selection is 7/1 at BetVictor and, granted a clear round, I would be disappointed if he were out of the frame.
At Ayr Master Of Finance (2.05) can go one better than when second on his hurdle debut at a time when the Jefferson yard’s inmates were just needing a run. With that initial experience under his belt he will difficult to beat although it is worth pointing out that connections fit him with cheek-pieces for the first time. A 90 rated horse on the flat for Mark Johnston the gelding wore blinkers latterly on the flat but never successfully.
The 2m 4f handicap chase is a hot contest and I’m sure there is more to come from both Final Assault and Indian Temple this season but Throthehatch (4.20) was a ready winner over timber having his first start for the Skelton yard at Fakenham earlier in the month and he is taken to follow up back over the larger obstacles.
Work In Progress (4.55) from the same stable is due to go chasing soon but he is a horse I like and if he gets a soft lead he could take some pegging back despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs in the Scottish Champion Hurdle Trial.