Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ascot and Haydock Park on Saturday. View selections below.
CUE CARD (3.00) and Coneygree lock horns in an intriguing renewal of the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The leading protagonists are chasing a £1m bonus pot for winning here and following up in the 32red King George at Kempton and the Timico-sponsored Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Dual Betfair Chase winner Cue Card is 4lb better off with Irish Cavalier, his Charlie Hall conqueror at Wetherby, and trainer Colin Tizzard feels he may have left Cue Card a little under-cooked for his seasonal return at the Yorkshire track.
The tactics of the race should be straightforward, with Coneygree forcing the pace from flagfall. The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is unbeaten in all five starts over fences and there will be no hiding place on very testing ground.
Past winner Silviniaco Conti and Seeyouatmidnight will also race prominently, with Cue Card, Irish Cavalier and Menorah adopting more stalking roles without allowing Coneygree too much rope.
I’ve a feeling Coneygree will find this test on heavy ground just beyond him having been on the sidelines with a hock injury for many months, while Cue Card should strip cherry-ripe.
MATORICO (2.25) could pop up at a big price and give Jonjo O’Neill another nice Saturday scalp in the Betfair Exchange ‘Fixed Brush’ Handicap Hurdle over an extended 2m 6f.
Still only a five-year-old, Matorico could have a good season and goes well fresh. The grey scored at Huntingdon at this time last year following a long break and built on that success by running Duke Des Champs fairly close at Market Rasen, conceding 7lb to that useful sort.
Matorico then finished fourth to Baron Alco, again conceding weight, in a competitive handicap at Kempton on Boxing Day and ended the season on a high by beating Zarib over 2m 4f at Cheltenham in April.
This looks the most competitive race of the day, with likely market leader Two Taffs looking to build on last season’s fine win at Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting.
Iknowwhatumeanharry has to lumber top weight of 11st 12lb on the back of his very brave triumph in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March. He won’t mind the mud.
Caid Du Berlais’ stop-start career looked back on track when scoring at Aintree earlier in the month but Paul Nicholls’ charge may not be quite so good on bottomless ground.
There isn’t much between Kempton scorer Yala Enki (fifth in this race last year) and Westren Warrior on their Lanzarote Hurdle form in January but red-hot Brian Hughes is a notable booking by Dr Richard Newlands for Westren Warrior. That said, Venetia Williams’ horses always seem to go well on very testing surfaces, so market confidence in Yala Enki may be significant.
At Ascot, ALOOMOMO (12.25) can get proceeding off to a flyer. After mopping up three chases last October/November, Aloomomo was given a good break before finishing third to Yala Enki over hurdles here in February.
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