Haydock must pass what is described as a precautionary inspection at 8am to see if their jumps card can go ahead with dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air the star on show as he has his first start since his freak accident in the Fighting Fifth back in November 2019. It might be prudent to concentrate on Ascot and Taunton whose cards, at the time of writing, are not considered under threat.
My two against the field in the 2m 3f+ handicap hurdle at Ascot are the greys Kateson and Arrivederci (1.50) with slight preference for the latter who must put behind a moderate run back at the minimum trip here last month. I felt he would have won his penultimate start when coming down three out at Haydock in the race won by War Lord who is 4lbs worse off. Jonjo O’Neill has his string in excellent form and he has his optimum conditions today. The ew recommendations is 7s with Boylesports – 4 places
I remember Kateson tanking through the G1 Challow Hurdle a couple of seasons ago and I thought he would make up into a terrific chaser in time although he didn’t really take to the larger obstacles last time. Tom Lacey’s 8-y-old was all out to score at Aintree last time from a 5lbs lower mark but the stable did us a favour last weekend with Adrimel and like the booking of Brian Hughes.
There is a competitive 3m handicap chase, and I was hoping The Kings Writ would bypass an engagement at Wincanton earlier in the week over an additional near three furlongs to wait for this race. He finished a terrific second on Thursday and had everything covered until his stamina gave way between the last two.
Favorito Buck’s made mistakes but ran well in the circumstances to finish third over C&D last time in his first-time blinkers and clearly goes well here although he would prefer better ground. I thought Enquarde (2.25) was in the process of running a big race when unseating his young jockey in the Tommy Whittle last time at Haydock. The opening 10s with William Hill was too big and the ew selection is 6s with Unibet 4 places.
That was his first start over fences in Britain, but he does not lack experience over fences having run 10 times over the larger obstacles in his native France. I thought he looked a useful prospect when scoring over hurdles on his penultimate start and ran well here over timber on his British debut. He gets the each way vote at a double figure price.
The G1 Clarence House Chase is the feature contest, and this is a retrieval mission for last year’s brilliant winner of the race Defi Du Seuil who was a beaten odds-on favourite in the Champion Chase back in the spring before pulling up in the Shloer Chase on his reappearance. Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs could do with a big Saturday winner, but he is best watched at present.
Politilogue is the Champion Chaser and is a worthy market leader who will make them all go from the front, but I am a big Waiting Patiently (3.35) fan and feel this could be a big day for the north. The selection finished second in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day over 3m, but I feel he will have the necessary pace for this 2m 1f trip. The 10-y-old’s course record reads 12 and he was only beaten a length by Defi Du Seuil in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown back in December 2019. The 11/4 with William Hill looks fair.
At Taunton Brewin’upastorm (2.45) has not beaten a horse in two starts over fences so far this season and he has been a bitter disappointment over the larger obstacles. The Olly Murphy yard are in cracking form, however, and I hope to see him give weight and a beating to his nine rivals in what constitutes a big drop in class. The opening 6/1 was too big and the ew recommendation is 9/2 with 10bet
In the opener at Newcastle Great Esteem (4.05) overcame a 471-day absence to score on his first start for Archie Watson at Kempton earlier in the month and he makes his handicap debut from an opening mark of 85 this afternoon. He hardly looks thrown in off his current mark and is a candidate to “bounce”, but I thought he was potentially smart when trained by Charlie Appleby and faces largely exposed rivals.The top-weight is Evens from 11/10 with BetVictor.
I hope to see Allaho (3.00) return to winning ways reverting to 2m 4f in the Grade 2 Chase at Thurles on Sunday. The selection – despite finishing a close third in the RSA last season – did not quite get home over 3m at Leopardstown over Christmas but has his optimum conditions today although he does tend to jump out to his left. He is not going to be the horse I once thought he could be, but I would be disappointed if he did not go very close in this company. The selection is 6/5 from 5/4 with William Hill.