The ground was described as good to soft at Haydock on Friday morning but there is no rain forecast and conditions are likely to be no worse than good for today’s competitive seven-race card.

Admiral Barratry needs cut in the ground to be seen at his best while Barton Knoll (1.30) needs a sound surface. The latter – 13/2 with BetVictor – ran a cracker at a big price when fifth at Newbury in a better race last time and he would surely have been placed but for meeting interference at the last. He has a history of going well fresh but has been given four weeks to get over that run, and he gets the each way vote. I will not be backing the selection until there is evidence from the clock and jockeys after the first race that the ground is genuinely no worse than good/good to soft.

Likely market leader Five Star Getaway has been raised 15lbs for his facile win at Sandown on soft ground last time. He is clearly progressive and may still be ahead of his mark, but he must show he is as effective on good ground.

Shantou Express looks sure to set a decent gallop in the 2m handicap hurdle, but I hope he sets the race up for Dino Velvet (2.05) who is very well treated on his old form and is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time by Alan King. Back in September the ew selection – 5s with MansionBet – finished fourth in a listed contest at Market Rasen from a 9lbs higher mark and, if the headgear works the oracle, he looks sure to run a big race with the race likely to be run to suit.

This better ground will suit Debece in the 3m 2f handicap chase, but he is 2lbs higher than when mugged close home at Sandown on soft ground last time and he has never struck me as a dour stayer despite finishing third in a 3m Grade 1 over timber at Aintree four years ago when he looked to have the world at his feet given his scope for the larger obstacles. He will give it a bold bid from the front but is reluctantly overlooked.

My two against the field are Silva Eclipse (2.40) and Mahlermade with preference for the Sue Smith runner who has run some of his best races at Haydock and beat an inform rival at Sedgefield last time on just his second start over fences. The ew selection – 15/2 4 places with William Hill – jumped well for a novice last time and all ground comes alike to the 8-y-old whose yard have bounced back to form in recent weeks.

Mahlermade won the last renewal of this corresponding race two years ago from a 9lbs higher mark but has been very disappointing so far this term. Today’s better ground should suit, and he is certainly handicapped to run a big race if back to anywhere near his best.

In the finale Air Navigator (4.25) has had a wind operation since finishing third over 2m 4f last time and can take the Veterans Chase for Tom George whose yard are in such good form. The selection – 11/4 with 10Bet – does not have too many miles on the clock for a 10-y-old and does have bits of form which suggest who should be very competitive in this company.

At Newton Abbot I am going to give Champagne Court (5.25) another chance after never getting into the race at Cheltenham last time. He has been dropped another couple of pounds in the weights and Lorcan Williams takes off a valuable 3lbs. Today’s forecast good ground is ideal, and he will find this six-runner race more to his liking. There was 5s available at the time of writing but no bigger than 4s with BetVictor at the time of posting.

Kim Muir winner Mount Ida will appreciate going right-handed in the listed Mares’ Chase at Fairyhouse and she receives 6lbs from Elimay (2.20), but I hope the latter can go one better than when runner up in the inaugural Mares Chase at last month’s Festival.

The Willie Mullins-trained mare – 4/6 with Boylesports – was carried right at most of her fences by stablemate Colreevy and, to my rose-tinted eyes, was an unlucky loser. Mount Ida strikes me as more of a stayer and I wonder if she will have the necessary pace dropping back to this 2m 5f trip on ground described as yielding on Friday morning.

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