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A BRILLIANT weekend of racing headlined by the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park (3.00) with old rivals Bristol de Mai and Lostintranslation taking each other on again following last year’s event where the former had no answer to the latter’s finishing effort down the home stretch.
To add a bit of spice to this Grade One affair, two-time King George hero Clan Des Obeaux will line up for Paul Nicholls.
It was following his promising effort in this race two years ago, an eye-catching fourth of five and beaten nearly nine lengths by BDM, that I backed the Ditcheat charge for the King George at 33/1 and lost my betting slip only to find it seven months later down the back of my wardrobe: happy days!!!!
Although he is reportedly working well for Nicholls I think this race will put an edge on him for the Boxing Day contest at Kempton Park and, although unlikely to be disgraced, going right-handed is his domain.
As the King George is his Gold Cup so this race is BDM’s and I fancy he could have every chance of reversing the form with the Tizzard horse whose runners have, by and large, needed a run to put them straight.
I thought last year that Daryl Jacob didn’t make the most of his stamina and should have made it more of a test from further out. In the final analysis he was only beaten a length and a half, and if Jacob presses on from further out I think there is every chance that BRISTOL DE MAI can land his third Betfair Chase for Nigel Twiston Davies to add to his two other course wins at the Merseyside track.
The Listed Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at 2.55 looks as competitive as ever with 17 runners set to go to post.
There is no shortage of entries that like to race prominently so this should pan out as a real test of stamina and should suit the 2018 Cheltenham Bumper heroine RELEGATE.
She has only had the two chances to race over three miles over timber before. The first resulted in a closing fourth of 16 at Punchestown off a mark of 130 in a Pertemps Qualifier and in the final of that series at the Festival three weeks later she again finished off her race well when fifth of 24 behind the classy Sire Du Berlais off a rating of 137.
She finished well behind that rival on her career debut but over only two-and-a-half miles and that race should have blown away the cobwebs and she looks enticingly well-handicapped here off 137 to go very close in a race where there are plenty of other progressive and unexposed stayers.
The best of her rivals could well be the fast improving Main Fact and Imperial Alcazar. The former has just gone from strength to strength both on the flat and over timber and has been crying out for this type of test over hurdles (gone up from 104 to 147) while the last named finished off last season with a couple of strong running performances over two-and-a-half miles which suggested this test would be right up his street.
The other interesting handicap on the card is the stayers chase over an extended three-and-a-half miles at 3.35. With further rain expected through the afternoon this is going to be a real slugfest for the 12 runners and that is sure to suit Welsh National hope POBBLES BAY (nap). He has a fitness advantage over several of his rivals following a promising seasonal debut when second to Minellacelebration at Aintree and looks well enough treated to go close here.
Another Chepstow hopeful, DEISE ABA puts his credentials to the test in the three-miler at 12.40. He looked a dour stayer in the making last year and can land this prize off 141 before going in against the big boys at the South Wales track at the back end of next month for the shrewd Phillip Hobbs who of course won the big race with Dream Alliance way back in 2009.
LAURINA makes her debut for Paul Nicholls in the Coral Hurdle (2.40 Ascot) and getting a huge 13lbs from Call My Lord, she looks up to making it a winning start for the Ditcheat handler.
Earlier on there is a brilliant but select field for the 1965 Chase at 2.05 and the Cheltenham Festival hero IMPERIAL AURA (nb) is taken to get the better of the front-running Black Corton and Reel Steel.
The selection is a possible big player in the Ryanair Chase next March but with a run under his belt needs to put to bed this kind of opposition to be considered for that Championship event.
But perhaps the best bet on the card is the strong-staying HIGHLAND HUNTER in the novice handicap chase at 12.55. He needed his run first time up at Ayr and should make up into a classy staying chaser.
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