What a day of horse racing lies ahead at Haydock and Ascot with plenty of top names set to have their rugs removed and unleashed on the course for the first time this season. A Plus Tard, Constitution Hill, L’ Homme Presse and Edwardstone were all festival winners last March and will have their seasonal reappearances in front of the ITV cameras on Saturday afternoon.
Sadly, small fields and short priced favourites are the order of the day, certainly quality over quantity, but there are a few handicaps that appeal as betting mediums.
2.25 HAYDOCK – COMPLETE UNKNOWN & BRINKLEY
A red-hot race with some great winners down the years. Paisley Park, Sam Spinner and Dynaste all went to the top of the staying hurdle sphere.
I am a huge fan of Might I and he could have a big say here, but I am slightly concerned about the ground, being by Fame and Glory. Although he has won on heavy at Newton Abbot in his early days, that was a lesser race and he has been pulled out on very soft ground before. He is a half-brother to National Hunt Chase hero Stattler, so stamina shouldn’t be an issue and while I think he is worth following this season, I’m not sure the expected testing round will suit this day.
Run For Oscar hacked up in the Cesarewitch and has to be respected from the Charles Byrnes’ yard, but twelve stone on this ground will certainly test his credentials while Good Risk At All reopposes both his immediate victims from Carlisle off a 6lb higher mark over his furthest trip to date.
Two horses who maybe a shade overpriced are COMPLETE UNKNOWN and BRINKLEY. Paul Nicholls has a 34% since April and it shows no sign of slowing, having saddled 16 winners in the last 14 days. Harry Cobden has won on 15 of his last 35 rides at 43% so every horse they team up with must be respected.
COMPLETE UNKNOWN won the EBF final at Sandown in March, always a race which works out well, with the runner-up bolting up by 22 lengths already this season. He may still have been feeling the effects of that victory when beaten at Perth in April when the trainer was trying to amass prize money for the title. I can ignore that run and off a mark of 135 on just his sixth start with undoubted improvement to come, he makes the shortlist.
BRINKLEY takes a little more explanation but he hails from the in-form David Pipe yard (27% strike rate last fortnight) and will have no problem with the prevailing conditions. He is weighted 2lb lower than a heavy ground three-mile success at Exeter in February of last year and has been lightly raced since. Although he hasn’t been seen for nine months, he did win on his stable debut impressively after a break and if putting his best foot forward he can outrun his odds of around 14/1. With extra places and knowing he is one of only a few who will enjoy conditions, he rates a decent each-way play.
3.15 ASCOT – BOOTHILL
I am a big fan of top class horses taking their chances in handicaps in a throwback to the good ol’ days. It seems to be back in fashion too with Trueshan on the flat followed by Greaneteen and Frodon this season all doing it successfully, and now all eyes are on Edwardstone this afternoon after skipping his intended return at Cheltenham last Sunday.
The Arkle winner is a high class chaser who looks set to be in the top echelon of two milers this season and I can see him going very close here this afternoon. However, he has only won once after a break and seems to improve with his racing, and Alan King has had a few fancies run below par in recent days.
While I would love to see Edwardstone win, I can’t let BOOTHILL go unbacked off what could be a very favourable mark. He was very keen on his return here at Ascot last season and chasing was aborted after a disappointing debut at Exeter, but he was only a length behind Beauport at Uttoxeter in March getting 7lb and he is now rated 148 having won a hot race at Carlisle last month. With just 10-7 on his back on a mark of 140, it could be a gift after an eased down success on his return at Newton Abbot from a subsequent winner.
3.35 HAYDOCK – HOUSTON TEXAS
A low weight maybe key in the last at Haydock when the ground will be at its most attritional, and for that reason I have sided with HOUSTON TEXAS over Lord Du Mesnil with a difference of 24lb in the saddle.
Lord Du Mesnil has plenty of deep ground form at Haydock including a Grand National trial victory in February 2021 and is a two-time course and distance winner who made a very pleasing return to form at Bangor when second to the well handicapped Le Milos on ground that would have been lively enough for him.
However, with just 10-5 on his back, HOUSTON TEXAS gets the vote for a Nicky Richards yard who unleashed a very nice staying prospect earlier this week in Crystal Glory at Hexham. We’ll hear plenty more of him and this fellow is on an upward trajectory too. A 6lb rise for an eased down victory at Carlisle last time looks lenient and although this is a much sterner test of his credentials, he is a very lightly raced 8yo with his best days ahead of him.
*18+ | BeGambleAware