Neil Morrice walks you through the front runners for Saturday’s racing at Chelmsford, Lingfield, Ascot and Haydock Park, including the feature race analysis for the Matchbook Clarence House Chase and the New One Unibet Hurdle.
Matchbook Clarence House Chase (Grade 1)
With connections of DEFI DU SEUIL juggling as to which race he should target at the Cheltenham Festival, a smooth win here should nudge them towards a mouth-watering clash with Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The JP McManus-owned gelding got the better of Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek at Sandown which followed another high profile triumph in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham.
What was most appealing about the Sandown win was the way the 7yo put the race to bed before idling up the final hill. In this game, the best horses often don’t win by far, but keep on winning. And it’s worth remembering that eight of the last 11 winners of this race came here after landing the Tingle Creek.
UN DE SCEAUX has been a standing dish in this prize and can take his 2016, 2017 and 2018 victories to post as a testament to that. The veteran missed the race last year but as he showed in the Tingle Creek, is operating close to the height of his powers, but would be the oldest ever winner of the Clarence House if successful. It will require a titanic effort to defy the history books.
Nicky Henderson’s JANIKA has campaigned over different trips and to his credit his best effort this winter came when he landed Exeter’s Haldon Gold Cup on his reappearance in November. He’s been found wanting in two subsequent outings, latterly when fourth to a rejuvenated Summerville Boy at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Though back to his optimum trip, he needs the market rivals to blow their lines if he’s to triumph.
CAPELAND is a solid handicapper who doesn’t quite cut the mustard at this level and looks outclassed, while MARRACUDJA seems hopelessly out of her depth.
1st DEFI DU SEUIL
2nd Un De Sceaux
The New One Unibet Hurdle (Grade 2)
BALLYANDY hasn’t won for a while but his trainer has done well getting him back to this championship level following a disastrous attempt at chasing and several appearances in handicap hurdles. As a former Cheltenham Festival winner he deserves respect, and his latest run confirms he’s clearly back in the groove.
The sole Irish raider DARASSO commands respect after impressing on his last two starts for Joseph O’Brien. He trotted up at Navan but that was almost a year ago and it would take a top training effort to successfully bring him back after such an absence.
The North challenge with CORNERSTONE LAD who as a winner of four of his last five outings over hurdles is a runner to take very seriously. Many judges take the view he was gifted the ‘Fighting Fifth’ Hurdle at his favourite Newcastle and on reflection, the likes of Buveur D’Air seemed to give him far too much rope, a scenario that’s unlikely to be repeated this time.
1st PENTLAND HILLS
3rd Cornerstone Lad
Haydock Park Undercard Best Bets
Race 3: EDWARDSTONE (2)
Trainer: Alan King – Jockey: Tom Cannon
Few novices have impressed as much as EDWARDSTONE and in what is the hottest race of its kind run this season the 6yo can complete a hat-trick. They say the form book rarely lies and if you look back to his reappearance success at Wincanton he was too speedy for Fiddlerontheroof, who has gone on to stamp an indelible mark on the value of that success with his Tolworth Hurdle success at Sandown. Furthermore, Edwardstone followed up with a snug success over the latter’s stablemate Harry Senior at Aintree, making him the one to beat in this cracking trial for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival.
Race 6: FIDDLERS BOW (8)
Trainer: Julia Brooke – Jockey: Henry Brooke
The veteran FIDDLERS BOW brings useful form to the table in a fascinating handicap chase, having run a stormer on his return to the track at Doncaster last month. He loomed menacingly and looked sure to win, but when asked to put the race to bed idled on the run in and handed the contest to Well Smitten. Such antics have not been evident in the gelding’s previous races and if in the same mood he should make no mistake here.
Ascot Undercard Bets
Race 5: KILDISART (1) (Each Way)
Trainer: Ben Pauling – Jockey: Daryl Jacob
On both outings so far this year KILDISART has looked like a horse struggling with his fitness. That was evident when he ran over a slightly longer trip here before Christmas, making headway out of Swinley Bottom but weakening at the first in the home straight, three out. He’s something of a course specialist and given the improvement he’s expected to make, can get into the shake up.
Race 7: FAUSTINOVICK (4)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard – Jockey: Robbie Power
In the same colours as Lostintranslation, FAUSTINOVICK can join his trainer’s pantheon of smart novice hurdlers by gaining a first success for the stable. He’s been keeping smart company and did nothing wrong when third to Sevarano when last seen at Newbury back in November. A short break has enabled him to strengthen up mentally and become more focussed.
Lingfield Best Bets
Race 3: ORIGINAL CHOICE (3)
Trainer: Nick Littmoden – Jockey: Hollie Doyle
ORIGINAL CHOICE belied his starting price of 20-1 to force a photo with Furzig when upped in class over course and distance last month. With an eye-catching jockey booking he can prove that was no fluke by successfully making another step up the class ladder.
Race 5: ZULU ZANDER (5)
Trainer: David Evans – Jockey: Ben Curtis
An improved display from ZULU ZANDER saw him make a telling start to the new year at Chelmsford and his style of racing strongly suggests the Lingfield track with its short home straight will suit. He delivered a decisive finishing burst and that’s what you need to get the job done here.
Chelmsford Best Bets
Race 2: ELMEJOR (1)
Trainer: John Best – Jockey: Kieren O’ Neill
The lightly raced ELMEJOR attracted support before powering home on just his second career start at Lingfield and should have plenty more to offer at the same class level. The move up to seven furlongs should not prove problematic.
Race 3: DREAMING AWAY (4)
Trainer: Roger Charlton – Jockey: Hollie Doyle
The losses that were incurred on DREAMING AWAY when she was turned over in Elmejor’s race at Lingfield can be recouped, and stakes can be raised should the latter deliver the goods in Race 2.