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Haydock Preview

Morning all,

The big race caravan comes to halt today and after all the sustained quality of the last few days, it’s a bit of relief.

There are just three meetings today. Jump cards at Haydock and Taunton and a tea time all-weather fixture at Wolverhampton.

Inside today’s main piece I look back at yesterday’s action at Leopardstown and Newbury. Plus, a couple of today’s races at Haydock come under the microscope.

Wednesday Review

There were three Grade 1 races on Wednesday. At Newbury the going had eased further to soft, heavy in places for Challow Hurdle Day. Over at Leopardstown Sharjah was bidding to join Istabraq and Hurricane Fly to win the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle for a fourth time. Unlike those two greats though he was attempting to win the race for fourth successive year.


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Leopardstown highlights

Patrick Mullins has described Sharjah as like Santa Claus, as he always delivers at Christmas.  Well, the 8-year-old delivered again in winning the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle for a fourth successive year. He cruised up to leader Zanahiyr on the run-in. It looked like he would win easily but credit to Zanahiyr he rallied to get within a neck of the winner at the line.

Sharjah won despite a few things going wrong in the run. He didn’t get the best of passages the usual three out and the holding ground on the hurdles track probably didn’t really suit the winner.

You can’ knock the effort of the runner-up and he’s getting better with racing. The third Saint Roi was back from 326-day layoff. H was plenty fresh enough but this was a step back in the right direction for the 6-year-old.

Fury Road, a useful staying hurdler got off the mark off at the third attempt over fences when landing the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase.  He put in a better round of jumping than stablemate and race favourite Run Wild Fred. The first time cheekpiece’s had the desired effect. As did the step up to 3m.  All in all, a good jumping performance from the winner and Cheltenham. The Brown Advisory Novices' Chase now looks logical target for him.

Star Performer

Stage Star followed in the hoofprints of Denman and Bravemansgame to win the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury.  It was a dominant performance from the Paul Nicholls trained 5-year-old.

I’m not sure what he beat here but the winner looks a good prospect. He clearly stays well but he also doesn’t look short of pace either.

The winner handled the testing ground very well. A future chaser in the making that’s for sure. However, he will surely be heading to the Cheltenham Festival and Ballymore Novices Hurdle.

Runner-up West Balboa vindicated Dan Skelton’s decision to throw her into Grade 1 company on just her second start over hurdles. She was no match for the winner but this was a grand effort from an inexperienced mare.

Thursday Racing

Haydock

The going at Haydock is heavy for what is a decent seven race card. Give the amount of racing we have had of late and the forecast heavy ground. Not unsurprisingly just 58 horses have been declared.

1:00 – Campbell Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 3) – 2m 6f

Torn And Frayed is sure to be popular with punters after his 7 length 2nd of 4 to My Drogo in a Cheltenham novice chase last time.

Mint Condition was a useful novice hurdler last season. He put behind him a poor reappearance over hurdles when neck 2nd of 4 to Kiltealy Briggs in novice chase here on his chase debut last time.

Farrants Way is the only one of the six runners that has yet to race over fences. The 7-year-old is having his first start since pulling up here over hurdles in February. Prior to that he had gone close on heavy ground here in a handicap hurdle. He looks a decent mark for his chase debut.

2:05 – Last Fling Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) – 3m

Just seven go to post for the Haydock feature race. Plenty of old favorites on show. Blaklion took advantage of a sliding mark to win a veterans chase here last time. He’s up 5lb but that rise in the weights is more than manageable on his back form.

The Two Amigos was an 8-length 3rd of 9 here in the Grand National Trial in February. He’s potentially well treated on his best form now 2lb lower than when a 3-length 2nd of 18 to Secret Reprieve in last season’s Welsh Grand National.

Beware The Bear is another who looks on a good mark if bouncing back to his best. However, he’s not the most consistent of horses and once again ran in snatches on his stable debut at Bangor last time. The blinkers he normally wears are replaced by the cheekpieces.

Bobo Mac goes well in the mud. The 10-year-old was well below form on his Bangor reappearance but was better, albeit well beaten, 2nd of 7 at Ludlow last time. Needs to do much better to win this but the ground will help and he’s on a fair mark.

Vieux Lion Rouge has twice won around here, including over C&D. The 12-year-old was struggling when hampered and unseating his rider in the Becher Chase last time. Ground is fine but you wonder if age might have caught up with him.

Chef D'Oeuvre won this race in 2018 and showed his liking for the track when winning a C&D handicap chase in March, off today’s mark. The 10-year-old put in a respectable effort when 3rd of 9 over an inadequate 3m at Wetherby earlier this month. The cheekpieces he’s been wearing are replaced by the first-time visor today.

Verdict: You must go back to January 2019 since The Two Amigos last won a race but he’s down to a winnable mark and must have a good chance. However, at the prices my slight preference for 2018 winner Chef D'Oeuvre.
Thursday selection:

A good second for the column yesterday with Russian Doyen bounced back to something like his best at Newbury. He jumped well for jockey Harry Cobden but he just came up against a very well handicapped winner on the day. I'm off to Haydock for today's selection.

Haydock

2:05 – Chef D'Oeuvre

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Good luck with your Thursday bets.

All that’s left to do is to you wish you and yours a very Happy New Year. See you in 2022.

John

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