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Saturday Preview

Evening all,

It’s a case of small fields at Ascot. The star act is of course the return of Constitution Hill in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle (2.40). The likes of L’Homme Presse and Edwardstone also make their seasonal returns on the card. The meeting seems likely to steal the headlines away from Haydock where it’s Betfair Chase Day. That would be a shame because we have Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard making his seasonal return in the Betfair Chase (3:00). Haydock’s seven race card is also superior to Ascot’s from a betting perspective.

Inside today’s main piece I look at the best of the action from both tracks.

Can Anyone Stop A Plus Tard?

When A Plus Tard galloped away with last year’s Betfair Chase it was good to soft at worst. This year’s race could be run on heavy ground. Now I don’t think heavy ground is a problem him but if you’re a fan of the hot favourite you wouldn’t want the horse to have to hard a race on what will be testing ground.  He’s the clear of these on ratings and I think he wins and the 4/7 available could look real value come 3:15.

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Who will finish runner-up?  Bristol De Mai isn’t the horse that won this three times between 2017 & 2020 and indeed was pulled up 12 months ago. But Haydock and heavy ground are his conditions, and the 11-year-old is 3-3 on heavy ground in November & December. It’s a race I will probably watch rather than have a bet in but Bet365 are 9/4 without the favourite which looked decent to this particular pundit.

Ascot

I thought the ground at Ascot would be easier, than good to soft, good in places, as it was on Friday.

I won’t dwell to long on Constitution Hill he should win, and I haven’t even looked at the race. Sometimes its just good to watch good horses rather than have a bet.

As for L’Homme Presse in the Grade 2 Chanelle Pharma. Hopefully trainer Venetia Williams will have come off the cold list on Friday. I’m writing this before two on Friday’s card have run. However, the form of the yard must be of concern. L’Homme Presse faces just four rivals and that could easily be two come post time. Hitman would interest me, but he seems likely to head to Haydock for an easier assignment. As with Constitution Hill race it’s not one I have looked at and I will be sitting it out.

On Course Profits free Horse Racing magazine
Jim Barry Wines Hurst Park Handicap Chase (3:15)

Arkle winner Edwardstone makes his seasonal return here. He’s the class horse of the field and despite the lack of a run looks to have a good chance of scooping the £65,038 winners prize even under top weight of 12-0.  The 8-year-old won five times over fences last season including the Grade 1 Arkle Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and wasn’t disgraced when runner-up o his final start at Aintree.

Edwardstone faces eight rivals

You can make some sort of case for all of them. Boothill has just two starts over the larger obstacles and there was plenty to like about his Newton Abbot success last month. Already a better chaser than a hurdler the 7-year-old is open to plenty of improvement over the larger obstacles.

Irish challenger So Scottish made it 2-2 over fences when winning at Carlisle last month. He’s another exciting chaser in the making and although he’s 3lb out of the handicap a very useful 5lb conditional has been booked for the ride. Not sure he wants it too soft but he’s a definite contender if handling it.

Thyme White won a valuable C&D handicap three weeks ago and although he’s 7lb higher he can’t be easily dismissed for a yard who saddled the winner in 2019. It was good ground when he won last time and like So Scottish, he might not want it to soft.

Frero Banbou was a 4 ¾ length runner-up Thyme White last time. He gets a handy 7lb pull in the weights here and soft ground can see him reverse placings with that one.  There’s a decent handicap pot in the 7-year-old and I think he can go close here.  

Amoola Gold was tailed off behind Thyme White last time and didn’t look in love with racing either. Not surprisingly trainer Dan Skelton opts for the first time blinkers to perk up the 9-year-old. A dual C&D winner he was only beaten a short head in this race last year off 10lb higher and is well handicapped horse if the headgear was to have the desired effect.

Haydock

I have a few fancies on the Haydock card. At the time of writing this on Friday lunchtime I have haven’t made my final picks, but they will be available for Victor Value subscribers here.

I really like the look of the four handicaps. I previewed Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle (2:25) in Thursday’s column.  Fourteen have stood their ground for this valuable contest.  The real possibility of heavy ground brings the David Pipe trained Brinkley into the mix. Both the front two in the betting Run For Oscar and Might I have strong claims and I haven’t forgotten the 5-year-old Gentleman At Arms who will appreciate the return to 3m.

If the ground is heavy, it will provide a real stamina test and whilst a big-priced winner wouldn’t be the biggest surprise. I’m mindful that horses returned 18/1 & bigger are – 0 winners from 93 runners 9 placed in the past 14 years.

Looking at the rest of the card

The last race on the Haydock card is the Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase (3m ½ f).

3:35 – Houston Texas ended last season with two wins at Carlisle in February and maintained his improvement back at that venue on seasonal return last month. He’s up 6lb for his latest success but the 8-year-old is open to further progress over fences.

Lord Du Mesnil wasn’t at his best last season, but the three time course winner showed what he was capable of when 1 ¾ length 2nd of 9 to Good Boy Bobby in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby in December. He’s now 3lb below his last winning mark and made a promising return to action when a 4 ¾ length 2nd of 12 to Le Milos at Bangor 10-days ago.

Good Boy Bobby won twice at Wetherby last season. And he's back to the mark off which he won the Rowland Meyrick. Has 4lb to find with Lord Du Mesnil on their Wetherby running. Likely needed the run when down the field at Ascot 3 weeks ago and can be expected to do better here.

Musical Slave bounced back to winning ways at Sandown and over C&D in the spring. Ended last season with a good 8 lengths 2nd of 15 to Hewick in bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. No great record fresh so may need the run.

Fontaine Collonges won two of her four starts over fences last season on good to soft at Warwick and heavy at Lingfield in January. The 7-year-old is having her first start since her Lingfield success but has won off a layoff in the past. Now 10lb higher but she took well to the larger obstacles last season and could be capable of better.

Saturday Selection:

No joy for Friday’s selection Bobhopeornohope who could only finish third at Ascot. He would have preferred genuinely soft ground. However, it was still a decent enough on seasonal return from the 7-year-old.  

Today’s selection comes from the lucky last at Haydock.  We probably haven’t seen the best of Fontaine Collonges over fences. However, the Venetia Williams runners have seemed to need the run. Musical Slave’s jumping improved for the fitting of cheekpieces, and he’s respected on seasonal return. Houston Texas is an improving handicap chaser, but this is a deeper race than he’s contested. That leaves Lord Du Mesnil who goes very well round here and will like the rain softened ground.

Haydock

3:35 – Lord Du Mesnil – 5/1 @ Coral & Bet365

There’s a decent card at Punchestown on Sunday. The highlights being the Grade 1 Unibet Morgiana Hurdle (2.05) and the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase (1:30). As a bit of a bonus ITV4 are covering four races from Punchestown and three from Exeter. I will probably do a short Sunday column so watch your inboxes.

Good luck with your Saturday bets.

John

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