Inside today’s main piece I’m looking at the best of the Saturday’s action including a preview of Haydock’s staying handicap hurdle.
We've got Grade 1 excitement on both sides of the Irish Sea this Saturday afternoon. Over at Haydock, it's the Betfair Chase, which gets underway at 3:00.
Meanwhile, at Punchestown, the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle features the seasonal return of Champion Hurdle runner-up State Man. In a classic Willie Mullins vs. Gordon Elliott showdown, it's tough to see him being beaten, even though some of the Willie Mullins horse have needed their seasonal returns.
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The Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown showcases Churchstonewarrior, a Grade 2 winner at Navan last seen in February. Despite giving weight to six interesting novices, Churchstonewarrior, an improving chaser from last season, is the one to beat if ready to roll on his return. Flooring Porter, victorious at Cheltenham on his chase debut, poses a significant challenge, but going the other way may suit him better.
Protektorat Aims for Consecutive Betfair Chase Victories
Hey, if you were picturing Haydock in November as a mud fest, guess what? Surprise! Despite all the rain we've been soaking up lately, this week decided to throw us a curveball. It's been mostly dry, and now the going has switched to soft, with some good to soft spots on the chase track, and the reverse on the hurdles track. That said I suspect it will be on the holding side and will take some going through.
Protektorat, last year's Betfair Chase winner, faces just four rivals in his bid for back-to-back successes. While he has 6lb to find with favorite Bravemansgame on Official Ratings, this race is Protektorat's Gold Cup, and I believe he can secure another win. News of drying ground will be music to the ears of connections of Bravemansgame though. Royale Pagaille, with impressive form figures at Haydock, commands respect but would need the big two to underperform to triumph over 3m.
The Haydock undercard is packed with excitement. A competitive Grade 2 novices' hurdle kicks off the day, and there's an intriguing Graduation Chase (1:50), previously won by Bravemansgame in 2021. Gaillard Du Mesnil, a rare Haydock runner for Willie Mullins, returns over 2m 5f on his seasonal debut. While the trip might be a bit short for him, he's likely to go off as the favourite.
Grey Dawning and Apple Away are strong rivals, with the former appreciating the soft ground and showing promise on his chase debut at Exeter. Apple Away, a Grade 1 winner at Aintree last season, makes her chase debut here and boasts a pedigree for jumping fences.
2:20 – Betfair “Serial Winners” Stayers' Handicap Hurdle – 3m
Of particular interest from a betting perspective is the Betfair “Serial Winners” Stayers' Handicap Hurdle (2:20). With a competitive field of 16 runners and a £71,188 prize for the winner, this race promises excitement and potential betting opportunities.
Alright, folks, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of this Haydock thriller. I spilled the beans on this race in Wednesday's column, breaking down the six trends that have been the golden ticket for the last 15 winners. So, who made the cut? We've got Crambo, Bold Endeavour, Gowel Road, and Howlingmadmurdock.
Unveiling the Contenders for a Thrilling Haydock Hurdle Clash
Now, the chatter was buzzing between Crambo and the Irish challenger Slate Lane, both tussling for favouritism when the final declarations dropped. Crambo, a recent Aintree conqueror and a trends qualifier, is waving his credentials proudly. Keep an eye on him.
Bold Endeavour, lugging top weight, boasts a track record of solid performances in big field staying handicap hurdles, even over this course and distance. Should be fitter for last month’s Newbury return and shouldn’t be far away.
Gowel Road, is potentially on a winnable handicap mark but is returning from a 392-day layoff. Can he make a comeback? He also must prove his stamina for 3m is on his plate but if he stays, he's a contender.
Howlingmadmurdock, the lad with a bit of a wild streak in his name, won two of his first three hurdles last season and end last season with a good effort in a Grade 1 at Aintree. Soft ground lover, and on his seasonal return, don't dismiss him just yet.
Now, lurking down at the bottom of the weights, we've got Lord Snootie and Goshhowposh. Lord Snootie, was shaping nicely on his return, before a mistake two out at Galway last month. He's got potential for better this season but looks a bit short at 7/1 now.
As for Goshhowposh, he's only up 4lbs for his Exeter handicap hurdle debut triumph last month. His jumping skills are about to face a big test, but he remains on a competitive mark. The good ground might not have been ideal last time, but he's a thorough stayer and could spice things up here.
Shishkin's Comeback Clash and Goshen's Defence Highlight ITV's Ascot's Triple Treat
Ascot is even drier! The going was good, with some places leaning towards good to soft before racing on Friday. But here's a heads up—despite that, the going stick reading hinted at ground that might be a tad softer.
I've got a hunch it's going to be close to good, but here's the catch—I'm writing these words before racing on Friday. Let's see if my hunch hits the mark!
ITV is bringing us the buzz from Ascot this afternoon, covering three races. The standout race is the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase at 1:30, where Shishkin, a previous C&D winner, takes on just three rivals in his comeback. His closest contender on Official Ratings is Pic D'Orhy, who faced a significant defeat by Shishkin in a Grade 1 over C&D back in February and is also making his seasonal return today. It will be a big shock if Shishkin can’t win and stay on track for the King George VI at Kempton on Boxing Day.
In the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle (2:05), Goshen, last year's winner, is the early favourite according to the bookies. Just five contenders have been declared, but the field seems stronger than last year. If the going is good, keep an eye on Theatre Glory, who could pull off a win and deserves respect. Strong Leader, the runner-up to Inthepocket in the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree last April, might bounce back stronger than his last outing at Ffos Las, making him another potential winner.
I'm making my way to Punchestown for today's pick, taking a chance that Churchstonewarrior is in ready for his seasonal reappearance. Yes he’s giving weight to some potentially good novices but he looks overpriced at 11/1.
1:23 – Churchstonewarrior – 11/1 @ Bet365 & Paddy Power.
Good luck with your Saturday bets.