Eight runners are due to go to post for the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday when A Plus Tard (3.00) and Rachael Blackmore, the runners-up in last season’s Gold Cup, will start favourite to give Ireland a first success in this race since it achieved Grade One status in 2005.
Henry de Bromhead’s gelding took his impressive form to a new level over staying trips last season and while several of Saturday’s rivals have hinted at potential Grade One quality, only two – Bristol De Mai and the inconsistent Waiting Patiently – have a top-level win over fences to their name.
Bristol De Mai, going for a record-equalling fourth win in this race, will be a tough opponent but A Plus Tard’s run at Cheltenham gives him several pounds in hand over the course specialist and Blackmore will be alive to the danger of allowing her main market rival a soft lead.
Haydock Park 1.50: Itchy Feet is an interesting alternative to the odds-on Bravemansgame. His close second in the Old Roan Chase was franked when third-home Midnight Shadow took the Paddy Power Gold Cup last weekend, and Olly Murphy’s runner, with eight chase starts behind him, can make experience count.
Ascot 2.05: With question marks hanging over both Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation as they return after wind-ops, Dashel Drasher is the safest bet to extend his excellent record over track and trip.
Haydock Park 2.25: A £57,000 first prize and a suitably competitive field, maar Flight Deck makes plenty of appeal at around 8-1. He is up just 3lb after winning his seasonal debut at Wetherby last month, when first-time cheekpieces sharpened him up, and his strong form in two handicap hurdles last season is backed up by the clock.
Ascot 2.40: Buzz was less than two lengths behind the winner in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle in April and landed the Cesarewitch off 96 on the Flat last month. He looks rock-solid for a Grade Two win here, not least as he gets 6lb from his main market rivals.
Ascot 3.15: Amoola Gold and Monsieur Le Coq are closely matched on their form when first and second over course and distance in a strong time last month. Marginal preference is for Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old, who was making his seasonal debut there and has cheekpieces on for the first time.
Haydock Park 3.35: Empire Steel could be a fair price at around 5-1 if Strictlyadancer finds this too soon after a win at Cheltenham last weekend. The seven-year-old had some decent novice form last year, including a win when fresh, and should be improving with just four chase starts in the book.