Our racing expert gives his verdict on the four Haydock races being shown live on ITV, including the feature Betfair Chase.
1:50 2m3f (2m2f191y) Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+)
Clyne is the class act in the field and lost nothing in defeat when going down by half a length to The New One at Chepstow on his reappearance. However, he has top weight to carry in this handicap and while Evan Williams is giving him every chance by using Mitchell Bastyan’s 5lb claim, he might struggle to give 26lb to the Christian Williams-trained LIMITED RESERVE.
The latter horse only found Elgin a little over a length too good in an ultra competitive 2m handicap hurdle at Ascot earlier this month and the form looks even stronger now with the winner following up in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham. The selection has now finished second three times since joining his current stable and gives the impression he is crying out for a try over further. In which case, today’s longer trip should serve him well and as one of his two wins for Paul Morgan last December came on very soft ground, we know he will handle the testing conditions. What clinches the bet, though, is the presence of promising conditional James Bowen on his back as he’s massive value for his 5lb claim and that could prove decisive here. Take Hills’ 9/2 as they’ve already cut him half a point while I’ve been writing this, and Betfair are going a more realistic 100/30.
2:25 2m7f (2m6f177y) Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)
A hugely competitive contest and the fact that many of the 16 runners, especially the classier types in the top half of the handicap, are lacking in recent match practice makes finding the winner even more difficult. That said, it looks like CHAMPERS ON ICE has been primed to give David Pipe a fourth win in this race since 2010 and there’s enough juice in his bet365 price of 8/1 to find out, each-way if you must.
Despite winning on his chase debut last season, the seven-year-old never looked a natural over fences, albeit he was highly tried and his second to American at Warwick in February is smart form, and it’s therefore no great surprise to see him back over hurdles. He kept top company in this sphere during his novice days and signed off with a highly respectable third behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Albert Bartlett, doing best of those horses ridden prominently. We know he stays this far then and there are no worries over the deep ground either as he has plenty of form in gruelling conditions. A pair of first-time blinkers suggests that Pipe is leaving nothing to chance and if further encouragement for a bet was needed, the stable has been amongst the winners of late. Get the champers on ice!
3:00 3m1½f (3m1f125y) Betfair Chase (Grade 1) (Registered As The Lancashire Chase) (Class 1) (5yo+)
It’s easy to see why Bristol De Mai is as short as 5/4 as he’s coming off a career-best victory in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, where he was giving stablemate Blaklion 6lb and a half length beating, and is returning to the scene of his imperious Grade 2 success in January, when he thrashed some decent rivals by 22 lengths or more on ground similar to today’s. That was taking his record at this track to 2-2 and given he’s only six, there is every possibility we haven’t yet seen the best of him.
So should we all be lumping on at Betfred’s 7/4? I’m not sure as I’ve a nagging feeling the Wetherby race may have left its mark and then there is a certain CUE CARD to consider. He was an easy to back 5/2 shot for the Charlie Hall in the belief he was using it as a prep for this race, which he was won three times, including when easily beating Coneygree 12 months ago, and he was just warming up on the inside when departing at the fifth last. That fall, his second in his last three starts, has cost Paddy Brennan the ride and 19-year-old Harry Cobden will take the reigns this afternoon having schooled him at home. His relative inexperience will put some punters off, but I’m not one of them and given Cue Card has a fantastic record when encountering very soft ground in the last two years, I’m inclined to think the hugely popular chaser is capable of one last hurrah.
This is no two-horse race of course and Outlander, who has two Grade 1s to his name, could get competitive if on a going day, while the height of Tea For Two’s form gives him a shout should one or both of the front pair fail to perform to expectations.
3:35 3m1½f (3m1f125y) Best Odds Guaranteed With Betfair Handicap Chase (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145)
Henri Parry Morgan showed a return to form when runner-up at Newbury last time and, despite a subsequent 3lb rise, he remains well treated on his old form, with James Bowen’s 5lb claim also benefiting his cause. However, it’s concerning that he has disappointed on the two occasions he has tackled heavy ground, which is the order of the day here, and for that reason he’s reluctantly swerved.
Besides, we’re not short of decent alternatives and the one that will be carrying my each-way cash is BAYWING at 12/1 with bet365, who are one quarter the odds instead of the standard fifth. The eight-year-old’s prospects of at least finishing in the places seems high as he absolutely relishes heavy ground and it was such conditions that allowed him to rattle off a four-timer over hurdles in the 2015-16 season. He was always considered to be a better chaser and so it proved when he won a Grade 2 novice at Wetherby in February by 22 lengths. He has been beaten on both runs since, but he looked a bit rusty when reappearing at Carlisle at the beginning of this month and the outing should have done him the power of good. Interestingly, he improved markedly on his second run of last season and with conditions very much in his favour this afternoon, I’m hopeful of the same under regular partner Ryan Day, whose 3lb claim comes in handy.
All odds were correct at time of posting.