Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes previews today’s action at Haydock, Ascot and Lingfield
We’ve got a bumper card of action this Saturday, with both Flat and Jumps fans catered for with both codes featured in a rare mixed meeting at Haydock.
There’s also a couple more Classic Trials at Lingfield, which provided both the Derby and Oaks winners in 2019, while Ascot hosts a competitive card including the devilishly-difficult Victoria Cup.
I really like the claims of JERSEY WONDER in Haydock’s opener – the Long Distance Handicap Hurdle.
He developed into a useful stayer on the Flat for Jamie Osborne before joining Oliver Sherwood for a Jumps campaign. He was not disgraced in his first two starts but has made hay in handicaps since with victories at Fontwell and Exeter. His last win was over this near three-mile trip and he finished with plenty in hand, suggesting the 8lbs rise will not overburden him and we can expect improvement on just his fifth hurdles start at the age of five.
There are a few last time out winners to note, including Giovanni Change, Grand Morning and Ballyellis – while the trip is a doubt for another recent scorer Proschema and I am not sure they all have the same scope for improvement as the selection.
Over to Ascot, and we have a tricky fillies’ contest over the straight mile to kick things off.
Dreamloper was well-fancied at Haydock on seasonal debut but was too keen early on to run her race, so better can be expected at a track she has won at previously. She still remains capable of better, as does Conservatoire, whose winning run came to an end with a narrow defeat at Newcastle on her final start this season. It will be interesting to see how she kicks on after a winter break.
Hold Fast has won three of her last four runs on the all-weather and is up in the handicap again, but preference is for LIGHTS ON for Sir Michael Stoute and Richard Kingscote.
She bolted up at Nottingham just eleven days ago with both Separate and Poet’s Lady left trailing in her wake. She has a 7lb rise to defy but that does not look insurmountable and it’s hard to see the other pair reversing the form.
Lights On has never run a bad race in her five career starts and looks the likely type to progress significantly for the yard. I would expect to see her win this and return for the Sandringham Stakes at the Royal meeting.
John Gosden has won three of the last four running’s of this Oaks Trial, including subsequent Oaks heroine Annapurna two years ago. He saddles a pair here in Loving Dream and Regent.
The former is the mount of Frankie Dettori and she chased home the impressive Noon Star at Wetherby who is as short at 10/1 for the Oaks next month, while the latter is on a hat-trick after winning at Chelmsford under a penalty last time… but this is much tougher.
Ocean Road had no trouble getting off the mark back in December on the all-weather track here, but may have to give up a fitness advantage to Technique and NASH NASHA.
Technique ran a blinder in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom, but the form was badly let down at Chester when the winner of that race, Wirko, totally bombed out on Wednesday. She has proven she handles the undulations though that will stand her in good stead here.
The pick is Nash Nasha though. She does have a bit to find on official ratings, but I was taken with her attitude at Sandown last time under a penalty against some beautifully-bred fillies. Her experience helped her there, but it was no easy task giving weight away and once she was joined she just kept finding more.
That was over a stiff ten furlongs and the extra distance should hold no fears for this filly who is out of 100 Guineas winner Just The Judge.
Roger Varian has won three of the last ten renewals of the Buckhounds Stakes and he saddles an interesting one making his debut for the stable in Gold Maze. He has transferred from Jessica Harrington’s yard in Ireland having run credibly in Group races there but still only has a maiden victory to his name. A market watch is advised for him.
Others with standout claims include the Sheikh Obaid-owned pair of Without A Fight and Lost Eden.
Lost Eden makes his turf debut after three runs on the all-weather – the last two being winning ones including a nine-length triumph at Lingfield last time. This will be a much stiffer assignment and it’s hard to be sure if he deserves such a lofty rating, but he retains a lot of potential.
Without A Fight rattled off a hat-trick last season in all conditions and returned with a decent second to the impressive Al Aasy in the G3 John Porter at Newbury but still has almost two lengths to find on ALBAFLORA on their meeting at this track in October.
Albaflora was good enough to finish second in the Musidora last year on just her second start, and in receipt of the filles’ allowance here she is the one I want to side with.
Deja was very disappointing at Newbury when behind Without A Fight and usually runs well fresh so has little excuse, while Roberto Escobarr is interesting on his York novice form that worked out well before he was well held in the Great Voltigeur. He has been given plenty of time to strengthen up and is worth each way interest I market vies are positive.
No colt has stamped his authority on the Derby market so far this year – that could be the case for ADAYAR today after an eye-catching effort in defeat at Sandown recently.
He was the only horse to get involved from off the pace that day and the step up in trip looks sure to suit. He was devouring the rising ground there and while there is a question mark about him handling the track as such a big-framed horse, and with the form being slightly let down at Chester on Thursday, there was enough promise in that performance to suggest he would learn a lot and take a giant leap forward.
This Debry trial is a race Aidan O’Brien has won three times in the last eight renewals, including with the ill-fated 2019 hero Anthony Van Dyck. He saddles both the beautifully-bred Kyprios and Carlisle Bay.
Kyprios, who is a half-brother to dual Irish St Leger heroine Search for a Song as well as the likes of top class Free Eagle and Custom Cut, is the choice of Ryan Moore. He won a Cork conditions contest two weeks ago quite stylishly despite returning at 15/2 and has been the subject of positive reports since – while Frankie Dettori, fresh from his 1000 Guineas success for Coolmore, teams up with them again on Carlisle Bay.
He was a winner on debut but has not been since finishing third in a Group 3 at Leopardstown in October. The yard’s horses have tended to need their first start, and cheekpieces are also reached for which tempers enthusiasm.
Scope is respected as Ralph Beckett usually sends his best three-year-olds to these trials.
The key to the Swinton Hurdle lies in a race at Aintree four weeks ago where Rowland Ward beat Comprond by half a length. It was a good battle, and they were nicely clear of the third. They have gone up 10lbs and 9lbs respectively, but I am convinced COPPERLESS would have beaten them both but for departing two out.
He was travelling so easily and it looked like a case of just when young Lewis Stone would press the button, but he dived at two out and came to grief. He has been put up 3lbs so clearly he caught the handicapper’s eye too and I expect compensation to come his way. His previous Taunton success has also worked out well and he looks a horse with quite a bit of upside in his mark.
Ballinsker has been well beaten the last twice (Betfair Hurdle and a Jumpers’ Bumper), but his trainer Evan Williams has won four of the last seven renewals and must be respected as his only representative – while Defining Battle is interesting on just his fourth hurdle start for the Skeltons having gone close on handicap debut at Ayr three weeks ago.
This Group 3 Fillies’ contest is often a target for overseas trainers and has caught the eye of Germany’s Andreas Wohler this year with Axana.
She won a Listed contest at Hoppegarten five weeks ago and was a close second to Mark Johnston’s Main Edition in the German 1000 Guineas two years ago. She looks to have live claims, as does Isabella Giles who landed the Prestige Stakes and Rockfel Stakes as a juvenile. She gets the age allowance as a three-year-old and ran well in the Fred Darling on reappearance at Newbury.
Bounce The Blues has ran in some good races since joining Andrew Balding from Ireland, notably when chasing home Top Rank in the Doncaster Mile on seasonal return – but this looks the perfect opportunity for DOUBLE OR BUBBLE to continue a sharp upward trajectory in her first foray into Group company.
Chris Wall’s lightly-raced filly was weak in the market before her return at Newmarket but she picked up where she left off last season and the handicapper was suitably impressed to put her up 10lbs. That rise puts her in the mix against the best of these but with the promise of plenty more to come on jut her fifth start.
She is unbeaten in three attempts at this trip and can continue climbing the ladder with victory here.
There are six places up for grabs in the Victoria Cup with Betfred’s enhanced each-way terms, and you’ll need them with a whopping 29 runners stretched across the straight seven furlongs at the Royal racecourse.
Acquitted was a late withdrawal from the Thirsk Hunt Cup last week and is interesting on his second at Doncaster in the Spring Cup. He chased home Palace Pier on his seasonal return last season, but did not look the strongest finisher last time so the drop in trip should suit.
Motakhayyel had his finest hour when winning the Buckingham Palace Stakes over track and trip at the Royal meeting last year, but it’s probably asking a lot to carry top weight to victory here under Jim Crowley – that hasn’t been achieved since 1988.
Fox Champion ran a promising return to action for a new yard when a close third at Haydock, just ahead of Dreamloper who runs in the first race on the card. He is very well-treated on his from for Richard Hannon and is a huge player if building on that.
I will have two goes in such a big field and the first is CHIEFOFCHIEFS.
It has often been said there are not many better jockeys over the straight course at Ascot than Jamie Spencer, and his style could be a match made in heaven for Chiefofchiefs.
He is 1lb lower than when fourth in the International Stakes over track and trip in July after wining the Silver Wokingham at the Royal meeting over six furlongs. He stays a mile well and this trip could be ideal. He ran a good fifth in Listed company on his return and has to go in the staking plan with a middle draw giving Spencer options.
There are many more with chances, including course specialist Raising Sand who is a standing dish in these straight course Ascot races – and the 7lb claim of Saffie Osborne brings him right into the reckoning drawn on the stands’ side.
Escobar usually runs his race here too and will get the strong pace he desires, while Symbolize was a good second to Double Or Bubble (runs Lingfield 3.25) at Newmarket last time.
The other selection goes to KEYSER SOZE over on the far side from stall one.
He is another regular in these contests and he has often been fancied and failed to live up to the hype… at least until finally winning over a mile here ten days ago. He is up 2lbs, but Angus Villiers negates that by now being able to claim 5lb so effectively he runs off the same mark.
He is rated much higher on the all-weather and so often we see that form translate to the straight course here. Providing the draw isn’t a negative, he can also reach the first six and at a decent price for a yard just exiting from a quiet spell.
Just four go to post for the final ITV4 race at Lingfield over an extended seven furlongs.
Love Dreams is the only last time out winner of the quartet, but that was in Selling company at Wolves. The seven-year-old received no bids and will need more to win this.
Asad is still 8lbs above his last wining mark but split two useful types at Chelmsford five weeks ago, while Eton College was put in his place by Double Or Bubble (runs 3.25) at Newmarket last time but was a game winner prior to that at Musselburgh and wouldn’t be the first Mark Johnston runner to bonce back from a below par run.
Ready preference is therefore for TURN ON THE CHARM.
He was a dual winner last season at Kempton and Nottingham and went back to Colwick Park for his seasonal return. There he bumped into Astro King and Nugget, who finished second and third in the Thirsk Hunt Cup last weekend, with Royal Ascot runner-up Finest Sound in second. That form is very solid and with fitness guaranteed from that outing he is fancied to give weight and a beating to his three rivals.
The final ITV4 race of the day can go to GROUP ONE POWER for Andrew Balding and Silvester De Sousa.
The team had a few disappointments this week at Chester but this one finally showed what he promised to delver last year when winning the City and Suburban at Epsom from a course specialist. He was fourth at Royal Ascot over this trip in June and was given a break after a below par effort on soft ground at Newmarket in July. That seemed to have benefited him as he did it nicely on his seasonal return, and a 4lbs rise does not look too harsh.
It’s very competitive though as you would expect for an Ascot handicap. Labeeb has never been out of the frame in six starts but has four lengths to find on He’s A Keeper who is 5lbs better off, so there should not be much between that pair – while Frontispiece is a former course winner who held his form well last year and runs off the same mark as when a sold fourth on return at Newbury.
Lots have chances but the scope for improvement in Group One Power now he has had a confidence booster tips the scales in his favour.