There is plenty of decent action taking place up and down the country on Saturday afternoon, with the Clarence House Chase at Ascot the highlight.
That contest looks a fascinating tussle between odds-on favourite Un De Sceaux, attempting to win for an unprecedented third time for Willie Mullins, and Nicky Henderson’s exciting novice Brain Power.
Un De Sceaux is an insanely likeable sort, who thrives on his racing, and he may well prove up to the challenge again although he isn’t much of a betting proposition at 8/15.
Haydock stages a Supreme Novices’ Trial (14:05) and the improving Waterlord is fancied to oblige at odds of 9/4.
He was a smart bumper performer for John Ferguson in 2015 before sitting out the best part of two years. Now in the hands of Donald McCain, he’s quickly making up for lost time.
He got his first win over hurdles at Bangor last month and three weeks ago won over the Haydock C&D, with any amount in hand, despite flattening the final hurdle.
That was in testing ground and, given that Haydock heavy going takes some getting, it swings the vote in his favour over the Kim Bailey-trained First Flow.
On the undercard to the Clarence House at Ascot, Chef D’Equipe can take another step forward for trainer Philip Hobbs. He’d already scored over fences in his native France before arriving in Britain and ran a gallant race at Sandown behind Peat The Feat in mid-December.
Dropped to 2m4f at the same track a fortnight ago, he produced his best effort yet to win for David Maxwell. He wasn’t quite asked for maximum effort to score and so the 6lb rise in the ratings looks about fair.
They team up again for the Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (13:15) at Ascot and make plenty of appeal at odds of 7/2.
For our third Saturday afternoon interest, it might be worth waiting until the final action at Taunton.
Tom Gretton’s Kauto Riko made a decent impression as he began life over fences in winning style last month at Newcastle. He was patiently ridden by Brian Hughes and made smooth progress to take up the running at the third-last.
He already appeared to have the race at his mercy when his nearest pursuer crashed out at the final fence.
The handicapper has slapped him with an 8lb hike but he has scope for doing better over these obstacles and it might not be enough to ground him in a race where his rivals all have their problems to overcome on recent form.
As such, Kauto Riko gets the vote to continue Hughes’ recent good form in the saddle and make it two-from-two over fences by rewarding punters at odds of 5/2 in the finale at Taunton.
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