A terrific days racing and our in-form man Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) has it all covered for us.
13:30 Haydock | Channel 4
A Grade 2 Novice Chase over 2 miles 3 furlongs and it’s attracted a field of five. It looks like a two horse race on paper and I tend to agree with that. Otago Trail and Bristol De Mai look a cut above their rivals here, but who wins?
Otago Trail achieved less than his market rival over hurdles but looks a natural over the larger obstacles. He put up a great weight carrying performance in winning at Exeter two starts ago and showed that was no fluke when he turned a Chepstow handicap into a precession. He looks a horse on the up and deserves a crack at Graded company, however he takes on a rival here who has far superior form to his name.
Bristol De Mai was a Grade 1 winning juvenile hurdler and his only defeats over fences have been to two of the best novices around. He was second to Ar Mad round Sandown and in hindsight that is top class form.
He is a spectacular jumper and I firmly believe small fields suit him. I expect him to dominate here and I can’t quite believe he isn’t a strong favourite. He receives 7lbs from his market rival and if he doesn’t win here I will be genuinely disappointed.
13:50 Ascot | Channel 4
The OLBG.com Mares Hurdle over just shy of 3 miles sees another Mullins hot pot, this time in the shape of Vroum Vroum Mag line up. She’s seen by many as the successor to Annie Power and is odds on to win this. But is she any value?
Vroum Vroum has been mopping up mares chases in Ireland for the past 14 months but has had her attentions switched to hurdles lately. She took that in her stride and is without doubt a highly talented mare. She is yet to be seriously tested in her Irish career winning mainly low quality affairs and this is without doubt her sternest task to date.
Willie Mullins seems confident she is up to the task and if she wins this well she’s likely to be disputing favouritism for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, but she’s a watching brief for me today.
So who do we back? Desert Queen is another very talented mare and I really like her. She’s only had six career starts and is very progressive. She was second last time out to Cannon Fodder and is weighted to reverse the form, but I can’t back her. She has a tendency to race keenly and over this trip on soft ground she won’t get away with that.
Aurore D’Estruval has probably achieved the most of any of these on the track and is another very talented mare. She was second in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle two years ago but she has only been seen twice since then.
She is stepped up significantly in trip here and this strikes me as a fact finding mission rather than a confident decision she is a stayer. I can’t back her either.
The one I like is the Dr Richard Newland trained The Govaness. She comes here on the back of a solid effort at Sandown in a Listed Mares Hurdle and on her third start of the season she should be at her prime now.
Unlike some of her rivals she is guaranteed to stay today’s trip and I make her a confident each way selection for this race. Vroum Vroum Mag could be too good here but I expect The Govaness to be best of the rest at the very least.
15:00 Ascot | Channel 4
The Clarence House Stakes is a Grade 1 for 2 mile chasers and this looks very one sided to me. If Un De Sceaux stays on his feet he wins here. He takes on an ageing rival in Sire De Grugy, who though he has run well this season is likely to struggle to live with the pace of Un De Sceaux.
Vibrato Valtat is not a 2 mile chaser and Simply Ned is not a Grade 1 horse. Un De Sceaux was available at even money on Monday, he is 4/6 now. If you don’t mind backing odds on chances then lump on as in my opinion he wins here and wins the Champion Chase too.
13:30 Haydock – Bristol De Mai to win (7/4 Sportingbet)
13:50 Ascot – The Govaness each way (8/1 Bet365)
15:00 Ascot – Un De Sceaux to win (4/6 William Hill)
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