GRAEME Johnstone (@GraemeJ_83) swerves Ascot and focuses his Saturday efforts into Haydock.
13:30 Haydock | ITV4
A two and a half mile novice chase kicks off a run of four Grade 2 races as Haydock stages one of the big trial Cheltenham trial meetings. This looks a good race and is certainly a race worth watching.
Politologue looks set to start favourite here and this Paul Nichols inmate looks set to run a big race. A winner at the track over fences already he’s unbeaten over the larger obstacles and despite conceding weight all round is the one to beat. However this is a good race so I’m going for a bigger priced rival.
Maximiser is still a maiden over fences and even though this is a stern task I really like him, and though he may not win today he is one to keep an eye on.
A bad fall when fancied for a Grade 2 chase last season was the last time we seen him over fences and at these prices he appeals but it’s risky in this company.
The one I like here is the Tom George trained Bun Doran. Last time out he won a novice handicap chase in great style and looks a far different horse now going over fences. He has to improve to win this but he’s young, progressive and the stable are flying so I think he’s a value bet here.
14:05 Haydock | ITV4
The Supreme Novice Hurdle trial is next and in a very open year the winner here will feel they have a chance of winning the Cheltenham race itself. Three of these are unbeaten over hurdles and one of them looks a very good prospect.
Decent Flat performer Craggaknock has won both starts, both at Wetherby and deserves his place in this. He defied a penalty last time and is clearly above average. He handled soft ground on the flat and conditions should suit, however he may not have the staying power of a couple of these and he’s not for me.
Elgin is two from two over hurdles and won a good race and Kempton last time out. He was keen early on and there is almost certainly more to come. His trainer and jockey are both flying however despite the positives I’m sweet on one of the other runners.
The one I really like here is the unbeaten Neon Wolf. On three starts he’s won a point to point, a bumper and a hurdle race, and he looks very talented. He has a big reputation at home and has been well supported on all starts and has already been backed early for this. He’ll love the ground, stays well and I will be backing him to win this.
14:40 Haydock | ITV4
The Champion Hurdle trial isn’t renowned for producing winners of the big race and though that’s not likely to change today it’s still an interesting race. Plenty of Graded class hurdlers line up and one runner is looking to complete a hat-trick of wins in this race.
Cyrus Darius is unbeaten over hurdles and fences and is a very interesting runner here. An impressive winner of a Grade 2 at Aintree as a novice he won his only start over fences where he unfortunately picked up an injury. He makes his belated return here and is one to keep an eye on. Nibbled at in the Champion Hurdle market ante-post if fully fit is a real threat all round.
L’Ami Serge returned to hurdles last time when just run out in the Relkeel Hurdle over two and a half miles. He loves soft ground, his stable is flying and receives weight from his main rival so it’s understandable he’s favourite. However the bounce factor comes in to play here and after year off I always worry about horses holding their form on the second start so I’m prepared to swerve him.
The one I like here is the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained The New One. A dual winner of this race he is still a force in this grade and is the one to beat here. He battles well and the soft ground brings his stamina in to play, and despite conceding weight to most of these he appeals to me as a betting proposition in this.
13:30 Haydock – Bun Doran to win (8/1 Ladbrokes)
14:05 Haydock – Neon Wolf to win (5/2 Boylesports)
14:40 Haydock – The New One to win (2/1 Boylesports)