Chris Day is back with five early fancies across the Saturday cards at Ascot and Haydock.
Racing betting tips: Saturday February 18
1pt Itchy Feet in 2.05 Haydock at 6/1 (General)
1pt Phoenix Way in 2.25 Ascot at 10/1 (Bet365)
1pt Danny Dirway in 2.25 Ascot at 10/1 (Bet365)
1pt Small Present in 2.40 Haydock at 10/1 (General)
1pt Pic D’Ohry in 3.00 Ascot at 5/2 (General)
Any preview of a Haydock staying chase over the past few seasons would surely begin with Bristol De Mai, who has had a love affair with the course which began seven years ago as a novice and he heads the weights in Saturday’s Betfred Grand National Trial.
His record here, particularly in the Betfair Chase, is legendary among followers of jump racing and, whilst generally thought to need heavy ground to be seen at his best, he’s also shown high quality form on a good surface, conditions which seem likely to prevail at the weekend.
There’s no doubt he’s not the force of old but he enjoyed himself here in November, only giving best up the straight when finishing fourth to Protektorat in the track’s soleGrade One Chase.
This shouldn’t take as much winning but there are plenty in here with younger legs and, if the English trainers are going to have a chance of taking this year’s Randox Grand National, at least one of those rivals is going to need to step up.
Venetia Williams has won most big staying chases over her career and has a good record in this but her Quick Wave, an impressive winner at Sandown, needs to bounce back after being pulled up in the Welsh National over Christmas.
If she gets into a rhythm with Charlie Deutsch up front it’s easy to see her going well but I’d want to see some evidence of her well-being before making her my selection here.
There are any number of possibilities here but, at a track which generally favours course specialists, I believe the Sue Smith-trained SMALL PRESENT has a lot going for him.
He’s twice won handicap hurdles at the course over the last couple of seasons, acts well on decent ground and probably put up his best effort over fences when pulling clear with two others in the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen in December.
For all that, he’s still rated lower over fences than for his twin hurdle wins and, with the promise of more to come from a stable who love having winners here, I think he has the profile to go very well.
Connections won last season’s Paddy Power with the ill-fated Midnight Shadow and it would be fantastic to see them have another big race winner which looks a distinct possibility here.
Rendlesham Hurdle preview
In the preceding race, the Betfred Rendlesham Hurdle, we could see the return of the highly-rated Next Destination, although it’s anybody’s guess how he’ll go after such a long lay-off and this is presumably a sighter to put a fitness edge on him with one of the big staying chases on his agenda in the spring.
The others are much of a muchness and it’s difficult to be overly confident but ITCHY FEET had spent a bit of time running off high marks over fences after a Grade One win as a novice and looked to enjoy himself in winning a Pertemps Qualifier at Huntingdon last time.
It could be that’s as good as he is but he was also still progressing as a novice hurdler before having his attentions switched to fences and his latest win could have restored some confidence in which case I believe he has the ability to be a contender back on some nicer ground.
With the news that Allaho will not be able to defend his Ryanair Chase crown next month, the Betfair Ascot Chase has taken on added significance and wins here for Fakir D’Oudaries or Shishkin, on a retrieval mission after a couple of major disappointments, would probably see them as favourite for the Chetenham feature.
Can Shishkin bounce back?
I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by the Irish horse, who won this last season, in his two runs this time around but fully accept he’s been trained to peak for the spring and couldn’t recommend Shishkin either. He has been out of contention in his two runs in the Champion Chase and Tingle Creek far too early to think the trip was the problem although he has always looked like he’d stay further than two miles.
The horse with no questions over his form who comes from a stable with a great record in this race is PIC D’OHRY, who has won at right-handed Huntingdon and Kempton in his last two outings and could be the up-and-coming horse in this division. He looks the solid one at this stage.
The Ascot LK Bennett Handicap Chase is a massive prize in its own right but the winning connections will rightly be eyeing a run at Cheltenham or Aintree next and there are two runners who catch the eye.
The jury is still out as to whether PHOENIX WAY truly stays three miles over fences at this level but he definitely looked to be coming to hand behind Il Ridoto at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day and, with a win here over three furlongs shorter last January, looks to have been aimed at this.
Another horse who has run well here before is DANNY KIRWAN, something of an under achiever given the high regard he’s always been held in by his trainer.
Nicholls doesn’t often mistake his geese for swans and this one could be about to start fulfilling his promise after being caught in the shadows of the post over course and distance in October. The feeling is he’d have won with a slightly less aggressive ride and Harry Cobden is the perfect jockey for that type of challenge. His mount looks likely to be bang there at the business end.
Published at 1030 GMT on 14/02/23
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