ALTHOUGH many are billing Saturday’s Betfair Chase (3.00pm) at Haydock as a straight match between National Hunt heavyweights Cue Card and Coneygree, I’ve a sneaky feeling we may be for a surprise.
The pair have won the biggest prizes in jump racing between them, but both have a little bit to prove this season and are plenty short enough at just 13/8 and 9/4 respectively with Betway.
Cue Card took this prize in emphatic style 12 months ago on his way to winning the King George at Kempton and was still bang in contention when crashing out three fences from home in the Gold Cup.
Despite getting back on the winning trail at Aintree, he was beaten at odds on at Punchestown, before disappointing again on his reappearance at Wetherby last month.
He may well have needed that run, but the fact remains he is a 10-year-old now and there is a danger the fire doesn’t burn as brightly as it once did.
As for Coneygree, the only negative with him is that he has been off the track for over a year through injury.
Unbeaten over fences, if he returns to within 5lbs of his best form he will eat these for breakfast. Again, that’s the question and I’m prepared to look elsewhere for a bit of value.
The obvious starting place is two-time winner Silviniaco Conti, who didn’t run badly on his reappearance.
He has shown previously that he often needs that first run and should go well at around 7/1. Yet, as with Cue Card, he too has reached an age where his best days must surely be behind him.
Therefore, I’m keen to take a chance on Sandy Thomson’s rapidly improving eight-year-old SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT at a general 7/1.
He looked in the form of his life with a 12-length victory on his reappearance at Carlisle last month and the combination of brilliant jumping, untapped stamina and his ability to handle soft ground makes him interesting.
His form looks a little below what might normally be required to win this, but don’t forget he beat RSA Chase winner Blaklion in the Dipper Chase back in January and he may give the big guns plenty to think about.
Declarations for the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle (1.50pm) aren’t made until later this morning, but it may pay to snap up the 3/1 about Paul Nicholls’ OLD GUARD.
There are only six runners at this stage, but if the forecast rain arrives there may end up being considerably less and main market rivals Irving and My Tent Or Yours both have next weekend’s Fighting Fifth as a viable alternative.
Finally, Dan Skelton looks to have strong claims of landing back-to-back Fixed Brush Hurdles (2.25pm) with favourite Two Taffs.
He is sure to go well, but at the prices I’m siding with YALA ENKI at 8/1 with Betway. The forecast rain will suit and although he disappointed in this 12 months ago, he has strengthened up since and has a good record fresh.
At a monster 20/1, it may also pay to have a small speculative each-way be on Seamus Mullins’ WESTERN CAPE.
The stable saddled Song Light to finish third in last weekend’s Greatwood Hurdle and if this fellow can recapture his Ascot form of last winter, he may make a mockery of his price.
Old Guard 1.50pm Haydock
Yala Enki e/w 2.25pm Haydock
Western Cape e/w 2.25pm Haydock
Seeyouatmidnighte/w 3.00pm Haydock