It’s a case of never mind the quantity, feel the quality in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday with three of the best staying chasers in Britain crossing swords in what promises to be another renewal to savour.
You can make a case for any of the trio winning and I’ll be happy to watch rather than punt on the first Grade One contest of the jumps season. For what it’s worth, I’ve had my free £5 bet from the sponsor on two-time King George winner Clan Des Obeaux as Paul Nicholls has made no secret of the fact that he has him more forward than in previous seasons.
I’m not surprised Nicholls has the eight-year-old more revved up for the start of this campaign as he’s ruled out ever running him at Cheltenham again (because of the undulating track not suiting him) and as such this race, plus the King George next month, represent his Cup finals for the campaign with everything in the second half of the season something of a bonus.
It’s not as if he does not have back-up for the King George with the brilliant Cyrname up his sleeve plus, possibly, Real Steel. The latter, who went close in last year’s Gold Cup when trained by Willie Mullins, and should win on his first start for the stable at Ascot on Saturday.
Clan Des Obeaux is a brilliant jumper who tanks through his races, with a flat track probably suiting him ideally. Stamina wise, it was a case of the further the better in the King George last year and I’ve a hunch that he will be a bit sharper than last year’s winner, Lostintranslation, whose connections are surely working backwards from the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, and fancy he is just that bit better than the admirable Bristol De Mai.
The main supporting race on the Haydock card is the £80,000 Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle, for which the versatile The Jam Man heads the market. He should go well but I prefer another Irish raider in the shape of Relegate, trained by Colm Murphy.
Relegate has not had much racing since winning the Champion Bumper in 2018 but indicated she had a good staying prize such as this in her when a staying-on fifth in the Pertemps Network Final in March. She had only one behind her jumping three out that day and simply ended up with too much to do in a race where Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller fought out the finish.
This race lacks the calibre of that pair and I fancy Robbie Power, who rides Relegate for the first time, will not overdo the waiting tactics and creep into contention through the second half of the contest. Relegate’s run in a Grade two contest at Navan a couple of weeks ago looked very much a sighter plus she will be equipped with first-time cheekpieces to help keep her mind on the job.
I will probably end up having a small saver, too, on Third Wind, who finished just ahead of the Relegate in the Pertemps and shaped well on his return at Aintree. One of our Tipstar entrants, Michael Willoughby, makes a decent case for him, which you can view by clicking here. Good luck to all taking part.
The toughest puzzle on the card is the 2m3f Betfair Racing Only Bettor Handicap Hurdle. There are so many plausible winners that I was initially going to swerve the race but the 10-1 chalked up about Our Power is just too bigger dangling carrot to resist.
He won a similarly competitive contest at Kempton in March and shaped like a certain future winner on his return over 2m5f at Cheltenham last month behind rivals who probably had an edge in fitness. The drop back in trip will not inconvenience him, especially on the softer ground, and any improvement for that run will ensure he is in the thick of things when it matters most.
Two others trading at the meeting worth a second look at double-figure odds are Saint Xavier and Alminar.
Saint Xavier has some smart form in France in his back catalogue, including in Grade One company about this time two years ago, and has been cut some slack by the handicapper.
He shaped encouragingly under considerate handling on hius return in the Charlie Hall Chase on his first start for Richard Hobson last month, being beaten an aggregate of 22 lengths behind Cyrname. He's now in much shallower waters, should be sharper and the assessor has perhaps taking something of a liberty by dropping him further (to 140) for that run.
The My Odds Boost On Betfair Stayers' Handicap Chase over an extended 3m4f is going to be a slog but that will not faze Alminar, a thorough stayer who receives weight from all bar one of his rivals.
He looked all stamina when winning in the mud at Chepstow in January and there was plenty of merit in his comeback third behind Bermeo (has since again gone close) at Cheltenham last month.
Connections have since tinkered with his wind and his usual tongue-tie, left off at Cheltenham, is back on.
At Ascot, my one bet will be Magic Saint in the Coral Hurst Park Handicap Chase.
He was a fluent winner at Cheltenham last week when belatedly dropped back to 2m. He’s effectively 9lb higher (7lb rise and Bryan Carver’s claim being reduced 2lb) but he won with something to spare and remains with untapped potential over the trip. He should also have things teed up for him by the front-running pair of First Flow and Gino Trail.
How To Bet £20 on Saturday
3.00 Haydock £5 Betfair free bet on the Betfair Chase: Clan Des Obeaux at 9-4
12.40 Haydock: Saint Xavier £1.50 each-way at 20-1 with bet365
1.50 Haydock: Our Power £1 win and £2 each-way at 10-1 with bet365
2.35 Haydock: Relegate £2 win and £1 each-way at 7-1 with bet365
3.17 Ascot: Magic Saint £3 win at a general 3-1
3.35 Haydock: Alminar £1 win and £1.50 each-way at 11-1 with bet365
Plus a 50p each-way fivefold
65p each-way Yankee (costing £14.30) with bet365
12.40 Haydock: Saint Xavier (20-1)
1.50 Haydock: Our Power (10-1)
2.35 Haydock: Relegate (7-1)
3.35 Haydock: Alminar (11-1)
Above quartet in a 10p Win Heinz (costing £5.70) with
3.00 Haydock: Clan Des Obeaux (5-2)
3.17 Ascot: Magic Saint (11-4)Bring home the Jumps with a free one month trial of Racing TV. Watch over 65 live meetings from Britain and Ireland on unlimited devices. Hurry, there are only a few left! Click here to get yours now!
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