Loch and Harry can puncture National hopes
Friday 14 February 2014
Hot on the heels of the publication of the Grand National weights come two important trials, one at Haydock, featuring half a dozen Aintree entries and one at Ascot, where Teaforthree, 16-1 co-favourite for the main event, is the star attraction.
In addition the classy Bog Warrior, not seen out since fracturing a near fore in the World Hurdle last March, begins his Liverpool preparations in Ireland.
The Welsh Grand National runner-up Hawkes Point and Merry King have quickly been identified by punters as likely Grand National outsiders. Merry King has become frustrating to follow. He has a change of rider today, with Tony McCoy taking over in the saddle, but the champion has ridden him four times in the past and not gone close to winning, so he may not make the difference.
It would come as no surprise if the winner came from those not entered for the National. Loch Ba (2.55 Haydock), in particular, catches the eye near the bottom of the handicap after doing well to finish as close as he did at Warwick last time after one awful blunder took the wind out of his sails.
Restless Harry (2.40 Ascot), back to something like his best form this season after a long spell in the doldrums, is fancied to get the better of Teaforthree and the other National hopefuls at the Berkshire venue. He thrives in the mud and ran well enough against some top-notch opposition at Cheltenham last time to signal that he can win a good handicap prize off his current mark.
The Betfair Ascot Chase would seem the ideal race for Captain Chris, a horse better going right-handed, who might have claimed Cue Card’s scalp in this event last year if a mistake two fences out had not stopped him in his tracks.
Riverside Theatre, the winner in both 2011 and 2012, is not the force he was, while it would be asking a lot of Medermit to return in top nick after such a long absence, so this is a great opportunity for Captain Chris (3.50 Ascot) to set the record straight.
Many Clouds (2.05 Ascot) has taken to fences like a duck to water and can underline his already solid RSA Chase claims by beating Gevrey Chambertin and Ely Brown in what should be another illuminating Cheltenham trial.
David Pipe is three-handed in the handicap hurdle, but Heath Hunter (3.15 Ascot), with a modest handicap mark earned at Sedgefield, has the feel of a well-executed plan coming to fruition.
Melodic Rendezvous (3.35 Wincanton) might well enhance his Champion Hurdle credentials by beating Zarkandar and Grumeti, but we are unlikely to learn anything new about Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux, who, after twice dotting up from just two opponents this winter, now faces three inferior rivals in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park.
His stablemate Champagne Fever misses a planned engagement this weekend and heads straight to Cheltenham, where he will attempt a third straight Festival triumph, probably in the Arkle Trophy, for which he is generally 7-2 favourite.
For more information about racehorse ownership visit Own1.co.uk
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